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Title: The Complete Works of James Whitcomb Riley — Volume 10
Author: Riley, James Whitcomb
Language: English
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Memorial Edition
The Complete Works of
James Whitcomb Riley
IN TEN VOLUMES
Including Poems and Prose Sketches, many
of which have not heretofore been
published; an authentic Biography, an
elaborate Index and numerous
Illustrations in color from Paintings


VOLUME X



JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY


CONTENTS

ECCENTRIC MR CLARK
A NEST-EGG
"THE BOY FROM ZEENY"
WHERE IS MARY ALICE SMITH?
THE OLD MAN
THE GILDED ROLL
A WILD IRISHMAN
MRS. MILLER
AT ZEKESBURY
A CALLER FROM BOONE
THE OLD SOLDIER'S STORY
DIALECT IN LITERATURE


The Complete Works
of James Whitcomb Riley


ECCENTRIC MR. CLARK

All who knew Mr. Clark intimately, casually,
or by sight alone, smiled always, meeting
him, and thought, "What an odd man he is!"  Not
that there was anything extremely or ridiculously
obtrusive in Mr. Clark's peculiarities either of
feature, dress, or deportment, by which a graded
estimate of his really quaint character might aptly be
given; but rather, perhaps, it was the curious
combination of all these things that had gained
for Mr. Clark the transient celebrity of being a
very eccentric man.

And Mr. Clark, of all the odd inhabitants of the
busy metropolis in which he lived, seemed least
conscious of the fact of his local prominence.  True
it was that when familiarly addressed as "Clark,
old boy," by sportive individuals he never recollected
having seen before, he would oftentimes stare
blankly in return, and with evident embarrassment;
but as these actions may have been attributable to
weak eyes, or to the confusion consequent upon
being publicly recognized by the quondam associates
of bacchanalian hours, the suggestive facts only
served to throw his eccentricities in new relief.

And in the minds of many, that Mr. Clark was somewhat given to
dissipation, there was but little
doubt; for, although in no way, and at no time,
derelict in the rigid duties imposed upon him as
an accountant in a wholesale liquor house on South
John Street, a grand majority of friends had long
ago conceded that a certain puffiness of flesh and
a soiled-like pallor of complexion were in nowise
the legitimate result of over-application simply in
the counting-room of the establishment in which he
found employment; but as to the complicity of Mr.
Clark's direct associates in this belief, it is only
justice to the gentleman to state that by them
he was held above all such suspicion, from the
gray-haired senior of the firm, down to the pink-
nosed porter of the warerooms, who, upon every
available occasion, would point out the eccentric
Mr. Clark as "the on'y man in the biznez 'at never
sunk a 'thief' er drunk a drop o' 'goods' o' any
kind, under no consideration!"

And Mr. Clark himself, when playfully
approached on the subject, would quietly assert that
never, under any circumstances, had the taste of
intoxicating liquors passed his lips, though at such
asseverations it was a noticeable fact that Mr.
Clark's complexion invariably grew more sultry
than its wont, and that his eyes, forever moist, grew
dewier, and that his lips and tongue would seem
covertly entering upon some lush conspiracy, which
in its incipiency he would be forced to smother with
his hastily drawn handkerchief.  Then the eccentric
Mr. Clark would laugh nervously, and pouncing
on some subject so vividly unlike the one just
preceding it as to daze the listener, he would ripple
ahead with a tide of eloquence that positively
overflowed and washed away all remembrance of the
opening topic.

In point of age Mr. Clark might have been thirty,
thirty-five, or even forty years, were one to venture
an opinion solely by outward appearance and under
certain circumstances and surroundings.  As, for
example, when a dozen years ago the writer of this
sketch rode twenty miles in a freight-caboose with
Mr. Clark as the only other passenger, he seemed
in age at first not less than thirty-five; but on
opening a conversation with him, in which he joined
with wonderful vivacity, a nearer view, and a
prolonged and studious one as well, revealed the rather
curious fact that, at the very limit of all allowable
supposition, his age could not possibly have exceeded
twenty-five.

What it was in the man that struck me as
eccentric at that time I have never been wholly
able to define, but I recall accurately the most
trivial occurrences of our meeting and the very
subject-matter of our conversation.  I even remember
the very words in which he declined a drink
from my traveling-flask--for "It's a raw day," I
said, by way of gratuitous excuse for offering it.
"Yes," he said, smilingly motioning the temptation
aside; "it is a raw day; but you're rather young in
years to be doctoring the weather--at least you'd
better change the treatment--they'll all be raw days
for you after a while!"  I confess that I even
felt an inward pity for the man as I laughingly
drained his health and returned the flask to my
valise.  But when I asked him, ten minutes later,
the nature of the business in which he was engaged,
and he handed me, in response and without comment,
the card of a wholesale liquor house, with
his own name in crimson letters struck diagonally
across the surface, I winked naively to myself and
thought "Ah-ha!"  And as if reading my very
musings, he said:  "Why, certainly, I carry a full
line of samples; but, my dear young friend, don't
imagine for a minute that I refuse your brand on
that account.  You can rest assured that I have
nothing better in my cases.  Whisky is whisky
wherever it is found, and there is no 'best'
whisky--not in all the world!"

Truly, I thought, this is an odd source for the
emanation of temperance sentiments--then said
aloud:  "And yet you engage in a business you
dislike!  Traffic in an article that you yourself
condemn!  Do I understand you?"

"Might there not be such a thing," he said
quietly, "as inheriting a business--the same as
inheriting an appetite?  However, one advances by
gradations:  I shall SELL no more.  This is my last
trip on the road in that capacity:  I am coming in
now to take charge of the firm's books.  Would be
glad to have you call on me any time you're in the
city.  Good-by."  And, as he swung off the slowly
moving train, now entering the city, and I stood
watching him from the open door of the caboose
as he rapidly walked down a suburban street, I
was positive his gait was anything but steady--that
the step--the figure--the whole air of the man was
that of one then laboring under the effects of
partial intoxication.

I have always liked peculiar people; no matter
where I met them, no matter who they were; if
once impressed with an eccentricity of character
which I have reason to believe purely unaffected, I
never quite forget the person, name or place of
our first meeting, or where the interesting party
may be found again.  And so it was in the customary
order of things that, during hasty visits to the
city, I often called on the eccentric Mr. Clark, and,
as he had promised on our first acquaintance, he
seemed always glad to see and welcome me in his
new office.  The more I knew of him the more I
liked him, but I think I never fully understood him.
No one seemed to know him quite so well as that.

Once I had a little private talk regarding him with
the senior partner of the firm for which he worked.
Mr. Clark, just prior to my call, had gone to lunch--
would be back in half an hour.  Would I wait there
in the office until his return?  Certainly.  And the
chatty senior entertained me:--Queer fellow--Mr.
Clark!--as his father was before him.  Used to be
a member of the firm--his father; in fact, founded
the business--made a fortune at it--failed, for an
unfortunate reason, and went "up the flume."  Paid
every dollar that he owed, however, sacrificing the
very home that sheltered his wife and children--
but never rallied.  He had quite a family, then?
Oh, yes; had a family--not a large one, but a
bright one--only they all seemed more or less
unfortunate.  The father was unfortunate--very; and
died so, leaving his wife and two boys--the older
son much like the father--splendid business
capacities, but lacked will--couldn't resist some things
--even weaker than the father in that regard, and
died at half his age.

But the younger brother--our Mr. Clark--
remained, and he was sterling--"straight goods" in
all respects.  Lived with his mother--was her
sole support.  A proud woman, Mrs. Clark--
a proud woman, with a broken spirit--withdrawn
entirely from the world, and had been
so for years and years.  The Clarks, as had been
mentioned, were all peculiar--even the younger Mr.
Clark, our friend, I had doubtless noticed was an
odd genius, but he had stamina--something solid
about him, for all his eccentricities--could be relied
on.  Had been with the house there since a boy
of twelve--took him for the father's sake; had never
missed a day's time in any line of work that ever
had been given in his charge--was weakly-looking,
too.  Had worked his way from the cellar up--from
the least pay to the highest--had saved enough to
buy and pay for a comfortable house for his mother
and himself, and, still a lad, maintained the
expense of companion, attendant and maid servant for
the mother.  Yet, with all this burden on his
shoulders, the boy had worried through some way, with
a jolly smile and a good word for every one.  "A
boy, sir," the enthusiastic senior concluded--"a boy,
sir, that never was a boy, and never had a taste of
genuine boyhood in his life--no more than he ever
took a taste of whisky, and you couldn't get that
in him with a funnel!"

At this juncture Mr. Clark himself appeared, and
in a particularly happy frame of mind.  For an
hour the delighted senior and myself sat laughing at
the fellow's quaint conceits and witty sayings, the
conversation at last breaking up with an abrupt
proposition from Mr. Clark that I remain in the
city overnight and accompany him to the theater,
an invitation I rather eagerly accepted.  Mr. Clark,
thanking me, and pivoting himself around on his
high stool, with a mechanical "Good afternoon!"
was at once submerged in his books, while the senior,
following me out and stepping into a carriage that
stood waiting for him at the curb, waved me adieu,
and was driven away.  I turned my steps up the
street, but remembering that my friend had fixed no
place to meet me in the evening, I stepped back into
the storeroom and again pushed open the glass door
of the office.

Mr. Clark still sat on the high stool at his desk,
his back toward the door, and his ledger spread out
before him.

"Mr. Clark!" I called.

He made no answer.

"Mr. Clark!" I called again, in an elevated key.

He did not stir.

I paused a moment, then went over to him, letting
my hand drop lightly on his arm.

Still no response.  I only felt the shoulder heave,
as with a long-drawn quavering sigh, then heard the
regular though labored breathing of a weary man
that slept.

I had not the heart to waken him; but lifting the
still moistened pen from his unconscious fingers, I
wrote where I might be found at eight that evening,
folded and addressed the note, and laying it on
the open page before him, turned quietly away.

"Poor man!" I mused compassionately, with a
touch of youthful sentiment affecting me.--"Poor
man!  Working himself into his very grave, and
with never a sign or murmur of complaint--worn
and weighed down with the burden of his work, and
yet with a nobleness of spirit and resolve that still
conceals behind glad smiles and laughing words
the cares that lie so heavily upon him!"

The long afternoon went by at last, and evening
came; and, as promptly as my note requested, the
jovial Mr. Clark appeared, laughing heartily, as
we walked off down the street, at my explanation
of the reason I had written my desires instead of
verbally addressing him; and laughing still louder
when I told him of my fears that he was overworking
himself.

"Oh, no, my friend," he answered gaily;
"there's no occasion for anxiety on that account.--
But the fact is, old man," he went on, half apologetically,
"the fact is, I haven't been so overworked,
of late, as over-wakeful.  There's something in the
night I think, that does it.  Do you know that the
night is a great mystery to me--a great mystery!
And it seems to be growing on me all the time.
There's the trouble.  The night to me is like some
vast incomprehensible being.  When I write the
name 'night' I instinctively write it with a capital.
And I like my night deep, and dark, and swarthy,
don't you know.  Now some like clear and starry
nights, but they're too pale for me--too weak and
fragile altogether!  They're popular with the
masses, of course, these blue-eyed, golden-haired,
'moonlight-on-the-lake' nights; but, somehow, I
don't 'stand in' with them.  My favorite night is
the pronounced brunette--the darker the better.  To-
night is one of my kind, and she's growing more
and more like it all the time.  If it were not for
depriving you of the theater, I'd rather just drift
off now in the deepening gloom till swallowed up
in it--lost utterly.  Come with me, anyhow!"

"Gladly," I answered, catching something of his
own enthusiasm; "I myself prefer it to the play."

"I heartily congratulate you on your taste," he
said, diving violently for my hand and wringing it.

"Oh, it's going to be grimly glorious!--a depth of
darkness one can wade out into, and knead in his
hands like dough!"  And he laughed, himself, at
this grotesque conceit.

And so we walked--for hours.  Our talk--or,
rather, my friend's talk--lulled and soothed at last
into a calmer flow, almost solemn in its tone, and
yet fretted with an occasional wildness of utterance
and expression.

Half consciously I had been led by my companion,
who for an hour had been drawing closer to me
as we walked.  His arm, thrust through my own,
clung almost affectionately.  We were now in some
strange suburb of the city, evidently, too, in a low
quarter, for from the windows of such business
rooms and shops as bore any evidence of respectability
the lights had been turned out and the doors
locked for the night.  Only a gruesome green light
was blazing in a little drug-store just opposite,
while at our left, as we turned the corner, a tumble-
down saloon sent out on the night a mingled
sound of clicking billiard-balls, discordant voices,
the harsher rasping of a violin, together with the
sullen plunkings of a banjo.

"I must leave you here for a minute," said my
friend, abruptly breaking a long silence, and loosening
my arm.  "The druggist over there is a patron
of our house, and I am reminded of a little business
I have with him.  He is about closing, too, and
I'll see him now, as I may not be down this way
again soon.  No; you wait here for me--right here,"
and he playfully but firmly pushed me back, ran
across the street, and entered the store.  Through
the open door I saw him shake hands with the man
who stood behind the counter, and stand talking
in the same position for some minutes--both still
clasping hands, as it seemed; but as I mechanically
bent with closer scrutiny, the druggist seemed to be
examining the hand of Mr. Clark and working at
it, as though picking at a splinter in the palm--I
I could not quite determine what was being done,
for a glass show-case blurred an otherwise clear
view of the arms of both from the elbows down.
Then they came forward, Mr. Clark arranging his
cuffs, and the druggist wrapping up some minute
article he took from an upper show-case, and handing
it to my friend, who placed it in the pocket of
his vest and turned away.  At this moment my
attention was withdrawn by an extra tumult of jeers
and harsh laughter in the saloon, from the door of
which, even as my friend turned from the door
opposite, a drunken woman reeled, and staggering
round the corner as my friend came up, fell
violently forward on the pavement, not ten steps in
our advance.  Instinctively, we both sprang to her
aid, and bending over the senseless figure, peered
curiously at the bruised and bleeding features.  My
friend was trembling with excitement.  He clutched
wildly at the limp form, trying, but vainly, to lift the
woman to her feet.  "Why don't you take hold of
her?" he whispered hoarsely.  "Help me with her--
quick! quick!  Lift her up!"  I obeyed without a
word, though with a shudder of aversion as a drop
of hot red blood stung me on the hand.

"Now draw her arm about your shoulder--this
way--and hold it so!  And now your other arm
around her waist--quick, man, quick, as you yourself
will want God's arm about you when you fail!
Now, come!"  And with no other word we hurried
with our burden up the empty darkness of the
street.

I was utterly bewildered with it all, but something
kept me silent.  And so we hurried on, and on, and
on, our course directed by my now wholly reticent
companion.  Where he was going, what his purpose
was, I could not but vaguely surmise.  I only recognized
that his intentions were humane, which fact
was emphasized by the extreme caution he took to
avoid the two or three late pedestrians that passed
us on our way as we stood crowded in concealment
--once behind a low shed, once in an entry-way;
and once, at the distant rattle of a police whistle,
we hurried through the blackness of a narrow alley
into the silent street beyond.  And on up this we
passed, until at last we paused at the gateway of a
cottage on our left.  On to the door of that we went,
my friend first violently jerking the bell, then opening
the door with a night-key, and with me lifting
the still senseless woman through the hall into a
dimly lighted room upon the right, and laying her
upon a clean white bed that glimmered in the corner.
He reached and turned the gas on in a flaring jet,
and as he did so, "This is my home," he whispered,
"and this woman is--my mother!"  He flung himself
upon his knees beside her as he spoke.  He laid
his quivering lips against the white hair and the
ruddy wound upon the brow; then dappled with his
kisses the pale face, and stroked and petted and
caressed the faded hands.  "O God!" he moaned, "if
I might only weep!"

The steps of some one coming down the stairs
aroused him.  He stepped quickly to the door, and
threw it open.  It was a woman servant.  He
simply pointed to the form upon the bed.

"Oh, sir!" exclaimed the frightened woman,
"what has happened?  What has happened to my
poor dear mistress?"

"Why did you let her leave the house?"

"She sent me away, sir.  I never dreamed that
she was going out again.  She told me she was very
sleepy and wanted to retire, and I helped her to
undress before I went.  But she ain't bad hurt, is
she?" she continued, stooping over the still figure
and tenderly smoothing back the disheveled hair.
--"It's only the cheek bruised and the forehead cut
a little--it's the blood that makes it look like a bad
hurt.  See, when I bathe it, it is not a bad hurt, sir.
She's just been--she's just worn out, poor thing--
and she's asleep--that's all."

He made no answer to the woman's speech, but
turned toward me.  "Five doors from here," he
said, "and to your left as you go out, you will find
the residence of Dr. Worrel.  Go to him for me, and
tell him he is wanted here at once.  Tell him my
mother is much worse.  He will understand.  I
would go myself, but must see about arranging for
your comfort upon your return, for you will not
leave me till broad daylight--you must not!"  I
bowed in silent acceptance of his wishes, and turned
upon my errand.

Fortunately, the doctor was at home, and
returned at once with me to my friend, where, after a
careful examination of his patient, he assured the
anxious son that the wounds were only slight, and
that her unconscious condition was simply "the result
of over-stimulation, perhaps," as he delicately
put it.  She would doubtless waken in her usual
rational state--an occurrence really more to be
feared than desired, since her peculiar sensitiveness
might feel too keenly the unfortunate happening.
"Anyway," he continued, "I will call early in the
morning, and, in the event of her awakening before
that time, I will leave a sedative with Mary, with
directions she will attend to.  She will remain here
at her side.  And as to yourself, Mr. Clark," the
doctor went on in an anxious tone, as he marked the
haggard face and hollow eyes, "I insist that you
retire.  You must rest, sir--worrying for the past
week as you have been doing is telling on you
painfully.  You need rest--and you must take it."

"And I will," said Mr. Clark submissively.
Stooping again, he clasped the sleeping face between
his hands and kissed it tenderly.  "Good night!"  I
heard him whisper--"good night-good night!"  He
turned, and motioning for me to follow, opened the
door--"Doctor, good night!  Good night, Mary!"

He led the way to his own room up-stairs.  "And
now, my friend," he said, as he waved me to an easy
chair, "I have but two other favors to ask of you:
The first is, that you talk to me, or read to me, or
tell me fairy tales, or riddles--anything, so that you
keep it up incessantly, and never leave off till you
find me fast asleep.  Then in the next room you
will find a comfortable bed.  Leave me sleeping
here, and you sleep there.  And the second favor,"
he continued, with a slow smile and an affected air
of great deliberation--"oh, well, I'll not ask the
second favor of you now.  I'll keep it for you till
to-morrow."  And as he turned laughingly away and
paced three or four times across the room, in his
step, his gait, the general carriage of the figure, I
was curiously reminded of the time, years before,
that I had watched him from the door of the caboose,
as he walked up the suburban street till the
movement of the train had hidden him from view.

"Well, what will you do?" he asked, as he wheeled
a cozy-cushioned lounge close beside my chair, and
removing his coat, flung himself languidly down.--
"Will you talk or read to me?"

"I will read," I said, as I picked up a book to
begin my vigil.

"Hold just a minute, then," he said, drawing a
card and pencil from his vest.--"I may want to
jot down a note or two.--Now, go ahead."

I had been reading in a low voice steadily for
perhaps an hour, my companion never stirring from
his first position, but although my eyes were never
lifted from the book, I knew by the occasional sound
of his pencil that he had not yet dropped asleep.
And so, without a pause, I read monotonously on.
At last he turned heavily.  I paused.  With his eyes
closed he groped his hand across my knees and
grasped my own.  "Go on with the reading," he
said drowsily--"Guess I'm going to sleep now--but
you go right on with the story.--Good night!"  His
hand fumbled lingeringly a moment, then was withdrawn
and folded with the other on his breast.

I read on in a lower tone an hour longer, then
paused again to look at my companion.  He was
sleeping heavily, and although the features in their
repose appeared unusually pale, a wholesome perspiration,
as it seemed, pervaded all the face, while the
breathing, though labored, was regular.  I bent
above him to lower the pillow for his head, and the
movement half aroused him, as I thought at first,
for he muttered something as though impatiently;
but listening to catch his mutterings, I knew that
he was dreaming.  "It's what killed father," I heard
him say.  "And it's what killed Tom," he went on,
in a smothered voice; "killed both--killed both!  It
shan't kill me; I swear it.  I could bottle it--case
after case--and never touch a drop.  If you never
take the first drink, you'll never want it.  Mother
taught me that.  What made her ever take the first?
Mother! mother!  When I get to be a man, I'll
buy her all the fine things she used to have when
father was alive.  Maybe I can buy back the old
home, with the roses up the walk and the sunshine
slanting in the hall."


And so the sleeper murmured on.  Sometimes
the voice was thick and discordant, sometimes low
and clear and tuneful as a child's.  "Never touch
whisky!" he went on, almost harshly.  "Never--
never!  Drop in the street first.  I did.  The doctor
will come then, and he knows what you want.  Not
whisky.--Medicine; the kind that makes you warm
again--makes you want to live; but don't ever dare
touch whisky.  Let other people drink it if they
want it.  Sell it to them; they'll get it anyhow; but
don't you touch it!  It killed your father, it killed
Tom, and--oh!--mother! mother! mother!"  Tears
actually teemed from underneath the sleeper's lids,
and glittered down the pallid and distorted features.
"There's a medicine that's good for you when you
want whisky," he went on.--"When you are weak,
and everybody else is strong--and always when the
flagstones give way beneath your feet, and the long
street undulates and wavers as you walk; why,
that's a sign for you to take that medicine--and
take it quick!  Oh, it will warm you till the little
pale blue streaks in your white hands will bulge out
again with tingling blood, and it will start up from
its stagnant pools and leap from vein to vein till it
reaches your being's furthest height and droops and
falls and folds down over icy brow and face like a
soft veil moistened with pure warmth.  Ah! it is
so deliriously sweet and restful!"

I heard a moaning in the room below, and then
steps on the stairs, and a tapping at the door.  It
was Mary.  Mrs. Clark had awakened and was
crying for her son.  "But we must not waken him," I
said.  "Give Mrs. Clark the medicine the doctor left
for her--that will quiet her."

"But she won't take it, sir.  She won't do
anything at all for me--and if Mr. Clark could only
come to her, for just a minute, she would--"

The woman's speech was broken by a shrill cry
in the hall, and then the thud of naked feet on the
stairway.  "I want my boy--my boy!" wailed the
hysterical woman from without.

"Go to your mistress--quick," I said sternly,
pushing the maid from the room.--"Take her back;
I will come down to your assistance in a moment."
Then I turned hastily to see if the sleeper had been
disturbed by the woman's cries; but all was peaceful
with him yet; and so, throwing a coverlet over
him, I drew the door to silently and went below.

I found the wretched mother in an almost frenzied
state, and her increasing violence alarmed
me so that I thought it best to summon the physician
again; and bidding the servant not to leave
her for an instant, I hurried for the help so badly
needed.  This time the doctor was long delayed,
although he joined me with all possible haste, and
with all speed accompanied me back to the unhappy
home.  Entering the door, our ears were greeted
with a shriek that came piercing down the hall till
the very echoes shuddered as with fear.  It was the
patient's voice shrilling from the sleeper's room up
stairs:--"O God!  My boy! my boy!  I want my
boy, and he will not waken for me!"  An instant
later we were both upon the scene.

The woman in her frenzy had broken from the
servant to find her son.  And she had found him.

She had wound her arms about him, and had
dragged his still sleeping form upon the floor.  He
would not waken, even though she gripped him to
her heart and shrieked her very soul out in his ears.
He would not waken.  The face, though whiter
than her own, betokened only utter rest and peace.
We drew her, limp and voiceless, from his side.
"We are too late," the doctor whispered, lifting with
his finger one of the closed lids, and letting it drop
to again.--"See here!"  He had been feeling at the
wrist; and, as he spoke, he slipped the sleeve up,
bared the sleeper's arm.  From the wrist to elbow it
was livid purple, and pitted and scarred with minute
wounds--some scarcely scaled as yet with clotted
blood.

"In heaven's name, what does it all mean?" I
asked.

"Morphine," said the doctor, "and the
hypodermic.  And here," he exclaimed, lifting the other
hand--"here is a folded card with your name at the
top."

I snatched it from him, and I read, written in
faint but rounded characters:


"I like to hear your voice.  It sounds kind.  It is
like a far-off tune.  To drop asleep, though, as I
am doing now, is sweeter music--but read on.--I
have taken something to make me sleep, and by
mistake I have taken too much; but you will read
right on.  Now, mind you, this is not suicide, as
God listens to the whisper of this pencil as I write!
I did it by mistake.  For years and years I have
taken the same thing.  This time I took too much--
much more than I meant to--but I am glad.  This
is the second favor I would ask:  Go to my employers
to-morrow, show them this handwriting, and
say I know for my sake they will take charge of
my affairs and administer all my estate in the best
way suited to my mother's needs.  Good-by, my
friend--I can only say 'good night' to you when I
shall take your hand an instant later and turn away
forever."


Through tears I read it all, and ending with his
name in full, I turned and looked down on the face
of this man that I had learned to love, and the
full measure of his needed rest was with him; and
the rainy day that glowered and drabbled at the
eastern window of the room was as drearily stared
back at by a hopeless woman's dull demented eyes.



A NEST-EGG

But a few miles from the city here, and on the
sloping banks of the stream noted more for its
plenitude of "chubs" and "shiners" than the gamier
two- and four-pound bass for which, in season, so
many credulous anglers flock and lie in wait, stands
a country residence, so convenient to the stream,
and so inviting in its pleasant exterior and
comfortable surroundings--barn, dairy, and spring-
house--that the weary, sunburned, and disheartened
fisherman, out from the dusty town for a day of
recreation, is often wont to seek its hospitality.

The house in style of architecture is something of
a departure from the typical farmhouse, being
designed and fashioned with no regard to symmetry
or proportion, but rather, as is suggested, built to
conform to the matter-of-fact and most sensible
ideas of its owner, who, if it pleased him, would
have small windows where large ones ought to be,
and vice versa, whether they balanced properly to
the eye or not.  And chimneys--he would have as
many as he wanted, and no two alike, in either
height or size.  And if he wanted the front of the
house turned from all possible view, as though
abashed at any chance of public scrutiny, why, that
was his affair and not the public's; and, with like
perversity, if he chose to thrust his kitchen under the public's
very nose, what should the generally
fagged-out, half-famished representative of that
dignified public do but reel in his dead minnow,
shoulder his fishing-rod, clamber over the back
fence of the old farmhouse and inquire within, or
jog back to the city, inwardly anathematizing that
particular locality or the whole rural district
in general.  That is just the way that farmhouse
looked to the writer of this sketch one week ago--
so individual it seemed--so liberal, and yet so
independent.  It wasn't even weather-boarded, but,
instead, was covered smoothly with cement,
as though the plasterers had come while the folks
were visiting, and so, unable to get at the interior,
had just plastered the outside.

I am more than glad that I was hungry enough,
and weary enough, and wise enough to take the
house at its first suggestion; for, putting away my
fishing-tackle for the morning, at least, I went up
the sloping bank, crossed the dusty road, and
confidently clambered over the fence.

Not even a growling dog to intimate that I was
trespassing.  All was open--gracious-looking--pastoral.
The sward beneath my feet was velvet-like
in elasticity, and the scarce visible path I followed
through it led promptly to the open kitchen door.
From within I heard a woman singing some old
ballad in an undertone, while at the threshold a
trim, white-spurred rooster stood poised on one foot,
curving his glossy neck and cocking his wattled
head as though to catch the meaning of the words.
I paused.  It was a scene I felt restrained from
breaking in upon, nor would I have, but for the
sound of a strong male voice coming around the
corner of the house:

"Sir.  Howdy!"

Turning, I saw a rough-looking but kindly
featured man of sixty-five, evidently the owner of the
place.

I returned his salutation with some confusion
and much deference.  "I must really beg your pardon
for this intrusion," I began, "but I have been
tiring myself out fishing, and your home here looked
so pleasant--and I felt so thirsty--and--"

"Want a drink, I reckon," said the old man,
turning abruptly toward the kitchen door, then pausing
as suddenly, with a backward motion of his thumb
--"jest follow the path here down to the little
brick--that's the spring--and you'll find 'at you've
come to the right place fer drinkin'-worter!  Hold
on a minute tel I get you a tumbler--there's nothin'
down there but a tin."

"Then don't trouble yourself any further," I
said, heartily, "for I'd rather drink from a tin cup
than a goblet of pure gold."

"And so'd I," said the old man, reflectively,
turning mechanically, and following me down the path.
" 'Druther drink out of a tin--er jest a fruit-can
with the top knocked off--er--er--er a gourd," he
added in a zestful, reminiscent tone of voice, that
so heightened my impatient thirst that I reached
the spring-house fairly in a run.

"Well-sir!" exclaimed my host, in evident
delight, as I stood dipping my nose in the second
cupful of the cool, revivifying liquid, and peering in a
congratulatory kind of way at the blurred and rubicund
reflection of my features in the bottom of the
cup, "well-sir, blame-don! ef it don't do a feller
good to see you enjoyin' of it thataway!  But don't
you drink too much o' the worter!--'cause there's
some sweet milk over there in one o' them crocks,
maybe; and ef you'll jest, kind o' keerful-like, lift
off the led of that third one, say, over there to
yer left, and dip you out a tinful er two o' that,
w'y, it'll do you good to drink it, and it'll do me
good to see you at it--  But hold up!--hold up!"
he called, abruptly, as, nowise loath, I bent above
the vessel designated.  "Hold yer hosses fer a second!
Here's Marthy; let her git it fer ye."

If I was at first surprised and confused, meeting
the master of the house, I was wholly startled and
chagrined in my present position before its mistress.
But as I arose, and stammered, in my confusion,
some incoherent apology, I was again reassured and
put at greater ease by the comprehensive and
forgiving smile the woman gave me, as I yielded her
my place, and, with lifted hat, awaited her further
kindness.

"I came just in time, sir," she said, half
laughingly, as with strong, bare arms she reached across
the gurgling trough and replaced the lid that I had
partially removed.--"I came just in time, I see, to
prevent father from having you dip into the morning's-
milk, which, of course, has scarcely a veil of
cream over the face of it as yet.  But men, as you
are doubtless willing to admit," she went on jocularly,
"don't know about these things.  You must
pardon father, as much for his well-meaning ignorance
of such matters, as for this cup of cream,
which I am sure you will better relish."

She arose, still smiling, with her eyes turned
frankly on my own.  And I must be excused when
I confess that as I bowed my thanks, taking the
proffered cup and lifting it to my lips, I stared
with an uncommon interest and pleasure at the
donor's face.

She was a woman of certainly not less than forty
years of age.  But the figure, and the rounded grace
and fulness of it, together with the features and the
eyes, completed as fine a specimen of physical and
mental health as ever it has been my fortune to
meet; there was something so full of purpose and
resolve--something so wholesome, too, about the
character--something so womanly--I might almost
say manly, and would, but for the petty prejudice
maybe occasioned by the trivial fact of a locket
having dropped from her bosom as she knelt; and
that trinket still dangles in my memory even as it
then dangled and dropped back to its concealment
in her breast as she arose.  But her face, by no
means handsome in the common sense of the word,
was marked with a breadth and strength of outline
and expression that approached the heroic--a face
that once seen is forever fixed in memory--a personage
once met one must know more of.  And so it
was, that an hour later, as I strolled with the old
man about his farm, looking, to all intents, with the
profoundest interest at his Devonshires, Shorthorns,
Jerseys, and the like, I lured from him something
of an outline of his daughter's history.

"There're no better girl 'n Marthy!" he said,
mechanically answering some ingenious allusion to
her worth.  "And yit," he went on reflectively,
stooping from his seat in the barn door and with
his open jack-knife picking up a little chip with the
point of the blade--"and yit--you wouldn't believe
it--but Marthy was the oldest o' three daughters,
and hed--I may say--hed more advantages o' marryin'--
and yit, as I was jest goin' to say, she's the
very one 'at didn't marry.  Hed every advantage--
Marthy did.  W'y, we even hed her educated--her
mother was a-livin' then--and we was well enough
fixed to afford the educatin' of her, mother allus
contended--and we was--besides, it was Marthy's
notion, too, and you know how women is thataway
when they git their head set.  So we sent Marthy
down to Indianop'lus, and got her books and put
her in school there, and paid fer her keepin' and
ever'thing; and she jest--well, you may say, lived
there stiddy fer better'n four year.  O' course
she'd git back ever' once-an-a-while, but her visits
was allus, some-way-another, onsatisfactory-like,
'cause, you see, Marthy was allus my favorite, and
I'd allus laughed and told her 'at the other girls
could git marrid ef they wanted, but SHE was goin'
to be the 'nest-egg' of our family, and 'slong as I
lived I wanted her at home with me.  And she'd
laugh and contend 'at she'd as li'f be an old maid as
not, and never expected to marry, ner didn't want
to.

"But she had me sceart onc't, though!  Come
out from the city one time, durin' the army, with
a peart-lookin' young feller in blue clothes and gilt
straps on his shoulders.  Young lieutenant he was
--name o' Morris.  Was layin' in camp there in the
city som'er's.  I disremember which camp it was
now adzackly--but anyway, it 'peared like he had
plenty o' time to go and come, fer from that time
on he kep' on a-comin'--ever' time Marthy 'ud
come home, he'd come, too; and I got to noticin' 'at
Marthy come home a good 'eal more'n she used to
afore Morris first brought her.  And blame' ef the
thing didn't git to worryin' me!  And onc't I spoke
to mother about it, and told her ef I thought the
feller wanted to marry Marthy I'd jest stop his
comin' right then and there.  But mother she sort o'
smiled and said somepin' 'bout men a-never seein'
through nothin'; and when I ast her what she meant,
w'y, she ups and tells me 'at Morris didn't keer
nothin' fer Marthy, ner Marthy fer Morris, and
then went on to tell me that Morris was kind o'
aidgin' up to'rds Annie--she was next to Marthy,
you know, in p'int of years and experience, but
ever'body allus said 'at Annie was the purtiest one
o' the whole three of 'em.  And so when mother
told me 'at the signs p'inted to'rds Annie, w'y, of course, I
hedn't no particular objections to that,
'cause Morris was of good fambly enough it turned
out, and, in fact, was as stirrin' a young feller as
ever I' want fer a son-in-law, and so I hed nothin'
more to say--ner they wasn't no occasion to say
nothin', 'cause right along about then I begin to
notice 'at Marthy quit comin' home so much, and
Morris kep' a-comin' more.

"Tel finally, one time he was out here all by
hisself, 'long about dusk, come out here where
I was feedin', and ast me, all at onct, and in
a straightfor'ard way, ef he couldn't marry
Annie; and, some-way-another, blame' ef it didn't
make me happy as him when I told him yes!
You see that thing proved, pine-blank, 'at he wasn't
a-fishin' round fer Marthy.  Well-sir, as luck would
hev it, Marthy got home about a half-hour later,
and I'll give you my word I was never so glad to
see the girl in my life!  It was foolish in me, I
reckon, but when I see her drivin' up the lane--
it was purt' nigh dark then, but I could see her
through the open winder from where I was sittin'
at the supper-table, and so I jest quietly excused
myself, p'lite-like, as a feller will, you know, when
they's comp'ny round, and slipped off and met her
jest as she was about to git out to open the barn
gate.  'Hold up, Marthy,' says I; 'set right where
you air; I'll open the gate fer you, and I'll do
anything else fer you in the world 'at you want me to!'

" 'W'y, what's pleased YOU so?' she says,
laughin', as she druv through slow-like and a-ticklin' my nose
with the cracker of the buggy-whip.--'What's
pleased YOU?'

" 'Guess,' says I, jerkin' the gate to, and turnin' to
lift her out.

" 'The new peanner's come?' says she, eager-like.

" 'Yer new peanner's come,' says I, 'but that's
not it.'

" 'Strawberries for supper?' says she.

" 'Strawberries fer supper,' says I; 'but that
ain't it.'

"Jest then Morris's hoss whinnied in the barn,
and she glanced up quick and smilin' and says,
'Somebody come to see somebody?'

" 'You're a-gittin' warm,' says I.

" 'Somebody come to see ME?' she says, anxious-like.

" 'No,' says I, 'and I'm glad of it--fer this one
'at's come wants to git married, and o' course I
wouldn't harber in my house no young feller 'at
was a-layin' round fer a chance to steal away the
"Nest-egg," ' says I, laughin'.

"Marthy had riz up in the buggy by this time,
but as I helt up my hands to her, she sort o' drawed
back a minute, and says, all serious-like and kind o'
whisperin':

" 'Is it ANNIE?'

"I nodded.  'Yes,' says I, 'and what's more, I've
give my consent, and mother's give hern--the thing's
all settled.  Come, jump out and run in and be
happy with the rest of us!' and I helt out my hands
ag'in, but she didn't 'pear to take no heed.  She was kind o'
pale, too, I thought, and swallered a
time er two like as ef she couldn't speak plain.

" 'Who is the man?' she ast.

" 'Who--who's the man,' I says, a-gittin' kind o'
out o' patience with the girl.--'W'y, you know who
it is, o' course.--It's Morris,' says I.  'Come, jump
down!  Don't you see I'm waitin' fer ye?'

" 'Then take me,' she says; and blame-don! ef
the girl didn't keel right over in my arms as limber
as a rag!  Clean fainted away!  Honest!  Jest the
excitement, I reckon, o' breakin' it to her so suddent-
like--'cause she liked Annie, I've sometimes
thought, better'n even she did her own mother.
Didn't go half so hard with her when her other
sister married.  Yes-sir!" said the old man, by way
of sweeping conclusion, as he rose to his feet--
"Marthy's the on'y one of 'em 'at never married--
both the others is gone--Morris went all through
the army and got back safe and sound--'s livin' in
Idyho, and doin' fust-rate.  Sends me a letter ever'
now and then.  Got three little chunks o' grandchildren
out there, and I never laid eyes on one
of 'em.  You see, I'm a-gittin' to be quite a middle-
aged man--in fact, a very middle-aged man, you
might say.  Sence mother died, which has be'n--
lem-me-see--mother's be'n dead som'er's in the
neighberhood o' ten years.--Sence mother died I've
be'n a-gittin' more and more o' MARTHY'S notion--
that is,--you couldn't ever hire ME to marry nobody!
and them has allus be'n and still is the 'Nest-egg's'
views!  Listen!  That's her a-callin' fer us now. You must sort
o' overlook the freedom, but I told
Marthy you'd promised to take dinner with us to-
day, and it 'ud never do to disappoint her now.
Come on."  And ah! it would have made the soul
of you either rapturously glad or madly envious to
see how meekly I consented.

I am always thinking that I never tasted coffee
till that day; I am always thinking of the crisp and
steaming rolls, ored over with the molten gold
that hinted of the clover-fields, and the bees that
had not yet permitted the honey of the bloom and
the white blood of the stalk to be divorced; I am
thinking that the young and tender pullet we happy
three discussed was a near and dear relative of the
gay patrician rooster that I first caught peering so
inquisitively in at the kitchen door; and I am
always--always thinking of "The Nest-egg."



"THE BOY FROM ZEENY"

His advent in our little country town was at
once abrupt and novel.  Why he came, when
he came, or how he came, we boys never knew.  My
first remembrance of him is of his sudden appearance
in the midst of a game of "Ant'ny-over," in
which a dozen boys besides myself were most
enthusiastically engaged.  The scene of the exciting
contest was the center of the main street of the
town, the elevation over which we tossed the ball
being the skeleton remains of a grand triumphal
arch, left as a sort of cadaverous reminder of some
recent political demonstration.  Although I recall
the boy's external appearance upon that occasion
with some vagueness, I vividly remember that his
trousers were much too large and long, and that
his heavy, flapping coat was buttonless, and very
badly worn and damaged at the sleeves and elbows.
I remember, too, with even more distinctness, the
hat he wore; it was a high, silk, bell-crowned hat--
a man's hat and a veritable "plug"--not a new and
shiny "plug," by any means, but still of dignity and
gloss enough to furnish a noticeable contrast to the
other appurtenances of its wearer's wardrobe.  In
fact, it was through this latter article of dress that the
general attention of the crowd came at last to
be drawn particularly to its unfortunate possessor,
who, evidently directed by an old-time instinct, had
mechanically thrust the inverted "castor" under a
falling ball, and the ball, being made of yarn
wrapped tightly over a green walnut, and dropping
from an uncommon height, had gone through the
hat like a round shot.

Naturally enough much merriment was occasioned
by the singular mishap, and the victim of
the odd occurrence seemed himself inclined to join
in the boisterous laughter and make the most of
his ridiculous misfortune.  He pulled the hat back
over his tousled head, and with the flapping crown
of it still clinging by one frayed hinge, he capered
through a grotesquely executed jig that made the
clamorous crowd about him howl again.

"Wo! what a hat!" cried Billy Kinzey, derisively,
and with a palpably rancorous twinge of envy in
his heart; for Billy was the bad boy of our town,
and would doubtless have enjoyed the strange boy's
sudden notoriety in thus being able to convert
disaster into positive fun.  "Wo! what a hat!"
reiterated Billy, making a feint to knock it from the
boy's head as the still capering figure pirouetted
past him.

The boy's eye caught the motion, and he whirled
suddenly in a backward course and danced past his
reviler again, this time much nearer than before.
"Better try it," he said, in a low, half-laughing
tone that no one heard but Billy and myself.  He
was out of range in an instant, still laughing as he
went.

"Durn him!" said Billy, with stifling anger,
clutching his fist and leaving one knuckle protruding
in a very wicked-looking manner.--"Durn him!  He
better not sass me!  He's afeard to come past here
ag'in and say that!  I'll knock his durn ole stove-
pipe in the middle o' nex' week!"

"You will, hey?" queried a revolving voice, as
the boy twirled past again--this time so near that
Billy felt his taunting breath blown in his face.

"Yes, I 'will, hey'!" said Billy, viciously; and
with a side-sweeping, flat-handed lick that sounded
like striking a rusty sheet of tin, the crownless
"plug" went spinning into the gutter, while, as
suddenly, the assaulted little stranger, with a peculiarly
pallid smile about his lips and an electric glitter
in his eye, adroitly flung his left hand forward,
smiting his insulter such a blow in the region of the
brow that the unguarded Billy went tumbling
backward, his plucky assailant prancing wildly
around his prostrate form.

"Oh! come and see me!" snarled the strange boy,
in a contemptuous tone, cocking his fists up in a
scientific manner, and dropping into a stoop-
shouldered swagger that would have driven envy into
the heart of a bullying hack-driver.  "Git the bloke
on his pins!" he sneered, turning to the crowd.--
"S'pose I'm goin' to hit a man w'en he's down?"

But his antagonist needed no such assistance.
Stung with his unlooked-for downfall, bleeding
from the first blow ever given him by mortal boy,
and goaded to absolute frenzy by the taunts of his
swaggering enemy, Billy sprang to his feet, and a
moment later had succeeded in closing with the
boy in a rough-and-tumble fight, in which his
adversary was at a disadvantage, being considerably
smaller, hampered, too, with his loose, unbuttoned
coat and baggy trousers.  But, for all that, he did
some very efficient work in the way of a deft and
telling blow or two upon the nose of his overpowering
foe, who sat astride his wriggling body, but
wholly unable to get in a lick.

"Durn you!" said Billy, with his hand gripping
the boy's throat, "holler 'nough!"

"Holler nothin'!" gurgled the boy, with his eyes
fairly starting from his head.

"Oh, let him up, Billy," called a compassionate
voice from the excited crowd.

"Holler 'nough and I will," said Billy, in a tragic
whisper in the boy's ear.  "Durn ye! holler 'Calf-rope!' "

The boy only shook his head, trembled convulsively,
let fall his eyelids, and lay limp and, to all
appearances, unconscious.

The startled Billy loosed his hold, rose half-way
to his feet, then fiercely pounced again at his rival.

But it was too late.--The ruse had succeeded,
and the boy was once more on his feet.

"You fight like a dog!" said the strange boy, in
a tone of infinite contempt--"and you AIR a dog!
Put up yer props like a man and come at me, and
I'll meller yer head till yer mother won't know
you!  Come on!  I dare you!"

This time, as Billy started forward at the
challenge, I regret to say that in his passion he snatched
up from the street a broken buggy-spoke, before
which warlike weapon the strange boy was forced
warily to retreat.  Step by step he gave way, and
step by step his threatening foe advanced.  I think,
perhaps, part of the strange boy's purpose in thus
retreating was to arm himself with one of the "ax-
handles" that protruded from a churn standing in
front of a grocery, toward which he slowly backed
across the sidewalk.  However that may be, it is
evident he took no note of an open cellar-way that
lay behind him, over the brink of which he deliberately
backed, throwing up his hands as he disappeared.

We heard a heavy fall, but heard no cry.  Some
loungers in the grocery, attracted by the clamor of
the throng without, came to the door inquiringly;
one man, learning what had happened, peered down
the stairway of the cellar, and called to ask the boy
if he was hurt, which query was answered an instant
later by the appearance of the boy himself, his face
far whiter than his shirt, and his lips trembling,
but his teeth clenched.

"Guess I broke my arm ag'in," he said, briefly, as
the man leaned over and helped him up the steps,
the boy sweeping his keen eyes searchingly over the
faces of the crowd.  "It's the RIGHT arm, though,"
he continued, glancing at the injured member dangling
helplessly at his side--"THIS-'UN'S all right yet!"
and as he spoke he jerked from the man's assistance,
wheeled round, and an instant later, as a
buggy-spoke went hurtling through the air, he
slapped the bewildered face of Billy with his open
hand.  "Dam' coward!" he said.

Then the man caught him, and drew him back,
and the crowd closed in between the combatants,
following, as the boy with the broken arm was
hurried down street to the doctor's office, where the
door was immediately closed on the rabble and all
the mystery within--not an utter mystery, either,
for three or four enterprising and sagacious boys
slipped off from the crowd that thronged in front,
and climbing by a roundabout way and over a high
board fence into the back yard, secretly posted
themselves at the blinded window in the rear of the little
one-roomed office and breathlessly awaited news
from within.

"They got him laid out on the settee," whispered
a venturous boy who had leaned a board against
the window-sill and climbed into a position
commanding the enviable advantage of a broken window-
pane.  "I kin see him through a hole in the
curtain.  Keep still!

"They got his coat off, and his sleeve rolled up,"
whispered the boy, in continuation--"and the doctor's
a-givin' him some medicine in a tumbler.  Now
he's a-pullin' his arm.  Gee-mun-nee!  I kin hear the
bones crunch!"

"Hain't he a-cryin'?" queried a milk-faced boy,
with very large blue eyes and fine white hair, and
a grieved expression as he spoke.--"Hain't he
a-cryin'?"

"Well, he hain't!" said the boy in the window,
with unconscious admiration.  "Listen!

"I heerd him thist tell 'em 'at it wasn't the first
time his arm was broke.  Now keep still!" and
the boy in the window again bent his ear to the
broken pane.

"He says both his arm's be'n broke," continued
the boy in the window--"says this-'un 'at's broke
now's be'n broke two times 'fore this time."

"Dog-gone! hain't he a funny feller!" said the
milk-faced boy, with his big eyes lifted wistfully
to the boy in the window.

"He says onc't his pap broke his arm w'en he was
whippin' him," whispered the boy in the window.

"Bet his pa's a wicked man!" said the milk-faced
boy, in a dreamy, speculative way--"s'pect he's a
drunkard, er somepin'!"

"Keep still," said the boy at the window; "they're
tryin' to git him to tell his pap's name and his, and
he won't do it, 'cause he says his pap comes and
steals him ever' time he finds out where he is."

The milk-faced boy drew a long, quavering
breath and gazed suspiciously round the high board
fence of the enclosure.

"He says his pap used to keep a liberty-stable
in Zeeny--in Ohio som'er's,--but he daresn't stay
round THERE no more, 'cause he broke up there, and
had to skedaddle er they'd clean him out!  He says
he hain't got no mother, ner no brothers, ner no
sisters, ner no nothin'--on'y," the boy in the window
added, with a very dry and painful swallow, "he
says he hain't got nothin' on'y thist the clothes on
his back!"

"Yes, and I bet," broke in the milk-faced boy,
abruptly, with his thin lips compressed, and his
big eyes fixed on space--"yes, and I bet he kin lick
Billy Kinzey, ef his arm IS broke!"

At this juncture, some one inside coming to raise
the window, the boy at the broken pane leaped to
the ground, and, flocking at his heels, his frightened
comrades bobbed one by one over the horizon of the
high fence and were gone in an instant.

So it was the hero of this sketch came to be
known as "The Boy from Zeeny."

The Boy from Zeeny, though evidently predisposed
to novel and disastrous happenings, for once,
at least, had come upon a streak of better fortune;
for the doctor, it appeared, had someway taken a
fancy to him, and had offered him an asylum at
his own home and hearth--the compensation stipulated,
and suggested by the boy himself, being a
conscientious and efficient service in the doctor's
stable.  Even with his broken arm splinted and
bandaged and supported in a sling, The Boy from
Zeeny could daily be seen loping the doctor's spirited
horse up the back alley from the stable to the office,
with the utter confidence and careless grace
of a Bedouin.  When, at last, the injured arm was
wholly well again, the daring feats of horsemanship
of which the boy was capable were listened to with
incredulity by the "good" boys of the village school,
who never played "hooky" on long summer afternoons,
and, in consequence, never had a chance of
witnessing The Boy from Zeeny loping up to the
"swimmin'-hole," a mile from town, barebacked,
with nothing but a halter, and his face turned
toward the horse's tail.  In fact The Boy from
Zeeny displayed such a versatility of accomplishments,
and those, too, of a character but faintly
represented in the average boy of the country town,
that, for all the admiration their possessor evoked,
an equal envy was aroused in many a youthful
breast.

"The boys in this town's down on you!" said
a cross-eyed, freckled-faced boy, one day, to The
Boy from Zeeny.

The Boy from Zeeny was sitting in the alley
window of the hayloft of the doctor's stable, and
the cross-eyed boy had paused below, and, with his
noward-looking eyes upturned, stood waiting the
effect of this intelligence.

"What do I care for the boys in this town?" said
The Boy from Zeeny.

"The boys in this town," repeated the cross-eyed
boy, with a slow, prophetic flourish of his head--
"the boys in this town says 'cause you come from
Zeeny and blacked Billy Kinzey's eye, 'at you think
you're goin' to run things round here!  And you'll
find out you ain't the bosst o' this town!" and the
cross-eyed boy shook his head again with dire foreboding.

"Looky here, Cocky!" said The Boy from Zeeny,
trying to focus a direct gaze on the boy's delusive
eyes, "w'y don't you talk straight out from the
shoulder?  I reckon 'the boys in this town,' as you
call 'em, didn't send YOU round here to tell me what
THEY was goin' to do!  But ef you want to take it
up fer 'em, and got any sand to back you, jest say it,
and I'll come down there and knock them durn
twisted eyes o' yourn straight ag'in!"

"Yes, you will!" muttered the cross-eyed boy,
with dubious articulation, glancing uneasily up the
alley.

"What?" growled The Boy from Zeeny, thrusting
one dangling leg farther out the window, supporting
his weight by the palms of his hands, and poised as
though about to spring--"what 'id you say?"

"Didn't say nothin'," said the cross-eyed boy,
feebly; and then, as a sudden and most bewildering
smile lighted up his defective eyes, he exclaimed:
"Oh, I tell you what le's do!  Le's me and you
git up a show in your stable, and don't let none o'
the other boys be in it!  I kin turn a handspring
like you, and purt' nigh walk on my hands; and
you kin p'form on the slack-rope--and spraddle
out like the 'inja-rubber man'--and hold a pitch-
fork on yer chin-and stand up on a horse 'ithout
a-holdin'--and--and--Oh! ever'thing!"  And as the
cross-eyed boy breathlessly concluded this list of
strong attractions, he had The Boy from Zeeny so
thoroughly inoculated with the enterprise that he
warmly closed with the proposition, and the preparations
and the practise for the show were at once
inaugurated.

Three hours later, an extremely cross-eyed boy,
with the freckles of his face thrown into vivid relief
by an intense pallor, rushed pantingly into the
doctor's office with the fateful intelligence that The
Boy from Zeeny had "fell and broke his arm ag'in."
And this time, as it seemed, the hapless boy had
surpassed the seriousness of all former fractures,
this last being of a compound nature, and very
painful in the setting, and tedious in recovery; the
recovery, too, being anything but perfect, since it
left the movement of the elbow somewhat restricted,
and threw the little fellow's arm into an unnatural
position, with the palm of the hand turned forward
as he walked.  But for all that, the use of it was,
to all appearances, little impaired.

Doubtless it was through such interludes from
rough service as these accidents afforded that The
Boy from Zeeny had acquired the meager education
he possessed.  The doctor's wife, who had from the
first been kind to him, grew to like him very much.
Through her gentle and considerate interest he was
stimulated to study by the occasional present of a
simple volume.  Oftentimes the good woman would
devote an hour to his instruction in the mysteries of
the book's orthography and rhetoric.

Nor was The Boy from Zeeny a dull pupil, nor
was he an ungrateful one.  He was quick to learn,
and never prouder than when a mastered lesson
gained for him the approbation of his patient instructor.

The history of The Boy from Zeeny, such as had
been gathered by the doctor and his wife, was
corroborative in outline with the brief hint of it
communicated to the curious listeners at the rear
window of the doctor's office on the memorable day
of the boy's first appearance in the town.  He was
without family, save a harsh, unfeeling father, who,
from every evidence, must have neglected and
abused the child most shamefully, the circumstantial
proof of this fact being evidenced in the boy's
frank acknowledgment that he had repeatedly "run
away" from him, and his still firm resolve to keep
his name a secret, lest he might thereby be traced
to his present security and fall once more into the
hands of his unnatural parent.

Certain it was that the feelings of all who knew
the lad's story showed hearty sympathy with him,
and when one morning it was rumored that The Boy
from Zeeny had mysteriously disappeared, and the
rumor rapidly developed into an unquestionable
fact, there was a universal sense of regret in the
little town, which in turn resolved itself into positive
indignation when it was learned from the doctor
that an explanation, printed in red keel on the
back of a fragment of circus-poster, had been
found folded and tucked away an the buckle-strap
of his horse's bridle.  The somewhat remarkable
communication, in sprawling capitals, ran thus:


"PAPS GOT ME AGIN.  I HAF TO GO.  DAM HIM.  DOC TEL
HER TO KEEP MY BOOCKS.  GOOD BY.  I FED OLE CHARLY.  I
FED HIM OTES AND HA AN CORN.  HE WONT NEED NO MORE FER
A WEAK.  AN BRAND TO.  DOC TEL HER GOOD BY."


It was a curious bit of composition--uncouth,
assuredly, and marred, maybe, with an unpardonable
profanity--but it served.  In the silence and gloom
of the old stable, the doctor's fingers trembled as
he read, and the good wife's eyes, peering anxiously
above his heaving shoulder, filled and overflowed
with tears.

I wish that it were in the veracious sequence of
this simple history to give this wayward boy back
to the hearts that loved him, and that still in memory
enshrine him with affectionate regard; but the
hapless lad--the little ragged twelve-year-old that
wandered out of nowhere into town, and wandered
into nowhere out again--never returned.  Yet we
who knew him in those old days--we who were
children with him, and, in spite of boyish jealousy
and petty bickerings, admired the gallant spirit of
the lad--are continually meeting with reminders of
him; the last instance of which, in my own experience,
I can not refrain from offering here:

For years I have been a wanderer from the dear
old town of my nativity, but through all my
wanderings a gracious fate has always kept me somewhere
in its pleasant neighborhood, and, in consequence,
I often pay brief visits to the scenes of my
long-vanished boyhood.  It was during such a visit,
but a few short years ago, that remembrances of
my lost youth were most forcibly recalled by the
progress of the county fair, which institution I
was permitted to attend through the kindness of an
old chum who drove me over in his buggy.

Although it was not the day for racing, we found
the track surrounded by a dense crowd of clamorous
and applauding people.

"What does it mean?" I asked my friend, as he
guided his horse in and out among the trees toward
the edge of the enclosure.

"It's Professor Andrus, I suspect," he answered,
rising in the buggy as he spoke, and peering eagerly
above the heads of the surging multitude.

"And who's Professor Andrus?" I asked, striking
a match against the tire of the now stationary buggy-
wheel, and lighting the stump of my cigar.

"Why, haven't you heard of the famous Professor?"
he answered, laughingly--immediately adding
in a serious tone:  "Professor Andrus is the famous
'horse-tamer' who has been driving the country
absolutely wild here for two or three days.  Stand up
here where you can see!" he went on, excitedly.

"Yonder he comes!  Isn't that splendid?"

And it was.

Across the sea of heads, and facing toward us
down the track, I caught sight of a glossy span of
horses that in their perfect beauty of symmetry,
high heads and tossing manes looked as though
they were just prancing out of some Arabian dream.
The animals seemed nude of rein or harness, save
only a jeweled strap that crossed the breast of each,
together with a slender trace at either side connecting
with a jaunty little phaeton whose glittering
wheels slivered the sunshine into splinters as they
spun.  Upon the narrow seat of the airy vehicle sat
the driver.  No lines were wound about his hands
--no shout or lash to goad the horses to their telling
speed.  They were simply directed and controlled
by the graceful motions of a long and slender whip
which waved slowly to and fro above their heads.
The great crowd cheered the master as he came.  He
arose deliberately, took off his hat, and bowed.  The
applause was deafening.  Still standing, he whizzed
past us and was gone.  But something in the manner
of the handsome fellow struck me with a strange
sense of familiarity.  Was it the utter disregard of
fear that I saw on his face?  Was it the keenness
of the eye and the perfect self-possession of the
man?  Or was it--was it the peculiar way in which
the right arm had dropped to his side after his
salute to us while curving past us, and did I fancy,
for that reason, that the palm of his hand turned
forward as he stood?

"Clear the track, there!" came a far voice across
the ring.--"Don't cross there, in God's name!  Drive
back!"

The warning evidently came too late.  There was
an instant's breathless silence, then a far-away, pent-
sounding clash, then utter havoc in the crowd:  The
ropes about the ring were broken over, and a tumultuous
tide of people poured across the ring, myself
borne on the very foremost wave.

"Jest the buggy smashed, that's all!" cried a voice.
"The hosses hain't hurt--ner the man."

The man referred to was the Professor.  I caught
a glimpse of him as he rose from the grassy bank
where he had been flung.  He was very pale, but
calm.  An uncouth man brought him his silk hat
from where it had rolled in the dust.

"Wish you'd just take this handkerchief and
brush it off," said the Professor; "I guess I've broke
my arm."

It was The Boy from Zeeny.



WHERE IS MARY ALICE SMITH?

"Where--is--Mary--Alice--Smith?  Oh--
she--has--gone--home!"  It was the thin
mysterious voice of little Mary Alice Smith herself
that so often queried and responded as above--
every word accented with a sweet and eery intonation,
and a very gaiety of solemn earnestness that
baffled the cunning skill of all childish imitators.  A
slender wisp of a girl she was, not more than ten
years in appearance, though her age had been
given to us as fourteen.  The spindle ankles that
she so airily flourished from the sparse concealment
of a worn and shadowy calico skirt seemed scarce
a fraction more in girth than the slim blue-veined
wrists she tossed among the loose and ragged tresses
of her yellow hair, as she danced around the room.
She was, from the first, an object of curious and
most refreshing interest to our family--to us children
in particular--an interest, though years and
years have interposed to shroud it in the dull dust
of forgetfulness, that still remains vivid and bright
and beautiful.  Whether an orphan child only, or
with a father that could thus lightly send her adrift,
I do not know now, nor do I care to ask, but I do
recall distinctly that on a raw bleak day in early
winter she was brought to us, from a wild country settlement, by
a reputed uncle--a gaunt round-
shouldered man, with deep eyes and sallow cheeks
and weedy-looking beard, as we curiously watched
him from the front window stolidly swinging this
little, blue-lipped, red-nosed waif over the muddy
wagon-wheel to father's arms, like so much country
produce.  And even as the man resumed his seat
upon the thick board laid across the wagon, and
sat chewing a straw, with spasmodic noddings of
the head, as some brief further conference detained
him, I remember mother quickly lifting my sister
up from where we stood, folding and holding the
little form in unconscious counterpart of father and
the little girl without.  And how we gathered round
her when father brought her in, and mother fixed
a cozy chair for her close to the blazing fire, and
untied the little summer hat, with its hectic
trimmings, together with the dismal green veil that had
been bound beneath it round the little tingling ears.
The hollow, pale blue eyes of the child followed
every motion with an alertness that suggested a
somewhat suspicious mind.

"Dave gimme that!" she said, her eyes proudly
following the hat as mother laid it on the pillow of
the bed.  "Mustn't git it mussed up, sir! er you'll
have Dave in yer wool!" she continued warningly,
as our childish interest drew us to a nearer view of
the gaudy article in question.

Half awed, we shrank back to our first wonderment,
one of us, however, with the bravery to ask:
"Who's Dave?"

"Who's Dave?" reiterated the little voice half
scornfully.--"W'y, Dave's a great big boy!  Dave
works on Barnes's place.  And he kin purt' nigh
make a full hand, too.  Dave's purt' nigh tall as
your pap!  He's purt' nigh growed up--Dave is!
And--David--Mason--Jeffries," she continued,
jauntily teetering her head from left to right, and
for the first time introducing that peculiar deliberation
of accent and undulating utterance that we
afterward found to be her quaintest and most
charming characteristic--"and--David--Mason--
Jeffries--he--likes--Mary--Alice--Smith!"  And
then she broke abruptly into the merriest laughter,
and clapped her little palms together till they fairly
glowed.

"And who's Mary Alice Smith?" clamored a
chorus of merry voices.

The elfish figure straightened haughtily in the
chair.  Folding the slender arms tightly across her
breast, and tilting her wan face back with an
imperious air, she exclaimed sententiously, "W'y,
Mary Alice Smith is me--that's who Mary Alice
Smith is!"

It was not long, however, before her usual bright
and infectious humor was restored, and we were
soon piloting the little stranger here and there about
the house, and laughing at the thousand funny little
things she said and did.  The winding stairway in
the hall quite dazed her with delight.  Up and down
she went a hundred times, it seemed.  And she
would talk and whisper to herself, and oftentimes
would stop and nestle down and rest her pleased
face close against the steps and pat one softly with
her slender hand, peering curiously down at us
with half-averted eyes.  And she counted them and
named them, every one, as she went up and down.

"I'm mighty glad I'm come to live in this-here
house," she said.

We asked her why.

"Oh, 'cause," she said, starting up the stairs again
by an entirely novel and original method of her
own--" 'cause Uncle Tomps ner Aunt 'Lizabeth
don't live here; and when they ever come here to
git their dinners, like they will ef you don't watch
out, w'y, then I kin slip out here on these-here
stairs and play like I was climbin' up to the Good
World where my mother is--that's why!"

Then we hushed our laughter, and asked her
where her home was, and what it was like, and
why she didn't like her Uncle Tomps and Aunt
'Lizabeth, and if she wouldn't want to visit them
sometimes.

"Oh, yes," she artlessly answered in reply to the
concluding query; "I'll want to go back there lots
o' times; but not to see them! I'll--only--go--back
--there--to--see"--and here she was holding up
the little flared-out fingers of her left hand, and
with the index finger of the right touching their
pink tips in ordered notation with the accent of
every gleeful word--"I'll--only--go--back--there
--to--see--David--Mason--Jeffries--'cause--he's
--the--boy--fer--me!"  And then she clapped her
hands again and laughed in that half-hysterical, half-
musical way of hers till we all joined in and made
the echoes of the old hall ring again.  "And then,"
she went on, suddenly throwing out an imperative
gesture of silence--"and then, after I've been in this--
here house a long, long time, and you all gits so's
you like me awful--awful--awful well, then some
day you'll go in that room there--and that room
there--and in the kitchen--and out on the porch--
and down the cellar--and out in the smoke-house--
and the wood-house--and the loft--and all around
--oh, ever' place--and in here--and up the stairs--
and all them rooms up there--and you'll look behind
all the doors--and in all the cubboards--and under
all the beds--and then you'll look sorry-like, and
holler out, kind o' skeert, and you'll say:  'Where--
is--Mary--Alice--Smith?'  And then you'll wait
and listen and hold yer breath; and then somepin' 'll
holler back, away fur off, and say:  'Oh--she--has
gone--home!'  And then ever'thing'll be all still
ag'in, and you'll be afraid to holler any more--and
you dursn't play--and you can't laugh, and yer
throat'll thist hurt and hurt, like you been a-eatin'
too much calamus-root er somepin'!"  And as the
little gipsy concluded her weird prophecy, with a
final flourish of her big pale eyes, we glanced
furtively at one another's awestruck faces, with a
superstitious dread of a vague indefinite disaster
most certainly awaiting us around some shadowy
corner of the future.  Through all this speech she
had been slowly and silently groping up the winding
steps, her voice growing fainter and fainter,
and the littly pixy form fading, and wholly vanishing
at last around the spiral banister of the upper
landing.  Then down to us from that alien recess
came the voice alone, touched with a tone as of
wild entreaty and despair:  "Where--is--Mary--
Alice--Smith?"  And then a long breathless pause,
in which our wide-eyed group below huddled still
closer, pale and mute.  Then--far off and faint
and quavering with a tenderness of pathos that
dews the eyes of memory even now--came, like a
belated echo, the voice all desolate:  "Oh--she--has
--gone--home!"

What a queer girl she was, and what a fascinating
influence she unconsciously exerted over us!
We never tired of her presence; but she, deprived
of ours by the many household tasks that she herself
assumed, so rigidly maintained and deftly executed,
seemed always just as happy when alone as
when in our boisterous, fun-loving company.  Such
resources had Mary Alice Smith--such a wonderful
inventive fancy!  She could talk to herself--a
favorite amusement, I might almost say a popular
amusement, of hers, since these monologues at times
would involve numberless characters, chipping in
from manifold quarters of a wholesale discussion,
and querying and exaggerating, agreeing and
controverting, till the dishes she was washing would
clash and clang excitedly in the general badinage.
Loaded with a pyramid of glistening cups and
saucers, she would improvise a gallant line of march
from the kitchen table to the pantry, heading an
imaginary procession, and whistling a fife-tune that
would stir your blood.  Then she would trippingly
return, rippling her rosy fingers up and down the
keys of an imaginary portable piano, or stammering
flat-soled across the floor, chuffing and tooting like
a locomotive.  And she would gravely propound to
herself the most intricate riddles--ponder thoughtfully
and in silence over them--hazard the most
ridiculous answers, and laugh derisively at her
own affected ignorance.  She would guess again
and again, and assume the most gleeful surprise
upon at last giving the proper answer, and then
she would laugh jubilantly, and mockingly scout
herself with having given out "a fool-riddle" that
she could guess "with both eyes shut."

"Talk about riddles," she said abruptly to us,
one evening after supper, as we lingered watching
her clearing away the table--"talk about riddles,
it--takes--David--Mason--Jeffries--to--tell--riddles!
Bet you don't know

 'Riddle-cum, riddle-cum right!
  Where was I last Saturd'y night?
  The winds blow--the boughs did shake--
  I saw the hole a fox did make!' "


Again we felt that indefinable thrill never
separate from the strange utterance, suggestive always
of some dark mystery, and fascinating and holding
the childish fancy in complete control.

"Bet you don't know this-'un neether:

 'A holler-hearted father,
  And a hump-back mother--
  Three black orphants
  All born together!' "


We were dumb.

"You can't guess nothin'!" she said half pityingly.
"W'y, them's easy as fallin' off a chunk!  First-un's
a man named Fox, and he kilt his wife and chopped
her head off, and they was a man named Wright
lived in that neighberhood--and he was a-goin'
home--and it was Saturd'y night--and he was
a-comin' through the big woods--and they was a
storm--and Wright he clumb a tree to git out of
the rain, and while he was up there here come
along a man with a dead woman--and a pickax,
and a spade.  And he drug the dead woman under
the same tree where Mr. Wright was--so ever'
time it 'ud lightnin', w'y, Wright he could look down
and see him a-diggin' a grave there to bury the
woman in.  So Wright, he kep' still tel he got her
buried all right, you know, and went back home;
and then he clumb down and lit out fer town, and
waked up the constabul--and he got a supeeny and
went out to Fox's place, and had him jerked up
'fore the gran' jury.  Then, when Fox was in
court and wanted to know where their proof was
that he kilt his wife, w'y, Wright he jumps up and
says that riddle to the judge and all the neighbers
that was there.  And so when they got it all studied
out--w'y, they tuk old Fox out and hung him under
the same tree where he buried Mrs. Fox under.  And
that's all o' that'n; and the other'n--I promised--
David--Mason--Jeffries--I wouldn't--never--tell
--no--livin'--soul--'less--he--gimme--leef,--er--
they--guessed--it--out--their--own--se'f!"  And
as she gave this rather ambiguous explanation of
the first riddle, with the mysterious comment on the
latter in conclusion, she shook her elfin tresses back
over her shoulders with a cunning toss of her head
and a glimmering twinkle of her pale bright eyes
that somewhat reminded us of the fairy godmother
in Cinderella.

And Mary Alice Smith was right, too, in her early
prognostications regarding the visits of her Uncle
Tomps and Aunt 'Lizabeth.  Many times through
the winter they "jest dropped in," as Aunt 'Lizabeth
always expressed it, "to see how we was a-gittin' on
with Mary Alice."  And once, "in court week,"
during a prolonged trial in which Uncle Tomps and
Aunt 'Lizabeth rather prominently figured, they
"jest dropped in" on us and settled down and dwelt
with us for the longest five days and nights we
children had ever in our lives experienced.  Nor
was our long term of restraint from childish sports
relieved wholly by their absence, since Aunt 'Lizabeth
had taken Mary Alice back with them, saying
that "a good long visit to her dear old home--pore
as it was--would do the child good."

And then it was that we went about the house in
moody silence, the question, "Where--is--Mary--
Alice--Smith?" forever yearning at our lips for
utterance, and the still belated echo in the old hall
overhead forever answering, "Oh--she--has--gone
--home!"

It was early spring when she returned.  And
we were looking for her coming, and knew a week
beforehand the very day she would arrive--for had
not Aunt 'Lizabeth sent special word by Uncle
Tomps, who "had come to town to do his millin', and
git the latest war news, not to fail to jest drop in
and tell us that they was layin' off to send Mary
Alice in next Saturd'y."

Our little town, like every other village and
metropolis throughout the country at that time, was,
to the children at least, a scene of continuous
holiday and carnival.  The nation's heart was
palpitating with the feverish pulse of war, and already
the still half-frozen clods of the common highway
were beaten into frosty dust by the tread of marshaled
men; and the shrill shriek of the fife, and
the hoarse boom and jar and rattling patter of the
drums stirred every breast with something of that
rapturous insanity of which true patriots and heroes
can alone be made.

But on the day--when Mary Alice Smith was
to return--what was all the gallant tumult of the
town to us?  I remember how we ran far up
the street to welcome her--for afar off we had
recognized her elfish face and eager eyes peering
expectantly from behind the broad shoulders of a
handsome fellow mounted on a great high-stepping
horse that neighed and pranced excitedly as we ran
scurrying toward them.

"Whoo-ee!" she cried in perfect ecstasy, as we
paused in breathless admiration.  "Clear--the--
track--there,--old--folks--young--folks!--fer--
Mary--Alice--Smith--and--David--Mason--Jeffries--
is--come--to--town!"

O what a day that was!  And how vain indeed
would be the attempt to detail here a tithe of its
glory, or our happiness in having back with us our
dear little girl, and her hysterical delight in seeing
us so warmly welcome to the full love of our childish
hearts the great, strong, round-faced, simple-
natured "David--Mason--Jeffries"!  Long and
long ago we had learned to love him as we loved
the peasant hero of some fairy tale of Christian
Andersen's; but now that he was with us in most
wholesome and robust verity, our very souls seemed
scampering from our bodies to run to him and be
caught up and tossed and swung and dandled in
his gentle giant arms.

All that long delicious morning we were with
him.  In his tender charge we were permitted to go
down among the tumult and the music of the
streets, his round good-humored face and big blue
eyes lit with a luster like our own.  And happy
little Mary Alice Smith--how proud she was of
him!  And how closely and how tenderly, through
all that golden morning, did the strong brown hand
clasp hers!  A hundred times at least, as we promenaded
thus, she swung her head back jauntily to
whisper to us in that old mysterious way of hers
that "David--Mason--Jeffries--and--Mary--Alice
--Smith--knew--something--that--we--couldn't
--guess!"  But when he had returned us home, and
after dinner had started down the street alone, with
little Mary Alice clapping her hands after him
above the gate and laughing in a strange new voice,
and with the backs of her little fluttering hands
vainly striving to blot out the big tear-drops that
gathered in her eyes, we vaguely guessed the secret
she and David kept.  That night at supper-time we
knew it fully.  He had enlisted.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .


Among the list of "killed" at Rich Mountain,
Virginia, occurred the name of "Jeffries, David M."
We kept it from her as long as we could.  At last
she knew.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .


"It don't seem like no year ago to me!"  Over
and over she had said these words.  The face was
very pale and thin, and the eyes so bright--so
bright!  The kindly hand that smoothed away the
little sufferer's hair trembled and dropped tenderly
again upon the folded ones beneath the snowy
spread.

"Git me out the picture again!"

The trembling hand lifted once more and searched
beneath the pillow.

She drew the thin hands up, and, smiling, pressed
the pictured face against her lips.  "David--Mason
--Jeffries," she said--"le's--me--and--you--go--
play--out--on--the--stairs!"

And ever in the empty home a voice goes
moaning on and on, and "Where is Mary Alice?" it
cries, and "Where--is--Mary--Alice--Smith?"
And the still belated echo, through the high depths
of the old hall overhead, answers quaveringly back,
"Oh--she--has--gone--home!"  But her voice--
it is silent evermore!

"Oh, where is Mary Alice Smith?"  She taught
us how to call her thus--and now she will not
answer us!  Have we no voice to reach her with?
How sweet and pure and glad they were in those old
days, as we recall the accents ringing through the
hall--the same we vainly cry to her.  Her fancies
were so quaint--her ways so full of prankish
mysteries!  We laughed then; now, upon our knees,
we wring our lifted hands and gaze, through streaming
tears, high up the stairs she used to climb in
childish glee, to call and answer eerily.  And now,
no answer anywhere!

How deft the little finger-tips in every task!  The
hands, how smooth and delicate to lull and soothe!
And the strange music of her lips!  The very
crudeness of their speech made chaster yet the
childish thought her guileless utterance had caught
from spirit-depths beyond our reach.  And so her
homely name grew fair and sweet and beautiful
to hear, blent with the echoes pealing clear and
vibrant up the winding stair:  "Where--where is Mary
Alice Smith?"  She taught us how to call her thus
--but oh, she will not answer us!  We have no
voice to reach her with.



THE OLD MAN

[Response made to the sentiment, "The Old Man,"
at a dinner of the Indianapolis Literary Club.]

 "You are old, Father William," the young man said,
     "And your hair has become very white;
   And yet you incessantly stand on your head--
       Do you think, at your age, it is right?"

THE OLD MAN never grows so old as to be
come either stale, juiceless, or unpalatable.  The
older he grows, the mellower and riper he becomes.
His eyes may fail him, his step falter, and his big-
mouthed shoes--"a world too wide for his shrunk
shank"--may cluck and shuffle as he walks; his
rheumatics may make great knuckles of his knees;
the rusty hinges of his vertebrae may refuse
cunningly to articulate, but all the same the "backbone"
of the old man has been time-seasoned, tried, and
tested, and no deerskin vest was ever buttoned
round a tougher!  Look at the eccentric kinks and
curvings of it--its abrupt depression at the base,
and its rounded bulging at the shoulders; but don't
laugh with the smart young man who airily observes
how full-chested the old man would be if his head
were only turned around, and don't kill the young
man, either, until you take him out some place and
tell him that the old man got himself warped up in
that shape along about the time when everybody
had to hump himself.  Try to bring before the
young man's defective mental vision a dissolving
view of a "good old-fashioned barn-raisin' "--and
the old man doing all the "raisin' " himself, and
"grubbin'," and "burnin' " logs and "underbrush,"
and "dreenin' " at the same time, and trying to coax
something besides calamus to grow in the spongy
little tract of swamp-land that he could stand in the
middle of and "wobble" and shake the whole farm.
Or, if you can't recall the many salient features of
the minor disadvantages under which the old man
used to labor, your pliant limbs may soon overtake
him, and he will smilingly tell you of trials and
privations of the early days, until your anxiety about
the young man just naturally stagnates, and dries
up, and evaporates, and blows away.

In this little side-show of existence the old man
is always worth the full price of admission.  He
is not only the greatest living curiosity on exhibition,
but the object of the most genial solicitude and
interest to the serious observer.  It is even good to
look upon his vast fund of afflictions, finding
prominent above them all that wholesome patience that
surpasseth understanding; to dwell compassionately
upon his prodigality of aches and ailments, and yet,
by his pride in their wholesale possession, and his
thorough resignation to the inevitable, continually to
be rebuked, and in part made envious of the old
man's right-of-title situation.  Nature, after all, is
kinder than unkind to him, and always has a
compensation and a soothing balm for every blow that
age may deal him.  And in the fading embers of
the old man's eyes there are, at times, swift flashes
and rekindlings of the smiles of youth, and the old
artlessness about the wrinkled face that dwelt there
when his cheeks were like the pippins, and his

          "Red lips redder still
     Kissed by strawberries on the hill."

And thus it is the children are intuitively drawn
toward him, and young, pure-faced mothers are
forever hovering about him, with just such humorings
and kindly ministrations as they bestow on
the little emperor of the household realm, strapped
in his high chair at the dinner-table, crying "Amen"
in the midst of "grace," and ignoring the "substantials"
of the groaning board, and at once insisting
upon a square deal of the more "temporal blessings"
of jelly, cake, and pie.  And the old man has justly
earned every distinction he enjoys.  Therefore let
him make your hearthstone all the brighter with the
ruddy coal he drags up from it with his pipe, as he
comfortably settles himself where, with reminiscent
eyes, he may watch the curling smoke of his tobacco
as it indolently floats, and drifts and drifts,
and dips at last, and vanishes up the grateful flue.
At such times, when a five-year-old, what a haven
every boy has found between the old grandfather's
knees!  Look back in fancy at the faces blending
there--the old man's and the boy's--and, with the
nimbus of the smoke-wreaths round the brows, the
gilding of the firelight on cheek and chin, and the
rapt and far-off gazings of the eyes of both, why,
but for the silver tinsel of the beard of one and the
dusky elf-locks of the other, the faces seem almost
like twins.

With such a view of age, one feels like whipping
up the lazy years and getting old at once.  In heart
and soul the old man is not old--and never will be.
He is paradoxically old, and that is all.  So it is that
he grows younger with increasing years, until old
age at worst is always at a level par with youth.
Who ever saw a man so old as not secretly and most
heartily to wish the veteran years upon years of
greater age?  And at what great age did ever any
old man pass away and leave behind no sudden
shock, and no selfish hearts still to yearn after him
and grieve on unconsoled?  Why, even in the slow
declining years of old Methuselah--the banner old
man of the universe,--so old that history grew
absolutely tired waiting for him to go off some place and
die--even Methuselah's taking off must have seemed
abrupt to his immediate friends, and a blow to the
general public that doubtless plunged it into the
profoundest gloom.  For nine hundred and sixty-nine
years this durable old man had "smelt the rose above
the mold," and doubtless had a thousand times
been told by congratulating friends that he didn't
look a day older than nine hundred and sixty-eight;
and necessarily the habit of living, with him, was
hard to overcome.

In his later years what an oracle he must
have been, and with what reverence his friends
must have looked upon the "little, glassy-headed,
hairless man," and hung upon his every utterance!
And with what unerring gift of prophecy
could he foretell the long and husky droughts
of summer--the gracious rains, at last,--the
milk-sick breeding autumn and the blighting
winter, simply by the way his bones felt after a
century's casual attack of inflammatory rheumatism!
And, having annually frosted his feet for some
odd centuries--boy and man--we can fancy with
what quiet delight he was wont to practise his
prognosticating facilities on "the boys," forecasting the
coming of the then fledgling cyclone and the gosling
blizzard, and doubtless even telling the day of the
month by the way his heels itched.  And with what
wonderment and awe must old chronic maladies
have regarded him--tackling him singly or in solid
phalanx, only to drop back pantingly, at last, and
slink away dumfounded and abashed!  And with
what brazen pride the final conquering disease must
have exulted over its shameless victory!  But this is
pathos here, and not a place for ruthless speculation:
a place for asterisks--not words.  Peace!
peace!  The man is dead!  "The fever called living
is over at last."  The patient slumbers.  He takes
his rest.  He sleeps.  Come away!  He is the oldest
dead man in the cemetery.

Whether the hardy, stall-fed old man of the
country, or the opulent and well-groomed old man of
the metropolis, he is one in our esteem and the still
warmer affections of the children.  The old man
from the country--you are always glad to see him
and hear him talk.  There is a breeziness of the
woods and hills and a spice of the bottom-lands and
thickets in everything he says, and dashes of shadow
and sunshine over the waving wheat are in all the
varying expressions of his swarthy face.  The grip
of his hand is a thing to bet on, and the undue
loudness of his voice in greeting you is even lulling
and melodious, since unconsciously it argues for the
frankness of a nature that has nothing to conceal.
Very probably you are forced to smile, meeting the
old man in town, where he never seems at ease,
and invariably apologizes in some way for his presence,
saying, perhaps, by way of explanation:  "Yessir,
here I am, in spite o' myself.  Come in day
afore yisterd'y.  Boys was thrashin' on the place,
and the beltin' kept a-troublin' and delayin' of 'em
--and I was potterin' round in the way anyhow,
tel finally they sent me off to town to git some
whang-luther and ribbets, and while I was in,
I thought--I thought I'd jest run over and see the
Jedge about that Henry County matter; and as I
was knockin' round the court-house, first thing I
knowed I'll be switched to death ef they didn't pop
me on the jury!  And here I am, eatin' my head off
up here at the tavern.  Reckon, tho', the county'll
stand good for my expenses.  Ef hit cain't, I kin!"
And, with the heartiest sort of a laugh, the old man
jogs along, leaving you to smile till bedtime over
the happiness he has unconsciously contributed.

Another instance of the old man's humor under
trying circumstances was developed but a few days
ago.  This old man was a German citizen of an
inundated town in the Ohio valley.  There was much
of the pathetic in his experience, but the bravery
with which he bore his misfortunes was admirable.
A year ago his little home was first invaded by the
flood, and himself and wife, and his son's family,
were driven from it to the hills for safety--but the
old man's telling of the story can not be improved
upon.  It ran like this:  "Last year, ven I svwim out
fon dot leedle home off mine, mit my vife, unt my
son, his vife unt leedle girls, I dink dot's der last
time goot-by to dose proberty!  But afder der vater
is gone down, unt dry oop unt eberding, dere vas
yet der house dere.  Unt my friends dey sait, 'Dot's
all you got yet.--Vell, feex oop der house--dot's
someding! feex oop der house, unt you vood still
hatt yet a home!'  Vell, all summer I go to work,
unt spent me eberding unt feex der proberty.  Den
I got yet a morgage on der house!  Dees time here
der vater come again--till I vish it vas last year
vonce!  Unt now all I safe is my vife, unt my son
his vife, unt my leedle grandchilderns!  Else
everding is gone!  All--everyding!--Der house gone--unt--unt--der
morgage gone, too!"  And then the
old Teutonic face "melted all over in sunshiny
smiles," and, turning, he bent and lifted a sleepy
little girl from a pile of dirty bundles in the depot
waiting-room and went pacing up and down the
muddy floor, saying things in German to the child.
I thought the whole thing rather beautiful.  That's
the kind of an old man who, saying good-by to
his son, would lean and kiss the young man's hand,
as in the Dutch regions of Pennsylvania, two or
three weeks ago, I saw an old man do.

Mark Lemon must have known intimately and
loved the genteel old man of the city when the once
famous domestic drama of "Grandfather Whitehead"
was conceived.  In the play the old man--a
once prosperous merchant--finds a happy home in
the household of his son-in-law.  And here it is
that the gentle author has drawn at once the poem,
the picture, and the living proof of the old
Wordsworthian axiom, "The child is father to the man."
The old man, in his simple way, and in his great
love for his wilful little grandchild, is being
continually distracted from the grave sermons and
moral lessons he would read the boy.  As, for
instance, aggrievedly attacking the little fellow's
neglect of his books and his inordinate tendency
toward idleness and play--the culprit, in the meantime,
down on the floor clumsily winding his top--
the old man runs on something in this wise:

"Play! play! play!  Always play and no work, no
study, no lessons.  And here you are, the only child
of the most indulgent parents in the world--parents
that, proud as they are of you, would be ten times
prouder only to see you at your book, storing
your mind with useful knowledge, instead of, day
in, day out, frittering away your time over your
toys and your tops and marbles.  And even when
your old grandfather tries to advise you and wants
to help you, and is always ready and eager to assist
you, and all--why, what's it all amount to?  Coax
and beg and tease and plead with you, and yet--and
yet"--  (Mechanically kneeling as he speaks)--
"Now that's not the way to wind your top!  How
many more times will I have to show you!"  And
an instant later the old man's admonitions are
entirely forgotten, and his artless nature--dull now to
everything but the childish glee in which he shares--
is all the sweeter and more lovable for its simplicity.

And so it is, Old Man, that you are always
touching the very tenderest places in our hearts--
unconsciously appealing to our warmest sympathies,
and taking to yourself our purest love.  We look
upon your drooping figure, and we mark your tottering
step and trembling hand, yet a reliant something
in your face forbids compassion, and a something
in your eye will not permit us to look sorrowfully
on you.  And, however we may smile at your
quaint ways and old-school oddities of manner and
of speech, our merriment is ever tempered with the
gentlest reverence.



THE GILDED ROLL

Nosing around in an old box--packed away,
and lost to memory for years--an hour ago
I found a musty package of gilt paper, or rather,
a roll it was, with the green-tarnished gold of the
old sheet for the outer wrapper.  I picked it up
mechanically to toss it into some obscure corner,
when, carelessly lifting it by one end, a child's tin
whistle dropped therefrom and fell tinkling on the
attic floor.  It lies before me on my writing table
now--and so, too, does the roll entire, though now
a roll no longer,--for my eager fingers have unrolled
the gilded covering, and all its precious contents
are spread out beneath my hungry eyes.

Here is a scroll of ink-written music.  I don't
read music, but I know the dash and swing of the
pen that rained it on the page.  Here is a letter,
with the selfsame impulse and abandon in every
syllable; and its melody--however sweet the other
--is far more sweet to me.  And here are other
letters like it--three--five--and seven, at least.  Bob
wrote them from the front, and Billy kept them
for me when I went to join him.  Dear boy!  Dear
boy!

Here are some cards of bristol-board.  Ah! when
Bob came to these there were no blotches then.
What faces--what expressions!  The droll, ridiculous,
good-for-nothing genius, with his "sad mouth,"
as he called it, "upside down," laughing always--
at everything, at big rallies, and mass-meetings and
conventions, county fairs, and floral halls, booths,
watermelon-wagons, dancing-tents, the swing, the
Daguerrean-car, the "lung-barometer," and the air-
gun man.  Oh! what a gifted, good-for-nothing boy
Bob was in those old days!  And here's a picture
of a girlish face--a very faded photograph--even
fresh from "the gallery," five and twenty years ago,
it was a faded thing.  But the living face--how
bright and clear that was!--for "Doc," Bob's awful
name for her, was a pretty girl, and brilliant, clever,
lovable every way.  No wonder Bob fancied her!
And you could see some hint of her jaunty loveliness
in every fairy face he drew, and you could
find her happy ways and dainty tastes unconsciously
assumed in all he did--the books he read--the
poems he admired, and those he wrote; and, ringing
clear and pure and jubilant, the vibrant beauty
of her voice could clearly be defined and traced
through all his music.  Now, there's the happy pair
of them--Bob and Doc.  Make of them just whatever
your good fancy may dictate, but keep in mind
the stern, relentless ways of destiny.

You are not at the beginning of a novel, only at
the threshold of one of a hundred experiences that
lie buried in the past, and this particular one most
happily resurrected by these odds and ends found
in the gilded roll.

You see, dating away back, the contents of this
package, mainly, were hastily gathered together
after a week's visit out at the old Mills farm; the
gilt paper, and the whistle, and the pictures, they
were Billy's; the music pages, Bob's, or Doc's; the
letters and some other manuscripts were mine.

The Mills girls were great friends of Doc's, and
often came to visit her in town; and so Doc often
visited the Mills's.  This is the way that Bob first
got out there, and won them all, and "shaped the
thing" for me, as he would put it; and lastly, we
had lugged in Billy,--such a handy boy, you know,
to hold the horses on picnic excursions, and to
watch the carriage and the luncheon, and all that.--
"Yes, and," Bob would say, "such a serviceable
boy in getting all the fishing tackle in proper order,
and digging bait, and promenading in our wake up
and down the creek all day, with the minnow-
bucket hanging on his arm, don't you know!"

But jolly as the days were, I think jollier were
the long evenings at the farm.  After the supper in
the grove, where, when the weather permitted,
always stood the table ankle-deep in the cool green
plush of the sward; and after the lounge upon the
grass, and the cigars, and the new fish stories, and
the general invoice of the old ones, it was delectable
to get back to the girls again, and in the old
"best room" hear once more the lilt of the old
songs and the staccatoed laughter of the piano
mingling with the alto and falsetto voices of the Mills
girls, and the gallant soprano of the dear girl Doc.

This is the scene I want you to look in upon,
as, in fancy, I do now--and here are the materials
for it all, husked from the gilded roll:

Bob, the master, leans at the piano now, and Doc
is at the keys, her glad face often thrown up side-
wise toward his own.  His face is boyish--for there
is yet but the ghost of a mustache upon his lip.
His eyes are dark and clear, of over-size when looking
at you, but now their lids are drooped above
his violin, whose melody has, for the time, almost
smoothed away the upward kinkings of the corners
of his mouth.  And wonderfully quiet now
is every one, and the chords of the piano, too, are
low and faltering; and so, at last, the tune itself
swoons into the universal hush, and--Bob is rasping,
in its stead, the ridiculous, but marvelously
perfect imitation of the "priming" of a pump, while
Billy's hands forget the "chiggers" on the bare
backs of his feet, as, with clapping palms, he dances
round the room in ungovernable spasms of delight.
And then we all laugh; and Billy, taking advantage
of the general tumult, pulls Bob's head down and
whispers, "Git 'em to stay up 'way late to-night!"
And Bob, perhaps remembering that we go back
home to-morrow, winks at the little fellow and whispers,
"You let me manage 'em!  Stay up till broad
daylight if we take a notion--eh?"  And Billy
dances off again in newer glee, while the inspired
musician is plunking a banjo imitation on his
enchanted instrument, which is unceremoniously
drowned out by a circus-tune from Doc that is
absolutely inspiring to every one but the barefooted
brother, who drops back listlessly to his old position
on the floor and sullenly renews operations on
his "chigger" claims.

"Thought you was goin' to have pop-corn to-night
all so fast!" he says, doggedly, in the midst of a
momentary lull that has fallen on a game of whist.
And then the oldest Mills girl, who thinks cards stupid
anyhow, says:  "That's so, Billy; and we're going
to have it, too; and right away, for this game's
just ending, and I shan't submit to being bored with
another.  I say 'pop-corn' with Billy!  And after
that," she continues, rising and addressing the party
in general, "we must have another literary and
artistic tournament, and that's been in contemplation
and preparation long enough; so you gentlemen can
be pulling your wits together for the exercises, while
us girls see to the refreshments."

"Have you done anything toward it!" queries
Bob, when the girls are gone, with the alert Billy in
their wake.

"Just an outline," I reply.  "How with you?"

"Clean forgot it--that is, the preparation; but I've
got a little old second-hand idea, if you'll all help me
out with it, that'll amuse us some, and tickle Billy,
I'm certain."

So that's agreed upon; and while Bob produces
his portfolio, drawing paper, pencils and so on, I
turn to my note-book in a dazed way and begin
counting my fingers in a depth of profound abstraction,
from which I am barely aroused by the reappearance
of the girls and Billy.

"Goody, goody, goody!  Bob's goin' to make
pictures!" cries Billy, in additional transport to that
the cake pop-corn had produced.

"Now, you girls," says Bob, gently detaching the
affectionate Billy from one leg and moving a chair
to the table, with a backward glance of intelligence
toward the boy,--"you girls are to help us all you
can, and we can all work; but, as I'll have all the
illustrations to do, I want you to do as many of
the verses as you can--that'll be easy, you know,--
because the work entire is just to consist of a series
of fool-epigrams, such as, for instance,--listen,
Billy:

 Here lies a young man
 Who in childhood began
     To swear, and to smoke, and to drink,--
 In his twentieth year
 He quit swearing and beer,
     And yet is still smoking, I think."


And the rest of his instructions are delivered in
lower tones, that the boy may not hear; and then, all
matters seemingly arranged, he turns to the boy with
--"And now, Billy, no lookin' over shoulders, you
know, or swinging on my chair-back while I'm at
work.  When the pictures are all finished, then you
can take a squint at 'em, and not before.  Is that all
hunky, now?"

"Oh! who's a-goin' to look over your shoulder--
only DOC."  And as the radiant Doc hastily quits
that very post, and dives for the offending brother,
he scrambles under the piano and laughs derisively.

And then a silence falls upon the group--a
gracious quiet, only intruded upon by the very juicy
and exuberant munching of an apple from a remote
fastness of the room, and the occasional thumping
of a bare heel against the floor.

At last I close my note-book with a half slam.

"That means," says Bob, laying down his pencil,
and addressing the girls,--"that means he's
concluded his poem, and that he's not pleased with it
in any manner, and that he intends declining to read
it, for that self-acknowledged reason, and that he
expects us to believe every affected word of his
entire speech--"

"Oh, don't!" I exclaim.

"Then give us the wretched production, in all its
hideous deformity!"

And the girls all laugh so sympathetically, and
Bob joins them so gently, and yet with a tone, I
know, that can be changed so quickly to my further
discomfiture, that I arise at once and read, without
apology or excuse, this primitive and very callow
poem recovered here to-day from the gilded roll:


A BACKWARD LOOK

 As I sat smoking, alone, yesterday,
     And lazily leaning back in my chair,
 Enjoying myself in a general way--
 Allowing my thoughts a holiday
     From weariness, toil and care,
 My fancies--doubtless, for ventilation--
     Left ajar the gates of my mind,--
 And Memory, seeing the situation
     Slipped out in the street of "Auld Lang Syne"--

 Wandering ever with tireless feet
     Through scenes of silence, and jubilee
 Of long-hushed voices; and faces sweet
 Were thronging the shadowy side of the street
     As far as the eye could see;
 Dreaming again, in anticipation,
     The same old dreams of our boyhood's days
 That never come true, from the vague sensation
     Of walking asleep in the world's strange ways.

 Away to the house where I was born!
     And there was the selfsame clock that ticked
 From the close of dusk to the burst of morn,
 When life-warm hands plucked the golden corn
     And helped when the apples were picked.
 And the "chany dog" on the mantel-shelf,
     With the gilded collar and yellow eyes,
 Looked just as at first, when I hugged myself
     Sound asleep with the dear surprise.

 And down to the swing in the locust-tree,
     Where the grass was worn from the trampled ground,
 And where "Eck" Skinner, "Old" Carr, and three
 Or four such other boys used to be
     Doin' "sky-scrapers," or "whirlin' round":
 And again Bob climbed for the bluebird's nest,
     And again "had shows" in the buggy-shed
 Of Guymon's barn, where still, unguessed,
     The old ghosts romp through the best days dead!

 And again I gazed from the old schoolroom
     With a wistful look, of a long June day,
 When on my cheek was the hectic bloom
 Caught of Mischief, as I presume--
     He had such a "partial" way,
 It seemed, toward me.--And again I thought
     Of a probable likelihood to be
 Kept in after school--for a girl was caught
     Catching a note from me.

 And down through the woods to the swimming-hole--
     Where the big, white, hollow, old sycamore grows,--
 And we never cared when the water was cold,
 And always "ducked" the boy that told
     On the fellow that tied the clothes.--
 When life went so like a dreamy rhyme,
     That it seems to me now that then
 The world was having a jollier time
     Than it ever will have again.


The crude production is received, I am glad to
note, with some expressions of favor from the company
though Bob, of course, must heartlessly dissipate
my weak delight by saying, "Well, it's certainly
bad enough; though," he goes on with an air
of deepest critical sagacity and fairness, "considered,
as it should be, justly, as the production of a
jour.-poet, why, it might be worse--that is, a little
worse."

"Probably," I remember saying,--"probably I
might redeem myself by reading you this little
amateurish bit of verse, enclosed to me in a letter by
mistake, not very long ago."  I here fish an envelope
from my pocket, the address of which all recognize
as in Bob's almost printed writing.  He smiles
vacantly at it--then vividly colors.

"What date?" he stoically asks.

"The date," I suggestively answer, "of your last
letter to our dear Doc, at boarding-school, two days
exactly in advance of her coming home--this veritable
visit now."

Both Bob and Doc rush at me--but too late.  The
letter and contents have wholly vanished.  The
youngest Miss Mills quiets us--urgently distracting
us, in fact, by calling our attention to the immediate
completion of our joint production; "For now," she
says, "with our new reinforcement, we can, with
becoming diligence, soon have it ready for both printer
and engraver, and then we'll wake up the boy (who
has been fortunately slumbering for the last quarter
of an hour), and present to him, as designed and
intended, this matchless creation of our united
intellects."  At the conclusion of this speech we all go
good-humoredly to work, and at the close of half an
hour the tedious, but most ridiculous, task is
announced completed.

As I arrange and place in proper form here on the
table the separate cards-twenty-seven in number--
I sigh to think that I am unable to transcribe for
you the best part of the nonsensical work--the
illustrations.  All I can give is the written copy of--


BILLY'S ALPHABETICAL ANIMAL SHOW

 A WAS an elegant Ape
   Who tied up his ears with red tape,
     And wore a long veil
     Half revealing his tail
 Which was trimmed with jet bugles and crape.

 B was a boastful old Bear
   Who used to say,--"Hoomh! I declare
     I can eat--if you'll get me
     The children, and let me--
 Ten babies, teeth, toe-nails and hair!"

 C was a Codfish who sighed
   When snatched from the home of his pride,
     But could he, embrined,
     Guess this fragrance behind,
 How glad he would be to have died!

 D was a dandified Dog
   Who said,--"Though it's raining like fog
     I wear no umbrellah,
     Me boy, for a fellah
 Might just as well travel incog!"

 E was an elderly Eel
   Who would say,--"Well, I really feel--
     As my grandchildren wriggle
     And shout 'I should giggle'--
 A trifle run down at the heel!"

 F was a Fowl who conceded
   SOME hens might hatch more eggs than SHE did,--
     But she'd children as plenty
     As eighteen or twenty,
 And that was quite all that she needed.

 G was a gluttonous Goat
   Who, dining one day, table d'hote,
     Ordered soup-bone, au fait,
     And fish, papier-mache,
 And a filet of Spring overcoat,

 H was a high-cultured Hound
   Who could clear forty feet at a bound,
     And a coon once averred
     That his howl could be heard
 For five miles and three-quarters around.

 I was an Ibex ambitious
   To dive over chasms auspicious;
     He would leap down a peak
     And not light for a week,
 And swear that the jump was delicious.

 J was a Jackass who said
   He had such a bad cold in his head,
     If it wasn't for leaving
     The rest of us grieving,
 He'd really rather be dead.

 K was a profligate Kite
   Who would haunt the saloons every night;
     And often he ust
     To reel back to his roost
 Too full to set up on it right.

 L was a wary old Lynx
 Who would say,--"Do you know wot I thinks?--
     I thinks ef you happen
     To ketch me a-nappin'
 I'm ready to set up the drinks!"

 M was a merry old Mole,
 Who would snooze all the day in his hole,
     Then--all night, a-rootin'
     Around and galootin'--
 He'd sing "Johnny, Fill up the Bowl!"

 N was a caustical Nautilus
   Who sneered, "I suppose, when they've CAUGHT all us,
Like oysters they'll serve us,
     And can us, preserve us,
 And barrel, and pickle, and bottle us!"

 O was an autocrat Owl--
   Such a wise--such a wonderful fowl!
     Why, for all the night through
     He would hoot and hoo-hoo,
 And hoot and hoo-hooter and howl!

 P was a Pelican pet,
   Who gobbled up all he could get;
     He could eat on until
     He was full to the bill,
 And there he had lodgings to let!

 Q was a querulous Quail,
   Who said:  "It will little avail
     The efforts of those
     Of my foes who propose
 To attempt to put salt on my tail!"

 R was a ring-tailed Raccoon,
   With eyes of the tinge of the moon,
     And his nose a blue-black,
     And the fur on his back
 A sad sort of sallow maroon.

 S is a Sculpin--you'll wish
   Very much to have one on your dish,
     Since all his bones grow
     On the outside, and so
 He's a very desirable fish.

 T was a Turtle, of wealth
   Who went round with particular stealth,
     "Why," said he, "I'm afraid
     Of being waylaid
 When I even walk out for my health!"

 U was a Unicorn curious,
   With one horn, of a growth so LUXURIOUS,
     He could level and stab it--
     If you didn't grab it--
 Clean through you, he was so blamed furious!

 V was a vagabond Vulture
   Who said:  "I don't want to insult yer,
     But when you intrude
     Where in lone solitude
 I'm a-preyin', you're no man o' culture!"

 W was a wild WOODchuck,
   And you just bet that he COULD "chuck"--
     He'd eat raw potatoes,
     Green corn, and tomatoes,
 And tree roots, and call it all "GOOD chuck!"

 X was a kind of X-cuse
   Of some-sort-o'-thing that got loose
     Before we could name it,
     And cage it, and tame it,
 And bring it in general use.

 Y is the Yellowbird,--bright
   As a petrified lump of starlight,
          Or a handful of lightning
     Bugs, squeezed in the tight'ning
 Pink fist of a boy, at night.

 Z is the Zebra, of course!--
   A kind of a clown-of-a-horse,--
     Each other despising,
     Yet neither devising
 A way to obtain a divorce!

 & here is the famous--what-is-it?
   Walk up, Master Billy, and quiz it:
     You've seen the REST of 'em--
     Ain't this the BEST of 'em,
 Right at the end of your visit?


At last Billy is sent off to bed.  It is the prudent
mandate of the old folks:  But so loathfully the poor
child goes, Bob's heart goes, too.--Yes, Bob himself,
to keep the little fellow company for a while, and,
up there under the old rafters, in the pleasant gloom,
lull him to famous dreams with fairy tales.  And it
is during this brief absence that the youngest Mills
girl gives us a surprise.  She will read a poem, she
says, written by a very dear friend of hers who,
fortunately for us, is not present to prevent her.  We
guard door and window as she reads.  Doc says she
will not listen; but she does listen, and cries, too--
out of pure vexation, she asserts.  The rest of us,
however, cry just because of the apparent honesty
of the poem of--


BEAUTIFUL HANDS

 O your hands--they are strangely fair!
 Fair--for the jewels that sparkle there,--
 Fair--for the witchery of the spell
 That ivory keys alone can tell;
 But when their delicate touches rest
 Here in my own do I love them best
 As I clasp with eager, acquisitive spans
 My glorious treasure of beautiful hands!

 Marvelous--wonderful--beautiful hands!
 They can coax roses to bloom in the strands
 Of your brown tresses; and ribbons will twine,
 Under mysterious touches of thine,
 Into such knots as entangle the soul
 And fetter the heart under such a control
 As only the strength of my love understands--
 My passionate love for your beautiful hands.

 As I remember the first fair touch
 Of those beautiful hands that I love so much,
 I seem to thrill as I then was thrilled,
 Kissing the glove that I found unfilled--
 When I met your gaze, and the queenly bow
 As you said to me, laughingly, "Keep it now!" . . .
 And dazed and alone in a dream I stand,
 Kissing this ghost of your beautiful hand.

 When first I loved, in the long ago,
 And held your hand as I told you so--
 Pressed and caressed it and gave it a kiss
 And said "I could die for a hand like this!"
 Little I dreamed love's fullness yet
 Had to ripen when eyes were wet
 And prayers were vain in their wild demands
 For one warm touch of your beautiful hands.

 Beautiful Hands!--O Beautiful Hands!
 Could you reach out of the alien lands
 Where you are lingering, and give me, to-night
 Only a touch--were it ever so light--
 My heart were soothed, and my weary brain
 Would lull itself into rest again;
 For there is no solace the world commands
 Like the caress of your beautiful hands.

     .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .


Violently winking at the mist that blurs my sight,
I regretfully awaken to the here and now.  And is
it possible, I sorrowfully muse, that all this glory
can have fled away?--that more than twenty long,
long years are spread between me and that happy
night?  And is it possible that all the dear old faces
--Oh, quit it! quit it!  Gather the old scraps up and
wad 'em back into oblivion, where they belong!

Yes, but be calm--be calm!  Think of cheerful
things.  You are not all alone.  BILLY'S living yet.

I know--and six feet high--and sag-shouldered--
and owns a tin and stove-store, and can't hear
thunder!  BILLY!

And the youngest Mills girl--she's alive, too.

S'pose I don't know that?  I married her!

And Doc.--

BOB married her.  Been in California for more
than fifteen years--on some blasted cattle-ranch, or
something,--and he's worth a half a million!  And
am I less prosperous with this gilded roll?



A WILD IRISHMAN

Not very many years ago the writer was for
some months stationed at South Bend, a thriving
little city of northern Indiana.  Its population is
mainly on the one side of the St. Joseph River, but
quite a respectable fraction thereof takes its
industrial way to the opposite shore, and there gains an
audience and a hearing in the rather imposing
growth and hurly-burly of its big manufactories,
and the consequent rapid appearance of multitudinous
neat cottages, tenement houses and business
blocks.  A stranger entering South Bend proper on
any ordinary day, will be at some loss to account for
its prosperous appearance--its flagged and bouldered
streets--its handsome mercantile blocks, banks, and
business houses generally.  Reasoning from cause to
effect, and seeing but a meager sprinkling of people
on the streets throughout the day, and these seeming,
for the most part, merely idlers, and in nowise
accessory to the evident thrift and opulence of their
surroundings, the observant stranger will be puzzled
at the situation.  But when evening comes, and the
outlying foundries, sewing-machine, wagon, plow,
and other "works," together with the paper-mills and all the
nameless industries--when the operations
of all these are suspended for the day, and the
workmen and workwomen loosed from labor--then,
as this vast army suddenly invades and overflows
bridge, roadway, street and lane, the startled stranger
will fully comprehend the why and wherefore
of the city's high prosperity.  And, once acquainted
with the people there, the fortunate sojourner will
find no ordinary culture and intelligence, and, as
certainly, he will meet with a social spirit and a
whole-souled heartiness that will make the place a
lasting memory.  The town, too, is the home of
many world-known people, and a host of local
celebrities, the chief of which latter class I found,
during my stay there, in the person of Tommy Stafford,
or "The Wild Irishman" as everybody called
him.

"Talk of odd fellows and eccentric characters,"
said Major Blowney, my employer, one afternoon,
"you must see our 'Wild Irishman' here before you
say you've yet found the queerest, brightest, cleverest
chap in all your travels.  What d'ye say,
Stockford?"  And the Major paused in his work of
charging cartridges for his new breech-loading shotgun
and turned to await his partner's response.

Stockford, thus addressed, paused above the
shield-sign he was lettering, slowly smiling as he
dipped and trailed his pencil through the ivory black
upon a bit of broken glass and said, in his deliberate,
half absent-minded way,--"Is it Tommy you're telling
him about?" and then, with a gradual broadening
of the smile, he went on, "Well, I should say so.
Tommy!  What's come of the fellow, anyway?  I
haven't seen him since his last bout with the mayor,
on his trial for shakin' up that fast-horse man."

"The fast-horse man got just exactly what he
needed, too," said the genial Major, laughing, and
mopping his perspiring brow.  "The fellow was
barkin' up the wrong stump when he tackled
Tommy!  Got beat in the trade, at his own game,
you know, and wound up by an insult that no Irishman
would take; and Tommy just naturally wore
out the hall carpet of the old hotel with him!"

"And then collared and led him to the mayor's
office himself, they say!"

"Oh, he did!" said the Major, with a dash of
pride in the confirmation; "that's Tommy all over!"

"Funny trial, wasn't it?" continued the ruminating
Stockford.

"Wasn't it though?" laughed the Major.  "The
porter's testimony:  You see, he was for Tommy,
of course, and on examination testified that the
horseman struck Tommy first.  And here Tommy
broke in with:  'He's a-meanin' well, yer Honor, but
he's lyin' to ye--he's lyin' to ye.  No livin' man iver
struck me first--nor last, nayther, for the matter o'
that!'  And I thought--the--court--would--die!"
continued the Major, in a like imminent state of
merriment.

"Yes, and he said if he struck him first,"
supplemented Stockford, "he'd like to know why the
horseman was 'wearin' all the black eyes, and the
blood, and the boomps on that head of um!'  And
it's that talk that got him off with so light a fine!"

"As it always does," said the Major, coming to
himself abruptly and looking at his watch.  "Stock,
you say you're not going along with our duck-shooting
party this time?  The old Kankakee is just lousy
with 'em this season!"

"Can't go possibly," said Stockford, "not on
account of the work at all, but the folks ain't just
as well as I'd like to see them, and I'll stay here till
they're better.  Next time I'll try and be ready for
you.  Going to take Tommy, of course?"

"Of course!  Got to have 'The Wild Irishman'
with us!  I'm going around to find him now."  Then
turning to me the Major continued, "Suppose you
get on your coat and hat and come along?  It's the
best chance you'll ever have to meet Tommy.  It's
late anyhow, and Stockford'll get along without you.
Come on."

"Certainly," said Stockford; "go ahead.  And you
can take him ducking, too, if he wants to go."

"But he doesn't want to go--and won't go,"
replied the Major with a commiserative glance at me.
"Says he doesn't know a duck from a poll-parrot--
nor how to load a shotgun--and couldn't hit a house
if he were inside of it and the door shut.  Admits
that he nearly killed his uncle once, on the other side
of a tree, with a squirrel runnin' down it.  Don't
want him along!"

When I reached the street with the genial Major,
he gave me this advice:  "Now, when you meet Tommy, you mustn't
take all he says for dead earnest,
and you mustn't believe, because he talks loud, and
in italics every other word, that he wants to do all
the talking and won't be interfered with.  That's the
way he's apt to strike folks at first--but it's their
mistake, not his.  Talk back to him--controvert him
whenever he's aggressive in the utterance of his
opinions, and if you're only honest in the announcement
of your own ideas and beliefs, he'll like you all
the better for standing by them.  He's quick-tempered,
and perhaps a trifle sensitive, so share your
greater patience with him, and he'll pay you back by
fighting for you at the drop of the hat.  In short, he's
as nearly typical of his gallant country's brave,
impetuous, fun-loving race as one man can be."

"But is he quarrelsome?" I asked.

"Not at all.  There's the trouble.  If he'd only
quarrel there'd be no harm done.  Quarreling's
cheap, and Tommy's extravagant.  A big blacksmith
here, the other day, kicked some boy out of his
shop, and Tommy, on his cart, happened to be passing
at the time; and he just jumped off without a
word, and went in and worked on that fellow for
about three minutes, with such disastrous results that
they couldn't tell his shop from a slaughter-house;
paid an assault and battery fine, and gave the boy a
dollar besides, and the whole thing was a positive
luxury to him.  But I guess we'd better drop the
subject, for here's his cart, and here's Tommy.  Hi!
there, you 'Fardown' Irish Mick!" called the Major,
in affected antipathy, "been out raiding the honest
farmers' hen-roosts again, have you?"

We had halted at a corner grocery and produce
store, as I took it, and the smooth-faced, shaven-
headed man in woolen shirt, short vest, and suspenderless
trousers so boisterously addressed by the
Major, was just lifting from the back of his cart
a coop of cackling chickens.

"Arrah! ye blasted Kerryonian!" replied the
handsome fellow, depositing the coop on the curb
and straightening his tall, slender figure; "I were
jist thinkin' of yez and the ducks, and here ye come
quackin' into the prisence of r'yalty, wid yer canvas-
back suit upon ye and the schwim-skins bechuxt yer
toes!  How air yez, anyhow--and air we startin' for
the Kankakee by the nixt post?"

"We're to start just as soon as we get the boys
together," said the Major, shaking hands.  "The
crowd's to be at Andrews' by four, and it's fully that
now; so come on at once.  We'll go 'round by Munson's
and have Hi send a boy to look after your
horse.  Come; I want to introduce my friend
here to you, and we'll all want to smoke and jabber
a little in appropriate seclusion.  Come on."  And
the impatient Major had linked arms with his hesitating
ally and myself, and was turning the corner
of the street.

"It's an hour's work I have yet wid the squawkers,"
mildly protested Tommy, still hanging back
and stepping a trifle high; "but, as one Irishman
would say til another, 'Ye're wrong, but I'm wid
ye!' "

And five minutes later the three of us had joined
a very jolly party in a snug back room, with

 "The chamber walls depicted all around
 With portraitures of huntsman, hawk, and hound,
 And the hurt deer;"

and where, as well, drifted over the olfactory
intelligence a certain subtle, warm-breathed aroma, that
genially combated the chill and darkness of the day
without, and, resurrecting long-dead Christmases,
brimmed the grateful memory with all comfortable
cheer.

A dozen hearty voices greeted the appearance of
Tommy and the Major, the latter adroitly pushing
the jovial Irishman to the front, with a mock-heroic
introduction to the general company, at the conclusion
of which Tommy, with his hat tucked under
his left elbow, stood bowing with a grace of pose
and presence Lord Chesterfield might have applauded.

"Gintlemen," said Tommy, settling back upon his
heels and admiringly contemplating the group;
"gintlemen, I congratu-late yez wid a pride that
shoves the thumbs o' me into the arrum-holes of me
weshkit!  At the inshtigation of the bowld O'Blowney--
axin' the gintleman's pardon--I am here wid
no silver tongue of illoquence to para-lyze yez, but
I am prisent, as has been ripresinted, to jine wid yez
in a stupendous waste of gunpowder, and duck-
shot, and 'high-wines,' and ham sandwiches, upon
the silvonian banks of the ragin' Kankakee, where
the 'di-dipper' tips ye good-by wid his tail, and the
wild loon skoots like a sky-rocket for his exiled
home in the alien dunes of the wild morass--or, as
Tommy Moore so illegantly describes the blashted
birrud,--

 'Away to the dizhmal shwamp he spheeds--
     His path is rugged and sore
 Through tangled juniper, beds of reeds
 And many a fen where the serpent feeds,
     And birrud niver flew before--
     And niver will fly any more'


if iver he arrives back safe into civilization again--
and I've been in the poultry business long enough to
know the private opinion and personal integrity of
ivery fowl that flies the air or roosts on poles.  But,
changin' the subject of my few small remarks here,
and thankin' yez wid an overflowin' heart but a dhry
tongue, I have the honor to propose, gintlemen, long
life and health to ivery mother's son o' yez, and
success to the 'Duck-hunters of Kankakee.' "

"The duck-hunters of the Kankakee!" chorused
the elated party in such musical uproar that for a
full minute the voice of the enthusiastic Major
who was trying to say something--could not be
heard.  Then he said:

"I want to propose that theme--'The Duck-
hunters of the Kankakee', for one of Tommy's
improvisations.  I move we have a song now from
Tommy on 'The Duck Hunters of the Kankakee.' "

"Hurrah!  Hurrah!  A song from Tommy," cried
the crowd.  "Make us up a song, and put us all into
it!  A song from Tommy!  A song!  A song!"

There was a queer light in the eye of the
Irishman.  I observed him narrowly--expectantly.  Often
I had read of this phenomenal art of improvised
ballad-singing, but had always remained a little
skeptical in regard to the possibility of such a feat.
Even in the notable instances of this gift as
displayed by the very clever Theodore Hook, I had
always half suspected some prior preparation--some
adroit forecasting of the sequence that seemed the
instant inspiration of his witty verses.  Here was
evidently to be a test example, and I was all alert
to mark its minutest detail.

The clamor had subsided, and Tommy had drawn
a chair near to and directly fronting the Major's.
His right hand was extended, closely grasping the
right hand of his friend which he scarce perceptibly,
though measuredly, lifted and let fall throughout the
length of all the curious performance.  The voice
was not unmusical, nor was the quaint old ballad-air
adopted by the singer unlovely in the least; simply
a monotony was evident that accorded with the
levity and chance-finish of the improvisation--and
that the song was improvised on the instant I am
certain--though in nowise remarkable, for other
reasons, in rhythmic worth or finish.  And while his
smiling auditors all drew nearer, and leant, with
parted lips to catch every syllable, the words of the
strange melody trailed unhesitatingly into the line;
literally, as here subjoined:

 "One gloomy day in the airly Fall,
 Whin the sunshine had no chance at all--
 No chance at all for to gleam and shine
 And lighten up this heart of mine:

 " 'Twas in South Bend, that famous town,
 Whilst I were a-strollin' round and round,
 I met some friends and they says to me:
 'It's a hunt we'll take on the Kankakee!' "


"Hurrah for the Kankakee!  Give it to us,
Tommy!" cried an enthusiastic voice between
verses.  "Now give it to the Major!"  And the song
went on:

 "There's Major Blowney leads the van,
 As crack a shot as an Irishman,--
 For it's the duck is a tin decoy
 That his owld shotgun can't destroy:"


And a half-dozen jubilant palms patted the
Major's shoulders, and his ruddy, good-natured
face beamed with delight.  "Now give it to the rest
of 'em, Tommy!" chuckled the Major.  And the
song continued:--

 "And along wid 'Hank' is Mick Maharr,
 And Barney Pince, at 'The Shamrock' bar--
 There's Barney Pinch, wid his heart so true;
 And the Andrews Brothers they'll go too."


"Hold on, Tommy!" chipped in one of the
Andrews; "you must give 'the Andrews Brothers' a
better advertisement than that!  Turn us on a full
verse, can't you?"

"Make 'em pay for it if you do!" said the Major
in an undertone.  And Tommy promptly amended.--

 "O, the Andrews Brothers, they'll be there,
 Wid good se-gyars and wine to sphare,--
 They'll treat us here on fine champagne,
 And whin we're there they'll treat us again."


The applause here was vociferous, and only
discontinued when a box of Havanas stood open on the
table.  During the momentary lull thus occasioned,
I caught the Major's twinkling eyes glancing evasively
toward me, as he leaned whispering some further
instructions to Tommy, who again took up his
desultory ballad, while I turned and fled for the
street, catching, however, as I went, and high above
the laughter of the crowd, the satire of this quatrain
to its latest line.

 "But R-R-Riley he'll not go, I guess,
 Lest he'd get lost in the wil-der-ness,
 And so in the city he will shtop
 For to curl his hair in the barber shop."


It was after six when I reached the hotel, but I
had my hair trimmed before I went in to supper.
The style of trimming adopted then I still rigidly
adhere to, and call it "the Tommy Stafford stubble-
crop."

Ten days passed before I again saw the Major.
Immediately upon his return--it was late afternoon
when I heard of it--I determined to take my
evening walk out the long street toward his pleasant
home and call on him there.  This I did, and
found him in a wholesome state of fatigue, slippers
and easy chair, enjoying his pipe on the piazza.  Of
course, he was overflowing with happy reminiscences
of the hunt--the wood-and-water-craft--
boats--ambushes--decoys, and tramp, and camp,
and so on, without end;--but I wanted to hear him
talk of "The Wild Irishman"--Tommy; and I think,
too, now, that the sagacious Major secretly read my
desires all the time.  To be utterly frank with the
reader I will admit that I not only think the Major
divined my interest in Tommy, but I know he did;
for at last, as though reading my very thoughts, he
abruptly said, after a long pause, in which he
knocked the ashes from his pipe and refilled and
lighted it:--"Well, all I know of 'The Wild Irishman'
I can tell you in a very few words--that is,
if you care at all to listen?"  And the crafty old
Major seemed to hesitate.

"Go on--go on!" I said eagerly.

"About forty years ago," resumed the Major
placidly, "in the little, old, unheard-of town
Karnteel, County Tyrone, Province Ulster, Ireland,
Tommy Stafford was fortunate enough--despite
the contrary opinion on that point of his wretchedly
poor parents--to be born.  And here, again, as I
advised you the other day, you must be prepared for
constant surprises in the study of Tommy's character."

"Go on," I said; "I'm prepared for anything."

The Major smiled profoundly and continued:--

"Fifteen years ago, when he came to America--
and the Lord only knows how he got the passage--
money--he brought his widowed mother with him
here, and has supported, and is still supporting her.
Besides," went on the still secretly smiling Major,
"the fellow has actually found time, through all his
adversities, to pick up quite a smattering of education,
here and there--"

"Poor fellow!" I broke in sympathizingly, "what
a pity it is that he couldn't have had such advantages
earlier in life," and as I recalled the broad brogue
of the fellow, together with his careless dress,
recognizing beneath it all the native talent and
brilliancy of a mind of most uncommon worth, I could
not restrain a deep sigh of compassion and regret.

The Major was leaning forward in the gathering
dusk, and evidently studying my own face, the
expression of which, at that moment, was very grave
and solemn, I am sure.  He suddenly threw himself
backward in his chair, in an uncontrollable burst of
laughter.  "Oh, I just can't keep it up any longer,"
he exclaimed.

"Keep what up?" I queried, in a perfect maze of
bewilderment and surprise.  "Keep what up?" I
repeated.

"Why, all this twaddle, farce, travesty and by-
play regarding Tommy!  You know I warned you,
over and over, and you mustn't blame me for the
deception.  I never thought you'd take it so in
earnest!" and here the jovial Major again went into
convulsions of laughter.

"But I don't understand a word of it all," I cried,
half frenzied with the gnarl and tangle of the whole
affair.  "What 'twaddle, farce and by-play,' is it,
anyhow?"  And in my vexation, I found myself on
my feet and striding nervously up and down the
paved walk that joined the street with the piazza,
pausing at last and confronting the Major almost
petulantly.  "Please explain," I said, controlling my
vexation with an effort.

The Major arose.  "Your striding up and down
there reminds me that a little stroll on the street
might do us both good," he said.  "Will you wait
until I get a coat and hat?"

He rejoined me a moment later, and we passed
through the open gate; and saying, "Let's go down
this way," he took my arm and turned into a street,
where, cooling as the dusk was, the thick maples
lining the walk seemed to throw a special shade of
tranquillity upon us.

"What I meant was"--began the Major in a low
serious voice,--"What I meant was--simply this:
Our friend Tommy, though the truest Irishman in
the world, is a man quite the opposite every way of
the character he has appeared to you.  All that rich
brogue of his is assumed.  Though he was poor, as I
told you, when he came here, his native quickness,
and his marvelous resources, tact, judgment, business
qualities--all have helped him to the equivalent
of a liberal education.  His love of the humorous
and the ridiculous is unbounded; but he has serious
moments, as well, and at such times is as dignified
and refined in speech and manner as any man you'd
find in a thousand.  He is a good speaker, can stir
a political convention to highest excitement when he
gets fired up; and can write an article for the press
that goes spang to the spot.  He gets into a great
many personal encounters of a rather undignified
character; but they are almost invariably bred of his
innate interest in the 'under dog,' and the fire and
tow of his impetuous nature."

My companion had paused here, and was looking
through some printed slips in his pocketbook.  "I
wanted you to see some of the fellow's articles in
print, but I have nothing of importance here only
some of his 'doggerel,' as he calls it, and you've had
a sample of that.  But here's a bit of the upper spirit
of the man--and still another that you should hear
him recite.  You can keep them both if you care to.
The boys all fell in love with that last one,
particularly, hearing his rendition of it.  So we had a
lot printed, and I have two or three left.  Put these
two in your pocket and read them at your leisure."

But I read them there and then, as eagerly, too,
as I append them here and now.  The first is
called--

SAYS HE

 "Whatever the weather may be," says he--
     "Whatever the weather may be
 It's plaze, if ye will, an' I'll say me say,--
 Supposin' to-day was the winterest day,
 Wud the weather be changing because ye cried,
 Or the snow be grass were ye crucified?
 The best is to make your own summer," says he,
 "Whatever the weather may be," says he--
     "Whatever the weather may be!

 "Whatever the weather may be," says he--
     "Whatever the weather may be,
 It's the songs ye sing, an' the smiles ye wear,
 That's a-makin' the sun shine everywhere;
 An' the world of gloom is a world of glee,
 Wid the bird in the bush, an' the bud in the tree,
 An' the fruit on the stim of the bough," says he,
 "Whatever the weather may be," says he--
     "Whatever the weather may be!

 "Whatever the weather may be," says he--
     "Whatever the weather may be,
 Ye can bring the Spring, wid its green an' gold,
 An' the grass in the grove where the snow lies cold;
 An' ye'll warm yer back, wid a smiling face,
 As ye sit at yer heart, like an owld fireplace,
 An' toast the toes o' yer sowl," says he,
 "Whatever the weather may be," says he--
     "Whatever the weather may be!"


"Now," said the Major, peering eagerly above my
shoulder, "go on with the next.  To my mind, it is
even better than the first.  A type of character you'll
recognize.--The same 'broth of a boy,' only
AMERICANIZED, don't you know."

And I read the scrap entitled--

CHAIRLEY BURKE

 It's Chairley Burke's in town, b'ys!  He's down til "Jamesy's
Place,"
 Wid a bran'-new shave upon 'um, an' the fhwhuskers aff his face;
 He's quit the Section-Gang last night, and yez can chalk it down
 There's goin' to be the divil's toime, sence Chairley Burke's in
town.

 It's treatin' iv'ry b'y he is, an' poundin' on the bar
 Till iv'ry man he's drinkin' wid must shmoke a foine cigar;
 An' Missus Murphy's little Kate, that's coomin' there for beer,
 Can't pay wan cint the bucketful, the whilst that Chairley's
here!

 He's joompin' oor the tops o' sthools, the both forninst an'
back!
 He'll lave yez pick the blessed flure, an' walk the straightest
crack!
 He's liftin' barrels wid his teeth, and singin "Garry Owen,"
 Till all the house be strikin' hands, sence Chairley Burke's in
town.

 The Road-Yaird hands coomes dhroppin' in, an' niver goin' back;
 An' there's two freights upon the switch--the wan on aither
track--
 An' Mr. Gearry, from The Shops, he's mad enough to swear,
 An' durstn't spake a word but grin, the whilst that Chairley's
there!

 Och! Chairley! Chairley! Chairley Burke! ye divil, wid yer ways
 O' dhrivin' all the throubles aff, these dhark an' ghloomy days!
 Ohone! that it's meself, wid all the graifs I have to dhrown,
 Must lave me pick to resht a bit, sence Chairley Burke's in
town.


"Before we turn back, now," said the smiling
Major, as I stood lingering over the indefinable
humor of the last refrain, "before we turn back I
want to show you something eminently characteristic.
Come this way a half-dozen steps."

As he spoke I looked up, first to observe that we
had paused before a handsome square brick residence,
centering a beautiful smooth lawn, its emerald
only littered with the light gold of the earliest
autumn leaves.  On either side of the trim walk
that led up from the gate to the carved stone
ballusters of the broad piazza, with its empty easy
chairs, were graceful vases, frothing over with
late blossoms, and wreathed with laurel-looking
vines; and, luxuriantly lacing the border of the
pave that turned the farther corner of the house,
blue, white and crimson, pink and violet, went
fading away in perspective as my gaze followed the
gesture of the Major's.

"Here, come a little farther.  Now do you see
that man there?"

Yes, I could make out a figure in the deepening
dusk--the figure of a man on the back stoop--a
tired-looking man, in his shirt-sleeves, who sat upon
a low chair--no, not a chair--an empty box.  He
was leaning forward with his elbows on his knees,
and the hands dropped limp.  He was smoking,
too, I could barely see his pipe, and but for the
odor of very strong tobacco, would not have known
he had a pipe.  Why does the master of the house
permit his servants so to desecrate this beautiful
home? I thought.

"Well, shall we go now?" said the Major.

I turned silently and we retraced our steps.  I
think neither of us spoke for the distance of a
square.

"Guess you didn't know the man there on the
back porch?" said the Major.

"No; why?" I asked dubiously.

"I hardly thought you would, and besides the
poor fellow's tired, and it was best not to disturb
him," said the Major.

"Why; who was it--some one I know?"

"It was Tommy."

"Oh," said I inquiringly, "he's employed there in
some capacity?"

"Yes, as master of the house."

"You don't mean it?"

"I certainly do.  He owns it, and made every
cent of the money that paid for it!" said the Major
proudly.  "That's why I wanted you particularly
to note that 'eminent characteristic' I spoke of.
Tommy could just as well be sitting, with a fine
cigar, on the front piazza in an easy chair, as, with
his dhudeen, on the back porch, on an empty box,
where every night you'll find him.  It's the
unconscious dropping back into the old ways of his
father, and his father's father, and his father's
father's father.  In brief, he sits there the poor
lorn symbol of the long oppression of his race."



MRS. MILLER

JOHN B. McKINNEY, Attorney and Counselor
at Law, as his sign read, was, for many reasons,
a fortunate man.  For many other reasons he was
not.  He was chiefly fortunate in being, as certain
opponents often strove witheringly to designate
him, "the son of his father," since that sound old
gentleman was the wealthiest farmer in that section;
with but one son and heir to supplant him, in
time, in the role of "county god," and haply
perpetuate the prouder title of "the biggest taxpayer on
the assessment list."  And this fact, too, fortunate
as it would seem, was doubtless the indirect occasion
of a liberal percentage of all John's misfortunes.
From his earliest school-days in the little
town, up to his tardy graduation from a distant
college, the influence of his father's wealth invited
his procrastination, humored its results, encouraged
the laxity of his ambition, "and even now," as John
used, in bitter irony, to put it, "it is aiding and
abetting me in the ostensible practise of my chosen
profession, a listless, aimless undetermined man of
forty, and a confirmed bachelor at that!"  At the
utterance of his self-depreciating statement, John generally
jerked his legs down from the top of his
desk; and rising and kicking his chair back to the
wall he would stump around his littered office till
the manila carpet steamed with dust.  Then he
would wildly break away, seeking refuge either in
the open street, or in his room at the old-time
tavern, The Eagle House, "where," he would say, "I
have lodged and boarded, I do solemnly asseverate,
for a long, unbroken, middle-aged eternity of ten
years, and can yet assert, in the words of the more
fortunately-dying Webster, that 'I still live'!"

Extravagantly satirical as he was at times, John
had always an indefinable drollery about him that
made him agreeable company to his friends, at
least; and such an admiring friend he had constantly
at hand in the person of Bert Haines.  Both
were Bohemians in natural tendency, and, though
John was far in Bert's advance in point of age, he
found the young man "just the kind of a fellow to
have around;" while Bert, in turn, held his senior
in profound esteem--looked up to him, in fact, and
even in his eccentricities strove to pattern himself
after him.  And so it was, when summer days were
dull and tedious, these two could muse and doze the
hours away together; and when the nights were long,
and dark, and deep, and beautiful, they could drift
out in the noonlight of the stars, and with "the soft
complaining flute" and "warbling lute," "lay the
pipes," as John would say, for their enduring
popularity with the girls!  And it was immediately
subsequent to one of these romantic excursions, when
the belated pair, at two o'clock in the morning, had
skulked up a side stairway of the old hotel, and
gained John's room, with nothing more serious happening
than Bert falling over a trunk and smashing
his guitar,--just after such a night of romance and
adventure it was that, in the seclusion of John's
room, Bert had something of especial import to
communicate.

"Mack," he said, as that worthy anathematized
a spiteful match, and then sucked his finger.

"Blast the all-fired old torch!" said John, wrestling
with the lamp-flue, and turning on a welcome flame
at last.  "Well, you said 'Mack'!  Why don't you
go on?  And don't bawl at the top of your lungs,
either.  You've already succeeded in waking every
boarder in the house with that guitar, and you want
to make amends now by letting them go to sleep
again!"

"But my dear fellow," said Bert with forced
calmness, "you're the fellow that's making all the
noise--and--"

"Why, you howling dervish!" interrupted John,
with a feigned air of pleased surprise and
admiration.  "But let's drop controversy.  Throw the
fragments of your guitar in the wood-box there, and
proceed with the opening proposition."

"What I was going to say was this," said Bert,
with a half-desperate enunciation; "I'm getting
tired of this way of living--clean, dead-tired, and
fagged out, and sick of the whole artificial business!"

"Oh, yes!" exclaimed John, with a towering
disdain, "you needn't go any further!  I know just
what malady is throttling you.  It's reform--reform!
You're going to 'turn over a new leaf,' and
all that, and sign the pledge, and quit cigars, and
go to work, and pay your debts, and gravitate back
into Sunday-school, where you can make love to
the preacher's daughter under the guise of religion,
and desecrate the sanctity of the innermost pale of
the church by confessions at Class of your 'thorough
conversion'!  Oh, you're going to--"

"No, but I'm going to do nothing of the sort,"
interrupted Bert resentfully.  "What I mean--if
you'll let me finish--is, I'm getting too old to be
eternally undignifying myself with this 'singing of
midnight strains under Bonnybell's window-panes,'
and too old to be keeping myself in constant
humiliation and expense by the borrowing and stringing
up of old guitars, together with the breakage of the
same, and the general wear-and-tear on a constitution
that is slowly being sapped to its foundations
by exposure in the night-air and the dew."

"And while you receive no further compensation
in return," said John, "than, perhaps, the coy turning
up of a lamp at an upper casement where the
jasmine climbs; or an exasperating patter of
invisible palms; or a huge dank wedge of fruit-cake
shoved at you by the old man, through a crack in
the door."

"Yes, and I'm going to have my just reward, is
what I mean," said Bert, "and exchange the lover's
life for the benedict's.  Going to hunt out a good
sensible girl and marry her."  And as the young
man concluded this desperate avowal he jerked the
bow of his cravat into a hard knot, kicked his hat
under the bed, and threw himself on the sofa like
an old suit.

John stared at him with absolute compassion.
"Poor devil," he said half musingly, "I know just
how he feels--

 "Ring in the wind his wedding chimes,
     Smile, villagers, at every door;
 Old churchyards stuffed with buried crimes,
     Be clad in sunshine o'er and o'er.--"


"Oh, here!" exclaimed the wretched Bert, jumping
to his feet; "let up on that dismal recitative.  It
would make a dog howl to hear that!"

"Then you 'let up' on that suicidal talk of
marrying," replied John, "and all that harangue of
incoherency about your growing old.  Why, my dear
fellow, you're at least a dozen years my junior,
and look at me!" and John glanced at himself in the
glass with a feeble pride, noting the gray sparseness
of his side-hair, and its plaintive dearth on
top.  "Of course I've got to admit," he continued,
"that my hair is gradually evaporating; but for all
that, I'm 'still in the ring,' don't you know; as
young in society, for the matter of that, as yourself!
And this is just the reason why I don't want
you to blight every prospect in your life by marrying
at your age--especially a woman--I mean the
kind of woman you'd be sure to fancy at your age."

"Didn't I say 'a good sensible girl' was the kind
I had selected?" Bert remonstrated.

"Oh!" exclaimed John, "you've selected her,
then?--and without one word to me!" he ended,
rebukingly.

"Well, hang it all!" said Bert impatiently; "I
knew how YOU were, and just how you'd talk me
out of it; and I made up my mind that for once, at
least, I'd follow the dictations of a heart that--
however capricious in youthful frivolities--should
beat, in manhood, loyal to itself and loyal to its
own affinity."

"Go it!  Fire away!  Farewell, vain world!"
exclaimed the excited John.--"Trade your soul off for
a pair of ear-bobs and a button-hook--a hank of
jute hair and a box of lily-white!  I've buried not
less than ten old chums this way, and here's another
nominated for the tomb."

"But you've got no REASON about you," began
Bert,--"I want to"--

"And so do _I_ 'want to,' " broke in John finally,
--"I want to get some sleep.--So 'register' and
come to bed.--And lie up on edge, too, when you
DO come--'cause this old catafalque-of-a-bed is just
about as narrow as your views of single blessedness!
Peace!  Not another word!  Pile in!  Pile
in!  I'm three-parts sick, anyhow, and I want
rest!"  And very truly he spoke.

It was a bright morning when the slothful John
was aroused by a long vociferous pounding on the
door.  He started up in bed to find himself alone--
the victim of his wrathful irony having evidently
risen and fled away while his pitiless tormentor
slept--"Doubtless to accomplish at once that
nefarious intent as set forth by his unblushing
confession of last night," mused the miserable John.
And he ground his fingers in the corners of his
swollen eyes, and leered grimly in the glass at the
feverish orbs, blood-shot, blurred and aching.

The pounding on the door continued.  John
looked at his watch; it was only eight o'clock.

"Hi, there!" he called viciously.  "What do you
mean, anyhow?" he went on, elevating his voice
again; "shaking a man out of bed when he's just
dropping into his first sleep?"

"I mean that you're going to get up; that's what!"
replied a firm female voice.  "It's eight o'clock, and I
want to put your room in order; and I'm not going
to wait all day about it, either!  Get up and go
down to your breakfast, and let me have the room!"
And the clamor at the door was industriously renewed.

"Say!" called John querulously, hurrying on his
clothes, "Say, you!"

"There's no 'say' about it!" responded the
determined voice:  "I've heard about you and your
ways around this house, and I'm not going to put
up with it!  You'll not lie in bed till high noon
when I've got to keep your room in proper order!"

"Oh, ho!" bawled John intelligently: "reckon
you're the new invasion here?  Doubtless you're
that girl that's been hanging up the new window-
blinds that won't roll, and disguising the pillows
with clean slips, and hennin' round among my
books and papers on the table here, and aging me
generally till I don't know my own handwriting by
the time I find it!  Oh, yes, you're going to
revolutionize things here; you're going to introduce
promptness, and system, and order.  See you've
even filled the wash-pitcher and tucked two starched
towels through the handle.  Haven't got any tin
towels, have you?  I rather like this new soap, too!
So solid and durable, you know; warranted not to
raise a lather.  Might as well wash one's hands with
a door-knob!"

And as John's voice grumbled away into the
sullen silence again, the determined voice without
responded:  "Oh, you can growl away to your
heart's content, Mr. McKinney, but I want you
to understand distinctly that I'm not going to humor
you in any of your old bachelor, sluggardly,
slovenly ways, and whims and notions.  And I
want you to understand, too, that I'm not hired
help in this house, nor a chambermaid, nor anything
of the kind.  I'm the landlady here; and I'll give you
just ten minutes more to get down to your breakfast,
or you'll not get any--that's all!"  And as
the reversed cuff John was in the act of buttoning
slid from his wrist and rolled under the dresser, he
heard a stiff rustling of starched muslin flouncing
past the door, and the quick italicized patter of
determined gaiters down the hall.

"Look here," said John to the bright-faced boy
in the hotel office, a half hour later.  "It seems the
house here's been changing hands again."

"Yes, sir," said the boy, closing the cigar case,
and handing him a lighted match.  "Well, the new
landlord, whoever he is," continued John, patronizingly,
"is a good one.  Leastwise, he knows what's
good to eat, and how to serve it."

The boy laughed timidly,--"It ain't a 'landlord,'
though--it's a landlady; it's my mother."

"Ah," said John, dallying with the change the
boy had pushed toward him.  "Your mother, eh?
And where's your father?"

"He's dead," said the boy.

"And what's this for?" abruptly asked John,
examining his change.

"That's your change," said the boy:  "You got
three for a quarter, and gave me a half."

"Well, YOU just keep it," said John, sliding back
the change.  "It's for good luck, you know, my boy.
Same as drinking your long life and prosperity.
And, oh yes, by the way, you may tell your mother
I'll have a friend to dinner with me to-day."

"Yes, sir, and thank you, sir," said the beaming
boy.

"Handsome boy!" mused John, as he walked
down street.  "Takes that from his father, though,
I'll wager my existence!"

Upon his office desk John found a hastily written
note.  It was addressed in the well-known hand of
his old chum.  He eyed the missive apprehensively,
and there was a positive pathos in his voice as he
said aloud, "It's our divorce.  I feel it!"  The note,
headed, "At the Office, Four in Morning," ran like
this:


"Dear Mack--I left you slumbering so soundly
that, by noon, when you waken, I hope, in your
refreshed state, you will look more tolerantly on my
intentions as partially confided to you this night.  I
will not see you here again to say good-by.  I
wanted to, but was afraid to 'rouse the sleeping
lion.'  I will not close my eyes to-night--fact is, I
haven't time.  Our serenade at Josie's was a
prearranged signal by which she is to be ready and at
the station for the five morning train.  You may
remember the lighting of three consecutive matches
at her window before the igniting of her lamp.
That meant, 'Thrice dearest one, I'll meet thee at
the depot at four-thirty sharp.'  So, my dear Mack,
this is to inform you that, even as you read, Josie
and I have eloped.  It is all the old man's fault, yet
I forgive him.  Hope he'll return the favor.  Josie
predicts he will, inside of a week--or two weeks
anyhow.  Good-by, Mack, old boy; and let a fellow
down as easy as you can.  Affectionately,
                                   "BERT."


"Heavens!" exclaimed John, stifling the note in
his hand and stalking tragically around the room.
"Can it be possible that I have nursed a frozen
viper?  An ingrate?  A wolf in sheep's clothing?
An orang-outang in gent's furnishings?"

"Was you calling me, sir?" asked a voice at the
door.  It was the janitor.

"No!" thundered John; "Quit my sight! get out
of my way!  No, no, Thompson, I don't mean
that," he called after him.  "Here's a half-dollar
for you, and I want you to lock up the office, and
tell anybody that wants to see me that I've been
set upon, and sacked and assassinated in cold blood;
and I've fled to my father's in the country, and am
lying there in the convulsions of dissolution, babbling
of green fields and running brooks, and thirsting
for the life of every woman that comes in gunshot!"
And then, more like a confirmed invalid
than a man in the strength and pride of his prime,
he crept down into the street again, and thence back
to his hotel.

Dejectedly and painfully climbing to his room, he
encountered, on the landing above, a little woman
in a jaunty dusting-cap and a trim habit of crisp
muslin.  He tried to evade her, but in vain.  She
looked him squarely in the face--occasioning him
the dubious impression of either needing shaving
very badly, or having egg-stains on his chin.

"You're the gentleman in Number II, I believe?
Why, Mr. McKinney, are you ill?"

He nodded confusedly.

"Mr. McKinney is your name, I think," she
queried, with a pretty elevation of the eyebrows.

"Yes, ma'am," said John rather abjectly.  "You
see, ma'am--But I beg pardon," he went on
stammeringly, and with a very awkward bow--"I beg
pardon, but I am addressing--ah--the--ah--the--"

"You are addressing the new landlady," she
interpolated pleasantly.  "Mrs. Miller is my name.  I
think we should be friends, Mr. McKinney, since I
hear that you are one of the oldest patrons of the
house."

"Thank you--thank you!" said John, completely
embarrassed.  "Yes, indeed!--ha, ha.  Oh, yes--
yes--really, we must be quite old friends, I assure
you, Mrs.--Mrs.--"

"Mrs. Miller," smilingly prompted the little
woman.

"Yes, ah, yes,--Mrs. Miller.  Lovely morning,
Mrs. Miller," said John, edging past her and backing
toward his room.

But as Mrs. Miller was laughing outright, for
some mysterious reason, and gave no affirmation
in response to his proposition as to the quality of
the weather, John, utterly abashed and nonplused,
darted into his room and closed the door, "Deucedly
extraordinary woman!" he thought; "wonder
what's her idea!"

He remained locked in his room till the dinner-
hour; and, when he promptly emerged for that occasion,
there was a very noticeable improvement in
his personal appearance, in point of dress, at least,
though there still lingered about his smoothly-
shaven features a certain haggard, care-worn,
anxious look that would not out.

Next his own at the table he found a chair tilted
forward, as though in reservation for some honored
guest.  What did it mean?  Oh, he remembered
now.  Told the boy to tell his mother he would have
a friend to dine with him.  Bert--and, blast the fellow!--
was, doubtless, dining then with a far preferable
companion--his wife--in a palace-car on the
P., C. & St. L., a hundred miles away.  The thought
was maddening.  Of course, now, the landlady
would have material for a new assault.  And how
could he avert it?  A despairing film blurred his
sight for the moment--then the eyes flashed daringly.
"I will meet it like a man!" he said, mentally--
"yea, like a State's Attorney,--I will invite
it!  Let her do her worst!"

He called a servant, giving some message in an
undertone.

"Yes, sir," said the agreeable servant, "I'll go
right away, sir," and left the room.

Five minutes elapsed, and then a voice at his
shoulder startled him:

"Did you send for me, Mr. McKinney?  What
is it I can do?"

"You are very kind, Mrs.--Mrs.--"

"Mrs. Miller," said the lady, with a smile that he
remembered.

"Now, please spare me even the mildest of
rebukes.  I deserve your censure, but I can't stand it
--I can't positively!" and there was a pleading
look in John's lifted eyes that changed the little
woman's smile to an expression of real solicitude.
"I have sent for you," continued John, "to ask of
you three great favors.  Please be seated while I
enumerate them.  First--I want you to forgive and
forget that ill-natured, uncalled-for grumbling of
mine this morning when you awakened me."

"Why, certainly," said the landlady, again smiling,
though quite seriously.

"I thank you," said John with dignity.  "And,
second," he continued--"I want your assurance that
my extreme confusion and awkwardness on the occasion
of our meeting later were rightly interpreted."

"Certainly--certainly," said the landlady with the
kindliest sympathy.

"I am grateful--utterly," said John, with newer
dignity.  "And then," he went on,--"after informing
you that it is impossible for the best friend I
have in the world to be with me at this hour, as
intended, I want you to do me the very great honor
of dining with me.  Will you?"

"Why, certainly," said the charming little
landlady--"and a thousand thanks besides!  But tell me
something of your friend," she continued, as they
were being served.  "What is he like--and what is
his name--and where is he?"

"Well," said John warily,--"he's like all young
fellows of his age.  He's quite young, you know--
not over thirty, I should say--a mere boy, in fact,
but clever--talented--versatile."

"--Unmarried, of course," said the chatty little
woman.

"Oh, yes!" said John, in a matter-of-course tone
--but he caught himself abruptly--then stared intently
at his napkin--glanced evasively at the side-
face of his questioner, and said,--"Oh, yes!  Yes,
indeed!  He's unmarried.--Old bachelor like myself,
you know.  Ha!  Ha!"

"So he's not like the young man here that
distinguished himself last night?" said the little woman
archly.

The fork in John's hand, half-lifted to his lips,
faltered and fell back toward his plate.

"Why, what's that?" said John in a strange
voice; "I hadn't heard anything about it--I mean
I haven't heard anything about any young man.
What was it?"

"Haven't heard anything about the elopement?"
exclaimed the little woman in astonishment.--
"Why it's been the talk of the town all morning.
Elopement in high life--son of a grain-dealer, name
of Hines, or Himes, or something, and a preacher's
daughter--Josie somebody--didn't catch her last
name.  Wonder if you don't know the parties--
Why, Mr. McKinney, are you ill?"

"Oh, no--not at all!" said John:  "Don't mention
it.  Ha--ha!  Just eating too rapidly, that's all.
Go on with--you were saying that Bert and Josie
had really eloped."

"What 'Bert'?" asked the little woman quickly.

"Why, did I say Bert?" said John, with a guilty
look.  "I meant Haines, of course, you know--
Haines and Josie.--And did they really elope?"

"That's the report," answered the little woman,
as though deliberating some important evidence;
"and they say, too, that the plot of the runaway
was quite ingenious.  It seems the young lovers
were assisted in their flight by some old fellow--
friend of the young man's--Why, Mr. McKinney,
you ARE ill, surely?"

John's face was as ashen.

"No--no!" he gasped painfully:  "Go on--go
on!  Tell me more about the--the--the old fellow
--the old reprobate!  And is he still at large?"

"Yes," said the little woman, anxiously regarding
the strange demeanor of her companion.  "They
say, though, that the law can do nothing with him,
and that this fact only intensifies the agony of the
broken-hearted parents--for it seems they have, till
now, regarded him both as a gentleman and family
friend in whom"--

"I really am ill," moaned John, waveringly rising
to his feet; "but I beg you not to be alarmed.  Tell
your little boy to come to my room, where I will
retire at once, if you'll excuse me, and send for
my physician.  It is simply a nervous attack.  I am
often troubled so; and only perfect quiet and
seclusion restores me.  You have done me a great
honor, Mrs."--("Mrs. Miller," sighed the
sympathetic little woman)--"Mrs. Miller,--and I thank
you more than I have words to express."  He bowed
limply, turned through a side door opening on a
stair, and tottered to his room.

During the three weeks' illness through which he
passed, John had every attention--much more, indeed,
than he had consciousness to appreciate.  For
the most part his mind wandered, and he talked of
curious things, and laughed hysterically, and serenaded
mermaids that dwelt in grassy seas of dew,
and were bald-headed like himself.  He played
upon a fourteen-jointed flute of solid gold, with
diamond holes, and keys carved out of thawless ice.
His old father came at first to take him home; but
he could not be moved, the doctor said.

Two weeks of John's illness had worn away,
when a very serious-looking young man, in a traveling
duster, and a high hat, came up the stairs to
see him.  A handsome young lady was clinging to
his arm.  It was Bert and Josie.  She had guessed
the very date of their forgiveness.  John awoke
even clearer in mind than usual that afternoon.  He
recognized his old chum at a glance, and Josie--
now Bert's wife.  Yes, he comprehended that.  He
was holding a hand of each when another figure
entered.  His thin white fingers loosened their clasp,
and he held a hand toward the newcomer.  "Here,"
he said, "is my best friend in the world--Bert, you
and Josie will love her, I know; for this is Mrs.--
Mrs."--"Mrs. Miller," said the radiant little woman.
--"Yes,--Mrs. Miller," said John, very proudly.



AT ZEKESBURY

The little town, as I recall it, was of just enough
dignity and dearth of the same to be an ordinary
county seat in Indiana--"The Grand Old
Hoosier State," as it was used to being howlingly
referred to by the forensic stump orator from the
old stand in the court-house yard--a political
campaign being the wildest delight that Zekesbury
might ever hope to call its own.

Through years the fitful happenings of the town
and its vicinity went on the same--the same!  Annually
about one circus ventured in, and vanished,
and was gone, even as a passing trumpet-blast; the
usual rainy season swelled the "Crick," the driftage
choking at "the covered bridge," and backing water
till the old road looked amphibious; and crowds
of curious townfolk struggled down to look upon
the watery wonder, and lean awestruck above it,
and spit in it, and turn mutely home again.

The usual formula of incidents peculiar to an
uneventful town and its vicinity:  The countryman
from "Jessup's Crossing," with the corn-stalk coffin-
measure, loped into town, his steaming little gray-
and-red-flecked "roadster" gurgitating, as it were, with that
mysterious utterance that ever has
commanded and ever must evoke the wonder and
bewilderment of every boy; the small-pox rumor
became prevalent betimes, and the subtle aroma of
the asafetida-bag permeated the graded schools
"from turret to foundation-stone"; the still
recurring expose of the poor-house management; the
farm-hand, with the scythe across his shoulder,
struck dead by lightning; the long-drawn quarrel
between the rival editors culminating in one of them
assaulting the other with a "sidestick," and the other
kicking the one down-stairs and thenceward ad
libitum; the tramp, suppositiously stealing a ride,
found dead on the railroad; the grand jury returning
a sensational indictment against a bar-tender
non est; the Temperance outbreak; the "Revival;"
the Church Festival; and the "Free Lectures on
Phrenology, and Marvels of Mesmerism," at the
town hall.  It was during the time of the last-mentioned
sensation, and directly through this scientific
investigation, that I came upon two of the
town's most remarkable characters.  And however
meager my outline of them may prove, my material
for the sketch is most accurate in every detail, and
no deviation from the cold facts of the case shall
influence any line of my report.

For some years prior to this odd experience
I had been connected with a daily paper at the
state capital; and latterly a prolonged session of
the legislature, where I specially reported, having
told threateningly upon my health, I took both the
advantage of a brief vacation, and the invitation of a
young bachelor senator, to get out of the city for
a while, and bask my respiratory organs in the
revivifying rural air of Zekesbury--the home of my
new friend.

"It'll pay you to get out here," he said cordially,
meeting me at the little station, "and I'm glad you've
come, for you'll find no end of odd characters to
amuse you."  And under the very pleasant sponsorship
of my senatorial friend, I was placed at
once on genial terms with half the citizens of the
little town--from the shirt-sleeved nabob of the
county office to the droll wag of the favorite loafing-
place--the rules and by-laws of which resort, by
the way, being rudely charcoaled on the wall above
the cutter's bench, and somewhat artistically
culminating in an original dialect legend which ran
thus:

 F'r instunce, now, when SOME folks gits
 To relyin' on theyr wits,
 Ten to one they git too smart
 And SPILE it all, right at the start!
 Feller wants to jest go slow
 And do his THINKIN' first, you know,
 'F I CAST'T THINK UP SOMEPIN' GOOD,
 I SET STILL AND CHAW MY COOD!


And it was at this inviting rendezvous, two or
three evenings following my arrival, that the general
crowd, acting upon the random proposition of
one of the boys, rose as a man and wended its
hilarious way to the town hall.

"Phrenology," said the little, old, bald-headed
lecturer and mesmerist, thumbing the egg-shaped head
of a young man I remembered to have met that afternoon
in some law office; "phrenology," repeated
the Professor--"or rather the TERM phrenology--is
derived from two Greek words signifying MIND
and DISCOURSE; hence we find embodied in phrenology-
proper, the science of intellectual measurement,
together with the capacity of intelligent communication
of the varying mental forces and their flexibilities,
etc., etc.  The study, then, of phrenology is,
to simplify it wholly--is, I say, the general
contemplation of the workings of the mind as made
manifest through the certain corresponding depressions
and protuberances of the human skull when, of
course, in a healthy state of action and development,
as we find the conditions exemplified in the subject
before us."

Here the "subject" vaguely smiled.

"You recognize that mug, don't you?" whispered
my friend.  "It's that coruscating young ass, you
know, Hedrick--in Cummings' office--trying to
study law and literature at the same time, and
tampering with 'The Monster that Annually,' don't
you know?--where we found the two young students
scuffling round the office, and smelling of
peppermint?--Hedrick, you know, and Sweeney.
Sweeney, the slim chap, with the pallid face, and
frog-eyes, and clammy hands!  You remember I
told you 'there was a pair of 'em'?  Well, they're
up to something here to-night.  Hedrick, there on
the stage in front; and Sweeney--don't you see?--
with the gang on the rear seats."

"Phrenology--again," continued the lecturer, "is,
we may say, a species of mental geography, as it
were; which--by a study of the skull--leads also
to a study of the brain within, even as geology
naturally follows the initial contemplation of the
earth's surface.  The brain, thurfur, or intellectual
retort, as we may say, natively exerts a molding
influence on the skull contour; thurfur is the expert
in phrenology most readily enabled to accurately
locate the multitudinous intellectual forces, and
most exactingly estimate, as well, the sequent
character of each subject submitted to his scrutiny.  As,
in the example before us--a young man, doubtless
well known in your midst, though, I may say, an
entire stranger to myself--I venture to disclose
some characteristic trends and tendencies, as
indicated by this phrenological depression and
development of the skull proper, as later we will show,
through the mesmeric condition, the accuracy of our
mental diagnosis."

Throughout the latter part of this speech my
friend nudged me spasmodically, whispering something
which was jostled out of intelligent utterance
by some inward spasm of laughter.

"In this head," said the Professor, straddling
his malleable fingers across the young man's bumpy
brow--"In this head we find Ideality large--abnormally
large, in fact; thurby indicating--taken in
conjunction with a like development of the perceptive
qualities--language following, as well, in the
prominent eye--thurby indicating, I say, our
subject as especially endowed with a love for the
beautiful--the sublime--the elevating--the refined and
delicate--the lofty and superb--in nature, and in all
the sublimated attributes of the human heart and
beatific soul.  In fact, we find this young man
possessed of such natural gifts as would befit him for
the exalted career of the sculptor, the actor, the
artist, or the poet--any ideal calling; in fact, any
calling but a practical, matter-of-fact vocation;
though in poetry he would seem to best succeed."

"Well," said my friend seriously, "he's FEELING
for the boy!"  Then laughingly:  "Hedrick HAS written
some rhymes for the county papers, and Sweeney
once introduced him, at an Old Settlers' Meeting,
as 'The Best Poet in Center Township,' and never
cracked a smile!  Always after each other that way,
but the best friends in the world.  SWEENEY'S strong
suit is elocution.  He has a native ability that way
by no means ordinary, but even that gift he abuses
and distorts simply to produce grotesque, and oftentimes,
ridiculous effects.  For instance, nothing
more delights him than to 'loathfully' consent to
answer a request, at The Mite Society, some evening,
for 'an appropriate selection,' and then, with
an elaborate introduction of the same, and an
exalted tribute to the refined genius of the author,
proceed with a most gruesome rendition of 'Alonzo
The Brave and The Fair Imogene,' in a way to
coagulate the blood and curl the hair of his fair
listeners with abject terror.  Pale as a corpse, you
know, and with that cadaverous face, lit with those
malignant-looking eyes, his slender figure, and his
long thin legs and arms and hands, and his whole
diabolical talent and adroitness brought into play--
why, I want to say to you, it's enough to scare 'em
to death!  Never a smile from him, though, till he
and Hedrick are safe out into the night again--
then, of course, they hug each other and howl
over it like Modocs!  But pardon; I'm interrupting
the lecture.  Listen."

"A lack of continuity, however," continued the
Professor, "and an undue love of approbation,
would, measurably, at least, tend to retard the
young man's progress toward the consummation of
any loftier ambition, I fear; yet as we have intimated,
if the subject were appropriately educated
to the need's demand, he could doubtless produce
a high order of both prose and poetry--especially
the latter--though he could very illy bear being
laughed at for his pains."

"He's dead wrong there," said my friend;
"Hedrick enjoys being laughed at; he's used to it--gets
fat on it!"

"Is fond of his friends," continued the Professor,
"and the heartier they are the better; might even
be convivially inclined--if so tempted--but prudent
--in a degree," loiteringly concluded the speaker,
as though unable to find the exact bump with which
to bolster up the last named attribute.

The subject blushed vividly--my friend's right
eyelid dropped, and there was a noticeable, though
elusive sensation throughout the audience.

"BUT!" said the Professor explosively, "selecting
a directly opposite subject, in conjunction with the
study of the one before us [turning to the group at
the rear of the stage and beckoning], we may find
a newer interest in the practical comparison of these
subjects side by side."  And the Professor pushed
a very pale young man into position.

"Sweeney!" whispered my friend delightedly;
"now look out!"

"In THIS subject," said the Professor, "we find
the practical business head.  Square--though small
--a trifle light at the base, in fact; but well balanced
at the important points at least; thoughtful
eye--wide-awake--crafty--quick--restless--a policy
eye, though not denoting language--unless, perhaps,
mere business forms and direct statements."

"Fooled again!" whispered my friend; "and I'm
afraid the old man will fail to nest out the fact
also that Sweeney is the cold-bloodedest guyer on
the face of the earth, and with more diabolical
resources than a prosecuting attorney; the Professor
ought to know this, too, by this time--for these
same two chaps have been visiting the old man in
his room at the hotel,--that's what I was trying to
tell you a while ago.  The old chap thinks he's
'playing' the boys, is my idea; but it's the other way,
or I lose my guess."

"Now, under the mesmeric influence--if the two
subjects will consent to its administration," said
the Professor, after some further tedious preamble,
"we may at once determine the fact of my assertions,
as will be proved by their action while in
this peculiar state."  Here some apparent
remonstrance was met with from both subjects, though
amicably overcome by the Professor first manipulating
the stolid brow and pallid front of the imperturbable
Sweeney--after which the same mysterious
ordeal was loathfully submitted to by Hedrick--
though a noticeably longer time was consumed in
securing his final loss of self-control.  At last, however,
this curious phenomenon was presented, and there
before us stood the two swaying figures, the heads
dropped back, the lifted hands, with thumb and
finger-tips pressed lightly together, the eyelids
languid and half closed, and the features, in
appearance, wan and humid.

"Now, sir!" said the Professor, leading the limp
Sweeney forward, and addressing him in a quick
sharp tone of voice.--"Now, sir, you are a great
contractor--own large factories, and with untold
business interests.  Just look out there! [pointing
out across the expectant audience] look there, and
see the countless minions toiling servilely at your
dread mandates.  And yet--ha! ha!  See! see!--
They recognize the avaricious greed that would thus
grind them in the very dust; they see, alas! they see
themselves, half-clothed--half-fed, that you may
glut your coffers.  Half-starved, they listen to the
wail of wife and babe, and with eyes upraised in
prayer, they see YOU rolling by in gilded coach, and
swathed in silk attire.  But--ha! again!  Look--
look! they are rising in revolt against you!  Speak
to them before too late!  Appeal to them--quell
them with the promise of the just advance of wages
they demand!"

The limp figure of Sweeney took on something
of a stately and majestic air.  With a graceful and
commanding gesture of the hand, he advanced a
step or two; then, after a pause of some seconds
duration, in which the lifted face grew pale, as it
seemed, and the eyes a denser black, he said:

 "But yesterday
 I looked away
 O'er happy lands, where sunshine lay
 In golden blots,
 Inlaid with spots
 Of shade and wild forget-me-nots."


The voice was low, but clear, and even musical.
The Professor started at the strange utterance,
looked extremely confused, and, as the boisterous
crowd cried "Hear, hear!" he motioned the subject
to continue, with some gasping comment interjected,
which, if audible, would have run thus:
"My God! It's an inspirational poem!"

 "My head was fair
 With flaxen hair--"

resumed the subject.


"Yoop-ee!" yelled an irreverent auditor.

"Silence! silence!" commanded the excited Professor
in a hoarse whisper; then, turning enthusiastically
to the subject--"Go on, young man!  Go
on!--'Thy head was fair with flaxen hair----' "

 "My head was fair
 With flaxen hair,
 And fragrant breezes, faint and rare,
 And, warm with drouth
 From out the south,
 Blew all my curls across my mouth."


The speaker's voice, exquisitely modulated, yet
resonant as the twang of a harp, now seemed of itself
to draw and hold each listener; while a certain
extravagance of gesticulation--a fantastic movement
of both form and feature--seemed very near
akin to fascination.  And so flowed on the curious
utterance:--

 "And, cool and sweet,
 My naked feet
 Found dewy pathways through the wheat;
 And out again
 Where, down the lane,
 The dust was dimpled with the rain."


In the pause following there was a breathlessness
almost painful.  The poem went on:

 "But yesterday
 I heard the lay
 Of summer birds, when I, as they
 With breast and wing,
 All quivering
 With life and love, could only sing.

 "My head was leant
 Where, with it, blent
 A maiden's, o'er her instrument:
 While all the night,
 From vale to height,
 Was filled with echoes of delight.

 "And all our dreams
 Were lit with gleams
 Of that lost land of reedy streams,
 Along whose brim
 Forever swim
 Pan's lilies, laughing up at him."

And still the inspired singer held rapt sway.


"It is wonderful!" I whispered, under breath.

"Of course it is!" answered my friend.  "But
listen; there is more:"

 "But yesterday! . . . .
 O blooms of May,
 And summer roses-where away?
 O stars above;
 And lips of love,
 And all the honeyed sweets thereof!--

 "O lad and lass,
 And orchard pass,
 And briered lane, and daisied grass!
 O gleam and gloom,
 And woodland bloom
 And breezy breaths of all perfume!--

 "No more for me
 Or mine shall be
 Thy raptures--save in memory,--
 No more--no more--
 Till through the Door
 Of Glory gleam the days of yore."

This was the evident conclusion of the remarkable
utterance, and the Professor was impetuously
fluttering his hands about the subject's upward-
staring eyes, stroking his temples, and snapping his
fingers in his face.

"Well," said Sweeney, as he stood suddenly
awakened, and grinning in an idiotic way, "how did
the old thing work?"  And it was in the consequent
hilarity and loud and long applause, perhaps,
that the Professor was relieved from the explanation
of this rather astounding phenomenon of the
idealistic workings of a purely practical brain--or, as
my impious friend scoffed the incongruity later,
in a particularly withering allusion, as the "blank-
blanked fallacy, don't you know, of staying the
hunger of a howling mob by feeding 'em on spring
poetry!"

The tumult of the audience did not cease even
with the retirement of Sweeney, and cries of "Hedrick!
Hedrick!" only subsided with the Professor's
high-keyed announcement that the subject was even
then endeavoring to make himself heard, but
could not until utter quiet was restored, adding
the further appeal that the young man had already
been a long time under the mesmeric spell, and
ought not be so detained for an unnecessary period.
"See," he concluded, with an assuring wave of the
hand toward the subject, "see; he is about to address
you.  Now, quiet!--utter quiet, if you please!"

"Great heavens!" exclaimed my friend stiflingly;
"just look at the boy!  Get on to that position for a
poet!  Even Sweeney has fled from the sight of
him!"

And truly, too, it was a grotesque pose the young
man had assumed; not wholly ridiculous either,
since the dwarfed position he had settled into
seemed more a genuine physical condition than an
affected one.  The head, back-tilted, and sunk between
the shoulders, looked abnormally large, while
the features of the face appeared peculiarly child-
like--especially the eyes--wakeful and wide apart,
and very bright, yet very mild and very artless; and
the drawn and cramped outline of the legs and feet,
and of the arms and hands, even to the shrunken,
slender-looking fingers, all combined to convey most
strikingly to the pained senses the fragile frame
and pixy figure of some pitiably afflicted child,
unconscious altogether of the pathos of its own deformity.

"Now, mark the cuss, Horatio!" gasped my
friend.

At first the speaker's voice came very low, and
somewhat piping, too, and broken--an eery sort of
voice it was, of brittle and erratic timbre and undulant
inflection.  Yet it was beautiful.  It had the
ring of childhood in it, though the ring was not pure
golden, and at times fell echoless.  The SPIRIT of its
utterance was always clear and pure and crisp and
cheery as the twitter of a bird, and yet forever ran
an undercadence through it like a low-pleading
prayer.  Half garrulously, and like a shallow brook
might brawl across a shelvy bottom, the rhythmic
little changeling thus began:--

 "I'm thist a little crippled boy, an' never goin' to grow
 An' git a great big man at all!--'cause Aunty told me so.
 When I was thist a baby onc't I falled out of the bed
 An' got 'The Curv'ture of the Spine'--'at's what the Doctor
said.
 I never had no Mother nen--fer my Pa runned away
 An' dassn't come back here no more--'cause he was drunk one day
 An' stobbed a man in thish-ere town, an' couldn't pay his fine!
 An' nen my Ma she died--an' I got 'Curv'ture of the Spine'!"


A few titterings from the younger people in the
audience marked the opening stanza, while a certain
restlessness, and a changing to more attentive positions
seemed the general tendency.  The old Professor,
in the meantime, had sunk into one of the
empty chairs.  The speaker went on with more gaiety:--

 "I'm nine years old!  An' you can't guess how much I weigh, I
bet!--
 Last birthday I weighed thirty-three!--An' I weigh thirty yet!
 I'm awful little fer my size--I'm purt' nigh littler 'an
 Some babies is!--an' neighbers all calls me 'The Little Man'!
 An' Doc one time he laughed an' said:  'I 'spect, first think
you know,
 You'll have a little spike-tail coat an' travel with a show!'
 An' nen I laughed-till I looked round an' Aunty was a-cryin'--
 Sometimes she acts like that, 'cause I got 'Curv'ture of the
Spine'!"


Just in front of me a great broad-shouldered
countryman, with a rainy smell in his cumbrous
overcoat, cleared his throat vehemently, looked
startled at the sound, and again settled forward, his
weedy chin resting on the knuckles of his hands as
they tightly clutched the seat before him.  And it
was like being taken into a childish confidence as the
quaint speech continued:--

 "I set--while Aunty's washin'--on my little long-leg stool,
 An' watch the little boys an' girls a-skippin' by to school;
 An' I peck on the winder, an' holler out an' say:
 'Who wants to fight The Little Man at dares you all to-day?'
 An' nen the boys climbs on the fence, an' little girls peeks
through,
 An' they all says:  'Cause you're so big, you think we're 'feard
o' you!'
 An' nen they yell, an' shake their fist at me, like I shake
mine--
 They're thist in fun, you know, 'cause I got 'Curv'ture of the
Spine'!"


"Well," whispered my friend, with rather odd
irrelevance, I thought, "of course you see through
the scheme of the fellows by this time, don't you?"

"I see nothing," said I, most earnestly, "but a
poor little wisp of a child that makes me love him
so I dare not think of his dying soon, as he surely
must!  There; listen!"  And the plaintive gaiety
of the homely poem ran on:--

 "At evening, when the ironin' 's done, an' Aunty's fixed the
fire,
 An' filled an' lit the lamp, an' trimmed the wick an' turned it
higher,
 An' fetched the wood all in fer night, an' locked the kitchen
door,
 An' stuffed the ole crack where the wind blows in up through the
floor--
 She sets the kittle on the coals, an' biles an' makes the tea,
 An' fries the liver an' the mush, an' cooks a egg fer me,
 An' sometimes--when I cough so hard--her elderberry wine
 Don't go so bad fer little boys with 'Curv'ture of the Spine'!"


"Look!" whispered my friend, touching me with
his elbow.  "Look at the Professor!"

"Look at everybody!" said I.  And the artless
little voice went on again half quaveringly:--

 "But Aunty's all so childish-like on my account, you see
 I'm 'most afeard she'll be took down--an' 'at's what bothers
ME!--
 'Cause ef my good ole Aunty ever would git sick an' die,
 I don't know what she'd do in Heaven--till _I_ come, by an' by:--
 Fer she's so ust to all my ways, an' ever'thing, you know,
 An' no one there like me, to nurse an' worry over so!--
 'Cause all the little childerns there's so straight an' strong
an' fine,
 They's nary angel 'bout the place with 'Curv'ture of the
Spine'!"


The old Professor's face was in his handkerchief;
so was my friend's in his; and so was mine in mine,
as even now my pen drops and I reach for it again.
I half regret joining the mad party that had gathered
an hour later in the old law office where these
two graceless characters held almost nightly revel,
the instigators and conniving hosts of a reputed
banquet whose MENU'S range confined itself to herrings,
or "blind robins," dried beef, and cheese, with
crackers, gingerbread, and sometimes pie; the whole
washed down with anything but

     "----Wines that heaven knows when
 Had sucked the fire of some forgotten sun,
 And kept it through a hundred years of gloom
 Still glowing in a heart of ruby."


But the affair was memorable.  The old Professor
was himself lured into it and loudest in his praise
of Hedrick's realistic art; and I yet recall him at the
orgie's height, excitedly repulsing the continued
slurs and insinuations of the clammy-handed
Sweeney, who, still contending against the old man's
fulsome praise of his more fortunate rival, at last
openly declared that Hedrick was NOT a poet, NOT a
genius, and in no way worthy to be classed in the
same breath with HIMSELF--"the gifted but unfortunate
SWEENEY, sir--the unacknowledged author,
sir 'y gad, sir!--of the two poems that held you
spellbound to-night!"



A CALLER FROM BOONE

BENJ. F. JOHNSON VISITS THE EDITOR

It was a dim and chill and loveless afternoon in
the late fall of eighty-three when I first saw
the genial subject of this hasty sketch.  From time
to time the daily paper on which I worked had been
receiving, among the general literary driftage of
amateur essayists, poets and sketch-writers, some
conceits in verse that struck the editorial head as
decidedly novel; and, as they were evidently the
production of an unlettered man, and an OLD man,
and a farmer at that, they were usually spared the
waste-basket, and preserved--not for publication,
but to pass from hand to hand among the members
of the staff as simply quaint and mirth-provoking
specimens of the verdancy of both the venerable
author and the Muse inspiring him.  Letters as
quaint as were the poems invariably accompanied
them, and the oddity of these, in fact, had first called
attention to the verses.  I well remember the general
merriment of the office when the first of the old
man's letters was read aloud, and I recall, too, some
of his comments on his own verse, verbatim.  In
one place he said:  "I make no doubt you will find some purty SAD
spots in my poetry, considerin'; but
I hope you will bear in mind that I am a great
sufferer with rheumatizum, and have been, off and
on, sence the cold New Years.  In the main, however,"
he continued, "I allus aim to write in a cheerful,
comfortin' sperit, so's ef the stuff hangs fire,
and don't do no good, it hain't a-goin' to do no
harm,--and them's my honest views on poetry."

In another letter, evidently suspecting his poem
had not appeared in print because of its dejected
tone, he said:  "The poetry I herewith send was
wrote off on the finest Autumn day I ever laid eyes
on!  I never felt better in my life.  The morning air
was as invigoratin' as bitters with tanzy in it, and the
folks at breakfast said they never saw such a' appetite
on mortal man before.  Then I lit out for the
barn, and after feedin', I come back and tuck my
pen and ink out on the porch, and jest cut loose.  I
writ and writ till my fingers was that cramped I
couldn't hardly let go of the penholder.  And the
poem I send you is the upshot of it all.  Ef you don't
find it cheerful enough fer your columns, I'll have
to knock under, that's all!"  And that poem, as I recall
it, certainly was cheerful enough for publication,
only the "copy" was almost undecipherable, and the
ink, too, so pale and vague, it was thought best to
reserve the verses, for the time, at least, and later on
revise, copy, punctuate, and then print it sometime,
as much for the joke of it as anything.  But it
was still delayed, neglected, and in a week's time
almost entirely forgotten.  And so it was upon this
chill and somber afternoon I speak of that an event
occurred which most pleasantly reminded me of
both the poem with the "sad spots" in it, and the
"cheerful" one, "writ out on the porch" that glorious
autumn day, that poured its glory through the
old man's letter to us.

Outside and in the sanctum the gloom was too
oppressive to permit an elevated tendency of either
thought or spirit.  I could do nothing but sit listless
and inert.  Paper and pencil were before me, but
I could not write--I could not even think coherently,
and was on the point of rising and rushing out into
the streets for a wild walk, when there came a
hesitating knock at the door.

"Come in!" I snarled, grabbing up my pencil and
assuming a frightfully industrious air:  "Come in!"
I almost savagely repeated, "Come in!  And shut the
door behind you!" and I dropped my lids, bent my
gaze fixedly upon the blank pages before me and
began scrawling some disconnected nothings with
no head or tail or anything.

"Sir; howdy," said a low and pleasant voice.  And
at once, in spite of my perverse resolve, I looked up.
I someway felt rebuked.

The speaker was very slowly, noiselessly closing
the door.  I could hardly face him when he turned
around.  An old man, of sixty-five, at least, but with
a face and an eye of the most cheery and wholesome
expression I had ever seen in either youth or age.
Over his broad bronzed forehead and white hair
he wore a low-crowned, wide-brimmed black felt
hat, somewhat rusted now, and with the band
grease-crusted, and the binding frayed at intervals,
and sagging from the threads that held it on.  An
old-styled frock coat of black, dull brown in streaks,
and quite shiny about the collar and lapels.  A waistcoat
of no describable material or pattern, and a
clean white shirt and collar of one piece, with a black
string-tie and double bow, which would have been
entirely concealed beneath the long white beard
but for its having worked around to one side
of the neck.  The front outline of the face was
cleanly shaven, and the beard, growing simply from
the under chin and throat, lent the old pioneer the
rather singular appearance of having hair all over
him with this luxurious growth pulled out above
his collar for mere sample.

I arose and asked the old man to sit down, handing
him a chair decorously.

"No--no," he said--"I'm much obleeged.  I hain't
come in to bother you no more'n I can he'p.  All
I wanted was to know ef you got my poetry all right.
You know I take yer paper," he went on, in an
explanatory way, "and seein' you printed poetry in it
once-in-a-while, I sent you some of mine--neighbors
kindo' advised me to," he added apologetically, "and
so I sent you some--two or three times I sent you
some, but I hain't never seed hide-ner-hair of it in
your paper, and as I wus in town to-day, anyhow,
I jest thought I'd kindo' drap in and git it back, ef
you ain't goin' to print it--'cause I allus save up
most the things I write, aimin' sometime to git 'em
all struck off in pamphlet-form, to kindo' distribit
round 'mongst the neighbors, don't you know."

Already I had begun to suspect my visitor's identity,
and was mechanically opening the drawer of
our poetical department.

"How was your poetry signed?" I asked.

"Signed by my own name," he answered proudly,
--"signed by my own name,--Johnson--Benjamin
F. Johnson, of Boone County--this state."

"And is this one of them, Mr. Johnson?" I asked,
unfolding a clumsily-folded manuscript, and closely
scrutinizing the verse.

"How does she read?" said the old man eagerly,
and searching in the meantime for his spectacles.
"How does she read?--Then I can tell you!"

"It reads," said I, studiously conning the old
man's bold but bad chirography, and tilting my chair
back indolently,--"it reads like this--the first verse
does,"--and I very gravely read:--

          "Oh! the old swimmin'-hole!"--


"Stop!  Stop!" said the old man excitedly--"Stop
right there!  That's my poetry, but that's not the
way to read it by a long shot!  Give it to me!" and
he almost snatched it from my hand.  "Poetry like
this ain't no poetry at all, 'less you read it NATCHURL
and IN JEST THE SAME SPERIT 'AT IT'S WRIT IN, don't you
understand.  It's a' old man a-talkin', rickollect, and
a-feelin' kindo' sad, and yit kindo' sorto' good, too,
and I opine he wouldn't got that off with a face on
him like a' undertaker, and a voice as solemn as a cow-bell after
dark!  He'd say it more like this."--
And the old man adjusted his spectacles and read:--


          "THE OLD SWIMMIN'-HOLE"

 "Oh! the old swimmin'-hole! whare the crick so still and deep
 Looked like a baby-river that was laying half asleep,
 And the gurgle of the worter round the drift jest below
 Sounded like the laugh of something we onc't ust to know
 Before we could remember anything but the eyes
 Of the angels lookin' out as we left Paradise;
 But the merry days of youth is beyond our controle,
 And it's hard to part ferever with the old swimmin'-hole."


I clapped my hands in genuine applause.  "Read
on!" I said,--"Read on!  Read all of it!"

The old man's face was radiant as he continued:--

 "Oh! the old swimmin'-hole!  In the happy days of yore,
 When I ust to lean above it on the old sickamore,
 Oh! it showed me a face in its warm sunny tide
 That gazed back at me so gay and glorified,
 It made me love myself, as I leaped to caress
 My shadder smilin' up at me with sich tenderness.
 But them days is past and gone, and old Time's tuck his toll
 From the old man come back to the old swimmin'-hole.

 "Oh! the old swimmin'-hole!  In the long, lazy days
 When the humdrum of school made so many "run-a-ways,"
 How pleasant was the jurney down the old dusty lane,
 Whare the tracks of our bare feet was all printed so plane
 You could tell by the dent of the heel and the sole
 They was lots o' fun on hands at the old swimmin'-hole.
 But the lost joys is past!  Let your tears in sorrow roll
 Like the rain that ust to dapple up the old swimmin'-hole.

 "Thare the bullrushes growed, and the cattails so tall,
 And the sunshine and shadder fell over it all;
 And it mottled the worter with amber and gold
 Till the glad lilies rocked in the ripples that rolled;
 And the snake-feeder's four gauzy wings fluttered by
 Like the ghost of a daisy dropped out of the sky,
 Or a wownded apple-blossom in the breeze's controle
 As it cut acrost some orchurd to'rds the old swimmin'-hole.

 "Oh! the old swimmin'-hole!  When I last saw the place,
 The scenes was all changed, like the change in my face;
 The bridge of the railroad now crosses the spot
 Whare the old divin'-log lays sunk and fergot.
 And I stray down the banks whare the trees ust to be--
 But never again will theyr shade shelter me!
 And I wish in my sorrow I could strip to the soul,
 And dive off in my grave like the old swimmin'-hole."


My applause was long and loud.  The old man's
interpretation of the poem was a positive revelation,
though I was glad enough to conceal from him my
moistened eyes by looking through the scraps for
other specimens of his verse.

"Here," said I enthusiastically, "is another one,
signed 'Benj. F. Johnson,' read me this," and I
handed him the poem.

The old man smiled and took the manuscript.
"This-here one's on 'The Hoss,' " he said, simply
clearing his throat.  "They ain't so much fancy-
work about this as the other'n, but they's jest as
much FACT, you can bet--'cause, they're no animal
a-livin' 'at I love better 'an

"THE HOSS"

 "The hoss he is a splendud beast;
     He is man's friend, as heaven desined,
 And, search the world from west to east,
     No honester you'll ever find!

 "Some calls the hoss 'a pore dumb brute,'
     And yit, like Him who died fer you,
 I say, as I theyr charge refute,
 'Fergive; they know not what they do!'

 "No wiser animal makes tracks
     Upon these earthly shores, and hence
 Arose the axium, true as facts,
     Extoled by all, as 'Good hoss-sense!'

 "The hoss is strong, and knows his stren'th,--
     You hitch him up a time er two
 And lash him, and he'll go his len'th
     And kick the dashboard out fer you!

 "But, treat him allus good and kind,
     And never strike him with a stick,
 Ner aggervate him, and you'll find
     He'll never do a hostile trick.

 "A hoss whose master tends him right
     And worters him with daily care,
 Will do your biddin' with delight,
     And act as docile as YOU air.

 "He'll paw and prance to hear your praise,
     Because he's learnt to love you well;
 And, though you can't tell what he says
     He'll nicker all he wants to tell.

 "He knows you when you slam the gate
     At early dawn, upon your way
 Unto the barn, and snorts elate,
     To git his corn, er oats, er hay.

 "He knows you, as the orphant knows
     The folks that loves her like theyr own,
 And raises her and "finds" her clothes,
     And "schools" her tel a womern-grown!

 "I claim no hoss will harm a man,
     Ner kick, ner run away, cavort,
 Stump-suck, er balk, er 'catamaran,'
     Ef you'll jest treat him as you ort.

 "But when I see the beast abused,
     And clubbed around as I've saw some,
 I want to see his owner noosed,
     And jest yanked up like Absolum!

 "Of course they's differunce in stock,--
     A hoss that has a little yeer,
 And slender build, and shaller hock,
     Can beat his shadder, mighty near!

 "Whilse one that's thick in neck and chist
     And big in leg and full in flank,
 That tries to race, I still insist
     He'll have to take the second rank.

 "And I have jest laid back and laughed,
     And rolled and wallered in the grass
 At fairs, to see some heavy-draft
     Lead out at FIRST, yit come in LAST!

 "Each hoss has his appinted place,--
     The heavy hoss should plow the soil;--
 The blooded racer, he must race,
     And win big wages fer his toil.

 "I never bet--ner never wrought
     Upon my feller man to bet--
 And yit, at times, I've often thought
     Of my convictions with regret.

 "I bless the hoss from hoof to head--
     From head to hoof, and tale to mane!--
 I bless the hoss, as I have said,
     From head to hoof, and back again!

 "I love my God the first of all,
     Then Him that perished on the cross,
 And next, my wife,--and then I fall
     Down on my knees and love the hoss."


Again I applauded, handing the old man still
another of his poems, and the last received.  "Ah!"
said he, as his gentle eyes bent on the title; "this--
here's the cheerfullest one of 'em all.  This is the
one writ, as I wrote you about--on that glorious
October morning two weeks ago--I thought your
paper would print this-un, shore!"

"Oh, it WILL print it," I said eagerly; "and it will
print the other two as well!  It will print ANYTHING
that you may do us the honor to offer, and we'll
reward you beside just as you may see fit to designate.--
But go on--go on!  Read me the poem."

The old man's eyes were glistening as he responded
with the poem entitled


"WHEN THE FROST IS ON THE PUNKIN"

 "When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock,
 And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin' turkey-cock,
And the clackin' of the guineys, and the cluckin' of the hens,
 And the rooster's hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence
 O, it's then's the times a feller is a-feelin' at his best,
 With the risin' sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
 As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the
stock,
 When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

 "They's something kindo' harty-like about the atmusfere
 When the heat of summer's over and the coolin' fall is here--
 Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
 And the mumble of the hummin'-birds and buzzin' of the bees;
 But the air's so appetizin'; and the landscape through the haze
 Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
 Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock--
 When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

 "The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
 And the raspin' of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
 The stubble in the furries--kindo' lonesome-like, but still
 A-preachin' sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
 The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
 The hosses in theyr stalls below--the clover overhead!--
 O, it sets my hart a-clickin' like the tickin' of a clock,
 When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock!

 "Then your apples all is getherd, and the ones a feller keeps
 Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
 And your cider-makin' 's over, and your wimmern-folks is through
 With theyr mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage,
too! . . .
 I don't know how to tell it--but ef sich a thing could be
 As the Angels wantin' boardin', and they'd call around on ME--
 I'd want to 'commodate 'em-all the whole-indurin' flock--
 When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock!"


That was enough!  "Surely," thought I, "here is a
diamond in the rough, and a 'gem,' too, 'of purest
ray serene'!" I caught the old man's hand and
wrung it with positive rapture; and it is needless to
go further in explanation of how the readers of our
daily came to an acquaintance through its columns
with the crude, unpolished, yet most gentle genius of
Benj. F. Johnson, of Boone.



THE OLD SOLDIER'S STORY

AS TOLD BEFORE THE NEW ENGLAND SOCIETY IN NEW
YORK CITY

Since we have had no stories to-night I will
venture, Mr. President, to tell a story that I
have heretofore heard at nearly all the banquets I
have ever attended.  It is a story simply, and you
must bear with it kindly.  It is a story as told by
a friend of us all, who is found in all parts of all
countries, who is immoderately fond of a funny
story, and who, unfortunately, attempts to tell a
funny story himself--one that he has been particularly
delighted with.  Well, he is not a story-teller,
and especially he is not a funny story-teller.  His
funny stories, indeed, are oftentimes touchingly
pathetic.  But to such a story as he tells, being a
good-natured man and kindly disposed, we have to
listen, because we do not want to wound his feelings
by telling him that we have heard that story a
great number of times, and that we have heard it
ably told by a great number of people from the time
we were children.  But, as I say, we can not hurt his
feelings.  We can not stop him.  We can not kill him;
and so the story generally proceeds.  He selects a very old story
always, and generally tells it in about
this fashion:

I heerd an awful funny thing the other day--ha!
ha!  I don't know whether I kin git it off er not,
but, anyhow, I'll tell it to you.  Well!--le's see now
how the fool-thing goes.  Oh, yes!--W'y, there was
a feller one time--it was during the army and this
feller that I started in to tell you about was in the
war and--ha! ha!--there was a big fight a-goin' on,
and this feller was in the fight, and it was a big battle
and bullets a-flyin' ever' which way, and bomb-
shells a-bu'stin', and cannon-balls a-flyin' 'round
promiskus; and this feller right in the midst of it,
you know, and all excited and het up, and chargin'
away; and the fust thing you know along come a
cannon-ball and shot his head off--ha! ha! ha!
Hold on here a minute!--no, sir; I'm a-gittin' ahead
of my story; no, no; it didn't shoot his HEAD off--
I'm gittin' the cart before the horse there--shot his
LEG off; that was the way; shot his leg off; and
down the poor feller drapped, and, of course, in that
condition was perfectly he'pless, you know, but yit
with presence o' mind enough to know that he was
in a dangerous condition ef somepin' wasn't done fer
him right away.  So he seen a comrade a-chargin',
by that he knowed, and he hollers to him and called
him by name--I disremember now what the feller's
name was. . . .

Well, that's got nothin' to do with the story,
anyway; he hollers to him, he did, and says, "Hello,
there," he says to him; "here, I want you to come
here and give me a lift; I got my leg shot off, and
I want you to pack me back to the rear of the battle"
--where the doctors always is, you know, during a
fight--and he says, "I want you to pack me back
there where I can get med-dy-cinal attention er I'm
a dead man, fer I got my leg shot off," he says,
"and I want you to pack me back there so's
the surgeons kin take keer of me."  Well--
the feller, as luck would have it, ricko'nized him
and run to him and throwed down his own musket,
so's he could pick him up; and he stooped down and
picked him up and kindo' half-way shouldered him
and half-way helt him betwixt his arms like, and
then he turned and started back with him--ha! ha!
ha!  Now, mind, the fight was still a-goin' on--and
right at the hot of the fight, and the feller, all
excited, you know, like he was, and the soldier that
had his leg shot off gittin' kindo' fainty like, and his
head kindo' stuck back over the feller's shoulder
that was carryin' him.  And he hadn't got more'n a
couple o' rods with him when another cannon-ball
come along and tuk his head off, shore enough!--
and the curioust thing about it was--ha! ha!--that
the feller was a-packin' him didn't know that he
had been hit ag'in at all, and back he went--still
carryin' the deceased back--ha! ha! ha!--to where
the doctors could take keer of him--as he thought.
Well, his cap'n happened to see him, and he thought
it was a ruther cur'ous p'ceedin's--a soldier carryin'
a dead body out o' the fight--don't you see?  And
so he hollers at him, and he says to the soldier, the
cap'n did, he says, "Hullo, there; where you goin'
with that thing?" the cap'n said to the soldier who
was a-carryin' away the feller that had his leg shot
off.  Well, his head, too, by that time.  So he says,
"Where you going with that thing?" the cap'n said
to the soldier who was a-carryin' away the feller that
had his leg shot off.  Well, the soldier he stopped--
kinder halted, you know, like a private soldier will
when his presidin' officer speaks to him--and he says
to him, "W'y," he says, "Cap, it's a comrade o' mine
and the pore feller has got his leg shot off, and I'm
a-packin' him back to where the doctors is; and there
was nobody to he'p him, and the feller would 'a' died
in his tracks--er track ruther--if it hadn't a-been fer
me, and I'm a-packin' him back where the surgeons
can take keer of him; where he can get medical
attendance--er his wife's a widder!" he says, " 'cause
he's got his leg shot off!"  Then CAP'N says, "You
blame fool you, he's got his HEAD shot off."  So then
the feller slacked his grip on the body and let it
slide down to the ground, and looked at it a minute,
all puzzled, you know, and says, "W'y, he told me
it was his leg!"  Ha! ha! ha!



DIALECT IN LITERATURE

'And the common people heard him gladly'

Of what shall be said herein of dialect, let it be
understood the term dialect referred to is of
that general breadth of meaning given it to-day,
namely, any speech or vernacular outside of the
prescribed form of good English in its present state.
The present state of the English is, of course, not
any one of its prior states.  So first let it be
remarked that it is highly probable that what may
have been the best of English once may now by some
be counted as a weak, inconsequent patois, or
dialect.

To be direct, it is the object of this article to show
that dialect is not a thing to be despised in any event
--that its origin is oftentimes of as royal caste as
that of any speech.  Listening back, from the stand-
point of to-day, even to the divine singing of that old
classic master to whom England's late laureate
refers as

 ". . . the first warbler, whose sweet breath
     Preluded those melodious bursts that fill
 The spacious times of great Elizabeth
     With sounds that echo still";

or to whom Longfellow alludes, in his matchless
sonnet, as

     ". . . the poet of the dawn, who wrote
     The Canterbury Tales, and his old age
     Made beautiful with song"--

Chaucer's verse to us is NOW as veritably dialect as
to that old time it was the chastest English; and even
then his materials were essentially dialect when his
song was at best pitch.  Again, our present dialect,
of most plebeian ancestry, may none the less prove
worthy.  Mark the recognition of its own personal
merit in the great new dictionary, where what was,
in our own remembrance, the most outlandish dialect,
is now good, sound, official English.

Since Literature must embrace all naturally
existing materials--physical, mental and spiritual--we
have no occasion to urge its acceptance of so-called
dialect, for dialect IS in Literature, and HAS been
there since the beginning of all written thought and
utterance.  Strictly speaking, as well as paradoxically,
all verbal expression is more or less dialectic,
however grammatical.  While usage establishes
grammar, it no less establishes so-called dialect.
Therefore we may as rightfully refer to "so-called
grammar."

It is not really a question of Literature's position
toward dialect that we are called upon to consider,
but rather how much of Literature's valuable time
shall be taken up by this dialectic country cousin.
This question Literature her gracious self most
amiably answers by hugging to her breast voluminous
tomes, from Chaucer on to Dickens, from
Dickens on to Joel Chandler Harris.  And this
affectionate spirit on the part of Literature, in the
main, we all most feelingly indorse.

Briefly summed, it would appear that dialect
means something more than mere rude form of
speech and action--that it must, in some righteous
and substantial way, convey to us a positive force
of soul, truth, dignity, beauty, grace, purity and
sweetness that may even touch us to the tenderness
of tears.  Yes, dialect as certainly does all this as
that speech and act refined may do it, and for the
same reasons: it is simply, purely natural and
human.

Yes, the Lettered and the Unlettered powers are
at sword's points; and very old and bitter foemen,
too, they are.  As fairly as we can, then, let us look
over the field of these contending forces and note
their diverse positions: First, THE LETTERED--they
who have the full advantages of refined education,
training, and association--are undoubtedly as
wholly out of order among the UNLETTERED as the
Unlettered are out of order in the exalted presence
of the Lettered.  Each faction may in like aversion
ignore or snub the other; but a long-suffering Providence
must bear with the society of both.  There
may be one vague virtue demonstrated by this feud:
each division will be found unwaveringly loyal to
its kind, and mutually they desire no interchange of
sympathy whatever.--Neither element will accept
from the other any PATRONIZING treatment; and,
perhaps, the more especially does the UNLETTERED faction
reject anything in vaguest likeness of this spirit.  Of
the two divisions, in graphic summary,--ONE knows
the very core and center of refined civilization, and
this only; the OTHER knows the outlying wilds and
suburbs of civilization, and this only.  Whose, therefore,
is the greater knowledge, and whose the just
right of any whit of self-glorification?

A curious thing, indeed, is this factional pride, as
made equally manifest in both forces; in one, for
instance, of the Unlettered forces:  The average
farmer, or countryman, knows, in reality, a far better
and wider range of diction than he permits himself
to use.  He restricts and abridges the vocabulary
of his speech, fundamentally, for the reason
that he fears offending his rural NEIGHBORS, to whom
a choicer speech might suggest, on his part, an
assumption--a spirit of conscious superiority, and
therewith an implied reflection on THEIR lack of
intelligence and general worthiness.  If there is any
one text universally known and nurtured of the
Unlettered masses of our common country, it is that
which reads, "All men are created equal."  Therefore
it is a becoming thing when true gentility prefers
to overlook some variations of the class who,
more from lack of cultivation than out of rude
intent, sometimes almost compel a positive doubt of
the nice veracity of the declaration, or at least a
grief at the munificent liberality of the so-bequoted
statement.  The somewhat bewildering position of
these conflicting forces leaves us nothing further to
consider, but how to make the most and best of the
situation so far as Literature may be hurt or helped
thereby.

Equally with the perfect English, then, dialect
should have full justice done it.  Then always it is
worthy, and in Literature is thus welcome.  The
writer of dialect should as reverently venture in its
use as in his chastest English.  His effort in the
SCHOLARLY and ELEGANT direction suffers no neglect--
he is SCHOOLED in that, perhaps, he may explain.
Then let him be SCHOOLED in DIALECT before he sets
up as an expounder of it--a teacher, forsooth a
master!  The real master must not only know each
varying light and shade of dialect expression, but
he must as minutely know the inner character of the
people whose native tongue it is, else his product is
simply a pretense--a wilful forgery, a rank
abomination.  Dialect has been and is thus insulted,
vilified, and degraded, now and continually; and
through this outrage solely, thousands of generous-
minded readers have been turned against dialect
who otherwise would have loved and blessed it in
its real form of crude purity and unstrained sweetness--

          Honey dripping from the comb.


Let no impious faddist, then, assume its just
interpretation.  He may know everything else in the
world, but not dialect, nor dialectic people, for both
of which he has supreme contempt, which same, be
sure, is heartily returned.  Such a "superior"
personage may even go among these simple country
people and abide indefinitely in the midst of them,
yet their more righteous contempt never for one instant
permits them to be their real selves in his presence.
In consequence, his most conscientious report
of them, their ways, lives, and interests, is absolutely
of no importance or value in the world.  He
never knew them, nor will he ever know them.  They
are not his kind of people, any more than he is their
kind of man; and THEIR disappointment grieves us
more than his.

The master in Literature, as in any art, is that
"divinely gifted man" who does just obeisance to
all living creatures, "both man and beast and bird."
It is this master only who, as he writes, can sweep
himself aside and leave his humble characters to do
the thinking and the talking.  This man it is who
celebrates his performance--not himself.  His work
he celebrates because it is not his only, but because
he feels it to be the conscientious reproduction of
life itself--as he has seen and known and felt it;--a
representation it is of God's own script, translated
and transcribed by the worshipful mind and heart
and hand of genius.  This virtue is impartially
demanded in all art, and genius only can fully
answer the demand in any art for which we claim
perfection.  The painter has his expression of it,
with no slighting of the dialect element; so, too, the
sculptor, the musician, and the list entire.  In the
line of Literature and literary material, an illustration
of the nice meaning and distinction of the art
of dialect will be found in Charles Dudley Warner's
comment on George Cable's work, as far back as
1883, referring to the author's own rendition of it
from the platform.  Mr. Warner says:

While the author was unfolding to his audience a life
and society unfamiliar to them and entrancing them with
pictures, the reality of which none doubted and the spell
of which none cared to escape, it occurred to me that here
was the solution of all the pother we have recently got into
about the realistic and the ideal schools in fiction.  In
"Posson Jone," an awkward camp-meeting country preacher
is the victim of a vulgar confidence game; the scenes are
the street, a drinking-place, a gambling-saloon, a bull-ring,
and a calaboose; there is not a "respectable" character in
it.  Where shall we look for a more faithful picture of low
life?  Where shall we find another so vividly set forth in
all its sordid details?  And yet see how art steps in, with
the wand of genius, to make literature!  Over the whole the
author has cast an ideal light; over a picture that, in the
hands of a bungling realist, would have been repellent he
has thrown the idealizing grace that makes it one of the
most charming sketches in the world.  Here is nature, as
nature only ought to be in literature, elevated but never
departed from.


So we find dialect, as a branch of literature,
worthy of the high attention and employment of
the greatest master in letters--not the merest
mountebank.  Turn to Dickens, in innumerable
passages of pathos: the death of poor Jo, or that
of the "Cheap John's" little daughter in her father's
arms, on the foot-board of his peddling cart before
the jeering of the vulgar mob; smile moistly, too,
at Mr. Sleary's odd philosophies; or at the trials
of Sissy Jupe; or lift and tower with indignation,
giving ear to Stephen Blackpool and the stainless
nobility of his cloyed utterances.

The crudeness or the homeliness of the dialectic
element does not argue its unfitness in any way.
Some readers seem to think so; but they are wrong,
and very gravely wrong.  Our own brief history as
a nation, and our finding and founding and maintaining
of it, left our forefathers little time indeed
for the delicate cultivation of the arts and graces
of refined and scholarly attainments.  And there
is little wonder, and utter blamelessness on their
part, if they lapsed in point of high mental
accomplishments, seeing their attention was so absorbed
by propositions looking toward the protection of
their rude farm-homes, their meager harvests, and
their half-stabled cattle from the dread invasion of
the Indian.  Then, too, they had their mothers and
their wives and little ones to protect, to clothe, to
feed, and to die for in this awful line of duty, as
hundreds upon hundreds did.  These sad facts are
here accented and detailed not so much for the sake
of being tedious as to indicate more clearly why it
was that many of the truly heroic ancestors of "our
best people" grew unquestionably dialect of caste
--not alone in speech, but in every mental trait and
personal address.  It is a grievous fact for us to
confront, but many of them wore apparel of the
commonest, talked loudly, and doubtless said "thisaway"
and "thataway," and "Watch y' doin' of?"
and "Whur yi goin' at?"--using dialect even in
their prayers to Him who, in His gentle mercy,
listened and was pleased; and who listens verily
unto this hour to all like prayers, yet pleased; yea,
haply listens to the refined rhetorical petitions of
those who are NOT pleased.

There is something more at fault than the language
when we turn from or flinch at it; and, as
has been intimated, the wretched fault may be
skulkingly hidden away in the ambush of OSTENSIBLE
dialect--that type of dialect so copiously produced
by its sole manufacturers, who, utterly stark and
bare of the vaguest idea of country life or country
people, at once assume that all their "gifted pens"
have to do is stupidly to misspell every word;
vulgarly mistreat and besloven every theme, however
sacred; maim, cripple, and disfigure language never
in the vocabulary of the countryman--then smuggle
these monstrosities of either rhyme or prose somehow
into the public print that is innocently to smear
them broadcast all over the face of the country they
insult.

How different the mind and method of the true
intrepreter.  As this phrase goes down the man
himself arises--the type perfect--Colonel Richard
Malcolm Johnston, who wrote "The Dukesborough
Tales"--an accomplished classical scholar and
teacher, yet no less an accomplished master and
lover of his native dialect of middle Georgia.  He,
like Dickens, permits his rustic characters to think,
talk, act and live, Just as nature designed them.  He
does not make the pitiable error of either
patronizing or making fun of them.  He knows them and
he loves them; and they know and love him in
return.  Recalling Colonel Johnston's dialectic
sketches, with his own presentation of them from
the platform, the writer notes a fact that seems
singularly to obtain among all true dialect-writers,
namely, that they are also endowed with native
histrionic capabilities:  HEAR, as well as read, Twain,
Cable, Johnston, Page, Smith, and all the list with
barely an exception.

Did space permit, no better illustration of true
dialect sketch and characterization might here be
offered than Colonel Johnston's simple story of
"Mr. Absalom Billingslea," or the short and simple
annals of his like quaint contemporaries, "Mr. Bill
Williams" and "Mr. Jonas Lively."  The scene is
the country and the very little country town, with
landscape, atmosphere, simplicity, circumstance--all
surroundings and conditions--VERITABLE--everything
rural and dialectic, no less than the simple,
primitive, common, wholesome-hearted men and women
who so naturally live and have their blessed being
in his stories, just as in the life itself.  This is the
manifest work of the true dialect writer and
expounder.  In every detail, the most minute, such
work reveals the master-hand and heart of the
humanitarian as well as artist--the two are indissolubly
fused--and the result of such just treatment
of whatever lowly themes or characters we can but
love and loyally approve with all our human hearts.  Such masters
necessarily are rare, and such ripe
perfecting as is here attained may be in part the
mellowing result of age and long observation,
though it can be based upon the wisest, purest
spirit of the man as well as artist.

With no less approval should the work of Joel
Chandler Harris be regarded:  His touch alike is
ever reverential.  He has gathered up the bruised
and broken voices and the legends of the slave,
and from his child-heart he has affectionately
yielded them to us in all their eery beauty and
wild loveliness.  Through them we are made to
glorify the helpless and the weak and to revel in
their victories.  But, better, we are taught that even
in barbaric breasts there dwells inherently the sense
of right above wrong-equity above law-and the
One Unerring Righteousness Eternal.  With equal
truth and strength, too, Mr. Harris has treated the
dialectic elements of the interior Georgia country--
the wilds and fastnesses of the "moonshiners."  His
tale of Teague Poteet, of some years ago, was
contemporaneous with the list of striking mountain
stories from that strong and highly gifted Tennesseean,
Miss Murfree, or "Charles Egbert Craddock."
In the dialectic spirit her stories charm and
hold us.  Always there is strangely mingled, but
most naturally, the gentle nature cropping out amid
the most desperate and stoical: the night scene in
the isolated mountain cabin, guarded ever without
and within from any chance down-swooping of the
minions of the red-eyed law; the great man-group
of gentle giants, with rifles never out of arm's-
reach, in tender rivalry ranged admiringly around
the crowing, wakeful little boy-baby; the return, at
last, of the belated mistress of the house--the sister,
to whom all do great, awkward reverence.  Jealously
snatching up the babe and kissing it, she
querulously demands why he has not long ago been
put to bed.  "He 'lowed he wouldn't go," is the
reply.

Thomas Nelson Page, of Virginia, who wrote
Meh Lady--a positive classic in the negro dialect:
his work is veritable--strong and pure and
sweet; and as an oral reader of it the doubly gifted
author, in voice and cadence, natural utterance,
every possible effect of speech and tone, is doubtless
without rival anywhere.

Many more, indeed, than may be mentioned now
there are of these real benefactors and preservers
of the wayside characters, times, and customs of our
ever-shifting history.  Needless is it to speak here of
the earlier of our workers in the dialectic line--of
James Russell Lowell's New England Hosea Biglow,
Dr. Eggleston's Hoosier School-Master, or
the very rare and quaint, bright prattle of Helen's
Babies.  In connection with this last let us very
seriously inquire what this real child has done that
Literature should so persistently refuse to give him
an abiding welcome?  Since for ages this question
seems to have been left unasked, it may be timely
now to propound it.  Why not the real child in
Literature?  The real child is good enough (we all
know he is bad enough) to command our admiring
attention and most lively interest in real life, and
just as we find him "in the raw."  Then why do we
deny him any righteous place of recognition in our
Literature?  From the immemorial advent of our
dear old Mother Goose, Literature has been especially
catering to the juvenile needs and desires, and
yet steadfastly overlooking, all the time, the very
principles upon which Nature herself founds and
presents this lawless little brood of hers--the
children.  It is not the children who are out of order;
it is Literature.  And not only is Literature out of
order, but she is presumptuous; she is impudent.
She takes Nature's children and revises and corrects
them till "their own mother doesn't know them."
This is literal fact.  So, very many of us are coming
to inquire, as we've a right, why is the real child
excluded from a just hearing in the world of letters
as he has in the world of fact?  For instance,
what has the lovely little ragamuffin ever done of
sufficient guilt to consign him eternally to the
monstrous penalty of speaking most accurate grammar
all the literary hours of the days of the years of his
otherwise natural life?

     "Oh, mother, may I go to school
          With brother Charles to-day?
     The air is very fine and cool;
          Oh, mother, say I may!"

--Is this a real boy that would make such a request,
and is it the real language he would use?  No, we
are glad to say that it is not.  Simply it is a libel,
in every particular, on any boy, however fondly
and exactingly trained by parents however zealous
for his overdecorous future.  Better, indeed, the
dubious sentiment of the most trivial nursery jingle,
since the latter at least maintains the lawless though
wholesome spirit of the child-genuine.--

 "Hink!  Minx!  The old witch winks--
     The fat begins to fry;
 There's nobody home but Jumping Joan,
     Father and mother and I."

Though even here the impious poet leaves the scar
of grammatical knowledge upon childhood's native
diction; and so the helpless little fellow is again
misrepresented, and his character, to all intents and
purposes, is assaulted and maligned outrageously
thereby.

Now, in all seriousness, this situation ought not
to be permitted to exist, though to change it seems
an almost insurmountable task.  The general public,
very probably, is not aware of the real gravity of
the position of the case as even unto this day it
exists.  Let the public try, then, to contribute the
real child to the so-called Child Literature of its
country, and have its real child returned as promptly
as it dare show its little tousled head in the presence
of that scholarly and dignified institution.  Then
ask why your real child has been spanked back
home again, and the wise mentors there will virtually
tell you that Child Literature wants no real children in it, that
the real child's example of
defective grammar and lack of elegant deportment
would furnish to its little patrician patrons suggestions
very hurtful indeed to their higher morals,
tendencies, and ambitions.  Then, although the general
public couldn't for the life of it see why or
how, and might even be reminded that it was just
such a rowdying child itself, and that its FATHER--
the Father of his Country--was just such a child;
that Abraham Lincoln was just such a lovable, lawless
child, and yet was blessed and chosen in the
end for the highest service man may ever render
unto man,--all--all this argument would avail not
in the least, since the elegantly minded purveyors
of Child Literature can not possibly tolerate the
presence of any but the refined children--the very
proper children--the studiously thoughtful, poetic
children,--and these must be kept safe from the
contaminating touch of our rough-and-tumble little
fellows in "hodden gray," with frowzly heads,
begrimed but laughing faces, and such awful, awful
vulgarities of naturalness, and crimes of simplicity,
and brazen faith and trust, and love of life and
everybody in it.  All other real people are getting
into Literature; and without some real children
along will they not soon be getting lonesome, too?





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