Bill Nye.

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modem languages and calisthenics in an educa-
tional institution, once said, ^Hhe air seems
filled with that delicious dolce farina for which
those regions is noted for." I use his language
because I do not know now how I could add to
It in any way.

We visited Mr. James Bunn at his home on
Huckleberry avenue, saw the City Hall and Cus-
tom House and obtained a front view of it,
secured a picture of the residence of the Street
Commissioner and then I talked with Mr. Bunn
while the artist got a marine view of his face.

Mr. Bunn was for forty years a whaler, but
had abandoned the habit now, as there is so little
demand among the restaurants for whales, and
also because there are fewer whales. I ascer-
tained from him that the whale at this season
of the year does not readily rise to the fly, but
bites the harrroon greedily during the middle of
the day.

Mr. Bunn also gave us a great deal of other
Information, among other things informing un
of the fact that the white men had been up to
their old tricks and were trying to steal portions
of the reservation that had not been nailed
4own. He did not say whether it was the sam»



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XO, THE POOR 8Hi: NECOCK. 171

man who is trying to steal the old Southampton
graveyard or not.

James Ib about iefent^-ltve years old and his
father once lived In a wigwam on the Shinn<^«
cock Hills. Hr. Bonn says that the country has
changed very much In the past 250 years and
that I would hardly know the place if I could
have seen it at first. During that time he says
two other houses have been built and he has
reshlngled the L of his barn with hay.

He told us the thrilling story of the Spanish
Sylph and how she was wrecked many years ago
eiithaooaBtiiearbl8hoQ8e,and bow the Spaa*
ish dollars burst out of her gaping side and f eS
with a low, mellow plimk into the raging main.

Now and then the sea has given up one of
these " sand-dollars " as the years went by, and
not over two years ago one was f oimd along the
shore near by. What I blame the Shinnecock
Indians for is th3ir fatal yearning to subsist
solely on this precarious income.

But with the decline of the whaling industry,
due somewhat to the great popularity of natural
and acquired gas as a lubricant, together with
the cheap methods of picking up electricity and
preserving it for illuminating purposes, and a^so
to the fact that whales are more skittish thaa



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m BILL NYE'S SPARKS

they used to be, the Shinnecock whaler Is left
high and dry.

It is, indeed, a pathetic picture. Here on the
stem and rock-bound coast, where their ances^
tors greeted Columbus and other excursionists
as they landed on the new dock and at once had
their pictures taken in a group for the illustra^
tlon on the greenbacks, now the surviying relic
of a brave people, with bowed heads and frosting
locks, are waiting a few days only for the long,
iark night of merciful oblivion.

So he walks in the night-time, all through the
long ifly time, he walks by the sorrowful sea, and
he yearns to wake never, but lie there forever in
the arms of the sheltering sea, to lie in the lap
of the sea.

At least that is my idea of the way the Shin^
necock feels about it.

The Indian race, wherever we find it, gives us
a wonderful illustration of the great, inherent
power of rum as a human leveler. The Indian
has, perhaps, greater powers of ^ endurance than
the white man, and enters into tne great un-
equal fight with rum almost hilariously, but he
loses his presence of mind and forgets to call a
cab at the proper moment. This is a matter
that has never been fully understood even by



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ZO. THE POOS 8HINNEC0CK. 178

£he pale face, and of course the Indian is a per-
fect child in the great conflict with rum. The
result is that the Indian is passing away under
our yery eyes, and the time will soon come when
the Indian agent will have to seek some other
healthful, outdoor exercise.

So the consumptive Shinnecock, the author of
** Shinny on Your Own Ground and Other
Games," is soon to live only in the flea-bitten
records of a great nation. Once he wrote pieces
for the boys to speak in school, and contributed
largely to McGuffy's and Sander's periodicals,
but now you never hear of an Indian who is a
good extemporaneous public speaker, or who can
write for sour apples.

He no longer makes the statement that he is
an aged hepilock, that his limbs are withered
and his trunk attached by the constable. He
has ceased to tell through the columns of the
Fifth Beader how swift he used to be as a war-
rior and that the war-path is now overgrown
with grass. He very seldom writes anything for
the papers except over the signature of Veritas,
and the able young stenographer who used to
report his speeches at the council fire seems to
have moved away.

Two hundred and fifty years ago the Shinne-



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174

ooctL HiDs were ooreiedby a deofe forest, but in
that brief period, as if by magic, two and one-
half acres of that ground have been cleared,
which is an average of an entire acre for every
hundred years. When we stop to consider that
very little of this work was done by the women
and that the men have to attend to the cleaning
of the whales in order to prepare them for the
table, and also write their contributions for the
school-books and sign treaties with the White
Father at Washington, we are forced to admit
that had the Indian's life been spared for a few
thousand years more he would have been alive
at the end of that time.

So they wander on together, waiting for the
final summons. Waiting for the pip or measles,
and their cough is dry and hacking as they cough
along together towards the large and wide here-
after.

They have lived so near Manhattan, where
refinement is so plenty, where the joy they jerk
from barley— every other day but Sunday— gives
the town a reddish color, that the Shinnecock is
dying, dying with his cowhide boots on, dying
with his hectic flush on, while the church bells
chime in Brooklyn and New Yorkers go to
Jersey, go to get their fire-water, go to get their



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iO, THE POOB 8HINNJSC0CK. 175

red-eyed bug-juice, go to get their cooking
whiskey.

Far away at Minnehaha, in the land of the
Dakota, where the cyclone feels so kinky, rising
on itd active hind-feet, with its tail up o'er the
dash-board, blowing babies through the grind-
stone ¥rithout injuring the babies, where the
cyclone and the whopper journey on in joy to-
gether—there refinement and frumenti, with the
new and automatic maladies and choice diseases
that belong to the Caucasian, gather in the
festive red man, take him to the reservation, rob
him while his little life lasts, rob him till he
turns his toes up, rob him till he kicks the bucket.

And the Shinnecock is fading, he who greeted
Chris. Columbus when he landed, tired and sea-
sick, with a breath of peace and onions ; he who
welcomed other strangers, with their notions of
refinement and their knowledge of the Scriptures
and their fondness for Gambrinus— they have
compassed his damnation and the Shinneeock ib
busted.



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U/ebster ai^d |tis Qr^at Booi(.

nOAH Webster probably had the best com*
mand of language of any author ot our time.
Those who have read his great work entitled
Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, or How One
Word Led to Another, will agree with me that
he was smart. Koah never lacked for a word
by which to express himself. He was a brainy
man and a good speller.

We were speaking of Mr. Webster on the way
up here this afternoon, and a gentleman from
Ashland told me of his death. Those of you
who have read Mr. Webster's works will be
pained to learn of this. One by one our eminent
men are passing away. Mr. Webster has passed
away ; Kapoleon Bonaparte is no more, and
Dr. Mary Walker is fading away. This has
been a severe winter on Sitting BuU, and I have
to guard against the night air a good deal my-
self.

It would ill become me at this late date to
criticise Mr. Webster's work, a work that is now



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WBB8TBB A2< J dI8 QEEAT BOOK. 177

I may say in nearly every office, home, school-
room and coanting-room in the land. It is a
great book. I only hope that had Mr. Webster
lived he would have been equally fair in his
criticism of my books.

I hate to compare my books with Mr. Web-
ster's, because it looks egotistical in me ; but
although Koah's book is larger than mine and
has more literary attractions as a book to set a
child on at the table, it does not hold the inter-
est of the reader all the way through.

He has tried to introduce too many characters
into his book at the expense of the plot. It is a
good book to pick up and while away a leisure
hour, perhaps, but it is not a work that could
rivet your interest till midnight, while the fire
went out and the thermometer went down to 47
below zero. You do not hurry through the
pages to see whether Beginald married the girl
or not. Mr. Webster didn't seem to care wheth-
er he married the girl or not.

Therein consists the great difference between
Koah and myself. He don't keep up the inter-
est. A friend of mine at Sing Sing who secured
one of my books, said he never left his room
till he had devoured it. He said he seemed
chained to the spot, and if you can't believe a



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Its BILL NYE'S SPARKS.

convict who is entirely out of politics, who is
the name of G^eorge Washington can you
believe?

Mr. Webster was certainly a most brilliant
writer, but a little inclined, perhaps, to be
wrong. I have discovered in some of his later
books 118,000 words no two of which are alike.
This shows great fluency and versatility, It is
true, but we need something else. The reader
waits in vain to be thrilled by the author's won-
derful word-painting. There is not a thrill in
the whole tome. Noah wasn't much of a
thriller. I am free to confess that when I read
this book, of which I had heard so much, I was
bitterly disappointed. It is a larger book than
mine and costs more, and has more pictures in
it than mine, but is it a work that will make a
man lead a different life ? What does he say of
the tariff ? What does he say of the roller skat-
ing rink? He is silent. He is full of cold, hard
words and dry definitions, but what does he say
of the Mormons and female suffrage, and how
to cure the pip ? Nothing. He evades every-
thing, just as a man does when he writes a let-
ter accepting the nomination for President.

As I said before, however, it is a good book to
pick up for a few moments or to read on the



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frXhSTEB AND BIS QSEAT BOOK. 17i

train. I could never think of taking a long r. r.
journey without Mr. Webster's tale in my pock«
et. I would just as quick think of traveling
without my bottle of cough medicine as to start
out without Mr. Webster's book.

Mr. Webster's Speller was a work of less pre*
tensions, perhaps, but it had an immense sale.
Eight years ago 40,000,000 of these books hacl
been sold, abd yet it had the same grave defect.
It was disconnected, cold, prosy and dulL I
read it for years, and at last became a very close
student of Mr. Webster 'sstyle. Still I never found
but one thing in the book for which there was
such a stampede, which was even ordinarily in*
teresting, and that was a perfect gem. It was
so thrilling in detail and so different from Mr.
Webster's general style that I have often won*
dered who he got to write it for him. Perhaps
it was the author of the Bbbad Winnbbs.
It related to the discovery of a boy in the crotch
of an old apple tree by an elderly gentleman,
and the feeling of bitterness and animosity that
sprang up between the two, and how the old
man told the boy at first that he had better
oome down out of that tree, because he was
afraid the limb would break with him and let
him fall. Then, as the boy still remainedr ks



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180 BILL NYBS SPARKS.

lold blm that those were not eating-appleB, that
they were Just common cooking-apples, and that
there were worms in them. But the boy said
he didn^i mind a little t&ing like that. So then
the old gentleman got irritated and called the
dog and threw tnrf at the boy, and at last
saluted him with pieces of turf and decayed
cabbages ; and after he had gone away the old
man pried the bulldog's jaws open and found a
mouthful of pantaloons and a freckle. I do not
tell this, of course, in Mr. Webster's language
but I give the main points as they recur now to
my mind.

Though I have been a close student of Mr.
Webster for years and examined his style
closely, I am free to say that his ideas about
writing a book are not the same as mine. Of
course it is a great temptation for a young au-
thor to write a book that will have a large sale,
but that should not be all. We should have a
higher object than that, and strive to interest
those who read our books. It should not be
jerky and scattering in its statements.

I do not wish to do an injustice to a great
man who I learn is now no more, a man who
has done so much for the world and who could
spell the longest word without hesitation, but I



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WBBSTEEAND SIS OBEAT BOOK. 18t

qpeak of these things just as I would expect
elders to criticise my work. If one Bffpixe to
monkey with the Uterati of our day we must
expect to he criticised. I liave heen criticised
myself. When I was in puhlic life— as a Justice
of the peace in the Bocky Mountains— a man
came in one day and criticised me so that I did
not get oyer it for two weeks.

I might add, though I dislike to speak of it
DOW, that Mr. Wehster was at one time a mem-
her of the Legislature of Massachusetts. I be-
lieve that was the only time he everstepped
aside from the straight and narrow way. A
good many people do not know this, but tt ll
true. It onlyshowshow a good man may at one
time in his lif^ go wrong.



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Online LibraryBill NyeBill Nye's sparks → online text (page 9 of 9)