Copyright
Edgar Wilson Nye AKA Bill Nye.

Bill Nye's Red Book online

. (page 5 of 14)
Online LibraryEdgar Wilson Nye AKA Bill NyeBill Nye's Red Book → online text (page 5 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


it now that I did then. Old and feeble as I am, it seems to me as though
I could spank a boy that wears knickerbocker pants buttoned onto a
Garabal-dy waist and a pleated jacket. If it wasn't for them cute little
camel's hair whiskers of yours, I would not believe that you had grown
to be a large, expensive boy, grown up with thoughts. Some of the
thoughts you express in your letters are far beyond your years. Do you
think them yourself, or is there some boy in the school that thinks all
the thoughts for the rest?

Some of your letters are so deep that your mother and I can hardly
grapple with them. One of them, especially, was so full of foreign stuff
that you had got out of a bill of fare, that we will have to wait till
you come home before we can take it in. I can talk a little Chippewa,
but that is all the foreign language I am familiar with. When I was
young we had to get our foreign languages the best we could, so I
studied Chippewa without a master. A Chippewa chief took me into his
camp and kept me there for some time while I acquired his language.
He became so much attached to me that I had great difficulty in coming
away. I wish you would write in the United States dialect as much as
possible, and not try to paralyze your parents with imported expressions
that come too high for poor people.

Remember that you are the only boy we've got, and we are only going
through the motions of living here for your sake. For us the day is
wearing out, and it is now way long in the shank of the evening. All we
ask of you is to improve on the old people. You can see where I fooled
myself, and you can do better. Read and write, and sifer, and polo, and
get nolledge, and try not to be ashamed of your uncultivated parents.

When you get that checkered little sawed-off coat on, and that pair
of knee panties, and that poker-dot necktie, and the sassy little boys
holler "rats" when you pass by, and your heart is bowed down, remember
that, no matter how foolish you may look, your parents will never sour
on you.

_Your Father._




TWOMBLEY'S TALE.

My name is Twombley, G. O. P. Twombley is my full name and I have had
a checkered career. I thought it would be best to have my career checked
right through, so I did so.

My home is in the Wasatch Mountains. Far up, where I can see the long,
green, winding valley of the Jordan, like a glorious panorama below me,
I dwell. I keep a large herd of Angora goats. That is my business. The
Angora goat is a beautiful animal - in a picture. But out of a picture he
has a style of perspiration that invites adverse criticism.

Still, it is an independent life, and one that has its advantages, too.

When I first came to Utah, I saw one day, in Salt Lake City, a young
girl arrive. She was in the heyday of life, but she couldn't talk our
language. Her face was oval; rather longer than it was wide, I noticed,
and, though she was still young, there were traces of care and other
foreign substances plainly written there.

She was an emigrant, about seventeen years of age, and, though she had
been in Salt Lake City an hour and a half, she was still unmarried.

She was about the medium height, with blue eyes, that somehow, as you
examined them carefully in the full, ruddy light of a glorious September
afternoon, seemed to resemble each other. Both of them were that way.

I know not what gave me the courage, but I stepped to her side, and in a
low voice told her of my love and asked her to be mine.

She looked askance at me. Nobody ever did that to me before and lived to
tell the tale. But her sex made me overlook it. Had she been any other
sex that I can think of, I would have resented it. But I would not
strike a woman, especially when I had not been married to her and had no
right to do so.

I turned on my heel and I went away. I most always turn on my heel when
I go away. If I did not turn on my own heel when I went away, whose heel
would a lonely man like me turn upon?

Years rolled by. I did nothing to prevent it. Still that face came to me
in my lonely hut far up in the mountains. That look still rankled in
my memory. Before that my memory had been all right. Nothing had ever
rankled in it very much. Let the careless reader who never had his
memory rankle in hot weather, pass this by. This story is not for him.

After our first conversation we did not meet again for three years,
and then by the merest accident. I had been out for a whole afternoon,
hunting an elderly goat that had grown childish and irresponsible. He
had wandered away and for several days I had been unable to find him. So
I sought for him till darkness found me several miles from my cabin. I
realized at once that I must hurry back, or lose my way and spend the
night in the mountains. The darkness became more rapidly obvious. My way
became more and more uncertain.

Finally I fell down an old prospect shaft. I then resolved to remain
where I was until I could decide what was best to be done. If I had
known that the prospect shaft was there, I would have gone another way.
There was another way that I could have gone, but it did not occur to me
until too late.

I hated to spend the next few weeks in the shaft, for I had not locked
up my cabin when I left, and I feared that some one might get in while I
was absent and play on the piano. I had also set a batch of bread and
two hens that morning, and all of these would be in sad knead of me
before I could get my business into such shape that I could return.

I could not tell accurately how long I had been in the shaft, for I had
no matches by which to see my watch. I also had no watch.

All at once, some one fell down the shaft. I knew it was a woman,
because she did not swear when she landed at the bottom. Still, this
could be accounted for in another way. She was unconscious when I picked
her up.

I did not know what to do. I was perfectly beside myself, and so was
she. I had read in novels that when a woman became unconscious people
generally chafed her hands, but I did not know whether I ought to chafe
the hands of a person to whom I had never been introduced.

I could have administered alcoholic stimulants to her, but I had
neglected to provide myself with them when I fell down the shaft. This
should be a warning to people who habitually go around the country
without alcoholic stimulants.

Finally she breathed a long sigh and murmured, "Where am I?" I told her
that I did not know, but wherever it might be, we were safe, and that
whatever she might say to me, I would promise her, should go no farther.

Then there was a long pause.

To encourage further conversation I asked her if she did not think
we had been having a rather backward spring. She said we had, but she
prophesied a long, open fall.

Then there was another pause, after which I offered her a seat on an old
red empty powder can. Still, she seemed shy and reserved. I would make a
remark to which she would reply briefly, and then there would be a pause
of a little over an hour. Still it seemed longer.

Suddenly the idea of marriage presented itself to my mind. If we never
got out of the shaft, of course an engagement need not be announced. No
one had ever plighted his or her troth at the bottom of a prospect shaft
before. It was certainly unique, to say the least. I suggested it to
her.

She demurred to this on the ground that our acquaintance had been so
brief, and that we had never been thrown together before. I told her
that this would be no objection, and that my parents were so far away
that I did not think they would make any trouble about it.

She said that she did not mind her parents so much as she did the
violent temper of her husband.

I asked her if her husband had ever indulged in polygamy. She replied
that he had, frequently. He had several previous wives. I convinced her
that in the eyes of the law, and under the Edmunds bill, she was not
bound to him. Still she feared the consequences of his wrath.

Then I suggested a desperate plan. We would elope!

I was now thirty-seven years old, and yet had never eloped. Neither
had she. So, when the first streaks of rosy dawn crept across the soft,
autumnal sky and touched the rich and royal coloring on the rugged sides
of the grim old mountains, we got out of the shaft and eloped.




ON CYCLONES.

I desire to state that my position as United States Cyclonist for this
Judicial District is now vacant. I resigned on the 9th day of September,
A. D. 1884.

I have not the necessary personal magnetism to look a cyclone in the eye
and make it quail. I am stern and even haughty in my intercourse with
men, but when a Manitoba simoon takes me by the brow of my pantaloons
and throws me across Township 28, Range 18, West of the 5th Principal
Meridian, I lose my mental reserve and become anxious and even taciturn.
For thirty years I had yearned to see a grown-up cyclone, of the
ring-tail-puller variety, mop up the green earth with huge forest trees
and make the landscape look tired. On the 9th day of September, A. D.
1884, my morbid curiosity was gratified.

As the people came out into the forest with lanterns and pulled me out
of the crotch of a basswood tree with a "tackle and fall," I remember
I told them I didn't yearn for any more atmospheric phenomena. The old
desire for a hurricane that would blow a cow through a penitentiary was
satiated. I remember when the doctor pried the bones of my leg together,
in order to kind of draw my attention away from the limb, he asked me
how I liked the fall style of Zephyr in that locality.

I said it was all right, what there was of it. I said this in a tone of
bitter irony.

Cyclones are of two kinds, viz.: the dark maroon cyclone, and the iron
gray cyclone with pale green mane and tail. It was the latter kind I
frolicked with on the above-named date.

My brother and I were riding along in the grand old forest, and I had
just been singing a few bars from the opera of "Whoop 'em Up, Lizzie
Jane," when I noticed that the wind was beginning to sough through the
trees. Soon after that, I noticed that I was soughing through the
trees also, and I am really no slouch of a sougher, either, when I get
started.

[Illustration: 0144]

The horse was hanging by the breeching from the bough of a large
butter-nut tree, waiting for some one to come and pick him.

I did not see my brother at first, but after a while he disengaged
himself from a rail fence and came where I was hanging, wrong end up,
with my personal effects spilling out of my pockets. I told him that as
soon as the wind kind of softened down, I wished he would go and pick
the horse. He did so, and at midnight a party of friends carried me into
town on a stretcher. It was quite an ovation. To think of a torchlight
procession coming way out there into the woods at midnight, and carrying
me into town on their shoulders in triumph! And yet I was once only a
poor boy!

It shows what may be accomplished by anyone if he will persevere and
insist on living a different life.

The cyclone is a natural phenomenon, enjoying the most robust health.
It may be a pleasure for a man with great will power and an iron
constitution to study more carefully into the habits of the cyclone, but
as far as I am concerned, individually, I could worry along some way if
we didn't have a phenomenon in the house from one year's end to another.

As I sit here, with my leg in a silicate cfsoda corset, and watch the
merry throng promenading down the street, or mingling in the giddy
torchlight procession, I cannot repress a feeling toward a cyclone that
almost amounts to disgust.




THE ARABIAN LANGUAGE.

The Arabian language belongs to what is called the Semitic, or Shemitic
family of languages, and, when written, presents the appearance of a
general riot among the tadpoles and wrigglers of the United States.

The Arabian letter "jeem" or "jim," which corresponds with our J,
resembles some of the spectacular wonders seen by the delirium tremens
expert. I do not know whether that is the reason the letter is called
jeem or jim, or not.

The letter "sheen" or "shin," which is some like our "sh" in its effect,
is a very pretty letter, and enough of them would make very attractive
trimming for pantalets or other clothing. The entire Arabic alphabet, I
think, would work up first-rate into trimming for aprons, skirts, and so
forth.

Still it is not so rich in variety as the Chinese language. A Chinaman
who desires to publish a paper in order to fill a long-felt want,
must have a small fortune in order to buy himself an alphabet. In this
country we get a press, and then, if we have any money left, we lay it
out in type; but in China the editor buys himself an alphabet and then
regards the press as a mere annex. If you go to a Chinese type-maker and
ask him to show you his goods, he will ask you whether you want a two or
a three story alphabet.

The Chinese compositor spends most of his time riding up and down
the elevator, seeking for letters and dusting them off with a feather
duster. In large and wealthy offices the compositor sits at his case
with the copy before him, and has five or six boys running from one
floor to another, bringing him the letters of this wild and peculiar
alphabet.

Sometimes they have to stop in the middle of a long editorial and send
down to Hong Kong and have a letter cast specially for that editorial.

Chinese compositors soon die from heart disease, because they have to
run up stairs and down so much in order to get the different letters
needed.

One large publisher tried to have his case arranged in a high building
without floors, so that the compositor could reach each type by means
of a long pole, but one day there was a slight earthquake shock that
spilled the entire alphabet out of the case, all over the floor, and
although that was ninety-seven years ago last April there are still
two bushels of pi on the floor of that office. The paper employs rat
printers, and as they have been engaged in assorting and distributing
this mass of pi, it is called rat pi in China, and the term is quite
popular.

When the editor underscores a word, the Chinese compositor charges $9
extra for italicizing it. This is nothing more than fair, for he may
have to go all over the empire and climb twenty-seven flights of stairs
to find the necessary italics. So it is much more economical in China to
use body type mostly in setting up a paper, and the old journalist will
avoid caps and italics, unless he is very wealthy.

Arabian literature is very rich, and more especially so in verse. How
the Arabian poets succeed so well in writing their verse in their own
language, I can hardly understand. I find it very difficult to write
poetry which will be greedily snapped up and paid for, even when written
in the English language, but if I had to paw around for an hour to get a
button-hook for the end of the fourth line, so that it would rhyme with
the button-hook in the second line of the same verse, I believe it would
drive me mad.

The Arabian writer is very successful in a tale of fiction. He loves
to take a tale and rewrite it for the press by carefully expunging the
facts. It is in lyric and romantic writing that he seems to excel.

The Arabian Nights is the most popular work that has survived the harsh
touch of time. Its age is not fully known, and as the author has been
dead several hundred years, I feel safe in saying that a number of the
incidents contained in this book are grossly inaccurate.

It has been translated several times with more or less success by
various writers, and some of the statements contained in the book
are well worthy of the advanced civilization, and wild word painting
incident to a heated presidential campaign.




VERONA.

We arrived in Verona day before yesterday. Most every one has heard of
the Two Gentlemen of Verona. This is the place they came from. They have
never returned. Verona is not noted for its gentlemen now. Perhaps that
is the reason I was regarded as such a curiosity when I came here.

Verona is a good deal older town than Chicago, but the two cities have
points of resemblance after all. When the southern simoon from the stock
yards is wafted across the vinegar orchards of Chicago, and a load of
Mormon emigrants get out at the Rock Island depot and begin to move
around and squirm and emit the fragrance of crushed Limburger cheese, it
reminds one of Verona.

[Illustration: 0151]

The sky is similar, too. At night, when it is raining hard, the sky
of Chicago and Verona is not dissimilar. Chicago is the largest place,
however, and my sympathies are with her. Verona has about 68,000 people
now, aside from myself. This census includes foreigners and Indians not
taxed.

Verona has an ancient skating rink, known in history as the
amphitheatre. It is 4043 feet by 516 in size, and the-wall is still 100
feet high in places. The people of Verona wanted me to lecture there,
but I refrained. I was afraid that some late comers might elbow their
way in and leave one end of the amphitheatre open and then there would
be a draft. I will speak more fully on the subject of amphitheatres in
another letter. There isn't room in this one.

Verona is noted for the Capitular library, as it is called. This is said
to be the largest collection of rejected manuscripts in the world. I
stood in with the librarian and he gave me an opportunity to examine
this wonderful store of literary work. I found a Virgil that was
certainly over 1,600 years old. I also found a well preserved copy of
"Beautiful Snow." I read it. It was very touching indeed. Experts said
it was 1,700 years old, which is no doubt correct. I am no judge of the
age of MSS. Some can look at the teeth of a literary production and tell
within two weeks how old it is, but I can't. You can also fool me on the
age of wine. My rule used to be to observe how old I felt the next day
and to fix that as the age of the wine, but this rule I find is not
infallible. One time I found myself feeling the next day as though I
might be 138 years old, but on investigation we found that the wine was
extremely new, having been made at a drug store in Cheyenne that same
day.

[Illustration: 0152]

Looking these venerable MSS. over, I noticed that the custom of writing
with a violet pencil on both sides of a large foolscap sheet, and then
folding it in sixteen directions and carrying it around in the pocket
for two or three centuries is not a late American invention, as I had
been led to suppose. They did it in Italy fifteen centuries ago. I was
permitted also to examine the celebrated institutes of Gains. Gains was
a poor penman, and I am convinced from a close examination of his work
that he was in the habit of carrying his manuscript around in his
pocket with his smoking tobacco. The guide said that was impossible, for
smoking tobacco was not introduced into Italy until a comparatively late
day. That's all right, however. You can't fool me much on the odor of
smoking tobacco.

The churches of Verona are numerous, and although they seem to me
a little different from our own in many ways, they resemble ours in
others. One thing that pleased me about the churches of Verona was the
total absence of the church fair and festival as conducted in America.
Salvation seems to be handed out in Verona without ice cream and cake,
and the odor of sanctity and stewed oysters do not go inevitably hand in
hand. I have already been in the place more than two days and I have
not yet been invited to help lift the old church debt on the cathedral.
Perhaps they think I am not wealthy, however. In fact there is nothing
about my dress or manner that would betray my wealth. I have been in
Europe now six weeks and have kept my secret well. Even my most intimate
traveling companions do not know that I am the Laramie City postmaster
in disguise.

[Illustration: 0155]

The cathedral is a most imposing and massive pile. I quote this from the
guide book. This beautiful structure contains a baptismal font cut
out of one solid block of stone and made for immersion, with an inside
diameter of ten feet. A man nine feet high could be baptised there
without injury. The Veronese have a great respect for water. They
believe it ought not to be used for anything else but to wash away sins,
and even then they are very economical about it.

There is a nice picture here by Titian. It looks as though it had been
left in the smoke house 900 years and overlooked. Titian painted a great
deal. You find his works here ever and anon. He must have had all he
could do in Italy in an early day, when the country was new. I like his
pictures first rate, but I haven't found one yet that I could secure at
anything like a bed rock price.

A GREAT UPHEAVAL.

I have just received the following letter, which I take the liberty of
publishing, in order that good may come out of it, and that the public
generally may be on the watch:

William Nye, Esq.

Dear Sir. - There has been a great religious upheaval here, and great
anxiety on the part of our entire congregation, and I write to you,
hoping that you may have some suggestions to offer that we could use at
this time beneficially.

All the bitter and irreverent remarks of Bob Ingersoll have fallen
harmlessly upon the minds of our people. The flippant sneers and wicked
sarcasms of the modern infidel, wise in his own conceit, have alike
passed over our heads without damage or disaster. These times that have
tried, men's souls have only rooted us more firmly in the faith, and
united us more closely as brothers and sisters.

We do not care whether the earth was made in two billion years or two
minutes, so long as it was made and we are satisfied with it. We do not
care whether Jonah swallowed the whale or the whale swallowed Jonah.
None of these things worry us in the least. We do not pin our faith on
such little matters as those, but we try to so live that when we pass on
beyond the Hood we may have a record to which we may point with pride.

But last Sabbath our entire congregation was visibly moved. People who
had grown gray in this church got right up during the service and went
out, and did not come in again. Brothers who had heard all kinds of
infidelity and scorned to be moved by it, got up, and kicked the pews,
and slammed the doors, and created a young riot.

For many years we have sailed along in the most peaceful faith, and
through joy or sorrow we came to the church together to worship. We have
laughed and wept as one family for a quarter of a century, and an humble
dignity and Christian style of etiquette have pervaded our incomings and
our outgoings.

That is the reason why a clear case of disorderly conduct in our church
has attracted attention and newspaper comment. That is the reason why
we want in some public way to have the church set right before we suffer
from unjust criticism and worldly scorn.

It has been reported that one of the brothers, who is sixty years of
age, and a model Christian, and a good provider, rose during the
first prayer, and, waving his plug hat in the air, gave a wild and
blood-curdling whoop, jumped over the back of his pew, and lit out.
While this is in a measure true, it is not accurate. He did do some wild
and startling jumping, but he did not jump over the pew. He tried to,
but failed. He was too old.

It has also been stated that another brother, who has done more to build
up the church and society here than any other man of his size, threw his
hymn book across the church, and, with a loud wail that sounded like the
word "Gosh!" hissed through clenched teeth, got Out through the window
and went away. This is overdrawn, though there is an element of truth in
it, and I do not try to deny it.

There were other similar strong evidences of feeling throughout the
congregation, none of which had ever been noticed before in this place.
Our clergyman was amazed and horrified. He tried to ignore the action
of the brethren, but when a sister who has grown old in the church, and
been such a model and example of rectitude that all the girls in the
county were perfectly discouraged about trying to be anywhere near equal
to her; when she rose with a wild snort, got up on the pew with her
feet, and swung her parasol in a way that indicated that she would not
go home till morning, he paused and briefly wound up the services.

Of course there were other little eccentricities on the part of the
congregation, but these were the ones that people have talked about the
most, and have done us the most damage abroad.


1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryEdgar Wilson Nye AKA Bill NyeBill Nye's Red Book → online text (page 5 of 14)