Edgar Wilson Nye AKA Bill Nye.

Bill Nye's Red Book online

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and scholarly work, price twenty-five cents, he studies over the closing
chapter an hour or two, then goes out into society and gathers in his
victim. And yet I do not grudge the long, long hours I squandered in
those years when people were in heathenish darkness. I had no book like
yours to tell me how to win the affections of the opposite sex. I could
only blunder on, week after week, and yet I do not regret it. It was
just the school I needed. It did me good.

Your book will, no doubt, be a good thing for those who now grope, but
I have groped so long that I have formed the habit and prefer it. Let
me go right on groping. Those who desire to win the affections of the
opposite sex at one sitting, will do well to send two bits for your
great work, but I am in no hurry. My time is not valuable.


Boys should never be afraid or ashamed to do little odd jobs by which
to acquire money. Too many boys are afraid, or at least seem to be
embarrassed when asked to do chores, and thus earn small sums of money.
In order to appreciate wealth we must earn it ourselves. That is the
reason I labor. I do not need to labor. My parents are still living, and
they certainly would not see me suffer for the necessities of life.
But life in that way would not have the keen relish that it would if I
earned the money myself.

Sawing wood used to be a favorite pastime with boys twenty years ago.
I remember the first money I ever earned was by sawing wood. My brother
and myself were to receive $5 for sawing five cords of wood. We allowed
the job to stand, however, until the weather got quite warm, and then we
decided to hire a foreigner who came along that way one glorious summer
day when all nature seemed tickled and we knew that the fish would be
apt to bite. So we hired the foreigner, and while he sawed, we would bet
with him on various "dead sure things" until he got the wood sawed, when
he went away owing us fifty cents.

We had a neighbor who was very wealthy. He noticed that we boys earned
our own spending money, and he yearned to have his son try to ditto. So
he told the boy that he was going away for a few weeks and that he would
give him $2 per cord, or double price, to saw the wood. He wanted to
teach the boy to earn and appreciate his money. So, when the old man
went away, the boy secured a colored man to do the job at $1 per cord,
by which process the youth made $10. This he judiciously invested in
clothes, meeting his father at the train in a new summer suit and a
speckled cane. The old man said he could see by the sparkle in the boy's
clear, honest eyes, that healthful exercise was what boys needed.

When I was a boy I frequently acquired large sums of money by carrying
coal up two flights of stairs for wealthy people who were too fat to do
it themselves. This money I invested from time to time in side shows and
other zoological attractions.

One day I saw a coal cart back up and unload itself on the walk in such
a way as to indicate that the coal would have to be manually elevated
inside the building. I waited till I nearly froze to death, for the
owner to come along and solicit my aid. Finally he came. He smelled
strong of carbolic acid, and I afterward learned that he was a physician
and surgeon.

We haggled over the price for some time, as I had to cary the coal
up two flights in an old waste paper basket and it was quite a task.
Finally we agreed. I proceeded with the work. About dusk I went up the
last flight of stairs with the last load. My feet seemed to weigh about
nineteen pounds apiece and my face was very sombre.

In the gloaming I saw my employer. He was writing a prescription by the
dim, uncertain light. He told me to put the last basketful in the little
closet off the hall and then come and get my pay. I took the coal into
the closet, but I do not know what I did with it. As I opened the door
and stepped in, a tall skeleton got down off the nail and embraced me
like a prodigal son. It fell on my neck and draped itself all over
me. Its glittering phalanges entered the bosom of my gingham shirt and
rested lightly on the pit of my stomach. I could feel the pelvis bone
in the small of my back. The room was dark, but I did not light the gas.
Whether it was the skeleton of a lady or gentleman, I never knew; but I
thought, for the sake of my good name, I would not remain. My good name
and a strong yearning for home were all that I had at that time.

So I went home. Afterwards, I learned that this physician got all his
coal carried up stairs for nothing in this way, and he had tried to get
rooms two flights further up in the building, so that the boys would
have further to fall when they made their egress.


Hudson, Wis., August 25, 1885. Hon. William F. Vilas,
Postmaster-General, Washington, D. C.

Dear Sir. - For some time I have been thinking of writing to you and
asking you how you were getting along with your department since I left
it. I did not wish to write to you for the purpose of currying favor
with an administration against which I squandered a ballot last fall.
Neither do I desire to convey the impression that I would like to open
a correspondence with you for the purpose of killing time. If you ever
feel like sitting down and answering this letter in an off-hand way
it would please me very much, but do not put yourself out to do so.
I wanted to ask you, however, how you like the pictures of yourself
recently published by the patent insides. That was my principal object
in writing. Having seen you before this great calamity befell you, I
wanted to inquire whether you had really changed so much. As I remember
your face, it was rather unusually intellectual and attractive for a
great man. Great men are very rarely pretty. I guess that, aside from
yourself, myself, and Mr. Evarts, there is hardly an eminent man in the
country who would be considered handsome. But the engraver has done you
a great injustice, or else you have sadly changed since I saw you. It
hardly seems possible that your nose has drifted around to leeward and
swelled up at the end, as the engraver would have us believe.

[Illustration: 0222]

I do not believe that in a few short months the look of firmness
and conscious rectitude that I noticed could have changed to that of
indecision and vacuity which we see in some of your late portraits as

I saw one yesterday, with your name attached to it, and it made my heart
ache for your family. As a resident in your State I felt humiliated.
Two of Wisconsin's ablest men have thus been slaughtered by the rude
broad-axe of the engraver. Last fall, Senator Spooner, who is also a man
with a first-class head and face, was libeled in this same reckless way.
It makes me mad, and in that way impairs my usefulness. I am not a good
citizen, husband or father when I am mad. I am a perfect simoon of wrath
at such times, and I am not responsible for what I do.

Nothing can arouse the indignation of your friends, regardless of
party, so much as the thought that while you are working so hard in the
postoffice at Washington with your coat off, collecting box rent and
making up the Western mail, the remorseless engraver and electrotyper
are seeking to down you by making pictures of you in which you appear
either as a dude or a tough.

While I have not the pleasure of being a member of your party, having
belonged to what has been sneeringly alluded to as the g. o. p., I
cannot refrain from expressing my sympathy at this time. Though we may
have differed heretofore upon important questions of political economy,
I cannot exult over these portraits. Others may gloat over these efforts
to injure you, but I do not. I am not much of a gloater, anyhow.

I leave those to gloat who are in the gloat business.

Still, it is one of the drawbacks incident to greatness. We struggle
hard through life that we may win the confidence of our fellow-men, only
at last to have pictures of ourselves printed and distributed where they
will injure us.

I desire to add before closing this letter, Mr. Vilas, that with those
who are acquainted with you and know your sterling worth, these
portraits will make no difference. We will not allow them to influence
us socially or politically. What the effect may be upon offensive
partisans who are total strangers to you, I do not know.

My theory in relation to these cuts is, that they are combined and
interchangeable, so that, with slight modifications, they are used for
all great men. The cut, with the extras that go with it, consists of one
head with hair (front view), one bald head (front view), one head
with hair (side view), one bald head (side view), one pair eyes (with
glasses), one pair eyes (plain), one Roman nose, one Grecian nose,
one turn-up nose, one set whiskers (full), one moustache, one pair
side-whiskers, one chin, one set large ears, one set medium ears, one
set small ears, one set shoulders, with collar and necktie for above,
one monkey-wrench, one set quoins, one galley, one oil-can, one
screwdriver. These different features are then arranged so that a
great variety of clergymen, murderers, senators, embezzlers, artists,
dynamiters, humorists, arsonists, larcenists, poets, statesmen, base
ball players, rinkists, pianists, capitalists, bigamists and sluggists
are easily represented. No newspaper office should be without them. They
are very simple, and any child can easily learn to operate it. They are
invaluable in all cases, for no one knows at what moment a revolting
crime may be committed by a comparatively unknown man, whose portrait
you wish to give, and in this age of rapid political transformations,
presentations and combinations, no enterprising paper should delay the
acquisition of a combined portrait for the use of its readers.

[Illustration: 0224]

Hoping that you are well, and that you will at once proceed to let no
guilty man escape, I remain,

Yours truly,

Bill Nye.


The Old South Meeting House, in Boston, is the most remarkable
structure in many respects to be found in that remarkable city. Always
eager wherever I go to search out at once the gospel privileges, it
is not to be wondered at, that I should have gone to the Old South the
first day after I landed in Boston.

It is hardly necessary to go over the history of the Old South, except,
perhaps, to refresh the memory of those who live outside of Boston. The
Old South Society was organized in 1669, and the ground on which the
old meeting-house now stands was given by Mrs. Norton, the widow of Rev.
John Norton, since deceased. The first structure was of wood, and in
1729 the present brick building succeeded it. King's Handbook of Boston
says: "It is one of the few historic buildings that have been allowed to
remain in this iconoclastic age."

So it seems that they are troubled with iconoclasts in Boston, too. I
thought I saw one hanging around the Old South on the day I was there,
and had a good notion to point him out to the authorities, but thought
it was none of my business.

I went into the building and registered, and then from force of habit or
absent-mindedness handed my umbrella over the counter and asked how soon
supper would be ready. Everybody registers, but very few, I am told, ask
how soon supper will be ready. The Old South is now run on the European
plan, however.

The old meeting-house is chiefly remarkable for the associations that
cluster around it. Two centuries hover about the ancient weather-vane
and look down upon the visitor when the weather is favorable.

[Illustration: 0228]

Benjamin Franklin was baptised and attended worship here, prior to his
wonderful invention of lightning. Here on each succeeding Sabbath sat
the man who afterwards snared the forked lightning with a string and
put it in a jug for future generations. Here Whitefield preached and the
rebels discussed the tyranny of the British king. Warren delivered his
famous speech here upon the anniversary of the Boston massacre and
the "tea party" organized in this same building. Two hundred years ago
exactly, the British used the Old South as a military riding school,
although a majority of the people of Boston were not in favor of it.

It would be well to pause here and consider the trying situation in
which our ancestors were placed at that time. Coming to Massachusetts as
they did, at a time when the country was new and prices extremely high,
they had hoped to escape from oppression and establish themselves so far
away from the tyrant that he could not come over here and disturb them
without suffering from the extreme nausea incident to a long sea voyage.
Alas, however, when they landed at Plymouth rock, there was not a decent
hotel in the place. The same stern and rock-bound coast which may be
discovered along the Atlantic sea-board today was there, and a cruel and
relentless sky frowned upon their endeavors.

Where prosperous cities now flaunt to the sky their proud domes and
floating debts, the rank jimson weed nodded in the wind and the pumpkin
pie of to-day still slumbered in the bosom of the future. What glorious
facts have, under the benign influence of fostering centuries, been born
of apparent impossibility. What giant certainties have grown through
these years from the seeds of doubt and discouragement and uncertainty!
(Big firecrackers and applause.)

At that time our ancestors had but timidly embarked in the forefather
business. They did not know that future generations in four-button
cutaways would rise up and call them blessed and pass resolutions of
respect on their untimely death. It they stayed at home the king taxed
them all out of shape, and if they went out of Boston a few rods to get
enough huckleberries for breakfast, they would frequently come home
so full of Indian arrows that they could not get through a common door
without great pain.

Such was the early history of the country where now cultivation and
education and refinement run rampant and people sit up all night to
print newspapers so that we can have them in the morning.

The land on which the Old South stands is very valuable for business
purposes, and $400,000 will have to be raised in order to preserve the
old landmark to future generations. I earnestly hope that it will be
secured, and that the old meeting-house - dear not alone to the people of
Boston, but to the millions of Americans scattered from sea to sea, who
cannot forget where first universal freedom plumed its wings - will
be spared to entertain within it hospitable walls, enthusiastic and
reverential visitors for ages without end.


When you come to think of it, it is surprising that so many newspaper
men write so that anyone but an expert can read it. The rapid and
voluminous work, especially of daily journalism, knocks the beautiful
business college penman, as a rule, higher than a kite. I still have
specimens of my own handwriting that a total stranger could read.

I do not remember a newspaper acquaintance whose penmanship is so
characteristic of the exacting neatness and sharp, clear-cut style of
the man, as that of Eugene Field, of the Chicago News. As the "Nonpareil
Writer" of the Denver Tribune, it was a mystery to me when he did the
work which the paper showed each day as his own. You would sometimes
find him at his desk, writing on large sheets of "print paper" with a
pen and violet ink, in a hand that was as delicate as the steel plate
of a bank note and the kind of work that printers would skirmish for. He
would ask you to sit down in the chair opposite his desk, which had two
or three old exchanges thrown on it. He would probably say, "Never mind
those papers. I've read them. Just sit down on them if you want to."
Encouraged by his hearty manner, you would sit down, and you would
continue to sit down till you had protruded about three-fourths of your
system through that hollow mockery of a chair. Then he would run to help
you out and curse the chair, and feel pained because he had erroneously
given you the ruin with no seat to it. He always felt pained over such
things. He always suffered keenly and felt shocked over the accident
until you had gone away, and then he would sigh heavily and "set" the
chair again.

Frank Pixley, editor of the San Francisco Argonaut, is not beautiful,
though the Argonaut is. He is grim and rather on the Moses Montefiore
style of countenance, but his handwriting does not convey the idea of
the man personally, or his style of dealing with the Chinese question.
It is rather young looking, and has the uncertain manner of an
eighteen-year-old boy.

Robert J. Burdette writs a small but plain hand, though he sometimes
suffers from the savage typographical error that steals forth at such a
moment as ye think not and disfigures and tears and mangles the bright
eyed children of the brain.

Very often we read a man's work and imagine we shall find him like it,
cheery, bright and entertaining, but we know him and find that personally
he is a refrigerator, or an egotist, or a man with a torpid liver and a
nose like a rose geranium. You will not be disappointed in Bob Burdette,
however; you think you will like him, and you always do. He will never
be too famous to be a gentleman.

George W. Peck's hand is of the free and independent order of
chirography. It is easy and natural, but not handsome. He writes very
voluminously, doing his editorial writing in two days of the week,
generally Friday and Saturday. Then he takes a rapid horse, a zealous
bird dog and an improved double-barrel duck destroyer and communes with

[Illustration: 0235]

Sam Davis, an old time Californian, and now in Nevada, writes the freest
of any penman I know. When he is deliberate, he may be be-traved into
making a deformed letter and a crooked mark attached to it, which he
characterizes as a word. He puts a lot of these together and actually
pays postage on the collection under the delusion that it is a letter,
that it will reach its destination, and that it will accomplish its

He makes up for his bad writing, however, by being an unpublished volume
of old time anecdotes and funny experiences.

Goodwin, of the old Territorial Enterprise, and Mark Twain's old
employer, writes with a pencil in a methodical manner and very plainly.
The way he sharpens a "hard medium" lead pencil and skins the apostle
of the so-called Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, makes my
heart glad. Hardly a day passes that his life is not threatened by the
low browed thumpers of Mormondom, and yet the old war horse raises the
standard of monogamy and under the motto, "One country, one flag and one
wife at a time," he smokes his old meerschaum pipe and writes a column
of razor blades every day. He is the buzz saw upon which polygamy
has tried to sit. Fighting these rotten institutions hand to hand and
fighting a religious eccentricity through an annual message, or a feeble
act of congress, are two separate and distinct things.

If I had a little more confidence in my longevity than I now have, I
would go down there to the Valley of the Jordan, and I would gird up my
loins, and I would write with that lonely warrior at Salt Lake, and with
the aid and encouragement of our brethren of the press who do not favor
the right of one man to marry an old woman's home, we would rotten egg
the bogus Temple of Zion till the civilized world, with a patent clothes
pin on its nose, would come and see what was the matter.

I see that my zeal has led me away from my original subject, but I
haven't time to regret it now.


When I was young and used to roam around over the country gathering
watermelons in the light of the moon, I used to think I could milk
anybody's cow, but I do not think so now. I do not milk a cow now unless
the sign is right, and it hasn't been right for a good many years. The
last cow I tried to milk was a common cow, born in obscurity; kind of a
self-made cow. I remember her brow was low, but she wore her tail high
and she was haughty, oh, so haughty.

I made a common-place remark to her, one that is used in the very
best of society, one that need not have given offense anywhere. I said
"So" - and she "soed." Then I told her to "hist" and she histed. But I
thought she overdid it. She put too much expression in it.

Just then I heard something crash through the window of the barn and
fall with a dull,' sickening thud on the outside. The neighbors came to
see what it was that caused the noise.

[Illustration: 0239]

They found that I had done it in getting through the window.

I asked the neighbor if the barn was still standing. They said it was.
Then I asked if the cow was injured much. They said she seemed to be
quite robust. Then I requested them to go in and calm the cow a little,
and see if they could get my plug hat off her horns.

I am buying all my milk now of a milkman. I select a gentle milkman who
will not kick, and feel as though I could trust him. Then, if he feels
as though he could trust me, it is all right.


So many people have shown a pardonable curiosity about the above named
disease, and so few have a very clear idea of the thrill of pleasure it
affords the patient, unless they have enjoyed it themselves, that I have
decided to briefly say something in answer to the innumerable inquiries
I have received.

Up to the moment I had a notion of getting some meningitis, I had never
employed a physician. Since then I have been thrown in their society a
great deal. Most of them were very pleasant and scholarly gentlemen,
who will not soon be forgotten; but one of them doctored me first for
pneumonia, then for inflammatory rheumatism, and finally, when death was
contiguous, advised me that I must have change of scene and rest.

I told him that if he kept on prescribing for me, I thought I might
depend on both. Change of physicians, however, saved my life. This horse
doctor, a few weeks afterward, administered a subcutaneous morphine
squirt in the arm of a healthy servant girl because she had the
headache, and she is now with the rest of this veterinarian's patients
in a land that is fairer than this.

She lived six hours after she was prescribed for. He gave her change
of scene and rest. He has quite a thriving little cemetery filled with
people who have succeeded in cording up enough of his change of scene
and rest to last them through all eternity. He was called once to
prescribe for a man whose head had been caved in by a stone match-box,
and, after treating the man for asthma and blind staggers, he prescribed
rest and change of scene for him, too. The poor asthmatic is now
breathing the extremely rarefied air of the New Jerusalem.

Meningitis is derived from the Latin Meninges, membrane, and - itis, an
affix denoting inflammation, so that, strictly speaking, meningitis
is the inflammation of a membrane, and when applied to the spine, or
cerebrum, is called spinal meningitis, or cerebro-spinal meningitis,
etc., according to the part of the spine or brain involved in the
inflammation. Meningitis is a characteristic and result of so-called
spotted fever, and by many it is deemed identical with it.

When we come to consider that the spinal cord, or marrow, runs down
through the long, bony shaft made by the vertebrae and that the brain
and spine, though connected, are bound up in one continuous bony
wall and covered with this inflamed membrane, it is not difficult to
understand that the thing is very hard to get at. If your throat gets
inflamed, a doctor asks you to run your tongue out into society about
a yard and a half, and he pries your mouth open with one of Rogers
Brothers' spoon handles. Then he is able to examine your throat as he
would a page of the Congressional Record, and to treat it with some
local application. When you have spinal meningitis, however, the doctor
tackles you with bromides, ergots, ammonia, iodine, chloral hydrate,
codi, bromide of ammonia, hasheesh, bismuth, valerianate of ammonia,
morphine sulph., nux vomica, turpentine emulsion, vox humana, rex
magnus, opium, cantharides, Dover's powders, and other bric-a brae.
These remedies are masticated and acted upon by the salivary glands,
passed down the esophagus, thrown into the society of old gastric,
submitted to the peculiar motion of the stomach and thoroughly
chymified, then forwarded through the pyloric orifice into the smaller
intestines, where they are touched up with bile, and later on handed
over through the lacteals, thoracic duct, etc., to the vast circulatory

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Online LibraryEdgar Wilson Nye AKA Bill NyeBill Nye's Red Book → online text (page 8 of 14)