Kate Milner Rabb.

The wit and humor of America (Volume 2) online

. (page 1 of 24)
Online LibraryKate Milner RabbThe wit and humor of America (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

3 1822 00136 6848

^ I

K ■.

{ \>

/ : ;





SAN oiEeo

00136 6848


k^ ^^.-^.-^.^.-^.^^c.-^.^^^^^i^|^^.-o^>-.^^^-.^^














,.,-^.-^c>-^c^-<-|^^^^c^^.-^^^^^^4^|^^^^.|^>^|^- .|^^^




Edited by


Volume II




Copyright 1907
The Bobbs-Merrill Company







Our New Neighbors at Ponkapog Thomas Bailey Aldrich 403

My First Visit to Portland Major Jack Downing 409

Wild Animals I Have Met Carolyn Wells 414

A Ballade of the "How To" Books John James Davies 416

The Tree- Toad James Whitcomb Riley 418

The Hired Hand and "Ha'nts" E. O. Laughlin 419

Maxioms Carolyn Wells 424

Garden Ethics Charles Dudley Warner 4:25

A Traveled Donkey Bert Leston Taylor 428

Selecting the Faculty Baynard Rust Hall 437

Little Orphant Annie James Whitcomb Riley 444

Hans Breitmann's Party Charles Godfrey Leland 446

Rollo Learning to Read Robert J. Burdette 44S

Elizabeth Eliza Writes a Paper Lucretia P. Hale 454

Mr. Stiver's Horse James Montgomery Bailey 464

The Crimson Cord Ellis Parker Butler 470

The Rhyme of the Chivalrous Shark Wallace Irwin 483

The Plaint of Jonah Robert J. Burdette 485

A Dos't o' Blues James Whitcomb Riley 486

Morris and the Honorable Tim Myra Kelly 488

The Genial Idiot Suggests a Comic Opera. .John Kendrick Bangs 504

Wamsley's Automatic Pastor Frank Crane 511

The Bohemians of Boston Gelett Burgess 519

A Letter From Home Wallace Irwin 522

The Courtin' James Russell Lowell 524

The Tower of London Artemus Ward 528

Dislikes Oliver Wendell Holmes 536

Uncle Simon and Uncle Jim Artemus Ward 539

The Little Mock- Man James Whitcomb Riley 540

Mammy's Lullaby Strickland W. Gillilan 542



My Sweetheart Samuel Minturn Peck 544

The Auto Rubaiyat Reginald Wright KaufFman 546

The Two Ladies Carolyn Wells 548

The Diamond Wedding Edmund Clarence Stedman 549

An Arkansas Planter Opie Read 556

The Two Young Men Carolyn Wells 565

The Two Housewives Carolyn Wells 566

In Philistia Bliss Carman 567

The Dying Gag James L. Ford 569

In Elizabeth's Day Wallace Rice 572

The Two Automobilists Carolyn Wells 573

The New Version W. J. Lampton 574

Southern Sketches Bill Arp 575

The Two Business Men Carolyn Wells 583

The Retort George P, Morris 584

The Briefless Barrister John G. Saxe 585

The Two Husbands Carolyn Wells 587

The Story of the Two Friars Eugene Field 588

The Greco-Trojan Game Charles F. Johnson 595

The Economical Pair Carolyn Wells 602

The Two Pedestrians Carolyn Wells 603

A Complaint of Friends Gail Hamilton 604

Ponchus Pilut James Whitcomb Riley 624

The Wolf at Susan's Door Anne Warner 626

The Two Prisoners Carolyn Wells 641

A Modern Advantage Charlotte Becker 642

The Raggedy Man James Whitcomb Riley 643

A Modern Eclogue Bliss Carman 645

A Cable-Car Preacher Sam Walter Foss 647

How to Know the Wild Animals Carolyn Wells 650

I Remember, I Remember Phoebe Gary 652

The Coupon Bonds J. T. Trowbridge 654

The Shooting-Match A. B. Longstreet 666

Desolation Tom Masson 686

Crankidoxology Wallace Irwin 688

My Honey, My Love Joel Chandler Harris 691

The Grand Opera Billy Baxter 693



In a State of Sin Owen Wister 696

An April Aria R. K. Munkittrick 71 1

Meditations of a Mariner Wallace Irwin 713

Victory Tom Masson 714

The Family Horse Frederick A. Cozzens 715

Sonnet of the Lovable Lass and the Plethoric Dad. .J. W. Foley 723

The Love Sonnets of a Husband Maurice Smiley 725

How We Bought a Sewin' Machine and Organ

Josiah Allen's Wife 729

Cheer for the Consumer Nixon Waterman 740

A Desperate Race J. F. Kelley 742

"As Good as a Play" Horace E. Scudder 749

The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table. .. .Oliver Wendell Holmes 753

Caesar's Quiet Lunch with Cicero James T. Fields 760

Comin' Home Thanksgivin' James Ball Naylor 763

Praise-God Barebones Ellen Mackay Hutchinson Cortissoz 765

The Loafer and the Squire Porte Crayon 767

De Stove Pipe Hole William Henry Drummond 774

The Girl from Mercury Herman Knickerbocker Viele 779




When I saw the little house building, an eighth of a
mile beyond my own, on the Old Bay Road, I wondered
who were to be the tenants. The modest structure was
set well back from the road, among the trees, as if the in-
mates were to care nothing whatever for a view of the
stylish equipages which sweep by during the summer sea-
son. For my part, I like to see the passing, in town or
country ; but each has his own unaccountable taste. The
proprietor, who seemed to be also the architect of the new
house, superintended the various details of the work with
an assiduity that gave me a high opinion of his intelli-
gence and executive ability, and I congratulated myself
on the prospect of having some very agreeable neighbors.

It was quite early in the spring, if I remember, when
they moved into the cottage — a newly married couple,
evidently: the wife very young, pretty, and with the air
of a lady; the husband somewhat older, but still in the
first flush of manhood. It was understood in the village
that they came from Baltimore; but no one knew them
personally, and they brought no letters of introduction.
(For obvious reasons, I refrain from mentioning names.)
It was clear that, for the present at least, their own com-
pany was entirely sufficient for them. They made no ad-
vance toward the acquaintance of any of the families in
the neighborhood, and consequently were left to them-
selves. That, apparently, was what they desired, and why



they came to Ponkapog. For after its black bass and wild
ditck and teal, solitude is the chief staple of Ponkapog.
Perhaps its perfect rural loveliness should be included.
Lying high up under the wing of the Blue Hills, and in
the odorous breath of pines and cedars, it chances to be
the most enchanting bit of unlaced disheveled country
within fifty miles of Boston, which, moreover, can be
reached in half an hour's ride by railway. But the nearest
railway station (Heaven be praised!) is two miles dis-
tant, and the seclusion is without a flaw. Ponkapog has
one mail a day; two mails a day would render the place

The village — it looks like a compact village at a dis-
tance, but unravels and disappears the moment you drive
into it — has quite a large floating population. I do not
allude to the perch and pickerel in Ponkapog Pond.
Along the Old Bay Road, a highway even in the Colonial
days, there are a number of attractive villas and cottages
straggling off toward Milton, which are occupied for the
summer by people from the city. These birds of passage
are a distinct class from the permanent inhabitants, and
the two seldom closely assimilate unless there has been
some previous connection. It seemed to me that our new
neighbors were to come under the head of permanent in-
habitants ; they had built their own house, and had the air
of intending to live in it all the year round.

"Are you not going to call on them?" I asked my wife
one morning.

"When they call on us," she replied lightly.

"But it is our place to call first, they being strangers."

This was said as seriously as the circumstance de-
manded ; but my wife turned it off with a laugh, and I
said no more, always trusting to her intuitions in these



She was right. She would not have been received, and
a cool "Not at home" would have been a bitter social pill
to us if we had gone out of our way to be courteous.

I saw a great deal of our neighbors, nevertheless.
Their cottage lay between us and the post-office — where
he was never to be met with by any chance — and I caught
frequent glimpses of the two working in the garden.
Floriculture did not appear so much an object as exercise.
Possibly it was neither ; maybe they were engaged in dig-
ging for specimens of those arrowheads and flint hatchets,
which are continually coming to the surface hereabouts.
There is scarcely an acre in which the plowshare has not
turned up some primitive stone weapon or domestic uten-
sil, disdainfully left to us by the red men who once held
this domain — an ancient tribe called the Punkypoags, a
forlorn descendant of which, one Polly Crowd, figures in
the annual Blue Book, down to the close of the Southern
war, as a state pensioner. At that period she appears to
have struck a trail to the Happy Hunting Grounds. I
quote from the local historiographer.

Whether they were developing a kitchen garden, or
emulating Professor Schliemann, at Mycenae, the new-
comers were evidently persons of refined musical taste:
the lady had a contralto voice of remarkable sweetness,
although of no great compass, and I used often to linger
of a morning by the high gate and listen to her executing,
an arietta, conjecturally at some window upstairs, for the
house was not visible from the turnpike. The husband,
somewhere about the ground, would occasionally respond
with two or three bars. It was all quite an ideal. Arcadian
business. They seemed very happy together, these two
persons, who asked no odds whatever of the community
in which they had settled themselves.

There was a queerness, a sort of mystery, about this



couple which I admit piqued my curiosity, though as a
rule I have no morbid interest in the affairs of my neigh-
bors. They behaved like a pair of lovers who had run
off and got married clandestinely. I willingly acquitted
them, however, of having done anything unlawful; for,
to change a word in the lines of the poet,

"It is a joy to think the best
We may of human kind."

Admitting the hypothesis of elopement, there was no mys-
tery in their neither sending nor receiving letters. But
w^here did they get their groceries? I do not mean the
money to pay for them — ^that is an enigma apart — ^but the
groceries themselves. No express wagon, no butcher's
cart, no vehicle of any description, was ever observed to
stop at their domicile. Yet they did not order family
stores at the sole establishment in the village — ^an inex-
haustible little bottle of a shop which, I advertise it gratis,
can turn out anything in the way of groceries, from a
hand-saw to a pocket-handkerchief. I confess that I al-
lowed this unimportant detail of their menage to occupy
more of my speculation than was creditable to me.

In several respects our neighbors reminded me of those
inexplicable persons we sometimes come across in great
cities, though seldom or never in suburban places, where
the field may be supposed too restricted for their opera-
tions — persons who have no perceptible means of subsist-
ence, and manage to live royally on nothing a year. They
hold no government bonds, they possess no real estate
(our neighbors did own their house), they toil not,
neither do they spin ; yet they reap all the numerous soft
advantages that usually result from honest toil and skilful
spinning. How do they do it ? But this is a digression,
and I am quite of the opinion of the old lady in "David
Copperfield," who says, "Let us have no meandering!"



Though my wife had decHned to risk a ceremonious
call on our neighbors as a family, I saw no reason why I
should not speak to the husband as an individual, when
I happened to encounter him by the wayside. I made
several approaches to do so, when it occurred to my pene-
tration that my neighbor had the air of trying to avoid
me. I resolved to put the suspicion to the test, and one
forenoon, when he was sauntering along on the opposite
side of the road, in the vicinity of Fisher's sawmill, I
deliberately crossed over to address him. The brusque
manner in which he hurried away was not to be misun-
derstood. Of course I was not going to force myself
upon him.

It was at this time that I began to formulate unchari-
table suppositions touching our neighbors, and would
have been as well pleased if some of my choicest fruit-
trees had not overhung their wall. I determined to keep
my eyes open later in the season, when the fruit should be
ripe to. pluck. In some folks, a sense of the delicate
shades of difference between meum and tutim does not
seem to be very strongly developed in the Moon of Cher-
ries, to use the old Indian phrase.

I was sufficiently magnanimous not to impart any of
these sinister impressions to the families with whom we
were on visiting terms ; for I despise a gossip. I would
say nothing against the persons up the road until I had
something definite to say. My interest in them was —
well, not exactly extinguished, but burning low. I met
the gentleman at intervals, and passed him without recog-
nition; at rarer intervals I saw the lady.

After a while I not only missed my occasional glimpses
of her pretty, slim figure, always draped in some soft
black stuff with a bit of scarlet at the throat, but I in-
ferred that she did not go about the house singing in her



light-hearted manner, as formerly. What had happened ?
Had the honeymoon suffered eclipse already? Was she
ill? I fancied she was ill, and that I detected a certain
anxiety in the husband, who spent the mornings digging
solitarily in the garden, and seemed to have relinquished
those long jaunts to the brow of Blue Hill, where there is
a superb view of all Norfolk County combined with sun-
dry venerable rattlesnakes with twelve rattles.

As the days went by it became certain that the lady was
confined to the house, perhaps seriously ill, possibly a con-
firmed invalid. Whether she was attended by a physician
from Canton or from Milton, I was unable to say; but
neither the gig with the large white allopathic horse, nor
the gig with the homoeopathic sorrel mare, was ever seen
hitched at the gate during the day. If a physician had
charge of the case, he visited his patient only at night.
All this moved my sympathy, and I reproached myself
with having had hard thoughts of our neighbors. Trou-
ble had come to them early. I would have liked to offer
them such small, friendly services as lay in my power;
but the memory of the repulse I had sustained still rankled
in me. So I hesitated.

One morning my two boys burst into the library with
their eyes sparkling.

"You know the old elm down the road?" cried one.


"The elm with the hang-bird's nest?" shrieked the

"Yes, yes!"

"Well, we both just climbed up, and there's three
young ones in it !"

Then I smiled to think that our new neighbors had got
such a promising little family.




In the fall of the year 1829, I took it into my head Fd
go to Portland. I had heard a good deal about Portland,
what a fine place it was, and how the folks got rich there
proper fast; and that fall there was a couple of new pa-
pers come up to our place from there, called the 'Tort-
land Courier" and "Family Reader," and they told a good
many queer kind of things about Portland, and one thing
and another ; and all at once it popped into my head, and
I up and told father, and says, —

*T am going to Portland, whether or no; and I'll see
what this world is made of yet."

Father stared a little at first, and said he was afraid I
would get lost; but when he see I was bent upon it, he
give it up, and he stepped to his chist, and opened the till,
and took out a dollar, and he gave it to me ; and says he, —

"Jack, this is all I can do for you ; but go and lead an
honest life, and I believe I shall hear good of you yet."

He turned and walked across the room, but I could see
the tears start into his eyes. And mother sat down and
had a hearty crying-spell.

This made me feel rather bad for a minit or two, and
I almost had a mind to give it up; and then again father's
dream came into my mind, and I mustered up courage,
and declared I'd go. So I tackled up the old horse, and
packed in a load of axe-handles, and a few notions ; and



mother fried me some doughnuts, and put 'em into a box,
along with some cheese, and sausages, and ropped me up
another shirt, for I told her I didn't know how long I
should be gone. And after I got rigged out, I went
round and bid all the neighbors good-by, and jumped in,
and drove off for Portland.

Aunt Sally had been married two or three years before,
and moved to Portland ; and I inquired round till I found
out where she lived, and went there, and put the old horse
up, and eat some supper, and went to bed.

And the next morning I got up, and straightened right
off to see the editor of the "Portland Courier," for I knew
by what I had seen in his paper, that he was just the man
to tell me which way to steer. And when I come to see
him, I knew I was right ; for soon as I told him my name,
and what I wanted, he took me by the hand as kind as if
he had been a brother, and says he, —

"Mister," says he, "I'll do anything I can to assist you.
You have come to a good town; Portland is a healthy,
thriving place, and any man with a proper degree of en-
terprise may do well here. But," says he, "stranger," and
he looked mighty kind of knowing, says he, "if you want
to make out to your mind, you must do as the steamboats

"Well," says I, "how do they do?" for I didn't know
what a steamboat was, any more than the man in the

"Why," says he, "they go ahead. And you must drive
about among the folks here just as though you were at
home, on the farm among the cattle. Don't be afraid of
any of them, but figure away, and I dare say you'll get
into good business in a very little while. But," says he,
"there's one thing you must be careful of; and that is,
not to get into the hands of those are folks that trades up



round Huckler's Row, for ther's some sharpers up there,
if they get hold of you, would twist your eye-teeth out in
five minits."

Well, arter he had giv me all the good advice he could,
I went back to Aunt Sally's ag'in, and got some break-
fast; and then I walked all over the town, to see what
chance I could find to sell my axe-handles and things and
to get into business.

After I had walked about three or four hours, I come
along towards the upper end of the town, where I found
there were stores and shops of all sorts and sizes. And
I met a feller, and says I, —

"What place is this ?"

"Why, this," says he, "is Huckler's Row."

"What !" says I, "are these the stores where the traders
in Huckler's Row keep ?"

And says he, "Yes."

"Well, then," says I to myself, "I have a pesky good
mind to go in and have a try with .one of these chaps, and
see if they can twist my eye-teeth out. If they can get the
best end of a bargain out of me, they can do what there
ain't a man in our place can do ; and I should just like to
know what sort of stuff these 'ere Portland chaps are
made of." So I goes into the best-looking store among
'em. And I see some biscuit on the shelf, and says I, —

"Mister, how much do you ax apiece for them 'ere bis-

"A cent apiece," says he.

"Well," says I, "I shan't give you that, but, if you've
a mind to, I'll give you two cents for three of them, for
I begin to feel a little as though I would like to take a

"Well," says he, "I wouldn't sell 'em to anybody else
so, but, seeing it's you, I don't care if you take 'em."



I knew he lied, for he never seen me before in his life.
Well, he handed down the biscuits, and I took 'em and
walked round the store awhile, to see what else he had to
sell. At last says I, —

"Mister, have you got any good cider?"

Says he, "Yes, as good as ever ye see."

"Well," says I, "what do you ax a glass for it?"

"Two cents," says he.

"Well," says I, "seems to me I feel more dry than I do
hungry now. Ain't you a mind to take these 'ere biscuits
again, and give me a glass of cider ?"

And says he, —

"I don't care if I do."

So he took and laid 'em on the shelf again, and poured
out a glass of cider. I took the cider and drinkt it down,
and, to tell the truth, it was capital good cider. Then says


"I guess it's time for me to be a-going," and I stept
along towards the door ; but says he, —

"Stop, mister : I believe you haven't paid me for the

"Not paid you for the cider!" says I. "What do you
mean by that? Didn't the biscuits that I give you just
come to the cider?"

"Oh, ah, right !" says he.

So I started to go again, and says he, —

"But stop there, mister : you didn't pay me for the bis-

"What!" says I, "do you mean to impose upon me?
do you think I am going to pay you for the biscuits and
let you keep them, too? Ain't they there now on your
shelf? What more do you want? I guess, sir, you don't
whittle me in that way."

So I turned about and marched off, and left the feller



staring and scratching his head, as though he was struck
with a dunderment.

Howsomever, I didn't want to cheat him, only jest to
show 'em it wa'n't so easy a matter to pull my eye-teeth
out ; so I called in next day and paid him two cents.


by carolyn wells

The Lion

I've met this beast in drawing-rooms,
'Mong ladies gay with silks and plumes.

He looks quite bored, and silly, too.
When he's held up to public view.

I think I like him better when
Alone I brave him in his den.

The Bear

I never seek the surly Bear,

But if I meet him in his lair
I say, "Good day, sir; sir, good day,"

And then make haste to get away.
It is no pleasure, I declare.

To meet the cross, ill-natured Bear.

The Goose

I know it would be of no use
To say I'd never met a Goose.

There are so many all around.

With idle look and clacking sound.

And sometimes it has come to pass
I've seen one in my looking-glass.

The Duck

This merry one, with laughing eyes,
Not too sedate nor overwise,

Is best of comrades ; frank and free,
A clever hand at making tea ;

A fearless nature, full of pluck,
I like her well— she is a Duck.

The Cat

The Cat's a nasty little beast ;

She's seen at many a fete and feast.
She's spiteful, sly and double-faced,

Exceeding prim, exceeding chaste.
And while a soft, sleek smile she wears,

Her neighbor's reputation tears.

The Puppy

Of all the animals I've met

The Puppy is the worst one yet.

Clumsy and crude, he hasn't brains
Enough to come in when it rains.

But with insufferable conceit

He thinks that he is just too sweet.

The Kid

Kids are the funniest things I know ;

Nothing they do but eat and grow.
They're frolicsome, and it is said

They eat tin cans and are not dead.
I'm not astonished at that feat.

For all things else I've seen them eat.



That time when Learning's path was steep,

And rocks and fissures marred the way,
The few who dared were forced to creep,

Their souls oft quaking with dismay ;
The goal achieved, their hairs were gray.

Their bodies bent like shepherds' crooks ;
How blest are we who run to-day

The easy road of "How To" books !

The presses groan, and volumes heap,

Our dullness we no more betray ;
To know the stars, or shear a sheep —

To live on air, or polo play ;
The trick is ours, pr we may stray

Beneath the seas, with science cooks,
And sprint by some reflected ray

The easy road of "How To" books I

Who craves the boon of dreamless sleep?
Who bricks would make, satis straw or clay ?
"Call spirits from the vasty deep,"

Or weave a lofty, living lay?
Let him be heartened, jocund, gay,

Nor hopeless writhe on tenter-hooks, —
They meet no barriers who essay
The easy road of "How To" books !



The critics still zmll slash and slay

Poor hapless scribes, in sanctum nooks ;

Lo ! here's a refuge for their prey —
The easy road of "How To" books !




" 'Scurious-Hke," said the tree-toad,
"I've twittered fer rain all day ;

And I got up soon,

Online LibraryKate Milner RabbThe wit and humor of America (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 24)