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556



OPIE READ

in the yard, in the "big house," elsewhere under the sky,
a plea of distress might moisten his eyes and soften his
heart to his own financial disadvantage, but under the
moss-grown shingles of the office all was business, hard,
uncompromising. It was told in the neighborhood that
once, in this inquisition of affairs, he demanded the last
cent possessed by a widowed woman, but that, while she
was on her way home, he overtook her, graciously re-
turned the money and magnanimously tore to pieces a
mortgage that he held against her small estate.

Just as he entered the office there came across the yard
a loud and impatient voice. "Here, Bill, confound you,
come and take this horse. Don't you hear me, you idiot ?
You infernal niggers are getting to be so no-account that
the last one of you ought to be driven off the place. Trot,
confound you. Here, take this horse to the stable and
feed him. Where is the Major ? In the office ? The devil
he is."

Toward the office slowly strode old Gideon Batts, fan-
ning himself with his white slouch hat. He was short,
fat, and bald; he was bow-legged with a comical squat;
his eyes stuck out like the eyes of a swamp frog; his nose
was enormous, shapeless, and red. To the Major's fam-
ily he traced the dimmest line of kinship. During twenty
years he had operated a small plantation that belonged to
the Major, and he was always at least six years behind
with his rent. He had married the widow Martin, and
afterward swore that he had been disgracefully deceived
by her, that he had expected much but had found her
moneyless ; and after this he had but small faith in woman.
His wife died and he went into contented mourning, and
out of gratitude to his satisfied melancholy, swore that he
would pay his rent, but failed. Upon the Major he held a
strong hold, and this was a puzzle to his neighbors. Their

557



AN ARKANSAS PLANTER

characters stood at fantastic and whimsical variance; one
never in debt, the other never out of debt; one clamped
by honor, the other feeling not its restraining pinch. But
together they would ride abroad, laughing along the road.
To Mrs. Cranceford old Gid was a pest. With the shrewd
digs of a woman, the blood-letting side stabs of her sex,
she had often shown her disapproval of the strong favor
in which the Major held him ; she vowed that her husband
had gathered many an oath from Gid's swollen store of
execration (when, in truth, Gid had been an apt pupil
under the Major), and she had hoped that the Major's
attachment to the church would of necessity free him
from the humiliating association with the old sinner, but
it did not, for they continued to ride abroad, laughing
along the road.

Like a skittish horse old Gid shied at the office door.
Once he had crossed that threshold and it had cost him
a crop of cotton.

"How are you, John?" was Gid's salutation as he edged
off, still fanning himself.

"How are you, sir ?" was the Major's stiff recognition
of the fact that Gid was on earth.

"Getting hotter, I believe, John."

"I presume it is, sir." The Major sat with his elbow
resting on a desk, and about him were stacked threaten-
ing bundles of papers; and old Gid knew that in those
commercial romances he himself was a familiar char-
acter.

"Are you busy, John ?"

"Yes, but you may come in."

"No, I thank you. Don't believe I've got time."

"Then take time. I want to talk to you. Come in."

"No, not to-day, John. Fact is I'm not feeling very
well. Head's all stopped up with a cold, and these sum-

558



OPIE READ

mer colds are awful, I tell you. It was a summer cold
that took my father pff,"

"How's your cotton in that low strip along the bayou ?"

"Tolerable, John; tolerable."

"Come in. I want to talk to you about it."

"Don't believe I can stand the air in there, John. Head
all stopped up. Don't believe I'm going to live very long."

"Nonsense. You are as strong as a buck."

"You may think so, John, but I'm not. I thought fa-
ther was strong, too, but a summer cold got him. I am
getting along in years, John, and I find that I have to take
care of myself. But if you really want to talk to me
about that piece of cotton, come out where it's cool."

The Major shoved back his papers and arose, but hesi-
tated; and Gid stood looking on, fanning himself. The
Major stepped out and Gid's face was split asunder with
a broad smile.

"I gad. I've been up town and had a set-to with old
Baucum and the rest of them. Pulled up jfiifty winner at
poker and jumped. Devilish glad to see you; miss you
every minute of the time I'm away. Let's go over here
and sit down on that bench,"

They walked toward a bench under a live-oak tree, and
upon Gid's shoulder the Major's hand affectionately
rested. They halted to laugh, and old Gid shoved the
Major away from him, then seized him and drew him
back. They sat down, still laughing, but suddenly the
Major became serious.

"Gid, I'm in trouble," he said.

"Nonsense, my boy, there is no such thing as trouble.
Throw it off. Look at me. I've had enough of what the
world calls trouble to kill a dozen ordinary men, but just
look at me — getting stronger every day. Throw it off.
What is it anyway?"

559



AN ARKANSAS PLANTER

"Louise declares that she is going to marry Penning-
ton."

"What !" old Gid exclaimed, turning with a bouncing
flounce and looking straight at the Major. "Marry Pen-
nington ! Why, she shan't, John. That's all there is of it.
We object and that settles it. Why, what the deuce can
she be thinking about ?"

"Thinking about him," the Major answered.

"Yes, but she must quit it. Why, it's outrageous for
as sensible a girl as she is to think of marrying that fel-
low. You leave it to me; hear what I said? Leave it to
me.

This suggested shift of responsibility did not remove
the shadow of sadness that had fallen across the Major's
countenance.

"You leave it to me and I'll give her a talk she'll not
forget. I'll make her understand that she's a queen, and
a woman is pretty devilish skittish about marrying any-
body when you convince her that she's a queen. What
does your wife say about it ?"

"She hasn't said anything. She's out visiting and I
haven't seen her since Louise told me of her determination
to marry him."

"Don't say determination, John. Say foolish notion.
But it's all right."

"No, it's not all right."

"What, have you failed to trust me? Is it possible that
you have lost faith in me? Don't do that, John, for if you
do it will be a never failing source of regret. You don't
seem to remember what my powers of persuasion have
accomplished in the past. When I was in the legislature,
chairman of the Committee on County and County Lines,
what did my protest do ? It kept them from cutting off a
ten-foot strip of this county and adding it to Jefferson.

560



OPIE READ

You must remember those things, John, for in the factors
of persuasion He the shaping of human Hfe. I've been
riding in the hot sun and I think that a mint julep would
hit me now just about where I live. Say, there. Bill, bring
us some mint, sugar and whisky. And cold water, mind
you."

"Ah," said old Gideon, sipping his scented drink,
"virtue may become wearisome, and we may gape during
the most fervent prayer, but I gad, John, there is always
the freshness of youth in a mint julep. Pour just a few
more drops of liquor into mine, if you please — want it to
rassle me a trifle, you know. Recollect those come-all ye
songs we used to sing, going down the river ? Remember
the time I snatched the sword out of my cane and lunged
at a horse trader from Tennessee ? Scoundrel grabbed it
and broke it off and it was all I could do to keep him from
establishing a close and intimate relationship with me.
Great old days, John; and I gad, they'll never come
again."

"I remember it all, Gid, and it was along there that you
fell in love with a woman that lived at Mortimer's Bend."

"Easy, now, John. A trifle more liquor, if you please.
Thank you. Yes, I used to call her the wild plum. Sweet
thing, and I had no idea that she was married until her
lout of a husband came down to the landing with a double-
barrel gun. Ah, Lord, if she had been single and worth
money I could have made her very happy. Fate hasn't
always been my friend, John."

"Possibly not, Gid, but you know that fate to be just
should divide her favors, and this time she leaned toward
the woman."

"Slow, John. I gad, there's your wife."

A carriage drew up at the yard gate and a woman
stepped out. She did not go into the house, but seeing

561



AN ARKANSAS PLANTER

the Major, came toward him. She was tall, with large
black eyes and very gray hair. In her step was suggested
the pride of an old Kentucky family, belles, judges and
generals. She smiled at the Major and bowed stiffly at
old Gid. The two men arose.

"Thank you, I don't care to sit down," she said.
"Where is Louise ?"

"I saw her down by the river just now," the Major
answered.

"I wish to see her at once," said his wife.

"Shall I go and call her, madam ?" Gid asked.

She gave him a look of surprise and answered : "No,
I thank you."

"No trouble, I assure you," Gid persisted. "I am
pleased to say that age has not affected my voice, except
to mellow it with more of reverence when I address the
wife of a noble man and the mother of a charming girl."

She had dignity, but humor was never lost upon her,
and she smiled. This was encouraging, and old Gid pro-
ceeded: "I was just telling the Major of my splendid
prospects for a bountiful crop this year, and I feel that
with this blessing of Providence I shall soon be able to
meet all my obligations. I saw our rector, Mr. Mills,
this morning, and he spoke of how thankful I ought to
be — he had just passed my bayou field — and I told him
that I would not only assert my gratitude, but would
prove it with a substantial donation to the church at the
end of the season."

In the glance which she gave him there was refined and
gentle contempt; and then she looked down upon the
decanter of whisky. Old Gideon drew down the corners
of his mouth, as was his wont when he strove to excite
compassion.

"Yes," he said with a note of pity forced upon his

562



OPIE READ

voice, "I am exceedingly thankful for all the blessings
that have come to me, but I haven't been very well of
late ; rather feeble to-day, and the kind Major noticing it,
insisted upon my taking a little liquor, the medicine of
our sturdy and gallant fathers, madam."

The Major sprawled himself back with a roaring
laugh, and hereupon Gid added: "It takes the Major a
long time to get over a joke. Told him one just now and
it tickled him mighty nigh to death. Well, I must be go-
ing now, and, madam, if I should chance to see anything
of your charming daughter, I will tell her that you desire
a conference with her. William," he called, "my horse,
if you please."

The Major's wife went into the house as Batts came
up, glancing back at him as she passed through the door ;
and in her eyes there was nothing as soft as a tear. The
old fellow winced, as he nearly always did when she
gave him a direct look.

"Are you all well?" Gideon asked, lifting the tails of
his long coat and seating himself in a rocking chair.

"First-rate," the Major answered, drawing forward
another rocker ; and when he had sat down, he added :
"Somewhat of an essence of November in the air."

"Yes," Gid assented ; "felt it in my joints before I got
up this morning." From his pocket he took a plug of to-
bacco.

"I thought you'd given up chewing," said the Major.
"Last time I saw you I understood you to say that you
had thrown your tobacco away."

"I did, John ; but, I gad, I watched pretty close where
I threw it. Fellow over here gave me some stuff that he
said would cure me of the appetite, and I took it until I
was afraid it would, and then threw it away. I find that

563



AN ARKANSAS PLANTER

when a man quits tobacco he hasn't anything to look
forward to. I quit for three days once, and on the third
day, about the time I got up from the dinner table, I
asked myself: *Well, now, got anything to come next?'
And all I could see before me was hours of hankering;
and, I gad, I slapped a negro boy on a horse and told him
to gallop over to the store and fetch me a hunk of to-
bacco. And after I broke my resolution I thought I'd
have a fit there in the yard waiting for that boy to come
back. I don't believe that it's right for a man to kill any
appetite that the Lord has given him. Of course, I don't
believe in the abuse of a good thing, but it's better to
abuse it a little sometimes than not to have it at all. If
virtue consists in deadening the nervous system to all
pleasurable influences, why, you may just mark my name
off the list. There was old man Haskill. I sat up with
him the night after he died, and one of the men with me
was harping upon the great life the old fellow had lived
— never chewed, never smoked, never was drunk, never
gambled, never did anything except to stand still and be
virtuous — and I couldn't help but feel that he had lost
nothing by dying."



564



THE TWO YOUNG MEN

BY CAROLYN WELLS

Once on a Time there were Two Young Men of Prom-
ising Capabilities.

One pursued no Especial Branch of Education, but
Contented himself with a Smattering of many different
Arts and Sciences, exhibiting a Moderate Proficiency in
Each. When he Came tO' Make a Choice of some means
of Earning a Livelihood, he found he was Unsuccessful,
for he had no Specialty, and Every Employer seemed to
Require an Expert in his Line.

The Other, from his Earliest Youth, bent all his Ener-
gies toward Learning to play the Piano. He studied at
Home and Abroad with Greatest Masters, and he
Achieved Wonderful Success. But as he was about to
Begin his Triumphant and Profitable Career, he had the
Misfortune to lose both Thumbs in a Railway Accident.

Thus he was Deprived of his Intended Means of Earn-
ing a Living, and as he had no other Accomplishment he
was Forced to Subsist on Charity.

MORALS :

This Fable teaches that a Jack of all Trades is Master
of None, and that It Is Not Well to put All our Eggs in
One Basket.



565



THE TWO HOUSEWIVES

BY CAROLYN WELLS

Once on a Time there were Two Housewives who
must Needs go to Market to purchase the Day's Sup-
plies.

One of Them, who was of a Dilatory Nature, said :

"I will not Hurry Myself, for I Doubt Not the Market
contains Plenty for all who come."

She therefore Sauntered Forth at her Leisure, and on
reaching- the Market she found to her Dismay that the
Choicest Cuts and the Finest Produce had All been Sold,
and there remained for her only the Inferior Meats and
Some Withered Vegetables.

The Other, who was One of the Hustling, Wide-awake
Sort, said :

*T will Bestir myself Betimes and Hasten to Market
that I may Take my Pick ere my Neighbors appear on
the Scene."

She did so, and when she Reached the Market she Dis-
covered that the Fresh Produce had not yet Arrived, and
she must Content herself with the Remnants of Yester-
day's Stock.

MORALS :

This Fable teaches that The Early Bird Gets the
Worm, and that There Are Always as Good Fish In the
Sea as Ever were Caught.



566



IN PHILISTIA

BY BLISS CARMAN

Of all the places on the map,
Some queer and others queerer,

Arcadia is dear to me,
Philistia is dearer.

There dwell the few who never knew
The pangs of heavenly hunger,

As fresh and fair and fond and frail
As when the world was younger.

If there is any sweeter sound
Than bobolinks or thrushes.

It is the frou-frou of their silks —
The roll of their barouches.

I love them even when they're good,
As well as when they're sinners —

When they are sad and worldly wise
And when they are beginners.

(I say I do; of course the fact,
For better or for worse, is,

My unerratic life denies
My too erotic verses.)

I dote upon their waywardness,
Their foibles and their follies.

If there's a madder pate than Di's,
Perhaps it may be Dolly's,
5^>7



IN PHILISTIA

They have no "problems" to discuss,
No "theories" to discover;

They are not "new" ; and I — I am
Their very grateful lover.

I care not if their minds confuse

Alastor with Aladdin ;
And Cimabue is far less

To them than Chimmie Fadden.

They never heard of William Blake,

Nor saw a Botticelli ;
Yet one is, "Yours till death, Louise,"

And one, "Your loving Nelly."

They never tease me for my views,
Nor tax me with my grammar;

Nor test me on the latest news.
Until I have to stammer.

They never talk about their "moods,"
They never know they have them ;

The world is good enough for them,
And that is why I love them.

They never puzzle me with Greek,
Nor drive me mad with Ibsen ;

Yet over forms as fair as Eve's
They wear the gowns of Gibson.



568



THE DYING GAG

BY JAMES L. FORD

There was an affecting scene on the stage of a New
York theater the other night — a scene invisible to the
audience and not down on the bills, but one far more
touching and pathetic than anything enacted before the
footlights that night, although it was a minstrel company
that gave the entertainment.

It was a wild, blustering night, and the wind howled
mournfully around the street corners, blinding the pedes-
trians with the clouds of dust that it caught up from the
gutters and hurled into their faces.

Old man Sweeny, the stage doorkeeper, dozing in his
little glazed box, was awakened by a sudden gust that
banged the stage door and then went howling along the
corridor, almost extinguishing the gas-jets and making
the minstrels shiver in their dressing-rooms.

"What! You here to-night!" exclaimed old man
Sweeny, as a frail figure, muffled up in a huge ulster,
staggered through the doorway and stood leaning against
the wall, trying to catch his breath.

"Yes; I felt that I couldn't stay away from the foot-
lights to-night. They tell me I'm old and worn out and
had better take a rest, but I'll go on till I drop," and with
a hollow cough the Old Gag plodded slowly down the
dim and drafty corridor and sank wearily on a sofa in
the big dressing-room, where the other Gags and Conun-
drums were awaiting their cues.

569



THE DYING GAG

"Poor old fellow!" said one of them, sadly. "He
can't hold out much longer."

"He ought not to go on except at matinees," replied
another veteran, who was standing in front of the mirror
trimming his long, silvery beard, and just then an attend-
ant came in with several basins of gruel, and the old
Jests tucked napkins under their chins and sat down to
partake of a little nourishment before going on.

The bell tinkled and the entertainment began. One
after another the Jokes and Conundrums heard their
cues, went on, and returned to the dressing-room, for
they all had to go on again in the after-piece. The house
was crowded to the dome, and there was scarcely a dry
eye in the vast audience as one after another of the old
Quips and Jests that had been treasured household words
in many a family came on and then disappeared to make
room for others of their kind.

As the evening wore on the whisper ran through the
theater that the Old Gag was going on that night — per-
haps for the last time ; and many an eye grew dim, many
a pulse beat quicker at the thought of listening once more
to that hoary Jest, about whose head were clustered so
many sacred memories.

Meanwhile the Old Gag was sitting in his corner of
the dressing-room, his head bowed on his breast, his gruel
untasted on the tray before him. The other Gags came
and went, but he heeded them not. His thoughts were
far away. He was dreaming of old days, of his early
struggles for fame, and of his friends and companions
of years ago. "Where are they now?" he asked himself,
sadly. "Some are wanderers on the face of the earth, in
comic operas. Two of them found ignoble graves in the
'Tourists' ' company. Others are sleeping beneath the
daisies in Harper's 'Editor's Drawer.' "

570



JAMES L. FORD

"You're called, sir!"

The Old Gag awoke from his reverie, started to his
feet, and, throwing aside his heavy ulster, staggered to
the entrance and stood there patiently waiting for his cue.

"You're hardly strong enough to go on to-night,"
said a Merry Jest, touching him kindly on the arm ; but
the gray-bearded one shook him off, saying hoarsely:

"Let be! Let be! I must read those old lines once
more — it may be for the last time."

And now a solemn hush fell upon the vast audience as
a sad-faced minstrel uttered in tear-compelling accents
the most pathetic words in all the literature of minstrelsy :

"And so you say, Mr. Johnson, that all the people on
the ship were perishing of hunger, and yet you were eat-
ing fried eggs. How do you account for that ?"

For one moment a deathlike silence prevailed. Then
the Old Gag stepped forward and in clear, ringing tones
replied :

"The ship lay to, and I got one."

A wild, heartrending sob came from the audience and
relieved the tension as the Old Gag staggered back into
the entrance and fell into the friendly arms that were
waiting to receive him.

Sobbing Conundrums bore him to a couch in the
dressing-room. Weeping Jokes strove in vain to bring
back the spark of life to his Inanimate form. But all to
no avail.

The Old Gag was dead.



571



IN ELIZABETH'S DAY

BY WALLACE RICE

Who would not give the treasure

Of very many lives
If some kind fate would pleasure
To let him be where Ben is
A-playing Kit at tennis,
Or playing Will at fives?

The racquet ne'er so deftly

Is turned, whoever strives.
The ball flies ne'er so swiftly

As thought and tongue where Ben is
A-playing Kit at tennis,
Or playing Will at fives.



572



THE TWO AUTOMOBILISTS

BY CAROLYN WELLS

Once on a Time there were Two Young Men, each of
whom Bought an Automobile.

One Young Man, being of a Bold and Audacious na-
ture, said :

"I will make my Machine go so Fast that I will break
all Previous Records."

Accordingly, he did So, and he Flew through the
Small Town like a Red Dragon Pursuing his Prey.

Unheeding all Obstacles in his Mad Career, his Auto-
mobile ran into a Wall of Rock, and was dashed to
Pieces. Also, the young Man was killed.

The Other Young Man, being of a Timorous and Care-
ful Disposition, started off with great Caution and Rode
at a Slow Pace, pausing now and then. Lest he might
Run into Something.

The Result was, that Two Automobiles and an Ice
Wagon ran into him from behind, spoiling his Car and
Killing the Cautious Young Man.

MORALS :

This Fable teaches Us, The More Haste The Less
Speed, and Delays Are Dangerous.



573



THE NEW VERSION

BY W. J. LAMPTON

A soldier of the Russians

Lay japanned at Tschrtzvkjskivitch,
There was lack of woman's nursing

And other comforts which
Might add to his last moments

And smooth the final way ; —
But a comrade stood beside him

To hear what he might say.
The japanned Russian faltered

As he took that comrade's hand,
And he said : *T never more shall see

My own my native land ;
Take a message and a token

To some distant friends of mine,
For I was born at Smnlxzrskgqrxzski,

Fair Smnlxzrskgqrxzski on the Irkztrvzkimnov."



574



SOUTHERN SKETCHES
by bill arp

Jim Allcorn

I was only thinkin' how much better it is to be in a
lively humor than be goin' about like a disappointed
offis seeker. Good humor is a blessed thing in a family
and smooths down a heap of trubble. I never was mad
but a few times in my life, and then I wasn't mad long.
Foaks thought I was mad when I fout Jim Allcorn, but
I wasent. I never had had any grudge agin Jim. He had
never done me any harm, but I could hear of his sayin'
around in the naborhood that Bill Arp had played cock
of the walk long enuf. So one day I went over to Chulio
court ground to joak with the boys, and shore enuf Jim
was there, and I soon perseeved that the devil was in him.
He had never been whipped by anybody in the distrikt,
and he outweighed me by about fifteen pounds. A drink
or two had made him sassy, and so he commenced walkin'
around first to one crowd, and then to another, darin'
anybody to fite him. He would pint to his forrerd and
say, "I'll give anybody five dollars to hit that." I was
standin' tawkin' to Frank Air and John Johnsin, and as
nobody took up Jim's offer, thinks says I to myself, if he
cums round here a huntin' for a fite he shall have one, by
golly. If he dares me to hit him I'll do it if it's the last
lick I ever strike on this side of Jordin. Frank Air looked
at me, and seemed to know what I was a thinkin', and


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