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to go alone, and he ran out of the door full swiftly and
fared him where the devil had appointed an appointment
with him. Now wit you well that the Friar Francis did
follow close upon his heels, for though his legs were not
so long he was a mighty runner and he was right sound
of wind. Therefore was it a pleasant sight to see these
holy men vying with one another to do battle with the
devil, and much it repenteth me that there be some ribald
heretics that maintain full enviously that these two saintly
friars did so run not for the devil that they might belabor
him, but for the booke that they might possess it.

It fortuned that the devil was already come to the place
where he had appointed the appointment, and in his hand
he had the booke aforesaid. Much marveled he when that
he beheld the two friars faring thence.

"I adjure thee, thou devil," said the Friar Gonsol from
afar off, "I adjure thee give me that booke else I will take
thee by thy horns and hoofs and drub thy ribs together !"

"Heed him not, thou devil," said the Friar Francis,
"for it is I that am coming to wrestle with thee and to
overcome thee for that booke!"

With such words and many more the two holy friars
bore down upon the devil ; but the devil thinking verily
that he was about to be beset by the whole church mili-
tant stayed not for their coming, but presently departed
out of sight and bore the book with him.

Now many people at that time saw the devil fleeing be-
fore the two friars, so that, esteeming it to be a sign of
special grace, these people did ever thereafter acknowl-
edge the friars to be saints, and unto this day you shall



hear of St. Gonsol and St. Francis. Unto this day, too,
doth the devil, with that same booke wherewith he
tempted the friar of old, beset and ensnare men of every
age and in all places. Against which devil may Heaven
fortify us to do battle speedily and with successful issu-




First on the ground appeared the god-like Trojan Eleven,
Shining in purple and black, with tight and well-fitting

Woven by Andromache in the well-ordered palace of

After them came, in goodly array, the players of Hellas,
Skilled in kicking and blocking and tackling and fooling

the umpire.
All advanced on the field, marked off with white alabaster,
Level and square and true, at the ends two goal posts

Richly adorned with silver and gold and carved at the

Bearing a legend which read, "Don't talk back at the um-
Rule first given by Zeus, for the guidance of voluble mor-
All the rules of the game were deeply cut in the crossbars,
So that the players might know exactly how to evade

On one side of the field were ranged the Trojan specta-

Yelling in composite language their ancient Phrygian
war-cry ;

"Ho-hay-toe, Tou-tais-tou, Ton-tain-to; Boomerah
Boomerah, Trojans!"


And on the other, the Greeks, fair-haired, and ready to

If occasion should offer and Zeus should grant them a

Breck-ek kek-kek-koax, Anax andron, Agamemnon!"

First they agreed on an umpire, the silver-tongued Nestor.

Long years ago he played end-rush on the Argive eleven ;

He was admitted by all to be an excellent umpire

Save for the habit he had of making public addresses,

Tedious, long-winded and dull, and full of minute ex-

How they used to play in the days when Cadmus was half-

Or how Hermes could dodge, and Ares and Phoebus could
tackle ;

Couched in rhythmical language but not one whit to the

On his white hair they carefully placed the sacred tiara,

Worn by the foot-ball umpires of old as a badge of their

Also to save their heads, in case the players should slug

Then they gave him a spear wherewith to enforce his de-

And to stick in the ground to mark the place to line up to.

He advanced to the thirty-yard line and began an oration :

"Listen, Trojans and Greeks ! For thirty-five seasons,
"I played foot-ball in Greece with Peleus for half-back

and captain.
"Those were the days of old when men played the game

as they'd orter.
"Once, I remember, ^acus, the god-like son of Poseidon,



"Kicked the ball from a drop, clean over the city of Argos.
"That was the game when Peleus, our captain, lost all his

front teeth ;
"Little we cared for teeth or eyes when once we were

warmed up.
"Why, I remember that ^acus ran so that no one could

see him,
"There was just a long hole in the air and a man at the

end on't.
"Hercules umpired that game, and I noticed there wasn't

much back-talk."

Him interrupting, sternly addressed the King Agamem-

"Cease, old man; come off your antediluvian boasting;

"Doubtless our grandpas could all play the game as well
as they knew how.

"They are all dead, and have long lined up in the fields of
elysium ;

"If they were here we would wipe up the ground with the
rusty old duffers.

"You call the game, and keep your eye fixed on the hel-
meted Hector.

"He'll play off-side all the while, if he thinks the umpire
don't see him!"

Then the old man threw the lots, but sore was his heart
in his bosom.

"Troy has the kick-off," he said, "the ball is yours, noble

Then he gave him the ball, a prolate spheroid of leather,

Much like the world in its shape, if the world were length-
ened, not flattened,

Covered with well-sewed leather, the well-seasoned hide
of a bison,



Killed by Lakon, the hunter, ere bisons were extermi-
On it was painted a battle, a market, a piece of the ocean,
Horses and cows and nymphs and things too many to

Then the heroes peeled off their sweaters and put on their

Also the fiendish expressions the great occasion de-

Ajax stood on the right ; in the center the great Agamem-

Diomed crouched on the left, the god-like rusher and

Crouched as a panther crouches, if sculptors do justice to

Crafty Ulysses played back, for none of the Trojans could
pass him,

All the best Greeks were in line, but Podas Okus Achil-

Who though an excellent kicker stayed all day in his sec-

Hector dribbled the ball, then seized it and putting his
head down.

And, as a lion carries a lamb and jumps over fences —

Dodging this way and that the shepherds who wish to re-
monstrate —

So did the son of Priam carry the ball thrpugh the rush

Till he was tackled fair by the full-back, the crafty

Even then he carried the ball and the son of Laertes



Full five yards till they fell to the ground with a deep in-

Where one might hide three men so that no man could see
them —

Men of the present day, degenerate sons of the heroes —

Now, when Pallas Athene discovered the Greeks would be

She slid down from the steep of Olympus upon a tobog-

Sudden she came before crafty Ulysses in guise like a
maiden ;

Not that she thought to fool him, but since Olympian

Made the form of a woman good form for a goddess'

She then spoke to him quickly, and said, "O son of

Seize thou the ball ; I will pass it to thee and trip up the

Her replying, slowly re-worded the son of Laertes —

"That will I do, O goddess divine, for he can outrun

Then when the ball was in play, she cast thick darkness
around it.

Also around Ulysses she poured invisible darkness.

Under this cover, taking the ball he passed down the mid-

Silent and swift, unseen, unnoticed, unblocked, and un-

Meanwhile she piled the Greeks and the Trojans in con-

Much like a tangle of pine-trees where lightning has fre-
quently fallen,



Or like a basket of lobsters and crabs which the provident

Dumps on the kitchen floor and vainly endeavors to count

So seemed the legs and the arms and the heads of the
twenty-one players.

Sudden a shout arose, for under the crossbar, Ulysses,

Visible, sat on the ball, quietly making a touch-down ;

On the tip of his nose were his thumb and fingers ex-

Curved and vibrating slow in the sign of the blameless

Violent language came to the lips of the helmeted Hector,

Under his breath he murmured a few familiar quotations,

Scraps of Phrygian folk-lore about the kingdom of

Then he called loud as a trumpet, "I claim foul, Mr. Um-

"Touch-down for Greece," said Hector; " 'twixt you and
me and the goal-post

"I lost sight of the ball in a very singular manner."

Then they carried the sphere back to the twenty-five yard

Prone on the ground lay a Greek, the leather was poised in
his fingers —

Thrice Agamemnon adjusted the sphere with delibera-

Then he drew back as a ram draws back for deadly en-

Then he tripped lightly ahead, and brought his sandal in

Right at the point ; straight flew the ball right over the



While like the cries of pygmies and cranes the race-yell re-
sounded :
"Breck-ek kek-kek-koax, Anax andron, Agamemnon!'*




Once on a Time there was a Man and his Wife who
had Different Ideas concerning Family Expenditures.

The Man said : "I am Exceedingly Economical ; al-
though I spend Small Sums here and there for Cigars,
Wines, Theater Tickets, and Little Dinners, yet I do not
buy me a Yacht or a Villa at Newport."

But even with these Praiseworthy Principles, it soon
Came About that the Man was Bankrupt.

Whereupon he Reproached his Wife, who' Answered
his Accusations with Surprise.

"Me! My dear!" she exclaimed. "Why, I am Exceed-
ingly Economical. True, I Occasionally buy me a Set of
Sables or a Diamond Tiara, but I am Scrupulously Care-
ful about Small Sums; I Diligently unknot all Strings
that come around Parcels, and Save Them, and I use the
Backs of old Envelopes for Scribbling-Paper. Yet, some-
how, my Bank-Account is also Exhausted."


This Fable teaches to Takes Care of the Pence and the
Pounds will Take Care of Themselves, and that we
Should Not Be Penny- Wise and Pound-Foolish.




Once on a time there were two Men, one of whom was
a Good Man and the other a Rogue.

The Good Man one day saw a Wretched Drunkard en-
deavoring to find his way Home.

Being most kind-hearted, the Good Man assisted the
Wretched Drunkard to his feet and accompanied him
along the Highway toward his Home.

The Good Man held fast the arm of the Wretched
Drunkard, and the result of this was that when the
Wretched Drunkard lurched giddily the Good Man per-
force lurched too.

Whereupon, as the Passing Populace saw the pair, they
said : "Aha ! Another good man gone wrong," and they
Wisely Wagged their Heads.

Now the Bad Man of this tale, being withal of a
shrewd and canny Nature, stood often on a street cor-
ner, and engaged In grave conversation with the Mag-
nates of the town.

To be sure, the Magnates shook him as soon as pos-
sible, but in no wise discouraged he cheerfully sauntered
up to another Magnate. Thus did he gain a Reputation
of being a friend of the Great.


This Fable teaches us that A Man is known by the
Company he Keeps, and that We Must not Judge by Ap-




If things would not run into each other so, it would be
a thousand times easier and a million times pleasanter to
get on in the world. Let the sheepiness be set on one
side and the goatiness on the other, and immediately you
know where you are. It is not necessary to ask that there
be any increase of the one or any diminution of the other,
but only that each shall preempt its own territory and
stay there. Milk is good, and water is good, but don't
set the milk-pail under the pump. Pleasure softens pain,
but pain embitters pleasure; and who would not rather
have his happiness concentrated into one memorable day,
that shall gleam and glow through a lifetime, than have
it spread out over a dozen comfortable, commonplace,
humdrum forenoons and afternoons, each one as like the
others as two peas in a pod? Since the law of compensa-
tion obtains, I suppose it is the best law for us ; but if it
had been left with me, I should have made the clever
people rich and handsome, and left poverty and ugliness
to the stupid people ; because — don't you see ? — the stupid
people won't know they are ugly, and won't care if they
are poor, but the clever people will be hampered and tor-
tured. I would have given the good wives to the good
husbands, and made drunken men marry drunken wom-
en. Then there would have been one family exquisitely
happy instead of two struggling against misery. I would
have made the rose stem downy, and put all the thorns



on the thistles. I would have gouged out the jewel from
the toad's head, and given the peacock the nightingale's
voice, and not set everything so at half and half.

But that is the way it is. We find the world made to
our hand. The wise men marry the foolish virgins, and
the splendid virgins marry dolts, and matters in general
are so mixed up, that the choice lies between nice things
about spoiled, and vile things that are not so bad after all,
and it is hard to tell sometimes which you like the best, or
which you loathe least.

I expect to lose every friend I have in the world by
the publication of this paper — except the dunces who are
impaled in it. They will never read it, and if they do, will
never suspect I mean them; while the sensible and true
friends, who do me good and not evil all the days of their
lives, will think I am driving at their noble hearts, and
will at once fall off and leave me inconsolable. Still I
am going to write it. You must open the safety-valve
once in a while, even if the steam does whiz and shriek,
or there will be an explosion, which is fatal, while the
whizzing and shrieking are only disagreeable.

Doubtless friendship has its advantages and its pleas-
ures; doubtless hostility has its isolations and its re-
venges; still, if called upon to choose once for all between
friends and foes, I think, on the whole, I should cast my
vote for the foes. Twenty enemies will not do you the
mischief of one friend. Enemies you always know where
to find. They are in fair and square perpetual hostility,
and you keep your armor on and your sentinels posted ;
but with friends you are inveigled into a false security,
and, before you know it, your honor, your modesty, your
delicacy are scudding before the gales. Moreover, with
your friend you can never make reprisals. If your enemy
attacks you, you can always strike back and hit hard.



You are expected to defend yourself against him to the
top of your bent. He is your legal opponent in honorable
warfare. You can pour hot-shot into him with murder-
ous vigor; and the more he writhes, the better you feel.
In fact, it is rather refreshing to measure swords once in
a while with such a one. You like to exert your power
and keep yourself in practice. You do not rejoice so
much in overcoming your enemy as in overcoming. If
a marble statue could show fight you would just as soon
fight it; but as it can not, you take something that can,
and something, besides, that has had the temerity to at-
tack you, and so has made a lawful target of itself. But
against your friend your hands are tied. He has injured
you. He has disgusted you. He has infuriated you. But
it was most Christianly done. You can not hurl a thun-
derbolt, or pull a trigger, or lisp a syllable against those
amiable monsters who, with tenderest fingers, are stick-
ing pins all over you. So you shut fast the doors of your
lips, and inwardly sigh for a good, stout, brawny, malig-
nant foe, who, under any and eveiy circumstance, will
design you harm, and on whom you can lavish your lusty
blows with a hearty will and a clear conscience.

Your enemy keeps clear of you. He neither grants nor
claims favors. He awards you your rights, — no more,
no less, — and demands the same from you. Conse-
quently there is no friction. Your friend, on the con-
trary, is continually getting himself tangled up with you
"because he is your friend." I have heard that Shelley
was never better pleased than when his associates made
free with his coats, boots, and hats for their own use,
and that he appropriated their property in the same way.
Shelley was a poet, and perhaps idealized his friends. He
saw them, probably, in a state of pure intellect. I am not
a poet; I look at people in the concrete. The most obvi-



ous thing about my friends is their avoirdupois; and I
prefer that they should wear their own cloaks and suffer
me to wear mine. There is no neck in the world that I
want my collar to span except my own. It is very exas-
perating to me to go to my bookcase and miss a book of
which I am in immediate and pressing need, because an
intimate friend has carried it off without asking leave, on
the score of his intimacy. I have not, and do not wish to
have, any alliance that shall abrogate the eighth com-
mandment. A great mistake is lying round loose here-
abouts, — a mistake fatal to many friendships that did run
well. The common fallacy is that intimacy dispenses
with the necessity of politeness. The truth is just the
opposite of this. The more points of contact there are,
the more danger of friction there is, and the more care-
fully should people guard against it. If you see a man
only once a month, it is not of so vital importance that
you do not trench on his rights, tastes, or whims. He
can bear to be crossed or annoyed occasionally. If he
does not have a very high regard for you, it is compara-
tively unimportant, because your paths are generally so
diverse. But you and the man with whom you dine every
day have it in your power to make each other exceedingly
uncomfortable. A very little dropping will wear away
rock, if it only keep at it. The thing that you would
not think of, if it occurred only twice a year, becomes an
intolerable burden when it happens twice a day. This is
where husbands and wives run aground. They take too
much for granted. If they would but see that they have
something to gain, something to save, as well as some-
thing to enjoy, it would be better for them ; but they pro-
ceed on the assumption that their love is an inexhaustible
tank, and not a fountain depending for its supply on the
stream that trickles into it. So, for every little annoying



habit, or weakness, or fault, they draw on the tank, with-
out being careful to keep the supply open, till they awake
one morning to find the pump dry, and, instead of love, at
best, nothing but a cold habit of complacence. On the
contrary, the more intimate friends become, whether
married or unmarried, the more scrupulously should they
strive to repress in themselves everything annoying, and
to cherish both in themselves and each other everything
pleasing. While each should draw on his love to neutral-
ize the faults of his friend, it is suicidal to draw on his
friend's love to neutralize his own faults. Love should
be cumulative, since it can not be stationary. If it does
not increase, it decreases. Love, like confidence, is a
plant of slow growth, and of most exotic fragility. It
must be constantly and tenderly clierished. Every nox-
ious and foreign element must be carefully removed from
it. All sunshine, and sweet airs, and morning dews, and
evening showers must breathe upon it perpetual frag-
rance, or it dies into a hideous and repulsive deformity,
fit only to be cast out and trodden under foot of men,
while, properly cultivated, it is a Tree of Life.

Your enemy keeps clear of you, not only in business,
but in society. If circumstances thrust him into contact
with you, he is curt and centrifugal. But your friend
breaks in upon your "saintly solitude" with perfect
equanimity. He never for a moment harbors a suspicion
that he can intrude, "because he is your friend." So he
drops in on his way to the office to chat half an hour over
the latest news. The half-hour isn't much in itself. If it
were after dinner, you wouldn't mind it ; but after break-
fast every moment "runs itself in golden sands," and the
break in your time crashes a worse break in your temper.
"Are you busy?" asks the considerate wretch, adding in-
sult to injury. What can you do? Say yes, and wound



his self-love forever? But he has a wife and family.
You respect their feelings, smile and smile, and are vil-
lain enough to be civil with your lips, and hide the poison
of asps under your tongue, till you have a chance to re^
lieve your o'ercharged heart by shaking your fist in im-
potent wrath at his retreating form. You will receive the
reward of your hypocrisy, as you richly deserve, for ten
to one he will drop in again when he comes back from his
office, and arrest you wandering in Dreamland in the
beautiful twilight. Delighted to find that you are neither
reading nor writing, — the absurd dolt! as if a man
weren't at work unless he be wielding a sledge-hammer !
— he will preach out, and prose out, and twaddle out an-
other hour of your golden eventide, "because he is your
friend." You don't care whether he is judge or jury, —
whether he talks sense or nonsense; you don't want him
to talk at all. You don't want him there anyway. You
want to be alone. If you don't, why are you sitting there
in the deepening twilight? If you wanted him, couldn't
you send for him ? Why don't you go out into the draw-
ing-room, where are music and lights, and gay people?
What right have I to suppose, that, because you are not
using your eyes, you are not using your brain? What
right have I to set myself up as a judge of the value of
your time, and so rob you of perhaps the most delicious
hour in all your day, on pretense that it is of no use to
you? — take a pound of flesh clean out of your heart, and
trip on my smiling way as if I had not earned the gal-

And what in Heaven's name is the good of all this
ceaseless talk? To what purpose are you wearied, ex-
hausted, dragged out and out to the very extreme of tenu-
ity? A sprightly badinage, — a running fire of nonsense
for half an hour, — a tramp over unfamiliar ground with



a familiar guide, — a discussion of something with some-
body who knows all about it, or who, not knowing, wants
to learn from you, — a pleasant interchange of common-
places with a circle of friends around the fire, at such
hours as you give to society : all this is not only tolerable,
but agreeable, — often positively delightful; but to have
an indifferent person, on no score but that of friendship,
break into your sacred presence, and suck your blood
through indefinite cycles of time, is an abomination. If
he clatters on an indifferent subject, you can do well
enough for fifteen minutes, buoyed up by the hope that
he will presently have a fit, or be sent for, or come to
some kind of an end. But when you gradually open to
the conviction that vis inertia; rules the hour, and the
thing which has been is that which shall be, you wax
listless; your chariot-wheels drive heavily; your end of
the pole drags in the mud, and you speedily wallow in
unmitigated disgust. If he broaches a subject on which
you have a real and deep living interest, you shrink from
unbosoming yourself to him. You feel that it would be
sacrilege. He feels nothing of the sort. He treads over
your heart-strings in his cowhide brogans, and does
not see that they are not whip-cords. He pokes his gold-
headed cane in among your treasures, blind to the fact
that you are clutching both arms around them, that no
gleam of flashing gold may reveal their whereabouts
to him. You draw yourself up in your shell, projecting
a monosyllabic claw occasionally as a sign of continued
vitality; but the pachyderm does not withdraw, and you
gradually lower into an indignation, — smothered, fierce,

Why, why, why will people inundate their unfortunate
victims with such "weak, washy, everlasting floods?"
Why will they haul everything out into the open day?



Why will they make the Holy of Holies common and un-

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Online LibraryKate Milner RabbThe wit and humor of America (Volume 2) → online text (page 12 of 24)