Copyright
Kate Milner Rabb.

The wit and humor of America (Volume 2) online

. (page 15 of 24)
Online LibraryKate Milner RabbThe wit and humor of America (Volume 2) → online text (page 15 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


"Why — " interrogated Mrs. Lathrop.

"Young Dr. Brown wanted to," said Susan, "he
wanted to fill my ears with mud, an' my eye, too, but I
didn't feel to have it done. You can't die o' wasps' bills,
an' you can o' young Dr. Brown's — leastways when you
ain't got no money to pay 'em, like I ain't got just at
present."

"It's — " said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes," said Susan, "it struck me that way, too. This
seems to be a very unlucky town. Anything as comes
seems to catch us all in a bunch. The cow most lamed
the whole community an' the automobile most broke its
back; time'U tell what'll be the result o' these wasps, but
there won't be no church Sunday for one thing, I know.

"An' it ain't the least o' my woes, Mrs. Lathrop, to
think as I've got to sit an' smile on Mr. Weskin to-
night from between two such ears as I've got, for a man
is a man, an' it can't be denied as a woman as is mainly
ears ain't beguilin'. Besides, I may in confidence state
to you, Mrs. Lathrop, as the one as buzzed aroun' my
head wan't really no wasp 3.-tall in comparison to the one
as got under my skirts."

Mrs. Lathrop's eyes were full of sincere condolence;
she did not even imagine a smile as she gazed upon her
afflicted friend.

"I must go," said the latter, rising with a groan,
"seems like I never will reach the bottom o' my troubles
this year. I keep thinkin' there's nothin' left an' then I

639



THE WOLF AT SUSAN'S DOOR

get a wasp at each end at once. Well, I'll come over
when Mr. Weskin goes — if I have strength."
Then she limped hpme.

It was about nine that night that she returned and
pounded vigorously on her friend's window-pane. Mrs.
Lathrop woke from her rocker-nap, went to the window
and opened it. Susan stood below and the moon illumi-
nated her smile and her ears with its most silvery beams.

"He's just gone!" she announced.

"Yes," said Mrs. Lathrop, rubbing her eyes.

"He's gone ; I come over to tell you."

"What — " said Mrs. Lathrop.

"I wouldn't care if my ears was as big as a elephant's
now."

"Why — " asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Mrs. Lathrop, you know as I took them bonds
straight after father died an' locked 'em up an' I ain't
never unlocked 'em since ?"

Mrs. Lathrop assented with a single rapt nod.

"Well, when I explained to Mr. Weskin as I'd got to
have money an' how was the best way to sell a bond, he
just looked at me, an' what do you think he said — what
do you think he said, Mrs. Lathrop?"

Mrs. Lathrop hung far out over the window-sill —
her gaze was the gaze of the ever earnest and interested.

Susan stood below. Her face was aglow with the joy
of the affluent — her very voice might have been for once
entitled as silvery.

"He said, Mrs. Lathrop, he said, 'Miss Clegg, why
don't you go down to the bank and cut your coupons ?' "



640



THE TWO PRISONERS

BY CAROLYN WELLS

Once upon a time there were two Prisoners at the bar,
who endeavored to plead for themselves with Tact and
Wisdom.

One concealed certain Facts prejudicial to his Cause;
upon which the Judge said : "If you had Confessed the
Truth it would have Biased me in your Favor ; as it is, I
Condemn you to Punishment."

The other stated his Case with absolute Truth and Sin-
cerity, concealing Nothing; and the result was that he
was Condemned for his Misdemeanors.

MORALS :

This Fable teaches that Honesty is the Best Policy, and
that the Truth should not Be spoken at All Times.



641



A MODERN ADVANTAGE

BY CHARLOTTE BECKER

One morning, when the sun shone bright

And all the earth was fair,
I met a little city child,

Whose ravings rent the air.-

"I lucidly can penetrate

"The Which," I heard him say,—
"The How is, wonderfully, come

To clear the limpid way.

"The sentence, rarely, rose and fell
From ceiling to the floor ;
Her words were spotlessly arranged,
She gave me, strangely, more."

"What troubles you, my little man ?"
I dared to ask him then, —
He fixed me with a subtle stare.
And said, "Most clearly, when

"You see I'm occupied, it's rude
To question of my aims —
I'm going to the adverb school
Of Mr. Henry James !"



642



THE RAGGEDY MAN

BY JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY

O the Raggedy Man ! He works fer Pa ;
An' he's the goodest man ever you saw !
He comes to our house every day,
An' waters the horses, an' feeds 'em hay ;
An' he opens the shed— an' we all ist laugh
When he drives out our little old wobble-ly calf ;
An' nen— ef our hired girl says he can-
He milks the cow fer 'Lizabuth Ann.—
Aint he a' awful good Raggedy Man?
Raggedy ! Raggedy ! Raggedy Man !

W'y, The Raggedy Man— he's ist so good
■ He splits the kindlin' an' chops the wood ;
An' nen he spades in our garden, too,
An' does most things 'at boys can't do !—
He clumbed clean up in our big tree
An' shooked a' apple down fer me—
An' nother'n, too, fer 'Lizabuth Ann—
An' nother'n, too, fer The Raggedy Man.—
Aint he a' awful kind Raggedy Man?
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!

An' The Raggedy Man, he knows most rhymes
An' tells 'em, ef I be good, sometimes :
Knows 'bout Giunts, an' Griffuns, an' Elves,
An' the Squidgicum-Squees 'at swallers therselves I
643



THE RAGGEDY MAN

An', wite by the pump in our pasture-lot,
He showed me the hole 'at the Wunks is got,
'At lives 'way deep in the ground, an' can
Turn into me, er 'Lizabuth Ann !
Aint he a funny old Raggedy Man ?
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!

The Raggedy Man — one time when he
Wuz makin' a little bow-'n'-orry fer me,
Says "When you're big like your Pa is,
Air you go' to keep a fine store like his —
An' be a rich merchunt — an' wear fine clothes ?-
Er what air you go' to be, goodness knows !"
An' nen he laughed at 'Lizabuth Ann,
An' I says " 'M go' to be a Raggedy Man ! —
I'm ist go' to be a nice Raggedy Man !"
Raggedy ! Raggedy ! Raggedy Man !



644



A MODERN ECLOGUE
by bliss carman

She

If you were ferryman at Charon's ford,
And I came down the bank and called to you,
Waved you my hand and asked to come aboard,
And threw you kisses there, what would you do ?

Would there be such a crowd of other girls.
Pleading and pale and lonely as the sea.
You'd growl in your old beard, and shake your curls,
And say there was no room for little me ?

Would you remember each of them in turn?
Put all your faded fancies in the bow.
And all the rest before you in the stern,
And row them out with panic on your brow ?

If I came down and offered you my fare
And more beside, could you refuse me there?



He



If I were ferryman in Charon's place.
And ran that crazy scow with perilous skill,
I should be so worn out with keeping trace
Of gibbering ghosts and bidding them sit still,

645



A MODERN ECLOGUE

If you should come with daisies in your hands,
Strewing their petals on the sombre stream, —
"He will come," and "He won't come," down the lands
Of pallid reverie and ghostly dream, —

I would let every clamouring shape stand there,
And give its shadowy lungs free vent in vain,
While you with earthly roses in your hair,
And I grown young at sight of you again,

Went down the stream once more at half-past seven
To find some brand-new continent of heaven.



646



A CABLE-CAR PREACHER

BY SAM WALTER FOSS



« Tis Strange how thoughtless people are,"

A man said in a cable-car,
"How careless and how thoughtless," said

The Loud Man in the cable-car ;

And then the Man with One Lame Leg

Said softly, "Pardon me, I beg,
. For your valise is on my knee ;

It's sore," said he of One Lame Leg.



n



A woman then came in with twins

And stumbled o'er the Loud Man's shms ;

And she was tired half to death.

This Woman Who Came in with Twms;
And then the Man with One Lame Leg
Said, "Madam, take my seat, I beg."

She sat, with her vociferant Twins,

And thanked the man of One Lame Leg.
647



A CABLE-CAR PREACHER

III

" 'Tis strange how selfish people are,
They carry boorishness so far;

How selfish, careless, thoughtless," said
The Loud Man of the cable-car.
A Man then with the Lung Complaint
Grew dizzy and began to faint ;

He reeled and swayed from side to side,
This poor Man with the Lung Complaint.



IV



The Woman Who Came in with Twins
Said, "You can hardly keep your pins ;

Pray, take my seat." He sat, and thanked
The Woman Who Came in with Twins.
The Loud Man once again began
To curse the selfishness of man ;

Our lack of manners he bewailed

With vigor, did this Loud, Loud Man.



But still the Loud Man kept his seat ;

A Blind Man stumbled o'er his feet;
The Loud Man preached on selfishness,

And preached, and preached, and kept his seat.

The poor Man with the Lung Complaint

Stood up — a brave, heroic saint —
And to the Blind Man, "Take my seat,"

Said he who had the Lung Complaint.
648



SAM WALTER FOSS

VI

The Loud Man preached on selfish sins ;

The Woman Who Came in with Twins ;
The poor Man with the Lung Complaint,

Stood, while he preached on selfish sins.

And still the Man with One Lame Leg

Stood there on his imperfect peg
And heard the screed on selfish sins^ —

This patient Man with One Lame Leg.

VII

The Loud Man of the cable-car

Sat still and preached and traveled far;
The Blind Man spake no word unto

The Loud Man of the cable-car.
The Lame-Legged Man looked reconciled,

And she with Twins her grief beguiled,
The poor Man with the Lung Complaint —

All stood, and sweetly, sadly smiled.



649



HOW TO KNOW THE WILD ANIMALS

BY CAROLYN WELLS

If ever you should go by chance

To jungles in the East,
And if there should to you advance

A large and tawny beast —
If he roar at you as you're dyin*.

You'll know it is the Asian Lion.

If, when in India loafing round,
A noble wild beast meets you.

With dark stripes on a yellow ground,
Just notice if he eats you.

This simple rule may help you learn
The Bengal Tiger to discern.

When strolling forth, a beast you view
Whose hide with spots is peppered ;

As soon as it has leapt on you,
You'll know it is the Leopard.

'T will do no good to roar with pain,
He'll only lep and lep again.

If you are sauntering round your yard,

And meet a creature there
Who hugs you very, very hard.

You'll know it is the Bear.
If you have any doubt, I guess

He'll give you just one more caress.
650



CAROLYN WELLS

Whene'er a quadruped you view

Attached to any tree,
It may be 'tis the Wanderoo,

Or yet the Chimpanzee.
If right side up it may be both,

If upside down it is the Sloth.

Though to distinguish beasts of prey

A novice might nonplus ;
Yet from the Crocodile you may

Tell the Hyena, thus :
*Tis the Hyena if it smile;

If weeping, 'tis the Crocodile.

The true Chameleon is small —

A lizard sort of thing ;
He hasn't any ears at all

And not a single wing.
If there Is nothing on the tree

'Tis the Chameleon you see.



651



I REMEMBER, I REMEMBER

BY PHCEBE GARY

I remember, I remember,

The house where I was wed,
And the little room from which that night.

My smiling bride was led.
She didn't come a wink too soon,

Nor make too long a stay ;
But now I often wish her folks

Had kept the girl away !

I remember, I remember,

Her dresses, red and white.
Her bonnets and her caps and cloaks, —

They cost an awful sight !
The "corner lot" on which I built.

And where my brother met
At first my wife, one washing-day, —

That man is single yet !

I remember, I remember,

Where I was used to court,
And thought that all of married life

Was just such pleasant sport : —
My spirit flew in feathers then,

No care was on my brow ;
I scarce could wait to shut the gate, —

I'm not so anxious now !
652



PHCEBE GARY

I remember, I remember,

My dear one's smile and sigh ;
I used to think her tender heart

Was close against the sky.
It was a childish ignorance.

But now it soothes me not
To know I'm farther off from Heaven

Then when she wasn't got.



653



THE COUPON BONDS

BY J. T. TROWBRIDGE

(Mr. and Mrs. Ducklow have secretly purchased bonds
with money that should have been given to their adopted
son Reuben, who has sacrificed his health in serving his
country as a soldier, and, going to visit Reuben on the
morning of his return home, they hide the bonds under
the carpet of the sitting-room, and leave the house in
charge of Taddy, another adopted son.)

Mr. Ducklow had scarcely turned the corner of the
street, when, looking anxiously in the direction of his
homestead, he saw a column of smoke. It was directly
over the spot where he knew his house to be situated. He
guessed at a glance what had happened. The frightful
catastrophe he foreboded had befallen. Taddy had set the
house afire.

"Them bonds! them, bonds!" he exclaimed, distract-
edly. He did not think so much of the house : house and
furniture were insured; if they were burned the incon-
venience would be great indeed, and at any other time the
thought of such an event would have been a sufficient
cause for trepidation ; but now his chief, his only anxiety
was the bonds. They were not insured. They would be
a dead loss. And, what added sharpness to his pangs,
they would be a loss which he must keep a secret, as he
had kept their existence a secret, — a loss which he could
not confess, and of which he could not complain. Had

654



J. T. TROWBRIDGE

he not just given his neighbors to understand that he had
no such property? And his wife, — was she not at that
very moment, if not serving up a He upon the subject, at
least paring the truth very thin indeed ?

"A man would think," observed Ferring, "that Duck-
low had some o' them bonds on his hands, and got scaret,
he took such a sudden start. He has, hasn't he, Mrs.
Ducklow ?"

"Has what?" said Mrs. Ducklow, pretending igno-
rance.

"Some o' them cowpon bonds. I rather guess he's got
some."

"You mean Gov'ment bonds? Ducklow got some?
'Tain't at all likely he'd spec'late in them without saying
something to me about it. No, he couldn't have any with-
out my knowing it, I'm sure."

How demure, how innocent she looked, plying her
knitting-needle, and stopping to take up a stitch ! How
little at that moment she knew of Ducklow's trouble and
its terrible cause !

Ducklow's first impulse was to drive on and endeavor
at all hazards to snatch the bonds from the flames. His
next was to return and alarm his neighbors and obtain
their assistance. But a minute's delay might be fatal :
so he drove on, screaming, "Fire ! fire !" at the top of his
voice.

But the old mare was a slow- footed animal ; and Duck-
low had no whip. He reached forward and struck her
with the reins.

"Git up! git up! — Fire! fire!" screamed Ducklow.
"Oh, them bonds ! them bonds ! Why didn't I give the
money to Reuben ? Fire ! fire ! fire !"

By dint of screaming and slapping, he urged her from
a trot into a gallop, which was scarcely an improvement

655



THE COUPON BONDS

as to speed, and certainly not as to grace. It was like the
gallop of an old cow. "Why don't ye go 'long?" he cried,
despairingly.

Slap ! slap ! He knocked his own hat off with the loose
end of the reins. It fell under the wheels. He cast one
look behind, to satisfy himself that it had been very
thoroughly run over and crushed into the dirt, and left it
to its fate.

Slap! slap! "Fire! fire!" Canter, canter, canter!
Neighbors looked out of their windows, and, recognizing
Ducklow's wagon and old mare in such an astonishing
plight, and Ducklow himself, without his hat, rising from
his seat and reaching forward in wild attitudes, brandish-
ing the reins, and at the same time rending the azure with
yells, thought he must be insane.

He drove to the top of the hill, and, looking beyond, in
expectation of seeing his house wrapped in flames, dis-
covered that the smoke proceeded from a brush-heap
which his neighbor Atkins was burning in a field near by.

The revulsion of feeling that ensued was almost too
much for the excitable Ducklow. His strength went out
of him. For a little while there seemed to be nothing left
of him but tremor and cold sweat. Difficult as it had
been to get the old mare in motion, it was now even more
difficult to stop her.

"Why, what has got into Ducklow's old mare? She's
running away with him! Who ever heard of such a
thing!" And Atkins, watching the ludicrous spectacle
from his field, became almost as weak from laughter as
Ducklow was from the effects of fear.

At length Ducklow succeeded in checking the old
mare's speed and in turning her about. It was necessary
to drive back for his hat. By this time he could hear a
chorus of shouts, "Fire ! fire ! fire I" over the hill. He had

656



J. T. TROWBRIDGE

aroused the neighbors as he passed, and now they were
flocking to extinguish the flames.

"A false alarm ! a false alarm !" said Ducklow, looking
marvelously sheepish, as he met them. "Nothing but
Atkins's brush-heap 1"

"Seems to me you ought to have found that out 'fore
you raised all creation with your yells !" said one hyper-
bolical fellow, "You looked like the Flying Dutchman !
This your hat? I thought 'twas a dead cat in the road.
No fire! no fire!" — turning back to his comrades, — "only
one of Ducklow's jokes."

Nevertheless, two or three boys there were who would
not be convinced, but continued to leap up, swing their
caps, and scream "Fire!" against all remonstrance. Duck-
low did not wait to enter his explanations, but, turning
the old mare about again, drove home amid the laughter
of the by-standers and the screams of the misguided
youngsters. As he approached the house, he met Taddy
rushing wildly up the street.

"Thaddeus! Thaddeus! Where ye goin', Thaddeus ?"

"Goin' to the fire !" cried Taddy.

"There isn't any fire, boy."

"Yes, there is! Didn't ye hear 'em? They've been
yellin' like fury."

"It's nothin' but Atkins's brush."

"That all?" And Taddy appeared very much disap-
pointed. "I thought there was goin' to be some fun. I
wonder who was such a fool as to yell fire just for a
darned old brush-heap !"

Ducklow did not inform him.

"I've got to drive over to town and get Reuben's trunk.
You stand by the mare while I step in and brush my hat."

Instead of applying himself at once to the restoration
of his beaver, he hastened to the sitting-room, to see that
the bonds were safe.

657



THE COUPON BONDS

"Heavens and 'arth !" said Ducklow.

The chair, which had been carefully planted in the spot
where they were concealed, had been removed. Three or
four tacks had been taken put, and the carpet pushed
from the wall. There was straw scattered about. Evi-
dently Taddy had been interrupted, in the midst of his
ransacking, by the alarm of fire. Indeed, he was even
now creeping into the house to see what notice Ducklow
would take of these evidences of his mischief.

In great trepidation the farmer thrust in his hand here
and there, and groped, until he found the envelope pre-
cisely where it had been placed the night before, with the
tape tied around it, which his wife had put on to prevent
its contents from slipping out and losing themselves.
Great was the joy of Ducklow. Great also was the wrath
pf him when he turned and discovered Taddy.

"Didn't I tell you to stand by the old mare ?"

"She won't stir," said Taddy, shrinking away again.

"Come here!" And Ducklow grasped him by the col-
lar.

"What have you been doin' ? Look at that !"

" 'Twan't me !" beginning to whimper and ram his fists
into his eyes.

"Don't tell me 'twan't you !" Ducklow shook him till
his teeth chattered. "What was you pullin' up the carpet
for?"

"Lost a marble!" sniveled Taddy.

"Lost a marble ! Ye didn't lose it under the carpet, did
ye? Look at all that straw pulled out!" shaking him
again.

"Didn't know but it might 'a' got under the carpet,
marbles roll so," explained Taddy, as soon as he could
get his breath.

"Wal, sir," — Ducklow administered a resounding box

658



J. T. TROWBRIDGE

on his ear, — "don't you do such a thing again, if you lose
a million marbles !"

"Hain't got a million!" Taddy wept, rubbing his
cheek. "Hain't got but four! Won't ye buy me some
to-day?'*

"Go to that mare, and don't you leave her again till I
come, or I'll marble ye in a way you won't like."

Understanding, by this somewhat equivocal form of
expression, that flagellation was threatened, Taddy
obeyed, still feeling his smarting and burning ear.

Ducklow was in trouble. What should he do with the
bonds? The floor was no place for them after what had
happened ; and he remembered too well the experience of
yesterday to think for a moment of carrying them about
his person. With unreasonable impatience, his mind re-
verted to Mrs. Ducklow.

"Why ain't she to home ? These women are forever a-
gaddin' ! I wish Reuben's trunk was in Jericho!"

Thinking of the trunk reminded him of one in the gar-
ret, filled with old papers of all sorts, — ^newspapers, let-
ters, bills of sale, children's writing-books, — accumula-
tions of the past quarter of a century. Neither fire nor
burglar nor ransacking youngster had ever molested those
ancient records during all those five-and-twenty years.
A bright thought struck him.

"I'll slip the bonds down into that worthless heap o'
rubbish, where no pne 'ull ever think o' lookin' for 'em,
and resk 'em."

Having assured himself that Taddy was standing by
the wagon, he paid a hasty visit to the trunk in the garret,
and concealed the envelope, still bound in its band of tape,
among the papers. He then drove away, giving Taddy
a final charge to beware of setting anything afire.

He had driven about half a mile, when he met a ped-

6S9



THE COUPON BONDS

idler. There was nothing unusual or alarming in such a
circumstance, surely ; but, as Ducklow kept on, it troubled
him.

"He'll stop to the house, now, most likely, and want to
trade. Findin' nobody but Taddy, there's no knowin'
what he'll be tempted to do. But I ain't a-goin' to worry.
I'll defy anybody to find them bonds. Besides, she may
be home by this time. I guess she'll hear of the fire-alarm
and hurry home : it'll be jest like her. She'll be there, and
trade with the peddler!" thought Ducklow, uneasily.
Then a frightful fancy possessed him. "She has threat-
ened two or three times to sell that old trunkful of papers.
He'll offer a big price for 'em, and ten to one she'll let him
have 'em. Why didn't I think on't? What a stupid
blunderbuss I be !'*

As Ducklow thought of it, he felt almost certain that
Mrs. Ducklow had returned home, and that she was bar-
gaining with the peddler at that moment. He fancied her
smilingly receiving bright tin-ware for the old papers;
and he could see the tape-tied envelope going into the bag
with the rest. The result was that he turned about and
whipped his old mare home again in terrific haste, to
catch the departing peddler.

Arriving, he found the house as he had left it, and
Taddy occupied in making a kite- frame.

"Did that peddler stop here?"

"I hain't seen no peddler."

"And hain't yer Ma Ducklow been home, nuther ?"

"No."

And, with a guilty look, Taddy put the kite- frame be-
hind him.

Ducklow considered. The peddler had turned up a
cross-street : he would probably turn down again and stop
at the house, after all : Mrs. Ducklow might by that time

660



J. T. TROWBRIDGE

be at home: then the sale of old papers would be very
likely to take place. Ducklow thought of leaving word
that he did not wish any old papers in the house to be sold,
but feared lest the request might excite Taddy's suspi-
cions.

"I don't see no way but for me to take the bonds with
me," thought he, with an inward groan.

He accordingly went to the garret, took the envelope
out of the trunk, and placed it in the breast-pocket of his
overcoat, to which he pinned it, to prevent it by any
chance from getting out. He used six large, strong pins
for the purpose, and was afterwards sorry he did not use
seven.

"There's suthin' losiri' out o' yer pocket!" bawled
Taddy, as he was once more mounting the wagon.

Quick as lightning, Ducklow clapped his hand to his
breast. In doing so he loosed his hold of the wagon-box
and fell, raking his shin badly on the wheel.

*'Yer side-pocket ! It's one o' yer mittens !" said Taddy.

"You rascal ! How you scared me !"

Seating himself in the wagon, Ducklow gently pulled
up his trousers-leg to look at the bruised part.

"Got anything in your boot-leg to-day, Pa Ducklow ?"
asked Taddy, innocently.

"Yes, — a barked shin! — all on your account, too! Go
and put that straw back, and fix the carpet ; and don't ye
let me hear ye speak of my boot-leg again, or I'll boot-leg


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Online LibraryKate Milner RabbThe wit and humor of America (Volume 2) → online text (page 15 of 24)