Kate Milner Rabb.

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"The Crimson Cord" made an immense success. You
can guess how it boomed when I say that although it was
published at a dollar and a half, it was sold by every de-
partment store for fifty-four cents, away below cost, just
like sugar, or Vandeventer's Baby Food, or Q & Z Cor-
sets, or any other staple. We sold our first edition of
five million copies inside of three months, and got out an-
other edition of two million, and a specially illustrated
holiday edition and an edition de luxe, and "The Crim-
son Cord" is still selling in paper-covered cheap edition.

With the royalties received from the aftermath and the
profit on the book itself, we made — well, Perkins has a
country place at Lakewpod, and I have my cottage at




Most chivalrous fish of the ocean,

To ladies forbearing and mild,
Though his record be dark, is the man-eating shark

Who will eat neither woman nor child.

He dines upon seamen and skippers,

And tourists his hunger assuage,
And a fresh cabin boy will inspire him with joy

If he's past the maturity age.

A doctor, a lawyer, a preacher,

He'll gobble one any fine day.
But the ladies, God bless 'em, he'll only address 'em

Politely and go on his way.

I can readily cite you an instance

Where a lovely young lady of Breem,
Who was tender and sweet and delicious to eat.

Fell into the bay with a scream.

She struggled and flounced in the water

And signaled in vain for her bark.
And she'd surely been drowned if she hadn't been found

By a chivalrous man-eating shark.

He bowed in a manner most polished.

Thus soothing her impulses wild ;
"Don't be frightened," he said, "I've been properly bred

And will eat neither woman nor child."

* From "Nautical Lays of a Landsman," by Wallace Irwin. Copy-
right, 1904, by Dodd, Mead & Co.



Then he proffered his fin and she took it —

Such a gallantry none can dispute —
While the passengers cheered as the vessel they neared

And a broadside was fired in salute.

And they soon stood alongside the vessel,
When a life-saving dingey was lowered

With the pick of the crew, and her relatives, too,
And the mate and the skipper aboard.

So they took her aboard in a jiffy,

And the shark stood attention the while,

Then he raised on his flipper and ate up the skipper
And went on his way with a smile.

And this shows that the prince of the ocean.

To ladies forbearing and mild.
Though his record be dark, is the man-eating shark

Who will eat neither woman nor child.




Why should I live, when every day

The wicked prospers in his way,

And daily adds unto his hoard,

While cutworms smite the good man's gourd ?

When I would rest beneath its shade
Comes the shrill-voiced book-selling maid,
And smites me with her tireless breath —
Then am I angry unto death.

When I would slumber in my booth,
Who comes with accents loud and smooth,
And talks from dawn to midnight late?
The honest labor candidate.

Who pounds mine ear with noisy talk.
Whose brazen gall no ire can balk
And wearies me of life's short span?
The accident insurance man.

And when, all other torments flown,
I think to call one hour mine own.
Who takes my leisure by the throat ?
The villain taking up a vote.




I' got no patience with blues at all !

And I ust to kindo talk
Aginst 'em, and claim, 'tel along last Fall,

They was none in the fambly stock ;
But a nephew of mine, from Eelinoy,

That visited us last year,
He kindo convinct me differunt

.While he was a-stayin' here.

Frum ever'-which way that blues is from,

They'd tackle him ever' ways ;
They'd come to him in the night, and come

On Sundays, and rainy days ;
They'd tackle him in corn-plantin' time,

And in harvest, and airly Fall,
[But a dose't of blues in the wintertime,

He 'lowed, was the worst pf all !

Said all diseases that ever he had —

The mumps, er the rheumatiz —
Er ever'-other-day-aigger's bad

Purt' nigh as anything is I —
Er a cyarbuncle, say, on the back of his neck,

Er a felon on his thumb, —
But you keep the blues away from him.

And all o' the rest could come !


!A.nd he'd moan, "They's nary a leaf below !

Ner a spear o' grass in sight !
^nd the whole wood-pile's clean under snow !

And the days is dark as night !
[You can't go out — ner you can't stay in —

Lay down — stand up — ner set !"
'And a tetch o' regular tyfoid-blues

Would double him jest clean shet !

I writ his parents a postal-kyard,

He could stay 'tel Spring-time come;
And Aprile first, as I rickollect,

Was the day we shipped him home !
Most o' his relatives, sence then,

Has either give up, er quit,
Er jest died off ; but I understand

He's the same old color yit !




On the first day of school, after the Christmas hoHdays,
teacher found herself surrounded by a howling mob of
little savages in which she had much difficulty in recog-
nizing her cherished First-Reader Class. Isidore Belcha-
tosky's face was so wreathed in smiles and foreign mat-
ter as to be beyond identification ; Nathan Spiderwitz had
placed all his trust in a solitary suspender and two un-
stable buttons; Eva Kidansky had entirely freed herself
from restraining hooks and eyes ; Isidore Applebaum had
discarded shoe-laces; and Abie Ashnewsky had bartered
his only necktie for a yard of "shoe-string" licorice.

Miss Bailey was greatly disheartened by this reversion
to the original type. She delivered daily lectures on nail-
brushes, hair-ribbons, shoe polish, pins, buttons, elastic,
and other means to grace. Her talks on soap and water
became almost personal in tone, and her insistence on a
close union between such garments as were meant to be
united, led to a lively traffic in twisted and disreputable
safety-pins. And yet the First-Reader Class, in all other
branches of learning so receptive and responsive, made
but halting and uncertain progress toward that state of
virtue which is next to godliness.

Early in January came the report that "Gum Shoe

* From Little Citizens; reprinted by permission of McClure, Phil-
lips & Company.
Copyright 1903 by the S. S. McClure Company.
Copyright 1904 by McClure, Phillips & Company.



Tim" was on the war-path and might be expected at any
time. Miss Bailey heard the tidings in calm ignorance
until Miss Blake, who ruled over the adjoining kingdom,
interpreted the warning. A license to teach in the public
schools of New York is good for only one year. Its re-
newal depends upon the reports of the Principal in charge
of the school and of the Associate Superintendent in
whose district the school chances to be. After three such
renewals the license becomes permanent, but Miss Bailey
was, as a teacher, barely four months old. The Associate
Superintendent for her vicinity was the Honorable Tim-
pthy O'Shea, known and dreaded as "Gum Shoe Tim,"
owing to his engaging way of creeping softly up back-
stairs and appearing, all unheralded and unwelcome, upon
the threshold of his intended victim.

This, Miss Blake explained, was in defiance of all the
rules of etiquette governing such visits of inspection. The
proper procedure had been that of Mr. O'Shea's prede-
cessor, who had always given timely notice of his coming
and a hint as to the subjects in which he intended to ex-
amine the children. Some days later he would amble
from room to room, accompanied by the amiable Prin-
cipal, and followed by the gratitude of smiling and un-
ruffled teachers.

This kind old gentleman was now retired and had been
succeeded by Mr. O'Shea, who, in addition to his unex-
pectedness, was adorned by an abominable temper, an
overbearing manner, and a sense of cruel humor. He had
almost finished his examinations at the nearest school
where, during a brisk campaign of eight days, he had
caused five dismissals, nine cases of nervous exhaustion,
and an epidemic of hysteria.

Day by day nerves grew more tense, tempers more
unsure, sleep and appetite more fugitive. Experienced



teachers went stolidly on with the prdinary routine, while
beginners devoted time and energy to the more spectacu-
lar portions of the curriculum. But no one knew the
Honorable Timothy's pet subjects, and so no one could
specialize to any great extent.

Miss Bailey was one pf the beginners, and Room i8
was made to shine as the sun. Morris Mogilewsky, Mon-
itor of the Gold-Fish Bowl, wrought busily until his
charges glowed redly against the water plants in their
shining bowl. Creepers crept, plants grew, and ferns
waved under the care of Nathan Spiderwitz, Monitor of
the Window Boxes. There was such a martial swing
and strut in Patrick Brennan's leadership of the line that
it inflamed even the timid heart of Isidore Wishnewsky
with a war-like glow and his feet with a spasmodic but
well-meant tramp. Sadie Gonorowsky and Eva, her
cousin, sat closely side by side, no longer "mad on their-
selves," but "mit kind feelings." The work of the preced-
ing term was laid in neat and docketed piles upon the low
book-case. The children were enjoined to keep clean and
entire. And Teacher, a nervous and unsmiling Teacher,
waited dully.

A week passed thus, and then the good-hearted and ex-
perienced Miss Blake hurried ponderously across the hall
to put Teacher on her guard.

"I've just had a note from one of the grammar teach-
ers," she panted. " 'Gum Shoe Tim' is up in Miss Green's
room! He'll take this floor next. Now, see here, child,
don't look so frightened. The Principal is with Tim.
Of course you're nervous, but try not to show it, and
you'll be all right. His lay is discipline and reading. Well,
good luck to you !"

Miss Bailey took heart of grace. The children read
surprisingly well, were absolutely good, and the enemy



under convoy of the friendly Principal would be much
less terrifying than the enemy at large and alone. It was,
therefore, with a manner almost serene that she turned to
greet the kindly concerned Principal and the dreaded
"Gum Shoe Tim." The latter she found less ominous of
aspect than she had been led to fear, and the Principal's
charming little speech of introduction made her flush with
quick pleasure. And the anxious eyes of Sadie Gono-
rowsky, noting the flush, grew calm as Sadie whispered to
Eva, her close cousin :

"Say, Teacher has a glad. She's red on the face. It
could to be her papa."

"No. It's comp'ny," answered Eva sagely. "It ain't
her papa. It's comp'ny the whiles Teacher takes him by
the hand."

The children were not in the least disconcerted by the
presence of the large man. They always enjoyed visitors,
and they liked the heavy gold chain which festooned the
wide waistcoat of this guest; and, as they watched him,
the Associate Superintendent began to superintend.

He looked at the children all in their clean and smiling
rows; he looked at the flowers and the gold-fish; at the
pictures and the plaster casts; he looked at the work of
the last term and he looked at Teacher. As he looked he
swayed gently on his rubber heels and decided that he
was going to enjoy the coming quarter of an hour.
Teacher pleased him from the first. She was neither old
nor ill-favored, and she was most evidently nervous. The
combination appealed both to his love of power and his
peculiar sense of humor. Settling deliberately in the chair
of state, he began :

"Can the children sing, Miss Bailey?"

They could sing very prettily and they did.

"Very nice, indeed," said the voice of visiting author-



ity. "Very nice. Their music is exceptionally good.
And are they drilled? Children, will you march for me?"

Again they could and did. Patrick marshaled his line
in time and triumph up and down the aisles to the evident
interest and approval of the "comp'ny," and then Teacher
led the class through some very energetic Swedish move-
ments. While arms and bodies were bending and straight-
ening at Teacher's command and example, the door
opened and a breathless boy rushed in. He bore an un-
folded note and, as Teacher had no hand to spare, the boy
placed the paper on the desk under the softening eyes of
the Honorable Timothy, who glanced down idly and then
pounced upon the note and read its every word.

"For you. Miss Bailey," he said in the voice before
which even the school janitor had been known to quail.
"Your friend was thoughtful, though a little late." And
poor palpitating Miss Bailey read :

"Watch out ! 'Gum Shoe Tim' is in the building. The
Principal caught him on the back-stairs, and they're going
round together. He's as cross as a bear. Greene in dead
faint in the dressing-room. Says he's going to fire her.
Watch out for him, and send the news on. His lay is
reading and discipline."

Miss Bailey grew cold with sick and unreasoning fear.
As she gazed wide-eyed at the living confirmation of the
statement that "Gum Shoe Tim" was "as cross as a bear,"
the gentle-hearted Principal took the paper from her
nerveless grasp.

"It's all right," he assured her. "Mr. O'Shea under-
stands that you had no part in this. It's all right. You
are not responsible."

But Teacher had no ears for his soothing. She could
only watch with fascinated eyes as the Honorable Tim-
othy reclaimed the note and wrote across it's damning



face: "Miss Greene may come to. She is not fired. —
T. O'S."

"Here, boy," he called; "take this to your teacher."
The puzzled messenger turned to obey, and the Associate
Superintendent saw that though his dignity had suffered
his power had increased. To the list of those whom he
might, if so disposed, devour, he had now added the name
of the Principal, who was quick to understand that an
unpleasant investigation lay before him. If Miss Bailey
could not be held responsible for this system of inter-
classroom communication, it was clear that the Principal

Every trace of interest had left Mr. O'Shea's voice as
he asked :

"Can they read ?"

"Oh, yes, they read," responded Teacher, but her spirit
was crushed and the children reflected her depression.
Still, they were marvelously good and that blundering
note had said, "Discipline is his lay." Well, here he had it.

There was one spectator of this drama, who, under-
standing no word nor incident therein, yet dismissed no
shade of the many emotions which had stirred the light
face of his lady. Toward the front of the room sat Mor-
ris Mogilewsky, with every nerve tuned to Teacher's, and
with an appreciation of the situation in which the other
children had no share. On the afternoon of one of those
dreary days of waiting for the evil which had now come,
Teacher had endeavored to explain the nature and possi-
ble result of this ordeal to her favorite. It was clear to
him now that she was troubled, and he held the large
and unaccustomed presence of the "comp'ny mit whisk-
ers" responsible. Countless generations of ancestors had
followed and fostered the instinct which now led Morris
to propitiate an angry power. Luckily, he was prepared



with an offering of a suitable nature. He had meant to
enjoy it for yet a few days, and then to give it to Teacher.
She was such a sensible person about presents. One might
give her one's most cherished possession with a brave
and cordial heart, for on each Friday afternoon she re-
turned the gifts she had received during the week. And
this with no abatement of gratitude.

Morris rose stealthily, crept forward, and placed a
bright blue bromo-seltzer bottle in the fat hand which
hung over the back of the chair of state. The hand closed
instinctively as, with dawning curiosity, the Honorable
Timothy studied the small figure at his side. It began in
a wealth of loosely curling hair which shaded a delicate
face, very pointed as to chin and monopolized by a pair
of dark eyes, sad and deep and beautiful. A faded blue
"jumper" was buttoned tightly across the narrow chest ;
frayed trousers were precariously attached to the
"jumper," and impossible shoes and stockings supple-
mented the trousers. Glancing from boy to bottle, the
"comp'ny mit whiskers" asked :

"What's this for?"

"For you."

"What's in it?"

"A present."

Mr. O'Shea removed the cork and proceeded to draw
out incredible quantities of absorbent cotton. When there
was no more to come, a faint tinkle sounded within the
blue depths, and Mr. O'Shea, reversing the bottle, found
himself possessed of a trampled and disfigured sleeve link
of most palpable brass.

"It's from gold," Morris assured him. "You puts it in
your — 'scuse me — shirt. Wish you health to wear it."

"Thank you," said the Honorable Tim, and there was a
tiny break in the gloom which had enveloped him. And



then, with a quick memory of the note and of his anger:

"Miss Bailey, who is this young man?"

And Teacher, of whose hobbies Morris was one, an-
swered warmly : "That is Morris Mogilewsky, the best of
boys. He takes care of the gold-fish, and does all sorts of
things for me. Don't you, dear ?"

"Teacher, yiss ma'an," Morris answered. "I'm lovin'
much mit you. I gives presents on the comp'ny over you."

"Ain't he rather big to speak such broken English?"
asked Mr. O'Shea. "I hope you remember that it is part
of your duty to stamp out the dialect."

"Yes, I know," Miss Bailey answered. "But Morris
has been in America for so short a time. Nine months, is
it not?"

"Teacher, yiss ma'an. I comes out of Russia," re-
sponded Morris, on the verge of tears and with his face
buried in Teacher's dress.

Now Mr. O'Shea had his prejudices — strong and deep.
He had been given jurisdiction over that particular dis-
trict because it was his native heath, and the Board of
Education considered that he would be more in sympathy
with the inhabitants than a stranger. The truth was ab-
solutely the reverse. Because he had spent his early years
in a large old house on East Broadway, because he now
saw his birthplace changed to a squalid tenement, and the
happy hunting grounds of his youth grown ragged and
foreign — swarming with strange faces and noisy with
strange tongues — Mr. O'Shea bore a sullen grudge
against the usurping race.

He resented the caressing air with which Teacher held
the little hand placed so confidently within her own and
he welcomed the opportunity of gratifying his still ruffled
temper and his racial antagonism at the same time. He
would take a rise out of this young woman about her lit-



tie Jew. She would be comforted later on. Mr. O'Shea
rather fancied himself in the role of comforter, when the
sufferer was neither old nor ill-favored. And so he set
about creating the distress which he would later change to
gratitude and joy. Assuredly the Honorable Timothy
had a well-developed sense of humor.

"His English is certainly dreadful," remarked the voice
of authority, and it was not an English voice, nor is
O'Shea distinctively an English name. "Dreadful. And,
by the way, I hope you are not spoiling these youngsters.
You must remember that you are fitting them for the bat-
tle of life. Don't coddle your soldiers. Can you reconcile
your present attitude with discipline ?"

"With Morris — yes," Teacher answered. "He is gentle
and tractable beyond words."

"Well, I hope you're right," grunted Mr. O'Shea, "but
don't coddle them."

And so the incident closed. The sleeve link was tucked,
before Morris's yearning eyes, into the reluctant pocket
of the wide white waistcoat, and Morris returned to his
place. He found his reader and the proper page, and the
lesson went on with brisk serenity ; real on the children's
part, but bravely assumed on Teacher's. Child after child
stood up, read, sat down again, and it came to be the duty
of Bertha Binderwitz to read the entire page of which
the others had each read a line. She began jubilantly, but
soon stumbled, hesitated, and wailed :

"Stands a fierce word. I don't know what it is," and
Teacher turned to write the puzzling word upon the

Morris's heart stopped with a sickening suddenness and
then rushed madly on again. He had a new and dreadful
duty to perform. All his mother's counsel, all his father's
precepts told him that it was his duty. Yet fear held him



in his little seat behind his Httle desk, while his conscience
insisted on this unalterable decree of the social code : "So
somebody's clothes is wrong it's polite you says * 'scuse'
and tells it out."

And here was Teacher whom he dearly loved, whose
ideals of personal adornment extended to full sets of but-
tons on jumpers and to laces in both shoes, here was his
immaculate lady fair in urgent need of assistance and ad-
vice, and all because she had on that day inaugurated a
delightfully vigorous exercise for which, architecturally,
she was not designed.

There was yet room for hope that some one else would
see the breach and brave the danger. But no. The visitor
sat stolidly in the chair of state, the Principal sat serenely
beside him, the children sat each in his own little place,
behind his own little desk, keeping his own little eyes on
his own little book. No. Morris's soul cried with Ham-

"The time is out of joint; — O cursed spite.
That ever I was born to set it right!"

Up into the quiet air went his timid hand. Teacher,
knowing him in his more garrulous moods, ignored the
threatened interruption of Bertha's spirited resume, but
the windmill action of the little arm attracted the Honor-
able Tim's attention.

"The best of boys wants you," he suggested, and
Teacher perforce asked :

"Well, Morris, what is it?"

Not until he was on his feet did the Monitor of the
Gold-Fish Bowl appreciate the enormity of the mission
he had undertaken. The other children began to under-
stand, and watched his struggle for words and breath
with sympathy or derision, as their natures prompted.



But there are no words in which one may politely men-
tion ineffective safety-pins to one's glass of fashion. Mor-
ris's knees trembled queerly, his breathing grew difficult,
and Teacher seemed a very great way off as she asked
again :

"Well, what is it, dear ?"

Morris panted a little, smiled weakly, and then sat
down. Teacher was evidently puzzled, the "comp'ny"
alert, the Principal uneasy.

"Now, Morris," Teacher remonstrated, "you must tell
me what you want."

But Morris had deserted his etiquette and his veracity,
and murmured only :


"Just wanted to be noticed," said the Honorable Tim,
"It is easy to spoil them." And he watched the best of
boys rather closely, for a habit of interrupting reading
lessons, wantonly and without reason, was a trait in the
young of which he disapproved.

When this disapprobation manifested itself in Mr.
O'Shea's countenance, the loyal heart of Morris inter-
preted it as a new menace to his sovereign. No later than
yesterday she had warned them of the vital importance of
coherence. "Every one knows," she had said, "that only
common little boys and girls come apart. No one ever
likes them," and the big stranger was even now misjudg-
ing her. "^

Again his short arm agitated the quiet air. Again his
trembling legs upheld a trembling boy. Again authority
urged. Again Teacher asked :

"Well, Morris, what is it, dear?"

All this was as before, but not as before was poor ha-
rassed Miss Bailey's swoop down the aisle, her sudden
taking Morris's troubled little face between her soft



hands, the quick near meeting with her kind eyes, the note
of pleading in her repetition :

"What do you want, Morris ?"

He was beginning to answer when it occurred to him
that the truth might make her cry. There was an un-
steadiness about her upper Hp which seemed to indicate
the possibiHty. Suddenly he found that he no longer
yearned for words in which to tell her of her disjointment,
but for something else — anything else — to say.

His miserable eyes escaped from hers and wandered to
the wall in desperate search for conversation. There was
no help in the pictures, no inspiration in the plaster casts,
but on the blackboard he read, "Tuesday, January twenty-
first, 1902." Only the date, but he must make it serve.
With teacher close beside him, with the hostile eye of the

Online LibraryKate Milner RabbThe wit and humor of America (Volume 2) → online text (page 6 of 24)