Copyright
Kate Milner Rabb.

The wit and humor of America (Volume 2) online

. (page 9 of 24)
Online LibraryKate Milner RabbThe wit and humor of America (Volume 2) → online text (page 9 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


booth very anxious to come in — because there is a large
class of parents who have a uncontrollable passion for
takin their children to places where they will stand a
chance of being frightened to death.

One day I whacked this leopard more than ushil, which
elissited a remonstrance from a tall gentleman in spec-
tacles, who said, "My good man, do not beat the poor
caged animal. Rather fondle him."

"I'll fondle him with a club," I ansered, hitting him
another whack.

"I prithy desist," said the gentleman; "stand aside, and
see the effeck of kindness. I understand the idiosyn-
cracies of these creeturs better than you do."

With that he went up to the cage, and thrustin his face
in between the iron bars, he said, soothingly, "Come
hither, pretty creetur."

The pretty creetur come-hithered rayther speedy, and
seized the gentleman by the whiskers, which he tore off
about enuff to stuff a small cushion with.

He said, "You vagabone, I'll have you indicted for ex-
hibitin dangerous and immoral animals."

I replied, "Gentle Sir, there isn't a animal here that
hasn't a beautiful moral, but you mustn't fondle 'em.
You mustn't meddle with their idiotsyncracies."

534



ARTEMUS WARD

The g-entleman was a dramatic cricket, and he wrote a
article for a paper, in which he said my entertainment
wos a decided failure.

As regards Bears, you can teach 'em to do interestin
things, but they're onreHable. I had a very large grizzly
bear once, who would dance, and larf, and lay down, and
bow his head in grief, and give a mournful wale, etsetry.
But he often annoyed me. It will be remembered that on
the occasion of the first battle of Bull Run, it suddenly
occurd tO' the Fed'ral soldiers that they had business in
Washington which ought not to be neglected, and they all
started for that beautiful and romantic city, maintainin a
rate of speed durin the entire distance that would have
done credit to the celebrated French steed Gladiateur.
Very nat' rally our Gov'ment was deeply grieved at this
defeat; and I said to my Bear shortly after, as I was
givin a exhibition in Ohio — I said, "Brewin, are you not
sorry the National arms has sustained a defeat?" His
business was to wale dismal, and bow his head down, the
band (a barrel origin and a wiolin) playing slow and
melancholy mooslc. What did the grizzly old cuss do,
however, but commence darncin and larfin in the most
joyous manner? I had a narrer escape from being im-
prisoned for disloyalty.



535



DISLIKES

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

I want it to be understood that I consider that a cer-
tain number of persons are at liberty to dislike me per-
emptorily, without showing cause, and that they give no
offense whatever in so doing.

If I did not cheerfully acquiesce in this sentiment to-
wards myself on the part of others, I should not feel at
liberty to indulge my own aversions. I try tp cultivate a
Christian feeling to all my fellow-creatures, but inasmuch
as I must also respect truth and honesty, I confess to my-
self a certain number of inalienable dislikes and preju-
dices, some of which may possibly be shared by others.
Some of these are purely instinctive, for others I can as-
sign a reason. Our likes and dislikes play so important
a part in the order of things that it is well to see on what
they are founded.

There are persons I meet occasionally who are too in-
telligent by half for my liking. They know my thoughts
beforehand, and tell me what I was going to say. Of
course they are masters of all my knowledge, and a good
deal besides ; have read all the books I have read, and in
later editions ; have had all the experiences I have been
through, and more too. In my private opinion every
mother's son of them will lie at any time rather than con-
fess ignorance.

I have a kind of dread, rather than hatred, of per-
sons with a large excess of vitality ; great feeders, great

536



OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

laughers, great story-tellers, who come sweeping over
their company with a huge tidal wave of animal spirits
and boisterous merriment. I have pretty good spirits
myself, and enjoy a little mild pleasantry, but I am op-
pressed and extinguished by these great lusty, noisy crea-
tures, and feel as if I were a mute at a funeral when they
get into full blast.

I can not get along much better with those drooping,
languid people, whose vitality falls short as much as that
of the others is in excess. I have not life enough for two ;
I wish I had. It is not very enlivening to meet a fellow-
creature whose expression and accents say, "You are the
hair that breaks the camel's back of my endurance, you
are the last drop that makes my cup pf woe run over;"
persons whose heads drop on one side like those of tooth-
less infants, whose voices recall the tones in which our
old snuffling choir used to wail out the verses of

"Life is the time to serve the Lord."

There is another style which does not captivate me. I
recognize an attempt at the grand manner now and then,
in persons who are well enough in their way, but of no
particular importance, socially or otherwise. Some fam-
ily tradition of wealth or distinction is apt to be at the
bottom of it, and it survives all the advantages that used
to set it off. I like family pride as well as my neighbors,
and respect the high-born fellow-citizen whose progeni-
tors have not worked in their shirt-sleeves for the last two
generations full as much as I ought to. But grand-pere
oblige; a person with a known grandfather is too distin-
guished to find it necessary to put on airs. The few
Royal Princes I have happened to know were very easy
people to get along with, and had not half the social knee-

537



DISLIKES

action I have often seen in the collapsed dowagers who
lifted their eyebrows at me in my earlier years.

My heart does not warm as it should do towards the
persons, not intimates, who are always too glad to see me
when we meet by accident, and discover all at once that
they have a vast deal to unbosom themselves of to me.

There is one blameless person whom I can not love
and have no excuse for hating. It is the innocent fellow-
creature, otherwise inoffensive to me, whom I find I have
involuntarily joined on turning a corner. I suppose the
Mississippi, which was Bowing quietly along, minding
its own business, hates the Missouri for coming into it
all at once with its muddy stream. I suppose the Mis-
souri in like manner hates the Mississippi for diluting
with its limpid, but insipid current the rich reminiscences
of the varied soils through which its own stream has wan-
dered. I will not compare myself to the clear or the tur-
bid current, but I will own that my heart sinks when I
find all of a sudden I am in for a corner confluence, and
I cease loving my neighbor as myself until I can get away
from him.



538



UNCLE SIMON AND UNCLE JIM

BY ARTEMUS WARD

Uncle Simon he

Clumb up a tree

To see

What he could see,

When presentlee

Uncle Jim

Clumb up beside of him

And squatted down by he.



539



THE LITTLE MOCK-MAN

BY JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY

The Little Mock-man on the Stairs —
He mocks the lady's horse 'at rares

At bi-sickles an' things, —
He mocks the mens 'at rides 'em, too ;
An' mocks the Movers, drivin' through,
An' hollers "Here's the way you do
With them-air hitchin'-strings !"
"Ho! ho!" he'll say,
Ole Settlers' Day,
When they're all jogglin' by, —
"You look like this:'
He'll say, an' twis'
His mouth an' squint his eye
An' 'tend like he wuz beat the bass

Drum at both ends — an' toots and blares
Ole dinner-horn an' puffs his face —
The Little Mock-man on the Stairs!

The Little Mock-man on the Stairs
Mocks all the peoples all he cares

'At passes up an' down!
He mocks the chickens round the door,
An' mocks the girl 'at scrubs the floor.
An' mocks the rich, an' mocks the pore,
An' ever'thing in town !
"Ho! ho!" says he.
To you er me;

540



JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY

An' ef we turns an' looks,
He's all cross-eyed
An' mouth all wide
Like Giunts is, in books. —
"Ho! ho!" he yells, "look here at me'*

An' rolls his fat eyes roun' an' glares,-
"You look like this!" he says, says he —
The Little Mock-man on the Stairs !

The Little Mock —
The Little Mock—

The Little Mock-man on the Stairs,

'He mocks the music-hox an' clock,
An' roller-sofy an' the chairs;
'He mocks his Pa an' spec's he wears;
He mocks the man 'at picks the pears
An' plums an' peaches on the shares;
He mocks the mofikeys an' the bears
On picture-hills, an' rips an' tears
*Em down, — an' mocks ist all he cares,
■An' EVER'body EVER'wheres!



541



MAMMY'S LULLABY

B¥ STRICKLAND W. GILLILAN

Sleep, mah H'l pigeon, don' yo' heah yo' mammy coo?

Sunset still a-shinin' in de wes' ;
Sky am full o' windehs an' de stahs am peepin' froo —
Eb'ryt'ing but mammy's lamb at res'.
Swing- 'im to'ds de Eas'lan',
Swing 'im to'ds de Souf —
See dat dove a-comin' wif a olive in *is mouf I
Angel hahps a-hummin',
Angel banjos strummin' —
Sleep, mah H'l pigeon, don' yo' heah yo' mammy coo ?

Cricket fiddleh scrapin* off de rozzum f 'um 'is bow,

Whippo'will a-mo'nin' on a lawg;
Moon ez pale ez hit kin be a-risin' mighty slow —
Stahtled at de bahkin' ob de dawg;
Swing de baby Eas'way,
Swing de baby Wes',
Swing 'im to'ds de Spuflan' whah de melon grow de
bes'!
Angel singers singin',
Angel bells a-ringin',
Sleep, mah li'l pigeon, don' yo' heah yo' mammy coo?

Eyelids des a-droopin' li'l loweh all de w'ile,

Undeh lip a-saggin' des a mite;
Li'l baby toofies showin' so't o' lak a smile,

Whiteh dan de snow, or des ez white.

542



STRICKLAND W. GILLILAN

Swing 'im to'ds de No'flan*,
Swing 'im to'ds de Eas' —
Woolly cloud a-comin' fo' t' wrap 'im in 'is fleece !
Angel ban' a-playin' —
Whut dat music sayin' ?
'Sleep, mah li'l pigeon, don' yo' heah yo* mammy cdo ?'*



543



MY SWEETHEART

BY SAMUEL MINTURN PECK

Her height ? Perhaps you'd deem her tall —

To be exact, just five feet seven.
Her arching feet are not too small ;

Her gleaming eyes are bits of heaven.
Slim are her hands, yet not too wee —

I could not fancy useless fingers,
Her hands are all that hands should be,

And own a touch whose memory lingers.

The hue that lights her oval cheeks

Recalls the pink that tints a cherry ;
Upon her chin a dimple speaks,

A disposition blithe and merry.
Her laughter ripples like a brook ;

Its sound a heart of stone would soften.
Though sweetness shines in every look,

Her laugh is never loud, nor often.

Though golden locks have won renown
With bards, I never heed their raving;

The girl I love hath locks of brown.
Not tightly curled, but gently waving.

Her mouth? — Perhaps you'd term it large-
Is firmly molded, full and curving;

Her quiet lips are Cupid's charge,
But in the cause of truth unswerving,
544



SAMUEL MINTURN PECK

Though Httle of her neck is seen,

That httle is both smooth and sightly ;
And fair as marble is its sheen

Above her bodice gleaming whitely.
Her nose is just the proper size,

Without a trace of upward turning.
Her shell-like ears are wee and wise.

The tongue of scandal ever spuming.

In mirth and woe her voice is low,

Her calm demeanor never fluttered ;
Her every accent seems to go

Straight to one's heart as soon as uttered.
She ne'er coquets as others do ;

Her tender heart would never let her.
Where does she dwell ? I would I knew ;

As yet, alas ! I've never met her.



545



THE AUTO RUBAIYAT*

BY REGINALD WRIGHT KAUFFMAN

Move I — Or the Devil Red who puts to flight
Whate'er 's before him, to the Left or Right,

Will toss you high as Heaven when he strikes
Your poor clay carcass with his master-might !

As the Cock crows the "Fiends" who stand before
The Starting-Point, amid the Stream's wild roar,
Shake hands, make wills, and duly are confess'd,
Lest, once departed, they return no more.

For whether towards Madrid or Washington,
Whether by steam or gasoline they run,
Pedestrians keep getting in their way,
Chauffeurs are being slaughtered one by one.

A new Fool's every minute born, you say ;
Yes, but where speeds the Fool of Yesterday?
Beneath the Road he sleeps, the Autos roar
Close o'er his head, but can not thrill his clay.

Well, let him sleep ! For what have ye to do
With him, who this or Anything pursue

So it take swiftness? — Let the Children scream,
Or Constables shout after — heed not you.

* Lippincott's Magazine,



REGINALD WRIGHT KAUFFMAN

Oh ye who anti-auto laws would make
And still insist upon the silly brake,

Get in, and try a spin, and then you'll see
How many fines you will impose — and take !

Ah, my Beloved, fill the Tank that cheers,
Nor heed the Law's rebuke, the Rabble's tears.
Quick ! For To-morrow you and I may be
Ourselves with Yesterday's Sev'n Thousand Years.

A pair of Goggles and a Cap, I trow,

A Stench, a Roar, and my Machine and Thou

Beside me, going ninety miles an hour —
Oh, Turnpike-road were Paradise enow I

Ah, Love, could we successfully conspire
Against this sorry World for our desire,

Would we not shatter it to bits without
So much of damage as a busted tire ?

With Gasoline my fading Life provide,
And wash my Body in it when I've died.

And lay me, shrouded in my Cap and Cape,
By some not Autoless new Speedway's side.

Yon "Devil" that goes pricking o'er the Plain,
How oft hereafter will she go again !

How oft hereafter will she seek her prey?
But seek, alas, for one of us in vain !

And when, like her, O Love, you come to take
Your morning spin for Appetite's sweet sake.
And pass the spot where I lay buried, then,
In memory of me, fling wide the Brake !

547



THE TWO LADIES

BY CAROLYN WELLS

Once on a Time there were Two Ladies at a Shop
where Gorgeous and Expensive Silks were temptingly
displayed. "Only Six Dollars a Yard, Madam," said the
Shopman to One of the Ladies, as he held up the Lus-
trous Breadths in those Tempting Fan-shaped Folds pe-
culiar to Shopmen.

The Lady hesitated, and looked Dubiously at the Silk,
for she knew it was Beyond her Means.

The Shopman Continued : "Very Cheap at the Price,
and I have Only this One Dress Pattern remaining. You
will Take it? Yes? Certainly, I will Send it at Once."

The Lady went away filled with Deep Regret because
she had squandered her Money so Foolishly, and wished
she had been Firm in her Refusal to buy the Goods.

The Other Lady saw a similar Silk. She felt it Be-
tween her Fingers, Measured its Width with her Eye,
and then said Impulsively, "Oh, That is just What I
Want. I will Take Twenty Yards."

No Sooner was the Silk cut off than the Lady felt
Sharp Twinges of Remorse, for she knew she must Pay
for it with the Money she had Saved Up for a new Din-
ing-Room Carpet.

MORALS :

This Fable teaches that the Woman Who Deliberates
Is Lost, and That We Should Think Twice Before We
Speak Once.

548



THE DIAMOND WEDDING

BY EDMUND CLARENCE STEDMAN

O Love ! Love ! Love ! What times were those,
Long ere the age of belles and beaux,

And Brussels lace and silken hose,

When, in the green Arcadian close,

You married Psyche under the rose,
With only the grass for bedding !

Heart to heart, and hand to hand.

You followed Nature's sweet command.

Roaming lovingly through the land,
Nor sighed for a Diamond Wedding.

So have we read in classic Ovid,
How Hero watched for her beloved,

Impassioned youth, Leander.
She was the fairest of the fair.
And wrapt him round with her golden hair.
Whenever he landed cold and bare,
With nothing to eat and nothing to wear.

And wetter than any gander ;
For Love was Love, and better than money ;
The slyer the theft, the sweeter the honey ;
And kissing was clover, all the world over.

Wherever Cupid might wander.

So thousands of years have come and gone.
And still the moon is shining on,
Still Hymen's torch is lighted ;

549



THE DIAMOND V/EDDING

And hitherto, in this land of the West,
Most couples in love have thought it best
To follow the ancient way of the rest,
And quietly get united.

But now, True Love, you're growing old —
Bought and sold, with silver and gold,
Like a house, or a horse and carriage!
Midnight talks,
Moonlight walks.
The glance of the eye and sweetheart sigh.
The shadowy haunts, with no one by,
I do not wish to disparage ;
But every kiss
Has a price for its bliss.
In the modern code of marriage ;

And the compact sweet
Is not complete
Till the high contracting parties meet

Before the altar pf Mammon ;
And the bride must be led to a silver bower,
Where pearls and rubies fall in a shower
That would frighten Jupiter Ammon!

I need not tell
How it befell,
( Since Jenkins has told the story
Over and over and over again
In a style I can not hope to attain,

And covered himself with glory!)
How it befell, one summer's day,
The king of the Cubans strolled this way —
King January's his name, they say —
And fell in love with the Princess May,
550



EDMUND CLARENCE STEDMAN

The reigning belle of Manhattan-;
Nor how he began to smirk and sue,
And dress as lovers who come to woo.
Or as Max Maretzek and Julien do,
When they sit full-bloomed in the ladies* view,

And flourish the wondrous baton.

He wasn't one of your Polish nobles,

Whose presence their country somehow troubles,

And so our cities receive them ;
Nor one of your make-believe Spanish grandees,
Who ply our daughters with lies and candies

Until the poor girls believe them.
No, he was no such charlatan —
Count de Hoboken Flash-in-the-pan,
Full of gasconade and bravado —
But a regular, rich Don Rataplan,
Santa Claus de la Muscovado,
Seiior Grandissimo Bastinado.
His was the rental of half Havana
And all Matanzas ; and Santa Anna,
Rich as he was, could hardly hold
A candle to light the mines of gold
Our Cuban owned, choke-full of diggers;
And broad plantations, that, in round figures.
Were stocked with at least five thousand niggers !
'Gather ye rosebuds while ye may !"
The Sehor swore to carry the day,
To capture the beautiful Princess May,

With his battery of treasure ;
Velvet and lace she should not lack ;
Tiffany, Haughwout, Ball & Black,
Genin and Stewart his suit should back,

And come and go at her pleasure ;
551



THE DIAMOND WEDDING

Jet and lava — silver and gold —
Garnets — emeralds rare to behold —
Diamonds — sapphires — wealth untold —
All were hers, to have and to hold :
Enough to fill a peck measure !

He didn't bring all his forces on
At once, but like a crafty old Don,
Who many a heart had fought and won,

Kept bidding a little higher ;
And every time he made his bid.
And what she said, and all they did —
'Twas written down,
For the good of the town,
By Jeems, of The Daily Flyer.

A coach and horses, you'd think, would buy
For the Don an easy victory ;

But slowly our Princess yielded.
A diamond necklace caught her eye.
But a wreath of pearls first made her sigh.
She knew the worth of each maiden glance.
And, like young colts, that curvet and prance,
She led the Don a deuce of a dance.

In spite of the wealth he wielded.
She stood such a fire of silks and laces.
Jewels and gold dressing-cases.
And ruby brooches, and jets and pearls,
That every one of her dainty curls
Brought the price of a hundred common girls ;

Folks thought the lass demented !
But at last a wonderful diamond ring.
An infant Kohinoor, did the thing,
552



EDMUND CLARENCE STEDMAN

And, sighing with love, pr something the same,
(What's in a name?)^
The Princess May consented.

Ring ! ring the bells, and bring

The people to see the marrying !

Let the gaunt and hungry and ragged poor

Throng round the great cathedral door,

To wonder what all the hubbub's for,

And sometimes stupidly wonder
At so much sunshine and brightness which
Fall from the church upon the rich,

While the poor get all the thunder.

Ring, ring ! merry bells, ring !

O fortunate few,

With letters blue.
Good for a seat and a nearer view !
Fortunate few, whom I dare not name;
Dilettanti ! Creme de la Creme !
We commoners stood by the street fagade,
And caught a glimpse of the cavalcade.

We saw the bride

In diamond pride,
With jeweled maidens to guard her side —
Six lustrous maidens in tarletan.
She led the van of the caravan ;
Close behind her, her mother
(Dressed in gorgeous moire antique,
That told as plainly as words could speak,
She was more antique than the other)

Leaned on the arm of Don Rataplan,
Santa Claus de la Muscovado,
Senor Grandissimo Bastinado.
553



THE DIAMOND WEDDING

Happy mortal ! fortunate man !
And Marquis of El Dorado !

In they swept, all riches and grace.
Silks and satins, jewels and lace ;
In they swept from the dazzled sun,
And soon in the church the deed was done.
Three prelates stood on the chancel high :
A knot that gold and silver can buy.
Gold and silver may yet untie.

Unless it is tightly fastened ;
What's worth doing at all's worth doing well.
And the sale of a young Manhattan belle

Is not to be pushed or hastened ;
So two Very-Reverends graced the scene.
And the tall Archbishop stood between,

By prayer and fasting chastened ;
The Pope himself would have come from Rome,
But Garibaldi kept him at home.
Haply those robed prelates thought
Their words were the power that tied the knot ;
But another power that love-knot tied,
And I saw the chain round the neck of the bride —
A glistening, priceless, marvelous chain.
Coiled with diamonds again and again,

As befits a diamond wedding ;
Yet still 'twas a chain, and I thought she knew it,
And half-way longed for the will to undo it.

By the secret tears she was shedding.

But isn't it odd to think, whenever
We all go through that terrible River —
Whose sluggish tide alone can sever
(The Archbishop says) the Church decree,
By floating one into Eternity
554



EDMUND CLARENCE STEDMAN

And leaving the other aHve as ever —

As each wades through that ghastly stream.

The satins that rustle and gems that gleam,

Will grow pale and heavy, and sink away

To the noisome River's bottom-clay !

Then the costly bride and her maidens six,

Will shiver upon the banks of the Styx,

Quite as helpless as they were born —

Naked souls, and very forlorn ;

The Princess, then, must shift for herself,

And lay her royalty on the shelf;

She, and the beautiful Empress, yonder,

Whose robes are now the wide world's wonder.

And even ourselves, and our dear little wives.

Who calico wear each morn of their lives.

And the sewing-girls, and les chiffonniers.

In rags and hunger — a gaunt array —

And all the grooms of the caravan —

Ay, even the great Don Rataplan

Santa Claus de la Muscavado

Senor Grandissimo Bastinado —

That gold-encrusted, fortunate man —

All will land in naked equality :

The lord of a ribboned principality

Will mourn the loss of his cordon;
Nothing to eat and nothing to wear
Will certainly be the fashion there!
Ten to one, and I'll go it alone ;
Those most used to a rag and a bone,
Though here on earth they labor and groan.
Will stand it best, as they wade abreast

To the other side of Jordan.



555



AN ARKANSAS PLANTER

BY OPIE READ

Slowly and heavily the Major walked out upon the
veranda. He stood upon the steps leading down into the
yard, and he saw Louise afar off standing upon the river's
yellow edge. She had thrown her hat upon the sand, and
she stood with her hands clasped upon her brown head. A
wind blew down the stream, and the water lapped at her
feet. The Major looked back into the library, at the door
wherein Pennington had stood, and sighed with relief
upon finding that he was gone. He looked back toward
the river. The girl was walking along the shore, medi-
tatively swinging her hat. He stepped to the corner of
the house, and, gazing down the road, saw Pennington
on a horse, now sitting straight, now bending low over
the horn of the saddle. The old gentleman had a habit of
making a sideward motion with his hand as if he would
put all unpleasant thoughts behind him, and now he made
the motion not only once, but many times. And it seemed
that his thoughts would not obey him, for he became more
imperative in his pantomimic demand.

At one corner of the large yard, where the smooth
ground broke off into a steep slope to the river, there stood
a small office built of brick. It was the Major's executive
chamber, and thither he directed his steps. Inside this
place his laugh was never heard ; at the door his smile al-
ways faded. In this commercial sanctuary were enforced
the exactions that made the plantation thrive. Outside,



Online LibraryKate Milner RabbThe wit and humor of America (Volume 2) → online text (page 9 of 24)