The wit and humor of ame.., p.3

The Wit and Humor of America, Volume VII. (of X.), page 3

 part  #VII. (of X.) of  The Wit and Humor of America Series


The Wit and Humor of America, Volume VII. (of X.)

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  "The very thing, Holt, old chap!" cried Carrington. "Will you do it?"

  "You're awfully kind," answered Holt, "but I think this old friend coulddo it with more art and understanding."

  "What, my Willie?" cried Willie's wife. "He'll do it to the Queen'staste. Won't you, Willie?"

  "I will, in company with Mr. Holt--my friend and your admirer. He sitsin front every night," he added, in explanation to Carrington.

  As the carriage with the happy pair drove away to the station, Presidio,with compulsive ardor, took the arm of Mr. Francis Holt; and togetherthey marched up the avenue to inform Mr. Curtis of the marriage of hisdaughter.



  "What's this! What's this!" exclaimed Mr. Bowser, as he came home theother evening and found Mrs. Bowser lying on the sofa and looking verymuch distressed.

  "The doctor says it's the grip--a second attack," she explained. "I wastaken with a chill and headache about noon and--"

  "Grip? Second attack? That's all nonsense, Mrs. Bowser! Nobody can havethe grip a second time."

  "But the doctor says so."

  "Then the doctor is an idiot, and I'll tell him so to his face. I knowwhat's the matter with you. You've been walking around the backyardbarefoot or doing some other foolish thing. I expected it, however. Nowoman is happy unless she's flat down about half the time. How on earthany of your sex manage to live to be twenty years old is a mystery tome. The average woman has no more sense than a rag baby."

  "I haven't been careless," she replied.

  "I know better! Of course you have! If you hadn't been you wouldn't bewhere you are. Grip be hanged! Well, it's only right that you shouldsuffer for it. Call it what you wish, but don't expect any sympathy fromme. While I use every precaution to preserve my health, you go sloshingaround in your bare feet, or sit on a cake of ice to read a dime novel,or do some other tomfool thing to flatten you out. I refuse tosympathize with you, Mrs. Bowser--absolutely and teetotally refuse toutter one word of pity."

  Mrs. Bowser had nothing to say in reply. Mr. Bowser ate his dinneralone, took advantage of the occasion to drive a few nails and make agreat noise, and by and by went off to his club and was gone untilmidnight. Next morning Mrs. Bowser felt a bit better and made a heroicattempt to be about until he started for the office.

  The only reference he made to her illness was to say:

  "If you live to be three hundred years old, you may possibly learnsomething about the laws of health and be able to keep out of bed threedays in a week."

  Mrs. Bowser was all right at the end of three or four days, and nothingmore was said. Then one afternoon at three o'clock a carriage drove upand a stranger assisted Mr. Bowser into the house. He was looking paleand ghastly, and his chin quivered, and his knees wabbled.

  "What is it, Mr. Bowser?" she exclaimed, as she met him at the door.

  "Bed--doctor--death!" he gasped in reply.

  Mrs. Bowser got him to bed and examined him for bullet holes or knifewounds. There were none. He had no broken limbs. He hadn't fallen off ahorse or been half drowned. When she had satisfied herself on thesepoints, she asked:

  "How were you taken?"

  "W-with a c-chill!" he gasped--"with a c-chill and a b-backache!"

  "I thought so. Mr. Bowser, you have the grip--a second attack. As I havesome medicine left, there's no need to send for the doctor. I'll haveyou all right in a day or two."

  "Get the doctor at once," wailed Mr. Bowser, "or I'm a dead man! Such abackache! So cold! Mrs. Bowser, if I should d-die, I hope--"

  Emotion overcame Mr. Bowser, and he could say no more. The doctor cameand pronounced it a second attack of the grip, but a very mild one. Whenhe had departed, Mrs. Bowser didn't accuse Mr. Bowser with putting onhis summer flannels a month too soon; with forgetting his umbrella andgetting soaked through; with leaving his rubbers at home and having dampfeet all day. She didn't express her wonder that he hadn't died yearsago, nor predict that when he reached the age of Methuselah he wouldknow better than to roll in snow-banks or stand around in mud puddles.She didn't kick over chairs or slam doors or leave him alone. When Mr.Bowser shed tears, she wiped them away. When he moaned, she held hishand. When he said he felt that the grim specter was near, and wanted tokiss the baby good-by, she cheered him with the prediction that he wouldbe a great deal better next day.

  Mr. Bowser didn't get up next day, though the doctor said he could. Helay in bed and sighed and uttered sorrowful moans and groans. He wantedtoast and preserves; he had to have help to turn over; he worried abouta relapse; he had to have a damp cloth on his forehead; he wanted tohave a council of doctors, and he read the copy of his last will andtestament over three times.

  Mr. Bowser was all right next morning, however. When Mrs. Bowser askedhim how he felt he replied:

  "How do I feel? Why, as right as a trivet, of course. When a man takesthe care of himself that I do--when he has the nerve and will power Ihave--he can throw off 'most anything. You would have died, Mrs. Bowser;but I was scarcely affected. It was just a play spell. I'd like to bereal sick once just to see how it would seem. Cholera, I suppose itwas; but outside of feeling a little tired, I wasn't at all affected."

  And the dutiful Mrs. Bowser looked at him and swallowed it all and neversaid a word to hurt his feelings.



  E is for Edison, making believe He's invented a clever contrivance for Eve, Who complained that she never could laugh in her sleeve.

  O is for Oliver, casting aspersion On Omar, that awfully dissolute Persian, Though secretly longing to join the diversion.

  R's Rubenstein, playing that old thing in F To Rollo and Rembrandt, who wish they were deaf.

  S is for Swinburne, who, seeking the true, The good, and the beautiful, visits the Zoo, Where he chances on Sappho and Mr. Sardou, And Socrates, all with the same end in view.

  W's Wagner, who sang and played lots, For Washington, Wesley and good Dr. Watts; His prurient plots pained Wesley and Watts, But Washington said he "enjoyed them in spots."




  The Window has Four little Panes: But One have I; The Window-Panes are in its sash,-- I wonder why!


  My Feet they haul me 'round the House; They hoist me up the Stairs; I only have to steer them and They ride me everywheres.


  Remarkable truly, is Art! See--Elliptical wheels on a Cart! It looks very fair In the Picture up there; But imagine the Ride when you start!


  I'd rather have fingers than Toes; I'd rather have Ears than a Nose And as for my hair, I'm glad it's all there, I'll be awfully sad when it goes!


  I wish that my Room had a floor; I don't so much care for a Door, But this walking around Without touching the ground Is getting to be quite a bore!



  Before a Turkish town The Russians came, And with huge cannon Did bombard the same.

  They got up close And rained fat bombshells down, And blew out every Vowel in the town.

  And then the Turks, Becoming somewhat sad, Surrendered every Consonant they had.



  Down in the cellar dark, remote, Where alien cats the larder note, In solemn grandeur stands the goat.

  Without he hears the winter storm, And while the drafts about him swarm, He eats the coal to keep him warm.



  Gracious! You're not going to smoke again? I do believe, my dear, thatyou're getting to be a regular, etc., etc. (Voice from across thereading table.)

  A slave to tobacco!
Not I. Singular, the way you women misuse nouns. Iam, rather, a chosen acolyte in the temple of Nicotiana. Daily, aye,thrice daily--well, call it six, then--do I make burnt offering. Nowsome use censers of clay, others employ censers of rare white earthfinely carved and decked with silver and gold. My particular censer, asyou see, is a plain, honest briar, a root dug from the banks of the blueGaronne, whose only glory is its grain and color. The original tint, ifyou remember, was like that of new-cut cedar, but use--I've been smokingthis one only two years now--has given it gloss and depth of tone whichput the finest mahogany to shame. Let me rub it on my sleeve. Now look!

  There are no elaborate mummeries about our service in the temple ofNicotiana. No priest or pastor, no robed muezzin or gowned prelate callsme to the altar. Neither is there fixed hour or prescribed point of thecompass towards which I must turn. Whenever the mood comes and thespirit listeth, I make devotion.

  There are various methods, numerous brief litanies. Mine is a common andsimple one. I take the cut Indian leaf in the left palm, so, and roll itgently about with the right, thus. Next I pack it firmly in the censer'shollow bowl with neither too firm nor too light a pressure. Any firewill do. The torch need not be blessed. Thanks, I have a match.

  Now we are ready. With the surplus breath of life you draw in thefragrant spirit of the weed. With slow, reluctant outbreathing you looseit on the quiet air. Behold! That which was but a dead thing, lives.Perhaps we have released the soul of some brave red warrior who, longyears ago, fell in glorious battle and mingled his dust with theunforgetting earth. Each puff may give everlasting liberty to some deadand gone aboriginal. If you listen you may hear his far-off chant.Through the curling blue wreaths you may catch a glimpse of the happyhunting grounds to which he has now gone. That is the part of theservice whose losing or gaining depends upon yourself.

  The first whiff is the invocation, the last the benediction. When youknock out the ashes you should feel conscious that you have done a gooddeed, that the offering has not been made in vain.

  Slave! Still that odious word? Well, have it your own way. Worshipers atevery shrine have been thus persecuted.



  When I am dead you'll find it hard, Said he, To ever find another man Like me.

  What makes you think, as I suppose You do, I'd ever want another man Like you?



  Do not trust thy body with a physician. He'll make thy foolish bones go without flesh in a fortnight, and thy soul walk without a body a sennight after.


  You must know, gentlemen, that there lived some years ago, in the cityof Perigueux, an honest notary-public, the descendant of a very ancientand broken-down family, and the occupant of one of those oldweather-beaten tenements which remind you of the times of yourgreat-grandfather. He was a man of an unoffending, quiet disposition;the father of a family, though not the head of it,--for in that family"the hen over-crowed the cock," and the neighbors, when they spake ofthe notary, shrugged their shoulders, and exclaimed, "Poor fellow! hisspurs want sharpening." In fine,--you understand me, gentlemen,--he washen-pecked.

  Well, finding no peace at home, he sought it elsewhere, as was verynatural for him to do; and at length discovered a place of rest, farbeyond the cares and clamors of domestic life. This was a little _CafeEstaminet_, a short way out of the city, whither he repaired everyevening to smoke his pipe, drink sugar-water, and play his favorite gameof domino. There he met the boon companions he most loved; heard all thefloating chitchat of the day; laughed when he was in merry mood; foundconsolation when he was sad; and at all times gave vent to hisopinions, without fear of being snubbed short by a flat contradiction.

  Now, the notary's bosom-friend was a dealer in claret and cognac, wholived about a league from the city, and always passed his evenings atthe _Estaminet_. He was a gross, corpulent fellow, raised from afull-blooded Gascon breed, and sired by a comic actor of some reputationin his way. He was remarkable for nothing but his good-humor, his loveof cards, and a strong propensity to test the quality of his own liquorsby comparing them with those sold at other places.

  As evil communications corrupt good manners, the bad practices of thewine-dealer won insensibly upon the worthy notary; and before he wasaware of it, he found himself weaned from domino and sugar-water, andaddicted to piquet and spiced wine. Indeed, it not unfrequentlyhappened, that, after a long session at the _Estaminet_, the two friendsgrew so urbane that they would waste a full half-hour at the door infriendly dispute which should conduct the other home.

  Though this course of life agreed well enough with the sluggish,phlegmatic temperament of the wine-dealer, it soon began to play thevery deuse with the more sensitive organization of the notary, andfinally put his nervous system completely out of tune. He lost hisappetite, became gaunt and haggard, and could get no sleep. Legions ofblue-devils haunted him by day, and by night strange faces peepedthrough his bed-curtains, and the nightmare snorted in his ear. Theworse he grew, the more he smoked and tippled; and the more he smokedand tippled,--why, as a matter of course, the worse he grew. His wifealternately stormed, remonstrated, entreated; but all in vain. She madethe house too hot for him,--he retreated to the tavern; she broke hislong-stemmed pipes upon the andirons,--he substituted a short-stemmedone, which, for safe-keeping, he carried in his waistcoat-pocket.

  Thus the unhappy notary ran gradually down at the heel. What with hisbad habits and his domestic grievances, he became completely hipped. Heimagined that he was going to die; and suffered in quick succession allthe diseases that ever beset mortal man. Every shooting pain was analarming symptom,--every uneasy feeling after dinner a sure prognosticof some mortal disease. In vain did his friends endeavor to reason, andthen to laugh him out of his strange whims; for when did ever jest orreason cure a sick imagination? His only answer was, "Do let me alone; Iknow better than you what ails me."

  Well, gentlemen, things were in this state, when, one afternoon inDecember, as he sat moping in his office, wrapped in an overcoat, with acap on his head and his feet thrust into a pair of furred slippers, acabriolet stopped at the door, and a loud knocking without aroused himfrom his gloomy revery. It was a message from his friend thewine-dealer, who had been suddenly attacked with a violent fever, andgrowing worse and worse, had now sent in the greatest haste for thenotary to draw up his last will and testament. The case was urgent, andadmitted neither excuse nor delay; and the notary, tying a handkerchiefround his face, and buttoning up to the chin, jumped into the cabriolet,and suffered himself, though not without some dismal presentiments andmisgivings of heart, to be driven to the wine-dealer's house.

  When he arrived, he found everything in the greatest confusion. Onentering the house, he ran against the apothecary, who was coming downstairs, with a face as long as your arm; and a few steps farther he metthe housekeeper--for the wine-dealer was an old bachelor--running upand down, and wringing her hands, for fear that the good man should diewithout making his will. He soon reached the chamber of his sick friend,and found him tossing about in a paroxysm of fever, and calling aloudfor a draught of cold water. The notary shook his head; he thought thisa fatal symptom; for ten years back the wine-dealer had been sufferingunder a species of hydrophobia, which seemed suddenly to have left him.

  When the sick man saw who stood by his bedside, he stretched out hishand and exclaimed,--

  "Ah! my dear friend! have you come at last? You see it is all over withme. You have arrived just in time to draw up that--that passport ofmine. Ah, _grand diable_! how hot it is here! Water,--water,--water!Will nobody give me a drop of cold water?"

  As the case was an urgent one, the notary made no delay in getting hispapers in readiness; and in a short time the last will and testament ofthe wine-dealer was drawn up in due form, the notary guiding the sickman's hand as he scrawled his signature at the bottom.

>   As the evening wore away, the wine-dealer grew worse and worse, and atlength became delirious, mingling in his incoherent ravings the phrasesof the Credo and Paternoster with the shibboleth of the dram-shop andthe card-table.

  "Take care! take care! There, now--_Credo in_--Pop! ting-a-ling-ling!give me some of that. Cent-e-dize! Why, you old publican, thiswine is poisoned,--I know your tricks!--_Sanctam ecclesiamcatholicam_--Well, well, we shall see. Imbecile! to have atierce-major and a seven of hearts, and discard the seven! By St.Anthony, capot! You are lurched,--ha! ha! I told you so. I knewvery well,--there,--there,--don't interrupt me--_Carnis resurrectionemet vitam eternam_!"

  With these words upon his lips, the poor wine-dealer expired. Meanwhilethe notary sat cowering over the fire, aghast at the fearful scene thatwas passing before him, and now and then striving to keep up his courageby a glass of cognac. Already his fears were on the alert; and the ideaof contagion flitted to and fro through his mind. In order to quietthese thoughts of evil import, he lighted his pipe and began to preparefor returning home. At that moment the apothecary turned round to himand said,--

  "Dreadful sickly time, this! The disorder seems to be spreading."

  "What disorder?" exclaimed the notary, with a movement of surprise.

  "Two died yesterday, and three to-day," continued the apothecary,without answering the question. "Very sickly time, sir,--very."

  "But what disorder is it? What disease has carried off my friend here sosuddenly?"

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