The wit and humor of ame.., p.7

The Wit and Humor of America, Volume VII. (of X.), page 7

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


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

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font   Night Mode Off   Night Mode

  Ye Maidens of Fifty, who lonely abide, Yet who heartily scout solitude, If Jack with his whiskers is not at your side, It is time to begin to conclude.



  Winter is too cold fer work; Freezin' weather makes me shirk.

  Spring comes on an' finds me wishin' I could end my days a-fishin'.

  Then in summer, when it's hot, I say work kin go to pot.

  Autumn days, so calm an' hazy, Sorter make me kinder lazy.

  That's the way the seasons run. Seems I can't git nothin' done.

  [Footnote 2: Lippincott's Magazine.]



  My dreams so fair that used to be, The promises of youth's bright clime, So changed, alas; come back to me Sweet memories of that hopeful time Before I learned, with doubt oppressed, There are no birds in next year's nest.

  The seed I sowed in fragrant spring The summer's sun to vivify With his warm kisses, ripening To golden harvest by and by, Got caught by drought, like all the rest-- There are no birds in next year's nest.

  The stock I bought at eighty-nine, Broke down next day to twenty-eight; Some squatters jumped my silver mine, My own convention smashed my slate; No more in "futures" I'll invest-- There are no birds in next year's nest.



  Without wishing to alarm the American people, or create a panic, Idesire briefly and seriously to discuss the great question, "Whither arewe drifting, and what is to be the condition of the coming man?" We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that mankind is passing through a greatera of change; even womankind is not built as she was a few brief yearsago. And is it not time, fellow citizens, that we pause to consider whatis to be the future of the American?

  Food itself has been the subject of change both in the matter ofmaterial and preparation. This must affect the consumer in such a way asto some day bring about great differences. Take, for instance, theoyster, one of our comparatively modern food and game fishes, and watchthe effects of science upon him. At one time the oyster browsed aroundand ate what he could find in Neptune's back-yard, and we had to eat himas we found him. Now we take a herd of oysters off the trail, all rundown, and feed them artificially till they swell up to a fancy size, andbring a fancy price. Where will this all lead at last, I ask as acareful scientist? Instead of eating apples, as Adam did, we work thefruit up into apple-jack and pie, while even the simple oyster isperverted, and instead of being allowed to fatten up in the fall onacorns and ancient mariners, spurious flesh is put on his bones by theartificial osmose and dialysis of our advanced civilization. How canyou make an oyster stout or train him down by making him jerk a healthlift so many hours every day, or cultivate his body at the expense ofhis mind, without ultimately not only impairing the future usefulness ofthe oyster himself, but at the same time affecting the future of thehuman race who feed upon him?

  I only use the oyster as an illustration, and I do not wish to causealarm, but I say that if we stimulate the oyster artificially and swellhim up by scientific means, we not only do so at the expense of hisbetter nature and keep him away from his family, but we are making ourmark on the future race of men. Oyster-fattening is now, of course, inits infancy. Only a few years ago an effort was made at St. Louis tofatten cove oysters while in the can, but the system was not wellunderstood, and those who had it in charge only succeeded in making thecan itself more plump. But now oysters are kept on ground feed and givennothing to do for a few weeks, and even the older and overworkedsway-backed and rickety oysters of the dim and murky past are made tofill out, and many of them have to put a gore in the waistband of theirshells. I only speak of the oyster incidentally, as one of the objectstoward which science has turned its attention, and I assert with theutmost confidence that the time will come, unless science should get aset-back, when the present hunting-case oyster will give place to theopen-face oyster, grafted on the octopus and big enough to feed a hotel.Further than that, the oyster of the future will carry in a hip-pocket aflask of vinegar, half a dozen lemons and two little Japanese bottles,one of which will contain salt and the other pepper, and there will besome way provided by which you can tell which is which. But are weimproving the oyster now? That is a question we may well ask ourselves.Is this a healthy fat which we are putting on him, or is it bloat? Andwhat will be the result in the home-life of the oyster? We take him fromall domestic influences whatever in order to make a swell of him by ourmodern methods, but do we improve his condition morally, and what is tobe the great final result on man?

  The reader will see by the questions I ask that I am a true scientist.Give me an overcoat pocket full of lower-case interrogation marks and amedical report to run to, and I can speak on the matter of science andadvancement till Reason totters on her throne.

  But food and oysters do not alone affect the great, pregnant future. Ourrace is being tampered with not only by means of adulterations,political combinations and climatic changes, but even our methods ofrelaxation are productive of peculiar physical conditions, malformationsand some more things of the same kind.

  Cigarette smoking produces a flabby and endogenous condition of theoptic nerve, and constant listening at a telephone, always with the sameear, decreases the power of the other ear till it finally just standsaround drawing its salary, but actually refusing to hear anything.Carrying an eight-pound cane makes a man lopsided, and the muscular andnervous strain that is necessary to retain a single eyeglass in placeand keep it out of the soup, year after year, draws the mental stimulusthat should go to the thinker itself, until at last the mind wandersaway and forgets to come back, or becomes atrophied, and the greatmental strain incident to the work of pounding sand or coming in when itrains is more than it is equal to.

  Playing billiards, accompanied by the vicious habit of pounding on thefloor with the butt of the cue ever and anon, produces at last opticalillusions, phantasmagoria and visions of pink spiders with navy-blueabdomens. Baseball is not alone highly injurious to the umpire, but italso induces crooked fingers, bone spavin and hives among habitualplayers. Jumping the rope induces heart disease. Poker is undulysedentary in its nature. Bicycling is highly injurious, especially toskittish horses. Boating induces malaria. Lawn tennis can not be playedin the house. Archery is apt to be injurious to those who stand aroundand watch the game, and pugilism is a relaxation that jars heavily onsome natures.

  Foot-ball produces what may be called the endogenous or ingrowingtoenail, stringhalt and mania. Copenhagen induces a melancholy, and thegame of bean bag is unduly exciting. Horse racing is too brief andtransitory as an outdoor game, requiring weeks and months forpreparation and lasting only long enough for a quick person to ejaculate"Scat!" The pitcher's arm is a new disease, the outgrowth of base-ball;the lawn-tennis elbow is another result of a popular open-air amusement,and it begins to look as though the coming American would hear with oneovergrown telephonic ear, while the other will be rudimentary only. Hewill have an abnormal base-ball arm with a lawn-tennis elbow, a powerfulfoot-ball-kicking leg with the superior toe driven back into the palm ofhis foot. He will have a highly trained biceps muscle over his eye toretain his glass, and that eye will be trained to shoot a curved glanceover a high hat and witness anything on the stage.

  Other features grow abnormal, or shrink up from the lack of use, as aresult of our customs. For instance, the man whose business it is to getalong a crowded street with the utmost speed will have, finally, a hard,sharp horn growing on each elbow, and a pair of spurs growing out ofeach ankle. These will enable him to climb over a crowd and get thereearly. Constant exposure to these weapons on the part of the pedestrianwill harden the walls of the thorax and abdomen until the coming manwill be an impervious man. The citizen who avails himself of all modernmethods of conveyance will ride from his door on the horse car to theelevated
station, where an elevator will elevate him to the train and arevolving platform will swing him on board, or possibly the street carwill be lifted from the surface track to the elevated track, and thepassenger will retain his seat all the time. Then a man will simply hangout a red card, like an express card, at his door, and a combination carwill call for him, take him to the nearest elevated station, elevatehim, car and all, to the track, take him where he wants to go, and callfor him at any hour of the night to bring him home. He will do hisexercising at home, chiefly taking artificial sea baths, jerking arowing machine or playing on a health lift till his eyes hang out on hischeeks, and he need not do any walking whatever. In that way the comingman will be over-developed above the legs, and his lower limbs will looklike the desolate stems of a frozen geranium. Eccentricities of limbwill be handed over like baldness from father to son among the dwellersin the cities, where every advantage in the way of rapid transit is tobe had, until a metropolitan will be instantly picked out by his abledigestion and rudimentary legs, just as we now detect the gentleman fromthe interior by his wild endeavors to overtake an elevated train.

  In fact, Mr. Edison has now perfected, or announced that he is on theroad to the perfection of, a machine which I may be pardoned for callinga storage think-tank. This will enable a brainy man to sit at home, and,with an electric motor and a perfected phonograph, he can think into atin dipper or funnel, which will, by the aid of electricity and a newstyle of foil, record and preserve his ideas on a sheet of soft metal,so that when any one says to him, "A penny for your thoughts," he can goto his valise and give him a piece of his mind. Thus the man who hassuch wild and beautiful thoughts in the night and never can hold on tothem long enough to turn on the gas and get his writing materials, canset this thing by the head of his bed, and, when the poetic thoughtcomes to him in the stilly night, he can think into a hopper, and thegenius of Franklin and Edison together will enable him to fire it backat his friends in the morning while they eat their pancakes and glucosesyrup from Vermont, or he can mail the sheet of tinfoil to absentfriends, who may put it into their phonographs and utilize it. In thisway the world may harness the gray matter of its best men, and it willbe no uncommon thing to see a dozen brainy men tied up in a row in theback office of an intellectual syndicate, dropping pregnant thoughtsinto little electric coffee mills for a couple of hours a day, afterwhich they can put on their coats, draw their pay, and go home.

  All this will reduce the quantity of exercise, both mental and physical.Two men with good brains could do the thinking for 60,000,000 of peopleand feel perfectly fresh and rested the next day. Take four men, we willsay, two to do the day thinking and two more to go on deck at night, andsee how much time the rest of the world would have to go fishing. Seehow politics would become simplified. Conventions, primaries, bargainsand sales, campaign bitterness and vituperation--all might be wiped out.A pair of political thinkers could furnish 100,000,000 of people withlogical conclusions enough to last them through the campaign and put anunbiased opinion into a man's house each day for less than he now paysfor gas. Just before election you could go into your private office,throw in a large dose of campaign whisky, light a campaign cigar,fasten your buttonhole to the wall by an elastic band, so that therewould be a gentle pull on it, and turn the electricity on yourmechanical thought supply. It would save time and money, and the resultwould be the same as it is now. This would only be the beginning, ofcourse, and after a while every qualified voter who did not feel likeexerting himself so much, need only give his name and proxy to thesalaried thinker employed by the National Think Retort and Supply Works.We talk a great deal about the union of church and state, but that isnot so dangerous, after all, as the mixture of politics and independentthought. Will the coming voter be an automatic, legless, hairlessmollusk with an abnormal ear constantly glued to the tube of a big tankfull of symmetrical ideas furnished by a national bureau of brains inthe employ of the party in power?



  Bowed was the old man's snow-white head, A troubled look was on his face, "Why come you, sir," I gently said, "Unto this solemn burial place?"

  "I come to weep a while for one Whom in her life I held most dear, Alas, her sands were quickly run, And now she lies a sleeping here."

  "Oh, tell me of your precious wife, For she was very dear, I know, It must have been a blissful life You led with her you treasure so?"

  "My wife is mouldering in the ground, In yonder house she's spinning now, And lo! this moment may be found A driving home the family cow;

  "And see, she's standing at the stile, And leans from out the window wide, And loiters on the sward a while, Her forty babies by her side."

  "Old man, you must be mad!" I cried, "Or else you do but jest with me; How is it that your wife has died And yet can here and living be?

  "How is it while she drives the cow She's hanging out her window wide, And loiters, as you said just now, With forty babies by her side?"

  The old man raised his snowy head, "I have a sainted wife in Heaven; I am a Mormon, sir," he said, "My sainted wife on earth are seven."



  It seems to me that talk should be, Like water, sprinkled sparingly; Then ground that late lay dull and dried Smiles up at you revivified, And flowers--of speech--touched by the dew Put forth fresh root and bud anew. But I'm not sure that any flower Would thrive beneath Niagara's shower! So when a friend turns full on me His verbal hose, may I not flee? I know that I am arid ground, But I'm not watered--Gad! I'm drowned!


  (_Little Tommy Loq_)


  My father piles the snow-drifts Around his rosy face, And covers all his whiskers-- The grass that grows apace.

  And then he runs the snow-plough Across his smiling lawn, And all the snow-drifts vanish And then the grass is gone.



  There comes a time in the life of young men when their collegefraternity pins lie forgotten in the collar-button box and the spikingof freshmen ceases to be a burning issue. Tippecanoe was one of the fewfreshwater colleges that barred women; but this was not its onlydistinction, for its teaching was sound, its campus charming and thetown of which it was the chief ornament a quiet place noted from thebeginning of things for its cultivated people.

  It is no longer so very laudable for a young man to pay his way throughcollege; and Morris Leighton had done this easily and without caring tobe praised or martyrized for doing so. He had enjoyed his college days;he had been popular with town and gown; and he had managed to get hisshare of undergraduate fun while leading his classes. He had helped inthe college library; he had twisted the iron letter-press on thepresident's correspondence late into the night; he had copied briefs fora lawyer after hours; but he had pitched for the nine and hustled forhis "frat," and he had led class rushes with ardor and success.

  He had now been for several years in the offices of Knight, Kittredgeand Carr at Mariona, only an hour's ride from Tippecanoe; and he stillkept in touch with the college. Michael Carr fully appreciated a youngman who took the law seriously and who could sit down in a court roomon call mornings, when need be, and turn off a demurrer withoutparaphrasing it from a text-book.

  Mrs. Carr, too, found Morris Leighton useful, and she liked him, becausehe always responded unquestioningly to any summons to fill up a blank ather table; and if Mr. Carr was reluctant at the last minute to attend alecture on "Egyptian Burial Customs," Mrs. Carr could usually summonMorris Leighton by telephone in time to act as her escort. Young menwere at a premium in Mariona, as in most other places, and it wassomething to have one of the species, of an accommodating turn, and verypresentable, within telephone range. Mrs. Carr was grateful, an
d so, itmust be said, was her husband, who did not care to spend his eveningsdigging up Egyptians that had been a long time dead, or listening tocomic operas. It was through Mrs. Carr that Leighton came to be wellknown in Mariona; she told her friends to ask him to call, and therewere now many homes besides hers that he visited.

  It sometimes occurred to Morris Leighton that he was not getting aheadin the world very fast. He knew that his salary from Carr was more thanany other young lawyer of his years earned by independent practice; butit seemed to him that he ought to be doing better. He had not drawn onhis mother's small resources since his first year at college; he hadmade his own way--and a little more--but he experienced moments ofrestlessness in which the difficulties of establishing himself in hisprofession loomed large and formidable.

  An errand to a law firm in one of the fashionable new buildings that hadlately raised the Mariona sky-line led him one afternoon past the officeof his college classmate, Jack Balcomb. "J. Arthur Balcomb," was theinscription on the door, "Suite B, Room 1." Leighton had seen little ofBalcomb for a year or more, and his friend's name on the ground-glassdoor arrested his eye.

  Two girls were busily employed at typewriters in the anteroom, and oneof them extended a blank card to Morris and asked him for his name. Thegirl disappeared into the inner room and came back instantly followed byBalcomb, who seized Morris's hand, dragged him in and closed the door.

  "Well, old man!" Balcomb shouted. "I'm glad to see you. It's downrightpleasant to have a fellow come in occasionally and feel no temptation totake his watch. Sink into yonder soft-yielding leather and allow me tooffer you one of these plutocratic perfectos. Only the elect get these,I can tell you. In that drawer there I keep a brand made out of carwaste and hemp rope, that does very well for ordinary commercialsociability. Got a match? All right; smoke up and tell me what you'redoing to make the world a better place to live in, as old Prexy used tosay at college."

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up