The Booming of Acre Hill
John Kendrick Bangs
Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Audrey Longhurst, Michael Ciesielski and PG Distributed
THE BOOMING OF ACRE HILL
AND OTHER REMINISCENCES OF URBAN AND SUBURBAN LIFE
[Illustration: "I'll Never, Never, Never, So Long As I Live"]
The Booming of Acre Hill
John Kendrick Bangs
By C. Dana Gibson
Published 1902 in New York and London
WILLIAM LIVERMORE KINGMAN
WITH AFFECTIONATE REGARDS
These stories by Mr. Bangs have appeared
from time to time in _The Ladies Home Journal, The Woman's Home
Companion_, and the various publications of Messrs. HARPER & BROTHERS.
THE BOOMING OF ACRE HILL
THE STRANGE MISADVENTURES OF AN ORGAN
THE PLOT THAT FAILED
THE BASE INGRATITUDE OF BARKIS, M.D.
THE UTILITARIAN MR. CARRAWAY
THE BOOK SALES OF MR. PETERS
THE VALOR OF BRINLEY
THE MAYOR'S LAMPS
THE BALANCE OF POWER
HARRY AND MAUDE AND I--ALSO JAMES
AN AFFINITIVE ROMANCE:
I. MR. AUGUSTUS RICHARDS'S IDEAL
II. Miss HENDERSON'S STANDARD
III. A GLANCE AT MISS FLORA HENDERSON HERSELF
IV. A BRIEF GLIMPSE OF MR. AUGUSTUS RICHARDS
MRS. UPTON'S DEVICE:
I. THE RESOLVE
II. A SUCCESSFUL CASE
III. A SET-BACK
IV. THE DEVICE
"I'LL NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, SO LONG AS I LIVE"
DURING THE INTERMEZZO
THE BOOMING OF ACRE HILL
Acre Hill ten years ago was as void of houses as the primeval forest.
Indeed, in many ways it suggested the primeval forest. Then the Acre
Hill Land Improvement Company sprang up in a night, and before the
bewildered owners of its lovely solitudes and restful glades, who had
been paying taxes on their property for many years, quite grasped the
situation they found that they had sold out, and that their old-time
paradise was as surely lost to them as was Eden to Adam and Eve.
To-day Acre Hill is gridironed with macadamized streets that are lined
with houses of an architecture of various degrees of badness. Where
birds once sang, and squirrels gambolled, and stray foxes lurked, the
morning hours are made musical by the voices of milkmen, and the
squirrels have given place to children and nurse-maids. Where sturdy
oaks stood like sentinels guarding the forest folk from intrusion from
the outside world now stand tall wooden poles with glaring white
electric lights streaming from their tops. And the soughing of the winds
in the trees has given place to the clang of the bounding trolley. All
this is the work of the Acre Hill Land Improvement Company.
Yet if, as I have said, the Acre Hill Land Improvement Company sprang up
in a night, it passed many sleepless nights before it received the
rewards which come to him who destroys Nature. And when I speak of a
corporation passing sleepless nights I do so advisedly, for at the
beginning of its career the Acre Hill Land Improvement Company consisted
of one man--a mild-mannered man who had previously labored in similar
enterprises, and whose name was called blessed in a thousand
uncomfortable houses in uncomfortable suburbs elsewhere, that, like Acre
Hill, had once been garden spots, but had been "improved." Even a
professional improver of land finds sleep difficult to woo at the
beginning of such an enterprise. In the first instance, when one buys
land, giving a mortgage in full payment therefor, with the land as
security, one appears to have assumed a moderately heavy burden. Then,
when to this one adds the enormous expense of cutting streets through
the most beautiful of the sylvan glades, the building of sewers, and the
erection of sample houses, to say nothing of the strain upon the
intellect in the selection of names for the streets and lanes and
circles that spring into being, one cannot but wonder how the master
mind behind it all manages to survive.
But the Acre Hill Land Improvement Company did survive, and Dumfries
Corners watched its progress with much interest. Regrets were expressed
when some historic knoll was levelled in order to provide a nice flat
space for a public square. Youngsters who had bagged many a partridge on
Acre Hill felt like weeping when one stretch of bush after another was
cut ruthlessly away in order that a pretentious-looking structure, the
new home of the Acre Hill Country Club, might be erected. Lovers sighed
when certain noble old oaks fraught with sentimental associations fell
before the un-sentimental axes of the Improvement Company; and
numberless young Waltons muttered imprecations upon the corporation that
filled in with stone and ashes the dear old pond that once gave forth
fish in great abundance, and through earthen pipes diverted the running
brook, that hitherto had kept it full, into a brand-new sewer.
These lovers of nature could not understand the great need of our
constantly growing population for uncomfortable houses in inconvenient
suburbs, and in their failure to comprehend they became cavilers. But
others--those who admire the genius which enables a man to make
unproductive land productive, who hail as benefactor one who supplants a
profitless oak of a thousand years' standing with a thriving
butcher-shop--these people understood what was being done for Dumfries
Corners, but wondered how the venture was to be made profitable. There
were already more vacant houses in Dumfries Corners than could be
rented, more butcher-shops than could be supported, more clubs than
could be run without a deficit. But the Acre Hill Land Improvement
Company went on, and within three years paradise had become earth, and
the mild-mannered and exceedingly amiable gentleman who had replaced the
homes of the birds with, some fifteen or twenty houses for small
families could look about him and see greater results than ever greeted
the eyes of Romulus in the days of the great Rome Land Improvement
Most wonderful of all, he was still, solvent! But a city is not a city,
nor, in its own degree, a suburb a suburb, without inhabitants; and
while to a mind like that back of the Acre Hill Land Improvement Company
it is seemingly a moderately easy task to lay out a suburb in so far as
its exterior appointments are concerned, the rub comes in the getting of
citizens. A Standard Oil magnate can build a city if he is willing to
spend the money, but all the powers of heaven and earth combined cannot
manufacture offhand a citizenship. In an emergency of this nature most
land improvement companies would have issued pretty little pamphlets,
gotten up in exquisite taste, full of beautiful pictures and bubbling
over with enthusiastic text, all based upon possibilities rather than
upon realities. But the Acre Hill Land Improvement Company was sincere
and honest. It believed in advertising what it had; it believed in
dilating somewhat on the possibilities, but it was too honest to claim
for itself virtues it did not possess.
So it tried different methods. The Acre Hill Country Club was the first
of these, and a good idea it was. It was successful from the start,
socially. Great numbers attended the entertainments and dances, although
these were rather poorly conducted. Still, the Country Club was a grand
success. It gave much and received nothing. Dumfries Corners, reluctant
to approve of anything, approved of it.
But no lots were sold! The Acre Hill Land Improvement Company was
willing to make itself popular--very willing. Didn't mind giving
Dumfries Corners people free entertainment, but--lots didn't sell. What
is the use of paying the expenses of a club if lots don't sell? This was
a new problem for the company to consider. There were sixteen houses
ready for occupancy, and consuming interest at a terrible rate, but no
one came to look at them. Acre Hill was a charming spot, no doubt, but
for some unknown reason or other it failed to take hold of the popular
fancy, despite the attractions of the club.
Suddenly the head of the institution had an idea. In the great
metropolis there was an impecunious and popular member of Uppertendom
whose name had been appearing in the society journals with great
frequency for years. He formerly had been prosperous, but now he was
down financially; yet society still received and liked him, for he had
many good points and was fundamentally what the world calls a good
"Why not send for Jocular Jimson Jones?" suggested the head and leading
spirit of the Improvement Company. "We can offer him one of our
cottages, and pay his debts if he has any, if he will live here and give
us the benefit of his social prestige."
The suggestion was received with enthusiasm. Mr. Jones was summoned,
came and inspected the cottage, and declined. He really couldn't, you
know. Of course he was down, but not quite down to the level of a
cottage of that particular kind. He still had plenty of friends whom he
could visit and who would be charmed to entertain him in the style to
which he was accustomed. Why, therefore, should he do this thing, and
bring himself down to the level of the ordinary commuter? No, indeed.
Not he! The Directors saw the point, and next offered him--and this time
he accepted--the free use of the residence of one of the officers of the
company, a really handsome, pretentious structure, with a commanding
view, stable, green-houses, graceful lawns, and all other appurtenances
of a well-appointed country seat. In addition to the furnishing of the
house in proper taste, they put coal in the cellar and fly-screens in
the windows. They filled the residence with servants, and indorsed the
young person at the grocer's and butcher's. They bought him a surrey and
a depot wagon. They bought him horses and they stocked him well with
fine cigars. They paid his tailor's bills, and sundry other pressing
monetary affairs were funded. In fact, the Acre Hill Land Improvement
Company set Jocular Jimson Jones up and then gave him _carte blanche_ to
entertain; and inasmuch as Jocular had a genius for entertaining, it
is hardly necessary to say that he availed himself of his opportunity.
During that first summer at Acre Hill Mr. Jones had the best time of his
life. His days were what the vulgar term "all velvet." His new residence
was so superb that it restored his credit in the metropolis, and city
"swells," to whom he was under social obligation, went home, after
having been paid in kind, wondering if Jocular Jimson Jones had
unearthed somewhere a recently deceased rich uncle. He gave suppers of
most lavish sort. He had vaudeville shows at the club-house, with talent
made up of the most exclusive young men and women of the city. The
Amateur Thespians of the Borough of Manhattan gave a whole series of
performances at the club during the autumn, and by slow degrees the
society papers began to take notice. Acre Hill began to be known as "a
favorite resort of the 400." Nay, even the sacred 150 had penetrated to
its very core, wonderingly, however, for none knew how Jocular Jimson
Jones could do it. Still, they never declined an invitation. As a
natural result the market for Acre Hill lots grew active. The sixteen
cottages were sold, and the purchasers found themselves right in the
swim. It was the easiest thing in the world to get into society if you
only knew how. Jocular Jimson Jones was a fine, approachable, neighborly
person, and at the Country Club dances was quite as attentive to the
hitherto unknown Mrs. Scraggs as he was to Mrs. John Jacob Wintergreen,
the acknowledged leader of the 400. Mrs. Wintergreen, too, was not
unapproachable. She talked pleasantly during a musicale at the
club-house with Mr. Scraggs, and said she hoped some day to have the
pleasure of meeting Mrs. Scraggs; and when Scraggs, in response, said he
would go and get her she most amiably begged him not to leave her alone.
Months went by, and where sixteen, empty houses had been, there were now
sixty all occupied, and lots were going like hot cakes. Tuxedo was in
the shade. Lenox was dying. Newport was dead. Society flocked to Acre
Hill and hobnobbed with Acre Hillians. Acre Hillians became somewhat
proud of themselves, and rather took to looking down upon Dumfries
Corners people. Dumfries Corners people were nice, and all that, but
not particularly interesting in the sense that "our set," with Jocular
Jimson Jones at the head of it, was interesting.
Then came the County Ball. This Jocular engineered himself, and the
names of the lady patrons were selected from the oldest and the newest
on the list. Mrs. Wintergreen's name led, of course, but Mrs. Scraggs'
name was there too, sandwiched in between those of Mrs. Van
Cortlandtuyvel and Mrs. Gardenior, of Gardenior's Island, representing
two families which would carry social weight either in Boston or the
"other side of Market Street." There were four exalted names from the
city, one from Dumfries Corners, and seven from Acre Hill.
Then more lots sold, and still more, and then, alas, came the end!
Jocular Jimson Jones was too successful.
After two years of glory the social light of Acre Hill went out. The
Acre Hill Land Improvement Company retired from the business. All its
lots were sold, and, of course, there was no further need for the
services of Jocular Jimson Jones. His efforts were crowned with success.
His mission was accomplished, but he moved away--I think regretfully,
for, after all, he had found the Acre Hill people a most likable
lot--but it was inevitable that, there being no more fish to catch, the
anglers needed no bait, and Jocular Jimson had to go. Where he has gone
to there is no one who knows. He has disappeared wholly, even in the
metropolis, and, most unfortunately for Acre Hill, with Jocular Jimson
Jones have departed also all its social glories. None of the elect come
to its dances any more. The amateur thespians of the exclusive set no
longer play on the stage of its club-house, and it was only last week
that Mrs. John Jacob Wintergreen passed Mr. Scraggs on the street with a
cold glare of unrecognition.
Possibly when Acre Hill reads this it will understand, possibly not.
Dumfries Corners people understood it right along, but then they always
were a most suspicious lot, and fond of an amusing spectacle that cost
THE STRANGE MISADVENTURES OF AN ORGAN
Carson was a philosopher, and on the whole it was a great blessing that
he was so. No man needed to be possessor of a philosophical temperament
more than he, for, in addition to being a resident of Dumfries Corners,
Carson had other troubles which, to an excitable nature, would have made
life a prolonged period of misery. He was the sort of a man to whom
irritating misfortunes of the mosquito order have a way of coming. To
some of us it seemed as if a spiteful Nature took pleasure in pelting
Carson with petty annoyances, none of them large enough to excite
compassion, many of them of a sort to provoke a quiet smile. Of all the
dogs in the neighborhood it was always his dog that got run into the
pound, although it was equally true that Carson's dog was one of the few
that were properly licensed. If he bought a new horse something would
happen to it before a week had elapsed; and how his coachman once ripped
off the top of his depot wagon by driving it under a loose telephone
wire is still one of the stories of the vicinity in which he lives.
Anything out of the way in the shape of trouble seemed to choose the
Carson household for experimental purposes. He was the medium by which
new varieties of irritations were introduced to an ungrateful world, but
such was his nature that, given the companionship of Herbert Spencer and
a cigar, he could be absolutely counted on not to murmur.
This disposition to accept the trials and tribulations which came upon
him without a passionate outburst was not by any means due to
amiability. Carson was of too strong a character to be continually
amiable. He merely exercised his philosophy in meeting trouble. He
boiled within, but presented a calm, unruffled front to the world,
simply because to do otherwise would involve an expenditure of nervous
force which he did not consider to be worth while. Genoa, while he and
I were about to enter our banker's together, he slipped upon a bit of
banana peeling, bruising his knee and destroying his trouser leg. I
should have indulged in profane allusions to the person who had
thoughtlessly thrown the peeling upon the ground if by some mischance
the accident had happened to me. Carson, however, did nothing of the
sort, but treated me to a forcible abstract consideration of the
unthinking habits of the masses.
The unknown individual who was responsible for the accident did not
enter into the question; no one was consigned to everlasting torture in
the deepest depths of purgatory; a calm, dispassionate presentation of
an abstraction was all that greeted my ears. The practice of
thoughtlessness was condemned as a thing entirely apart from the
practitioner, and as a tendency needing correction. Inwardly, I know he
swore; outwardly, he was as serene as though nothing untoward had
happened to him. It was then that I came to admire Carson. Before that
he had my affectionate regard in fullest measure, but now admiration
for his deeper qualities set in, and it has in no sense diminished as
time has passed. Once, and once only, have I known him to depart from
his philosophical demeanor, and that one departure was, I think,
justified by the situation, since it was the culminating point of a
series of aggravations, to fail to yield to which would have required a
more than human strength.
The incident to which I refer was in connection with a fine organ, which
at large expense Carson had had built in his house, for, like all
philosophers, Carson has a great fondness for music, and is himself a
musician of no mean capacity. I have known him to sit down under a
parlor-lamp and read over the score of the "Meistersinger" just as
easily as you or I would peruse one of the lighter novels of the day.
This was one of his refuges. When his spirit was subjected to an extreme
tension he relieved his soul by flying to the composers; to use his own
very bad joke, when he was in need of composure he sought out the
"composures." As time progressed, however, and the petty annoyances grew
more: numerous, the merely intellectual pleasure of the writings of
Wagner and Handel and Mozart possibly failed to suffice, and an organ
was contracted for.
"I enjoy reading the music," said he as we sat and talked over his plan,
"but sometimes--very often, in fact--I feel as if something ought to
shriek, and I'm going to have an organ of my own to do it for me."
So, as I have said, the organ was contracted for, was built, and an
additional series of trials began. Upon a very important occasion the
organ declined to shriek, although every effort to persuade it to
perform the functions for which it was designed was made. Forty or fifty
very charming people were gathered together to be introduced to the
virtues of the new instrument--for Carson was not the kind of man to
keep to himself the good things which came into his life; he shared all
his blessings, while keeping his woes to himself; a well-known virtuoso
was retained to set forth the possibilities of the acquisition, and all
was going as "merry as a marriage bell" when suddenly there came a
wheeze, and the fingers of the well-known virtuoso were powerless to
elicit the harmonious shrieks which all had come to hear.
It was a sad moment, but Carson was equal to the occasion.
"Something's out of gear," he said, with a laugh due rather to his
philosophical nature than to mirth. "I'm afraid we'll have to finish on
* * * * *
And so we did, and a delightful evening we had of it, although many of
us went home wondering what on earth was the matter with the organ.
A few days later I met Carson on the train and the mystery was solved.
"The trouble was with the water-pipes," he explained. "They were put in
wrong, and the location of the house is such that every time Colonel
Hawkins, on the other side of the street, takes a bath, all the water
that flows down the hill is diverted into his tub."
I tried not to laugh.
"You'll have to enter into an agreement with the Colonel," I said. "Make
him promise not to bathe between certain hours."
"That's a good idea," said Carson, smiling, "but after all I guess I'd
better change the pipes. Heaven forbid that in days like these I should
seek to let any personal gratification stand between another man and the
rare virtue of cleanliness."
Several weeks went by, and men were busily employed in seeing that the
water supply needed for a proper running of the organ came direct from
the mains, instead of coming from a pipe of limited capacity used in
common by a half dozen or more residents of a neighboring side street.
Somewhere about the end of the fourth week Carson invited me to dinner.
The organ was all right again, he said. The water supply was sufficient,
and if I cared to I might dine with him, and afterward spend an evening
sitting upon the organ bench while Carson himself manipulated the keys.
I naturally accepted the invitation, since, in addition to his other
delightful qualities, Carson is a past grand-master in the art of giving
dinners. He is a man with a taste, and a dinner good enough for him is a
thing to arouse the envy of the gods. Furthermore, as I have already
said, he is a musician of no mean order, and I know of no greater
pleasure than that of sitting by his side while he "potters through a
score," as he puts it. But there was a disappointment in store for us. I
called at the appointed hour and found the household more or less in
consternation. The cook had left, and a dinner of "cold things"
"She couldn't stand the organ," explained Carson. "She said it got on to
her nerves--'rumblin' like.'"
I gazed upon him in silent sympathy as we dined on cold roast beef,
stuffed olives, and ice cream.
"This is serious," my host observed as we sat over our coffee and cigars
after the repast. "That woman was the only decent cook we've managed to
secure in seven years, and, by Jingo, the minute she gets on to my taste
the organ gets on to her nerves and she departs!"
"One must eat," I observed.
"That's just it," said Carson. "If it comes to a question of cook or
organ the organ will have to go. She was right about it, though. The
organ does rumble like the dickens. Some of the bass notes make the
house buzz like an ocean-steamer blowing off steam." It was a
picturesque description, for I had noticed at times that when the organ
was being made to shriek fortissimo every bit of panelling in the house
seemed to rattle, and if a huge boiler of some sort suffering from
internal disturbance had been growling down in the cellar, the result
would have been quite similar.
"It may work out all right in time," Carson said. "The thing is new yet,
and you can't expect it to be mellow all at once. What I'm afraid of,
apart from the inability of our cook to stand the racket, is that this
quivering will structurally weaken the house. What do you think?"
"Oh, I don't know," I said. "Some of the wainscot panels rattle a bit,
but I imagine the house will stand it unless you go in too much for
Wagner. 'Tannhaeuser' or 'Siegfried' might shake a few beams loose, but
lighter music, I think, can be indulged in with impunity."
Time did not serve, as Carson had hoped, to mellow things. Indeed, the
succeeding weeks brought more trouble, and most of it came through the
organ. Some of the rattling panels, in spite of every effort to make
them fast, rattled the more. One night when the servants were alone in
the house, of its own volition the organ sent forth, to break the still
hours, a blood-curdling basso-profundo groan that suggested ghosts to
their superstitious minds. The housemaid came to regard the instrument
as something uncanny, and, even as the cook had done before her, shook
the dust of the house of Carson from her feet.
Then a rat crawled into one of the pipes--Carson was unable to ascertain
which--and died there, with results that baffle description. I doubt if
Wagner himself could have expressed the situation in his most inspired
moments. Still Carson was philosophical.
"I'll play a requiem to the rodent," he said, "that will make him turn
over in his grave, wherever that interesting spot may be."
This he did, and the effect was superb, and no doubt the deceased did
turn over in his grave, for the improvisation called into play every
pipe on the whole instrument. However, I could see that this constant
pelting at the hands of an unkind fate through the medium of his most
cherished possession was having its effect upon Carson's hitherto
impregnable philosophy. When he spoke of the organ it was with a tone of
suppressed irritation which boded ill, and finally I was not surprised
to hear that he had offered to give the organ away.
"After all," he said, "I made a mistake--flying so high. A man doesn't
want a church-organ in his house any more than he wants an elephant for
a lap-dog. I've offered it to the Unitarian Church."
I felt a little hurt about this, for my own church was badly in need of
an instrument of that nature, but I said nothing, and considering the
amount of trouble the organ had given I got over my regret when I
realized that the Unitarian Church, and not mine, was shortly to have
it. In this, however, I was mistaken, for, after due deliberation, the
Unitarians decided that the organ was so very large that they'd have to
build a new church to go with it, and so declined it with thanks.
Carson bit his lip and then offered it to us. "Don't seem to be able to
give it away," he said. "But I'll try again. You tell your vestry that
if they want it they can have it. I'll take it out and put it in the
barn up in the hay-loft. They can take it or leave it. It will cost them
cartage and the expense of putting it up."
I thanked him, and joyously referred the matter to the vestry. At first
the members of that body were as pleased as I was, but after a few
minutes of jubilation the Chairman of the Finance Committee asked; "How
much will it cost to get this thing into shape?"
Nobody knew, and finally the acceptance of the gift was referred to a
committee consisting of the Chairman of the Finance Committee, the
Chairman of the Music Committee, and myself, with full power to act.
Inquiry showed that the cost of every item in connection with the
acceptance of the gift would amount to about a thousand dollars, and we
called upon Carson to complete the arrangement. He received us
cordially. We thanked him for his generosity, and were about to accept
the gift finally, when the Chairman of the Finance Committee said:
"It is very good of you, Mr. Carson, to give us this organ. Heaven knows
we need it, but it will cost us about a thousand dollars to put it
"Splendid!" ejaculated the Chairman of the Music Committee.
"The great difficulty that now confronts us," said the financier, "is as
to how we shall raise that money. The church is very poor."
"I presume it is a good deal of a problem in these times," acquiesced
"It's a most baffling one," continued the financier. "I suppose, Mr.
Carson," he added, "that if we do put it in and pass around a
subscription paper, we can count on you for--say two hundred and fifty
I stood aghast, for I saw the thread of Carson's philosophy snap.
"What?" he said, with an effort to control himself.
"I say I suppose we can count on you for a subscription of two hundred
and fifty dollars," repeated the financier.
There was a pause that seemed an eternity in passing. Carson's face
worked convulsively, and the seeming complacency of the Chairman of the
Finance Committee gave place to nervous apprehension as he watched the
color surge through the cheeks and temples of our host.
He thought Carson was about to have a stroke of apoplexy.
I tried to think of something to say that might relieve the strain, but
it wouldn't come, and on the whole I rather enjoyed the spectacle of the
strong philosopher struggling with inclination, and I think the
philosopher might have conquered had not the Chairman of the Music
Committee broken in jocularly with:
"Unless he chooses to make it five hundred dollars, eh?" And he grinned
maddeningly as he added: "If you'll give five hundred dollars we'll put
a brass plate on it and call it 'The Carson Memorial,' eh? Ha--ha--ha."
Carson rose from his seat, walked into the hall and put on his hat.
"Mr.--ah--Blank," said he to the financier, "would you and Mr. Hicks
mind walking down to the church with me?"
"Say, he's going to put it in for us!" whispered Hicks, the Chairman of
the Music Committee, rubbing his hands gleefully.
"Don't you want me, Carson?" I asked, rising.
"No--you stay here!" he replied, shortly.
And then the three went out, while I lit a cigar and pottered about
Carson's library. In half an hour he returned alone. His face was red
and his hand trembled slightly, but otherwise he had regained his
"Well?" said I.
"Well, I'm going to put it up," said he.
"Now--see here, Carson," I remonstrated. It seemed so like a rank
imposition on his generosity. To give the organ was enough, without
putting him to the expense of erecting it.
"Don't interrupt," said he. "I'm not going to put it up in the
organ-loft, as you suppose, but in a place where it is likely to be
quite as much appreciated."
"And that?" I asked.
"In the hay-loft," he replied.
"I don't blame you," said I, after a pause.
"Neither do I," said he. "But why did you go down to the church?" I
"Well," he explained, chuckling in spite of himself. "It was this way.
My grandfather, I have been told, used to be able to express himself
profanely without using a profane word, but I can't, and there were one
or two things I wanted to say to those men that wouldn't go well with
the decorations of my house, and which couldn't very well be said to a
guest in my house."
"But, man alive, you didn't go to the church to do your swearing?"
"No," he answered. "I did it on the way down; and," he added,
enthusiastically, "I did it exceeding well."
"But why the church?" I persisted.
"I thought after what I had to say to them," said he, "that they might
need a little religious consolation."
And with that the subject was dropped.
The organ, as Carson threatened, was transferred to the hay-loft and not
to the church, and as for the two Chairmen, they have several times
expressed themselves to the effect that Carson is a very irritable, not
to say profane, person.
But I am still inclined to think him a philosopher. Under the
provocation any man of a less philosophical temperament might have
forgotten the laws of hospitality and cursed his offending guests in his
Among the most promising residents of Dumfries Corners some ten years
ago was a certain Mr. Richard Partington Smithers, whose brilliant debut
and equally sudden extinguishment in the field of literary endeavor have
given rise from time to time to no little discussion. He was young, very
young, indeed, at the time of his great literary success, and his
friends and neighbors prophesied great things for him. Yet nothing has
since come from his pen, and many have wondered why.
Thanks to Mr. Smithers himself I am enabled to make public the story of
his sudden withdrawal from the ranks of the immortals when on the very
threshold of the temple of fame.
Ten years have changed his point of view materially, and an experience
that once seemed tragedy to him is now in his eyes sufficiently tinged
with comedy, and his own position among us is so secure that he is
willing that the story of his failure should go forth.
After trying many professions Smithers had become a man of schemes. He
devised plans that should enrich other people. Unfortunately, he sold
these to other people on a royalty basis, and so failed to grow rich
himself. If he had only sold his plans outright and collected on the
spot he might sometime have made something; but this he did not do, and
as a consequence he rarely made anything that was at all considerable,
and finally, to keep the wolf out of his dining-room, he was forced to
take up poetry, that being in his estimation the last as well as the
easiest resource of a well-ordered citizen.
"I always threatened to take up poetry when all else had failed me," he
said to himself; "therefore I will now proceed to take up poetry.
Writing is purely manual labor, anyhow. Given a pad, a pencil, and
perseverance--three very important p's--and I can produce a fourth, a
poem, in short order. Sorry I didn't get to the end of my other ropes
before, now that I think of it."
And so he sat down and took up poetry.
He put it down again, however, very quickly.
"Dear me!" he ejaculated. "Now, who'd have thought that? Here I have the
pencil and the pad and the perseverance, but I'm hanged if the poem is
quite as easy as I had supposed. These little conceits aren't so easy to
write, after all, even when they contain no ideas. Of course, it isn't
hard to say:
"'Sweet month of May, time of the violet wild,
The dandelion golden, and the mild
Ethereal sweetness of the blossoming trees,
The soft suggested calor of the breeze,
The ruby-breasted robin on the lawn,
The thrushes piping sweetly at the dawn,
The gently splashing waters by the weir,
The rose- and lilac-laden atmosphere'--
"because, after all, it's nothing but a catalogue of the specialties of
May; but how the dickens to wind the thing up is what puzzles me. It's
too beautiful and truly poetic to be spoiled by a completing couplet
"'And in the distant dam the croaking frog
Completes, O May, thy wondrous catalogue.'
"Nobody would take a thing like that--and pay for it; but what else can
be said? What do the violets wild, the dandelion, the ruby-breasted robin,
and the lilac-laden atmosphere and other features all do, I'd like to
know? What one of many verbs--oh, tut! Poetry very evidently is not in
my line, after all. I'll turn the vials of my vocabulary upon
Which Partington, as his friends called him, proceeded at once to do. He
applied himself closely to his desk for one whole morning, and wrote a
very long paper on "The Tendency of the Middle Ages Towards
Artificialism." Hardly one of the fifteen thousand words employed by him
in the construction of this paper held fewer than five syllables, and
one or two of them got up as high as ten, a fact which led Partington to
think that the editor of the _South American Quarterly Review_ ought at
least to have the refusal of it. Apparently the editor of the _South
American Quarterly Review_ was only too eager to have the refusal of it,
because he refused it, or so Partington observed in confidence to an
acquaintance, in less time than it could possibly have taken him to
read it. After that the essay became emulous of men like Stanley and Joe
Cook. It became a great traveller, but never failed to get back in
safety to its fond parent, Richard Partington Smithers, as our hero now
called himself. Finally, Partington did manage to realize something on
his essay--that is to say, indirectly--for after "The Tendency of the
Middle Ages Towards Artificialism" had gone the rounds of all the
reviews, monthlies, dailies, and weeklies in the country, its author
pigeon-holed it, and, stringing together the printed slips it had
brought back to him upon the various occasions of its return, he sent
these under the head of "How Editors Reject" to an evening journal in
Boston, whose readers could know nothing of the subject, for reasons
that are familiar to those who are acquainted with American letters. For
this he not only received the editor's thanks, but a six months'
subscription to the journal in question--the latter of which was useful,
since every night, excluding Sundays, its columns contained much
valuable information on such subjects as "How to Live on Fifty Dollars
a Year," "How to Knit an Afghan with One Needle," and "How Not to Become
Discouraged by the fate of his essay, Partington endeavored to get a
position on a railway somewhere as a conductor or brakeman; but failing
in this, he returned once more to his writing-table and wrote a novel.
This was the hardest work he had ever attempted. It took him quite a
week to think his story out and put it together; but when he had it done
he was glad he had stuck conscientiously to it, for the results really
seemed good to him. The book was charmingly written, he thought; so
charming, in fact, that he did not think it necessary to have a
type-written copy made of it before sending it out to the publishers.
Possibly this was a mistake. For a time Partington really believed it
was a mistake, because the publisher who saw it first returned it
without comment, prejudiced against it, no doubt, by the fact that it
came to him in the author's autograph. The second publisher was not so
rude. He said he would print it if Partington would advance one
thousand dollars to protect him against loss. The third publisher
evidently thought better of the book, for he only demanded protection to
the amount of seven hundred and fifty dollars, which, of course,
Partington could not pay; and in consequence _False but Fair_ never saw
the light of day as a published book.
"Is it rejected because of its length, its breadth, or what?" he had
asked the last publisher who had turned his back on the book.
"Well, to tell you the truth, Mr. Smithers," the publisher had answered,
"all that our readers had to say about it--and the three who read it
agreed unanimously--was that the book is immature. You do not write like
"Thanks," said Partington, as he bowed himself out. "If that's the
truth, I'll try writing for juveniles. I'll sit right down to-night and
knock off a short story about 'Tommy and the Huckleberry-tree.' I don't
know whether huckleberries grow on trees or on huckles, but that will
make the tale all the more interesting. If they don't grow on trees
people will regard the story as romance. If they do grow on trees it
will be realism."
True to his promise, that night Partington did write a story, and
it was, as he had said it should be, about "Tommy and the
Huckleberry-tree"; and so amusing did it appear to the editor of that
eminent juvenile periodical, _Nursery Days_, because of what he supposed
was the author's studied ignorance on the subject of huckleberries, that
it was accepted instanter, and the name of Richard Partington Smithers
shortly appeared in all the glory of type.
Partington walked on air for at least a week after his effusion appeared
in print. He had visions night and day in which he seemed to see himself
the centre of the literary circle, and as he promenaded the avenue in
the afternoons he felt almost inclined to stop people who passed him by
to tell them who he was, and thus enable them to feast their eyes on one
whose name would shortly become a household word. All reasonable young
authors feel this way after their first draught at the soul-satisfying
spring of publicity. It is only that preposterous young person who was
born tired who fails to experience the sensations that were Partington's
that week; and at the end of the week, again like the reasonable young
author, he began to realize that immortality could not be gained by one
story treating of a fictitious Tommy and an imaginary huckleberry-tree,
and so he sat himself down at his desk once more, resolved this time to
clinch himself, as it were, in the public mind, with a tale of "Jimmie
and the Strawberry-mine." This story did not come as easily as the
other. In fact, Partington found it impossible to write more than a
third of the second tale that night. He couldn't bring his mind down to
it exactly, probably because his mind had been soaring so high since the
publication of his first effusion. For diversion as much as for anything
else during a lull in his flow of language he penned a short letter to
the editor of _Nursery Days_, and announced his intention to send the
story of "Jimmie and the Strawberry-mine" to him shortly--which was
unfortunate. If he had finished the story first and then sent it, it
might have been good enough to convince the editor against his judgment
that he ought to have it. A concrete story can often accomplish more
than an abstract idea. In this event it could not have accomplished
less, anyhow, for the editor promptly replied that he did not care for a
second story of that nature. There was no particular evidence in hand,
he said, that the children liked stories of that kind particularly,
adding that the first was only an experiment that it was not necessary
to repeat, and so on; polite, but unmistakably valedictory.
"No evidence in hand that they are liked, eh? Well, how on earth, I
wonder," Partington said, angrily, to himself, "do they ever find
evidence that things are liked? Do they go about asking subscribers, or
And then he picked up the issue of _Nursery Days_ that had started him
along on his way to immortality, to console himself, at all events, with
the sight of his published story. In turning over the leaves of the
periodical his eye fell upon a page across the top of which ran a highly
ornate cut which indicated that there was printed the "Post-office
Department of _Nursery Days_," on perusing which Partington found a
number of communications and editorial responses Like these:
"DEAR POSTMASTER,--I have been taking _Nursery
Days_ since Christmas, so I thought I would
write you a letter. My birthday came a week
ago Thursday. I received a watch and chain,
a glove-buttoner, a penknife, and a set of ivory
jackstraws. We have a cat at home whose
name is Rumpelstiltzken. He is very sleepy,
and sleeps all day. He always picks out the
most comfortable chair, and then feels very
much injured if we turn him out. I like Bolivar
Wiggins's story in your last paper very
much. Are you going to have any more stories
by Bolivar Wiggins?
"Your little friend,
"HELEN CHECKERBY, aged seven.
"[We hope soon to have a new story from Mr. Wiggins, Helen. We wish we
could see your cat. He seems a very sensible cat.--EDITOR _Nursery
I am a little girl nearly ten years old, and
as I like your paper very much I thought you
would like a letter from me. Here is a cow's
head I drew. It is not very good, but I wanted
to see if I would get a prize or not. I have two
little sisters; their names are Jennie and Fanny.
I hope I will see my letter in print. The stories
I like best are Bolivar Wiggins's story about
'Solemn Sophy' and his other one about
'Bertie's Balloon.' Have you any more stories
by him? I must close now, so good-bye.
"[Several, Lillian. Your cow is beautiful, and perhaps some day it will
appear in this column. Watch carefully, and maybe you will see
it.--EDITOR _Nursery Days_.]"
"Ah!" said Partington, softly, as he read these effusions. "That is why
Bolivar Wiggins is permitted to cover so much space, eh? The children
like his stories well enough to write letters about him--or perhaps
The second "ah" uttered by Partington indicated that a thought had
flashed across his mind--a thought not particularly complimentary to
"Perhaps," he said, slowly, "Bolivar writes these letters to the editor
himself--and if Bolivar, why not I?"
It was a tempting--alas, too tempting--opportunity to supply the editor
of _Nursery Days_ with the needed evidence that stories of the "Tommy
and the Huckleberry-tree" order were the most popular literary novelty
of the day, and to it, in a moment of weakness, Partington succumbed. I
regret to have to record the fact that he passed the balance of the
night writing letters from fictitious "Sallies, aged six," "Warry and
Georgie, twins, aged twelve," and others dwelling in widely separated
sections of the country, to the number of at least two dozen, all of
which, being an expert penman, Partington wrote in a diversity of
juvenile hands that was worthy of a better cause. Here are two samples
of the letters he wrote that night:
"I have taken the _Nursery Days_ for one year,
and think it is a very nice paper. For pets I
have two cats, named Lady Tompkins and
Jimpsey. I have tried to solve the 'Caramel
Puzzle,' but think one answer is wrong. I go
to school, and there are forty-four scholars in
my room. My little kitty Jimpsey sleeps all day
long, and at night she is playful. She wakes
me up in the morning, and then waits till I get
up. Who is Mr. Smithers who wrote that beautiful
story about 'Tommy and the Huckleberry-tree'?
Everybody of all ages, from baby to my
grandmother, likes it and hopes you will print
more by that author.
"YONKERS, N. Y.
"Our Uncle Willie in New York sends us _Nursery
Days_ every week. We like it immensely, and every
one tries to get the first reading of it. "Tommy
and the Huckleberry-tree" is a splendid story.
Papa bought six copies of _Nursery Days_ with that
in it to send to my little cousins in England.
"JIMMIE CONWAY RHODES."
Others were more laudatory of Partington's story, some less so, but each
demanded more of his work.
These written, Partington made arrangements to have them posted from the
various towns wherein they were ostensibly written, and then, when they
had been posted, he chuckled slightly and sat down to await
It took a trifle over one week for developments to develop, and then
they developed rapidly. Just eight days after his conception of this
magnificent scheme the postman whistled at Partington's door and left
"OFFICE OF NURSERY DAYS,
"NEW YORK, _March_ 16, 1889.
"_Richard Partington Smithers, Esq_.:
"DEAR SIR,--Can you call upon me some afternoon this week? Yours truly,
"THOMAS JACKSON TORPYHUE,
"Editor _Nursery Days_."
"The bait is good, and I'll land the fish at once," said Partington, his
face wreathing with smiles. "I'll call upon Mr. Thomas Jackson Torpyhue."
And call he did. Two hours later he entered the sanctum of the editor of
"Good-afternoon," he said, as he sat down at the editor's side.
"Good-afternoon, Mr. Smithers," said Mr. Torpyhue. "I'm very glad to see
"I thought you'd be," began Partington, forgetting himself for a moment
in his triumph. "If that wasn't evidence enough that I--ah--oh--er--ah!
Ahem! Why, certainly," he continued, suddenly recalling the fact that as
yet he could properly have no knowledge of the evidence in question.
The editor threw his head back and laughed, and Partington forced
himself to join him, nervously withal.
"You have heard of the evidence have you?" asked Mr. Torpyhue.
Partington gasped faintly, and said he thought not.
"Well, it's very strange, Mr. Smithers," said Mr. Torpyhue, "but do you
know that you have developed into one of our most popular authors?"
"Indeed?" queried Partington, pulling himself together and trying to
"Yes, sir. Here is a bundle of twenty-four letters all received within
three days. One of the letters calls you the best writer of short
stories of the day. Another, from Canada, written by a parent, says that
you have written one of the most delightful bits of juvenile humor that
he has seen in forty years."
"How extremely flattering!" said Partington, faintly.
"Yes, extremely," assented the editor, dryly. "And now, Mr. Smithers,
I'm going to do for you what this paper has never done even to its most
popular author in the past."
"Now, my dear Mr. Torpyhue," began Partington, gaining courage, "I beg
you not to feel called upon to discriminate against your old favorites
in my favor. Your present rates of payment are entirely satisfac--"
"You misunderstand me, Mr. Smithers," interrupted Mr. Torpyhue.
"What I'm going to do to you that I never before have done even to our
most popular author is to return to you at once every one of those
highly entertaining manuscripts you have favored us with--we receive so
many real letters from real children that, of course, we cannot afford
to buy from you purely fictitious ones. These of yours are excellently
well done, but you see my point. One does not pay for things that can be
had gratis. Perhaps later you will try us with something else," he
added, with a grin.
Here Mr. Torpyhue paused, and Partington tried to think of something to
say. It was all so sudden, however, and, in spite of his misgivings, so
extremely unexpected, that his breath was taken away. He had neither
breath nor presence of mind enough left even to deny the allegation, and
when he did recover his breath he found himself walking dejectedly down
the stairs of the _Nursery Days_ building with his bundle of encomia in
"I wonder how he caught on!" he groaned, as half an hour later he
entered his room and threw himself face downward on his couch.
Investigation after dinner gave him a clue.
Not one of the letters had been mailed from the town in which it had
been dated. The envelope containing the Washington letter bore the
Boston postmark. The Brooklyn missive had been sent from Chicago, that
from Norwich had been posted at Yonkers, and vice versa, and so on
through the whole list. Each and every one had, through some evil
chance, started wrong. In addition to this, Partington found that in a
forgetful moment he had appended to two of the communications an
editorial response promising more work from Mr. Smithers.
"I must have been muddled by my success with 'Tommy and the
Huckleberry-tree,'" he sighed, as he cast the documents into the fire.
"If that's the effect literary honors have on me I'd better quit the
profession, which leaves only two things to be done. I shall have to
commit one of two crimes--suicide or matrimony. The question now is,
He thought deeply for a moment, and then, putting on his hat and
over-coat, he turned off the gas and left the room.
"I'll call on Harris, borrow a cent from him, and let the toss decide,"
he said, as he passed out into the night.
Is it really any wonder that Mr. Smithers has given up literature?
THE BASE INGRATITUDE OF BARKIS, M.D.
The time has arrived when it is possibly proper that I should make a
note of the base ingratitude of Barkis, M.D. I have hesitated to do this
hitherto for several reasons, any one of which would prove a valid
excuse for my not doing so. To begin with, I have known Barkis ever
since he was a baby. I have tossed him in the air, to his own delight
and to the consternation of his mother, who feared lest I should fail to
catch him on his way down, or that I should underestimate the distance
between the top of his head and the ceiling on his way up. Later I have
held him on my knee and told him stories of an elevating nature--mostly
of my own composition--and have afterwards put these down upon paper and
sold them to syndicates at great profit. So that, in a sense, I am
beholden to Barkis for some measure of my prosperity. Then, when Barkis
grew older, I taught him the most approved methods of burning his
fingers on the Fourth of July, and when he went to college I am
convinced that he gained material aid from me in that I loaned him my
college scrap-books, which contained, among other things, a large number
of examination papers which I marvel greatly to-day that I was ever able
successfully to pass, and which gave to him some hint as to the ordeal
he was about to go through. In his younger professional days, also, I
have been Barkis's friend, and have called him up, to minister to a pain
I never had, at four o'clock in the morning, simply because I had reason
to believe that he needed four or five dollars to carry him through the
ensuing hours of the day.
Quotation books have told us that in love, as well as in war, all is
fair, and if this be true Barkis's ingratitude, the narration of which
cannot now give pain to any one, becomes, after all, nothing more than a
venial offence. I do not place much reliance upon the ethics of
quotation books generally, but when I remember my own young days, and
the things I did to discredit the other fellow in that little affair
which has brought so much happiness into my own life, I am inclined to
nail my flag to the masthead in defence of the principle that lovers can
do no wrong. It is no ordinary stake that a lover plays for, and if he
stacks the cards, and in other ways turns his back upon the guiding
principles of his life, blameworthy as he may be, I shall not blame him,
but shall incline rather towards applause.
On the other hand, something is due to the young ladies in the case, and
as much for their sake as for any other reason have I set upon paper
this narrative of the man's ingratitude, simply telling the story and
drawing no conclusions whatever.
Barkis was not endowed with much in the way of worldly possessions. His
father had died when the lad was very young, and had left the boy and
his mother to struggle on alone. But there was that in both of them
which enabled the mother to feel that the boy was worth struggling for,
and the boy at a very early age to realize the difficulties of the
struggle, and to like the difficulties because they afforded him an
opportunity to help his mother either by not giving her unnecessary
trouble or in bringing to her efforts in their mutual behalf aid of a
very positive kind.
Boys of this kind--and in saying this I cast no reflections whatsoever
upon that edifying race of living creatures whom I admire and respect
more than any other--are so rare that it did not take the neighbors of
the Barkis family many days to discover that the little chap was worth
watching, and if need be caring for in a way which should prove
substantial. There are so many ways, too, in which one may help a boy
without impairing his self-reliance that on the whole it was not very
difficult to assist Barkis. So when one of his neighbors employed him in
his office at a salary of eight dollars a week, when other boys received
only four for similar service, the lad, instead of feeling himself
favored, assumed an obligation and made himself worth five times as much
as the other boys, so that really his employer, and not he, belonged to
the debtor class.
Some said it was a pity that little Barkis wasted his talents in a real
estate office, but they were the people who didn't know him. He expended
his nervous energy in the real estate office, but his mind he managed to
keep free for the night school, and when it came to the ultimate it was
found that little Barkis had wasted nothing. He entered college when
several other boys--who had not served in a real estate office, who had
received diplomas from the high-school, and who had played while he had
That his college days were a trial to his mother every one knew. She
wished him to keep his end up, and he did--and without spending all that
his mother sent him, either. The great trouble was that at the end of
his college course it was understood that Barkis intended studying
medicine. When that crept out the neighbors sighed. They deprecated the
resolve among themselves, but applauded the boy's intention to his face.
"Good for you, Jack!" said one. "You are just the man for a doctor, and
I'll give you all my business."
This man, of course, was a humorist.
Another said: "Jack, you are perfectly right. Real estate and coal are
not for you. Go in for medicine; when my leg is cut off you shall do the
To avoid details, however, some of which would make a story in
themselves, Jack Barkis went through college, studied medicine, received
his diploma as a full-fledged M.D., and settled down at Dumfries Corners
for practice. And practice did not come! And income was not.
It was plainly visible to the community that Barkis was hard up, as the
saying is, and daily growing more so. To make matters worse, it was now
impossible to help him as the boy had been helped. He was no longer a
child, but a man; and the pleasing little subterfuges, which we had
employed to induce the boy to think he was making his way on his own
sturdy little legs, with the man were out of the question. His clothing
grew threadbare, and there were stories of insufficient nourishment. As
time went on the outward and visible signs of his poverty increased,
yet no one could devise any plan to help him.
And then came a solution, and inasmuch as it was brought about by the
S.F.M.E., an association of a dozen charming young women in the city
forming the Society for Mutual Encouragement, or Enjoyment, or
Endorsement, or something else beginning with E--I never could ascertain
definitely what the E stood for--it would seem as if the young ladies
should have received greater consideration than they did when prosperity
knocked at the Doctor's door.
It seems that the Doctor attended a dance one evening in a dress coat,
the quality and lack of quantity of which were a flagrant indication of
a sparse, not to say extremely needy, wardrobe. All his charm of manner,
his grace in the dance, his popularity, could not blind others to the
fact that he was ill-dressed, and the girls decided that something must
be done, and at once.
"We might give a lawn fete for his benefit," one of them suggested.
"He isn't a church or a Sunday-school," Miss Daisy Peters retorted.
"Besides, I know Jack Barkis well enough to know that he would never
accept charity from any one. We've got to help him professionally."
"We might boycott all the fellows at dances," suggested Miss Wilbur,
"unless they will patronize the Doctor. Decline to dance with them
unless they present a certificate from Jack proving that they are his
"Humph!" said Miss Peters. "That wouldn't do any good. They are all
healthy, and even if they did go to Jack for a prescription the chances
are they wouldn't pay him. They haven't much more money than he has."
"I am afraid that is true," assented Miss Wilbur. "Indeed, if they have
any at all, I can't say that they have given much sign of it this
winter. The Bachelors' Cotillon fell through for lack of interest, they
said, but I have my doubts on that score. It's my private opinion they
weren't willing or able to pay for it."
"Well, I'm sure I don't know what we can do to help Jack. If he had our
combined pocket-money he'd still be poor," sighed Miss Peters.
"He couldn't be induced to take it unless he earned it," said little
Betsy Barbett. "You all know that."
"Hurrah!" cried Miss Peters, clapping her hands ecstatically; "I have
it! I have it! I have it! We'll put him in the way of earning it."
And they all put their heads together, and the following was the result:
The next day Jack Barkis's telephone rang more often in an hour than it
had ever done before in a month, and every ring meant a call.
The first call was from Miss Daisy Peters, and he responded.
"I'm so sorry to send for you--er--Doctor," she said--she
had always called him Jack before, but now he had come
professionally--"for--for--Rover, but the poor dog is awfully
sick to-day, and Doctor Pruyn was out of town. Do you mind?"
"Certainly not, Daisy," he replied, a shade of disappointment on his
face. I am inclined to believe he had hoped to find old Mr. Peters at
death's door. "If the dog is sick I can help him. What are his
And Miss Peters went on to say that her cherished Rover, she thought,
had malaria. He was tired and lazy, when usually he rivalled the cow
that jumped over the moon in activity. She neglected to say that she had
with her own fair hands given the poor beast a dose of sulphonal the
night before--not enough to hurt him, but sufficient to make him appear
tired and sleepy.
"I must see my patient," said the Doctor, cheerfully. "Will he come if I
Miss Peters was disinclined to accede to this demand. She was beginning
to grow fearful that Jack would see through her little subterfuge, and
that the efforts of the S.F.M.E. would prove fruitless.
"Oh," she demurred, "is that--er--necessary? Rover isn't a child, you
know. He won't stick out his tongue if you tell him to--and, er--I don't
think you could tell much from his pulse--and--"
"I'd better see him, though," observed Jack, quietly. "I certainly can't
prescribe unless I do."
So Rover was brought out, and it was indeed true that his old-time
activity had been superseded by a lethargy which made the wagging of
his tail a positive effort. Still, Doctor Barkis was equal to the
occasion, prescribed for the dog, and on his books that night wrote down
a modest item as against Mr. Billington Peters and to his own financial
credit. Furthermore, he had promised to call again the next day, which
meant more practice.
On his return home he found a hurry call awaiting him. Miss Betsy
Barbett had dislocated her wrist. So to the Barbett mansion sped Doctor
Barkis, and there, sure enough, was Miss Barbett apparently suffering
"Oh, I am so glad you have come," she moaned. "It hurts dreadfully,
Jack--I mean Doctor."
"I'll fix that in a second," said he, and he did, although he thought it
odd that there were no signs of any inflammation. He was not aware that
one of the most cherished and fascinating accomplishments of Miss
Barbett during her childhood had been her ability to throw her wrist out
of joint. She could throw any of her joints out of place, but she
properly chose her wrist upon this occasion as being the better joint to
intrust to a young physician. If Jack had known that until his coming
her wrist had been all right, and that it had not become disjointed
until he rang the front door bell of the Barbett house, he might not
have been so pleased as he entered the item against Judge Barbett in his
book, nor would he have wondered at the lack of inflammation.
So it went. The Hicks's cook was suddenly taken ill--Mollie Hicks gave
her a dollar to do it--and Jack was summoned. The Tarletons' coachman
was kept out on a wet night for two hours by Janette Tarleton, and very
properly contracted a cold, for which the young woman made herself
responsible, and Doctor Barkis was called in. Then the society itself
discovered many a case among the worthy poor needing immediate medical
treatment from Barkis, M.D., and, although Jack wished to make no
charge, insisted that he should, and threatened to employ some one else
if he didn't.
By degrees a practice resulted from this conspiracy of the S.F.M.E., and
then a municipal election came along, and each candidate for the
Mayoralty was given quietly to understand by parties representing the
S.F.M.E., that unless jack Barkis was made health officer of the city
he'd better look out for himself, and while both candidates vowed they
had made no pledges, each had sworn ten days before election-day by all
that was holy that Barkis should have this eighteen-hundred-dollar
office--and he got it! Young women may not vote, but they have influence
in small cities.
At the end of the second year of the S.F.M.E.'s resolve that Barkis must
be cared for he was in receipt of nearly twenty-eight hundred dollars a
year, could afford a gig, and so command a practice; and having obtained
his start, his own abilities took care of the rest.
And then what did Jack Barkis, M.D., do? When luxuries began to manifest
themselves in his home--indeed, when he found himself able to rent a
better one--whom did he ask to share its joys with him?
Miss Daisy Peters, who had dosed her dog that he might profit? No,
Miss Betsy Barbett, who disfigured her fair wrist in his behalf? Alas,
Miss Hicks, who had spent a dollar to bribe a cook that he might earn
two? No, the ungrateful wretch!
Any member of the S.F.M.E.? I regret to say not.
He went and married a girl from Los Angeles, whom he met on one of the
summer vacations the S.F.M.E. had put within his reach--a girl from whom
no portion of his measure of prosperity had come.
Such was the ingratitude of Barkis. They have never told me so, but I
think the S.F.M.E. feel it keenly. Barkis I believe to be unconscious of
it--but then he is in love with Mrs. Barkis, which is proper; and as I
have already indicated, when a man is in love there are a great many
things he does not see--in fact, there is only one thing he does see,
and that is Her Majesty, the Queen. I can't blame Barkis, and even
though I was aware of the conspiracy to make him prosperous, I did not
think of the ungrateful phase of it all until I spoke to Miss Peters
about his _fiancee_, who had visited Dumfries Corners.
"She's charming," said I. "Don't you think so?"
"Oh yes," said Miss Peters, dubiously. "But I don't see why Jack went
to Los Angeles for a wife."
"Ah?" said I. "Maybe it was the only place where he could find one."
"Thank you!" snapped Miss Peters. "For my part, I think the Dumfries
Corners girls are quite as attractive--ah--Betsy Barbett for
instance--or any other girl in Jack's circle."
"Like yourself?" I smiled.
"My!" she cried. "How can you say such a thing?"
And really I was sorry I had said it. It seemed so like twitting a
person on facts, when I came to think about it.
THE UTILITARIAN MR. CARRAWAY
The Christmas season was approaching, and Mr. Carraway, who had lately
become something of a philosopher, began to think about gifts for his
wife and children. The more he thought of them, the more firmly was he
convinced that there was something radically wrong with the system of
giving that had prevailed in past years. He conjured up visions of the
useless things he had given and received on previous occasions, and an
inventory of his personal receipts at the four celebrations leading up
to the present disclosed the fact that he was long on match-boxes,
cigar-cases, and smoking-jackets, the last every one of them too small,
with an appalling supply of knitted and crocheted objects, the gifts of
his children, in reserve. His boot-closet was a perfect revelation of
the misdirected Christmas energies of the young, disclosing, as it
always did upon occasions when he was in a great hurry, a half-dozen
pairs of worsted slippers, which he had received at Yuletide, some of
them adorned with stags of beads leaping over zephyr walls, and others
made in the image of cats of extraordinary color, with yellow glass eyes
set in directly over the toe whereon he kept his favorite corn. I am not
sure that it was not the stepping of an awkward visitor upon one of
these same glass eyes, while these slippers for the first time covered
his feet, that set Mr. Carraway to cogitating upon the hollowness of
"Christmas as She is Celebrated." Indeed, it is my impression that at
the very moment when that bit of adornment was pressed down upon Mr.
Carraway's corn he announced rather forcibly his disbelief in the
utility of any such infernal Christmas present as that. And as time went
on, and that offending, staring slipper slipped into his hand every time
he searched the closet in the dark for a left patent-leather pump, or
some other missing bit of foot-gear, the conviction grew upon him that
of the great reforms of which the world stood in crying need, the
reformation of the Christmas gift was possibly the most important.
The idea grew to be a mania with him, and he gradually developed into a
utilitarian of the most pronounced type. Nothing in the world so suited
him as an object, homely or otherwise, that could be used for something;
the things that were used for nothing had no attractions for him. After
this he developed further, and discovered new uses for old objects. Mrs.
Carraway's parlor vases were turned into receptacles for matches, or
papers, according to their size. The huge Satsuma vase became a more or
less satisfactory bill-file; and the cloisonne jar, by virtue of its
great durability, Mr. Carraway used as a receptacle for the family
golf-balls, much to the trepidation of his good wife, who considered
that the vase, like some women, had in its beauty a sufficient cause for
existence, and who would have preferred going without golf forever to
the destruction of her treasured bit of bric-a-brac.
Mrs. Carraway did her best to stay the steady advance in utilitarianism
of her husband. She could bide with him in most matters. In fact, until
it came to the use of the cloisonne jar for a golf-ball reservoir, she
considered the idea at least harmless, and was forced to admit that it
indeed held many good points.
"I think it is perfectly proper," she said, "to consider all things from
the point of view of their utility. I do not believe in sending a
ball-dress to a poor woman who is starving or suffering for want of
coal, but I must say, John, that you carry your theory too far when you
insist on using an object for some purpose for which it was manifestly
"But who is to say what a thing is manifestly made for?" demanded
Carraway. "You don't know, or at least you can't say positively, what
one of many possible uses the designer and maker of any object had in
mind when he designed and made that especial object. This particular
vase was fashioned by a heathen. It is beautiful and graceful, but
beyond producing something beautiful and graceful, how can you say what
other notion that heathen had as to its possible usefulness? He may have
made it to hold flowers. He may have intended it for a water-jug. He may
have considered it a suitable, receptacle in which its future favored
owner might keep his tobacco, or his opium, or any one of the thousand
and one things that you can put in a vase with a hope of getting it out
"Well, we know he didn't intend it for golf-balls, anyhow," said Mrs.
Carraway. "For the very simple reason that the heathen don't play golf."
"They may play some kind of a game which is a heathen variation of
golf," observed Mr. Carraway, coldly.
"That couldn't be," persisted Mrs. Carraway. "judging from the effect of
Sunday golf-playing on church attendance, I don't think anything more
completely pagan than golf could be found. However--"
"But the fact remains, my dear," Carraway interrupted, "that while we
may surmise properly enough that the original maker of an object did not
intend it to be used for certain purposes, you cannot say positively,
because you don't know that your surmise is absolutely correct."
"But I think you can," said Mrs. Carraway. "In fact, _I_ will say
positively that the man who made our new frying-pan made it to fry
things in, and not to be used in connection with a tack-hammer as a
dinner-gong. I know that the hardware people who manufactured our
clothes-boiler, down in the laundry, did not design it as a toy
bass-drum for the children to bang on on the morning of the Fourth of
July. I would make a solemn affidavit to the fact that the maker of a
baby-carriage never dreamed of its possible use as an impromptu toboggan
for a couple of small boys to coast downhill on in midsummer. Yet these
things have been used for these various purposes in our own household
experience. A megaphone can be used as a beehive, and a hammock can be
turned into a fly-net for a horse, but you never think of doing so; and,
furthermore, you _can_ say positively that while the things may be used
for these purposes, the original maker never, never, never thought of
"Nonsense," said Carraway, wilting a little. "Nonsense. You argue just
like a woman--"
"I think that was what I was designed for," laughed Mrs. Carraway. "Of
course I do." "Oh! but what I mean is that you take utterly ridiculous
and extreme cases. The things never could happen. Who'd ever dream of
making a beehive out of a megaphone?"
"Oh, I think it might occur to the same ingenious mind that discovered
that a cloisonne vase would hold golf-balls," smiled Mrs. Carraway.
Carraway laughed. "There you go again," he said. "I wonder why women
can't argue without becoming ridiculous? It would be mighty poor economy
to pay $4 for a megaphone as a substitute for a $2 beehive."
"That is true," said Mrs. Carraway. "I never thought of that."
"Of course you didn't," retorted Carraway, triumphantly. "Of course you
didn't; and that's what I mean when I say you argue like a woman. You
get hold of what seems on the surface to be a regular solar-plexus
retort, and fail to see how it becomes a boomerang before you can say
"I suppose if I hadn't been worried about the vase I would have thought
of it," said Mrs. Carraway, meekly. "It worries me to see a $150 vase
used for a purpose that a fifty-cent calico bag would serve quite as
Carraway glanced searchingly at his wife.
"Well--ah--hem!" he said. "Quite right, my dear, quite right. I think,
on the whole, you would better get the calico bag."
For a few days after this little discussion Carraway was very reticent
about his utilitarian ideas. The more he thought of his wife's retort
the less secure he felt in his own position, and he was very sorry he
had spoken about boomerangs and solar-plexus retorts. But with time he
recovered his equanimity, and early in December returned to his old
"I've just been up in the attic," he said to his wife one Sunday
afternoon, when he appeared on the scene rather dusty of aspect.
"There's a whole lot of useful stuff up there going to waste. I found
four old beaver hats, any one of which would make a very good
waste-basket for the spare bedroom if it was, suitably trimmed; and I
don't see why you don't take these straw hats of mine and make
work-baskets of them." Here he held out two relics of bygone fashions
to his wife. Mrs. Carraway took them silently. She was so filled with
suppressed laughter over her husband's suggestions that she hardly dared
to speak lest she should give way to her mirth, and a man does not
generally appreciate mirth at his own expense after he has been
rummaging in an attic for an hour or more, filling his lungs and
covering his clothes and hands with dust.
However, after a moment she managed to blurt out, "Perhaps I can make
one of them dainty enough to send to your mother for her Christmas
"I was about to suggest that very same thing," said Carraway, brushing
the dust from his sleeve. "Either you could send it or Mollie"--Mollie
was Mr. Carraway's small daughter. "I think Mollie's grandmother would
be more pleased with a gift of that kind than with one of the useless
little fallals that children give their grandparents on Christmas Day.
What did she give her last year?"
The question was opportune, for it gave Mrs. Carraway a chance to laugh
outright with some other ostensible object than her husband. She availed
herself of the chance, threw her head back, and shook convulsively.
"She sent her a ball of shaving-paper," Mrs. Carraway said.
A faint smile flitted over Carraway's face. "Well, it might have been
worse," he said. "She can use it for curling-paper." He paused a moment.
Then he said: "I want to say to you, my dear, that--ah--I want Christmas
celebrated this year after my plan of selection. Instead of squandering
our hard-earned dollars on things no sensible person wants and none can
use, we will consider, first of all, practical utility."
"Very well," sighed Mrs. Carraway. "I quite agree as far as you and I
are concerned--but how about the children? I don't think Tommie would
feel very happy to wake up on Christmas morning and find a pair of
suspenders and a new suit of clothes under the tree. He needs both, but
he wants tin soldiers. And as for Mollie, she expects a doll."
"Well, I don't wish to be hard on the children," said Mr. Carraway, "but
now is the time to begin training them. There may be a temporary
disappointment, but in the end they will be happier for it. Of course I
don't say to give them necessities of life for Christmas, but in
selecting what we do give them, get something useful. Dolls and tin
soldiers and toy balloons are well enough in their way, but they are
absolutely useless. Therefore, I say, don't give them such things.
Surely Mollie would be pleased to receive a nice little fur tippet or a
muff, and I'll get Tommie a handsome snow-shovel, that he can use when
he cleans off the paths. He won't mind; it will be a gift worth having,
and by degrees he'll come to see that the plan of utility is a good
Mrs. Carraway discreetly held her tongue, although she was far from
approving Carraway's course in so far as it affected the children. She
tacitly agreed to the proposition, but there was the light of an idea in
The days intervening before Christmas passed rapidly away, and Christmas
eve finally came. Tommie and Mollie were bubbling over with suppressed
excitement, and frequently went off into spasms of giggles. There was
something very funny in the wind evidently. After dinner the small
family repaired to the library, where the children were in the habit of
distributing their gifts for their parents on the night before
Christmas. Mrs. Carraway was beaming, and so was Mr. Carraway. The
children had been informed of what they were to expect, and after an
hour or two of regret, they had put their little heads together, giggled
a half-dozen times, and accepted the situation.
"Your mother has presented me with a ton of coal, children," said
Carraway, smiling happily. "Now you may think that a funny sort of
"Yeth, papa," said Mollie.
"Awful funny," said Tommie, wiggling with glee.
"Well, it does seem so at first, but, now, how much better to give me
that than to present me with something that I could look at for a few
days and then would have no further use for!"
"That's so, pa," said Mollie.
"I guess you're right," said Tommie. "Wat cher got for ma?"
"I have given her a brand-new set of china for the dining-room," said
"And it was just what I needed," said Mrs. Carraway, happily. "And now,
children, go up-stairs, and bring down your presents for your father."
The children sped noisily out of the room and up the stairs.
"I hope you impressed it on their minds that I wanted nothing useless?"
"I did," said Mrs. Carraway. "I explained the whole thing to them, and
told them what they might expect to receive. Then I gave them each ten
dollars of the money they'd saved, and let them go shopping on their own
account. I don't know what they bought you, but it's something huge."
Mrs. Carraway had hardly finished when the two giggling tots came into
the room, carrying with difficulty a parcel, which, as Mrs. Carraway had
said, was indeed huge. Mr. Carraway eyed it with curiosity as the string
was unfastened and the package burst open.
"There," cried Tommie, breathlessly.
"It's all for you, pa, from Mollie and me." The two children stood to
one side. Mrs. Carraway appeared surprised in an amused fashion, while
Carraway stood appalled at what lay before him, as well he might; for
the package contained a great wax doll with deep staring blue eyes, a
small doll's house with two floors in it and a front door that opened,
china and chairs and table and bureaus in miniature to furnish the
house--indeed, all the paraphernalia of a well-ordered residence for a
French doll. Besides these were two boxes of tin soldiers, cannon,
tents, swords, a fully equipped lead army, a mechanical fish, and a
small zinc steamboat, suitable for a cruise in a bath-tub.
Carraway looked at the children, and the children looked at Carraway.
"Why," said he, as soon as he could recover his equanimity, "there must
be some mistake."
"No," said Mollie. "We picked 'em out for you ourselves. We thought
you'd need 'em."
Mrs. Carraway turned away to cough slightly.
"Need them?" demanded Carraways with a perplexed frown. "When?"
"Oh--to-morrow," said Tommie.
"What for?" demanded Carraway.
"_Why, to give to us, of course_" said the children in chorus.
* * * * *
"My dear," said Carraway, two hours later, after the children had
retired, "I've been thinking this thing over."
"Yes?" said Mrs. Carraway.
"Yes," said Carraway; "and I've made up my mind that those children of
ours are born geniuses. I don't believe, after all, they could have
selected anything which would be more satisfactorily useful in the
"Well," observed Mrs. Carraway, quietly, "I don't either. I thought so
at the time when they asked my permission to do their shopping at the
International Toy Bazar."
"It's a solar-plexus retort, just the same," said Carraway, as he shook
his head and went to bed. "I think on the 1st of January, if you have no
objections, Mrs. Carraway, I will forswear utilitarianism--and you may
remove the golf-balls from the cloisonne vase as soon as you choose."
THE BOOK SALES OF MR. PETERS
Like many another town which frankly confesses itself to be a "city of
the third class," Dumfries Corners is not only well provided but
somewhat overburdened with impecunious institutions of a public and
semi-public nature. The large generosity of persons who never give to,
but are often identified with, churches, hospitals, associations of
philanthropic intent of one kind and another, in Dumfries Corners as
elsewhere, is frequently the cause of embarrassment to persons who do
give without being lavish of the so-called influence of their names.
There are quite a dozen individuals out of the forty thousand souls who
live in that favored town who find it convenient to give away as much as
five hundred dollars annually for the maintenance of milk dispensaries,
hospitals, and other deserving enterprises of similar nature for the
needy. Yet at the close of each fiscal year those who have given to this
extent are invariably confronted by "reports," issued by officials of
the various institutions, frankly confessing failure to make both ends
meet, and everybody wonders why more interest has not been taken.
"Surely, we have loaned our names!" they say. It never occurs to anybody
that one successful charity is better than six failures. It has never
entered into the minds of the managers of these enterprises that a man
disposed to give away five hundred dollars could make his contributions
to the public welfare more efficacious by giving the whole to one
institution instead of dividing it among twenty.
However, human nature is the same everywhere, and until the crack of
doom sounds mankind will be found undertaking more charity than it can
carry through successfully, not only in Dumfries Corners, but everywhere
else. It would be difficult to fix the responsibility for this state of
affairs, although the large generosity of those who lend their names and
blockade their pockets may consider itself a candidate for chief honors
in this somewhat vital matter. It may be, too, that the large generosity
of people who really are largely generous with their thousands has
something to do with it. There is more than one ten-thousand-dollar town
in existence which has accepted a hundred-thousand-dollar hospital from
generously disposed citizens, and the other citizens thereof have
properly hailed their benefactor's name with loud acclaim, but the
hundred-thousand-dollar hospital, which might have been a
fifty-thousand-dollar hospital, with an endowment of fifty thousand more
to make it self-supporting, has a tendency to ruin other charities quite
as worthy, because its maintenance pumps dry the pockets of those who
have to give. It will require a drastic course of training, I fear, to
open the eyes of the public to the fact that even generosity can be
overdone, and I must disclaim any desire to superintend the process of
securing their awakening, for it is an ungrateful task to criticise even
a mistakenly generous person; and man being by nature prone to
thoughtless judgments, the critic of a philanthropist who spends a
million of dollars to provide tortoise-shell combs for bald beggars
would shortly find himself in hot water. Therefore let us discuss not
the causes, but some of the results of the system which has placed upon
suburban shoulders such seemingly hopeless philanthropic burdens. At
Dumfries Corners the book sales of Mr. Peters, one of the vestrymen,
were one of these results.
There were two of these sales. The first, like all book sales for
charity, consisted largely of the vending of ice-cream and cake. The
second was different; but I shall not deal with that until I have
described the first.
This had been given at Mr. Peters's house, with the cheerful consent of
Mrs. Peters. The object was to raise seventy-five dollars, the sum
needed to repair the roof of Mr. Peters's church. In ordinary times the
congregation could have advanced the seventy-five dollars necessary to
keep the rain from trickling through the roof and leaking in a steady
stream upon the pew of Mrs. Bumpkin, a lady too useful in knitting
sweaters for the heathen in South Africa to be ignored. But in that year
of grace, 1897, there had been so many demands made upon everybody, from
the Saint William's Hospital for Trolley Victims, from the Mistletoe
Inn, a club for workingmen which was in its initial stages and most
worthily appealed to the public purse, and for the University Extension
Society, whose ten-cent lectures were attended by the swellest people in
Dumfries Corners and their daughters--and so on--that the collections of
Saint George's had necessarily fallen off to such an extent that
plumbers' bills were almost as much of a burden to the rector as the
needs of missionaries in Borneo for dress-suits and golf-clubs. In this
emergency, Mr. Peters, whose account at his bank had been overdrawn by
his check which had paid for painting the Sunday-school room pink in
order that the young religious idea might be taught to shoot under more
roseate circumstances than the blue walls would permit, and so could not
well offer to have the roof repaired at his own expense, suggested a
"We can get a lot of books on sale from publishers," he said, "and I
haven't any doubt that Mrs. Peters will be glad to have the affair at
our house. We can surely raise seventy-five dollars in this way.
Besides, it will draw the ladies in the congregation together."
The offer was accepted. Mrs. Peters acquiesced. Peters and his
co-workers asked favors and got them from friends in the publishing
world. The day came. The books arrived, and the net results to the
Roofing Fund of Saint George's were gratifying. The vestry had asked for
seventy-five dollars, and the sale actually cleared eighty-three! To be
sure, Mr. Wiggins spent fifty dollars at the sale. And Mrs. Thompson
spent forty-nine. And the cake-table took in thirty-eight. And the
ice-cream was sold, thanks to the voracity of the children, for nineteen
dollars. And some pictures which had been donated by Mrs. Bumpkin sold
for thirty-one dollars, and the gambling cakes, with rings and gold
dollars in them, cleared fifteen. Still, when it was all reckoned up,
eighty-three dollars stood to the credit of the roof! In affairs of this
kind, results, not expenses, are considered.
Surely the venture was a success. Although from the point of view of
bringing the ladies of the congregation together--well, the less said
about that the better. In any event, parts of Dumfries Corners were
cooler the following summer than they had ever been before.
And then, in the natural sequence of events, the next year came. The
hospital, and the inn, and the various other institutions of the city
indorsed by prominent names, but void of resources, as usual, left the
church so poor that something had to be done to repair the cellar of
Saint George's by outside effort, water leaking in from the street. The
matter was discussed, and the amount needed was settled upon. This time
Saint George's needed ninety dollars. It didn't really need so much, but
it was thought well to ask for more than was needed, "because then, you
know, you're more likely to get it."
The book-cake-and-cream sale of the year before had been so successful
that everybody said: "By all means let us have another literary
afternoon at Mr. Peters's."
"All right!" said Peters, calmly, when the project was suggested.
"Certainly! Of course! Have anything you please at my house. Not that I
am running a casino, but that I really enjoy turning my house inside out
in a good cause once in a while," he added, with a smile which those
about him believed to be sincere. "Only," said he, "kindly make me
master of ceremonies on this occasion."
"Certainly!" replied the vestry. "If this thing is to be in your house
you ought to have everything to say about it."
"I ask for control," said Peters, "not because I am fond of power, but
because experience has taught me that somebody should control affairs of
"Certainly," was the reply again, and Peters was made a committee of
one, with power to run the sale in his own way, and the vestry settled
down in that calm and contented frame of mind which goes with the
consciousness of solvency.
Three months elapsed, and nothing was done. No cards were issued from
the home of Peters announcing a sale of any kind, cake, cream, or books,
and the literary afternoon seemed to have sunk into oblivion. The
chairman of the Committee on Supplies, however, having gone into the
cellar one morning to inspect the coal reserve, found himself obliged
either to wade knee deep in water or to neglect his duty--and, of
course, being a sensible man, he chose the latter course. He knew that
in impecunious churches willing candidates for vestry honors were rare,
and he, therefore, properly saved himself for future use. Wading in
water might have brought on pneumonia, and he was aware that there
really isn't any reason why a man should die for a cause if there is a
reasonable excuse for his living in the same behalf. But he went home
"That cellar isn't repaired yet," he said to his wife. "You'd think from
the quantity of water there that ours was a Baptist church instead of
the Church of England."
"It's a shame!" ejaculated his wife, who, having that morning finished
embroidering a centre-piece for the dinner-table of the missionaries in
Madagascar, was full of conscious rectitude. "A perfect shame; who's to
"Peters," replied the chairman. "Same old story. He makes all sorts of
promises, and never carries 'em out. He thinks that just because he
pays a few bills we haven't anything to say. But he'll find out his
mistake. I'll call him down. I'll write him a letter he won't forget in
a hurry. If he wasn't willing to attend to the matter he had no business
to accept the responsibility. I'll write and tell him so."
And then, the righteous wrath of the chairman of the Committee on
Supplies having expended itself in this explosion at his own
dinner-table, that good gentleman forgot all about it, did not write the
letter, and in fact never thought of the matter again until the next
meeting of the vestry, when he suavely and jokingly inquired if the
Committee on Leaks and Book Sales had any report to make. To his
surprise Mr. Peters responded at once.
"Yes, gentlemen," he said, taking a check out of his pocket and handing
it to the treasurer. "The Committee on Leaks, Literature, and Lemonade
reports that the leak is still in excellent condition and is progressing
daily, while the Literature and Lemonade have produced the very
gratifying sum of one hundred and thirty-seven dollars and sixty-three
cents, a check for which I have just handed the treasurer."
Even the rector looked surprised.
"Pretty good result, eh?" said Peters. "You ask for ninety dollars and
get one hundred and thirty-seven dollars and sixty-three cents. You can
spend a hundred dollars now on the leak and make a perfect leak of it,
and have a balance of thirty-seven dollars and sixty-three cents to buy
books for the Hottentots or to invest in picture-books for the Blind
"Ah--Mr. Peters," said the chairman of the Committee on Supplies,
"I--ah--I was not aware that you'd had the sale. I--ah--I didn't receive
"Oh yes--we had it," said Peters, rubbing his hands together buoyantly.
"We had it last night, and it went off superbly."
"I am sorry," said the chairman of the Committee on Supplies. "I should
like to have been there."
"I didn't know of it myself, Mr. Peters," said the rector, "but I am
glad it was so successful. Were there many present?"
"Well--no," said Peters. "Not many. Fact is, Mrs. Peters and the
treasurer here and I were the only persons present, gentlemen. But the
results sought were more than accomplished."
"I don't see exactly how, unless we are to regard this check as a gift,"
observed the chairman of the Committee on Supplies, coldly.
"Well, I'll tell you how," said Peters. "The check isn't a gift at all.
Last year you had a book sale at my house, and this year you voted to
have another. I couldn't very well object--didn't want to, in fact. Very
glad to have it as long as I was allowed to control it. But last year we
cleared up a bare eighty dollars. This year we have cleared up one
hundred and thirty-seven dollars and sixty-three cents. Last year's book
sale cost me one hundred and twenty-five dollars. The children who
attended, aided and abetted by my own, spilled so much ice cream on my
dining-room rug that Mrs. Peters was forced to send it to the cleaners.
A very charming young woman whose name I shall not mention placed a
chocolate eclair upon my library sofa while she inspected a volume of
Gibson's drawings. Another equally charming young woman sat down upon
it, and, whatever it did to her dress, that eclair effectually ruined
the covering of my sofa. Then, as you may remember, the sale of books
took place in my library, and I had the pleasure of seeing, too late,
one of our sweetest little saleswomen replenishing her stock from my
shelves. She had sold out all the books that had been provided, and in a
mad moment of enthusiasm for the cause parted with a volume I had
secured after much difficulty in London to complete a set of some rarity
for about seven dollars less than the book had cost."
"Why did you not object?" demanded the chairman of the Committee on
"My dear sir," said Mr. Peters, "I never object to anything my guests
may do, particularly if they are charming and enthusiastic young women
engaged in church work. But I learned a lesson, and last night's book
sale was the result. If the chairman of the Committee on Supplies
demands it, here is a full account of receipts."
Mr. Peters handed over a memorandum
which read as follows:
Saving on Floors by not having Book Sale, $18.00
Saving on Carpets by not having Book Sale, 6.50
Saving on Library by not having Book Sale, 29.00
Saving on Time by not having Book Sale, 50.00
Saving on Furniture by not having Book Sale 28.27
Saving on Incidentals by not having Book Sale 5.86
"With this statement, gentlemen," said Mr. Peters, suavely, "should the
Finance Committee require it, I am prepared to submit the vouchers which
show how much wear and tear on a house is required to raise eighty
dollars for the heathen."
"That," said the chairman of the Finance Committee, "will not be
necessary--though--" and he added this wholly jocularly, "though I don't
think Mr. Peters should have charged for his time; fifty dollars is a
good deal of money."
"He didn't charge for his time," murmured the treasurer. "In this
statement he has paid for it!"
"Still," said he of Supplies, "the social end of it has been wiped out."
"Of course it has," retorted Mr. Peters. "And a very good thing it has
been, too. Did you ever know of a church function that did not arouse
animosities among the women, Mr. Squills?"
The gentleman, in the presence of men of truth, had to admit that he
never knew of such a thing.
"Then what's the matter with my book sale?" demanded Peters. "It has
raised more money than last year; has cost me no more--and there won't
be any social volcanoes for the vestry to sit over during the coming
A dead silence came over all.
"I move," said Mr. Jones, at whose house the meeting was held, "that we
go into executive session. Mrs. Jones has provided some cold birds, and
Mr. Jones's motion was carried, and before the meeting finally adjourned
under the genial influence of good-fellowship and pleasant converse Mr.
Peters's second book sale was voted to have been of the best quality.
THE VALOR OF BRINLEY
However differentiated from other suburban places Dumfries Corners maybe
in most instances, in the matter of obtaining and retaining efficient
domestics the citizens of that charming town find it much like all other
communities of its class. Civilization brings with it everywhere, it
would seem, problems difficult of solution, and conspicuous among them
may be mentioned the servant problem. It is probable that the only
really happy young couple that ever escaped the annoyance of this
particular evil were Adam and Eve, and as one recalls their case it was
the interference of a third party, in the matter of their diet, that
brought all their troubles upon them, so that even they may not be said
to have enjoyed complete immunity from domestic trials. What quality it
is in human nature that leads a competent housemaid or a truly-talented
culinary artist to abhor the country-side, and to prefer the dark,
cellar-like kitchens of the city houses it is difficult to surmise; why
the suburban housekeeper finds her choice limited every autumn to the
maid that the city folks have chosen to reject is not clear. That these
are the conditions which confront surburban residents only the
exceptionally favored rustic can deny.
In Dumfries Corners, even were there no rich red upon the trees, no
calendar upon the walls, no invigorating tonic in the air to indicate
the season, all would know when autumn had arrived by the anxious,
hunted look upon the faces of the good women of that place as they ride
on the trains to and from the intelligence offices of the city looking
for additions to their _menage_. Of course in Dumfries Corners, as
elsewhere, it is possible to employ home talent, but to do this requires
larger means than most suburbanites possess, for the very simple reason
that the home talent is always plentifully endowed with dependents.
These latter, to the number of eight or ten--which observation would
lead one to believe is the average of the successful local cook, for
instance--increase materially the butcher's and grocer's bills, and, one
not infrequently suspects, the coal man's as well.
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