The Booming of Acre Hill
John Kendrick Bangs
Part 2 out of 3
Years ago, when he was young and inexperienced, the writer of this
narrative, his suspicions having been aroused by the seeming social
popularity of his cook, took occasion one Sunday afternoon to count the
number of mysterious packages, of about a pound in weight each, which
set forth from his kitchen and were carried along his walk in various
stages of ineffectual concealment by the lady's visitors. The result was
by no means appalling, seven being the total. But granting that seven
was a fair estimate of the whole week's output, and that the stream
flowed on Sundays only, and not steadily through the other six days, the
annual output, on a basis of fifty weeks--giving the cook's generosity a
two weeks' vacation--three hundred and fifty pounds of something were
diverted from his pantry into channels for which they were not
originally designed, and on a valuation of twenty-five cents apiece his
minimum contribution to his cook's dependents became thereby very
nearly one hundred dollars. Add to this the probable gifts to similarly
fortunate relatives of a competent local waitress, of an equally
generously disposed laundress with cousins, not to mention the genial,
open-handed generosity of a hired man in the matter of kindling-wood and
edibles, and living becomes expensive with local talent to help.
It is in recognition of this seemingly cast-iron rule that local service
is too expensive for persons of modest income, that the modern
economical house-wife prefers to fill her _menage_ with maids from the
metropolis, even though it happen that she must take those who for one
reason or another have failed to please her city sisters. It may be,
too, that this is one of the reasons for the constant changes in most
suburban houses, for it is equally axiomatic that once an alien becomes
acclimated she takes on a _clientele_ of adopted relatives, who in the
course of time become as much of a drain upon the treasury of the
household as the Simon-Pure article.
The Brinleys had been through the domestic mill in its every phase.
They had had cooks, and cooks, and cooks, and maids, and maids, and
maids, plus other maids; they had been face to face with arson and
murder; Mrs. Brinley had parted a laundress armed with a flat-iron from
a belligerent cook armed with an ice-pick, and twice the ministers of
the law had carried certain irate women bodily forth with the direst of
threats lest they should return later and remove the Brinley family from
the list of the living.
All of which contributed to Mrs. Brinley's unhappiness and rather
increased than diminished her natural timidity. Brinley, on the other
hand, professed to know no fear, but according to his theory that ways
and means were his care, and that the domestic affairs of his household
were his wife's, and beyond his jurisdiction, held himself aloof and
said never a word to the recalcitrant servant, confining what upbraiding
he did exclusively to Mrs. Brinley.
"Why don't you scold Bridget?" cried Mrs. Brinley one morning, after
Brinley had made a few remarks to his wife which were not to her taste,
inasmuch as she felt that she had done nothing to deserve them. "I
didn't burn the steak."
"That is very true, my dear," said Brinley, "but you are responsible for
the cook who did. It would never do for me to interfere. I have troubles
enough with my office-boys. This is your bailiwick, not mine, and until
I ask you to scold my clerks you mustn't ask me to scold your servants."
With this sage remark the valiant Brinley at once took his departure.
Time passed, and it so happened one autumn that the once happy household
found itself in the throes of a particularly aggravated case of cook.
She was a sixteen-dollar cook, and had been recommended as being
"splendid." In just what respect she showed her splendor, save in her
regal lack of manners and the marvellous coloring of her costumes on her
Sundays out, was never perceptible, but one thing that was wholly clear
at the end of a three-weeks' service was her independence of manner.
Meals were never ready on time, and the dinner-hour, instead of being a
fixed time beneath her sway, seemed to become a variable point,
according to the lady's whim. In the observance of the breakfast-hour
she was equally erratic, and on several trying occasions Brinley was on
the verge of the dilemma of either failing to keep an appointment in
town or going without his morning meal. Sometimes the coffee would come
to the table a thin, amber fluid that tasted like particularly bad
consomme. Again it would be served with all the thickness of a _puree_.
Her bread was similarly variable in its undesirability. There were
biscuits that held all the flaky charm of a snowball. There were loaves
of bread that reminded one of the stories of hardtack in Cuba during the
late unpleasantness. There were English muffins that rested upon poor
Brinley's digestion as the world may fairly be presumed to rest upon the
shoulders of Atlas, and, indeed, it is a tradition in the Brinley family
that one of this cook's pie-crusts rivalled Harveyized steel in its
Indeed, Brinley, usually a silent sufferer, commented upon this cohesive
quality of Ellen's pastry on two different occasions. On the first he
advised Mrs. Brinley to learn the secret of Ellen's manipulation of the
ingredients of a pie-crust, and have herself capitalized to rival the
corporations which provide the government with armor-plate. On the
second he made the sage though disagreeable remark that the "next
apple-pie we have should be served with individual steam-drills." And he
one day accompanied Mrs. Brinley to a quiet golf links, and, when he had
teed up, that good lady observed one of Ellen's doughnuts upon the
little mound of sand before him instead of his favorite ball.
"I cut up the Silverton ball so," he said, as he addressed the tee,
"that I'm ashamed of myself. I may not play any better with this
doughnut, but it will never show the marks of the irons as a bit of mere
"If you feel that way about Ellen," Mrs. Brinley observed, just as
Brinley was about to drive off with a real ball, "I don't see why you
don't discharge her."
Brinley took his eye off the ball to look indignantly upon his wife, and
"Discharge her? Why should I discharge her?" he demanded, his temper
growing as he observed where he had landed his ball. "I'm not running
the house, my dear. You are. I didn't ask you to tell Miss Flossie
Fairfax that, as she couldn't spell, she was no longer useful as a
stenographer in the office of Brinley & Rutherford. Why should you ask
me to tell a cook that her services are no longer required in the
establishment of Brinley & Brinley, of which you are the manager?"
"It isn't easy to discharge a girl," Mrs. Brinley began. "Particularly a
quarrelsome woman like Ellen."
"Oh, that's it," said Brinley. "You are afraid of her."
"Not exactly," said Mrs. Brinley. "But--"
"Of course, if you are afraid of her, I'll get rid of her," persisted
Brinley, valiantly. "Just wait until we get home. I'll show you a thing
or two when it comes to ridding one's self of an unfaithful servant. The
steak this morning looked like a stake that martyrs had been burned at,
and I am not afraid to say so."
And so it was decided that Brinley, on his return home, should interview
Ellen and inform her that her services would not be required after the
first of the month. "Now let's play golf," he said. "I'll settle Ellen
in a minute. Fore!"
How Brinley fulfilled his promise is best shown by his talk with Mrs.
Brinley the next morning when, somewhat red of face, he rejoined her in
the dining-room after his interview with Ellen.
"Well?" said Mrs. Brinley.
"It's all right," Brinley replied, with an uneasy glance at his wife.
"She's going to stay."
"Going to stay?" echoed Mrs. Brinley, her eyes opening, wide in a very
natural astonishment. "Why, I thought you were going to discharge her?"
"Well--I was," he said, haltingly. "I was, of course. That's what I went
down for--but--er--you know, my dear, that there are two sides to every
"Even to Ellen's biscuits?" Mrs. Brinley laughed.
"Never mind that. She's going to do better," said Brinley. "You'll find
that hereafter we've got a cook, and not an incendiary nor a forger of
"And may I ask how this wonderful reform has been worked in the brief
space of ten minutes?" asked Mrs. Brinley. "Have you hypnotized her?"
"No," said Brinley. Then he looked rather sheepishly out of the window.
"I've given her an incentive to do better. I've increased her wages."
Mrs. Brinley gazed at him silently in open-mouthed wonder for a full
"You did what?" asked Mrs. Brinley.
"I told her we'd give her twenty dollars a month instead of sixteen,"
said Brinley. "You needn't laugh," he added. "I began very severely.
Asked her what she meant by ignoring our wishes as to hours. I dilated
forcefully upon her apparent fondness for burning, steaks to a crisp,
and sending broiled chicken to the table looking as if somebody had
dropped a flat-iron on them."
"Good!" exclaimed Mrs. Brinley. "And what did she say? Was she
"Not a bit of it," said Brinley "She took it very nicely until I spoke
of the muffins, after which I had intended to give her notice to quit,
but she took the wind completely out of my sails by asking me what I
expected at sixteen dollars a month."
"Ah!" said Mrs. Brinley. "Exactly," said Brinley. "That was a point I
had not considered at all. After all, she was right. What can you expect
for sixteen dollars?"
"Well, what next?" asked Mrs. Brinley, her eyes a-twinkle.
"I asked her if she thought she could do better on twenty dollars," he
answered. "She thought she could, and that's the way it stands now."
"I see," said Mrs. Brinley, and then she burst into a perfect explosion
of laughter, which she soon curbed, however, as she noticed the
expression on poor Brinley's face. "I've no doubt you have acted with
perfect justice in this matter, my dear George," she said. "But I think
hereafter I'll do my own discharging. Your way is rather
extravagant--er--don't you really think so?"
"Perhaps," said Brinley, and departed for town.
"The madam is right about that," he said to himself later in the day, as
he thought over the incident. "But extravagant or not, I couldn't have
discharged that woman if somebody had offered me a clear hundred. Mrs.
B. doesn't know it, but I was in a blue funk from start to finish."
In which surmise Brinley was wrong. Mrs. B. did know it, and when two
weeks later Ellen became absolutely impossible, and demanded a
kitchen-maid as the perquisite of a twenty-dollar cook, Mrs. Brinley
didn't think of calling upon her husband to perform the function of the
executioner, but like a brave woman actually summoned the cook into her
presence and did it herself. A less courageous woman would have gone
downstairs into the kitchen to do it.
It was a rather remarkable affair, taken altogether. Wilkins was not
what one would call an attractive man, and none of the young women of
Dumfries Corners who had met him had ever manifested anything but a
pronounced aversion to his society.
"I'd rather be a wall-flower than dance with Sam Wilkins," one of these
young women had said. "He not only can't dance, but, what is infinitely
worse, he doesn't know that he can't dance, and as for his
conversation--well, give me silence."
"You are perfectly right about that," said another. "Whenever I see him
about to waltz or two-step, I immediately remove myself from the scene,
and pray for the girl he's dancing with. He is a train-wrecker, and the
favorite resting-place for his heels is on some one else's foot. I've
heard that he steps on his own feet, too, he's so awkward, and I hope he
does if it hurts him as much as he hurts me when he steps on mine."
For Wilkins's sake I am very sorry to say that this feeling towards him
was invariable. I never cared much for him myself, but I felt rather
sorry for him when I perceived the persistent snubbing with which he was
everywhere received. He never seemed aware of it himself, happily,
however, and accepted my merely sympathetic attentions with that
superciliousness which always goes with conscious rectitude.
Conscious rectitude, I think, was Wilkins's trouble. He was good, and he
was aware of it, but he was not content with that. He wanted everybody
else to be good. I really believe that Wilkins could have carried on a
Platonic love affair with an auburn-haired girl for ten weeks without an
effort, he was so terribly good, which did not at all contribute to his
popularity. A fellow who talks about ritualism while walking in the
moonlight with a sentimental woman, doesn't count for much, and Wilkins
was always doing things like that. It was even whispered last winter
when he went sleigh-riding with that fascinating little widow, Mrs.
Broughton, that he let her do the driving, clasped his own hands in
front of him, and talked of nothing but the privations of the
missionaries in China, and never mentioned oysters or cold birds and a
"And worst of all," snapped Mrs. Broughton, "he really seemed to enjoy
it. I never saw such a man!"
I have mentioned all these details for the purpose of indicating how
unpopular Wilkins was and how it was that he had become so, for with
this knowledge the reader will share the surprise which we all felt when
Wilkins suddenly blossomed forth as the most popular man of Dumfries
Corners. It was really a knockdown blow to the most of us, for while we
may have been jealous on occasions of each other, it never occurred to
any of us to be jealous of the train-wrecker.
I didn't like it when Araminta smiled upon Harry Burnham, but it was not
injurious to my self-respect that she should do it, because Harry
Burnham averages up as good a fellow as I am, and then Harry and I could
drown our differences in the flowing bowl later on. On the other hand,
if Harry's Fiametta cast side glances at me, of course Harry would be
wroth, but he could understand why Fiametta should be so affected by the
twinkle in my eye--an affection by the way which has often got me
unconsciously into trouble--that she should for the moment forget
herself and respond to it.
But when Araminta and Fiametta on a sudden, just after the leap-year
dance, wholly, and, as we thought, basely, deserted us for that emblem
of conscious rectitude, Sam Wilkins, a man whose eye couldn't learn to
twinkle in a thousand years, a mere human iceberg, then it was that we
were astounded. Nor was this secession limited to Araminta and Fiametta.
The conversion of the girls of Dumfries Corners to Wilkins was as
complete, as comprehensive, as it was startling to the men. Jack Lester,
as Bob Jenks expressed it, was "trun down" by Daisy Hawkins, who
appeared to have eyes for none but Wilkins, while Bob, in turn, when
going to make his usual Thursday evening call upon Miss Betsy Wilson,
discovered that Miss Betsy had gone to the University extension lecture
with the train-wrecker, an act unprecedented, for it had long been the
custom for Bob to spend his Thursday evenings at the Wilson mansion,
and, while nothing had as yet been announced, everybody in town was
getting his congratulations ready for Bob as soon as that which was
understood became a matter of common knowledge.
For a week or two we none of us let on that we had observed the
remarkable change that had come o'er the spirit of our dreams. Harry has
always been remarkable for his ability to conceal his feelings, and in
that respect I am a good second, and except for the fact that we spent
more time at the club playing pool nobody would have suspected that we
cared whether Araminta or Fiametta still loved us or not. Besides, we
each had a feeling that two could play at this Wilkins game, and I had
made up my mind that if Araminta could so easily find a substitute for
me I, with my twinkle, could as speedily replace her. That is to say, I
felt that I could create that impression in Araminta's mind, and that
was all I was after. I didn't really intend, however easy it would be
to do so, to create a flutter of a permanent nature in any other woman's
heart--that is, not until I was sure that Araminta was lost to me
forever. After a decent period of mourning I might have used my twinkle
for permanent effect, but at that moment my only idea was to show
Araminta that if one could be fickle, two could be twice as fickle.
Harry had the same course of treatment in store for Fiametta, and we
both made a strong bid for the company of Mary Brown, who, it must be
confessed, was a charming girl, and stood second in the affections of
every man in Dumfries Corners.
It was the opportunity of Mary Brown's life, for even as Harry and I had
decided, so had all the other jilted swains, but that curious girl
either could not or would not grasp it. She, too, had become a
Wilkinsite, and would have nothing to do with any of us. She declined to
attend the Beldens's musicale with me, and went bicycling with the
iceberg. She told Robinson she hated lectures, and went to a
stereopticon show with the train-wrecker. All the other men met with a
similar rebuff, and at the last meeting of the Chafing Dish Club she
capped the climax by refusing my lobster a la Newburg and Harry's
oysters poulet, to have a second helping to the sole-leather welsh
rarebit which Wilkins had constructed; Wilkins, a rank outsider, who had
been asked to come to the meeting by every blessed girl in the club,
although heretofore he had not been considered as a possible member, and
in fact had been black-balled by the girls themselves! And when it came
time for the girls to go home, instead of each one being escorted by a
single male member, Wilkins corralled the whole lot of them in a huge
omnibus which he had hired, and drove off with them, leaving us
disconsolate. He smiled so broadly you could see his teeth in the dark.
This, as I have said, capped the climax.
"That settles it," said Burnham. "I'm going to New York for a rest.
These Dumfries Corners girls needn't think they're the only women in the
world. There are others."
"I'm going to stay and stick it out," said I. "I've got my sister left.
She'll never succumb to the Wilkins influence." But alas! I leaned upon
a broken reed. My sister is a sensible girl, but she is "literary." She
had a joke in _Life_ once, and since that time she has neglected almost
everything but writing and her brother. She doesn't neglect me, and
altogether I'm glad she writes, since it fills her with enthusiasm until
the articles come back, and up to now she had not written poetry. But,
as I say, I leaned upon a broken reed, for when, the next day, I asked
her what she was writing, she laughed and showed me a sonnet.
"Poetry, eh?" I said, disapprovingly, as I looked over her manuscript.
"Yes," she answered, modestly. "A sonnet."
And I read, "To S.W."
"Who's 'S.W.?'" I asked, with a frown, although I little suspected what
her answer would be.
"Sam Wilkins," she replied.
I then realized the full force of Caesar's "Et tu, Brute?" and fled.
Meanwhile Wilkins was becoming insufferable. If Bunthorne was an ass, he
was at least clever, but this Wilkins--he was a whole drove of asses,
and not a redeeming feature to the lot. He could no more account for
his sudden popularity than we could, but he could not help realizing it
after a week or two, and then, for the first time in his life, he began
to take notice. We men all wanted to thrash him, and I think Burnham
would have done it if the rest of us hadn't prevented him.
"He needed a licking before this," said Harry, "but now he's worse than
ever. It isn't conscious rectitude now, it's triumphant virtue. He makes
me tired. He was telling me the other day that while girls might be
captivated by flippant, superficial, prancing dudes for a while, in the
end solid worth would win, and then he went on to say that the youth of
modern times cultivated his feet to the exclusion of his head, and that
while he had, of course, learned to dance, he had not devoted all his
time to it, and regarded it, after all, as a very minor sort of an
attraction as far as women are concerned. 'I don't rely on my dancing,
Burnham,' he said. 'It's the head, and the heart, my boy, that
triumphs.' And when I asked him where he learned all this he answered,
'from personal experience.'"
I immediately let go of Burnham. "Go and half-lick him, Harry," said I.
"And when you've done with him pass him over to me, and I'll finish him.
The supercilious ass."
That was the way Wilkins affected us.
The other men took their dose in different ways. Jenks began to drink a
little more; Lester drank a little less. Hicks didn't care much about it
one way or the other, and Wilson swore that if Wilkins came to call on
his sister again he'd kick him out of the house.
Six weeks rolled by thus, and finally Easter Sunday came. No mitigation
of the Wilkins visitation had entered into our lives. As the days wore
on the girls became more devoted to him than ever, and he became
correspondingly unbearable. The condescension with which he would treat
his fellow-men was something hardly to be tolerated, and the worst of it
was there didn't seem to be any way of bringing the girls to terms.
There wasn't anybody left for us to flirt with now that Mary Brown had
gone over to the enemy, she who had always been willing to flirt with
"There's only one hope," said Jenks. "If he'll only marry one of 'em,
the others will come back. He can't marry 'em all, thank Heaven."
"Suppose it was Fiametta he married?" said I.
"Or Araminta!" was his preposterous retort.
"He'll never do that," said Lester. "He's in clover now, and for the
first time in his life, and the more of an ass he is the more he'll like
clover. He's paying attention to the lot. He'll never settle down to
one. It's all up with us--unless he bankrupts himself."
"He won't," observed Harry Burnham. "Conscious rectitude won't do
anything like that. I'm going to New York to call on an old flame, and I
advise the rest of you to do the same."
"Well, I don't know but what you are right," said I, "but Araminta shall
have one more chance. I'm going to church to-morrow. It's Easter Sunday,
and I'll offer to escort her home. If she says 'yes,' all right. If she
doesn't, I'm lost to her forever." "Good scheme," quoth the others.
"We're with you."
And that is what we all did. The girls were all there, resplendent in
new bonnets and toggery of other sorts, and the smirking Wilkins was
there too. He passed the plate after the sermon, and his rectitude shone
out oleaginously on every line of his face. It was as much as I could do
to keep from tripping him up in the aisle, and sending him and the
contribution-plate sprawling. I almost did it when I imagined his
feelings as the nickels rattled down through the register into the
furnace below, but I restrained myself--and the killing glances he threw
into those glass eyes of his, whenever he happened to hold the plate
before one of those Dumfries girls! It was sickening, and I came near to
flying before the close of the service. The others had the same
sensations and temptations, and it is a wonder that Wilkins did not meet
with some dreadful humiliation before he got the collection back into
the chancel. It was a terrible strain on us, and his horrid
unconsciousness that he was anything but perfect, and that the rest of
us were anything more than so many paving stones to be walked on, was
aggravating to a degree. Nothing unusual happened, however, and the
service came to an end, and with it came to us all another surprise, but
this time the surprise gave Wilkins a pain, and I had a front seat when
the blow was dealt.
It had occurred to the immaculate rival of all the manhood of Dumfries
Corners that he would honor Araminta with his society on the way home
from church, and he and I reached her side after service at one and the
"May I have the pleasure of seeing you home?" said Wilkins, twirling his
mustache with a "resist me if you can" smile on his lips.
"Don't let me interfere," said I, dryly, and was about to turn away.
"Thank you, Mr. Wilkins," replied Araminta, "but Mr. Smithers has
already asked me."
It was a beautiful, lovely, sweet lie. I hadn't done anything of the
sort, but I'd meant to, of course, and perhaps Araminta had become a
mind reader. Wilkins got a little flushy around his cheek-bones, and
posted off to Fiametta, but she and Burnham were already en route and
apparently reconciled. So it went with all. Wilkins was left. Even my
sister, who, lacking Wilkins, would have to walk home with the
minister's wife, declined, and the fall of the great man was complete.
Mary Brown was the only one remaining in the field, and when he fled to
her she said she wasn't going home.
"Well, then," said Wilkins, "let me take you to wherever you are going?"
"Thank you," returned Miss Brown, "I'm not going there either," and she
joined Araminta and myself, much to our delight, for we have no secrets
from her. And then it all came out.
The girls had not loved us less, or Wilkins more, but they had resolved
to keep Lent with unusual rigor this year.
_They had sworn us off and taken up Wilkins for penance_.
Hard on Wilkins?
Not a bit of it. He's as conscious of his rectitude and as unconscious
of his unpopularity as ever.
Only he is a little more outspoken about women than he used to be, and
somehow or other he has let it creep out that he "doesn't find them
"They can't even learn to dance without tripping a fellow up," says he.
THE MAYOR'S LAMPS
The serpent had crept into Eden. The Perkins household for ten years had
been little less than Paradise to its inmates, and then in a single
night the reptile of political ambition had dragged his slimy length
through those happy door-posts and now sat grinning indecently at the
inscription over the library mantel, a ribbon mosaic bearing the
sentiment "Here Dwells Content" let into the tiles thereof.
How it ever happened no man knoweth, but happen it did. Thaddeus Perkins
was snatched from the arms of Peace and plunged headlong into the jaws
of Political Warfare.
"They want me because they think I'm strong," he pleaded, in extenuation
of his acceptance of the nomination for Mayor of his town.
"But you ought to know better," returned Mrs. Perkins, failing to
realize what possible misconstruction her lord and master might put
upon the answer. "The idea of your meddling in politics when you've got
twice as much work as you can do already! I think it's awful!"
"I didn't seek it," he said, after hesitating a moment;
"they've--they've thrust it on me." Then he tried to be funny. "With me,
public office is a public thrust."
"Is there any salary?" asked Mrs. Perkins, treating the jest with the
contempt it merited.
"No," said Thaddeus. "Not a cent; but--"
"Not a cent!" cried Mrs. Perkins. "And you are going to give up all your
career, or at least two years of it, and probably the best two years of
your life, for--"
"Glory," said Thaddeus.
"Glory! Humph," said Mrs. Perkins, "I am not aware that nations are
talking of previous Mayors of Dumfries Corners. Mr. Jiggers's name is
not a household word outside of this city, is it?"
Mr. Jiggers was the gentleman, into whose shoes Thaddeus was seeking to
place his feet--the incumbent of the mighty office to which he aspired.
"Who is the present Lord Mayor of London?" the lady continued.
"Haven't the slightest idea," murmured the standard-bearer of the
Democratic party, hopelessly.
"Or Berlin, or Peking--or even of Chicago?" she went on.
"What has that got to do with it?" retorted the worm, turning a trifle.
"You spoke of glory--the glory of being Mayor of Dumfries Corners, a
city of 30,000 inhabitants. This is going to send your name echoing from
sea to sea, reverberating through Europe, and thundering down through
the ages to come; and yet you admit that the glories of the Mayors of
London with 4,000,000 souls, of Berlin, Chicago, and Peking, with
millions more, are so slight that you can't remember their names--or
even to have heard them, for that matter. Really, Thaddeus, I am
surprised at you. What you expect to get out of this besides nervous
prostration I must confess I cannot see."
"Lamps," said Thaddeus, clutching like a drowning man at the one
emolument of the coveted office.
Mrs. Perkins gazed at her husband anxiously. The answer was so
unexpected and seemingly so absurd that she for a moment feared he had
lost his mind. The notion that two years' service in so important an
office as that of Mayor of Dumfries Corners received as its sole reward
nothing but lamps was to her mind impossible.
"Is--is there anything the matter with you, dear?" she asked, placing
her hand on his brow. "You don't seem feverish."
"Feverish?" snapped the leader of his party. "Who said anything about my
"Nobody, Teddy dear; but what you said about lamps made me think--made
me think your mind was wandering a trifle."
"Oh--that!" laughed Perkins. "No, indeed--it's true. They always give
the Mayor a pair of lamps. Some of them are very swell, too. You know
those wrought-iron standards that Mr. Berkeley has in front of his
"The ones at the driveway entrance, on the bowlders?" "Yes."
"They're beauties. I've always admired those lamps very much."
"Well--they are the rewards of Mr. Berkeley's political virtue. I paid
for them, and so did all the rest of the tax-payers. They are his
Mayor's lamps, and if I'm elected I'll have a pair just like them, if I
want them like that."
"Oh, I do hope you'll get in, Teddy," said the little woman, anxiously,
after a reflective pause. "They'd look stunning on our gate-posts."
"I don't think I shall have them there," said Thaddeus. "Jiggers has the
right idea, seems to me--he's put 'em on the newel-posts of his front
"I don't suppose they'd give us the money and let us buy one handsome
cloisonne lamp from Tiffany's, would they?" Mrs. Perkins asked.
"A cloisonne lamp on a gate-post?" laughed Perkins.
"Of course not," rejoined the lady. "You know I didn't mean any such
thing. I saw a perfectly beautiful lamp in Tiffany's last Wednesday, and
it would go so well in the parlor--"
"That wouldn't be possible, my dear," said Thaddeus, still smiling.
"You don't quite catch the idea of those lamps. They're sort of like the
red, white, and blue lights in a drug-store window in intention. They
are put up to show the public that that is where a political
prescription for the body politic may be compounded. The public is
responsible for the bills, and the public expects to use what little
light can be extracted from them."
"Then all this generosity on the public's part is--"
"Merely that of the Indian who gives and takes back," said Thaddeus.
"And they must be out-of-doors?" asked Mrs. Perkins. "If I set the
cloisonne lamp in the window, it wouldn't do?"
"No," said Thaddeus. "They must be out-of-doors."
"Well, I hope the nasty old public will stay there too, and not come
traipsing all over my house," snapped Mrs. Perkins, indignantly.
And then for a little time the discussion of the Mayor's lamps stopped.
The campaign went on, and Thaddeus night after night was forced to go
out to speak here and there and everywhere. One night he travelled five
miles through mud and rain to address an organization of tax-payers, and
found them assembled before the long mahogany counter of a beer-saloon,
which was the "Hall" they had secured for the reception of the idol of
their hopes; and among them it is safe to say there was not one who ever
saw a tax-bill, and not many who knew more about those luxuries of life
than the delicious flunky, immortalized by Mr. Punch, who says to a
brother flunky, "I say, Tummas, wot is taxes?" And he told them his
principles and promised to do his best for them, and bade them
good-night, and went away leaving them parched and dry and downcast. And
then the other fellow came, and won their hearts and "set them up
again." Another night he attended another meeting and lost a number of
friends because he shone at both ends but not in the middle. If he had
taken a glittering coin or two from his vest-pocket on behalf of the
noble working-men there assembled in great numbers and spirituous mood,
they would have forgiven him his wit and patent-leather shoes--and so
it went. Perkins was nightly hauled hither and yon by the man he called
his "Hagenbeck," the manager of the wild animal he felt himself
gradually degenerating into, and his wife and home and children saw less
of him than of the unimportant floating voter whose mind was open to
conviction, but could be reached only by way of the throat.
"Two o'clock last night; one o'clock the night before; I suppose it'll
be three before you are in to-night?" Mrs. Perkins said, ruefully.
"I do not know, my dear," replied Thaddeus. "There are five meetings on
"Well, I think they ought to give you the lamps now," said Mrs. Perkins.
"It seems to me this is when you need them most."
"True," said Thaddeus, sadly, for in his secret soul he was beginning to
be afraid he would be elected; and now that he saw what kind of people
Mayors have to associate with, the glory of it did not seem to be worth
the cost. "I'm a sort of Night-Mayor just at present, and those lamps
would come in handy in the wee sma' hours," he groaned. And then he
sighed and pined for the peaceful days of yore when he was content to
walk his ways with no nation upon his shoulders.
"I never envied Atlas anyhow," he confided to himself later, as he
tossed about upon his bed and called himself names. "It always seemed to
me that this revolving globe must rub the skin off his neck and back;
but now, poor devil, with just one municipality hanging over me, I can
appreciate more than ever the difficulties of his position--except that
he doesn't have to make speeches to 'tax-payers.' Humph! Taxpayers! It's
tax-makers. If I'd promised to go into all sorts of wilderness
improvement for the sole and only purpose of putting these 'tax-payers'
on the corporation at the expense of real laboring-men, I'd win in a
"What is the matter, Thaddeus?" said Mrs. Perkins, coming in from the
other room. "Can't you sleep?"
"Don't want to sleep, my dear," returned the candidate. "When I go to
sleep I dream I'm addressing mass-meetings. I, can't enjoy my rest
unless I stay awake. Did your mother come to-day?"
"Yes--and, oh, she's so enthusiastic, Teddy!"
"At last! About me? You don't mean it."
"No--about the lamps. She says lamps are just what we need to complete
the entrance. She thinks Mr. Berkeley's scheme of putting them on the
stone posts is the best. There's more dignity about it. Putting them on
the piazza steps, she says, looks ostentatious, and suggests a
beer-saloon or a road-house."
"Well, my dear, that's about all politics seems to amount to," said the
reformer. "If those lamps are to be a souvenir of the campaign, they
ought to suggest road-houses and beer-saloons."
"They will not be souvenirs of a campaign," replied Mrs. Perkins,
proudly. "They will be the outward and visible sign of my husband's
merit; the emblem of victory."
"The red badge of triumph, eh?" smiled the candidate, wanly. "Well, my
dear, have them where you please, and keep them well filled with
alcohol, even if they do burn gas. They'll represent the tax-payers
when they get that."
"You musn't get so tired, Thaddeus dear," said the little woman,
smoothing his forehead soothingly with her hand. "You seem unusually
"I am," said Thaddeus, shortly. "The debate wore me out."
"Did you debate? I thought you said you wouldn't."
"Well, I did. Everybody said I was afraid to meet Captain Haskins on the
platform, so we had it out to-night over in the Tenth Ward. I talked for
sixty-eight minutes, gave 'em my views, and then he got up."
"What did he say. Could he answer you?"
"No--but he won the day. All he said was: 'Well, boys, I'm not much of a
talker, but I'll say one thing--Perkins, while my adversary, is still my
friend, and I'm proud of him. Now, if you'll all join me at the bar,
we'll drink his health--on me.'" Thaddeus paused, and then he added: "I
imagine they're cheering yet; at any rate, if I have as much health as
they drink--on Haskins--I'll double discount old Methuselah in the
matter of years."
The next morning at breakfast the pale and nervous standard-bearer was
affectionately greeted by his mother-in-law.
"I've been thinking about those lamps all night," she said, after a few
minutes. "The trouble about the gate-posts is that you have three
gate-posts and only two lamps."
"Maybe they'd let us buy three lamps instead of two," suggested Mrs.
"Well, we won't, even if they do let us," observed Perkins, with some
irritation. He had just received a newspaper from a kind friend in
Massachusetts with a comic biography and dissipated wood-cut of himself
in it. "I'm not starting a concert-hall, and I'm not going to put a row
of lamps along the front of my place."
"I quite agree with you," replied his mother-in-law. "It occurred to me
we might put them, like hanging lanterns, on each of the chimneys. It
would be odd."
Thaddeus muttered two syllables to himself, the latter of which sounded
like M'dodd, but exactly what it was he said I can only guess. Then he
added: "They won't go there. I can't get a gas-pipe up through those
chimneys. It's as much as we can do to get the smoke up, much less a
gas-pipe. Even if we got the gas-pipe through, it wouldn't do. A
putty-blower would choke up the flues."
"Well, I don't know," said the mother-in-law, placidly. "It seems to
A glance from Mrs. Perkins stopped the dear old lady. I think Mrs.
Perkins's sympathetic disposition taught her that her husband was having
a hard time being agreeable, and that further discussion of the lamp
question was likely to prove disastrous.
Thaddeus was soon called for by his manager, and started out to meet the
leading lights of the Hungarian and Italian quarters. The Germans had
been made solid the day before, and as for the Irish, they were supposed
to be with Perkins on principle, because Perkins was not in accord
politically with the existing administration.
"It's too bad he's so nervous," said his mother-in-law, as he went out.
"They say women are nervous, but I must say I don't think much of the
endurance of men. How absurd he was when he spoke of the gas-pipe
through the chimney!"
"Well, I suppose, my dear mother," said Mrs. Perkins, sadly--"I suppose
he can't be bothered with little details like the lamps now. There are
other questions to be considered."
"What is the exact issue?" asked the mother-in-law, interestedly.
"Well--the tariff, and--ah--and taxes, and--ah--money, and--ah--ah--I
think the saloon question enters in somehow. I believe Mr. Haskins wants
more of them, and Thaddeus says there are too many of them as it is. And
now they are both investigating them, I fancy, because Teddy was in one
the other day."
"We ought to help him a little," said the elder woman. "Let's just
relieve him of the whole lamp question; decide where to put them, go to
New York and pick them out, get estimates for the laying of the pipes,
and surprise him by having them all ready to put up the day after
election." "Wouldn't it be fun!" cried Mrs. Perkins, delightedly.
"He'll be so surprised--poor dear boy. I'll do it. I'll send down this
morning for Mr. O'Hara to come up here and see how we can make the
connection and where the trenches for the pipes can be laid. Mr. O'Hara
is the best-known contractor in town, and I guess he's the man we want."
And immediately O'Hara was telephoned for to come up to Mr. Perkins's,
and the fair conspirators were not aware of, and probably will never
realize, the importance politically of that act. Mr. O'Hara refused to
come, but it was hinted about that Perkins had summoned him, and there
was great joy among the rank and file, and woe among the better
elements, for O'Hara was a boss, and a boss whose power was one of the
things Thaddeus was trying to break, and the cohorts fancied that the
apostle of purity had realized that without O'Hara reform was fallen
into the pit. Furthermore, as cities of the third class, like Dumfries
Corners, live conversationally on rumors and gossipings, it was not an
hour before almost all Dumfries Corners, except Thaddeus Perkins
himself and his manager, knew that the idol had bowed before the boss's
hat, and that the boss had returned the grand message that he'd see
Perkins in the Hudson River before he'd go to his damned mugwump temple;
and in two hours they also knew it, for they heard in no uncertain terms
from the secretary of the Municipal Club, a reform organization, which
had been instrumental in securing Perkins's nomination, who demanded to
know in an explicit yes or no as to whether any such message had been
sent. The denial was made, and then the lie was given; and many to this
day wonder exactly where the truth lay. At any rate, votes were lost and
few gained, and many a worthy friend of good government lost heart and
bemoaned the degeneration of the gentleman into the politician.
Perkins, worn out, irritated by, if not angry at, what he termed the
underhanded lying of the opposition, drove home for luncheon, and found
his wife and her mother in a state of high dudgeon. They had been
"It was frightful the language that man used, Thaddeus," said Mrs.
Perkins. "He wouldn't have dared do it except by telephone," put in the
mother-in-law, whose notions were somewhat old-fashioned. "I've always
hated that machine. People can lie to you and you can't look 'em in the
eye over it, and they can say things to your face with absolute
The dear old lady meant impunity, but it must be remembered that she
"Well, I think he ought to be chastised," said Mrs. Perkins.
"Who? What are you talking about?" demanded Thaddeus.
"That nasty O'Hara man," said Mrs. Perkins. "He said 'he'd be damned'
over the wire."
Thaddeus immediately became energetic. "He didn't blackguard you, did
he?" he demanded.
"Yes, he did," said Mrs. Perkins, the water in her eyes affecting her
voice so that it became mellifluous instead of merely melodious.
"But how?" persisted Perkins.
"Well--we--we--rang him up--it was only as a surprise, you know,
dear--we rang him up--" "You--you rang up--O'Hara?" cried Perkins,
aghast. "It must have been a surprise."
"Yes, Teddy. We were going to settle the lamp question; we thought you
were bothered enough with--well, with affairs of state--"
The candidate drew up proudly, but immediately became limp again as he
realized the situation.
"And," Mrs. Perkins continued, "we thought we'd relieve you of the lamp
question; and as Mr. O'Hara is a great contractor--the most noted in all
Dumfries Corners--isn't he?"
"Yes, yes, yes! he is!" said Perkins, furiously; "but what of that?"
"Well, that's why we rang him up," said Mrs. Perkins, with a sigh of
relief to find that she had selected the right man. "We wanted Mr.
O'Hara to dig the trench for the pipes, and lay the pipes--"
"He's a great pipe-layer!" ejaculated Perkins.
"Exactly," rejoined Mrs. Perkins, solemnly. "We'd heard that, and so we
asked him to come up."
"But, my dear," cried Perkins, dismayed, "you didn't tell him you
wanted him to put up my lamps? I'm not elected yet."
The agony of the moment for Perkins can be better imagined than
"He didn't give us the chance," said the mother-in-law. "He merely
Perkins drew a sigh of relief. He understood it all now, and in spite of
the position in which he was placed he was glad. "Jove!" he said to
himself, "it was a narrow escape. Suppose O'Hara had come! He'd have
enjoyed laying pipes for a Mayor's lamps for me--two weeks before
And for the first time in weeks Perkins was faintly mirthful. The
narrowness of his escape had made him hysterical, and he actually
indulged in the luxury of a nervous laugh.
"That accounts for the rumor," he said to himself, and then his heart
grew heavy again. "The rumor is true, and--Oh, well, this is what I get
for dabbling in politics. If I ever get out of this alive, I vow by all
the gods politics shall know me no more."
"It was all right--my asking O'Hara, Thaddeus?" asked Mrs. Perkins. "Oh
yes, certainly, my dear--perfectly right. O'Hara is indeed, as you
thought, the most noted, not to say notorious, contractor in town, only
he's not laying pipes just now. He's pulling wires."
"For telephones, I presume?" said the old lady, placidly.
"Well, in a way," replied Thaddeus. "There's a great deal of vocality
about O'Hara's wires. But, Bess," he added, seriously, "just drop the
lamps until we get 'em, and confine your telephoning to your intimate
friends. An Irishman on a telephone in political times is apt to be a
trifle--er--artless in his choice of words. If you must talk to one of
'em, remember to put in the lightning plug before you begin."
With which injunction the candidate departed to address the Mohawks, an
independent political organization in the Second Ward, which was made up
of thinking men who never indorsed a candidate without knowing why, and
rarely before three o'clock of the afternoon of election day at that, by
whom he was received with cheers and back-slapping and button-holings
which convinced him that he was the most popular man on earth, though
on election day--but election day has yet to be described. It came, and
with it there came to Perkins a feeling very much like that which the
small boy experiences on the day before Christmas. He has been good for
two months, and he knows that to-morrow the period of probation will be
over and he can be as bad as he pleases again for a little while anyhow.
"However it turns out, I can tell 'em all to go to the devil to-morrow,"
chuckled Thaddeus, rubbing his hands gleefully.
"I don't think you ought to forget the lamps, Thaddeus," observed the
mother-in-law at breakfast. "Here it is election day and you haven't yet
decided where they shall go. Now I really think--"
"Never mind the lamps," returned Thaddeus. "Let's talk of ballot-boxes
to-day. To-morrow we can place the lamps."
"Very well, if you say so," said the old lady; "only I marvel at you
latter-day boys. In my young days a small matter like that would have
been settled long ago."
"Well, I'll compromise with you," said Thaddeus. "We won't wait until
to-morrow. I'll decide the question to-night--I'm really too busy now to
think of them."
"I shall be glad when we don't have to think about 'em at all," sighed
Mrs. Perkins, pouring out the candidate's coffee. "They've really been a
care to me. I don't like the idea of putting them on the porch, or on
the gate-posts either. They'll have to be kept clean, and goodness knows
I can't ask the girls to go out in the middle of winter to clean them if
they are on the gate-posts."
"Mike will clean them," said Thaddeus.
Mrs. Perkins sniffed when Mike's name was mentioned. "I doubt it," she
said. "He's been lots of good for two weeks."
"Mike has been lots of good for two weeks," echoed Thaddeus,
enthusiastically. "He's kept all the hired men in line, my dear."
"I've no doubt he's been of use politically, but from a domestic point
of view he's been awful. He's been drunk for the last week."
"Well, my love," said the candidate, despairingly, "some member of the
family had to be drunk for the last week, and I'd rather it was Mike
than you or any of the children. Mike's geniality has shed a radiance
about me among the hired men of this town that fills me with pride."
"I don't see, to go back to what I said in the very beginning, why we
can't have the lamps in-doors," returned Mrs. Perkins.
"I told you why not, my dear," said Perkins. "They are the perquisite of
the Mayor, but for the benefit of the public, because the public pays
"And hasn't the public, as you call it, taken possession of the inside
of your house?" demanded the mother-in-law. "I found seven gentlemen
sitting in the white and gold parlor only last night, and they hadn't
wiped their feet either."
"You don't understand," faltered the standard-bearer. "That business
isn't, permanent. To-morrow I'll tell them to go round to the back door
and ask the cook."
"Humph!" said the mother-in-law. "I'm surprised at you. For a few paltry
votes you--" Just here the front door bell rang, and the business of
the day beginning stopped the conversation, which bade fair to become
* * * * *
Night came. The votes were being counted, and at six o'clock Perkins was
informed that everything was going his way.
"Get your place ready for a brass band and a serenade," his manager
"I sha'n't!" ejaculated the candidate to himself, his old--time
independence asserting itself now that the polls were closed--and he was
right. He didn't have to. The band did not play in his front yard, for
at eight o'clock the tide that had set in strong for Perkins turned. At
ten, according to votes that had been counted, things were about even,
and the ladies retired. At twelve Perkins turned out the gas.
"That settles the lamp question, anyhow," he whispered to himself as he
went up-stairs, and then he went into Mrs. Perkins's room.
"Well, Bess," he said, "it's all over, and I've made up my mind as to
where the lamps are to go." "Good!" said the little woman. "On the
"No, dear. In the parlor--the cloisonne lamps from Tiffany's."
"Why, I thought you said we couldn't--"
"Well, we can. Our lamps can go in there whether the public likes it or
not. We are emancipated."
"But I don't understand," began Mrs. Perkins.
"Oh, it's simple," said Thaddeus, with a sigh of mingled relief and
chagrin. "It's simple enough. The other lamps are to be put--er--on
Captain Haskins's place."
THE BALANCE OF POWER
It was a pleasant night in the spring of 189-.
The residents of Dumfries Corners were enjoying an early spring, and
suffering from the demoralizing influences of a municipal election.
Incidentally Mr. Thaddeus Perkins, candidate, was beginning to feel very
much like Moses when he saw the promised land afar. The promised land
was now in plain sight; but whether or not the name of Perkins should be
inscribed in one of its high places depended upon the voters who on the
morrow were to let their ballots express their choice as to who should
preside over the interests of the city and hold in check the fiery,
untamed aldermen of Dumfries Corners.
The candidate was tired, very tired, and was trying to gain a few hours'
rest before plunging again and for the last time into the whirlpool of
vote-getting; and as he sat enjoying a few moments of blissful ease
behind the close-drawn portieres of his library there came the
much-dreaded sound of heavy feet upon the porch without, and the
"Norah!" cried the candidate, in an agonized stage-whisper, as the maid
approached in answer to the summons, "tell them I'm out, unless it's
some one of my personal friends."
"Yis, sorr," was the answer. "Oi will."
And the door was opened.
"Is Misther Perkins in?" came a deep, unmistakably "voting" voice from
"Oi dun'no'. Are yees a personal friend of Misther Perkins?" was the
response, and the heart of the listening Perkins sought his boots.
"Oi am not, but--" said the deep voice.
"Thin he isn't in," said Norah, positively.
"When 'll he be back?" asked the visitor, huskily.
"Ye say ye niver met him?" demanded Norah. "Oi told ye oi hadn't," said
the visitor, a trifle irritably. "But--"
"Thin he'll niver be back," put in the glorious Norah, and she shut the
door with considerable force and retired.
For a moment the candidate was overcome; first he paled, but then
catching Mrs. Perkins's eye and noting a twinkle of amusement therein,
he yielded to his emotions and roared with laughter. What if Norah's
manner was unconventional? Had she not carried out instructions?
"My dear," said the candidate to Mrs. Perkins, as the shuffling feet on
the porch shuffled off into the night, "what wages do you pay Norah?"
"Sixteen dollars, Thaddeus," was the answer. "Why?"
"Make it twenty hereafter," replied the candidate. "She is an emerald
beyond price. If I had only let her meet the nominating committee when
they entered our little Eden three weeks ago, I should not now be
involved in this wretched game of politics."
"Well, I sincerely wish you had," Mrs. Perkins observed, heartily. "This
affair has made a very different man of you, and as for your family,
they hardly see you any more. You are neglecting every single household
duty for your horrid old politics."
"Well, now, my dear--" began the candidate.
"The pipes in the laundry have been leaking for four days now, and yet
you won't send for a plumber, or even let me send for one," continued
"Well, Bessie dear, how can I? The race is awfully close. It wouldn't
surprise me if the majority either way was less than a hundred."
"There you go again, Thaddeus. What on earth has the leak in the laundry
pipes to do with the political situation?" asked the puzzled woman.
The candidate showed that in spite of his recent affiliations he still
retained some remnant of his former self-respect, for he blushed as he
thought of the explanation; but he tried nevertheless to shuffle out of
"Of course you can't understand," he said, with a cowardly resolve to
shirk the issue. "That's because you are a woman, Bess. Women don't
understand great political questions. And what I have particularly
liked about you is that you never pretended that you did."
"Well, I'd like to know," persisted Mrs. Perkins. "I want to be of as
much assistance to my husband in his work as I can, and if public
questions are hereafter to be the problems of your life, they must
become my problems too. Besides, my curiosity is really aroused in this
especial case, and I'd love to know what bearing our calling a plumber
has upon the tariff, or the money question, or any other thing in
The candidate hesitated. He was cornered, and he did not exactly like
"Well--" he began. "You see, I'm standing as the representative of a
great party, and we--we naturally wish to win. If I am defeated, every
one will say that it is a rebuke to the administration at Washington;
and so, you see, we'd better let those leaks leak until day after
to-morrow, when the voting will all be over."
Mrs. Perkins looked at her husband narrowly.
"I think I'll have to call the doctor," was her comment. "Either for you
or for myself, Teddy. One of us is gone--wholly gone, mentally. There's
no question about it, either you are rambling in your speech, or I have
entirely lost all comprehension of the English language."
"I don't see--" began Perkins.
"Neither do I," interrupted Mrs. Perkins; "and I hardly hope to. You've
explained and explained, but how a plumber's calling here to fix a
laundry leak is to rebuke the administration at Washington is still far
"But the plumbers are said to hold the balance of power!" cried the
candidate. "There are a hundred of them here in Dumfries Corners, and
each one controls at least five assistants, which makes six hundred
voters in all. If I call in one, he and his five workers will vote for
me, but the other five hundred and ninety-four will vote for Haskins;
and if they do, the administration might as well go out of business.
Can't you see? It's the same with the dandelions. These spring elections
are perfect--ah--Gehenna for a candidate if it happens to be an early
spring like this."
Perkins's voice had the suggestion of a wail in it as he spoke of the
dandelions, and his wife's alarm grew upon her. She understood now
about the plumber, but his interjection of the dandelions had brought a
fearful doubt into her heart. Surely he was losing his mind.
"Dandelions, Thaddeus?" she echoed, aghast.
"Yes, dandelions," retorted the candidate, forcibly. "They've queered me
as much as anything. The neighbors say I'm not a good neighbor because I
don't have them pulled. Mike's been so thoroughly alcoholic all through
the fight, looking after my interests, that he can't pull them; and if I
hire two men to come and do the work, seven hundred other men will want
to know why they didn't get a chance."
"But why not employ boys?" demanded Mrs. Perkins.
"And be set down as an advocate of cheap child labor? Not I!" cried
"Then the dandelion-pullers are another balance of power, are they?"
asked Mrs. Perkins, beginning to grow somewhat easier in her mind as to
her husband's sanity. "Precisely; you have a very remarkable gift of
insight, Bess," answered the candidate.
"And how many balances of power are there?" demanded the lady.
"The Lord only knows," sighed Perkins. "I've made about eighty of 'em
solid already, but as soon as one balance is fixed a thousand others
rise up like Banquo's ghost, and will not down. I haven't a doubt that
it was a balance of power that Norah just turned away from the front
door. They strike you everywhere. Why, even Bobbie ruined me with one of
them in the Eighth Ward the other day--one solidified balance wiped out
in a moment by my interesting son."
"Bobbie?" cried Mrs. Perkins. "A six-year-old boy?"
"Exactly--Bobbie, the six-year-old boy. I wish you'd keep the children
in the house until this infernal business is over. The Eighth Ward would
have elected me; but Bobbie ruined that," said Perkins, ruefully.
"But how?" cried Mrs. Perkins. "Have our children been out making
campaign speeches for the other side?" "They have," assented Perkins.
"They have indeed. You remember that man Jorrigan?"
"The striker?" queried Mrs. Perkins, calling to mind a burly combination
of red hair and bad manners who had made himself very conspicuous of
"Precisely. That's just the point," retorted Perkins. "The striker.
That's what he is, and it's what you call him."
"But you said he was a striker at breakfast last Wednesday," said Mrs.
Perkins. "We simply take your word for it."
"I know I did. He's also a balance of power, my dear. Jorrigan controls
the Eighth Ward. That's the only reason I've let him in the house," said
"You've been very chummy with him, I must say," sniffed Mrs. Perkins.
"Well, I've had to be," said the candidate. "That man is a power, and he
"What's his business?" asked Mrs. Perkins.
"Interference between capital and labor," replied Perkins. "So I've
cultivated him." "He never struck me as being a very cultivated
person," smiled Mrs. Perkins. "He has a suggestion of alcohol about him
that is very oppressive."
"I know--he has a very intoxicating presence," said the candidate,
joining in the smile. "But we are rid of his presence now and forever,
thanks to Bobbie. I got the news last night. He and his followers have
declared for Haskins, in spite of all his promises to me, and we can
attribute our personal good fortune and our political loss to Bobbie.
Bobbie met him on the street the other day."
"I know he did," said Mrs. Perkins. "He told me so, and he said that the
horrid man wanted to kiss him."
"It's true," said Perkins. "He did, and Bobbie wouldn't let him."
"Well, a man isn't going back on you because he can't kiss your whole
family, is he?" asked Mrs. Perkins, apprehensively. "If that's the
situation, I shall go to New York to-morrow."
Perkins laughed heartily. "No, my dear," he said. "You are safe enough
from that. But Jorrigan, when Bobbie refused, said,' Well, young feller,
I guess you don't know who I am?' 'Yes, I do,' said Bobbie. 'You are
Mr. Jorrigan,' and Jorrigan was overjoyed; but Bobbie destroyed his good
work by adding, 'Jorrigan the striker,' and the striker's joy vanished.
'Who told you that?' said he. 'Pop--and he knows,' said Bobbie. That
night," continued Perkins, with a droll expression of mingled mirth and
annoyance, "the amalgamated mortar-mixers of the Eighth Ward decided
that consideration for the country's welfare should rise above partisan
politics, and that when it came to real statesmanship Haskins could give
me points. A ward wiped out in a night, and another highly interesting,
very thirsty balance of power gone over to the other side."
"I should think you'd give up, then," said Mrs. Perkins, despairfully.
She wanted her husband to win--not because she had any ambition to shine
as "Lady-Mayor," but because she did not wish Thaddeus to incur
disappointment or undergo the chagrin of a public rebuke. "You seem to
be losing balances of power right and left."
"Why should I give it up?" queried Perkins. "You don't suppose I am
having any better luck than Mr. Haskins, do you?"
"Is he losing them too?" asked Mrs. Perkins, hopefully.
"I judge so from what he tells me," said Perkins. "We took dinner
together at the Centurion in New York the other night, and he's a prince
of good fellows, Bess. He has just as much trouble as I have, and when I
met him on the train the other day he was as blue as I about the
"You and the captain dining together?" ejaculated Mrs. Perkins.
"Certainly," said Perkins. "Why not? Our hatred is merely political, and
we can meet on a level of good-fellowship anywhere outside of Dumfries
Mrs. Perkins laughed outright. "Isn't it funny!" she said.
"Why, Haskins is one of my best friends, generally," continued Perkins.
"I don't see anything funny about it. Just because we both happen to be
dragged into politics on opposite sides at the same moment is no reason
why we should begin cutting each other's throats, my dear. In fact, with
balances of power springing up all over town like mushrooms, we have
become companions in misery."
"Well, I don't see why you can't get together, then, and tell these
balances to go to--to grass," suggested Mrs. Perkins.
"Grass is too mild, my love," remarked the candidate, smiling quietly.
"They wouldn't go there, even if we told them to, so it would be simply
a waste of breath. We've got to grin and bear them until the polls
close, and then we can pitch in and tell 'em what we think of them."
"Just the same," continued Mrs. Perkins, "an agreement between Mr.
Haskins and you to ignore these people utterly, instead of taking them
into your family, would stop the whole abuse."
"That's a woman's idea," said Perkins, bravely, though in the innermost
recesses of his heart he wished he had thought of it before. "It isn't
practical politics, my love. You might as well say that two opposing
generals in a war could save thousands of lives by avoiding each other's
armies and keeping out of a fight."
"Well, I do say that," replied Mrs. Perkins, positively. "That's
exactly my view of what generals ought to do."
"And what would become of the war?" queried the candidate.
"There wouldn't be any," said the good little woman.
"Precisely," retorted Perkins. "Precisely. And if Haskins and I did what
you want us to do, there would be no more politics."
"Well, what of it?" demanded Mrs. Perkins. "Are politics the salvation
of the country? It's as bad as war."
"Humph!" grunted Perkins. "It is difficult to please women. You hate war
because, to settle a question of right, people go out into the field of
battle and mow each other down with guns; you cry for arbitration. Let
all questions, all differences of opinion, be settled by a resort to
reason, say you--which is beautiful, and undoubtedly proper. But when we
try to settle our differences by a bloodless warfare, in which the
ballot is one's ammunition, you cry down with politics. A political
contest is nothing but a bit of supreme arbitration, for which you peace
people are always clamoring, by the court of last resort, the people."
Mrs. Perkins smiled sweetly, and taking her husband's hand in hers,
stroked it softly.
"Teddy dear, you mustn't be so politic with me," she said; "I'm not a
campaign club. I know that sentiment you have just expressed is lofty
and noble, and ought to be true, and I know we used to think it was
true--three weeks ago I believed it when you said it; but this is now,
dear. This is to-night, not three weeks ago, and I have changed my
"Well," began the candidate, hesitatingly, "I don't know but that I am
weakening a trifle myself."
"I know," interposed Mrs. Perkins, "you are weakening. You know as well
as I do that the hard work you are doing is not in appealing to the
reason of the supreme court of arbitration, the people. You are
appealing, as you have said, yourself, to a large and interesting
variety of balances of power, that do not want your views or your
opinions or your arguments, but they do want your money to buy cigars
and beer with. They want you to buy their good-will; and even if you
bought it, I doubt if they would concede to you a controlling interest
in it if Mr. Haskins should happen to want some of it, and I don't doubt
"You don't know anything--" the candidate ventured.
"Yes I do, too," returned Mrs. Perkins, with the self-satisfied nod
which the average new woman gives when she thinks she is right, though
Mrs. Perkins had no pretensions in that direction, happily for her
family. "I know all that you have told me. I know that when you were to
dine at Colonel Buckley's on Wednesday night you wore your evening
dress, and that when leaving there early to go to the city and address
the Mohawk Independent Club you asked your manager if you could go
dressed as you were, and his answer was, 'Not on your life,' and you
went home and put on your business suit. You told me that yourself, and
yet you talk about the supreme court of arbitration, the people!"
"But, Bess, the Mohawks are a powerful organization," pleaded Perkins.
"I couldn't afford to offend them."
"No. It was the first balance of power that turned up. I remember it
well. It was to be convinced by arguments. You were going down there to
discuss principles, but you couldn't appeal to their judicial minds or
reach their reason unless you changed your clothes; and when you got
there as their guest, and ventured to ask for a glass of Vichy before
you spoke, do you remember what they brought you?" demanded Mrs.
Perkins, warming up to her subject.
The candidate smiled faintly. "Yes," he answered. "Beer."
"Exactly; and when he gave you the beer, that MacHenty man whispered in
your ear, 'Drink that; it'll go better wid the byes.'"
"He did," said Thaddeus, meekly.
"And yet you talk about this appeal to a reasonable balance of power!
Really, Teddy, you are becoming demoralized. Politics, as I see it, is
an appeal to thirst, and nothing else."
"'You never miss the voter till the keg runs dry,'" sang the candidate,
with a more or less successful attempt at gayety. "But never mind, Bess.
I've had enough, and if I'm beaten this time I'll never do it again. So
don't worry; and, after all, this is only a municipal election. The
difference between a grand inspiring massive war for principle and a
street riot. The supreme court of arbitration, the people, can be relied
on to do the right thing in the end. They are sane. They are honest.
They are not all thirsty, and in this as in all contests the blatant
attract the most attention. The barker at the door of the side show to
the circus makes more noise than the eight-headed boy that makes the
"You're a trifle mixed in your metaphors, Teddy," said Mrs. Perkins.
"Well who wouldn't be, after a three weeks' appeal to an arid waste of
"A waste of arid voters," amended Mrs. Perkins.
"The amendment is accepted," laughed Thaddeus. And at that moment a
telephone call from headquarters summoned him abroad.
"Good-night, Bess," he said, kissing his wife affectionately. "This is
the last night."
"Good-night, Teddy; I hope it is. And next time when they ask you to
"You shall be the balance of power, and decide the question for me,"
said the candidate, as, with sorrow in his heart, he left his home to
seek out what he called "the branch office of Hades," political
headquarters, where were gathered some fifty persons, most of whom began
life in other countries, under different skies, and to whom the national
anthem "America" meant less and aroused fewer sentiments worth having
than that attractive two-step "St. Patrick's Day in the Morning," and
who were yet sufficiently powerful with the various "balances" of the
town to hold its political destinies in their itching palms.
* * * * *
Two months after this discussion the late Honorable Thaddeus Perkins,
ex-candidate, and Mayor of Dumfries Corners only by courtesy of those
who honor defeated candidates with titles for which they have striven
unsuccessfully, was strolling through the country along the line of the
Croton Aqueduct, trying to disentangle, with the aid of the fresh sweet
air of an early summer afternoon, an idea for a sonnet from the mazes of
his brain. Stopping for a moment to look down upon the glorious Hudson
stretching its shimmering length like a bimetallic serpent to the north
and south, he suddenly became conscious of a pair of very sharp eyes
resting upon him, which a closer inspection showed belonged to a laborer
of seemingly diminutive stature, who was engaged in carrying earth in a
wheelbarrow from one dirt-pile to another. As Thaddeus caught his eye
the laborer assumed towering proportions. He rose up quite two feet
higher in the air and bowed.
"How do you do?" said Perkins, returning the salutation courteously,
wondering the while as to what might be the cause of this sudden change
"Oi'm well--which is nothin' new to me," replied the other. "Ut sheems
to me," he continued, "thot youse resimbles thot smart young felly
Perkins, the Mayor of Dumfries Corners--not!"
Perkins laughed. The sting of defeat had lost its power to annoy, and
his experience had become merely one of a thousand other nightmares of
"Do I?" he replied, resolving not to confess his identity, for the
moment at least.
"Only thinner," chuckled the laborer, shrinking up again; and Perkins
now saw that the legs of his new acquaintance were of an abnormally
unequal length, which forced him every time he shifted his weight from
one foot to the other to change his apparent height to a startling
degree. "An' a gude dale thinner," he repeated. "There's nothin' loike
polithical exersoize to take off th' flesh, parthicularly when ye miss
"I fancy you are right," said Perkins. "I never met Mr. Perkins--that
is, face to face--myself. Do you know him?"
The Irishman threw his head back and laughed.
"Well," he said, "oi'm not wan uv his pershonal fri'nds. But oi know um
when oi see um," and he looked Thaddeus straight in the eye as he grew
"I'm sure it is Perkins's loss," returned Thaddeus, "that you are not a
personal friend of his."
"It was," said the Irishman. "My name is Finn," he added, with an air
which seemed to assume that Perkins would begin to tremble at the
dreaded word; but Perkins did not tremble. He merely replied,
"A very good name, Mr. Finn."
"Oi t'ink so," assented Mr. Finn. "Ut's better nor Dinnis, me young
Perkins assented to this proposition as though it was merely general,
and had no particular application to the affairs of the moment. "I
suppose, Mr. Finn," he observed, shortly, "that you were one of the
earnest workers in the late campaign for Mr. Perkins?"
"Was he elicted?" asked Finn, scornfully.
"I believe not," began Thaddeus. "But--"
"Thot's me answer to your quistion, sorr," said Finn, with dignity.
"He'd 'a' had lamps befoor his house now, sorr, if he hadn't been gay
wid his front dure."
"Oh--he was gay with his front door, was he?" asked Perkins.
"He was thot, an' not ony too careful uv his windy-shades," replied
Perkins looked at him inquiringly.
"Givin' me, Mike Finn, song an' dance about not bein' home, wid me
fri'nds outside on the lawn watchin' him troo de windy, laffin' loike a
"Excuse me--like a what?" said Thaddeus.
"A hayeny," repeated Mr. Finn. "Wan o' thim woild bastes as laffs at
nothin' much. 'Is he home?' sez oi. 'Are yees a pershonal fri'nd?' says
the gurl. 'Oi'm not,' sez oi. 'He ain't home,' says the gurl. 'Whin'll
he be back?' says oi. 'Niver,' says she, shlammin' the dure in me face;
and Mike Finn wid a certifikut uv election for um in his pocket!"
"A certificate of election?" cried Perkins. "And he wouldn't see you?"
"He would not."
"You were to an extent the balance of power, then?"
"That's what oi was," said Finn, enjoying what he thought was Perkins's
dismay; for he knew well enough to whom he was talking. "Oi was the rale
bonyfiday balance uv power. Oi've got foive sons, sorr, and ivery wan o'
thim byes is conthracthors, or, what's as good, bosses uv gangs on
public an' proivate works. There ain't wan uv thim foive byes as don't
conthrol twinty-foive votes, an' there ain't wan uv 'em as don't moind
what the ould mon says to um. Not wan, sorr. An' they resints the
turnin' down uv their father."
"That's as it should be," said Perkins.
"An' ut's as ut was, me young fri'nd. Whin oi wint home to me pershonal
fri'nds at th' Finn Club, Misther Perkins had losht me. Wan gone. Whin
oi tould the Finn Club, wan hundred sthrong, he losht thim. Wan hundred
and wan gone. Whin oi tould th' byes, he losht thim. Wan hundred an' six
gone. An' whin they tould their twinty-foive apiece, ivery twinty-foive
o' thim wint. Wan hundred an' six plus wan hundred an' twinty--foive
makes two hundred an' thirty-wan votes losht at the shlammin' uv the
front dure. An' whin two hundred an' thirty-wan votes laves wan soide
minus an' the other soide plus, th' gineral result is a difference uv
twoice two hundred an' thirty-wan, or foor hundred an' sixty-two. D'ye
mind thot, sorr?"
"I see," said Perkins. "And as this--ah--this particular candidate was
beaten by a bare majority of two or three hundred votes--"
"It was _me_ as done it!" put in the balance of power, shaking his
finger at Perkins impressively. "Me--Mike Finn!"
"Well, I hope Mr. Perkins hears of it, Mr. Finn," put in Thaddeus. "I am
told that he is wondering yet what hit him, and having put the affront
upon you, and through that inexcusable act lost the election, he ought
to know that you were his Nemesis."
"His what?" queried the real balance.
"His Nemesis. Nemesis is the name of a Greek goddess," exclaimed
"Oi'm no Greek, nor no goddess," retorted Finn, "but I give him the
"That's what I meant," explained Thaddeus. "The word has become part of
the English language. Nemesis was the Goddess of the Throw-down, and the
word is used to signify that."
"Oh, oi see," said Finn, scratching his head reflectively. Perkins took
his revelation a trifle too calmly. "You say you don't know this
Perkins," he asked.
"Well, I never met him," said the ex-candidate, smiling. "But I know
Finn laughed again. "Oi'll bet ye do; an' oi guiss ye've seen his fa-ace
long about shavin'-toime in the mornin' in the lukin'-glash--eh?"
"Well, yes," smiled Perkins. "I confess I'm the man, Mr. Finn; but now
we are--personal friends--eh? I was fagged out that night, and--you
didn't send in your card, you know--and I didn't know it was you." The
balance of power cast down his eyes, and rubbing his hand on his
overalls as if to clean it, stretched it out. Perkins grasped it, and
Finn gave a slight gulp. He wasn't quite happy. The proffered friendship
of the man he had helped to defeat rather upset him; but he was equal to
"Niver moind, sorr," he said, when he had quite recovered. "You're young
yit. They've shoved yees out this toime, but wait awhoile. Yees'll be
"No, Mr. Finn," replied Perkins, handing Finn a cigar. "Thanks to you, I
got out of a tight hole, and as our maid said to you that night, I'll
'niver be back.' But if you happen down my way again, I'll be glad to
see you--at any time. Good-bye."
The two parted, and Thaddeus walked home, thinking deeply of the
far-reaching effect in this life of little things; and as for Finn, he
bit off half the cigar Perkins had given him, and as he chewed upon it,
sitting on the edge of his barrow, he remarked forcibly to himself,
"Well, oi'll be daamned!"
Jarley was an inventive genius. He invented things for the pleasure of
it rather than with any idea of ultimately profiting from the results of
his ingenuity, which may explain why it was that his friends deemed many
of his contrivances a sheer waste of time. Among other things that
Jarley invented was a tennis-racket which could be folded up and packed
away in a trunk. The fact that any ordinary tennis-racket could be
packed away in any ordinary trunk without being folded up was to Jarley
no good reason why he should not devote his energies to the production
of the compact weapon of sport which he called the Jarley Racket. He was
after novelty, and utility was always a secondary consideration with
him. Others of his inventions were somewhat more startling. "The Jarley
Ready Writing-Desk for Night Use," for instance, was a really
remarkable conception. Its chief value lay in the saving of gas and
midnight oil to impecunious writers which its use was said to bring
about, and when fully equipped consisted simply of a writing-table with
all the appliances and conveniences thereof treated with phosphorus in
such a manner that in the blackest of darkness they could all be seen
readily. The ink even was phosphorescent. The paper was luminous in the
dark. The penholders, pens, pen-wipers, mucilage-bottle, everything, in
fact, that an author really needs for the production of literature, save
ideas, were so prepared that they could not fail to be visible to the
weakest eye in the darkest night without the aid of other illumination.
The chief trouble with the invention was that in the long-run it was
more expensive than gas or oil could possibly be in the most extravagant
household; but that bothered Jarley not a jot. Nor was he at all upset
when his ingenious Library Folding-Bed, comprising a real bookcase and
sofa-couch, failed to suit his practical-minded friends because, when
turned down for use as a couch, all the books in the bookcase side of
it fell out upon the floor. His arrangement was better than the ordinary
folding-bed, he said, because the bookcase side of it was not a sham,
but the real thing, while that of the folding-bed of commerce was a
delusion and a snare. As a hater of shams he justified his invention,
though of course it couldn't be put to much practical use unless the
purchaser was willing to take his books out of the shelves when he
intended using the piece of furniture for sleeping purposes. If the
purchaser was too lazy to do this it was not Jarley's fault, so the
inventor reasoned, nor did he intend improving his machine in order to
accommodate the lazy man in his pursuit of a life of indolence.
When Jarley married he turned his attention to the devising of apparatus
to make domestic life less trying to Mrs. Jarley. As a bachelor he had
contrived quite a number of mechanical effects which made his lonely
life easier. He had fitted up his rooms with devices by means of which,
while lying in bed on cold mornings, he could light his gas-stove
without getting up; and his cigars, the ends of which he had dipped in
sulphur, so that they could be lit by scratching them on the under side
of the mantel-piece, just as matches are ignited, were the delight of
his life. Now, however, he turned his mind towards helping little Mrs.
Jarley on in the domestic world. He prepared a chart by means of which
the monotony of marketing was done away with entirely. He also arranged
for her a charming automatic curl-paper box, and drew up a plan for a
patent pair of curling-tongs, which could be fastened to the gas-fixture
and kept heated to the degree required, so that it might be used at a
moment's notice. This was provided with a number of movable ends, all
different, in order that Mrs. Jarley could, if she chose, vary the
appearance of her curls according to her taste; and although the little
lady never approved of it sufficiently to have it made, it was
undoubtedly a valuable contrivance.
Then when Jarley junior came along to delight the parent soul,
self-rocking cradles and perpetual reservoirs for food were devised, and
some of them put into actual use, though, as a rule, Mrs. Jarley
preferred the old-fashioned methods to which she was by her home
training more accustomed.
The great invention of Jarley, however, was the result of his study of
Jarley junior as that very charming and exceedingly agile child
developed from infancy into boyhood. The idea came to him one Sunday
afternoon while Mrs. Jarley was at church. It was the nursemaid's
afternoon out, and Jarley had undertaken to care for Master Jarley in
the absence of his true guardians.
"Well, Jack," he said to his son, when they had been left in sole
possession of the Jarley mansion, "you and I must entertain each other
this afternoon. What shall we do?"
"I'd like to play choo-choo car with you," said Jack. "I'll be the
engine and you be the train."
"Very well," said Jarley. "Have you got your steam up?"
"Yeth," lisped Jack. "All aboard!"
Jarley hitched himself on to the engine as best he could by grabbing
hold of Jack's little coat tail, and the train started. It was the most
tedious journey Jarley ever undertook. The train went up and down
stairs, out upon the piazza, and finally landed in the kitchen, where
the engine fired up on such fuel as gingerbread and cookies.
Incidentally the train, as represented by Jarley, took on a load of
freight, consisting of the same fuel, and off they started again. At the
end of a half-hour's run Jarley was worn out, but the engine seemed to
gather strength and speed the farther it travelled; and as it let out a
fearful shriek--possibly a whistle--every time the rear end of the train
suggested side-tracking and a cessation of traffic for a month or two,
Jarley in his indulgence invariably withdrew the proposition. The
consequence was that when Mrs. Jarley returned from church Jarley was a
wreck, and as he handed the engine over to the maternal care he observed
with some testiness that in a well-kept household it seemed to him
matters should be so arranged that a busy man should not be compelled to
turn himself into a child's nurse, especially on the one day of the week
which he could devote to rest and relaxation. "If I had that boy's
energy," he said to himself as he fled to his library, "what wonders I
would accomplish! What a shame it is, too, that the wasted energy of
youth cannot be stored up in some way, so that when there comes the real
need for it, it can be made available!"
This thought was the germ of his invention. As he lay there in the
library he thought over the possibilities of life if the nervous force
of childhood, the misdirected energy of play-time, could only be put by
and drawn upon later just as man puts by the money he does not need in
the present for use in case of future rainy days. Then, as the sun sank
below the hills and the twilight hours with their inspiring softness
came on, Jarley resolved that he was the man to whom had come the
mission which should make of this ideal a reality. Probably in the full
glare of day he would not have undertaken it; but Jarley, in common with
most men of dreamy nature, felt in the quiet dusk the power to do all
things. He had the poetic temperament which sometimes leads on to great
things, and the man so gifted who does not feel himself capable, at that
hour of the day of rest, of battering down Gibraltar or of upbuilding
the whole human race, must account himself a failure.
"I'll do it," he murmured, drowsily, to himself, and he did. How he did
it was Jarley's own secret, and while he confides many things to me,
this secret he kept, and still keeps. All I know is that he fitted up a
play-room for Jack on the attic floor, and by means of an apparatus, the
peculiarities of whose construction he alone knows, he managed after a
while to store up the superfluous energy which Jack expended upon
everything that he did. Every time Jack turned a somersault he
contributed, unknown to himself, something to the growing bulk of
hoarded force in the reservoir provided for its reception. All the
strength necessary for the somersault was devoted to that operation. The
superfluity went to the reservoir. So, also, when in his play of scaling
imaginary rocks after fictitious wild beasts he endeavored futilely to
walk up the play-room wall, the unavailing energy went to augment the
stores from which Jarley hoped to extract so much that would prove of
value to the world.
When the reservoir was full the question that confronted Jarley was as
to the value of its contents, and to ascertain this he resolved upon an
experiment upon himself. No one else, he believed, would be willing to
subject himself to the experiment, nor did he wish at that time to let
others into his secret. Even Mrs. Jarley was not aware of his efforts,
and so he made the experiment. He liquefied the energy Jack had wasted,
and upon retiring one night took what he considered to be the proper
dose for the test. The effect was remarkable.
When he rose up the next morning he experienced a consciousness of power
that reminded him of sundry tales of Samson. But there was one drawback.
He did not seem quite able to control himself. For instance, instead of
dressing in the usual dignified and quiet way, he found himself prancing
about his room like a young colt, and while he was taking his bath he
had a yearning for objects of juvenile _virtu_ which had for many years
been strangers to his tub. He was not at all satisfied with his dip
plain and unadorned, and he had developed an unconquerable aversion for
soap. It was all he could do to restrain his inclination to call
vociferously for a number of small tin boats and birch-bark canoes,
without which Jack never bathed. He did conquer it, however, and at the
end of a half-hour managed to reach the end of his bath, though as a
rule he had hitherto rarely expended more than ten minutes in his
morning ablutions. Then came another difficulty. He found himself
utterly unable to stand still while he was putting on his clothes, and
finally Mrs. Jarley had to be called in to comb his hair for him. Jarley
himself could no more have taken the time to part it satisfactorily than
he could have flown.
"What _is_ the matter with you?" said Mrs. Jarley, as she made several
ineffectual attempts to get his truant locks into shape. "Have you
caught St. Vitus's dance?"
"Nothing's the matter with me," returned Jarley, standing on one foot
and hopping up and down thereon. "I feel well, that's all."
And then he tore out of the room, mounted the banisters, and slid
downstairs in an utterly unbecoming fashion, considering that he was a
man of thirty-five and the head of the house. He felt a little ashamed
of himself in the midst of this operation, particularly when he observed
that the waitress was standing in the hall below-stairs, looking at him
with eyes that betokened an astonishment as creditable to her as it was
disgraceful to him. He tried vainly to stop his wild descent when he
noted her presence. He clutched madly at the banisters, turning his
hands and knees into brakes in his effort to save his dignity; but once
started he could not stop, and as a consequence he went down like a
flash, slid precipitately over the newel-post, and landed with a cry of
mortification on the hall floor. He was not hurt, save in his
self-esteem, and gathering himself together, he endeavored to walk with
dignity into the dining-room; but he had hardly reached the door, when
he was overcome with a mad desire to whoop--and whoop he did. As a
consequence of the whoop Jack was scolded when Mrs. Jarley came down.
She had no idea that Jarley himself could be so blind to propriety as to
yell in so indecorous a fashion; and when poor little Jack was
upbraided, Jarley, despite his good intention to confess himself the
guilty party, discovered that the only act he was capable of was
giggling. Jack of course wept, and the more he wept the more Jarley
giggled, and was taken to task for encouraging the boy in his
During breakfast he was unusually demonstrative. He could not bring
himself to await his turn when the potatoes were passed, and in his
eagerness to get at them he overturned his coffee, which served to turn
the tables a little, for Jack giggled at the mishap, while Jarley became
the centre of Mrs. Jarley's displeasure. What was worse, Jarley, try as
he might, could not resist the temptation to kick the legs of the table,
and it was not until Mrs. Jarley had threatened to dismiss Jack from her
presence, supposing that he must, of course, be the offender, that
Jarley assumed the burden of his misbehavior.
It was not until Jarley set out to his office, however, that he realized
the real horror of his condition. Instead of riding down-town on one
cable-car, as was his wont, he found himself trying, boy-like, to steal
a ride by jumping on a car platform and standing there until the
conductor came along, when he would hop off, ride a block or two on the
end of a truck, and then try a new car, so beating his way down-town.
Then he arrived at his office. I have neglected to state that while
invention was Jarley's avocation, he was by profession a lawyer, being
the junior member of a highly successful firm, at the head of which was
no less a person than the eminent William J. Baker, whose record at the
bar is too well known to require any further words of mine to recall him
to the minds of my readers. Jarley had not been in the office more than
ten minutes before he realized that he might better have remained at
home while the influence of Jack's wasted energy was within him. He was
in a state of irrepressibility. No matter how strongly he endeavored to
hold himself in check he could not do so, and his day down-town was like
the days of most boys who are permitted to spend a morning and an
afternoon with their parent in the workshop. The first thing he did on
reaching his desk was to roll back its folding top. This pleased him
unaccountably. He had never before imagined that so much fun could be
got out of the rolling top of a desk, and for a full quarter of an hour
he pulled it backward and forward, and so noisily withal that Mr. Baker
sent one of the clerks in to see if the office-boy had not become
Recalled to his true self for the moment, Jarley endeavored to get down
to work, but as he made the endeavor he became conscious that a
revolving chair has very pleasing qualities to one who is fond of
twirling. Round and round he twirled, and as he twirled he grabbed up
his cane, and in a moment realized that he was playing that he was on a
merry-go-round, and trying to secure a renewal of his right to ride by
catching imaginary rings on the end of his stick. This operation
consumed quite five minutes more of his time, and was accompanied by
such a vast number of "Hoop-las" that Mr. Baker came himself to see what
was the cause of the unseemly racket. Fortunately for Jarley, just as
his partner reached the doorway, the chair had reached the limit of its
twirling capacity, and having been unscrewed as far as it could be,
toppled over on to the floor, with Jarley underneath. "What in the
world does this mean, Jarley?" said Mr. Baker, severely, as he assisted
his fallen partner to rise.
"My chair has come apart," laughed Jarley, getting red in the face.
"That's the great trouble with that kind of chair," said Mr. Baker. "You
don't seem to mind the mishap very much."
"Oh no," said Jarley, gritting his teeth in his determination not to
follow his mad impulse to jump on Mr. Baker's shoulders and clamor for a
picky-back ride. "No; I don't mind little things like that much."
Here he stood on his right leg, as he had done before breakfast, and
began to hop.
"Hurt your foot?" queried Mr. Baker.
Jarley seized at the suggestion with all the despairing vigor of a
drowning man clutching at a rope.
"Yes; a little, but not enough to mention," he said; whereupon, much to
his relief, Mr. Baker turned away and went back to his own room.
"This will never do," Jarley moaned to himself when his partner had
gone. "If one of my clients should come in--"
Then he stopped and grinned like a mischievous lad. He had caught sight
of an old water-meter that had been used as an exhibit in a case he had
once tried against the city in behalf of an inventor, who had been led
to believe that the water board would adopt his patent and compel every
householder to buy one for the registration of water consumed. What fun
it would be to take that apart, he thought, and thinking thus was enough
to set him about the task. He locked his door, moved the strange-looking
contrivance out into the middle of the room, and tried to unscrew the
top of it with his eraser. The delicate blade of this improvised
screw-driver snapped off in an instant, whereupon Jarley tried the
scissors, with similar results. After a half-hour of this he gave up the
idea of taking the meter apart, but his soul immediately became
possessed of another idea, which was to see if it worked. The pursuit of
this brought him the most deliriously joyful sensations; and for an hour
he devoted himself to filling the machine up with water drawn from a
faucet at one side of his room, and poured into the meter from a
drinking-glass. It was not until the hour was up that he observed that
the water after passing through the meter came out upon the carpet, and
it is probable that even then he would not have noticed it had not the
tenants below sent up to inquire if there was not something wrong with
the water-pipes overhead.
When Jarley realized what had happened he wisely determined to give up
business for the day. While the spirit of Jack was within him, the
business he might transact was not likely to prove of value to himself
or to any one else. So he put on his hat and coat, called a cab, and
started for home. His experiences in the cab were quite of a kind with
the experiences of the morning, and attended with no little personal
danger. He would lean against the cab door and put his arm out and try
to touch horse-cars as they passed. Once or twice he nearly had his head
knocked off by sticking it out of the windows; but by some happy chance
he got interested in the cab curtains and the inviting little strings,
which, when pulled, made them fly up with a snap. Absorbed in this
occupation, he drove on, and gave up all such dangerous experiments as
playing tag with horse-cars and trucks, and arrived at home in time for
Mrs. Jarley was somewhat alarmed at the unexpected return of Mr. Jarley,
but was content with his explanation that while he never felt better in
his life, he deemed it best to return and attend to his work in the
privacy of his own home. For the proper accomplishment of this work he
said that he thought he would use Jack's nursery on the attic floor,
where he could be quiet, and he asked as an especial favor that he might
be left alone with Jack for the balance of the day.
He had made up his mind that his experiments, while a success in one
way, were not what he expected in another way. He had found Jack's
energy very energetic indeed, but not suited for adult use, and he even
found himself wondering why he had not thought of that before. However,
the thing to do now was to get rid of that spirit as soon as possible.
If it had become permanently a part of him, he had reached his second
childhood, which for a man of thirty-five is a disturbing thought. So
disturbing was it that Jarley resolved upon a heroic measure to cure
himself. _Similia similibus_ struck him as being the only possible cure,
and so, regardless of the possible consequences to his physical being,
he "permitted" Jack to be with him up-stairs "while he worked," as he
put it to Mrs. Jarley, though all others were forbidden to approach.
The result was as he had foreseen. Jack's energy in Jack, pure and
unadulterated, had very little trouble in wearing out the diluted energy
which his father had acquired from his superfluous stores, and night
coming on found Jarley, after a three hours' steady circus with his son,
in his normal condition mentally. But physically! What a poor wreck of a
human system was his when the last bit of the boyish spirit was
consumed! Had he worked at brick-laying for a week without rest Jarley
could not have been more prostrated physically. But he was happy. His
tests had proved that he could do certain things, but the results he had
expected as to the value of those things were not what he had hoped for.
At any rate, his experiment gave him greater sympathy with his boy than
he had ever had before, and they have become great chums. The greatest
disappointment of the whole affair is Jack's, who wonders why it is that
he and his father have no more afternoon acrobatics such as they had in
the play-room that day, but until he is a good many years older his
father cannot tell him, for the boy could not in the present stage of
his intellectual development understand him if he tried.
As for Mr. Baker and the people at the office, they were not at all
astonished to hear the next day that Jarley was laid up, and would
probably, not appear at the office again for a week, although they were
a little surprised when they learned that his trouble was rheumatism,
and not softening of the brain.
Jarley was in a blue mood the night before Thanksgiving. Things hadn't
gone quite to suit him during the year. He had lost two of his most
profitable clients--men upon whom for two years previously he had been
able to count for a steady income. It is true that he had lost them by
winning their respective suits, and had made two strong friends by so
doing; but, as he once put it to Mrs. Jarley, the worst position a man
could possibly get himself into was that of one who is long on friends
and short on income. He did not underestimate the value of friends, but
he didn't want too many of them; because beyond a certain number they
became luxuries rather than necessities, and his financial condition was
such that he could not afford luxuries.
"I love them all," he said, "but I haven't money enough to entertain a
quarter of them. The last time Billie Hicks was up here he smoked
sixteen Invincible cigars. Now, I am very fond of Billie Hicks, but with
cigars at twenty cents apiece I can't afford him more than one Sunday in
a year. He's getting a little cold because I haven't asked him up
"Why don't you buy cheaper cigars? At our grocery store they have some
very nice looking ones at two for five cents," suggested Mrs. Jarley.
"I don't wish to have to move out of, the house," said Jarley.
Mrs. Jarley failed to see the connection.
"Very likely you don't," said Jarley; "but if I smoked one of your
two-and-a-half-cent grocery cigars in this house, you'd see the point in
a minute. If you will get me a yard of cotton cloth, and let me put it
in the furnace fire, you'll get a fair idea of the kind of atmosphere
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