BY E. N--S W--T--T
Dan'l Borem poured half of his second cup of tea abstractedly into his lap.
"Guess you've got suthin' on yer mind, Dan'l," said his sister.
"Mor'n likely I've got suthin' on my pants," returned Dan'l with that exquisitely dry, though somewhat protracted humor which at once thrilled and bored his acquaintances. "But--speakin' o' that hoss trade"--
"For goodness' sake, don't!" interrupted his sister wearily; "yer allus doin' it. Jest tell me about that young man--the new clerk ye think o' gettin'."
"Well, I telegraphed him to come over, arter I got this letter from him," he returned, handing her a letter. "Read it out loud."
But his sister, having an experienced horror of prolixity, glanced over it. "Far as I kin see he takes mor'n two hundred words to say you've got to take him on trust, and sez it suthin' in a style betwixt a business circular and them Polite Letter Writers. I thought you allowed he was a tony feller."
"Ef he does not brag much, ye see, I kin offer him small wages," said Dan'l, with a wink. "It's kinder takin' him at his own figger."
"And THAT mightn't pay! But ye don't think o' bringin' him HERE in this house? 'Cept you're thinkin' o' tellin' him that yarn o' yours about the hoss trade to beguile the winter evenings. I told ye ye'd hev to pay yet to get folks to listen to it."
"Wrong agin--ez you'll see! Wot ef I get a hundred thousand folks to pay me for tellin' it? But, speakin' o' this young feller, I calkilated to send him to the Turkey Buzzard Hotel;" and he looked at his sister with a shrewd yet humorous smile.
"What!" said his sister in alarm. "The Turkey Buzzard! Why, he'll be starved or pizoned! He won't stay there a week."
"Ef he's pizoned to death he won't be able to demand any wages; ef he leaves because he can't stand it--it's proof positive he couldn't stand me. Ef he's only starved and made weak and miserable he'll be easy to make terms with. It may seem hard what I'm sayin', but what seems hard on the other feller always comes mighty easy to you. The thing is NOT to be the 'other feller.' Ye ain't listenin'. Yet these remarks is shrewd and humorous, and hez bin thought so by literary fellers."
"H'm!" said his sister. "What's that ye was jest sayin' about folks bein' willin' to pay ye for tellin' that hoss trade yarn o' yours?"
"Thet's only what one o' them smart New York publishers allowed it was worth arter hearin' me tell it," said Dan'l dryly.
"Go way! You or him must be crazy. Why, it ain't ez good as that story 'bout a man who had a balky hoss that could be made to go only by buildin' a fire under him, and arter the man sells that hoss and the secret, and the man wot bought him tries it on, the blamed hoss lies down over the fire, and puts it out."
"I've allus allowed that the story ye hev to tell yourself is a blamed sight funnier than the one ye're listenin' to," said Dan'l. "Put that down among my sayin's, will ye?"
"But your story was never anythin' more than one o' them snippy things ye see in the papers, drored out to no end by you. It's only one o' them funny paragraphs ye kin read in a minit in the papers that takes YOU an hour to tell."
To her surprise Dan'l only looked at his sister with complacency.
"That," he said, "is jest what the New York publisher sez. 'The 'Merrikan people,' sez he, 'is ashamed o' bein' short and peart and funny; it lacks dignity,' sez he; 'it looks funny,' sez he, 'but it ain't deep-seated nash'nul literature,' sez he. 'Them snips o' funny stories and short dialogues in the comic papers--they make ye laff,' sez he, 'but laffin' isn't no sign o' deep morril purpose,' sez he, 'and it ain't genteel and refined. Abraham Linkin with his pat anecdotes ruined our standin' with dignified nashuns,' sez he. 'We cultivated publishers is sick o' hearin' furrin' nashuns roarin' over funny 'Merrikan stories; we're goin' to show 'em that, even ef we haven't classes and titles and sich, we kin be dull. We're workin' the historical racket for all that it's worth,--ef we can't go back mor'n a hundred years or so, we kin rake in a Lord and a Lady when we do, and we're gettin' in some ole-fashioned spellin' and "methinkses" and "peradventures." We're doin' the religious bizness ez slick ez Robert Elsmere, and we find lots o' soul in folks--and heaps o quaint morril characters,' sez he."
"Sakes alive, Dan'l!" broke in his sister; "what's all that got to do with your yarn 'bout the hoss trade?"
"Everythin'," returned Dan'l. "'For,' sez he, 'Mr. Borem,' sez he, 'you're a quaint morril character. You've got protracted humor,' sez he. 'You've bin an hour tellin' that yarn o' yours! Ef ye could spin it out to fill two chapters of a book--yer fortune's made! For you'll show that a successful hoss trade involves the highest nash'nul characteristics. That what common folk calls "selfishness," "revenge," "mean lyin'," and "low-down money- grubbin' ambishun" is really "quaintness," and will go in double harness with the bizness of a Christian banker,' sez he."
"Created goodness, Dan'l! You're designin' ter"--
Dan'l Borem rose, coughed, expectorated carefully at the usual spot in the fender, his general custom of indicating the conclusion of a subject or an interview, and said dryly: "I'm thar!"
To return to the writer of the letter, whose career was momentarily cut off by the episode of the horse trade (who, if he had previously received a letter written by somebody else would have been an entirely different person and not in this novel at all): John Lummox--known to his family as "the perfect Lummox"--had been two years in college, but thought it rather fine of himself--a habit of thought in which he frequently indulged--to become a clerk, but finally got tired of it, and to his father's relief went to Europe for a couple of years, returning with some knowledge of French and German, and the cutting end of a German student's blunted dueling sword. Having, as he felt, thus equipped himself for the hero of an American "Good Society" novel, he went on board a "liner," where there would naturally be susceptible young ladies. One he thought he recognized as a girl with whom he used to play "forfeits" in the vulgar past of his boyhood. She sat at his table, accompanied by another lady whose husband seemed to be a confirmed dyspeptic. His remarks struck Lummox as peculiar.
"Shall I begin dinner with pudding and cheese or take the ordinary soup first? I quite forget which I did last night," he said anxiously to his wife.
But Mrs. Starling hesitated.
"Tell me, Mary," he said, appealing to Miss Bike, the young lady.
"I should begin with the pudding," said Miss Bike decisively, "and between that and the arrival of the cheese you can make up your mind, and then, if you think better, go back to the soup."
"Thank you so much. Now, as to drink? Shall I take the Friedrichshalle first or the Benedictine? You know the doctor insists upon the Friedrichshalle, but I don't think I did well to mix them as I did yesterday. Or shall I take simply milk and beer?"
"I should say simplicity was best. Besides, you can always fill up with champagne later."
How splendidly this clear-headed, clear-eyed girl dominated the man! Lummox felt that REALLY he might renew her acquaintance! He did so.
"I remembered you," she said. "You've not changed a bit since you were eight years old."
John, wishing to change the subject, said that he thought Mr. Starling seemed an uncertain man.
"Very! He's even now in his stateroom sitting in his pyjamas with a rubber shoe on one foot and a pump on the other, wondering whether he ought to put on golf knickerbockers with a dressing-gown and straw hat before he comes on deck. He has already put on and taken off about twenty suits."
"He certainly is very trying," returned Lummox. He paused and colored deeply. "I beg," he stammered, "I hope--you don't think me guilty of a pun! When I said 'trying' I referred entirely to the effect on your sensitiveness of these tentative attempts toward clothing himself."
"I should never accuse YOU of levity, Mr. Lummox," said the young lady, gazing thoughtfully upon his calm but somewhat heavy features,--"never."
Yet he would have liked to reclaim himself by a show of lightness. He was leaning on the rail looking at the sea. The scene was beautiful.
"I suppose," he said, rolling with the sea and his early studies of Doctor Johnson, "that one would in the more superior manner show his appreciation of all this by refraining from the obvious comment which must needs be recognized as comparatively commonplace and vulgar; but really this is so superb that I must express some of my emotion, even at the risk of lowering your opinion of my good taste, provided, of course, that you have any opinion on the one hand or any good taste on the other."
"Without that undue depreciation of one's self which must ever be a sign of self-conscious demerit," said the young girl lightly, "I may say that I am not generally good at Johnsonese; but it may relieve your mind to know that had you kept silence one instant longer, I should have taken the risk of lowering your opinion of my taste, provided, of course, that you have one to lower and are capable of that exertion--if such indeed it may be termed--by remarking that this is perfectly magnificent."
"Do you think," he said gloomily, still leaning on the rail, "that we can keep this kind of thing up--perhaps I should say down--much longer? For myself, I am feeling far from well; it may have been the lobster--or that last sentence--but"--
They were both silent. "Yet," she said, after a pause, "you can at least take Mr. Starling and his dyspepsia off my hands. You might be equal to that exertion."
"I suppose that by this time I ought to be doing something for somebody," he said thoughtfully. "Yes, I will."
That evening after dinner he took Mr. Starling into the smoking- room and card-room. They had something hot. At 4 A. M., with the assistance of the steward, he projected Mr. Starling into Mrs. Starling's stateroom, delicately withdrawing to evade the lady's thanks. At breakfast he saw Miss Bike. "Thank you so much," she said; "Mrs. Starling found Starling greatly improved. He himself admitted he was 'never berrer' and, far from worrying about what night-clothes he should wear, went to bed AS HE WAS--even to his hat. Mrs. Starling calls you 'her preserver,' and Mr. Starling distinctly stated that you were a 'jolly-good-fler.'"
"And you?" asked John Lummox.
"In your present condition of abnormal self-consciousness and apperceptive egotism, I really shouldn't like to say."
When the voyage was ended Mr. Lummox went to see Mary Bike at her house, and his father--whom he had not seen for ten years--at HIS house. With a refined absence of natural affection he contented himself with inquiring of the servants as to his father's habits, and if he still wore dress clothes at dinner. The information thus elicited forced him to the conclusion that the old gentleman's circumstances were reduced, and that it was possible that he, John Lummox, might be actually compelled to earn his own living. He communicated that suspicion to his father at dinner, and over the last bottle of "Mouton," a circumstance which also had determined him in his resolution. "You might," said his father thoughtfully, "offer yourself to some rising American novelist as a study for the new hero,--one absolutely without ambition, capacity, or energy; willing, however, to be whatever the novelist chooses to make him, so long as he hasn't to choose for himself. If your inordinate self-consciousness is still in your way, I could give him a few points about you, myself."
"I had thought," said John, hesitatingly, "of going into your office and becoming your partner in the business. You could always look after me, you know."
A shudder passed over the old man. Then he tremblingly muttered to himself:
"Thank heaven! There is one way it may still be averted!" Retiring to his room he calmly committed suicide, thoughtfully leaving the empty poison bottle in the fender.
And this is how John Lummox came to offer himself as a clerk to Dan'l Borem. The ways of Providence are indeed strange, yet those of the novelist are only occasionally novel.
John K. Lummox lived for a week at the Turkey Buzzard Hotel exclusively on doughnuts and innuendoes. He was informed by Mr. Borem's clerk--whose place he was to fill--that he wouldn't be able to stand it, and thus received the character of his employer from his last employee.
"I suppose," said Dan'l Borem, chuckling, "that he said I was a old skinflint, good only at a hoss trade, uneddicated, ignorant, and unable to keep accounts, and an oppressor o' the widder and orphan. Allowed that my cute sayin's was a kind o' ten-cent parody o' them proverbs in Poor Richard's Almanack!"
"Omitting a few expletives, he certainly did," returned Lummox with great delicacy.
"He allowed to me," said Dan'l thoughtfully, "that YOU was a poor critter that hadn't a single reason to show for livin': that the fool-killer had bin shadderin' you from your birth, and that you hadn't paid a cent profit on your father's original investment in ye, nor on the assessments he'd paid on ye ever since. He seems to be a cute feller arter all, and I'm rather sorry he's leavin'."
"I am quite willing to abandon my position in his favor, now," said Lummox with alacrity.
"No," said Dan'l, rubbing his chin argumentatively; "the only way for us to do is to circumvent him like in a hoss trade--with suthin' unexpected. When he thinks you're goin' to sleep in the shafts you'll run away; and when he think's I'm vicious I'll let a woman or a child drive me."
"Well, Dan'l, how's that new clerk o' yours gettin' on?" said Mrs. Bigby a week later.
"Purty fine! He's good at accounts and hez got to know the Bank's customers by this time. But I allus reckoned he'd get stuck with some o' them counterfeit notes--and he hez! Ye see he ain't accustomed to look at a five or a ten dollar note as sharp as some men, and he's already taken in two tens and a five counterfeits."
"Gracious!" said Mrs. Bigsby. "What did the poor feller do?"
"Oh, he ups and tells me, all right, after he discovered it. And sez he: 'I've charged my account with 'em,' sez he, 'so the Bank won't lose it.'"
"Why, Dan'l," said Mrs. Bigsby, "ye didn't let that poor feller"--
"You hol' on!" said her brother; "business is business; but I sez to him: 'Ye oughter put it down to Profit and Loss account. Or perhaps we'll have a chance o' gettin' rid o' them,--not in Noo York, where folks is sharp, but here in the country, and then ye kin credit yourself with the amount arter you've got rid o' them.'"
"Laws! I'm sorry ye did that, Dan'l," said Mrs. Bigsby.
"With that he riz up," continued Dan'l, ignoring his sister, "and, takin' them counterfeit notes from my hand, sez he: 'Them notes belong to ME now,' sez he, 'and I'm goin' to destroy 'em.' And with that he walks over to the fire as stiff as a poker, and held them notes in it until they were burnt clean up."
"Well, but that was honest and straightforward in him!" said Mrs. Bigsby.
"Um! but it wasn't business--and ye see"-- Dan'l paused and rubbed his chin.
"Well, go on!" said Mrs. Bigsby impatiently.
"Well, ye see, neither him nor me was very smart in detectin' counterfeits, or even knowin' 'em, and"--
"Well! For goodness' sake, Dan'l, speak out!"
"Well--THE DUM FOOL BURNT UP THREE GOOD BILLS, and we neither of us knew it!"
The "unexpected" which Dan'l Borem had hinted might characterize his future conduct was first intimated by his treatment of the "Widow Cully," an aged and impoverished woman whose property was heavily mortaged to him. He had curtly summoned her to come to his office on Christmas Day and settle up. Frightened, hopeless, and in the face of a snowstorm, the old woman attended, but was surprised by receiving a "satisfaction piece" in full from the banker, and a gorgeous Christmas dinner. "All the same," said Mrs. Bigsby to Lummox, "Dan'l might hev done all this without frightenin' the poor old critter into a nervous fever, chillin' her through by makin' her walk two miles through the snow, and keepin' her on the ragged edge o' despair for two mortal hours! But it's his humorous way."
"Did he give any reason for being so lenient to the widow?" asked Lummox.
"He said that her son had given him a core of his apple when they were boys together. Dan'l ez mighty thoughtful o' folks that was kind to him in them days."
"Is that all?" said Lummox, astonished.
"Well--I've kinder thought suthin' else," said Mrs. Bigsby hesitatingly.
"That its bein' Christmas Day--and as I've heard tell that's NO DAY IN LAW, but just like Sunday--Dan'l mebbe thought that he might crawl outer that satisfaction piece, ef he ever wanted ter! Dan'l is mighty cute."
Mr. John Lummox was not behind his employer in developing unexpected traits of character. Hitherto holding aloof from his neighbors in Old Folksville, he suddenly went to a social gathering, and distinguished himself as the principal and popular guest of the evening. As Dan'l Borem afterward told his sister: "He was one o' them Combination Minstrels and Variety Shows in one. He sang through a whole opery, made the pianner jest howl, gave some recitations, Casabianker and Betsy and I are Out; imitated all them tragedians; did tricks with cards and fetched rabbits outer hats, besides liftin' the pianner with two men sittin' on it, jest by his teeth. Created snakes!" said Borem, concluding his account, which here is necessarily abbreviated, "ef he learnt all that in his two years in Europe I ain't sayin' anythin' more agin' eddication and furrin' travel after this! Why, the next day there was quite a run on the Bank jest to see HIM. He is makin' the bizness pop'lar."
"Then ye think ye'll get along together?"
"I reckon we'll hitch hosses," said Dan'l, with a smile.
A few weeks later, one evening, Dan'l Borem sat with his sister alone. John Lummox, who was now residing with them, was attending a social engagement. Mrs. Bigsby knew that Dan'l had something to communicate, but knew that he would do so in his own way.
"Speakin' o' hoss trades," he began.
"We WASN'T and we ain't goin' to," said Mrs. Bigsby with great promptness. "I've heard enough of 'em."
"But this here one hez suthin' to do with your fr'en', John Lummox," said Dan'l, with a chuckle.
Mrs. Bigsby stared. "Go on, then," she said, but, for goodness' sake, cut it short."
Dan'l threw away his quid and replenished it from his silver tobacco box. Mrs. Bigsby shuddered slightly as she recognized the usual preliminary to prolixity, but determined, as far as possible, to make her brother brief.
"It mout be two weeks ago," began Dan'l, "that I see John Lummox over at Palmyra, where he'd bin visitin'. He was drivin' a hoss, the beautifulest critter--for color--I ever saw. It was yaller, with mane and tail a kinder golden, like the hair o' them British Blondes that was here in the Variety Show."
"Dan'l!" exclaimed Mrs. Bigsby, horrified. "And you allowed you never went thar!"
"Saw 'em on the posters--and mebbe the color was a little brighter thar," said Dan'l carelessly--"but who's interruptin' now?"
"Go on," said Mrs. Bigsby.
"'Got a fine hoss thar,' sez I; 'reckon I never see such a purty color,' sez I. 'He is purty,' sez he, 'per'aps too purty for ME to be a-drivin', but he isn't fast.' 'I ain't speakin' o' that,' sez I; 'it's his looks that I'm talkin' of; whar might ye hev got him?' 'He was offered to me by a fr'en' o' me boyhood,' sez he; 'he's a pinto mustang,' sez he, 'from Californy, whar they breed 'em.' 'What's a pinto hoss?' sez I. 'The same ez a calico hoss,' sez he; 'what they have in cirkises, but ye never see 'em that color.' En he was right, for when I looked him over I never DID see such a soft and silky coat, and his mane and tail jest glistened. 'It IS a little too showy for ye,' sez I, 'but I might take him at a fair price. What's your fr'en' askin'?' 'He won't sell him to anybody but me,' sez Lummox; 'he's a horror o' hoss traders, anyway, and his price is more like a gift to a fr'en'.' 'What might that price be, ef it's a fair question?' sez I, for the more I looked at the hoss the more I liked him. 'A hundred and fifty dollars,' sez he; 'but my fr'en' would ask YOU double that.' 'Couldn't YOU and ME make a trade?' sez I; 'I'll exchange ye that roan mare, that's worth two hundred, for this hoss and fifty dollars.' With that he drew himself up, and sez he: 'Mr. Borem,' sez he, 'I share my fr'en's opinion about hoss tradin', and I promised my mother I'd never swap hosses. You ought to know me by this time.'"
"That's so!" said Mrs. Bigsby; "I'm wonderin' ye dared to ax him."
Dan'l passed his hand over his mouth, and continued: "'I dunno but you're right, Lummox,' sez I; 'per'aps it's jest as well as thar wasn't TWO in the Bank in that bizness.' But the more I looked at the hoss the more I hankered arter him. 'Look here,' sez I, 'I tell ye what I'll do! I'll LEND you my hoss and you'll LEND me yourn. I'll draw up a paper to that effect, and provide that in case o' accidents, ef I don't return you your hoss, I'll agree to pay you a hundred and fifty dollars. You'll give me the same kind o' paper about my hoss--with the proviso that you pay me two hundred for him!' 'Excuse me, Mr. Borem,' sez he, 'but that difference of fifty makes a hoss trade accordin' to my mind. It's agin' my principles to make such an agreement.'"
"An' he was right, Dan'l," said Mrs. Bigsby approvingly.
But Dan'l wiped his mouth again, leaving, however, a singular smile on it. "Well, ez I wanted that hoss, I jest thought and thought! I knew I could get two hundred and fifty for him easy, and that Lummox didn't know anythin' of his valoo, and I finally agreed to make the swap even. 'What do you call him?' sez I. 'Pegasus,' sez he,--'the poet's hoss, on account o' his golden mane,' sez he. That made me laff, for I never knew a poet ez could afford to hev a hoss,--much less one like that! But I said: 'I'll borry Pegasus o' you on those terms.' The next day I took the hoss to Jonesville; Lummox was right: he wasn't FAST, but, jest as I expected, he made a sensation! Folks crowded round him whenever I stopped; wimmin followed him and children cried for him. I could hev sold him for three hundred without leavin' town! 'So ye call him Pegasus,' sez Doc Smith, grinnin'; 'I didn't known ye was subject to the divine afflatus, Dan'l.' 'I don' offen hev it,' sez I, 'but when I do I find a little straight gin does me good.' 'So did Byron,' sez he, chucklin'. But even if I had called him 'Beelzebub' the hull town would hev bin jest as crazy over him. Well, as it was comin' on to rain I started jest after sundown for home. But it came ter blow, an' ter pour cats and dogs, an' I was nigh washed out o' the buggy, besides losin' my way and gettin' inter ditches and puddles, and I hed to stop at Staples' Half-Way House and put up for the night. In the mornin' I riz up early and goes into the stable yard, and the first thing I sees was the 'ostler. 'I hope ye giv' my hoss a good scrub down,' I sez, 'as I told ye, for his color is that delicate the smallest spot shows. It's a very rare color for a hoss.' 'I was hopin' it might be,' sez he. I was a little huffed at that, and I sez: 'It's considered a very beautiful color.' 'Mebbe it is,' sez he, 'but I never cared much for fireworks.' 'What yer mean?' sez I. 'Look here, Squire!' sez he; 'I don't mind scourin' and rubbin' down a hoss that will stay the same color TWICE, but when he gets to playin' a kaladeoskope on me, I kick!' 'Trot him out,' sez I, beginnin' to feel queer. With that he fetched out the hoss! For a minit I hed to ketch on to the fence to keep myself from fallin'. I swonny! ef he didn't look like a case of measles on top o' yaller fever--'cept where the harness had touched him, and that was kinder stenciled out all over him. Thar was places whar the 'ostler had washed down to the foundation color, a kind o' chewed licorice! Then I knew that somebody had bin sold terrible, and I reckoned it might be me! But I said nothin' to the 'ostler, and waited until dark, when I drove him over here, and put him in the stables, lettin' no one see him. In the mornin' Lummox comes to me, and sez he: 'I'm glad to see you back,' sez he, 'for my conscience is troublin' me about that hoss agreement; it looks too much like a hoss trade,' sez he, 'and I'm goin' to send the hoss back.' 'Mebbe your conscience,' sez I, 'may trouble you a little more ef you'll step this way;' and with that I takes his arm and leads him round to the stable and brings out the hoss.
"Well, Lummox never changes ez much as a hair, ez he puts up his eyeglasses. 'I'm not good at what's called "Pop'lar Art,"' sez he. 'Is it a chromo, or your own work?' sez he, critical like.
"'It's YOUR HOSS,' sez I.
"He looks at me a minit and then drors a paper from his pocket. 'This paper,' sez he in his quiet way, 'was drored up by you and is a covenant to return to me a yaller hoss with golden mane and tail-- or a hundred and fifty dollars. Ez I don't see the hoss anywhere-- mebbe you've got the hundred and fifty dollars handy?' sez he. 'Suppose I hadn't the money?' sez I. 'I should be obliged,' sez he in a kind o' pained Christian-martyr way, 'ter sell YOUR hoss for two hundred, and send the money to my fr'en'.' We looked at each other steddy for a minit and then I counts him out a hundred and fifty. He took the money sad-like and then sez: 'Mr. Borem,' sez he, 'this is a great morril lesson to us,' and went back to the office. In the arternoon I called in an old hoss dealer that I knew and shows him Pegasus.
"'He wants renewin',' sez he.
"'Wot's that?' sez I.
"'A few more bottles o' that British Blonde Hair Dye to set him up ag'in. That's wot they allus do in the cirkis, whar he kem from.'
"Then I went back to the office and I took down my sign. 'What's that you re doin'?' sez Lummox, with a sickly kind o' smile. 'Are you goin' out o' the bizness?'
"'No, I'm only goin' to change that sign from "Dan'l Borem" to "Borem and Lummox,"' sez I. 'I've concluded it's cheaper for me to take you inter partnership now than to continue in this way, which would only end in your hevin' to take me in later. I preferred to DO IT FUST.'"
A rich man, and settled in business, John Lummox concluded that he would marry Mary Bike. With that far-sighted logic which had always characterized him he reasoned that, having first met her on a liner, he would find her again on one if he took passage to Europe. He did--but she was down on the passenger list as Mrs. Edwin Wraggles. The result of their interview was given to Mrs. Bigsby by Dan'l Borem in his own dialect.
"Ez far as I kin see, it was like the Deacon's Sunday hoss trade, bein' all 'Ef it wassent.' 'Ef ye wasn't Mrs. Wraggles,' sez Lummox, sez he, 'I'd be tellin' ye how I've loved ye ever sence I first seed ye. Ef ye wasn't Mrs. Wraggles, I'd be squeezin' yer hand,' sez he; 'ef ye wasn't Mrs. Wraggles, I'd be askin' ye to marry me.' Then the gal ups and sez, sez she: 'But I AIN'T Mrs. Wraggles,' sez she; 'Mrs. Wraggles is my sister, and couldn't come, so I'm travelin' on her ticket, and that's how my name is Wraggles on the passenger list.' 'But why didn't ye tell me so at once?' sez Lummox. 'This is an episoode o' protracted humor,' sez she, 'and I'M bound to have a show in it somehow!'"
"Well!" said Mrs. Bigsby breathlessly; "then he DID marry her?"
"Darned ef I know. He never said so straight out--but that's like Lummox."
* * * * * * * * * * * *