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GOOD-MORNING, Homer, my boy,” said the Idiot, genially, as the Poet entered the breakfast-room. “All hail to thee. Thou art the bright particular bird of plumage I most hoped to see this rare and beauteous summer morning. No sweet-singing robin-redbreast or soft-honking canvasback for yours truly this A.M., when a living, breathing, palpitating son of the Muses lurks near at hand. I fain would make thee a proposition, Shakespeare dear!”
“Back pedal there! Avaunt with your flowery speech, oh Idiot!” cried the Doctor. “Else will I call an ambulance.”
“No ambulance for mine,” chortled the Idiot.
“Nay, Sweet Gas-bags,” quoth the Doctor. “But for once I fear me we may be scorched by this Pelée of words that thou spoutest forth.”
“What’s the proposition, Mr. Idiot?” asked the Poet. “I’m always open to anything of the kind, as the Subway said when an automobile fell into it.’”
“I thirst for laurels,” said the Idiot, “and I propose that you and I collaborate on a book of poems for early publication. With your name on the title-page and my poems in the book I think we can make a go of it.”
“What’s the lay?” asked the Poet, amused, but wary. “Sonnets, or French forms, or just plain snatches of song?”
“Any old thing as long as it runs smoothly,” replied the Idiot. “Only the poems must fit the title of the book, which is to be Now.”
“Now?” said the Poet.
“Now!” repeated the Idiot. “I find in reading over the verse of the day that the ‘Now’ poem always finds a ready market. Therefore, there must be money in it, and where the money goes there the laurels are. You know what Browning Robinson, the Laureate of Wall Street, wrote in his ‘Message to Posterity’:
“I never heard that poem before,” laughed the Poet, “though the sentiment in these commercial days is not unfamiliar.”
“True,” said the Idiot. “Alfred Austin Biggs, of Texas, voiced the same idea when he said:“‘Crown me not with spinach,
“Do you remember that?” asked the Idiot.
“Only faintly,” said the Poet. “I think you read it to me once before, just after you—er—ah—rather just after Alfred Austin Biggs, of Texas—wrote it.”
The Idiot laughed. “I see you’re on,” he said. “Anyhow, it’s good sentiment, whether I wrote it or Biggs. Fact is, in my judgment, what the poet of to-day ought to do is to collect the long green from the present and the laurel from posterity. That’s a fair division. But what do you say to my proposition?”
“Well, it’s certainly—er—cheeky enough,” said the Poet. “Do I understand it?—you want me to father your poems. To tell the truth, until I hear some of them, I can’t promise to be more than an uncle to them.”
“That’s all right,” said the Idiot. “You ought to be cautious, as a matter of protection to your own name. I’ve got some of the goods right here. Here’s a little thing called ‘Summer-tide!’ It shows the whole ‘Now’ principle in a nutshell. Listen to this:“Now the festive frog is croaking in the mere,
How’s that? Pretty fair?”
“Well, I might consent to be a cousin to a poem of that kind. I’ve read worse and written some that are quite as bad. But you know, Mr. Idiot, even so great a masterpiece as that won’t make a book,” said the Poet.
“Of course it won’t,” retorted the Idiot. “That’s only for the summer. Here’s another one on winter. Just listen:“Now the man who deals in mittens and in tabs
You see, Mr. Poet, that out of that one idea alone—that cataloguing of the things of the four seasons—you can get four poems that are really worth reading,” said the Idiot. “We could call that section ‘The Seasons,’ and make it the first part of the book. In the second part we could do the same thing, only in greater detail, for each one of the months. Just as a sample, take the month of February. We could run something like this in on February:“Now o’er the pavement comes a hush
“I see,” said the Poet. “It wouldn’t take long to fill up a book with stuff like that.”
“To make the appeal stronger, let me take the month of July, which is now on,” resumed the Idiot. “You may find it even more convincing:“Now the fly—
“I don’t believe anybody would believe I wrote it, that’s all,” said the Poet, shaking his head dubiously. “They’d find out, sooner or later, that you did it, just as they discovered that Will Carleton wrote ‘Paradise Lost,’ and Dick Davis was the real author of Shakespeare. Why don’t you publish the thing over your own name?”
“Too modest,” said the Idiot. “What do you think of this:“Now the festive candidate
“That’s fair, only I don’t think you’ll find many candidates doing that sort of thing nowadays,” said the Poet. “Most public men I know of would rather spend their money than kiss the babies. That style of campaigning has gone out.”
“It has in the cities,” said the Idiot. “But back in the country it is still done, and the candidate who turns his back on the infant might as well give up the race. I know, because a cousin of mine ran for supervisor once, and he was licked out of his boots because he tried to do his kissing by proxy—said he’d give the kisses in a bunch to a committee of young ladies, who could distribute them for him. Result was everybody was down on him—even the young ladies.”
“I guess he was a cousin of yours, all right,” laughed the Doctor; “that scheme bears the Idiot brand.”
“Here’s one on the opening of the opera season,” said the Idiot:“Now the fiddlers tune their fiddles
Mr. Brief took a hand in the discussion at this moment.
“Then you can have a blanket verse,” he said, scribbling with his pencil on a piece of paper in front of him. “Something like this:“And as Time goes on a-stalking,
“That settles it,” said the Idiot, rising. “I withdraw my proposition. Let’s call it off, Mr. Poet.”
“What’s the matter?” asked Mr. Brief. “Isn’t my verse good?”
“Yes,” said the Idiot. “Just as good as mine, and that being the case it isn’t worth doing. When lawyers can write as good poetry as real poets, it doesn’t pay to be a real poet. I’m going in for something else. I guess I’ll apply for a job as a motorman, and make a name for myself there.”
“Can a motorman make a name for himself?” asked the Doctor.
“Oh yes,” said the Idiot. “Easily. By being civil. A civil motorman would be unique.”
“But he wouldn’t make a fortune,” suggested the Poet.
“Yes he would, too,” said the Idiot. “If he could prove he really was civil, the vaudeville people would pay him a thousand dollars a week and tour the country with him. He’d draw mobs.”
With which the Idiot left the dining-room.
“I think his poems would sell,” smiled Mrs. Pedagog.
“Yes,” said Mr. Pedagog. “Chopped up fine and properly advertised, they might make a very successful new kind of breakfast food—provided the paper on which they were written was not too indigestible.”
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