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- The Fiend's Delight - 2/22 -
face, but names I cannot remember."
"Jake!" rumbled the spectre with sepulchral dignity, a look of displeasure crawling across his pallid features, "you're foolin'."
"I give you my word I am quite serious. Oblige me with your name, and favour me with a statement of your business with me at this hour."
The disembodied party sank uninvited into a chair, spread out his knees and stared blankly at a Dutch clock with an air of weariness and profound discouragement. Perceiving that his guest was making himself tolerably comfortable my friend turned again to his figures, and silence reigned supreme. The fire in the grate burned noiselessly with a mysterious blue light, as if it could do more if it wished; the Dutch clock looked wise, and swung its pendulum with studied exactness, like one who is determined to do his precise duty and shun responsibility; the cat assumed an attitude of intelligent neutrality. Finally the spectre trained his pale eyes upon his host, pulled in a long breath and remarked:
"Jake, I'm yur dead father. I come back to have a talk with ye 'bout the way things is agoin' on. I want to know 'f you think it's right notter recognise yur dead parent?"
"It is a little rough on you, dear," replied the son without looking up, "but the fact is that [7 and 3 are 10, and 2 are 12, and 6 are 18] it is so long since you have been about [and 3 off are 15] that I had kind of forgotten, and [2 into 4 goes twice, and 7 into 6 you can't] you know how it is yourself. May I be permitted to again inquire the precise nature of your present business?"
"Well, yes-if you wont talk anything but shop I s'pose I must come to the p'int. Isay! you don't keep any thing to drink 'bout yer, do ye-Jake?"
"14 from 23 are 9-I'll get you something when we get done. Please explain how we can serve one another."
"Jake, I done everything for you, and you ain't done nothin' for me since I died. I want a monument bigger'n Dave Broderick's, with an eppytaph in gilt letters, by Joaquin Miller. I can't git into any kind o' society till I have 'em. You've no idee how exclusive they are where I am."
This dutiful son laid down his pencil and effected a stiffly vertical attitude. He was all attention:
"Anything else to-day?" he asked-rather sneeringly, I grieve to state.
"No-o-o, I don't think of anything special," drawled the ghost reflectively; "I'd like to have an iron fence around it to keep the cows off, but I s'pose that's included."
"Of course! And a gravel walk, and a lot of abalone shells, and fresh posies daily; a marble angel or two for company, and anything else that will add to your comfort. Have you any other extremely reasonable request to make of me?"
"Yes-since you mention it. I want you to contest my will. Horace Hawes is having his'n contested."
"My fine friend, you did not make any will."
"That ain't o' no consequence. You forge me a good 'un and contest that."
"With pleasure, sir; but that will be extra. Now indulge me in one question. You spoke of the society where you reside. Where do you reside?"
The Dutch clock pounded clamorously upon its brazen gong a countless multitude of hours; the glowing coals fell like an avalanche through the grate, spilling all over the cat, who exalted her voice in a squawk like the deathwail of a stuck pig, and dashed affrighted through the window. A smell of scorching fur pervaded the place, and under cover of it the aged spectre walked into the mirror, vanishing like a dream. "Love's Labour Lost."
Joab was a beef, who was tired of being courted for his clean, smooth skin. So he backed through a narrow gateway six or eight times, which made his hair stand the wrong way. He then went and rubbed his fat sides against a charred log. This made him look untidy. You never looked worse in your life than Joab did.
"Now," said he, "I shall be loved for myself alone. I will change my name, and hie me to pastures new, and all the affection that is then lavished upon me will be pure and disinterested."
So he strayed off into the woods and came out at old Abner Davis' ranch. The two things Abner valued most were a windmill and a scratching-post for hogs. They were equally beautiful, and the fame of their comeliness had gone widely abroad. To them Joab naturally paid his attention. The windmill, who was called Lucille Ashtonbury Clifford, received him with expressions of the liveliest disgust. His protestations of affection were met by creakings of contempt, and as he turned sadly away he was rewarded by a sound spank from one of her fans. Like a gentlemanly beef he did not deign to avenge the insult by overturning Lucille Ashtonbury; and it is well for him that he did not, for old Abner stood by with a pitchfork and a trinity of dogs.
Disgusted with the selfish heartlessness of society, Joab shambled off and was passing the scratching-post without noticing her. (Her name was Arabella Cliftonbury Howard.) Suddenly she kicked away a multitude of pigs who were at her feet, and called to the rolling beef of uncanny exterior:
Joab paused, looked at her with his ox-eyes, and gravely marching up, commenced a vigorous scratching against her.
"Arabella," said he, "do you think you could love a shaggy-hided beef with black hair? Could you love him for himself alone?"
Arabella had observed that the black rubbed off, and the hair lay sleek when stroked the right way.
"Yes, I think so; could you?"
This was a poser: Joab had expected her to talk business. He did not reply. It was only her arch way; she thought, naturally, that the best way to win any body's love was to be a fool. She saw her mistake. She had associated with hogs all her life, and this fellow was a beef! Mistakes must be rectified very speedily in these matters.
"Sir, I have for you a peculiar feeling; I may say a tenderness. Hereafter you, and you only, shall scratch against Arabella Cliftonbury Howard!"
Joab was delighted; he stayed and scratched all day. He was loved for himself alone, and he did not care for anything but that. Then he went home, made an elaborate toilet, and returned to astonish her. Alas! old Abner had been about, and seeing how Joab had worn her smooth and useless, had cut her down for firewood. Joab gave one glance, then walked solemnly away into a "clearing," and getting comfortably astride a blazing heap of logs, made a barbacue of himself!
After all, Lucille Ashtonbury Clifford, the light-headed windmill, seems to have got the best of all this. I have observed that the light-headed commonly get the best of everything in this world; which the wooden-headed and the beef-headed regard as an outrage. I am not prepared to say if it is or not. A Comforter.
William Bunker had paid a fine of two hundred dollars for beating his wife. After getting his receipt he went moodily home and seated himself at the domestic hearth. Observing his abstracted and melancholy demeanour, the good wife approached and tenderly inquired the cause. "It's a delicate subject, dear," said he, with love- light in his eyes; "let's talk about something good to eat."
Then, with true wifely instinct she sought to cheer him up with pleasing prattle of a new bonnet he had promised her. "Ah! darling," he sighed, absently picking up the fire-poker and turning it in his hands, "let us change the subject."
Then his soul's idol chirped an inspiring ballad, kissed him on the top of his head, and sweetly mentioned that the dressmaker had sent in her bill. "Let us talk only of love," returned he, thoughtfully rolling up his dexter sleeve.
And so she spoke of the vine-enfolded cottage in which she fondly hoped they might soon sip together the conjugal sweets. William became rigidly erect, a look not of earth was in his face, his breast heaved, and the fire-poker quivered with emotion. William felt deeply. "Mine own," said the good woman, now busily irrigating a mass of snowy dough for the evening meal, "do you know that there is not a bite of meat in the house?"
It is a cold, unlovely truth-a sad, heart-sickening fact-but it must be told by the conscientious novelist. William repaid all this affectionate solicitude-all this womanly devotion, all this trust, confidence, and abnegation in a manner that needs not be particularly specified.
A short, sharp curve in the middle of that iron fire-poker is eloquent of a wrong redressed. Little Isaac.
Mr. Gobwottle came home from a meeting of the Temperance Legion extremely drunk. He went to the bed, piled himself loosely atop of it and forgot his identity. About the middle of the night, his wife, who was sitting up darning stockings, heard a voice from the profoundest depths of the bolster: "Say, Jane?"
Jane gave a vicious stab with the needle, impaling one of her fingers, and continued her work. There was a long silence, faintly punctuated by the bark of a distant dog. Again that voice--"Say-Jane!"
The lady laid aside her work and wearily, replied: "Isaac, do go to sleep; they are off."
Another and longer pause, during which the ticking of the clock became painful in the intensity of the silence it seemed to be measuring. "Jane, what's off!" "Why, your boots, to be sure," replied the petulant woman, losing patience; "I pulled them off when
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