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- The Fiend's Delight - 6/22 -
"I was one among the first who--"
Mr. Grile hit him on the head with a paving-stone by way of changing the topic.
"Young man," continued he, "do you feel this bommy breeze? There isn't a climit in the world--"
This melancholy relic broke down in a fit of coughing. No sooner had he recovered than he leaped into the air, making a frantic clutch at something, but apparently without success.
"Dern it," hissed he, "there goes my teeth; blowed out again, by hokey!"
A passing cloud of dust hid him for a moment from view, and when he reappeared he was an altered man; a paroxysm of asthma had doubled him up like a nut-cracker.
"Excuse me," he wheezed, "I'm subject to this; caught it crossin' the Isthmus in '49. As I was a-sayin', there's no country in the world that offers such inducements to the immygrunt as Californy. With her fertile soil, her unrivalled climit, her magnificent bay, and the rest of it, there is enough for all."
This venerable pioneer picked a fragmentary biscuit from the street and devoured it. Mr. Grile thought this had gone on about long enough. He twisted the head off that hopeful old party, surrendered himself to the authorities, and was at once discharged. The Root of Education.
A pedagogue in Indiana, who was "had up" for unmercifully waling the back of a little girl, justified his action by explaining that "she persisted in flinging paper pellets at him when his back was turned." That is no excuse. Mr. Grile once taught school up in the mountains, and about every half hour had to remove his coat and scrape off the dried paper wads adhering to the nap. He never permitted a trifle like this to unsettle his patience; he just kept on wearing that gaberdine until it had no nap and the wads wouldn't stick. But when they took to dipping them in mucilage he made a complaint to the Board of Directors.
"Young man," said the Chairman, "ef you don't like our ways, you'd better sling your blankets and git. Prentice Mulford tort skule yer for more'n six months, and he never said a word agin the wads."
Mr. Grile briefly explained that Mr. Mulford might have been brought up to paper wads, and didn't mind them.
"It ain't no use," said another Director, "the children hev got to be amused."
Mr. Grile protested that there were other amusements quite as diverting; but the third Director here rose and remarked:
"I perfeckly agree with the Cheer; this youngster better travel. I consider as paper wads lies at the root uv popillar edyercation; ther a necessary adjunck uv the skool systim. Mr. Cheerman, I move and second that this yer skoolmarster be shot."
Mr. Grile did not remain to observe the result of the voting. Retribution.
A citizen of Pittsburg, aged sixty, had, by tireless industry and the exercise of rigid economy, accumulated a hoard of frugal dollars, the sight and feel whereof were to his soul a pure delight. Imagine his sorrow and the heaviness of his aged heart when he learned that the good wife had bestowed thereof upon her brother bountiful largess exceeding his merit. Sadly and prayerfully while she slept lifted he the retributive mallet and beat in her brittle pate. Then with the quiet dignity of one who has redressed a grievous wrong, surrendered himself unto the law this worthy old man. Let him who has never known the great grief of slaughtering a wife judge him harshly. He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone-and let it be a large heavy stone that shall grind that wicked old man into a powder of exceeding impalpability. The Faithful Wife.
"A man was sentenced to twenty years' confinement for a deed of violence. In the excitement of the moment his wife sought and obtained a divorce. Thirteen years afterward he was pardoned. The wife brought the pardon to the gate; the couple left the spot arm in arm; and in less than an hour they were again united in the bonds of wedlock."
Such is the touching tale narrated by a newspaper correspondent. It is in every respect true; I knew the parties well, and during that long bitter period of thirteen years it was commonly asked concerning the woman: "Hasn't that hag trapped anybody yet? She'll have to take back old Jabe when he gets out." And she did. For nearly thirteen weary years she struggled nobly against fate: she went after every unmarried man in her part of the country; but "No," said they, "we cannot-indeed we cannot-marry you, after the way you went back on Jabe. It is likely that under the same circumstances you would play us the same scurvy trick. G'way, woman!" And so the poor old heartbroken creature had to go to the Governor and get the old man pardoned out. Bless her for her steadfast fidelity! Margaret the Childless.
This, therefore, is the story of her:--Some four years ago her husband brought home a baby, which he said he found lying in the street, and which they concluded to adopt. About a year after this he brought home another, and the good woman thought she could stand that one too. A similar period passed away, when one evening he opened the door and fell headlong into the room, swearing with studied correctness at a dog which had tripped him up, but which upon inspection turned out to be another baby. Margaret's sus- picion was aroused, but to allay his she hastened to implore him to adopt that darling also, to which, after some slight hesitation, he consented. Another twelvemonth rolled into eternity, when one evening the lady heard a noise in the back yard, and going out she saw her husband labouring at the windlass of the well with unwonted industry. As the bucket neared the top he reached down and extracted another infant, exactly like the former ones, and holding it up, explained to the astonished matron: "Look at this, now; did you ever see such a sweet young one go a-campaignin' about the country without a lantern and a-tumblin' into wells? There, take the poor little thing in to the fire, and get off its wet clothes." It suddenly flashed across his mind that he had neglected an obvious precaution-the clothes were not wet-and he hastily added: "There's no tellin' what would have become of it, a-climbin' down that rope, if I hadn't seen it afore it got down to the water."
Silently the good wife took that infant into the house and disrobed it; sorrowfully she laid it alongside its little brothers and sister; long and bitterly she wept over the quartette; and then with one tender look at her lord and master, smoking in solemn silence by the fire, and resembling them with all his might, she gathered her shawl about her bowed shoulders and went away into the night. The Discomfited Demon.
I never clearly knew why I visited the old cemetery that night. Perhaps it was to see how the work of removing the bodies was getting on, for they were all being taken up and carted away to a more comfortable place where land was less valuable. It was well enough; nobody had buried himself there for years, and the skeletons that were now exposed were old mouldy affairs for which it was difficult to feel any respect. However, I put a few bones in my pocket as souvenirs. The night was one of those black, gusty ones in March, with great inky clouds driving rapidly across the sky, spilling down sudden showers of rain which as suddenly would cease. I could barely see my way between the empty graves, and in blundering about among the coffins I tripped and fell headlong. A peculiar laugh at my side caused me to turn my head, and I saw a singular old gentleman whom I had often noticed hanging about the Coroner's office, sitting cross-legged upon a prostrate tombstone.
"How are you, sir?" said I, rising awkwardly to my feet; "nice night."
"Get off my tail," answered the elderly party, without moving a muscle.
"My eccentric friend," rejoined I, mockingly, "may I be permitted to inquire your street and number?"
"Certainly," he replied, "No. 1, Marle Place, Asphalt Avenue, Hades."
"The devil!" sneered I.
"Exactly," said he; "oblige me by getting off my tail."
I was a little staggered, and by way of rallying my somewhat dazed faculties, offered a cigar: "Smoke?"
"Thank you," said the singular old gentleman, putting it under his coat; "after dinner. Drink?"
I was not exactly prepared for this, but did not know if it would be safe to decline, and so putting the proffered flask to my lips pretended to swig elaborately, keeping my mouth tightly closed the while. "Good article," said I, returning it. He simply remarked, "You're a fool," and emptied the bottle at a gulp.
"And now," resumed he, "you will confer a favour I shall highly appreciate by removing your feet from my tail."
There was a slight shock of earthquake, and all the skeletons in sight arose to their feet, stretched themselves and yawned audibly. Without moving from his seat, the old gentleman rapped the nearest one across the skull with his gold-headed cane, and they all curled away to sleep again.
"Sire," I resumed, "indulge me in the impertinence of inquiring your business here at this hour."
"My business is none of yours," retorted he, calmly; "what are you up to yourself?"
"I have been picking up some bones," I replied, carelessly.
"Then you are--"
"My good friend, you do me injustice. You have doubtless read very
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