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Black Beetles in Amber
by Ambrose Bierce
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ARBOR DAY

Hasten, children, black and white— Celebrate the yearly rite. Every pupil plant a tree: It will grow some day to be Big and strong enough to bear A School Director hanging there.



THE PIUTE

Unbeautiful is the Piute! Howe'er bedecked with bravery, His person is unsavory— Of soap he's destitute.

He multiplies upon the earth In spite of all admonishing; All censure his astonishing And versatile unworth.

Upon the Reservation wide We give for his inhabiting He goes a-jackass rabbiting To furnish his inside.

The hopper singing in the grass He seizes with avidity: He loves its tart acidity, And gobbles all that pass.

He penetrates the spider's veil, Industriously pillages The toads' defenseless villages, And shadows home the snail.

He lightly runs to earth the quaint Red worm and, deftly troweling, He makes it with his boweling Familiarly acquaint.

He tracks the pine-nut to its lair, Surrounds it with celerity, Regards it with asperity— Smiles, and it isn't there!

I wish he'd open up a grin Of adequate vivacity And carrying capacity To take his Agent in.



FAME

He held a book in his knotty paws, And its title grand read he: "The Chronicles of the Kings" it was, By the History Companee. "I'm a monarch," he said (But a tear he shed) "And my picter here you see.

"Great and lasting is my renown, However the wits may flout— As wide almost as this blessed town" (But he winced as if with gout). "I paid 'em like sin For to put me in, But it's O, and O, to be out!"



ONE OF THE REDEEMED

Saint Peter, standing at the Gate, beheld A soul whose body Death had lately felled.

A pleasant soul as ever was, he seemed: His step was joyous and his visage beamed.

"Good morning, Peter." There was just a touch Of foreign accent, but not overmuch.

The Saint bent gravely, like a stately tree, And said: "You have the advantage, sir, of me."

"Renan of Paris," said the immortal part— "A master of the literary art.

"I'm somewhat famous, too, I grieve to tell, As controversialist and infidel."

"That's of no consequence," the Saint replied, "Why, I myself my Master once denied.

"No one up here cares anything for that. But is there nothing you were always at?

"It seems to me you were accused one day Of something—what it was I can't just say."

"Quite likely," said the other; "but I swear My life was irreproachable and fair."

Just then a soul appeared upon the wall, Singing a hymn as loud as he could bawl.

About his head a golden halo gleamed, As well befitted one of the redeemed.

A harp he bore and vigorously thumbed, Strumming he sang, and, singing, ever strummed.

His countenance, suffused with holy pride, Glowed like a pumpkin with a light inside.

"Ah! that's the chap," said Peter, "who declares: 'Renan's a rake and drunkard—smokes and swears.'

"Yes, that's the fellow—he's a preacher—came From San Francisco. Mansfield was his name."

"Do you believe him?" said Renan. "Great Scott! Believe? Believe the blackguard? Of course not!

"Just walk right in and make yourself at home. And if he pecks at you I'll cut his comb.

"He's only here because the Devil swore He wouldn't have him, for the smile he wore."

Resting his eyes one moment on that proof Of saving grace, the Frenchman turned aloof,

And stepping down from cloud to cloud, said he: "Thank you, monsieur,—I'll see if he'll have me."



A CRITIC

[Apparently the Cleveland Leader is not a good judge of poetry.—The Morning Call.]

That from you, neighbor! to whose vacant lot Each rhyming literary knacker scourges His cart-compelling Pegasus to trot, As folly, fame or famine smartly urges?

Admonished by the stimulating goad, How gaily, lo! the spavined crow-bait prances— Its cart before it—eager to unload The dead-dog sentiments and swill-tub fancies.

Gravely the sweating scavenger pulls out The tail-board of his curst imagination, Shoots all his rascal rubbish, and, no doubt, Thanks Fortune for so good a dumping-station.

To improve your property, the vile cascade Your thrift invites—to make a higher level. In vain: with tons of garbage overlaid, Your baseless bog sinks slowly to the devil.

"Rubbish may be shot here"—familiar sign! I seem to see it in your every column. You have your wishes, but if I had mine 'Twould to your editor mean something solemn.



A QUESTION OF ELIGIBILITY

It was a bruised and battered chap The victim of some dire mishap, Who sat upon a rock and spent His breath in this ungay lament:

"Some wars—I've frequent heard of such— Has beat the everlastin' Dutch! But never fight was fit by man To equal this which has began In our (I'm in it, if you please) Academy of Sciences. For there is various gents belong To it which go persistent wrong, And loving the debates' delight Calls one another names at sight. Their disposition, too, accords With fighting like they all was lords! Sech impulses should be withstood: 'Tis scientific to be good.

"'Twas one of them, one night last week, Rose up his figure for to speak: 'Please, Mr. Chair, I'm holding here A resolution which, I fear, Some ancient fossils that has bust Their cases and shook off their dust To sit as Members here will find Unpleasant, not to say unkind.' And then he read it every word, And silence fell on all which heard. That resolution, wild and strange, Proposed a fundamental change, Which was that idiots no more Could join us as they had before!

"No sooner was he seated than The members rose up, to a man. Each chap was primed with a reply And tried to snatch the Chairman's eye. They stomped and shook their fists in air, And, O, what words was uttered there!

"The Chair was silent, but at last He hove up his proportions vast And stilled them tumults with a look By which the undauntedest was shook. He smiled sarcastical and said: 'If Argus was the Chair, instead Of me, he'd lack enough of eyes Each orator to recognize! And since, denied a hearing, you Might maybe undertake to do Each other harm before you cease, I've took some steps to keep the peace: I've ordered out—alas, alas, That Science e'er to such a pass Should come!—I've ordered out—the gas!'

"O if a tongue or pen of fire Was mine I could not tell entire What the ensuin' actions was. When swollered up in darkness' jaws We fit and fit and fit and fit, And everything we felt we hit! We gouged, we scratched and we pulled hair, And O, what words was uttered there! And when at last the day dawn came Three hundred Scientists was lame; Two hundred others couldn't stand, They'd been so careless handled, and One thousand at the very least Was spread upon the floor deceased! 'Twere easy to exaggerate, But lies is things I mortal hate.

"Such, friends, is the disaster sad Which has befel the Cal. Acad. And now the question is of more Importance than it was before: Shall vacancies among us be To idiots threw open free?"



FLEET STROTHER

What! you were born, you animated doll, Within the shadow of the Capitol? 'Twas always thought (and Bancroft so assures His trusting readers) it was reared in yours.



CALIFORNIAN SUMMER PICTURES

THE FOOT-HILL RESORT

Assembled in the parlor Of the place of last resort, The smiler and the snarler And the guests of every sort— The elocution chap With rhetoric on tap; The mimic and the funny dog; The social sponge; the money-hog; Vulgarian and dude; And the prude; The adiposing dame With pimply face aflame; The kitten-playful virgin— Vergin' on to fifty years; The solemn-looking sturgeon Of a firm of auctioneers; The widower flirtatious; The widow all too gracious; The man with a proboscis and a sepulcher beneath. One assassin picks the banjo, and another picks his teeth.

AT ANCHOR

The soft asphaltum in the sun; Betrays a tendency to run; Whereas the dog that takes his way Across its course concludes to stay.

THE IN-COMING CLIMATE

Now o' nights the ocean breeze Makes the patient flinch, For that zephyr bears a sneeze In every cubic inch. Lo! the lively population Chorusing in sternutation A catarrhal acclamation!

A LONG-FELT WANT

Dimly apparent, through the gloom Of Market-street's opaque simoom, A queue of people, parti-sexed, Awaiting the command of "Next!" A sidewalk booth, a dingy sign: "Teeth dusted nice—five cents a shine."

TO THE HAPPY HUNTING GROUNDS

Wide windy reaches of high stubble field; A long gray road, bordered with dusty pines; A wagon moving in a "cloud by day." Two city sportsmen with a dove between, Breast-high upon a fence and fast asleep— A solitary dove, the only dove In twenty counties, and it sick, or else It were not there. Two guns that fire as one, With thunder simultaneous and loud; Two shattered human wrecks of blood and bone! And later, in the gloaming, comes a man— The worthy local coroner is he, Renowned all thereabout, and popular With many a remain. All tenderly Compiling in a game-bag the debris, He glides into the gloom and fades from sight. The dove, cured of its ailment by the shock, Has flown, meantime, on pinions strong and fleet, To die of age in some far foreign land.



SLANDER

FITCH:

"All vices you've exhausted, friend; So all the papers say."

PICKERING:

"Ah, what vile calumnies are penned!— 'Tis just the other way."



JAMES L. FLOOD

As oft it happens in the youth of day That mists obscure the sun's imperfect ray, Who, as he's mounting to the dome's extreme, Smites and dispels them with a steeper beam, So you the vapors that begirt your birth Consumed, and manifested all your worth. But still one early vice obstructs the light And sullies all the visible and bright Display of mind and character. You write.



FOUR CANDIDATES FOR SENATOR

To flatter your way to the goad of your hope, O plausible Mr. Perkins, You'll need ten tons of the softest soap And butter a thousand firkins. The soap you could put to a better use In washing your hands of ambition Ere the butter's used for cooking your goose To a beautiful brown condition.

* * * * *

"The Railroad can't run Stanford." That is so— The tail can't curl the pig; but then, you know, Inside the vegetable-garden's pale The pig will eat more cabbage than the tail.

* * * * *

When Sargent struts by all the lawmakers say: "Right—left!" It is fair to infer The right will get left, nor polar the day When he makes that thing to occur.

Not so, not so, 'tis a joke, that cry— Foolish and dull and small: He so bores them for votes that they mean to imply He's a drill-Sargent, that is all.

* * * * *

Gods! what a sight! Astride McClure's broad back Estee jogs round the Senatorial track, The crowd all undecided, as they pass, Whether to cheer the man or cheer the ass. They stop: the man to lower his feet is seen And the tired beast, withdrawing from between, Mounts, as they start again, the biped's neck, And scarce the crowd can say which one's on deck.



A GROWLER

Judge Shafter, you're an aged man, I know, And learned too, I doubt not, in the law; And a head white with many a winter's snow (I wish, however that your heart would thaw) Claims reverence and honor; but the jaw That's always wagging with a word malign, Nagging and scolding every one in sight As harshly as a jaybird in a pine, And with as little sense of wrong and right As animates that irritable creature, Is not a very venerable feature.

You damn all witnesses, all jurors too (And swear at the attorneys, I suppose, But that's commendable) "till all is blue"; And what it's all about, the good Lord knows, Not you; but all the hotter, fiercer glows Your wrath for that—as dogs the louder howl With only moonshine to incite their rage, And bears with more ferocious menace growl, Even when their food is flung into the cage. Reform, your Honor, and forbear to curse us. Lest all men, hearing you, cry: "Ecce ursus!"



AD MOODIUM

Tut! Moody, do not try to show To gentlemen and ladies That if they have not "Faith," they'll go Headlong to Hades.

Faith is belief; and how can I Have that by being willing? This dime I cannot, though I try, Believe a shilling.

Perhaps you can. If so, pray do— Believe you own it, also. But what seems evidence to you I may not call so.

Heaven knows I'd like the Faith to think This little vessel's contents Are liquid gold. I see 'tis ink For writing nonsense.

Minds prone to Faith, however, may Come now and then to sorrow: They put their trust in truth to-day, In lies to-morrow.

No doubt the happiness is great To think as one would wish to; But not to swallow every bait, As certain fish do.

To think a snake a cord, I hope, Would bolden and delight me; But some day I might think a rope Would chase and bite me.

"Curst Reason! Faith forever blest!" You're crying all the season. Well, who decides that Faith is best? Why, Mr. Reason.

He's right or wrong; he answers you According to your folly, And says what you have taught him to, Like any polly.



AN EPITAPH

Hangman's hands laid in this tomb an Imp of Satan's getting, whom an Ancient legend says that woman Never bore—he owed his birth To Sin herself. From Hell to Earth She brought the brat in secret state And laid him at the Golden gate, And they named him Henry Vrooman. While with mortals here he stayed, His father frequently he played. Raised his birth-place and in other Playful ways begot his mother.



A SPADE

[The spade that was used to turn the first sod in the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad is to be exhibited at the New Orleans Exposition.—Press Telegram.]

Precursor of our woes, historic spade, What dismal records burn upon thy blade! On thee I see the maculating stains Of passengers' commingled blood and brains. In this red rust a widow's curse appears, And here an orphan tarnished thee with tears. Upon thy handle sanguinary bands Reveal the clutching of thine owner's hands When first he wielded thee with vigor brave To cut a sod and dig a people's grave— (For they who are debauched are dead and ought, In God's name, to be hid from sight and thought.) Within thee, as within a magic glass, I seem to see a foul procession pass— Judges with ermine dragging in the mud And spotted here and there with guiltless blood; Gold-greedy legislators jingling bribes; Kept editors and sycophantic scribes; Liars in swarms and plunderers in tribes; They fade away before the night's advance, And fancy figures thee a devil's lance Gleaming portentous through the misty shade, While ghosts of murdered virtues shriek about my blade!



THE VAN NESSIAD

From end to end, thine avenue, Van Ness, Rang with the cries of battle and distress! Brave lungs were thundering with dreadful sound And perspiration smoked along the ground! Sing, heavenly muse, to ears of mortal clay, The meaning, cause and finish of the fray.

Great Porter Ashe (invoking first the gods, Who signed their favor with assenting nods That snapped off half their heads—their necks grown dry Since last the nectar cup went circling by) Resolved to build a stable on his lot, His neighbors fiercely swearing he should not. Said he: "I build that stable!" "No, you don't," Said they. "I can!" "You can't!" "I will!" "You won't!" "By heaven!" he swore; "not only will I build, But purchase donkeys till the place is filled!" "Needless expense," they sneered in tones of ice— "The owner's self, if lodged there, would suffice." For three long months the awful war they waged: With women, women, men with men engaged, While roaring babes and shrilling poodles raged!

Jove, from Olympus, where he still maintains His ancient session (with rheumatic pains Touched by his long exposure) marked the strife, Interminable but by loss of life; For malediction soon exhausts the breath— If not, old age itself is certain death. Lo! he holds high in heaven the fatal beam; A golden pan depends from each, extreme; This feels of Porter's fate the downward stress, That bears the destiny of all Van Ness. Alas! the rusted scales, their life all gone, Deliver judgment neither pro nor con: The dooms hang level and the war goes on. With a divine, contemptuous disesteem Jove dropped the pans and kicked, himself, the beam: Then, to decide the strife, with ready wit, The nickel that he did not care for it Twirled absently, remarking: "See it spin: Head, Porter loses; tail, the others win." The conscious nickel, charged with doom, spun round, Portentously and made a ringing sound, Then, staggering beneath its load of fate, Sank rattling, died at last and lay in state.

Jove scanned the disk and then, as is his wont, Raised his considering orbs, exclaiming: "Front!" With leisurely alacrity approached The herald god, to whom his mind he broached: "In San Francisco two belligerent Powers, Such as contended round great Ilion's towers, Fight for a stable, though in either class There's not a horse, and but a single ass. Achilles Ashe, with formidable jaw Assails a Trojan band with fierce hee-haw, Firing the night with brilliant curses. They With dark vituperation gloom the day. Fate, against which nor gods nor men compete, Decrees their victory and his defeat. With haste, good Mercury, betake thee hence And salivate him till he has no sense!"

Sheer downward shot the messenger afar, Trailing a splendor like a falling star! With dimming lustre through the air he burned, Vanished, nor till another sun returned. The sovereign of the gods superior smiled, Beaming benignant, fatherly and mild: "Is Destiny's decree performed, my lad?— And has he now no sense?" "Ah, sire, he never had."



A FISH COMMISSIONER

Great Joseph D. Redding—illustrious name!— Considered a fish-horn the trumpet of Fame. That goddess was angry, and what do you think? Her trumpet she filled with a gallon of ink, And all through the Press, with a devilish glee, She sputtered and spattered the name of J.D.



TO A STRAY DOG

Well, Towser (I'm thinking your name must be Towser), You're a decentish puppy as puppy dogs go, For you never, I'm sure, could have dined upon trowser, And your tail's unimpeachably curled just so.

But, dear me! your name—if 'tis yours—is a "poser": Its meaning I cannot get anywise at, When spoken correctly perhaps it is Toser, And means one who toses. Max Muller, how's that?

I ne'er was ingenious at all at divining A word's prehistorical, primitive state, Or finding its root, like a mole, by consigning Its bloom to the turnep-top's sorrowful fate.

And, now that I think of it well, I'm no nearer The riddle's solution than ever—for how's My pretty invented word, "tose," any clearer In point of its signification than "towse"?

So, Towser (or Toser), I mean to rename you In honor of some good and eminent man, In the light and the heat of whose quickening fame you May grow to an eminent dog if you can.

In sunshine like his you'll not long be a croucher: The Senate shall hear you—for that I will vouch. Come here, sir. Stand up. I rechristen you Goucher. But damn you! I'll shoot you if ever you gouch!



IN HIS HAND

De Young (in Chicago the story is told) "Took his life in his hand," like a warrior bold, And stood before Buckley—who thought him behind, For Buckley, the man-eating monster is blind. "Count fairly the ballots!" so rang the demand Of the gallant De Young, with his life in his hand. 'Tis done, and the struggle is ended. No more He havocs the battle-field, gilt with the gore Of slain reputations. No more he defies His "lying opponents" with deadlier lies. His trumpet is hushed and his belt is unbound— His enemies' characters cumber the ground. They bloat on the war-plain with ink all asoak, The fortunate candidates perching to croak. No more he will charge, with a daring divine, His foes with corruption, his friends by the line. The thunders are stilled of the horrid campaign, De Young is triumphant, and never again Will he need, with his life in his hand, to roar: "Count fair or, by G——, I will die on your floor!" His life has been spared, for his sins to atone, And the hand that he took it in washed with cologne.



A DEMAGOGUE

"Yawp, yawp, yawp! Under the moon and sun. It's aye the rabble, And I to gabble, And hey! for the tale that is never done.

"Chant, chant, chant! To woo the reluctant vote. I would I were dead And my say were said And my song were sung to its ultimate note.

"Stab, stab, stab! Ah! the weapon between my teeth— I'm sick of the flash of it; See how the slash of it Misses the foeman to mangle the sheath!

"Boom, boom, boom! I'm beating the mammoth drum. My nethermost tripes I blow into the pipes— It's oh! for the honors that never come!"

'Twas the dolorous blab Of a tramping "scab"— 'Twas the eloquent Swift Of the marvelous gift— The wild, weird, wonderful gift of gab!



IGNIS FATUUS

Weep, weep, each loyal partisan, For Buckley, king of hearts; A most accomplished man; a man Of parts—of foreign parts.

Long years he ruled with gentle sway, Nor grew his glory dim; And he would be with us to-day If we were but with him.

Men wondered at his going off In such a sudden way; 'Twas thought, as he had come to scoff He would remain to prey.

Since he is gone we're all agreed That he is what men call A crook: his very steps, indeed, Are bent—to Montreal.

So let our tears unhindered flow, Our sighs and groans have way: It matters not how much we Oh!— The devil is to pay.



FROM TOP TO BOTTOM

[Japan has 73,759 Buddhist priests, "most of whom," says a Christian missionary, "are grossly ignorant, and many of them lead scandalous lives."]

O Buddha, had you but foreknown The vices of your priesthood It would have made you twist and moan As any wounded beast would. You would have damned the entire lot And turned a Christian, would you not?

There were no Christians, I'll allow, In your day; that would only Have brought distinction. Even now A Christian might feel lonely. All take the name, but facts are things As stubborn as the will of kings.

The priests were ignorant and low When ridiculed by Lucian; The records, could we read, might show The same of times Confucian. And yet the fact I can't disguise That Deacon Rankin's good and wise.

'Tis true he is not quite a priest, Nor more than half a preacher; But he exhorts as loud at least As any living creature. And when the plate is passed about He never takes a penny out.

From Buddha down to Rankin! There,— I never did intend to. This pen's a buzzard's quill, I swear, Such subjects to descend to. When from the humming-bird I've wrung A plume I'll write of Mike de Young.



AN IDLER

Who told Creed Haymond he was witty?—who Had nothing better in this world to do? Could no greased pig's appeal to his embrace Kindle his ardor for the friendly chase? Did no dead dog upon a vacant lot, Bloated and bald, or curdled in a clot, Stir his compassion and inspire his arms To hide from human eyes its faded charms?

If not to works of piety inclined, Then recreation might have claimed his mind. The harmless game that shows the feline greed To cinch the shorts and make the market bleed[A] Is better sport than victimizing Creed; And a far livelier satisfaction comes Of knowing Simon, autocrat of thumbs.[B] If neither worthy work nor play command This gentleman of leisure's heart and hand, Then Mammon might his idle spirit lift By hope of profit to some deed of thrift. Is there no cheese to pare, no flint to skin, No tin to mend, no glass to be put in, No housewife worthy of a morning visit, Her rags and sacks and bottles to solicit? Lo! the blind sow's precarious pursuit Of the aspiring oak's familiar fruit!— 'Twould more advantage any man to steal This easy victim's undefended meal Than tell Creed Haymond he has wit, and so Expose the state to his narcotic flow!

[Footnote A: "Pussy Wants a Corner."]

[Footnote B: "Simon Says Thumbs Up."]



THE DEAD KING

Hawaii's King resigned his breath— Our Legislature guffawed. The awful dignity of death Not any single rough awed. But when our Legislators die All Kings, Queens, Jacks and Aces cry.



A PATTER SONG

There was a cranky Governor— His name it wasn't Waterman. For office he was hotter than The love of any lover, nor Was Boruck's threat of aiding him Effective in dissuading him— This pig-headed, big-headed, singularly self-conceited Governor Nonwaterman.

To citrus fairs, et caetera, He went about philandering, To pride of parish pandering. He knew not any better—ah, His early education had Not taught the abnegation fad— The wool-witted, bull-witted, fabulously feeble-minded king of gabble-gandering!

He conjured up, ad libitum, With postures energetical, One day (this is prophetical) His graces, to exhibit 'em. He straddled in each attitude, Four parallels of latitude— The slab-footed, crab-footed, galloping gregarian, of presence unaesthetical! An ancient cow, perceiving that His powers of agility Transcended her ability (A circumstance for grieving at) Upon her horns engrafted him And to the welkin wafted him— The high-rolling, sky-rolling, hurtling hallelujah-lad of peerless volatility!



A CALLER

"Why, Goldenson, you're looking very well." Said Death as, strolling through the County Jail, He entered that serene assassin's cell And hung his hat and coat upon a nail. "I think that life in this secluded spot Agrees with men of your trade, does it not?"

"Well, yes," said Goldenson, "I can't complain: Life anywhere—provided it is mine— Agrees with me; but I observe with pain That still the people murmur and repine. It hurts their sense of harmony, no doubt, To see a persecuted man grow stout."

"O no, 'tis not your growing stout," said Death, "Which makes these malcontents complain and scold— They like you to be, somehow, scant of breath. What they object to is your growing old. And—though indifferent to lean or fat— I don't myself entirely favor that."

With brows that met above the orbs beneath, And nose that like a soaring hawk appeared, And lifted lip, uncovering his teeth, The Mamikellikiller coldly sneered: "O, so you don't! Well, how will you assuage Your spongy passion for the blood of age?"

Death with a clattering convulsion, drew His coat on, hatted his unmeated pow, Unbarred the door and, stepping partly through, Turned and made answer: "I will show you how. I'm going to the Bench you call Supreme And tap the old women who sit there and dream."



THE SHAFTER SHAFTED

Well, James McMillan Shafter, you're a Judge— At least you were when last I knew of you; And if the people since have made you budge I did not notice it. I've much to do Without endeavoring to follow, through The miserable squabbles, dust and smudge, The fate of even the veteran contenders Who fight with flying colors and suspenders. Being a Judge, 'tis natural and wrong That you should villify the public press— Save while you are a candidate. That song Is easy quite to sing, and I confess It wins applause from hearers who have less Of spiritual graces than belong To audiences of another kidney— Men, for example, like Sir Philip Sidney.

Newspapers, so you say, don't always treat The Judges with respect. That may be so And still no harm done, for I swear I'll eat My legs and in the long hereafter go, Snake-like, upon my belly if you'll show All Judges are respectable and sweet. For some of them are rogues and the world's laughter's Directed at some others, for they're Shafters.



THE MUMMERY



THE TWO CAVEES

DRAMATIS PERSONAE.

FITCH a Pelter of Railrogues PICKERING his Partner, an Enemy to Sin OLD NICK a General Blackwasher DEAD CAT a Missile ANTIQUE EGG Another RAILROGUES, DUMP-CARTERS. NAVVIES and Unassorted SHOVELRY in the Lower Distance

Scene—The Brink of a Railway Cut, a Mile Deep.

Time—1875.

FITCH:

Gods! what a steep declivity! Below I see the lazy dump-carts come and go, Creeping like beetles and about as big. The delving Paddies—

PICKERING:

Case of infra dig.

FITCH:

Loring, light-minded and unmeaning quips Come with but scant propriety from lips Fringed with the blue-black evidence of age. 'Twere well to cultivate a style more sage, For men will fancy, hearing how you pun, Our foulest missiles are but thrown in fun.

(Enter Dead Cat.)

Here's one that thoughtfully has come to hand; Slant your fine eye below and see it land. (Seizes Dead Cat by the tail and swings it in act to throw.)

DEAD CAT (singing):

Merrily, merrily, round I go— Over and under and at. Swing wide and free, swing high and low The anti-monopoly cat!

O, who wouldn't be in the place of me, The anti-monopoly cat? Designed to admonish, Persuade and astonish The capitalist and—

FITCH (letting go):

Scat! (Exit Dead Cat.)

PICKERING:

Huzza! good Deacon, well and truly flung! Pat Stanford it has grassed, and Mike de Young. Mike drives a dump-cart for the villains, though 'Twere fitter that he pull it. Well, we owe The traitor one for leaving us!—some day We'll get, if not his place, his cart away. Meantime fling missiles—any kind will do. (Enter Antique Egg.) Ha! we can give them an ovation, too!

ANTIQUE EGG:

In the valley of the Nile, Where the Holy Crocodile Of immeasurable smile Blossoms like the early rose, And the Sacred Onion grows— When the Pyramids were new And the Sphinx possessed a nose, By a storkess I was laid In the cool papyrus shade, Where the rushes later grew, That concealed the little Jew, Baby Mose.

Straining very hard to hatch, I disrupted there my yolk; And I felt my yellow streaming Through my white; And the dream that I was dreaming Of posterity was broke In a night. Then from the papyrus-patch By the rising waters rolled, Passing many a temple old, I proceeded to the sea. Memnon sang, one morn, to me, And I heard Cambyses sass The tomb of Ozymandias!

FITCH:

O, venerablest orb of all the earth, God rest the lady fowl that gave thee birth! Fit missile for the vilest hand to throw— I freely tender thee mine own. Although As a bad egg I am myself no slouch, Thy riper years thy ranker worth avouch. Now, Pickering, please expose your eye and say If—whoop!— (Exit egg.) I've got the range.

PICKERING: Hooray! hooray! A grand good shot, and Teddy Colton's down: It burst in thunderbolts upon his crown! Larry O'Crocker drops his pick and flies, And deafening odors scream along the skies! Pelt 'em some more.

FITCH:

There's nothing left but tar— wish I were a Yahoo.

PICKERING:

Well, you are. But keep the tar. How well I recollect, When Mike was in with us—proud, strong, erect— Mens conscia recti—flinging mud, he stood, Austerely brave, incomparably good, Ere yet for filthy lucre he began To drive a cart as Stanford's hired man, That pitch-pot bearing in his hand, Old Nick Appeared and tarred us all with the same stick. (Enter Old Nick). I hope he won't return and use his arts To make us part with our immortal parts.

OLD NICK:

Make yourself easy on that score my lamb; For both your souls I wouldn't give a damn! I want my tar-pot—hello! where's the stick?

FITCH:

Don't look at me that fashion!—look at Pick.

PICKERING:

Forgive me, father—pity my remorse! Truth is—Mike took that stick to spank his horse. It fills my pericardium with grief That I kept company with such a thief.

(Endeavoring to get his handkerchief, he opens his coat and the tar-stick falls out. Nick picks it up, looks at the culprit reproachfully and withdraws in tears.)

FITCH (excitedly):

O Pickering, come hither to the brink— There's something going on down there, I think! With many an upward smile and meaning wink The navvies all are running from the cut Like lunatics, to right and left—

PICKERING: Tut, tut— 'Tis only some poor sport or boisterous joke. Let us sit down and have a quiet smoke. (They sit and light cigars.)

FITCH (singing):

When first I met Miss Toughie I smoked a fine cigyar, An' I was on de dummy And she was in de cyar.

BOTH (singing):

An' I was on de dummy And she was in de cyar.

FITCH (singing):

I couldn't go to her, An' she wouldn't come to me; An' I was as oneasy As a gander on a tree.

BOTH (singing):

An' I was as oneasy As a gander on a tree.

FITCH (singing):

But purty soon I weakened An' lef' de dummy's bench, An' frew away a ten-cent weed To win a five-cent wench!

BOTH (singing)

An' frew away a ten-cent weed To win a five-cent wench!

FITCH:

Is there not now a certain substance sold Under the name of fulminate of gold, A high explosive, popular for blasting, Producing an effect immense and lasting?

PICKERING:

Nay, that's mere superstition. Rocks are rent And excavations made by argument. Explosives all have had their day and season; The modern engineer relies on reason. He'll talk a tunnel through a mountain's flank And by fair speech cave down the tallest bank.

(The earth trembles, a deep subterranean explosion is heard and a section of the bank as big as El Capitan starts away and plunges thunderously into the cut. A part of it strikes De Young's dumpcart abaft the axletree and flings him, hurtling, skyward, a thing of legs and arms, to descend on the distant mountains, where it is cold. Fitch and Pickering pull themselves out of the debris and stand ungraveling their eyes and noses.)

FITCH:

Well, since I'm down here I will help to grade, And do dirt-throwing henceforth with a spade.

PICKERING:

God bless my soul! it gave me quit a start. Well, fate is fate—I guess I'll drive this cart. (Curtain.)



METEMPSYCHOSIS

DRAMATIS PERSONAE.

ST. JOHN a Presidential Candidate MCDONALD a Defeated Aspirant MRS. HAYES an Ex-President PITTS-STEVENS a Water Nymph

Scene—A Small Lake in the Alleghany Mountains.

ST. JOHN:

Hours I've immersed my muzzle in this tarn And, quaffing copious potations, tried To suck it dry; but ever as I pumped Its waters into my distended skin The labor of my zeal extruded them In perspiration from my pores; and so, Rilling the marginal declivity, They fell again into their source. Ah, me! Could I but find within these ancient hills Some long extinct volcano, by the rains Of countless ages in its crater brimmed Like a full goblet, I would lay me down Prone on the outer slope, and o'er its edge Arching my neck, I'd siphon out its store And flood the valleys with my sweat for aye. So should I be accounted as a god, Even as Father Nilus is. What's that? Methought I heard some sawyer draw his file With jarring, stridulous cacophany Across his notchy blade, to set its teeth And mine on edge. Ha! there it goes again!

Song, within.

Cold water's the milk of the mountains, And Nature's our wet-nurse. O then, Glue thou thy blue lips to her fountains Forever and ever, amen!

ST. JOHN:

Why surely there's congenial company Aloof—the spirit, I suppose, that guards This sacred spot; perchance some water-nymph Who laving in the crystal flood her limbs Has taken cold, and so, with raucous voice Afflicts the sensitive membrane of mine ear The while she sings my sentiments. (Enter Pitts-Stevens.) Hello! What fiend is this?

PITTS-STEVENS:

'Tis I, be not afraid.

ST. JOHN:

And who, thou antiquated crone, art thou? I ne'er forget a face, but names I can't So well remember. I have seen thee oft. When in the middle season of the night, Curved with a cucumber, or knotted hard With an eclectic pie, I've striven to keep My head and heels asunder, thou has come, With sociable familiarity, Into my dream, but not, alas, to bless.

PITTS-STEVENS:

My name's Pitts-Stevens, age just seventeen years; Talking teetotaler, professional Beauty.

ST. JOHN:

What dost them here?

PITTS-STEVENS:

I'm come, fair sir, With paint and brush to blazon on these rocks The merits of my master's nostrum—so: (Paints rapidly.) "McDonald's Vinegar Bitters!"

ST. JOHN:

What are they?

PITTS-STEVENS:

A woman suffering from widowhood Took a full bottle and was cured. A man There was—a murderer; the doctors all Had given him up—he'd but an hour to live. He swallowed half a glassful. He is dead, But not of Vinegar Bitters. A wee babe Lay sick and cried for it. The mother gave That innocent a spoonful and it smoothed Its pathway to the tomb. 'Tis warranted To cause a boy to strike his father, make A pig squeal, start the hair upon a stone, Or play the fiddle for a country dance. (Enter McDonald, reading a Sunday-school book.) Good morrow, sir; I trust you're well.

MCDONALD:

H'lo, Pitts! Observe, good friends, I have a volume here Myself am author of—a noble book To train the infant mind (delightful task!) It tells how one Samantha Brown, age, six, A gutter-bunking slave to rum, was saved By Vinegar Bitters, went to church and now Has an account at the Pacific Bank. I'll read the whole work to you.

ST JOHN: Heaven forbid! I've elsewhere an engagement.

PITTS-STEVENS: I am deaf.

MCDONALD (reading regardless):

"Once on a time there lived"——

(Enter Mrs. Hayes.) Behold our queen!

ALL:

Her eyes upon the ground Before her feet she low'rs, Walking, in thought profound, As 'twere, upon all fours. Her visage is austere, Her gait a high parade; At every step you hear The sloshing lemonade!

MRS. HAYES (to herself):

Once, sitting in the White House, hard at work Signing State papers (Rutherford was there, Knitting some hose) a sudden glory fell Upon my paper. I looked up and saw An angel, holding in his hand a rod Wherewith he struck me. Smarting with the blow I rose and (cuffing Rutherford) inquired: "Wherefore this chastisement?" The angel said: "Four years you have been President, and still There's rum!"—then flew to Heaven. Contrite, I swore Such oath as lady Methodist might take, My second term should medicine my first. The people would not have it that way; so I seek some candidate who'll take my soul— My spirit of reform, fresh from my breast, And give me his instead; and thus equipped With my imperious and fiery essence, Drive the Drink-Demon from the land and fill The people up with water till their teeth Are all afloat.

(St. John discovers himself.) What, you?

ST. JOHN:

Aye, Madam, I'll Swap souls with you and lead the cold sea-green Amphibians of Prohibition on, Pallid of nose and webbed of foot, swim-bladdered, Gifted with gills, invincible!

MRS. HAYES:

Enough, Stand forth and consummate the interchange.

(While McDonald and Pitts-Stevens modestly turn their backs, the latter blushing a delicate shrimp-pink, St. John and Mrs. Hayes effect an exchange of immortal parts. When the transfer is complete McDonald turns and advances, uncorking a bottle of Vinegar Bitters.)

MCDONALD (chanting):

Nectar compounded of simples Cocted in Stygian shades— Acids of wrinkles and pimples From faces of ancient maids— Acrid precipitates sunken From tempers of scolding wives Whose husbands, uncommonly drunken, Are commonly found in dives,— With this I baptize and appoint thee (to St. John.) To marshal the vinophobe ranks. In the name of Dambosh I anoint thee (pours the liquid down St. John's back.) As King of aquatical cranks!

(The liquid blisters the royal back, and His Majesty starts on a dead run, energetically exclaiming. Exit St. John.)

MRS. HAYES:

My soul! My soul! I'll never get it back Unless I follow nimbly on his track. (Exit Mrs. Hayes.)

PITTS-STEVENS:

O my! he's such a beautiful young man! I'll follow, too, and catch him if I can. (Exit Pitts-Stevens.)

MCDONALD:

He scarce is visible, his dust so great! Methinks for so obscure a candidate He runs quite well. But as for Prohibition— I mean myself to hold the first position.

(Produces a pocket flask, topes a cruel quantity of double-distilled thunder-and-lightning out of it, smiles so grimly as to darken all the stage and sings):

Though fortunes vary let all be merry, And then if e'er a disaster befall, At Styx's ferry is Charon's wherry In easy call.

Upon a ripple of golden tipple That tipsy ship'll convey you best. To king and cripple, the bottle's the nipple Of Nature's breast!

(Curtain.)



SLICKENS

DRAMATIS PERSONAE.

HAYSEED a Granger NOZZLE a Miner RINGDIVVY a Statesman FEEGOBBLE a Lawyer JUNKET a Committee

Scene—Yuba Dam.

Feegobble, Ringdivvy, Nozzle.

NOZZLE:

My friends, since '51 I have pursued The evil tenor of my watery way, Removing hills as by an act of faith—

RINGDIVVY:

Just so; the steadfast faith of those who hold, In foreign lands beyond the Eastern sea, The shares in your concern—a simple, blind, Unreasoning belief in dividends, Still stimulated by assessments which, When the skies fall, ensnaring all the larks, Will bring, no doubt, a very great return.

ALL (singing):

O the beautiful assessment, The exquisite assessment, The regular assessment, That makes the water flow.

RINGDIVVY:

The rascally-assessment!

FEEGOBBLE:

The murderous assessment!

NOZZLE:

The glorious assessment That makes my mare to go!

FEEGOBBLE:

But, Nozzle, you, I think, were on the point Of making a remark about some rights— Some certain vested rights you have acquired By long immunity; for still the law Holds that if one do evil undisturbed His right to do so ripens with the years; And one may be a villain long enough To make himself an honest gentleman.

ALL (singing):

Hail, holy law, The soul with awe Bows to thy dispensation.

NOZZLE:

It breaks my jaw!

RINGDIVVY:

It qualms my maw!

FEEGOBBLE:

It feeds my jaw, It crams my maw, It is my soul's salvation!

NOZZLE:

Why, yes, I've floated mountains to the sea For lo! these many years; though some, they say, Do strand themselves along the bottom lands And cover up a village here and there, And here and there a ranch. 'Tis said, indeed, The granger with his female and his young Do not infrequently go to the dickens By premature burial in slickens.

ALL (singing):

Could slickens forever Choke up the river, And slime's endeavor Be tried on grain, How small the measure Of granger's treasure, How keen his pain!

RINGDIVVY:

"A consummation devoutly to be wished!" These rascal grangers would long since have been Submerged in slimes, to the last man of them, But for the fact that all their wicked tribes Affect our legislation with their bribes.

ALL (singing):

O bribery's great— 'Tis a pillar of State, And the people they are free.

FEEGOBBLE:

It smashes my slate!

NOZZLE:

It is thievery straight!

RINGDIVVY:

But it's been the making of me!

NOZZLE:

I judge by certain shrewd sensations here In these callosities I call my thumbs— thrilling sense as of ten thousand pins, Red-hot and penetrant, transpiercing all The cuticle and tickling through the nerves— That some malign and awful thing draws near.

(Enter Hayseed.)

Good Lord! here are the ghosts and spooks of all The grangers I have decently interred, Rolled into one!

FEEGOBBLE:

Plead, phantom.

RINGDIVVY:

You've the floor.

HAYSEED:

From the margin of the river (Bitter Creek, they sometimes call it) Where I cherished once the pumpkin, And the summer squash promoted, Harvested the sweet potato, Dallied with the fatal melon And subdued the fierce cucumber, I've been driven by the slickens, Driven by the slimes and tailings! All my family—my Polly Ann and all my sons and daughters, Dog and baby both included— All were swamped in seas of slickens, Buried fifty fathoms under, Where they lie, prepared to play their Gentle prank on geologic Gents that shall exhume them later, In the dim and distant future, Taking them for melancholy Relics antedating Adam. I alone got up and dusted.

NOZZLE:

Avaunt! you horrid and infernal cuss! What dire distress have you prepared for us?

RINGDIVVY:

Were I a buzzard stooping from the sky My craw with filth to fill, Into your honorable body I Would introduce a bill.

FEEGOBBLE:

Defendant, hence, or, by the gods, I'll brain thee!— Unless you saved some turneps to retain me.

HAYSEED:

As I was saying, I got up and dusted, My ranch a graveyard and my business busted! But hearing that a fellow from the City, Who calls himself a Citizens' Committee, Was coming up to play the very dickens, With those who cover up our farms with slickens, And make himself—unless I am in error— To all such miscreants a holy terror, I thought if I would join the dialogue I maybe might get payment for my dog.

ALL (Singing):

O the dog is the head of Creation, Prime work of the Master's hand; He hasn't a known occupation, Yet lives on the fat of the land. Adipose, indolent, sleek and orbicular, Sun-soaken, door matted, cross and particular, Men, women, children, all coddle and wait on him, Then, accidentally shutting the gate on him, Miss from their calves, ever after, the rifted out Mouthful of tendons that doggy has lifted out! (Enter Junket.)

JUNKET:

Well met, my hearties! I must trouble you Jointly and severally to provide A comfortable carriage, with relays Of hardy horses. This Committee means To move in state about the country here. I shall expect at every place I stop Good beds, of course, and everything that's nice, With bountiful repast of meat and wine. For this Committee comes to sea and mark And inwardly digest.

HAYSEED:

Digest my dog!

NOZZLE:

First square my claim for damages: the gold Escaping with the slickens keeps me poor!

RINGDIVVY:

I merely would remark that if you'd grease My itching palm it would more glibly glide Into the public pocket.

FEEGOBBLE:

Sir, the wheels Of justice move but slowly till they're oiled. I have some certain writs and warrants here, Prepared against your advent. You recall The tale of Zaccheus, who did climb a tree, And Jesus said: "Come down"?

JUNKET:

Why, bless your souls! I've got no money; I but came to see What all this noisy babble is about, Make a report and file the same away.

NOZZLE, RINGDIVVY, FEEGOBBLE, HAYSEED:

How'll that help us? Reports are not our style Of provender!

JUNKET:

Well, you can gnaw the file.

(Curtain.)



"PEACEABLE EXPULSION"

DRAMATIS PERSONAE.

MOUNTWAVE a Politician HARDHAND a Workingman TOK BAK a Chinaman SATAN a Friend to Mountwave

CHORUS OF FOREIGN VOTERS.

MOUNTWAVE:

My friend, I beg that you will lend your ears (I know 'tis asking a good deal of you) While I for your instruction nominate Some certain wrongs you suffer. Men like you Imperfectly are sensible of all The miseries they actually feel. Hence, Providence has prudently raised up Clear-sighted men like me to diagnose Their cases and inform them where they're hurt. The wounds of honest workingmen I've made A specialty, and probing them's my trade.

HARDHAND:

Well, Mister, s'pose you let yer bossest eye Camp on my mortal part awhile; then you Jes' toot my sufferin's an' tell me what's The fashionable caper now in writhes— The very swellest wiggle.

MOUNTWAVE:

Well, my lad, 'Tis plain as is the long, conspicuous nose Borne, ponderous and pendulous, between The elephant's remarkable eye-teeth (Enter Tok Bak.) That Chinese competition's what ails you.

BOTH (Singing):

O pig-tail Celestial, O barbarous bestial, Abominable Chinee! Simian fellow man, Primitive yellow man, Joshian devotee! Shoe-and-cigar machine, Oleomargarine You are, and butter are we— Fat of the land are we, Salt of the earth; In God's image planned to be— Noble in birth! You, on the contrary, Modeled upon very Different lines indeed, Show in conspicuous, Base and ridiculous Ways your inferior breed. Wretched apology, Shame of ethnology, Monster unspeakably low! Fit to be buckshotted— Be you 'steboycotted. Vanish—vamoose—mosy—Go!

TOK BAK:

You listen me! You beatee the big dlum An' tell me go to Flowly Kingdom Come. You all too muchee fool. You chinnee heap. Such talkee like my washee—belly cheap! (Enter Satan.) You dlive me outee clunty towns all way; Why you no tackle me Safflisco, hay?

SATAN:

Methought I heard a murmuring of tongues Sound through the ceiling of the hollow earth, As if the anti-coolie ques——ha! friends, Well met. You see I keep my ancient word: Where two or three are gathered in my name, There am I in their midst.

MOUNTWAVE:

O monstrous thief! To quote the words of Shakespeare as your own. I know his work.

HARDHAND:

Who's Shakespeare?—what's his trade? I've heard about the work o' that galoot Till I'm jest sick!

TOK BAK:

Go Sunny school—you'll know Mo' Bible. Bime by pleach—hell-talkee. Tell 'Bout Abel—mebby so he live too cheap. He mebby all time dig on lanch—no dlink, No splee—no go plocession fo' make vote— No sendee money out of clunty fo' To helpee Ilishmen. Cain killum. Josh He catchee at it, an' he belly mad— Say: "Allee Melicans boycottee Cain." Not muchee—you no pleachee that: You all same lie.

MOUNTWAVE:

This cuss must be expelled. (Draws pistol.)

MOUNTWAVE, HARDHAND, SATAN (singing):

For Chinese expulsion, hurrah! To mobbing and murder, all hail! Away with your justice and law— We'll make every pagan turn tail.

CHORUS OF FOREIGN VOTERS:

Bedad! oof dot tief o'ze vorld— Zat Ivan Tchanay vos got hurled In Hella, da debil he say: "Wor be yer return pairmit, hey?" Und gry as 'e shaka da boot: "Zis haythen haf nevaire been oot!"

HARDHAND:

Too many cooks are working at this broth— I think, by thunder, t'will be mostly froth! I'm cussed ef I can sarvy, up to date, What good this dern fandango does the State.

MOUNTWAVE:

The State's advantage, sir, you may not see, But think how good it is for me.

SATAN:

And me.

(Curtain.)



ASPIRANTS THREE

DRAMATIS PERSONAE.

QUICK: DE YOUNG a Brother to Mushrooms

DEAD: SWIFT an Heirloom ESTEE a Relic

IMMORTALS: THE SPIRIT OF BROKEN HOPES. THE AUTHOR.

MISCELLANEOUS: A TROUPE OF COFFINS. THE MOON. VARIOUS COLORED FIRES.

Scene—The Political Graveyard at Bone Mountain.

DE YOUNG:

This is the spot agreed upon. Here rest The sainted statesman who upon the field Of honor have at various times laid down Their own, and ended, ignominious, Their lives political. About me, lo! Their silent headstones, gilded by the moon, Half-full and near her setting—midnight. Hark! Through the white mists of this portentous night (Which throng in moving shapes about my way, As they were ghosts of candidates I've slain, To fray their murderer) my open ear, Spacious to maw the noises of the world, Engulfs a footstep. (Enter Estee from his tomb.) Ah, 'tis he, my foe, True to appointment; and so here we fight— Though truly 'twas my firm belief that he Would send regrets, or I had not been here.

ESTEE:

O moon that hast so oft surprised the deeds Whereby I rose to greatness!—tricksy orb, The type and symbol of my politics, Now draw my ebbing fortunes to their flood, As, by the magic of a poultice, boils That burn ambitions with defeated fires Are lifted into eminence. (Sees De Young.) What? you! Faith, if I had suspected you would come From the fair world of politics wherein So lately you were whelped, and which, alas, I vainly to revisit strive, though still Rapped on the rotting head and bidden sleep Till Resurrection's morn,—if I had thought You would accept the challenge that I flung I would have seen you damned ere I came forth In the night air, shroud-clad and shivering, To fight so mean a thing! But since you're here, Draw and defend yourself. By gad, we'll see Who'll be Postmaster-General!

DE YOUNG:

We will— I'll fight (for I am lame) with any blue And redolent remain that dares aspire To wreck the Grand Old Grandson's cabinet. Here's at you, nosegay!

(They draw tongues and are about to fight, when from an adjacent whited sepulcher, enter Swift.)

SWIFT:

Hold! put up your tongues! Within the confines of this sacred spot Broods such a holy calm as none may break By clash of weapons, without sacrilege. (Beats down their tongues with a bone.) Madmen! what profits it? For though you fought With such heroic skill that both survived, Yet neither should achieve the prize, for I Would wrest it from him. Let us not contend, But friendliwise by stipulation fix A slate for mutual advantage. Why, Having the pick and choice of seats, should we Forego them all but one? Nay, we'll take three, And part them so among us that to each Shall fall the fittest to his powers. In brief, Let us establish a Portfolio Trust.

ESTEE:

Agreed.

DE YOUNG:

Aye, truly, 'tis a greed—and one The offices imperfectly will sate, But I'll stand in.

SWIFT:

Well, so 'tis understood, As you're the junior member of the Trust, Politically younger and undead, Speak, Michael: what portfolio do you choose?

DE YOUNG:

I've thought the Postal service best would serve My interest; but since I have my pick, I'll take the War Department. It is known Throughout the world, from Market street to Pine, (For a Chicago journal told the tale) How in this hand I lately took my life And marched against great Buckley, thundering My mandate that he count the ballots fair! Earth heard and shrank to half her size! Yon moon, Which rivaled then a liver's whiteness, paused That night at Butchertown and daubed her face With sheep's blood! Then my serried rank I drew Back to my stronghold without loss. To mark My care in saving human life and limb, The Peace Society bestowed on me Its leather medal and the title, too, Of Colonel. Yes, my genius is for war. Good land! I naturally dote on a brass band!

(Sings.)

O, give me a life on the tented field, Where the cannon roar and ring, Where the flag floats free and the foemen yield And bleed as the bullets sing. But be it not mine to wage the fray Where matters are ordered the other way, For that is a different thing.

O, give me a life in the fierce campaign— Let it be the life of my foe: I'd rather fall upon him than the plain; That service I'd fain forego. O, a warrior's life is fine and free, But a warrior's death—ah me! ah me! That's a different thing, you know.

ESTEE:

Some claim I might myself advance to that Portfolio. When Rebellion raised its head, And you, my friends, stayed meekly in your shirts, I marched with banners to the party stump, Spat on my hands, made faces fierce as death, Shook my two fists at once and introduced Brave resolutions terrible to read! Nay, only recently, as you do know, I conquered Treason by the word of mouth, And slew, with Samson's weapon, the whole South!

SWIFT:

You once fought Stanford, too.

ESTEE:

Enough of that— Give me the Interior and I'll devote My mind to agriculture and improve The breed of cabbages, especially The Brassica Celeritatis, named For you because in days of long ago You sold it at your market stall,—and, faith, 'Tis said you were an honest huckster then. I'll be Attorney-General if you Prefer; for know I am a lawyer too!

SWIFT:

I never have heard that!—did you, De Young?

DE YOUNG:

Never, so help me! And I swear I've heard A score of Judges say that he is not.

SWIFT (to Estee):

You take the Interior. I might aspire To military station too, for once I led my party into Pixley's camp, And he paroled me. I defended, too, The State of Oregon against the sharp And bloody tooth of the Australian sheep. But I've an aptitude exceeding neat For bloodless battles of diplomacy. My cobweb treaty of Exclusion once, Through which a hundred thousand coolies sailed, Was much admired, but most by Colonel Bee. Though born a tinker I'm a diplomat From old Missouri, and I—ha! what's that?

(Exit Moon. Enter Blue Lights on all the tombs, and a circle of Red Fire on the grass; in the center the Spirit of Broken Hopes, and round about, a Troupe of Coffins, dancing and singing.)

CHORUS OF COFFINS:

Two bodies dead and one alive— Yo, ho, merrily all! Now for boodle strain and strive— Buzzards all a-warble, O! Prophets three, agape for bread; Raven with a stone instead— Providential raven! Judges two and Colonel one— Run, run, rustics, run! But it's O, the pig is shaven, And oily, oily all!

(Exeunt Coffins, dancing. The Spirit of Broken Hopes advances, solemnly pointing at each of the Three Worthies in turn.)

SPIRIT OF BROKEN HOPES:

Governor, Governor, editor man, Rusty, musty, spick-and-span, Harlequin, harridan, dicky-dout, Demagogue, charlatan—o, u, t, OUT! (De Young falls and sleeps.)

Antimonopoler, diplomat, Railroad lackey, political rat, One, two, three—SCAT! (Swift falls and sleeps.)

Boycotting chin-worker, working to woo Fortune, the fickle, to smile upon you, Jo-coated acrobat, shuttle-cock—SHOO! (Estee falls and sleeps.)

Now they lie in slumber sweet, Now the charm is all complete, Hasten I with flying feet Where beyond the further sea A babe upon its mother's knee Is gazing into skies afar And crying for a golden star. I'll drag a cloud across the blue And break that infant's heart in two!

(Exeunt the Spirit of Broken Hopes and the Red and Blue Fires. Re-enter Moon.)

ESTEE (waking):

Why, this is strange! I dreamed I know not what, It seemed that certain apparitions were, Which sang uncanny words, significant And yet ambiguous—half-understood— Portending evil; and an awful spook, Even as I stood with my accomplices, Counted me out, as children do in play. Is that you, Mike?

DE YOUNG (waking):

It was.

SWIFT (waking):

Am I all that? Then I'll reform my ways. (Reforms his ways.) Ah! had I known How sweet it is to be an honest man I never would have stooped to turn my coat For public favor, as chameleons take The hue (as near as they can judge) of that Supporting them. Henceforth I'll buy With money all the offices I need, And know the pleasure of an honest life, Or stay forever in this dismal place. Now that I'm good, it will no longer do To make a third with such, a wicked two. (Returns to his tomb.)

DE YOUNG:

Prophetic dream! by some good angel sent To make me with a quiet life content. The question shall no more my bosom irk, To go to Washington or go to work. From Fame's debasing struggle I'll withdraw, And taking up the pen lay down the law. I'll leave this rogue, lest my example make An honest man of him—his heart would break. (Exit De Young.)

ESTEE:

Out of my company these converts flee, But that advantage is denied to me: My curst identity's confining skin Nor lets me out nor tolerates me in. Well, since my hopes eternally have fled, And, dead before, I'm more than ever dead, To find a grander tomb be now my task, And pack my pork into a stolen cask. (Exit, searching. Loud calls for the Author, who appears, bowing and smiling.)

AUTHOR (singing):

Jack Satan's the greatest of gods, And Hell is the best of abodes. 'Tis reached, through the Valley of Clods, By seventy different roads. Hurrah for the Seventy Roads! Hurrah for the clods that resound With a hollow, thundering sound! Hurrah for the Best of Abodes!

We'll serve him as long as we've breath— Jack Satan the greatest of gods. To all of his enemies, death!— A home in the Valley of Clods. Hurrah for the thunder of clods That smother the soul of his foe! Hurrah for the spirits that go To dwell with the Greatest of Gods;

(Curtain falls to faint odor of mortality. Exit the Gas.)



THE BIRTH OF THE RAIL

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

LELAND, THE KID a Road Agent COWBOY CHARLEY Same Line of Business HAPPY HUNTY Ditto in All Respects SOOTYMUG a Devil

Scene—the Dutch Flat Stage Road, at 12 P.M., on a Night of 1864.

COWBOY CHARLEY:

My boss, I fear she is delayed to-night. Already it is past the hour, and yet My ears have reached no sound of wheels; no note Melodious, of long, luxurious oaths Betokens the traditional dispute (Unsettled from the dawn of time) between The driver and off wheeler; no clear chant Nor carol of Wells Fargo's messenger Unbosoming his soul upon the air— his prowess to the tender-foot, And how at divers times in sundry ways He strewed the roadside with our carcasses. Clearly, the stage will not come by to-night.

LELAND, THE KID:

I now remember that but yesterday I saw three ugly looking fellows start From Colfax with a gun apiece, and they Did seem on business of importance bent. Furtively casting all their eyes about And covering their tracks with all the care That business men do use. I think perhaps They were Directors of that rival line, The great Pacific Mail. If so, they have Indubitably taken in that coach, And we are overreached. Three times before This thing has happened, and if once again These outside operators dare to cut Our rates of profit I shall quit the road And take my money out of this concern. When robbery no longer pays expense It loses then its chiefest charm for me, And I prefer to cheat—you hear me shout!

HAPPY HUNTY:

My chief, you do but echo back my thoughts: This competition is the death of trade. 'Tis plain (unless we wish to go to work) Some other business we must early find. What shall it be? The field of usefulness Is yearly narrowing with the advance Of wealth and population on this coast. There's little left that any man can do Without some other fellow stepping in And doing it as well. If one essay To pick a pocket he is sure to feel (With what disgust I need not say to you) Another hand inserted in the same. You crack a crib at dead of night, and lo! As you explore the dining-room for plate You find, in session there, a graceless band Stuffing their coats with spoons, their skins with wine. And so it goes. Why even undertake To salt a mine and you will find it rich With noble specimens placed there before!

LELAND, THE KID:

And yet this line of immigration has Advantages superior to aught That elsewhere offers: all these passengers, If punched with care—

COWBOY CHARLEY:

Significant remark! It opens up a prospect wide and fair, Suggesting to the thoughtful mind—my mind— A scheme that is the boss lay-out. Instead Of stopping passengers, let's carry them. Instead of crying out: "Throw up your hands!" Let's say: "Walk up and buy a ticket!" Why Should we unwieldy goods and bullion take, Watches and all such trifles, when we might Far better charge their value three times o'er For carrying them to market?

LELAND, THE KID:

Put it there, Old son!

HAPPY HUNTY:

You take the cake, my dear. We'll build A mighty railroad through this pass, and then The stage folk will come up to us and squeal, And say: "It is bad medicine for both: What will you give or take?" And then we'll sell.

COWBOY CHARLEY:

Enlarge your notions, little one; this is No petty, slouching, opposition scheme, To be bought off like honest men and fools; Mine eye prophetic pierces through the mists That cloud the future, and I seem to see A well-devised and executed scheme Of wholesale robbery within the law (Made by ourselves)—great, permanent, sublime, And strong to grapple with the public throat— Shaking the stuffing from the public purse, The tears from bankrupt merchants' eyes, the blood From widows' famished carcasses, the bread From orphans' mouths!

HAPPY HUNTY:

Hooray!

LELAND, THE; KID:

Hooray!

ALL:

Hooray!

(They tear the masks from their faces, and discharging their shotguns, throw them into the chapparal. Then they join hands, dance and sing the following song:)

Ah! blessed to measure The glittering treasure! Ah! blessed to heap up the gold Untold That flows in a wide And deepening tide— Rolled, rolled, rolled From multifold sources, Converging its courses Upon our—

LELAND, THE KID:

Just wait a bit, my pards, I thought I heard A sneaking grizzly cracking the dry twigs. Such an intrusion might deprive the State Of all the good that we intend it. Ha!

(Enter Sootymug. He saunters carelessly in and gracefully leans his back against a redwood.)

SOOTYMUG:

My boys, I thought I heard Some careless revelry, As if your minds were stirred By some new devilry. I too am in that line. Indeed, the mission On which I come—

HAPPY HUNTY:

Here's more damned competition! (Curtain.)



A BAD NIGHT

DRAMATIS PERSONAE.

VILLIAM a Sen NEEDLESON a Sidniduc SMILER a Scheister KI-YI a Trader GRIMGHAST a Spader SARALTHIA a Love-lorn Nymph NELLIBRAC a Sweetun

A BODY; A GHOST; AN UNMENTIONABLE THING; SKULLS; HOODOOS; ETC.

Scene—a Cemetery in San Francisco.

Saralthia, Nellibrac, Grimghast.

SARALTHIA:

The red half-moon is dipping to the west, And the cold fog invades the sleeping land. Lo! how the grinning skulls in the level light Litter the place! Methinks that every skull Is a most lifelike portrait of my Sen, Drawn by the hand of Death; each fleshless pate, Cursed with a ghastly grin to eyes unrubbed With love's magnetic ointment, seems to mine To smile an amiable smile like his Whose amiable smile I—I alone Am able to distinguish from his leer! See how the gathering coyotes flit Through the lit spaces, or with burning eyes Star the black shadows with a steadfast gaze! About my feet the poddy toads at play, Bulbously comfortable, try to hop, And tumble clumsily with all their warts; While pranking lizards, sliding up and down My limbs, as they were public roads, impart A singularly interesting chill. The circumstance and passion of the time, The cast and manner of the place—the spirit Of this confederate environment, Command the rights we come to celebrate Obedient to the Inspired Hag— The seventh daughter of the seventh daughter, Who rules all destinies from Minna street, A dollar a destiny. Here at this grave, Which for my purposes thou, Jack of Spades— (To Grimghast) Corrupter than the thing that reeks below— Hast opened secretly, we'll work the charm. Now what's the hour? (Distant clock strikes thirteen.) Enough—hale forth the stiff!

(Grimghast by means of a boat-hook stands the coffin on end in the excavation; the lid crumbles, exposing the remains of a man.)

Ha! Master Mouldybones, how fare you, sir?

THE BODY:

Poorly, I thank your ladyship; I miss Some certain fingers and an ear or two. There's something, too, gone wrong with my inside, And my periphery's not what it was. How can we serve each other, you and I?

NELLIBRAC:

O what a personable man!

(Blushes bashfully, drops her eyes and twists the corner of her apron.)

SARALTHIA:

Yes, dear, A very proper and alluring male, And quite superior to Lubin Rroyd, Who has, however, this distinct advantage— He is alive.

GRIMGHAST:

Missus, these yer remains Was the boss singer back in '72, And used to allers git invites to go Down to Swellmont and sing at every feed. In t'other Villiam's time, that was, afore The gent that you've hooked onto bought the place.

THE BODY (singing):

Down among the sainted dead Many years I lay; Beetles occupied my head, Moles explored my clay.

There we feasted day and night— I and bug and beast; They provided appetite And I supplied the feast.

The raven is a dicky-bird,

SARALTHIA (singing):

The jackal is a daisy,

NELLIBRAC (singing):

The wall-mouse is a worthy third,

A SPOOK (singing):

But mortals all are crazy.

CHORUS OF SKULLS:

O mortals all are crazy, Their intellects are hazy; In the growing moon they shake their shoon And trip it in the mazy.

But when the moon is waning, Their senses they're regaining: They fall to prayer and from their hair Remove the straws remaining.

SARALTHIA:

That's right, Rogues Gallery, pray keep it up: Your song recalls my Villiam's "Auld Lang Syne," What time he came and (like an amorous bird That struts before the female of its kind, Warbling to cave her down the bank) piped high His cracked falsetto out of reach. Enough— Now let's to business. Nellibrac, sweet child, St. Cloacina's future devotee, The time is ripe and rotten—gut the grip!

(Nellibrac brings forward a valise and takes from it five articles of clothing, which, one by one, she lays upon the points of a magic pentagram that has thoughtfully inscribed itself in lines of light on the wet grass. The Body holds its late lamented nose.)

NELLIBRAC (singing):

Fragrant socks, by Villiam's toes Consecrated to the nose;

Shirt that shows the well worn track Of the knuckles of his back,

Handkerchief with mottled stains, Into which he blew his brains;

Collar crying out for soap— Prophet of the future rope;

An unmentionable thing It would sicken me to sing.

UNMENTIONABLE THING (aside):

What! I unmentionable? Just you wait! In all the family journals of the State You'll sometime see that I'm described at length, With supereditorial grace and strength.

SARALTHIA (singing):

Throw them in the open tomb They will cause his love to bloom With an amatory boom!

CHORUS OF INVISIBLE HOODOOS:

Hoodoo, hoodoo, voudou-vet Villiam struggles in the net! By the power and intent Of the charm his strength is spent! By the virtue in each rag Blessed by the Inspired Hag He will be a willing victim Limp as if a donkey kicked him! By this awful incantation We decree his animation—

By the magic of our art Warm the cockles of his heart, Villiam, if alive or dead, Thou Saralthia shalt wed!

(They cast the garments into the grave and push over the coffin. Grimghast fills up the hole. Hoodoos gradually become apparent in a phosphorescent light about the grave, holding one another's back-hair and dancing in a circle.)

HOODOO SONG AND DANCE:

O we're the larrikin hoodoos! The chirruping, lirruping hoodoos! We mix things up that the Fates ordain, Bring back the past and the present detain, Postpone the future and sometimes tether The three and drive them abreast together— We rollicking, frolicking hoodoos!

To us all things are the same as none And nothing is that is under the sun. Seven's a dozen and never is then, Whether is what and what is when, A man is a tree and a cuckoo a cow For gold galore and silver enow To magical, mystical hoodoos!

SARALTHIA:

What monstrous shadow darkens all the place,

(Enter Smyler.)

Flung like a doom athwart—ha!—thou? Portentous presence, art thou not the same That stalks with aspect horrible among Small youths and maidens, baring snaggy teeth, Champing their tender limbs till crimson spume, Flung from, thy lips in cursing God and man, Incarnadines the land?

SMYLER:

Thou dammid slut!

(Exit Smyler.)

NELLIBRAC:

O what a pretty man!

SARALTHIA

Now who is next? Of tramps and casuals this graveyard seems Prolific to a fault!

(Enter Needleson, exhaling, prophetically, an odor of decayed eggs and, actually, one of unlaundried linen. He darts an intense regard at an adjacent marble angel and places his open hand behind his ear.)

NEEDLESON:

Hay? (Exit Needleson.)

NELLIBRAC:

Sweet, sweet male! I yearn to play at Copenhagen with him!

(Blushes diligently and energetically.)

CHORUS OF SKULLS:

Hoodoos, hoodoos, disappear— Some dread deity draws near!

(Exeunt Hoodos.)

Smitten with a sense of doom, The dead are cowering in the tomb, Seas are calling, stars are falling And appalling is the gloom! Fragmentary flames are flung Through the air the trees among! Lo! each hill inclines its head— Earth is bending 'neath his thread!

(On the contrary, enter Villiam on a chip, navigating an odor of mignonette. Saralthia springs forward to put him in her pocket, but he is instantly retracted by an invisible string. She falls headlong, breaking her heart. Reenter Villiam, Needleson, Smyler. All gather about Saralthia, who loudly laments her accident. The Spirit of Tar-and Feathers, rising like a black smoke in their midst, executes a monstrous wink of graphic and vivid significance, then contemplates them with an obviously baptismal intention. The cross on Lone Mountain takes fire, splendoring the Peninsula. Tableau. Curtain.)



ON STONE



As in a dream, strange epitaphs I see, Inscribed on yet unquarried stone, Where wither flowers yet unstrown— The Campo Santo of the time to be.



A WREATH OF IMMORTELLES

* * * * *

LORING PICKERING

(After Pope)

Here rests a writer, great but not immense, Born destitute of feeling and of sense. No power he but o'er his brain desired— How not to suffer it to be inspired. Ideas unto him were all unknown, Proud of the words which, only, were his own. So unreflecting, so confused his mind, Torpid in error, indolently blind, A fever Heaven, to quicken him, applied, But, rather than revive, the sluggard died.

* * * * *

A WATER-PIRATE

Pause, stranger—whence you lightly tread Bill Carr's immoral part has fled. For him no heart of woman burned, But all the rivers' heads he turned. Alas! he now lifts up his eyes In torment and for water cries, Entreating that he may procure One drop to cool his parched McClure!

* * * * *

C.P. BERRY

Here's crowbait!—ravens, too, and daws Flock hither to advance their caws, And, with a sudden courage armed, Devour the foe who once alarmed— In life and death a fair deceit: Nor strong to harm nor good to eat. King bogey of the scarecrow host, When known the least affrighting most, Though light his hand (his mind was dark) He left on earth a straw Berry mark.

* * * * *

THE REV. JOSEPH

He preached that sickness he could floor By prayer and by commanding; When sick himself he sent for four Physicians in good standing. He was struck dead despite their care, For, fearing their dissension, He secretly put up a prayer, Thus drawing God's attention.

* * * * *

Cynic perforce from studying mankind In the false volume of his single mind, He damned his fellows for his own unworth, And, bad himself, thought nothing good on earth. Yet, still so judging and so erring still, Observing well, but understanding ill, His learning all was got by dint of sight, And what he learned by day he lost by night. When hired to flatter he would never cease Till those who'd paid for praises paid for peace. Not wholly miser and but half a knave, He yearned to squander but he lived to save, And did not, for he could not, cheat the grave. Hic jacet Pixley, scribe and muleteer: Step lightly, stranger, anywhere but here.

* * * * *

McAllister, of talents rich and rare, Lies at this spot at finish of his race. Alike to him if it is here or there: The one spot that he cared for was the ace.

* * * * *

Here lies Joseph Redding, who gave us the catfish. He dined upon every fish except that fish. 'Twas touching to hear him expounding his fad With a heart full of zeal and a mouth full of shad. The catfish miaowed with unspeakable woe When Death, the lone fisherman, landed their Jo.

* * * * *

Judge Sawyer, whom in vain the people tried To push from power, here is laid aside. Death only from the bench could ever start The sluggish load of his immortal part.

* * * * *

John Irish went, one luckless day, To loaf and fish at San Jose. He got no loaf, he got no fish: They brained him with an empty dish! They laid him in this place asleep— O come, ye crocodiles, and weep.

* * * * *

In Sacramento City here This wooden monument we rear In memory of Dr. May, Whose smile even Death could not allay. He's buried, Heaven alone knows where, And only the hyenas care; This May-pole merely marks the spot Where, ere the wretch began to rot, Fame's trumpet, with its brazen bray, Bawled; "Who (and why) was Dr. May?"

* * * * *

Dennis Spencer's mortal coil Here is laid away to spoil— Great riparian, who said Not a stream should leave its bed. Now his soul would like a river Turned upon its parching liver.

* * * * *

For those this mausoleum is erected Who Stanford to the Upper House elected. Their luck is less or their promotion slower, For, dead, they were elected to the Lower.

* * * * *

Beneath this stone lies Reuben Lloyd, Of breath deprived, of sense devoid. The Templars' Captain-General, he So formidable seemed to be, That had he not been on his back Death ne'er had ventured to attack.

* * * * *

Here lies Barnes in all his glory— Master he of oratOry. When he died the people weeping, (For they thought him only sleeping) Cried: "Although he now is quiet And his tongue is not a riot, Soon, the spell that binds him breaking, He a motion will be making. Then, alas, he'll rise and speak In support of it a week."

* * * * *

Rash mortal! stay thy feet and look around— This vacant tomb as yet is holy ground; But soon, alas! Jim Fair will occupy These premises—then, holiness, good-bye!

* * * * *

Here Salomon's body reposes; Bring roses, ye rebels, bring roses. Set all of your drumsticks a-rolling, Discretion and Valor extrolling: Discretion—he always retreated— And Valor—the dead he defeated. Brings roses, ye loyal, bring roses: As patriot here he re-poses.

* * * * *

When Waterman ended his bright career He left his wet name to history here. To carry it with him he did not care: 'Twould tantalize spirits of statesmen There.

* * * * *

Here lie the remains of Fred Emerson Brooks, A poet, as every one knew by his looks Who hadn't unluckily met with his books.

On civic occasions he sprang to the fore With poems consisting of stanzas three score. The men whom they deafened enjoyed them the more.

Of reason his fantasy knew not the check: All forms of inharmony came at his beck. The weight of his ignorance fractured his neck.

In this peaceful spot, so the grave-diggers say, With pen, ink and paper they laid him away— The Poet-elect of the Judgment Day.

* * * * *

George Perry here lies stiff and stark, With stone at foot and stone at head. His heart was dark, his mind was dark— "Ignorant ass!" the people said.

Not ignorant but skilled, alas, In all the secrets of his trade: He knew more ways to be an ass Than any ass that ever brayed.

* * * * *

Here lies the last of Deacon Fitch, Whose business was to melt the pitch. Convenient to this sacred spot Lies Sammy, who applied it, hot. 'Tis hard—so much alike they smell—

One's grave from t'other's grave to tell, But when his tomb the Deacon's burst (Of two he'll always be the first) He'll see by studying the stones That he's obtained his proper bones, Then, seeking Sammy's vault, unlock it, And put that person in his pocket.

* * * * *

Beneath this stone O'Donnell's tongue's at rest— Our noses by his spirit still addressed. Living or dead, he's equally Satanic— His noise a terror and his smell a panic.

* * * * *

When Gabriel blows a dreadful blast And swears that Time's forever past, Days, weeks, months, years all one at last, Then Asa Fiske, laid here, distressed, Will beat (and skin his hand) his breast: There'll be no rate of interest!

* * * * *

Step lightly, stranger: here Jerome B. Cox Is for the second time in a bad box. He killed a man—the labor party rose And showed him by its love how killing goes.

* * * * *

When Vrooman here lay down to sleep, The other dead awoke to weep. "Since he no longer lives," they said "Small honor comes of being dead."

* * * * *

Here Porter Ashe is laid to rest Green grows the grass upon his breast. This patron of the turf, I vow, Ne'er served it half so well as now.

* * * * *

Like a cold fish escaping from its tank, Hence fled the soul of Joe Russel, crank. He cried: "Cold water!" roaring like a beast. 'Twas thrown upon him and the music ceased.

* * * * *

Here Estee rests. He shook a basket, When, like a jewel from its casket, Fell Felton out. Said Estee, shouting With mirth; "I've given you an outing." Then told him to go back. He wouldn't. Then tried to put him back. He couldn't. So Estee died (his blood congealing In Felton's growing shadow) squealing.

* * * * *

Mourn here for one Bruner, called Elwood. He doesn't—he never did—smell good To noses of critics and scholars. If now he'd an office to sell could He sell it? O, no—where (in Hell) could He find a cool four hundred dollars?

* * * * *

Here Stanford lies, who thought it odd That he should go to meet his God. He looked, until his eyes grew dim, For God to hasten to meet him.

THE END

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