A String of Amber Beads Part 6

Eating milk toast with a spoon and stopping between each mouthful to swear! That was what I saw and heard a brawny man doing not long since in a popular down-town restaurant. The action and the manner of speech did not harmonize. If I felt it borne in upon me that I must be a profane fellow to prove my manliness, I would choose another diet than spoon victuals to nourish my formidable zest for naughtiness. Rare beef or wild game would be less incongruous. There are times when a man may be excused for using objectionable language. Stress of righteous indignation, seasons of personal conflict with hansom cabmen, large-headed street car conductors, ubiquitous, never-dying expectorators and many other particular forms of torment may make a man swear a bit now and then, but what shall we say of a bearded creature with the dew of a babe's food upon his chin who rends the placid air with unnecessary cursing? Sew up his lips with a surgeon's needle and throw him into the fool-killer's bag!

LIX.

BOYS, YOU KNOW I LIKE YOU.

Boys, you know I like you and will stand a good deal of your swaggering ways. I like to see how fresh you are, and do not want to have you salted down too early by the processes of life. But one thing let me ask you. Don't wear silk hats before the down is fully apparent upon your chin. If there is an embarra.s.sing sight left to one grown wan and worn in watching the foolishness of folly, it is the sight of a stripling in a plug hat. I would rather see a yearling colt hauling lumber, or a babe in arms scanning Homer. It is cruel; it is premature. Be a boy until you are fit to be a man, and hold to a boy's mode of dress at least until you are old enough to command the respect of sensible girls by something more notable than cigarette smoking and athletic sports.

LX.

WHAT TO DO WITH GROWLERS.

I often hear people making a big fuss about little things. My path in life leads me among many "kickers" and many "growlers." Do you know what I would like to do with some of these malcontents and whiners? I would like to send them up for a week to watch life in the county hospital. I would like to seat them by a bedside where a n.o.ble woman lies dying all alone of a terrible disease. I would like to have them become acquainted with her bravery and the more than queenly calm with which she confronts her destiny. I would like to have them linger in the corridors and hear the moans from the wards and private rooms where the maimed and the crippled and the incurable are faintly struggling in the grasp of death. I would like to lead them through the children's ward, where mites of humanity cursed with heredity's blight, removed from a mother's bosom, consigned to suffering throughout the span of their feeble days, lie faintly breathing their lives away. And then would like to say to them: "You contemptible cowards, you abominable fussers, you inexcusable kickers, see what the Lord might bring you to if he unloosed the leash and set real troubles in your track. Quit complaining and go to thanking heaven for all your unspeakable mercies!"

LXI.

G.o.d BLESS 'EM!

Every morning just at 7 the entire neighborhood turns out to see them pa.s.s. She is a demure little lady with a face that makes one think of a blush rose, a little past its prime, but mighty sweet to look upon.

She wears a mite of a white sun-bonnet, clean as fresh fallen snow, and starched and stiff as the best pearl gloss cap make it. The cape of this cute little bonnet shades a round white throat, and the strings are tied beneath the chin in a ravishing bow that stands guard over a dimple. She has been married quite ten years, and they say that the two little children who were cradled for a few happy months on her soft breast are waiting and watching for her coming the other side of the river of death. He is a matter-of-fact looking man, with a resolute face and a constant smile in his eyes. He always carries a lunch-basket in one hand and with the other guides the steps of the faithful little woman who accompanies him part way on the march of his daily grind. He works downtown in a big warehouse and he makes hardly enough money each week to keep you in cigars, my good friend, or your wife in novels. Though it rain, or though it shine, though the winds blow or the winds are low, whatever betide of chance, or change, or weather, there is not a morning that he goes to work that she does not walk with him as far as the corner, and in the face of men and angels, grip car conductors and clerks, shop girls and grimacing urchins, kiss him good-bye. She stands and watches until he is well on his way, then waves him a final farewell, and trips back home in the serene shadow of her little bonnet. Now you may ridicule that love and call it "spoony"

and "silly," but, I tell you, a legacy of gold or a hatful of diamonds could not begin to outvalue such love in a man's home. G.o.d bless the two, say I, and roll round the joyful day when love and its free and beautiful demonstration shall shine athwart the heresies of conventionality as April suns dispel the winter's fog with the splendor of their broadcast shining.

LXII.

"UNTO ONE OF THE LEAST OF THESE."

I was riding up-town in a cable car not long ago late at night. The moon was at its full and all the ugliness of the city was shrouded, like a homely woman in a bridal veil of shimmering lace. We skimmed along on a smooth and un.o.bstructed track, like a sloop with every sail set, heading for the open sea. There were no idle chatterers aboard, and from the stalwart gripman at his post of duty, to the shrinking little girl pa.s.senger, who was half afraid and half delighted to be abroad so late alone, everybody and everything was in harmony with the hour and scene. Suddenly there fluttered into the car a snowy moth, astray from some flower garden in the country and quite bewildered and lost in the barren city. The beautiful creature fluttered into a lady's face and she screamed and struggled as though attacked by a rabid beast. "Oh, kill it! kill the horrid thing," she cried, while her attendant beat the air with his cane and sought to drive the dangerous interloper away. It rested for a moment upon the gripman's cap, where it looked like a feather dropped from a wandering bird. At last it settled upon the breast of a little child sleeping in its mother's arms. The mother brushed it away with her handkerchief as though its presence brought defilement. A gentleman who was seated near me caught the bewildered thing and with a very tender touch held it for a block or so until we came to one of the pretty parks that make our city so attractive. Stepping from the car, he loosened his grasp upon the captive moth near a big syringa bush that adorned the entrance way. He watched the dainty white wings flutter down into the cool seclusion of the blossom then turned and boarded the car and pursued his homeward way conscious, let us hope, of a very pretty and graceful deed of kindness to a most insignificant claimant for protection and succor. Sentimental, was it? Well, G.o.d help the world when all sentimentality of this kind is gone out of it.

LXIII.

TAKING INVENTORY.

How poor the most of us prove to be when we take inventory of the soul's stock! We have lots of bonnets, and plenty of dresses, and no end of lingerie, we women, but how are we off for the things that count when the dry goods and the furbelows shall be forgotten? How about love, of the right kind, the love that enn.o.bles rather than degrades, and how about loyalty, and patience, and truth? If one of Chicago's big firms should close its doors to take inventory of stock in January and find it had nothing but the labels on empty bales to account for, its poverty would be as nothing to the poverty of the soul we are going to schedule shortly behind the closed door of the grave. What slaves we are to pa.s.sion; how we hate one another for fancied or even actual slights, when we have such a little moment of time in which to indulge the evil tempers! How we bicker, and lie, and betray, the while the messenger stands already at the door to bid us begone from the scene of our petty conflicts. For my part, the interest we take in things that pertain to this perishable life, when we are so soon going where these are not to be; the choice we make of ranks and reputations, shams and seemings, dinners and wines, jewels and fabrics; the importance we attach to bubbles that break before we reach them; the allurements that draw us far from the ideals we started out to gain; the way we content ourselves with the environments of evil and forego forever the voice that calls us away to partake of things which shall be as wine and honey to the soul, frightens me; startles me as the sudden thunder of the surf might startle one who sojourned by an unseen sea.

LXIV.

DON'T MARRY HIM TO SAVE HIM.

If any young woman who reads this is contemplating marriage with a wild and wayward man, hoping to reform him, I want her to stop right here and decide to give up the contract. As well might she go out and smile down a northwest wind or expostulate with a cyclone to its own undoing.

If a man drinks to excess before he marries, there is no reason to hope he will learn moderation afterward. If you become his wife with the full knowledge of his habits, you will have no right to leave him or forsake him after marriage because of his unfortunate addictions and predilections. Once having taken the vows you have no right to refuse to pay them to the uttermost. And the life you will lead will be perhaps a trifle less pleasant than the life of a parlor boarder in sheol.

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