Web Text-ures Logo
Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio

(Return to Web Text-ures)
Click Here to return to
The Idiot
Content Page

 Return to the Previous Chapter
Kellscraft Studio Logo


"I WISH I were beginning life all over again," said the Idiot one spring morning, as he took his accustomed place at Mrs. Pedagog's table.

"I wish you were," said Mr. Pedagog from behind his newspaper. "Then your parents would have you shut up in a nursery, and it is even conceivable that you would be re­ceiving those disciplinary attentions with a slipper that you seem to me so frequently to deserve, were you at this present moment in the nursery stage of your development."

"My!" ejaculated the Idiot. "What a wonder you are, Mr. Pedagog! It is a good thing you are not a justice in a criminal court."

"And what, may I venture to ask," said Mr. Pedagog, glancing at the Idiot over his spectacles, "what has given rise to that ex­traordinary remark, the connection of which with anything that has been said or done this morning is distinctly not apparent?"

"I only meant that a man who was so given over to long sentences as you are would probably make too severe a judge in a criminal court," replied the Idiot, meekly. "Do you make use of the same phraseology in the class-room that you dazzle us with, I should like to know?"

"And why not, pray?" said Mr. Pedagog.

"No special reason," said the Idiot; "only it does seem to me that an instructor of youth ought to be more careful in his choice of adverbs than you appear to be. Of course Doctor Bolus here is under no obligation to speak more grammatically or correctly than he does. People call him in to prescribe, not to indulge in rhetorical periods, and he can write his prescriptions in a sort of intuitive Latin and nobody be the wiser, but you, who are said to be sowing the seeds of knowledge in the brain of youth, should be more careful."

"Hear the grammarian talk!" returned Mr. Pedagog. "Listen to this embryonic Sam­uel Johnson the Second. What have I said that so offends the linguistic taste of Lindley Murray, Jun.?"

"Nothing," returned the Idiot. "I cannot say that you have said anything. I never heard you say anything in my life; but while you can no doubt find good authority for making use of the words “distinctly not ap­parent,' you ought not to throw such phrases around carelessly. The thing which is distinct is apparent, therefore to say “distinctly not apparent' to a mind that is not given to analysis sounds strange. You might as well say of a beautiful girl that she is plainly pretty, meaning of course that she is evident­ly pretty; but those who are unacquainted with the idiomatic peculiarities of your speech might ask you if you meant that she was pretty in a plain sort of way. Suppose, too, you were writing a novel, and, in a desire to give your reader a fair idea of the personal appearance of a homely but good creature, you should say, “It cannot be denied that Rosamond Follansbee was pretty plain?' It wouldn't take a very grave error of the types to change your entire meaning. To save a line on a page, for instance, it might become necessary to eliminate a single word; and if that word should chance to be the word 'plain' in the sentence I have given, your homely but good person would be set down as being undeniably pretty. Which shows, it seems to me, that too great care cannot be exercised in the making of selections from our vocabu — "

"You are the worst I ever knew!" snapped Mr. Pedagog.

"Which only proves," observed the Idiot, "that you have not heeded the Scriptural injunction that you should know thyself. Are those buckwheat cakes or doilies?"

Whether the question was heard or not is not known. It certainly was not answered, and silence reigned for a few minutes. Fi­nally Mrs. Pedagog spoke, and in the man­ner of one who was somewhat embarrassed. "I am in an embarrassing position," said she.

"Good!" said the Idiot, sotto-voce, to the genial gentleman who occasionally imbibed. "There is hope for the landlady yet. If she can be embarrassed she is still human a con­dition I was beginning to think she wotted not of."

"She whatted what?" queried the genial gentleman, not quite catching the Idiot's words.

"Never mind," returned the Idiot. "Let's hear how she ever came to be embarrassed."

"I have had an application for my first floor suite, and I don't know whether I ought to accept it or not," said the landlady.

"She has a conscience, too," whispered the Idiot; and then he added, aloud, "And wherein lies the difficulty, Mrs. Pedagog?"

"The applicant is an actor; Junius Brutus Davenport is his name."

"A tragedian or a comedian?" asked the Bibliomaniac.

"Or first walking gentleman, who knows every railroad tie in the country?" put in the Idiot.

"That I do not know," returned the land­lady. "His name sounds familiar enough, though. I thought perhaps some of you gentlemen might know of him."

"I have heard of Junius Brutus," observed the Doctor, chuckling slightly at his own humor, "and I've heard of Davenport, but Junius Brutus Davenport is a combination with which I am not familiar."

"Well, I can't see why it should make any difference whether the man is a tragedian, or a comedian, or a familiar figure to railroad men," said Mr. Whitechoker, firmly. "In any event, he would be an extremely objec —"

"It makes a great deal of difference," said the Idiot. "I've met tragedians, and I've met comedians, and I've met New York Central stars, and I can assure you they each represent a distinct type. The tragedians, as a rule, are quiet meek individuals, with soft low voices, in private life. They are more timid than otherwise, though essentially amia­ble. I knew a tragedian once who, after kill­ing seventeen Indians, a road-agent, and a gross of cowboys between eight and ten P. M. every night for sixteen weeks, working six nights a week, was afraid of a mild little soft shell crab that lay defenceless on a plate before him on the evening of the seventh night of the last week. Tragedians make agreeable companions, I can tell you; and if J. Brutus Davenport is a tragedian, I think Mrs. Pedagog would do well to let him have the suite, provided, of course, that he pays for it in advance."

"I was about to observe, when our friend interrupted me," said Mr. Whitechoker, with dignity, "that in any event an actor at this board would be to me an extremely objec —"


"Now the comedians," resumed the Idiot, ignoring Mr. Whitechoker's remark — "the comedians are very different. They are twice as bloodthirsty as the murderers of the drama, and, worse than that, they are given to rehearsing at all hours of the day and night. A tragedian is a hard character only on the stage, but the comedian is the comedian al­ways. If we had one of those fellows in our midst, it would not be very long before we became part of the drama ourselves. Mrs. Pedagog would find herself embarrassed once an hour, instead of, as at present, once a cen­tury. Mr. Whitechoker would hear of him­self as having appeared by proxy in a roaring farce before our comedian had been with us two months. The wise sayings of our friend the School-Master would be spoken nightly from the stage, to the immense de­light of the gallery gods, and to the edifica­tion of the orchestra circle, who would wonder how so much information could have got into the world and they not know it before. The out-of-town papers would literally teem with witty extracts from our comedian's plays, which we should immediately recognize as the dicta of my poor self."

"All of which," put in Mr. Whitechoker, "but proves the truth of my assertion that such a person would be an extremely objec — "

"Then, as I said before," continued the Idiot, "he is continually rehearsing, and his objectionableness as a fellow-boarder would be greater or less, according to his play. If he were impersonating a shiftless wanderer, who shows remarkable bravery at a hotel fire, we should have to be prepared at any time to hear the fire-engines rushing up to the front door, and to see our comedian scaling the fire-escape with Mrs. Pedagog and her account-books in his arms, simply in the line of rehearsal. If he were impersonating a de­tective after a criminal masquerading as a good citizen, the School-Master would be startled some night by a hoarse voice at his key-hole exclaiming: 'Ha! ha! I have him now. There is no escape save by the back window, and that's so covered o'er with dust 'twere suffocation sure to try it.' I hesitate to say what would happen if he were a tank comedian."

"Perhaps," said Mr. Whitechoker, with a trifle more impatience than was compatible with his calling — "perhaps you will hesitate long enough for me to state what I have been trying to state ever since this soliloquy of yours began — that in any event, whether this person be a tragedian, or a comedian, or a walking gentleman, or a riding gentleman in a circus, I object to his being admitted to this circle, and I deem it well to say right here that as he comes in at the front door I go out at the back. As a clergyman, I do not approve of the stage."


"That ought to settle it," said the Idiot. "Mr. Whitechoker is too good a friend to us all here for us to compel him to go out of that back door into the rather limited market-garden Mrs. Pedagog keeps in the yard. My indirect plea for the admission of Mr. Junius Brutus Davenport was based entirely upon my desire to see this circle completed or nearer completion than it is at present. We have all the professions represented here but the stage, and why ex­clude it, granting that no one objects? The men whose lives are given over to the amuse­ment of mankind, and who are willing to place themselves in the most outrageous sit­uations night after night in order that we may for the time being seem to be lifted out of the unpleasant situations into which we have got ourselves, are in my opinion doing a noble work. The theatre enables us to woo forgetfulness of self successfully for a few brief hours, and I have seen the time when an hour or two of relief from actual cares has resulted in great good. Nevertheless, the gentleman is not elected; and if Mrs. Pedagog will kindly refill my cup, I will ask you to join me in draining a toast to the health of the pastor of this flock, whose con­science, paradoxical as it may seem, is the most frequently worn and yet the least thread­bare of the consciences represented at this table."

This easy settlement of her difficulty was so pleasing to Mrs. Pedagog that the Idiot's request was graciously acceded to, and Mr. Whitechoker's health was drank in coffee, after which the Idiot requested the genial gentleman who occasionally imbibed to join him privately in eating buckwheat cakes to the health of Mr. Davenport.

"I haven't any doubt that he is worthy of the attention," he said; "and if you will lend me the money to buy the tickets, I'll take you around to the Criterion to-night, where he is playing. I don't know whether he plays Hamlet or A Hole in the Roof; but, at any rate, we can have a good time between the acts."

Book Chapter Logo Click the book image to turn to the next Chapter.