Mr. Pottle And Pageantry
by Richard Connell
“He wouldn’t give a cent,” announced Mrs. Pottle, blotting up the nucleus of a tear on her cheek with the tip of her gloved finger. “‘Not one red cent,’ was the way he put it.”
“What did you want a red cent for, honey?” inquired Mr. Pottle, absently, from out the depths of the sporting page. “Who wouldn’t give you a red cent?”
“Old Felix Winterbottom,” she answered.
Mr. Pottle put down his paper.
“Do you mean to say you tackled old frosty-face Felix himself?” he demanded with interest and some awe.
“I certainly did,” replied his wife. “Right in his own office.”
Her spouse made no attempt to conceal his admiration.
“What did you say; then what did he say; then what did you say?” he queried.
“I was very polite,” Mrs. Pottle answered, “and tactful. I said ‘See here, now, Mr. Winterbottom, you are the richest man in the county, and yet you have the reputation of being the most careful with your money—-‘”
“I’ll bet that put him in a good humor,” said Mr. Pottle in a murmured aside.
“You know perfectly well, Ambrose, that old Felix Winterbottom is never in a good humor,” said his wife. “After talking with him, I really believe the story that he has never smiled in his life. Well, anyhow, I said to him, ‘See here now, Mr. Winterbottom, I’m going to give you a chance to show people your heart is in the right place, after all. The Day Nursery we ladies of the Browning-Tagore Club of Granville are starting needs just one thousand dollars. Won’t you let me put you down for that amount?'”
Mr. Pottle whistled.
“Did he bite you?” he asked.
“I thought for a minute he was going to,” admitted Mrs. Pottle, “and then he said, ‘Are the Gulicks interested in this?’ I said, ‘Of course, they are. Mrs. P. Bradley Gulick is Chairman of the Pink Contribution Team, and Mrs. Wendell Gulick is Chairman—-‘ ‘Stop,’ said Mr. Winterbottom, giving me that fishy look of his, like a halibut in a cake of ice, ‘in that case, I wouldn’t give a cent, not one red cent. Good-day, Mrs. Pottle.’ I went.”
Mr. Pottle wagged his head sententiously.
“You’ll never get a nickel out of him now,” he declared. “Never. You might have known that Felix Winterbottom would not go into anything the Gulicks were in. And,” added Mr. Pottle thoughtfully, “I can’t say that I blame old Felix much.”
“Ambrose!” reproved Mrs. Pottle, but her rebuke lacked a certain whole-heartedness, “The Gulicks are nice people; the nicest people in Granville.”
“That’s the trouble with them,” retorted Mr. Pottle, “they never let you forget it. That’s what ails this town; too much Gulicks. I’m not the only one who thinks so, either.”
She did not attempt rebuttal, beyond saying,
“They’re our oldest family.”
“Bah,” said Mr. Pottle. He appeared to smolder, and then he flamed out,
“Honest, Blossom, those Gulicks make me just a little bit sick to the stummick. Just because some ancestor of theirs came over in the Mayflower, and because some other ancestor happened to own the farm this town was built on, you’d think they were the Duke of Kackiack, or something. The town grew up and made ’em rich, but what did they ever do for the town?”
“Well,” began Mrs. Pottle, more for the sake of debate than from conviction, “there’s Gulick Avenue, and Gulick Street, and Gulick Park—-“
“Oh, they give their name freely enough,” said Mr. Pottle. “But what did they give to the Day Nursery fund?”
“They did disappoint me,” Mrs. Pottle admitted. “They only gave fifty dollars, which isn’t much for the second wealthiest family in town, but Mrs. P. Bradley Gulick said we could put her name at the head of the list—-“
Mr. Pottle’s affable features attained an almost sardonic look.
“Oho,” he said, pointedly. “Oho.”
He flamed up again,
“That’s exactly the amount those pirates added to the rent of my barber shop,” he stated, and then, passion seething in his ordinarily amiable bosom, he went on, “A fine lot, they are, to be snubbing a self-made man like Felix Winterbottom, and turning up their thin, blue noses at Felix Winterbottom’s tannery.”
“Ambrose,” said his wife, with lifted blonde eyebrows, “please don’t make suggestive jokes in my presence.”
“Honey swat key Molly pants,” returned Mr. Pottle with a touch of bellicosity. “It’s no worse than other tanneries; and it’s the biggest in the state. Those Gulicks give me a pain, I tell you. You can’t pick up a paper without reading, ‘Mr. P. Bradley Gulick, one of our leading citizens, unveiled a tablet in the Gulick Hook and Ladder Company building yesterday in honor of his ancestor, Saul Gulick, one of the pioneers who hewed our great state out of the wilderness, and whose cider-press stood on the ground now occupied by the hook and ladder company.’ Or ‘Mrs. Wendell Gulick read a paper before the Society of Descendants of Officers Above the Rank of Captain on General Washington’s Staff on the heroic part played by her ancestor, Major Noah Gulick, at the battle of Saratoga.’ If it isn’t that it’s ‘The Spinning Wheel Club met at Mrs. Gulick’s palatial residence to observe the anniversary of the birth of Phineas Gulick, the first red-headed baby born in Massachusetts.’ Bah, is what I say, Bah!”
He seethed and bubbled and broke out again.
“You’d think to hear them blow that the Gulicks discovered ancestors and had ’em patented. I guess the Pottles had an ancestor or two. Even Felix Winterbottom had ancestors.”
“Probably haddocks,” said Mrs. Pottle coldly. “He can keep his old red cents.”
“He will, never fear,” her husband assured her. “After the way he and his family have been treated by the Gulicks, I don’t blame him.”
Mrs. Pottle pumped up a sigh from the depths of a deep bosom and sank tearfully to a divan.
“And I’d set my heart on it,” she sobbed.
“The Day Nursery. And it’s to fail for want of a miserable thousand dollars.”
“Don’t speak disrespectfully of a thousand dollars, Blossom,” Mr. Pottle enjoined his spouse. “That’s five thousand shaves. And don’t expect me to give anything more. You know perfectly well the barber-business is not what it used to be. I can’t give another red cent.”
Mrs. Pottle sniffed.
“Who asked you for your red cents?” she inquired, with spirit. “I’ll make the money myself.”
She rose majestically; determination was in her pose, and the light of inspiration was in her bright blue eyes.
“We’ll give a pageant,” she announced.
“A pageant?” Mr. Pottle showed some dismay. “A show, Blossom?”
“Evidently,” she said, “you have not read your encyclopedia under ‘P.'”
“I’m only as far as ‘ostriches,'” he answered, humbly.
“‘A pageant,'” she quoted, “‘is an elaborate exhibition or spectacle, a series of stately tableaux or living pictures, frequently historic, and often with poetic spoken interludes.'”
“Ah,” beamed Mr. Pottle, nodding understandingly, “a circus!”
“Not in the least, Ambrose. Does your mind never soar? A pageant is a very beautiful and serious thing, with lots of lovely costumes, hundreds of people, horses, historic scenes—-” she broke off suddenly. “When was Granville founded?”
He told her. Her eyes sparkled.
“Wonderful,” she cried. “This year it will be two hundred years old. We’ll give an historic pageant–the Growth of Civilization in Granville.”
“It sounds expensive,” objected Mr. Pottle.
“Don’t be sordid, Ambrose,” said his wife.
“I’m not sordid, Blossom,” he returned. “I’m a practical man. I know these kermesses and feats. My cousin Julia Onderdonk got up a pageant in Peoria once and now she hasn’t a friend in the place. Besides it only netted fourteen dollars for the Bide-a-wee Home. Now, honey, why not give a good, old-fashioned chicken supper in the church hall, with perhaps a minstrel show afterward? That would get my money—-“
“Chicken supper! Minstrel show! Oh, Ambrose.” His wife’s snort was the acme of refinement. “Have you no soul? This pageant will be an inspiring thing. It will make for, I might almost say militate for, a community spirit. Other communities give pageant after pageant. Shall Granville lag behind? Here is a chance for a real community get-together. Here is a chance to give our young people the wonderful history of their native town—-“
“And also a chance for all the Gulick tribe to parade around in colonial clothes with spinning wheels under their arms,” put in Mr. Pottle.
“I’m afraid we can’t avoid that,” admitted his wife, ruefully. “After all, they are our oldest family.”
“I suppose,” she mused, “that Mrs. P. Bradley Gulick would have to be the Spirit of Progress—-“
“Progress shouldn’t be fat and wall-eyed,” interposed Mr. Pottle. She ignored this.
“And I suppose that odious freckled daughter of hers would have to be the Spirit of Liberty or Civilization or something important, and I suppose that pompous Mr. Gulick would have to be the Pioneer Spirit–still, I think it could be managed. Now, you, Ambrose, can be—-“
“I don’t want to be the spirit of anything,” he declared. “Count me out, Blossom.”
Mrs. Pottle assumed a hurt pout.
“For my sake?” she said.
“I’m no actor,” he stated.
“Oh, I don’t want you to act,” she said. “You’re to be treasurer.”
He wrinkled up his nose and brow into a frown.
“The dirty work,” he exclaimed. “That’s the way the world over. Us Pottles do the dirty work and the Gulicks get the glory. No, Blossom, no, no, no.”
An appealing tear, and another, stole down her pink cheek.
“Mr. Gallup wouldn’t have treated me that way,” she said. Mr. Gallup had been her first husband.
Mr. Pottle knew resistance was futile.
“Oh, all right. I’ll be treasurer.”
She smiled. “Now one more tiny favor?”
“I want you to be the Spirit of History and read the historic epilogue.”
“Me? I’m no spirit. I’m a boss barber.”
“Well, if you don’t take the job, I suppose I can get one of the Gulicks.”
He considered a second.
“All right,” he said. “I’ll be the Spirit of History. But understand one thing, right here and now: I will not wear tights.”
She conceded him that point.
“Say,” he asked, struck by a thought, “how do you know what spirits are going to be in this? Who is going to write this thing, anyhow?”
“I am,” said Mrs. Pottle.
“It’s not decent,” objected Mr. Pottle fervidly. “How can I keep the respect of the community if I go round like this?”
He indicated his pink knees, which blushed like spring rosebuds beneath a somewhat nebulous toga of cheese-cloth.
“If I can’t wear pants, I don’t want to be the Spirit of History,” he added.
“For the fifth and last time,” said the tired and harassed voice of Mrs. Pottle, “you cannot wear pants. Spirits never do. That settles it. Not another word, Ambrose. Haven’t I trouble enough without my own husband adding to it?”
She pressed her brow as if it ached. Piles of costumes, mostly tinsel and cheese-cloth, shields, tomahawks, bridles and bits of scenery were strewn about the Pottle parlor. She sank into a Morris chair, and stitched fiercely at an angel’s wing. Her eyes were the eyes of one at bay.
“It’s been one thing after another,” she declaimed. “Those Gulicks are making my life miserable. And just now I had a note from Etta Runkle’s mother saying that if in the Masque of the Fruits and Flowers of Botts County her little Etta has to be an onion while little Gertrude Crump is a violet, she won’t lend us that white horse for the Paul Revere’s Ride Scene. So I had to make that hateful stupid child of hers a violet and change Gertrude Crump to an onion and now Mrs. Crump is mad and won’t let any of her children appear in the pageant.”
“Well,” remarked Mr. Pottle, “I don’t see why you had to have Paul Revere’s Ride anyhow. He didn’t ride all the way out here to Ohio, did he?”
“I know he didn’t,” she replied, tartly, “I didn’t want to put him in. But Mrs. Gulick insisted. She said it was her ancestor, Elijah Gulick, who lent Paul Revere the horse. That’s why I have to have Paul Revere stop in the middle of his ride and say,
“Gallant stallion, swift and noble,
Lent me by my good friend Gulick,
Patriot, scholar, king of horsemen,
Speed ye, speed ye, speed ye onward!”
Mr. Pottle groaned.
“Is there anything in American history the Gulicks didn’t have a hand in?” he asked. “But say, Blossom, that horse of the Runkle’s is no gallant stallion. She’s the one Matt Runkle uses on his milk route. Every one in town knows Agnes.”
“I can’t help it,” said Mrs. Pottle wearily. “Wendell Gulick, Jr., who plays Paul Revere, insisted on having a white horse, and Agnes was the only one I could get.”
“They’re the insistingest people I ever knew,” observed Mr. Pottle.
His wife gave out the saddest sound in the world, the short sob of thwarted authorship.
“They’ve just about ruined my pageant,” she said. “Mrs. Gulick insisted on having that battle between the settlers and the Indians just because a great, great uncle of hers was in it. I didn’t want anything rough like that in my pageant. Besides it happened in the next county, and the true facts are that the Indians chased the settlers fourteen miles, and scalped three of them. Of course it wouldn’t do to show a Gulick running from an Indian, so she insisted that I change history around and make the settlers win the battle. None of the nice young men were willing to be Indians and be chased, so I had to hire a tough young fellow named Brannigan–I believe they call him ‘Beansy’–and nine other young fellows from the horseshoe works to play Indian at fifty cents apiece.”
Mr. Pottle looked anxious.
“I know that Beansy Brannigan,” he said. “How is that gang behaving?”
“Oh, pretty well. But ten Indians at fifty cents an Indian is five dollars, and we c-can’t afford it.”
She was tearful again.
“Already the costumes have cost four hundred dollars and more. We’ll be lucky to make expenses if the Gulicks keep on putting in expensive scenes,” she moaned.
She busied herself with the angel’s wing, then paused to ask, “Ambrose, have you learned your historical epilogue?”
For answer he sprang to his feet, wrapped his cheese-cloth toga about him, struck a Ciceronian attitude, and said loudly:
“Who am I, oh list’ning peoples?
His’try’s spirit, stern and truthful!
Come I here to tell you fully,
Of our Granville’s thrilling story,
How Saul and other noble Gulicks,
And a few who shall be nameless,
Hewed a city from the forests,
Blazed the way for civ’lization.”
“Stop,” cried Mrs. Pottle. “I can’t bear to hear another word about those Gulicks. You know it well enough.”
“There are a few things I wish I could have put in,” remarked Mr. Pottle, wistfully.
His tone made her look up with quick interest.
“What do you mean?” she inquired.
“Oh, I found out a thing or two,” he replied, “when I was down at the capital last week. I happened to drop into the state historical society’s library and run over some old records.”
“P. Bradley Gulick told me I didn’t have to go down there to get the facts. He’d give them to me, he said. So he did. Some of them.”
“Ambrose, what do you mean?”
“Oh, nothing. All I will say is this: I’m a patient man and can be pestered a lot, but just let one of these Gulicks pester me a little too much one of these days, and I’ll rear up on my hind legs, that’s all.”
There was a glint in his eye, and she saw it.
“Ambrose,” she said, “if you do anything to spoil my pageant, I’ll never forgive you.”
“Your pageant? It’s just as I said it would be. We Pottles will do the dirty work and the Gulicks will grab the glory. They’ve behaved so piggish that everybody in town is sore at them, and I don’t see how the pageant is going to come out on top. You’d probably have gotten that thousand from old Felix Winterbottom if it hadn’t been for them. Then you wouldn’t have to be losing a pound a day over this pageant. Now if you’d only gotten up a nice old-fashioned chicken supper, and a minstrel show—-“
“Ambrose! Go put on your trousers!”
Despite Mr. Pottle’s pessimistic predictions, there was not a vacant seat or an unused cubic foot of air in the Granville Opera House that clinging Spring night, when the asbestos curtain, tugged by tyro hands, jerkily ascended on the prologue of the Grand Historical Pageant of the Growth of Civilization in Granville for the Benefit of the Browning-Tagore Club’s Day Nursery. Those who did not have relatives in the cast appeared to have been lured thither by a certain morbid curiosity as to what a pageant was. Their faces said plainly that they were prepared for anything.
After the orchestra had raced through “Poet and Peasant,” with the cornet winning by a comfortable margin, Mrs. P. Bradley Gulick, somewhat short of breath and rendered doubly wall-eyed by an inexpert make-up, appeared in red, white and blue cheese-cloth, and announced in a high voice that she was the Spirit of Progress and would look on with a kindly, encouraging eye while history’s storied page was turned and spread before them, and, she added, in properly poetic language, she would tell them what it was all about. The audience gave her the applause due the dowager of the town’s leading family, and not one hand-clap more. Mr. P. Bradley Gulick, bony but impressive, in a Grecian robe, appeared and proclaimed that he was the Spirit of Civilization. A Ballet of the Waters followed, and as a climax, Evelyn Gulick, age thirteen, in appropriate green gauze, announced:
“Who am I, oh friends and neighbors?
I’m the Spirit of the Waters,
Lordly, swift, Monongahela;
Argosies float on my bosom—-“
She tapped her narrow chest, and a look of horror crept into her face; her mind seemed to be groping for something. Tremulously she repeated,
“Argosies float on my bosom.”
The voice of Mrs. Pottle prompted from the wings,
“And fleets of ships with treasures laden.”
Evelyn clutched at the sound, but it slipped from her, and she wildly began,
“Argosies float on my bosom (Slap, slap)
And sheeps of flits–and sheeps of flits—-“
She burst into tears, and turning a spiteful face toward one of the boxes, she cried,
“You stop making faces at me, Jessie Winterbottom.”
Then she fled to the wings.
This served to bring to the attention of the audience the fact that a strange thing had happened: Felix Winterbottom and his family had come to the pageant. He was there, concealed as far as possible by the red plush curtains of the box, defiant and forbidding. From the glance he now and then cast at the decolleté back of his wife, it was evident that he had not come voluntarily.
Mrs. Pottle, in the wings, bit a newly manicured fingernail.
“I begged Mrs. Gulick to make that dumb child of hers learn her part,” she whispered wrathfully to her husband.
“Mrs. Gulick says it’s your fault for not prompting loud enough,” said Mr. Pottle.
“She did, did she?” Mrs. Pottle assumed what is known in ring circles as a fighting face.
“I can’t stand much more of their pestering,” said Mr. Pottle darkly.
“Ssssh,” said his wife. “The Paul Revere scene is going to start.”
In the wings, Wendell Gulick, Junior, was making ready to mount his charger. The charger, as he had specified, was white, peculiarly white, for it had been found necessary at the last moment to conceal some harness stains by powdering her liberally with crushed lilac talcum. Agnes looked resentful but resigned. Mr. Gulick, Junior, was a plump young man, with nose-glasses, and satisfied lips, who had the distinction of being the only person in Granville who had ever ridden to hounds. He cultivated a horsey atmosphere, wore a riding crop pin in his tie, and was admittedly the local authority on things equine. He looked most formidable in hip-high leathern boots, a continental garb, and a powdered wig. It was regretable that the steed did not measure up to her rider. Save for being approximately white, Agnes had little to recommend her for the rôle. She had one of those long, sad, philosophic faces, and she appeared to be considerably taller in the hips than in the shoulders. She had a habit of looking back over her shoulder with a surprised expression, as if she missed her milk wagon.
Encouraged by a slap on the flank from a stage-hand, Agnes advanced to the center of the stage at a brisk, business-like trot, and there stopped, and nodded to the audience.
“Whoa, Agnes,” shouted some bad little boy in the gallery.
Young Mr. Gulick, in the rôle of Paul Revere, affected to pat his mount’s head, and in a voice of thunder, roared:
“Gallant stallion, swift and noble,”
Agnes reached out a long neck and nibbled at the scenery.
“Lent me by my good friend, Gulick,”
Agnes looked over her shoulder and smiled at her rider.
“Patriot, scholar, king of horsemen,”
Agnes scratched herself heartily on a property rock.
“Speed ye, speed ye, speed ye onward!”
The business of the scene called for a spirited exit by Paul Revere, waving his cocked hat. But Agnes had other plans. She liked the taste of scenery. She did not budge. In vain did the scion of the Gulicks beat with frantic heels upon her flat flanks.
“Speed ye onward, or we’ll be late,” he improvised cleverly.
She masticated a canvas leaf from a convenient shrub and did not speed onward.
“Gid-ap, Agnes,” shrilled the boy in the gallery. “The folks is waitin’ for their milk.”
The audience grew indecorous.
Even his ruddy make-up could not conceal the fact that Mr. Wendell Gulick, Junior, was very red in the face, and that his lips were forming words not in that, or any other pageant. His leathern heels boomed hollowly on Agnes’s barrel of body. To ring down the curtain was impossible; Agnes had taken her place directly beneath it.
Paul Revere turned a passionate face to the wings,
“Hey, Pottle,” he bellowed, “why don’t you do something instead of standing there grinning like a baboon?”
Thus charged, Mr. Pottle’s toga-clad figure came nimbly from the wings, to great applause, and seized Agnes by the bridle. Pottle tugged lustily. Agnes smiled and did not give way an inch.
“Send for Matt Runkle,” hissed Mr. Gulick, Junior.
“Send for Matt Runkle,” echoed Mr. Pottle.
“Send for Matt Runkle,” cried voices in the audience.
“He’s home in bed,” wailed Mrs. Pottle from the wings.
“Get one of the Runkle kids,” shouted Mr. Pottle, seeking to arouse Agnes with kicks of his sandal-shod feet.
Little Etta Runkle, partly clad in the tinsel and cheese-cloth of a violet, and partly in her everyday underwear, was fetched from a dressing room. She was a bright child and sensed the situation as soon as it had been explained to her twice.
“Oh,” she said, “Pa always says Agnes won’t start unless you clink two milk bottles together.”
The audience was calling forth suggestions to Paul Revere, astride, and Pottle, on foot. They included a bonfire beneath Agnes, and dynamite. Even the rock-bound face of old Felix Winterbottom, in the depths of the box, showed the vestige of a crease that might, with a little imagination, be considered the start of a smile.
A fevered search back stage netted two bottles, dusty and smelling of turpentine and gin, respectively. Mr. Pottle grasped their necks and clinked them together with resounding clinks. The effect on Agnes was electrical. From utter immobility she started with a startled hop. The unready Mr. Gulick, Junior, after one mad grasp at her mane, rolled ignominiously from her broad back, and landed on the stage in a position that was undignified for a Revere and positively painful for a Gulick. Agnes bolted to the wings. The curtain darted down.
The audience seemed to take this occurrence in a spirit of levity, but not so Mrs. Pottle. Hot tears gathered in her eyes.
“That wretch would have a white horse,” she said. “They would put Paul Revere’s Ride in. Now look. Now look!”
“There, there, honey,” said Mr. Pottle, between sympathetic teeth. “We’ll fix ’em.”
The pageant pursued its more or less majestic way, but as the history of Granville was unfolded, scene upon scene, it became all too apparent to Mrs. Pottle that her poetic opus could not recapture the first serious mood of the audience. It positively jeered when Miss Eltruda Gulick announced that she was the Spirit of the Bogardus Canal. But it grew more interested as the curtain slid up on the battle scene. This, Mrs. Pottle felt, was her dramatic masterpiece. There lay the peaceful pioneer settlement–artfully fashioned from paste-board–while the simple but virile settlers strolled up and down the embryo Main Street and exchanged couplets. The chief settler, an adipose young man with a lisp, was Mr. Gurnee Gulick, until then noted as the most adept practitioner of the modern dance-steps in that part of Ohio. Through a beard, he announced, falsetto,
“I give thee greeting, neighbor Gulick,
Upon this blossom-burgeoning morning,
I trust ’tis not the wily red-skin
I just heard whooping in the forest.”
His trust was misplaced. It was, indeed, the wily red-skin in the persons of Mr. Edward Brannigan–known to intimates as “Beansy,” and nine of his fellow horseshoe makers who had been hired to impersonate red-men, in rather loose-fitting brown cotton skins. Mr. Brannigan and fellow red-skins had done their part dutifully at rehearsals, and had permitted themselves to be knocked down, cuffed about a bit, and finally put to inglorious rout by the settlers. But on the fateful night of the pageant, while waiting for their turn to appear, they had passed the moments with a jug of cider that was standing with reluctant feet at that high point in its career where it has ceased to be sweet and has not yet become vinegar. That was no reason why they should not do their part, for it was not an intricate one. They were to rush on, with whoops, be annihilated, and retire in confusion.
They did rush on with whoops that left nothing to be desired from the standpoint of realism. Mrs. Pottle, tense in the wings, was congratulating herself that one scene at least had dramatic strength. It was at this moment that Mr. Brannigan, as Chief Winipasuki, sachem of the Algonquins, encountered Mr. Gulick, the principal settler. In his enthusiasm, Mr. Gulick over-acted his part. He smote the red-skin warrior so earnestly on the ear that Mr. Brannigan described a parabola and dented a papier-mache rock with his hundred and seventy pounds of muscular body. His part called for him to lie there, prone and impotent, while the settlers drove off his band.
It may have been a sudden rebellion of a proud spirit. It may have been the wraith of history in protest; it may have been an inherently perverse nature; or it may have been the cider. In any event, Chief Winipasuki got to his feet, war-whooped, and knocked the principal settler through the paste-board wall of the block-house. Those in the audience who were fond of realism enjoyed what ensued immensely. The settlers of the town, who were the nice young men, and the Indians, who were not so nice but were strong and willing, had at one another, and although they had only nature’s weapons, the battle, as it waged up and down and back and through the shattered scenery, was stirring enough. When the curtain was at last brought down, Chief Winipasuki had a half-nelson on Settler Gulick, who was calling in a loud penetrating voice for the police.
In all the hub-bub and confusion, in all the delirium of the audience, Mr. Pottle remained calm enough to note that a miracle had taken place; Mr. Felix Winterbottom was chuckling. It was a dry, unpracticed chuckle at best, but it was a chuckle, nevertheless. Mr. Pottle was observing the phenomenon with wide eyes when he felt his elbow angrily plucked.
“You’re to blame for this, Pottle,” rasped a voice. It was Gurnee Gulick’s irate father.
“Me?” sputtered Mr. Pottle.
“Yes. You. You knew those ruffians had been drinking.”
“I did not.”
“Don’t contradict me, you miserable little hair-cutting fool.”
“What? How dare you—-” began Mr. Pottle.
“Bah. You wart!” said Mr. Gulick, and turned his square yard of fat back on the incensed little man.
Mr. Pottle was taking a step after him as if he intended to leap up and sink his teeth into the back of Mr. Gulick’s overflowing neck, when another hand clutched him. It was his wife.
Her face was white and tear-stained, her lip quivering.
“They’ve ruined it, they’ve ruined it,” she exclaimed. “I warned that simpleton Gurnee Gulick not to be rough with those horseshoe boys. Oh, dear, oh, dear.” She pillowed her brimming eyes in his toga-draped shoulder.
“You’ve got to go out, now,” she sobbed, “and give the historical epilogue.”
“Never,” said Mr. Pottle. “A thousand nevers.”
“Please, Ambrose. We’ve got to end it, somehow.”
“Very well,” announced Mr. Pottle. “I’ll go. But mind you, Blossom Pottle, I won’t be responsible for what I say.”
“Neither will I,” sobbed his spouse.
Mr. Pottle hitched his toga about him, and strode out on the stage. There was some applause, but more titters. He held up his hand for silence, as orators do, and glared so fiercely at his audience that the theater grew comparatively quiet. At the top of his voice, he began,
“Who am I, oh list’ning peoples? “
“Pottle the barber,” answered a voice in the gallery.
Mr. Pottle paused, fastened an awful eye on the owner of the voice, and, stepping out of character, remarked, succinctly:
“If you interrupt me again, Charlie Meacham, I’ll come up there and knock your block off.” He swept the house with a ferocious glance. “And that goes for the rest of you,” he added. The intimidated audience went “ssssssh” at each other; Pottle was popular in Granville. He launched himself again.
“Who am I, oh list’ning peoples?
Hist’ry’s spirit, stern and truthful!
Come I here to give you an earful,
Of our city’s inside history,
How the Gulicks grabbed the real estate,
By foreclosing poor folk’s mortgages.”
He did not have to ask for silence now. The hush of death was on the house, and the audience bent its ears toward him; even old Felix Winterbottom, on the edge of his chair, cupped a gnarled, attentive ear. Mr. Pottle went on,
“You have heard the Gulick’s blowing,
Of their wonderful relations.
Lend an ear, and I will slip you,
What the real, true, red-hot dope is.”
He gave his toga a hitch, advanced to the foot-lights, and continued,
“Old Saul Gulick was a drinker,
Always full of home-made liquor,
And he got the town of Granville,
From the Indians, by cheating,
Got ’em drunk, the records tell us,
Got ’em boiled and stewed and glassy;
Ere they sobered up, they sold him,
All the land in this fair county,
For a dollar and a quarter,
Which, my friends, he never paid them.”
The audience held its breath; Felix Winterbottom cupped both ears. Pottle hurried on,
“Now we come to ‘Lijah Gulick,
Him that lent the noble stallion
To Revere, the midnight rider.
Honest, folks, you’ll bust out laughing,
When I tell you ‘Lijah stole him.
For Elijah was a horsethief,
And, as such, was hanged near Boston.
“Patriot, scholar, king of horsemen”–
Honest, folks, that makes me snicker.
Yes, he let Paul ride his stallion–
And charged him seven bucks an hour!
If you think that I am lying,
You will find all this in writing,
In the library in the state house.”
Sensation! Gasps in the audience. Commotion in the wings. Felix Winterbottom made no attempt to conceal the fact that he was chuckling. Pottle drew in a deep breath, and spoke again.
“Then you’ve heard of Noah Gulick,
Him that won the Revolution.
If he ever was a major,
George J. Washington never knew it.
When they charged at Saratoga,
He was hiding in a cellar.
Was he on the staff of Washington?
Sure he was–but in the kitchen.
I’ll admit he made good coffee–
But a soldier? Quit your kidding.
Now I’ll take up Nathan Gulick,
His descendants never mention
That he spent a month in prison
More than once, for stealing chickens—-“
Here Mr. Pottle abruptly stopped. The curtain had been dropped with a crashing bang by unseen hands in the wings.
As it fell, there was a curious, cackling noise in one of the boxes, the like of which had never before been heard in Granville. It was Felix Winterbottom laughing as if he were being paid a dollar a guffaw.
Mr. Pottle sat beside the bedside of Mrs. Pottle, sadly going over a column of figures, as she lay there, wan, weak, tear-marred, sipping pale tea.
He cleared his throat.
“As retiring treasurer of the Granville Pageant,” he announced, “I regret to report as follows:
Receipts from tickets $1,250.00
Expenses, including rent, music,
scenery, costumes, and damages, $1,249.17
“This leaves a total net profit of eighty-three cents.”
Mrs. Pottle wept softly into her pillow. A whistle outside caused her to lift a woeful head.
“There’s the postman,” she said, feebly. “Another bill, I suppose. We won’t even make eighty-three cents.”
Mr. Pottle returned with the letter; he opened it; he read it; he whistled; he read it again; then he read it aloud.
“Dear Mrs. Pottle:
“I never laughed at anything in my life till I saw your pageant. I pay for what I get.
“P. S. Inclosed is my check for one thousand dollars for the Day Nursery.”
Mrs. Pottle sat up in bed. She smiled.