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man is Slimmer. He has often contributed to the Argux verses of a distressing character, and I suppose Bangs must have become acquainted with him through the medium of the correspondence thus begun. No one in the world but Bangs would ever have selected such a poet for an editorial position. But Bangs is singular—he is exceptional. He never operates in accordance with any known laws, and he is more than likely to do any given thing in such a fashion as no other person could possibly have adopted for the purpose. As the Argus is also sui generis, perhaps Bangs does right to conduct it in a peculiar manner. But he made a mistake when he employed Mr. Slimmer.
The colonel, in his own small way, is tolerablv shrewd. He had observed the disposition of persons who nave been bereaved of their relatives to give expression to their feelings in verse, and it occurred to him that it might be profitable to use Slimmer's poetical talent in such a way as to make the Argus a very popular vehicle for the conveyance to the public of notices of deaths. That kind of intelligence, he well knew, is especially interesting to a very large class of readers, and he believed that if he could offer to each advertiser a gratuitous verse to accompany the obituary paragraph, the Argus would not only attract advertisements of that description from the country round about the village, but it would secure a much larger circulation.
When Mr. Slimmer arrived, therefore, and entered upon the performance of his duties, Colonel Bangs explained his theory to the poet, and suggested that whenever a deathnotice reached the office, he should immediately write a rhyme or two which should express the sentiments most suitable to the occasion.
"You underhand, Mr. Slimmer," said the colonel, "that when the death of an individual is announced I want you, as it were, to cheer the members of the afflicted family with the resources of your noble art. I wish you to throw yourself, you may say, into their situation, and to give them, f'r instance, a few lines about the deceased which will seem to be the expression of the emotion which agitates the breasts of the bereaved."
"To lighten the gloom in a certain sense," said Mr. Slimmer, " and to—"
"Precisely," exclaimed Colonel Bangs. "Lighten the gloom. Do not mourn over the departed, but rather take a loyous view of death, which, after all. Mr. Slimmer, is, as it were, but the entrance to a better life. Therefore, I wish on to touch the heart-strings of the afflicted with a tender and, and to endeavor, f'r mstance, to divert their minds from contemplation of the horrors of the tomb."
"Refrain from despondency, I suppose, and lift their thoughts to—"
"Just so! And at the same time combine elevating sentiment with such practical information as you can obtain from the advertisement. Throw a glamour of p«esy, f'r instance, over the commonplace details of the every-day life of the deceased. People are fond of minute descriptions. Some facts useful for this purpose may be obtained from the man who brings the notice to the office; others you may perhaps be able to supply from your imagination."
"I think I can do it first rate," said Mr. Slimmer.
"But, above all," continued the colonel, "try alwavs to take a bright view of the matter. Cause the sunshine of smiles, as it were, to burst through the tempest of tears; and if we don't make The Morning Argus hum around this town, it will be queer."
Mr. Slimmer had charge of the editorial department the next day during the absence of Colonel Bangs in Wilmington. Throughout the afternoon and evening death-notices arrived; and when one would reach Mr. Slimmer's desk, he would lock the door, place the fingers of his left hand among his hair and agonize until he succeeded in completing a verso that seemed to him to accord with his instructions.
The next morning Mr. Slimmer proceeded calmly to the office for the purpose of embalming in sympathetic verse the memories of other departed ones. As he came near to the establishment he observed a crowd of people in front of it, struggling to get into the door. Ascending some steps upon the other side of the street, he overlooked the crowd, and could see within the office the clerks selling papers as fasf as they could handle them, while the mob pushed and yelled in frantic efforts to obtain copies, the presses in the cellar meanwhile clanging furiously. Standing upon the curbstone in front of the office there was a long row of men, each ot whom was engaged in reading The Morning Argus with an earnestness that Mr. Slimmer had never before seen displayed by the patrons of that sheet. The bard concluded
the popular heart, or that an appalling disaster had occurred in some quarter of the globe.
He went around to the back of the office and ascended to the editorial rooms. As he approached the sanctum, loud voices were heard within. Mr. Slimmer determined to ascertain the cause before entering. He obtained a chair, and placing it by the side door, he mounted it and peeped over the door through the^transom. There sat Colonel Bangs, holding The Morning Argus in both hands, while the fringe which grew in a semicircle around the edge of his bald head stood straight out, until he seemed to resemble a gigantic gunswab. Two or three persons stood in front of him in threatening attitudes. Slimmer heard one of them say: "My name is McGlue, sir!—William McGlue! I am a
athetic chord in brother of the late Alexander McGlue. I picked up your paper this morning, and perceived in it an outrageous insult to my deceased relative, and I have come around to demand, sir, What You Mean by the following mfamous language:
•'' The death-angel smote Alexander McQlue,
And gave him protracted repose;
And he had a pink wart on hut nose.
Over there on the evergreen shore.
Precisely at quarter-past four.'
"This is simply diabolical! My late brother had no wart on his nose, sir. He had upon his nose neither a pink wart nor
other color. It is a slander! It is a gratuitous insult to my family, and I distinctly want you to say what do you mean by such conduct'!"
"Really, sir," said Bangs, " it is a mistake. This is the horrible work of a miscreant in whom I reposed perfect confidence. He shall be punished by my own hand for this outrage. A pink wart! Awful! sir—awful! The miserable scoundrel shall suffer for this—he shall, indeed!"
"How could 1 know," murmured Mr. Slimmer, to the foreman, who with him was listening, " that the corpse hadn't a pink wart? I used to know a man named McGlue, and he had one, and I thought all the McGlues had. This comes of irregularities in families."
"And who," said another man, addressing the editor, "authorized you to print this hideous stuff about my deceased son? Do you mean to say, Bangs, that it is not with your authority that your low comedian inserted with my advertisement the following scandalous burlesque? Listen to this:
''' Willie had a purple monkey climbing on a yellow stick.
Oh! no more he'll shoot his sister with his little wooden gun:
"The atrocious character of this libel will appear when I say that my son was twenty years old, and that he died of liver complaint."
"Infamous!—utterly infamous!" groaned the editor as h,e cast his eyes over the lines. "And the wretch who did this still remains unpunished! It is too much!"
"And yet," whispered Slimmer to the foreman, "he told me to lighten the gloom and to cheer the afflicted family with the resources of my art; and I certainly thought that
wart, nor a wart of any idea about the monkey would have that effect, somehow. Bangs is ungrateful!"
Just then there was a knock at the door, and a woman entered, crying.
* Are you the editor?" she inquired of Colonel Bangs. Bangs said he was.
"W-w-well!" she said in a voice broken by sobs, " whwhat d'you mean by publishing this kind of poetry about m-my child? M-my name is Sm-Smith; and wh-when I looked this m-morning for the notice of Johnny's d-death in your paper, I saw this scandalous verse:
"' Four doctors tackled Johnny Smith—
They blistered and they blod him;
And ipecac, they fed him.
And tried to move his liver;
Was wafted o'er The River.
"It's false! false! and mean! Johnny only had one doctor. And they d-didn't bl-bleed him and b-blister him. It's a wicked falsehood, and you're a hard-hearted brute f-f-for printing it!"
"Madam, I shall go crazy!" exclaimed Bangs. "This is not my work. It is the work of a villain whom I will slay with my own hand as soon as he comes in. Madam, the miserable outcast shall die!"
"Strange ! strange !" said .Slimmer. "And this man told me to combine elevating sentiment with practical information. If the information concerning the squills and ipecac, is not practical, I have misunderstood the use of that word. And if young Smith didn't have four doctors, it was an outrage. He ought to have had them, and they ought to have excited his liver. Thus it is that human life is sacrificed to carelessness."
At this juncture the sheriff entered, his brow clothed with thunder. He had a copy of The Morning Argus in his hand. He approached the editor, and pointing to a death-notice, said,
"Read that outrageous burlesque, and tell me the name of the writer, so that I can chastise him." The editor read as follows:
"Wo have lost our little Hnnner in a very painful manner,
When her death wits first reported, her aunt got up and snorted
"She was such a little seraph that her father, who is sheriff,
She has gone, we hope, to heaven, at the early age of sevon
"As a consequence of this, I withdraw all the county advertising from your paper. A man who could trifle in this manner with the feelings of a parent is a savage and a scoundrel P'
As the sheriff went out, Colonel Bangs placed his head upon the table and groaned.
"Really," Mr. Slimmer said, "that person must be deranged. I tried, in his case, to put myself in his place, and to write as if I was one of the family, according to instructions. The verses are beautiful. That allusion to the grief of her aunt, particularly, seemed to me to be very happy. It expresses violent emotion with a felicitous combination of sweetness and force. These people have no soul—no appreciation of the beautiful in art."
While the poet mused, hurried steps were heard upon the stairs, and in a moment a middle-aged man dashed in abruptly, and seizing the colonel's scattered hair, bumped his prostrate head against the table three or four times with considerable force. Having expended the violence of his emotion in this manner, he held the editor's head down with one hand, shaking it occasionally by way of emphasis, and with the other hand seized the paper and said,
"You disgraceful old reprobate! You disgusting vampire! You hoary-headed old ghoul! What d'you mean by putting such stuff as this in your paper about my deceased son? What d'you mean by printing such awful doggerel as this, you depraved and dissolute ink-slinger—you imbecile quilldriver, you!
"'OU! bury Bartholomew out in the wood*,
In a beautiful huh> in the ground,
And the straddle-bugs tumble around;
Have covored his last little bed,
And visit the place with his sled.'
"I'll teach you to talk about straddle-bugs! I'll instruct you about slush! I'll enlighten your insane old intellect on the subject of singing woodpeckers! What do you know about Jane and Artemas, you wretched buccaneer, you despicable butcher of the English language? Go out with a sled! I'll carry you out in a hearse before I'm done with you, you deplorable lunatic!"
At the end of every phrase the visitor gave the editor's head a fresh knock agamst the table. When the exercise was ended, Colonel Bangs explained and apologized in the humblest manner, promising at the same time to give his assailant a chance to flog Mr. Slimmer, who was expected li; arrive in a few moments.
"The treachery of this man," murmured the poet to tl.e foreman," is dreadful. Didn't he desire me to throw a glamour of poesy over commonplace details? But for that