Rivals

“What was the question fer debate?” asked the School Teacher.

“Resawlved that the Negro is more worthy o’ government support than the
Indian,” replied the Miller.

“And the decision?”

“One jedge voted fer the affirmative an’ one fer the negative.”

“And the third?”

“That’s where the trouble come. Ye see, Theophilus Bones was the third
jedge, an’ he got up an’ sayd that after hearin’ an’ weighin’ all the
argyments o’ the debaters he hed to concide that neither the Negro nor
the Indian was worthy.”

“Deadlocked!” cried the pedagogue, bringing his chair down on all four
legs with a crash, waving his arms and snapping his fingers. “Deadlocked,
sure. What did ye do?”

“See here,” interrupted the Chronic Loafer from his perch on a sugar
barrel, “I can’t see that it makes any diff’rence what they done.
S’posin’ the Airy View Liter’ry Society is deadlocked. How’s the poor
Injun goin’ to suffer any more by it?”

“But did you uns ever see sech dum jedges?” asked the Miller appealingly.
“I was on the negative.”

“The point is this,” said the Teacher, shaking his cigar at the occupant
of the barrel. “Here is a modern liter’ry society, whose main purpose is
trainin’ its members in the art of debate. An important question is put
before this same society for formal discussion, and yet these self-same
trained debaters makes their points so badly that one o’ the jedges can’t
decide on the merits o’ the question.”

“It ain’t so bad at all,” the Tinsmith exclaimed. “I once heard Aleck
Bolum on that wery question. He argyed both affirmative an’ negative. All
three o’ the jedges was deadlocked. None of ’em could concide.”

“Bolum must ’a’ ben a wonderful talker,” the Loafer said.

“Wonderful? Well, I guesst he was. Why, it was his debatin’ broke up the
Kishikoquillas Liter’ry Society. An’ that was a flourishin’ organization,
too. Me an’ my old frien’ Perry Muthersbaugh started it together. After
he went west Andrew Magill tuk a holt of it. He run it tell Aleck Bolum
stepped in. Then it was a tug-o-war.

“Bolum was a livin’ Roberts-rules-of-order. He was a walkin’ encyclopedy
of information. He knowd it an’ never lost no opportunity of showin’ it.
Kishikoquillas school-house was his principal place fer exhibitin’. From
the time Andrew Magill’s gavel fell on Friday night tell a motion was
made to adjourn, Aleck was on his feet. Ef he wasn’t gittin’ off a select
readin’ or a recytation or debatin’, he was risin’ to pints of order,
appealin’ from the decision o’ the chair, callin’ fer divisions or movin’
we proceed to new business. Ye couldn’t git any fresh wood put in the
stove ’thout hevin’ him move the ’pointment of a committee to do it. Ef a
lamp burned low he’d want to hev it referred to the committee on lights.
He even tried to git the recordin’ seckertary impeached because she kep’
the minutes in lead-pencil.”

“What fer a lookin’ felly was this Aleck Bolum?” asked the Chronic Loafer.

“He was a thin, leetle man, with a clean-shaved, hatchet face, an’ a
bald spot on the top o’ his head over which he plastered a few skein o’
lemon-colored hair.”

“An’ he wore a Prince Al-bert coat?” inquired the Loafer anxiously.

“Yes, a shiny black un. An’ he’d stand up an’ th’ow out his chist.”

“Why, that’s where half the trouble come,” interrupted the Loafer. “Don’t
you know that ef ye put a Prince Al-bert coat on a clothes-horse, it’ll
stan’ right up an’ begin argyin’ with ye?”

“My dear felly,” replied the Tinsmith, “Aleck Bolum ’ud ’a’ argyed in his
grave clothes. They wasn’t no stoppin’ him. We thot mebbe we could quiet
him be givin’ him an office, so we ’lected him correspondin’ seckertary,
cal’latin’ he’d hev nawthin’ to do an’ ’ud be satisfied with the honor.
We’d complete misjedged him. He got up a debate be correspondence with
a liter’ry society out in Kansas an’ tuk up half our evenin’s readin’
reports on it.

“So Aleck Bolum didn’t give Andrew Magill much chancet, even tho’ he was
president. It went hard with Andrew, too, fer he liked to fill in all
the cracks in the meetin’ hisself, an’ objected to havin’ Aleck bobbin’
up with pints of order every time he opened his mouth. But fer my part
I allus preferred Bolum to Magill. Bolum wasn’t musical. Magill was.
’Henever one o’ the reg’lar men on the progrim ’ud fail to be on hand an’
he could head Aleck off, Andrew ’ud git up an’ say, ‘Mister So-an’-so,
who hed the ess’y fer the evenin’, bein’ absent, the chair has consented
to fill in the interval be singin’ a solo.’ Or the chair ’ud sing a duet
with the seckertary; or the chair ’ud sing an anthem ’sisted be the
society quartette. Then he’d stand up with his music marks an’ start away
on twenty verses about Mother or Alice.

“Things kept gittin’ worse an’ worse. They final come to a head one
night ’hen Aleck Bolum rose to a pint of order durin’ one of Andrew’s
highest notes. Magill hed to stop singin’ an’ ast him to state his pint.
Then Aleck moved the solo be the president be taken up under onfinished
business. Andrew jest choked.

“‘Hen the president got th’oo chokin’, we tuk up the debate. Everything
was subdued like. Andrew set on the platform wery quiet an’ solemn. The
debaters didn’t put no heart in their work fer they was busy keepin’
one eye on him an’ the other on Bolum. Every one was kind o’ nervous
an’ hushed–that is, every one ’cept Aleck. He argyed that the pen was
mightier then the sword in the reg’lar debate. ’Hen the argyment was
th’owed open to all he got up agin an’ proved that the sword was mightier
then the pen.

“We got th’oo with the debate an’ nawthin’ hed happened. Then Andrew
Magill rose to give out the progrim fer the next meetin’. He looked
solemn like at his paper a minute; then gazed ’round the room. Ye could
’a’ heard a pin drop.

“‘Several o’ our members,’ sais he, ‘complains that they ain’t hed no
opportunity to be heard afore this society. This progrim is got up
especial to satisfy these gentlemen.’

“An’ the progrim fer the follyin’ Friday, which he read out, run like
this: ‘Readin’ o’ the Scriptur’ be the president; roll call; select
readin’, Mr. Aleck Bolum; recytation, Mr. Aleck Bolum; extemporaneous
oration, Mr. Aleck Bolum; ess’y, The True Patriot, Mr. Aleck Bolum;
debate, Resawlved that works o’ natur’ is more beautiful then works o’
art–affirmative, Mr. Aleck Bolum; negative, Mr. Aleck Bolum.’

“Andrew finished an’ set down in his chair. They wasn’t even a whisper
fer every eye in the room was turned on the correspondin’ seckertary. He
arose deliberate like, cleared his th’oat, th’owed open his coat so his
red tie showed better, put the thumb o’ his left hand in his waistcoat
pocket, raised the other hand, pintin’ his forefinger at the president.
We was ready fer somethin’ hot.

“‘Mr. Chairman,’ he sayd, never crackin’ a smile. ‘I desires right here
to express my approval o’ this new plan o’ yours o’ hevin’ the same man
debate both sides o’ the question. It’s an excellent idee. Under the
ole rule, where the debater was allowed to speak only on one side, we
developed lopsided speakers. An’ I want to say right here an’ now an’ to
everybody in this room that I, fer my part, ’ll do my best to make next
week’s meetin’ beneficial to us all.’




“‘Hen Andrew Magill seen how he’d played right into Aleck Bolum’s hand,
thots failed to express his indignation. He adjourned the meetin’,
blowed out the lamps, put on his overcoat an’ hat an’ walked outen the
school-house an’ down the road, jest all bubblin’ over. But Andrew wasn’t
easy beaten. He’d no idee o’ settin’ all evenin’ listenin’ to Aleck
Bolum’s ess’ys an’ select readin’s. He slipped ’round ’mong the members
on the quiet an’ explained how he’d an invite from the Happy Grove
Social Singin’ Club, to bring the whole society up there the follyin’
Friday. He explained what a good un it ’ud be on Aleck ’hen he got to the
school-house with his progrim all prepared an’ found fer an aud’ence–Mr.
Aleck Bolum. An’ ez he offered to kerry three sled loads o’ members to
the grove hisself, everybody agreed. It really begin to look ez ef Aleck
was goin’ to be squelched.

“The snow was two feet deep, an’ the sleighin’ was fine. It tuk jest
’bout an hour an’ a half to cover the twelve mile ’tween Kishikoquillas
an’ Happy Grove. We’d a splendid time, too. Andrew was in high sperrits.
He pictured Aleck arunnin’ the liter’ry meetin’ all hisself, an’ give
an imytation o’ the debate on the question whether works o’ natur’ was
more beautiful then works of art. It was killin’. I mind now how Andrew
hed jest started in showin’ us Bolum’s recytation, ’hen we reached the
clearin’ where the school-house stood.

“The place was dark, absolute dark, an’ the door was locked. They wasn’t
a soul in sight. Magill got out his watch. It sayd eight-fifteen an’
the singin’ school was set fer eight. It looked pecul’ar. We guesst we’d
better wait. So one o’ the boys climbed th’oo a winder an’ unlocked the
door, an’ we all went in. A few can’les was found an’ lit. Then we set
down to watch fer the arrival o’ the Happy Grove Social Singin’ Club.
They wasn’t any fire, an’ the place was cold an’ disygreeable. Some
wanted to go home, but Andrew sayd no. We was the club’s guests. Some of
’em ’ud be ’long any minute. It wouldn’t be right fer them to find us
gone. So we kep’ settin’, an’ wonderin’, an’ guessin’.

“At the end of an hour we hear sleigh-bells down the road. Then they was
a stampin’ o’ boots outside on the portico.

“‘Here they is at last,’ sais Andrew, gittin’ up on the platform an’
rappin’ fer order.

“The door opened. In steps Aleck Bolum. The whole society give a groan.

“‘What’s the trouble?’ sais he, walkin’ to the middle o’ the room. ‘I
don’t hear no singin’.’

“The society jest hung their heads an’ looked sheepish.

“‘Where’s the Happy Grove Social Singin Club?’ sais he pleasant like. ‘I
sees only our own members.’

“No one sayd nawthin’.

“Aleck unwound his comforter, unbottoned his coat, th’owed out his chist
an’ cried, ‘Mr. Chairman, hev I the floor?’

“Magill kind o’ mumbled.

“‘Then,’ sais Bolum, ‘Mebbe I can th’ow some light on the hushed voices
I see gethered ’round me here to-night. Firstly, I’d like to say that
we’d a most excellent meetin’ at Kishikoquillas this evenin’. After we
adjourned I thot I’d run up here an’ see how you was makin’ out, fer
I hed pecul’ar interest in this getherin’. Th’oo some mistake I was
not properly notified that our members was comin’ here, but I learned
of it. I wanted to see the Kishikoquillas Liter’ry Society do itself
proud to-night at music ez well ez literature. So in my capacity ez
correspondin’ seckertary I got up a musical progrim yeste’day an’
forwarded it to the president of the Happy Grove Social Singin’ Club,
explainin’ how our organization ’ud entertain his organization to-night
with melody, instrumental an’ vocal.’

“Bolum stopped an’ drawed a paper out o’ his pocket.

“‘Will the seckertary please read the progrim?’ he sayd.

“Josiah Weller tuk the paper. He looked at it. Then he piked one eye on
the president.

“‘Ye may read the progrim, Mr. Seckertary,’ sais Andrew, wery dignified.

“An’ Josiah read like this, ‘The Kishikoquillas Liter’ry Society will
be pleased to render fer the entertainment o’ the Happy Grove Social
Singin’ Club the follyin’ selections: bass-horn solo, The Star Spangled
Banner, Mr. Andrew Magill.’

“The chairman’s gavel come down on the table, an’ he rose an’ said, ‘I
feels flattered be Mr. Bolum puttin’ me on the progrim, but he otter ’a’
notified me, so I could ’a’ brung me horn.’

“‘Go on, Mr. Seckertary,’ sais Aleck, wery cool.

“Josiah continyerd, ‘Vocal solo, I see Mother’s Face at the Window, Mr.
Andrew Magill.’

“The Chairman looked wery pleased.

“‘Go on, Mr. Seckertary,’ sayd Aleck.

“‘An ole time jig, jewsharp an’ harmonica mixed, Mr. Andrew Magill; vocal
solo, Meet Me Alice at the Golden Gate, Mr. Andrew Magill; anthem, Angel
Voices, Mr. Andrew Magill, ’sisted be the society.’

“Josiah Weller didn’t git no furder. They was a low roar went over the
room. Some felly in the rear ’lowed we otter put him in the pond. But
they wasn’t no one to put. Aleck Bolum hed dissypeared. We got to the
door in time to hear his sleigh-bells jinglin’ way off th’oo the woods.
Seemed like we could ’most hear him chucklin’, too.”

“But what hed become o’ the Happy Grove Social Singin’ Club?” asked the
Miller. “Why wasn’t they there?”

“I guesst you never heard Andrew Magill sing, did ye?” replied the
Tinsmith.