POOR OLD BILL Simpkins! Nothing in this world was worth anything; nobody was right; all wrong, all wrong! Simpkins had no kin; and, not marrying, was “just plodding along,” living in a small room, with no fun, no constant company, no social goal to which to look forward; and had, thus, grown into what boys call “a big, old grouch.” But it wasn’t all Simpkins’ fault. A human mind was built for contact with similar minds. It should,—in fact,—it must think about what is going on around it; for, if it is shut up in a thick, dark, bony box of a skull, it will always stay in that condition known as status quo; and grow up, antagonistic to all surroundings. But Simpkins didn’t want to growl and grunt. It was practically as annoying to him as to folks around him But, as soon as that shut-up, solitary mind found anybody wanting it to do anything in confirmation of public opinion, - no! that mind would contract, as a snail in its spiral armor—and balk.

Lady Gadsby and His Honor, in talking about this, had thought of improving such a condition; but Simpkins was not a man to whom you could broach such a thought. It would only bring forth an outburst of sarcasm about “trying it on your own brain, first.” So Branton Hills’ Council always had so to word a “motion” as to, in a way, blind Simpkins as to its import. Many such a motion had a hard fight showing him its valuation as a municipal law; such as our big Hall of Natural History, our Zoo, and so on.

Now nothing can so light up such a mind as a good laugh. Start a man laughing, good, long and loud, and his mind’s grimy windows will slowly inch upward; snappy, invigorating air will rush in, and - lo! that old snarling, ugly grouch will vanish as hoar-frost in a warm Spring thaw!

And so it got around, on a bright Spring day, to Old Bill sitting on Gadsby’s front porch; outwardly calm, and smoking a good cigar (which didn’t blow up!), but, inwardly just full of snarls and growls about Branton Hills’ Youth.

“Silly half-grown young animals, found out that two plus two is four, and thinking that all things will fit, just that way!”

Now that small girl, “of about six,” who had had Nancy’s baby out in City Park, was passing Gadsby’s mansion, and saw Old Bill. A kid of six has, as you probably know, no formally laid-out plan for its daily activity; anything bobbing up will attract. So, with this childish instability of thought, this tiny miss ran up onto Gadsby’s porch and stood in front of Old Bill, looking up at him, but saying not a word.

“Huh !” Bill just had to snort. “Looking at anything?”

“No, sir.

“What!! Oh, that is, you think ‘not much,’ probably. What do you want, anyway.

“I want to play.”

“All right; run along and play.”

“No; I want to play with you.”

“Pooh!! That’s silly. I’m an old man. An old man can’t play.

“Can, too. My Grandpa can.

“But I’m not your Grandpa, thank my lucky stars. Run along now; I’m thinking.”

“So am I.”

“You? Huh! A kid can’t think.”

“Ooo-o! I can!”

“About what?”

“About playing with you.”

Now Simpkins saw that this was a condition which wouldn’t pass with scowling or growling, but didn’t know what to do about it. Play with a kid? What? Councilman Simpkins pl—

But into that shut-up mind, through a partially, - only partially,—rising window, was wafting a back thought of May Day in City Park; and that happy, singing, marching ring of tots around that ribbon-wound mast. Councilman Simpkins was in that ring.

So this thought got to tramping round and round many a musty corridor in his mind; throwing up a window, “busting in” a door, and shoving a lot of dust and rubbish down a back stairway. Round and round it ran, until, (!!) Old Bill, slowly and surprisingly softly, said:-

“What do you want to play?”

Oh! Oh! what a victory for that tot!! What a victory for Youth!! And what a fall for grouchy, snarling Maturity!! I think that Simpkins, right at that instant, saw that bright sunlight coming in through that rising window; rising by baby hands; and from that “bust in” door. I think that Old Bill cast off, in that instant, that hard, gloomy coating of dissatisfaction, which was gripping his shut-up mind. And I think,—in fact, I know,— that Old Bill Simpkins was now,—that is, was— was—was, oh, just plain happy!

“What do you want to play?”

“This is a lady, a-going to town.”

“Play what?”

My!! Don’t you know how to play that? All right; I’ll show you. Now just stick out your foot. That’s it. Now I’ll sit on it, so. Now you bump it up and down. Ha, ha! Ho, ho! That’s it! This is a lady, a-going to town, a-going to town, a-going to town! and as that tiny lady sang that baby song gaily and happily, Old Bill was actually laughing; and laughing uproariously, too!

As this sight was occurring, His Honor and Lady Gadsby, looking out from a parlor window, Gadsby said, happily:—

“A lady physician is working on Old Bill,” causing Lady Gadsby to add:

“And a mighty good doctor, too.”



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Books with no spinal columns.