Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > American
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vols. I–V: American
 
The Patent Gas Regulator
By Charles Bertrand Lewis (M Quad) (1842–1924)
 
“I WAS thinking to-day that it was about time!” observed Mrs. Bowser, as Mr. Bowser came home the other evening with a suspicious-looking package under his arm.  1
  “About time for what?”  2
  “I suppose you’ve run across some more germ-killer, or a new kind of medicine-chest, or a pocket fire-escape. How on earth you let people take you in as they do is a wonder to me!”  3
  “Who has ever taken me in?” he hotly demanded.  4
  “Everybody who had anything in the shape of a swindle.”  5
  “I deny it! You can’t point to one single instance where I have made a poor investment! On the contrary, I have saved us hundreds of dollars per year in cold cash, not to mention sickness, suffering, and doctors’ bills, by the outlay of a few shillings now and then.”  6
  “What new idea is it this time?” she asked, as she resigned herself to the inevitable.  7
  “Mrs. Bowser,” he replied, after walking back and forth across the room three or four times, “if I can save one-half of our gas bill just as well as not, I’d be a chump not to do it, wouldn’t I?”  8
  “We can save it all by burning kerosene.”  9
  “Don’t try to be funny, Mrs. Bowser. The gas bill is a serious thing. If I can save anywhere from thirty to forty dollars per month by the outlay of a couple of dollars at the start, common sense dictates my course. If I didn’t save to offset your waste, we should soon be in the poorhouse. The gas bill for last month was something appalling.”  10
  “It was four dollars and twenty cents, I believe.”  11
  “What you believe has nothing to do with the matter. If it wasn’t seventy-five or eighty dollars, it will be this month. Mrs. Bowser, do you know the principle on which a gas-meter works?”  12
  “No.”  13
  “Of course not; and yet you assume to criticize my actions! There is a bellows inside the meter. The bellows is arranged to force the gas through the pipes faster than it can be burned, and thereby profit the gas company. We have paid out thousands of dollars for gas we never burned, and the time has come to call a halt.”  14
  “Well?”  15
  “I have here a patent regulator. It is attached to the inlet pipe. With this on, the pressure is decreased and no gas wasted. Any child can attach it. It is simple, compact, and nothing about it to get out of order. By the expenditure of four dollars I save hundreds.”  16
  “Well, don’t blame me if it doesn’t work; and I’m sure it won’t.”  17
  “Because I wish to save a thousand dollars instead of giving it to the gas company you are sure it won’t work. Is it any wonder, Mrs. Bowser, that so many husbands throw their dollars away and pauperize their families? You object to my scheme. Of course you’d object. Nevertheless, the attachment will be attached, and before nine o’clock to-night the president of our gas company will hear something drop.”  18
  After dinner Mr. Bowser armed himself with a monkey-wrench, a hammer, a pair of pincers, a hatchet, a saw, and other things, and disappeared in the cellar, and half an hour later came up-stairs to rub his hands and chuckle and announce:  19
  “The president of the gas company is already beginning to grow white ’round the mouth, Mrs. Bowser. He won’t put in four weeks at the Catskills next summer on our cash. Can’t you see the difference already?”  20
  “I see no difference whatever,” she replied, as she looked up at the chandelier.  21
  “Of course not. I didn’t expect you would. When a wife is determined to bankrupt her husband, she can’t see anything intended to save a dollar. The regulator is regulating, however, and I feel as if a great burden had rolled off my back.”  22
  A dozen times during the evening Mr. Bowser got up to walk about and chuckle and refer to that regulator, and he went to bed figuring that the gas company would be financially busted in six months. He hadn’t got to sleep when Mrs. Bowser asked him if he didn’t smell gas.  23
  “Not a smell!” he replied, as he turned over. “The president of the gas company probably smells a rat, but there is no odor of gas here.”  24
  It was daylight next morning when a policeman rang the doorbell and banged away till he got Mr. Bowser down-stairs, and said:  25
  “I’ve been smelling gas around here all night. You’d better look at your meter. The odor seems to come from that open cellar window.”  26
  He went down with Mr. Bowser to investigate. The regulator and the inlet pipe had parted company, and for eight or nine hours the gas had been steadily pouring out of the open window and sailing around the corner of the house. At the breakfast table, after the plumber and the policeman and the crowd had departed, and the house had been aired, and the cook’s wages raised fifty cents a week to keep her on, Mrs. Bowser looked up, and asked:  27
  “Mr. Bowser, if you call it eight hours, how much gas will have gone out of that window?”  28
  He pretended not to hear, and hadn’t a word to say until he stood at the door ready to go to the office. Then he turned on her with:  29
  “You can figure it with your lawyer. You can give him the exact hour you sneaked down there and uncoupled that regulator to spite me, and he can work it out. While you are not entitled to alimony, I am willing for the sake of our child that you should have a reasonable sum until you can learn to make straw hats or hickory shirts! Farewell, Mrs. Bowser; the worm has turned!”  30
  But “the worm” returned home at the usual hour, and two days later, when Mrs. Bowser saw the patent gas regulator in the back yard and asked what it was, he quietly replied:  31
  “It’s probably an old beer faucet that Green heaved at those howling cats last night!”  32
 
 
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