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
 
Mrs. Partington’s Oracular Pearls
By Benjamin Penhallow Shillaber (1814–1890)
 
From “Partingtonian Patchwork”

“YOUR neighbor Kloots has grown quite obese,” said the schoolmaster to Mrs. Partington, as they sat by the window.
  1
  Mrs. Partington greatly deprecated any ill remark about any one, and she heard the observation in silence, until the schoolmaster continued:  2
  “Don’t you think so?”  3
  “Why, as to his being a beast,” replied she, “I am not willing to say, though some say he is very glutinous in his habits, and sometimes is indicted to steamiousness; but there is nothing harmonious about him that I know of; so I should be loath to call him so. The least we say is soonest mended, and none of us are any better than we ought to be, with corruption without and temptation within, and the Lord knows what, to disturb our equal Abraham, and bring us down all of a sudden, as Mr. Buss cut his leg——”  4
  “I meant fat—obese—fat, madam,” said the schoolmaster.  5
  “Well,” she replied, “perhaps he is, which you might have said so at first; but that has no weight against his character, that I know of, if he came honestly by it, which is none of my business.”  6
  The rebuke was well received, and Ike, who had listened attentively, drew with charcoal the picture of a fat man on the white closet door.  7
 
  “How limpid you walk!” said a voice behind us, as we were making a hundred and fifty horse-power effort to reach a table whereon reposed a volume of Bacon. “What is the cause of your lameness?” It was Mrs. Partington’s voice that spoke, and Mrs. Partington’s eyes that met the glance we returned over our left shoulder. “Gout,” said we, briefly, almost surlily. “Dear me,” said she; “you are highly flavored! It was only rich people and epicacs in living that had the gout in olden times.” “Ah!” we growled, partly in response, and partly with an infernal twinge. “Poor soul!” she continued, with commiseration, like an anodyne, in the tones of her voice; “the best remedy I know of for it is an embarkation of Roman wormwood and lobelia for the part infected, though some say a cranberry poultice is best; but I believe the cranberries is for erisipilis, and whether either of ’em is a rostrum for the gout or not, I really don’t know. If it was a fraction of the arm, I could jest know how to subscribe.” We looked into her eye with a determination to say something severely bitter, because we felt allopathic just then; but the kind and sympathizing look that met our own disarmed severity, and sinking into a seat with our coveted Bacon, we thanked her. It was very evident, all the while that she, or they, stayed, that Ike was seeing how near he could come to our lame member and not touch it. He did touch it sometimes, but those didn’t count.  8
 
  “It is roominous enough in here,” said Mrs. Partington, as she hung her bandbox and umbrella upon the side of the car on the Eastern Railroad, and took her seat. “I declare, I am very lucky to get so good a seat, when the cars are so crowded by execrationists going to the mountains or seashore. It is quite ill-convenient to travel at such times; but with an agreeable company, and a nice car like this, it is very pleasant.”  9
  “This is not an ice car, madam,” replied the gentleman to whom she addressed her remark.  10
  “Well, I must say that tobacco-smoke is not so nice as it might be, and I don’t think people behave themselves altogether as well as they might who smoke where there is ladies; but we must take folks as we find ’em.”  11
  “Have a cigar, madam?” said her acquaintance.  12
  “No, thank you,” she replied, astonished at his audacity, as she saw him rub a match and light his weed.  13
  “Go it alone!” said a voice behind her.  14
  “Yes,” said she, “I’m alone,” thinking herself addressed.  15
  She looked round to see a game of euchre progressing. As Batchelder, the conductor, entered, he saw the black bonnet and the kind eyes, and whispered in her ear, “You are in the smoking-car;” whereupon she went out and found her sphere in the next car.  16
 
  “I’ve always noticed,” said Mrs. Partington on New Year’s Day, dropping her voice to the key that people adopt when they are disposed to be philosophical or moral, “I’ve always noticed that every year added to a man’s life is apt to make him older, just as a man who goes a journey finds, as he jogs on, that every mile he goes brings him nearer where he is going, and farther from where he started. I am not so young as I was once, and I don’t believe I shall ever be, if I live to the age of Samson, which, Heaven knows as well as I do, I don’t want to, for I wouldn’t be a centurian or an octagon, and survive my factories, and become idiomatic by any means. But then there is no knowing how a thing will turn out till it takes place; and we shall come to an end some day, though we may never live to see it.”  17
  There was a smart tap on the looking-glass that hung upon the wall, followed instantly by another.  18
  “Gracious!” said she; “what’s that? I hope the glass isn’t fractioned, for it’s a sure sign of calamity, and mercy knows they come along full fast enough without helping ’em by breaking looking-glasses.”  19
  There was another tap, and she caught sight of a white bean that fell on the floor; and there, reflected in the glass, was the face of Ike, who was blowing beans at the mirror through a crack in the door.  20
 
  “Mrs. Partington et als.!” said Mrs. P., as Ike read an eulogistic notice of herself and retinue thus headed. “Is that so, Isaac?”  21
  “’Tain’t nothing else,” replied he, thrusting the cat’s head through the paper, which served as an elaborated choker.  22
  “Et als.!” mused she. “I never ate als in my life that I know of, though there is so many dishes with new names that one might forget ’em all, unless he is an epicac.”  23
  She turned everything in her mind to remember what she had eaten—her mind over full of turnovers—but it refused to come to her; and she made a memorandum, by tying a knot in her handkerchief, to call on the editor and find out about it. Ike sat upon the leaf of the extension-table, swinging his feet beneath it, trying to make a tune out of the creak.  24
 
 
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