Economic Waste

Economic Waste  (1919) 
by Ellis Parker Butler

Extracted from Everybody's magazine, v41, October 1919, pp. 46-51. Accompanying illustrations omitted.

Economic Waste

By Ellis Parker Butler
Author of "Pigs is Pigs," "That Pup," etc.

MURRAY TILFORD was leaning up against the cigar counter, and old E. W.—Ed Winters—was sitting in the chair that had come to be known as his. Sim Cotter, who ran the Smokeorium, was behind the counter sitting on the high stool he had there, with one of his feet on the edge of the shelf under the counter—the one on which he kept the pail of fine-cut chewing—and the heel of the other foot caught over one of the rungs of the stool. B. Z. Beeton had the floor, and he was mad. He was mad all through and spilling over. Murray Tilford and the four or five other fellows had been guiding him, and he was all stirred up and rampant. He was so mad his long thin nose was as white as an Easter lily.

“Laugh, then, you—you noodles!” he shouted. “Just because the money powers downed me eight times for that city attorneyship in this man's town, you think you know such an all-fired lot! You don't know what's going on in the world. You loaf around here and stink up the air with your tobacco and— My God! I tell you it's coming! Laugh—you'll see!”

“How about that, Sim?” Murray Tilford drawled. “Looks like B. Z. don't like the kind of smokes you been selling lately.”

B. Z. Beeton glared at him. He was so mad he trembled.

“Well, I don't know,” said Sim good-naturedly; “maybe he refers to them cigar-clippings old E. W. uses. How about it, E. W.?”

Old E. W.—Ed Winters—grinned, and took his old black pipe from his mouth with a hand that trembled with age.

“Well, the way you put it, Sim, it looks as it there might be something into it,” he said.

HE always said just that. Very often the talk ran hot and high in the Smokeorium, and if Joe Collins worked himself white hot, and swore the Republicans were a lot of dod-rotted thieves and rascals and referred it to old E. W., the old man always said, “Well, the way you put it, Joe, it looks as if there might be something into it.” And if Henry Jeffers got just as angry, and declaimed that Joe Collins and the Democrats from Andrew Jackson down were a horde of robbers and cutthroats, old E. W. would say, if Henry appealed to him, “Well, the way you put it, Henry, it looks as if there might be something into it.”

The only time on record when E. W. came right out and said more than that was when Jeff Edmond argued in favor of the transmigration of souls and the reappearance of the departed in new bodies at some later date. “The way you put that, Jeff,” old E. W. said, “blamed if I don't believe it.” But that was long before B. Z. turned Socialist.

“Yes, you!” B. Z. Beeton cried, turning on old E. W. “You, with your everlasting 'might be something into it.' You're one of the kind of men I mean. You and millionaires and tramps and all the loafers. Economic waste, the whole lot of you. You eat, you smoke, you are clothed, you are housed, and you don't produce a dang thing. You let Society toil and sweat and work, and you use up the product, and you don't produce your share.”

HE stopped to get a breath, and Murray Tilford, grinning, spoke up. “Now, I know what them initials of yours stand for, E. W.,” he said in his teasing drawl. “'E. W.'—Economic Waste. I guess you're the old original Economic Waster from away back, ain't you, E. W.?”

Old E. W. turned his watery old eyes toward Murray. He grinned in appreciation of the joke.

“Well, the way you put it, Murray, it looks as if there might be something into it,” he said.

“'Something into it'!” mocked B. Z. “You bet there is 'something into it'! Here's a man—” he pointed his long, thin forefinger at E. W.—“Here's a man never did an honest day's work in his life. Here's an example of what I mean. Economic Waste!” he said, turning to Murray Tilford. “You hit it! It ought to be his name. What has this man ever done to create food or clothing or housing? And yet he has eaten, and worn clothes and lived in a house. I'll bet he has not earned the very tobacco he smokes. Here is a man who has lived seventy years——

“Seventy-six,” said Murray Tilford.

“Seventy-six years,” said B. Z. Beeton, annoyed by the interruption, “and he has never contributed one honest day's work to the common good. Here is a man whose life has been one long sinful Economic Waste. A dog that turns a churn has been of more value to the world. This man never works——

“I drive the hearse once in a while, B. Z.,” said old E. W. tremulously.

B. Z. threw out his arms as if that were the last straw.

“Great guns!” he exclaimed. “He drives the hearse once in a while! He eats three meals a day, and wears clothes, and lives under a roof, and he drives the hearse once in a while! Great guns!”

Nobody said anything for a minute. When it was put that way in such concrete form, with a long bony finger pointing straight at old E. W., it did look as if there might be “something into it.” As a matter of fact, old E. W. was a good example to choose. Labor had never been his strong point. His father had run the Riverbank Hotel before the Civil War, and E. W. had not been obliged to do any work; and when E. W. enlisted, and after a pleasant vacation at a training-camp came home again, he did no work. By the time his father died E. W. had a pension. He was never quite sure why he got one, except that old C. K. Beeton, B. Z.'s father, was a pension lawyer and got it for him. Somehow E. W. felt that while he was drawing pension from the Government it would be wrong and ungrateful to go to work and earn money—“on the side,” as it were—so he just did not work. Especially as his sister Josie was a widow and had a spare room.

From the time he was sixty or so E. W.'s hang-out was the Rapps' livery-stable, and on pleasant days he sat on the pants-polished bench outside. On bad days he sat in the big office, close to the stove. In a way he was officially connected with the livery-stable. He was the official hearse-driver, but Riverbank was a healthy town and there were two other hearses, and there were months at a time when old E. W. had nothing to do but sit and smoke. Hearse-driving in a healthy town is not a job that overworks a man.

SIM Cotter, when he opened his Smokeorium, meant it to be the most popular cigar-store in Iowa. He figured that with the bar-rooms all closed, the men would be glad to have a clubby place where they would be absolutely welcome to sit smoke; so he put in twenty-four chairs, and two pool-tables in the back room, and the Smokeorium made a hit.

One of the first men to drop into the Smokeorium when Sim opened its door was old E. W. He came in and bought a package of cigar-clippings, which was what he smoked in his old black pipe. He looked the place over and liked it.

“Right smart idee, Sim,” he said in his cracked, aged voice. “Right clever notion, but I reckon you didn't get it up for me to loaf in. I'm likely to be too permanent if I once start in.” He chuckled. “I guess this tobacco I smoke would smell up the place too bad, anyway. It ain't exactly perfume, Sim.”

“Oh, I guess this Smokeorium can stand the smell of anything it sells, or it won't sell it,” said Sim. “You don't get my idea, E. W. This is Liberty Hall, this is. This is a democratic place. Why, I don't know but what you and your pipe would be the welcomest members of the Smokeorium. When that tobacco of yours gets to stewing away in that old pipe of yours, there won't be anybody ashamed to smoke anything in it, no matter what his brand is. Stick if you feel like it.”

“Well, the way you put it, Sim, it looks like there ought to be something into it,” said E. W., and he stuck around. Rapp had a telephone, and hearses are seldom needed in a rush, like cabs to catch trains.

Old E. W. was quite an asset to Sim Cotter in a way. He could take a joke and grin—any kind of a joke. He was useful in another way, too. Sim used him to stop arguments when they became too vitriolic and threatened ill feeling. “Now, hold on!” Sim would say just when two word-fighters were ready to bite each other. “We got to have expert opinion on this. Let's find out how it strikes E. W. You heard what Grant Riggs said, E. W. What do you think of it?”

Old E. W. never failed Sim on such occasions.

“Well, the way he puts it, Sim,” he would say, “it looks like there might be something into it.”

At first E. W. meant this seriously, but after the remark had been greeted with a yell of joy once or twice, he got to saying it as his contribution to the joy of nations. He had a hazy notion it was witty or something. He was glad to be able to add to the good nature of the people he liked so well. When his remark brought a loud yell of laughter, he felt as an actor feels when his act has been well received. He was willing to be the butt of the good-natured jokes.

But what B. Z. said was different. B. Z. was not kindly. B. Z. was sore. B. Z. always carried around an unextinguished coal of anger, ready to be stirred into a blaze of wrath. A man is apt to be like that when he has been beaten for the city attorneyship eight successive years. For three years he was the only man on the local Democratic ticket not elected, and then he tried the Republicans, and was licked three times. He went down the next year with the whole Citizens' ticket, when all the Republican ticket got in. Then he ran as an independent and lost. He was fifth in a field of five with the Socialist candidate two places above him in the final returns. Now he was with the Socialists and he was doing his best to let it be known.

“Great guns!” he cried. “Here's a man—a citizen—seventy-six years old, and all he can say for himself is that he drives a hearse once in a while! Suppose every living man drove a hearse once in a while and did nothing else! The whole world would be houseless—without clothes. The whole world would starve to death.”

He was violent about it. He shook his fist.

“Well, I don't know,” drawled Murray Tilford. “If the whole bunch of us starved to death, it would give old Economic Waste here quite considerable hearse-driving to do, anyway.”

“You joke at it!” shouted B. Z., turning on him. “You are the sort of man that perpetuates the evil. You laugh at this—this poor, worthless, no-account old wretch here, and blind his eyes to his awful infamy. Look at him grinning here like a silly ape, on the edge of his grave, and at this very minute owing Society a lifetime of labor. Look at him, gentlemen, this living, breathing, worthless example of absolute lifelong economic waste!”

B. Z. stood for a long moment dramatically, his long finger pointed at old E. W., and then he stalked out of the Smokeorium.

“Jingo!” said Murray Tilford. “Quite a storm. We've had some breezes in here, but that was a reg'lar cyclone. Sim, is my head on straight or did he blow it crooked? What do you think of his say-so, E. W.?”

“Well, the way he put it, Murray, it looks like there might be——

HE stopped right there. He did not have the heart to go on. There was one thing he prided himself on, and only one, and for ten or fifteen years he had braced himself against the thought of death by holding tight to that one fact—he did not owe any living being one cent. And now out of a clear sky B. Z. Beeton had flashed upon him the lightning of modern economics, and had shown him that he was not only not out of debt, but that he owed Society whole oodles of things.

“Murray,” he said falteringly, “how much—how much, accordin' to B. Z., do you figger I owe to Society?”

Murray Tilford scratch his head. He took a scrap of paper from the floor, and dug a stump of pencil from his pocket.

“I got to figger a thing like that, E. W.,” he said. “I can't do no such big sums in my head. You're seventy-six years old, say, and I reckon B. Z. wouldn't expect you to go to work before you was eighteen. Eight from six is eight, and the seven is a six, and one from six is five. That's fifty-eight years.”

“I've drove the hearse some, Murray,” old E. W. reminded him.

“Yes. I'm going to credit you up with that, E. W.,” Murray assured him. “I got to figger it down. Fifty-eight years, and say three hundred work-days a year, that makes three times eight is twenty-four. Put down four and carry the two. Three times five's fifteen an' two to carry is seventeen. And add on them two ciphers makes it seventeen thousand four hundred days.”

“But I drove the hearse some,” old E. W. said pleadingly.

“I'm coming to that, E. W.,” said Murray. “I got to figger this out first. S'pose we let on that eight hours is a good day's work. Eight times four is——

Old E. W. got out of his chair and went to stand by the counter, looking over Murray's arm as he did the sum.

“It's one hundred and thirty-nine thousand two hundred hours; that's what it is,” Murray said. “How many funerals do you calculate you've drove the hearse at, E. W.?”

NIGH to three hundred,” said E. W. eagerly.

“Three hundred, hey? Funeral starts at one o'clock generally, and hearse gits back to Rapp's by five o'clock easy. Four hours, that's liberal. Four times three hundred is twelve hundred. Take that from, and you owe Society just an even one hundred and thirty-eight thousand hours of work, E. W.”

In spite of himself, old E. W's mouth fell open so far that his pipe fell clattering to his feet, snapping the stem from the bowl. He did not so much as bend to retrieve it.

“My! My!” he exclaimed with awe. “I wouldn't have believed it of me. Hundred and— How much, Murray?”

“It's one hundred and thirty-eight thousand hours, E. W.,” said Murray.

It was overwhelming. For a full minute old E. W. stood as if it dazed him.

“Hundred and thirty-eight thousand!” he mumbled. “That many thousands. One hundred and thirty-eight of em! My! My! Murray, how many days' work is a thousand hours; just one thousand of 'em?”

“About one hundred and twenty-two days, E. W.,” said Murray, when he had figured it out.

“My! My!” exclaimed E. W. “One hundred and twenty-two days one hundred and thirty-eight times over! Why, I don't hardly believe I can make it, Murray. I don't figger I can live more than five years more. How much would it come to if I was to work, say, ten hours a day for five years, Murray?”

“Sundays and holidays, too?”

“Yes. The whole blamed time.”

“Eighteen thousand hours,” said Murray, when he had figured it out. “It would leave one hundred and twenty thousand, E. W., taking it from.”

“My! My!” said old E. W. “And I never thought anything about it. I just went along and never gave it a thought, and it was pilin' up on me all the while. One hundred and thirty-eight thousand hours! I don't hardly believe I can make it. Well——

He turned away and walked toward the door.

“Here, E. W., you forgot your pipe,” Sim called after him, not knowing it was broken.

“It's broke,” E. W. said listlessly. “I ain't going to have no time to smoke, anyhow.”

He went out, and the fellows were silent for a while.

“You done it now, Murray,” Sim said soberly.

“I done it? Don't you go and blame me, Sim Cotter!” said Murray, “B. Z. done it, dang his hide; I didn't do it. Next time I see that office-seekin', loud-mouthed shyster I'm going to give him the strappingest licking a man ever had.”

The next evening old E. W. stopped in at the Smokeorium. He had come for his pipe. He had lost his placid easy-going look, and seemed worried and haunted.

“I got to have my pipe, Sim,” he said. “Gits me nervous without it. Gits me all of a tremble.”

“Here she is, E. W.,” Sim said. “I put a new stem in her for you, nice as new.”

E. W. flared up.

“Dod rot you, Sim!” he mumbled. “What'd you do that for? I ain't goin' to have you doin' things for me. I'm deep enough into it now. I owe Society enough already. Hundred and thirty-seven thousand nine hundred and ninety-eight hours.”

“How's that?” said Sim.

“Well, by whillikins,” said old E. W., “I got two hours off of what I owe to-day. I did two hours' work such as it was, weeding the garden.”

“Two hours, hey?” Joe Collins broke in. “That all the work you did today E. W.?”

“'Tain't much,” E. W. admitted wearily. “I don't know as I'll ever be able to get caught up in full, but I got two hours off that one hundred and thirty-eight thousand, anyway.”

YOU got nothing off,” Joe said. “You got six hours on, that's what you got. Eight hours is a man's day's work, and you're behind another six hours.”

Old E. W. stared at him dumbly until his meaning sifted through, and then he just dropped into one of Sim's chairs and slumped down. It was a hard blow for the old man. He had done the first real work he had ever done in his life, and the net result was that he was one hundred and thirty-eight thousand and six hours in debt to Society. He sat fumbling his old pipe, and presently he got out of the chair without a word and went out. Late that night Sim Cotter, going home from the Smokeorium, saw old E. W. in Josie's garden, down on his knees pulling weeds in the moonlight. It was then close to two o'clock in the morning. Sim leaned across the fence.

“Say, you old idiot, you, go to bed; why don't you?” he asked.

“Got no time,” E. W. told him.

“Why, durn your old hide,” Sim said, “you'll go to bed right now, if I've to come in there and make you go. I'm part of Society, I am, just as much as the next man is, and I've got my just rights. You owe me a part of them one hundred and thirty-eight thousand and six hours, and I ain't going to have you do yourself to death in a couple of nights, and cheat me that way. You've got a big responsibility, E. W., and you owe it to us to us to keep your health and pay us up as much as you can. It looks to me as if you was trying to work yourself to death and cheat us. You get to bed now or I'll come in there and put you to bed myself.”

E. W. got off his knees. He was so stiff he could hardly walk. He went off to bed grumbling, but he saw that Sim was right. If he killed himself gaining a few hours' work, he would be unable to clean up the one hundred and ninety-eight thousand. That was sure.

The next day he came into the Smokeorium late in the afternoon, and he was mighty blue. He was so discouraged that the corners of his mouth hung down like the points of an inverted horseshoe.

“Dod rot it!” he moaned as he eased into his chair, “seems like the best thing for me to do is just die off and be quit of it. Worked nearly all night, and made it a ten-hour day—two full hours saved what I owe Society—and to-day I had to lay flat on my back in bed all day and I'm eight hours to the bad again. That's one hundred and thirty-eight thousand, less two, and eight added on. That's one hundred and thirty-eight thousand and six.”

The poor old fellow just sat there and the tears rolled down his cheeks.

“The trouble with you, E. W.,” said Sim, “is that you want to work off what you owe all in one minute. You just give it up. A man of your age——

“Hold on!” cried Murray Tilford suddenly. “I've got it! Look here, E. W. You don't have to work ten hours a day to save two hours. Why, drat it, all any man of your age does is overtime. You're past work age. Say! Ain't I the born fool, though. You don't owe society any one hundred and thirty-eight thousand hours of work. Why, drat your old hide, there's fifteen years at eight hours a day for three hundred days a year that we can knock off at one whack. That's thirty-six thousand hours,” he declared when he had figured it. “Take thirty-six thousand from one hundred and thirty-eight thousand, and the ten hours you worked yesterday leaves it only one hundred and one thousand nine hundred and ninety hours!”

It was like balm of Gilead to old E. W. He was up on his feet in a moment looking at the paper on which Murray `had figured it. He was so relieved and tickled he almost kissed Murray. He couldn't have been more pleased if Murray had made him a present of a million dollars.

“By jingoes!” he chuckled. “Thirty-six thousand hours right in one lump! I'll get caught up yet, Sim; I will so! I ain't dead yet by a long sight.”

It made a new man of him.

“How long might it take me to catch up them one hundred and one thousand hundred and ninety hours, Murray, workin' ten hours a day?”

“Bout thirty-four years, E. W., working three hundred days a year,” Murray told him.

E. W. went glum in an instant,

“I won't last it,” he said. “How old that make me, Murray, when I got through?”

“Hundred and nine years,” said Murray.

“I won't last it,” E. W. repeated, “There ain't a chance in the world that I'll last it. It's going to strain me some to live a hundred, the way I feel. How many hours a day have I got to work to get square with Society if I clean up by the time I'm one hundred, Murray?”

“'Bout thirteen and a half, E. W.” Murray told him.

“It's going to strain me some,” E. W. said, “but, by gum, I've got to do it. One hundred and ninety hours! I wish I was young once more. I do so!”

They did not see him again for some time. They heard of him. News came that he had had a fuss with a market gardener about town—Sam Gregg—because Sam chased him out of his field with a hoe. Sam said he would be danged if he would let the crazy coot work thirteen hours a day, when he was so old and feeble he ought to be in a hospital. He said he would be dad blamed if he wanted to be jailed for cruelty to the feeble-minded.

The next week they heard that old E. W. had been arrested for trespass, climbing into a tomato-patch and starting to work hoeing the tomatoes at four o'clock in the morning.

“He ought to be shut up in the crazy house,” the farmer complained. “He's got to be a regular nuisance, he has, climbing into the fields and starting to work all workin' times of the day and night, and asking no pay or nothing. He ain't reasonable. It's just work, work, work all the time.”

That Saturday night E. W. appeared at the Smokeorium. He was bluer than ever.

“I ain't averaged over eleven hours a day, Sim,” he mourned. “Two hundred and twenty hours is the total I've made. I've got one hundred and one thousand seven hundred and seventy of them economical wasted hours to make up, and the worst of it is there won't nobody let me work. Looks like I wouldn't catch up if I was as old as Methusalem. I've just about give up. Looks like I'd better just lay down and die like a no-account played-out old bankrupt.”

“Oh, now. E. W., you don't want to talk that way,” Sim said.

“I don't see no other way to talk,” E. W. said.

It was three days later that the group in the Smokeorium was surprised by seeing E. W.'s sister Josie come raging in at the door that had seldom admitted a female. She was a good ten years younger than E. W., and had lost none of her vitality.

“Are you Sim Cotter?” she demanded. “Well, you're one of them that put that fool notion into E. W.'s head, and a nice piece of work, I do say! You ought to be took up for murder, the whole lot of you!”

“He ain't dead, is he?” asked Murray Tilford.

“He will be, if you don't set about getting him shut of the notion you put into his head,” she declared. “He's took to his bed with the melancholy, and lies dying before my eyes because he can't get out and do one hundred and one thousand seven hundred and seventy hours of work in a blessed minute. Don't ask me; I can't make head or tail of it. You men did it, and you can undo it, or I'll see that no decent body ever enters this smoke hole again.”

“Took to his bed, has he?” said Murray Tilford soothingly. “Well, don't you worry, Mrs. Hanson; we'll fix it all right.”

“You'd better,” she declared; “and you'd better be quick about it, if you don't want him dead at your hands. He won't eat, for one thing, and he won't wear a dud, not even a nightshirt, and I had to tie him in bed or he wouldn't stay in the house. Says he'll be cussed if he'll owe any more to Society than he owes already.”

“Well, you just leave it to us, Mrs. Hanson,” urged Murray. “We'll 'tend to it right away.”

When she went out, the men looked at one another in awed silence.

“We got to do something,” Murray Tilford said at length. “I never guessed the old codger would take it to heart like that. I've heard B. Z. Beeton and plenty of others ramp around about other folks' economic waste, but I never knew anybody to worry about his own before. Strikes me he must be sort of crazy, Sim.”

“That won't stop him from dying of them one hundred and one thousand seventy hundred and seventy hours, Murray,” Sim said.

“And it won't stop Josie Hanson from giving this Smokeorium one eternal black eye if he does die,” Murray agreed. “We got to help him get rid of them one hundred and one thousand seven hundred and seventy hours. How long was he in the Civil War army, Sim? We might figger that off.”

“War's the worst kind of economic waste,” Sim warned him. “B. Z. says so.”

“That's so,” Murray admitted. I wish——

Just then Doc Hartridge came in for his four two-for-a-quarter cigars.

“Just been up to see old E. W.,” be said “He's going fast.”

“You don't say!” exclaimed Sim. “His sister was just down here. He's worrying to death, she says, over the economic waste he's been——

"Fudge! Nothing of that sort!” said Doc Hartridge. “He is worrying about some hundred thousand hours or million hours or something, but he's dying because of general decay, as any old man would. He has something on his mind—that's true—and he is unhappy about it, but that's not killing him. Old age is. So long, boys.”

“Well—” Sim said, when the doctor had one.

“Well, I guess his worry is just as real,” Murray said. “It grinds me all up to think of him dying worried that way. I wish——

“What do you wish?” Sim asked.

“I wish a feller could pay a debt to Society with a note, the way he can pay a money debt,” Murray said. “I wish us idlers could take over old E. W.'s debt and work it out for him. The trouble is, Sim, a man has to work out his own economic waste and make it good.”

“Say!” said Sim suddenly. “Wait! I've got it! No, hold on! If old E. W. was to give us—ten or twelve of us—his note for one hundred and ten thousand seven hundred and seventy hours—his promise to work one hundred and ten thousand seven hundred and seventy hours——

“Yes, go on.”

“If he was to give ten of us each a promise to work eleven thousand and seventy-seven hours,” said Sim slowly, “and we agreed to do that much work over and above our own eight hours a day, to square him up with Society——

“He wouldn't die happy,” said Murray, “because he would owe——

“Now, hold on,” said Sim. “I've got the idee somewhere. We'd do the work and take his promises to pay it back, only, Murray, he'd pay it back the next time he comes on earth, like he believes he's going to come. We do our time now, and clean up what he owes Society, and when he gets reincarnated he evens up by doing a couple of hours overtime every work-day, until he gets us paid back.”

It was with this reasonable proposition that they went to Mrs. Hanson's house and visited old E. W. They found him deep in misery and gloom. He refused to take his face from his pillow, so Murray made the proposition to the back of his head. For a minute after Murray had ceased explaining, old E. W. lay perfectly still. Then he flopped over and braced himself on one elbow.

“You draw up them promise notes, Murray,” he said eagerly. “Doc left his fountain pen yonder on the table.”

He raised himself straight against the pillow.

“Hand me that egg-nog, Sim,” he ordered with surprising briskness. “I feel like I could eat a horse.”

He swallowed the egg-nog and licked his lips.

“Sim,” he said, sliding his feet to the floor, “help me into them pants of mine. Untie this fool rope Josie has me tied up with.”

He was rather weak in the knees, but he steadied himself against the bedpost while Sim helped him dress, and he signed the ten promissory notes with something of a flourish.

“There, by jingoes!” he exclaimed. “I feel good for twenty years yet, with them one hundred and ten thousand seven hundred and seventy hours off my mind.”

He looked good for twenty more years, too. Perhaps a few days in bed had been what he need most. He insisted that they help him down the stairs, and he sat in a chair on the sunny porch, pushing cigar-clippings into his old black pipe, as the ten men who had promised to work eleven thousand and seventy-seven hours apiece for him shook hands with him and renewed the promises. Old E. W. chuckled.

“What you laughing at, E. W.?” Murray Tilford asked him.

The old man's watery eyes lifted to where his sister Josie's songster was swinging on its perch in its cage against one of the porch pillars.

“I was just thinkin' what a joke it would be on you fellers, Murray,” old E. W. said, “if the next time I got incarnated on earth I turned out to be a canary-bird!”

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1937, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 85 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.