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From At the Grass Roots, Comprising “The Christmas of 1883,” and Other Vagrant Sketches, by Elmer House (Dodd Gaston), with Cover Design and Frontispiece by Albert T. Reid, Topeka: Monotyped by Crane & Company, 1905; pp. 113-116.

Black and white sketch by Albert T. Reid, of Elmer House, sitting smoking a cigar at his desk.



I am not very accommodating or obliging, and as a result I am somewhat unpopular. A good many people say I am not only grouchy, but that I am also mean and selfish. If I have those characteristics they may be attributed to my brother, Bill. Bill is one of those whole-souled, good-hearted fellows who is everybody’s friend. When Bill was a boy and went to Sunday school he never brought fewer than four boys home to dinner with him. Frequently he brought eight. The result was that by the time Bill’s guests had satisfied their hunger there never was any fried chicken or cherry pie left for the members of the family.

Bill’s habits did not change when he grew up, and the house was always full of company of his inviting. The guests occupied the house and the family camped around in the woodshed and the 114 barn. When any of his friends needed money he went out and borrowed it for them. He was always paying interest on two or three notes at the bank given for money to help some friend out of a hole. When one was going anywhere with Bill the start had to be made the night before, for Bill always had to stop and shake hands with so many people that he invariably missed the train.

Bill is a crackerjack in his line and makes a good deal of money, but his next month’s salary is always carrying a ninety-day mortgage. He married into a large family in order that he might have opportunity to entertain a lot of relatives all the time. One night last winter he met a lodge brother who flagged him with the signal of distress. The weather was cold, and Bill took him to the shelter of his own vine and fig tree. The weather continued inclement, and upon his host’s pressing invitation the lodge brother remained two or three 115 days. One morning Bill arose to feed the furnace and discovered that his guest had gone without the formality of saying “good-by.” Coincident with this leave-taking Bill’s overcoat and $40 which he had been carrying to pay the rent disappeared. The same day Bill had a notice from the bank calling his attention to the fact that a casual acquaintance who se paper he had indorsed for $300 had defaulted payment.

Bill’s house is full of useless books, rugs, antique clocks and other débris bought because he is so polite and accommodating that he hates to turn down the agents who call on him. Bill’s picture is in every biographical record and “Prominent Men of the West” volume ever issued west of Denver. It isn’t egotism on his part, for he is really a very modest fellow, but he is so kind and “house-broke” that he hasn’t the heart to turn a canvasser down.

Old Bill will read this sketch and 116 laugh. Then he will start down the street, turning aside every few moments to shake hands with somebody or to make a little loan to some friend. When he returns accompanied by a guest for dinner he will urge his wife to write a letter to some of her girl friends or some relative extending an invitation to make them a visit.

Bill is popular. If he ran for office he could probably get every vote in his town. But he will never have a dollar so long as here is a chance to give it away and his nose will always be on the grindstone. I am not popular, but I have seen so many instances of Bill’s assininity that I don’t mind it.

Cover Design by Albert T. Reid, Green with Black Title and Illustration of Trees, Clouds and a Distant Old One-Story Farmhouse, with a Chimney. It has been cropped for the online text as a tailpiece for each page.

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