JOHN HENRY IN A STREET CAR
by Hugh McHugh
Throw me in the cellar and batten down the hatches.
I'm a wreck in the key of G flat.
I side-stepped in among a bunch of language-heavers yesterday and ever
since I've been sitting on the ragged edge with my feet hanging over.
I was on my way down to Wall Street to help J. Pierpont Morgan buy a
couple of railroads and all the world seemed as blithe and gay as a
love clinch from Laura Jean Libbey's latest.
When I climbed into the cable-car I felt like a man who had mailed
money to himself the night before.
I was aces.
And then somebody blew out my gas.
At the next corner two society flash-lights flopped in and sat next
They had a lot of words they wanted to use and they started in.
The car stopped and two more of the 400's leading ladies jumped the
hurdles and came down the aisle.
They sat on the other side of me.
In a minute they began to bite the dictionary.
Their efforts aroused the energies of three women who sat opposite
me, and they proceeded to beat the English language black and blue.
In a minute the air was so full of talk that the grip germs had to
pull out on the platform and chew the conductor.
The next one to me on my left started in:
"Oh, yes; we discharged our cook day before yesterday, but there's
another coming this evening, and so--"
Her friend broke away and was up and back to the center with this:
"I was coming down Broadway this morning and I saw Julia Marlowe's
leading man. I'm sure it was him, because I saw the show once in
Chicago and he has the loveliest eyes I ever looked at!"
I knew that that was my cue to walk out, kick the motorman in the
knuckles, upset the car and send in a fire call, but I passed it
I just sat there and bit my nails like the heavy villain in one of
Corse Payton's ten, twen, thir dramas.
That "loveliest eyes" speech had me groggy.
Whenever I hear a woman turn on that "loveliest eyes" gag about an
actor I always feel that a swift slap from a wet dish-rag would look
well on her back hair.
Then the bunch across the aisle got the flag.
"Well, you know," says the broad lady who paid for one seat and was
compelled by Nature to use three, "you know there's only five in our
family, and so I take just five slices of stale bread and have a bowl
of water ready in which I've dropped a pinch of salt. Then I take a
piece of butter about the size of a walnut, and thoroughly grease the
bottom of a frying-pan; then beat five eggs to a froth, and--"
I'm hoping the conductor will come in and give us all a tip to take
to the timber because the cops are going to pinch the room, but there's
One of the dames on my right finds her voice and passes it around:--
"Oh, I think it's a perfect fright! I always did detest electric blue,
anyway. It is so unbecoming, and then--"
I've just decided that this lady ought to make up as a Swede servant
girl and play the part, when her friend hooks in:
"Oh, yes; I think it will look perfectly sweet! It is a foulard in one
of those new heliotrope tints, made with a crepe de chine chemisette,
with a second vest peeping out on either side of the front over an
embroidered satin vest and cut in scallops on the edge, finished with
a full ruche of white chiffon, and the sleeves are just too tight for
any use, and the skirt is too long for any good, and I declare the
lining is too sweet! and I just hate to wear it out on the street
and get it soiled, and I was going to have it made with a tunic, and
Mrs. Wigwag--that's my brother-in-law's first cousin--she had her's
made to wear with guimpes--and they are so economical! and--"
Think of a guy having to ride four miles and get his forehead fanned
all the while with talk about foulard and crepe de chine and guimpes!
Wouldn't it lead you to a padded cell?
Say! I was down and out--no kidding!
I wanted to get up and fight the door-tender, but I couldn't.
One of the conversationalists was sitting on my overcoat.
I felt that if I got up and called my coat back to Papa she might
lose the thread of her story, and the jar would be something
So I sat still and saved her life.
The one on my right must have been the Lady President of The Hammer
She was talking about some other girl and she didn't do a thing to
the absent one.
She said she was svelte.
I suppose that's Dago for a shine.
That's the way with some women. They can't come right out and call
another woman a polish. They have to beat around the bush and chase
their friends to the swamps by throwing things like "svelte" at
I tried to duck the foreign tattle on my right and by so doing I'm
next to this on my left:
"Oh, yes; I think politics is just too lovely! I don't know whether
I'd rather be a Democrat or a Republican, but I think--oh! just look
at the hat that woman has on! Isn't that a fright? Wonder if she
trimmed it herself. Of course she did; you can tell by--"
I'm gasping for breath when the broad lady across the aisle gets
"No, indeed! I didn't have Eliza vaccinated. Why, she's too small
yet, and don't you know my sister's husband's brother's child was
vaccinated, and she is younger than our Eliza, but I don't just
care, I don't want--"
Then the sweet girlish thing on my left gave me the corkscrew jab.
It was the finish:
"Isn't that lovely? Well, as I was telling you, Charlie came last
night and brought Mr. Storeclose with him. Mr. Storeclose is awfully
nice. He plays the mandolin just too sweet for anything, and--"
Me!--to the oyster beds! No male impersonators garroting a mandolin--not
any in mine!
When I want to take a course in music I'll climb into a public library
and read how Baldy Sloane wrote the Tiger Lily with one hand tied
behind him and his feet on the piano.
So I fell off the car and crawled home to mother.
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~