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    Ch. 3: Some Reminiscences of Adam

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    The concluding paragraphs of my last chapter have set my mind running upon the subject of my original forebears, and inasmuch as I have decided to write these memoirs of mine along the lines of least resistance, it becomes proper that I should at this time, put down whatever happens to be in my mind. To speak frankly I never really could get up much of a liking for old grandfather Adam. He was as devoid of real humor as the Scottentots, and simply because by a mere accident of birth he became the First Gentleman of Europe, Asia and Africa, he assumed airs that rendered him distinctly unpopular with his descendants. He considered himself the fount of all knowledge because in the early days of his occupancy of the Garden of Eden there was no one to dispute his conclusions, and the fact that he had been born without a boyhood, as we have already seen at the age of fifty-nine, left him entirely unsympathetic in matters where boys were concerned. I shall never forget a conspicuous case in point demonstrating his utter lack of comprehension of a boy's way of looking at things. He was on a visit to our home at Enochsville, and on the night of his arrival, having called for a glass of fermented grape-juice, thinking to indulge in a mere pleasantry, I brought him a tumblerful of sweetened red ink, the which he gulped down so avidly that it was not until it was beyond recall that he realized what I had done; and when in his wrath he called for an instant remedy and I brought him the blotting paper, instead of smiling at the merry quality of my jest, he pursued me for two hours around my father's farm, and finally cornering me in the Discosaurus shed, larruped me for twenty full minutes with a paddle pulled from a prickly cactus plant in my mother's drawing-room, thorn side down. Indeed most of my early recollections of the old gentleman are inseparably associated with a series of chastisements which, even as he had prophesied when administering them, I have not been able to forget, although I cannot see that any of them ever resulted in a lasting reformation of my ways. On the contrary the desire to see what new form of thrashing his disciplinary mind could invent led me into devising new kinds of provocation, so that for a great many years his visits to our house were a source of great anxiety to my parents. His view of me and my ways were expressed with some degree of force to our family physician who, when at the age of a hundred and fifty-three I came down with the mumps, having summoned the whole family and said that I would burst before morning, was met by a reassuring observation from Adam that he wouldn't believe I was dead even if I had been buried a year.

    "It is the good who die young, Doctor," he said. "On that principle this young malefactor will live to be the oldest man in the world."

    A curious example of his gift of prophecy!

    Adam's table manners were a frequent source of mortification to us all. The free and easy habits of the Garden period clung to him throughout his life, and under no circumstances could he be induced to use either a fork, a knife or a spoon, and even on the most formal occasions he absolutely refused to dress for dinner.

    "Fingers were made before forks," he said, "and as for spoons I have no use for such frills. I can eat my peas out of the pod, and as for soup it tastes better out of a dipper anyhow."

    As for the knives, his dislike of them was merely in their use at table. He was fond of knives of all sorts, and he regarded them always as his legitimate spoil whenever he dined anywhere, pocketing every one he could lay his hands on with as much facility as the Egyptian, and Abyssinian drummers who visited our section of the country every year made off with the spoons of our hostelries. Nor could we ever appeal to him on the score of etiquette. Any observation as to the ways of our first families was always met by a cold but quick response that if there was any firster family than his own in all creation, he couldn't find its name in the social register. Indeed the old gentleman was rather inclined to be very snobbish on this point, and when any of his descendants chose to take him to task for the crudeness of his manners he was accustomed to look them coldly over and retort that things had come to a pretty pass when comparatively new people ventured to instruct the oldest of the old settlers as to what was or was not good form. The only person who ever succeeded in bowling him over on this point was Uncle Zib, hitherto referred to as the billionaire member of our family, who, after listening to a long and somewhat supercilious discourse from Adam on the subject of family, turned like a flash and asked:

    "And who pray was your grandfather?"

    The old gentleman flushed deeply, and for once was silent, being as I have already intimated rather sensitive, and therefore inclined to reticence on the score of his ancestry.

    He took a great deal of pride in his success as a namer of animals, but as my grandson Noah remarked several hundred years later, it was a commonplace achievement after all.

    "A dog is a dog, and a cat is a cat, and a horse is a horse. Any fool would know that, so what virtue there was in his calling the beasts by their real names I don't quite see," said Noah.

    I am disposed, however, to give the old fellow the credit that is his due for making so few mistakes. That he should instantly be able to tell the difference between a dromedary and a camel without any previous instruction, strikes me as evidence of a more or less remarkable intuition, the like of which we do not often find to-day, and his dubbing that long-eared, four-footed piece of resistant uselessness the Ass an ass, always seemed to me to be a master stroke, although my father used to say that his greatest achievement lay in correctly designating the pig at first sight.

    "If there is any animal in the whole category of four-legged creatures that more thoroughly deserves to be called a pig than the pig, I don't know what it is. He looks like a pig, he behaves like a pig, and he eats like a pig--in fact he is a pig, and Adam never did anything better than when he invented that name and applied it."

    The old gentleman was present when my father said that, and his face flushed with pleasure at his words of praise.

    "Thank you, Enoch," he said. "I am rather proud of it, but I think I did quite as well when it came to the hen. Anything more aptly answering to the word hen in all its various shades of meaning than the hen itself I don't know, but it took me a full week to reason the thing out. It was not until I heard its absurd cackling over the laying of a strictly fresh egg, strutting about the barn-yard like a feathered Napoleon Bonaparte, and acting altogether as though she were the winner of a Twentieth Century Marathon race that it dawned on me that the creature was a hen, and could never be anything else than a hen. Mother wished me to call her an omelette, the feminine form of an om, as she expressed it, but I had already named the rooster, and the bird seemed so exactly like a rooster that I declined to make any changes."

    "I don't see," put in Uncle Zib at this point, "where you got the word hen from. That is the wonder of it to my mind."

    "Oh," laughed Adam, "that was easy, my dear Zib. I got it from an inspection of the egg."

    "The egg?" demanded Uncle Zib.

    "Certainly," replied Adam. "You see the minute I picked up the egg and looked at it closely, I saw that it was a hen's egg, and there you are."

    After all it seemed very simple.

    I have spoken of his abhorrence of dress. He carried this to an extreme degree and to the end of his life predicted dire things from the tendency of his descendants toward sartorial display. I shall never forget the lucid fashion in which he presented the situation to my father once while we were camping out one night on Mount Ararat, after a day's hunting. He was seated on a woody knoll skinning a pterodactyl for our supper.

    "I tell you, Enoch," he said, "and if you don't mark my words you'll wish you had, these new fangled notions that are coming along, and affecting the whole of modern society in respect to what you are pleased to call dress, are going to result sooner or later in trouble. I can clearly see even if you cannot, that the new ideas as to clothes are breeders of extravagance. As things were in my young days anybody who felt the need of a new costume of one kind or another had only to go out into the woods and pick it. If your great-great-great-grandmother or I, for instance, wanted a new Spring suit we'd go hand in hand together to the orchard, and in the course of a half hour's steady work would fit ourselves out with a wardrobe that would have made this Queen of Sheba that the prophets are foretelling, look like thirty clam-shells; and what is more, a Spring costume was indeed a Spring costume and nothing else, for it was made of the freshest of the vernal leaves, beautiful in their early greens, and decorated here and there with a bit of a blossom that gave the whole a most fetching appearance. And so it was with the other seasons. For summer we used leaves of the vintage of July and August, deeper in their green, with the summer flowers for decoration. Nothing ever so stirred the heart of man as Mother Eve decked out in her gown of rose leaves, or hollyhocks; and occasionally when we went travelling together dressed in our suits of hardy perennials, we were the cynosure of all eyes. In the Autumn the rich red of the maple gave us an aspect of gayety in respect to our clothes that was most picturesque; and then when the winter blasts began to blow, our garments of pine, cedar and hemlock were not only warm, but appropriate and becoming. It is true that clothes made of hemlock were not altogether comfortable at first, having some of the prickly qualities of the hair-shirt, but the very tittilation of the epidermis by their pointed spills, sharp sometimes as a needle, served to keep our blood in circulation, and consequently at all times warm and glowing. And it all cost us nothing more than the labor of the harvest, but now, all is different. The use of costly fabrics, woven stuffs, silks, satins and calicos, has introduced an added element of expense into our daily lives, and all to no useful purpose. Take your Aunt Jerusha, for instance. Where Mother Eve enjoyed as many different costumes as there were trees in the country without cost, all of them becoming, and wholly adequate, your Aunt Jerusha has to be satisfied with three or four gowns of indifferent fit, made by the village seamstress at an average cost of thirty or forty dollars apiece. A sheath-gown, costing Jerusha seventy-five dollars, in the distance, gives no more of an impression in the matter of figure to an admiring world than your original grandmother used to make without any further sartorial embellishment than an ostrich feather in her hair, and as for the men--well, if you see any value in the change in men's garments over those which prevailed in my day, you can see what I cannot, and what is going to be the result? The time will come when tailors' bills will be regarded as a curse. Fathers of families who, under the scheme of dress invented by myself, could keep a large number of growing boys appropriately clad, will sooner or later be forced into bankruptcy by the demands of tailors under these new methods now coming into vogue. In the train of this will come also a love of display, and in the course of years you will find men judged not by the natural stature of their manhood, but by the clothes they wear, to the everlasting deception of society. By the use of a little expert padding, building up here and there, a miserable little human shoat will be able to appear in all the glory of a gladiator. A silk outer garment will cover the shoddy inner nature of a bit of attleboro humanity so effectively that you will hardly be able to tell the real thing from the bogus, and many a man lured into matrimony by the charms of an outward Venus, will find after marriage that he has tied himself up for life to a human hat-rack, specially designed by a clever dressmaker, to yank him from the joys of a contented celibacy into the thorny paths of hymeneal chaos.

    "Nor will it stop here," the old gentleman continued, warming to his subject. "I prophesy that just as at the present time society looks with disfavor on me for going around in the simple dress of my early days, so the time will come when an even more advanced society will demand the placing of more clothes on top of those that you all wear now. The outer garments of to-day will become the under-clothes of some destined to-morrow, and centuries hence a man found walking on the public highways dressed as you are will be arrested by the police for shocking the sense of propriety of the community, and so on. It will go on and on until you will find human beings everywhere decked out in layer after layer of clothes until he or she has lost all semblance to that beautiful thing that an all-wise Providence has designed us to be. Man will wear under-clothes and outer clothes. He will devise an absurd bit of starch, button-holes and tails called a shirt, in which doubtless he will screw diamond-studs, and over which he will wear a resounding waistcoat embroidered with all sorts of wild-flowers in bloom. Then will come a stiff uncomfortable yoke for his neck, which he will call a collar, around which he will wind what he will call a necktie, the only useful purpose of which will be its value as a danger signal to the rest of mankind, for it will be through the medium of this addition to the human dress that character will manifest itself, man being prone unconsciously to show his strength or weaknesses in the manner of his personal adornment. This will lead to all sorts of vain exhibitions until it will be with extreme difficulty that the public will be able to differentiate between a genuine peacock and an upstart jack-daw, masquerading in a merry widow hat. Then will come the crowning misdemeanor in men's clothes which, for want of a better term let us call pants--a pair of bags sewed together at the top, and designed for no other purpose than to conceal from the world the character and quality of the wearer's legs. When that beatific invention arrives your spindle-legged, knock-kneed imitation of a man will, as far as the public eye is concerned, find himself on as sure a footing as your very Adonis, and a person with a comparatively under-developed understanding will be able to make as good a showing in the world as the man who is really all there. Like charity, these pants will cover a multitude of shins that once exposed to the world would at once give warning of the possessors' fundamental instability. In other words this new style of dress that our fashionable leaders are now advocating is designed simply for the purpose of concealing from the world their natural defects, enabling them to appear for what they are not, and therefore to deceive, the sure result of which is to be the fostering of vanity, a love of display, the breeding of snobs, and an impairment of the average man's purse to such an extent that some day or other tailors' and dressmakers' bills will become an inevitable item in every schedule in bankruptcy in the land. Clothes will also breed rags, for without clothes to grow threadbare and frayed, it is clear that the raw material of rags and tatters would be lacking, and many a scene of beggary would be avoided.

    "Wherefore, my son," the old man concluded, "let me warn you to set your face sternly against these modern innovations, and to return to the plainer, and yet more beautiful habiliments of your sires. Let the sturdy oak be your tailor; when you need a vernal gown, seek the spreading chestnut tree and from its upper branches pluck the clothing that you need, and when drear winter comes upon the scene hie you to the mountain top, and from the rich stock of Hemlock, Pine and Co., Tailors, By Special Appointment To Their Majesties, The Eternal Hills, gather the sartorial blessings that there await you."
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