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    Ch. 9: Conclusion

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    (This Chapter of the Autobiography of Methuselah is made up entirely of fragments. The manuscript of the preceding chapters was found in fine condition, and entirely unobliterated by the passage of the centuries since it was written, but beginning at this point cracks appear, and in some places such complete fractures as make the continuity of the narrative impossible. The fragments have been as carefully deciphered as the complete chapters, however, and are here presented for what they are worth.)


    The position of woman among us will doubtless prove of interest to posterity. Our matrimonial laws are not all that they should be, in my judgment, though there are men who consider them as nearly perfect as they can be made. The idea that the best way for a young man to declare his love for a young girl is to hit her on the head with a wooden club and then run off with her before she regains consciousness has never received my approval, and never will. Something should be left for the post-nuptial life, and I cannot see how after it has been used as an instrument of courtship a club can take its place as it ought to as an instrument of discipline in the household. My own wives I have invariably caught in a trap, so that later on in life, when I have found it desirable to emphasize my authority in my home by means of a stout stick, that emblem of power has had no glamor about it to weaken its force as an argument.... Then as to the number of wives that a man should be permitted to have, I am in distinct disagreement with the majority of my neighbors, who maintain that it is entirely a matter of individual choice as to whether a man should have five, ten or a thousand. I should not advocate the limitation to an arbitrary number, but I believe that the question of one's actual needs should rule. If a man's possessions enable him to maintain a large establishment requiring the services of a cook, a laundress, two waitresses and four upstairs girls, eight wives would be sufficient; but on the other hand, for a young man beginning his career who needs only a general house-worker, one is enough. Individual cases should regulate the law as applied to the individual, and those who claim that they may marry any number of women, whether they need them or not, entirely regardless of whether or not they can keep them occupied, should be told that no man is entitled to more of the good things of this life than he can avail himself of in his daily procedure. Any other course than this will sooner or later result in a great scarcity of nuptial raw material, and it is not impossible to conceive of a day when all the women in the land will become the property of a select, privileged few. A monopoly of this sort would enable a few men to control posterity and build up a Trust in the Matrimonial Industry that would engender not only a great deal of bitter feeling between the masses and the classes, but enforce a system of compulsory bachelorhood which ... Nevertheless, if woman wants to vote let her do so. In spite of all that I have just said about the subtle quality of her intellect, I still say let her vote. What harm can come from permitting her to go to the polls and drop a ballot in the box for this or that man, or for this or that measure? It will please her to be allowed to do this, and by granting her petition for the suffrage we shall put an end to an otherwise endless disputation. I am quite sure that as long as her votes are kept separate from the men's votes, and are not counted, no possible harm can come from a little complacency in the face of ... Personally I have no objection to divorce. If a man marries a woman under the impression that she is a good cook, and after the waning of the honeymoon finds that she does not know the difference between sponge-cake and a plain common garden sponge, why should he be forced forevermore to court dyspepsia on her account? I fail to see either justice or reason in this, though as to the method of divorce I cannot agree with those who claim that as the man has married the woman by hitting her with a club, as I have already shown, the proper method of divorce is for the woman to return the blow with a rolling-pin. The proper way to do is for the husband to be permitted to return the girl to her parents as not up to the specifications, or if she have no parents to dispose of her at the best bargain possible to one of his neighbors who may happen to be in need of a girl of that sort at that particular time.... But these Newport separations, as I believe they are called, are apt to prove embarrassing, particularly when the divorcées all happen to be present at the same dinner-table. A lady whose hostess is the wife of her former husband, finding herself sitting opposite the divorced wife of her present husband, who has at one time or another been married to two or three other ladies at the board, is not likely to be able to comport herself with that degree of savoir faire that is the ear-mark of the refined....

    As for the mother-in-law, for certain reasons of a private nature I was not going to speak of her in these memoirs, but after mature reflection upon the subject I deem it my duty to posterity to say that....


    I have often wished that in my youth I had studied science a little more carefully. It is growing very obvious to me the longer I live that there are a number of little things that we need in this world to make life more comfortable. It does not seem to me beyond reason to think that by the use of a proper mechanism these thunderbolts that play about the heavens can be made to do errands for us. It angers me to see so much light going to waste in the heavens from the flash of the lightning, when it might be stored up for use instead of these intolerable axle-grease dips that we are forced to use to light us on our way to bed. I don't see why some one cannot entrap one of these bolts on a wire, just as we catch a rat in a trap, and keep it running round and round a loop, giving out its light until it is exhausted.... It would be pleasant, too, to have a kind of carriage that would go of its own power. I cannot quite reason the thing out, but I believe that the time will come when there will be something of the sort. I remember back in my four-hundred-and-fifty-second year finding one of my father's farm wagons on the top of the hill back of the cow pasture. I wheeled it to the edge of the descent, and was much delighted to see it go speeding down to the base of the hill, gathering momentum at every turn of the wheels, and ending up by hitting the back door of Uncle Zibb's cottage with such force that it came out of the front parlor window before stopping. This seemed to indicate that under certain circumstances a wheeled vehicle could be made to go without a horse, but in what precise way it can be brought about the limitations of my mechanical training prevent me from determi ... I was watching the heated vapor rising from our tea-kettle the other night, and was much diverted to notice that it made a whistling sort of sound as it emerged from the nozzle of the pot. It ran from B sharp to high C, and was loud enough to be heard on the other side of the room. It has occurred to me that there may be in this some hidden principle that will some day enable man to make this vapor do his work for him, especially along musical lines. Surely if this misty substance can make a tea-kettle squeak, why should it not, if multiplied in volume and run through a trombone, afford us a capable substitute for Bill Watkins, who plays second base on our Village Band?


    If our Prophets would only confine themselves to probabilities I am inclined to think we should take more stock in the things they foretell. I am impelled to the making of this reflection by the presence in our town of an Astrologer who is setting all the women by the ears by prophesying a day when they will not have to do their own housework, and will thrive in many lines of endeavor now open solely to men. He is an interesting old fellow, in spite of the foolishness of his predictions; but when he tells the women's clubs that in some far off century women will be found writing novels, and adorning themselves with rich fabrics, and surrounded by a class of paid toilers who will do nothing but minister to their ease and comfort, I lose all patience with him. It is filling their minds with socialistic notions that are impairing their usefulness, and I have had to chastise seven of my own fair helpmeets this past week for neglecting their duties and treating my instructions with contempt. A curious thing about his prophecies is their confirmation of Adam's fears as to the ultimate result of these new-fangled ideas as to dress, and, what interested me more than anything else, he predicted a machine called a Moh-Thor-Cah, that not only runs along without outside assistance, but is propelled entirely by the same vapor that I have spoken of before as striking the high C in the nozzle of my tea-kettle. He goes too far with this, as well as with his other prophecies, for he says that there will be a time when ships larger than Noah's Ark will be forced across great bodies of water by this same power. The idea of anybody, after Noah's experience, being foolish enough to build a craft of that kind, to say nothing of working it with a tea-kettle, is preposterously abs ... In one of his visions he claims to have seen a gathering of people, called a city, in which there are to be more than four million souls, and governed not by the virtuous, as in our own day, but by the most desperate political malefactors that ever banded together for plunder, and this at the direct request of the people themselves! I am perfectly aware that human nature is weak, and given over at times to strange delusions, but that any body of self-respecting persons should deliberately and of their own free will turn the management of their affairs over to those who would more properly grace a jail than a City Hall, surpasses belie ...


    ... cannot be denied that a daily newspaper would be an interesting thing, if it were possible to print it, but I doubt its real value. I dislike gossip, and I do not see how the newspaper could fill up without it. What advantage is it to me to know that Hiram Wigglesworth, of Ararat Corners, who is unknown to me, was arrested on Thursday evening for beating his wife? Why should I be called upon to impair the value of my eyes by reading in small type all the scandalous details of the separation proceedings between two people I never saw and would not permit to enter my front door if they came to call? It is nothing to me that Mrs. Zebulon Zebedee, of Enochsville, has spent thirty thousand clam-shells a year on bottled grape-juice, and run up bills against her husband's account at the diamond-quarries for two or three hundred thousand tons of wampum, and if she chooses to go joy-riding on a Diplodocus with a gentleman from the Circus, it is Zebulon Zebedee's business, not mine, and a newspaper that insisted upon dumping this unsavory mess on my breakfast-table every morning would sooner or later become an unmitigated nuis ...

    * * * * * * *

    ... but he pays no attention to my protestations. I think the oldtime method of walloping them every Sunday morning, on the principle that they deserved it for something they had done during the past week, was a good one. Shem and Japhet are not so bad, but since Ham came back from the Ararat Academy of Higher Learning he has been about as useless a member of the community as we have ever had. What he doesn't know would fill six hundred volumes of the Triassic Cyclopædia. I caught him only the other night trying to teach his grandmother to suck eggs, although my estimable wife was a past-mistress of that art four hundred years before he was born. He has absolutely no respect for age, and frequently refers to me as "the old boy," criticizes my clothes, and remarks apropos of my patriarchal garments that night-shirts as an article of dress for a five o'clock tea went out a thousand years ago. Indeed, so disrespectful is he that I sometimes wonder if he is not a foundling. I note two suspicious things in respect to him. The first is that he is getting blacker in the face every day, which suggests that there is in him somewhere a strain of the Æthiopian, none of which he gets from me or his grandmother, who was an Albino. And the second is that his father will not allow him to be spanked, a very strange inhibition, I think, unless that operation would disclose the boy's possession of the Missing Link. Indeed, I should not be at all surprised to discover that the lad is either an Æthiopian, or a direct descendant of Adam's old friend and neighbor, Col. Darwin J. Simian, of Coacoa-on-Nut. In all of my reflections on the subject of the training of the young, manual training has always seemed to me the most efficacious, especially if in applying the hand you do not restrain its force, and are not loath to use the hair-brush or a good leathern trunk-strap as an auxiliary. And in order to ensure their freedom from evil associations, and to keep them from making the night hideous by their raucous yells, I have never heard of anything better than the method of Doctor Magog Rodd, of the Enochsville Military Academy, who kept his students in cages and corked them up every night before they retir ...

    * * * * * * *

    ... so no more at present. My manuscript already weighs three hundred and forty tons, and every word of it has been gouged out with my own hands--a difficult operation for a man of my years. I am painfully aware of its shortcomings, but such as it is it is, and so it must remain. There is no time left for its revision, and, indeed, a man who has just celebrated his nine hundred and sixty-ninth birthday can hardly be expected ...

    THE END.

    * * * * * * * * * * * *
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