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Complete Works of James Whitcomb Riley — Volume 10   By: (1849-1916)

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Memorial Edition The Complete Works of James Whitcomb Riley IN TEN VOLUMES Including Poems and Prose Sketches, many of which have not heretofore been published; an authentic Biography, an elaborate Index and numerous Illustrations in color from Paintings

VOLUME X

JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY

CONTENTS ECCENTRIC MR CLARK A NEST EGG "THE BOY FROM ZEENY" WHERE IS MARY ALICE SMITH? THE OLD MAN THE GILDED ROLL A WILD IRISHMAN MRS. MILLER AT ZEKESBURY A CALLER FROM BOONE THE OLD SOLDIER'S STORY DIALECT IN LITERATURE

The Complete Works of James Whitcomb Riley

ECCENTRIC MR. CLARK

All who knew Mr. Clark intimately, casually, or by sight alone, smiled always, meeting him, and thought, "What an odd man he is!" Not that there was anything extremely or ridiculously obtrusive in Mr. Clark's peculiarities either of feature, dress, or deportment, by which a graded estimate of his really quaint character might aptly be given; but rather, perhaps, it was the curious combination of all these things that had gained for Mr. Clark the transient celebrity of being a very eccentric man.

And Mr. Clark, of all the odd inhabitants of the busy metropolis in which he lived, seemed least conscious of the fact of his local prominence. True it was that when familiarly addressed as "Clark, old boy," by sportive individuals he never recollected having seen before, he would oftentimes stare blankly in return, and with evident embarrassment; but as these actions may have been attributable to weak eyes, or to the confusion consequent upon being publicly recognized by the quondam associates of bacchanalian hours, the suggestive facts only served to throw his eccentricities in new relief.

And in the minds of many, that Mr. Clark was somewhat given to dissipation, there was but little doubt; for, although in no way, and at no time, derelict in the rigid duties imposed upon him as an accountant in a wholesale liquor house on South John Street, a grand majority of friends had long ago conceded that a certain puffiness of flesh and a soiled like pallor of complexion were in nowise the legitimate result of over application simply in the counting room of the establishment in which he found employment; but as to the complicity of Mr. Clark's direct associates in this belief, it is only justice to the gentleman to state that by them he was held above all such suspicion, from the gray haired senior of the firm, down to the pink nosed porter of the warerooms, who, upon every available occasion, would point out the eccentric Mr. Clark as "the on'y man in the biznez 'at never sunk a 'thief' er drunk a drop o' 'goods' o' any kind, under no consideration!"

And Mr. Clark himself, when playfully approached on the subject, would quietly assert that never, under any circumstances, had the taste of intoxicating liquors passed his lips, though at such asseverations it was a noticeable fact that Mr. Clark's complexion invariably grew more sultry than its wont, and that his eyes, forever moist, grew dewier, and that his lips and tongue would seem covertly entering upon some lush conspiracy, which in its incipiency he would be forced to smother with his hastily drawn handkerchief. Then the eccentric Mr. Clark would laugh nervously, and pouncing on some subject so vividly unlike the one just preceding it as to daze the listener, he would ripple ahead with a tide of eloquence that positively overflowed and washed away all remembrance of the opening topic.

In point of age Mr. Clark might have been thirty, thirty five, or even forty years, were one to venture an opinion solely by outward appearance and under certain circumstances and surroundings. As, for example, when a dozen years ago the writer of this sketch rode twenty miles in a freight caboose with Mr. Clark as the only other passenger, he seemed in age at first not less than thirty five; but on opening a conversation with him, in which he joined with wonderful vivacity, a nearer view, and a prolonged and studious one as well, revealed the rather curious fact that, at the very limit of all allowable supposition, his age could not possibly have exceeded twenty five... Continue reading book >>


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