Fleas Will Be Fleas
Ellis Parker Butler in American Magazine
MIKE FLANNERY was the star boarder at Mrs. Muldoon’s, and he deserved to be so considered, for he had boarded with Mrs. Muldoon for years, and was the agent of the Interurban Express Company at Woodcote, while Mrs. Muldoon’s other boarders were largely transient.
“Mike,” said Mrs. Muldoon one noon when Mike came for his lunch, “I know th’ opinion ye have of Dagos and niver a-one have I took into me house, and I think the same of thim meself—dirthy things, an’ takin’ the bread away from th’ honest American laborin’ man—and I would not be thinkin’ of takin’ one t’ board at this day, but would ye to tell me this:—is a Frinchmin a Dago?” Flannery raised his knife and laid down the law with it.
“Mrs. Muldoon, mam,” he said, “there be two kinds of Frinchmin. There be the respictible Frinchmin, and there be th’ unrespictible Frinchmin. They both be furriners, but they be classed different. The’ respictible Frinchmin is no worse than th’ Dutch, and is classed as Dutch, but th’ other kind is Dagos. There is no harm in the Dutch Frinchmin, for thim is such as Napoleon Bonnypart and the like of him, but ye Avant t’ have nawthing t’ do with the Dago Frinch. They be a bad lot.”
“There was a Frinchmin askin’ would I give him a room and board, this mornin’,” said Mrs. Muldoon. Flannery nodded knowingly.
“I knowed it!” he cried. “’Twas apparent t’ me th’ minute ye spoke, mam. And agin th’ Dutch Frinch I have nawthin’ t’ say. If he be a Dutch Frinchmin let him come. Was he that?”
“Sure, I don’t know,” said Mrs. Muldoon, perplexed. “He was a
pleasant-spoken man, enough. ’Tis a professor he is.”
“There be many kinds of professors,” said Mike.
“Sure !” agreed Mrs. Muldoon. “This wan is professor of fleas."
Mike Flannery grinned silently at his plate.
“I have heard of thim, too !” he said. “But _’tis of insects they be professors, and not of one kind of insects alone, Mrs. Muldoon, mam. Ye have mistook th’ understandin’ of what he was sayin’.”
“I beg pardon to ye, Mr. Flannery,” said Mrs. Muldoon, with some spirit, “but ’tis not mistook I am. Fleas the’ professor said, and no mistake at all.”
“Yis?” inquired Flannery. “Well, mebby ’tis so. He would be what ye call one of thim specialists. They do be doin’ that now, I hear, and ’tis probable th’ Frinchmin has fleas for his specialty. ’Tis like this, mam:— all professors is professors ; then a bunch of professors separate off from the rest and be professors of insects; and then the professors of insects separate up, and one is professor of flies, and another one is professor of pinch-bugs, and another is professor of toads, and another is professor of lobsters, and so on until all the kinds of insects has each a professor to itself. And them they call specialists, and each one knows more about his OAvn kind of insect than any other man in the world knows. So mebby the Frinchmin is professor of fleas, as ye say.”
“I should think a grown man would want to be professor of something bigger than that,” said Mrs. Muldoon, “but there’s no accountin’ for tastes.”
“If ye understood, mam,” said
Mike Flannery, “ye would not say that same, for to the flea professor the flea is as big as a house. He studies him throo a telescope, Mrs. Muldoon, that magnifies th’ flea a million times. .Th’ flea professor will take a dog with a flea on him, mam, and look at th’ same with his telescope, and th’ flea will be ten times th’ size of th* dog.”
“’ Tis wonderful !” exclaimed Mrs. Muldoon.
“It is so!” agreed Mike Flannery. “But ’tis by magnifyin’ th’ flea that the professor is able t’ study so small an insect for years and years, discoverin’ new beauties every day. One day he will be studyin’ the small toe of th’ flea’s left hind foot, and th’ next day he will be makin’ a map of it, and th’ next he will be takin’ a statute of it in plaster, and th’ next he will be photygraftin’ it, and th’ next he will be writin’ out all he has learned of it, and then he will be weeks and months correspondin’ with other flea professors in all parts of th’ worrld, seein’ how what he has learned about th’ little toe of th’ flea’s left hind foot agrees with what they have learned about it, and if they don’t all agree, he goes at it agin, and does it all over agin, and mebby he dies when he is ninety years old and has only got one leg of th’ flea studied out. And then some other professor goes on where he left off and takes up the next leg.”
“And do they gét paid for it?” asked Mrs. Muldoon, with surprise.
“Sure, they do !” said Flannery. “Good money, too. A good specialist professor gits more than a hodcarrier. And ’tis right they should,” he added, generously, “for ’tis by studyin’ the’ feet of fleas, and such, they learn about germs, and how t’ take out your appendix, and Ts marriage a failure?’ and all that.”
“Ye dumfounder me, Mike Flannery,” said Mrs. Muldoon. “Ye should have been one of them professors yourself, what with all the knowledge ye have. And ye think ’twould be a good thing t’ let th’ little Frinchmin come and take a room?” “’Twould be an honor to shake him
by th’ hand,” said Mike Flannery, and so the professor was admitted to the board and lodging of Mrs. Muldoon.
The name of the professor who, after a short and unfruitful season at Coney Island, took lodging with Mrs. Muldoon, was Jocolino. He had shown his educated fleas in all the provinces of France, and in Paris itself, but he made a mistake when he brought them to America.
The professor was a small man, and not talkative. He was, if anything, inclined to be silently moody, for luck was against him. He put his baggage in the small bedroom that Mrs. Muldoon allotted to him, and much of the time he spent in New York. He had fellow conntiymen there, and he was trying to raise a loan, with which to buy a canvas booth in which to show his educated insects. He received the friendly advances of Flannery and the other boarders rather coldly. He refused to discuss his specialty, or show Mike the toe of the left hind foot of a flea through a telescope. When he remained at home after dinner he did not sit with the other boarders on the porch, but walked up and down the walk, smoking innumerable cigarettes, and thinking, and waving his hands in mute conversations with himself.
“I dunno what ails th’ professor,” said Mrs. Muldoon, one evening when she and Flannery sat at the table after the rest had left it.
“I would not like to say for sure, mam,” he said, slowly, “but I’m thinkin’ ’tis a loss he has had, maybe, that’s preyin’ on his mind. Ever since ye told me, Missus Muldoon, that he was a professor of th’ educated fleas, I have had doubts of th’ state of th’ mind of th’ professor. Th’ sense of studyin’ th’ flea, mam, I can understand, that bein’ th’ way all professors does these days, but ’tis not human t’ spend time givin’ a flea a college education. Th’ man that descinds t’ be tutor t’ a flea, and t’ teach it all th’ accomplishmints, from readin’ and writin’ t’ arithmetic and football, mebby, is peculiar. I will say
he is dang peculiar, Missus Muldoon, beggin’ your pardon. Is there any coffee left in the pot, mam?”
“A bit, Mr. Flannery, an’ you’re welcome t’ it.”
“I understand th’ feelin’ that makes a man educate a horse, like that Dutchman I was readin’ about in th’ Sunday paper th’ other day,” said Mike, “and teachin’ it t’ çead an’ figger, an’ all that. An’ I can see th’ sinse of educatin’ a pig, as has been done, as you well know, mam, for there be no doubt a man can love a horse or a pig as well as he can love his own wife-”
“An’ why not a flea?” asked Mrs. Muldoon. “’Tis natural for an Irishman t’ love a pig, if ’tis a pig worth lovin’, and ’tis natural, I make no doubt, for a Dutchman t’ love a horse th’ same way, and each t’ his own, as th’ say in’ is. Mebby th’ Frinch can learn t’ love th’ flea in th’ same way, Mr. Flannery.”
“I say th’ same, Missus Muldoon,” said Flannery, “an’ I say th’ professor has done that same, too. I say he has educated th’ flea, an’ mebby raised it from a baby, and brung it from his native land, mam, an’ taught it, an’ learned t’ love it. Yes, Missus Muldoon! But if th’ educated horse or th’ educated pig got loose would they be easy t’ find agin, or would they not, mam? And if th’ professor come t’ have a grrand love for th’ flea he has raised by hand, an’ taught like his own son, an’ th’ flea run off from him, would th’ educated flea be easy t’ find? Th’ horse an’ th’ pig is animals that is not easy t’ conceal themselves, Missus Muldoon, but th’ flea is harrd t’ find, an’ when ye have found him he is hard t’ put your thumb on. I’m thinkin’ th’ reason th’ professor is so down is that he has lost th’ flea of his hearrt.”
“Poor man!” said Mrs. Muldoon.
“An’ th’ reason I’m thinkin’ so,” said Flannery slowly, and leaning toward Mrs. Muldoon across the table, “is that, if I be not mistaken, Missus Muldoon, th’ professor’s educated flea spent last night with Mike Flannery !”
Mrs. Muldoon raised her hands with a gesture of wonderment.
“And listen to that, now!” she cried, in astonishment. “Mike Flannery, do you be thinkin’ th’ professor has two of them? Sure, and he must have two of them, for was it not meself was thinkin’ all last night I had th’ same educated flea for a bed-felly ? I would have caught him,” she added, sadly, “but he was too brisk for me.”
“There was forty-sivin times I thought I had mine,” admitted Flannery, “but every time whin I took up me thumb he had gone some other place. But I will have him to-night !”
“But mebby he has gone by now,” said Mrs. Muldoon.
“Never fear, mam,” said Flannery. “He’s not gone, mam, for he has been close to me every minute of th’ day. I could put me thumb on him this minute, if he would but wait ’til I did it.”
“Well, as for that, Mike Flannery,” said Mrs. Muldoon, mischievously, as she arose from the table, “go on along with ye, and don’t be bringin’ th’ blush t’ me face, but whin I want t’ find th’ one I was speakin’ of, I won’t have t’ walk away from meself t* find him this minute !”
The trained flea is one of nature’s marvels. Everyone says so. A Bobby Burns might well write a poem on this “wee, timorous, cowerin’ beastie,” except that the flea is not, strictly speaking, timorous or cowering. A flea, when it is in good health and spirits, will not cower worth a cent. It has ten times the bravery of a lion—in fact, one single little flea, alone and unaided, will step right up and attack the noisiest lion, and never brag about it. A lion is a rank coward in comparison with a flea, for a lion will not attack anything that it has not a good chance of killing, while the humble but daring flea will boldly attack animals it cannot kill, and that it knows it cannot kill. David had at least a chance to kill Goliath, but what chance has a flea to kill a camel? None at all, unless
the camel commits suicide. And dogs ! A flea will attack the most ferocious dog and think nothing of it at all. I have seen it myself. That is true bravery. And not only that —not only will one flea attack a dog —but hundreds of fleas will attack the same dog at the same time. I have seen that myself, too. And that multiplies the bravery of the flea just that much. One flea attacking a dog is’brave; one hundred fleas attacking the same dog are therefore one hundred times as brave. - We really had to give the dog away, he was carrying so much bravery around with him all the time.
Think of educating an animal with a brain about the size of the point of a fine needle ! And that was what Professor Jocolino had done. The flea is really one of nature’s wonders, like Niagara Falls, and Jojo the dog-faced man, and the Canon of the Colorado. Pull? For its size the educated flea can pull ten times as much as the strongest horse. Jump? For its size the flea can jump forty times as far as the most agile jack-rabbit. Its hide is tougher than the hide of a rhinocerous, too. Imagine a rhinocerous standing in Madison Square, in the City of New York, and suppose you have crept up to it, and are going to pat it, and your hand is within one foot of the rhinocerous. And before you can bring your hand to touch the beast suppose it makes a leap, and goes darting through the air so rapidly that you can’t see it go, and that before your hand has fallen to where the rhinocerous was, the rhinocerous has alighted gently on the top of the City Hall at Philadelphia. That will give you some idea of the magnificent qualities of the flea. If we only knew more of these ordinaryfacts about things we would love things more.
At the breakfast table the next morning Professor Jocolino sat silent and moody in his place, his head bent over his breakfast, but the nine other men at the table eyed him sus-
piciously. So did Mrs. Muldoon. There was no question now that Professor Jocolino had lost his educated flea. There was, in fact, ground for the belief that the professor had had more than one educated flea, and that he had lost all of them. There was also a belief that however well trained the lost might be in some way their manners had not been carefully attended to, and that they had not been trained to be well behaved when making visits to utter strangers. A beast or bird that will force itself upon the hospitality of an utter stranger unasked, and then bite its host may be well educated, but it is not polite. The boarders looked at Professor Jocolino and frowned. The professor looked stolidly at his plate, and ate hurriedly, and left the table before the others had finished.
“ ’Tis in me mind,” said Flannery, when the professor had left, “that th’ professor has a whole college of thim educated insects, an’ that he do be lettin’ thim have a vacation. Or mebby th’ class of 1907 is graduated an’ turned loose from th’ university. I had’ ,th baseball team an* th’ football gang spendin’ th’ night with me.”
“Ho !” said Hogan, gruffly, “ ’twas th’ fellys that does th’ high jump an’ th’ long jump an’ th’ wide jump was havin’ a meet on Hogan. An’ I will be one of anny ten of us t’ tell th’ professor t’ call th ’scholards back t’ school agin. I be but a plain uneducated man, Missus Muldoon, an’ I have no wish t* speak disrespect of thim as is educated, but th’ conversation of a gang of Frinch educated fleas is annoyin’ t’ a man that wants t’ sleep.”
“I will speak t’ th’ professor, gintlemin,” said Mrs. Muldoon, “an’ remonstrate with him. Mary, me girl,” she added, to the maid who was passing her chair, “would ye mind givin’ me th’ least bit of a rub between me shoulders like? I will speak t’ th’ professor, for I have no doubt he has but t’ say
th’ worrd t’ his scholards, an’ they
will all run back where they belong.”
But the professor did not come back that day. He must have had urgent business in New York, for he remained there all night, and all the next da}^ too, and if he had not paid his bill in advance Mrs. Muldoon would have suspected that he’d run away. But his bill was paid, and his luggage was still in the room, and the educated fleas, or their numerous offspring, explored the boarding-house at will, and romped through all the rooms as if they owned them. If Professor Jocolino had been there he would have had to listen to some forcible remonstrances. It was Flannery who at length took the law into his own hands.
It was late Sunday evening. The upper hall was dark, and Flannery stole softly down the hall in his socks and pushed open the professor’s door. The room was quite dark and Flannery stole into it and closed the door behind himself. He drew from his pocket an insect-powder gun, and fired it. It was an instrument something like a bellows, and it fired a simple squeeze, sending a shower of powder that fell in all directions. It was a light, yellow powder,, and Flannery deluged the room with it. He stole stealthily about, shooting the curtains, shooting the bed, shooting the picture of the late Mr. Timothy Muldoon, shooting the floor. Pie bent down and shot under the bed, and under the wash-stand, until a film of yellow dust lay over the whole room, and then he turned to tlie closet and opened that. There hung Professor Jocolino’s other clothes, and Flannery jerked them from the hooks and carried them at arm’s length to the bed, and shot them.
As he was shooting into the pocket of a pair of striped trousers the door opened and Professor Jocolino stood on the threshold. There was no doubt in the professor’s mind. Pie was being robbed!
He drew a pistol from his pocket and fired. The bullet whizzed over the bending Flannery’s head, and before the professor could fire a second time Flannery rose and turned and, with a true aim, shot the professor!
Shot him full in the face with the insect powder, and before the blinded man could recover his breath or spit out the bitter dose, or wipe his eyes, Flannery'had him by the collar and had jerked him to the head of the stairs. It is true; he kicked him downstairs. Not insultingly, or with bad feeling, but in a moment of emotional insanity, as the defense would say. This was an extenuating circumstance, and excuses Flannery, but the professor, being a foreigner, could not see the fine point of the distinction, and was angry.
That night the professor did not sleep in Westcote, but the next afternoon he appeared at Mrs. Muldoon’s, supported by Monsieur Jules, the well-known Seventh Avenue restauranteur, and Monsieur Renaud, who occupies an important post as garçon in Monsieur Jules' establishment.
“For the keek,” said the professor, “I care not. I have been keek before. The keek by one gentleman, him I resent, him I revenge ; the keek by the base, him I scorn ! I let the keek go, Madame Muldoon. Of the keek I say not at all, but the flea ! Ah, the poor flea ! Excuse the weep, Madame Muldoon !”
The professor weptj into his handkerchief, and the two men looked seriously solemn, and patted the professor on the back.
“Ah, my Alphonse, the flea! The poor leetle flea!” they cried.
“For the flea I have the revenge!” cried the professor, fiercely. “How you say it? I will be to have the revenge. I would do be the revenge having. The revenge is having will I be. Him will I have, that revenge business ! For why T bring the educate flea to those States United? Is it^that they
should be deathed? Is it that a Flannery should make them dead with a—with such a thing like a pop-gun? Is it for these things I educate, I teach, I culture, I love,
I cherish those flea? Is it for these things I give up wife, and patrie, and immigrate myself out of dear France? No, my Jules! No, my Jacques! No, my madame! Ah, I am one heart-busted !”
“Ah, now, professor,” said Mrs. Muldoon, soothingly, “don't bawl annymore. There is sure no use bawlin' over spilt milk. If they be dead, they be dead. I wouldn't cry over a million dead fleas.”
“The American flea—no !” said the professor, haughtily. “The Irish flea—no ! The flea au naturel—no ! But the educate flea of la belle France? The flea I have love, and teach, and make like a sister, a sweetheart to me? The flea that have act up in front of the crowned heads of Spain ; that have travel on the ocean ; that have travel on the land? Ah, Madame Muldoon, it is no common bunch of flea ! Of my busted feelings what will I say? Nothings ! Of my banged-up heart, what will I say? Nothings! But for those dead flea, those poor dead flea, so innocent, so harmless, so much money worth—for those must Monsieur Flannery compensate.
As the professor's meaning dawned on Mrs. Muldoon a look of amazement spread over her face.
“And would ye be makin' poor Mike Flannery pay good money for thim rascal fleas he kilt, and him with his ankles so bit up they look like the smallpox, to say nothin' of other folks which is the same?” she cried. “ 'Tis ashamed ye should be, Mister Professor, bringin' fleas into America and lettin' them run loose ! Ye should muzzle thim, Mister Professor, if ye would turn thim out to pasture in the boardin' house of a poor widdy woman, and no end of trouble, and worry, and every one sayin’, ‘Why did ye let th' Dago come for, annyhow?'”
The professor and his friends sat
silent under this attack, and when it was finished they arose.
“Be so kind,” said the professor, politely, “to tell the Flannery the ultimatum of Monsieur the Professor Jocolino. One hundred educate French flea have I bring to the States United. Of the progeny I do not say. One milliard, two milliard, how many is those progeny I do not know, but of him I speak not. Let him go. I make the Flannery a present of those progeny. But for those one hundred fine educate French flea must he pay. One dollar per each educate flea must he pay, that Flannery! It is the ultimatum ! I come Sunday at past half one on the clock. That Flannery will the money ready have, or the law will be on him. It is sufficient !”
The three compatriots bowed low, and went away. For fully five minutes Mrs. Muldoon sat in a sort of stupor, and then she arose and went about her work. After all it was Flannery’s business, and none of hers, but she wished the men had gone to Flannery, instead of delegating her to tell him.
“Thief of th' woorld !” exclaimed Flannery, when she told him the demand the professor had made. “Sure, I have put me foot in it this time, Missus Muldoon, for kill thim I did, and pay for thim I must, I dare say, but 'twill be no fun t' do it ! One hundred dollars for fleas, mam ! Did ever an Irishman pay the like before? One week ago Mike Flannery would not have give one dollar for all the fleas in th' worrld. But ‘Have to' is a horse a man must ride, whether he wants to or no.”
But the more Flannery thought about having to pay out one hundred dollars for one hundred dead insects the less he liked it and the more angry he became. It could not be denied that one dollar was a reasonable price for a flea that had had a good education. A man could hardly be expected to take a raw country flea, as you might say, and educate it, and give it graces and teach it dancing and all the ac-
complishments, for less than a dollar. But one hundred dollars was a lot of money, too. If it had been a matter of one flea Flannery would not have worried, but to pay out one hundred dollars in a lump for fleaslaughter, hurt his feelings. He did not believe the fleas were worth the price, and he inquired diligently, seeking to learn the market value of educated fleas. There did not seem to be any market value. One thing only he learned, and that was that the Government of the United States, in Congress assembled, had recognized that insects have a value, for he found in the list of customs duties this : “Insects, not crude, 1-4 cent per pound and 10 per cent, ad valorem.”
As Flannery leaned o^er his counter at the office of the Interurban Express Company and spelled this out in the book of customs duties he frowned, but as he looked at it his frown changed to a smile, and fiom a smile to a grin, and he shut the book and put it in his pocket. He was ready to meet the professor.
“Good day to yez,” he said, cheerfully, when he went into the little parlor on Sunday afternoon, and found the professor sitting there, flanked by his two fellow countrymen. “I have come t’ pay ye th’ hunderd dollars Missus Muldoon was tellin’ me about.”
The professor bowed and said nothing. The two gentlemen from Seventh Avenue also bowed, and they too said nothing.
“I’m glad ye spoke about it,” said Flannery, good-naturedly, “for ’tis always a pleasure to Mike Flannery to pay his honest debts, and I might not have thought of it if ye had not mentioned it. I was thinkin’ them was nawthin’ but common, ignorant fleas, professor.”
“Ah, no!” cried the professor. “The very educate flea! The flea of wisdom ! The very teached flea!”
“Hear that now!” said Flannery, “and did they really come all th’ way from France, professor? Or is this a joke ye are playin’ on me?” 36
“The truly French flea!” explained the professor. “From Paris herselfs. The genuine. The import flea.”
“And to think ye brought thim all the way yerself, professor! For ye did, I believe?”
“Certain !” cried all three.
“An’ t’ think of a flea bein’ worth a dollar!” said Flannery. “Thim can’t be crude fleas at sich a price, professor.”
“No! Certain, no!” cried the three men again.
“Not crude,” said Flannery, “and imported by th’ professor! ’Tis odd I should have seen a refirince t’ them very things this very day, professor. ’Tis in this book here,” He took the list of customs duties from his pocket and leaned his elbows on his knees, and ran his hand down the pages.
“ ‘Cattle, if less than one year old, per head, two dollars. All other, if valued less than $14 per head, $3.75 ; if valued more than $14 per head, twinty-sivin and one half per cent.,’ ” read Flannery. “Sure, fleas does not count as cattle, professor. Nor does they come in as swine, th’ duty on which is one dollar an’ fifty cints per head. I know th’ pig, an I am acquainted with th’ flea, an there is a difference between thim that annyone would recognize. Nor do they be ‘Horses an’ Mules’ nor yet ‘Sheep.’ Some might count them in as ‘All other live animals not otherwise specified, twinty per cint.,’ but ’twas not there I saw refirince t’ thim. ‘Fish,’ ” he read, “th’
flea is no more fish than I am-”
lie turned the pages, and continued down through that wonderful list that embraces everything known to man. The three Frnchmen sat on the edges of their chairs, watching him eagerly.
“Ho, ho!” Flannery sung out at length. “Here it is! ‘Insects, not crude, one quarter cent per pound and tin per cint. ad valorum.’ What is ad valorum, I dunno, but ’tis a wonderful thing th’ tariff is. Who would be thinkin’ tin years ago that
Professor Jocolino would be coinin' t’ AmeHky with one hundred fleas, not crude, in his drss-suit portmanteau? But th’ Congress was th’ boy t’ think of everything. ‘No free fleas !’. says they. ‘Look at th’ poor American flea, crude an’ uneducated, an’ see th’ struggle it has, competin’ with th’ flea of Europe, Asia an’ Africa. Down with th’ furrin flea,’ says Congress, ‘protect th’ poor American insect. One quarter cent per pound an’ tin per eint, ad valorum for th’ flea of Europe !’ ”
Mike Flannery brought his hand down on the book he held, and the three men, who had been watching him with a fascinated stare, jumped nervously.
“That’s what Congress says,” said Flannery, glaring at the professor, “but up jumps th’ Sinator from Californy. ‘Stop !’ he says, ‘wait ! ’Tis all right enough for th’ East t’ rule out th’ flea, but th’ Californian loves th’ flea like a brother. We want free fleas.’ Then up jumps th’ Sinator from New York. T don’t object t’ th’ plain or crude flea coinin’ in free,’ says he, ‘for there be need of thim, as me frind from th’ West says. What amusement would th’ dogs of th’ nation have but for the flea,” says he, “But I’m thinking of th’ sivinty-three theayters on an’ off Broadway,’ says he. ‘Shall th’ amusemint industry of th’ metropolis suffer from th’ incoming of th’ millions of educated an’ trained fleas of Europe ? Shall Shakespeare an’ Belasco an’ Shaw be put out of business by th’ hightoned flea theayters of Europe? No!’ says he. T move t’ amend th’ tariff of th’ United States t’ read that th’ duty on insects, not crude, he one fourth of a cent per pound’ an tin per eint, ad valorum,’ he says, ‘which will give th’ dog all th’ crude fleas he wants, an’ yit shut out th’ educated flea from compytition with grand opera an’ Barnum’s circus.’ An so ’twas voted,” concluded Mike Flannery.
Monsieur Jules fidgeted and looked at his watch.
“Be easy,” said Flannery.
“There’s no hurry. Tm waiting’ for a frind of mine, an’ ’tis time t’ talk over th’ tariff with educated min once in a while. Th’ frind I’m lookin’ for anny minute now is a fine expert on th’ subject of th’ tariff himself. O’Halloran is th’ name of him. Him as is th’ second deputy assistant collector of evidence of fraud an’ smugglin’ in th’ revenue service of th’ United States. ’Twas a mere matter of doubt in me mind,” said Flannery, easily, “regardin’ th’ proper valuation of th’ professor’s fleas. I was thinkin’ mebby one dollar was not enough t’ pay for a flea, not crude, so I asks O’Halloran. “Twill be easy to settle that,’ says O’Halloran, ‘for th’ value of thim will be set down in th’ books of th’ United States, at th’ time whin th’ professor paid th’ duty on thim. I’ll just look an’ see how much th’ duty was paid on,’ says he. ‘But mebby th’ professor paid no duty on thim,’ I says. ‘Make no doubt of that,’ says O’Halloran, ‘for unless th’ professor was a fool he would pay th’ duty like a man, for th’ penalty is fine an’ imprisonmint,’ says O’Halloran, ‘an’ I make no doubt he paid it. I will be out Sunday at four,’ says O’Halloran, ‘an’ give ye th’ facts, an’ I hope th’ duty is paid as it should be, for if ’tis not paid ’twill be me duty t’ arrest th’ professor an’-’ ”
Flannery stopped and listened.
“Is that th’ train from th’ city I hear?” he said. “O’Halloran will sure be on it.”
The professor arose, and so did the two friends who had come with him to help him carry home the one hundred dollars. The professor slapped himself on the pockets, looked in his hat, and slapped himself on the pockets again.
“Mon dieu !” he exclaimed, and in an instant he and his friends were in an excited conversation that went at the rate of three hundred words a minute. Then the professor turned to Flannery.
“I return,” he said. “I have lost the most valued thing, the picture of the dear mamma. It is lost! It is picked of the pocket ! Villains ! I go to the police. I return.”
He did not wait for permission, but went, and that was the last Mike Flannery or Mrs. Muldoon ever saw of him.
‘An’ t’ think of me a free trader every day of me born life,” said Mike Flannery that evening, to Mrs. Muldoon, “but I am no more. I see th’ protection there is in’ th’ tariff, Missus Muldoon, mam. But, annyhow, I wonder what is ‘Insects, not crude’?”