nce to collect irrelevant stuff. All you do is to press this button in the floor--so."

The phonograph began to sing in a plaintive voice:

There is a boarding-house, far far away, Where they have ham and eggs, 3 times a day.

"Hang it, that ain't it. Somebody's been singing around here."

The plaintive song began again, mingled with a low, gradually rising wail of cats slowly warming up toward a fight;

O, how the boarders yell, When they hear that dinner bell They give that landlord--

(momentary outburst of terrific catfight which drowns out one word.)

Three times a day.

(Renewal of furious catfight for a moment. The plaintive voice on a high fierce key, "Scat, you devils"--and a racket as of flying missiles.)

"Well, never mind--let it go. I've got some sailor-profanity down in there somewhere, if I could get to it. But it isn't any matter; you see how the machine works."

Hawkins responded with enthusiasm:

"O, it works admirably! I know there's a hundred fortunes in it."

"And mind, the Hawkins family get their share, Washington."

"O, thanks, thanks; you are just as generous as ever. Ah, it's the grandest invention of the age!"

"Ah, well; we live in wonderful times. The elements are crowded full of beneficent forces--always have been--and ours is the first generation to turn them to account and make them work for us. Why Hawkins, everything is useful--nothing ought ever to be wasted. Now look at sewer gas, for instance. Sewer gas has always been wasted, heretofore; nobody tried to save up sewer-gas--you can't name me a man. Ain't that so? you know perfectly well it's so."

"Yes it is so--but I never--er--I don't quite see why a body--"

"Should want to save it up? Well, I'll tell you. Do you see this little invention here?--it's a decomposer--I call it a decomposer. I give you my word of honor that if you show me a house that produces a given quantity of sewer-gas in a day, I'll engage to set up my decomposer there and make that house produce a hundred times that quantity of sewer-gas in less than half an hour."

"Dear me, but why should you want to?"

"Want to? Listen, and you'll see. My boy, for illuminating purposes and economy combined, there's nothing in the world that begins with sewer- gas. And really, it don't cost a cent. You put in a good inferior article of plumbing,--such as you find everywhere--and add my decomposer, and there you are. Just use the ordinary gas pipes--and there your expense ends. Think of it. Why, Major, in five years from now you won't see a house lighted with anything but sewer-gas. Every physician I talk to, recommends it; and every plumber."

"But isn't it dangerous?"

"O, yes, more or less, but everything is--coal gas, candles, electricity --there isn't anything that ain't."

"It lights up well, does it?"

"O, magnificently."

"Have you given it a good trial?"

"Well, no, not a first rate one. Polly's prejudiced, and she won't let me put it in here; but I'm playing my cards to get it adopted in the President's house, and then it'll go--don't you doubt it. I shall not need this one for the present, Washington; you may take it down to some boarding-house and give it a trial if you like."


Washington shuddered slightly at the suggestion, then his face took on a dreamy look and he dropped into a trance of thought. After a little, Sellers asked him what he was grinding in his mental mill.

"Well, this. Have you got some secret project in your head which requires a Bank of England back of it to make it succeed?"

The Colonel showed lively astonishment, and said:

"Why, Hawkins, are you a mind-reader?"

"I? I never thought of such a thing."

"Well, then how did you happen to drop onto that idea in this curious fashion? It's just mind-reading, that's what it is, though you may not know it. Because I have got a private project that requires a Bank of England at its back. How could you divine that? What was the process? This is interesting."

"There wasn't any process.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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