A Business Deal

An ancient joker, grizzled and half-bald,
With the outward seeming and the attire
Of a devout deacon, and yet possessing
The frolicsome nature of an unbroken colt,
Pushed soft his entrance to a long day coach.
The same, to make the purpose of the tale,
Was well-nigh rilled with passengers
Of all degrees. ' Where shall I sit? '
Thus asked the ancient joker, for, in truth,
His sweeping glance discovered no place
Vacant. Until at last! Ah, there!
Beside a buxom woman, well removed
From the endangered age of coquetry
And whose condens-ed features made
A chaperon a superfluity, there sat
A dog. The woman and the canine thus
Doubly held down a cushioned seat
Meant for two human beings.
' To stand or not to stand ?
That is the question;
Whether 'tis nobler in a man to suffer
The crampy leg aches and the jolty motion
Or to take chances with the heavy female
And oust the dog? '
Not overlong he waited, for he knew
That sweet diplomacy might win a cause
Which harsh attack would lose.
Gently he lifted then the limber brute
And sat he where the dog had sat before,
And to the matron's cold astonishment
He turned a smile, oily and melting
In its sublime benevolence.
Upon his knee he held the dog, stroking,
With unpracticed hand, the wiry coat,
And then he spoke. ' Madam,' quoth he.
' Full many a league, in this and foreign lands,
Have I, your servant, wandered,
But never in my wide perambulations
Have I beheld a dog of any breed
More pleasing to my eye than this one.'
'Twas a judicious lie, for well he knew
The cur had neither pedigree nor value.
' Listen! ' he said. ' In my far-distant home
I have a niece, a dimpled little thing,
Who craves a true companion.
If I could take this dog to her
Methinks I now can hear her cry with joy
And note her glad amazement.
This dog I must possess, and now,
In furtherance of what I most desire,
I offer you one hundred dollars for him.'
Delight and fright worked for supremacy
Within the ample figure of that dame.
Moved by the subtle flattery she was,
And yet alarmed to know that any one
Should covet thus her chief possession.
' Alas, I dare not part with him,' she said.
' My husband loves him. Should I now return
Without the household pet
'Twould wrench his heart.'
' What say you then to fifty dollars more ? '
Urged the persistent one. ' My niece,
My little, bright-eyed darling relative,
Must have this dog.'
' Tempt me not!' cried the woman,
And speaking thus she gazed
More infinitely fond than e'er before
Upon the fice. ' I'll give two hundred.'
' Ah, now, methinks, you play upon my avarice,'
The woman said. 'At the next station
I must leave you. Better than life itself
I love this little dog; but then — alack-a-day!
Two hundred takes him! '
' Good! He is mine! One word, however,
Relating to the terms of this transaction.
Two hundred dollars is the price I give,
But not in paltry gold or silver, mind you.'
'What, then?' she asked, and as she spoke
The whistle blew the signal for the station.
' With your permission, madam, I will pay
In Maltese cats worth eighty dollars each.'
Too full of wrath to answer him
She fled, pressing the dear one to her bosom.
The ancient joker watched her mad retreat
And said, ' I lose the dog but keep the seat.'

Rate this poem: 


No reviews yet.