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"HULLO!" said the Idiot, as he began his breakfast. "This isn't Friday morning, is it? I thought it was Tuesday."
"So it is Tuesday," put in the School-Master.
"Then this fish is a little extra treat, is it?" observed the Idiot, turning with a smile to the landlady.
"Fish? That isn't fish, sir," returned the good lady. "That is liver."
"Oh, is it?" said the Idiot, apologetically. "Excuse me, my dear Mrs. Pedagog. I thought from its resistance that it was fried sole. Have you a hatchet handy?" he added, turning to the maid.
"My piece is tender enough. I can't see what you want," said the School-Master, coldly.
"I'd like your piece," replied the Idiot, suavely. "That is, if it really is tender enough."
"Don't pay any attention to him, my dear," said the School-Master to the landlady, whose ire was so very much aroused that she was about to make known her sentiments on certain subjects.
"No, Mrs. Pedagog," said the Idiot, "don't pay any attention to me, I beg of you. Anything that could add to the jealousy of Mr. Pedagog would redound to the discomfort of all of us. Besides, I really do not object to the liver. I need not eat it. And as for staying my appetite, I always stop on my way down-town after breakfast for a bite or two anyhow."
There was silence for a moment.
"I wonder why it is," began the Idiot, after tasting his coffee — "I wonder why it is Friday is fish-day all over the world, anyhow? Do you happen to be learned enough in piscatorial science to enlighten me on that point, Doctor?"
"No," returned the physician, gruffly. "I've never looked into the matter."
"I guess it's because Friday is an unlucky day," said the Idiot. "Just think of all the unlucky things that may happen before and after eating fish, as well as during the process. In the first place, before eating, you go off and fish all day, and have no luck — don't catch a thing. You fall in the water perhaps, and lose your watch, or your fishhook catches in your coat-tails, with the result that you come near casting yourself instead of the fly into the brook or the pond, as the case may be. Perhaps the hook doesn't stop with the coat-tails, but goes on in, and catches you. That's awfully unlucky, especially when the hook is made of unusually barby barbed wire.
YOU FISH ALL DAY, AND HAVE NO LUCK
"Then, again, you may go fishing on somebody else's preserves, and get arrested, and sent to jail overnight, and hauled up the next morning, and have to pay ten dollars fine for poaching. Think of Mr. Pedagog being fined ten dollars for poaching! Awfully unfortunate!"
"Kindly leave me out of your calculations," returned Mr. Pedagog, with a flush of indignation.
"Certainly, if you wish it," said the Idiot. "We'll hand Mr. Brief over to the police, and let him be fined for poaching on somebody else's preserves — although that's sort of impossible, too, because Mrs. Pedagog never lets us see preserves of any kind."
"We had brandied peaches last Sunday night," said the landlady, indignantly.
"Oh yes, so we did," returned the Idiot. "That must have been what the Bibliomaniac had taken," he added, turning to the genial gentleman who occasionally imbibed. "You know, we thought he'd been — ah — he'd been absorbing."
"To what do you refer?" asked the Bibliomaniac, curtly.
"To the brandied peaches," returned the Idiot. "Do not press me further, please, because we like you, old fellow, and I don't believe anybody noticed it but ourselves."
"Noticed what? I want to know what you noticed and when you noticed it," said the Bibliomaniac, savagely. "I don't want any nonsense, either. I just want a plain statement of facts. What did you notice?"
"Well, if you must have it," said the Idiot, slowly, "my friend who imbibes and I were rather pained on Sunday night to observe that you — that you had evidently taken something rather stronger than cold water, tea, or Mr. Pedagog's opinions."
"It's a libel, sir! — a gross libel!" retorted the Bibliomaniac. "How did I show it? That's what I want to know. How — did — I — show — it? Speak up quick, and loud too. How did I show it?"
HE COULD BE HEARD THROWING THINGS ABOUT
"Well, you went up-stairs after tea."
"Yes, sir, I did."
"And my friend who imbibes and I were left down in the front hall, and while we were talking there you put your head over the banisters and asked, 'Who's that down there?' Remember that?"
"Yes, sir, I do. And you replied, 'Mr. Auburnose and myself.' "
"Yes. And then you asked, 'Who are the other two?' "
"Well, I did. What of it?"
"Mr. Auburnose and I were there alone. That's what of it. Now I put a charitable construction on the matter and say it was the peaches, when you fly off the handle like one of Mrs. Pedagog's coffee-cups."
"Sir!" roared the Bibliomaniac, jumping from his chair. "You are the greatest idiot I know."
"Sir!" returned the Idiot, "you flatter me."
But the Bibliomaniac was not there to hear. He had rushed from the room, and during the deep silence that ensued he could be heard throwing things about in the chamber overhead, and in a very few moments the banging of the front door and scurrying down the brown-stone steps showed that be had gone out of doors to cool off.
"It is too bad," said the Idiot, after a while, "that he has such a quick temper. It doesn't do a bit of good to get mad that way. He'll be uncomfortable all day long, and over what? Just because I attempted to say a good word for him, and announce the restoration of my confidence in his temperance qualities, he cuts up a high-jinks that makes everybody uncomfortable.
"But to resume about this fish business," continued the Idiot. "Fish — "
"Oh, fish be hanged!" said the Doctor, impatiently. "We've had enough of fish."
"Very well," returned the idiot; "as you wish. Hanging isn't the best treatment for fish, but we'll let that go. I never cared for the finny tribe myself, and if Mrs. Pedagog can be induced to do it, I for one am in favor of keeping shad, shark, and shrimps out of the house altogether."