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A Parody Outline of History(4)

2006-09-07 21:49

  Part II

  Plymouth.

  A year later.

  Night.

  She lay sleepless on her bed.

  She heard the outside door open; Kennicott returning from prayer meeting.

  He sat down on the bed and began pulling off his boots. She knew that the left boot would stick. She knew exactly what he would say and how long it would take him to get it off. She rolled over in bed, a tactical movement which left no blanket for her husband.

  "You weren't at prayer meeting," he said.

  "I had a headache," she lied. He expressed no sympathy.

  "Miles Standish was telling me what you did today at the meeting of the Jolly Seventeen." He had got the boot off at last; he lay down beside her and pulled all the blankets off her onto himself.

  "That was kind of Miles." She jerked at the covers but he held them tight. "What charming story did he tell this time?"

  "Now look here, Prissie——Miles Standish isn't given to fabrication. He said you told the Jolly Seventeen that next Thanksgiving they ought to give a dance instead of an all-day prayer service."

  "Well——anything else?" She gave a tremendous tug at the bedclothes and Kennicott was uncovered again.

  "He said you suggested that they arrange a series of lectures on modern religions, and invite Quakers and other radicals to speak right here in Plymouth and tell us all about their beliefs. And not only that but he said you suggested sending a message to the Roman Catholic exiles from England, inviting them to make their home with us. You must have made quite a little speech."

  "Well this is the land of religious freedom, isn't it? That's what you came here for, didn't you?" She sat up to deliver this remark——a movement which enabled Kennicott to win back seven-eighths of the bed covering.

  "Now look here Prissie——I'm not narrow like some of these pilgrims who came over with us. But I won't have my wife intimating that a Roman Catholic or a Quaker should be allowed to spread his heresies broadcast in this country. It's all right for you and me to know something about those things, but we must protect our children and those who have not had our advantages. The only way to meet this evil is to stamp it out, quick, before it can get a start. And it's just such so-called broadminded thinkers as you that encourage these heretics. You'll be criticizing the Bible next, I suppose."

  Thus in early times did the pious Right Thinkers save the land from Hellfire and Damnation; thus the great-grandfathers of middle-western congressmen; thus the ancestors of platitudinous editorial writers, Sitters on Committees, and tin-horn prohibitionists.

  Kennicott got up to cool his wrath and indignation with a drink of water. He stumbled over a chair, reached for the jug, took a drink, set the jug down, stumbled over the same chair, and crawled back into bed. His expedition cost him the loss of all bed covering; he gave up the fight.

  "Aside from dragging my own private views over the coals of your righteousness, did you and your friends find anything equally pleasant and self-satisfying to discuss this evening?"

  "Eh——what's that? Why, yes, we did. We decided to refuse permission for one of these traveling medicine shows to operate in Plymouth."

  "Medicine shows?"

  "Yes——you know——like a fair in England. This one claims to come from down south somewhere. 'Smart Set Medicine Show' it's called, run by a fellow named Mencken. Sells cheap whisky to the Indians—— makes them crazy, they say. He's another one of your radical friends we don't want around."

  "Yes, he might cut in on your own trading with the Indians."

  "Oh, for heaven's sake, Prissie——hire a hall."

  Silence. He began to snore.

  She lay there, sleepless and open-eyed. The clock struck eleven.

  "Why can't I get to sleep?"

  ("Did Will put the cat out?")

  "I wonder what this medicine show is like?"

  "What is the matter with these people?"

  ("Or is it me?")

  She reached down, pulled the blankets from under her, spread them carefully over the sleeping Kennicott, patting them down affectionately.

  The next day she learned what the medicine show was like. She also learned what was the matter with the pilgrims.

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