Cabbages and Kings HTML version
VI. The Phonograph and the Graft
"What was this this graft? asked Johnny, with the impatience of the great public to whom
tales are told.
"'Tis contrary to art and philosophy to give you the information," said Keogh, calmly.
"The art of narrative consists in concealing from your audience everything it wants to
know until after you expose your favorite opinions on topics foreign to the subject. A
good story is like a bitter pill with the sugar coating inside of it. I will begin, if you
please, with a horoscope located in the Cherokee Nation; and end with a moral tune on
"Me and Henry Horsecollar brought the first phonograph to this country. Henry was a
quarter-breed, quarter-back cherokee, educated East in the idioms of football, and West
in contraband whiskey, and a gentleman, the same as you and me. He was easy and
romping in his ways; a man about six foot, with a kind of rubber-tire movement. Yes, he
was a little man about five foot five, or five foot eleven. He was what you would call a
medium tall man of average smallness. Henry had quit college once, and the Muscogee
jail three times--the last-named institution on account of introducing and selling whisky
in the territories. Henry Horsecollar never let any cigar stores come up and stand behind
him. He didn't belong to that tribe of Indians.
"Henry and me met at Texarkana, and figured out this phonograph scheme. He had $360
which came to him out of a land allotment in the reservation. I had run down from Little
Rock on account of a distressful scene I had witnessed on the street there. A man stood
on a box and passed around some gold watches, screw case, stem-winders, Elgin
movement, very elegant. Twenty bucks they cost you over the counter. At three dollars
the crowd fought for the tickers. The man happened to find a valise full of them handy,
and he passed them out like putting hot biscuits on a plate. The backs were hard to
unscrew, but the crowd put its ear to the case, and they ticked mollifying and agreeable.
Three of these watches were genuine tickers; the rest were only kickers. Hey? Why,
empty cases with one of them horny black bugs that fly around electric lights in 'em.
Them bugs kick off minutes and seconds industrious and beautiful. So, this man I was
speaking of cleaned up $288; and then he went away, because he knew that when it came
time to wind watches in Little Rock an entomologist would be needed, and he wasn't one.
"So, as I say, Henry had $360 and I had $288. The idea of introducing the phonograph to
South America was Henry's; but I took to it freely, being fond of machinery of all kinds.
"'The Latin races,' says Henry, explaining easy in the idioms he learned at college, 'are
peculiarly adapted to be victims of the phonograph. They yearn for music and color and
gaiety. They give wampum to the hand-organ man and the four-legged chicken in the tent
when they're three months behind with the grocery and the bread-fruit tree."