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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 248 pages of information about Elbow-Room.

CHAPTER XXIII.

THE TRAMP WITH GENIUS AND WITHOUT IT.

The tramp is as familiar a figure in the village and the surrounding country as he is in other populous rural neighborhoods.  The ruffian tramp, of course, is the most constant of the class, but now and then appears one of the fraternity who displays something like genius in his attempts to impose himself upon people as a being of a higher order than an idle, worthless vagabond.  A fellow of this description came into the editorial room of the Patriot one day while I was sitting there, and announced in a loud voice that he was a professor of pisciculture and an aspirant for a position upon the State Fish Commission.  As the statement did not attract the attention of anybody, he seated himself in a chair, placed his feet upon the table, and aiming with surprising accuracy at a spittoon, said his name was Powell.  Still nobody paid any attention to him, but the fact did not seem to depress his spirits, for he talked straight ahead fluently and with some vehemence: 

“What are they doing for the fishery interest, any way, these commissioners?  What do they know about fishing?  More’n likely when they go out they hold the hook in their hands and let the pole float in the water.  Why, one of ’em was talking with me the other day, and says he, ’Powell, I want the Legislature to make an appropriation for the cultivation of canned lobsters in the Susquehanna.’  ’How are you going to do it?’ says I.  ‘Why,’ says he, ’my plan is to cross the original lobster with some good variety of tin can, breed ’em in and in, and then feed the animal on solder and green labels.’

“Perfect ass, of course; but I let him run along, and pretty soon he says, ’I’ve just bought half a barrel of salt mackerel, which I’m going to put in the Schuylkill.  My idea,’ says he, ’is to breed a mackerel that’ll be all ready soaked when you catch him.  The ocean mackerel always tastes too much of the salt.  What the people want is a fish that is fresher.’  And so, you know, that immortal idiot is actually going to dump those mackerel overboard in the hope that they’ll swim about and make themselves at home.  Well, if the governor will appoint such chuckle-head commissioners, what else can you expect?

“However, I said nothing.  I wasn’t going to set him up in business with my brains and experience, and so, directly, he says to me, ’Powell, I’m now engaged in transplanting some desiccated codfish into the Schuylkill; but it scatters too much when it gets into the water.  Now, how would it do to breed the ordinary codfish with a sausage-chopper or a mince-meat machine?  Do you think a desiccated codfish would rise to a fly, or wouldn’t you have to fish for him with a colander?’ And so he kept reeling out a jackassery like that until directly he said, ’I’ll tell you, professor, what this country needs is a fresh-water oyster.  Now,

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