So the woman polished her nose glasses and read a double sheet of long up-and-down calligraphy—that is, she read until she exploded in triumphant retort:
“Ha! There now! Don’t I know a thing or two? Listen: ’Oswald is so enraptured with the mite; you would never guess what he calls it—“My little flower with bones and a voice!"’ Now! Don’t tell me I didn’t have Oswald’s number. I knew he wouldn’t be satisfied to call it a baby; he’d be bound to name it something animal, vegetable, or mineral. Ain’t it the truth? ‘Little flower with bones and a voice!’ What do you know about that? That’s a scientist trying to be poetic.
“And here—get this: She says that one hour after the thing was born the happy father was caught by the doctor and nurse seeing if it could hold its own weight up on a broomstick, like a monkey. She says he was acutely distressed when these authorities deprived him of the custody of his child. Wouldn’t that fade you? Trying to see if a baby one hour old could chin itself! Quite all you would wish to know about Oswald.”
I hastily said no; it was not nearly all I wanted to know about Oswald. I wanted to know much more. Almost any one would. The lady once more studied the hairy face with its bone-rimmed glasses.
“Shucks!” said she. “He don’t look near as proud in this as he does in that one he sent me himself—here, where is that thing?”
From the far end of the big table she brought under the lamp a basket of Indian weave and excavated from its trove of playing cards, tobacco sacks, cigarette papers, letters, and odd photographs another snapshot of Oswald. It was a far different scene. Here Oswald stood erect beside the mounted skeleton of some prehistoric giant reptile that dwarfed yet left him somehow in kingly triumph.
“There now!” observed the lady. “Don’t he look a heap more egregious by that mess of bones than he does by his own flesh and blood? Talk about pride!”
And I saw that it was so. Here Oswald looked the whole world in the face, proud indeed! One hand rested upon the beast’s kneecap in a proprietary caress. Oswald looked too insufferably complacent. It was the look to be forgiven a man only when he wears it in the presence of his first-born. If snapshots tell anything at all, these told that Oswald was the father of a mammoth sauropod and had merely dug up the baby in a fossil bed somewhere.
“That’s where the man’s heart really lies,” said his stern critic, “even if he does drivel about his little flower with bones and a voice! Probably by now he’s wishing the voice had been left out of his little flower.” Impressively she planted a rigid forefinger on the print of the mounted skeleton.
“That there,” she glibly rattled off, “is the organic remains of a three-toed woolly bronsolumphicus of the carboniferous limestone, or Upper Silurian trilobite period. I believe I have the name correct. It was dug up out of a dry lake in Wyoming that years ago got to be mere loblolly, so that this unfortunate critter bogged down in it. The poor thing passed on about six million or four hundred million years ago—somewhere along there. Oswald and his new father-in-law dug it from its quiet resting place in the old cemetery. Such is their thrilling work in life.