Miss Stinger had sat quietly looking into her tea-cup until this moment, when she clashed her spoon into the saucer, and said, “If there is any thing I dislike, it is an attempt at poetry when you can’t do it. I know some people who always try to show themselves in public; but when they are home, they never have their collar on straight, and in the morning look like a whirlwind breakfasting on a haystack. As for me, I am practical, and winter is winter, and sleet is sleet, and ice is ice, and a tea-cup is a tea-cup; and if you will pass mine up to the hostess to be resupplied, I will like it a great deal better than all this sentimentalism. No sweetening, if you please. I do not like things sweet. Do not put in any of your beautiful snow for sugar, nor stir it with an icicle.”
This sudden jerk in the conversation snapped it off, and for a moment there was quiet. I knew not how to get conversation started again. Our usual way is to talk about the weather; but that subject had been already exhausted.
Suddenly I saw the color for the first time in years come into the face of Mr. Givemfits. The fact was that, in biting a hard crust of bread, he had struck a sore tooth which had been troubling him, and he broke out with the exclamation, “Dr. Butterfield, the physical and moral world is degenerating. Things get worse and worse. Look, for instance, at the tone of many of the newspapers; gossip, abuse, lies, blackmail, make up the chief part of them, and useful intelligence is the exception. The public have more interest in murders and steamboat explosions than in the items of mental and spiritual progress. Church and State are covered up with newspaper mud.”
“Stop!” said Dr. Butterfield. “Don’t you ever buy newspapers?”
A growler soothed.
Givemfits said to Dr. Butterfield, “You asked me last evening if I ever bought newspapers. I reply, Yes, and write for them too.
“But I see their degeneracy. Once you could believe nearly all they said; now he is a fool who believes a tenth part of it. There is the New York ‘Scandalmonger,’ and the Philadelphia ‘Prestidigitateur,’ and the Boston ‘Prolific,’ which do nothing but hoodwink and confound the public mind. Ten dollars will get a favorable report of a meeting, or as much will get it caricatured. There is a secret spring behind almost every column. It depends on what the editor had for supper the night before whether he wants Foster hung or his sentence commuted. If the literary man had toast and tea, as weak as this before me, he sleeps soundly, and next day says in his columns that Foster ought not to be executed; he is a good fellow, and the clergymen who went to Albany to get him pardoned were engaged in a holy calling, and their congregations had better hold fast of them lest they go up like Elijah. But if the editor had a supper at eleven, o’clock