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Skookum Chuck Fables Bits of History, Through the Microscope

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Of the Rolling Stone

Once upon a time in a small village in Bruce County, Province of Ontario, Dominion of Canada, there lived a man who was destined to establish a precedent. He was to prove to the world that a rolling stone is capable at times of gathering as much moss as a stationary one, and how it is possible for the rock with St. Vitus dance to become more coated than the one that is confined to perpetual isolation. Like most iconoclasts he was of humble birth, and had no foundation upon which to rest the cornerstone of his castle, which was becoming too heavy for his brain to support much longer.

His strong suit was his itinerate susceptibility; but his main anchorage was his better five-fifths. One of his most monotonous arguments was to the effect that the strenuousness of life could only be equalled by the monotony of it, and that it was a pity we had to do so much in this world to get so little out of it.

"Why should a man be anchored to one spot of the geographical distribution like a barnacle to a ship during the whole of his mortal belligerency?" he one day asked his wife. "We hear nothing, see nothing, become nothing, and our system becomes fossilized, antediluvian. Why not see everything, know everything? Life is hardly worth while, but since we are here we may as well feed from the choicest fruits, and try for the first prizes."

Now, his wife was one of those happy, contented, sweet, make-the-best-of-it-cheerily persons who never complained even under the most trying circumstances. It is much to the detriment of society that the variety is not more numerous, but we are not here to criticise the laws that govern the human nature of the ladies. This lady was as far remote from her husband in temperament as Venus is from Neptune. He was darkness, she was daylight; and the patience with which she tolerated him in his dark moods was beautiful though tragic. It was plain that she loved him, for what else in a woman could overlook such darkness in a man?

"You see," he would say, "it is like this. Here I am slaving away for about seventy-five dollars per month, year in and year out. All I get is my food and clothing—and yours, of course, which is as much necessary, but is more or less of a white man's burden. No sooner do I get a dollar in my hand than it has to be passed along to the butcher, baker, grocer, dressmaker, milliner. Are our efforts worth while when we have no immediate prospects of improvement? And then the monotony of the game: eat, sleep, work; eat, sleep, work. And the environs are as monotonous as the occupations. I think man was made for something more, although a very small percentage are ever so fortunate as to get it. Now, I can make a mere living by roaming about from place to place as well as I can by sitting down glued to this spot that I hate, and then I will have the chance of falling into something that is a great deal better, and have an opportunity to see something, hear something, learn something. Here I am dying by inches, unwept, unhonoured and unsung."

To be "blue" was his normal condition. His sky was always cloudy, and with this was mingled a disposition of weariness which turned him with disgust from all familiar objects. With him "familiarity bred contempt." One day when his psychological temperament was somewhat below normal the pent up thunder in him exploded and the lightning was terrible:

"Here I am rooted to one spot," he said, "fossilized, stagnant, wasting away, dead to the whole world except this one little acre. And what is there here? Streets, buildings, trees, fences, hills, water. Nothing out of the ordinary; and so familiar, they have become hateful. Why, everything in the environment breeds weariness, monotony, a painfully disgusting sameness. The same things morning, noon and night, year after year. Why, the very names of the people here give me nervous prostration. Just think—Cummings, Huston, Sanson, Austin, Ward, McAbee, Hobson, Bailey, Smith, Black, Brown, White—Bah! the sound of them is like rumors of a plague. I want to flee from them. I want to hear new names ringing in my ears. And I hate the faces no less than I do the names. I would rather live on a prairie where you expect nothing; and get it—anything so long as it is new."

Now, that which is hereditary with the flesh cannot be a crime....