Posted by ricardo marcenaro | Posted in Short Stories: Ellis Parker Butler - The water goats - Links to more Short Stories | Posted on 12:06
"And then," said the landscape gardener, combing his silky, pointed beard gently with his long, artistic fingers, "in the lake you might have a couple of gondolas. Two would be sufficient for a lake of this size; amply sufficient. Yes," he said firmly, "I would certainly advise gondolas. They look well, and the children like to ride on them. And so do the adults. I would have two gondolas in the lake."
Mayor Dugan and the City Council, meeting as a committee of the whole to receive the report of the landscape gardener and his plan for the new public park, nodded their heads sagely.
"Sure!" said Mayor Dugan. "We want two of thim--of thim gon--thim gon--"
"Gondolas," said the landscape gardener. "Sure!" said Mayor Dugan, "we want two of thim. Remimber th' gondolas, Toole."
"I have thim fast in me mind," said Toole. "I will not let thim git away, Dugan."
The landscape gardener stood a minute in deep thought, looking at the ceiling.
"Yes, that is all!" he said. "My report, and the plan, and what I have mentioned, will be all you need."
Then he shook hands with the mayor and with all the city councilmen and left Jeffersonville forever, going back to New York where landscape gardeners grow, and the doors were opened and the committee of the whole became once more the regular meeting of the City Council.
The appropriation for the new park was rushed through in twenty minutes, passing the second and third readings by the reading of the title under a suspension of the by-laws, and being unanimously adopted. It was a matter of life and death with Mayor Dugan and his ring. Jeffersonville was getting tired of the joyful grafters, and murmurs of discontent were concentrating into threats of a reform party to turn the cheerful rascals out. The new park was to be a sop thrown to the populace--something to make the city proud of itself and grateful to its mayor and council. It was more than a pet scheme of Mayor Dugan, it was a lifeboat for the ring. In half an hour the committees had been appointed, and the mayor turned to the regular business. Then from his seat at the left of the last row little Alderman Toole arose.
"Misther Mayor," he said, "how about thim--thim don--thim don--Golas!" whispered Alderman Grevemeyer hoarsely, "dongolas."
"How about thim dongolas, Misther Mayor?" asked Alderman Toole.
"Sure!" said the mayor. "Will annyone move that we git two dongolas t' put in th' lake for th' kids t' ride on? Will annyone move that Alderman Toole be a conmittee of wan t' git two dongolas t' put in th' lake?"
"I make dot motions," said Alderman Greveneyer, half raising his great bulk from his seat and sinking back with a grunt.
"Sicond th' motion," said Alderman Toole.
"Moved and siconded," said the mayor, "that Alderman Toole be a committee t' buy two dongolas t' put in th' lake for th' kids t' ride on. Ye have heard th' motion."
The motion was unanimously carried. That was the kind of City Council Mayor Dugan had chosen.
When little Alderman Toole dropped into Casey's saloon that night on his way home he did not slip meekly to the far end of the bar, as he usually did. For the first time in his aldermanic career he had been put on a committee where he would really have something to do, and he felt the honour. He boldly took a place between the big mayor and Alderman Grevemeyer, and said: "One of th' same, Casey," with the air of a man who has matters of importance on his mind. He felt that things were coming his way. Even the big mayor seemed to appreciate it, for he put his hand affectionately on Toole's shoulder.
"Mike," said the mayor, "about thim dongolas, now; have ye thought anny about where ye would be gettin' thim?"
"I have not," said Toole. "I was thinkin' 'twould be good t' think it over a bit, Dugan. Mebby 'twould be best t' git thim at Chicagy." He looked anxiously at the mayor's face, hoping for some sign of approval or disapproval, but the mayor's face was noncommittal. "But mebby it wouldn't," concluded Toole. As a feeler he added: "Would ye be wantin' me t' have thim made here, Dugan?"
The big mayor patted Toole on the shoulder indulgently.
"It's up t' you, Mike," he said. "Ye know th' way Dugan does things, an' th' way he likes thim done. I trust thim that I kin trust, an' whin I put a man on committee I'm done wid th' thing. Of coorse," he added, putting his mouth close to Toole's ear, and winking at Grevemeyer, "ye will see that there is a rake-off for me an' th' byes."
"Sure!" said Toole.
The big mayor turned back to the bar and took a drink from his glass. Grevemeyer took a drink from his glass, also. So did Toole, gravely. Dugan wiped his mouth on the back of his hand and turned to Toole again.
"Mike," he said, "what do ye think? Mebby 'twould do as well t' git a couple of sicond-hand dongolas an' have thim painted up. If they was in purty good shape no wan would know th' difference, an' 'twould make a bit more rake-off fer th' byes, mebby."
"Th' same word was on th' ind o' me tongue, Dugan," said Toole, nodding his head slowly. "I was considerin' this very minute where I could lay me hand on a couple of purty good dongolas that has not been used much. Flannagan could paint thim up fine!"
"Or Stoltzenau could do such paintings," interposed Grevemeyer.
"Sure!" agreed the big mayor. He toyed with his glass a moment. "Mike," he said suddenly, "what th' divil is a dongola, anyhow?"
Mike Toole was just raising his glass to his lips with the movements of one accustomed to hold conversation with the mayor. His left hand rested on his hip, with his arm akimbo, and his hat was tipped carelessly to the back of his head. The hand raising his glass stopped short where it was when he heard the mayor's question. He frowned at the glass--scowled at it angrily.
"A dongola, Dugan"--he said slowly, and stopped. "A dongola"--he repeated. "A dongola--did ye ask me what a dongola might be, Dugan?"
The big mayor nodded, and Grevemeyer leaned forward to catch the answer. Casey, too, leaned on his bar and listened. Alderman Toole raised his glass to his lips and filled his mouth with the liquor. Instantly he dashed the glass furiously to the floor. He jerked off his hat and cast it into a far corner and pulled off his coat, throwing it after his hat. He was climbing on to the bar when the big mayor and Grevemeyer laid their hands on the little man and held him tightly. The big mayor shook him once and set him on the floor.
"Mike!" said the big mayor. "What's th' matter wid ye? What are ye goin' afther Casey that way for? Is it crazy ye are? Or have ye gone insane?"
"Knock-out drops!" shouted Toole, shaking his fist at Casey, who looked down at him in astonishment. "Knock-out drops! I will have th' law on ye, Casey. I will have th' joint closed! I'll teach ye t' be givin' knock-out drops t' th' aldermin of th' city!"
"Mike!" cried the big mayor, giving him another vigorous shake. "Shut up wid ye! Casey wouldn't be givin' ye annything that wasn't good for ye. Casey wouldn't be givin' ye knock-out drops."
"No?" whispered Mike angrily. "No? Wouldn't he, Dugan? An' what has he done t' me mimory, then, Dugan? What has he put in th' drink t' rob me of me mimory? Wan minute ago I knew as well anny other man what a dongola is like, an' now I have no mimory of anny dongolas at all. Wan minute ago I could have told ye th' whole history of dongolas, from th' time of Adam up till now, an' have drawed a picture of wan that annywan could recognize--an' now I wouldn't know wan if ye was show it t' me! I was about t' tell ye th' whole history of dongolas, Dugan; 'twas on th' ind of me tongue t' give ye a talk on dongolas, whin I took a drink. Ye saw me take a drink, Grevemeyer?"
"Ya!" said Grevemeyer, nodding his head solemnly. "You took such a drink!"
"Sure," said Toole, arranging his vest. "Grevemeyer saw me take th' drink--an now I have no mimory of dongolas at all. If ye was t' show me a chromo of wan I wouldn't know was it a dongola or what. I'm ashamed of ye, Casey!"
"If ye done it, Casey, ye hadn't have ought t' have done it," said Dugan reprovingly. "Th' mind of him might be ruined intirely."
"Stop, Dugan!" said Toole hastily. "I forgive him. Me mind will likely be all right by mornin'. 'Tis purty good yit, ixcipt on th' subjict of dongolas. I'm timporarily out of remimbrance what dongolas is. 'Tis odd how thim knock-out drops works, Grevemeyer."
"Ya!" said the alderman unsuspectingly, "gifing such a forgetfulness on such easy things as dongolas."
"Sure! You tell Dugan what dongolas is, Grevemeyer," said Toole quickly.
Grevemeyer looked at his glass thoughtfully. His mind worked slowly always, but he saw that it would not do for him to have knock-out drops so soon after Toole.
"Ach!" he exclaimed angrily. "You are insulting to me mit such questions Toole. So much will I tell you--never ask Germans what is dongolas. It is not for Germans to talk about such things. Ask Casey."
Casey scratched his head thoughtfully.
"Dongolas?" he repeated. "I have heard th' word, Grevemeyer. Wait a bit! 'Tis something about shoes. Sure! I remimber, now! 'Twas dongola shoes wan of me kids had, last winter, an' no good they were, too. Dongolas is shoes, Grevemeyer--laced shoes--dongolas is laced shoes."
The big mayor leaned his head far back and laughed long and loud. He pounded on the bar with his fist, and slapped Toole on the back.
"Laced shoes!" he cried, wiping his eyes, and then he became suddenly serious. "'Twould not be shoes, Casey," he said gravely. "Thim dongolas was ricomminded by th' landscape-gardener from New Yorrk. 'Twould not be sinsible t' ricommind us put a pair of laced shoes in th' park lake fer th' kids t' ride on."
"'Twould not seem so," said Toole, shaking his head wisely. "I wisht me mind was like it always is. 'Tis a pity--"
"Stop!" cried Casey. "I have it! Thim was kid shoes. Thim dongolas was kid shoes."
"So said, Casey," said Duo'an "For th' kid."
"No," said Casey, "of th' kid."
"Sure!" said Gravemeyer. "So it is--the shoes of the child."
"Right fer ye!" exclaimed Casey. "Th' kid shoes of th' kid. 'Twas kid leather they were made out of, Dugan. Th' dongola is some fancy kind of a goat. Like box-calf is th' skin of th' calf of th' box-cow. Th' dongola is some foreign kind of a goat, Dugan."
"Ho, ho-o-o!" cried Toole, suddenly, knocking on his forehead with the knuckles of his fist. The three men turned their eyes upon him and stared.
"What ails ye now, Mike?" asked Dugan, disgustedly.
"Ho-o-o!" he cried again, slapping himself on the top of his head. "Me mind is comm' back t' me, Dugan! Th' effects of th' knock-out drops is wearin' off! I recall now that th' dongola is some fancy kind of a goat. 'Twill all come back t' me soon.
"Go along wid ye!" exclaimed Dugan. "Would ye be puttin' a goat in th' lake for th' kids t' ride on?"
"Sure!" said Toole enthusiastically. "Sure I would, Dugan. Not th' common goat I wouldn't. But dongola goats I would. Have ye heard of dongola water goats, Casey? Was thim dongola goat skin shoes warranted t' be water-proof?"
Casey wrinkled his brow.
"'Tis like they was, Toole," he said doubtfully. "'Tis like they was warranted t' be, but they wasn't."
"Sure!" cried Toole joyously. "'Tis water-proof th' skin of th' dongola water goats is, like th' skin of th' duck. An' swim? A duck isn't in it wid a water goat. I remimber seein' thim in ould Ireland whin I was a bye, Dugan, swimmin in th' lake of Killarney. Ah, 'twas a purty picture."
"I seem t' remimber thim mesilf," he said. "Not clear, but a bit."
"Sure ye do!" cried Toole. "Many's the time I have rode across th' lake on th' back of a dongola. Me own father, who was a big man in th' ould country, used t' keep a pair of thim for us childer. 'Twas himself fetched thim from Donnegal, Dugan. 'Twas from Donnegal they got th' name of thim, an' 'twas th' name ye give thim that misled me. Donnegoras was what we called thim in th' ould counry--donnegoras from Donnegal. I remimber th' two of thim I had whin I was a kid, Dugan--wan was a Nanny, an' wan was a Billy, an'--"
"Go on home, Mike," said Dugan. "Go on home an' sleep it off!" and the little alderman from the Fourth Ward picked up his hat and coat, and obeyed his orders.
Instituting a new public park and seeing that in every purchase and every contract there is a rake-off for the ring is a big job, and between this and the fight against the rapidly increasing strength of the reform party, Mayor Dugan had his hands more than full. He had no time to think of dongolas, and he did not want to think of them--Toole was the committee on dongolas, and it was his duty to think of them, and to worry about them, if any worry was necessary. But Toole did not worry. He sat down and wrote a letter to his cousin Dennis, official keeper of the zoo in Idlewild Park at Franklin, Iowa.
"Dear Dennis," he wrote. "Have you any dongola goats in your menagery for I want two right away good strong ones answer right away your affectionate cousin alderman Michael Toole."
"Ps monny no object."
When Dennis Toole received this letter he walked through his zoo and considered his animals thoughtfully. The shop-worn brown bear would not do to fill cousin Mike's order; neither would the weather-worn red deer nor the family of variegated tame rabbits. The zoo of Idlewild Park at Franklin was woefully short of dongola goats--in fact, to any but the most imaginative and easily pleased child, it was lacking in nearly every thing that makes a zoo a congress of the world's most rare and thrilling creatures. After all, the nearest thing to a goat was a goat, and goats were plenty in Franklin. Dennis felt an irresistible longing to aid Mike--the longing that comes to any healthy man when a request is accompanied by the legend "Money no object." He wrote that evening to Mike.
"Dear Mike," he wrote. "I've got two good strong dongola goats I can let you have cheap. I'm overstocked with dongolas to-day. I want to get rid of two. Zoo is getting too crowded with all kinds of animals and I don't need so many dongola goats. I will sell you two for fifty dollars. Apiece. What do you want them for? Your affectionate cousin, Dennis Toole, Zoo keeper. PS. Crates extra."
"Casey," said Mike to his friend the saloon keeper when he received this communication, "'tis just as I told ye--dongolas is goats. I have been corrispondin' with wan of th' celibrated animal men regardin' th' dongola water goat, an' I have me eye on two of thim this very minute. But 'twill be ixpinsive, Casey, mighty ixpinsive. Th' dongola water goat is a rare birrd, Casey. They have become extinct in th' lakes of Ireland, an' what few of thim is left in th' worrld is held at outrajeous prices. In th' letter I have from th' animal man, Casey, he wants two hundred dollars apiece for each dongola water goat, an' 'twill be no easy thing for him t' git thim."
"Hasn't he thim in his shop, Mike?" asked Casey.
"He has not, Casey," said the little alderman. "He has no place for thim. Cages he has, an' globes for goldfish, an' birrd cages, but th' size of th' shop l'aves no room for an aquarium, Casey. He has no tank for the preservation of water goats. Hippopotamuses an' alligators an' crocodiles an' dongola water goats an' sea lions he does not keep in stock, Casey, but sinds out an' catches thim whin ordered. He writes that his agints has their eyes on two fine dongolas, an' he has tiligraphed thim t' catch thim."
"Are they near by, Mike?" asked Casey, much interested.
"Naw," said Toole. "'Twill be some time till I git thim. Th' last he heard of thim they were swimmin' in th' Lake of Geneva."
"Is it far, th' lake?" asked Casey.
"I disremimber how far," said Toole. "'Tis in Africa or Asia, or mebby 'tis in Constantinople. Wan of thim countries it is, annyhow."
But to his cousin Dennis he wrote:
"Dear Dennis--I will take them two dongolas. Crate them good and solid. Do not send them till I tell you. Send the bill to me. Your affectionate cousin alderman Michael Toole. Ps Make bill for two hundred dollars a piece. Business is business. This is between us two. M. T."
A Keeper of the Water Goats had been selected with the utmost care, combining in the choice practical politics with a sense of fitness. Timothy Fagan was used to animals--for years he had driven a dumpcart. He was used to children--he had ten or eleven of his own. And he controlled several votes in the Fourth Ward. His elevation from the dump-cart of the street cleaning department to the high office of Keeper of the Water Goats was one that Dugan believed would give general satisfaction.
When the goats arrived in Jeffersonville the two heavy crates were hauled to Alderman Toole's back yard to await the opening of the park, and there Mayor Dugan and Goat Keeper Fagan came to inspect them. Alderman Toole led the way to them with pride, and Mayor Dugan's creased brow almost uncreased as he bent down and peered between the bars of the crates. They were fine goats. Perhaps they looked somewhat more dejected than a goat usually looks--more dirty and down at the heels than a goat often looks--but they were undoubtedly goats. As specimens of ordinary Irish goats they might not have passed muster with a careful buyer, but no doubt they were excellent examples of the dongola.
"Ye have done good, Mike," said the mayor. "Ye have done good! But ain't they mebby a bit off their feed--or something?"
"Off their feed!" said Toole. "An' who wouldn't be, poor things? Mind ye, Dugan, thim is not common goats--thim is dongolas--an' used to bein' in th' wather con-continuous from mornin' till night. 'Tis sufferin' for a swim they be, poor animals. Wance let thim git in th' lake an' ye will see th' difference, Dugan. 'Twill make all th' difference in th' worrld t' thim. 'Tis dyin' for a swim they are."
"Sure!" said the Keeper of the Water Goats. "Ye have done good, Mike," said the mayor again. "Thim dongolas will be a big surprise for th' people."
They were. They surprised the Keeper of the Goats first of all. The day before the park was to be opened to the public the goats were taken to the park and turned over to their official keeper. At eleven o'clock that morning Alderman Toole was leaning against Casey's bar, confidentially pouring into his ear the story of how the dongolas had given their captors a world of trouble, swimming violently to the far reaches of Lake Geneva and hiding among the bulrushes and reeds, when the swinging door of the saloon was banged open and Tim Fagan rushed in. He was mad. He was very mad, but he was a great deal wetter than mad. He looked as if he had been soaked in water over night, and not wrung out in the morning.
"Mike!" he whispered hoarsely, grasping the little alderman by the arm. "I want ye! I want ye down at th' park."
A chill of fear passed over Alderman Toole. He turned his face to Fagan and laid his hand on his shoulder.
"Tim," he demanded, "has annything happened t' th' dongolas?"
"Is annything happened t' th' dongolas!" exclaimed Fagan sarcastically. "Is annything wrong with thim water goats? Oh, no, Toole! Nawthin' has gone wrong with thim! Only they won't go into th' wather, Mike! Is annything gone wrong with thim, did ye say? Nawthin'! They be in good health, but they are not crazy t' be swimmin'. Th' way they do not hanker t' dash into th' water is marvellous, Mike. No water for thim!"
"Hist!" said Toole uneasily, glancing around to see that no one but Casey was in hearing. "Mebby ye have not started thim right, Tim."
"Mebby not," said Fagan angrily. "Mebby I do not know how t' start th' water goat, Toole! Mebby there is one way unbeknownst t' me. If so, I have not tried it. But th' forty-sivin other ways I have tried, an' th' goats will not swim. I have started thim backwards an' I have started thim frontwards, an' I have took thim in by th' horns an' give thim lessons t' swim, an' they will not swim! I have done me duty by thim, Mike, an' I have wrastled with thim, an' rolled in th' lake with thim. Was it t' be swimmin' teacher t' water goats ye got me this job for?"
"Hist!" said Toole again. "Not so loud, Tim! Ye haven't told Dugan have ye?"
"I have not!" said Tim, with anger. "I have not told annybody annything excipt thim goats an' what I told thim is not dacint hearin'. I have conversed with thim in strong language, an' it done no good. No swimmin' for thim! Come on down an' have a chat with thim yersilf, Toole. Come on down an' argue with thim, an persuade thim with th' soft sound of yer voice t' swim. Come on down an' git thim water goats used t' th' water."
"Ye don't understand th' water goat, Tim," said Toole in gentle reproof. "I will show ye how t' handle him," and he went out, followed by the wet Keeper of the Water Goats.
The two water goats stood at the side of the lake, wet and mournful, tied to two strong stakes. They looked weary and meek, for they had had a hard morning, but as soon as they saw Tim Fagan they brightened up. They arose simultaneously on their hind legs and their eyes glittered with deadly hatred. They strained at their ropes, and then, suddenly, panic-stricken, they turned and ran, bringing up at the ends of their ropes with a shock that bent the stout stakes to which they were fastened. They stood still and cowered, trembling.
"Lay hold!" commanded Toole. "Lay hold of a horn of th' brute till I show ye how t' make him swim."
Through the fresh gravel of the beach the four feet of the reluctant goat ploughed deep furrows. It shook its head from side to side, but Toole and Fagan held it fast, and into the water it went.
"Now!" cried Alderman Toole. "Git behind an' push, Tim! Wan! Two! Three! Push!"
Alderman Toole released his hold and Keeper of the Water Goats Fagan pushed. Then they tried the other goat. It was easier to try the other water goat than to waste time hunting up the one they had just tried, for it had gone away. As soon as Alderman Toole let it go, it went. It seemed to want to get to the other end of the park as soon as possible, but it did not take the short cut across the lake--it went around. But it did not mind travel--it went to the farthest part of the park, and it would have gone farther if it could. So Alderman Toole and Keeper Fagan tried the other water goat. That one went straight to the other end of the park. It swerved from a straight line but once, and that was when it shied at a pail of water that was in the way. It did not seem to like water.
In the Franklin Zoo Dennis Toole had just removed the lid of his tin lunch-pail when the telegraph boy handed him the yellow envelope. He turned it over and over, studying its exterior, while the boy went to look at the shop-worn brown bear. The zoo keeper decided that there was no way to find out what was inside of the envelope but to open it. He was ready for the worst. He wondered, unthinkingly, which one of his forty or more cousins was dead, and opened the envelope.
"Dennis Toole, Franklin Zoo," he read, "Dongolas won't swim. How do you make them swim? Telegraph at once. Michael Toole."
He laid the telegram across his knees and looked at it as if it was some strange communication from another sphere. He pushed his hat to one side of his head and scratched the tuft of red hair thus bared.
"'Dongolas won't swim!"' he repeated slowly. "An' how do I make thim swim? I wonder does Cousin Mike take th' goat t' be a fish, or what? I wonder does he take swimmin' to be wan of th' accomplishments of th' goat?" He shook his head in puzzlement, and frowned at the telegram. "Would he be havin' a goat regatta, I wonder, or was he expectin' th' goat t' be a web-footed animal? 'Won't swim!' he repeated angrily. 'Won't swim!' An' what is it to me if they won't swim? Nayther would I swim if I was a goat. 'Tis none of me affair if they will not swim. There was nawthin' said about 'swimmin' goats.' Goats I can give him, an' dongola goats I can give him, an jumpin' goats, an' climbin' goats, an' walkin' goats, but 'tis not in me line t'furnish submarine goats. No, nor goats t' fly up in th' air! Would anny one," he said with exasperation, "would anny one that got a plain order for goats ixpict t' have t' furnish goats that would hop up off th' earth an' make a balloon ascension? 'Tis no fault of Dennis Toole's thim goats won't swim. What will Mike be telegraphin' me nixt, I wonder? 'Dear Dennis: Th' goats won't lay eggs. How do ye make thim?' Bye, have ye a piece of paper t' write an answer t' me cousin Mike on?"
The Keeper of the Water Goats and Alderman Toole were sitting on a rustic bench looking sadly at the water goats when the Jeffersonville telegraph messenger brought them Dennis Toole's answer. Alderman Toole grasped the envelope eagerly and tore it open, and Fagan leaned over his shoulder as he read it:
"Michael Toole, Alderman, Jeffersonville," they read. "Put them in the water and see if they will swim. Dennis Toole."
"Put thim in th' wather!" exclaimed Alderman Toole angrily. "Why don't ye put thim in th' wather, Fagan? Why did ye not think t' put thim in th' wather?" He looked down at his soaking clothes, and his anger increased. "Why have ye been tryin' t' make thim dongolas swim on land, Fagan?" he asked sarcastically. "Or have ye been throwin' thim up in th' air t' see thim swim? Why don't ye put thim in th' wather? Why don't ye follow th' instructions of th' expert dongola water goat man an' put thim in th' wather if ye want thim t' swim?"
Fagan looked at the angry alderman. He looked at the dripping goats.
"So I did, Mike," he said seriously. "We both of us did."
"An' did we!" cried Alderman Toole in mock surprise. "Is it possible we thought t' put thim in th' wather whin we wanted thim t' swim? It was in me mind that we tied thim to a tree an' played ring-around-a-rosy with thim t' induce thim t' swim! Where's a pencil? Where's a piece of paper?" he cried.
He jerked them from the hand of the messenger boy. The afternoon was half worn away. Every minute was precious. He wrote hastily and handed the message to the messenger boy.
"Fagan," he said, as the boy disappeared down the path at a run, "raise up yer spirits an come an' give th' water goats some more instructions in th' ginteel art of swimmin' in th' wather."
Fagan sighed and arose. He walked toward the dejected water goats, and, taking the nearest one by the horns yanked it toward the lake. The goat was too weak to do more than hold back feebly and bleat its disapproval of another bath. The more lessons in swimming it received the less it seemed to like to swim. It had developed a positive hatred of swimming.
Dennis Toole received the second telegram with a savage grin. He had expected it. He opened it with malicious slowness.
"Dennis Toole, Franklin Zoo," he read. "Where do you think I put them to make them swim? They won't swim in the lake. It won't do no good to us for them to swim on dry land. No fooling, now, how do you make them dongolas swim? Answer quick.
He did not have to study out his reply, for he had been considering it ever since he had sent the other telegram. He took a blank from the boy and wrote the answer. The sun was setting when the Jeffersonville messenger delivered it to Alderman Toole.
"Mike Toole, Jeffersonville," it said. "Quit fooling, yourself. Don't you know young dongolas are always water-shy at first? Tie them in the lake and let them soak, and they will learn to swim fast enough. If I didn't know any more about dongolas than you do I would keep clear of them. Dennis Toole."
"Listen to that now," said Alderman Toole, a smile spreading over his face. "An' who ever said I knew annything about water goats, anny how? Th' natural history of th' water goat is not wan of the things usually considered part of th' iducation of th' alderman from th' Fourth Ward, Fagan, but 'tis surprised I am that ye did not know th' goat is like th' soup bean, an' has t' be soaked before usin'. Th' Keeper of th' Water Goat should know th' habits of th' animal, Fagan. Why did ye not put thim in to soak in th' first place? I am surprised at ye!"
"It escaped me mind," said Fagan. "I was thinkin' these was broke t' swimmin' an' did not need t' be soaked. I wonder how long they should be soaked, Mike?"
"'Twill do no harrm t' soak thim over night, anny how," said Toole. "Over night is th' usual soak given t' th' soup-bean an' th' salt mackerel, t' say nawthin' of th' codfish an' others of th' water-goat family. Let th' water goats soak over night, Fagan, an by mornin' they will be ready t' swim like a trout. We will anchor thim in th' lake, Fagan--an' we will say nawthin' t' Dugan. 'Twould be a blow t' Dugan was he t' learn th' dongolas provided fer th' park was young an' wather-shy."
They anchored the water goats firmly in the lake, and left them there to overcome their shyness, which seemed, as Fagan and Toole left them, to be as great as ever. The goats gazed sadly, and bleated longingly, after the two men as they disappeared in the dusk, and when the men had passed entirely out of sight, the goats looked at each other and complained bitterly.
Alderman Toole thoughtfully changed his wet clothes for dry ones before he went to Casey's that evening, for he thought Dugan might be there, and he was. He was there when Toole arrived, and his brow was black. He had had a bad day of it. Everything had gone wrong with him and his affairs. A large lump of his adherents had sloughed off from his party and had affiliated with his opponents, and the evening opposition paper had come out with a red-hot article condemning the administration for reckless extravagance. It had especially condemned Dugan for burdening the city with new bonds to create an unneeded park, and the whole thing had ended with a screech of ironic laughter over the--so the editor called it--fitting capstone of the whole business, the purchase of two dongola goats at perfectly extravagant prices.
"Mike," said the big mayor severely, when the little alderman had offered his greetings, "there is the divil an' all t' pay about thim dongolas. Th' News is full of thim. 'Twill be th' ind of us all if they do not pan out well. Have ye tried thim in th' water yet?"
"Sure!" exclaimed the little alderman with a heartiness he did not feel. "What has me an' Fagan been doin' all day but tryin' thim? Have no fear of th' wather goats, Dugan."
"Do they swim well, Mike?" asked the big mayor kindly, but with a weary heaviness he did not try to conceal.
"Swim!" exclaimed Toole. "Did ye say swim, Dugan? Swim is no name for th' way they rip thro' the wather! 'Twas marvellous t' see thim. Ah, thim dongolas is wonderful animals! Do ye think we could persuade thim t' come out whin we wanted t' come home? Not thim, Dugan! 'Twas all me an' Fagan could do t' pull thim out by main force, an' th' minute we let go of thim, back they wint into th' wather. 'Twas pitiful t' hear th' way they bleated t' be let back into th' wather agin, Dugan, so we let thim stay in for th' night."
"Ye did not let thim loose in th' lake, Mike?" exclaimed the big mayor. "Ye did not let thim be so they could git away?"
"No," said Toole. "No! They'll not git away, Dugan. We anchored thim fast."
"Ye done good, Mike," said the big mayor.
The next morning Keeper of the Water Goats Fagan was down sufficiently early to drag the bodies of the goats out of the lake long before even the first citizen was admitted to the park. Alone, and hastily he hid them in the little tool house, and locked the door on them. Then he went to find Alderman Toole. He found him in the mayor's office, and beckoned him to one side. In hot, quick accents he told him the untimely fate of the dongola water goats, and the mayor--with an eye for everything on that important day--saw the red face of Alderman Toole grow longer and redder; saw the look of pain and horror that overspread it. A chilling fear gripped his own heart.
"Mike," he said. "What's th' matter with th' dongolas?"
It was Fagan who spoke, while the little alderman from the Fourth Ward stood bereft of speech in this awful moment.
"Dugan," he said, "I have not had much ixperience with th' dongola wather goat, an' th' ways an' habits of thim is strange t' me, but if I was t' say what I think, I would say they was over-soaked."
"Over-soaked, Fagan?" said the mayor crossly. "Talk sense, will ye?"
"Sure!" said Fagan. "An' over-soaked is what I say. Thim water goats has all th' looks of bein' soaked too long. I would not say positive, Yer Honour, but that is th' looks of thim. If me own mother was t' ask me I would say th' same, Dugan. 'Soakin' too long done it,' is what I would say."
"You are a fool, Fagan!" exclaimed the big mayor.
"Well," said Fagan mildly, "I have not had much ixperience in soakin' dongolas, if ye mean that, Dugan. I do not set up t' be an expert dongola soaker. I do not know th' rules t' go by. Some may like thim soaked long an' some may like thim soaked not so long, but if I was to say, I would say thim two dongolas at th' park has been soaked a dang sight too long. Th' swim has been soaked clean out of thim."
"Are they sick?" asked the big mayor. "What is th' matter with thim?"
"They do look sick," agreed Fagan, breaking the bad news gently. "I should say they look mighty sick, Dugan. If they looked anny sicker, I would be afther lookin' for a place t' bury thim in. An' I am lookin' for th' place now."
As the truth dawned on the mind of the big mayor, he lost his firm look and sank into a chair. This was the last brick pulled from under his structure of hopes. His head sank upon his breast and for many minutes he was silent, while his aides stood abashed and ill at ease. At last he raised his head and stared at Toole, more in sorrow than in resentfulness.
"Mike," he said, "Mike Toole! What in th' worrld made ye soak thim dongolas?"
"Dugan," pleaded Toole, laying his hand on the big mayor's arm. "Dugan, old man, don't look at me that way. There was nawthin' else t' do but soak thim dongolas. Many's th' time I have seen me old father soakin' th' young dongolas t' limber thim up for swimmin'. 'If iver ye have to do with dongolas, Mike,' he used t' say t' me, 'soak thim well firrst.' So I soaked thim, an' 'tis none of me fault, nor Fagan's either, that they soaked full o' wather. First-class dongolas is wather-proof, as iveryone knows, Dugan, an' how was we t' know thim two was not? How was me an' Fagan t' know their skins would soak in wather like a pillow case? Small blame to us, Dugan."
The big mayor took his head between his hands and stared moodily at the floor.
"Go awn away!" he said after a while. "Ye have done for me an' th' byes, Toole. Ye have soaked us out of office, wan an' all of us. I want t' be alone. It is all over with us. Go awn away."
Toole and the Keeper of the Water Goats stole silently from the room and out into the street. Fagan was the first to speak.
"How was we t' know thim dongolas would soak in wather that way, Toole?" he said defensively. "How was we t' know they was not th' wather-proof kind of dongolas?"
The little alderman from the Fourth Ward walked silently by the Keeper's side. His head was downcast and his hands were clasped beneath the tails of his coat. Suddenly he looked Fagan full in the face.
"'Twas our fault, Fagan," he said. "'Twas all our fault. If we didn't know thim dongolas was wather-proof we should have varnished thim before we put thim in th' lake t' soak. I don't blame you, Fagan, for ye did not know anny better, but I blame mesilf. For I call t' mind now that me father always varnished th' dongolas before he soaked thim overnight. 'Take no chances, Mike,' he used t' say t' me, 'always varnish thim firrst. Some of thim is rubbery an' will not soak up wather, but some is spongy, an' 'tis best t' varnish one an' all of thim."'
"Think of that now!" exclaimed Fagan with admiration. "Sure, but this natural history is a wonderful science, Toole! To think that thim animals was th' spongyhided dongola water goats of foreign lands, an' used t' bein' varnished before each an' every bath! An' t' me they looked no different from th' goats of me byehood! I was never cut out for a goat keeper, Mike. An' me job on th' dump-cart is gone, too. 'Twill be hard times for Fagan."
"'Twill be hard times for Toole, too," said the little alderman, and they walked on without speaking until Fagan reached his gate.
"Well, anny how," he said with cheerful philosophy, "'tis better t' be us than to be thim dongola water goats--dead or alive. 'Tis not too often I take a bath, Mike, but if I was wan of thim spongy-hided dongolas an' had t' be varnished each time I got in me bath tub, I would stop bathin' for good an' all."
He looked toward the house.
"I'll not worry," he said. "Maggie will be sad t' hear th' job is gone, but she would have took it harder t' know her Tim was wastin' his time varnishin' th' slab side of a spongy goat."
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