A short story by George V. Hobart
John Henry On Patriotism
Title: John Henry On Patriotism
Author: George V. Hobart [More Titles by Hobart]
Uncle Peter spent the Fourth of July at his old home in Ohio. I must show you a letter he wrote me a few days after that noisy event.
We had a nice quiet time on the Fourth with the exception of my ankle, which was somewhat dislocated because my foot stepped on an infant bombshell which same exploded for my benefit.
I like the idea of the Fourth with the exception of the noise.
I believe that if our forefathers had suspected that their great-grandchildren would make such an infernal racket on the Fourth of July they would have waited for a snow storm on the 16th of January before signing their John Hancocks, because then it would be too cold to explode firecrackers under your neighbor's eyebrows when he least expects it.
We had a nice quiet time at home on the Fourth, John, with the exception that little Oscar Maddy, who lives next door, presented me with a Roman candle which joined me between the third button on my waistcoat and the solar plexus.
I acknowledged the receipt by falling off the front step and barking my shoulder.
You should always remember, John, that the Fourth is the day when your patriotic voice should climb out of your thorax and make the welkin ring, but it isn't really necessary to get up a row between a stick of dynamite and a keg of giant powder to prove that you love the cause of liberty.
You will find that some of our best citizens--men who love liberty with an everlasting love--are hiding in the cellar with both hands over their ears from July 3d to July 5th.
We had a nice quiet time at home on the Fourth, John, with the exception that your second cousin, Randolph, tried to explode a toy cannon and removed the apex of his thumb and about half of the dining-room window.
It may be necessary to celebrate the birth of freedom by bursting forth into noise, but my idea, John, is that Old Glory would like it much better if we were more subdued and kept our children on the earth instead of letting them go up in the air in small fragments.
We had a very quiet time at home, John, on the Fourth with the exception of your distant relative, Uncle Joseph Carberry. Uncle Joe annexed about six mint juleps and then went to sleep on the front porch with five packs of firecrackers in his coat pocket.
Full of the spirt [Transcriber's note: spirit?] of liberty, your interesting cousin, Randolph, set fire to your Uncle's pocket, and when last seen your Uncle Joe was rushing over hill and dale in the general direction of Hartford, Connecticut, with the firecrackers cheering him on.
Liberty, John, is the only real thing in this world for a nation, but just why the glorious cause of freedom should be slapped in the face with an imitation of the bombardment of Port Arthur is something which I must have misconstrued.
We had a very quiet time here at home on the Fourth, John, with the exception that another interesting cousin of yours, my young namesake, Peter Grant, tied a giant firecracker to the cat's tail, and the cat went to the kitchen to have her explosion.
It took two hours and seven neighbors to get your good old Aunt Maggie out of the refrigerator, which was the place selected for her by the catastrophe.
The stove lost all the supper it contained; little Peter Grant lost two eyebrows and his Buster Brown hair; the cat lost seven of its lives, and the glorious cause of Freedom got a send-off that could be heard nineteen miles.
We all missed you, John, but maybe it is better you were not at home on the Fourth, because the doctor is occupying your room so that he could be near the wounded--otherwise, we are all well.
I think, John, that when Freedom was first invented by George Washington the idea was to make it something quiet and modest which he could keep about the house and which he could look at once in a while without getting nervous prostration.
But George forgot to leave full instructions, and nowadays when the Birthday of Freedom rolls around the impulsive American public wakes up at daylight, shoves up the window and begins to hurl torpedoes at the house next door, because a noise in the air is worth two noises on the quiet.
We had a very quiet Fourth at home, John, with the exception of your second cousin, Hector, who patriotically attached himself to a hot-air balloon, and when last seen was hovering over Erie, Pa., and making signs to his parents not to wait supper for him.
Most of our neighbors for miles in every direction have sons and daughters missing, but what could they expect when a child will try to put a pound of powder in four inches of gas pipe and then light the result with a match.
The Fourth is a great idea, but I think this is carrying it too far, as the little boy said when he went over the top of the house on the handle of a sky-rocket.
We had a very quiet time at home on the Fourth, John, with the exception of our parlor which took fire when your enthusiastic cousin, Randolph, tried to make some Japanese lanterns by setting fire to the lace curtains.
The firemen put out the fire and most of our furniture.
Your cousin was also much put out when I spanked him.
We hope to recover from the excitement before the next Fourth, but your Aunt hopes that somebody will soon invent a new style of noise, which will not be so full of concussion.
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