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Kilo, a novel by Ellis Parker Butler

Chapter 3. "How To Win The Affections"

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_ CHAPTER III. "How to Win the Affections"

Miss Sally glanced hurriedly around, seeking some retreat to which she could fly. Mrs. Smith, having introduced Eliph' Hewlitt, had turned away, and the other picnickers were gathered around the minister, looking over his shoulders at the copy of Jarby's Encyclopedia. Although she could have no idea, as yet, that Eliph' Hewlitt had decided to marry her, Miss Sally was afraid of him. She was a dainty little woman, with just a few gray hairs tucked out of sight under the brown ones, but although she was ordinarily able to hold her own, each year that was added to her life made her more afraid of book agents.

Time after time she had succumbed to the wiles of book agents. It made no difference how she received them, nor how she steeled her heart against their plausible words, she always ended buying whatever they had to sell, and after that it was a fight to get the money from her father with which to pay the installments. Pap Briggs objected to paying out money for anything, but he considered that about the most useless thing he could spend money for was a book. Whenever he heard there was a book agent in Kilo he acted like a hen when she sees a hawk in the sky, ready to pounce down upon her brood, and he pottered around and scolded and complained and warned Miss Sally to beware, and then in the end the book agent always made the sale, and Miss Sally felt as if she had committed seven or eight deadly sins, and it made her life miserable. Only a few months before she had fallen prey to a man who had sold her a set of Sir Walter Scott's Complete Works, two dollars down, and one dollar a month, and she felt that the work of urging the monthly dollar out of her father's pocket was all she could stand.

Why and how she bought books always remained a mystery to her; it is a mystery to many book buyers how they happen to buy books. Book agents seemed to have a mesmerizing effect on Miss sally, as serpents daze birds before they devour them. The process applied between the time when she stated with the utmost positiveness that she did not want, and would not buy, a book, and the time, a few minutes later, when she signed her name to the agent's list of subscribers, was something she could not fathom.

And now she had been left face to face with a book agent, actually introduced to him, and her father still under monthly miseries on account of Sir Walter Scott's Complete Works.

"I don't want any books to-day," said Miss Sally nervously, when she saw that she could not run away.

"And I'm not going to sell you any," said Eliph' Hewlitt cheerfully. He had studied Miss Sally thoroughly, with the quick eye of the experienced book agent who has learned to read character at sight, and he had decided that no more suitable Mrs. Hewlitt was he apt to find. "And I'm not going to SELL you any," he repeated. "This is picnic day, and I'm not selling books, although I may say there is no day in the whole year when Jarby's Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art is not needed. It is a book that contains a noble thought or useful hint for every hour of every day from the cradle to the grave, comprising ten thousand and one subjects, neatly bound."

"I don't want one," said Miss Sally, backing away. "I don't live here, and you might do better selling it to someone who does."

Eliph' Hewlitt's eyes beamed kindly through his spectacles.

"It is just as useful to them that is traveling as to them that is home," he said, "if not more so. If you ever took a copy along with you on your travels you would never travel again without it. Take the chapter on 'Traveling,' for instance, page 46." He looked around, as if he would have liked to get his sample copy, but it was in such a number of eager hands that he turned back to Miss Sally. "Take the directions on Sleeping Cars," he said. "For that one thing alone the book is worth its price to anyone going to travel by rail. It gives full instructions how much to give the porter, how to choose a berth, how to undress in an upper berth without damage to the traveler or the car, et cetery. And, when you consider that that is but one of the ten thousand and one things mentioned in this volume, you can see that it is really giving it away when I sell it, neatly bound in cloth, for five dollars."

"I don't think I want one," said Miss Sally doubtfully, for she was beginning to fall under the spell.

"No!" said Eliph' firmly. "No! You don't. And I don't want to SELL you one. Nothing ain't farther from my mind than wanting to sell you a copy of that book. Just rest perfectly easy about THAT, Miss Briggs. We'll put 'Literature, Science, and Art' to one side and enjoy the delights of the open air, and, if I happen to say anything that sounds like book, just you excuse me, for I don't mean it. Mebby I DO get to talking about that book when I don't mean to, for it is a book that a man that knows it as well as I do just can't HELP talking about. It's a wonderful book. It is a book that has all the wisdom and knowledge of the world condensed into one volume, including five hundred ennobling thoughts form the world's great authors, inclusive of the prose and poetical gems of all ages, beginning on page 201, sixty-two solid pages of them, with vingetty portraits of the authors, this being but one of the many features that make the book helpful to all people of refinement and mind. Now, when you take a book like that and bind it in a neat cloth cover, making it an ornament to any center table in the country, and sell it for the small price of five dollars, it is not selling it; it is giving it away. Five dollars, neatly bound in cloth, one dollar down, and one dollar a month until paid."

Miss Sally looked hopelessly toward the sample copy, which the minister was still exhibiting to the picnickers with real pleasure. She was enthralled, but she was puzzled. Never had she bought a book that she had not first looked through. Invariably the agent had begun his dissertation on the book's merits by an explanation of the illuminated frontispiece--if it had one--and ended by turning the last page to show the sheet where she must sign her name, underneath those of "the other leading citizens of this town." There was something wrong, but she was not quite sure what it was. She glanced back at the eager face of Eliph' Hewlitt, and mistook the glow of "Affection, How to Hold it When Won," for the intense glance of the predatory book seller.

"I'll take a copy," she said recklessly.

Eliph' Hewlitt's face clouded, and he put out his hand as if to ward off a blow.

"No, you won't!" he said, with distress. "You don't want one, and I won't sell you one."

He cast his mind quickly over the chapter on "Courtship--How to Win the Affections," and recalled its directions. He wished he had the book in his hands, so that he could turn to the chapter and freshen his memory, but the first direction was, certainly, to become well acquainted.

"I don't want to sell you one," he said more gently. "I want to sit down on this nice grass and get acquainted. You and me are both strangers here, and I guess we ought to talk to each other."

He seated himself as he said the word, and crossed his legs, Turk-fashion, and looked up at Miss Sally, with an invitation in his eyes. For a minute she stood looking down at him doubtfully. She was unable to understand the actions of this new variety of book agent that refused to sell books after talking up to the selling point, and she suddenly remembered that she was away from home, and that the book was sold on installments. She flushed. Did his refusal to sell imply that she might not be able to pay the installments?

"I'll take a copy of that book, IF you please," she said haughtily. "I guess there ain't no question but that I'm able to PAY for it. I've bought books before, and paid for them; and I guess I'm just as able to pay as most folks you sell to. If you've any doubt about it, there's references I can give right here in Clarence that will satisfy you."

Eliph' Hewlitt coughed gently behind his hand, and stroked his whiskers, as he looked up at the indignant Miss Briggs. He did not want to sell her a book' it would place him in her mind once, and, probably, for all, as one of the tribe of book agents, and nothing more. Yet he could not offend her. He might compromise by giving her a copy, but the chapter on "Courtship--How to Win the Affections," distinctly advised this as a later act. First it was necessary to become well acquainted; then it was advisable to proceed to give small presents, books or flowers or sweets being particularly mentioned, and Eliph' Hewlitt would never have thought of doing first the thing Jarby's Encyclopedia advised doing second. He had been selling Jarby's for many years. He had seen the "talking feature" of the colored plates of the Civil War pass, and had seen them succeeded by colored plates of the Franco-Prussian War, and had seen these make way for colored plates of one war after another until the present plates of the Spanish War appeared, and through all these changes in the last chapter he had studied the book until he knew its contents as well as he knew his "two--times--two." He could recite the book forward or backward, read it upside down--as a book agent has to read a book when it is in a customer's lap--or sideways, and could turn promptly to nearly any word in it without hesitation. The more he studied it the more he loved it and admired it and believed in it. It was his whole literature, and he found it to be sufficient. If he saw a thing in Jarby's he knew it was so, and if it was not in Jarby's it was not worth knowing. Under such circumstances he could not make Miss Sally a present of the book until he and she had first become well acquainted. Jarby's said so. He scrambled hurriedly to his feet.

"Miss Briggs," he said earnestly, "You ain't near guessing the reason why I don't want to sell you a copy of the world-famous volume. You ain't nowhere near it at all. If I was to tell you what the reason was I guess you'd be surprised. But I ain't going to tell you. It ain't because you can't pay for it, for if it was a library of one thousand volumes at ten dollars a volume, ten dollars down and ten dollars a month, I'd be glad to take your order. And it ain't because I ain't going to sell any more copies here, because I am, and I'm going to sell all I can, right here at this picnic, just to show you what I can do when I try. But I ain't going to sell you one. I've got a good reason."

Miss Sally was not fully pacified by this, for now she was sure she had guessed the reason Eliph' Hewlitt did not want to sell her a copy. She imagined now that some book agent had told him of her father's aversion to books--when they had to be paid for--and that Eliph' Hewlitt was willing to forego a sale rather than lead her into new trouble with her father. Possibly he had met the Walter Scott man. She turned away.

"I guess I'll go and help Mrs. Smith lay out the lunch," she said, as the easiest way to be rid of the annoyance.

"I guess I'll go, too," said Eliph' Hewlitt promptly and cheerfully. "I'm a good hand at that. It tells all about it in Jarby's Encyclopedia. Look under 'P':'Picnic Lunches. Picnic, How to Organize and Conduct. Picnic, Origin of,' et cetery, et cetery. A book that contains all the knowledge in the world condensed into one volume, with lives of all the world's great men, from Adam to Roosevelt, and the dying words of them that is dead."

Miss Sally turned on him sharply.

"Goodness sakes!" she exclaimed, "I wish you would either sell me a copy of that book or keep still about it. Ain't I going to have no peace at all?"

"I didn't mention it, did I?" asked Eliph' Hewlitt innocently, and he did not know that he had. "I was speaking of this happy gathering. Ain't it pretty to see all kinds of folks gathered together this way to make each other happier? It's like a living Jarby's Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, a little of everything in one volume, and all of it good. All the good things from parson to pickles. I suppose you put up your own pickles, don't you?"

"Yes, I do," said Miss Sally, who was now walking toward where the ladies were unpacking the lunch. "Why do you ask it?"

"It called to my mind the recipe for making pickles that is in Jarby's Encyclopedia," said Eliph', unmindful of the look of anger that flushed Miss Sally's face at the mention of that book. "Them that has tried it says it is the best they have ever used. That and seven hundred and ninety-nine other tested recipes, all contained in the chapter called 'The Complete Kitchen Guide,' see page 100, including roasts, fries, pastry, cakes, bread, puddings, entrees, soups, how to make candy, how to clean brass, copper, silver, tin, et cetery, et cetery. Them that uses Jarby's tested recipes as given in this volume, uses no other."

There was a stiffening of Miss Sally's back as she walked ahead of him, and even Eliph' Hewlitt could not fail to observe it. It told plainly that if he could have seen her lips he would have seen them close firmly, and he made haste to reassure her.

"I ain't trying to sell you a book," he said, taking a quicker step to reach her side, but she hurried the more as he did so, and crowded in among the other women so that he could not follow. He stood a moment watching her, but she began talking rapidly to one of the women, ignoring him conspicuously, and he coughed gently behind his hand, as if to apologize for her affront, and then walked away.

He could not account for his poor success in getting well acquainted with Miss Sally, and he began to fear that he had not fully understood the directions given by Jarby's Encyclopedia in the chapter on "Courtship--How to Win the Affections." He realized that he had used that chapter less often in talking up a sale than he had used any other, and that for that reason he had studied it less closely, and he saw now, more than ever, that there was no chapter in the whole book that a possessor could afford to neglect. He walked over to where the minister was still holding the book, but now holding it closed in his lap, and he asked politely if he might have it for a few minutes. The minister handed it to him, and Eliph', walking to where one of the smaller trees of the grove made a spot of shade, seated himself, and fixed his eyes on the chapter on "Courtship--How to Win the Affections."

For the first time in his life he was unable to fix his attention firmly on the pages of Jarby's Encyclopedia. His eyes insisted on turning to where Miss Sally moved about the cloth spread on the grass; the tablecloth on which green bugs and black bugs and brown bugs were already parading, as bugs always do at a picnic. Occasionally he stroked his sandy-gray whiskers, and whenever she turned her face in his direction he cast his eyes upon his book, but he could not read.

He hoped he would have the good fortune to be seated next to Miss Sally when the lunch time came, and he had little doubt that he would be near her, for it was likely that he and she, being strangers, would be put near the minister. He closed the book, seeing at length that it was impossible for him to read it, and, as the men began to bring the cushions from the buggies and place them around the cloth, he arose and went to bring his own to add to the supply. As he reached the fence, a barefoot boy, mounted on a horse with no other saddle than a blanket, came galloping down the road, and stopped before him.

"Say," said the boy, wide-eyed with importance, "is Sally Briggs in there?"

Eliph' said she was.

"Well, say," said the boy, "she's got to go home to Kilo, right away. Her dad telephoned up, and he don't know whether he's dying or not, and she's got to go right home."

Eliph' turned and hurried to where Miss Sally was standing.

"I hope it ain't nothing serious, Miss Briggs," he said, "but that boy has come to give you a message that come by telephone. I think your father ain't well."

Miss Sally dropped the cake she was holding, and ran to the fence.

"What is it?" she gasped.

"Well," said the boy, "my dad was in the post office just now, and the telephone bell rang, and he looked around to see where Julius was, and Julius he had gone outside to see what Mr. Fogarty, from up to the Corners, wanted. I don't know what he wanted. Pa didn't tell me. I don't know as pa knew, anyway, but I guess he wanted something, or else he wouldn't have motioned Julius to go out, unless he just wanted to talk to Julium. Mebby he just wanted to ask Julius if there was any mail for him. So pa answered the telephone."

"Well, what did it say?" asked Miss Sally impatiently.

"You've got a pa, haven't you?" asked the boy.

"Yes," said Miss Sally.

"Well, has he got false teeth?" asked the boy.

"Yes," said Miss Sally more impatiently.

"Well, that's all right, then," said the boy. "Pa couldn't tell exactly whether it was false teeth or not, the telephone at the post office works so poor, and pa ain't no hand at it, anyhow. He said it sounded like false teeth. So you pa wants you to come right home to Kilo. Mebby he's dying."

"Dying!" cried Miss Sally, as white as a sheet.

"Yes, mebby he is," continued the boy. "He ain't right sure, but he says you'd better come right home, so if he IS dying you'll be on hand. And, if he ain't, you can help him hunt for them. He says he went to bed last night, same as always, but he don't recall whether he took out his false set of teeth or left them in, and he ain't sure whether he swallowed them last night, or put them down somewheres and lost them. He says he's got a pain like he swallowed them, but he ain't sure but what it's some of the cooking he's been doing that give him that, and anyway he wants you to come right home."

"Goodness sakes!" exclaimed Miss Sally, "why don't he go see Doc Weaver?"

The boy shook his head.

"I don't know," he said. "I guess pa didn't think to ask him that. I'll have to ask him when I git back."

The departure of Miss Sally made a break in the orderly progress of the picnic, for it not only terminated her part of the day's pleasures, but also cut short her visit in Clarence, and she had to say farewell to all the picnickers before she could go.

Eliph' Hewlitt offered to drive her to Clarence, but she refused him, and arranged to have one of the young boys, who had a faster horse, drive her to Kilo. The whole picnic leaned over the rail fence and watched until she was out of sight, and then went on with the lunch, which was just ready when her summons came.

It was a severe blow to Eliph' Hewlitt. He had hoped to have carried his courtship so far during the day that it would have been at least to the third paragraph of the first page of "Courtship--How to Win the Affections," and now Miss Sally had left, and he had not progressed at all. It reminded him of the quotation in the Alphabet of Quotations, in Jarby's Encyclopedia, "The Course of True Love Never Did Run Smooth."

Miss Sally's departure, however, and the strange circumstance of it, allowed him to ask questions about her and about Kilo that he could not otherwise have asked. He learned how far she would have to travel to reach Kilo, who her father was, and all that he wished to know. He decided that the only course for him to follow was to omit his canvass of the interlying farms and of the town of Clarence for the present, and follow Miss Sally to Kilo.

When the picnic ended, Irontail had released the rein, and Eliph' Hewlitt drove off, well pleased with his day's work. He had not only secured a wife--for he had no doubt that it only needed an application of the rules set forth in Jarby's Encyclopedia in order to "Win the Affections" of Miss Sally, and "Hold Them When Won," but he took with him subscriptions for sixteen volumes of Jarby's Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, bound in cloth, five dollars, and two bound in morocco, at seven fifty. _

Read next: Chapter 4. Kilo

Read previous: Chapter 2. Susan

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