Wilkins on Accomplishments by John Quill
Mr. Wilkins. Mrs. Wilkins, of all the aggravating
women I ever came across, you are the
worst. I believe you'd raise a riot in the cemetry
if you were dead, you would. Don't you ever go
prowling around any Quaker meeting, or you'll
break it up in a plug muss. You? Why you'd
put any other man's back up until he broke his
spine. Oh! you're too annoying to live; I don't
want to bother with you. Go to sleep.
Mrs. Wilkins. But, Wilkins dear, just listen
a minute. We must have that piano, and—
Mr. W. Oh! don't "dear" me; I won't have
it. You're the only dear thing around here—you're
dear at any price. I tell you once for all that I
don't get any new piano, and Mary Jane don't
take singing lessons as long as I'm her father.
There! If you don't understand that I'll say it
over again. And now stop your clatter and go
to sleep; I'm tired of hearing you cackle.
Mrs. W. But, Wilk—
Mr. W. Now don't aggravate me. I say
Mary Jane shan't learn to sing and plant another
instrument of torture in this house, while I'm boss
of the family. Her voice is just like yours; it's
got a twang to it like blowing on the edge of a
piece of paper.
Mrs. W. Ain't you ashamed, Wilk—
Mr. W. It's disgrace enough to have you sitting
down and pretending to sing, and trying to deafen
people, without having the children do it. The
first time I heard you sing I started round to the
station-house and got six policemen, because I
thought there was a murder in your house, and
they were cutting you up by inches. I wish somebody
would! I wouldn't go for any policeman
now, not much!
Mrs. W. I declare, you are a perfect brute!
Mr. W. Not much, I wouldn't! But Smith, he
told me yesterday that his family were kept awake
half the night by the noise you made; and he said
if I didn't stop those dogs from yowling in my
cellar, he'd be obliged to complain to the board
Mrs. W. What an awful story, Mr Wilk—
Mr. W. Then I told him it was you, and you
thought you could sing; and he advised me as
a friend to get a divorce, because he said no man
could live happily with any woman who had a
voice like a cross-cut saw. He said I might as
well have a machine-shop with a lot of files at work
in my house as that, and he'd rather any time.
Mrs. W. Phugh! I don't care what Smith
Mr. W. And you a-talking about a new piano!
Why, haven't we got musical instruments enough
in the house? There's Holofernes Montgomery
been blowing away in the garret for ten days with
that old key bugle, until he got so black in the
face that he won't get his colour back for a month,
and then he only gets a spurt out of her every now
and then. He's blown enough wind in her to get
up a hurricane, and I expect nothing else but he'll
get the old machine so chock full that she'll blow
back at him some day and burst his brains out,
and all along of your tomfoolery. You're a pretty
mother, you are! You'd better go and join some
asylum for feeble-minded idiots, you had.
Mrs. W. Wilkins! I declare you're too bad,
Mr. W. Yes—and there's Bucephalus Alexander,
he's got his head full of your sentimental
nonsense, and he thinks he's in love with a girl
round the corner, and he meanders about and
tries to sigh, and won't eat his victuals, and he's
got to going down into the cellar and trying to
sing "No one to love" in the coal-bin; and he
like to scared the hired girl out of her senses, so
that she went upstairs and had a fit on the kitchen
door-mat, and came near dying on my hands.
Mrs. W. That's not true, Mr. Wil—
Mr. W. And never came to until I put her
head under the hydrant. And then what does
Bucephalus Alexander do but go round, night
before last, and try to serenade the girl, until the
old man histed up the sash and cracked away at
Bucephalus Alexander with an old boot, and hit him
in the face and blacked his eye, because he thought
it was two cats a-yelping. Hang such a mother
as you are! You go right to work to ruin your
Mrs. W. You're talking nonsense, Wilk—
Mr. W. You're about as fit to bring up children
as a tadpole is to run a ferry boat, you are! But
while I'm alive Mary Jane takes no singing lessons.
Do you understand? It's bad enough to have her
battering away at that piano like she had some
grudge against it, and to have her visitors wriggle
around and fidget and look miserable, as if they
had cramp colic, while you make her play for them
and have them get up and lie, and ask what it was,
and say how beautiful it is, and steep their souls in
falsehood and hypocrisy all on account of you.
You'll have enough sins to answer for, old woman,
Mrs. W. I never did such a thing, and you—
Mr. W. Yes—and you think Mary Jane can
play, don't you? You think she can sit down and
jerk more music than a whole orchestra, don't you?
But she can't. You might about as well set a
crowbar to opening oysters as set her to playing
on that piano. You might, indeed!
Mrs. W. You talk like a fool, Wilkins!
Mr. W. Play! She play? Pshaw! Why, she's
drummed away at that polka for six months and
she can't get her grip on it yet. You might as well
try to sing a long-metre hymn to "Fisher's Hornpipe,"
as to undertake to dance to that polka. It
would jerk your legs out at the sockets, certain, or
else it would give you St. Vitus' dance, and cripple
you for life.
Mrs. W. Mr. Wilkins, I'm going to tell you
Mr. W. Oh! I don't want to hear your secrets—keep
them to yourself.
Mrs. W. It's about Mary Jane's singing.
Mr. W. What?
Mrs. W. Mary Jane, you know—her singing.
Mr. W. I don't know, and I don't want to;
she shan't take lessons, so dry up.
Mrs. W. But she shall take them!
Mr. W. I say she shan't!
Mrs. W. She shall, and you can't help it.
Mr. W. By George! What do you mean? I'm
master in this house I'd like you to know.
Mrs. W. Yes—but she's been taking lessons
for a whole quarter, while you were down town,
and I paid the bill out of the market money.
Mr. W. Well! I hope I may be shot! You
don't mean to say that? Well, if you ain't a
perfectly abandoned wretch, hang me! Farewell,
Mrs. Wilkins, farewell! I'm off by the first express-train
for the West! I'll stop at Chicago, where the
cars wait fifteen minutes for refreshments and a
divorce—I'll take the divorce, that will be indeed
refreshing! Farewell! F-a-r-e-well! Fare-r-r-r-r-r-r-well!