Page images
PDF
EPUB

straightway proceeds to let the barkeep in on the secret that we have got coin in our jeans and a burning thirst. In two minutes that barkeep had on a clean apron and had forgotten that there was anybody in the house but me and Bill.

"In about fifteen minutes we had seven adult potions of raw alcohol, glycerine and burnt sugar stowed under our belts, and, personally, I wasn't avoiding no excitement. As usual, Bill was quiet. I leaves him standin' at the bar, while I goes over and proceeds to advance some superior and unasked for knowledge about a faro game running directly opposite the bar on the other side of the room. I stands there fifteen or twenty minutes, making casual remarks, when I am informed quietly but firmly by the dealer that my opinions and presence are not exactly essential to the welfare and pleasure of the game. At which I I laughs sneeringly and remarks that he ain't dealing a square game. All this time Bill is standing at the bar with his back to us, talkin' with a friend, apparently with no interest in the doings. It was right here. that he shows his dexterity with his shooting iron. No self-respecting faro dealer

in those days would take a remark like mine without resentment, and the words were no sooner out of my mouth than I hears a click and sees gleam of blued steel pointed in my direction. But quick as he was, Bill was quicker. He had been watching the proceedings in glass behind the bar. Before Mr. Dealer's finger could press the trigger there was ́a report and a puff of smoke from where Bill was standing. A pistol fell to the floor, and a right wrist was shattered.

the

We

"Before I could realize what had happened Bill was tugging at my left sleeve and whispering 'vamos' in my ear. sneaks out muy pronto, and mounts our cayuses. But we don't take the regular trail back to the outfit that night. No sir-ce. We takes a round-about way over the range.

"He was sure quick with a gun, wasn't he?" I said. "Whatever became of your friend ?"

"Bill's a quiet, white-haired old man now. Remember the bartender in the hotel who waited on us just before supper ?"

I nodded. "That's Bill."

[graphic][subsumed]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic]

W

TINSEL PATRIOTISM

BY BARNETT FRANKLIN

E ARE a country-lov

ing people, we Americans, and the great majority of us is possessed of of a goodly quota of patriotism. Which is a glorious thing. I would be the last person in the length and breadth of the nation to find fault with such an excellent condition of affairs. I believe in patriotism as well as the next fellow, and the fellow after him. There is no more loyal admirer of his own United States, or of its banner and what it stands for, than my humble self.

Which little explanatory paragraph is here above set forth in order to place myself right as to what follows. The true patriot inspires my most sincere and unbounded admiration. I believe in him. He is a big unit in that which goes to make up the bone and sinew of the nation. However, there is a form of patriotism that jars my generally reposeful soul and sets it on edge-if such a thing as the latter is possible. Patriotism that is born of the heart and the emotions is, to repeat, the finest sort of an asset for a true citizen, but there is another brand. I refer to what I have elected to term "tinsel patriotism," a patriotism that is not even skin-deep, that is superficial and ungenuine. Tinsel patriotism is indulged in by certain kinds of people at all places and at all times. We find exhibitions of it at political meetings, where it is generally brought out through the power of some cheap demagogue, and we meet with it most everywhere.

But it is chiefly in the playhouse that I have seen the tinsel patriot at his worst. The theatre-going patriot is the most zealous of the lot. He dearly loves the flag, which is right and proper as should be, but the tinsel patriot is afraid that you are not aware of this love of his. Per

force he must enlighten you. And he

is not modest about his ways and means, either. It is a disease that is practically incurable-not that we care so much about that, but we do wish some of its manifestations were.

To the tinsel patriot Old Glory is the star performer behind the footlights. Select any week's bill in any vaudeville theatre in the land, and a good many of the musical comedies, and you will bear me out. All that is necessary for a histrion to do in order to gain favor in the eyes of the tinsel patriot is to wave an American flag excitedly. The tinsel patriot will at once work himself into a patriotic frenzy. His palms come together with resounding beats and his hat is metaphorically in the air. He screeches and whistles and stamps and screams his delight. And he is eminently convinced that the performer is a great artist. The tinsel patriot is sure of it, in fact. It does not matter that the man's act has been as bad as they make 'em-that he has given a suffering audience, we will say, twenty minutes of theatrical torture in the shape of some readings from Joe Miller's historic jest store-the fact remains that he has coyly introduced the flag into his act. Wherefore, instead of leaving the stage at the conclusion of his act with the audience in a state of icy indifference, he leaves them in a burst of applause and enthusiasm. An incapable, incompetent thespian has saved his scalp through the use of the good old Stars and Stripes. That gentleman may not be an entertainer, but circumstances prove that he has something else under his hat besides hair. Unless you happen to be a tinsel patriot yourself-and therefore look upon this screed of mine as being conceived in a sense of real treason-you too have noticed numerous instances of tinsel patriotism. There is no question but what you have.

The other day at a vaudeville show a couple of foreign acrobats did some stunts

in mid-air that were as remarkable as any seen upon the stage in these days of startling things. The men coquetted with grim death-or, at the very least, a dislocated wish-bone-every second they were on the stage. They turned weird twisters and somersaults and did all sorts of seemingly impossible things in the ozone, and all the time they wore on their faces samples of the kind of blandishment alleged not to wear off. But the members of that audience blinked nary an eyelash. They were blase souls who had seen exhibitions of this kind weekly. It took something out of the running to wake them up, I can tell you. They required something really dextrous, as it were. A number of people visibly yawned and commenced studying the almanac jokes in the theatre programme. And then something happened. The act drew to a close. The acrobats balanced themselves on a slack wire and drew two bright flags from their bosoms and waved them at the audience. The applause was deafening. The blasé folk went wild. The students of programme humor woke up. Into that congealed atmosphere was interjected in the flash of an instant such a degree of warmth that one instinctively reached for a handkerchief to wipe away the perspiration. The acrobats had scored by the use of the unfailing device. They had hit the superficial emotions of a number of people, and received their reward. That happy little stunt of theirs had lifted them from the ranks of mediocrity to the topmost class.

I have seen instance after instance where an act was saved from flat failure simply by a use of the flag expedient. And some of these acts-a great many of them, in fact were of a very high standard and should have been successful because of their intrinsic merit. They needed the flag, alas, to corral the proper proportion of applause, and that is the way the worth of most acts is measured in vaudeville by the manager. And a good many of the acts were bad, hopelessly bad, and it would. have been merciful for both audience and performer if the "hook" had been used at the start. But again the flag saved them. A single reference to the "Star Spangled Banner," or a dance step executed to that glorious air, was all that was necessary. The tinsel patriot had another inning.

Tinsel patriot, O tinsel patriot, have you ever considered what a sublime idiot the performer with the flag is making of you? Did you ever stop to figure out that it is far from being a matter of patriotism with him? That when he Yankee Doodles it is not because he is swelling to the larynx with pent-up enthusiasm and must get it out of his system or expire, but because he is a business man? That is the reason, my friend, that is the reason. He is using you, brother, and he has a weather optic on the money drawer in the box-office all the time you are draining energy cells and making an inane spectacle of yourself. It is not a case of spontaneity with him, no matter how much so it may appear. It is part of the acting game, Mr. Tinsel Patriot, and apparently you never have considered that he does this at every matinee and evening performance in the week, with just exactly the same show of simulated sincerity.

I have known of innumerable cases of foreign performers giving notable acts who couldn't scare up tuppence worth of approbation for their efforts until they had shelved the incidental music they had brought from across the Atlantic and instructed the orchestra leader to accompany them to the strains of "Marching Through Georgia." Also they lugged in our old friend the flag. Then they "made good," as they have it in theatrical parlance. But, Mr. Tinsel Patriot, have you ever considered for the fraction of an instant what these foreign artists think about the whole proposition? I'm afraid it is not complimentary but whatever they think, alack, I fear me is perfectly right. The least they do is to merrily, merrily laugh.

The Government has seen to it that the flag may not be used for advertising and similar purposes. similar purposes. Here is another field for legislation. Why should not the Government take a look at the theatres, where Old Giory is put to quite as cheap a use. A censor would find much to really condemn in its use in costumery and otherwise. But, at any rate, let us be rid of the tinsel patriot. He jars and jars. considerably. And he is thoroughly as obnoxious to the REAL American patriot as to the man from a foreign land. Where. oh, where is the Fool-Killer?

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]

A scene from Mrs. Fiske's "Salvation Nell," as produced at the Valencia Theatre, San Francisco

« PreviousContinue »