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Tunes For Spring
by [?]

Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!
Spring, the sweet Spring!

If by any chance you have seen a man in a coat with sagging pockets, and a cloth hat of the latest fashion but two–a hat which I may say is precious to him (old friends, old wine, old hats)–emerging from his house just short of noon, do not lay his belated appearance to any disorder in his conduct! Certain neighbors at their windows as he passed, raised their eyes in a manner, if I mistake not, of suspicion that a man should be so far trespassing on the day, for nine o’clock should be the penny-picker’s latest departure for the vineyard. Thereafter the street belongs to the women, except for such sprouting and unripe manhood as brings the groceries, and the hardened villainy that fetches ice and with deep voice breaks the treble of the neighborhood. But beyond these there are no men in sight save the pantalooned exception who mows the grass, and with the whirr of his clicking knives sounds the prelude of the summer. I’ll say by way of no more than a parenthetical flick of notice that his eastern front, conspicuous from the rear as he bends forward over his machine, shows a patched and jointed mullionry that is not unlike the tracery of some cathedral’s rounded apse. But I go too far in imagery. Plain speech is best. I’ll waive the gothic touch.

But observe this sluggard who issues from his door! He knows he is suspected–that the finger is uplifted and the chin is wagging. And so he takes on a smarter stride with a pretense of briskness, to proclaim thereby the virtue of having risen early despite his belated appearance, and what mighty business he has despatched within the morning.

But you will get no clue as to whether he has been closeted with the law, or whether it is domestic faction–plumbers or others of their ilk (if indeed plumbers really have any ilk and do not, as I suspect, stand unbrothered like the humped Richard in the play). Or maybe some swirl of fancy blew upon him as he was spooning up his breakfast, which he must set down in an essay before the matter cool. Or an epic may have thumped within him. Let us hope that his thoughts this cool spring morning have not been heated to such bloody purpose that he has killed a score of men upon his page, and that it is with the black gore of the ink-pot on him that he has called for his boots to face the world. You remember the fellow who kills him “some six or seven dozens of Scots at a breakfast, washes his hands, and says to his wife, ‘Fie upon this quiet life! I want work.'”

Such ferocity should not sully this fair May morning, when there are sounds only of carpet-beating, the tinkle of the man who is out to grind your knives and the recurrent melody of the connoisseur of rags and bottles who stands in his cart as he drives his lean and pointed horse. At the cry of this perfumed Brummel–if you be not gone in years too far–as often as he prepares to shout the purpose of his quest, you’ll put a question to him, “Hey, there, what do you feed your wife on?” And then his answer will come pat to your expectation, “Pa-a-a-per Ra-a-a-gs, Pa-a-a-per Ra-a-a-gs!” If the persistence of youth be in you and the belief that a jest becomes better with repetition–like beans nine days cold within the pot–you will shout your question until he turns the corner and his answer is lost in the noises of the street. “Adieu! Adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades–“

To this day I think of a rag-picker’s wife as dining sparingly out of a bag–not with her head inside like a horse, but thrusting her scrawny arm elbow deep to stir the pottage, and sprinkling salt and pepper on for nicer flavor. Following such preparation she will fork it out like macaroni, with her head thrown back to present the wider orifice. If her husband’s route lies along the richer streets she will have by way of tidbit for dessert a piece of chewy velvet, sugared and buttered to a tenderness.