Last week Colonel Bill Root, formerly Duke of Council Bluffs, paid me a visit, and as I desired to show him Central Park, I took him to Fifty-Eighth street and hired a carriage, my own team being at my country place. I also engaged the services of a dark-eyed historical student, who is said to know more about Central Park than any other man in New York, having driven through it, as he has, for years. He was a plain, sad man, with a mustache which was mostly whiskers. He dressed carelessly in a neglige suit of neutral-tinted clothes, including a pair of trousers which seemed to fit him in that shy and reluctant manner which characterized the fit of the late lamented Jumbo’s clothes after he had been indifferently taxidermed.
Colonel Root and I called him “Governor,” and thereby secured knowledge which could not be obtained from books. Colonel Root is himself no kindergarten savant, being the author and discoverer of a method of breaking up a sitting-hen by first calling her away from her deep-seated passion, tying a red-flannel rag around her leg, and then still further turning her attention from her wild yearning to hatch out a flock of suburban villas by sitting on a white front-door knob. This he does by deftly inserting the hen into a joint of stove-pipe and then cementing both ends of the same. Colonel Root is also the discoverer of a cipher which shows that Julius Caesar’s dying words were: “Et tu Brute. Verily the tail goeth with the hide.”
After a while the driver paused. Colonel Root asked him why he tarried.
“I wanted to call your attention,” said the Governor, “to the Casino, a place where you can provide for the inner man or any other man. You can here secure soft-shell crabs, boiled lobster, low-neck clams, Hamburger steaks, chicken salad, miscellaneous soups, lobster salad with machine-oil on it, Neapolitan ice-cream, Santa Cruz rum, Cincinnati Sec, pie, tooth-picks, and finger-bowls.”
“How far does the waiter have to go to get these things cooked?” inquired Colonel Root, looking at his valuable watch.
“That,” said the Governor, as he swung around with his feet over in our part of the carriage and asked me for a light, “depends on how you approach him. If you slip a half dollar up his coat-sleeve without his knowledge he will get your twenty-five cent meal cooked somewhere near by, but otherwise I have known him to go away and come back with gray side-whiskers and cobwebs on the pie instead of the wine.”
We went in and told the proprietor to see that our driver had what he wanted. He did not want much, aside from a whisky sour, a plate of terrapin, a pint of Mr. Pommery’s secretary’s beverage, and a baked duck. We had a little calves’ liver and custard pie. Then we visited Cleopatra’s Needle.
“And who in creation was Cleopatra?” asked Colonel Root.
“Cleopatra,” said the driver, “was a goodlooking Queen of Egypt. She was eighteen years old when her father left the throne, as it was screwed down to the dais, and died. He left the kingdom to Cleopatra, in partnership with Ptolemy, her brother. Ptolemy, in 51 B. C., deprived her of the throne, leaving Cleopatra nothing but the tidy. She appealed to Julius Caesar, who hired a man to embalm Ptolemy, and restored Egypt to his sister, who was as likely a girl as Julius had ever met with. She accompanied him to Rome in 46 B. C., and remained there a couple of years. When Caesar was assassinated by a delegation of Roman tax-payers who desired a change, Cleopatra went back and began to reign over Egypt again. She also attracted the attention of Antony. He thought so much of her that he would frequently stay away from a battle and deny himself the joys of being split open with a dull stab-knife in order to hang around home and hold Cleopatra’s hand, and, though she was a widow practically, she was the Amelie Rives style of widow, and he said that it had to be an all-fired good battle that could make him put on his iron ulster and fight all day on the salary he was getting. She pizened herself thirty years before Christ, at the age of thirty-nine years, rather than ride around Rome in a gingham dress as a captive of Augustus. She died right in haying time, and Augustus said he’d ruther of lost the best horse in Rome. This is her needle. It was brought to New York mostly by water, and looks well here in the park. She was said to be as likely a queen as ever jerked a sceptre over Egypt or any other place. Everybody that saw her reign said that the country never had a magneticker queen.”