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With The Entrees
by [?]

“Once, when I was a pirate–!”

The speaker was an elderly gentleman in correct evening dress, the room a tasteful one, the company of infinite respectability, the locality at once fashionable and exclusive, the occasion an unexceptionable dinner. To this should be added that the speaker was also the host.

With these conditions self-evident, all that good breeding could do was to receive the statement with a vague smile that might pass for good-humored incredulity or courteous acceptation of a simple fact. Indeed, I think we all rather tried to convey the impression that our host, when he WAS a pirate,–if he ever really was one,–was all that a self-respecting pirate should be, and never violated the canons of good society. This idea was, to some extent, crystallized by the youngest Miss Jones in the exclamation, “Oh, how nice!”

“It was, of course, many years ago, when I was quite a lad.”

We all murmured “Certainly,” as if piracy were a natural expression of the exuberance of youth.

“I ought, perhaps, explain the circumstances that led me into this way of life.”

Here Legrande, a courteous attache of the Patagonian legation, interposed in French and an excess of politeness, “that it was not of a necessity,” a statement to which his English neighbor hurriedly responded, “Oui, oui.”

“There ess a boke,” he continued, in a well-bred, rapid whisper, “from Captain Canot,–a Frenchman,–most eenteresting–he was–oh, a fine man of education–and what you call a ‘slavair,'” but here he was quietly nudged into respectful silence.

“I ran away from home,” continued our host. He paused, and then added, appealingly, to the two distinguished foreigners present: “I do not know if I can make you understand that this is a peculiarly American predilection. The exodus of the younger males of an American family against the parents’ wishes does not, with us, necessarily carry any obloquy with it. To the average American the prospect of fortune and a better condition lies OUTSIDE of his home; with you the home means the estate, the succession of honors or titles, the surety that the conditions of life shall all be kept intact. With us the children who do not expect, and generally succeed in improving the fortunes of the house, are marked exceptions. Do I make myself clear?”

The French-Patagonian attache thought it was “charming and progressif.” The Baron Von Pretzel thought he had noticed a movement of that kind in Germany, which was expressed in a single word of seventeen syllables. Viscount Piccadilly said to his neighbor: “That, you know now, the younger sons, don’t you see, go to Australia, you know in some beastly trade–stock-raising or sheep–you know; but, by Jove! them fellahs–“

“My father always treated me well,” continued our host. “I shared equally with my brothers the privileges and limitations of our New England home. Nevertheless, I ran away and went to sea–“

“To see–what?” asked Legrande.

“Aller sur mer,” said his neighbor, hastily.

“Go on with your piracy!” said Miss Jones.

The distinguished foreigners looked at each other and then at Miss Jones. Each made a mental note of the average cold-blooded ferocity of the young American female.

“I shipped on board of a Liverpool ‘liner,'” continued our host.

“What ess a ‘liner’?” interrupted Legrande, sotto voce, to his next neighbor, who pretended not to hear him.

“I need not say that these were the days when we had not lost our carrying trade, when American bottoms–“

“Que est ce, ‘bot toom’?” said Legrande, imploringly, to his other friend.

“When American bottoms still carried the bulk of freight, and the supremacy of our flag–“

Here Legrande recognized a patriotic sentiment and responded to it with wild republican enthusiasm, nodding his head violently. Piccadilly noticed it, too, and, seeing an opening for some general discussion on free trade, began half audibly to HIS neighbor: “Most extraordinary thing, you know, your American statesmen–“

“I deserted the ship at Liverpool–“

But here two perfunctory listeners suddenly turned toward the other end of the table, where another guest, our Nevada Bonanza lion, was evidently in the full flood of pioneer anecdote and narration. Calmly disregarding the defection, he went on:–