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The Old Subscriber
by [?]

I want to say that this country rests upon a great, solid foundation of old, paid-up subscribers. They are the invisible, rock-ribbed resting-place for the dazzling superstructure and the slim and peaked spire. Whether we procure a new press or a new dress, a new contributor or a new printers’ towel, we must bank on the old subscriber; for the new one is fickle, and when some other paper gives him a larger or a redder covered book, he may desert our standard. He yearns for the flesh-pots and the new scroll saws of other papers. He soon wearies of a uniformly good paper, with no chance to draw a town lot or a tin mine–in Montana.

Let us, therefore, brethren of the press, cling to the old subscriber as he has clung to us. Let us say to him, on this approaching Christmas Eve, “Son, thou art always with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, that this, thy brother, who had been a subscriber for our vile contemporary many years, but is alive again, and during a lucid interval has subscribed for our paper; but, after all, we would not go to him if we wanted to borrow a dollar. Remember that you still have our confidence, and when we want a good man to indorse our note at the bank, you will find that your name in our memory is ever fresh and green.”

Looking this over, I am struck with the amount of stuff I have successfully said, and yet there is a paucity of ideas. Some writers would not use the word paucity in this place without first knowing the meaning of it, but I am not that way. There are thousands of words that I now use freely, but could not if I postponed it until I could learn their meaning. Timidity keeps many of our authors back, I think. Many are more timid about using big words than they are about using other people’s ideas.

A friend of mine wanted to write a book, but hadn’t the time to do it. So he asked me if I wouldn’t do it for him. He was very literary, he said, but his business took up all his time, so I asked him what kind of a book he wanted. He said he wanted a funny book, with pictures in it and a blue cover. I saw at once that he had fine literary taste and delicate discrimination, but probably did not have time to give it full swing. I asked him what he thought it would be worth to write such a book. “Well,” he said, he had always supposed that I enjoyed it myself, but if I thought I ought to have pay besides, he would be willing to pay the same as he did for his other writing–ten cents a folio.

He is worth $50,000, because he has documentary evidence to show that a man who made that amount out of deceased hogs, had the misfortune to be his father and then die.

It was a great triumph to be born under such circumstances, and yet the young man lacks the mental stamina necessary to know how to successfully eat common mush and milk in such a low key that will not alarm the police.

I use this incident more as an illustration than anything else. It illustrates how anything may be successfully introduced into an article of this kind without having any bearing whatever upon it.

I like to close a serious essay, or treatise, with some humorous incident, like the clown in the circus out West last summer, who joked along through the performance all the afternoon till two or three children went into convulsions, and hypochondria seemed to reign rampant through the tent. All at once a bright idea struck him. He climbed up on the flying trapeze, fell off, and broke his neck. He was determined to make that audience laugh, and he did it at last. Every one felt repaid for the trouble of going to the circus.