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The Shrinking Of Kingman’s Field
by [?]

“It was rats,” said I.

“It was warts,” said Old Hundred.

“I know it was rats, I tell you,” I continued, “because my uncle Eben knew a man who did it. His house was full of rats, so he wrote a very polite note to them, setting forth that, much as he enjoyed their excellent society, the house was too crowded for comfort, and telling them to go over to the house of a certain neighbor, who had more room and no children nor cats. And the rats all went.”

Old Hundred listened patiently. “That’s precisely right,” said he, “except it must have been warts. You have to be polite, and also tell them where to go. You rub the warts with a bean, wrap the bean up in the note, and burn both, or else throw them in the well. In a few days the warts will leave you and appear on the other fellow. My grandfather, when he was a boy, got warts that way, so he licked the other boy.”

“Rats!” said I.

“No, warts,” persisted Old Hundred.

So that was how we two aging and urbanized codgers came to leave the comfortable club for the Grand Central Station, whence we sent telegrams to our families and took train for the rural regions north-eastward. The point had to be settled. Besides, I stumped Old Hundred to go, and he never could refuse a stump.

But Old Hundred was fretful on the journey. We called him Old Hundred years ago, because he always proposed that tune at Sunday evening meetings, when the leader “called for hymns.” I address him as Old Hundred still, though he is a learned lawyer in line for a judgeship. He was fretful, he said, because we were sure to be terribly disillusioned. But he is not a man accustomed in these later years to act on impulse, and the prospect of a night on a sleeping car, without pajamas, did not, I fancy, appeal to him, now that he faced it from the badly ventilated car aisle, instead of the club easy-chair. Yet perhaps he did dread the disillusionment, too. It was always I, even when we were boys, who loved an adventure for its own sake, quite apart from the pleasure or pain of it–taking a supreme delight, in fact, in melancholy. I have still a copy of Moore’s poems, stained with tears and gingerbread. Some of the happiest hours of my childhood were spent in weeping over this book, especially over “Go Where Glory Waits Thee,” which affected me with an incomprehensible but poignant woe. Accordingly it was I who rose cheerful in the morning and piloted a gloomy companion to breakfast and a barber, and so across Boston to the dingy station where dingy, dirty cars of ancient vintage awaited, and in one of which we rode, with innumerable stops, to a spot off the beaten tracks of travel, but which bore a name that thrilled us.

When we alighted from the train, a large factory greeted our vision, across the road from the railway station. We walked up a faintly familiar street to the village square. There we paused, with wry faces. Six trolley lines converged in its centre, and out of the surrounding country were rolling in great cars, as big almost as Pullmans. All the magnificent horse-chestnut trees that once lined the walks were down, to expose more brazenly to view the rows of tawdry little shops. These trees had once furnished shade and ammunition. I had to smile at the sign above the new fish-market–


But there was no smile on Old Hundred’s face. Here and there, rising behind the little stores and lunch rooms, we could detect the tops of the old houses, pushed back by commerce. But most of the houses had disappeared altogether. Only the old white meeting-house at the head of the common looked down benignly, unchanged.