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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Cheerful Smugglers - Chapter 4. Billy
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The Cheerful Smugglers - Chapter 4. Billy Post by :burrr Category :Long Stories Author :Ellis Parker Butler Date :May 2012 Read :2006

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The Cheerful Smugglers - Chapter 4. Billy


A few minutes before noon the next day Billy Fenelby dropped into Mr. Fenelby's office in the city and the two men went out to lunch together. It would be hard to imagine two brothers more unlike than Thomas and William Fenelby, for if Thomas Fenelby was inclined to be small in stature and precise in his manner, William was all that his nickname of Billy implied, and was not so many years out of his college foot-ball eleven, where he had won a place because of his size and strength. Billy Fenelby, after having been heroized by innumerable girls during his college years, had become definitely a man's man, and was in the habit of saying that his girly-girl days were over, and that he would walk around a block any day to escape meeting a girl. He was not afraid of girls, and he did not hate them, but he simply held that they were not worth while. The truth was that he had been so petted and worshiped by them as a star foot-ball player that the attention they paid him, as an ordinary young man not unlike many other young men out of college, seemed tame by comparison. No doubt he had come to believe, during his college days, that the only interesting thing a girl could do was to admire a man heartily, and in the manner that only foot-ball players and matinee idols are admired, so that now, when he had no particular claim to admiration, girls had become, so far as he was concerned, useless affairs.

"Now, about this girl-person that you have over at your house," he said to his brother, when they were seated at their lunch, "what about her?"

"About her?" asked Mr. Fenelby. "How do you mean?"

"What about her?" repeated Billy. "You know how I feel about the girl-business. I suppose she is going to stay awhile?"

"Kitty? I think so. We want her to. But you needn't bother about Kitty. She won't bother you a bit. She's the right sort, Billy. Not like Laura, of course, for I don't believe there is another woman anywhere just like Laura, but Kitty is not the ordinary flighty girl. You should hear her appreciate Bobberts. She saw his good points, and remarked about them, at once, and the way she has caught the spirit of the Domestic Tariff that I was telling you about is fine! Most girls would have hemmed and hawed about it, but she didn't! No, sir! She just saw what a fine idea it was, and when she saw that she couldn't afford to have her three trunks brought into the house she proposed that she leave them at a neighbor's. Did not make a single complaint. Don't worry about Kitty."

"That is all right about the tariff," said Billy. "I can't say I think much of that tariff idea myself, but so long as it is the family custom a guest couldn't do any less than live up to it. But I don't like the idea of having to spend a number of weeks in the same house with any girl. They are all bores, Tom, and I know it. A man can't have any comfort when there is a girl in the house. And between you and me that Kitty girl looks like the kind that is sure to be always right at a fellow's side. I was wondering if Laura would think it was all right if I stayed in town here?"

"No, she wouldn't," said Tom shortly. "She would be offended, and so would I. If you are going to let some nonsense about girls being a bore,--which is all foolishness--keep you away from the house, you had better--Why," he added, "it is an insult to us--to Laura and me--just as if you said right out that the company we choose to ask to our home was not good enough for you to associate with. If you think our house is going to bore you--"

"Now, look here, old man," said Billy, "I don't mean that at all, and you know I don't. I simply don't like girls, and that is all there is to it. But I'll come. I'll have my trunk sent over and--Say, do I have to pay duty on what I have in my trunk?"

"Certainly," said Mr. Fenelby. "That is, of course, if you want to enter into the spirit of the thing. It is only ten per cent., you know, and it all goes into Bobberts' education fund."

Billy sat in silent thought awhile.

"I wonder," he said at length, "how it would do if I just put a few things into my suit-case--enough to last me a few days at a time--and left my trunk over here. I don't need everything I brought in that trunk. I was perfectly reckless about putting things in that trunk. I put into that trunk nearly everything I own in this world, just because the trunk was so big that it would hold everything, and it seemed a pity to bring a big trunk like that with nothing in it but air. Now, I could take my suit-case and put into it the things I will really need--"

"Certainly," said Mr. Fenelby. "You can do that if you want to, and it would be perfectly fair to Bobberts. All Bobberts asks is to be paid a duty on what enters the house. He don't say what shall be brought in, or what shall not. Personally, Billy, I would call the duty off, so far as you are concerned, but I don't think Laura would like it. We started this thing fair, and we are all living up to it. Laura made Kitty live up to it and you can see it would not be right for me to make an exception in your case just because you happen to be my brother."

"No," agreed Billy, "it wouldn't. I don't ask it. I will play the game and I will play it fair. All I ask is: If I bring a suit-case, do I have to pay on the case? Because if I do, I won't bring it. I can wrap all I need in a piece of paper, and save the duty on the suit-case. I believe in playing fair, Tom, but that is no reason why I should be extravagant."

"I think," said Tom, doubtfully, "suit-cases should come in free. Of course, if it was a brand new suit-case it would have to pay duty, but an old one--one that has been used--is different. It is like wrapping-paper. The duty is assessed on what the package contains and not on the package itself. If it is not a new suit-case you will not have to pay duty on it."

"Then my suit-case will go in free," said Billy. "It is one of the first crop of suit-cases that was raised in this country, and I value it more as a relic than as a suit-case. I carry it more as a souvenir than as a suit-case."

"Souvenirs are different," said Mr. Fenelby. "Souvenirs are classed as luxuries, and pay thirty per cent. If you consider it a souvenir it pays duty."

"I will consider it a suit-case," said Billy promptly. "I will consider it a poor old, worn-out suit-case."

"I think that would be better," agreed Mr. Fenelby. "But we will have to wait and see what Laura considers it."

As on the previous evening the ladies were on the porch, enjoying the evening air, when Mr. Fenelby reached home, with Billy in tow, and Billy greeted them as if he had never wished anything better than to meet Miss Kitty.

"Where is this custom house Tom has been telling me about?" he asked, as soon as the hand shaking was over. "I want to have my baggage examined. I have dutiable goods to declare. Who is the inspector?"

"Laura is," said Kitty. "She is the slave of the grinding system that fosters monopoly and treads under heel the poor people."

"All right," said Billy, "I declare one collar. I wish to bring one collar into the bosom of this family. I have in this suit-case one collar. I never travel without one extra collar. It is the two-for-a-quarter kind, with a name like a sleeping car, and it has been laundered twice, which brings it to the verge of ruin. How much do I have to pay on the one collar?"

"Collars are a necessity," said Mrs. Fenelby, "and they pay ten per--"

"What a notion!" exclaimed Kitty. "Collars are not a necessity. Collars are an actual luxury, especially in warm weather. Many very worthy men never wear a collar at all, and would not think of wearing one in hot weather. They are like jewelry or--or something of that sort. Collars certainly pay thirty per cent."

"I reserve the right to appeal," said Billy. "Those are the words of an unjust judge. But how much do I take off the value of the collar because two thirds of its life has been laundered away? How much is one third of twelve and a half?"

"Now, that is pure nonsense," Kitty said, "and I sha'n't let poor, dear little Bobberts be robbed in any such way. That collar cost twelve and a half cents, and it has had two and a half cents spent on it twice, so it is now a seventeen and a half cent collar, and thirty per cent. of that is--is--"

"Oh, if you are going to rob me!" exclaimed Billy. "I don't care. I can get along without a collar. I will bring out a sweater to-morrow."

"Sweaters pay only ten per cent.," said Kitty sweetly. "What else have you in your suit-case?"

"Air," said Billy. "Nothing but air. I didn't think I could afford to bring anything else, and I will leave the collar out here. I open the case--I take out the collar--I place it gently on the porch railing--and I take the empty suit-case into the house. I pay no duty at all, and that is what you get for being so grasping."

Mr. Fenelby shook his head.

"You can't do that, Billy," he said. "That puts the suit-case in another class. It isn't a package for holding anything now, and it isn't a necessity--because you can't need an empty suit-case--so it doesn't go in at ten per cent., so it must be a luxury, and it pays thirty per cent."

"That suit-case," said Billy, looking at it with a calculating eye, "is not worth thirty per cent. of what it is worth. It is worthless, and I wouldn't give ten per cent. of nothing for it. It stays outside. So I pay nothing. I go in free. Unless I have to pay on myself."

"You don't have to," said Kitty, "although I suppose Laura and Tom think you are a luxury."

"Don't you think I am one?" asked Billy.

"No, I don't," said Kitty frankly, "and when you know me better, you will not ask such a foolish question. Where ever I am, there a young man is a necessity."

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