Page:Pieces People Ask For.djvu/186

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

stillness, and then die away like a hot biscuit in the hands of the hired man.

In the green room of the amphitheatre a little band of gladiators were assembled. The foam of conflict yet lingered on their lips, the scowl of battle yet hung upon their brows, and the large knobs on their profiles indicated that it had been a busy day with them in the arena.

There was an embarrassing silence of about five minutes, when Spartacus, gently laying his chew of tobacco on the banister, stepped forth and addressed them:—

"Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen,—Ye call me chief, and ye do well to call him chief who for twelve long years has met in the arena every shape of man or beast that the broad empire of Rome could furnish, and yet has never squealed. I do not say this egotistically, but simply to show that I am the star thumper of the entire outfit.

"If there be one among you who can say that ever in public fight, or private brawl, my actions did belie my words, let him stand forth and say it, and I will spread him around over the arena till the coroner will have to soak him out of the ground with benzine. If there be three in all your company dare face me on the bloody sands, let them come, and I will construct upon their physiognomy such cupolas and cornices and dormer-windows and Corinthian capitals and entablatures, that their own masters would pass them by in the broad light of high noon unrecognized.

"And yet I was not always thus,—a hired butcher,—the savage chief of still more savage men. My ancestors came from Sparta, Wisconsin, and settled among the vine-clad hills and citron-groves of Syracuse. My early life ran as quiet as the clear brook by which I sported. Aside from the gentle patter of my angel mother's slipper on the bustle of my overalls, every thing moved along with the still and rhythmic flow of goose-greese. My boyhood was one long, happy summer day. We stole the Roman muskmelon, and put split sticks on the tail of the Roman dog, and life was a picnic and a hallelujah.

"When, at noon, I led the sheep beneath the shade, and played 'Little Sallie Waters' on my shepherd's flute, there was another Spartan youth, the son of a neighbor, to join me in the pastime; we led our flocks to the same pasture, and together picked the large red ants out of our doughnuts.

"One evening, after the sheep had been driven into the