Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  From the Proceedings of the Lime-Kiln Club

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

From the Proceedings of the Lime-Kiln Club

By Charles Bertrand Lewis (1842–1924)

[Born in Liverpool, Ohio, 1842. Died in Brooklyn, N. Y., 1924. Brother Gardner’s Lime-Kiln Club…. By M. Quad and Brother Gardner. 1883–88.]


“IT may be well to menshun a leetle sarcumstance right heah an’ now,” said Brother Gardner, as the next meeting opened: “I want it distinctly understood dat de rules of Congress doan’ govern de purcedins of dis club only to a sartin figger. Fur instance, if Calculation King and Romance Floyd should make use of dis floo’ to call each odder liars an’ blackguards, an’ to make a display of muscle, an apology nex’ day would have no effect on dis club. Kase why? Kase de two members wouldn’t be heah to apologize! Dat’s de remark I war gwine to set fo’th, an’ we will now go on wid de reg’lar bizness.”


A letter from David Field, of Lynn, Mass., made inquiries of the club as to whether the rainfall in Michigan during the past twelve months was above or below the average.

The Rev. Penstock, who has been very quiet and humble-minded since his jump from the back window, got upon his feet and replied: “I s’pose dat queshun ’peals to me personally, kase I s’pose I’m de only member of dis club who watches sech things. It am my opinyun dat de rainfall for de last y’ar am far below the averidge.”

“Brudder Penstock,” said the President, “you am a valuable member of dis club, an’ de club would be mighty lonesome to lose you, but still what you doan’ know about de rainfall would lay de foundashun fur a heap o’ dry weather. My old woman keeps a bar’l under de spout to ketch rain-water, an’ I is confident dat de quantity of rain-water in dat bar’l fur de last y’ar has been moah dan for eny y’ar in ten y’ars. De secretary will reply accordingly.”


“If I should find a perfeckly honest man—honest in his expressions, honest in his dealings, sincere in his statements—I shouldn’t like him!” said Brother Gardner, as the meeting was called to order. “He would be a lonesome object in dis aige. He would seek in vain fur companionship. While I believe dat honesty am de bes’ policy, I doan’ look to see it practised beyond a certain limit. When I trade mules wid a man, I kinder like to doubt his word. I want to feel dat he am keeping still ’bout de ring-bones an’ spavins, an’ dat de beast he says am jist turnin’ fo’teen y’ars, will nebber see his twenty-first birthday no moar. It am monotonous to deal wid a man who am perfeckly honest. If I lend a man money I want him to be honest ’nuff to return it, but if he kin trade me a watch worth three dollars for a gun worth seben, I shall think none the less of him.

“If men were so sincere dat we felt obleeged to believe whateber dey asserted, we should hab no use fur theories an’ argyments. When I gib my note I expect to pay it. When I ax a man how he would like to trade his wheelbarrow fur my dog, I’m not gwine to inform him dat Cæsar am all bark an’ no bite, an’ he am not gwine to tell me dat he borrowed dat wheelbarrow in de night, an forgot to return it. If a grocer leaves me in charge of his sto’ Ize gwine to sot fur half an hour beside a box of herrings an’ keep my hands in my pockets all de time. Yet, if dat same man sells me a pound of tea he expects me to try an’ pass off on him a half-dollar wid a hole in it.

“Continer, my frens, to believe dat honesty am de bes’ policy, but doan’ expect too much of so-called honest men. You kin trust men wid your wallet who would borrow a pitchfork an’ nebber return it. You kin lend your boss to a man who would cheat you blind in tradin’ obercoats. You kin send home a pa’r o’ dead ducks at noon-day by a man who would steal your live chickens at midnight.

“When I lend my naybur Mocha coffee I like to wonder if he won’t pay it back in Rio. When de ole woman buys kaliker on a guarantee she rather hopes it will fade in de washin’.

“I solemnly believe dat de world am honest ’nuff, jist as it am. When you gin your word stick to it if it busts de bank. When you do a job of work do it well; when you make a debt pay it. Any man who am mo’ honest dan dat will want you to cut a penny in two to make out his shilling; he will ring you up at midnight to return your mouse-trap; he will take one shingle from your bunch an’ offer you de one-hundredth part of what de bunch cost; he will borrow your boot-jack an’ insist dat you borrow his wash-board to offset it. We will now proceed to bizness.”


The secretary announced a letter from the Hon. Occupation Buckworthy, of Portsmouth, Va., stating that a colored man calling himself Judge John Waterman, and claiming to be an active local member of the Lime-Kiln Club, was in that city disposing of photographs supposed to represent Brother Gardner. He sold the photographs at twenty cents each, and claimed that the funds were to be sent to Liberia, to establish a mouth-organ factory. The photographs represented a colored person with a broken nose, a squint eye, front teeth gone, and ears large enough to throw a shadow over a wall eighteen feet high. Was it all right, or was the man an impostor?

Brother Gardner was jumping two feet high before the secretary had finished, and it took him only four minutes to write and send out a telegram asking the Portsmouth man to arrest the impostor if it cost two hundred dollars.

In this connection it may be well to state:

1. The Lime-Kiln Club employs no travelling agent.

2. It offers no chromos.

3. None of its members are allowed to attach their names to medical inventions.

4. It favors no scheme to build observatories in Liberia, or orphan asylums in the Sandwich Islands.

5. It publishes no dime novels, sends out no hair dyes and has no Presidential candidate for 1884.


The secretary announced a letter from the State Department of New Jersey, inquiring if Brother Gardner favored the annexation of Canada to the United States, and the old man carefully felt of his left ear and replied:

“Dat’s a subjeck which has troubled me a great deal, an’ up to de present time I am onsartin and unpledged. De same toof-brush which am sold for twenty cents on dis side kin be bought fur fifteen ober dar. If we annex Canada we kin hab cheap toof-brushes. On de odder han’, de same rat-trap dat we sell fur twenty-five cents on dis side can’t be had ober dar fur less dan thirty. If Canada annexes us she am suah of cheap rat-traps. Dar it am, you see, an’ whether we should annex Canada or Canada annex us am a queshun which I cannot decide to my own satisfaxun.”


Trustee Pullback offered the following resolution:
  • “Resolved, Dat usurpashun am de death blow of liberty.”
  • “Brudder Pullback,” said the President, as he looked at the member over the top of his spectacles, “do you know what usurpashun means?”

    “I—I—’spect I does, sah.”

    “What is it?”

    Brother Pullback hesitated, scratched his ear, rubbed his elbow, and was evidently fast-aground on a sand bar.

    “You had better take dat resolushun an’ place it softly on top de stove,” resumed the President. “Dar am too much chin-music in dis kentry ’bout usurpashun, monopoly, centralizashun, loss o’ liberty, an’ so on. If anybody wants to usurp let him go ahead. As fur loss o’ liberty, we has got such dead loads of it dat we kin afford to lose a sheer. Sot down, Brudder Pullback—sot down, an’ remember dat shootin’ off big words doan’ pay fur meat an’ ’taters.”


    “In case Brudder Cinnamon Carter am in de Hall to-night, I should like to have him step dis way,” said the President, as Pickles Smith got through blowing his nose and Elder Toots secured an easy rest for his back.

    The member inquired for rose up at the back end of the Hall and came forward with a look of surprise cantering across his countenance.

    “Brudder Carter, when did you jine dis Club?” asked the President.

    “’Bout six months ago, sah.”

    “What was your object in becomin’ a member?”

    “I wanted to improve my mind.”

    “Do you fink it has helped your mind any?”

    “I do, sah.”

    “Well, I doan’! In de fust place, you has borrowed money from ebery member who would lend you eben a nickel. In de nex’ place, I can’t learn dat you has put in one honest day’s work since you became one of us. You war’ sayin’ to Samuel Shin las’ night dat de world owed you a livin’.”

    “Yes, sah.”

    “I want to undeceive you. De world owes no man only what he airns. You may reason dat you am not to blame for bein’ heah. Werry good; de world kin reason dat you am to blame for stayin’ in it when it costs nuffin’ to jump inter de ribber. Brudder Carter, what has you done for de world dat it owes you a livin’?”


    “Just so!” observed the President. “You has walked up an’ down, an’ wore cloze, an’ consumed food an’ drink, an’ made one mo’ in de crowd aroun’ a new buildin’. An’ for dis you claim de world owes you a livin’? You has made no diskiveries, brought out no inventions, written no song an’ held no offis. Not five hundred people in de world know of you by name. You can’t name one single man who am under obligashuns to you. You eat what odders produce. You w’ar out de cloze odder people make. An’ yit you have the impudence to sot down on a bar’l of dried apples, cross yer legs an’ fold yer hands, an’ say dat the world owes yer a livin’, an’ by de great horn spoons mus’ gin it to you! Brudder Carter, look at yerself a few minits!”

    “Yes, sah—ahem—yes—Ize sorry, sah,” stammered the member.

    “What fur? Sorry kase you’ve bin found out? Sorry kase you’ve entered dis Hall for de las’ time? Brudder Carter, we doan’ want sich men as you in dis Club. De world doan’ owe us a cent. On de contrary, we owe de world mo’ dan we kin eber pay. De man who argys dat he am entitled to any mo’ dan what his brains or muscle kin airn him am a robber at heart. We shall cross your name from de rolls, show you de way down stairs, an’ permit you to go your own road frew life. If you kin make de world clothe, feed an’ shelter you fur de privilege of seein’ you hold down a dry-goods box in front of a sto’ which doan’ advertise, dat will be your good luck.”

    Brother Carter thought the matter over and decided that the world owed him a place in Paradise Hall, but he was mistaken again. The Committee on Internal Revenue stepped forward at a nod from Brother Gardner, and the expelled member only struck the stairs twice in going from top to bottom.


    During the last two or three meetings Elder Toots had managed to keep awake most of the time by keeping a bit of ice on his head and permitting the melting stream to trickle down the back of his neck, but on this occasion he had slept sweetly for twenty minutes, when he suddenly rose and offered the following resolution:
  • “Resolved, Dat dis Club do hereby express its sympathy fur de cause of liberty in Cuba.”
  • During the deep silence which followed the reading of the above, Prof. High-Strung Smith was plainly heard chewing slippery elm, and a sudden sneeze from Gen. Overworked Johnson rattled along the ceiling and brought down hundreds of small pieces of plaster.

    “Brudder Toots, what do you know ’bout Cuba?” asked the President.

    “Nuffin, sah.”

    “What do you know ’bout de cause of liberty?”


    “Who axed you to present dat resolushun?”

    “Judge Gallipolee Thompson, sah.”

    “Brudder Toots, you go out an’ soak de back of yer neck in cold tea! You has bin made a fool of! You are a purty middlin’ aiverage ole nigger, but de mo’ you sleep while present at our meeting de mo’ benefit you will derive from de purceedins. As fur you, Brudder Thompson, you am hereby fined nine hundred dollars an’ costs fur disruptin’ de reg’lar purceedins. I may add at dis time dat de costs am about fo’ hundred dollars.”

    The Judge fell to the floor in a dead faint, but was immediately drawn out of the Hall by the left leg, and business went right on.