Out They Go: (November 1886)

IN the midst of a queer higglety-pigglety dream, last night, I thought the Great Panjandrum appeared to me with the kind offer to have some one class of my fellow beings immediately exterminated; provided I could, without taking too much of his valuable time, decide which particular class it should be. Just seven minutes were given in which to make and announce the decision.

Of course I accepted with alacrity, and at once hastened to run over in my mind such of the obnoxious varieties of human nature as could most speedily be recalled. At first I thought I would select the people who do not answer letters; but I reflected that sometimes we write letters in haste, which had better be answered at leisure, long leisure, or even not at all, on the principle that the least said, soonest mended. Then I dallied for a moment with the idea that it should be those who, hearing us say things in joke, straightway report them as things said in earnest. Surely, thought I to myself, we can’t go amiss in having this venomous species obliterated! But as the genial destroyer looked at his watch a little impatiently, I hurriedly recollected certain other deserving candidates.

There were those who always allow for everybody else’s being late at appointments, and so afflict the punctual soul with a quarter of an hour of painful fidgets; and those who send us lukewarm verses, with a request for an introduction to the favorable notice of the editors of the great magazines; and those who borrow tennis rackets and sheet music; and the bookstore attendants who tag us around with recommendations of the latest inanities; and the botherhood [sic] of locomotive engineers who agonize the ear of night with gratuitous shrieks as of whistling fiends; and the literary ladies who follow up our plainest observations with praise of how nicely, or prettily, or nobly, or something, it was said.

‘Six minutes and three quarters,’ whispered the Grand Panjandrum, punching at me with his sceptre, and knocking his little round button at top against the ceiling, as he hastily rose. I made one more rapid snatch among my recollections of people who are with difficulty to be endured, and cried, ‘Take those who carry a perpetual countenance of cold displeasure, and contrive to make each member of the household, or the company, feel that he is at all times the special object of it!’ The departing monster nodded benignly over his shoulder and winked, as who should say, ‘You have chosen well!’