Ads Is Ads
by Ellis Parker Butler
On the 95th day of Sobtober, 1906, at exactly 73 minutes after 29 o'clock, G.M., Mrs. Anna Louisa Bullock, a respectable married lady of the United States, was cast away on an absolutely desert island in the Pacific Ocean, 82 degrees North and South longitude and 54 francs, 7 shillings and 6 pfennigs East by West latitude.
You will observe, by the above, that this is to be a tale of the imagination. Whenever an author attempts something wild and weird and impossible in the way of imagination he thinks in terms of either (1) a desert island, or (2) a glass of real beer. As this tale is to be founded on fact the scene is laid in (1) a desert island instead of in (2) a glass of beer.
In introducing my heroine, Mrs. Anna L. Bullock, please note that I place the island in latitude 54 francs, 7 shillings and 6 pfennigs, East by West. By using the world "pfennigs," which indicates a coin of the German empire, I call to the reader's attention the fact that Mrs. Bullock was cast away before the late world war. The year, thus firmly fixed in your mind, was 1906.
Mrs. Bullock, indulging in what may be called this unintentional desertion party, wore a neat being-shipwrecked gown of dark blue serge trimmed with soutache braid, and a hat with feathers. On her feet she wore a pair of shoes, one on each foot. Her underneaths were, for the most part, of fine muslin, neatly embroidered. She was, indeed, gowned as became a lady of twenty-eight, the wife of a man of ample means, and the mother of two charming children.
Although the vessel on which Mrs. Bullock had been traveling was absolutely demolished and everyone aboard, except Mrs. Bullock, miserably drowned, her state when she found herself cast ashore on the desert island was not altogether miserable. Among other flotsam and jetsam from the lost ship there had been cast ashore one portable house with parlor, dining-room, bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, hot and cold water, gas and electricity, in perfect working order. Also seventy-two rods of privet hedge, eight bags of fine lawn seed, seven cases of bulbs and seedling flowers. The huge wave that cast Mrs. Bullock ashore carried the portable house to the top of a pleasant knoll and, in receding, sowed the lawn seed, planted the hedge as a neat fence, and laid out the garden. It also burst open a package of waterproof matches, scraped one along the inner cellar wall of the portable house and thus lighted the gas-burning water-heater in the cellar.
In the hot climate in which the desert island lay vegetation grows rapidly. Thus when Mrs. Bullock recovered from the swoon into which she had fallen upon being cast ashore, she saw before her a beautiful house, lawn and garden, and had only to enter it, turn on the hot and cold water, bathe and dress, and prepare an excellent dinner.
That she was able to dress and dine was largely due to the fact that the storm had also cast ashore from the wrecked ship 98 trunks full of the finest Viennese and Parisian gowns and lingerie, and 7548 barrels and cases of every sort of food and pleasant temperance drink, including tea, coffee, cocoa and many others too numerous to mention. This was all quite miraculous. I'll tell the world it was! I can hardly understand how it could happen, especially when I pause to think that one of the things thus cast ashore was a cook stove, with the fire brightly burning, and that another was twelve tons of range coal done up in gunny sacks.
When I stop to think how hard it was for me to get four tons of coal to start the winter with this year, and then think that Mrs. Bullock had twelve tons float ashore that way, free of charge, I am willing to say it was miraculous. I think I am one of the greatest imaginative authors in the world, to be able to make such things happen.
"If it were not for the distance that parts me from my dear husband and little children," said Mrs. Bullock, as she straightened the books on the parlor table and turned on her electric lamp that first evening, "I could be quite happy here."
This was not quite true. She was quite happy that evening. The next day, however, she did long for her husband and little ones. She walked down to the great, vast, endless sea, and stretched out her arms and yearned for them. She yearned heartily until it was time to get dinner, and then she went back to the house.
"If I only had a cook and a couple of reliable servants," Mrs. Bullock said, as she prepared her lonely meal. "I could be quite happy here."
And this was not quite true. She was really quite happy. It was not until a week or two later, when the work had grown irksome, that she really yearned for a cook and two reliable servants. She went down to the edge of the vast, great, endless sea and stretched out her arms and yearned and yearned for a cook and two maids. She yearned until she yawned, and then she went back to the cozy house and went to bed.
Thus time fled. Unfortunately, when Mrs. Bullock had been on the desert island eight months, the house caught fire and burned to the ground. When Mrs. Bullock took stock of what was left she found she had only the twelve tons of coal in gunny sacks, fifty-two cases of canned baked beans and one can-opener. Even the garments she had been wearing had been burned.
When Mrs. Bullock had sobbed for an hour over this loss of all the comforts of civilization she emptied the coal out of one of the gunny sacks, cut armholes in it with, the can-opener, and opened a can of beans. She was a brave woman. She knew she must make what she had suffice, and she did so.
Often she went to the shore of the vast, huge, endless sea and stood looking out over it, thinking of home and loved ones, and she sighed; but she always turned away bravely, for she knew she must, in all probability, spend the rest of her life alone on the island. She thought of the women's club she loved, of her husband's tender love, of the affectionate kisses of her children, of friends, of buttered toast and fragrant tea, or limousines and lemonade, of the right to vote, of what must be happening in politics and of the vast disasters and pleasant events, but she was brave.
"Here I am and here I must stay. I will not repine!" she said.
I honor her. I admire Mrs. Bullock. I proclaim that she was wonderful, and yet -- she was but an average American woman! There are thousands -- yes, millions -- like her in America today. Tears come into my eyes as I think of Mrs. Anna Bullock standing on the shore of the great, vast, endless Pacific Ocean, looking toward her native land and being brave. On the 7th of October, 1920. Mrs. Bullock sat in the sand, in her crude gunny sack gown, her bare feet tanned by the sun. She was eating canned beans out of the can, raising them to her mouth with her fingers, when she looked upward by chance. Floating downward through the air on some current that had carried them from far-off America were papers -- papers of various shapes and sizes.
With a glad cry Mrs. Bullock leaped up and ran to where the first of the papers fell. It was a weekly periodical devoted to a resume of the greater news of the world. With eagerness Mrs. Bullock opened it and read what it had to tell. A mighty war had been waged. New nations had been created, old ones made weak. Names were now famous that she had never seen in print. Authors had become great of whom she had never heard, and had written books, the descriptions of which made her long to read. New dramatists had written plays she longed to see. She read that she had the right to vote, and she longed to vote. She read that her husband was in all likelihood to be the next governor of a great State, and that, as his wife had undoubtedly been lost at sea, he was about to marry again. When she had read all this Mrs. Bullock sighed and looked at the vast, great, endless Pacific Ocean and took another handful of baked beans.
"Alas!" she said, "what cannot be cured must be endured!"
At that moment a second paper fluttered down. It was one sheet of a daily newspaper of the city of New York. Mrs. Bullock had but to reach out her hand to touch it, but she did not bother to do so. Not until she had eaten all the beans did she reach for the paper to wipe her hands. As her eyes fell on the sheet she uttered a cry of joy. The weariness that had been upon her for years fled in an instant. The sheet contained a full-page advertisement of a fall garment bargain sale.
Before her enthralled eyes Mrs. Bullock saw names of clothes she had never seen before -- duvet do laine tricotine, yalama cloth, velonde, patinette, chameleon, Bolivia, silvertone, furtex. She saw the names of colors she had never known -- bison, walnut, faisan, pineneedle, twilight, radium, sparrow. She saw a style drawing such as she had never seen and read: "At $59.75. A jaunty box coat style in duvet de laine. Tucked panel down the back. Tucked pockets. In Malay, Nanking and reindeer."
"Duvet de laine! Malay! Nanking! Tucked pockets!" said Mrs. Anna Bullock. "Special sale Monday at only $59.75!"
She scrambled to her feet and hitched her gunny sack robe more firmly over her shoulders.
"This," said Mrs. Anna Louisa Bullock, "will be about all of this desert island business as far as I am concerned," and she walked down to the edge of the great, huge, endless Pacific Ocean and struck out for North America.
As the creator of Mrs. Bullock and author of this story I am compelled to say that she reached San Francisco, swimming, in two days. If she had turned over the sheet of paper and noticed the "Extradorinary Sale of Autumn Dresses of Tricotine, Satin and Crepe Meteor at the Extremely Low Price of $92.50," she would not have swum. She would have made it in one jump.