from Woman's World
by Ellis Parker Butler
One of the few citizens of our burg that could afford to have an automobile is Wodelbert Flagg, but Mrs. Bella Ann Flagg is about the only woman in town who is dead set against spending money for any such foolishness. She is the kind of a woman that, if Wodelbert wanted to buy a grand piano, would have a pain if Wodelbert bought four inches of second-hand rusted piano wire to clean his pipe with. But Wodelbert was crazy to have an automobile!
He was so wild over them that he used to take an old rag and sneak down town and rub the rag on the outside of an empty gasoline barrel, and then burn the rag, just to get the smell!
If Bella Ann would have let him he would have bought an automobile horn, just to hear it honk, but she wouldn't hear of it, and the result was that Wodelbert slept all day and sat up all night, just so he could listen to Bella Ann snore, for she had a snore that had several cadences in it that resembled an automobile horn.
First of all she would begin mildly, with a sizzing noise, like a leaky valve, and then, as her mouth opened wider, she would grunt like two large pigs trying to hurry across the road before the automobile hit them, and then she would gurgle a moment and let out two good, strong honks. Probably there never was a man that got so much real satisfaction out of a snore as Wodelbert did.
But whenever Wodelbert mildly suggested getting an automobile she would set her foot down hard, and would say that an automobile was the last thing she would ever allow him to spend money on foolishly. When Wodelbert asked her what her objections to an automobile were, she admitted that she did not object to them at all, and said that if he ever could get one for nothing she would be glad to have it, but, so far as Wodelbert could see, there was no great rush to give automobiles away. As near as he could make out the only time a man gives an automobile away for nothing is when he dies and leaves it to his heirs, but Wodelbert had no relations, so far as he knew.
But he kept revolving the idea in his mind, and thinking it over, and longing for an automobile, and at last he decided that the thing for him to do was to adopt an uncle, and he began looking around for a sufficiently sickly man to adopt, and he decided that old Ben Ploggs of Edgeville was about as near the grave as any could be, and he went over and fixed it up with Ben, and bought him an automobile.
When he mentioned to Bella Ann, casually, that his Uncle Ben Ploggs had bought an automobile, she thought little of it. She only remarked that she did not know he had an Uncle Ben Ploggs, and she thought it was a rather late day for Wodelbert to be mentioning it, but Wodelbert said it was this way: that his grandmother on his mother's side, before she married his mother's father, had been married to a sister of her brother-in-law's stepson, and that the nephew of this stepson, after his aunt's marriage to her cousin's uncle, had married the brother-in-law's cousin's aunt's mother. So after Bella Ann had thought this over several days, she said she guessed probably, if not otherwise. After that, whenever Wodelbert tried to explain, Bella Ann went to bed and put cold wet towels on her head, and took camomile tea!
Wodelbert was as happy as a boy with a dead rat on a string, for about three months, and then he went over to Edgeville to see how Uncle Ben was getting along with the dying business, for he was getting anxious to inherit that automobile. And he saw that Uncle Ben Ploggs wasn't dying worth shucks. The old man stood right up and swore at Wodelbert because the last barrel of gasoline he had sent was not first-class, and he told Wodelbert that if he didn't send better oil he would disinherit him, and adopt another nephew. So Wodelbert apologized and said he would do better, but the old man remained sulky until Wodelbert promised to send over two new high-power acetylene lamps and a fur automobile coat. At that the old man cheered up. It seemed to make him twenty years younger in one minute. Every time Wodelbert did anything decent the old near uncle braced up and became a few years younger and every time Wodelbert did anything careless the old man threatened to disinherit him, and Wodelbert felt that he had got himself all tied up. If the old pseudo-uncle got much younger and stronger he would outlive Wodelbert. It cost Wodelbert about two hundred dollars a month to keep from being disinherited, and the chances were that Uncle Ben Ploggs would never die!
It got so that it made Wodelbert's blood boil to see the old codger scoot around the country in that automobile, but Wodelbert kept spending money to keep the automobile in good shape, so it would be worth inheriting, and the old man used the automobile in an awfully reckless, careless manner, because he knew Wodelbert would keep it in repair. The only thing that kept Wodelbert alive was the hope that the old near-uncle would get a sudden attack of smallpox or something as deadly, and drop off suddenly. So Wodelbert spent money for two years on that worthless old Ben Ploggs, and old Ben had the grandest time of his life, while Wodelbert grew thin and lean and hungry-eyed, waiting for the automobile.
But no man can live forever, and old Uncle Ben Ploggs dropped off just as suddenly as Wodelbert hoped he would. He was alive and well one morning, and that same day at noon he was deader than a doornail.
Anyone might think that when Wodelbert heard the news he might have been so heartless as to get up and whoop with joy, but he didn't. He was about the saddest man that ever adopted an uncle and then lost him, for it seems that old Ben met his death suddenly, by running that automobile bang into a steam road roller, and at the same moment that Uncle Ben went beyond, the automobile was mashed into so many pieces that the biggest piece would have rattled around loosely inside of a sardine can.
When Wodelbert inherited Uncle Ben's estate all he got was a bill for six dollars damages, on account of a dent Uncle Ben made in the roller of the steam road roller.