by Ellis Parker Butler
The last speed case had been fined twenty-five dollars and costs and our eminent jurist, Justice of the Peace Hooper, had removed his spectacles and announced that court was closed for the day.
"You can go, Durfey," he said to the court officer, but Durfey lingered. He was sure he had seen our incorruptible jurist drop something remarkably like a flask in the bottom drawer of his desk that morning. He was wondering how he could drop a certain hint.
"Thank you, judge," said Durfey, "but would it be asking too much to request you to enlighten my mind regarding one thing I'm ignorant of? Meaning this new bloc thing they've got down there at Washington. What is it, judge, and why don't they spell it the right way?"
Judge Hooper leaned his elbows on his desk and pointed one stubby finger at Mr. Durfey.
"Durfey," he said, "I'll tell you! The bloc, Durfey, is the latest zoological nuisance fetched here from the European barnyard. We didn't want it, but someone sneaked it past the custom house when no one was looking, contrary to the law shutting out flea-bit canines."
"Is it a dog, then?" asked Officer Durfey with surprise.
"It is," declared Judge Hooper. "The bloc is the dog in the manger that has been standing on the hay of necessary legislation over yonder ever since it was invented. It is as European as the pickelhaube and the goosestep and part of the same breed.
"'Gentlemen oxen, the bloc snarls, showing its teeth and growling at those that want to get the public business done, 'no doubt you want to get down to business, but I'm darned if you will! Nobody eats until I'm fed. I may be small, but beware of my fangs. The whole barnyard will now starve until I am handed a tenderloin steak on a silver platter. Woof! Grrr!'
"The bloc, Durfey, is any bunch of legislators that want their special chestnuts pulled out of the fire, and it don't care who the monkey is. In the long run you are the monkey, Durfey.
"The bloc, Durfey, is a scheme invented to turn any representative assembly into a hold-up game where the smallest man can tote the biggest gun. The bloc is the first tap on the head a democratic government receives before it is laid out on ice and the undertaker called."
"I see!" said Durfey. "It is a dog and a cat and a union and a scheme and a tap on the head. That's plain enough. Who invented it?"
"I'm not sure of that," said Judge Hooper. "Some say Satan, but more likely it was one of those foreign autocratic potentates, Durfey, when he discovered that the legislature he had unfortunately permitted to exist was squirming out from under his heel.
"'Here's a dickens of a mess,' he said. 'Here's this legislature of mine getting so every man is thinking for himself and trying to work for the good of the country. I don't say that the gentleman from Bogoslavia don't try to get a pork-barrel appropriation for the draining of Gumbo Swamp or that the gentleman from Poskoff Corners don't try to drag a marble post-office from the loot bag now and then, but that is only human nature. That is to be expected. But what can I do to increase the general selfishness and steer them away from this notion of looking out for the good of the country first, last and all the time?'
"So then he thought of the bloc, Durfey, and in a month's time he had no more worry. Instead of a couple of hundred patriots, each and all trying to give the country a fair deal, he had five or six blocs, each a stubborn as a mule to get more than its share and each as selfish as a rat--"
"Now, wait!" said Durfey. "It is a mule and a rat now --"
"Parabolically speaking, Durfey; parabolically speaking!" said Judge Hooper. "Let me finish. The bloc, as played in Europe, Durfey, was one reason why it now takes a bale of money to buy a collar button over there and why you throw a fit every time your income tax comes due. For the bloc works, Durfey. It can get what it wants. The only trouble is that it is the business of the bloc to get more than it is entitled to, and when you have enough blocs and all of them getting more than their share it is not long until they have got more than there is. And then there is nothing to do but buckle on the pickelhaube and line up for the goosestep and try to take the 'more than there is' from the fellow next door. And that does make a mess, Durfey; that certainly does make a mess!"
"I'll say it does, Judge," said Durfey, who had been overseas. "But what are we going to do about it?"
Judge Hooper scratched his ear thoughtfully.
"Grin," he said, "and bear it, Durfey. The bloc is here and I don't know how we can get rid of it unless we get up an amendment to the Constitution and prohibit it."
"And even then," said Durfey, "they would be bootlegging blocs all over the place just the same. Not," he added gently, "that I know where a man can get a nip of the old stuff these days, judge."
"And not that I can't take a hint, Durfey," said our eminent jurist, pulling open the lower drawer of his desk. "Get two glasses, Durfey, but fill mine only about half full of water."