Under the Skylights by Henry Blake Fuller
Dr. Gowdy and the Squash
Dr. Gowdy stamped it out--and the crowd stamped with him. The fiery denunciations of the Doctor kindled an answering flame in the breasts of his youthful auditory. In five minutes hands, lungs, and feet were all at work. The youths before him awakened the hot, headlong youth still within him, and he launched forth upon a tirade of invective that was wild and reckless even for him.
"This folly, this falsity, this bumptious vulgarity--shall we not put an end to it?" cried the Doctor.
"Yes, yes," responded the house.
"No; go on," said a single voice.
The Doctor laughed with the rest, and a wave of delighted applause swept over the place.
"Shall we not purify the temple of art? Shall we not drive out the money-changers?"
"Yes, yes," called the audience. For Jared had never drawn from the antique--he was trying to climb in like a thief and a robber.
"Shall we not?" repeated the Doctor, searching the house for that single voice.
"Sure," said the voice, and another wave of applause rolled from the foyer to the rostrum.
"Ten thousand dollars!" shouted the Doctor. "The man who says he paid ten thousand dollars for that agglomeration of barn-yard truck is one of two things: if he did pay it, he's a fool; and if he didn't, he's a liar! Which is he?"
"He's a fool!" cried half the men.
"He's a liar!" cried the other half.
"Oh--h!" shrilled the young women.
The Doctor wiped his streaming brow.
"What kind of a community is this, anyhow?" he resumed, stuffing back his handkerchief into his pocket. "Here we have this magnificent school [applause] that for the past fifteen years has been offering the highest possible grade of art instruction. A corps of thirty earnest and competent teachers [loud applause and a few cat-calls] are ministering to the needs of three thousand promising and talented young people, the flower of our great Northwest----" [Tremendous and long-continued applause, during which the continuity of the speaker's remarks was lost.] The Doctor filled in the minutes of tumult by taking several sips of water.
"Why, you, we, this Academy, should be the leaven, the yeast, to work upon our great metropolis; not merely the flower, but the self-raising flour"--a pause for appreciation of the pun--"the self-raising flour [loud laughter, easily yielded and unnecessarily prolonged] that is to lift yourselves, and the city with you, from the abyss of no-art, and from the still deeper abyss of false art. That's where we're groping; that's where we're floundering. I declare, when I was elbowing my way through that struggling, gaping crowd [cries of "Oh, Doctor!" and laughter], I could only ask myself the question that I have just asked you here: what kind of a community is this, anyhow?"
Up popped a shock of black hair from northern Michigan.
"It's rotten!" Shouts. Cat-calls.
"I should think it was!" vociferated the Doctor.
He went ahead for half an hour longer, crowding on more steam, acquiring a more perilous momentum, throwing out an ever-widening torrent of reckless personalities, not forgetting the ill-fated monument of Andrew P. Hill. ("Applause" and "laughter" were very frequent just here.) He ended his improvisation without the clearest idea in the world of just what he had said, and went home well pleased.