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    Is He Living or is He Dead?

    Автор книги Mark Twain

    Время прослушивания 05:33, Дата публикации

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    A conversation by telephone - when you are simply sitting by and not taking any part in that conversation - is one of the curiosities of this modern life. Yesterday I was writing a serious article on a philosophical subject while a conversation was going on in the room. I notice that one can always write best when somebody is talking through a telephone close by. Well, the thing began in this way. A member of our household came in and asked me to have our house put into communication with Mr Bagley's. I have observed, in many cities, that women, as a rule, do not like to call up the central office themselves. I don't know why, but they don't. So I touched the bell, and this talk followed: Central Office. Hello! I. Is it the Central Office? C. O. Of course it is. What do you want? I. Will you connect me with the Bagleys, please? C. O. All right. Just keep your ear to the telephone. Then I heard, k-look, k-look, k-look-klock-klock-klook- look-look!, then a terrible "gritting" of teeth, and finally a female voice: Y-e-s? Did you wish to speak to me? Without answering, I handed the telephone to the woman and sat down. Then followed the strangest of all the strange things in this world - a conversation with only one end to it. You hear questions asked; you don't hear the answer. You hear invitations given; you hear no thanks in return. You listen to pauses of dead silence, followed by exclamations of glad surprise or sorrow or alarm. You can't make head or tail of the talk, because you never hear anything that the person at the other end of the wire says. Well, I heard the following series of observations, all from the one tongue, and all shouted - for you can't make women speak gently into a telephone: Yes? Why, how did that happen? Pause. What did you say? Pause. Oh no, I don't think it was. Pause. No! Oh, no, I didn't mean that. I meant, put it in while it is still boiling - or just before it comes to a boil. Pause. What? Pause. What did you say? (Aside.) Children, do be quiet! Pause. Oh! Dear me, I thought you said it was the cat. Pause. Since when? Pause. Why, I never heard of it. Pause. You astonish me greatly! It seems utterly impossible! Pause. Who did? Pause. Goodness gracious! Pause. Well, what is this world coming to? Was it right in church? Pause. And was her mother there? Pause. Why, Mrs Bagley, I should have died of humiliation! What did they do? Long pause. I can't be perfectly sure, because I haven't the notes by me; but I think it goes something like this: te-rolly, loll-loll, loll-lolly-loll-loll. O tolly-loll-loll-lee-ly-li-i-do! And then repeat, you know. Pause. Yes, I think it is very sweet - and very solemn and impressive, if you get the andantino and the pianissimo right. Pause. Oh, gum-drops, gum-drops! But I never allow them to eat the candy. And of course they can't, till they get their teeth, anyway. Pause. What? Pause. Oh, not in the least - go right on. He's here writing - it doesn't bother him. Pause. Very well, I'll come if I can. (Aside.) Dear me, how it does tire a person's arm to hold this thing up so long! I wish she'd - Pause. Oh no, not at all; I like to talk - but I'm afraid I'm keeping you from your affairs. Pause. Visitors? Pause. No, we never use butter on them. Pause. Yes, that is a very good way; but all the cookbooks say they are very unhealthy when they are out of season. And he doesn't like them, anyway - especially canned. Pause. Oh, I think that is too dear for them; we have never paid over fifty cents a bunch. Pause. Must you go? Well, good-bye. Pause. Yes, I think so. Good-bye. Pause. Four o'clock, then - I'll be ready. Good-bye. Pause. Thank you ever so much. Good-bye. Pause. Oh, not at all - just as fresh - Which? Oh, I'm glad to hear you say that. Good-bye. (Hangs the telephone and says, "Oh, it does tire a person's arm so!").