In Every Key – Dec. 23, 1916

By Benjamin De Casseres


It has been calculated by an eccentric statistician that twenty-four million words are used every night in the New York cafés in Just Talk. Almost everybody talks after seven P.M. Before that we listen to a boss.

The universe is a chemical laboratory, and in the hidden crucibles of Nature herself are kept the secrets of the universal transmutation of substances.We know she has the secret, for we have seen her turn rain into snow and fog into light. Now, what does she do with the twenty-four million words, sheathed in their caloric breaths and pumped out of the lungs, after they are free of the tongue and are through beating the tympanums roundabout?

It is high time that Science took up this important matter. These words which make up this Talk are forces which cannot die, are set in motion thoughtlessly, and must, in the natural order, transmute into something or other. Do they finally agglomerate and coagulate in vast masses in the upper strata of the atmosphere in which the Earth bathes, and leap into space as comets? The gaseous theory of comets would lead one to believe in this hypothesis. Or do they burrow into the earth, causing earthquakes, seismic tremors and waterspouts, phenomena of which we know so little the origin?

It is a coincidence that has been noted by every physicist since the time of Thales that sunspots—known to be solar hurricanes caused by some external commotion—appear just after political campaigns and popular agitations.

Talk also has great therapeutic values. If you are sleepy it will keep you awake; if wakeful, it will put you to sleep. But what becomes of all the words?

Fourth Dimension’s Coming!

A book just issued tell us that we are on the eve of the Fourth Dimension. All the “facts” of the three dimensions we have been living in will pass away like the fabric of an unsubstantial nightmare and leave not one war or trolley car behind. The discovery of radium, the X-ray, the Higher Mechanics, the discoveries in the realm of the occult, Christian Science, the Great War, with its concomitant readjustment of all social and religious values—these are a few of the facts on which the writer bases his theory of the New Dispensation.

A higgledy-piggeldy world, we imagine—that Fourth Dimension, especially in its practical or pragmatic implications. Peace and marriage will be crimes; violence and theft will be virtues. No debt will be paid, under penalty of the law, and the tariff will cease from troubling and Billy Sunday be at rest.

By 1925 the astronomers had counted approximately 15,000,000 new fixed stars. And some there were who said these stars were not stars at all, but were illusions of refraction, etheric photographs of the eyes of the, approximately, 15,000,000 beings who had fallen on the battlefields of the Great War.

Epigrams of the Illuminati

A man is known by the cigarettes he smokes.

Don’t be serious at dinner; it’s bad form.

Keep smiling or the “bunch” will think you are going to make a touch.

To be seen on Sixth Avenue is like telling your income to the landlady.

Spontaneous enthusiasm draws the bolts of of irony.

Stone Face has an income; Facial Mobility is always in debt to him.

A waiter that thanks you for a tip should be watched.

If the work of our literary censors continues every child will soon know Boccaccio and the “Heptemeron” unexpurgated.

Their Redemption

And I saw upon Mont Blanc, the neutral peak,
Two tremendous figures who towered to the stars.
One wore upon his head a turban made of the entrails of seven nations
And his breast, swart and hairy, was a wall wherefrom dangled a million skulls.
He looked upon our Europe, and the massèd thunders of his eye
Were translated into blazing, laughing ironyms.
He was Attila the Hun.
The other, gorgeous in his Oriental satanism,
Who looked as though he had tumbled out of the sun,
Whose eyes were two soaring venomous lights
That played upon space like the eyes of the Apocalyptic Beast,
Was Genghis Khan, who hated the stars because they were not his private shambles.
He looked upon Modernity and its triumphant carnival of death,
And upon Space he spilled  guffaw that shook to its sockets the Law of Gravitation.
They passed, those ancient wraiths of Carnage,
With a sneer more terrible than the sneer of new-born babes—
Passed forever beyond the sight of our connoisseurs of vengeance
Into newer heavens swept by newer gods,
Cleansed and Justified.

Lilith: What a savory odor from Earth, my dear Satan! What dish are you cooking for us down here?

Satan: As chef to the lost, it will be my master dish. It is called Humo à la Nero.


by Arthur Brooks Baker

The great and skilled geologist, the elevated highbrow, can reconstruct a glyptodon from less than half an eyebrow. He digs a fossil wisdom tooth from geologic gravel and builds a mastodon at which no critic dares to cavil. He finds a funny footprint in a sub-cretaceous level, and makes a beast who bears a smart resemblance to the devil.

I saw a dainty hairpin on the sidewalk as I passed it, where some distressing accident had evidently cast it: I took it home and labored with endeavors superhuman to make by scientific means, a marriageable woman; but all my noble efforts were so void and unavailing, that I could but express my grief in pitiable wailing.

I found a shining quarter where the former owner dropped it, and as it twinkled on the ground I resolutely copped it. “Behold,” said I, “some great experiments shall be conducted, and we shall have a large estate completely reconstructed.” But though I’ve worked for many years, it seems success will never reward my great persistence in this laudable endeavor.


Source: Puck, Dec. 23, 1916, p. 17