The three boys were now hard at it; and quite a knocking and hammering arose, in which Granser babbled on unnoticed. “You are true savages. Already has begun the custom of wearing human teeth. In another generation you will be perforating your noses and ears and wearing ornaments of bone and shell. I know.
The human race is doomed to sink back farther and farther into the primitive night ere again it begins its bloody climb upward to civilization. When we increase and feel the lack of room, we will proceed to kill one another.
And then I suppose you will wear human scalp-locks at your waist, as well—as you, Edwin, who are the gentlest of my grandsons, have already begun with that vile pigtail. Throw it away, Edwin, boy; throw it away.” “What a gabble the old geezer makes,” Hare-Lip remarked, when, the teeth all extracted, they began an attempt at equal division. They were very quick and abrupt in their actions, and their speech, in moments of hot discussion over the allotment of the choicer teeth, was truly a gabble. They spoke in monosyllables and short jerky sentences that was more a gibberish than a language.
And yet, through it ran hints of grammatical construction, and appeared vestiges of the conjugation of some superior culture. Even the speech of Granser was so corrupt that were it put down literally it would be almost so much nonsense to the reader. This, however, was when he talked with the boys. When he got into the full swing of babbling to himself, it slowly purged itself into pure English. The sentences grew longer and were enunciated with a rhythm and ease that was reminiscent of the lecture platform. “Tell us about the Red Death, Granser,” Hare-Lip demanded, when the teeth affair had been satisfactorily concluded. “The Scarlet Death,” Edwin corrected. “An’ don’t work all that funny lingo on us,” Hare-Lip went on.
“Talk sensible, Granser, like a Santa Rosan ought to talk. Other Santa Rosans don’t talk like you.” The old man showed pleasure in being thus called upon. He cleared his throat and began. “Twenty or thirty years ago my story was in great demand. But in these days nobody seems interested—” “There you go!” Hare-Lip cried hotly. “Cut out the funny stuff and talk sensible. What’s interested? You talk like a baby that don’t know how.” “Let him alone,” Edwin urged, “or he’ll get mad and won’t talk at all. Skip the funny places. We’ll catch on to some of what he tells us.” “Let her go, Granser,” Hoo-Hoo encouraged; for the old man was already maundering about the disrespect for elders and the reversion to cruelty of all humans that fell from high culture to primitive conditions.
The tale began.
“There were very many people in the world in those days. San Francisco alone held four millions—” “What is millions?” Edwin interrupted. Granser looked at him kindly. “I know you cannot count beyond ten, so I will tell you. Hold up your two hands. On both of them you have altogether ten fingers and thumbs. Very well. I now take this grain of sand—you hold it, Hoo-Hoo.” He dropped the grain of sand into the lad’s palm and went on. “Now that grain of sand stands for the ten fingers of Edwin.
I add another grain.