CUSTOMS INSPECTOR. An individual who gets a salary for believing that everybody on the steamboat is a smuggler.
In order to study briefly the Custom House system as applied to returning travellers let us witness the arrival from abroad of the Secretary of the Treasury.
Some years before the Secretary went into politics deep enough to stay there and make expenses he took a slight trip to Europe.
Two weeks later he was on his way home to his beloved land on the good ship "Kaiser Wilhelm, the Grocer."
The Stars and Stripes seemed to wave a welcome to him as he approached the hospitable shores of Fire Island.
"It is good, so good to breathe once more the air of Liberty!" said the Secretary, and ten minutes later the "Kaiser Wilhelm, the Grocer" was at her dock.
"Ah! how happy I am to be once more where Freedom reigns!" said the Secretary as he walked proudly down the gangway plank.
The speaker was a short-set man with a thick face and a wide voice.
The Secretary paled his cheeks.
"Who are you?"
"I am an American citizen; leave me pass!" exclaimed the Secretary.
"So am I," said the man with a thick face; "and nothing passes me. You have been to Europe, have you not?"
"Do you think I used the 'Kaiser Wilhelm the Grocer' to come from Staten Island?" asked the Secretary.
The man laughed, loosely.
"Swear!" he said.
"At you?" inquired the Secretary.
"Swear you are not a smuggler," said the roan.
"I ought to kick you for such an insult," said the Secretary.
"Business before pleasure," said the man; "swear that you are not a robber."
"I swear," said the Secretary; "inwardly, outwardly, earnestly and pictorially, I swear!"
"By the memory of George Washington you swear that you are not a smugglesome man?"
"I do," said the Secretary.
"Hold up both hands and swear!"
The Secretary did so.
"With both hands behind your back and your eyes fixed on the Declaration of Independence sign this sworn statement," said the man.
The Secretary did so.
"Now that you have sworn I will go through your trunks to see if you are a liar!" said the man.
"Surely, you should receive one of my best kicks," said the Secretary.
"Formality first, fun later," said the man, upsetting the largest trunk.
"Aha! what is this?"
"It is a pair of open-work socks," said the Secretary.
"Opened in Europe--yes? Bad business! bad business! I begin to suspect you. What is this?"
"That is a pipe which I bought in Baden-Baden," said the Secretary. "I am taking it to my cousin in Springfield, Mass., for a souvenir."
"I will help your cousin to stop smoking," said the man, putting the pipe in his pocket. "Aha! what is this?"
The Secretary blushed his face.
"What is this?"
"That is my pair of pajamas!" said the Secretary.
"Put them back, please?" said the Secretary. "A man's pajamas are not for the vulgar gaze of the world!"
"Pajamas!" said the man.
"My pajamas!" said the Secretary.
"They look like a Chinaman's Sunday trousers--yes?"
The Secretary looked into the pitiless faces of the multitude which was gazing into his trunk, but they handed him nothing save small bunches of laughter.
"Come!" said the man, "where is the Chink that goes with this wearing apparel? Did you hear over the wireless system about the labor strikes and try to smuggle in some cheap labor?"
"I assure you that I wear those pajamas myself!" said the Secretary, interrupting a sob in his throat.
"You wear these pajamas? When? Why? Where?"
"In the secrecy of my boudoir," said the Secretary.
"Aha!" said the man, "so you have some boudoir, too! Bad business! bad business! I have never heard of a Boudoir Trust, therefore, we do not make such a thing in this country. My suspicions are getting louder. What is in this bottle?"
"That is my cough medicine," said the Secretary, giving a sample of the cough.
"It may be wine or cream de mint because your voice sounds nervous."
"I am nervous because the world is still giggling at my pajamas," said the Secretary.
"Back to the pajamas! Bad business! bad business! I will have to dig a tunnel through your neckties to see if you have a cafe au lait or a cafe chanteuse in the trunk. When a man gets nervous it is always wise to watch him. Open your mouth!"
The Secretary did so.
"What have you been drinking?"
"A vermouth cocktail," said the Secretary.
"Domestic or imported?"
"Neither; the Captain treated," said the Secretary.
"It looks to me much like foreign spirits," said the man.
"Do you wish to open me further and see?" inquired the Secretary.
Then the man waded into the Secretary's other trunks, two-stepped over his negligee shirts, waltzed through his waist-coats and did a polka amidst the ruins of his dress suit.
"What is the verdict?" said the Secretary after the battle was over.
"Not guilty, but you might be," said the man, smiling briefly.
As the Secretary walked out the Stars and Stripes seemed to bow politely at him and whisper with a voice slightly sarcastic: "You for the seat away back!"
"Some day," said the Secretary, "I will jump into politics so far that my trunk will always be a dark secret to the Custom Housers!"
And he did it.
From the life of the Secretary we learn the lesson that there is much Liberty in this country, but, incidentally, there are a couple of bald spots where it is missing.
If you don't believe me come home from Europe some day by way of the Custom House.