Two Boys And A Cigarette

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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Two bright little fellows, named Harry and Will,
Were just the same age and the same size until
One day in their travels it chanced that they met
A queer little creature, surnamed cigarette.
This queer little creature made friends with the boys,
And told them a story of masculine joys
He held for their sharing. "I tell you," quoth he,
"The way to be manly, and big, is through me."
Will listened and yielded; but Harry held out.
"I think your assertions are open to doubt,"
He said, "and besides I'm afraid I'd be sick."
"Afraid!" echoed Will, "oh you cowardly stick!
Well, I'm not afraid, look ahere!" As he spoke,
He blew out a halo of cigarette smoke.

Five years from that meeting I saw them again.
The time had arrived when they both should be men,
But strangely enough, although Harry boy stood
As tall and as strong as a tree in the wood,
Poor Will seemed a dwarf; sunken eye, hollow cheek,
Stoop shoulders, proclaimed him unmanly and weak.
With thumb and fore-finger he listlessly rolled
A cigarette, smoothing each wrinkle and fold,
And the smoke that he puffed from his lips, I declare,
Took the form of a demon and grinned from the air.
And it said "See that wreck of a man that I made
Of the boastful young fellow who wasn't afraid."

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