A Chosen Few by Frank R. Stockton
A TALE OF NEGATIVE GRAVITY
“HIS WIFE'S DECEASED SISTER”
THE LADY, OR THE TIGER?
THE REMARKABLE WRECK OF THE “THOMAS HYKE”
OLD PIPES AND THE DRYAD
THE TRANSFERRED GHOST
“THE PHILOSOPHY OF RELATIVE EXISTENCES”
A PIECE OF RED CALICO
A CHOSEN FEW
FRANK R. STOCKTON
WITH AN ETCHED PORTRAIT BY W. H. W. BICKNELL
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
Copyright, 1895, by
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
THE DE VINNE PRESS.
The stories contained in this little volume were chosen, by virtue
of a sort of literary civil-service examination, in order that they
might be grouped together as a representative class of the author's
best-known work in this line.
Several of these stories have points of peculiar interest to the
author. For instance, Negative Gravity was composed in Switzerland
when the author was temporarily confined to the house in full view of
His Wife's Deceased Sister was suggested by an editorial
disposition to compare all the author's work with one previous
production, and to discard everything which did not accord exactly with
the particular story which had been selected as a standard of merit.
The Lady, or the Tiger? was printed in the hope that the author
might receive the cheerful coöperation of some of his readers in a
satisfactory solution of the problem contained in the little story; but
although he has had much valuable assistance in this direction he has
also been the recipient of a great deal of scolding.
After reading several stories by Clark Russell, the author's mind
was led to consider the possibility of inventing some sort of shipwreck
which had never yet been made the subject of a story. His efforts in
this line resulted in The Remarkable Wreck of the 'Thomas Hyke.'
A Piece of Red Calico is a description, with exaggerated points,
of an actual experience.
A TALE OF NEGATIVE GRAVITY
From The Christmas Wreck
From The Watchmaker's Wife
HIS WIFE'S DECEASED SISTER
From The Lady, or the Tiger?
THE LADY, OR THE TIGER?
THE REMARKABLE WRECK OF THE THOMAS HYKE
From The Christmas Wreck
OLD PIPES AND THE DRYAD
From The Bee-man of Orn
THE TRANSFERRED GHOST
From The Lady, or the Tiger?
THE PHILOSOPHY OF RELATIVE EXISTENCES
From The Watchmaker's Wife
A PIECE OF RED CALICO
From The Lady, or the Tiger?
A TALE OF NEGATIVE GRAVITY
My wife and I were staying at a small town in northern Italy; and on
a certain pleasant afternoon in spring we had taken a walk of six or
seven miles to see the sun set behind some low mountains to the west of
the town. Most of our walk had been along a hard, smooth highway, and
then we turned into a series of narrower roads, sometimes bordered by
walls, and sometimes by light fences of reed or cane. Nearing the
mountain, to a low spur of which we intended to ascend, we easily
scaled a wall about four feet high, and found ourselves upon
pasture-land, which led, sometimes by gradual ascents, and sometimes by
bits of rough climbing, to the spot we wished to reach. We were afraid
we were a little late, and therefore hurried on, running up the grassy
hills, and bounding briskly over the rough and rocky places. I carried
a knapsack strapped firmly to my shoulders, and under my wife's arm was
a large, soft basket of a kind much used by tourists. Her arm was
passed through the handles and around the bottom of the basket, which
she pressed closely to her side. This was the way she always carried
it. The basket contained two bottles of wine, one sweet for my wife,
and another a little acid for myself. Sweet wines give me a headache.
When we reached the grassy bluff, well known thereabouts to lovers
of sunset views, I stepped immediately to the edge to gaze upon the
scene, but my wife sat down to take a sip of wine, for she was very
thirsty; and then, leaving her basket, she came to my side. The scene
was indeed one of great beauty. Beneath us stretched a wide valley of
many shades of green, with a little river running through it, and
red-tiled houses here and there. Beyond rose a range of mountains,
pink, pale green, and purple where their tips caught the reflection of
the setting sun, and of a rich gray-green in shadows. Beyond all was
the blue Italian sky, illumined by an especially fine sunset.
My wife and I are Americans, and at the time of this story were
middle-aged people and very fond of seeing in each other's company
whatever there was of interest or beauty around us. We had a son about
twenty-two years old, of whom we were also very fond; but he was not
with us, being at that time a student in Germany. Although we had good
health, we were not very robust people, and, under ordinary
circumstances, not much given to long country tramps. I was of medium
size, without much muscular development, while my wife was quite stout,
and growing stouter.
The reader may, perhaps, be somewhat surprised that a middle-aged
couple, not very strong, or very good walkers, the lady loaded with a
basket containing two bottles of wine and a metal drinking-cup, and the
gentleman carrying a heavy knapsack, filled with all sorts of odds and
ends, strapped to his shoulders, should set off on a seven-mile walk,
jump over a wall, run up a hillside, and yet feel in very good trim to
enjoy a sunset view. This peculiar state of things I will proceed to
I had been a professional man, but some years before had retired
upon a very comfortable income. I had always been very fond of
scientific pursuits, and now made these the occupation and pleasure of
much of my leisure time. Our home was in a small town; and in a corner
of my grounds I built a laboratory, where I carried on my work and my
experiments. I had long been anxious to discover the means not only of
producing, but of retaining and controlling, a natural force, really
the same as centrifugal force, but which I called negative gravity.
This name I adopted because it indicated better than any other the
action of the force in question, as I produced it. Positive gravity
attracts everything toward the centre of the earth. Negative gravity,
therefore, would be that power which repels everything from the centre
of the earth, just as the negative pole of a magnet repels the needle,
while the positive pole attracts it. My object was, in fact, to store
centrifugal force and to render it constant, controllable, and
available for use. The advantages of such a discovery could scarcely be
described. In a word, it would lighten the burdens of the world.
I will not touch upon the labors and disappointments of several
years. It is enough to say that at last I discovered a method of
producing, storing, and controlling negative gravity.
The mechanism of my invention was rather complicated, but the method
of operating it was very simple. A strong metallic case, about eight
inches long, and half as wide, contained the machinery for producing
the force; and this was put into action by means of the pressure of a
screw worked from the outside. As soon as this pressure was produced,
negative gravity began to be evolved and stored, and the greater the
pressure the greater the force. As the screw was moved outward, and the
pressure diminished, the force decreased, and when the screw was
withdrawn to its fullest extent, the action of negative gravity
entirely ceased. Thus this force could be produced or dissipated at
will to such degrees as might be desired, and its action, so long as
the requisite pressure was maintained, was constant.
When this little apparatus worked to my satisfaction I called my
wife into my laboratory and explained to her my invention and its
value. She had known that I had been at work with an important object,
but I had never told her what it was. I had said that if I succeeded I
would tell her all, but if I failed she need not be troubled with the
matter at all. Being a very sensible woman, this satisfied her
perfectly. Now I explained everything to herthe construction of the
machine, and the wonderful uses to which this invention could be
applied. I told her that it could diminish, or entirely dissipate, the
weight of objects of any kind. A heavily loaded wagon, with two of
these instruments fastened to its sides, and each screwed to a proper
force, would be so lifted and supported that it would press upon the
ground as lightly as an empty cart, and a small horse could draw it
with ease. A bale of cotton, with one of these machines attached, could
be handled and carried by a boy. A car, with a number of these
machines, could be made to rise in the air like a balloon. Everything,
in fact, that was heavy could be made light; and as a great part of
labor, all over the world, is caused by the attraction of gravitation,
so this repellent force, wherever applied, would make weight less and
work easier. I told her of many, many ways in which the invention might
be used, and would have told her of many more if she had not suddenly
burst into tears.
The world has gained something wonderful, she exclaimed, between
her sobs, but I have lost a husband!
What do you mean by that? I asked, in surprise.
I haven't minded it so far, she said, because it gave you
something to do, and it pleased you, and it never interfered with our
home pleasures and our home life. But now that is all over. You will
never be your own master again. It will succeed, I am sure, and you may
make a great deal of money, but we don't need money. What we need is
the happiness which we have always had until now. Now there will be
companies, and patents, and lawsuits, and experiments, and people
calling you a humbug, and other people saying they discovered it long
ago, and all sorts of persons coming to see you, and you'll be obliged
to go to all sorts of places, and you will be an altered man, and we
shall never be happy again. Millions of money will not repay us for the
happiness we have lost.
These words of my wife struck me with much force. Before I had
called her my mind had begun to be filled and perplexed with ideas of
what I ought to do now that the great invention was perfected. Until
now the matter had not troubled me at all. Sometimes I had gone
backward and sometimes forward, but, on the whole, I had always felt
encouraged. I had taken great pleasure in the work, but I had never
allowed myself to be too much absorbed by it. But now everything was
different. I began to feel that it was due to myself and to my
fellow-beings that I should properly put this invention before the
world. And how should I set about it? What steps should I take? I must
make no mistakes. When the matter should become known hundreds of
scientific people might set themselves to work; how could I tell but
that they might discover other methods of producing the same effect? I
must guard myself against a great many things. I must get patents in
all parts of the world. Already, as I have said, my mind began to be
troubled and perplexed with these things. A turmoil of this sort did
not suit my age or disposition. I could not but agree with my wife that
the joys of a quiet and contented life were now about to be broken
My dear, said I, I believe, with you, that the thing will do us
more harm than good. If it were not for depriving the world of the
invention I would throw the whole thing to the winds. And yet, I
added, regretfully, I had expected a great deal of personal
gratification from the use of this invention.
Now listen, said my wife, eagerly; don't you think it would be
best to do this: use the thing as much as you please for your own
amusement and satisfaction, but let the world wait? It has waited a
long time, and let it wait a little longer. When we are dead let
Herbert have the invention. He will then be old enough to judge for
himself whether it will be better to take advantage of it for his own
profit, or simply to give it to the public for nothing. It would be
cheating him if we were to do the latter, but it would also be doing
him a great wrong if we were, at his age, to load him with such a heavy
responsibility. Besides, if he took it up, you could not help going
into it, too.
I took my wife's advice. I wrote a careful and complete account of
the invention, and, sealing it up, I gave it to my lawyers to be handed
to my son after my death. If he died first, I would make other
arrangements. Then I determined to get all the good and fun out of the
thing that was possible without telling any one anything about it. Even
Herbert, who was away from home, was not to be told of the invention.
The first thing I did was to buy a strong leathern knapsack, and
inside of this I fastened my little machine, with a screw so arranged
that it could be worked from the outside. Strapping this firmly to my
shoulders, my wife gently turned the screw at the back until the upward
tendency of the knapsack began to lift and sustain me. When I felt
myself so gently supported and upheld that I seemed to weigh about
thirty or forty pounds, I would set out for a walk. The knapsack did
not raise me from the ground, but it gave me a very buoyant step. It
was no labor at all to walk; it was a delight, an ecstasy. With the
strength of a man and the weight of a child, I gayly strode along. The
first day I walked half a dozen miles at a very brisk pace, and came
back without feeling in the least degree tired. These walks now became
one of the greatest joys of my life. When nobody was looking, I would
bound over a fence, sometimes just touching it with one hand, and
sometimes not touching it at all. I delighted in rough places. I sprang
over streams. I jumped and I ran. I felt like Mercury himself.
I now set about making another machine, so that my wife could
accompany me in my walks; but when it was finished she positively
refused to use it. I can't wear a knapsack, she said, and there is
no other good way of fastening it to me. Besides, everybody about here
knows I am no walker, and it would only set them talking.
I occasionally made use of this second machine, but I will give only
one instance of its application. Some repairs were needed to the
foundation-walls of my barn, and a two-horse wagon, loaded with
building-stone, had been brought into my yard and left there. In the
evening, when the men had gone away, I took my two machines and
fastened them, with strong chains, one on each side of the loaded
wagon. Then, gradually turning the screws, the wagon was so lifted that
its weight became very greatly diminished. We had an old donkey which
used to belong to Herbert, and which was now occasionally used with a
small cart to bring packages from the station. I went into the barn and
put the harness on the little fellow, and, bringing him out to the
wagon, I attached him to it. In this position he looked very funny with
a long pole sticking out in front of him and the great wagon behind
him. When all was ready I touched him up; and, to my great delight, he
moved off with the two-horse load of stone as easily as if he were
drawing his own cart. I led him out into the public road, along which
he proceeded without difficulty. He was an opinionated little beast,
and sometimes stopped, not liking the peculiar manner in which he was
harnessed; but a touch of the switch made him move on, and I soon
turned him and brought the wagon back into the yard. This determined
the success of my invention in one of its most important uses, and with
a satisfied heart I put the donkey into the stable and went into the
Our trip to Europe was made a few months after this, and was mainly
on our son Herbert's account. He, poor fellow, was in great trouble,
and so, therefore, were we. He had become engaged, with our full
consent, to a young lady in our town, the daughter of a gentleman whom
we esteemed very highly. Herbert was young to be engaged to be married,
but as we felt that he would never find a girl to make him so good a
wife, we were entirely satisfied, especially as it was agreed on all
hands that the marriage was not to take place for some time. It seemed
to us that, in marrying Janet Gilbert, Herbert would secure for
himself, in the very beginning of his career, the most important
element of a happy life. But suddenly, without any reason that seemed
to us justifiable, Mr. Gilbert, the only surviving parent of Janet,
broke off the match; and he and his daughter soon after left the town
for a trip to the West.
This blow nearly broke poor Herbert's heart. He gave up his
professional studies and came home to us, and for a time we thought he
would be seriously ill. Then we took him to Europe, and after a
Continental tour of a month or two we left him, at his own request, in
Göttingen, where he thought it would do him good to go to work again.
Then we went down to the little town in Italy where my story first
finds us. My wife had suffered much in mind and body on her son's
account, and for this reason I was anxious that she should take outdoor
exercise, and enjoy as much as possible the bracing air of the country.
I had brought with me both my little machines. One was still in my
knapsack, and the other I had fastened to the inside of an enormous
family trunk. As one is obliged to pay for nearly every pound of his
baggage on the Continent, this saved me a great deal of money.
Everything heavy was packed into this great trunkbooks, papers, the
bronze, iron, and marble relics we had picked up, and all the articles
that usually weigh down a tourist's baggage. I screwed up the
negative-gravity apparatus until the trunk could be handled with great
ease by an ordinary porter. I could have made it weigh nothing at all,
but this, of course, I did not wish to do. The lightness of my baggage,
however, had occasioned some comment, and I had overheard remarks which
were not altogether complimentary about people travelling around with
empty trunks; but this only amused me.
Desirous that my wife should have the advantage of negative gravity
while taking our walks, I had removed the machine from the trunk and
fastened it inside of the basket, which she could carry under her arm.
This assisted her wonderfully. When one arm was tired she put the
basket under the other, and thus, with one hand on my arm, she could
easily keep up with the free and buoyant steps my knapsack enabled me
to take. She did not object to long tramps here, because nobody knew
that she was not a walker, and she always carried some wine or other
refreshment in the basket, not only because it was pleasant to have it
with us, but because it seemed ridiculous to go about carrying an empty
There were English-speaking people stopping at the hotel where we
were, but they seemed more fond of driving than walking, and none of
them offered to accompany us on our rambles, for which we were very
glad. There was one man there, however, who was a great walker. He was
an Englishman, a member of an Alpine Club, and generally went about
dressed in a knickerbocker suit, with gray woollen stockings covering
an enormous pair of calves. One evening this gentleman was talking to
me and some others about the ascent of the Matterhorn, and I took
occasion to deliver in pretty strong language my opinion upon such
exploits. I declared them to be useless, foolhardy, and, if the climber
had any one who loved him, wicked.
Even if the weather should permit a view, I said, what is that
compared to the terrible risk to life? Under certain circumstances, I
added (thinking of a kind of waistcoat I had some idea of making,
which, set about with little negative-gravity machines, all connected
with a conveniently handled screw, would enable the wearer at times to
dispense with his weight altogether), such ascents might be divested
of danger, and be quite admissible; but ordinarily they should be
frowned upon by the intelligent public.
The Alpine Club man looked at me, especially regarding my somewhat
slight figure and thinnish legs.
It's all very well for you to talk that way, he said, because it
is easy to see that you are not up to that sort of thing.
In conversations of this kind, I replied, I never make personal
allusions; but since you have chosen to do so, I feel inclined to
invite you to walk with me to-morrow to the top of the mountain to the
north of this town.
I'll do it, he said, at any time you choose to name. And as I
left the room soon afterward I heard him laugh.
The next afternoon, about two o'clock, the Alpine Club man and
myself set out for the mountain.
What have you got in your knapsack? he said.
A hammer to use if I come across geological specimens, a
field-glass, a flask of wine, and some other things.
I wouldn't carry any weight, if I were you, he said.
Oh, I don't mind it, I answered, and off we started.
The mountain to which we were bound was about two miles from the
town. Its nearest side was steep, and in places almost precipitous, but
it sloped away more gradually toward the north, and up that side a road
led by devious windings to a village near the summit. It was not a very
high mountain, but it would do for an afternoon's climb.
I suppose you want to go up by the road, said my companion.
Oh no, I answered, we won't go so far around as that. There is a
path up this side, along which I have seen men driving their goats. I
prefer to take that.
All right, if you say so, he answered, with a smile; but you'll
find it pretty tough.
After a time he remarked:
I wouldn't walk so fast, if I were you.
Oh, I like to step along briskly, I said. And briskly on we went.
My wife had screwed up the machine in the knapsack more than usual,
and walking seemed scarcely any effort at all. I carried a long
alpenstock, and when we reached the mountain and began the ascent, I
found that with the help of this and my knapsack I could go uphill at a
wonderful rate. My companion had taken the lead, so as to show me how
to climb. Making a détour over some rocks, I quickly passed him
and went ahead. After that it was impossible for him to keep up with
me. I ran up steep places, I cut off the windings of the path by
lightly clambering over rocks, and even when I followed the beaten
track my step was as rapid as if I had been walking on level ground.
Look here! shouted the Alpine Club man from below, you'll kill
yourself if you go at that rate! That's no way to climb mountains.
It's my way! I cried. And on I skipped.
Twenty minutes after I arrived at the summit my companion joined me,
puffing, and wiping his red face with his handkerchief.
Confound it! he cried, I never came up a mountain so fast in my
You need not have hurried, I said, coolly.
I was afraid something would happen to you, he growled, and I
wanted to stop you. I never saw a person climb in such an utterly
I don't see why you should call it absurd, I said, smiling with an
air of superiority. I arrived here in a perfectly comfortable
condition, neither heated nor wearied.
He made no answer, but walked off to a little distance, fanning
himself with his hat and growling words which I did not catch. After a
time I proposed to descend.
You must be careful as you go down, he said. It is much more
dangerous to go down steep places than to climb up.
I am always prudent, I answered, and started in advance. I found
the descent of the mountain much more pleasant than the ascent. It was
positively exhilarating. I jumped from rocks and bluffs eight and ten
feet in height, and touched the ground as gently as if I had stepped
down but two feet. I ran down steep paths, and, with the aid of my
alpenstock, stopped myself in an instant. I was careful to avoid
dangerous places, but the runs and jumps I made were such as no man had
ever made before upon that mountain-side. Once only I heard my
You'll break your neck! he yelled.
Never fear! I called back, and soon left him far above.
When I reached the bottom I would have waited for him, but my
activity had warmed me up, and as a cool evening breeze was beginning
to blow I thought it better not to stop and take cold. Half an hour
after my arrival at the hotel I came down to the court, cool, fresh,
and dressed for dinner, and just in time to meet the Alpine man as he
entered, hot, dusty, and growling.
Excuse me for not waiting for you, I said; but without stopping to
hear my reason, he muttered something about waiting in a place where no
one would care to stay, and passed into the house.
There was no doubt that what I had done gratified my pique and
tickled my vanity.
I think now, I said, when I related the matter to my wife, that
he will scarcely say that I am not up to that sort of thing.
I am not sure, she answered, that it was exactly fair. He did not
know how you were assisted.
It was fair enough, I said. He is enabled to climb well by the
inherited vigor of his constitution and by his training. He did not
tell me what methods of exercise he used to get those great muscles
upon his legs. I am enabled to climb by the exercise of my intellect.
My method is my business and his method is his business. It is all
Still she persisted:
He thought that you climbed with your legs, and not with
And now, after this long digression, necessary to explain how a
middle-aged couple of slight pedestrian ability, and loaded with a
heavy knapsack and basket, should have started out on a rough walk and
climb, fourteen miles in all, we will return to ourselves, standing on
the little bluff and gazing out upon the sunset view. When the sky
began to fade a little we turned from it and prepared to go back to the
Where is the basket? I said.
I left it right here, answered my wife. I unscrewed the machine
and it lay perfectly flat.
Did you afterward take out the bottles? I asked, seeing them lying
on the grass.
Yes, I believe I did. I had to take out yours in order to get at
Then, said I, after looking all about the grassy patch on which we
stood, I am afraid you did not entirely unscrew the instrument, and
that when the weight of the bottles was removed the basket gently rose
into the air.
It may be so, she said, lugubriously. The basket was behind me as
I drank my wine.
I believe that is just what has happened, I said. Look up there!
I vow that is our basket!
I pulled out my field-glass and directed it at a little speck high
above our heads. It was the basket floating high in the air. I gave the
glass to my wife to look, but she did not want to use it.
What shall I do? she cried. I can't walk home without that
basket. It's perfectly dreadful! And she looked as if she was going to
Do not distress yourself, I said, although I was a good deal
disturbed myself. We shall get home very well. You shall put your hand
on my shoulder, while I put my arm around you. Then you can screw up my
machine a good deal higher, and it will support us both. In this way I
am sure that we shall get on very well.
We carried out this plan, and managed to walk on with moderate
comfort. To be sure, with the knapsack pulling me upward, and the
weight of my wife pulling me down, the straps hurt me somewhat, which
they had not done before. We did not spring lightly over the wall into
the road, but, still clinging to each other, we clambered awkwardly
over it. The road for the most part declined gently toward the town,
and with moderate ease we made our way along it. But we walked much
more slowly than we had done before, and it was quite dark when we
reached our hotel. If it had not been for the light inside the court it
would have been difficult for us to find it. A travelling-carriage was
standing before the entrance, and against the light. It was necessary
to pass around it, and my wife went first. I attempted to follow her,
but, strange to say, there was nothing under my feet. I stepped
vigorously, but only wagged my legs in the air. To my horror I found
that I was rising in the air! I soon saw, by the light below me, that I
was some fifteen feet from the ground. The carriage drove away, and in
the darkness I was not noticed. Of course I knew what had happened. The
instrument in my knapsack had been screwed up to such an intensity, in
order to support both myself and my wife, that when her weight was
removed the force of the negative gravity was sufficient to raise me
from the ground. But I was glad to find that when I had risen to the
height I have mentioned I did not go up any higher, but hung in the
air, about on a level with the second tier of windows of the hotel.
I now began to try to reach the screw in my knapsack in order to
reduce the force of the negative gravity; but, do what I would, I could
not get my hand to it. The machine in the knapsack had been placed so
as to support me in a well-balanced and comfortable way; and in doing
this it had been impossible to set the screw so that I could reach it.
But in a temporary arrangement of the kind this had not been considered
necessary, as my wife always turned the screw for me until sufficient
lifting power had been attained. I had intended, as I have said before,
to construct a negative-gravity waistcoat, in which the screw should be
in front, and entirely under the wearer's control; but this was a thing
of the future.
When I found that I could not turn the screw I began to be much
alarmed. Here I was, dangling in the air, without any means of reaching
the ground. I could not expect my wife to return to look for me, as she
would naturally suppose I had stopped to speak to some one. I thought
of loosening myself from the knapsack, but this would not do, for I
should fall heavily, and either kill myself or break some of my bones.
I did not dare to call for assistance, for if any of the simple-minded
inhabitants of the town had discovered me floating in the air they
would have taken me for a demon, and would probably have shot at me. A
moderate breeze was blowing, and it wafted me gently down the street.
If it had blown me against a tree I would have seized it, and have
endeavored, so to speak, to climb down it; but there were no trees.
There was a dim street-lamp here and there, but reflectors above them
threw their light upon the pavement, and none up to me. On many
accounts I was glad that the night was so dark, for, much as I desired
to get down, I wanted no one to see me in my strange position, which,
to any one but myself and wife, would be utterly unaccountable. If I
could rise as high as the roofs I might get on one of them, and,
tearing off an armful of tiles, so load myself that I would be heavy
enough to descend. But I did not rise to the eaves of any of the
houses. If there had been a telegraph-pole, or anything of the kind
that I could have clung to, I would have taken off the knapsack, and
would have endeavored to scramble down as well as I could. But there
was nothing I could cling to. Even the water-spouts, if I could have
reached the face of the houses, were embedded in the walls. At an open
window, near which I was slowly blown, I saw two little boys going to
bed by the light of a dim candle. I was dreadfully afraid that they
would see me and raise an alarm. I actually came so near to the window
that I threw out one foot and pushed against the wall with such force
that I went nearly across the street. I thought I caught sight of a
frightened look on the face of one of the boys; but of this I am not
sure, and I heard no cries. I still floated, dangling, down the street.
What was to be done? Should I call out? In that case, if I were not
shot or stoned, my strange predicament, and the secret of my invention,
would be exposed to the world. If I did not do this, I must either let
myself drop and be killed or mangled, or hang there and die. When,
during the course of the night, the air became more rarefied, I might
rise higher and higher, perhaps to an altitude of one or two hundred
feet. It would then be impossible for the people to reach me and get me
down, even if they were convinced that I was not a demon. I should then
expire, and when the birds of the air had eaten all of me that they
could devour, I should forever hang above the unlucky town, a dangling
skeleton with a knapsack on its back.
Such thoughts were not reassuring, and I determined that if I could
find no means of getting down without assistance, I would call out and
run all risks; but so long as I could endure the tension of the straps
I would hold out, and hope for a tree or a pole. Perhaps it might rain,
and my wet clothes would then become so heavy that I would descend as
low as the top of a lamp-post.
As this thought was passing through my mind I saw a spark of light
upon the street approaching me. I rightly imagined that it came from a
tobacco-pipe, and presently I heard a voice. It was that of the Alpine
Club man. Of all people in the world I did not want him to discover me,
and I hung as motionless as possible. The man was speaking to another
person who was walking with him.
He is crazy beyond a doubt, said the Alpine man. Nobody but a
maniac could have gone up and down that mountain as he did! He hasn't
any muscles, and one need only look at him to know that he couldn't do
any climbing in a natural way. It is only the excitement of insanity
that gives him strength.
The two now stopped almost under me, and the speaker continued:
Such things are very common with maniacs. At times they acquire an
unnatural strength which is perfectly wonderful. I have seen a little
fellow struggle and fight so that four strong men could not hold him.
Then the other person spoke.
I am afraid what you say is too true, he remarked. Indeed, I have
known it for some time.
At these words my breath almost stopped. It was the voice of Mr.
Gilbert, my townsman, and the father of Janet. It must have been he who
had arrived in the travelling-carriage. He was acquainted with the
Alpine Club man, and they were talking of me. Proper or improper, I
listened with all my ears.
It is a very sad case, Mr. Gilbert continued. My daughter was
engaged to marry his son, but I broke off the match. I could not have
her marry the son of a lunatic, and there could be no doubt of his
condition. He has been seena man of his age, and the head of a
familyto load himself up with a heavy knapsack, which there was no
earthly necessity for him to carry, and go skipping along the road for
miles, vaulting over fences and jumping over rocks and ditches like a
young calf or a colt. I myself saw a most heartrending instance of how
a kindly man's nature can be changed by the derangement of his
intellect. I was at some distance from his house, but I plainly saw him
harness a little donkey which he owns to a large two-horse wagon loaded
with stone, and beat and lash the poor little beast until it drew the
heavy load some distance along the public road. I would have
remonstrated with him on this horrible cruelty, but he had the wagon
back in his yard before I could reach him.
Oh, there can be no doubt of his insanity, said the Alpine Club
man, and he oughtn't to be allowed to travel about in this way. Some
day he will pitch his wife over a precipice just for the fun of seeing
her shoot through the air.
I am sorry he is here, said Mr. Gilbert, for it would be very
painful to meet him. My daughter and I will retire very soon, and go
away as early to-morrow morning as possible, so as to avoid seeing
And then they walked back to the hotel.
For a few moments I hung, utterly forgetful of my condition, and
absorbed in the consideration of these revelations. One idea now filled
my mind. Everything must be explained to Mr. Gilbert, even if it should
be necessary to have him called to me, and for me to speak to him from
the upper air.
Just then I saw something white approaching me along the road. My
eyes had become accustomed to the darkness, and I perceived that it was
an upturned face. I recognized the hurried gait, the form; it was my
wife. As she came near me, I called her name, and in the same breath
entreated her not to scream. It must have been an effort for her to
restrain herself, but she did it.
You must help me to get down, I said, without anybody seeing us.
What shall I do? she whispered.
Try to catch hold of this string.
Taking a piece of twine from my pocket, I lowered one end to her.
But it was too short; she could not reach it. I then tied my
handkerchief to it, but still it was not long enough.
I can get more string, or handkerchiefs, she whispered, hurriedly.
No, I said; you could not get them up to me. But, leaning against
the hotel wall, on this side, in the corner, just inside of the garden
gate, are some fishing-poles. I have seen them there every day. You can
easily find them in the dark. Go, please, and bring me one of those.
The hotel was not far away, and in a few minutes my wife returned
with a fishing-pole. She stood on tiptoe, and reached it high in air;
but all she could do was to strike my feet and legs with it. My most
frantic exertions did not enable me to get my hands low enough to touch
Wait a minute, she said; and the rod was withdrawn.
I knew what she was doing. There was a hook and line attached to the
pole, and with womanly dexterity she was fastening the hook to the
extreme end of the rod. Soon she reached up, and gently struck at my
legs. After a few attempts the hook caught in my trousers, a little
below my right knee. Then there was a slight pull, a long scratch down
my leg, and the hook was stopped by the top of my boot. Then came a
steady downward pull, and I felt myself descending. Gently and firmly
the rod was drawn down; carefully the lower end was kept free from the
ground; and in a few moments my ankle was seized with a vigorous grasp.
Then some one seemed to climb up me, my feet touched the ground, an arm
was thrown around my neck, the hand of another arm was busy at the back
of my knapsack, and I soon stood firmly in the road, entirely divested
of negative gravity.
Oh that I should have forgotten, sobbed my wife, and that I
should have dropped your arms and let you go up into the air! At first
I thought that you had stopped below, and it was only a little while
ago that the truth flashed upon me. Then I rushed out and began looking
up for you. I knew that you had wax matches in your pocket, and hoped
that you would keep on striking them, so that you would be seen.
But I did not wish to be seen, I said, as we hurried to the hotel;
and I can never be sufficiently thankful that it was you who found me
and brought me down. Do you know that it is Mr. Gilbert and his
daughter who have just arrived? I must see him instantly. I will
explain it all to you when I come upstairs.
I took off my knapsack and gave it to my wife, who carried it to our
room, while I went to look for Mr. Gilbert. Fortunately I found him
just as he was about to go up to his chamber. He took my offered hand,
but looked at me sadly and gravely.
Mr. Gilbert, I said, I must speak to you in private. Let us step
into this room. There is no one here.
My friend, said Mr. Gilbert, it will be much better to avoid
discussing this subject. It is very painful to both of us, and no good
can come from talking of it.
You cannot now comprehend what it is I want to say to you, I
replied. Come in here, and in a few minutes you will be very glad that
you listened to me.
My manner was so earnest and impressive that Mr. Gilbert was
constrained to follow me, and we went into a small room called the
smoking-room, but in which people seldom smoked, and closed the door. I
immediately began my statement. I told my old friend that I had
discovered, by means that I need not explain at present, that he had
considered me crazy, and that now the most important object of my life
was to set myself right in his eyes. I thereupon gave him the whole
history of my invention, and explained the reason of the actions that
had appeared to him those of a lunatic. I said nothing about the little
incident of that evening. That was a mere accident, and I did not care
now to speak of it.
Mr. Gilbert listened to me very attentively.
Your wife is here? he asked, when I had finished.
Yes, I said; and she will corroborate my story in every item, and
no one could ever suspect her of being crazy. I will go and bring her
In a few minutes my wife was in the room, had shaken hands with Mr.
Gilbert, and had been told of my suspected madness. She turned pale,
He did act like a crazy man, she said, but I never supposed that
anybody would think him one. And tears came into her eyes.
And now, my dear, said I, perhaps you will tell Mr. Gilbert how I
did all this.
And then she told him the story that I had told.
Mr. Gilbert looked from the one to the other of us with a troubled
Of course I do not doubt either of you, or rather I do not doubt
that you believe what you say. All would be right if I could bring
myself to credit that such a force as that you speak of can possibly
That is a matter, said I, which I can easily prove to you by
actual demonstration. If you can wait a short time, until my wife and I
have had something to eatfor I am nearly famished, and I am sure she
must beI will set your mind at rest upon that point.
I will wait here, said Mr. Gilbert, and smoke a cigar. Don't
hurry yourselves. I shall be glad to have some time to think about what
you have told me.
When we had finished the dinner, which had been set aside for us, I
went upstairs and got my knapsack, and we both joined Mr. Gilbert in
the smoking-room. I showed him the little machine, and explained, very
briefly, the principle of its construction. I did not give any
practical demonstration of its action, because there were people
walking about the corridor who might at any moment come into the room;
but, looking out of the window, I saw that the night was much clearer.
The wind had dissipated the clouds, and the stars were shining
If you will come up the street with me, said I to Mr. Gilbert, I
will show you how this thing works.
That is just what I want to see, he answered.
I will go with you, said my wife, throwing a shawl over her head.
And we started up the street.
When we were outside the little town I found the starlight was quite
sufficient for my purpose. The white roadway, the low walls, and
objects about us, could easily be distinguished.
Now, said I to Mr. Gilbert, I want to put this knapsack on you,
and let you see how it feels, and how it will help you to walk. To
this he assented with some eagerness, and I strapped it firmly on him.
I will now turn this screw, said I, until you shall become lighter
Be very careful not to turn it too much, said my wife, earnestly.
Oh, you may depend on me for that, said I, turning the screw very
Mr. Gilbert was a stout man, and I was obliged to give the screw a
good many turns.
There seems to be considerable hoist in it, he said, directly. And
then I put my arms around him, and found that I could raise him from
Are you lifting me? he exclaimed, in surprise.
Yes; I did it with ease, I answered.
Uponmyword! ejaculated Mr. Gilbert.
I then gave the screw a half-turn more, and told him to walk and
run. He started off, at first slowly, then he made long strides, then
he began to run, and then to skip and jump. It had been many years
since Mr. Gilbert had skipped and jumped. No one was in sight, and he
was free to gambol as much as he pleased. Could you give it another
turn? said he, bounding up to me. I want to try that wall. I put on
a little more negative gravity, and he vaulted over a five-foot wall
with great ease. In an instant he had leaped back into the road, and in
two bounds was at my side. I came down as light as a cat, he said.
There was never anything like it. And away he went up the road,
taking steps at least eight feet long, leaving my wife and me laughing
heartily at the preternatural agility of our stout friend. In a few
minutes he was with us again. Take it off, he said. If I wear it any
longer I shall want one myself, and then I shall be taken for a crazy
man, and perhaps clapped into an asylum.
Now, said I, as I turned back the screw before unstrapping the
knapsack, do you understand how I took long walks, and leaped and
jumped; how I ran uphill and downhill, and how the little donkey drew
the loaded wagon?
I understand it all, cried he. I take back all I ever said or
thought about you, my friend.
And Herbert may marry Janet? cried my wife.
May marry her! cried Mr. Gilbert. Indeed, he shall
marry her, if I have anything to say about it! My poor girl has been
drooping ever since I told her it could not be.
My wife rushed at him, but whether she embraced him or only shook
his hands I cannot say; for I had the knapsack in one hand and was
rubbing my eyes with the other.
But, my dear fellow, said Mr. Gilbert, directly, if you still
consider it to your interest to keep your invention a secret, I wish
you had never made it. No one having a machine like that can help using
it, and it is often quite as bad to be considered a maniac as to be
My friend, I cried, with some excitement, I have made up my mind
on this subject. The little machine in this knapsack, which is the only
one I now possess, has been a great pleasure to me. But I now know it
has also been of the greatest injury indirectly to me and mine, not to
mention some direct inconvenience and danger, which I will speak of
another time. The secret lies with us three, and we will keep it. But
the invention itself is too full of temptation and danger for any of
As I said this I held the knapsack with one hand while I quickly
turned the screw with the other. In a few moments it was high above my
head, while I with difficulty held it down by the straps. Look! I
cried. And then I released my hold, and the knapsack shot into the air
and disappeared into the upper gloom.
I was about to make a remark, but had no chance, for my wife threw
herself upon my bosom, sobbing with joy.
Oh, I am so gladso glad! she said. And you will never make
Never another! I answered.
And now let us hurry in and see Janet, said my wife.
You don't know how heavy and clumsy I feel, said Mr. Gilbert,
striving to keep up with us as we walked back. If I had worn that
thing much longer, I should never have been willing to take it off!
Janet had retired, but my wife went up to her room.
I think she has felt it as much as our boy, she said, when she
rejoined me. But I tell you, my dear, I left a very happy girl in that
little bedchamber over the garden.
And there were three very happy elderly people talking together
until quite late that evening. I shall write to Herbert to-night, I
said, when we separated, and tell him to meet us all in Geneva. It
will do the young man no harm if we interrupt his studies just now.
You must let me add a postscript to the letter, said Mr. Gilbert,
and I am sure it will require no knapsack with a screw in the back to
bring him quickly to us.
And it did not.
There is a wonderful pleasure in tripping over the earth like a
winged Mercury, and in feeling one's self relieved of much of that
attraction of gravitation which drags us down to earth and gradually
makes the movement of our bodies but weariness and labor. But this
pleasure is not to be compared, I think, to that given by the buoyancy
and lightness of two young and loving hearts, reunited after a
separation which they had supposed would last forever.
What became of the basket and the knapsack, or whether they ever met
in upper air, I do not know. If they but float away and stay away from
ken of mortal man, I shall be satisfied.
And whether or not the world will ever know more of the power of
negative gravity depends entirely upon the disposition of my son
Herbert, whenafter a good many years, I hopehe shall open the
packet my lawyers have in keeping.
* * * * *
[NOTE.It would be quite useless for any one to interview my wife
on this subject, for she has entirely forgotten how my machine was
made. And as for Mr. Gilbert, he never knew.]
About a hundred feet back from the main street of a village in New
Jersey there stood a very good white house. Half-way between it and the
sidewalk was a large chestnut-tree, which had been the pride of Mr.
Himes, who built the house, and was now the pride of Mrs. Himes, his
widow, who lived there.
Under the tree was a bench, and on the bench were two elderly men,
both smoking pipes, and each one of them leaning forward with his
elbows on his knees. One of these, Thomas Rooper by name, was a small
man with gray side-whiskers, a rather thin face, and very good clothes.
His pipe was a meerschaum, handsomely colored, with a long amber tip.
He had bought that pipe while on a visit to Philadelphia during the
great Centennial Exposition; and if any one noticed it and happened to
remark what a fine pipe it was, that person would be likely to receive
a detailed account of the circumstances of its purchase, with an
appendix relating to the Main Building, the Art Building, the
Agricultural Building, and many other salient points of the great
Exposition which commemorated the centennial of our national
The other man, Asaph Scantle, was of a different type. He was a
little older than his companion, but if his hair were gray, it did not
show very much, as his rather long locks were of a sandy hue and his
full face was clean shaven, at least on Wednesdays and Sundays. He was
tall, round-shouldered, and his clothes were not good, possessing very
evident claims to a position on the retired list. His pipe consisted of
a common clay bowl with a long reed stem.
For some minutes the two men continued to puff together as if they
were playing a duet upon tobacco-pipes, and then Asaph, removing his
reed from his lips, remarked, What you ought to do, Thomas, is to
There's sense in that, replied the other; but you wasn't the
first to think of it.
Asaph, who knew very well that Mr. Rooper never allowed any one to
suppose that he received suggestions from without, took no notice of
the last remark, but went on: Lookin' at the matter in a friendly way,
it seems to me it stands to reason that when the shingles on a man's
house is so rotten that the rain comes through into every room on the
top floor, and when the plaster on the ceilin' is tumblin' down more or
less all the time, and the window-sashes is all loose, and things
generally in a condition that he can't let that house without spendin'
at least a year's rent on it to git it into decent order, and when a
man's got to the time of life
There's nothin' the matter with the time of life, said Thomas;
that's all right.
What I was goin' to say was, continued Asaph, that when a man
gits to the time of life when he knows what it is to be comfortable in
his mind as well as his bodyand that time comes to sensible people as
soon as they git fairly growed uphe don't want to give up his good
room in the tavern and all the privileges of the house, and go to live
on his own property and have the plaster come down on his own head and
the rain come down on the coverlet of his own bed.
No, he don't, said Thomas; and what is more, he isn't goin' to do
it. But what I git from the rent of that house is what I have to live
on; there's no gittin' around that pint.
Well, then, said Asaph, if you don't marry money, what are you
goin' to do? You can't go back to your old business.
I never had but one business, said Thomas. I lived with my folks
until I was a good deal more than growed up; and when the war broke out
I went as sutler to the rigiment from this place; and all the money I
made I put into my property in the village here. That's what I've lived
on ever since. There's no more war, so there's no more sutlers, except
away out West where I wouldn't go; and there are no more folks, for
they are all dead; and if what Mrs. McJimsey says is true, there'll be
no more tenants in my house after the 1st of next November. For when
the McJimseys go on account of want of general repairs, it is not to be
expected that anybody else will come there. There's nobody in this
place that can stand as much as the McJimseys can.
Consequently, said Asaph, deliberately filling his pipe, it
stands to reason that there ain't nothin' for you to do but marry
Thomas Rooper took his pipe from his mouth and sat up straight.
Gazing steadfastly at his companion, he remarked, If you think that is
such a good thing to do, why don't you do it yourself? There can't be
anybody much harder up than you are.
The law's agin' my doin' it, said Asaph. A man can't marry his
Are you thinkin' of Marietta Himes? asked Mr. Rooper.
That's the one I'm thinkin' of, said Asaph. If you can think of
anybody better, I'd like you to mention her.
Mr. Rooper did not immediately speak. He presently asked, What do
you call money?
Well, said Asaph, with a little hesitation, considerin' the
circumstances, I should say that in a case like this about fifteen
hundred a year, a first-rate house with not a loose shingle on it nor a
crack anywhere, a good garden and an orchard, two cows, a piece of
meadow-land on the other side of the creek, and all the clothes a woman
need have, is money.
Thomas shrugged his shoulders. Clothes! he said. If she marries
she'll go out of black, and then she'll have to have new ones, and lots
of 'em. That would make a big hole in her money, Asaph.
The other smiled. I always knowed you was a far-seein' feller,
Thomas; but it stands to reason that Marietta's got a lot of clothes
that was on hand before she went into mournin', and she's not the kind
of woman to waste 'em. She'll be twistin' 'em about and makin' 'em over
to suit the fashions, and it won't be like her to be buyin' new colored
goods when she's got plenty of 'em already.
There was now another pause in the conversation, and then Mr. Rooper
remarked, Mrs. Himes must be gettin' on pretty well in years.
She's not a young woman, said Asaph; but if she was much younger
she wouldn't have you, and if she was much older you wouldn't have her.
So it strikes me she's just about the right pint.
How old was John Himes when he died? asked Thomas.
I don't exactly know that; but he was a lot older than Marietta.
Thomas shook his head. It strikes me, said he, that John Himes
had a hearty constitution and hadn't ought to died as soon as he did.
He fell away a good deal in the last years of his life.
And considerin' that he died of consumption, he had a right to fall
away, said Asaph. If what you are drivin' at, Thomas, is that
Marietta isn't a good housekeeper and hasn't the right sort of notions
of feedin', look at me. I've lived with Marietta just about a year, and
in that time I have gained forty-two pounds. Now, of course, I ain't
unreasonable, and don't mean to say that you would gain forty-two
pounds in a year, 'cause you ain't got the frame and bone to put it on;
but it wouldn't surprise me a bit if you was to gain twenty, or even
twenty-five, pounds in eighteen months, anyway; and more than that you
ought not to ask, Thomas, considerin' your height and general build.
Isn't Marietta Himes a good deal of a freethinker? asked Thomas.
A what? cried Asaph. You mean an infidel?
No, said Thomas, I don't charge nobody with nothin' more than
there's reason for; but they do say that she goes sometimes to one
church and sometimes to another, and that if there was a Catholic
church in this village she would go to that. And who's goin' to say
where a woman will turn up when she don't know her own mind better than
Asaph colored a little. The place where Marietta will turn up,
said he, warmly, is on a front seat in the kingdom of heaven; and if
the people that talk about her will mend their ways, they'll see that I
am right. You need not trouble yourself about that, Thomas. Marietta
Himes is pious to the heel.
Mr. Rooper now shifted himself a little on the bench and crossed one
leg over the other. Now look here, Asaph, he said, with a little more
animation than he had yet shown, supposin' all you say is true, have
you got any reason to think that Mrs. Himes ain't satisfied with things
as they are?
Yes, I have, said Asaph. And I don't mind tellin' you that the
thing she's least satisfied with is me. She wants a man in the house;
that is nateral. She wouldn't be Marietta Himes if she didn't. When I
come to live with her I thought the whole business was settled; but it
isn't. I don't suit her. I don't say she's lookin' for another man, but
if another man was to come along, and if he was the right kind of a
man, it's my opinion she's ready for him. I wouldn't say this to
everybody, but I say it to you, Thomas Rooper, 'cause I know what kind
of a man you are.
Mr. Rooper did not return the compliment. I don't wonder your
sister ain't satisfied with you, he said, for you go ahead of all the
lazy men I ever saw yet. They was sayin' down at the tavern
yesterdayonly yesterdaythat you could do less work in more time
than anybody they ever saw before.
There's two ways of workin', said Asaph. Some people work with
their hands and some with their heads.
Thomas grimly smiled. It strikes me, said he, that the most
head-work you do is with your jaws.
Asaph was not the man to take offence readily, especially when he
considered it against his interest to do so, and he showed no
resentment at this remark. 'Tain't so much my not makin' myself more
generally useful, he said, that Marietta objects to; though, of
course, it could not be expected that a man that hasn't got any
interest in property would keep workin' at it like a man that has got
an interest in it, such as Marietta's husband would have; but it's my
general appearance that she don't like. She's told me more than once
she didn't so much mind my bein' lazy as lookin' lazy.
I don't wonder she thinks that way, said Thomas. But look here,
Asaph, do you suppose that if Marietta Himes was to marry a man, he
would really come into her property?
There ain't nobody that knows my sister better than I know her, and
I can say, without any fear of bein' contradicted, that when she gives
herself to a man the good-will and fixtures will be included.
Thomas Rooper now leaned forward with his elbows on his knees
without smoking, and Asaph Scantle leaned forward with his elbows on
his knees without smoking. And thus they remained, saying nothing to
each other, for the space of some ten minutes.
Asaph was a man who truly used his head a great deal more than he
used his hands. He had always been a shiftless fellow, but he was no
fool, and this his sister found out soon after she asked him to come
and make his home with her. She had not done this because she wanted a
man in the house, for she had lived two or three years without that
convenience and had not felt the need of it. But she heard that Asaph
was in very uncomfortable circumstances, and she had sent for him
solely for his own good. The arrangement proved to be a very good one
for her brother, but not a good one for her. She had always known that
Asaph's head was his main dependence, but she was just beginning to
discover that he liked to use his head so that other people's hands
should work for him.
There ain't nobody comin' to see your sister, is there? asked
Not a livin' soul, said Asaph, except women, married folk, and
children. But it has always surprised me that nobody did come; but just
at this minute the field's clear and the gate's open.
Well, said Mr. Rooper, I'll think about it.
That's right, said Asaph, rubbing his knees with his hands.
That's right. But now tell me, Thomas Rooper, supposin' you get
Marietta, what are you goin' to do for me?
For you? exclaimed the other. What have you got to do with it?
A good deal, said Asaph. If you get Marietta with her fifteen
hundred a yearand it wouldn't surprise me if it was eighteen
hundredand her house and her garden and her cattle and her field and
her furniture, with not a leg loose nor a scratch, you will get her
because I proposed her to you, and because I backed you up afterward.
And now, then, I want to know what you are goin' to do for me?
What do you want? asked Thomas.
The first thing I want, said Asaph, is a suit of clothes. These
clothes is disgraceful.
You are right there, said Mr. Rooper. I wonder your sister lets
you come around in front of the house. But what do you mean by
clotheswinter clothes or summer clothes?
Winter, said Asaph, without hesitation. I don't count summer
clothes. And when I say a suit of clothes, I mean shoes and hat and
Mr. Rooper gave a sniff. I wonder you don't say overcoat, he
I do say overcoat, replied Asaph. A suit of winter clothes is a
suit of clothes that you can go out into the weather in without missin'
Mr. Rooper smiled sarcastically. Is there anything else you want?
Yes, said Asaph, decidedly; there is. I want a umbrella.
Cotton or silk?
Asaph hesitated. He had never had a silk umbrella in his hand in his
life. He was afraid to strike too high, and he answered, I want a good
Mr. Rooper nodded his head. Very good, he said. And is that all?
No, said Asaph, it ain't all. There is one more thing I want, and
that is a dictionary.
The other man rose to his feet. Upon my word, he exclaimed, I
never before saw a man that would sell his sister for a dictionary! And
what you want with a dictionary is past my conceivin'.
Well, it ain't past mine, said Asaph. For more than ten years I
have wanted a dictionary. If I had a dictionary I could make use of my
head in a way that I can't now. There is books in this house, but
amongst 'em there is no dictionary. If there had been one I'd been a
different man by this time from what I am now, and like as not Marietta
wouldn't have wanted any other man in the house but me.
Mr. Rooper stood looking upon the ground; and Asaph, who had also
arisen, waited for him to speak. You are a graspin' man, Asaph, said
Thomas. But there is another thing I'd like to know: if I give you
them clothes, you don't want them before she's married?
Yes, I do, said Asaph. If I come to the weddin', I can't wear
these things. I have got to have them first.
Mr. Rooper gave his head a little twist. There's many a slip 'twixt
the cup and the lip, said he.
Yes, said Asaph; and there's different cups and different lips.
But what's more, if I was to be best manwhich would be nateral,
considerin' I'm your friend and her brotheryou wouldn't want me
standin' up in this rig. And that's puttin' it in your own point of
It strikes me, said the other, that I could get a best man that
would furnish his own clothes; but we will see about that. There's
another thing, Asaph, he said, abruptly; what are Mrs. Himes's views
This question startled and frightened Asaph. He knew that his sister
could not abide the smell of tobacco and that Mr. Rooper was an
That depends, said he, on the kind of tobacco. I don't mind
sayin' that Marietta isn't partial to the kind of tobacco I smoke. But
I ain't a moneyed man and I can't afford to buy nothin' but cheap
stuff. But when it comes to a meerschaum pipe and the very finest
Virginia or North Carolina smoking-tobacco, such as a moneyed man would
be likely to use
At this moment there came from the house the sound of a woman's
voice, not loud, but clear and distinct, and it said Asaph.
This word sent through Mr. Rooper a gentle thrill such as he did not
remember ever having felt before. There seemed to be in it a
suggestion, a sort of prophecy, of what appeared to him as an undefined
and chaotic bliss. He was not a fanciful man, but he could not help
imagining himself standing alone under that chestnut-tree and that
voice calling Thomas.
Upon Asaph the effect was different. The interruption was an
agreeable one in one way, because it cut short his attempted
explanation of the tobacco question; but in another way he knew that it
meant the swinging of an axe, and that was not pleasant.
Mr. Rooper walked back to the tavern in a cogitative state of mind.
That Asaph Scantle, he said to himself, has got a head-piece,
there's no denying it. If it had not been for him I do not believe I
should have thought of his sister; at least not until the McJimseys had
left my house, and then it might have been too late.
Marietta Himes was a woman with a gentle voice and an appearance and
demeanor indicative of a general softness of disposition; but beneath
this mild exterior there was a great deal of firmness of purpose. Asaph
had not seen very much of his sister since she had grown up and
married; and when he came to live with her he thought that he was going
to have things pretty much his own way. But it was not long before he
entirely changed his mind.
Mrs. Himes was of moderate height, pleasant countenance, and a
figure inclined to plumpness. Her dark hair, in which there was not a
line of gray, was brushed down smoothly on each side of her face, and
her dress, while plain, was extremely neat. In fact, everything in the
house and on the place was extremely neat, except Asaph.
She was in the bright little dining-room which looked out on the
flower-garden, preparing the table for supper, placing every plate,
dish, glass, and cup with as much care and exactness as if a civil
engineer had drawn a plan on the table-cloth with places marked for the
position of each article.
As she finished her work by placing a chair on each side of the
table, a quiet smile, the result of a train of thought in which she had
been indulging for the past half-hour, stole over her face. She passed
through the kitchen, with a glance at the stove to see if the
tea-kettle had begun to boil; and going out of the back door, she
walked over to the shed where her brother was splitting kindling-wood.
Asaph, said Mrs. Himes, if I were to give you a good suit of
clothes, would you promise me that you would never smoke when wearing
Her brother looked at her in amazement. Clothes! he repeated.
Mr. Himes was about your size, said his sister, and he left a
good many clothes, which are most of them very good and carefully
packed away, so that I am sure there is not a moth-hole in any one of
them. I have several times thought, Asaph, that I might give you some
of his clothes; but it did seem to me a desecration to have the clothes
of such a man, who was so particular and nice, filled and saturated
with horrible tobacco-smoke, which he detested. But now you are getting
to be so awful shabby, I do not see how I can stand it any longer. But
one thing I will not doI will not have Mr. Himes's clothes smelling
of tobacco as yours do; and not only your own tobacco, but Mr.
I think, said Asaph, that you are not exactly right just there.
What you smell about me is my smoke. Thomas Rooper never uses anything
but the finest-scented and delicatest brands. I think that if you come
to get used to his tobacco-smoke you would like it. But as to my takin'
off my clothes and puttin' on a different suit every time I want to
light my pipe, that's pretty hard lines, it seems to me.
It would be a good deal easier to give up the pipe, said his
I will do that, said Asaph, when you give up tea. But you know as
well as I do that there's no use of either of us a-tryin' to change our
comfortable habits at our time of life.
I kept on hoping, said Mrs. Himes, that you would feel yourself
that you were not fit to be seen by decent people, and that you would
go to work and earn at least enough money to buy yourself some clothes.
But as you don't seem inclined to do that, I thought I would make you
this offer. But you must understand that I will not have you smoke in
Mr. Himes's clothes.
Asaph stood thinking, the head of his axe resting upon the ground, a
position which suited him. He was in a little perplexity. Marietta's
proposition seemed to interfere somewhat with the one he had made to
Thomas Rooper. Here was a state of affairs which required most careful
consideration. I've been arrangin' about some clothes, he said,
presently; for I know very well I need 'em; but I don't know just yet
how it will turn out.
I hope, Asaph, said Marietta, quickly, that you are not thinking
of going into debt for clothing, and I know that you haven't been
working to earn money. What arrangements have you been making?
That's my private affair, said Asaph, but there's no debt in it.
It is all fair and squarecash down, so to speak; though, of course,
it's not cash, but work. But, as I said before, that isn't settled.
I am afraid, Asaph, said his sister, that if you have to do the
work first you will never get the clothes, and so you might as well
come back to my offer.
Asaph came back to it and thought about it very earnestly. If by any
chance he could get two suits of clothes, he would then feel that he
had a head worth having. What would you say, he said, presently, if
when I wanted to smoke I was to put on a long dusterI guess Mr. Himes
had dustersand a nightcap and rubbers? I'd agree to hang the duster
and the cap in the shed here and never smoke without putting 'em on.
There was a deep purpose in this proposition, for, enveloped in the
long duster, he might sit with Thomas Rooper under the chestnut-tree
and smoke and talk and plan as long as he pleased, and his companion
would not know that he did not need a new suit of clothes.
Nonsense, said Mrs. Himes; you must make up your mind to act
perfectly fairly, Asaph, or else say you will not accept my offer. But
if you don't accept it, I can't see how you can keep on living with
What do you mean by clothes, Marietta? he asked.
Well, I mean a complete suit, of course, said she.
Winter or summer?
I hadn't thought of that, Mrs. Himes replied; but that can be as
Overcoat? asked Asaph.
Yes, said she, and cane and umbrella, if you like, and
pocket-handkerchiefs, too. I will fit you out completely, and shall be
glad to have you looking like a decent man.
At the mention of the umbrella another line of perplexity showed
itself upon Asaph's brow. The idea came to him that if she would add a
dictionary he would strike a bargain. Thomas Rooper was certainly a
very undecided and uncertain sort of man. But then there came up the
thought of his pipe, and he was all at sea again. Giving up smoking was
almost the same as giving up eating. Marietta, said he, I will think
Very well, she answered; but it's my opinion, Asaph, that you
ought not to take more than one minute to think about it. However, I
will give you until to-morrow morning, and then if you decide that you
don't care to look like a respectable citizen, I must have some further
talk with you about our future arrangements.
Make it to-morrow night, said Asaph. And his sister consented.
The next day Asaph was unusually brisk and active; and very soon
after breakfast he walked over to the village tavern to see Mr. Rooper.
Hello! exclaimed that individual, surprised at his visitor's early
appearance at the business centre of the village. What's started you
out? Have you come after them clothes?
A happy thought struck Asaph. He had made this visit with the
intention of feeling his way toward some decision on the important
subject of his sister's proposition, and here a way seemed to be opened
to him. Thomas, said he, taking his friend aside, I am in an awful
fix. Marietta can't stand my clothes any longer. If she can't stand
them she can't stand me, and when it comes to that, you can see for
yourself that I can't help you.
A shade settled upon Mr. Rooper's face. During the past evening he
had been thinking and puffing, and puffing and thinking, until
everybody else in the tavern had gone to bed; and he had finally made
up his mind that, if he could do it, he would marry Marietta Himes. He
had never been very intimate with her or her husband, but he had been
to meals in the house, and he remembered the fragrant coffee and the
light, puffy, well-baked rolls made by Marietta's own hands; and he
thought of the many differences between living in that very good house
with that gentle, pleasant-voiced lady and his present life in the
And so, having determined that without delay he would, with the
advice and assistance of Asaph, begin his courtship, it was natural
that he should feel a shock of discouragement when he heard Asaph's
announcement that his sister could not endure him in the house any
longer. To attack that house and its owner without the friendly offices
upon which he depended was an undertaking for which he was not at all
I don't wonder at her, he said, sharplynot a bit. But this puts
a mighty different face on the thing what we talked about yesterday.
It needn't, said Asaph, quietly. The clothes you was goin' to
give me wouldn't cost a cent more to-day than they would in a couple of
months, say; and when I've got 'em on Marietta will be glad to have me
around. Everything can go on just as we bargained for.
Thomas shook his head. That would be a mighty resky piece of
business, he said. You would be all right, but that's not sayin' that
I would; for it strikes me that your sister is about as much a bird in
the bush as any flyin' critter.
Asaph smiled. If the bush was in the middle of a field, said he,
and there was only one boy after the bird, it would be a pretty tough
job. But if the bush is in the corner of two high walls, and there's
two boys, and one of 'em's got a fishnet what he can throw clean over
the bush, why, then the chances is a good deal better. But droppin'
figgers, Thomas, and speakin' plain and straightforward, as I always
About things you want to git, interrupted Thomas.
about everything, resumed Asaph. I'll just tell you this: if I
don't git decent clothes now to-day, or perhaps to-morrow, I have got
to travel out of Marietta's house. I can do it and she knows it. I can
go back to Drummondville and git my board for keepin' books in the
store, and nobody there cares what sort of clothes I wear. But when
that happens, your chance of gittin' Marietta goes up higher than a
To the mind of Mr. Rooper this was most conclusive reasoning; but he
would not admit it and he did not like it. Why don't your sister give
you clothes? he said. Old Himes must have left some.
A thin chill like a needleful of frozen thread ran down Asaph's
back. Mr. Himes's clothes! he exclaimed. What in the world are you
talkin' about, Thomas Rooper? 'Tain't likely he had many, 'cept what he
was buried in; and what's left, if there is any, Marietta would no more
think of givin' away than she would of hangin' up his funeral wreath
for the canary-bird to perch on. There's a room up in the garret where
she keeps his special thingsfor she's awful particularand if there
is any of his clothes up there I expect she's got 'em framed.
If she thinks as much of him as that, muttered Mr. Rooper.
Now don't git any sech ideas as them into your head, Thomas, said
Asaph, quickly. Marietta ain't a woman to rake up the past, and you
never need be afraid of her rakin' up Mr. Himes. All of the premises
will be hern and yourn except that room in the garret, and it ain't
likely she'll ever ask you to go in there.
The Lord knows I don't want to! ejaculated Mr. Rooper.
The two men walked slowly to the end of a line of well-used, or,
rather, badly used, wooden arm-chairs which stood upon the tavern
piazza, and seated themselves. Mr. Rooper's mind was in a highly
perturbed condition. If he accepted Asaph's present proposition he
would have to make a considerable outlay with a very shadowy prospect
If you haven't got the ready money for the clothes, said Asaph,
after having given his companion some minutes for silent consideration,
there ain't a man in this village what they would trust sooner at the
store for clothes, and then after a pause he added, or books, which,
of course, they can order from town.
At this Mr. Rooper simply shrugged his shoulders. The question of
ready money or credit did not trouble him.
At this moment a man in a low phaeton, drawn by a stout gray horse,
passed the tavern.
Who's that? asked Asaph, who knew everybody in the village.
That's Doctor Wicker, said Thomas. He lives over at Timberley. He
'tended John Himes in his last sickness.
He don't practise here, does he? said Asaph. I never see him.
No; but he was called in to consult. And then the speaker dropped
again into cogitation.
After a few minutes Asaph rose. He knew that Thomas Rooper had a
slow-working mind, and thought it would be well to leave him to himself
for a while. I'll go home, said he, and 'tend to my chores, and by
the time you feel like comin' up and takin' a smoke with me under the
chestnut-tree, I reckon you will have made up your mind, and we'll
settle this thing. Fer if I have got to go back to Drummondville, I
s'pose I'll have to pack up this afternoon.
If you'd say pack off instead of pack up, remarked the other,
you'd come nearer the facts, considerin' the amount of your personal
property. But I'll be up there in an hour or two.
When Asaph came within sight of his sister's house he was amazed to
see a phaeton and a gray horse standing in front of the gate. From this
it was easy to infer that the doctor was in the house. What on earth
could have happened? Was anything the matter with Marietta? And if so,
why did she send for a physician who lived at a distance, instead of
Doctor McIlvaine, the village doctor? In a very anxious state of mind
Asaph reached the gate, and irresolutely went into the yard. His
impulse was to go to the house and see what had happened; but he
hesitated. He felt that Marietta might object to having a comparative
stranger know that such an exceedingly shabby fellow was her brother.
And, besides, his sister could not have been overtaken by any sudden
illness. She had always appeared perfectly well, and there would have
been no time during his brief absence from the house to send over to
Timberley for a doctor.
So he sat down under the chestnut-tree to consider this strange
condition of affairs. Whatever it is, he said to himself, it's
nothin' suddint, and it's bound to be chronic, and that'll skeer
Thomas. I wish I hadn't asked him to come up here. The best thing for
me to do will be to pretend that I have been sent to git somethin' at
the store, and go straight back and keep him from comin' up.
But Asaph was a good deal quicker to think than to move, and he
still sat with brows wrinkled and mind beset by doubts. For a moment he
thought that it might be well to accept Marietta's proposition and let
Thomas go; but then he remembered the conditions, and he shut his
mental eyes at the prospect.
At that moment the gate opened and in walked Thomas Rooper. He had
made up his mind and had come to say so; but the sight of the phaeton
and gray horse caused him to postpone his intended announcement.
What's Doctor Wicker doin' here? he asked, abruptly.
Dunno, said Asaph, as carelessly as he could speak. I don't
meddle with household matters of that kind. I expect it's somethin' the
matter with that gal Betsey, that Marietta hires to help her. She's
always wrong some way or other so that she can't do her own proper
work, which I know, havin' to do a good deal of it myself. I expect
it's rickets, like as not. Gals do have that sort of thing, don't
Never had anything to do with sick gals, said Thomas, or sick
people of any sort, and don't want to. But it must be somethin' pretty
deep-seated for your sister to send all the way to Timberley for a
Asaph knew very well that Mrs. Himes was too economical a person to
think of doing such a thing as that, and he knew also that Betsey was
as good a specimen of rustic health as could be found in the county.
And therefore his companion's statement that he wanted to have nothing
to do with sick people had for him a saddening import.
I settled that business of yourn, said Mr. Rooper, pretty soon
after you left me. I thought I might as well come straight around and
tell you about it. I'll make you a fair and square offer. I'll give you
them clothes, though it strikes me that winter goods will be pretty
heavy for this time of year; but it will be on this condition: if I
don't get Marietta, you have got to give 'em back.
I know what you are grinnin' at, said Thomas; but you needn't
think that you are goin' to have the wearin' of them clothes for two or
three months and then give 'em back. I don't go in for any long
courtships. What I do in that line will be short and sharp.
How short? asked Asaph.
Well, this is Thursday, replied the other, and I calculate to ask
her on Monday.
Asaph looked at his companion in amazement. By George! he
exclaimed, that won't work. Why, it took Marietta more'n five days to
make up her mind whether she would have the chicken-house painted green
or red, and you can't expect her to be quicker than that in takin' a
new husband. She'd say No just as certain as she would now if you was
to go in and ask her right before the doctor and Betsey. And I'll just
tell you plain that it wouldn't pay me to do all the hustlin' around
and talkin' and argyin' and recommendin' that I'd have to do just for
the pleasure of wearin' a suit of warm clothes for four July days. I
tell you what it is, it won't do to spring that sort of thing on a
woman, especially when she's what you might call a trained widder. You
got to give 'em time to think over the matter and to look up your
references. There's no use talkin' about it; you must give 'em time,
especially when the offer comes from a person that nobody but me has
ever thought of as a marryin' man.
Humph! said Thomas. That's all you know about it.
Facts is facts, and you can't git around 'em. There isn't a woman
in this village what wouldn't take at least two weeks to git it into
her head that you was really courtin' her. She would be just as likely
to think that you was tryin' to git a tenant in place of the McJimseys.
But a month of your courtin' and a month of my workin' would just about
make the matter all right with Marietta, and then you could sail in and
Very good, said Mr. Rooper, rising suddenly. I will court your
sister for one month; and if, on the 17th day of August, she takes me,
you can go up to the store and git them clothes; but you can't do it
one minute afore. Good-mornin'.
Asaph, left alone, heaved a sigh. He did not despair; but truly,
fate was heaping a great many obstacles in his path. He thought it was
a very hard thing for a man to get his rights in this world.
Mrs. Himes sat on one end of a black hair-covered sofa in the
parlor, and Doctor Wicker sat on a black hair-covered chair opposite to
her and not far away. The blinds of the window opening upon the garden
were drawn up; but those on the front window, which commanded a view of
the chestnut-tree, were down. Doctor Wicker had just made a proposal of
marriage to Mrs. Himes, and at that moment they were both sitting in
The doctor, a bluff, hearty-looking man of about forty-five, had
been very favorably impressed by Mrs. Himes when he first made her
acquaintance, during her husband's sickness, and since that time he had
seen her occasionally and had thought about her a great deal. Latterly
letters had passed between them, and now he had come to make his
declaration in person.
It was true, as her brother had said, that Marietta was not quick in
making up her mind. But in this case she was able to act more promptly
than usual, because she had in a great measure settled this matter
before the arrival of the doctor. She knew he was going to propose, and
she was very much inclined to accept him. This it was which had made
her smile when she was setting the table the afternoon before, and this
it was which had prompted her to make her proposition to her brother in
regard to his better personal appearance.
But now she was in a condition of nervous trepidation, and made no
answer. The doctor thought this was natural enough under the
circumstances, but he had no idea of the cause of it. The cause of it
was sitting under the chestnut-tree, the bright sunlight, streaming
through a break in the branches above, illuminating and emphasizing and
exaggerating his extreme shabbiness. The doctor had never seen Asaph,
and it would have been a great shock to Marietta's self-respect to have
him see her brother in his present aspect.
Through a crack in the blind of the front window she had seen Asaph
come in and sit down, and she had seen Mr. Rooper arrive and had
noticed his departure. And now, with an anxiety which made her chin
tremble, she sat and hoped that Asaph would get up and go away. For she
knew that if she should say to the doctor what she was perfectly
willing to say then and there, he would very soon depart, being a man
of practical mind and pressing business; and that, going to the front
door with him, she would be obliged to introduce him to a prospective
brother-in-law whose appearance, she truly believed, would make him
sick. For the doctor was a man, she well knew, who was quite as nice
and particular about dress and personal appearance as the late Mr.
Himes had been.
Doctor Wicker, aware that the lady's perturbation was increasing
instead of diminishing, thought it wise not to press the matter at this
moment. He felt that he had been, perhaps, a little over-prompt in
making his proposition. Madam, said he, rising, I will not ask you
to give me an answer now. I will go away and let you think about it,
and will come again to-morrow.
Through the crack in the window-blind Marietta saw that Asaph was
still under the tree. What could she do to delay the doctor? She did
not offer to take leave of him, but stood looking upon the floor. It
seemed a shame to make so good a man go all the way back to Timberley
and come again next day, just because that ragged, dirty Asaph was
sitting under the chestnut-tree.
The doctor moved toward the door, and as she followed him she
glanced once more through the crack in the window-blind, and, to her
intense delight, she saw Asaph jump up from the bench and run around to
the side of the house. He had heard the doctor's footsteps in the
hallway and had not wished to meet him. The unsatisfactory condition of
his outward appearance had been so strongly impressed upon him of late
that he had become a little sensitive in regard to it when strangers
were concerned. But if he had only known that his exceedingly
unattractive garments had prevented his sister from making a compact
which would have totally ruined his plans in regard to her matrimonial
disposition and his own advantage, he would have felt for those old
clothes the respect and gratitude with which a Roman soldier regarded
the shield and sword which had won him a battle.
Down the middle of the garden, at the back of the house, there ran a
path, and along this path Asaph walked meditatively, with his hands in
his trousers pockets. It was a discouraging place for him to walk, for
the beds on each side of him were full of weeds, which he had intended
to pull out as soon as he should find time for the work, but which had
now grown so tall and strong that they could not be rooted up without
injuring the plants, which were the legitimate occupants of the garden.
Asaph did not know it, but at this moment there was not one person
in the whole world who thought kindly of him. His sister was so
mortified by him that she was in tears in the house. His crony, Thomas,
had gone away almost angry with him, and even Betsey, whom he had
falsely accused of rickets, and who had often shown a pity for him
simply because he looked so forlorn, had steeled her heart against him
that morning when she found he had gone away without providing her with
any fuel for the kitchen fire.
But he had not made a dozen turns up and down the path before he
became aware of the feeling of Marietta. She looked out of the back
door and then walked rapidly toward him. Asaph, said she, I hope you
are considering what I said to you yesterday, for I mean to stick to my
word. If you don't choose to accept my offer, I want you to go back to
Drummondville early to-morrow morning. And I don't feel in the least as
if I were turning you out of the house, for I have given you a chance
to stay here, and have only asked you to act like a decent Christian. I
will not have you here disgracing my home. When Doctor Wicker came
to-day, and I looked out and saw you with that miserable little coat
with the sleeves half-way up to the elbows and great holes in it which
you will not let anybody patch because you are too proud to wear
patches, and those wretched faded trousers, out at the knees, and which
have been turned up and hemmed at the bottom so often that they are six
inches above your shoes, and your whole scarecrow appearance, I was so
ashamed of you that I could not keep the tears out of my eyes. To tell
a respectable gentleman like Doctor Wicker that you were my brother was
more than I could bear; and I was glad when I saw you get up and sneak
out of the way. I hate to talk to you in this way, Asaph, but you have
brought it on yourself.
Her brother looked at her a moment. Do you want me to go away
before breakfast? he said.
No, answered Marietta, but immediately afterward. And in her
mind she resolved that breakfast should be very early the next morning.
If Asaph had any idea of yielding, he did not intend to show it
until the last moment, and so he changed the subject. What's the
matter with Betsey? said he. If she's out of health you'd better get
rid of her.
There's nothing the matter with Betsey, answered his sister.
Doctor Wicker came to see me.
Came to see you! exclaimed her brother. What in the world did he
do that for? You never told me that you were ailin'. Is it that sprain
in your ankle?
Nonsense, said Marietta. I had almost recovered from that sprain
when you came here. There's nothing the matter with my ankle; the
trouble is probably with my heart.
The moment she said this she regretted it, for Asaph had so good a
head, and could catch meanings so quickly.
I'm sorry to hear that, Marietta, said Asaph. That's a good deal
Yes, said she. And she turned and went back to the house.
Asaph continued to walk up and down the path. He had not done a
stroke of work that morning, but he did not think of that. His sister's
communication saddened him. He liked Marietta, and it grieved him to
hear that she had anything the matter with her heart. He knew that that
often happened to people who looked perfectly well, and there was no
reason why he should have suspected any disorder in her. Of course, in
this case, there was good reason for her sending for the very best
doctor to be had. It was all plain enough to him now.
But as he walked and walked and walked, and looked at the garden,
and looked at the little orchard, and looked at the house and the top
of the big chestnut-tree, which showed itself above the roof, a thought
came into his mind which had never been there beforehe was Marietta's
heir. It was a dreadful thing to think of his sister's possible early
departure from this world; but, after all, life is life, reality is
reality, and business is business. He was Marietta's only legal heir.
Of course he had known this before, but it had never seemed to be of
any importance. He was a good deal older than she was, and he had
always looked upon her as a marrying woman. When he made his
proposition to Mr. Rooper the thought of his own heirship never came
into his mind. In fact, if any one had offered him ten dollars for said
heirship, he would have asked fifteen, and would have afterward agreed
to split the difference and take twelve and a half.
But now everything had changed. If Marietta had anything the matter
with her heart there was no knowing when all that he saw might be his
own. No sooner had he walked and thought long enough for his mind to
fully appreciate the altered aspects of his future than he determined
to instantly thrust out Mr. Rooper from all connection with that
future. He would go and tell him so at once.
To the dismay of Betsey, who had been watching him, expecting that
he would soon stop walking about and go and saw some wood with which to
cook the dinner, he went out of the front gate and strode rapidly into
the village. He had some trouble in finding Mr. Rooper, who had gone
off to take a walk and arrange a conversation with which to begin his
courtship of Mrs. Himes; but he overtook him under a tree by the side
of the creek. Thomas, said he, I have changed my mind about that
business between us. You have been very hard on me, and I'm not goin'
to stand it. I can get the clothes and things I need without makin'
myself your slave and workin' myself to death, and, perhaps, settin' my
sister agin me for life by tryin' to make her believe that black's
white, that you are the kind of husband she ought to have, and that you
hate pipes and never touch spirits. It would be a mean thing for me to
do, and I won't do it. I did think you were a generous-minded man, with
the right sort of feeling for them as wanted to be your friends; but I
have found out that I was mistook, and I'm not goin' to sacrifice my
sister to any such person. Now that's my state of mind plain and
Thomas Rooper shrunk two inches in height. Asaph Scantle, he said,
in a voice which seemed also to have shrunk, I don't understand you. I
wasn't hard on you. I only wanted to make a fair bargain. If I'd got
her, I'd paid up cash on delivery. You couldn't expect a man to do more
than that. But I tell you, Asaph, that I am mighty serious about this.
The more I have thought about your sister the more I want her. And when
I tell you that I've been a-thinkin' about her pretty much all night,
you may know that I want her a good deal. And I was intendin' to go
to-morrow and begin to court her.
Well, you needn't, said Asaph. It won't do no good. If you don't
have me to back you up you might as well try to twist that tree as to
move her. You can't do it.
But you don't mean to go agin me, do you, Asaph? asked Thomas,
'Tain't necessary, replied the other. You will go agin yourself.
For a few moments Mr. Rooper remained silent. He was greatly
discouraged and dismayed by what had been said to him, but he could not
yet give up what had become the great object of his life. Asaph, said
he, presently, it cuts me to the in'ards to think that you have gone
back on me; but I tell you what I'll do: if you will promise not to say
anything agin me to Mrs. Himes, and not to set yourself in any way
between me and her, I'll go along with you to the store now, and you
can git that suit of clothes and the umbrella, and I'll tell 'em to
order the dictionary and hand it over to you as soon as it comes. I'd
like you to help me, but if you will only promise to stand out of the
way and not hinder, I'll do the fair thing by you and pay in advance.
Humph! said Asaph. I do believe you think you are the only man
that wants Marietta.
A pang passed through the heart of Mr. Rooper. He had been thinking
a great deal of Mrs. Himes and everything connected with her, and he
had even thought of that visit of Doctor Wicker's. That gentleman was a
widower and a well-to-do and well-appearing man; and it would have been
a long way for him to come just for some trifling rickets in a
servant-girl. Being really in love, his imagination was in a very
capering mood, and he began to fear that the doctor had come to court
Mrs. Himes. Asaph, he said, quickly, that's a good offer I make you.
If you take it, in less than an hour you can walk home looking like a
Asaph had taken his reed pipe from his coat pocket and was filling
it. As he pushed the coarse tobacco into the bowl, he considered.
Thomas, said he, that ain't enough. Things have changed, and it
wouldn't pay me. But I won't be hard on you. I'm a good friend of
yourn, and I'll tell you what I'll do. If you will give me now all the
things we spoke of between usand I forgot to mention a cane and
pocket-handkerchiefsand give me, besides, that meerschaum pipe of
yourn, I'll promise not to hinder you, but let you go ahead and git
Marietta if you kin. I must say it's a good deal for me to do, knowin'
how much you'll git and how little you'll give, and knowin', too, the
other chances she's got if she wanted 'em; but I'll do it for the sake
My meerschaum pipe! groaned Mr. Rooper. My Centennial Exhibition
pipe! His tones were so plaintive that for a moment Asaph felt a
little touch of remorse. But then he reflected that if Thomas really
did get Marietta the pipe would be of no use to him, for she would not
allow him to smoke it. And, besides, realities were realities and
business was business. That pipe may be very dear to you, he said,
Thomas, but I want you to remember that Marietta's very dear to me.
This touched Mr. Rooper, whose heart was sensitive as it had never
been before. Come along, Asaph, he said. You shall have everything,
meerschaum pipe included. If anybody but me is goin' to smoke that
pipe, I'd like it to be my brother-in-law. Thus, with amber-tipped
guile, Mr. Rooper hoped to win over his friend to not only not hinder,
but to help him.
As the two men walked away, Asaph thought that he was not acting an
unfraternal part toward Marietta, for it would not be necessary for him
to say or do anything to induce her to refuse so unsuitable a suitor as
About fifteen minutes before dinnerwhich had been cooked with bits
of wood which Betsey had picked up here and therewas ready, Asaph
walked into the front yard of his sister's house attired in a complete
suit of new clothes, thick and substantial in texture, pepper-and-salt
in color, and as long in the legs and arms as the most fastidious could
desire. He had on a new shirt and a clean collar, with a handsome black
silk cravat tied in a great bow; and a new felt hat was on his head. On
his left arm he carried an overcoat, carefully folded, with the lining
outside, and in his right hand an umbrella and a cane. In his pockets
were half a dozen new handkerchiefs and the case containing Mr.
Rooper's Centennial meerschaum.
Marietta, who was in the hallway when he opened the front door,
scarcely knew him as he approached.
Asaph! she exclaimed. What has happened to you? Why, you actually
look like a gentleman!
Asaph grinned. Do you want me to go to Drummondville right after
breakfast to-morrow? he asked.
My dear brother, said Marietta, don't crush me by talking about
that. But if you could have seen yourself as I saw you, and could have
felt as I felt, you would not wonder at me. You must forget all that. I
should be proud now to introduce you as my brother to any doctor or
king or president. But tell me how you got those beautiful clothes.
Asaph was sometimes beset by an absurd regard for truth, which much
annoyed him. He could not say that he had worked for the clothes, and
he did not wish his sister to think that he had run in debt for them.
They're paid for, every thread of 'em, he said. I got 'em in trade.
These things is mine, and I don't owe no man a cent for 'em; and it
seems to me that dinner must be ready.
And proud I am, said Marietta, who never before had shown such
enthusiastic affection for her brother, to sit down to the table with
such a nice-looking fellow as you are.
The next morning Mr. Rooper came into Mrs. Himes's yard, and there
beheld Asaph, in all the glory of his new clothes, sitting under the
chestnut-tree smoking the Centennial meerschaum pipe. Mr. Rooper
himself was dressed in his very best clothes, but he carried with him
Sit down, said Asaph, and have a smoke.
No, replied the other; I am goin' in the house. I have come to
see your sister.
Goin' to begin already? said Asaph.
Yes, said the other; I told you I was goin' to begin to-day.
Very good, said his friend, crossing his pepper-and-salt legs;
and you will finish the 17th of August. That's a good, reasonable
But Mr. Rooper had no intention of courting Mrs. Himes for a month.
He intended to propose to her that very morning. He had been turning
over the matter in his mind, and for several reasons had come to this
conclusion. In the first place, he did not believe that he could trust
Asaph, even for a single day, not to oppose him. Furthermore, his mind
was in such a turmoil from the combined effect of the constantly
present thought that Asaph was wearing his clothes, his hat, and his
shoes, and smoking his beloved pipe, and of the perplexities and
agitations consequent upon his sentiments toward Mrs. Himes, that he
did not believe he could bear the mental strain during another night.
Five minutes later Marietta Himes was sitting on the horsehair sofa
in the parlor, with Mr. Rooper on the horsehair chair opposite to her,
and not very far away, and he was delivering the address which he had
Madam, said he, I am a man that takes things in this world as
they comes, and is content to wait until the time comes for them to
come. I was well acquainted with John Himes. I knowed him in life, and
I helped lay him out. As long as there was reason to suppose that the
late Mr. HimesI mean that the grass over the grave of Mr. Himes had
remained unwithered, I am not the man to take one step in the direction
of his shoes, nor even to consider the size of 'em in connection with
the measure of my own feet. But time will pass on in nater as well as
in real life; and while I know very well, Mrs. Himes, that certain
feelin's toward them that was is like the leaves of the oak-tree and
can't be blowed off even by the fiercest tempests of affliction, still
them leaves will wither in the fall and turn brown and curl up at the
edges, though they don't depart, but stick on tight as wax all winter
until in the springtime they is pushed off gently without knowin' it by
the green leaves which come out in real life as well as nater.
When he had finished this opening Mr. Rooper breathed a little sigh
of relief. He had not forgotten any of it, and it pleased him.
Marietta sat and looked at him. She had a good sense of humor, and,
while she was naturally surprised at what had been said to her, she was
greatly amused by it, and really wished to hear what else Thomas Rooper
had to say to her.
Now, madam, he continued, I am not the man to thrash a tree with
a pole to knock the leaves off before their time. But when the young
leaves is pushin' and the old leaves is droppin' (not to make any
allusion, of course, to any shrivellin' of proper respect), then I come
forward, madam, not to take the place of anybody else, but jest as the
nateral consequence of the seasons, which everybody ought to expect;
even such as you, madam, which I may liken to a hemlock-spruce which
keeps straight on in the same general line of appearance without no
reference to the fall of the year, nor winter nor summer. And so, Mrs.
Himes, I come here to-day to offer to lead you agin to the altar. I
have never been there myself, and there ain't no woman in the world
that I'd go with but you. I'm a straightforward person, and when I've
got a thing to say I say it, and now I have said it. And so I set here
awaitin' your answer.
At this moment the shutters of the front window, which had been
closed, were opened, and Asaph put in his head. Look here, Thomas
Rooper, he said, these shoes is pegged. I didn't bargain for no
pegged shoes; I wanted 'em sewed; everything was to be first-class.
Mr. Rooper, who had been leaning forward in his chair, his hands
upon his knees, and his face glistening with his expressed feelings as
brightly as the old-fashioned but shining silk hat which stood on the
floor by his side, turned his head, grew red to the ears, and then
sprang to his feet. Asaph Scantle, he cried, with extended fist, you
have broke your word; you hindered.
No, I didn't, said Asaph, sulkily; but pegged shoes is too much
for any man to stand. And he withdrew from the window, closing the
What does this mean? asked Mrs. Himes, who had also risen.
It means, said Thomas, speaking with difficulty, his indignation
was so great, that your brother is a person of tricks and meanders
beyond the reach of common human calculation. I don't like to say this
of a man who is more or less likely to be my brother-in-law, but I
can't help sayin' it, so entirely upset am I at his goin' back on me at
such a minute.
Going back on you? asked Mrs. Himes. What do you mean? What has
Thomas hesitated. He did not wish to interrupt his courtship by the
discussion of any new question, especially this question. If we could
settle what we have been talkin' about, Mrs. Himes, he said, and if
you would give me my answer, then I could git my mind down to commoner
things. But swingin' on a hook as I am, I don't know whether my head or
my heels is uppermost, or what's revolvin' around me.
Oh, I can give you your answer quickly enough, she said. It is
impossible for me to marry you, so that's all settled.
Impossible is a big word, said Mr. Rooper. Has anybody else got
I am not bound to answer that question, said Marietta, slightly
coloring; but I cannot accept you, Mr. Rooper.
Then there's somebody else, of course, said Thomas, gazing darkly
upon the floor. And what's more, Asaph knew it; that's just as clear
as daylight. That's what made him come to me yesterday and go back on
his first bargain.
Now then, said Mrs. Himes, speaking very decidedly, I want to
know what you mean by this talk about bargains.
Mr. Rooper knit his brows. This is mighty different talk, he said,
from the kind I expected when I come here. But you have answered my
question, now I'll answer yours. Asaph Scantle, no longer ago than day
before yesterday, after hearin' that things wasn't goin' very well with
me, recommended me to marry you, and agreed that he would do his level
best, by day and by night, to help me git you, if I would give him a
suit of clothes, an umbrella, and a dictionary.
At this Mrs. Himes gave a little gasp and sat down.
Now, I hadn't no thoughts of tradin' for a wife, continued Thomas,
especially in woollen goods and books; but when I considered and
turned the matter over in my mind, and thought what a woman you was,
and what a life there was afore me if I got you, I agreed to do it.
Then he wanted pay aforehand, and that I wouldn't agree to, not because
I thought you wasn't wuth it, but because I couldn't trust him if
anybody offered him more before I got you. But that ain't the wust of
it; yesterday he come down to see me and went back on his bargain, and
that after I had spent the whole night thinkin' of you and what I was
goin' to say. And he put on such high-cockalorum airs that I, bein' as
soft as mush around the heart, jest wilted and agreed to give him
everything he bargained for if he would promise not to hinder. But he
wasn't satisfied with that and wouldn't come to no terms until I'd give
him my Centennial pipe, what's been like a child to me this many a
year. And when he saw how disgruntled I was at sich a loss, he said
that my pipe might be very dear to me, but his sister was jest as dear
to him. And then, on top of the whole thing, he pokes his head through
the shutters and hinders jest at the most ticklish moment.
A dictionary and a pipe! ejaculated poor Marietta, her eyes fixed
upon the floor.
But I'm goin' to make him give 'em all back, exclaimed Thomas.
They was the price of not hinderin', and he hindered.
He shall give them back, said Marietta, rising, but you must
understand, Mr. Rooper, that in no way did Asaph interfere with your
marrying me. That was a matter with which he did have and could have
nothing to do. And now I wish you could get away without speaking to
him. I do not want any quarrelling or high words here, and I will see
him and arrange the matter better than you can do it.
Oh, I can git away without speakin' to him, said Mr. Rooper, with
reddened face. And so saying, he strode out of the house, through the
front yard, and out of the gate, without turning his head toward Asaph,
still sitting under the tree.
Oh, ho! said the latter to himself; she's bounced him short and
sharp; and it serves him right, too, after playin' that trick on me.
Pegged shoes, indeed!
At this moment the word Asaph came from the house in tones
shriller and sharper and higher than any in which he had ever heard it
pronounced before. He sprang to his feet and went to the house. His
sister took him into the parlor and shut the door. Her eyes were red
and her face was pale. Asaph, said she, Mr. Rooper has told me the
whole of your infamous conduct. Now I know what you meant when you said
that you were making arrangements to get clothes. You were going to
sell me for them. And when you found out that I was likely to marry
Doctor Wicker, you put up your price and wanted a dictionary and a
No, Marietta, said Asaph, the dictionary belonged to the first
bargain. If you knew how I need a dictionary
Be still! she cried. I do not want you to say a word. You have
acted most shamefully toward me, and I want you to go away this very
day. And before you go you must give back to Mr. Rooper everything that
you got from him. I will fit you out with some of Mr. Himes's clothes
and make no conditions at all, only that you shall go away. Come
upstairs with me, and I will get the clothes.
The room in the garret was opened, and various garments which had
belonged to the late Mr. Himes were brought out.
This is pretty hard on me, Marietta, said Asaph, as he held up a
coat, to give up new all-wool goods for things what has been worn and
is part cotton, if I am a judge.
Marietta said very little. She gave him what clothes he needed, and
insisted on his putting them on, making a package of the things he had
received from Mr. Rooper, and returning them to that gentleman. Asaph
at first grumbled, but he finally obeyed with a willingness which might
have excited the suspicions of Marietta had she not been so angry.
With an enormous package wrapped in brown paper in one hand, and a
cane, an umbrella, and a very small hand-bag in the other, Asaph
approached the tavern. Mr. Rooper was sitting on the piazza alone. He
was smoking a very common-looking clay pipe and gazing intently into
the air in front of him. When his old crony came and stood before the
piazza he did not turn his head nor his eyes.
Thomas Rooper, said Asaph, you have got me into a very bad
scrape. I have been turned out of doors on account of what you said
about me. And where I am goin' I don't know, for I can't walk to
Drummondville. And what's more, I kept my word and you didn't. I didn't
hinder you; for how could I suppose that you was goin' to pop the
question the very minute you got inside the door? And that dictionary
you promised I've not got.
Thomas Rooper answered not a word, but looked steadily in front of
him. And there's another thing, said Asaph. What are you goin' to
allow me for that suit of clothes what I've been wearin', what I took
off in your room and left there?
At this Mr. Rooper sprang to his feet with such violence that the
fire danced out of the bowl of his pipe. What is the fare to
Drummondville? he cried.
Asaph reflected a moment. Three dollars and fifty cents, includin'
I'll give you that for them clothes, said the other, and counted
out the money.
Asaph took it and sighed. You've been hard on me, Thomas, said he,
but I bear you no grudge. Good-by.
As he walked slowly toward the station Mr. Scantle stopped at the
store. Has that dictionary come that was ordered for me? he said; and
when told that it could not be expected for several days he did not
despair, for it was possible that Thomas Rooper might be so angry that
he would forget to countermand the order; in that case he might yet
hope to obtain the coveted book.
The package containing the Rooper winter suit was heavy, and Asaph
walked slowly. He did not want to go to Drummondville, for he hated
bookkeeping, and his year of leisure and good living had spoiled him
for work and poor fare. In this moody state he was very glad to stop
and have a little chat with Mrs. McJimsey, who was sitting at her front
This good lady was the principal dressmaker of the village; and by
hard work and attention to business she made a very comfortable living.
She was a widow, small of stature, thin of feature, very neatly dressed
and pleasant to look at. Asaph entered the little front yard, put his
package on the door-step, and stood under the window to talk to her.
Dressed in the clothes of the late Mr. Himes, her visitor presented
such a respectable appearance that Mrs. McJimsey was not in the least
ashamed to have people see him standing there, which she would have
been a few days ago. Indeed, she felt complimented that he should want
to stop. The conversation soon turned upon her removal from her present
I'm awfully sorry to have to go, she said; for my time is up just
in the middle of my busy season, and that's goin' to throw me back
dreadfully. He hasn't done right by me, that Mr. Rooper, in lettin'
things go to rack and ruin in this way, and me payin' his rent so
That's true, said Asaph. Thomas Rooper is a hard mana hard man,
Mrs. McJimsey. I can see how he would be overbearin' with a lone woman
like you, neither your son nor your daughter bein' of age yet to take
Yes, Mr. Scantle, it's very hard.
Asaph stood for a moment looking at a little bed of zinnias by the
side of the door-step. What you want, Mrs. McJimsey, said he, is a
man in the house.
In an instant Mrs. McJimsey flushed pink. It was such a strange
thing for a gentleman to say to her.
Asaph saw the flush. He had not expected that result from his
remark, but he was quick to take advantage of it. Mrs. McJimsey, said
he, you are a widow, and you are imposed upon, and you need somebody
to take care of you. If you will put that job into my hands I will do
it. I am a man what works with his head, and if you will let me I'll
work for you. To put it square, I ask you to marry me. My sister's
goin' to be married, and I'm on the pint of goin' away; for I could not
abear to stay in her house when strangers come into it. But if you say
the word, I'll stay here and be yours for ever and ever more.
Mrs. McJimsey said not a word, but her head drooped and wild
thoughts ran through her brain. Thoughts not wild, but well trained and
broken, ran through Asaph's brain. The idea of going to Drummondville
and spending for the journey thither a dollar and seventy-five cents of
the money he had received from Mr. Rooper now became absolutely
repulsive to him.
Mrs. McJimsey, said he, I will say more. Not only do I ask you to
marry me, but I ask you to do it now. The evenin' sun is settin', the
evenin' birds is singin', and it seems to me, Mrs. McJimsey, that all
nater pints to this softenin' hour as a marryin' moment. You say your
son won't be home from his work until supper-time, and your daughter
has gone out for a walk. Come with me to Mr. Parker's, the Methodist
minister, and let us join hands at the altar there. The gardener and
his wife is always ready to stand up as witnesses. And when your son
and your daughter comes home to supper, they can find their mother here
afore 'em married and settled.
But, Mr. Scantle, exclaimed Mrs. McJimsey, it's so suddint. What
will the neighbors say?
As for bein' suddint, Mrs. McJimsey, I've knowed you for nearly a
year, and now, bein' on the way to leave what's been my happy home, I
couldn't keep the truth from you no longer. And as for the neighbors,
they needn't know that we hain't been engaged for months.
It's so queer, so very queer, said the little dressmaker. And her
face flushed again, and there were tears, not at all sorrowful ones, in
her eyes; and her somewhat needle-pricked left hand accidentally laid
itself upon the window-sill in easy reach of any one outside.
The next morning Mr. Rooper, being of a practical way of thinking,
turned his thoughts from love and resentment to the subject of his
income. And he soon became convinced that it would be better to keep
the McJimseys in his house, if it could be done without too great an
outlay for repairs. So he walked over to his property. When he reached
the house he was almost stupefied to see Asaph in a chair in the front
yard, dressed in the new suit of clothes which he, Thomas Rooper, had
paid for, and smoking the Centennial pipe.
Good-morning, Mr. Rooper, said Asaph, in a loud and cheery voice.
I suppose you've come to talk to Mrs. McJimsey about the work you've
got to do here to make this house fit to live in. But there ain't no
Mrs. McJimsey. She's Mrs. Scantle now, and I'm your tenant. You can
talk to me.
Doctor Wicker came to see Mrs. Himes in the afternoon of the day he
had promised to come, and early in the autumn they were married. Since
Asaph Scantle had married and settled he had not seen his sister nor
spoken to her; but he determined that on so joyful an occasion as this
he would show no resentment. So he attended the wedding in the village
church dressed in the suit of clothes which had belonged to the late
HIS WIFE'S DECEASED SISTER
It is now five years since an event occurred which so colored my
life, or rather so changed some of its original colors, that I have
thought it well to write an account of it, deeming that its lessons may
be of advantage to persons whose situations in life are similar to my
When I was quite a young man I adopted literature as a profession;
and having passed through the necessary preparatory grades, I found
myself, after a good many years of hard and often unremunerative work,
in possession of what might be called a fair literary practice. My
articles, grave, gay, practical, or fanciful, had come to be considered
with a favor by the editors of the various periodicals for which I
wrote, on which I found in time I could rely with a very comfortable
certainty. My productions created no enthusiasm in the reading public;
they gave me no great reputation or very valuable pecuniary return; but
they were always accepted, and my receipts from them, at the time to
which I have referred, were as regular and reliable as a salary, and
quite sufficient to give me more than a comfortable support.
It was at this time I married. I had been engaged for more than a
year, but had not been willing to assume the support of a wife until I
felt that my pecuniary position was so assured that I could do so with
full satisfaction to my own conscience. There was now no doubt in
regard to this position, either in my mind or in that of my wife. I
worked with great steadiness and regularity; I knew exactly where to
place the productions of my pen, and could calculate, with a fair
degree of accuracy, the sums I should receive for them. We were by no
means rich; but we had enough, and were thoroughly satisfied and
Those of my readers who are married will have no difficulty in
remembering the peculiar ecstasy of the first weeks of their wedded
life. It is then that the flowers of this world bloom brightest; that
its sun is the most genial; that its clouds are the scarcest; that its
fruit is the most delicious; that the air is the most balmy; that its
cigars are of the highest flavor; that the warmth and radiance of early
matrimonial felicity so rarefies the intellectual atmosphere that the
soul mounts higher, and enjoys a wider prospect, than ever before.
These experiences were mine. The plain claret of my mind was changed
to sparkling champagne, and at the very height of its effervescence I
wrote a story. The happy thought that then struck me for a tale was of
a very peculiar character; and it interested me so much that I went to
work at it with great delight and enthusiasm, and finished it in a
comparatively short time. The title of the story was His Wife's
Deceased Sister; and when I read it to Hypatia she was delighted with
it, and at times was so affected by its pathos that her uncontrollable
emotion caused a sympathetic dimness in my eyes, which prevented my
seeing the words I had written. When the reading was ended, and my wife
had dried her eyes, she turned to me and said, This story will make
your fortune. There has been nothing so pathetic since Lamartine's
'History of a Servant-girl.'
As soon as possible the next day I sent my story to the editor of
the periodical for which I wrote most frequently, and in which my best
productions generally appeared. In a few days I had a letter from the
editor, in which he praised my story as he had never before praised
anything from my pen. It had interested and charmed, he said, not only
himself, but all his associates in the office. Even old Gibson, who
never cared to read anything until it was in proof, and who never
praised anything which had not a joke in it, was induced by the example
of the others to read this manuscript, and shed, as he asserted, the
first tears that had come from his eyes since his final paternal
castigation some forty years before. The story would appear, the editor
assured me, as soon as he could possibly find room for it.
If anything could make our skies more genial, our flowers brighter,
and the flavor of our fruit and cigars more delicious, it was a letter
like this. And when, in a very short time, the story was published, we
found that the reading public was inclined to receive it with as much
sympathetic interest and favor as had been shown to it by the editors.
My personal friends soon began to express enthusiastic opinions upon
it. It was highly praised in many of the leading newspapers; and,
altogether, it was a great literary success. I am not inclined to be
vain of my writings, and, in general, my wife tells me, think too
little of them; but I did feel a good deal of pride and satisfaction in
the success of His Wife's Deceased Sister. If it did not make my
fortune, as my wife asserted that it would, it certainly would help me
very much in my literary career.
In less than a month from the writing of this story, something very
unusual and unexpected happened to me. A manuscript was returned by the
editor of the periodical in which His Wife's Deceased Sister had
appeared. It is a good story, he wrote, but not equal to what you
have just done. You have made a great hit; and it would not do to
interfere with the reputation you have gained by publishing anything
inferior to 'His Wife's Deceased Sister,' which has had such a deserved
I was so unaccustomed to having my work thrown back on my hands that
I think I must have turned a little pale when I read the letter. I said
nothing of the matter to my wife, for it would be foolish to drop such
grains of sand as this into the smoothly oiled machinery of our
domestic felicity; but I immediately sent the story to another editor.
I am not able to express the astonishment I felt when, in the course of
a week, it was sent back to me. The tone of the note accompanying it
indicated a somewhat injured feeling on the part of the editor. I am
reluctant, he said, to decline a manuscript from you; but you know
very well that if you sent me anything like 'His Wife's Deceased
Sister' it would be most promptly accepted.
I now felt obliged to speak of the affair to my wife, who was quite
as much surprised, though, perhaps, not quite as much shocked, as I had
Let us read the story again, she said, and see what is the matter
with it. When we had finished its perusal, Hypatia remarked, It is
quite as good as many of the stories you have had printed, and I think
it very interesting; although, of course, it is not equal to 'His
Wife's Deceased Sister.'
Of course not, said I; that was an inspiration that I cannot
expect every day. But there must be something wrong about this last
story which we do not perceive. Perhaps my recent success may have made
me a little careless in writing it.
I don't believe that, said Hypatia.
At any rate, I continued, I will lay it aside, and will go to
work on a new one.
In due course of time I had another manuscript finished, and I sent
it to my favorite periodical. It was retained some weeks, and then came
back to me. It will never do, the editor wrote, quite warmly, for
you to go backward. The demand for the number containing 'His Wife's
Deceased Sister' still continues, and we do not intend to let you
disappoint that great body of readers who would be so eager to see
another number containing one of your stories.
I sent this manuscript to four other periodicals, and from each of
them was it returned with remarks to the effect that, although it was
not a bad story in itself, it was not what they would expect from the
author of His Wife's Deceased Sister.
The editor of a Western magazine wrote to me for a story to be
published in a special number which he would issue for the holidays. I
wrote him one of the character and length he asked for, and sent it to
him. By return mail it came back to me. I had hoped, the editor
wrote, when I asked for a story from your pen, to receive something
like 'His Wife's Deceased Sister,' and I must own that I am very much
I was so filled with anger when I read this note that I openly
objurgated His Wife's Deceased Sister. You must excuse me, I said
to my astonished wife, for expressing myself thus in your presence;
but that confounded story will be the ruin of me yet. Until it is
forgotten nobody will ever take anything I write.
And you cannot expect it ever to be forgotten, said Hypatia, with
tears in her eyes.
It is needless for me to detail my literary efforts in the course of
the next few months. The ideas of the editors with whom my principal
business had been done, in regard to my literary ability, had been so
raised by my unfortunate story of His Wife's Deceased Sister that I
found it was of no use to send them anything of lesser merit. And as to
the other journals which I tried, they evidently considered it an
insult for me to send them matter inferior to that by which my
reputation had lately risen. The fact was that my successful story had
ruined me. My income was at end, and want actually stared me in the
face; and I must admit that I did not like the expression of its
countenance. It was of no use for me to try to write another story like
His Wife's Deceased Sister. I could not get married every time I
began a new manuscript, and it was the exaltation of mind caused by my
wedded felicity which produced that story.
It's perfectly dreadful! said my wife. If I had had a sister, and
she had died, I would have thought it was my fault.
It could not be your fault, I answered, and I do not think it was
mine. I had no intention of deceiving anybody into the belief that I
could do that sort of thing every time, and it ought not to be expected
of me. Suppose Raphael's patrons had tried to keep him screwed up to
the pitch of the Sistine Madonna, and had refused to buy anything which
was not as good as that. In that case I think he would have occupied a
much earlier and narrower grave than that on which Mr. Morris Moore
hangs his funeral decorations.
But, my dear, said Hypatia, who was posted on such subjects, the
Sistine Madonna was one of his latest paintings.
Very true, said I; but if he had married, as I did, he would have
painted it earlier.
I was walking homeward one afternoon about this time, when I met
Barbela man I had known well in my early literary career. He was now
about fifty years of age, but looked older. His hair and beard were
quite gray; and his clothes, which were of the same general hue, gave
me the idea that they, like his hair, had originally been black. Age is
very hard on a man's external appointments. Barbel had an air of having
been to let for a long time, and quite out of repair. But there was a
kindly gleam in his eye, and he welcomed me cordially.
Why, what is the matter, old fellow? said he. I never saw you
look so woebegone.
I had no reason to conceal anything from Barbel. In my younger days
he had been of great use to me, and he had a right to know the state of
my affairs. I laid the whole case plainly before him.
Look here, he said, when I had finished, come with me to my room:
I have something I would like to say to you there.
I followed Barbel to his room. It was at the top of a very dirty and
well-worn house which stood in a narrow and lumpy street, into which
few vehicles ever penetrated, except the ash and garbage carts, and the
rickety wagons of the venders of stale vegetables.
This is not exactly a fashionable promenade, said Barbel, as we
approached the house; but in some respects it reminds me of the
streets in Italian towns, where the palaces lean over toward each other
in such a friendly way.
Barbel's room was, to my mind, rather more doleful than the street.
It was dark, it was dusty, and cobwebs hung from every corner. The few
chairs upon the floor and the books upon a greasy table seemed to be
afflicted with some dorsal epidemic, for their backs were either gone
or broken. A little bedstead in the corner was covered with a spread
made of New York Heralds, with their edges pasted together.
There is nothing better, said Barbel, noticing my glance toward
this novel counterpane, for a bed-covering than newspapers: they keep
you as warm as a blanket, and are much lighter. I used to use
Tribunes, but they rattled too much.
The only part of the room which was well lighted was at one end near
the solitary window. Here, upon a table with a spliced leg, stood a
At the other end of the room, said Barbel, is my cook-stove,
which you can't see unless I light the candle in the bottle which
stands by it; but if you don't care particularly to examine it, I won't
go to the expense of lighting up. You might pick up a good many odd
pieces of bric-à-brac around here, if you chose to strike a match and
investigate; but I would not advise you to do so. It would pay better
to throw the things out of the window than to carry them downstairs.
The particular piece of indoor decoration to which I wish to call your
attention is this. And he led me to a little wooden frame which hung
against the wall near the window. Behind a dusty piece of glass it held
what appeared to be a leaf from a small magazine or journal. There,
said he, you see a page from the Grasshopper, a humorous paper
which flourished in this city some half-dozen years ago. I used to
write regularly for that paper, as you may remember.
Oh yes, indeed! I exclaimed. And I shall never forget your
'Conundrum of the Anvil' which appeared in it. How often have I laughed
at that most wonderful conceit, and how often have I put it to my
Barbel gazed at me silently for a moment, and then he pointed to the
frame. That printed page, he said, solemnly, contains the 'Conundrum
of the Anvil.' I hang it there so that I can see it while I work. That
conundrum ruined me. It was the last thing I wrote for the
Grasshopper. How I ever came to imagine it I cannot tell. It is one
of those things which occur to a man but once in a lifetime. After the
wild shout of delight with which the public greeted that conundrum, my
subsequent efforts met with hoots of derision. The Grasshopper
turned its hind legs upon me. I sank from bad to worsemuch
worseuntil at last I found myself reduced to my present occupation,
which is that of grinding points to pins. By this I procure my bread,
coffee, and tobacco, and sometimes potatoes and meat. One day while I
was hard at work an organ-grinder came into the street below. He played
the serenade from Trovatore; and the familiar notes brought back
visions of old days and old delights, when the successful writer wore
good clothes and sat at operas, when he looked into sweet eyes and
talked of Italian airs, when his future appeared all a succession of
bright scenery and joyous acts, without any provision for a
drop-curtain. And as my ear listened, and my mind wandered in this
happy retrospect, my every faculty seemed exalted, and, without any
thought upon the matter, I ground points upon my pins so fine, so
regular and smooth, that they would have pierced with ease the leather
of a boot, or slipped among, without abrasion, the finest threads of
rare old lace. When the organ stopped, and I fell back into my real
world of cobwebs and mustiness, I gazed upon the pins I had just
ground, and, without a moment's hesitation, I threw them into the
street, and reported the lot as spoiled. This cost me a little money,
but it saved me my livelihood.
After a few moments of silence, Barbel resumed:
I have no more to say to you, my young friend. All I want you to do
is to look upon that framed conundrum, then upon this grindstone, and
then to go home and reflect. As for me, I have a gross of pins to grind
before the sun goes down.
I cannot say that my depression of mind was at all relieved by what
I had seen and heard. I had lost sight of Barbel for some years, and I
had supposed him still floating on the sun-sparkling stream of
prosperity where I had last seen him. It was a great shock to me to
find him in such a condition of poverty and squalor, and to see a man
who had originated the Conundrum of the Anvil reduced to the
soul-depressing occupation of grinding pin-points. As I walked and
thought, the dreadful picture of a totally eclipsed future arose before
my mind. The moral of Barbel sank deep into my heart.
When I reached home I told my wife the story of my friend Barbel.
She listened with a sad and eager interest.
I am afraid, she said, if our fortunes do not quickly mend, that
we shall have to buy two little grindstones. You know I could help you
at that sort of thing.
For a long time we sat together and talked, and devised many plans
for the future. I did not think it necessary yet for me to look out for
a pin-contract; but I must find some way of making money, or we should
starve to death. Of course the first thing that suggested itself was
the possibility of finding some other business; but, apart from the
difficulty of immediately obtaining remunerative work in occupations to
which I had not been trained, I felt a great and natural reluctance to
give up a profession for which I had carefully prepared myself, and
which I had adopted as my life-work. It would be very hard for me to
lay down my pen forever, and to close the top of my inkstand upon all
the bright and happy fancies which I had seen mirrored in its tranquil
pool. We talked and pondered the rest of that day and a good deal of
the night, but we came to no conclusion as to what it would be best for
us to do.
The next day I determined to go and call upon the editor of the
journal for which, in happier days, before the blight of His Wife's
Deceased Sister rested upon me, I used most frequently to write, and,
having frankly explained my condition to him, to ask his advice. The
editor was a good man, and had always been my friend. He listened with
great attention to what I told him, and evidently sympathized with me
in my trouble.
As we have written to you, he said, the only reason why we did
not accept the manuscripts you sent us was that they would have
disappointed the high hopes that the public had formed in regard to
you. We have had letter after letter asking when we were going to
publish another story like 'His Wife's Deceased Sister.' We felt, and
we still feel, that it would be wrong to allow you to destroy the fair
fabric which yourself has raised. But, he added, with a kind smile, I
see very plainly that your well-deserved reputation will be of little
advantage to you if you should starve at the moment that its genial
beams are, so to speak, lighting you up.
Its beams are not genial, I answered. They have scorched and
How would you like, said the editor, after a short reflection, to
allow us to publish the stories you have recently written under some
other name than your own? That would satisfy us and the public, would
put money in your pocket, and would not interfere with your
Joyfully I seized that noble fellow by the hand, and instantly
accepted his proposition. Of course, said I, a reputation is a very
good thing; but no reputation can take the place of food, clothes, and
a house to live in; and I gladly agree to sink my over-illumined name
into oblivion, and to appear before the public as a new and unknown
I hope that need not be for long, he said, for I feel sure that
you will yet write stories as good as 'His Wife's Deceased Sister.'
All the manuscripts I had on hand I now sent to my good friend the
editor, and in due and proper order they appeared in his journal under
the name of John Darmstadt, which I had selected as a substitute for my
own, permanently disabled. I made a similar arrangement with other
editors, and John Darmstadt received the credit of everything that
proceeded from my pen. Our circumstances now became very comfortable,
and occasionally we even allowed ourselves to indulge in little dreams
Time passed on very pleasantly; one year, another, and then a little
son was born to us. It is often difficult, I believe, for thoughtful
persons to decide whether the beginning of their conjugal career, or
the earliest weeks in the life of their first-born, be the happiest and
proudest period of their existence. For myself I can only say that the
same exaltation of mind, the same rarefication of idea and invention,
which succeeded upon my wedding-day came upon me now. As then, my
ecstatic emotions crystallized themselves into a motive for a story,
and without delay I set myself to work upon it. My boy was about six
weeks old when the manuscript was finished; and one evening, as we sat
before a comfortable fire in our sitting-room, with the curtains drawn,
and the soft lamp lighted, and the baby sleeping soundly in the
adjoining chamber, I read the story to my wife.
When I had finished, my wife arose and threw herself into my arms.
I was never so proud of you, she said, her glad eyes sparkling, as I
am at this moment. That is a wonderful story! It isindeed I am sure
it isjust as good as 'His Wife's Deceased Sister.'
As she spoke these words a sudden and chilling sensation crept over
us both. All her warmth and fervor, and the proud and happy glow
engendered within me by this praise and appreciation from one I loved,
vanished in an instant. We stepped apart, and gazed upon each other
with pallid faces. In the same moment the terrible truth had flashed
upon us both.
This story was as good as His Wife's Deceased Sister!
We stood silent. The exceptional lot of Barbel's superpointed pins
seemed to pierce our very souls. A dreadful vision rose before me of an
impending fall and crash, in which our domestic happiness should
vanish, and our prospects for our boy be wrecked, just as we had begun
to build them up.
My wife approached me and took my hand in hers, which was as cold as
ice. Be strong and firm, she said. A great danger threatens us, but
you must brace yourself against it. Be strong and firm.
I pressed her hand, and we said no more that night.
The next day I took the manuscript I had just written, and carefully
infolded it in stout wrapping-paper. Then I went to a neighboring
grocery-store and bought a small, strong tin box, originally intended
for biscuit, with a cover that fitted tightly. In this I placed my
manuscript; and then I took the box to a tinsmith and had the top
fastened on with hard solder. When I went home I ascended into the
garret, and brought down to my study a ship's cash-box, which had once
belonged to one of my family who was a sea-captain. This box was very
heavy, and firmly bound with iron, and was secured by two massive
locks. Calling my wife, I told her of the contents of the tin case,
which I then placed in the box, and, having shut down the heavy lid, I
doubly locked it.
This key, said I, putting it in my pocket, I shall throw into the
river when I go out this afternoon.
My wife watched me eagerly, with a pallid and firm, set countenance,
but upon which I could see the faint glimmer of returning happiness.
Wouldn't it be well, she said, to secure it still further by
sealing-wax and pieces of tape?
No, said I. I do not believe that any one will attempt to tamper
with our prosperity. And now, my dear, I continued, in an impressive
voice, no one but you, and, in the course of time, our son, shall know
that this manuscript exists. When I am dead, those who survive me may,
if they see fit, cause this box to be split open and the story
published. The reputation it may give my name cannot harm me then.
THE LADY, OR THE TIGER?
In the very olden time there lived a semi-barbaric king, whose
ideas, though somewhat polished and sharpened by the progressiveness of
distant Latin neighbors, were still large, florid, and untrammelled, as
became the half of him which was barbaric. He was a man of exuberant
fancy, and, withal, of an authority so irresistible that, at his will,
he turned his varied fancies into facts. He was greatly given to
self-communing; and when he and himself agreed upon anything, the thing
was done. When every member of his domestic and political systems moved
smoothly in its appointed course, his nature was bland and genial; but
whenever there was a little hitch, and some of his orbs got out of
their orbits, he was blander and more genial still, for nothing pleased
him so much as to make the crooked straight, and crush down uneven
Among the borrowed notions by which his barbarism had become
semified was that of the public arena, in which, by exhibitions of
manly and beastly valor, the minds of his subjects were refined and
But even here the exuberant and barbaric fancy asserted itself. The
arena of the king was built not to give the people an opportunity of
hearing the rhapsodies of dying gladiators, nor to enable them to view
the inevitable conclusion of a conflict between religious opinions and
hungry jaws, but for purposes far better adapted to widen and develop
the mental energies of the people. This vast amphitheatre, with its
encircling galleries, its mysterious vaults, and its unseen passages,
was an agent of poetic justice, in which crime was punished, or virtue
rewarded, by the decrees of an impartial and incorruptible chance.
When a subject was accused of a crime of sufficient importance to
interest the king, public notice was given that on an appointed day the
fate of the accused person would be decided in the king's arenaa
structure which well deserved its name; for, although its form and plan
were borrowed from afar, its purpose emanated solely from the brain of
this man, who, every barleycorn a king, knew no tradition to which he
owed more allegiance than pleased his fancy, and who ingrafted on every
adopted form of human thought and action the rich growth of his
When all the people had assembled in the galleries, and the king,
surrounded by his court, sat high up on his throne of royal state on
one side of the arena, he gave a signal, a door beneath him opened, and
the accused subject stepped out into the amphitheatre. Directly
opposite him, on the other side of the enclosed space, were two doors,
exactly alike and side by side. It was the duty and the privilege of
the person on trial to walk directly to these doors and open one of
them. He could open either door he pleased: he was subject to no
guidance or influence but that of the afore-mentioned impartial and
incorruptible chance. If he opened the one, there came out of it a
hungry tiger, the fiercest and most cruel that could be procured, which
immediately sprang upon him and tore him to pieces, as a punishment for
his guilt. The moment that the case of the criminal was thus decided,
doleful iron bells were clanged, great wails went up from the hired
mourners posted on the outer rim of the arena, and the vast audience,
with bowed heads and downcast hearts, wended slowly their homeward way,
mourning greatly that one so young and fair, or so old and respected,
should have merited so dire a fate.
But if the accused person opened the other door, there came forth
from it a lady, the most suitable to his years and station that his
Majesty could select among his fair subjects; and to this lady he was
immediately married, as a reward of his innocence. It mattered not that
he might already possess a wife and family, or that his affections
might be engaged upon an object of his own selection: the king allowed
no such subordinate arrangements to interfere with his great scheme of
retribution and reward. The exercises, as in the other instance, took
place immediately, and in the arena. Another door opened beneath the
king, and a priest, followed by a band of choristers, and dancing
maidens blowing joyous airs on golden horns and treading an epithalamic
measure, advanced to where the pair stood side by side; and the wedding
was promptly and cheerily solemnized. Then the gay brass bells rang
forth their merry peals, the people shouted glad hurrahs, and the
innocent man, preceded by children strewing flowers on his path, led
his bride to his home.
This was the king's semibarbaric method of administering justice.
Its perfect fairness is obvious. The criminal could not know out of
which door would come the lady: he opened either he pleased, without
having the slightest idea whether, in the next instant, he was to be
devoured or married. On some occasions the tiger came out of one door,
and on some out of the other. The decisions of this tribunal were not
only fair, they were positively determinate: the accused person was
instantly punished if he found himself guilty; and if innocent, he was
rewarded on the spot, whether he liked it or not. There was no escape
from the judgments of the king's arena.
The institution was a very popular one. When the people gathered
together on one of the great trial-days, they never knew whether they
were to witness a bloody slaughter or a hilarious wedding. This element
of uncertainty lent an interest to the occasion which it could not
otherwise have attained. Thus the masses were entertained and pleased,
and the thinking part of the community could bring no charge of
unfairness against this plan; for did not the accused person have the
whole matter in his own hands?
This semibarbaric king had a daughter as blooming as his most florid
fancies, and with a soul as fervent and imperious as his own. As is
usual in such cases, she was the apple of his eye, and was loved by him
above all humanity. Among his courtiers was a young man of that
fineness of blood and lowness of station common to the conventional
heroes of romance who love royal maidens. This royal maiden was well
satisfied with her lover, for he was handsome and brave to a degree
unsurpassed in all this kingdom; and she loved him with an ardor that
had enough of barbarism in it to make it exceedingly warm and strong.
This love-affair moved on happily for many months, until one day the
king happened to discover its existence. He did not hesitate nor waver
in regard to his duty in the premises. The youth was immediately cast
into prison, and a day was appointed for his trial in the king's arena.
This, of course, was an especially important occasion; and his Majesty,
as well as all the people, was greatly interested in the workings and
development of this trial. Never before had such a case occurred; never
before had a subject dared to love the daughter of a king. In
after-years such things became commonplace enough; but then they were,
in no slight degree, novel and startling.
The tiger-cages of the kingdom were searched for the most savage and
relentless beasts, from which the fiercest monster might be selected
for the arena; and the ranks of maiden youth and beauty throughout the
land were carefully surveyed by competent judges, in order that the
young man might have a fitting bride in case fate did not determine for
him a different destiny. Of course everybody knew that the deed with
which the accused was charged had been done. He had loved the princess,
and neither he, she, nor any one else thought of denying the fact; but
the king would not think of allowing any fact of this kind to interfere
with the workings of the tribunal, in which he took such great delight
and satisfaction. No matter how the affair turned out, the youth would
be disposed of; and the king would take an æsthetic pleasure in
watching the course of events, which would determine whether or not the
young man had done wrong in allowing himself to love the princess.
The appointed day arrived. From far and near the people gathered,
and thronged the great galleries of the arena; and crowds, unable to
gain admittance, massed themselves against its outside walls. The king
and his court were in their places, opposite the twin doorsthose
fateful portals, so terrible in their similarity.
All was ready. The signal was given. A door beneath the royal party
opened, and the lover of the princess walked into the arena. Tall,
beautiful, fair, his appearance was greeted with a low hum of
admiration and anxiety. Half the audience had not known so grand a
youth had lived among them. No wonder the princess loved him! What a
terrible thing for him to be there!
As the youth advanced into the arena, he turned, as the custom was,
to bow to the king: but he did not think at all of that royal
personage; his eyes were fixed upon the princess, who sat to the right
of her father. Had it not been for the moiety of barbarism in her
nature it is probable that lady would not have been there; but her
intense and fervid soul would not allow her to be absent on an occasion
in which she was so terribly interested. From the moment that the
decree had gone forth that her lover should decide his fate in the
king's arena, she had thought of nothing, night or day, but this great
event and the various subjects connected with it. Possessed of more
power, influence, and force of character than any one who had ever
before been interested in such a case, she had done what no other
person had doneshe had possessed herself of the secret of the doors.
She knew in which of the two rooms that lay behind those doors stood
the cage of the tiger, with its open front, and in which waited the
lady. Through these thick doors, heavily curtained with skins on the
inside, it was impossible that any noise or suggestion should come from
within to the person who should approach to raise the latch of one of
them; but gold, and the power of a woman's will, had brought the secret
to the princess.
And not only did she know in which room stood the lady ready to
emerge, all blushing and radiant, should her door be opened, but she
knew who the lady was. It was one of the fairest and loveliest of the
damsels of the court who had been selected as the reward of the accused
youth, should he be proved innocent of the crime of aspiring to one so
far above him; and the princess hated her. Often had she seen, or
imagined that she had seen, this fair creature throwing glances of
admiration upon the person of her lover, and sometimes she thought
these glances were perceived and even returned. Now and then she had
seen them talking together; it was but for a moment or two, but much
can be said in a brief space; it may have been on most unimportant
topics, but how could she know that? The girl was lovely, but she had
dared to raise her eyes to the loved one of the princess; and, with all
the intensity of the savage blood transmitted to her through long lines
of wholly barbaric ancestors, she hated the woman who blushed and
trembled behind that silent door.
When her lover turned and looked at her, and his eye met hers as she
sat there paler and whiter than any one in the vast ocean of anxious
faces about her, he saw, by that power of quick perception which is
given to those whose souls are one, that she knew behind which door
crouched the tiger, and behind which stood the lady. He had expected
her to know it. He understood her nature, and his soul was assured that
she would never rest until she had made plain to herself this thing,
hidden to all other lookers-on, even to the king. The only hope for the
youth in which there was any element of certainty was based upon the
success of the princess in discovering this mystery; and the moment he
looked upon her, he saw she had succeeded, as in his soul he knew she
Then it was that his quick and anxious glance asked the question,
Which? It was as plain to her as if he shouted it from where he
stood. There was not an instant to be lost. The question was asked in a
flash; it must be answered in another.
Her right arm lay on the cushioned parapet before her. She raised
her hand, and made a slight, quick movement toward the right. No one
but her lover saw her. Every eye but his was fixed on the man in the
He turned, and with a firm and rapid step he walked across the empty
space. Every heart stopped beating, every breath was held, every eye
was fixed immovably upon that man. Without the slightest hesitation, he
went to the door on the right, and opened it.
* * * * *
Now, the point of the story is this: Did the tiger come out of that
door, or did the lady?
The more we reflect upon this question the harder it is to answer.
It involves a study of the human heart which leads us through devious
mazes of passion, out of which it is difficult to find our way. Think
of it, fair reader, not as if the decision of the question depended
upon yourself, but upon that hot-blooded, semibarbaric princess, her
soul at a white heat beneath the combined fires of despair and
jealousy. She had lost him, but who should have him?
How often, in her waking hours and in her dreams, had she started in
wild horror and covered her face with her hands as she thought of her
lover opening the door on the other side of which waited the cruel
fangs of the tiger!
But how much oftener had she seen him at the other door! How in her
grievous reveries had she gnashed her teeth and torn her hair when she
saw his start of rapturous delight as he opened the door of the lady!
How her soul had burned in agony when she had seen him rush to meet
that woman, with her flushing cheek and sparkling eye of triumph; when
she had seen him lead her forth, his whole frame kindled with the joy
of recovered life; when she had heard the glad shouts from the
multitude, and the wild ringing of the happy bells; when she had seen
the priest, with his joyous followers, advance to the couple, and make
them man and wife before her very eyes; and when she had seen them walk
away together upon their path of flowers, followed by the tremendous
shouts of the hilarious multitude, in which her one despairing shriek
was lost and drowned!
Would it not be better for him to die at once, and go to wait for
her in the blessed regions of semibarbaric futurity?
And yet, that awful tiger, those shrieks, that blood!
Her decision had been indicated in an instant, but it had been made
after days and nights of anguished deliberation. She had known she
would be asked, she had decided what she would answer, and, without the
slightest hesitation, she had moved her hand to the right.
The question of her decision is one not to be lightly considered,
and it is not for me to presume to set myself up as the one person able
to answer it. And so I leave it with all of you: Which came out of the
opened doorthe lady, or the tiger?
THE REMARKABLE WRECK OF THE THOMAS
It was half-past one by the clock in the office of the Registrar of
Woes. The room was empty, for it was Wednesday, and the Registrar
always went home early on Wednesday afternoons. He had made that
arrangement when he accepted the office. He was willing to serve his
fellow-citizens in any suitable position to which he might be called,
but he had private interests which could not be neglected. He belonged
to his country, but there was a house in the country which belonged to
him; and there were a great many things appertaining to that house
which needed attention, especially in pleasant summer weather. It is
true he was often absent on afternoons which did not fall on the
Wednesday, but the fact of his having appointed a particular time for
the furtherance of his outside interests so emphasized their importance
that his associates in the office had no difficulty in understanding
that affairs of such moment could not always be attended to in a single
afternoon of the week.
But although the large room devoted to the especial use of the
Registrar was unoccupied, there were other rooms connected with it
which were not in that condition. With the suite of offices to the left
we have nothing to do, but will confine our attention to a
moderate-sized room to the right of the Registrar's office, and
connected by a door, now closed, with that large and handsomely
furnished chamber. This was the office of the Clerk of Shipwrecks, and
it was at present occupied by five persons. One of these was the clerk
himself, a man of goodly appearance, somewhere between twenty-five and
forty-five years of age, and of a demeanor such as might be supposed to
belong to one who had occupied a high position in state affairs, but
who, by the cabals of his enemies, had been forced to resign the great
operations of statesmanship which he had been directing, and who now
stood, with a quite resigned air, pointing out to the populace the
futile and disastrous efforts of the incompetent one who was
endeavoring to fill his place. The Clerk of Shipwrecks had never fallen
from such a position, having never occupied one, but he had acquired
the demeanor referred to without going through the preliminary
Another occupant was a very young man, the personal clerk of the
Registrar of Woes, who always closed all the doors of the office of
that functionary on Wednesday afternoons, and at other times when
outside interests demanded his principal's absence, after which he
betook himself to the room of his friend the Shipwreck Clerk.
Then there was a middle-aged man named Mathers, also a friend of the
clerk, and who was one of the eight who had made application for a
subposition in this department, which was now filled by a man who was
expected to resign when a friend of his, a gentleman of influence in an
interior county, should succeed in procuring the nomination as
congressional Representative of his district of an influential
politician, whose election was considered assured in case certain
expected action on the part of the administration should bring his
party into power. The person now occupying the subposition hoped then
to get something better, and Mathers, consequently, was very willing,
while waiting for the place, to visit the offices of the department and
acquaint himself with its duties.
A fourth person was J. George Watts, a juryman by profession, who
had brought with him his brother-in-law, a stranger in the city.
The Shipwreck Clerk had taken off his good coat, which he had worn
to luncheon, and had replaced it by a lighter garment of linen, much
bespattered with ink; and he now produced a cigar-box, containing six
Gents, said he, here is the fag end of a box of cigars. It's not
like having the pick of a box, but they are all I have left.
Mr. Mathers, J. George Watts, and the brother-in-law each took a
cigar with that careless yet deferential manner which always
distinguishes the treatee from the treator; and then the box was
protruded in an offhand way toward Harry Covare, the personal clerk of
the Registrar; but this young man declined, saying that he preferred
cigarettes, a package of which he drew from his pocket. He had very
often seen that cigar-box with a Havana brand, which he himself had
brought from the other room after the Registrar had emptied it, passed
around with six cigars, no more nor less, and he was wise enough to
know that the Shipwreck Clerk did not expect to supply him with
smoking-material. If that gentleman had offered to the friends who
generally dropped in on him on Wednesday afternoon the paper bag of
cigars sold at five cents each when bought singly, but half a dozen for
a quarter of a dollar, they would have been quite as thankfully
received; but it better pleased his deprecative soul to put them in an
empty cigar-box, and thus throw around them the halo of the presumption
that ninety-four of their imported companions had been smoked.
The Shipwreck Clerk, having lighted a cigar for himself, sat down in
his revolving chair, turned his back to his desk, and threw himself
into an easy cross-legged attitude, which showed that he was perfectly
at home in that office. Harry Covare mounted a high stool, while the
visitors seated themselves in three wooden arm-chairs. But few words
had been said, and each man had scarcely tossed his first tobacco-ashes
on the floor, when some one wearing heavy boots was heard opening an
outside door and entering the Registrar's room. Harry Covare jumped
down from his stool, laid his half-smoked cigarette thereon, and
bounced into the next room, closing the door after him. In about a
minute he returned, and the Shipwreck Clerk looked at him inquiringly.
An old cock in a pea-jacket, said Mr. Covare, taking up his
cigarette and mounting his stool. I told him the Registrar would be
here in the morning. He said he had something to report about a
shipwreck, and I told him the Registrar would be here in the morning.
Had to tell him that three times, and then he went.
School don't keep Wednesday afternoons, said Mr. J. George Watts,
with a knowing smile.
No, sir, said the Shipwreck Clerk, emphatically, changing the
crossing of his legs. A man can't keep grinding on day in and out
without breaking down. Outsiders may say what they please about it, but
it can't be done. We've got to let up sometimes. People who do the work
need the rest just as much as those who do the looking on.
And more too, I should say, observed Mr. Mathers.
Our little let-up on Wednesday afternoons, modestly observed Harry
Covare, is like deathit is sure to come; while the let-ups we get
other days are more like the diseases which prevail in certain
areasyou can't be sure whether you're going to get them or not.
The Shipwreck Clerk smiled benignantly at this remark, and the rest
laughed. Mr. Mathers had heard it before, but he would not impair the
pleasantness of his relations with a future colleague by hinting that
he remembered it.
He gets such ideas from his beastly statistics, said the Shipwreck
Which come pretty heavy on him sometimes, I expect, observed Mr.
They needn't, said the Shipwreck Clerk, if things were managed
here as they ought to be. If John J. Laylormeaning thereby the
Registrarwas the right kind of a man you'd see things very different
here from what they are now. There'd be a larger force.
That's so, said Mr. Mathers.
And not only that, but there'd be better buildings and more
accommodations. Were any of you ever up to Anster? Well, take a run up
there some day, and see what sort of buildings the department has
there. William Q. Green is a very different man from John J. Laylor.
You don't see him sitting in his chair and picking his teeth the whole
winter, while the Representative from his district never says a word
about his department from one end of a session of Congress to the
other. Now if I had charge of things here, I'd make such changes that
you wouldn't know the place. I'd throw two rooms off here, and a
corridor and entrance-door at that end of the building. I'd close up
this doorpointing toward the Registrar's roomand if John J.
Laylor wanted to come in here he might go round to the end door like
The thought struck Harry Covare that in that case there would be no
John J. Laylor, but he would not interrupt.
And what is more, continued the Shipwreck Clerk, I'd close up
this whole department at twelve o'clock on Saturdays. The way things
are managed now, a man has no time to attend to his own private
business. Suppose I think of buying a piece of land, and want to go out
and look at it, or suppose any one of you gentlemen were here and
thought of buying a piece of land and wanted to go out and look at it,
what are you going to do about it? You don't want to go on Sunday, and
when are you going to go?
Not one of the other gentlemen had ever thought of buying a piece of
land, nor had they any reason to suppose that they ever would purchase
an inch of soil unless they bought it in a flower-pot; but they all
agreed that the way things were managed now there was no time for a man
to attend to his own business.
But you can't expect John J. Laylor to do anything, said the
However, there was one thing which that gentleman always expected
John J. Laylor to do. When the clerk was surrounded by a number of
persons in hours of business, and when he had succeeded in impressing
them with the importance of his functions and the necessity of paying
deferential attention to himself if they wished their business attended
to, John J. Laylor would be sure to walk into the office and address
the Shipwreck Clerk in such a manner as to let the people present know
that he was a clerk and nothing else, and that he, the Registrar, was
the head of that department. These humiliations the Shipwreck Clerk
There was a little pause here, and then Mr. Mathers remarked:
I should think you'd be awfully bored with the long stories of
shipwrecks that the people come and tell you.
He hoped to change the conversation, because, although he wished to
remain on good terms with the subordinate officers, it was not
desirable that he should be led to say much against John J. Laylor.
No, sir, said the Shipwreck Clerk, I am not bored. I did not come
here to be bored, and as long as I have charge of this office I don't
intend to be. The long-winded old salts who come here to report their
wrecks never spin out their prosy yarns to me. The first thing I do is
to let them know just what I want of them; and not an inch beyond that
does a man of them go, at least while I am managing the business. There
are times when John J. Laylor comes in, and puts in his oar, and wants
to hear the whole story; which is pure stuff and nonsense, for John J.
Laylor doesn't know anything more about a shipwreck than he does
The endemies in the Lake George area, suggested Harry Covare.
Yes; or any other part of his business, said the Shipwreck Clerk;
and when he takes it into his head to interfere, all business stops
till some second mate of a coal-schooner has told his whole story from
his sighting land on the morning of one day to his getting ashore on it
on the afternoon of the next. Now I don't put up with any such
nonsense. There's no man living that can tell me anything about
shipwrecks. I've never been to sea myself, but that's not necessary;
and if I had gone, it's not likely I'd been wrecked. But I've read
about every kind of shipwreck that ever happened. When I first came
here I took care to post myself upon these matters, because I knew it
would save trouble. I have read 'Robinson Crusoe,' 'The Wreck of the
Grosvenor,' 'The Sinking of the Royal George,' and wrecks by
water-spouts, tidal waves, and every other thing which would knock a
ship into a cocked hat, and I've classified every sort of wreck under
its proper head; and when I've found out to what class a wreck belongs,
I know all about it. Now, when a man comes here to report a wreck, the
first thing he has to do is just to shut down on his story, and to
stand up square and answer a few questions that I put to him. In two
minutes I know just what kind of shipwreck he's had; and then, when he
gives me the name of his vessel, and one or two other points, he may
go. I know all about that wreck, and I make a much better report of the
business than he could have done if he'd stood here talking three days
and three nights. The amount of money that's been saved to our
taxpayers by the way I've systematized the business of this office is
not to be calculated in figures.
The brother-in-law of J. George Watts knocked the ashes from the
remnant of his cigar, looked contemplatively at the coal for a moment,
and then remarked:
I think you said there's no kind of shipwreck you don't know
That's what I said, replied the Shipwreck Clerk.
I think, said the other, I could tell you of a shipwreck, in
which I was concerned, that wouldn't go into any of your classes.
The Shipwreck Clerk threw away the end of his cigar, put both his
hands into his trousers pockets, stretched out his legs, and looked
steadfastly at the man who had made this unwarrantable remark. Then a
pitying smile stole over his countenance, and he said: Well, sir, I'd
like to hear your account of it; and before you get a quarter through I
can stop you just where you are, and go ahead and tell the rest of the
That's so, said Harry Covare. You'll see him do it just as sure
pop as a spread rail bounces the engine.
Well, then, said the brother-in-law of J. George Watts, I'll tell
it. And he began:
* * * * *
It was just two years ago the 1st of this month that I sailed for
South America in the 'Thomas Hyke.'
At this point the Shipwreck Clerk turned and opened a large book at
the letter T.
That wreck wasn't reported here, said the other, and you won't
find it in your book.
At Anster, perhaps? said the Shipwreck Clerk, closing the volume
and turning round again.
Can't say about that, replied the other. I've never been to
Anster, and haven't looked over their books.
Well, you needn't want to, said the clerk. They've got good
accommodations at Anster, and the Registrar has some ideas of the
duties of his post, but they have no such system of wreck reports as we
Very like, said the brother-in-law. And he went on with his story.
The 'Thomas Hyke' was a small iron steamer of six hundred tons, and
she sailed from Ulford for Valparaiso with a cargo principally of
Pig-iron for Valparaiso? remarked the Shipwreck Clerk. And then he
knitted his brows thoughtfully, and said, Go on.
She was a new vessel, continued the narrator, and built with
water-tight compartments; rather uncommon for a vessel of her class,
but so she was. I am not a sailor, and don't know anything about ships.
I went as passenger, and there was another one named William Anderson,
and his son Sam, a boy about fifteen years old. We were all going to
Valparaiso on business. I don't remember just how many days we were
out, nor do I know just where we were, but it was somewhere off the
coast of South America, when, one dark nightwith a fog besides, for
aught I know, for I was asleepwe ran into a steamer coming north. How
we managed to do this, with room enough on both sides for all the ships
in the world to pass, I don't know; but so it was. When I got on deck
the other vessel had gone on, and we never saw anything more of her.
Whether she sunk or got home is something I can't tell. But we pretty
soon found that the 'Thomas Hyke' had some of the plates in her bow
badly smashed, and she took in water like a thirsty dog. The captain
had the forward water-tight bulkhead shut tight, and the pumps set to
work, but it was no use. That forward compartment just filled up with
water, and the 'Thomas Hyke' settled down with her bow clean under. Her
deck was slanting forward like the side of a hill, and the propeller
was lifted up so that it wouldn't have worked even if the engine had
been kept going. The captain had the masts cut away, thinking this
might bring her up some, but it didn't help much. There was a pretty
heavy sea on, and the waves came rolling up the slant of the deck like
the surf on the sea-shore. The captain gave orders to have all the
hatches battened down so that water couldn't get in, and the only way
by which anybody could go below was by the cabin door, which was far
aft. This work of stopping up all openings in the deck was a dangerous
business, for the decks sloped right down into the water, and if
anybody had slipped, away he'd have gone into the ocean, with nothing
to stop him; but the men made a line fast to themselves, and worked
away with a good will, and soon got the deck and the house over the
engine as tight as a bottle. The smoke-stack, which was well forward,
had been broken down by a spar when the masts had been cut, and as the
waves washed into the hole that it left, the captain had this plugged
up with old sails, well fastened down. It was a dreadful thing to see
the ship a-lying with her bows clean under water and her stern sticking
up. If it hadn't been for her water-tight compartments that were left
uninjured, she would have gone down to the bottom as slick as a
whistle. On the afternoon of the day after the collision the wind fell,
and the sea soon became pretty smooth. The captain was quite sure that
there would be no trouble about keeping afloat until some ship came
along and took us off. Our flag was flying, upside down, from a pole in
the stern; and if anybody saw a ship making such a guy of herself as
the 'Thomas Hyke' was then doing, they'd be sure to come to see what
was the matter with her, even if she had no flag of distress flying. We
tried to make ourselves as comfortable as we could, but this wasn't
easy with everything on such a dreadful slant. But that night we heard
a rumbling and grinding noise down in the hold, and the slant seemed to
get worse. Pretty soon the captain roused all hands and told us that
the cargo of pig-iron was shifting and sliding down to the bow, and
that it wouldn't be long before it would break through all the
bulkheads, and then we'd fill and go to the bottom like a shot. He said
we must all take to the boats and get away as quick as we could. It was
an easy matter launching the boats. They didn't lower them outside from
the davits, but they just let 'em down on deck and slid 'em along
forward into the water, and then held 'em there with a rope till
everything was ready to start. They launched three boats, put plenty of
provisions and water in 'em, and then everybody began to get aboard.
But William Anderson and me and his son Sam couldn't make up our minds
to get into those boats and row out on the dark, wide ocean. They were
the biggest boats we had, but still they were little things enough. The
ship seemed to us to be a good deal safer, and more likely to be seen
when day broke, than those three boats, which might be blown off, if
the wind rose, nobody knew where. It seemed to us that the cargo had
done all the shifting it intended to, for the noise below had stopped;
and, altogether, we agreed that we'd rather stick to the ship than go
off in those boats. The captain he tried to make us go, but we wouldn't
do it; and he told us if we chose to stay behind and be drowned it was
our affair and he couldn't help it; and then he said there was a small
boat aft, and we'd better launch her, and have her ready in case things
should get worse and we should make up our minds to leave the vessel.
He and the rest then rowed off so as not to be caught in the vortex if
the steamer went down, and we three stayed aboard. We launched the
small boat in the way we'd seen the others launched, being careful to
have ropes tied to us while we were doing it; and we put things aboard
that we thought we should want. Then we went into the cabin and waited
for morning. It was a queer kind of a cabin, with a floor inclined like
the roof of a house; but we sat down in the corners, and were glad to
be there. The swinging lamp was burning, and it was a good deal more
cheerful in there than it was outside. But, about daybreak, the
grinding and rumbling down below began again, and the bow of the
'Thomas Hyke' kept going down more and more; and it wasn't long before
the forward bulkhead of the cabin, which was what you might call its
front wall when everything was all right, was under our feet, as level
as a floor, and the lamp was lying close against the ceiling that it
was hanging from. You may be sure that we thought it was time to get
out of that. There were benches with arms to them fastened to the
floor, and by these we climbed up to the foot of the cabin stairs,
which, being turned bottom upward, we went down in order to get out.
When we reached the cabin door we saw part of the deck below us,
standing up like the side of a house that is built in the water, as
they say the houses in Venice are. We had made our boat fast to the
cabin door by a long line, and now we saw her floating quietly on the
water, which was very smooth and about twenty feet below us. We drew
her up as close under us as we could, and then we let the boy Sam down
by a rope, and after some kicking and swinging he got into her; and
then he took the oars and kept her right under us while we scrambled
down by the ropes which we had used in getting her ready. As soon as we
were in the boat we cut her rope and pulled away as hard as we could;
and when we got to what we thought was a safe distance we stopped to
look at the 'Thomas Hyke.' You never saw such a ship in all your born
days. Two thirds of the hull was sunk in the water, and she was
standing straight up and down with the stern in the air, her rudder up
as high as the topsail ought to be, and the screw propeller looking
like the wheel on the top of one of these windmills that they have in
the country for pumping up water. Her cargo had shifted so far forward
that it had turned her right upon end, but she couldn't sink, owing to
the air in the compartments that the water hadn't got into; and on the
top of the whole thing was the distress flag flying from the pole which
stuck out over the stern. It was broad daylight, but not a thing did we
see of the other boats. We'd supposed that they wouldn't row very far,
but would lay off at a safe distance until daylight; but they must have
been scared and rowed farther than they intended. Well, sir, we stayed
in that boat all day and watched the 'Thomas Hyke'; but she just kept
as she was and didn't seem to sink an inch. There was no use of rowing
away, for we had no place to row to; and besides, we thought that
passing ships would be much more likely to see that stern sticking high
in the air than our little boat. We had enough to eat, and at night two
of us slept while the other watched, dividing off the time and taking
turns to this. In the morning there was the 'Thomas Hyke' standing
stern up just as before. There was a long swell on the ocean now, and
she'd rise and lean over a little on each wave, but she'd come up again
just as straight as before. That night passed as the last one had, and
in the morning we found we'd drifted a good deal farther from the
'Thomas Hyke'; but she was floating just as she had been, like a big
buoy that's moored over a sandbar. We couldn't see a sign of the boats,
and we about gave them up. We had our breakfast, which was a pretty
poor meal, being nothing but hardtack and what was left of a piece of
boiled beef. After we'd sat for a while doing nothing, but feeling
mighty uncomfortable, William Anderson said, 'Look here, do you know
that I think we would be three fools to keep on shivering all night,
and living on hardtack in the daytime, when there's plenty on that
vessel for us to eat and to keep us warm. If she's floated that way for
two days and two nights, there's no knowing how much longer she'll
float, and we might as well go on board and get the things we want as
not.' 'All right,' said I, for I was tired doing nothing; and Sam was
as willing as anybody. So we rowed up to the steamer, and stopped close
to the deck, which, as I said before, was standing straight up out of
the water like the wall of a house. The cabin door, which was the only
opening into her, was about twenty feet above us, and the ropes which
we had tied to the rails of the stairs inside were still hanging down.
Sam was an active youngster, and he managed to climb up one of these
ropes; but when he got to the door he drew it up and tied knots in it
about a foot apart, and then he let it down to us, for neither William
Anderson nor me could go up a rope hand over hand without knots or
something to hold on to. As it was, we had a lot of bother getting up,
but we did it at last; and then we walked up the stairs, treading on
the front part of each step instead of the top of it, as we would have
done if the stairs had been in their proper position. When we got to
the floor of the cabin, which was now perpendicular like a wall, we had
to clamber down by means of the furniture, which was screwed fast,
until we reached the bulkhead, which was now the floor of the cabin.
Close to this bulkhead was a small room which was the steward's pantry,
and here we found lots of things to eat, but all jumbled up in a way
that made us laugh. The boxes of biscuits and the tin cans and a lot of
bottles in wicker covers were piled up on one end of the room, and
everything in the lockers and drawers was jumbled together. William
Anderson and me set to work to get out what we thought we'd want, and
we told Sam to climb up into some of the state-roomsof which there
were four on each side of the cabinand get some blankets to keep us
warm, as well as a few sheets, which we thought we could rig up for an
awning to the boat; for the days were just as hot as the nights were
cool. When we'd collected what we wanted, William Anderson and me
climbed into our own rooms, thinking we'd each pack a valise with what
we most wanted to save of our clothes and things; and while we were
doing this Sam called out to us that it was raining. He was sitting at
the cabin door looking out. I first thought to tell him to shut the
door so's to keep the rain from coming in; but when I thought how
things really were, I laughed at the idea. There was a sort of little
house built over the entrance to the cabin, and in one end of it was
the door; and in the way the ship now was the open doorway was
underneath the little house, and of course no rain could come in.
Pretty soon we heard the rain pouring down, beating on the stern of the
vessel like hail. We got to the stairs and looked out. The rain was
falling in perfect sheets, in a way you never see except round about
the tropics. 'It's a good thing we're inside,' said William Anderson,
'for if we'd been out in this rain we'd been drowned in the boat.' I
agreed with him, and we made up our minds to stay where we were until
the rain was over. Well, it rained about four hours; and when it
stopped, and we looked out, we saw our little boat nearly full of
water, and sunk so deep that if one of us had stepped on her she'd have
gone down, sure. 'Here's a pretty kittle of fish,' said William
Anderson; 'there's nothing for us to do now but to stay where we are.'
I believe in his heart he was glad of that, for if ever a man was tired
of a little boat, William Anderson was tired of that one we'd been in
for two days and two nights. At any rate, there was no use talking
about it, and we set to work to make ourselves comfortable. We got some
mattresses and pillows out of the state-rooms, and when it began to get
dark we lighted the lampwhich we had filled with sweet-oil from a
flask in the pantry, not finding any other kindand we hung it from
the railing of the stairs. We had a good night's rest, and the only
thing that disturbed me was William Anderson lifting up his head every
time he turned over and saying how much better this was than that
blasted little boat. The next morning we had a good breakfast, even
making some tea with a spirit-lamp we found, using brandy instead of
alcohol. William Anderson and I wanted to get into the captain's
roomwhich was near the stern and pretty high upso as to see if
there was anything there that we ought to get ready to save when a
vessel should come along and pick us up; but we were not good at
climbing, like Sam, and we didn't see how we could get up there. Sam
said he was sure he had once seen a ladder in the compartment just
forward of the bulkhead, and as William was very anxious to get up to
the captain's room, we let the boy go and look for it. There was a
sliding door in the bulkhead under our feet, and we opened this far
enough to let Sam get through; and he scrambled down like a monkey into
the next compartment, which was light enough, although the lower half
of it, which was next to the engine-room, was under the water-line. Sam
actually found a ladder with hooks at one end of it, and while he was
handing it up to uswhich was very hard to do, for he had to climb up
on all sorts of thingshe let it topple over, and the end with the
iron hooks fell against the round glass of one of the port-holes. The
glass was very thick and strong, but the ladder came down very heavy
and shivered it. As bad luck would have it, this window was below the
water-line, and the water came rushing in in a big spout. We chucked
blankets down to Sam for him to stop up the hole, but 'twas of no use;
for it was hard for him to get at the window, and when he did the water
came in with such force that he couldn't get a blanket into the hole.
We were afraid he'd be drowned down there, and told him to come out as
quick as he could. He put up the ladder again, and hooked it on to the
door in the bulkhead, and we held it while he climbed up. Looking down
through the doorway, we saw, by the way the water was pouring in at the
opening, that it wouldn't be long before that compartment was filled
up; so we shoved the door to and made it all tight, and then said
William Anderson, 'The ship'll sink deeper and deeper as that fills up,
and the water may get up to the cabin door, and we must go and make
that as tight as we can.' Sam had pulled the ladder up after him, and
this we found of great use in getting to the foot of the cabin stairs.
We shut the cabin door, and locked and bolted it; and as it fitted
pretty tight, we didn't think it would let in much water if the ship
sunk that far. But over the top of the cabin stairs were a couple of
folding doors, which shut down horizontally when the ship was in its
proper position, and which were only used in very bad, cold weather.
These we pulled to and fastened tight, thus having a double protection
against the water. Well, we didn't get this done any too soon, for the
water did come up to the cabin door, and a little trickled in from the
outside door and through the cracks in the inner one. But we went to
work and stopped these up with strips from the sheets, which we crammed
well in with our pocket-knives. Then we sat down on the steps and
waited to see what would happen next. The doors of all the state-rooms
were open, and we could see through the thick plate-glass windows in
them, which were all shut tight, that the ship was sinking more and
more as the water came in. Sam climbed up into one of the after
state-rooms, and said the outside water was nearly up to the stern; and
pretty soon we looked up to the two portholes in the stern, and saw
that they were covered with water; and as more and more water could be
seen there, and as the light came through less easily, we knew that we
were sinking under the surface of the ocean. 'It's a mighty good
thing,' said William Anderson, 'that no water can get in here.' William
had a hopeful kind of mind, and always looked on the bright side of
things; but I must say that I was dreadfully scared when I looked
through those stern windows and saw water instead of sky. It began to
get duskier and duskier as we sank lower and lower; but still we could
see pretty well, for it's astonishing how much light comes down through
water. After a little while we noticed that the light remained about
the same; and then William Anderson he sings out, 'Hooray, we've
stopped sinking!' 'What difference does that make?' says I. 'We must be
thirty or forty feet under water, and more yet, for aught I know.'
'Yes, that may be,' said he; 'but it is clear that all the water has
got into that compartment that can get in, and we have sunk just as far
down as we are going.' 'But that don't help matters,' said I; 'thirty
or forty feet under water is just as bad as a thousand as to drowning a
man.' 'Drowning!' said William; 'how are you going to be drowned? No
water can get in here.' 'Nor no air, either,' said I; 'and people are
drowned for want of air, as I take it.' 'It would be a queer sort of
thing,' said William, 'to be drowned in the ocean and yet stay as dry
as a chip. But it's no use being worried about air. We've got air
enough here to last us for ever so long. This stern compartment is the
biggest in the ship, and it's got lots of air in it. Just think of that
hold! It must be nearly full of air. The stern compartment of the hold
has got nothing in it but sewing-machines. I saw 'em loading her. The
pig-iron was mostly amidships, or at least forward of this compartment.
Now, there's no kind of a cargo that'll accommodate as much air as
sewing-machines. They're packed in wooden frames, not boxes, and don't
fill up half the room they take. There's air all through and around
'em. It's a very comforting thing to think the hold isn't filled up
solid with bales of cotton or wheat in bulk.' It might be comforting,
but I couldn't get much good out of it. And now Sam, who'd been
scrambling all over the cabin to see how things were going on, sung out
that the water was leaking in a little again at the cabin door and
around some of the iron frames of the windows. 'It's a lucky thing,'
said William Anderson, 'that we didn't sink any deeper, or the pressure
of the water would have burst in those heavy glasses. And what we've
got to do now is to stop up all the cracks. The more we work the
livelier we'll feel.' We tore off more strips of sheets and went all
round, stopping up cracks wherever we found them. 'It's fortunate,'
said William Anderson, 'that Sam found that ladder, for we would have
had hard work getting to the windows of the stern state-rooms without
it; but by resting it on the bottom step of the stairs, which now
happens to be the top one, we can get to any part of the cabin.' I
couldn't help thinking that if Sam hadn't found the ladder it would
have been a good deal better for us; but I didn't want to damp
William's spirits, and I said nothing.
And now I beg your pardon, sir, said the narrator, addressing the
Shipwreck Clerk, but I forgot that you said you'd finish this story
yourself. Perhaps you'd like to take it up just here?
The Shipwreck Clerk seemed surprised, and had apparently forgotten
his previous offer. Oh no, said he, tell your own story. This is not
a matter of business.
Very well, then, said the brother-in-law of J. George Watts, I'll
go on. We made everything as tight as we could, and then we got our
supper, having forgotten all about dinner, and being very hungry. We
didn't make any tea and we didn't light the lamp, for we knew that
would use up air; but we made a better meal than three people sunk out
of sight in the ocean had a right to expect. 'What troubles me most,'
said William Anderson, as he turned in, 'is the fact that if we are
forty feet under water our flagpole must be covered up. Now, if the
flag was sticking out, upside down, a ship sailing by would see it and
would know there was something wrong.' 'If that's all that troubles
you,' said I, 'I guess you'll sleep easy. And if a ship was to see the
flag, I wonder how they'd know we were down here, and how they'd get us
out if they did!' 'Oh, they'd manage it,' said William Anderson; 'trust
those sea-captains for that.' And then he went to sleep. The next
morning the air began to get mighty disagreeable in the part of the
cabin where we were, and then William Anderson he says, 'What we've got
to do is to climb up into the stern state-rooms, where the air is
purer. We can come down here to get our meals, and then go up again to
breathe comfortable.' 'And what are we going to do when the air up
there gets foul?' says I to William, who seemed to be making
arrangements for spending the summer in our present quarters. 'Oh,
that'll be all right,' said he. 'It don't do to be extravagant with air
any more than with anything else. When we've used up all there is in
this cabin, we can bore holes through the floor into the hold and let
in air from there. If we're economical, there'll be enough to last for
dear knows how long.' We passed the night each in a state-room,
sleeping on the end wall instead of the berth, and it wasn't till the
afternoon of the next day that the air of the cabin got so bad we
thought we'd have some fresh; so we went down on the bulkhead, and with
an auger that we found in the pantry we bored three holes, about a yard
apart, in the cabin floor, which was now one of the walls of the room,
just as the bulkhead was the floor, and the stern end, where the two
round windows were, was the ceiling or roof. We each took a hole, and I
tell you it was pleasant to breathe the air which came in from the
hold. 'Isn't this jolly?' said William Anderson. 'And we ought to be
mighty glad that that hold wasn't loaded with codfish or soap. But
there's nothing that smells better than new sewing-machines that
haven't ever been used, and this air is pleasant enough for anybody.'
By William's advice we made three plugs, by which we stopped up the
holes when we thought we'd had air enough for the present. 'And now,'
says he, 'we needn't climb up into those awkward state-rooms any more.
We can just stay down here and be comfortable, and let in air when we
want it.' 'And how long do you suppose that air in the hold is going to
last?' said I. 'Oh, ever so long,' said he, 'using it so economically
as we do; and when it stops coming out lively through these little
holes, as I suppose it will after a while, we can saw a big hole in
this flooring and go into the hold and do our breathing, if we want
to.' That evening we did saw a hole about a foot square, so as to have
plenty of air while we were asleep; but we didn't go into the hold, it
being pretty well filled up with machines; though the next day Sam and
I sometimes stuck our heads in for a good sniff of air, though William
Anderson was opposed to this, being of the opinion that we ought to put
ourselves on short rations of breathing so as to make the supply of air
hold out as long as possible. 'But what's the good,' said I to William,
'of trying to make the air hold out if we've got to be suffocated in
this place after all?' 'What's the good?' says he. 'Haven't you enough
biscuits and canned meats and plenty of other things to eat, and a
barrel of water in that room opposite the pantry, not to speak of wine
and brandy if you want to cheer yourself up a bit, and haven't we good
mattresses to sleep on, and why shouldn't we try to live and be
comfortable as long as we can?' 'What I want,' said I, 'is to get out
of this box. The idea of being shut up in here down under the water is
more than I can stand. I'd rather take my chances going up to the
surface and swimming about till I found a piece of the wreck, or
something to float on.' 'You needn't think of anything of that sort,'
said William, 'for if we were to open a door or a window to get out,
the water'd rush in and drive us back and fill up this place in no
time; and then the whole concern would go to the bottom. And what would
you do if you did get to the top of the water? It's not likely you'd
find anything there to get on, and if you did you wouldn't live very
long floating about with nothing to eat. No, sir,' says he, 'what we've
got to do is to be content with the comforts we have around us, and
something will turn up to get us out of this; you see if it don't.'
There was no use talking against William Anderson, and I didn't say any
more about getting out. As for Sam, he spent his time at the windows of
the state-rooms a-looking out. We could see a good way into the
waterfarther than you would thinkand we sometimes saw fishes,
especially porpoises, swimming about, most likely trying to find out
what a ship was doing hanging bows down under the water. What troubled
Sam was that a swordfish might come along and jab his sword through one
of the windows. In that case it would be all up, or rather down, with
us. Every now and then he'd sing out, 'Here comes one!' And then, just
as I'd give a jump, he'd say, 'No, it isn't; it's a porpoise.' I
thought from the first, and I think now, that it would have been a
great deal better for us if that boy hadn't been along. That night
there was a good deal of motion to the ship, and she swung about and
rose up and down more than she had done since we'd been left in her.
'There must be a big sea running on top,' said William Anderson, 'and
if we were up there we'd be tossed about dreadful. Now the motion down
here is just as easy as a cradle; and, what's more, we can't be sunk
very deep, for if we were there wouldn't be any motion at all.' About
noon the next day we felt a sudden tremble and shake run through the
whole ship, and far down under us we heard a rumbling and grinding that
nearly scared me out of my wits. I first thought we'd struck bottom;
but William he said that couldn't be, for it was just as light in the
cabin as it had been, and if we'd gone down it would have grown much
darker, of course. The rumbling stopped after a little while, and then
it seemed to grow lighter instead of darker; and Sam, who was looking
up at the stern windows over our heads, he sung out, 'Sky!' And, sure
enough, we could see the blue sky, as clear as daylight, through those
windows! And then the ship she turned herself on the slant, pretty much
as she had been when her forward compartment first took in water, and
we found ourselves standing on the cabin floor instead of the bulkhead.
I was near one of the open state-rooms, and as I looked in there was
the sunlight coming through the wet glass in the window, and more
cheerful than anything I ever saw before in this world. William
Anderson he just made one jump, and, unscrewing one of the state-room
windows, he jerked it open. We had thought the air inside was good
enough to last some time longer; but when that window was open and the
fresh air came rushing in, it was a different sort of thing, I can tell
you. William put his head out and looked up and down and all around.
'She's nearly all out of water,' he shouted, 'and we can open the cabin
door!' Then we all three rushed at those stairs, which were nearly
right side up now, and we had the cabin doors open in no time. When we
looked out we saw that the ship was truly floating pretty much as she
had been when the captain and crew left her, though we all agreed that
her deck didn't slant as much forward as it did then. 'Do you know
what's happened?' sung out William Anderson, after he'd stood still for
a minute to look around and think. 'That bobbing up and down that the
vessel got last night shook up and settled down the pig-iron inside of
her, and the iron plates in the bow, that were smashed and loosened by
the collision, have given way under the weight, and the whole cargo of
pig-iron has burst through and gone to the bottom. Then, of course, up
we came. Didn't I tell you something would happen to make us all
Well, I won't make this story any longer than I can help. The next
day after that we were taken off by a sugar-ship bound north, and we
were carried safe back to Ulford, where we found our captain and the
crew, who had been picked up by a ship after they'd been three or four
days in their boats. This ship had sailed our way to find us, which, of
course, she couldn't do, as at that time we were under water and out of
And now, sir, said the brother-in-law of J. George Watts to the
Shipwreck Clerk, to which of your classes does this wreck of mine
Gents, said the Shipwreck Clerk, rising from his seat, it's four
o'clock, and at that hour this office closes.
OLD PIPES AND THE DRYAD
A mountain brook ran through a little village. Over the brook there
was a narrow bridge, and from the bridge a foot-path led out from the
village and up the hillside to the cottage of Old Pipes and his mother.
For many, many years Old Pipes had been employed by the villagers to
pipe the cattle down from the hills. Every afternoon, an hour before
sunset, he would sit on a rock in front of his cottage and play on his
pipes. Then all the flocks and herds that were grazing on the mountains
would hear him, wherever they might happen to be, and would come down
to the villagethe cows by the easiest paths, the sheep by those not
quite so easy, and the goats by the steep and rocky ways that were
hardest of all.
But now, for a year or more, Old Pipes had not piped the cattle
home. It is true that every afternoon he sat upon the rock and played
upon his familiar instrument; but the cattle did not hear him. He had
grown old and his breath was feeble. The echoes of his cheerful notes,
which used to come from the rocky hill on the other side of the valley,
were heard no more; and twenty yards from Old Pipes one could scarcely
tell what tune he was playing. He had become somewhat deaf, and did not
know that the sound of his pipes was so thin and weak, and that the
cattle did not hear him. The cows, the sheep, and the goats came down
every afternoon as before, but this was because two boys and a girl
were sent up after them. The villagers did not wish the good old man to
know that his piping was no longer of any use, so they paid him his
little salary every month, and said nothing about the two boys and the
Old Pipes's mother was, of course, a great deal older than he was,
and was as deaf as a gateposts, latch, hinges, and alland she never
knew that the sound of her son's pipe did not spread over all the
mountain-side and echo back strong and clear from the opposite hills.
She was very fond of Old Pipes, and proud of his piping; and as he was
so much younger than she was, she never thought of him as being very
old. She cooked for him, and made his bed, and mended his clothes; and
they lived very comfortably on his little salary.
One afternoon, at the end of the month, when Old Pipes had finished
his piping, he took his stout staff and went down the hill to the
village to receive the money for his month's work. The path seemed a
great deal steeper and more difficult than it used to be; and Old Pipes
thought that it must have been washed by the rains and greatly damaged.
He remembered it as a path that was quite easy to traverse either up or
down. But Old Pipes had been a very active man, and as his mother was
so much older than he was, he never thought of himself as aged and
When the Chief Villager had paid him, and he had talked a little
with some of his friends, Old Pipes started to go home. But when he had
crossed the bridge over the brook and gone a short distance up the
hillside, he became very tired and sat down upon a stone. He had not
been sitting there half a minute when along came two boys and a girl.
Children, said Old Pipes, I'm very tired to-night, and I don't
believe I can climb up this steep path to my home. I think I shall have
to ask you to help me.
We will do that, said the boys and the girl, quite cheerfully; and
one boy took him by the right hand and the other by the left, while the
girl pushed him in the back. In this way he went up the hill quite
easily, and soon reached his cottage door. Old Pipes gave each of the
three children a copper coin, and then they sat down for a few minutes'
rest before starting back to the village.
I'm sorry that I tired you so much, said Old Pipes.
Oh, that would not have tired us, said one of the boys, if we had
not been so far to-day after the cows, the sheep, and the goats. They
rambled high up on the mountain, and we never before had such a time in
Had to go after the cows, the sheep, and the goats! exclaimed Old
Pipes. What do you mean by that?
The girl, who stood behind the old man, shook her head, put her hand
on her mouth, and made all sorts of signs to the boy to stop talking on
this subject; but he did not notice her and promptly answered Old
Why, you see, good sir, said he, that as the cattle can't hear
your pipes now, somebody has to go after them every evening to drive
them down from the mountain, and the Chief Villager has hired us three
to do it. Generally it is not very hard work, but to-night the cattle
had wandered far.
How long have you been doing this? asked the old man.
The girl shook her head and clapped her hand on her mouth more
vigorously than before, but the boy went on.
I think it is about a year now, he said, since the people first
felt sure that the cattle could not hear your pipes; and from that time
we've been driving them down. But we are rested now and will go home.
The three children then went down the hill, the girl scolding the
boy all the way home. Old Pipes stood silent a few moments and then he
went into his cottage.
Mother, he shouted, did you hear what those children said?
Children! exclaimed the old woman; I did not hear them. I did not
know there were any children here.
Then Old Pipes told his mothershouting very loudly to make her
hearhow the two boys and the girl had helped him up the hill, and
what he had heard about his piping and the cattle.
They can't hear you? cried his mother. Why, what's the matter
with the cattle?
Ah me! said Old Pipes, I don't believe there's anything the
matter with the cattle. It must be with me and my pipes that there is
something the matter. But one thing is certain: if I do not earn the
wages the Chief Villager pays me, I shall not take them. I shall go
straight down to the village and give back the money I received
Nonsense! cried his mother. I'm sure you've piped as well as you
could, and no more can be expected. And what are we to do without the
I don't know, said Old Pipes; but I'm going down to the village
to pay it back.
The sun had now set; but the moon was shining very brightly on the
hillside, and Old Pipes could see his way very well. He did not take
the same path by which he had gone before, but followed another, which
led among the trees upon the hillside, and, though longer, was not so
When he had gone about half-way the old man sat down to rest,
leaning his back against a great oak-tree. As he did so he heard a
sound like knocking inside the tree, and then a voice distinctly said:
Let me out! let me out!
Old Pipes instantly forgot that he was tired, and sprang to his
feet. This must be a Dryad-tree! he exclaimed. If it is, I'll let
Old Pipes had never, to his knowledge, seen a Dryad-tree, but he
knew there were such trees on the hillsides and the mountains, and that
Dryads lived in them. He knew, too, that in the summer-time, on those
days when the moon rose before the sun went down, a Dryad could come
out of her tree if any one could find the key which locked her in, and
turn it. Old Pipes closely examined the trunk of the tree, which stood
in the full moonlight. If I see that key, he said, I shall surely
turn it. Before long he perceived a piece of bark standing out from
the tree, which appeared to him very much like the handle of a key. He
took hold of it, and found he could turn it quite around. As he did so
a large part of the side of the tree was pushed open, and a beautiful
Dryad stepped quickly out.
For a moment she stood motionless, gazing on the scene before
herthe tranquil valley, the hills, the forest, and the mountain-side,
all lying in the soft clear light of the moon. Oh, lovely! lovely!
she exclaimed. How long it is since I have seen anything like this!
And then, turning to Old Pipes, she said, How good of you to let me
out! I am so happy and so thankful that I must kiss you, you dear old
man! And she threw her arms around the neck of Old Pipes and kissed
him on both cheeks. You don't know, she then went on to say, how
doleful it is to be shut up so long in a tree. I don't mind it in the
winter, for then I am glad to be sheltered; but in summer it is a
rueful thing not to be able to see all the beauties of the world. And
it's ever so long since I've been let out. People so seldom come this
way; and when they do come at the right time they either don't hear me,
or they are frightened and run away. But you, you dear old man, you
were not frightened, and you looked and looked for the key, and you let
me out, and now I shall not have to go back till winter has come and
the air grows cold. Oh, it is glorious! What can I do for you to show
you how grateful I am?
I am very glad, said Old Pipes, that I let you out, since I see
that it makes you so happy; but I must admit that I tried to find the
key because I had a great desire to see a Dryad. But if you wish to do
something for me, you can, if you happen to be going down toward the
To the village! exclaimed the Dryad. I will go anywhere for you,
my kind old benefactor.
Well, then, said Old Pipes, I wish you would take this little bag
of money to the Chief Villager and tell him that Old Pipes cannot
receive pay for the services which he does not perform. It is now more
than a year that I have not been able to make the cattle hear me when I
piped to call them home. I did not know this until to-night; but now
that I know it I cannot keep the money, and so I send it back. And,
handing the little bag to the Dryad, he bade her good-night and turned
toward his cottage.
Good-night, said the Dryad. And I thank you over and over and
over again, you good old man!
Old Pipes walked toward his home, very glad to be saved the fatigue
of going all the way down to the village and back again. To be sure,
he said to himself, this path does not seem at all steep, and I can
walk along it very easily; but it would have tired me dreadfully to
come up all the way from the village, especially as I could not have
expected those children to help me again. When he reached home his
mother was surprised to see him returning so soon.
What! she exclaimed, have you already come back? What did the
Chief Villager say? Did he take the money?
Old Pipes was just about to tell her that he had sent the money to
the village by a Dryad when he suddenly reflected that his mother would
be sure to disapprove such a proceeding, and so he merely said he had
sent it by a person whom he had met.
And how do you know that the person will ever take it to the Chief
Villager? cried his mother. You will lose it, and the villagers will
never get it. Oh, Pipes! Pipes! when will you be old enough to have
ordinary common sense?
Old Pipes considered that as he was already seventy years of age he
could scarcely expect to grow any wiser, but he made no remark on this
subject; and, saying that he doubted not that the money would go safely
to its destination, he sat down to his supper. His mother scolded him
roundly, but he did not mind it; and after supper he went out and sat
on a rustic chair in front of the cottage to look at the moon-lit
village, and to wonder whether or not the Chief Villager really
received the money. While he was doing these two things he went fast
When Old Pipes left the Dryad, she did not go down to the village
with the little bag of money. She held it in her hand and thought about
what she had heard. This is a good and honest old man, she said, and
it is a shame that he should lose this money. He looked as if he needed
it, and I don't believe the people in the village will take it from one
who has served them so long. Often, when in my tree, have I heard the
sweet notes of his pipes. I am going to take the money back to him.
She did not start immediately, because there were so many beautiful
things to look at; but after a while she went up to the cottage, and,
finding Old Pipes asleep in his chair, she slipped the little bag into
his coat pocket and silently sped away.
The next day Old Pipes told his mother that he would go up the
mountain and cut some wood. He had a right to get wood from the
mountain, but for a long time he had been content to pick up the dead
branches which lay about his cottage. To-day, however, he felt so
strong and vigorous that he thought he would go and cut some fuel that
would be better than this. He worked all the morning, and when he came
back he did not feel at all tired, and he had a very good appetite for
Now, Old Pipes knew a good deal about Dryads, but there was one
thing which, although he had heard, he had forgotten. This was that a
kiss from a Dryad made a person ten years younger. The people of the
village knew this, and they were very careful not to let any child of
ten years or younger go into the woods where the Dryads were supposed
to be; for if they should chance to be kissed by one of these
tree-nymphs, they would be set back so far that they would cease to
exist. A story was told in the village that a very bad boy of eleven
once ran away into the woods and had an adventure of this kind; and
when his mother found him he was a little baby of one year old. Taking
advantage of her opportunity, she brought him up more carefully than
she had done before; and he grew to be a very good boy indeed.
Now, Old Pipes had been kissed twice by the Dryad, once on each
cheek, and he therefore felt as vigorous and active as when he was a
hale man of fifty. His mother noticed how much work he was doing, and
told him that he need not try in that way to make up for the loss of
his piping wages; for he would only tire himself out and get sick. But
her son answered that he had not felt so well for years, and that he
was quite able to work. In the course of the afternoon, Old Pipes, for
the first time that day, put his hand in his coat pocket, and there, to
his amazement, he found the little bag of money. Well, well! he
exclaimed, I am stupid indeed! I really thought that I had seen a
Dryad; but when I sat down by that big oak-tree I must have gone to
sleep and dreamed it all; and then I came home thinking I had given the
money to a Dryad, when it was in my pocket all the time. But the Chief
Villager shall have the money. I shall not take it to him to-day; but
to-morrow I wish to go to the village to see some of my old friends,
and then I shall give up the money.
Toward the close of the afternoon, Old Pipes, as had been his custom
for so many years, took his pipes from the shelf on which they lay, and
went out to the rock in front of the cottage.
What are you going to do? cried his mother. If you will not
consent to be paid, why do you pipe?
I am going to pipe for my own pleasure, said her son. I am used
to it, and I do not wish to give it up. It does not matter now whether
the cattle hear me or not, and I am sure that my piping will injure no
When the good man began to play upon his favorite instrument he was
astonished at the sound that came from it. The beautiful notes of the
pipes sounded clear and strong down into the valley, and spread over
the hills and up the sides of the mountain beyond, while, after a
little interval, an echo came back from the rocky hill on the other
side of the valley.
Ha! ha! he cried, what has happened to my pipes? They must have
been stopped up of late, but now they are as clear and good as ever.
Again the merry notes went sounding far and wide. The cattle on the
mountain heard them, and those that were old enough remembered how
these notes had called them from their pastures every evening, and so
they started down the mountain-side, the others following.
The merry notes were heard in the village below, and the people were
much astonished thereby. Why, who can be blowing the pipes of Old
Pipes? they said. But, as they were all very busy, no one went up to
see. One thing, however, was plain enough: the cattle were coming down
the mountain. And so the two boys and the girl did not have to go after
them, and had an hour for play, for which they were very glad.
The next morning Old Pipes started down to the village with his
money, and on the way he met the Dryad. Oh, ho! he cried, is that
you? Why, I thought my letting you out of the tree was nothing but a
A dream! cried the Dryad; if you only knew how happy you have
made me you would not think it merely a dream. And has it not benefited
you? Do you not feel happier? Yesterday I heard you playing beautifully
on your pipes.
Yes, yes, cried he. I did not understand it before, but I see it
all now. I have really grown younger. I thank you, I thank you, good
Dryad, from the bottom of my heart. It was the finding of the money in
my pocket that made me think it was a dream.
Oh, I put it in when you were asleep, she said, laughing, because
I thought you ought to keep it. Good-by, kind, honest man. May you live
long and be as happy as I am now.
Old Pipes was greatly delighted when he understood that he was
really a younger man; but that made no difference about the money, and
he kept on his way to the village. As soon as he reached it he was
eagerly questioned as to who had been playing his pipes the evening
before; and when the people heard that it was himself, they were very
much surprised. Thereupon Old Pipes told what had happened to him, and
then there was greater wonder, with hearty congratulations and
hand-shakes; for Old Pipes was liked by every one. The Chief Villager
refused to take his money, and, although Old Pipes said that he had not
earned it, every one present insisted that, as he would now play on his
pipes as before, he should lose nothing because, for a time, he was
unable to perform his duty.
So Old Pipes was obliged to keep his money, and after an hour or two
spent in conversation with his friends, he returned to his cottage.
There was one individual, however, who was not at all pleased with
what had happened to Old Pipes. This was an Echo-dwarf, who lived on
the hills on the other side of the valley, and whose duty it was to
echo back the notes of the pipes whenever they could be heard. There
were a great many other Echo-dwarfs on these hills, some of whom echoed
back the songs of maidens, some the shouts of children, and others the
music that was often heard in the village. But there was only one who
could send back the strong notes of the pipes of Old Pipes, and this
had been his sole duty for many years. But when the old man grew
feeble, and the notes of his pipes could not be heard on the opposite
hills, this Echo-dwarf had nothing to do, and he spent his time in
delightful idleness; and he slept so much and grew so fat that it made
his companions laugh to see him walk.
On the afternoon on which, after so long an interval, the sound of
the pipes was heard on the echo-hills, this dwarf was fast asleep
behind a rock. As soon as the first notes reached them, some of his
companions ran to wake him. Rolling to his feet, he echoed back the
merry tune of Old Pipes. Naturally he was very much annoyed and
indignant at being thus obliged to give up his life of comfortable
leisure, and he hoped very much that this pipe-playing would not occur
again. The next afternoon he was awake and listening, and, sure enough,
at the usual hour, along came the notes of the pipes as clear and
strong as they ever had been; and he was obliged to work as long as Old
Pipes played. The Echo-dwarf was very angry. He had supposed, of
course, that the pipe-playing had ceased forever, and he felt that he
had a right to be indignant at being thus deceived. He was so much
disturbed that he made up his mind to go and try to find out whether
this was to be a temporary matter or not. He had plenty of time, as the
pipes were played but once a day, and he set off early in the morning
for the hill on which Old Pipes lived. It was hard work for the fat
little fellow, and when he had crossed the valley and had gone some
distance into the woods on the hillside, he stopped to rest, and in a
few minutes the Dryad came tripping along.
Ho, ho! exclaimed the dwarf; what are you doing here? and how did
you get out of your tree?
Doing! cried the Dryad, I am being happy; that's what I am doing.
And I was let out of my tree by a good old man who plays the pipes to
call the cattle down from the mountain. And it makes me happier to
think that I have been of service to him. I gave him two kisses of
gratitude, and now he is young enough to play his pipes as well as
The Echo-dwarf stepped forward, his face pale with passion. Am I to
believe, he said, that you are the cause of this great evil that has
come upon me? and that you are the wicked creature who has again
started this old man upon his career of pipe-playing? What have I ever
done to you that you should have condemned me for years and years to
echo back the notes of those wretched pipes?
At this the Dryad laughed loudly.
What a funny little fellow you are! she said. Any one would think
you had been condemned to toil from morning till night; while what you
really have to do is merely to imitate for half an hour every day the
merry notes of Old Pipes's piping. Fie upon you, Echo-dwarf! You are
lazy and selfish; and that is what is the matter with you. Instead of
grumbling at being obliged to do a little wholesome workwhich is
less, I am sure, than that of any other Echo-dwarf upon the rocky
hillsideyou should rejoice at the good fortune of the old man who has
regained so much of his strength and vigor. Go home and learn to be
just and generous; and then, perhaps, you may be happy. Good-by.
Insolent creature! shouted the dwarf, as he shook his fat little
fist at her. I'll make you suffer for this. You shall find out what it
is to heap injury and insult upon one like me, and to snatch from him
the repose that he has earned by long years of toil. And, shaking his
head savagely, he hurried back to the rocky hillside.
Every afternoon the merry notes of the pipes of Old Pipes sounded
down into the valley and over the hills and up the mountain-side; and
every afternoon when he had echoed them back, the little dwarf grew
more and more angry with the Dryad. Each day, from early morning till
it was time for him to go back to his duties upon the rocky hillside,
he searched the woods for her. He intended, if he met her, to pretend
to be very sorry for what he had said, and he thought he might be able
to play a trick upon her which would avenge him well. One day, while
thus wandering among the trees, he met Old Pipes. The Echo-dwarf did
not generally care to see or speak to ordinary people; but now he was
so anxious to find the object of his search that he stopped and asked
Old Pipes if he had seen the Dryad. The piper had not noticed the
little fellow, and he looked down on him with some surprise.
No, he said, I have not seen her, and I have been looking
everywhere for her.
You! cried the dwarf; what do you wish with her?
Old Pipes then sat down on a stone, so that he should be nearer the
ear of his small companion, and he told what the Dryad had done for
When the Echo-dwarf heard that this was the man whose pipes he was
obliged to echo back every day, he would have slain him on the spot had
he been able; but, as he was not able, he merely ground his teeth and
listened to the rest of the story.
I am looking for the Dryad now, Old Pipes continued, on account
of my aged mother. When I was old myself, I did not notice how very old
my mother was; but now it shocks me to see how feeble and decrepit her
years have caused her to become; and I am looking for the Dryad to ask
her to make my mother younger, as she made me.
The eyes of the Echo-dwarf glistened. Here was a man who might help
him in his plans.
Your idea is a good one, he said to Old Pipes, and it does you
honor. But you should know that a Dryad can make no person younger but
one who lets her out of her tree. However, you can manage the affair
very easily. All you need do is to find the Dryad, tell her what you
want, and request her to step into her tree and be shut up for a short
time. Then you will go and bring your mother to the tree; she will open
it, and everything will be as you wish. Is not this a good plan?
Excellent! cried Old Pipes; and I will go instantly and search
more diligently for the Dryad.
Take me with you, said the Echo-dwarf. You can easily carry me on
your strong shoulders; and I shall be glad to help you in any way that
Now, then, said the little fellow to himself, as Old Pipes carried
him rapidly along, if he persuades the Dryad to get into a treeand
she is quite foolish enough to do itand then goes away to bring his
mother, I shall take a stone or a club and I will break off the key of
that tree, so that nobody can ever turn it again. Then Mistress Dryad
will see what she has brought upon herself by her behavior to me.
Before long they came to the great oak-tree in which the Dryad had
lived, and, at a distance, they saw that beautiful creature herself
coming toward them.
How excellently well everything happens! said the dwarf. Put me
down, and I will go. Your business with the Dryad is more important
than mine; and you need not say anything about my having suggested your
plan to you. I am willing that you should have all the credit of it
Old Pipes put the Echo-dwarf upon the ground, but the little rogue
did not go away. He concealed himself between some low, mossy rocks,
and he was so much of their color that you would not have noticed him
if you had been looking straight at him.
When the Dryad came up, Old Pipes lost no time in telling her about
his mother, and what he wished her to do. At first the Dryad answered
nothing, but stood looking very sadly at Old Pipes.
Do you really wish me to go into my tree again? she said. I
should dreadfully dislike to do it, for I don't know what might happen.
It is not at all necessary, for I could make your mother younger at any
time if she would give me the opportunity. I had already thought of
making you still happier in this way, and several times I have waited
about your cottage, hoping to meet your aged mother; but she never
comes outside, and you know a Dryad cannot enter a house. I cannot
imagine what put this idea into your head. Did you think of it
No, I cannot say that I did, answered Old Pipes. A little dwarf
whom I met in the woods proposed it to me.
Oh! cried the Dryad, now I see through it all. It is the scheme
of that vile Echo-dwarfyour enemy and mine. Where is he? I should
like to see him.
I think he has gone away, said Old Pipes.
No, he has not, said the Dryad, whose quick eyes perceived the
Echo-dwarf among the rocks. There he is. Seize him and drag him out, I
beg of you.
Old Pipes perceived the dwarf as soon as he was pointed out to him,
and, running to the rocks, he caught the little fellow by the arm and
pulled him out.
Now, then, cried the Dryad, who had opened the door of the great
oak, just stick him in there and we will shut him up. Then I shall be
safe from his mischief for the rest of the time I am free.
Old Pipes thrust the Echo-dwarf into the tree; the Dryad pushed the
door shut; there was a clicking sound of bark and wood, and no one
would have noticed that the big oak had ever had an opening in it.
There! said the Dryad; now we need not be afraid of him. And I
assure you, my good piper, that I shall be very glad to make your
mother younger as soon as I can. Will you not ask her to come out and
Of course I will, cried Old Pipes; and I will do it without
And then, the Dryad by his side, he hurried to his cottage. But when
he mentioned the matter to his mother, the old woman became very angry
indeed. She did not believe in Dryads; and, if they really did exist,
she knew they must be witches and sorceresses, and she would have
nothing to do with them. If her son had ever allowed himself to be
kissed by one of them, he ought to be ashamed of himself. As to its
doing him the least bit of good, she did not believe a word of it. He
felt better than he used to feel, but that was very common; she had
sometimes felt that way herself. And she forbade him ever to mention a
Dryad to her again.
That afternoon Old Pipes, feeling very sad that his plan in regard
to his mother had failed, sat down upon the rock and played upon his
pipes. The pleasant sounds went down the valley and up the hills and
mountain, but, to the great surprise of some persons who happened to
notice the fact, the notes were not echoed back from the rocky
hillside, but from the woods on the side of the valley on which Old
Pipes lived. The next day many of the villagers stopped in their work
to listen to the echo of the pipes coming from the woods. The sound was
not as clear and strong as it used to be when it was sent back from the
rocky hillside, but it certainly came from among the trees. Such a
thing as an echo changing its place in this way had never been heard of
before, and nobody was able to explain how it could have happened. Old
Pipes, however, knew very well that the sound came from the Echo-dwarf
shut up in the great oak-tree. The sides of the tree were thin, and the
sound of the pipes could be heard through them, and the dwarf was
obliged by the laws of his being to echo back those notes whenever they
came to him. But Old Pipes thought he might get the Dryad in trouble if
he let any one know that the Echo-dwarf was shut up in the tree, and so
he wisely said nothing about it.
One day the two boys and the girl who had helped Old Pipes up the
hill were playing in the woods. Stopping near the great oak-tree, they
heard a sound of knocking within it, and then a voice plainly said:
Let me out! let me out!
For a moment the children stood still in astonishment, and then one
of the boys exclaimed:
Oh, it is a Dryad, like the one Old Pipes found! Let's let her
What are you thinking of? cried the girl. I am the oldest of all,
and I am only thirteen. Do you wish to be turned into crawling babies?
Run! run! run!
And the two boys and the girl dashed down into the valley as fast as
their legs could carry them. There was no desire in their youthful
hearts to be made younger than they were. And for fear that their
parents might think it well that they should commence their careers
anew, they never said a word about finding the Dryad-tree.
As the summer days went on Old Pipes's mother grew feebler and
feebler. One day when her son was awayfor he now frequently went into
the woods to hunt or fish, or down into the valley to workshe arose
from her knitting to prepare the simple dinner. But she felt so weak
and tired that she was not able to do the work to which she had been so
long accustomed. Alas! alas! she said, the time has come when I am
too old to work. My son will have to hire some one to come here and
cook his meals, make his bed, and mend his clothes. Alas! alas! I had
hoped that as long as I lived I should be able to do these things. But
it is not so. I have grown utterly worthless, and some one else must
prepare the dinner for my son. I wonder where he is. And tottering to
the door, she went outside to look for him. She did not feel able to
stand, and reaching the rustic chair, she sank into it, quite
exhausted, and soon fell asleep.
The Dryad, who had often come to the cottage to see if she could
find an opportunity of carrying out Old Pipes's affectionate design,
now happened by; and seeing that the much-desired occasion had come,
she stepped up quietly behind the old woman and gently kissed her on
each cheek, and then as quietly disappeared.
In a few minutes the mother of Old Pipes awoke, and looking up at
the sun, she exclaimed, Why, it is almost dinner-time! My son will be
here directly, and I am not ready for him. And rising to her feet, she
hurried into the house, made the fire, set the meat and vegetables to
cook, laid the cloth, and by the time her son arrived the meal was on
How a little sleep does refresh one! she said to herself, as she
was bustling about. She was a woman of very vigorous constitution, and
at seventy had been a great deal stronger and more active than her son
was at that age. The moment Old Pipes saw his mother, he knew that the
Dryad had been there; but, while he felt as happy as a king, he was too
wise to say anything about her.
It is astonishing how well I feel to-day, said his mother; and
either my hearing has improved or you speak much more plainly than you
have done of late.
The summer days went on and passed away, the leaves were falling
from the trees, and the air was becoming cold.
Nature has ceased to be lovely, said the Dryad, and the night
winds chill me. It is time for me to go back into my comfortable
quarters in the great oak. But first I must pay another visit to the
cottage of Old Pipes.
She found the piper and his mother sitting side by side on the rock
in front of the door. The cattle were not to go to the mountain any
more that season, and he was piping them down for the last time. Loud
and merrily sounded the pipes of Old Pipes, and down the mountain-side
came the cattle, the cows by the easiest paths, the sheep by those not
quite so easy, and the goats by the most difficult ones among the
rocks; while from the great oak-tree were heard the echoes of the
How happy they look, sitting there together! said the Dryad; and
I don't believe it will do them a bit of harm to be still younger. And
moving quietly up behind them, she first kissed Old Pipes on his cheek
and then his mother.
Old Pipes, who had stopped playing, knew what it was, but he did not
move, and said nothing. His mother, thinking that her son had kissed
her, turned to him with a smile and kissed him in return. And then she
arose and went into the cottage, a vigorous woman of sixty, followed by
her son, erect and happy, and twenty years younger than herself.
The Dryad sped away to the woods, shrugging her shoulders as she
felt the cool evening wind.
When she reached the great oak, she turned the key and opened the
door. Come out, she said to the Echo-dwarf, who sat blinking within.
Winter is coming on, and I want the comfortable shelter of my tree for
myself. The cattle have come down from the mountain for the last time
this year, the pipes will no longer sound, and you can go to your rocks
and have a holiday until next spring.
Upon hearing these words the dwarf skipped quickly out, and the
Dryad entered the tree and pulled the door shut after her. Now, then,
she said to herself, he can break off the key if he likes. It does not
matter to me. Another will grow out next spring. And although the good
piper made me no promise, I know that when the warm days arrive next
year he will come and let me out again.
The Echo-dwarf did not stop to break the key of the tree. He was too
happy to be released to think of anything else, and he hastened as fast
as he could to his home on the rocky hillside.
* * * * *
The Dryad was not mistaken when she trusted in the piper. When the
warm days came again he went to the oak-tree to let her out. But, to
his sorrow and surprise, he found the great tree lying upon the ground.
A winter storm had blown it down, and it lay with its trunk shattered
and split. And what became of the Dryad no one ever knew.
THE TRANSFERRED GHOST
The country residence of Mr. John Hinckman was a delightful place to
me, for many reasons. It was the abode of a genial, though somewhat
impulsive, hospitality. It had broad, smooth-shaven lawns and towering
oaks and elms; there were bosky shades at several points, and not far
from the house there was a little rill spanned by a rustic bridge with
the bark on; there were fruits and flowers, pleasant people, chess,
billiards, rides, walks, and fishing. These were great attractions; but
none of them, nor all of them together, would have been sufficient to
hold me to the place very long. I had been invited for the trout
season, but should probably have finished my visit early in the summer
had it not been that upon fair days, when the grass was dry, and the
sun was not too hot, and there was but little wind, there strolled
beneath the lofty elms, or passed lightly through the bosky shades, the
form of my Madeline.
This lady was not, in very truth, my Madeline. She had never given
herself to me, nor had I, in any way, acquired possession of her. But
as I considered her possession the only sufficient reason for the
continuance of my existence, I called her, in my reveries, mine. It may
have been that I would not have been obliged to confine the use of this
possessive pronoun to my reveries had I confessed the state of my
feelings to the lady.
But this was an unusually difficult thing to do. Not only did I
dread, as almost all lovers dread, taking the step which would in an
instant put an end to that delightful season which may be termed the
ante-interrogatory period of love, and which might at the same time
terminate all intercourse or connection with the object of my passion,
but I was also dreadfully afraid of John Hinckman. This gentleman was a
good friend of mine, but it would have required a bolder man than I was
at that time to ask him for the gift of his niece, who was the head of
his household, and, according to his own frequent statement, the main
prop of his declining years. Had Madeline acquiesced in my general
views on the subject, I might have felt encouraged to open the matter
to Mr. Hinckman; but, as I said before, I had never asked her whether
or not she would be mine. I thought of these things at all hours of the
day and night, particularly the latter.
I was lying awake one night, in the great bed in my spacious
chamber, when, by the dim light of the new moon, which partially filled
the room, I saw John Hinckman standing by a large chair near the door.
I was very much surprised at this, for two reasons. In the first place,
my host had never before come into my room; and, in the second place,
he had gone from home that morning, and had not expected to return for
several days. It was for this reason that I had been able that evening
to sit much later than usual with Madeline on the moon-lit porch. The
figure was certainly that of John Hinckman in his ordinary dress, but
there was a vagueness and indistinctness about it which presently
assured me that it was a ghost. Had the good old man been murdered? and
had his spirit come to tell me of the deed, and to confide to me the
protection of his dear? My heart fluttered at what I was about to
think, but at this instant the figure spoke.
Do you know, he said, with a countenance that indicated anxiety,
if Mr. Hinckman will return to-night?
I thought it well to maintain a calm exterior, and I answered:
We do not expect him.
I am glad of that, said he, sinking into the chair by which he
stood. During the two years and a half that I have inhabited this
house, that man has never before been away for a single night. You
can't imagine the relief it gives me.
And as he spoke he stretched out his legs and leaned back in the
chair. His form became less vague, and the colors of his garments more
distinct and evident, while an expression of gratified relief succeeded
to the anxiety of his countenance.
Two years and a half! I exclaimed. I don't understand you.
It is fully that length of time, said the ghost, since I first
came here. Mine is not an ordinary case. But before I say anything more
about it, let me ask you again if you are sure Mr. Hinckman will not
I am as sure of it as I can be of anything, I answered. He left
to-day for Bristol, two hundred miles away.
Then I will go on, said the ghost, for I am glad to have the
opportunity of talking to some one who will listen to me; but if John
Hinckman should come in and catch me here I should be frightened out of
This is all very strange, I said, greatly puzzled by what I had
heard. Are you the ghost of Mr. Hinckman?
This was a bold question, but my mind was so full of other emotions
that there seemed to be no room for that of fear.
Yes, I am his ghost, my companion replied, and yet I have no
right to be. And this is what makes me so uneasy, and so much afraid of
him. It is a strange story, and, I truly believe, without precedent.
Two years and a half ago John Hinckman was dangerously ill in this very
room. At one time he was so far gone that he was really believed to be
dead. It was in consequence of too precipitate a report in regard to
this matter that I was, at that time, appointed to be his ghost.
Imagine my surprise and horror, sir, when, after I had accepted the
position and assumed its responsibilities, that old man revived, became
convalescent, and eventually regained his usual health. My situation
was now one of extreme delicacy and embarrassment. I had no power to
return to my original unembodiment, and I had no right to be the ghost
of a man who was not dead. I was advised by my friends to quietly
maintain my position, and was assured that, as John Hinckman was an
elderly man, it could not be long before I could rightfully assume the
position for which I had been selected. But I tell you, sir, he
continued, with animation, the old fellow seems as vigorous as ever,
and I have no idea how much longer this annoying state of things will
continue. I spend my time trying to get out of that old man's way. I
must not leave this house, and he seems to follow me everywhere. I tell
you, sir, he haunts me.
That is truly a queer state of things, I remarked. But why are
you afraid of him? He couldn't hurt you.
Of course he couldn't, said the ghost. But his very presence is a
shock and terror to me. Imagine, sir, how you would feel if my case
I could not imagine such a thing at all. I simply shuddered.
And if one must be a wrongful ghost at all, the apparition
continued, it would be much pleasanter to be the ghost of some man
other than John Hinckman. There is in him an irascibility of temper,
accompanied by a facility of invective, which is seldom met with. And
what would happen if he were to see me, and find out, as I am sure he
would, how long and why I had inhabited his house, I can scarcely
conceive. I have seen him in his bursts of passion; and, although he
did not hurt the people he stormed at any more than he would hurt me,
they seemed to shrink before him.
All this I knew to be very true. Had it not been for this
peculiarity of Mr. Hinckman I might have been more willing to talk to
him about his niece.
I feel sorry for you, I said, for I really began to have a
sympathetic feeling toward this unfortunate apparition. Your case is
indeed a hard one. It reminds me of those persons who have had doubles,
and I suppose a man would often be very angry indeed when he found that
there was another being who was personating himself.
Oh, the cases are not similar at all, said the ghost. A double or
doppelgänger lives on the earth with a man, and, being exactly like
him, he makes all sorts of trouble, of course. It is very different
with me. I am not here to live with Mr. Hinckman. I am here to take his
place. Now, it would make John Hinckman very angry if he knew that.
Don't you know it would?
I assented promptly.
Now that he is away I can be easy for a little while, continued
the ghost; and I am so glad to have an opportunity of talking to you.
I have frequently come into your room and watched you while you slept,
but did not dare to speak to you for fear that if you talked with me
Mr. Hinckman would hear you and come into the room to know why you were
talking to yourself.
But would he not hear you? I asked.
Oh no! said the other; there are times when any one may see me,
but no one hears me except the person to whom I address myself.
But why did you wish to speak to me? I asked.
Because, replied the ghost, I like occasionally to talk to
people, and especially to some one like yourself, whose mind is so
troubled and perturbed that you are not likely to be frightened by a
visit from one of us. But I particularly wanted to ask you to do me a
favor. There is every probability, so far as I can see, that John
Hinckman will live a long time, and my situation is becoming
insupportable. My great object at present is to get myself transferred,
and I think that you may, perhaps, be of use to me.
Transferred! I exclaimed. What do you mean by that?
What I mean, said the other, is this: now that I have started on
my career I have got to be the ghost of somebody, and I want to be the
ghost of a man who is really dead.
I should think that would be easy enough, I said. Opportunities
must continually occur.
Not at all! not at all! said my companion, quickly. You have no
idea what a rush and pressure there is for situations of this kind.
Whenever a vacancy occurs, if I may express myself in that way, there
are crowds of applications for the ghostship.
I had no idea that such a state of things existed, I said,
becoming quite interested in the matter. There ought to be some
regular system, or order of precedence, by which you could all take
your turns like customers in a barber's shop.
Oh dear, that would never do at all! said the other. Some of us
would have to wait forever. There is always a great rush whenever a
good ghostship offers itselfwhile, as you know, there are some
positions that no one would care for. And it was in consequence of my
being in too great a hurry on an occasion of the kind that I got myself
into my present disagreeable predicament, and I have thought that it
might be possible that you would help me out of it. You might know of a
case where an opportunity for a ghostship was not generally expected,
but which might present itself at any moment. If you would give me a
short notice I know I could arrange for a transfer.
What do you mean? I exclaimed. Do you want me to commit suicide?
or to undertake a murder for your benefit?
Oh no, no, no! said the other, with a vapory smile. I mean
nothing of that kind. To be sure, there are lovers who are watched with
considerable interest, such persons having been known, in moments of
depression, to offer very desirable ghostships; but I did not think of
anything of that kind in connection with you. You were the only person
I cared to speak to, and I hoped that you might give me some
information that would be of use; and, in return, I shall be very glad
to help you in your love-affair.
You seem to know that I have such an affair, I said.
Oh yes! replied the other, with a little yawn. I could not be
here so much as I have been without knowing all about that.
There was something horrible in the idea of Madeline and myself
having been watched by a ghost, even, perhaps, when we wandered
together in the most delightful and bosky places. But then this was
quite an exceptional ghost, and I could not have the objections to him
which would ordinarily arise in regard to beings of his class.
I must go now, said the ghost, rising, but I will see you
somewhere to-morrow night. And rememberyou help me and I'll help
I had doubts the next morning as to the propriety of telling
Madeline anything about this interview, and soon convinced myself that
I must keep silent on the subject. If she knew there was a ghost about
the house she would probably leave the place instantly. I did not
mention the matter, and so regulated my demeanor that I am quite sure
Madeline never suspected what had taken place. For some time I had
wished that Mr. Hinckman would absent himself, for a day at least, from
the premises. In such case I thought I might more easily nerve myself
up to the point of speaking to Madeline on the subject of our future
collateral existence; and, now that the opportunity for such speech had
really occurred, I did not feel ready to avail myself of it. What would
become of me if she refused me?
I had an idea, however, that the lady thought that, if I were going
to speak at all, this was the time. She must have known that certain
sentiments were afloat within me, and she was not unreasonable in her
wish to see the matter settled one way or the other. But I did not feel
like taking a bold step in the dark. If she wished me to ask her to
give herself to me she ought to offer me some reason to suppose that
she would make the gift. If I saw no probability of such generosity I
would prefer that things should remain as they were.
* * * * *
That evening I was sitting with Madeline in the moon-lit porch. It
was nearly ten o'clock, and ever since supper-time I had been working
myself up to the point of making an avowal of my sentiments. I had not
positively determined to do this, but wished gradually to reach the
proper point, when, if the prospect looked bright, I might speak. My
companion appeared to understand the situationat least I imagined
that the nearer I came to a proposal the more she seemed to expect it.
It was certainly a very critical and important epoch in my life. If I
spoke I should make myself happy or miserable forever; and if I did not
speak I had every reason to believe that the lady would not give me
another chance to do so.
Sitting thus with Madeline, talking a little, and thinking very hard
over these momentous matters, I looked up and saw the ghost not a dozen
feet away from us. He was sitting on the railing of the porch, one leg
thrown up before him, the other dangling down as he leaned against a
post. He was behind Madeline, but almost in front of me, as I sat
facing the lady. It was fortunate that Madeline was looking out over
the landscape, for I must have appeared very much startled. The ghost
had told me that he would see me sometime this night, but I did not
think he would make his appearance when I was in the company of
Madeline. If she should see the spirit of her uncle I could not answer
for the consequences. I made no exclamation, but the ghost evidently
saw that I was troubled.
Don't be afraid, he said. I shall not let her see me; and she
cannot hear me speak unless I address myself to her, which I do not
intend to do.
I suppose I looked grateful.
So you need not trouble yourself about that, the ghost continued;
but it seems to me that you are not getting along very well with your
affair. If I were you I should speak out without waiting any longer.
You will never have a better chance. You are not likely to be
interrupted; and, so far as I can judge, the lady seems disposed to
listen to you favorably; that is, if she ever intends to do so. There
is no knowing when John Hinckman will go away again; certainly not this
summer. If I were in your place I should never dare to make love to
Hinckman's niece if he were anywhere about the place. If he should
catch any one offering himself to Miss Madeline he would then be a
terrible man to encounter.
I agreed perfectly to all this.
I cannot bear to think of him! I ejaculated aloud.
Think of whom? asked Madeline, turning quickly toward me.
Here was an awkward situation. The long speech of the ghost, to
which Madeline paid no attention, but which I heard with perfect
distinctness, had made me forget myself.
It was necessary to explain quickly. Of course it would not do to
admit that it was of her dear uncle that I was speaking; and so I
mentioned hastily the first name I thought of.
Mr. Vilars, I said.
This statement was entirely correct; for I never could bear to think
of Mr. Vilars, who was a gentleman who had at various times paid much
attention to Madeline.
It is wrong for you to speak in that way of Mr. Vilars, she said.
He is a remarkably well-educated and sensible young man, and has very
pleasant manners. He expects to be elected to the legislature this
fall, and I should not be surprised if he made his mark. He will do
well in a legislative body, for whenever Mr. Vilars has anything to say
he knows just how and when to say it.
This was spoken very quietly and without any show of resentment,
which was all very natural; for if Madeline thought at all favorably of
me she could not feel displeased that I should have disagreeable
emotions in regard to a possible rival. The concluding words contained
a hint which I was not slow to understand. I felt very sure that if Mr.
Vilars were in my present position he would speak quickly enough.
I know it is wrong to have such ideas about a person, I said, but
I cannot help it.
The lady did not chide me, and after this she seemed even in a
softer mood. As for me, I felt considerably annoyed, for I had not
wished to admit that any thought of Mr. Vilars had ever occupied my
You should not speak aloud that way, said the ghost, or you may
get yourself into trouble. I want to see everything go well with you,
because then you may be disposed to help me, especially if I should
chance to be of any assistance to you, which I hope I shall be.
I longed to tell him that there was no way in which he could help me
so much as by taking his instant departure. To make love to a young
lady with a ghost sitting on the railing near by, and that ghost the
apparition of a much-dreaded uncle, the very idea of whom in such a
position and at such a time made me tremble, was a difficult, if not an
impossible, thing to do; but I forbore to speak, although I may have
looked, my mind.
I suppose, continued the ghost, that you have not heard anything
that might be of advantage to me. Of course I am very anxious to hear;
but if you have anything to tell me I can wait until you are alone. I
will come to you to-night in your room, or I will stay here until the
lady goes away.
You need not wait here, I said; I have nothing at all to say to
Madeline sprang to her feet, her face flushed and her eyes ablaze.
Wait here! she cried. What do you suppose I am waiting for?
Nothing to say to me indeed!I should think so! What should you have
to say to me?
Madeline, I exclaimed, stepping toward her, let me explain.
But she had gone.
Here was the end of the world for me! I turned fiercely to the
Wretched existence! I cried. You have ruined everything. You have
blackened my whole life. Had it not been for you
But here my voice faltered. I could say no more.
You wrong me, said the ghost. I have not injured you. I have
tried only to encourage and assist you, and it is your own folly that
has done this mischief. But do not despair. Such mistakes as these can
be explained. Keep up a brave heart. Good-by.
And he vanished from the railing like a bursting soap-bubble.
I went gloomily to bed, but I saw no apparitions that night except
those of despair and misery which my wretched thoughts called up. The
words I had uttered had sounded to Madeline like the basest insult. Of
course there was only one interpretation she could put upon them.
As to explaining my ejaculations, that was impossible. I thought the
matter over and over again as I lay awake that night, and I determined
that I would never tell Madeline the facts of the case. It would be
better for me to suffer all my life than for her to know that the ghost
of her uncle haunted the house. Mr. Hinckman was away, and if she knew
of his ghost she could not be made to believe that he was not dead. She
might not survive the shock! No, my heart could bleed, but I would
never tell her.
The next day was fine, neither too cool nor too warm; the breezes
were gentle, and Nature smiled. But there were no walks or rides with
Madeline. She seemed to be much engaged during the day, and I saw but
little of her. When we met at meals she was polite, but very quiet and
reserved. She had evidently determined on a course of conduct, and had
resolved to assume that, although I had been very rude to her, she did
not understand the import of my words. It would be quite proper, of
course, for her not to know what I meant by my expressions of the night
I was downcast and wretched and said but little, and the only bright
streak across the black horizon of my woe was the fact that she did not
appear to be happy, although she affected an air of unconcern. The
moon-lit porch was deserted that evening, but wandering about the
house, I found Madeline in the library alone. She was reading, but I
went in and sat down near her. I felt that, although I could not do so
fully, I must in a measure explain my conduct of the night before. She
listened quietly to a somewhat labored apology I made for the words I
I have not the slightest idea what you meant, she said, but you
were very rude.
I earnestly disclaimed any intention of rudeness, and assured her,
with a warmth of speech that must have made some impression upon her,
that rudeness to her would be an action impossible to me. I said a
great deal upon the subject, and implored her to believe that if it
were not for a certain obstacle I could speak to her so plainly that
she would understand everything.
She was silent for a time, and then she said, rather more kindly, I
thought, than she had spoken before:
Is that obstacle in any way connected with my uncle?
Yes, I answered, after a little hesitation, it is, in a measure,
connected with him.
She made no answer to this, and sat looking at her book, but not
reading. From the expression of her face I thought she was somewhat
softened toward me. She knew her uncle as well as I did, and she may
have been thinking that, if he were the obstacle that prevented my
speaking (and there were many ways in which he might be that obstacle),
my position would be such a hard one that it would excuse some wildness
of speech and eccentricity of manner. I saw, too, that the warmth of my
partial explanations had had some effect on her, and I began to believe
that it might be a good thing for me to speak my mind without delay. No
matter how she should receive my proposition, my relations with her
could not be worse than they had been the previous night and day, and
there was something in her face which encouraged me to hope that she
might forget my foolish exclamations of the evening before if I began
to tell her my tale of love.
I drew my chair a little nearer to her, and as I did so the ghost
burst into the room from the doorway behind her. I say burst, although
no door flew open and he made no noise. He was wildly excited, and
waved his arms above his head. The moment I saw him my heart fell
within me. With the entrance of that impertinent apparition every hope
fled from me. I could not speak while he was in the room.
I must have turned pale; and I gazed steadfastly at the ghost,
almost without seeing Madeline, who sat between us.
Do you know, he cried, that John Hinckman is coming up the hill?
He will be here in fifteen minutes; and if you are doing anything in
the way of love-making you had better hurry it up. But this is not what
I came to tell you. I have glorious news! At last I am transferred! Not
forty minutes ago a Russian nobleman was murdered by the Nihilists.
Nobody ever thought of him in connection with an immediate ghostship.
My friends instantly applied for the situation for me, and obtained my
transfer. I am off before that horrid Hinckman comes up the hill. The
moment I reach my new position I shall put off this hated semblance.
Good-by. You can't imagine how glad I am to be, at last, the real ghost
Oh! I cried, rising to my feet, and stretching out my arms in
utter wretchedness, I would to Heaven you were mine!
I am yours, said Madeline, raising to me her tearful eyes.
THE PHILOSOPHY OF RELATIVE
In a certain summer, not long gone, my friend Bentley and I found
ourselves in a little hamlet which overlooked a placid valley, through
which a river gently moved, winding its way through green stretches
until it turned the end of a line of low hills and was lost to view.
Beyond this river, far away, but visible from the door of the cottage
where we dwelt, there lay a city. Through the mists which floated over
the valley we could see the outlines of steeples and tall roofs; and
buildings of a character which indicated thrift and business stretched
themselves down to the opposite edge of the river. The more distant
parts of the city, evidently a small one, lost themselves in the hazy
Bentley was young, fair-haired, and a poet; I was a philosopher, or
trying to be one. We were good friends, and had come down into this
peaceful region to work together. Although we had fled from the bustle
and distractions of the town, the appearance in this rural region of a
city, which, so far as we could observe, exerted no influence on the
quiet character of the valley in which it lay, aroused our interest. No
craft plied up and down the river; there were no bridges from shore to
shore; there were none of those scattered and half-squalid habitations
which generally are found on the outskirts of a city; there came to us
no distant sound of bells; and not the smallest wreath of smoke rose
from any of the buildings.
In answer to our inquiries our landlord told us that the city over
the river had been built by one man, who was a visionary, and who had a
great deal more money than common sense. It is not as big a town as
you would think, sirs, he said, because the general mistiness of
things in this valley makes them look larger than they are. Those
hills, for instance, when you get to them are not as high as they look
to be from here. But the town is big enough, and a good deal too big;
for it ruined its builder and owner, who when he came to die had not
money enough left to put up a decent tombstone at the head of his
grave. He had a queer idea that he would like to have his town all
finished before anybody lived in it, and so he kept on working and
spending money year after year and year after year until the city was
done and he had not a cent left. During all the time that the place was
building hundreds of people came to him to buy houses, or to hire them,
but he would not listen to anything of the kind. No one must live in
his town until it was all done. Even his workmen were obliged to go
away at night to lodge. It is a town, sirs, I am told, in which nobody
has slept for even a night. There are streets there, and places of
business, and churches, and public halls, and everything that a town
full of inhabitants could need; but it is all empty and deserted, and
has been so as far back as I can remember, and I came to this region
when I was a little boy.
And is there no one to guard the place? we asked; no one to
protect it from wandering vagrants who might choose to take possession
of the buildings?
There are not many vagrants in this part of the country, he said,
and if there were they would not go over to that city. It is haunted.
By what? we asked.
Well, sirs, I scarcely can tell you; queer beings that are not
flesh and blood, and that is all I know about it. A good many people
living hereabouts have visited that place once in their lives, but I
know of no one who has gone there a second time.
And travellers, I said, are they not excited by curiosity to
explore that strange uninhabited city?
Oh yes, our host replied; almost all visitors to the valley go
over to that queer citygenerally in small parties, for it is not a
place in which one wishes to walk about alone. Sometimes they see
things and sometimes they don't. But I never knew any man or woman to
show a fancy for living there, although it is a very good town.
This was said at supper-time, and, as it was the period of full
moon, Bentley and I decided that we would visit the haunted city that
evening. Our host endeavored to dissuade us, saying that no one ever
went over there at night; but as we were not to be deterred he told us
where we would find his small boat tied to a stake on the river-bank.
We soon crossed the river, and landed at a broad but low stone pier, at
the land end of which a line of tall grasses waved in the gentle night
wind as if they were sentinels warning us from entering the silent
city. We pushed through these, and walked up a street fairly wide, and
so well paved that we noticed none of the weeds and other growths which
generally denote desertion or little use. By the bright light of the
moon we could see that the architecture was simple, and of a character
highly gratifying to the eye. All the buildings were of stone, and of
good size. We were greatly excited and interested, and proposed to
continue our walks until the moon should set, and to return on the
following morningto live here, perhaps, said Bentley. What could
be so romantic and yet so real? What could conduce better to the
marriage of verse and philosophy? But as he said this we saw around
the corner of a cross-street some forms as of people hurrying away.
The spectres, said my companion, laying his hand on my arm.
Vagrants, more likely, I answered, who have taken advantage of
the superstition of the region to appropriate this comfort and beauty
If that be so, said Bentley, we must have a care for our lives.
We proceeded cautiously, and soon saw other forms fleeing before us
and disappearing, as we supposed, around corners and into houses. And
now suddenly finding ourselves upon the edge of a wide, open public
square, we saw in the dim lightfor a tall steeple obscured the
moonthe forms of vehicles, horses, and men moving here and there. But
before, in our astonishment, we could say a word one to the other, the
moon moved past the steeple, and in its bright light we could see none
of the signs of life and traffic which had just astonished us.
Timidly, with hearts beating fast, but with not one thought of
turning back, nor any fear of vagrantsfor we were now sure that what
we had seen was not flesh and blood, and therefore harmlesswe crossed
the open space and entered a street down which the moon shone clearly.
Here and there we saw dim figures, which quickly disappeared; but,
approaching a low stone balcony in front of one of the houses, we were
surprised to see, sitting thereon and leaning over a book which lay
open upon the top of the carved parapet, the figure of a woman who did
not appear to notice us.
That is a real person, whispered Bentley, and she does not see
No, I replied; it is like the others. Let us go near it.
We drew near to the balcony and stood before it. At this the figure
raised its head and looked at us. It was beautiful, it was young; but
its substance seemed to be of an ethereal quality which we had never
seen or known of. With its full, soft eyes fixed upon us, it spoke.
Why are you here? it asked. I have said to myself that the next
time I saw any of you I would ask you why you come to trouble us.
Cannot you live content in your own realms and spheres, knowing, as you
must know, how timid we are, and how you frighten us and make us
unhappy? In all this city there is, I believe, not one of us except
myself who does not flee and hide from you whenever you cruelly come
here. Even I would do that, had not I declared to myself that I would
see you and speak to you, and endeavor to prevail upon you to leave us
The clear, frank tones of the speaker gave me courage. We are two
men, I answered, strangers in this region, and living for the time in
the beautiful country on the other side of the river. Having heard of
this quiet city, we have come to see it for ourselves. We had supposed
it to be uninhabited, but now that we find that this is not the case,
we would assure you from our hearts that we do not wish to disturb or
annoy any one who lives here. We simply came as honest travellers to
view the city.
The figure now seated herself again, and as her countenance was
nearer to us, we could see that it was filled with pensive thought. For
a moment she looked at us without speaking. Men! she said. And so I
have been right. For a long time I have believed that the beings who
sometimes come here, filling us with dread and awe, are men.
And you, I exclaimedwho are you, and who are these forms that
we have seen, these strange inhabitants of this city?
She gently smiled as she answered, We are the ghosts of the future.
We are the people who are to live in this city generations hence. But
all of us do not know that, principally because we do not think about
it and study about it enough to know it. And it is generally believed
that the men and women who sometimes come here are ghosts who haunt the
And that is why you are terrified and flee from us? I exclaimed.
You think we are ghosts from another world?
Yes, she replied; that is what is thought, and what I used to
And you, I asked, are spirits of human beings yet to be?
Yes, she answered; but not for a long time. Generations of menI
know not how manymust pass away before we are men and women.
Heavens! exclaimed Bentley, clasping his hands and raising his
eyes to the sky, I shall be a spirit before you are a woman.
Perhaps, she said again, with a sweet smile upon her face, you
may live to be very, very old.
But Bentley shook his head. This did not console him. For some
minutes I stood in contemplation, gazing upon the stone pavement
beneath my feet. And this, I ejaculated, is a city inhabited by the
ghosts of the future, who believe men and women to be phantoms and
She bowed her head.
But how is it, I asked, that you discovered that you are spirits
and we mortal men?
There are so few of us who think of such things, she answered, so
few who study, ponder, and reflect. I am fond of study, and I love
philosophy; and from the reading of many books I have learned much.
From the book which I have here I have learned most; and from its
teachings I have gradually come to the belief, which you tell me is the
true one, that we are spirits and you men.
And what book is that? I asked.
It is 'The Philosophy of Relative Existences,' by Rupert Vance.
Ye gods! I exclaimed, springing upon the balcony, that is my
book, and I am Rupert Vance. I stepped toward the volume to seize it,
but she raised her hand.
You cannot touch it, she said. It is the ghost of a book. And did
you write it?
Write it? No, I said; I am writing it. It is not yet finished.
But here it is, she said, turning over the last pages. As a
spirit book it is finished. It is very successful; it is held in high
estimation by intelligent thinkers; it is a standard work.
I stood trembling with emotion. High estimation! I said. A
Oh yes, she replied, with animation; and it well deserves its
great success, especially in its conclusion. I have read it twice.
But let me see these concluding pages, I exclaimed. Let me look
upon what I am to write.
She smiled, and shook her head, and closed the book. I would like
to do that, she said, but if you are really a man you must not know
what you are going to do.
Oh, tell me, tell me, cried Bentley from below, do you know a
book called 'Stellar Studies,' by Arthur Bentley? It is a book of
The figure gazed at him. No, it said, presently, I never heard of
I stood trembling. Had the youthful figure before me been flesh and
blood, had the book been a real one, I would have torn it from her.
O wise and lovely being! I exclaimed, falling on my knees before
her, be also benign and generous. Let me but see the last page of my
book. If I have been of benefit to your world; more than all, if I have
been of benefit to you, let me see, I implore youlet me see how it is
that I have done it.
She rose with the book in her hand. You have only to wait until you
have done it, she said, and then you will know all that you could see
here. I started to my feet and stood alone upon the balcony.
I am sorry, said Bentley, as we walked toward the pier where we
had left our boat, that we talked only to that ghost girl, and that
the other spirits were all afraid of us. Persons whose souls are choked
up with philosophy are not apt to care much for poetry; and even if my
book is to be widely known, it is easy to see that she may not have
heard of it.
I walked triumphant. The moon, almost touching the horizon, beamed
like red gold. My dear friend, said I, I have always told you that
you should put more philosophy into your poetry. That would make it
And I have always told you, said he, that you should not put so
much poetry into your philosophy. It misleads people.
It didn't mislead that ghost girl, said I.
How do you know? said Bentley. Perhaps she is wrong, and the
other inhabitants of the city are right, and we may be the ghosts after
all. Such things, you know, are only relative. Anyway, he continued,
after a little pause, I wish I knew that those ghosts were now reading
the poem which I am going to begin to-morrow.
A PIECE OF RED CALICO
I was going into town one morning from my suburban residence, when
my wife handed me a little piece of red calico, and asked me if I would
have time, during the day, to buy her two yards and a half of calico
like that. I assured her that it would be no trouble at all; and
putting the sample in my pocket, I took the train for the city.
At lunch-time I stopped in at a large dry-goods store to attend to
my wife's commission. I saw a well-dressed man walking the floor
between the counters, where long lines of girls were waiting on much
longer lines of customers, and asked him where I could see some red
This way, sir. And he led me up the store. Miss Stone, said he
to a young lady, show this gentleman some red calico.
What shade do you want? asked Miss Stone.
I showed her the little piece of calico that my wife had given me.
She looked at it and handed it back to me. Then she took down a great
roll of red calico and spread it out on the counter.
Why, that isn't the shade! said I.
No, not exactly, said she; but it is prettier than your sample.
That may be, said I; but, you see, I want to match this piece.
There is something already made of this kind of calico which needs to
be enlarged or mended or something. I want some calico of the same
The girl made no answer, but took down another roll.
That's the shade, said she.
Yes, I replied, but it's striped.
Stripes are more worn than anything else in calicoes, said she.
Yes, but this isn't to be worn. It's for furniture, I think. At any
rate, I want perfectly plain stuff, to match something already in use.
Well, I don't think you can find it perfectly plain unless you get
What is Turkey red? I asked.
Turkey red is perfectly plain in calicoes, she answered.
Well, let me see some.
We haven't any Turkey-red calico left, she said, but we have some
very nice plain calicoes in other colors.
I don't want any other color. I want stuff to match this.
It's hard to match cheap calico like that, she said. And so I left
I next went into a store a few doors farther up the street. When I
entered I approached the floor-walker, and handing him my sample,
Have you any calico like this?
Yes, sir, said he. Third counter to the right.
I went to the third counter to the right, and showed my sample to
the salesman in attendance there. He looked at it on both sides. Then
We haven't any of this.
I was told you had, said I.
We had it, but we're out of it now. You'll get that goods at an
I went across the street to an upholsterer's.
Have you any stuff like this? I asked.
No, said the salesman, we haven't. Is it for furniture?
Yes, I replied.
Then Turkey red is what you want.
Is Turkey red just like this? I asked.
No, said he; but it's much better.
That makes no difference to me, I replied. I want something just
But they don't use that for furniture, he said.
I should think people could use anything they wanted for
furniture, I remarked, somewhat sharply.
They can, but they don't, he said, quite calmly. They don't use
red like that. They use Turkey red.
I said no more, but left. The next place I visited was a very large
dry-goods store. Of the first salesman I saw I inquired if they kept
red calico like my sample.
You'll find that on the second story, said he.
I went upstairs. There I asked a man:
Where will I find red calico?
In the far room to the left. Over there. And he pointed to a
I walked through the crowds of purchasers and salespeople, and
around the counters and tables filled with goods, to the far room to
the left. When I got there I asked for red calico.
The second counter down this side, said the man.
I went there and produced my sample. Calicoes downstairs, said the
They told me they were up here, I said.
Not these plain goods. You'll find 'em downstairs at the back of
the store, over on that side.
I went downstairs to the back of the store.
Where will I find red calico like this? I asked.
Next counter but one, said the man addressed, walking with me in
the direction pointed out.
Dunn, show red calicoes.
Mr. Dunn took my sample and looked at it.
We haven't this shade in that quality of goods, he said.
Well, have you it in any quality of goods? I asked.
Yes; we've got it finer. And he took down a piece of calico, and
unrolled a yard or two of it on the counter.
That's not this shade, I said.
No, said he. The goods is finer and the color's better.
I want it to match this, I said.
I thought you weren't particular about the match, said the
salesman. You said you didn't care for the quality of the goods, and
you know you can't match goods without you take into consideration
quality and color both. If you want that quality of goods in red, you
ought to get Turkey red.
I did not think it necessary to answer this remark, but said:
Then you've got nothing to match this?
No, sir. But perhaps they may have it in the upholstery department,
in the sixth story.
So I got in the elevator and went up to the top of the house.
Have you any red stuff like this? I said to a young man.
Red stuff? Upholstery departmentother end of this floor.
I went to the other end of the floor.
I want some red calico, I said to a man.
Furniture goods? he asked.
Yes, said I.
Fourth counter to the left.
I went to the fourth counter to the left, and showed my sample to a
salesman. He looked at it, and said:
You'll get this down on the first floorcalico department.
I turned on my heel, descended in the elevator, and went out on the
street. I was thoroughly sick of red calico. But I determined to make
one more trial. My wife had bought her red calico not long before, and
there must be some to be had somewhere. I ought to have asked her where
she obtained it, but I thought a simple little thing like that could be
I went into another large dry-goods store. As I entered the door a
sudden tremor seized me. I could not bear to take out that piece of red
calico. If I had had any other kind of a rag about mea pen-wiper or
anything of the sortI think I would have asked them if they could
But I stepped up to a young woman and presented my sample, with the
Back room, counter on the left, she said.
I went there.
Have you any red calico like this? I asked of the saleswoman
behind the counter.
No, sir, she said, but we have it in Turkey red.
Turkey red again! I surrendered.
All right, I said, give me Turkey red.
How much, sir? she asked.
I don't knowsay five yards.
She looked at me rather strangely, but measured off five yards of
Turkey-red calico. Then she rapped on the counter and called out
Cash! A little girl, with yellow hair in two long plaits, came slowly
up. The lady wrote the number of yards, the name of the goods, her own
number, the price, the amount of the bank-note I handed her, and some
other matters, probably the color of my eyes and the direction and
velocity of the wind, on a slip of paper. She then copied all this into
a little book which she kept by her. Then she handed the slip of paper,
the money, and the Turkey red to the yellow-haired girl. This young
person copied the slip into a little book she carried, and then she
went away with the calico, the paper slip, and the money.
After a very long timeduring which the little girl probably took
the goods, the money, and the slip to some central desk, where the note
was received, its amount and number entered in a book, change given to
the girl, a copy of the slip made and entered, girl's entry examined
and approved, goods wrapped up, girl registered, plaits counted and
entered on a slip of paper and copied by the girl in her book, girl
taken to a hydrant and washed, number of towel entered on a paper slip
and copied by the girl in her book, value of my note and amount of
change branded somewhere on the child, and said process noted on a slip
of paper and copied in her bookthe girl came to me, bringing my
change and the package of Turkey-red calico.
I had time for but very little work at the office that afternoon,
and when I reached home I handed the package of calico to my wife. She
unrolled it and exclaimed:
Why, this don't match the piece I gave you!
Match it! I cried. Oh no! it don't match it. You didn't want that
matched. You were mistaken. What you wanted was Turkey redthird
counter to the left. I mean, Turkey red is what they use.
My wife looked at me in amazement, and then I detailed to her my
Well, said she, this Turkey red is a great deal prettier than
what I had, and you've got so much of it that I needn't use the other
at all. I wish I had thought of Turkey red before.
I wish from the bottom of my heart you had, said I.
REVERIES OF A BACHELOR; or, a Book of the Heart. By Donald G.
Mitchell. With an Etching by Percy Moran.
DREAM LIFE. A Fable of the Seasons. With an Etching by Percy Moran.
OLD CREOLE DAYS. By George W Cable. With an Etching by Percy Moran.
IN OLE VIRGINIA. By Thomas Nelson Page. With an Etching by W. L.
BITTER-SWEET. A Poem. By J. G. Holland. With an Etching by Otto
KATHRINA. A Poem. By J. G. Holland. With an Etching by Otto Bacher.
LETTERS TO DEAD AUTHORS. By Andrew Lang. With an Etched Portrait by
S. J. Ferris.
VIRGINIBUS PUERISQUE. By Robert Louis Stevenson With an Etched
Portrait by S. J. Ferris.
A CHOSEN FEW. Short Stories. By Frank R. Stockton. With an Etched
Portrait by W. H. W. Bicknell.
A LITTLE BOOK OF PROFITABLE TALES. By Eugene Field. With an Etched
Portrait by W. H. W. Bicknell.
THE REFLECTIONS OF A MARRIED MAN. By Robert Grant. With an Etching
by W. H. Hyde.
THE OPINIONS OF A PHILOSOPHER. By Robert Grant. With an Etching by
W. H. Hyde.
Each, one volume, 16mo.