The April Fool
by T. S. Arthur
Nothing is so much enjoyed, by some men, as a practical joke; and
the greater the annoyance they can occasion, the greater their delight.
Of this class was Mr. Thomas Bunting, who resided in a village a few
miles out of New York. Bunting kept a store for the sale of almost
every article known in domestic and agricultural life, from a number
ten needle up to a hoe-handle; and from a mintstick up to a bag of
coffee. Consequently, he was pretty well acquainted with all the
town'speople, who were, likewise, pretty well acquainted with him.
As Bunting was constantly playing off his pranks upon one and
another, he only kept himself free from enemies by his good temper and
ability to soothe the parties he sometimes irritated beyond the point
The First of April was never permitted to come and go without being
well improved by the joke-loving Thomas. If a customer sent for a pint
of brandy on that day, he would be very apt to get four gills of
vinegar; or, if for a pound of sugar, half a pound of New Orleans mixed
with an equal weight of silver sand. That was a smart child who could
come into his store on the occasion, and leave it without being the
victim of some trick. So, from morning till night of the First day of
April, the face of Mr. Thomas Bunting was one broad grin. Full of
invention as to the ways and means of playing off tricks upon others,
our merry friend was wide awake to any attempt at retaliation; and it
generally happened that most of those who sought to catch him, got the
laugh turned upon themselves.
Two years ago, as the First of April approached, Bunting began to
think of the sport awaiting him, and to cast his eyes over the town to
see who was the most fitting subject for a good jest.
I must make a fool of somebody, said he to himself; a first-rate
fool. I am tired of mere child's play in this business. Who shall it
be? There's Doctor Grimes. Suppose I send him to see the young widow
Gray? He'd like to make her a visit exceedingly, I know. But the widow
knows me of old, and will be sure to suspect my agency. I guess that
won't do. Grimes is a good subject; and I've got a sort of spite
against him. I must use him, somehow. The widow Gray would be
first-rate; but I'm a little afraid to bring her in. The doctor's as
poor as Job's turkey, and would be off to visit her on the run. Let me
see? What shall I do? I've got it! I'll send him to York on a fool's
And Bunting snapped his finger and thumb in childish delight.
Doctor Grimes, to whom our joker referred, had been in the village
only about a year, and, in that time, had succeeded in making but a
small practice. Not that he was wanting in ability; but he lacked
address. In person, he was rather awkward; and, in manners, far from
prepossessing. Moreover, he was poor, and not able, in consequence, to
make a very good appearance.
We would not like to say that, in selecting Doctor Grimes as the
subject of his best joke for the First of April, Bunting acted on the
principle of a certain worthy, who said of another
Kick him; he has no friends!
But we rather incline to the opinion that some such feeling was in
the heart of the joker.
The First of April came. Doctor Grimes, after eating his breakfast,
sat down in his office to await expected morning calls for
consultation, or to request his attendance on some suffering invalid.
But no such calls were made. The doctor sighed, under the pressure of
disappointment, as he glanced at the timepiece on the mantel, the hands
of which pointed to the figure ten.
A poor prospect here, he murmured despondingly. Ah, if there were
none in the world to care for but myself, I would be content on bread
and water while making my way into the confidence of the people. But
others are suffering while I wait for practice. What hinders my
progress? I understand my profession. In not a single instance yet have
I failed to give relief, when called to the bed of sickness. Ah me! I
Just then, the letter-carrier of the village came in and handed him
two letters. The first one he opened was from a dearly loved, widowed
sister, who wrote to know if he could possibly help her in her poverty
I would not trouble you, my dear, kind brother, she wrote,
knowing as I do how poor your own prospects are, and how patiently you
are trying to wait for practice, did not want press on me and my babes
so closely. If you can spare me a littleever so littlebrother, it
will come as a blessing; for my extremity is great. Forgive me for thus
troubling you. Necessity often prompts to acts, from the thought of
which, in brighter moments, we turn with a feeling of pain.
For many minutes after reading this letter, Doctor Grimes sat with
his eyes upon the floor.
My poor Mary! he said at length, how much you have suffered; and
yet more drops of bitterness are given to your cup! Oh that it was in
my power to relieve you! But my hands are stricken down with paralysis.
What can I do? Thus far, I have gone in debt instead of clearing my
He took out his pocket-book and searched it over.
Nothingnothing, he murmured as he refolded it. Ah, what curse
is there like the curse of poverty?
He then referred to the other letter, the receipt of which he had
almost forgotten. Breaking the seal, he read, with surprise, its
contents, which were as follows:
To DOCTOR GRIMES.Dear Sir: Please call, as early as possible,
at Messrs. L&P's, No. Wall Street, New York; where
you will hear of something to your advantage.
What can this mean? exclaimed the doctor, as he hurriedly perused
the letter again. Can it be possible that a relative of my father, in
England, has died, and left us property? Yes; it must be so. Several
members of his family there are in good circumstances. Oh, if it should
be thus, how timely has relief come! For your sake, my dear sister,
more than for my own, will I be thankful! But how am I to go to New
York? I have not a dollar in my pocket, and will receive nothing for a
week or two.
The only resource was in borrowing; and to this the doctor resorted
with considerable reluctance. From a gentleman who had always shown an
interest in him, he obtained five dollars. Within an hour after the
receipt of the letter, he was on his way to the city. The more he
pondered the matter, the more likely did it seem to him that his first
conclusion was the true one. There was an uncle of his father's, a
miser, reputed to be very rich, from whom, some years before, the
family had received letters; and it seemed not at all improbable that
his death had occurred, and that he and his sister had been remembered
in the will. This idea so fully possessed his mind by the time he
arrived in the city, that he was already beginning to make, in
imagination, sundry dispositions of the property soon to come into his
Can I see one of the gentlemen belonging to the firm? asked the
doctor, on entering the store of Messrs. L&P.
Here is Mr. L, said the individual he had addressed, referring
him to a middle-aged, thoughtful-looking man, with something
prepossessing in his face.
The doctor bowed to Mr. L, and then said
My name is Dr. Grimes.
Mr. Lbowed in return, remarking, as he did so
Will you walk in?
The doctor was rather disappointed at the manner of his reception,
and experienced a slight depression of spirits as he followed the
merchant back into one of the counting-rooms attached to the store.
Will you take a chair, sir? said the merchant.
Both the gentlemen sat down. About Lthere was an air of
expectancy, which the doctor did not fail to remark.
My name is Doctor Grimes, said he, repeating his first
I am happy to see you, doctor, returned L, bowing again.
I received a letter from your house, this morning, said the
victim, for such he really was, desiring me to call, as you had some
communication to make that would be to my advantage.
There's some mistake, replied the merchant. No letter of the kind
has emanated from us.
Are you certain? asked the disappointed man, in a voice greatly
changed; and he drew forth the letter he had received.
Llooked at the communication, and shook his head.
There is no truth in this, sir. I regret to say that you have, most
probably, been made the victim of an idle and reprehensible jest.
To-day, you are aware, is the First of April.
Can it be possible! exclaimed the doctor, clasping his hands
together, while his face became pale and overcast with disappointment.
Who could have been so unkind, so cruel!
And is the disappointment very great? said the merchant, touched
with the manner of his visitor, which showed more pain than
mortification at the cheat practised upon him.
With an effort at self-command, Doctor Grimes regained, to some
extent, his lost composure, and rising, remarked, as he partly turned
Forgive this intrusion, sir. I ought to have been more on my
But an interest having been awakened in the mind of Mr. L, he
would not suffer his visitor to retire until he held some conversation
with him. In this conversation he learned, through delicately asked
questions, even more of his real condition in life than the latter
meant to communicate; and he still further learned that the mother of
Doctor Grimes had been one of his early friends.
Will you be willing to take the place of Resident Physician at the
Hospital? finally asked Mr. L.
To one like me, replied Dr. Grimes, that place would be
exceedingly desirable. But I do not suppose I could get it.
I am a stranger here.
Can you bring testimonials as to professional ability? asked Mr.
I can. Testimonials of the very highest character.
Bring them to me, doctor, at the earliest possible moment. I do
not, in the least, doubt that my influence will secure you the place. I
believe you have no family?
That may be an objection. A furnished dwelling is provided for the
physician; and, I believe, one with a family is preferred.
I have a widowed sister, who would be glad to join me; and whom I
would be glad to place in so comfortable a position.
That will do just as well, doctor. Bring over your testimonials as
soon as possible. Not so much of an April fool, after all, I begin to
think. Unless I am very greatly mistaken, you have heard
something to your advantage.
All came out to the satisfaction of both Doctor Grimes and the
kind-hearted Mr. L. In less than a month, the former was in
comfortable quarters at Hospital, and in the receipt of twelve
hundred dollars per annum. This was exclusive of rent for his sister's
familynow his ownand table expenses. Moreover, for certain duties
required of her in the hospital, his sister received three hundred
So it turned out that Dr. Grimes, so far from being made an April
fool, was benefited by the wonderfully smart trick of Mr. Bunting.
But of the particular result of his extra work, the village-jester
remained ignorant. Being on the lookout, he was tickled to death when
he saw the doctor start off post haste for New York; and he looked out
for his return, anticipating rare pleasure at seeing his face as long
as his arm. But this particular pleasure was not obtained, for he
didn't see the doctor afterward.
What's become of Dr. Grimes? he asked of one and another, after a
few days had passed, and he did not see that individual on the street
But none of whom he made inquiry happened to know any thing of the
doctor's movements. It was plain to Bunting that, he had driven the
said doctor out of the village; and this circumstance quite flattered
his vanity, and made him feel of more consequence than before. In a
little while, he told his secret to one and another, and it was pretty
generally believed that Doctor Grimes had gone away under a sense of
mortification at the storekeeper's practical joke.
Look out for next year, said one and another. If Doctor Grimes
isn't even with you then, it'll be a wonder.
It will take a brighter genius than he is to fool me, Bunting
would usually reply to these words of caution.
The First of April came round again. Thomas Bunting was wide awake.
He expected to hear from the doctor, who, he was certain, would never
forgive him. Sure enough, with the day, came a letter from New York.
You don't fool me! said Bunting, as he glanced at the postmark. He
had heard that the doctor was in, or somewhere near, the city.
Ha! ha! he laughed, as he read
If Mr. Thomas Bunting will call on Messrs. Wilde &Lyon, Pearl
Street, New York, he may hear of something to his advantage.
Ha! ha! That's capital! The doctor is a wag. Ha! ha!
Of course, Bunting was too wide awake for this trap. Catch him
trudging to New York on a fool's errand!
Does he think I haven't cut my eye-teeth? he said to himself
exultingly, as he read over the letter. Doctor Grimes don't know this
And yet, the idea that something might be lost by not heeding the
letter, came stealing in upon him, and checking in a small degree the
delight he felt at being too smart for the doctor. But this thought was
instantly pushed aside. Of course, Bunting was not so green, to use
one of his favourite words, as to go on a fool's errand to New York.
Five or six months afterward, Bunting, while in the city on
business, happened to meet Doctor Grimes.
How are you, doctor? said he, grasping the hand of the physician,
and smiling with one of the smiles peculiar to his face when he felt
that he had played off a capital joke on somebody.
I'm well, Mr. Bunting. And how are you? replied the doctor.
First-ratefirst-rate! and Bunting rubbed his hands. Then he
added, with almost irrepressible glee
You wasn't sharp enough, last April, doctor.
Why so? inquired Doctor Grimes.
You didn't succeed in getting me to the city on a fool's errand.
I don't understand you, Mr. Bunting, said the doctor seriously.
Wilde &Lyon, Pearl Streetsomething to my advantage. Ha?
The doctor looked puzzled.
You needn't play the innocent, doctor. Its no use. I sent you on a
fool's errand to New York; and it was but natural that you should seek
to pay me back in my own coin. But I was too wide awake for you
entirely. It takes a sharp man to catch me.
You're certainly too wide awake for me now, said Doctor Grimes.
Will you please be serious and explain yourself.
Last April a year, you received a letter from New York, to the
effect that if you would call at a certain place in Wall Street, you
would hear something to your advantage?
I did, replied the doctor.
I called, accordingly, and received information which has proved
greatly to my advantage.
What? Bunting looked surprised.
The gentleman upon whom I called was a leading director in
Hospital, and in search of a Resident Physician for that establishment.
I now fill that post.
Is it possible? Bunting could not conceal his surprise, in which
something like disappointment was blended. And you did not write a
similar letter to me last April? he added.
I am above such trifling, replied the doctor, in a tone that
marked his real feelings on that subject. A man who could thus
wantonly injure and insult another for mere sport, must have something
bad about him. I should not like to trust such a one.
Good morning, doctor, said Bunting. The two gentlemen bowed
formally and parted.
If the doctor did not send the letter, from whom could it have come?
This was the question that Bunting asked himself immediately. But no
satisfactory answer came. He was puzzled and uncomfortable. Moreover,
the result of the doctor's errand to New Yorkwhich had proved any
thing but a fool's errandwas something that he could not understand.
I wonder if I hadn't better call on Wilde &Lyon? said he to
himself, at length. Perhaps the letter was no trick, after all.
Bunting held a long argument, mentally, on the subject, in which all
the pros and cons were fully discussed. Finally, he decided to call at
the place referred to in his letter, and did so immediately on reaching
this decision. Still, fearing that the letter might have been a hoax,
he made some few purchases of articles for his store, and then gave his
Thomas Bunting! said the person with whom he was dealing. Do you
reside in the city?
Bunting mentioned his place of residence.
Did you never receive a letter from this house, desiring to see
I did, replied Bunting; but as it was dated on the first of
April, I took it for the jest of some merry friend.
Very far from it, I can assure you, answered the man. An old
gentleman arrived here from England about that time, who said that a
brother and sister had come to this country many years ago, and that he
was in search of them or their children. His name was Bunting. At his
request, we made several advertisements for his relatives. Some one
mentioned that a gentleman named Thomas Bunting resided in the town
where you live; and we immediately dropped him a note. But, as no
answer came, it was presumed the information was incorrect.
Where is he now? asked Bunting.
He is dead.
Yes. A letter came, some weeks after we wrote to you, from St.
Louis, which proved to be from his sister, and to that place he
immediately proceeded. Soon after arriving there, he died. He left, in
money, about ten thousand dollars, all of which passed, by a will
executed before he left this cityfor in his mind there was a
presentiment of deathto his new-found relative.
He was my uncle! said Bunting.
Then, by not attending to our letter, you are the loser of at least
one-half of the property he left.
Bunting went home in a very sober mood of mind. His aunt and himself
were not on good terms. In fact, she was a widow and poor, and he had
not treated her with the kindness she had a right to expect. There was
no likelihood, therefore, of her making him a partner in her good
Bunting was the real April Fool, after all, sharp-witted and wide
awake as he had thought himself. His chagrin and disappointment were
great; so great, that it took all the spirit out of him for a long
time; and it is not presumed that he will attempt an April Fool trick
in the present year, of even the smallest pretensions.