Mr. Tolman by Frank R. Stockton
Mr. Tolman was a gentleman whose apparent age was of a varying
character. At times, when deep in thought on business matters or
other affairs, one might have thought him fifty-five or fiftyseven,
or even sixty. Ordinarily, however, when things were
running along in a satisfactory and commonplace way, he appeared
to be about fifty years old, while upon some extraordinary
occasions, when the world assumed an unusually attractive aspect,
his age seemed to run down to forty-five or less.
He was the head of a business firm. In fact, he was the only
member of it. The firm was known as Pusey and Co. But Pusey had
long been dead and the "Co.," of which Mr. Tolman had been a
member, was dissolved. Our elderly hero, having bought out the
business, firm-name and all, for many years had carried it on
with success and profit. His counting-house was a small and
quiet place, but a great deal of money had been made in it. Mr.
Tolman was rich--very rich indeed.
And yet, as he sat in his counting-room one winter evening,
he looked his oldest. He had on his hat and his overcoat, his
gloves and his fur collar. Every one else in the establishment
had gone home, and he, with the keys in his hand, was ready
to lock up and leave also. He often stayed later than any one
else, and left the keys with Mr. Canterfield, the head clerk, as
he passed his house on his way home.
Mr. Tolman seemed in no hurry to go. He simply sat and
thought, and increased his apparent age. The truth was, he did
not want to go home. He was tired of going home. This was not
because his home was not a pleasant one. No single gentleman in
the city had a handsomer or more comfortable suite of rooms. It
was not because he felt lonely, or regretted that a wife and
children did not brighten and enliven his home. He was perfectly
satisfied to be a bachelor. The conditions suited him exactly.
But, in spite of all this, he was tired of going home.
"I wish," said Mr. Tolman to himself, "that I could feel some
interest in going home." Then he rose and took a turn or two up
and down the room. But as that did not seem to give him any more
interest in the matter, he sat down again. "I wish it were
necessary for me to go home," said he, "but it isn't." So then
he fell again to thinking. "What I need," he said, after a
while, "is to depend more upon myself--to feel that I am
necessary to myself. Just now I'm not. I'll stop going home--at
least, in this way. Where's the sense in envying other men, when
I can have all that they have just as well as not? And I'll have
it, too," said Mr. Tolman, as he went out and locked the doors.
Once in the streets, and walking rapidly, his ideas shaped
themselves easily and readily into a plan which, by the time he
reached the house of his head clerk, was quite matured. Mr.
Canterfield was just going down to dinner as his employer
rang the bell, so he opened the door himself. "I will
detain you but a minute or two," said Mr. Tolman, handing the
keys to Mr. Canterfield. "Shall we step into the parlor?"
When his employer had gone, and Mr. Canterfield had joined
his family at the dinner-table, his wife immediately asked him
what Mr. Tolman wanted.
"Only to say that he is going away to-morrow, and that I am
to attend to the business, and send his personal letters to----,"
naming a city not a hundred miles away.
"How long is he going to stay?"
"He didn't say," answered Mr. Canterfield.
"I'll tell you what he ought to do," said the lady. "He
ought to make you a partner in the firm, and then he could go
away and stay as long as he pleased."
"He can do that now," returned her husband. "He has made a
good many trips since I have been with him, and things have gone
on very much in the same way as when he is here. He knows that."
"But still you'd like to be a partner?"
"Oh, yes," said Mr. Canterfield.
"And common gratitude ought to prompt him to make you one,"
said his wife.
Mr. Tolman went home and wrote a will. He left all his
property, with the exception of a few legacies, to the richest
and most powerful charitable organization in the country.
"People will think I am crazy," said he to himself, "and if I
should die while I am carrying out my plan, I will leave the task
of defending my sanity to people who are able to make a good
fight for me." And before he went to bed his will was
signed and witnessed.
The next day he packed a trunk and left for the neighboring
city. His apartments were to be kept in readiness for his return
at any time. If you had seen him walking over to the railroad
depot, you would have taken him for a man of forty-five.
When he arrived at his destination, Mr. Tolman established
himself temporarily at a hotel, and spent the next three or four
days in walking about the city looking for what he wanted. What
he wanted was rather difficult to define, but the way in which he
put the matter to himself was something like this:
"I would like to find a snug little place where, I can live,
and carry on some business which I can attend to myself, and
which will bring me into contact with people of all sorts--people
who will interest me. It must be a small business, because I
don't want to have to work very hard, and it must be snug and
comfortable, because I want to enjoy it. I would like a shop of
some sort, because that brings a man face to face with his
The city in which he was walking about was one of the best
places in the country in which to find the place of business he
desired. It was full of independent little shops. But Mr.
Tolman could not readily find one which resembled his ideal. A
small dry-goods establishment seemed to presuppose a female
proprietor. A grocery store would give him many interesting
customers; but he did not know much about groceries, and the
business did not appear to him to possess any aesthetic features.
He was much pleased by a small shop belonging to a
taxidermist. It was exceedingly cosey, and the business was
probably not so great as to overwork any one. He might send the
birds and beasts which were brought to be stuffed to some
practical operator, and have him put them in proper condition for
the customers. He might-- But no. It would be very
unsatisfactory to engage in a business of which he knew
absolutely nothing. A taxidermist ought not to blush with
ignorance when asked some simple question about a little dead
bird or a defunct fish. And so he tore himself from the window
of this fascinating place, where, he fancied, had his education
been differently managed, he could in time have shown the world
the spectacle of a cheerful and unblighted Mr. Venus.
The shop which at last appeared to suit him best was one
which he had passed and looked at several times before it struck
him favorably. It was in a small brick house in a side street,
but not far from one of the main business avenues of the city.
The shop seemed devoted to articles of stationery and small
notions of various kinds not easy to be classified. He had
stopped to look at three penknives fastened to a card, which was
propped up in the little show-window, supported on one side by a
chess-board with "History of Asia" in gilt letters on the back,
and on the other by a small violin labelled "1 dollar." And as
he gazed past these articles into the interior of the shop, which
was now lighted up, it gradually dawned upon him that it was
something like his ideal of an attractive and interesting
business place. At any rate, he would go in and look at it. He
did not care for a violin, even at the low price marked on the
one in the window, but a new pocket-knife might be useful.
So he walked in and asked to look at pocket-knives.
The shop was in charge of a very pleasant old lady of about
sixty, who sat sewing behind the little counter. While she went
to the window and very carefully reached over the articles
displayed therein to get the card of penknives, Mr. Tolman looked
about him. The shop was quite small, but there seemed to be a
good deal in it. There were shelves behind the counter, and
there were shelves on the opposite wall, and they all seemed well
filled with something or other. In the corner near the old
lady's chair was a little coal stove with a bright fire in it,
and at the back of the shop, at the top of two steps, was a glass
door partly open, through which he saw a small room, with a red
carpet on the floor, and a little table apparently set for a
Mr. Tolman looked at the knives when the old lady showed them
to him, and after a good deal of consideration he selected one
which he thought would be a good knife to give to a boy. Then he
looked over some things in the way of paper-cutters, whistmarkers,
and such small matters, which were in a glass case on
the counter. And while he looked at them he talked to the old
She was a friendly, sociable body, very glad to have any one
to talk to, and so it was not at all difficult for Mr. Tolman, by
some general remarks, to draw from her a great many points about
herself and her shop. She was a widow, with a son who, from her
remarks, must have been forty years old. He was connected with a
mercantile establishment, and they had lived here for a long
time. While her son was a salesman, and came home every
evening, this was very pleasant. But after he became a
commercial traveller, and was away from the city for months at a
time, she did not like it at all. It was very lonely for her.
Mr. Tolman's heart rose within him, but he did not interrupt her.
"If I could do it," said she, "I would give up this place,
and go and live with my sister in the country. It would be
better for both of us, and Henry could come there just as well as
here when he gets back from his trips."
"Why don't you sell out?" asked Mr. Tolman, a little
fearfully, for he began to think that all this was too easy
sailing to be entirely safe.
"That would not be easy," said she, with a smile. "It might
be a long time before we could find any one who would want to
take the place. We have a fair trade in the store, but it isn't
what it used to be when times were better. And the library is
falling off, too. Most of the books are getting pretty old, and
it don't pay to spend much money for new ones now."
"The library!" said Mr. Tolman. "Have you a library?"
"Oh, yes," replied the old lady. "I've had a circulating
library here for nearly fifteen years. There it is on those two
upper shelves behind you."
Mr. Tolman turned, and beheld two long rows of books in
brown-paper covers, with a short step-ladder, standing near the
door of the inner room, by which these shelves might be reached.
This pleased him greatly. He had had no idea that there was a
"I declare!" said he. "It must be very pleasant to manage a
circulating library--a small one like this, I mean. I shouldn't
mind going into a business of the kind myself."
The old lady looked up, surprised. Did he wish to go into
business? She had not supposed that, just from looking at him.
Mr. Tolman explained his views to her. He did not tell what
he had been doing in the way of business, or what Mr. Canterfield
was doing for him now. He merely stated his present wishes, and
acknowledged to her that it was the attractiveness of her
establishment that had led him to come in.
"Then you do not want the penknife?" she said quickly.
"Oh, yes, I do," said he. "And I really believe, if we can
come to terms, that I would like the two other knives, together
with the rest of your stock in trade."
The old lady laughed a little nervously. She hoped very much
indeed that they could come to terms. She brought a chair from
the back room, and Mr. Tolman sat down with her by the stove to
talk it over. Few customers came in to interrupt them, and they
talked the matter over very thoroughly. They both came to the
conclusion that there would be no difficulty about terms, nor
about Mr. Tolman's ability to carry on the business after a very
little instruction from the present proprietress. When Mr.
Tolman left, it was with the understanding that he was to call
again in a couple of days, when the son Henry would be at home,
and matters could be definitely arranged.
When the three met, the bargain was soon struck. As each
party was so desirous of making it, few difficulties were
interposed. The old lady, indeed, was in favor of some delay in
the transfer of the establishment, as she would like to clean and
dust every shelf and corner and every article in the place. But
Mr. Tolman was in a hurry to take possession; and as the son
Henry would have to start off on another trip in a short time, he
wanted to see his mother moved and settled before he left. There
was not much to move but trunks and bandboxes, and some
antiquated pieces of furniture of special value to the old lady,
for Mr. Tolman insisted on buying everything in the house, just
as it stood. The whole thing did not cost him, he said to
himself, as much as some of his acquaintances would pay for a
horse. The methodical son Henry took an account of stock, and
Mr. Tolman took several lessons from the old lady, in which she
explained to him how to find out the selling prices of the
various articles from the marks on the little tags attached to
them. And she particularly instructed him in the management of
the circulating library. She informed him of the character of
the books, and, as far as possible, of the character of the
regular patrons. She told him whom he might trust to take out a
book without paying for the one brought in, if they didn't happen
to have the change with them, and she indicated with little
crosses opposite their names those persons who should be required
to pay cash down for what they had had, before receiving
It was astonishing to see what interest Mr. Tolman took in
all this. He was really anxious to meet some of the people about
whom the old lady discoursed. He tried, too, to remember a few
of the many things she told him of her methods of buying and
selling, and the general management of her shop; and he probably
did not forget more than three fourths of what she told him.
Finally everything was settled to the satisfaction of the two
male parties to the bargain,--although the old lady thought of a
hundred things she would yet like to do,--and one fine frosty
afternoon a cart-load of furniture and baggage left the door, the
old lady and her son took leave of the old place, and Mr. Tolman
was left sitting behind the little counter, the sole manager and
proprietor of a circulating library and a stationery and notion
shop. He laughed when he thought of it, but he rubbed his hands
and felt very well satisfied.
"There is nothing really crazy about it," he said to himself.
"If there is a thing that I think I would like, and I can afford
to have it, and there's no harm in it, why not have it?"
There was nobody there to say anything against this, so Mr.
Tolman rubbed his hands again before the fire, and rose to walk
up and down his shop, and wonder who would be his first customer.
In the course of twenty minutes a little boy opened the door
and came in. Mr. Tolman hastened behind the counter to receive
his commands. The little boy wanted two sheets of note-paper and
"Any particular kind!" asked Mr. Tolman.
The boy didn't know of any particular variety being desired.
He thought the same kind she always got would do. And he looked
very hard at Mr. Tolman, evidently wondering at the change in the
shopkeeper, but asking no questions.
"You are a regular customer, I suppose," said Mr. Tolman,
opening several boxes of paper which he had taken down from the
shelves. "I have just begun business here, and don't know what
kind of paper you have been in the habit of buying. But I
suppose this will do." And he took out a couple of sheets of the
best, with an envelope to match. These he carefully tied up in a
piece of thin brown paper, and gave to the boy, who handed him
three cents. Mr. Tolman took them, smiled, and then, having made
a rapid calculation, he called to the boy, who was just opening
the door, and gave him back one cent.
"You have paid me too much," he said.
The boy took the cent, looked at Mr. Tolman, and then got out
of the store as quickly as he could.
"Such profits as that are enormous," said Mr. Tolman, "but I
suppose the small sales balance them." This Mr. Tolman
subsequently found to be the case.
One or two other customers came in in the course of the
afternoon, and about dark the people who took out books began to
arrive. These kept Mr. Tolman very busy. He not only had to do
a good deal of entering and cancelling, but he had to answer a
great many questions about the change in proprietorship, and the
probability of his getting in some new books, with suggestions as
to the quantity and character of these, mingled with a few
dissatisfied remarks in regard to the volumes already on hand.
Every one seemed sorry that the old lady had gone away. But
Mr. Tolman was so pleasant and anxious to please, and took such
an interest in their selection of books, that only one of the
subscribers appeared to take the change very much to heart. This
was a young man who was forty-three cents in arrears. He
was a long time selecting a book, and when at last he brought it
to Mr. Tolman to be entered, he told him in a low voice that he
hoped there would be no objection to letting his account run on
for a little while longer. On the first of the month he would
settle it, and then he hoped to be able to pay cash whenever
he brought in a book.
Mr. Tolman looked for his name on the old lady's list, and,
finding no cross against it, told him that it was all right, and
that the first of the month would do very well. The young man
went away perfectly satisfied with the new librarian. Thus did
Mr. Tolman begin to build up his popularity. As the evening grew
on he found himself becoming very hungry. But he did not like to
shut up the shop, for every now and then some one dropped in,
sometimes to ask what time it was, and sometimes to make a little
purchase, while there were still some library patrons coming in
However, taking courage during a short rest from customers,
he put up the shutters, locked the door, and hurried off to a
hotel, where he partook of a meal such as few keepers of little
shops ever think of indulging in.
The next morning Mr. Tolman got his own breakfast. This was
delightful. He had seen how cosily the old lady had spread her
table in the little back room, where there was a stove suitable
for any cooking he might wish to indulge in, and he longed for
such a cosey meal. There were plenty of stock provisions in the
house, which he had purchased with the rest of the goods, and he
went out and bought himself a fresh loaf of bread. Then he
broiled a piece of ham, made some good strong tea, boiled some
eggs, and had a breakfast on the little round table which, though
plain enough, he enjoyed more than any breakfast at his club
which he could remember. He had opened the shop, and sat facing
the glass door, hoping, almost, that there would be some
interruption to his meal. It would seem so much more proper in
that sort of business if he had to get up and go attend to a
Before the evening of that day Mr. Tolman became convinced
that he would soon be obliged to employ a boy or some one to
attend to the establishment during his absence. After breakfast,
a woman recommended by the old lady came to make his bed and
clean up generally, but when she had gone he was left alone with
his shop. He determined not to allow this responsibility to
injure his health, and so at one o'clock boldly locked the shop
door and went out to his lunch. He hoped that no one would call
during his absence, but when he returned he found a little girl
with a pitcher standing at the door. She came to borrow half a
pint of milk.
"Milk!" exclaimed Mr. Tolman, in surprise. "Why, my child, I
have no milk. I don't even use it in my tea."
The little girl looked very much disappointed. "Is Mrs.
Walker gone away for good?" said she.
"Yes," replied Mr. Tolman. "But I would be just as willing
to lend you the milk as she would be, if I had any. Is there any
place near here where you can buy milk?"
"Oh, yes," said the girl. "You can get it round in the
"How much would half a pint cost?" he asked.
"Three cents," replied the girl.
"Well, then," said Mr. Tolman, "here are three cents. You can go
and buy the milk for me, and then you can borrow it. Will that
The girl thought it would suit very well, and away she went.
Even this little incident pleased Mr. Tolman. It was so very
novel. When he came back from his dinner in the evening, he
found two circulating library subscribers stamping their feet on
the door-step, and he afterwards heard that several others had
called and gone away. It would certainly injure the library if
he suspended business at meal-times. He could easily have his
choice of a hundred boys if he chose to advertise for one, but he
shrank from having a youngster in the place. It would interfere
greatly with his cosiness and his experiences. He might possibly
find a boy who went to school, and who would be willing to come
at noon and in the evening if he were paid enough. But it would
have to be a very steady and responsible boy. He would think it
over before taking any steps.
He thought it over for a day or two, but he did not spend his
whole time in doing so. When he had no customers, he sauntered
about in the little parlor over the shop, with its odd old
furniture, its quaint prints on the walls, and its absurd
ornaments on the mantelpiece. The other little rooms seemed
almost as funny to him, and he was sorry when the bell on the
shop door called him down from their contemplation. It was
pleasant to him to think that he owned all these odd things. The
ownership of the varied goods in the shop also gave him an
agreeable feeling which none of his other possessions had ever
afforded him. It was all so odd and novel.
He liked much to look over the books in the library. Many of
them were old novels, the names of which were familiar enough to
him, but which he had never read. He determined to read some of
them as soon as he felt fixed and settled.
In looking over the book in which the names and accounts of
the subscribers were entered, he amused himself by wondering what
sort of persons they were who had out certain books. Who, for
instance, wanted to read "The Book of Cats," and who could
possibly care for "The Mysteries of Udolpho"? But the unknown
person in regard to whom Mr. Tolman felt the greatest curiosity
was the subscriber who now had in his possession a volume
entitled "Dormstock's Logarithms of the Diapason."
"How on earth," exclaimed Mr. Tolman, "did such a book get
into this library? And where on earth did the person spring from
who would want to take it out? And not only want to take it," he
continued, as he examined the entry regarding the volume, "but
come and have it renewed one, two, three, four--nine times! He
has had that book for eighteen weeks!"
Without exactly making up his mind to do so, Mr. Tolman
deferred taking steps toward getting an assistant until P.
Glascow, the person in question, should make an appearance, and
it was nearly time for the book to be brought in again.
"If I get a boy now," thought Mr. Tolman, "Glascow will be
sure to come and bring the book while I am out."
In almost exactly two weeks from the date of the last renewal
of the book, P. Glascow came in. It was the middle of the
afternoon, and Mr. Tolman was alone. This investigator of
musical philosophy was a quiet young man of about thirty, wearing
a light-brown cloak, and carrying under one arm a large book.
P. Glascow was surprised when he heard of the change in the
proprietorship of the library. Still, he hoped that there would
be no objection to his renewing the book which he had with him,
and which he had taken out some time ago.
"Oh, no," said Mr. Tolman, "none in the world. In fact, I
don't suppose there are any other subscribers who would want it.
I have had the curiosity to look to see if it had ever been taken
out before, and I find it has not."
The young man smiled quietly. "No," said he, "I suppose not. It
is not every one who would care to study the higher mathematics
of music, especially when treated as Dormstock treats the
"He seems to go into it pretty deeply," remarked Mr. Tolman, who
had taken up the book. "At least, I should think so, judging
from all these calculations, and problems, and squares, and
"Indeed he does," said Glascow. "And although I have had the
book some months, and have more reading time at my disposal than
most persons, I have only reached the fifty-sixth page, and doubt
if I shall not have to review some of that before I can feel that
I thoroughly understand it."
"And there are three hundred and forty pages in all!" said
Mr. Tolman, compassionately.
"Yes," replied the other. "But I am quite sure that the
matter will grow easier as I proceed. I have found that out from
what I have already done."
"You say you have a good deal of leisure?" remarked Mr.
Tolman. "Is the musical business dull at present?"
"Oh, I'm not in the musical business," said Glascow. "I have
a great love for music, and wish to thoroughly understand it.
But my business is quite different. I am a night druggist, and
that is the reason I have so much leisure for reading."
"A night druggist?" repeated Mr. Tolman, inquiringly.
"Yes, sir," said the other. "I am in a large downtown drug
store which is kept open all night, and I go on duty after the
day clerks leave."
"And does that give you more leisure?" asked Mr. Tolman.
"It seems to," answered Glascow. "I sleep until about noon,
and then I have the rest of the day, until seven o'clock, to
myself. I think that people who work at night can make a more
satisfactory use of their own time than those who work in the
daytime. In the summer I can take a trip on the river, or go
somewhere out of town, every day, if I like."
"Daylight is more available for many things, that is true,"
said Mr. Tolman. "But is it not dreadfully lonely sitting in a
drug store all night? There can't be many people to come to buy
medicine at night. I thought there was generally a night-bell to
drug stores, by which a clerk could be awakened if anybody wanted
"It's not very lonely in our store at night," said
Glascow. "In fact, it's often more lively then than in the
daytime. You see, we are right down among the newspaper offices,
and there's always somebody coming in for soda-water, or cigars,
or something or other. The store is a bright, warm place for the
night editors and reporters to meet together and talk and drink
hot soda, and there's always a knot of 'em around the stove about
the time the papers begin to go to press. And they're a lively
set, I can tell you, sir. I've heard some of the best stories I
ever heard in my life told in our place after three o'clock in
"A strange life!" said Mr. Tolman. "Do you know, I never
thought that people amused themselves in that way--and night
after night, I suppose."
"Yes, sir, night after night, Sundays and all."
The night druggist now took up his book.
"Going home to read?" asked Mr. Tolman.
"Well, no," said the other. "It's rather cold this afternoon
to read. I think I'll take a brisk walk."
"Can't you leave your book until you return!" asked Mr.
Tolman. "That is, if you will come back this way. It's an
awkward book to carry about."
"Thank you, I will," said Glascow. "I shall come back this
When he had gone, Mr. Tolman took up the book, and began to
look over it more carefully than he had done before. But his
examination did not last long.
"How anybody of common sense can take any interest in this
stuff is beyond my comprehension," said Mr. Tolman, as he closed
the book and put it on a little shelf behind the counter.
When Glascow came back, Mr. Tolman asked him to stay and
warm himself. And then, after they had talked for a short time,
Mr. Tolman began to feel hungry. He had his winter appetite, and
had lunched early. So said he to the night druggist, who had
opened his "Dormstock," "How would you like to sit here and read
awhile, while I go and get my dinner? I will light the gas, and
you can be very comfortable here, if you are not in a hurry."
P. Glascow was in no hurry at all, and was very glad to have
some quiet reading by a warm fire; and so Mr. Tolman left him,
feeling perfectly confident that a man who had been allowed by
the old lady to renew a book nine times must be perfectly
When Mr. Tolman returned, the two had some further
conversation in the corner by the little stove.
"It must be rather annoying," said the night druggist, "not
to be able to go out to your meals without shutting up your shop.
If you like," said he, rather hesitatingly, "I will stop in about
this time in the afternoon, and stay here while you go to dinner.
I'll be glad to do this until you get an assistant. I can easily
attend to most people who come in, and others can wait."
Mr. Tolman jumped at this proposition. It was exactly what
So P. Glascow came every afternoon and read "Dormstock" while
Mr. Tolman went to dinner; and before long he came at lunch-time
also. It was just as convenient as not, he said. He had
finished his breakfast, and would like to read awhile. Mr.
Tolman fancied that the night druggist's lodgings were, perhaps,
not very well warmed, which idea explained the desire to walk
rather than read on a cold afternoon. Glascow's name was
entered on the free list, and he always took away the "Dormstock"
at night, because he might have a chance of looking into it at
the store, when custom began to grow slack in the latter part of
the early morning.
One afternoon there came into the shop a young lady, who
brought back two books which she had had for more than a month.
She made no excuses for keeping the books longer than the
prescribed time, but simply handed them in and paid her fine.
Mr. Tolman did not like to take this money, for it was the first
of the kind he had received; but the young lady looked as if she
were well able to afford the luxury of keeping books over their
time, and business was business. So he gravely gave her her
change. Then she said she would like to take out "Dormstock's
Logarithms of the Diapason."
Mr. Tolman stared at her. She was a bright, handsome young
lady, and looked as if she had very good sense. He could not
understand it. But he told her the book was out.
"Out!" she said. "Why, it's always out. It seems strange to
me that there should be such a demand for that book. I have been
trying to get it for ever so long."
"It IS strange," said Mr. Tolman, "but it is certainly in
demand. Did Mrs. Walker ever make you any promises about it?"
"No," said she, "but I thought my turn would come around some
time. And I particularly want the book just now."
Mr. Tolman felt somewhat troubled. He knew that the night
druggist ought not to monopolize the volume, and yet he did
not wish to disoblige one who was so useful to him, and who took
such an earnest interest in the book. And he could not temporize
with the young lady, and say that he thought the book would soon
be in. He knew it would not. There were three hundred and forty
pages of it. So he merely remarked that he was sorry.
"So am I, " said the young lady, "very sorry. It so happens
that just now I have a peculiar opportunity for studying that
book which may not occur again."
There was something in Mr. Tolman's sympathetic face which
seemed to invite her confidence, and she continued.
"I am a teacher," she said, "and on account of certain
circumstances I have a holiday for a month, which I intended to
give up almost entirely to the study of music, and I particularly
wanted "Dormstock." Do you think there is any chance of its
early return, and will you reserve it for me?"
"Reserve it!" said Mr. Tolman. "Most certainly I will." And
then he reflected a second or two. "If you will come here the
day after to-morrow, I will be able to tell you something
She said she would come.
Mr. Tolman was out a long time at lunch-time the next day.
He went to all the leading book-stores to see if he could buy a
copy of Dormstock's great work. But he was unsuccessful. The
booksellers told him that there was no probability that he could
get a copy in the country, unless, indeed, he found it in the
stock of some second-hand dealer, and that even if he sent to
England for it, where it was published, it was not likely he
could get it, for it had been long out of print. There was
no demand at all for it. The next day he went to several secondhand
stores, but no "Dormstock" could he find.
When he came back he spoke to Glascow on the subject. He was
sorry to do so, but thought that simple justice compelled him to
mention the matter. The night druggist was thrown into a
perturbed state of mind by the information that some one wanted
his beloved book.
"A woman!" he exclaimed. "Why, she would not understand two
pages out of the whole of it. It is too bad. I didn't suppose
any one would want this book."
"Do not disturb yourself too much," said Mr. Tolman. "I am
not sure that you ought to give it up."
"I am very glad to hear you say so," said Glascow. "I have
no doubt it is only a passing fancy with her. I dare say she
would really rather have a good new novel." And then, having
heard that the lady was expected that afternoon, he went out to
walk, with the "Dormstock" under his arm.
When the young lady arrived, an hour or so later, she was not
at all satisfied to take out a new novel, and was very sorry
indeed not to find the "Logarithms of the Diapason" waiting for
her. Mr. Tolman told her that he had tried to buy another copy
of the work, and for this she expressed herself gratefully. He
also found himself compelled to say that the book was in the
possession of a gentleman who had had it for some time--all the
time it had been out, in fact--and had not yet finished it.
At this the young lady seemed somewhat nettled.
"Is it not against the rules for any person to keep one book
out so long?" she asked.
"No," said Mr. Tolman. "I have looked into that. Our rules
are very simple, and merely say that a book may be renewed by the
payment of a certain sum."
"Then I am never to have it?" remarked the young lady.
"Oh, I wouldn't despair about it," said Mr. Tolman. "He has
not had time to reflect upon the matter. He is a reasonable
young man, and I believe that he will be willing to give up his
study of the book for a time and let you take it."
"No," said she, "I don't wish that. If he is studying, as
you say he is, day and night, I do not wish to interrupt him. I
should want the book at least a month, and that, I suppose, would
upset his course of study entirely. But I do not think any one
should begin in a circulating library to study a book that will
take him a year to finish; for, from what you say, it will take
this gentleman at least that time to finish Dormstock's book."
So she went her way.
When P. Glascow heard all this in the evening, he was very
grave. He had evidently been reflecting.
"It is not fair," said he. "I ought not to keep the book so
long. I now give it up for a while. You may let her have it
when she comes." And he put the "Dormstock" on the counter, and
went and sat down by the stove.
Mr. Tolman was grieved. He knew the night druggist had done
right, but still he was sorry for him. "What will you do?" he
asked. "Will you stop your studies?"
"Oh, no," said Glascow, gazing solemnly into the stove.
"I will take up some other books on the diapason which I have,
and so will keep my ideas fresh on the subject until this lady is
done with the book. I do not really believe she will study it
very long." Then he added: "If it is all the same to you, I
will come around here and read, as I have been doing, until you
shall get a regular assistant."
Mr. Tolman would be delighted to have him come, he said. He
had entirely given up the idea of getting an assistant, but this
he did not say.
It was some time before the lady came back, and Mr. Tolman
was afraid she was not coming at all. But she did come, and
asked for Mrs. Burney's "Evelina." She smiled when she named the
book, and said that she believed she would have to take a novel,
after all, and she had always wanted to read that one.
"I wouldn't take a novel if I were you," said Mr. Tolman; and
he triumphantly took down the "Dormstock" and laid it before her.
She was evidently much pleased, but when he told her of Mr.
Glascow's gentlemanly conduct in the matter, her countenance
"Not at all," said she, laying down the book. "I will not
break up his study. I will take the `Evelina' if you please."
And as no persuasion from Mr. Tolman had any effect upon her,
she went away with Mrs. Burney's novel in her muff.
"Now, then," said Mr. Tolman to Glascow, in the evening, "you
may as well take the book along with you. She won't have it."
But Glascow would do nothing of the kind. "No," he remarked,
as he sat looking into the stove. "When I said I would let
her have it, I meant it. She'll take it when she sees that it
continues to remain in the library."
Glascow was mistaken: she did not take it, having the idea
that he would soon conclude that it would be wiser for him to
read it than to let it stand idly on the shelf.
"It would serve them both right," said Mr. Tolman to himself,
"if somebody else should come and take it." But there was no one
else among his subscribers who would even think of such a thing.
One day, however, the young lady came in and asked to look at
the book. "Don't think that I am going to take it out," she
said, noticing Mr. Tolman's look of pleasure as he handed her the
volume. "I only wish to see what he says on a certain subject
which I am studying now." And so she sat down by the stove on
the chair which Mr. Tolman placed for her, and opened
She sat earnestly poring over the book for half an hour or
more, and then she looked up and said: "I really cannot make out
what this part means. Excuse my troubling you, but I would be
very glad if you would explain the latter part of this passage."
"Me!" exclaimed Mr. Tolman. "Why, my good madam,--miss, I
mean,--I couldn't explain it to you if it were to save my life.
But what page is it?" said he, looking at his watch.
"Page twenty-four," answered the young lady.
"Oh, well, then," said he, "if you can wait ten or fifteen
minutes, the gentleman who has had the book will be here, and I
think he can explain anything in the first part of the work."
The young lady seemed to hesitate whether to wait or not; but
as she had a certain curiosity to see what sort of a person he
was who had been so absorbed in the book, she concluded to sit a
little longer and look into some other parts of the volume.
The night druggist soon came in, and when Mr. Tolman
introduced him to the lady, he readily agreed to explain the
passage to her if he could. So Mr. Tolman got him a chair from
the inner room, and he also sat down by the stove.
The explanation was difficult, but it was achieved at last,
and then the young lady broached the subject of leaving the book
unused. This was discussed for some time, but came to nothing,
although Mr. Tolman put down his afternoon paper and joined in
the argument, urging, among other points, that as the matter now
stood he was deprived by the dead-lock of all income from the
book. But even this strong argument proved of no avail.
"Then I will tell you what I wish you would do," said Mr.
Tolman, as the young lady rose to go: "come here and look at the
book whenever you wish to do so. I would like to make this more
of a reading-room, anyway. It would give me more company."
After this the young lady looked into "Dormstock" when she
came in; and as her holidays had been extended by the continued
absence of the family in which she taught, she had plenty of time
for study, and came quite frequently. She often met Glascow in
the shop, and on such occasions they generally consulted
"Dormstock," and sometimes had quite lengthy talks on musical
matters. One afternoon they came in together, having met on
their way to the library, and entered into a conversation on
diapasonic logarithms, which continued during the lady's stay in
"The proper thing," thought Mr. Tolman, "would be for these
two people to get married. Then they could take the book and
study it to their heart's content. And they would certainly suit
each other, for they are both greatly attached to musical
mathematics and philosophy, and neither of them either plays or
sings, as they have told me. It would be an admirable match."
Mr. Tolman thought over this matter a good deal, and at last
determined to mention it to Glascow. When he did so, the young
man colored, and expressed the opinion that it would be of no use
to think of such a thing. But it was evident from his manner and
subsequent discourse that he had thought of it.
Mr. Tolman gradually became quite anxious on the subject,
especially as the night druggist did not seem inclined to take
any steps in the matter. The weather was now beginning to be
warmer, and Mr. Tolman reflected that the little house and the
little shop were probably much more cosey and comfortable in
winter than in summer. There were higher buildings all about the
house, and even now he began to feel that the circulation of air
would be quite as agreeable as the circulation of books. He
thought a good deal about his airy rooms in the neighboring city.
"Mr. Glascow," said he, one afternoon, "I have made up my
mind to sell out this business shortly."
"What!" exclaimed the other. "Do you mean you will give it
up and go away--leave the place altogether?"
"Yes," replied Mr. Tolman, "I shall give up the place
entirely, and leave the city."
The night druggist was shocked. He had spent many happy hours in
that shop, and his hours there were now becoming pleasanter than
ever. If Mr. Tolman went away, all this must end. Nothing of
the kind could be expected of any new proprietor.
"And considering this," continued Mr. Tolman, "I think it
would be well for you to bring your love matters to a conclusion
while I am here to help you."
"My love matters!" exclaimed Mr. Glascow, with a flush.
"Yes, certainly," said Mr. Tolman. "I have eyes, and I know
all about it. Now let me tell you what I think. When a thing is
to be done, it ought to be done the first time there is a good
chance. That's the way I do business. Now you might as well
come around here to-morrow afternoon prepared to propose to Miss
Edwards. She is due to-morrow, for she has been two days away.
If she doesn't come, we will postpone the matter until the next
day. But you should be ready to-morrow. I don't believe you can
see her much when you don't meet her here, for that family is
expected back very soon, and from what I infer from her account
of her employers, you won't care to visit her at their house."
The night druggist wanted to think about it.
"There is nothing to think," said Mr. Tolman. "We know all
about the lady." (He spoke truly, for he had informed himself
about both parties to the affair.) "Take my advice, and be here
to-morrow afternoon--and come rather early."
The next morning Mr. Tolman went up to his parlor on the
second floor, and brought down two blue stuffed chairs, the best
he had, and put them in the little room back of the shop. He
also brought down one or two knickknacks and put them on the
mantelpiece, and he dusted and brightened up the room as well as
he could. He even covered the table with a red cloth from the
When the young lady arrived, he invited her to walk into the
back room to look over some new books he had just got in. If she
had known he proposed to give up the business, she would have
thought it rather strange that he should be buying new books.
But she knew nothing of his intentions. When she was seated at
the table whereon the new books were spread, Mr. Tolman stepped
outside of the shop door to watch for Glascow's approach. He
"Walk right in," said Mr. Tolman. "She's in the back room
looking over books. I'll wait here, and keep out customers as
far as possible. It's pleasant, and I want a little fresh air.
I'll give you twenty minutes."
Glascow was pale, but he went in without a word, and Mr.
Tolman, with his hands under his coat-tail, and his feet rather
far apart, established a blockade on the doorstep. He stood
there for some time, looking at the people outside, and wondering
what the people inside were doing. The little girl who had
borrowed the milk of him, and who had never returned it, was
about to pass the door; but seeing him standing there, she
crossed over to the other side of the street. But he did not
notice her. He was wondering if it was time to go in. A boy
came up to the door, and wanted to know if he kept Easter eggs.
Mr. Tolman was happy to say he did not. When he had allowed the
night druggist a very liberal twenty minutes, he went in. As he
entered the shop door, giving the bell a very decided ring as he
did so, P. Glascow came down the two steps that led from the
inner room. His face showed that it was all right with him.
A few days after this Mr. Tolman sold out his stock, good
will, and fixtures, together with the furniture and lease of the
house. And who should he sell out to but to Mr. Glascow! This
piece of business was one of the happiest points in the whole
affair. There was no reason why the happy couple should not be
married very soon, and the young lady was charmed to give up her
position as teacher and governess in a family, and come and take
charge of that delightful little store and that cunning little
house, with almost everything in it that they wanted.
One thing in the establishment Mr. Tolman refused to sell.
That was Dormstock's great work. He made the couple a present of
the volume, and between two of the earlier pages he placed a
bank-note which in value was very much more than that of the
ordinary wedding gift.
"What are YOU going to do?" they asked of him, when all
these things were settled. And then he told them how he was
going back to his business in the neighboring city, and he told
them what it was, and how he had come to manage a circulating
library. They did not think him crazy. People who studied the
logarithms of the diapason would not be apt to think a man crazy
for such a little thing as that.
When Mr. Tolman returned to the establishment of Pusey &
Co., he found everything going on very satisfactorily.
"You look ten years younger, sir," said Mr. Canterfield. "You
must have had a very pleasant time. I did not think there
was enough to interest you in ---- for so long a time."
"Interest me!" exclaimed Mr. Tolman. "Why, objects of interest
crowded on me. I never had a more enjoyable holiday in my life."
When he went home that evening (and he found himself quite
willing to go), he tore up the will he had made. He now felt
that there was no necessity for proving his sanity.