My Well and What Came Out of it by Frank R. Stockton
Early in my married life I bought a small country estate which my
wife and I looked upon as a paradise. After enjoying its delight
for a little more than a year our souls were saddened by the
discovery that our Eden contained a serpent. This was an
It had been a rainy season when we first went there, and for
a long time our cisterns gave us full aqueous satisfaction, but
early this year a drought had set in, and we were obliged to be
exceedingly careful of our water.
It was quite natural that the scarcity of water for domestic
purposes should affect my wife much more than it did me, and
perceiving the discontent which was growing in her mind, I
determined to dig a well. The very next day I began to look for
a well-digger. Such an individual was not easy to find, for in
the region in which I lived wells had become unfashionable; but I
determined to persevere in my search, and in about a week I found
He was a man of somewhat rough exterior, but of an
ingratiating turn of mind. It was easy to see that it was his
earnest desire to serve me.
"And now, then," said he, when we had had a little
conversation about terms, "the first thing to do is to find out
where there is water. Have you a peach-tree on the place?" We
walked to such a tree, and he cut therefrom a forked twig.
"I thought," said I, "that divining-rods were always of hazel
"A peach twig will do quite as well," said he, and I have
since found that he was right. Divining-rods of peach will turn
and find water quite as well as those of hazel or any other kind
He took an end of the twig in each hand, and, with the point
projecting in front of him, he slowly walked along over the grass
in my little orchard. Presently the point of the twig seemed to
bend itself downward toward the ground.
"There," said he, stopping, "you will find water here."
"I do not want a well here," said I. "This is at the bottom
of a hill, and my barn-yard is at the top. Besides, it is too
far from the house."
"Very good," said he. "We will try somewhere else."
His rod turned at several other places, but I had objections
to all of them. A sanitary engineer had once visited me, and he
had given me a great deal of advice about drainage, and I knew
what to avoid.
We crossed the ridge of the hill into the low ground on the
other side. Here were no buildings, nothing which would
interfere with the purity of a well. My well-digger walked
slowly over the ground with his divining-rod. Very soon he
exclaimed: "Here is water!" And picking up a stick, he
sharpened one end of it and drove it into the ground. Then
he took a string from his pocket, and making a loop in one end,
he put it over the stick.
"What are you going to do?" I asked.
"I am going to make a circle four feet in diameter," he said.
"We have to dig the well as wide as that, you know."
"But I do not want a well here," said I. "It's too close to
the wall. I could not build a house over it. It would not do at
He stood up and looked at me. "Well, sir," said he, "will
you tell me where you would like to have a well?"
"Yes," said I. "I would like to have it over there in the
corner of the hedge. It would be near enough to the house; it
would have a warm exposure, which will be desirable in winter;
and the little house which I intend to build over it would look
better there than anywhere else."
He took his divining-rod and went to the spot I had
indicated. "Is this the place?" he asked wishing to be sure he
had understood me.
"Yes," I replied.
He put his twig in position, and in a few seconds it turned
in the direction of the ground. Then he drove down a stick,
marked out a circle, and the next day he came with two men and a
derrick, and began to dig my well.
When they had gone down twenty-five feet they found water,
and when they had progressed a few feet deeper they began to be
afraid of drowning. I thought they ought to go deeper, but the
well-digger said that they could not dig without first taking
out the water, and that the water came in as fast as they
bailed it out, and he asked me to put it to myself and tell him
how they could dig it deeper. I put the question to myself, but
could find no answer. I also laid the matter before some
specialists, and it was generally agreed that if water came in as
fast as it was taken out, nothing more could be desired. The
well was, therefore, pronounced deep enough. It was lined with
great tiles, nearly a yard in diameter, and my well-digger, after
congratulating me on finding water so easily, bade me good-by and
departed with his men and his derrick.
On the other side of the wall which bounded my grounds, and
near which my well had been dug, there ran a country lane,
leading nowhere in particular, which seemed to be there for the
purpose of allowing people to pass my house, who might otherwise
be obliged to stop.
Along this lane my neighbors would pass, and often strangers
drove by, and as my well could easily be seen over the low stone
wall, its construction had excited a great deal of interest.
Some of the people who drove by were summer folks from the city,
and I am sure, from remarks I overheard, that it was thought a
very queer thing to dig for water. Of course they must have
known that people used to do this in the olden times, even as far
back as the time of Jacob and Rebecca, but the expressions of
some of their faces indicated that they remembered that this was
the nineteenth century.
My neighbors, however, were all rural people, and much more
intelligent in regard to water-supplies. One of them, Phineas
Colwell by name, took a more lively interest in my
operations than did any one else. He was a man of about fifty
years of age, who had been a soldier. This fact was kept alive
in the minds of his associates by his dress, a part of which was
always military. If he did not wear an old fatigue-jacket with
brass buttons, he wore his blue trousers, or, perhaps, a
waistcoat that belonged to his uniform, and if he wore none of
these, his military hat would appear upon his head. I think he
must also have been a sailor, judging from the little gold rings
in his ears. But when I first knew him he was a carpenter, who
did mason-work whenever any of the neighbors had any jobs of the
sort. He also worked in gardens by the day, and had told me that
he understood the care of horses and was a very good driver. He
sometimes worked on farms, especially at harvest-time, and I know
he could paint, for he once showed me a fence which he said he
had painted. I frequently saw him, because he always seemed to
be either going to his work or coming from it. In fact, he
appeared to consider actual labor in the light of a bad habit
which he wished to conceal, and which he was continually
endeavoring to reform.
Phineas walked along our lane at least once a day, and
whenever he saw me he told me something about the well. He did
not approve of the place I had selected for it. If he had been
digging a well he would have put it in a very different place.
When I had talked with him for some time and explained why I had
chosen this spot, he would say that perhaps I was right, and
begin to talk of something else. But the next time I saw him he
would again assert that if he had been digging that well he would
not have put it there.
About a quarter of a mile from my house, at a turn of the
lane, lived Mrs. Betty Perch. She was a widow with about twelve
children. A few of these were her own, and the others she had
inherited from two sisters who had married and died, and whose
husbands, having proved their disloyalty by marrying again, were
not allowed by the indignant Mrs. Perch to resume possession of
their offspring. The casual observer might have supposed the
number of these children to be very great,--fifteen or perhaps
even twenty,--for if he happened to see a group of them on the
door-step, he would see a lot more if he looked into the little
garden; and under some cedar-trees at the back of the house there
were always some of them on fine days. But perhaps they sought
to increase their apparent number, and ran from one place to
another to be ready to meet observation, like the famous clown
Grimaldi, who used to go through his performances at one London
theatre, and then dash off in his paint and motley to another, so
that perambulating theatre-going men might imagine that there
were two greatest clowns in the world.
When Mrs. Perch had time she sewed for the neighbors, and,
whether she had time or not, she was always ready to supply them
with news. From the moment she heard I was going to dig a well
she took a vital interest in it. Her own water-supply was
unsatisfactory, as she depended upon a little spring which
sometimes dried up in summer, and should my well turn out to be a
good one, she knew I would not object to her sending the children
for pails of water on occasions.
"It will be fun for them," she said, "and if your water
really is good it will often come in very well for me. Mr.
Colwell tells me," she continued, "that you put your well in the
wrong place. He is a practical man and knows all about wells,
and I do hope that for your sake he may be wrong."
My neighbors were generally pessimists. Country people are
proverbially prudent, and pessimism is prudence. We feel safe
when we doubt the success of another, because if he should
succeed we can say we were glad we were mistaken, and so step
from a position of good judgment to one of generous disposition
without feeling that we have changed our plane of merit. But the
optimist often gets himself into terrible scrapes, for if he is
wrong he cannot say he is glad of it.
But, whatever else he may be, a pessimist is depressing, and
it was, therefore, a great pleasure to me to have a friend who
was an out-and-out optimist. In fact, he might be called a
working optimist. He lived about six miles from my house, and
had a hobby, which was natural phenomena. He was always on the
lookout for that sort of thing, and when he found it he would
study its nature and effect. He was a man in the maturity of
youth, and if the estate on which he lived had not belonged to
his mother, he would have spent much time and money in
investigating its natural phenomena. He often drove over to see
me, and always told me how glad he would be if he had an
opportunity of digging a well.
"I have the wildest desire," he said, "to know what is in the
earth under our place, and if it should so happen in the course
of time that the limits of earthly existence should be reached
by--I mean if the estate should come into my hands--I would
go down, down, down, until I had found out all that could be
discovered. To own a plug of earth four thousand miles long and
only to know what is on the surface of the upper end of it is
unmanly. We might as well be grazing beasts."
He was sorry that I was digging only for water, because water
is a very commonplace thing, but he was quite sure I would get
it, and when my well was finished he was one of the first to
"But if I had been in your place," said he, "with full right
to do as I pleased, I would not have let those men go away. I
would have set them to work in some place where there would be no
danger of getting water,--at least, for a long time,--and then
you would have found out what are the deeper treasures of your
Having finished my well, I now set about getting the water
into my residence near by. I built a house over the well and put
in it a little engine, and by means of a system of pipes, like
the arteries and veins of the human body, I proposed to
distribute the water to the various desirable points in my house.
The engine was the heart, which should start the circulation,
which should keep it going, and which should send throbbing
through every pipe the water which, if it were not our life, was
very necessary to it.
When all was ready we started the engine, and in a very short
time we discovered that something was wrong. For fifteen or
twenty minutes water flowed into the tank at the top of the
house, with a sound that was grander in the ears of my wife and
myself than the roar of Niagara, and then it stopped.
Investigation proved that the flow had stopped because there
was no more water in the well.
It is needless to detail the examinations, investigations,
and the multitude of counsels and opinions with which our minds
were filled for the next few days. It was plain to see that
although this well was fully able to meet the demands of a handpump
or of bailing buckets, the water did not flow into it as
fast as it could be pumped out by an engine. Therefore, for the
purposes of supplying the circulation of my domestic water
system, the well was declared a failure.
My non-success was much talked about in the neighborhood, and
we received a great deal of sympathy and condolence. Phineas
Colwell was not surprised at the outcome of the affair. He had
said that the well had been put in the wrong place. Mrs. Betty
was not only surprised, but disgusted.
"It is all very well for you," she said, "who could afford to
buy water if it was necessary, but it is very different with the
widow and the orphan. If I had not supposed you were going to
have a real well, I would have had my spring cleaned out and
deepened. I could have had it done in the early summer, but it
is of no use now. The spring has dried up."
She told a neighbor that she believed the digging of my well
had dried up her spring, and that that was the way of this world,
where the widow and the orphan were sure to come out at the
Of course I did not submit to defeat--at least, not without a
struggle. I had a well, and if anything could be done to make
that well supply me with water, I was going to do it. I
consulted specialists, and, after careful consideration of the
matter, they agreed that it would be unadvisable for me to
attempt to deepen my present well, as there was reason to suppose
there was very little water in the place where I had dug it, and
that the very best thing I could do would be to try a driven
well. As I had already excavated about thirty feet, that was so
much gain to me, and if I should have a six-inch pipe put into my
present well and then driven down and down until it came to a
place where there was plenty of water, I would have all I wanted.
How far down the pipe would have to be driven, of course they did
not know, but they all agreed that if I drove deep enough I would
get all the water I wanted. This was the only kind of a well,
they said, which one could sink as deep as he pleased without
being interfered with by the water at the bottom. My wife and I
then considered the matter, and ultimately decided that it would
be a waste of the money which we had already spent upon the
engine, the pipes, and the little house, and, as there was
nothing else to be done but to drive a well, we would have a well
Of course we were both very sorry that the work must be begun
again, but I was especially dissatisfied, for the weather was
getting cold, there was already snow upon the ground, and I was
told that work could not be carried on in winter weather. I lost
no time, however, in making a contract with a well-driver, who
assured me that as soon as the working season should open, which
probably would be very early in the spring, he would come to my
place and begin to drive my well.
The season did open, and so did the pea-blossoms, and the
pods actually began to fill before I saw that well-driver
again. I had had a good deal of correspondence with him in the
meantime, urging him to prompt action, but he always had some
good reason for delay. (I found out afterwards that he was busy
fulfilling a contract made before mine, in which he promised to
drive a well as soon as the season should open.)
At last--it was early in the summer--he came with his derricks, a
steam-engine, a trip-hammer, and a lot of men. They took off the
roof of my house, removed the engine, and set to work.
For many a long day, and I am sorry to say for many a longer
night, that trip-hammer hammered and banged. On the next day
after the night-work began, one of my neighbors came to me to
know what they did that for. I told him they were anxious to get
"Get through what?" said he. "The earth? If they do that,
and your six-inch pipe comes out in a Chinaman's back yard, he
will sue you for damages."
When the pipe had been driven through the soft stratum under
the old well, and began to reach firmer ground, the pounding and
shaking of the earth became worse and worse. My wife was obliged
to leave home with our child.
"If he is to do without both water and sleep," said she, "he
cannot long survive." And I agreed with her.
She departed for a pleasant summer resort where her married
sister with her child was staying, and from week to week I
received very pleasant letters from her, telling me of the charms
of the place, and dwelling particularly upon the abundance of
cool spring water with which the house was supplied.
While this terrible pounding was going on I heard various
reports of its effect upon my neighbors. One of them, an
agriculturist, with whom I had always been on the best of terms,
came with a clouded brow.
"When I first felt those shakes," he said, "I thought they
were the effects of seismic disturbances, and I did not mind, but
when I found it was your well I thought I ought to come over to
speak about it. I do not object to the shaking of my barn,
because my man tells me the continual jolting is thrashing out
the oats and wheat, but I do not like to have all my apples and
pears shaken off my trees. And then," said he, "I have a late
brood of chickens, and they cannot walk, because every time they
try to make a step they are jolted into the air about a foot.
And again, we have had to give up having soup. We like soup, but
we do not care to have it spout up like a fountain whenever that
hammer comes down."
I was grieved to trouble this friend, and I asked him what I
should do. "Do you want me to stop the work on the well?" said I.
"Oh, no," said he, heartily. "Go on with the work. You must
have water, and we will try to stand the bumping. I dare say it
is good for dyspepsia, and the cows are getting used to having
the grass jammed up against their noses. Go ahead; we can stand
it in the daytime, but if you could stop the night-work we would
be very glad. Some people may think it a well-spring of pleasure
to be bounced out of bed, but I don't."
Mrs. Perch came to me with a face like a squeezed lemon, and
asked me if I could lend her five nails.
"What sort? " said I.
"The kind you nail clapboards on with," said she. "There is
one of them been shook entirely off my house by your well. I am
in hopes that before the rest are all shook off I shall get in
some money that is owing me and can afford to buy nails for
I stopped the night-work, but this was all I could do for
My optimist friend was delighted when he heard of my driven
well. He lived so far away that he and his mother were not
disturbed by the jarring of the ground. Now he was sure that
some of the internal secrets of the earth would be laid bare, and
he rode or drove over every day to see what we were getting out
of the well. I know that he was afraid we would soon get water,
but was too kind-hearted to say so.
One day the pipe refused to go deeper. No matter how hard it
was struck, it bounced up again. When some of the substance it
had struck was brought up it looked like French chalk, and my
optimist eagerly examined it.
"A French-chalk mine," said he, "would not be a bad thing,
but I hoped that you had struck a bed of mineral gutta-percha.
That would be a grand find."
But the chalk-bed was at last passed, and we began again to
bring up nothing but common earth.
"I suppose," said my optimist to me, one morning, "that you
must soon come to water, and if you do I hope it will be hot
"Hot water!" I exclaimed. "I do not want that."
"Oh, yes, you would, if you had thought about it as much as I
have," he replied. "I lay awake for hours last night, thinking
what would happen if you struck hot water. In the first place,
it would be absolutely pure, because, even if it were
possible for germs and bacilli to get down so deep, they would be
boiled before you got them, and then you could cool that water
for drinking. When fresh it would be already heated for cooking
and hot baths. And then--just think of it!--you could introduce
the hot-water system of heating into your house, and there would
be the hot water always ready. But the great thing would be your
garden. Think of the refuse hot water circulating in pipes up
and down and under all your beds! That garden would bloom in the
winter as others do in the summer; at least, you could begin to
have Lima-beans and tomatoes as soon as the frost was out of the
I laughed. "It would take a lot of pumping," I said, "to do
all that with the hot water."
"Oh, I forgot to say," he cried, with sparkling eyes, "that I
do not believe you would ever have any more pumping to do. You
have now gone down so far that I am sure whatever you find will
force itself up. It will spout high into the air or through all
your pipes, and run always."
Phineas Colwell was by when this was said, and he must have
gone down to Mrs. Betty Perch's house to talk it over with her,
for in the afternoon she came to see me.
"I understand," said she, "that you are trying to get hot
water out of your well, and that there is likely to be a lot more
than you need, so that it will run down by the side of the road.
I just want to say that if a stream of hot water comes down past
my house some of the children will be bound to get into it and be
scalded to death, and I came to say that if that well is
going to squirt b'iling water I'd like to have notice so that I
can move, though where a widow with so many orphans is going to
move to nobody knows. Mr. Colwell says that if you had got him
to tell you where to put that well there would have been no
danger of this sort of thing."
The next day the optimist came to me, his face fairly blazing
with a new idea. "I rode over on purpose to urge you," he cried,
"if you should strike hot water, not to stop there. Go on, and,
by George! you may strike fire."
"Heavens!" I cried.
"Oh, quite the opposite," said he. "But do not let us joke.
I think that would be the grandest thing of this age. Think of a
fire well, with the flames shooting up perhaps a hundred feet
into the air!"
I wish Phineas Colwell had not been there. As it was, he
turned pale and sat down on the wall.
"You look astonished!" exclaimed the optimist, "but listen to
me. You have not thought of this thing as I have. If you should
strike fire your fortune would be made. By a system of
reflectors you could light up the whole country. By means of
tiles and pipes this region could be made tropical. You could
warm all the houses in the neighborhood with hot air. And then
the power you could generate--just think of it! Heat is power;
the cost of power is the fuel. You could furnish power to all
who wanted it. You could fill this region with industries. My
dear sir, you must excuse my agitation, but if you should strike
fire there is no limit to the possibilities of achievement."
"But I want water," said I. "Fire would not take the place
"Oh, water is a trifle," said he. "You could have pipes laid
from town; it is only about two miles. But fire! Nobody has yet
gone down deep enough for that. You have your future in your
As I did not care to connect my future with fire, this idea
did not strike me very forcibly, but it struck Phineas Colwell.
He did not say anything to me, but after I had gone he went to
"If you feel them pipes getting hot," he said to them, "I
warn you to stop. I have been in countries where there are
volcanoes, and I know what they are. There's enough of them in
this world, and there's no need of making new ones."
In the afternoon a wagoner, who happened to be passing,
brought me a note from Mrs. Perch, very badly spelled, asking if
I would let one of my men bring her a pail of water, for she
could not think of coming herself or letting any of the children
come near my place if spouting fires were expected.
The well-driving had gone on and on, with intermissions on
account of sickness in the families of the various workmen, until
it had reached the limit which I had fixed, and we had not found
water in sufficient quantity, hot or cold, nor had we struck
fire, or anything else worth having.
The well-drivers and some specialists were of the opinion
that if I were to go ten, twenty, or perhaps a hundred feet
deeper, I would be very likely to get all the water I wanted.
But, of course, they could not tell how deep they must go, for
some wells were over a thousand feet deep. I shook my head at
this. There seemed to be only one thing certain about this
drilling business, and that was the expense. I declined to go
"I think," a facetious neighbor said to me, "it would be
cheaper for you to buy a lot of Apollinaris water,--at wholesale
rates, of course,--and let your men open so many bottles a day
and empty them into your tank. You would find that would pay
better in the long run."
Phineas Colwell told me that when he had informed Mrs. Perch
that I was going to stop operations, she was in a dreadful state
of mind. After all she had undergone, she said, it was simply
cruel to think of my stopping before I got water, and that after
having dried up her spring!
This is what Phineas said she said, but when next I met her
she told me that he had declared that if I had put the well where
he thought it ought to be, I should have been having all the
water I wanted before now.
My optimist was dreadfully cast down when he heard that I
would drive no deeper.
"I have been afraid of this," he said. "I have, been afraid
of it. And if circumstances had so arranged themselves that I
should have command of money, I should have been glad to assume
the expense of deeper explorations. I have been thinking a great
deal about the matter, and I feel quite sure that even if you did
not get water or anything else that might prove of value to you,
it would be a great advantage to have a pipe sunk into the earth
to the depth of, say, one thousand feet."
"What possible advantage could that be?" I asked.
"I will tell you," he said. "You would then have one of
the grandest opportunities ever offered to man of constructing a
gravity-engine. This would be an engine which would be of no
expense at all to run. It would need no fuel. Gravity would be
the power. It would work a pump splendidly. You could start it
when you liked and stop it when you liked."
"Pump!" said I. "What is the good of a pump without water?"
"Oh, of course you would have to have water," he answered.
"But, no matter how you get it, you will have to pump it up to
your tank so as to make it circulate over your house. Now, my
gravity-pump would do this beautifully. You see, the pump would
be arranged with cog-wheels and all that sort of thing, and the
power would be supplied by a weight, which would be a cylinder of
lead or iron, fastened to a rope and run down inside your pipe.
Just think of it! It would run down a thousand feet, and where
is there anything worked by weight that has such a fall as that?"
I laughed. "That is all very well," said I. "But how about
the power required to wind that weight up again when it got to
the bottom? I should have to have an engine to do that."
"Oh, no," said he. "I have planned the thing better than
that. You see, the greater the weight the greater the power and
the velocity. Now, if you take a solid cylinder of lead about
four inches in diameter, so that it would slip easily down your
pipe,--you might grease it, for that matter,--and twenty feet in
length, it would be an enormous weight, and in slowly descending
for about an hour a day--for that would be long enough for your
pumping--and going down a thousand feet, it would run your
engine for a year. Now, then, at the end of the year you could
not expect to haul that weight up again. You would have a
trigger arrangement which would detach it from the rope when it
got to the bottom. Then you would wind up your rope,--a man
could do that in a short time,--and you would attach another
cylinder of lead, and that would run your engine for another
year, minus a few days, because it would only go down nine
hundred and eighty feet. The next year you would put on another
cylinder, and so on. I have not worked out the figures exactly,
but I think that in this way your engine would run for thirty
years before the pipe became entirely filled with cylinders.
That would be probably as long as you would care to have water
forced into the house."
"Yes"' said I, "I think that is likely."
He saw that his scheme did not strike me favorably. Suddenly
a light flashed across his face.
"I tell you what you can do with your pipe," he said, "just
as it is. You can set up a clock over it which would run for
forty years without winding."
I smiled, and he turned sadly away to his horse; but he had
not ridden ten yards before he came back and called to me over
"If the earth at the bottom of your pipe should ever yield to
pressure and give way, and if water or gas, or--anything, should
be squirted out of it, I beg you will let me know as soon as
I promised to do so.
When the pounding was at an end my wife and child came home.
But the season continued dry, and even their presence could not
counteract the feeling of aridity which seemed to permeate
everything which belonged to us, material or immaterial. We had
a great deal of commiseration from our neighbors. I think even
Mrs. Betty Perch began to pity us a little, for her spring had
begun to trickle again in a small way, and she sent word to me
that if we were really in need of water she would be willing to
divide with us. Phineas Colwell was sorry for us, of course, but
he could not help feeling and saying that if I had consulted him
the misfortune would have been prevented.
It was late in the summer when my wife returned, and when she
made her first visit of inspection to the grounds and gardens,
her eyes, of course, fell upon the unfinished well. She was
"I never saw such a scene of wreckage," she said. "It looks
like a Western town after a cyclone. I think the best thing you
can do is to have this dreadful litter cleared up, the ground
smoothed and raked, the wall mended, and the roof put back on
that little house, and then if we can make anybody believe it is
an ice-house, so much the better."
This was good advice, and I sent for a man to put the
vicinity of the well in order and give it the air of neatness
which characterizes the rest of our home.
The man who came was named Mr. Barnet. He was a
contemplative fellow with a pipe in his mouth. After having
worked at the place for half a day he sent for me and said:
"I'll tell you what I would do if I was in your place. I'd
put that pump-house in order, and I'd set up the engine, and put
the pump down into that thirty-foot well you first dug, and I'd
pump water into my house."
I looked at him in amazement.
"There's lots of water in that well," he continued, "and if
there's that much now in this drought, you will surely have ever
so much more when the weather isn't so dry. I have measured the
water, and I know."
I could not understand him. It seemed to me that he was talking
wildly. He filled his pipe and lighted it and sat upon the wall.
"Now," said he, after he had taken a few puffs, "I'll tell
you where the trouble's been with your well. People are always
in too big a hurry in this world about all sorts of things as
well as wells. I am a well-digger and I know all about them. We
know if there is any water in the ground it will always find its
way to the deepest hole there is, and we dig a well so as to give
it a deep hole to go to in the place where we want it. But you
can't expect the water to come to that hole just the very day
it's finished. Of course you will get some, because it's right
there in the neighborhood, but there is always a lot more that
will come if you give it time. It's got to make little channels
and passages for itself, and of course it takes time to do that.
It's like settling up a new country. Only a few pioneers come at
first, and you have to wait for the population to flow in. This
being a dry season, and the water in the ground a little sluggish
on that account, it was a good while finding out where your well
was. If I had happened along when you was talking about a well,
I think I should have said to you that I knew a proverb which
would about fit your case, and that is: `Let well enough
I felt like taking this good man by the hand, but I did not. I
only told him to go ahead and do everything that was proper.
The next morning, as I was going to the well, I saw Phineas
Colwell coming down the lane and Mrs. Betty Perch coming up it.
I did not wish them to question me, so I stepped behind some
bushes. When they met they stopped.
"Upon my word!" exclaimed Mrs. Betty, "if he isn't going to
work again on that everlasting well! If he's got so much money
he don't know what to do with it, I could tell him that there's
people in this world, and not far away either, who would be the
better for some of it. It's a sin and a shame and an
abomination. Do you believe, Mr. Colwell, that there is the
least chance in the world of his ever getting water enough out of
that well to shave himself with?"
"Mrs. Perch," said Phineas, "it ain't no use talking about
that well. It ain't no use, and it never can be no use, because
it's in the wrong place. If he ever pumps water out of that well
into his house I'll do--"
"What will you do?" asked Mr. Barnet, who just then appeared
from the recesses of the engine-house.
"I'll do anything on this earth that you choose to name,"
said Phineas. "I am safe, whatever it is."
"Well, then," said Mr. Barnet, knocking the ashes from his
pipe preparatory to filling it again, "will you marry Mrs.
Phineas laughed. "Yes," he said. "I promised I would do
anything, and I'll promise that."
"A slim chance for me," said Mrs. Betty, "even if I'd have
you." And she marched on with her nose in the air.
When Mr. Barnet got fairly to work with his derrick, his
men, and his buckets, he found that there was a good deal more to
do than he had expected. The well-drivers had injured the
original well by breaking some of the tiles which lined it, and
these had to be taken out and others put in, and in the course of
this work other improvements suggested themselves and were made.
Several times operations were delayed by sickness in the family
of Mr. Barnet, and also in the families of his workmen, but still
the work went on in a very fair manner, although much more slowly
than had been supposed by any one. But in the course of time--I
will not say how much time--the work was finished, the engine was
in its place, and it pumped water into my house, and every day
since then it has pumped all the water we need, pure, cold, and
Knowing the promise Phineas Colwell had made, and feeling
desirous of having everything which concerned my well settled and
finished, I went to look for him to remind him of his duty toward
Mrs. Perch, but I could not find that naval and military
mechanical agriculturist. He had gone away to take a job or a
contract,--I could not discover which,--and he has not since
appeared in our neighborhood. Mrs. Perch is very severe on me
"There's plenty of bad things come out of that well," she
said, "but I never thought anything bad enough would come out of
it to make Mr. Colwell go away and leave me to keep on being a
widow with all them orphans."