by American Authors, Volume 5, by Various
A LIGHT MAN.
By Henry James.
By F.D. Millet.
THE END OF NEW YORK.
By Park Benjamin.
WHY THOMAS WAS DISCHARGED.
By George Arnold.
By E.P. Mitchell.
A LIGHT MAN.
BY Henry James.
"And I—what I seem to my friend, you see—
What I soon shall seem to his love, you guess.
What I seem to myself, do you ask of me?
No hero, I confess."
A Light Woman.—Browning's Men and Women.
April 4, 1857.—I have changed my sky without changing my mind. I resume
these old notes in a new world. I hardly know of what use they are; but
it's easier to stick to the habit than to drop it. I have been at home
now a week—at home, forsooth! And yet, after all, it is home. I am
dejected, I am bored, I am blue. How can a man be more at home than
that? Nevertheless, I am the citizen of a great country, and for that
matter, of a great city. I walked to-day some ten miles or so along
Broadway, and on the whole I don't blush for my native land. We are a
capable race and a good-looking withal; and I don't see why we
shouldn't prosper as well as another. This, by the way, ought to be a
very encouraging reflection. A capable fellow and a good-looking withal;
I don't see why he shouldn't die a millionaire. At all events he must do
something. When a man has, at thirty-two, a net income of considerably
less than nothing, he can scarcely hope to overtake a fortune before he
himself is overtaken by age and philosophy—two deplorable obstructions.
I am afraid that one of them has already planted itself in my path. What
am I? What do I wish? Whither do I tend? What do I believe? I am
constantly beset by these impertinent whisperings. Formerly it was
enough that I was Maximus Austin; that I was endowed with a cheerful
mind and a good digestion; that one day or another, when I had come to
the end, I should return to America and begin at the beginning; that,
meanwhile, existence was sweet in—in the Rue Tronchet. But now! Has the
sweetness really passed out of life? Have I eaten the plums and left
nothing but the bread and milk and corn-starch, or whatever the horrible
concoction is?—I had it to-day for dinner. Pleasure, at least, I
imagine—pleasure pure and simple, pleasure crude, brutal and
vulgar—this poor flimsy delusion has lost all its charm. I shall never
again care for certain things—and indeed for certain persons. Of such
things, of such persons, I firmly maintain, however, that I was never an
enthusiastic votary. It would be more to my credit, I suppose, if I had
been. More would be forgiven me if I had loved a little more, if into
all my folly and egotism I had put a little more naïveté and
sincerity. Well, I did the best I could, I was at once too bad and too
good for it all. At present, it's far enough off; I have put the sea
between us; I am stranded. I sit high and dry, scanning the horizon for
a friendly sail, or waiting for a high tide to set me afloat. The wave
of pleasure has deposited me here in the sand. Shall I owe my rescue to
the wave of pain? At moments I feel a kind of longing to expiate my
stupid little sins. I see, as through a glass, darkly, the beauty of
labor and love. Decidedly, I am willing to work. It's written.
7th.—My sail is in sight; it's at hand; I have all but boarded the
vessel. I received this morning a letter from the best man in the world.
Here it is:
DEAR MAX: I see this very moment, in an old newspaper which had
already passed through my hands without yielding up its most
precious item, the announcement of your arrival in New York. To
think of your having perhaps missed the welcome you had a right to
expect from me! Here it is, dear Max—as cordial as you please.
When I say I have just read of your arrival, I mean that twenty
minutes have elapsed by the clock. These have been spent in
conversation with my excellent friend Mr. Sloane—we having taken
the liberty of making you the topic. I haven't time to say more
about Frederick Sloane than that he is very anxious to make your
acquaintance, and that, if your time is not otherwise engaged, he
would like you very much to spend a month with him. He is an
excellent host, or I shouldn't be here myself. It appears that he
knew your mother very intimately, and he has a taste for visiting
the amenities of the parents upon the children; the original ground
of my own connection with him was that he had been a particular
friend of my father. You may have heard your mother speak of him.
He is a very strange old fellow, but you will like him. Whether or
no you come for his sake, come for mine.
Yours always, THEODORE LISLE.
Theodore's letter is of course very kind, but it's remarkably obscure.
My mother may have had the highest regard for Mr. Sloane, but she never
mentioned his name in my hearing. Who is he, what is he, and what is the
nature of his relations with Theodore? I shall learn betimes. I have
written to Theodore that I gladly accept (I believe I suppressed the
"gladly" though) his friend's invitation, and that I shall immediately
present myself. What can I do that is better? Speaking sordidly, I shall
obtain food and lodging while I look about me. I shall have a base of
operations. D., it appears, is a long day's journey, but enchanting when
you reach it. I am curious to see an enchanting American town. And to
stay a month! Mr. Frederick Sloane, whoever you are, vous faites bien
les choses, and the little that I know of you is very much to your
credit. You enjoyed the friendship of my dear mother, you possess the
esteem of the virtuous Theodore, you commend yourself to my own
affection. At this rate, I shall not grudge it.
D—, 14th.—I have been here since Thursday evening—three days. As we
rattled up to the tavern in the village, I perceived from the top of the
coach, in the twilight, Theodore beneath the porch, scanning the
vehicle, with all his amiable disposition in his eyes. He has grown
older, of course, in these five years, but less so than I had expected.
His is one of those smooth, unwrinkled souls that keep their bodies fair
and fresh. As tall as ever, moreover, and as lean and clean. How short
and fat and dark and debauched he makes one feel! By nothing he says or
means, of course, but merely by his old unconscious purity and
simplicity—that slender straightness which makes him remind you of the
spire of an English abbey. He greeted me with smiles, and stares, and
alarming blushes. He assures me that he never would have known me, and
that five years have altered me—sehr! I asked him if it were for the
better? He looked at me hard for a moment, with his eyes of blue, and
then, for an answer, he blushed again.
On my arrival we agreed to walk over from the village. He dismissed his
wagon with my luggage, and we went arm-in-arm through the dusk. The town
is seated at the foot of certain mountains, whose names I have yet to
learn, and at the head of a big sheet of water, which, as yet, too, I
know only as "the Lake." The road hitherward soon leaves the village and
wanders in rural loveliness by the margin of this expanse. Sometimes the
water is hidden by clumps of trees, behind which we heard it lapping and
gurgling in the darkness: sometimes it stretches out from your feet in
shining vagueness, as if it were tired of making, all day, a million
little eyes at the great stupid hills. The walk from the tavern takes
some half an hour, and in this interval Theodore made his position a
little more clear. Mr. Sloane is a rich old widower; his age is
seventy-two, and as his health is thoroughly broken, is practically even
greater; and his fortune—Theodore, characteristically, doesn't know
anything definite about that. It's probably about a million. He has
lived much in Europe, and in the "great world;" he has had adventures
and passions and all that sort of thing; and now, in the evening of his
days, like an old French diplomatist, he takes it into his head to write
his memoirs. To this end he has lured poor Theodore to his gruesome
side, to mend his pens for him. He has been a great scribbler, says
Theodore, all his days, and he proposes to incorporate a large amount of
promiscuous literary matter into these souvenirs intimes. Theodore's
principal function seems to be to get him to leave things out. In fact,
the poor youth seems troubled in conscience. His patron's lucubrations
have taken the turn of many other memoirs, and have ceased to address
themselves virginibus puerisque. On the whole, he declares they are a
very odd mixture—a medley of gold and tinsel, of bad taste and good
sense. I can readily understand it. The old man bores me, puzzles me,
and amuses me.
He was in waiting to receive me. We found him in his library—which, by
the way, is simply the most delightful apartment that I ever smoked a
cigar in—a room arranged for a lifetime. At one end stands a great
fireplace, with a florid, fantastic mantelpiece in carved white
marble—an importation, of course, and, as one may say, an
interpolation; the groundwork of the house, the "fixtures," being
throughout plain, solid and domestic. Over the mantel-shelf is a large
landscape, a fine Gainsborough, full of the complicated harmonies of an
English summer. Beneath it stands a row of bronzes of the Renaissance
and potteries of the Orient. Facing the door, as you enter, is an
immense window set in a recess, with cushioned seats and large clear
panes, stationed as it were at the very apex of the lake (which forms an
almost perfect oval) and commanding a view of its whole extent. At the
other end, opposite the fireplace, the wall is studded, from floor to
ceiling, with choice foreign paintings, placed in relief against the
orthodox crimson screen. Elsewhere the walls are covered with books,
arranged neither in formal regularity nor quite helter-skelter, but in a
sort of genial incongruity, which tells that sooner or later each volume
feels sure of leaving the ranks and returning into different company.
Mr. Sloane makes use of his books. His two passions, according to
Theodore, are reading and talking; but to talk he must have a book in
his hand. The charm of the room lies in the absence of certain pedantic
tones—the browns, blacks and grays—which distinguish most libraries.
The apartment is of the feminine gender. There are half a dozen light
colors scattered about—pink in the carpet, tender blue in the curtains,
yellow in the chairs. The result is a general look of brightness and
lightness; it expresses even a certain cynicism. You perceive the place
to be the home, not of a man of learning, but of a man of fancy.
He rose from his chair—the man of fancy, to greet me—the man of fact.
As I looked at him, in the lamplight, it seemed to me, for the first
five minutes, that I had seldom seen an uglier little person. It took me
five minutes to get the point of view; then I began to admire. He is
diminutive, or at best of my own moderate stature, and bent and
contracted with his seventy years; lean and delicate, moreover, and very
highly finished. He is curiously pale, with a kind of opaque yellow
pallor. Literally, it's a magnificent yellow. His skin is of just the
hue and apparent texture of some old crumpled Oriental scroll. I know a
dozen painters who would give more than they have to arrive at the exact
"tone" of his thick-veined, bloodless hands, his polished ivory
knuckles. His eyes are circled with red, but in the battered little
setting of their orbits they have the lustre of old sapphires. His nose,
owing to the falling away of other portions of his face, has assumed a
grotesque, unnatural prominence; it describes an immense arch, gleaming
like a piece of parchment stretched on ivory. He has, apparently, all
his teeth, but has muffled his cranium in a dead black wig; of course
he's clean shaven. In his dress he has a muffled, wadded look and an
apparent aversion to linen, inasmuch as none is visible on his person.
He seems neat enough, but not fastidious. At first, as I say, I fancied
him monstrously ugly; but on further acquaintance I perceived that what
I had taken for ugliness is nothing but the incomplete remains of
remarkable good looks. The line of his features is pure; his nose,
caeteris paribus, would be extremely handsome; his eyes are the oldest
eyes I ever saw, and yet they are wonderfully living. He has something
He offered his two hands, as Theodore introduced me; I gave him my own,
and he stood smiling at me like some quaint old image in ivory and
ebony, scanning my face with a curiosity which he took no pains to
conceal. "God bless me," he said, at last, "how much you look like your
father!" I sat down, and for half an hour we talked of many things—of
my journey, of my impressions of America, of my reminiscences of Europe,
and, by implication, of my prospects. His voice is weak and cracked, but
he makes it express everything. Mr. Sloane is not yet in his dotage—oh
no! He nevertheless makes himself out a poor creature. In reply to an
inquiry of mine about his health, he favored me with a long list of his
infirmities (some of which are very trying, certainly) and assured me
that he was quite finished.
"I live out of mere curiosity," he said.
"I have heard of people dying from the same motive."
He looked at me a moment, as if to ascertain whether I were laughing at
him. And then, after a pause, "Perhaps you don't know that I disbelieve
in a future life," he remarked, blandly.
At these words Theodore got up and walked to the fire.
"Well, we shan't quarrel about that," said I. Theodore turned round,
"Do you mean that you agree with me?" the old man asked.
"I certainly haven't come here to talk theology! Don't ask me to
disbelieve, and I'll never ask you to believe."
"Come," cried Mr. Sloane, rubbing his hands, "you'll not persuade me you
are a Christian—like your friend Theodore there."
"Like Theodore—assuredly not." And then, somehow, I don't know why, at
the thought of Theodore's Christianity I burst into a laugh. "Excuse me,
my dear fellow," I said, "you know, for the last ten years I have lived
in pagan lands."
"What do you call pagan?" asked Theodore, smiling.
I saw the old man, with his hands locked, eying me shrewdly, and waiting
for my answer. I hesitated a moment, and then I said, "Everything that
makes life tolerable!"
Hereupon Mr. Sloane began to laugh till he coughed. Verily, I thought,
if he lives for curiosity, he's easily satisfied.
We went into dinner, and this repast showed me that some of his
curiosity is culinary. I observed, by the way, that for a victim of
neuralgia, dyspepsia, and a thousand other ills, Mr. Sloane plies a most
inconsequential knife and fork. Sauces and spices and condiments seem to
be the chief of his diet. After dinner he dismissed us, in consideration
of my natural desire to see my friend in private. Theodore has capital
quarters—a downy bedroom and a snug little salon. We talked till near
midnight—of ourselves, of each other, and of the author of the memoirs,
down stairs. That is, I spoke of myself, and Theodore listened; and then
Theodore descanted upon Mr. Sloane, and I listened. His commerce with
the old man has sharpened his wits. Sloane has taught him to observe and
judge, and Theodore turns round, observes, judges—him! He has become
quite the critic and analyst. There is something very pleasant in the
discriminations of a conscientious mind, in which criticism is tempered
by an angelic charity. Only, it may easily end by acting on one's
nerves. At midnight we repaired to the library, to take leave of our
host till the morrow—an attention which, under all circumstances, he
rigidly exacts. As I gave him my hand he held it again and looked at me
as he had done on my arrival. "Bless my soul," he said, at last, "how
much you look like your mother!"
To-night, at the end of my third day, I begin to feel decidedly at
home. The fact is, I am remarkably comfortable. The house is pervaded by
an indefinable, irresistible love of luxury and privacy. Mr. Frederick
Sloane is a horribly corrupt old mortal. Already in his relaxing
presence I have become heartily reconciled to doing nothing. But with
Theodore on one side—standing there like a tall interrogation-point—I
honestly believe I can defy Mr. Sloane on the other. The former asked me
this morning, with visible solicitude, in allusion to the bit of
dialogue I have quoted above on matters of faith, whether I am really a
materialist—whether I don't believe something? I told him I would
believe anything he liked. He looked at me a while, in friendly sadness.
"I hardly know whether you are not worse than Mr. Sloane," he said.
But Theodore is, after all, in duty bound to give a man a long rope in
these matters. His own rope is one of the longest. He reads Voltaire
with Mr. Sloane, and Emerson in his own room. He is the stronger man of
the two; he has the larger stomach. Mr. Sloane delights, of course, in
Voltaire, but he can't read a line of Emerson. Theodore delights in
Emerson, and enjoys Voltaire, though he thinks him superficial. It
appears that since we parted in Paris, five years ago, his conscience
has dwelt in many lands. C'est tout une histoire—which he tells very
prettily. He left college determined to enter the church, and came
abroad with his mind full of theology and Tübingen. He appears to have
studied, not wisely but too well. Instead of faith full-armed and
serene, there sprang from the labor of his brain a myriad sickly
questions, piping for answers. He went for a winter to Italy, where, I
take it, he was not quite so much afflicted as he ought to have been at
the sight of the beautiful spiritual repose that he had missed. It was
after this that we spent those three months together in Brittany—the
best-spent months of my long residence in Europe. Theodore inoculated
me, I think, with some of his seriousness, and I just touched him with
my profanity; and we agreed together that there were a few good things
left—health, friendship, a summer sky, and the lovely byways of an old
French province. He came home, searched the Scriptures once more,
accepted a "call," and made an attempt to respond to it. But the inner
voice failed him. His outlook was cheerless enough. During his absence
his married sister, the elder one, had taken the other to live with her,
relieving Theodore of the charge of contribution to her support. But
suddenly, behold the husband, the brother-in-law, dies, leaving a mere
figment of property; and the two ladies, with their two little girls,
are afloat in the wide world. Theodore finds himself at twenty-six
without an income, without a profession, and with a family of four
females to support. Well, in his quiet way he draws on his courage. The
history of the two years that passed before he came to Mr. Sloane is
really absolutely edifying. He rescued his sisters and nieces from the
deep waters, placed them high and dry, established them somewhere in
decent gentility—and then found at last that his strength had left
him—had dropped dead like an over-ridden horse. In short, he had worked
himself to the bone. It was now his sisters' turn. They nursed him with
all the added tenderness of gratitude for the past and terror of the
future, and brought him safely through a grievous malady. Meanwhile Mr.
Sloane, having decided to treat himself to a private secretary and
suffered dreadful mischance in three successive experiments, had heard
of Theodore's situation and his merits; had furthermore recognized in
him the son of an early and intimate friend, and had finally offered him
the very comfortable position he now occupies. There is a decided
incongruity between Theodore as a man—as Theodore, in fine—and the
dear fellow as the intellectual agent, confidant, complaisant, purveyor,
pander—what you will—of a battered old cynic and dilettante—a
worldling if there ever was one. There seems at first sight a perfect
want of agreement between his character and his function. One is gold
and the other brass, or something very like it. But on reflection I can
enter into it—his having, under the circumstances, accepted Mr.
Sloane's offer and been content to do his duties. Ce que c'est de
nous! Theodore's contentment in such a case is a theme for the
moralist—a better moralist than I. The best and purest mortals are an
odd mixture, and in none of us does honesty exist on its own terms.
Ideally, Theodore hasn't the smallest business dans cette galère. It
offends my sense of propriety to find him here. I feel that I ought to
notify him as a friend that he has knocked at the wrong door, and that
he had better retreat before he is brought to the blush. However, I
suppose he might as well be here as reading Emerson "evenings" in the
back parlor, to those two very plain sisters—judging from their
photographs. Practically it hurts no one not to be too much of a prig.
Poor Theodore was weak, depressed, out of work. Mr. Sloane offers him a
lodging and a salary in return for—after all, merely a little tact. All
he has to do is to read to the old man, lay down the book a while, with
his finger in the place, and let him talk; take it up again, read
another dozen pages and submit to another commentary. Then to write a
dozen pages under his dictation—to suggest a word, polish off a period,
or help him out with a complicated idea or a half-remembered fact. This
is all, I say; and yet this is much. Theodore's apparent success proves
it to be much, as well as the old man's satisfaction. It is a part; he
has to simulate. He has to "make believe" a little—a good deal; he has
to put his pride in his pocket and send his conscience to the wash. He
has to be accommodating—to listen and pretend and flatter; and he does
it as well as many a worse man—does it far better than I. I might bully
the old man, but I don't think I could humor him. After all, however,
it is not a matter of comparative merit. In every son of woman there are
two men—the practical man and the dreamer. We live for our dreams—but,
meanwhile, we live by our wits. When the dreamer is a poet, the other
fellow is an artist. Theodore, at bottom, is only a man of taste. If he
were not destined to become a high priest among moralists, he might be a
prince among connoisseurs. He plays his part, therefore, artistically,
with spirit, with originality, with all his native refinement. How can
Mr. Sloane fail to believe that he possesses a paragon? He is no such
fool as not to appreciate a nature distinguée when it comes in his
way. He confidentially assured me this morning that Theodore has the
most charming mind in the world, but that it's a pity he's so simple as
not to suspect it. If he only doesn't ruin him with his flattery!
19th.—I am certainly fortunate among men. This morning when,
tentatively, I spoke of going away, Mr. Sloane rose from his seat in
horror and declared that for the present I must regard his house as my
home. "Come, come," he said, "when you leave this place where do you
intend to go?" Where, indeed? I graciously allowed Mr. Sloane to have
the best of the argument. Theodore assures me that he appreciates these
and other affabilities, and that I have made what he calls a "conquest"
of his venerable heart. Poor, battered, bamboozled old organ! he would
have one believe that it has a most tragical record of capture and
recapture. At all events, it appears that I am master of the citadel.
For the present I have no wish to evacuate. I feel, nevertheless, in
some far-off corner of my soul, that I ought to shoulder my victorious
banner and advance to more fruitful triumphs.
I blush for my beastly laziness. It isn't that I am willing to stay here
a month, but that I am willing to stay here six. Such is the charming,
disgusting truth. Have I really outlived the age of energy? Have I
survived my ambition, my integrity, my self-respect? Verily, I ought to
have survived the habit of asking myself silly questions. I made up my
mind long ago to go in for nothing but present success; and I don't care
for that sufficiently to secure it at the cost of temporary suffering. I
have a passion for nothing—not even for life. I know very well the
appearance I make in the world. I pass for a clever, accomplished,
capable, good-natured fellow, who can do anything if he would only try.
I am supposed to be rather cultivated, to have latent talents. When I
was younger I used to find a certain entertainment in the spectacle of
human affairs. I liked to see men and women hurrying on each other's
heels across the stage. But I am sick and tired of them now; not that I
am a misanthrope, God forbid! They are not worth hating. I never knew
but one creature who was, and her I went and loved. To be consistent, I
ought to have hated my mother, and now I ought to detest Theodore. But I
don't—truly, on the whole, I don't—any more than I dote on him. I
firmly believe that it makes a difference to him, his idea that I am
fond of him. He believes in that, as he believes in all the rest of
it—in my culture, my latent talents, my underlying "earnestness," my
sense of beauty and love of truth. Oh, for a man among them all—a
fellow with eyes in his head—eyes that would know me for what I am and
let me see they had guessed it. Possibly such a fellow as that might get
a "rise" out of me.
In the name of bread and butter, what am I to do? (I was obliged this
morning to borrow fifty dollars from Theodore, who remembered gleefully
that he has been owing me a trifling sum for the past four years, and in
fact has preserved a note to this effect.) Within the last week I have
hatched a desperate plan: I have made up my mind to take a wife—a rich
one, bien entendu. Why not accept the goods of the gods? It is not my
fault, after all, if I pass for a good fellow. Why not admit that
practically, mechanically—as I may say—maritally, I may be a good
fellow? I warrant myself kind. I should never beat my wife; I don't
think I should even contradict her. Assume that her fortune has the
proper number of zeros and that she herself is one of them, and I can
even imagine her adoring me. I really think this is my only way.
Curiously, as I look back upon my brief career, it all seems to tend to
this consummation. It has its graceful curves and crooks, indeed, and
here and there a passionate tangent; but on the whole, if I were to
unfold it here à la Hogarth, what better legend could I scrawl beneath
the series of pictures than So-and-So's Progress to a Mercenary
Coming events do what we all know with their shadows. My noble fate is,
perhaps, not far off. I already feel throughout my person a magnificent
languor—as from the possession of many dollars. Or is it simply my
sense of well-being in this perfectly appointed house? Is it simply the
contact of the highest civilization I have known? At all events, the
place is of velvet, and my only complaint of Mr. Sloane is that, instead
of an old widower, he's not an old widow (or a young maid), so that I
might marry him, survive him, and dwell forever in this rich and mellow
home. As I write here, at my bedroom table, I have only to stretch out
an arm and raise the window-curtain to see the thick-planted garden
budding and breathing and growing in the silvery silence. Far above in
the liquid darkness rolls the brilliant ball of the moon; beneath, in
its light, lies the lake, in murmuring, troubled sleep; round about, the
mountains, looking strange and blanched, seem to bare their heads and
undrape their shoulders. So much for midnight. To-morrow the scene will
be lovely with the beauty of day. Under one aspect or another I have it
always before me. At the end of the garden is moored a boat, in which
Theodore and I have indulged in an immense deal of irregular
navigation. What lovely landward coves and bays—what alder-smothered
creeks—what lily-sheeted pools—what sheer steep hillsides, making the
water dark and quiet where they hang. I confess that in these excursions
Theodore looks after the boat and I after the scenery. Mr. Sloane avoids
the water—on account of the dampness, he says; because he's afraid of
drowning, I suspect.
22d.—Theodore is right. The bonhomme has taken me into his favor. I
protest I don't see how he was to escape it. Je l'ai bien soigné, as
they say in Paris. I don't blush for it. In one coin or another I must
repay his hospitality—which is certainly very liberal. Theodore dots
his i's, crosses his t's, verifies his quotations; while I set traps
for that famous "curiosity." This speaks vastly well for my powers. He
pretends to be surprised at nothing, and to possess in perfection—poor,
pitiable old fop—the art of keeping his countenance; but repeatedly, I
know, I have made him stare. As for his corruption, which I spoke of
above, it's a very pretty piece of wickedness, but it strikes me as a
purely intellectual matter. I imagine him never to have had any real
senses. He may have been unclean; morally, he's not very tidy now; but
he never can have been what the French call a viveur. He's too
delicate, he's of a feminine turn; and what woman was ever a viveur?
He likes to sit in his chair and read scandal, talk scandal, make
scandal, so far as he may without catching a cold or bringing on a
headache. I already feel as if I had known him a lifetime. I read him
as clearly as if I had. I know the type to which he belongs; I have
encountered, first and last, a good many specimens of it. He's neither
more nor less than a gossip—a gossip flanked by a coxcomb and an
egotist. He's shallow, vain, cold, superstitious, timid, pretentious,
capricious: a pretty list of foibles! And yet, for all this, he has his
good points. His caprices are sometimes generous, and his rebellion
against the ugliness of life frequently makes him do kind things. His
memory (for trifles) is remarkable, and (where his own performances are
not involved) his taste is excellent. He has no courage for evil more
than for good. He is the victim, however, of more illusions with regard
to himself than I ever knew a single brain to shelter. At the age of
twenty, poor, ignorant and remarkably handsome, he married a woman of
immense wealth, many years his senior. At the end of three years she
very considerately took herself off and left him to the enjoyment of his
freedom and riches. If he had remained poor he might from time to time
have rubbed at random against the truth, and would be able to recognize
the touch of it. But he wraps himself in his money as in a wadded
dressing-gown, and goes trundling through life on his little gold
wheels. The greater part of his career, from the time of his marriage
till about ten years ago, was spent in Europe, which, superficially, he
knows very well. He has lived in fifty places, known thousands of
people, and spent a very large fortune. At one time, I believe, he
spent considerably too much, trembled for an instant on the verge of a
pecuniary crash, but recovered himself, and found himself more
frightened than hurt, yet audibly recommended to lower his pitch. He
passed five years in a species of penitent seclusion on the lake of—I
forget what (his genius seems to be partial to lakes), and laid the
basis of his present magnificent taste for literature. I can't call him
anything but magnificent in this respect, so long as he must have his
punctuation done by a nature distinguée. At the close of this period,
by economy, he had made up his losses. His turning the screw during
those relatively impecunious years represents, I am pretty sure, the
only act of resolution of his life. It was rendered possible by his
morbid, his actually pusillanimous dread of poverty; he doesn't feel
safe without half a million between him and starvation. Meanwhile he had
turned from a young man into an old man; his health was broken, his
spirit was jaded, and I imagine, to do him justice, that he began to
feel certain natural, filial longings for this dear American mother of
us all. They say the most hopeless truants and triflers have come to it.
He came to it, at all events; he packed up his books and pictures and
gimcracks, and bade farewell to Europe. This house which he now occupies
belonged to his wife's estate. She had, for sentimental reasons of her
own, commended it to his particular care. On his return he came to see
it, liked it, turned a parcel of carpenters and upholsterers into it,
and by inhabiting it for nine years transformed it into the perfect
dwelling which I find it. Here he has spent all his time, with the
exception of a usual winter's visit to New York—a practice recently
discontinued, owing to the increase of his ailments and the projection
of these famous memoirs. His life has finally come to be passed in
comparative solitude. He tells of various distant relatives, as well as
intimate friends of both sexes, who used formerly to be entertained at
his cost; but with each of them, in the course of time, he seems to have
succeeded in quarrelling. Throughout life, evidently, he has had capital
fingers for plucking off parasites. Rich, lonely, and vain, he must have
been fair game for the race of social sycophants and cormorants; and
it's much to the credit of his sharpness and that instinct of
self-defence which nature bestows even on the weak, that he has not been
despoiled and exploité. Apparently they have all been bunglers. I
maintain that something is to be done with him still. But one must work
in obedience to certain definite laws. Doctor Jones, his physician,
tells me that in point of fact he has had for the past ten years an
unbroken series of favorites, protégés, heirs presumptive; but that
each, in turn, by some fatally false movement, has spilled his pottage.
The doctor declares, moreover, that they were mostly very common people.
Gradually the old man seems to have developed a preference for two or
three strictly exquisite intimates, over a throng of your vulgar
pensioners. His tardy literary schemes, too—fruit of his all but
sapless senility—have absorbed more and more of his time and attention.
The end of it all is, therefore, that Theodore and I have him quite to
ourselves, and that it behooves us to hold our porringers straight.
Poor, pretentious old simpleton! It's not his fault, after all, that he
fancies himself a great little man. How are you to judge of the stature
of mankind when men have forever addressed you on their knees? Peace and
joy to his innocent fatuity! He believes himself the most rational of
men; in fact, he's the most superstitious. He fancies himself a
philosopher, an inquirer, a discoverer. He has not yet discovered that
he is a humbug, that Theodore is a prig, and that I am an adventurer. He
prides himself on his good manners, his urbanity, his knowing a rule of
conduct for every occasion in life. My private impression is that his
skinny old bosom contains unsuspected treasures of impertinence. He
takes his stand on his speculative audacity—his direct, undaunted gaze
at the universe; in truth, his mind is haunted by a hundred dingy
old-world spectres and theological phantasms. He imagines himself one of
the most solid of men; he is essentially one of the hollowest. He thinks
himself ardent, impulsive, passionate, magnanimous—capable of boundless
enthusiasm for an idea or a sentiment. It is clear to me that on no
occasion of disinterested action can he ever have done anything in
time. He believes, finally, that he has drained the cup of life to the
dregs; that he has known, in its bitterest intensity, every emotion of
which the human spirit is capable; that he has loved, struggled,
suffered. Mere vanity, all of it. He has never loved any one but
himself; he has never suffered from anything but an undigested supper or
an exploded pretension; he has never touched with the end of his lips
the vulgar bowl from which the mass of mankind quaffs its floods of joy
and sorrow. Well, the long and short of it all is, that I honestly pity
him. He may have given sly knocks in his life, but he can't hurt any one
now. I pity his ignorance, his weakness, his pusillanimity. He has
tasted the real sweetness of life no more than its bitterness; he has
never dreamed, nor experimented, nor dared; he has never known any but
mercenary affection; neither men nor women have risked aught for
him—for his good spirits, his good looks, his empty pockets. How I
should like to give him, for once, a real sensation!
26th.—I took a row this morning with Theodore a couple of miles along
the lake, to a point where we went ashore and lounged away an hour in
the sunshine, which is still very comfortable. Poor Theodore seems
troubled about many things. For one, he is troubled about me: he is
actually more anxious about my future than I myself; he thinks better of
me than I do of myself; he is so deucedly conscientious, so scrupulous,
so averse to giving offence or to brusquer any situation before it
has played itself out, that he shrinks from betraying his apprehensions
or asking direct questions. But I know that he would like very much to
extract from me some intimation that there is something under the sun I
should like to do. I catch myself in the act of taking—heaven forgive
me!—a half-malignant joy in confounding his expectations—leading his
generous sympathies off the scent by giving him momentary glimpses of my
latent wickedness. But in Theodore I have so firm a friend that I shall
have a considerable job if I ever find it needful to make him change his
mind about me. He admires me—that's absolute; he takes my low moral
tone for an eccentricity of genius, and it only imparts an extra
flavor—a haut goût—to the charm of my intercourse. Nevertheless, I
can see that he is disappointed. I have even less to show, after all
these years, than he had hoped. Heaven help us! little enough it must
strike him as being. What a contradiction there is in our being friends
at all! I believe we shall end with hating each other. It's all very
well now—our agreeing to differ, for we haven't opposed interests. But
if we should really clash, the situation would be warm! I wonder, as
it is, that Theodore keeps his patience with me. His education since we
parted should tend logically to make him despise me. He has studied,
thought, suffered, loved—loved those very plain sisters and nieces.
Poor me! how should I be virtuous? I have no sisters, plain or
pretty!—nothing to love, work for, live for. My dear Theodore, if you
are going one of these days to despise me and drop me—in the name of
comfort, come to the point at once, and make an end of our state of
He is troubled, too, about Mr. Sloane. His attitude toward the
bonhomme quite passes my comprehension. It's the queerest jumble of
contraries. He penetrates him, disapproves of him—yet respects and
admires him. It all comes of the poor boy's shrinking New England
conscience. He's afraid to give his perceptions a fair chance, lest,
forsooth, they should look over his neighbor's wall. He'll not
understand that he may as well sacrifice the old reprobate for a lamb as
for a sheep. His view of the gentleman, therefore, is a perfect tissue
of cobwebs—a jumble of half-way sorrows, and wire-drawn charities, and
hair-breadth 'scapes from utter damnation, and sudden platitudes of
generosity—fit, all of it, to make an angel curse!
"The man's a perfect egotist and fool," say I, "but I like him." Now
Theodore likes him—or rather wants to like him; but he can't reconcile
it to his self-respect—fastidious deity!—to like a fool. Why the deuce
can't he leave it alone altogether? It's a purely practical matter.
He ought to do the duties of his place all the better for having his
head clear of officious sentiment. I don't believe in disinterested
service; and Theodore is too desperately bent on preserving his
disinterestedness. With me it's different. I am perfectly free to love
the bonhomme—for a fool. I'm neither a scribe nor a Pharisee; I am
simply a student of the art of life.
And then, Theodore is troubled about his sisters. He's afraid he's not
doing his duty by them. He thinks he ought to be with them—to be
getting a larger salary—to be teaching his nieces. I am not versed in
such questions. Perhaps he ought.
May 3d.—This morning Theodore sent me word that he was ill and unable
to get up; upon which I immediately went in to see him. He had caught
cold, was sick and a little feverish. I urged him to make no attempt to
leave his room, and assured him that I would do what I could to
reconcile Mr. Sloane to his absence. This I found an easy matter. I read
to him for a couple of hours, wrote four letters—one in French—and
then talked for a while—a good while. I have done more talking, by the
way, in the last fortnight, than in any previous twelve months—much of
it, too, none of the wisest, nor, I may add, of the most superstitiously
veracious. In a little discussion, two or three days ago, with Theodore,
I came to the point and let him know that in gossiping with Mr. Sloane I
made no scruple, for our common satisfaction, of "coloring" more or
less. My confession gave him "that turn," as Mrs. Gamp would say, that
his present illness may be the result of it. Nevertheless, poor dear
fellow, I trust he will be on his legs to-morrow. This afternoon,
somehow, I found myself really in the humor of talking. There was
something propitious in the circumstances; a hard, cold rain without, a
wood-fire in the library, the bonhomme puffing cigarettes in his
arm-chair, beside him a portfolio of newly imported prints and
photographs, and—Theodore tucked safely away in bed. Finally, when I
brought our tête-à-tête to a close (taking good care not to overstay
my welcome) Mr. Sloane seized me by both hands and honored me with one
of his venerable grins. "Max," he said—"you must let me call you
Max—you are the most delightful man I ever knew."
Verily, there's some virtue left in me yet. I believe I almost blushed.
"Why didn't I know you ten years ago?" the old man went on. "There are
ten years lost."
"Ten years ago I was not worth your knowing," Max remarked.
"But I did know you!" cried the bonhomme. "I knew you in knowing your
Ah! my mother again. When the old man begins that chapter I feel like
telling him to blow out his candle and go to bed.
"At all events," he continued, "we must make the most of the years that
remain. I am a rotten old carcass, but I have no intention of dying. You
won't get tired of me and want to go away?"
"I am devoted to you, sir," I said. "But I must be looking for some
occupation, you know."
"Occupation? bother! I'll give you occupation. I'll give you wages."
"I am afraid that you will want to give me the wages without the work."
And then I declared that I must go up and look at poor Theodore.
The bonhomme still kept my hands. "I wish very much that I could get
you to be as fond of me as you are of poor Theodore."
"Ah, don't talk about fondness, Mr. Sloane. I don't deal much in that
"Don't you like my secretary?"
"Not as he deserves."
"Nor as he likes you, perhaps?"
"He likes me more than I deserve."
"Well, Max," my host pursued, "we can be good friends all the same. We
don't need a hocus-pocus of false sentiment. We are men, aren't
we?—men of sublime good sense." And just here, as the old man looked at
me, the pressure of his hands deepened to a convulsive grasp, and the
bloodless mask of his countenance was suddenly distorted with a nameless
fear. "Ah, my dear young man!" he cried, "come and be a son to me—the
son of my age and desolation! For God's sake, don't leave me to pine and
I was greatly surprised—and I may add I was moved. Is it true, then,
that this dilapidated organism contains such measureless depths of
horror and longing? He has evidently a mortal fear of death. I assured
him on my honor that he may henceforth call upon me for any service.
8th.—Theodore's little turn proved more serious than I expected. He has
been confined to his room till to-day. This evening he came down to the
library in his dressing-gown. Decidedly, Mr. Sloane is an eccentric, but
hardly, as Theodore thinks, a "charming" one. There is something
extremely curious in his humors and fancies—the incongruous fits and
starts, as it were, of his taste. For some reason, best known to
himself, he took it into his head to regard it as a want of delicacy, of
respect, of savoir-vivre—of heaven knows what—that poor Theodore,
who is still weak and languid, should enter the sacred precinct of his
study in the vulgar drapery of a dressing-gown. The sovereign trouble
with the bonhomme is an absolute lack of the instinct of justice. He's
of the real feminine turn—I believe I have written it before—without
the redeeming fidelity of the sex. I honestly believe that I might come
into his study in my night-shirt and he would smile at it as a
picturesque déshabillé. But for poor Theodore to-night there was
nothing but scowls and frowns, and barely a civil inquiry about his
health. But poor Theodore is not such a fool, either; he will not die of
a snubbing; I never said he was a weakling. Once he fairly saw from what
quarter the wind blew, he bore the master's brutality with the utmost
coolness and gallantry. Can it be that Mr. Sloane really wishes to drop
him? The delicious old brute! He understands favor and friendship only
as a selfish rapture—a reaction, an infatuation, an act of aggressive,
exclusive patronage. It's not a bestowal, with him, but a transfer, and
half his pleasure in causing his sun to shine is that—being wofully
near its setting—it will produce certain long fantastic shadows. He
wants to cast my shadow, I suppose, over Theodore; but fortunately I am
not altogether an opaque body. Since Theodore was taken ill he has been
into his room but once, and has sent him none but a dry little message
or two. I, too, have been much less attentive than I should have wished
to be; but my time has not been my own. It has been, every moment of it,
at the disposal of my host. He actually runs after me; he devours me; he
makes a fool of himself, and is trying hard to make one of me. I find
that he will bear—that, in fact, he actually enjoys—a sort of
unexpected contradiction. He likes anything that will tickle his fancy,
give an unusual tone to our relations, remind him of certain historical
characters whom he thinks he resembles. I have stepped into Theodore's
shoes, and done—with what I feel in my bones to be very inferior skill
and taste—all the reading, writing, condensing, transcribing and
advising that he has been accustomed to do. I have driven with the
bonhomme; played chess and cribbage with him; beaten him, bullied him,
contradicted him; forced him into going out on the water under my
charge. Who shall say, after this, that I haven't done my best to
discourage his advances, put myself in a bad light? As yet, my efforts
are vain; in fact they quite turn to my own confusion. Mr. Sloane is so
thankful at having escaped from the lake with his life that he looks
upon me as a preserver and protector. Confound it all; it's a bore! But
one thing is certain, it can't last forever. Admit that he has cast
Theodore out and taken me in. He will speedily discover that he has made
a pretty mess of it, and that he had much better have left well enough
alone. He likes my reading and writing now, but in a month he will begin
to hate them. He will miss Theodore's better temper and better
knowledge—his healthy impersonal judgment. What an advantage that
well-regulated youth has over me, after all! I am for days, he is for
years; he for the long run, I for the short. I, perhaps, am intended for
success, but he is adapted for happiness. He has in his heart a tiny
sacred particle which leavens his whole being and keeps it pure and
sound—a faculty of admiration and respect. For him human nature is
still a wonder and a mystery; it bears a divine stamp—Mr. Sloane's
tawdry composition as well as the rest.
13th.—I have refused, of course, to supplant Theodore further, in the
exercise of his functions, and he has resumed his morning labors with
Mr. Sloane. I, on my side, have spent these morning hours in scouring
the country on that capital black mare, the use of which is one of the
perquisites of Theodore's place. The days have been magnificent—the
heat of the sun tempered by a murmuring, wandering wind, the whole north
a mighty ecstasy of sound and verdure, the sky a far-away vault of
bended blue. Not far from the mill at M., the other end of the lake, I
met, for the third time, that very pretty young girl who reminds me so
forcibly of A.L. She makes so lavish a use of her eyes that I ventured
to stop and bid her good-morning. She seems nothing loath to an
acquaintance. She's a pure barbarian in speech, but her eyes are quite
articulate. These rides do me good; I was growing too pensive.
There is something the matter with Theodore; his illness seems to have
left him strangely affected. He has fits of silent stiffness,
alternating with spasms of extravagant gayety. He avoids me at times for
hours together, and then he comes and looks at me with an inscrutable
smile, as if he were on the verge of a burst of confidence—which again
is swallowed up in the immensity of his dumbness. Is he hatching some
astounding benefit to his species? Is he working to bring about my
removal to a higher sphere of action? Nous verrons bien.
18th.—Theodore threatens departure. He received this morning a letter
from one of his sisters—the young widow—announcing her engagement to a
clergyman whose acquaintance she has recently made, and intimating her
expectation of an immediate union with the gentleman—a ceremony which
would require Theodore's attendance. Theodore, in high good humor, read
the letter aloud at breakfast—and, to tell the truth, it was a charming
epistle. He then spoke of his having to go on to the wedding, a
proposition to which Mr. Sloane graciously assented—much more than
assented. "I shall be sorry to lose you, after so happy a connection,"
said the old man. Theodore turned pale, stared a moment, and then,
recovering his color and his composure, declared that he should have no
objection in life to coming back.
"Bless your soul!" cried the bonhomme, "you don't mean to say you will
leave your other sister all alone?"
To which Theodore replied that he would arrange for her and her little
girl to live with the married pair. "It's the only proper thing," he
remarked, as if it were quite settled. Has it come to this, then, that
Mr. Sloane actually wants to turn him out of the house? The shameless
old villain! He keeps smiling an uncanny smile, which means, as I read
it, that if the poor young man once departs he shall never return on the
old footing—for all his impudence!
20th.—This morning, at breakfast, we had a terrific scene. A letter
arrives for Theodore; he opens it, turns white and red, frowns, falters,
and then informs us that the clever widow has broken off her engagement.
No wedding, therefore, and no departure for Theodore. The bonhomme was
furious. In his fury he took the liberty of calling poor Mrs. Parker
(the sister) a very uncivil name. Theodore rebuked him, with perfect
good taste, and kept his temper.
"If my opinions don't suit you, Mr. Lisle," the old man broke out, "and
my mode of expressing them displeases you, you know you can easily
"My dear Mr. Sloane," said Theodore, "your opinions, as a general thing,
interest me deeply, and have never ceased to act beneficially upon the
formation of my own. Your mode of expressing them is always brilliant,
and I wouldn't for the world, after all our pleasant intercourse,
separate from you in bitterness. Only, I repeat, your qualification of
my sister's conduct is perfectly uncalled for. If you knew her, you
would be the first to admit it."
There was something in Theodore's look and manner, as he said these
words, which puzzled me all the morning. After dinner, finding myself
alone with him, I told him I was glad he was not obliged to go away. He
looked at me with the mysterious smile I have mentioned, thanked me, and
fell into meditation. As this bescribbled chronicle is the record of my
follies as well of my hauts faits, I needn't hesitate to say that for
a moment I was a good deal vexed. What business has this angel of candor
to deal in signs and portents, to look unutterable things? What right
has he to do so with me especially, in whom he has always professed an
absolute confidence? Just as I was about to cry out, "Come, my dear
fellow, this affectation of mystery has lasted quite long enough—favor
me at last with the result of your cogitations!"—as I was on the point
of thus expressing my impatience of his ominous behavior, the oracle at
last addressed itself to utterance.
"You see, my dear Max," he said, "I can't, in justice to myself, go away
in obedience to the sort of notice that was served on me this morning.
What do you think of my actual footing here?"
Theodore's actual footing here seems to me impossible; of course I said
"No, I assure you it's not," he answered. "I should, on the contrary,
feel very uncomfortable to think that I had come away, except by my own
choice. You see a man can't afford to cheapen himself. What are you
"I am laughing, in the first place, my dear fellow, to hear on your lips
the language of cold calculation; and in the second place, at your odd
notion of the process by which a man keeps himself up in the market."
"I assure you it's the correct notion. I came here as a particular favor
to Mr. Sloane; it was expressly understood so. The sort of work was
odious to me; I had regularly to break myself in. I had to trample on my
convictions, preferences, prejudices. I don't take such things easily; I
take them hard; and when once the effort has been made, I can't consent
to have it wasted. If Mr. Sloane needed me then, he needs me still. I am
ignorant of any change having taken place in his intentions, or in his
means of satisfying them. I came, not to amuse him, but to do a certain
work; I hope to remain until the work is completed. To go away sooner
is to make a confession of incapacity which, I protest, costs me too
much. I am too conceited, if you like."
Theodore spoke these words with a face which I have never seen him
wear—a fixed, mechanical smile; a hard, dry glitter in his eyes; a
harsh, strident tone in his voice—in his whole physiognomy a gleam, as
it were, a note of defiance. Now I confess that for defiance I have
never been conscious of an especial relish. When I am defied I am
beastly. "My dear man," I replied, "your sentiments do you prodigious
credit. Your very ingenious theory of your present situation, as well as
your extremely pronounced sense of your personal value, are calculated
to insure you a degree of practical success which can very well dispense
with the furtherance of my poor good wishes." Oh, the grimness of his
visage as he listened to this, and, I suppose I may add, the grimness of
mine! But I have ceased to be puzzled. Theodore's conduct for the past
ten days is suddenly illumined with a backward, lurid ray. I will note
down here a few plain truths which it behooves me to take to
heart—commit to memory. Theodore is jealous of Maximus Austin. Theodore
hates the said Maximus. Theodore has been seeking for the past three
months to see his name written, last but not least, in a certain
testamentary document: "Finally, I bequeath to my dear young friend,
Theodore Lisle, in return for invaluable services and unfailing
devotion, the bulk of my property, real and personal, consisting of—"
(hereupon follows an exhaustive enumeration of houses, lands, public
securities, books, pictures, horses, and dogs). It is for this that he
has toiled, and watched, and prayed; submitted to intellectual weariness
and spiritual torture; accommodated himself to levity, blasphemy, and
insult. For this he sets his teeth and tightens his grasp; for this
he'll fight. Dear me, it's an immense weight off one's mind! There are
nothing, then, but vulgar, common laws; no sublime exceptions, no
transcendent anomalies. Theodore's a knave, a hypo—nay, nay; stay,
irreverent hand!—Theodore's a man! Well, that's all I want. He
wants fight—he shall have it. Have I got, at last, my simple, natural
21st.—I have lost no time. This evening, late, after I had heard
Theodore go to his room (I had left the library early, on the pretext of
having letters to write), I repaired to Mr. Sloane, who had not yet gone
to bed, and informed him I should be obliged to leave him at once, and
pick up a subsistence somehow in New York. He felt the blow; it brought
him straight down on his marrow-bones. He went through the whole gamut
of his arts and graces; he blustered, whimpered, entreated, flattered.
He tried to drag in Theodore's name; but this I, of course, prevented.
But, finally, why, why, WHY, after all my promises of fidelity, must I
thus cruelly desert him? Then came my trump card: I have spent my last
penny; while I stay, I'm a beggar. The remainder of this extraordinary
scene I have no power to describe: how the bonhomme, touched,
inflamed, inspired, by the thought of my destitution, and at the same
time annoyed, perplexed, bewildered at having to commit himself to doing
anything for me, worked himself into a nervous frenzy which deprived him
of a clear sense of the value of his words and his actions; how I,
prompted by the irresistible spirit of my desire to leap astride of his
weakness and ride it hard to the goal of my dreams, cunningly contrived
to keep his spirit at the fever-point, so that strength and reason and
resistance should burn themselves out. I shall probably never again have
such a sensation as I enjoyed to-night—actually feel a heated human
heart throbbing and turning and struggling in my grasp; know its pants,
its spasms, its convulsions, and its final senseless quiescence. At
half-past one o'clock Mr. Sloane got out of his chair, went to his
secretary, opened a private drawer, and took out a folded paper. "This
is my will," he said, "made some seven weeks ago. If you will stay with
me I will destroy it."
"Really, Mr. Sloane," I said, "if you think my purpose is to exert any
pressure upon your testamentary inclinations—"
"I will tear it in pieces," he cried; "I will burn it up! I shall be as
sick as a dog to-morrow; but I will do it. A-a-h!"
He clapped his hand to his side, as if in sudden, overwhelming pain,
and sank back fainting into his chair. A single glance assured me that
he was unconscious. I possessed myself of the paper, opened it, and
perceived that he had left everything to his saintly secretary. For an
instant a savage, puerile feeling of hate popped up in my bosom, and I
came within a hair's-breadth of obeying my foremost impulse—that of
stuffing the document into the fire. Fortunately, my reason overtook my
passion, though for a moment it was an even race. I put the paper back
into the bureau, closed it, and rang the bell for Robert (the old man's
servant). Before he came I stood watching the poor, pale remnant of
mortality before me, and wondering whether those feeble life-gasps were
numbered. He was as white as a sheet, grimacing with pain—horribly
ugly. Suddenly he opened his eyes; they met my own; I fell on my knees
and took his hands. They closed on mine with a grasp strangely akin to
the rigidity of death. Nevertheless, since then he has revived, and has
relapsed again into a comparatively healthy sleep. Robert seems to know
how to deal with him.
22d.—Mr. Sloane is seriously ill—out of his mind and unconscious of
people's identity. The doctor has been here, off and on, all day, but
this evening reports improvement. I have kept out of the old man's room,
and confined myself to my own, reflecting largely upon the chance of his
immediate death. Does Theodore know of the will? Would it occur to him
to divide the property? Would it occur to me, in his place? We met at
dinner, and talked in a grave, desultory, friendly fashion. After all,
he's an excellent fellow. I don't hate him. I don't even dislike him. He
jars on me, il m'agace; but that's no reason why I should do him an
evil turn. Nor shall I. The property is a fixed idea, that's all. I
shall get it if I can. We are fairly matched. Before heaven, no, we are
not fairly matched! Theodore has a conscience.
23d.—I am restless and nervous—and for good reasons. Scribbling here
keeps me quiet. This morning Mr. Sloane is better; feeble and uncertain
in mind, but unmistakably on the rise. I may confess now that I feel
relieved of a horrid burden. Last night I hardly slept a wink. I lay
awake listening to the pendulum of my clock. It seemed to say, "He
lives—he dies." I fully expected to hear it stop suddenly at dies.
But it kept going all the morning, and to a decidedly more lively tune.
In the afternoon the old man sent for me. I found him in his great
muffled bed, with his face the color of damp chalk, and his eyes glowing
faintly, like torches half stamped out. I was forcibly struck with the
utter loneliness of his lot. For all human attendance, my villainous
self grinning at his bedside and old Robert without, listening,
doubtless, at the keyhole. The bonhomme stared at me stupidly; then
seemed to know me, and greeted me with a sickly smile. It was some
moments before he was able to speak. At last he faintly bade me to
descend into the library, open the secret drawer of the secretary (which
he contrived to direct me how to do), possess myself of his will, and
burn it up. He appears to have forgotten his having taken it out night
before last. I told him that I had an insurmountable aversion to any
personal dealings with the document. He smiled, patted the back of my
hand, and requested me, in that case, to get it, at least, and bring it
to him. I couldn't deny him that favor? No, I couldn't, indeed. I went
down to the library, therefore, and on entering the room found Theodore
standing by the fireplace with a bundle of papers. The secretary was
open. I stood still, looking from the violated cabinet to the documents
in his hand. Among them I recognized, by its shape and size, the paper
of which I had intended to possess myself. Without delay I walked
straight up to him. He looked surprised, but not confused. "I am afraid
I shall have to trouble you to surrender one of those papers," I said.
"Surrender, Maximus? To anything of your own you are perfectly welcome.
I didn't know that you made use of Mr. Sloane's secretary. I was looking
for some pages of notes which I have made myself and in which I conceive
I have a property."
"This is what I want, Theodore," I said; and I drew the will, unfolded,
from between his hands. As I did so his eyes fell upon the
superscription, "Last Will and Testament, March. F.S." He flushed an
extraordinary crimson. Our eyes met. Somehow—I don't know how or why,
or for that matter why not—I burst into a violent peal of laughter.
Theodore stood staring, with two hot, bitter tears in his eyes.
"Of course you think I came to ferret out that thing," he said.
I shrugged my shoulders—those of my body only. I confess, morally, I
was on my knees with contrition, but there was a fascination in it—a
fatality. I remembered that in the hurry of my movements the other
evening I had slipped the will simply into one of the outer drawers of
the cabinet, among Theodore's own papers. "Mr. Sloane sent me for it," I
"Very good; I am glad to hear he's well enough to think of such things."
"He means to destroy it."
"I hope, then, he has another made."
"Mentally, I suppose he has."
"Unfortunately, his weakness isn't mental—or exclusively so."
"Oh, he will live to make a dozen more," I said. "Do you know the
purport of this one?"
Theodore's color, by this time, had died away into plain white. He shook
his head. The doggedness of the movement provoked me, and I wished to
arouse his curiosity. "I have his commission to destroy it."
Theodore smiled very grandly. "It's not a task I envy you," he said.
"I should think not—especially if you knew the import of the will." He
stood with folded arms, regarding me with his cold, detached eyes. I
couldn't stand it. "Come, it's your property! You are sole legatee. I
give it up to you." And I thrust the paper into his hand.
He received it mechanically; but after a pause, bethinking himself, he
unfolded it and cast his eyes over the contents. Then he slowly smoothed
it together and held it a moment with a tremulous hand. "You say that
Mr. Sloane directed you to destroy it?" he finally inquired.
"I say so."
"And that you know the contents?"
"And that you were about to do what he asked you?"
"On the contrary, I declined."
Theodore fixed his eyes for a moment on the superscription and then
raised them again to my face. "Thank you, Max," he said. "You have left
me a real satisfaction." He tore the sheet across and threw the bits
into the fire. We stood watching them burn. "Now he can make another,"
"Twenty others," I replied.
"No," said Theodore, "you will take care of that."
"You are very bitter," I said, sharply enough.
"No, I am perfectly indifferent. Farewell." And he put out his hand.
"Are you going away?"
"Of course I am. Good-by."
"Good-by, then. But isn't your departure rather sudden?"
"I ought to have gone three weeks ago—three weeks ago." I had taken his
hand, he pulled it away; his voice was trembling—there were tears in
"Is that indifference?" I asked.
"It's something you will never know!" he cried. "It's shame! I am not
sorry you should see what I feel. It will suggest to you, perhaps, that
my heart has never been in this filthy contest. Let me assure you, at
any rate, that it hasn't; that it has had nothing but scorn for the base
perversion of my pride and my ambition. I could easily shed tears of joy
at their return—the return of the prodigals! Tears of sorrow—sorrow—"
He was unable to go on. He sank into a chair, covering his face with his
"For God's sake, stick to the joy!" I exclaimed.
He rose to his feet again. "Well," he said, "it was for your sake that I
parted with my self-respect; with your assistance I recover it."
"How for my sake?"
"For whom but you would I have gone as far as I did? For what other
purpose than that of keeping our friendship whole would I have borne you
company into this narrow pass? A man whom I cared for less I would long
since have parted with. You were needed—you and something you have
about you that always takes me so—to bring me to this. You ennobled,
exalted, enchanted the struggle. I did value my prospect of coming
into Mr. Sloane's property. I valued it for my poor sister's sake as
well as for my own, so long as it was the natural reward of
conscientious service, and not the prize of hypocrisy and cunning. With
another man than you I never would have contested such a prize. But you
fascinated me, even as my rival. You played with me, deceived me,
betrayed me. I held my ground, hoping you would see that what you were
doing was not fair. But if you have seen it, it has made no difference
with you. For Mr. Sloane, from the moment that, under your magical
influence, he revealed his nasty little nature, I had nothing but
"And for me now?"
"Don't ask me. I don't trust myself."
"Hate, I suppose."
"Is that the best you can imagine? Farewell."
"Is it a serious farewell—farewell forever?"
"How can there be any other?"
"I am sorry this should be your point of view. It's characteristic. All
the more reason then that I should say a word in self-defence. You
accuse me of having 'played with you, deceived you, betrayed you.' It
seems to me that you are quite beside the mark. You say you were such a
friend of mine; if so, you ought to be one still. It was not to my fine
sentiments you attached yourself, for I never had any or pretended to
any. In anything I have done recently, therefore, there has been no
inconsistency. I never pretended to take one's friendships so seriously.
I don't understand the word in the sense you attach to it. I don't
understand the feeling of affection between men. To me it means quite
another thing. You give it a meaning of your own; you enjoy the profit
of your invention; it's no more than just that you should pay the
penalty. Only it seems to me rather hard that I should pay it."
Theodore remained silent, but he looked quite sick. "Is it still a
'serious farewell'?" I went on. "It seems a pity. After this clearing
up, it appears to me that I shall be on better terms with you. No man
can have a deeper appreciation of your excellent parts, a keener
enjoyment of your society. I should very much regret the loss of it."
"Have we, then, all this while understood each other so little?" said
"Don't say 'we' and 'each other.' I think I have understood you."
"Very likely. It's not for my having kept anything back."
"Well, I do you justice. To me you have always been over-generous. Try
now and be just."
Still he stood silent, with his cold, hard frown; it was plain that, if
he was to come back to me, it would be from the other world—if there be
one! What he was going to answer I know not. The door opened, and Robert
appeared, pale, trembling, his eyes starting in his head.
"I verily believe that poor Mr. Sloane is dead in his bed!" he cried.
There was a moment's perfect silence. "Amen," said I. "Yes, old boy, try
and be just." Mr. Sloane had quietly died in my absence.
24th.—Theodore went up to town this morning, having shaken hands with
me in silence before he started. Doctor Jones, and Brooks the attorney,
have been very officious, and, by their advice, I have telegraphed to a
certain Miss Meredith, a maiden lady, by their account the nearest of
kin; or, in other words, simply a discarded niece of the defunct. She
telegraphs back that she will arrive in person for the funeral. I shall
remain till she comes. I have lost a fortune, but have I irretrievably
lost a friend? I am sure I can't say. Yes, I shall wait for Miss
 The Galaxy, July, 1869.
BY F.D. MILLET.
While in Paris, in the spring of 1878, I witnessed an accident in a
circus, which for a time made me renounce all athletic exhibitions. Six
horses were stationed side by side in the ring before a spring-board,
and the whole company of gymnasts ran and turned somersaults from the
spring over the horses, alighting on a mattress spread on the ground.
The agility of one finely developed young fellow excited great applause
every time he made the leap. He would shoot forward in the air like a
javelin, and in his flight curl up and turn over directly above the
mattress, dropping on his feet as lightly as a bird. This play went on
for some minutes, and at each round of applause the favorite seemed to
execute his leap with increased skill and grace. Finally, he was seen to
gather himself a little farther in the background than usual, evidently
to prepare for a better start. The instant his turn came he shot out of
the crowd of attendants and launched himself into the air with
tremendous momentum. Almost quicker than the eye could follow him, he
had turned and was dropping to the ground, his arms held above his head,
which hung slightly forward, and his legs stretched to meet the shock of
the elastic mattress.
But this time he had jumped an inch too far. His feet struck just on the
edge of the mattress, and he was thrown violently forward, doubling up
on the ground with a dull thump, which was heard all over the immense
auditorium. He remained a second or two motionless, then sprang to his
feet, and as quickly sank to the ground again. The ring attendants and
two or three gymnasts rushed to him and took him up. The clown, in
evening dress, personating the mock ringmaster, the conventional spotted
merryman, and a stalwart gymnast in buff fleshings, bore the drooping
form of the favorite in their arms, and, followed by the bystanders, who
offered ineffectual assistance, carried the wounded man across the ring
and through the draped arch under the music gallery. Under any other
circumstances the group would have excited a laugh, for the audience was
in that condition of almost hysterical excitement when only the least
effort of a clown is necessary to cause a wave of laughter. But the
moment the wounded man was lifted from the ground, the whole strong
light from the brilliant chandelier struck full on his right leg
dangling from the knee, with the foot hanging limp and turned inward. A
deep murmur of sympathy swelled and rolled around the crowded
I left the circus, and hundreds of others did the same. A dozen of us
called at the box-office to ask about the victim of the accident. He was
advertised as "The Great Polish Champion Bareback Rider and Aerial
Gymnast." We found that he was really a native of the East, whether Pole
or Russian the ticket-seller did not know. His real name was Nagy, and
he had been engaged only recently, having returned a few months before
from a professional tour in North America. He was supposed to have
money, for he commanded a good salary, and was sober and faithful. The
accident, it was said, would probably disable him for a few weeks only,
and then he would resume his engagement.
The next day an account of the accident was in the newspapers, and
twenty-four hours later all Paris had forgotten about it. For some
reason or other I frequently thought of the injured man, and had an
occasional impulse to go and inquire after him; but I never went. It
seemed to me that I had seen his face before, when or where I tried in
vain to recall. It was not an impressive face, but I could call it up at
any moment as distinct to my mind's eye as a photograph to my physical
vision. Whenever I thought of him, a dim, very dim memory would flit
through my mind, which I could never seize and fix.
Two months later I was walking up the Rue Richelieu, when some one,
close beside me and a little behind, asked me in Hungarian if I was a
Magyar. I turned quickly to answer no, surprised at being thus
addressed, and beheld the disabled circus-rider. It flashed upon me, the
moment I saw his face, that I had seen him in Turin three years before.
My surprise at the sudden identification of the gymnast was construed by
him into vexation at being spoken to by a stranger. He began to
apologize for stopping me, and was moving away, when I asked him about
the accident, remarking that I was present on the evening of his
misfortune. My next question, put in order to detain him, was:
"Why did you ask if I was a Hungarian?"
"Because you wear a Hungarian hat," was the reply.
This was true. I happened to have on a little round, soft felt hat,
which I had purchased in Buda Pesth.
"Well, but what if I were Hungarian?"
"Nothing; only I was lonely and wanted company, and you looked as if I
had seen you somewhere before. You are an artist, are you not?"
I said I was, and asked him how he guessed it.
"I can't explain how it is," he said, "but I always know them. Are you
"No," I replied.
"Perhaps I may get you something to do," he suggested. "What is your
"Figures," I answered, unable to divine how he thought he could assist
This reply seemed to puzzle him a little, and he continued:
"Do you ride or do the trapeze?"
It was my turn now to look dazed, and it might easily have been
gathered, from my expression, that I was not flattered at being taken
for a saw-dust artist. However, as he apparently did not notice any
change in my face, I explained without further remark that I was a
painter. The explanation did not seem to disturb him any; he was
evidently acquainted with the profession, and looked upon it as kindred
to his own.
As we walked along through the great open quadrangle of the Tuileries, I
had an opportunity of studying his general appearance. He was neatly
dressed, and, though pale, was apparently in good health.
Notwithstanding a painful limp his carriage was erect, and his movements
denoted great physical strength. On the bridge over the Seine we paused
for a moment and leaned on the parapet, and thus, for the first time,
stood nearly face to face. He looked earnestly at me a moment without
speaking, and then, shouting "Torino" so loudly and earnestly as to
attract the gaze of all the passers, he seized me by the hand, and
continued to shake it and repeat "Torino" over and over again.
This word cleared up my befogged memory like magic. There was no longer
any mystery about the man before me. The impulse which now drew us
together was only the unconscious souvenir of an earlier acquaintance,
for we had met before. With the vision of the Italian city, which came
distinctly to my eyes at that moment, came also to my mind every detail
of an incident which had long since passed entirely from my thoughts.
It was during the Turin carnival, in 1875, that I happened to stop over
for a day and a night, on my way down from Paris to Venice. The festival
was uncommonly dreary, for the air was chilly, the sky gray and gloomy,
and there was a total lack of spontaneity in the popular spirit. The
gaudy decorations of the Piazza and the Corso, the numberless shows and
booths, and the brilliant costumes, could not make it appear a season of
jollity and mirth, for the note of discord in the hearts of the people
was much too strong. King Carnival's might was on the wane, and neither
the influence of the Church nor the encouragement of the State was able
to bolster up the superannuated monarch. There was no communicativeness
in even what little fun there was going, and the day was a long and a
tedious one. As I was strolling around in rather a melancholy mood, just
at the close of the cavalcade, I saw the flaming posters of a circus,
and knew my day was saved, for I had a great fondness for the ring. An
hour later I was seated in the cheerfully lighted amphitheatre, and the
old performance of the trained stallions was going on as I had seen it a
hundred times before. At last the "Celebrated Cypriot Brothers, the
Universal Bareback Riders," came tripping gracefully into the ring,
sprang lightly upon two black horses, and were off around the narrow
circle like the wind, now together, now apart, performing all the while
marvellous feats of strength and skill. It required no study to discover
that there was no relationship between the two performers. One of them
was a heavy, gross, dark-skinned man, with the careless bearing of one
who had been nursed in a circus. The other was a small, fair-haired
youth of nineteen or twenty years, with limbs as straight and as shapely
as the Narcissus, and with joints like the wiry-limbed fauns. His head
was round, and his face of a type which would never be called beautiful,
although it was strong in feature and attractive in expression. His eyes
were small and twinkling, his eyebrows heavy, and his mouth had a
peculiar proud curl in it which was never disturbed by the tame smile of
the practised performer. He was evidently a foreigner. He went through
his acts with wonderful readiness and with slight effort, and, while
apparently enjoying keenly the exhilaration of applause, he showed no
trace of the blasé bearing of the old stager. In nearly every act that
followed he took a prominent part. On the trapeze, somersaulting over
horses placed side by side, grouping with his so-called brother and a
small lad, he did his full share of the work, and when the programme
was ended he came among the audience to sell photographs while the
lottery was being drawn.
As usual during the carnival, there was a lottery arranged by the
manager of the circus, and every ticket had a number which entitled the
holder to a chance in the prizes. When the young gymnast came in turn to
me, radiant in his salmon fleshings and blue trunks, with slippers and
bows to match, I could not help asking him if he was an Italian.
"No, signor, Magyar!" he replied, and I shortly found that his knowledge
of Italian was limited to a dozen words. I occupied him by selecting
some photographs, and, much to his surprise, spoke to him in his native
tongue. When he learned I had been in Hungary he was greatly pleased,
and the impatience of other customers for the photographs was the only
thing that prevented him from becoming communicative immediately. As he
left me I slipped into his hand my lottery-ticket, with the remark that
I never had any luck, and hoped he would.
The numbers were, meanwhile, rapidly drawn, the prizes being arranged in
the order of their value, each ticket taken from the hat denoting a
prize, until all were distributed. "Number twenty-eight—a pair of
elegant vases!" "Number sixteen—three bottles of vermouth!" "Number one
hundred and eighty-four—candlesticks and two bottles of vermouth!"
"Number four hundred and ten—three bottles of vermouth and a set of
jewelry!" "Number three hundred and nineteen—five bottles of vermouth!"
and so on, with more bottles of vermouth than anything else. Indeed,
each prize had to be floated on a few litres of the Turin specialty, and
I began to think that perhaps it would have been better, after all, not
to have given my circus friend the ticket, if he were to draw drink with
Many prizes were called out, and at last only two numbers remained. The
excitement was now intense, and it did not diminish when the conductor
of the lottery announced that the last two numbers would draw the two
great prizes of the evening, namely: An order on a Turin tailor for a
suit of clothes, and an order on a jeweller for a gold watch and chain.
The first of these two last numbers was taken out of the hat.
"Number twenty-five—order for a suit of clothes!" was the announcement.
Twenty-five had been the number of my ticket. I did not hear the last
number drawn, for the Hungarian was in front of my seat trying to press
the order on me, and protesting against appropriating my good luck. I
wrote my name on the programme for him, with the simple address, U.S.A.,
persuaded him to accept the windfall, and went home. The next morning I
On the occasion of our mutual recognition in Paris, the circus boy began
to relate, as soon as the first flush of his surprise was over, the
story of his life since the incident in Turin. He had been to New York
and Boston, and all the large sea-coast towns; to Chicago, St. Louis,
and even to San Francisco; always with a circus company. Whenever he had
had an opportunity in the United States, he had asked for news of me.
"The United States is so large!" he said, with a sigh. "Every one told
me that, when I showed the Turin programme with your name on it."
The reason why he had kept the programme and tried to find me in America
was because the lottery ticket had been the direct means of his
emigration, and, in fact, the first piece of good fortune that had
befallen him since he left his native town. When he joined the circus he
was an apprentice, and beside a certain number of hours of gymnastic
practice daily and service in the ring both afternoon and evening, he
had half a dozen horses to care for, his part of the tent to pack up and
load, and the team to drive to the next stopping-place. For sixteen and
often eighteen hours of hard work he received only his food and his
performing clothes. When he was counted as one of the troupe his duties
were lightened, but he got only enough money to pay his way with
difficulty. Without a lira ahead, and with no clothes but his rough
working-suit and his performing costume, he could not hope to escape
from this sort of bondage. The luck of number twenty-five had put him on
"All Hungarians worship America," he said, "and when I saw that you
were an American I knew that my good fortune had begun in earnest. Of
course I believed America to be the land of plenty, and there could have
been no stronger proof of this than the generosity with which you, the
first American I had ever seen, gave me, a perfect stranger, such a
valuable prize. When I remembered the number of the ticket and the
letter in the alphabet, Y, to which this number corresponds, I was dazed
at the significance of the omen, and resolved at once to seek my fortune
in the United States. I sold the order on the tailor for money enough to
buy a suit of ready-made clothes and pay my fare to Genoa. From this
port I worked my passage to Gibraltar, and thence, after performing a
few weeks in a small English circus, I went to New York in a
fruit-vessel. As long as I was in America everything prospered with me.
I made a great deal of money, and spent a great deal. After a couple of
years I went to London with a company, and there lost my pay and my
position by the failure of the manager. In England my good luck all left
me. Circus people are too plenty there; everybody is an artist. I could
scarcely get anything to do in my line, so I drifted over to Paris."
We prolonged our stroll for an hour, for although I did not anticipate
any pleasure or profit from continuing the acquaintance, there was yet a
certain attraction in his simplicity of manner and in his naïve faith in
the value of my influence on his fortunes. Before we parted he
expressed again his ability to get me something to do, but I did not
credit his statement enough to correct the impression that I was in need
of employment. At his earnest solicitation I gave him my address,
concealing, as well as I could, my reluctance to encourage an
acquaintance which could not result in anything but annoyance.
One day passed, and two, and on the third morning the porter showed him
to my room.
"I have found you work!" he cried, in the first breath.
Sure enough, he had been to a Polish acquaintance who knew a countryman,
a copyist in the Louvre. This copyist had a superabundance of orders,
and was glad to get some one to help him finish them in haste. My
gymnast was so much elated over his success at finding occupation for me
that I hadn't the heart to tell him that I was at leisure only while
hunting a studio. I therefore promised to go with him to the Louvre some
day, but I always found an excuse for not going.
For two or three weeks we met at intervals. At various times, thinking
he was in want, I pressed him to accept the loan of a few francs, but he
always stoutly refused. We went together to his lodging-house, where the
landlady, an English-woman, who boarded most of the circus people, spoke
of her "poor dear Mr. Nodge," as she called him, in quite a maternal
way, and assured me that he had wanted for nothing, and should not so
long as his wound disabled him. In the course of a few days I had
gathered from him a complete history of his circus-life, which was full
of adventure and hardship. He was, as I had thought then, somewhat of a
novice in the circus business at the time we met in Turin, having left
his home less than two years before. He had indeed been associated as a
regular member of the company only a few months, after having served a
difficult and wearing apprenticeship. He was born in Koloszvar, where
his father was a professor in the university, and there he grew up with
three brothers and a sister, in a comfortable home. He always had had a
great desire to see travel, and from early childhood developed a special
fondness for gymnastic feats. The thought of a circus made him fairly
wild. On rare occasions a travelling show visited this Transylvanian
town, and his parents with difficulty restrained him from following the
circus away. At last, in 1873, one show, more complete and more
brilliant than any one before seen there, came in on the newly opened
railway, and he, now a man, went away with it, unable longer to restrain
his passion for the profession. Always accustomed to horses, and already
a skilful acrobat, he was immediately accepted by the manager as an
apprentice, and after a season in Roumania and a disastrous trip through
Southern Austria, they came into Northern Italy, where I met him.
Whenever he spoke of his early life he always became quiet and
depressed, and for a long time I believed that he brooded over his
mistake in exchanging a happy home for the vicissitudes of Bohemia. It
came out slowly, however, that he was haunted by a superstition, a
strange and ingenious one, which was yet not without a certain show of
reason for its existence. Little by little I learned the following facts
about it: His father was of pure Szeklar or original Hungarian stock, as
dark-skinned as a Hindoo, and his mother was from one of the families of
Western Hungary, with probably some Saxon blood in her veins. His three
brothers were dark like his father, but he and his sister were blondes.
He was born with a peculiar red mark on his right shoulder, directly
over the scapular. This mark was shaped like a forked stick. His father
had received a wound in the insurrection of '48, a few months before the
birth of him, the youngest son, and this birth-mark reproduced the shape
of the father's scar. Among Hungarians his father passed for a very
learned man. He spoke fluently German, French, and Latin (the language
used by Hungarians in common communication with other nationalities),
and took great pains to give his children an acquaintance with each of
these tongues. Their earliest playthings were French alphabet-blocks,
and the set which served as toys and tasks for each of the elder
brothers came at last to him as his legacy. The letters were formed by
the human figure in different attitudes, and each block had a little
couplet below the picture, beginning with the letter on the block. The
Y represented a gymnast hanging by his hands to a trapeze, and being a
letter which does not occur in the Hungarian language except in
combinations, excited most the interest and imagination of the
youngsters. Thousands of times did they practise the grouping of the
figures on the blocks, and the Y always served as a model for trapeze
exercises. My friend, on account of his birth-mark, which resembled a
rude Y, was early dubbed by his brothers with the nick-name Yatil, this
being the first words of the French couplet printed below the picture.
Learning the French by heart, they believed the Y a-t-il to be one
word, and with boyish fondness for nick-names saddled the youngest with
this. It is easy to understand how the shape of this letter, borne on
his body in an indelible mark, and brought to his mind every moment of
the day, came to seem in some way connected with his life. As he grew up
in this belief he became more and more superstitious about the letter
and about everything in the remotest way connected with it.
The first great event of his life was joining the circus, and to this
the letter Y more or less directly! led him. He left home on his
twenty-fifth birth-day, and twenty five was the number of the letter Y
in the block-alphabet.
The second great event of his life was the Turin lottery, and the number
of the lucky ticket was twenty-five. "The last sign given me," he said,
"was the accident in the circus here." As he spoke he rolled up the
right leg of his trowsers, and there, on the outside of the calf, about
midway between the knee and ankle, was a red scar forked like the letter
From the time he confided his superstition to me he sought me more than
ever. I must confess to feeling, at each visit of his, a little
constrained and unnatural. He seemed to lean on me as a protector, and
to be hungry all the time for an intimate sympathy I could never give
him. Although I shared his secret, I could not lighten the burden of his
superstition. His wound had entirely healed, but as his leg was still
weak and he still continued to limp a little, he could not resume his
place in the circus. Between brooding over his superstition and worrying
about his accident, he grew very despondent. The climax of his
hopelessness was reached when the doctor told him at last that he would
never be able to vault again. The fracture had been a severe one, the
bone having protruded through the skin. The broken parts had knitted
with great difficulty, and the leg would never be as firm and as elastic
as before. Besides, the fracture had slightly shortened the lower leg.
His circus career was therefore ended, and he attributed his misfortune
to the ill-omened letter Y.
Just about the time of his greatest despondency war was declared between
Russia and Turkey. The Turkish embassadors were drumming up recruits all
over Western Europe. News came to the circus boarding-house that good
riders were wanted for the Turkish mounted gensdarmes. Nagy resolved to
enlist, and we went together to the Turkish embassy. He was enrolled
after only a superficial examination, and was directed to present
himself on the following day to embark for Constantinople. He begged me
to go with him to the rendezvous, and there I bade him adieu. As I was
shaking his hand he showed me the certificate given him by the Turkish
embassador. It bore the date of May 25, and at the bottom was a
signature in Turkish characters, which could be readily distorted by the
imagination into a rude and scrawling Y.
A series of events occurring immediately after Nagy left for
Constantinople resulted in my own unexpected departure in a civil
capacity for the seat of war in the Russian lines. The line of curious
coincidences in the experience of the circus-rider had impressed me very
much at the time, but in the excitement of the Turkish campaign I
entirely forgot the circumstance. I do not, indeed, recall any thought
of Nagy during the first five months in the field. The day after the
fall of Plevna I rode through the deserted earthworks toward the town.
The dead were lying where they had fallen in the dramatic and useless
sortie of the day before. The dead on a battle-field always excite fresh
interest, no matter if the spectacle be an every-day one, and as I rode
slowly along I studied the attitudes of the fallen bodies, speculating
on the relation between the death-poses and the last impulse that had
animated the living frame. Behind a rude barricade of wagons and
household goods, part of the train of non-combatants which Osman Pasha
had ordered to accompany the army in the sortie, a great number of dead
lay in confusion. The peculiar position of one of these instantly
attracted my eye. He had fallen on his face against the barricade, with
both arms stretched above his head, evidently killed instantly. The
figure on the alphabet-block, described by the circus-rider, came
immediately to my mind. My heart beat as I dismounted and looked at the
dead man's face. It was a genuine Turk.
This incident revived my interest in the life of the circus-rider, and
gave me an impulse to look among the prisoners to see if by chance he
might be with them. I spent a couple of days in distributing tobacco and
bread in the hospitals and among the thirty thousand wretches herded
shelterless in the snow. There were some of the mounted gensdarmes among
them, and I even found several Hungarians; but none of them had ever
heard of the circus-rider.
The passage of the Balkans was a campaign full of excitement, and was
accompanied by so much hardship that selfishness got entirely the upper
hand of me, and life became a battle for physical comfort. After the
passage of the mountain range we went ahead so fast that I had little
opportunity, even if I had the enterprise, to look among the few
prisoners for the circus-rider.
Time passed, and we were at the end of a three days' fight near
Philippopolis, in the middle of January. Suleiman Pasha's army,
defeated, disorganized, and at last disbanded, though to that day still
unconquered, had finished the tragic act of its last campaign with the
heroic stand made in the foothills of the Rhodope Mountains, near
Stanimaka, south of Philippopolis. A long month in the terrible cold, on
the summits of the Balkan range; the forced retreat through the snow
after the battle of Taskosen; the neck-and-neck race with the Russians
down the valley of the Maritza; finally, the hot little battle on the
river-bank, and the two days of hand-to-hand struggle in the vine-yard
of Stanimaka—this was a campaign to break the constitution of any
soldier. Days without food, nights without shelter from the mountain
blasts, always marching and always fighting, supplies and baggage lost,
ammunition and artillery gone—human nature could hold out no longer,
and the Turkish army dissolved away into the defiles of the Rhodopes.
Unfortunately for her, Turkey has no literature to chronicle, no art to
perpetuate the heroism of her defenders.
The incidents of that short campaign are too full of horror to be
related. Not only did the demon of war devour strong men, but found
dainty morsels for its bloody maw in innocent women and children. Whole
families, crazed by the belief that capture was worse than death,
fought in the ranks with the soldiers. Women ambushed in coverts shot
the Russians as they rummaged the captured trains for much-needed food.
Little children, thrown into the snow by the flying parents, died of
cold and starvation, or were trampled to death by passing cavalry. Such
a useless waste of human life has not been recorded since the
indiscriminate massacres of the Middle Ages.
The sight of human suffering soon blunts the sensibilities of any one
who lives with it, so that he is at last able to look upon it with no
stronger feeling than that of helplessness. Resigned to the inevitable,
he is no longer impressed by the woes of the individual. He looks upon
the illness, wounds, and death of the soldier as a part of the lot of
all combatants, and comes to consider him an insignificant unit of the
great mass of men. At last only novelties in horrors will excite his
I was riding back from the Stanimaka battle-field sufficiently elated at
the prospect of a speedy termination of the war—now made certain by the
breaking up of Suleiman's army—to forget where I was, and to imagine
myself back in my comfortable apartments in Paris. I only awoke from my
dream at the station where the highway from Stanimaka crosses the
railway line about a mile south of Philippopolis. The great wooden
barracks had been used as a hospital for wounded Turks, and as I drew
up my horse at the door the last of the lot of four hundred, who had
been starving there nearly a week, were being placed upon carts to be
transported to the town. The road to Philippopolis was crowded with
wounded and refugees. Peasant families struggled along with all their
household goods piled upon a single cart. Ammunition wagons and droves
of cattle, rushing along against the tide of human beings, toward the
distant bivouacs, made the confusion hopeless. Night was fast coming on,
and in company with a Cossack, who was, like myself, seeking the
headquarters of General Gourko, I made my way through the tangle of men,
beasts, and wagons toward the town. It was one of those chill, wet days
of winter when there is little comfort away from a blazing fire, and
when good shelter for the night is an absolute necessity. The drizzle
had drenched my garments, and the snow-mud had soaked my boots. Sharp
gusts of piercing wind drove the cold mist along, and as the temperature
fell in the late afternoon the slush of the roads began to stiffen, and
the fog froze where it gathered. Every motion of the limbs seemed to
expose some unprotected part of the body to the cold and wet. No amount
of exercise that was possible with stiffened limbs and in wet garments
would warm the blood. Leading my horse, I splashed along, holding my
arms away from my body, and only moving my benumbed fingers to wipe the
chill drip from my face. It was weather to take the courage out of the
strongest man, and the sight of the soaked and shivering wounded, packed
in the jolting carts or limping through the mud, gave me, hardened as I
was, a painful contraction of the heart. The best I could do was to lift
upon my worn-out horse one brave young fellow who was hobbling along
with a bandaged leg. Followed by the Cossack, whose horse bore a similar
burden, I hurried along, hoping to get under cover before dark. At the
entrance to the town numerous camp-fires burned in the bivouacs of the
refugees, who were huddled together in the shelter of their wagons,
trying to warm themselves in the smoke of the wet fuel. I could see the
wounded, as they were jolted past in the heavy carts, look longingly at
the kettles of boiling maize which made the evening meal of the
Inside the town the wounded and the refugees were still more miserable
than those we had passed on the way. Loaded carts blocked the streets.
Every house was occupied, and the narrow sidewalks were crowded with
Russian soldiers, who looked wretched enough in their dripping
overcoats, as they stamped their rag-swathed feet. At the corner, in
front of the great Khan, motley groups of Greeks, Bulgarians, and
Russians were gathered, listlessly watching the line of hobbling wounded
as they turned the corner to find their way among the carts, up the hill
to the hospital, near the Konak. By the time I reached the Khan the
Cossack who accompanied me had fallen behind in the confusion, and
without waiting for him I pushed along, wading in the gutter, dragging
my horse by the bridle. Half way up the hill I saw a crowd of natives
watching with curiosity two Russian guardsmen and a Turkish prisoner.
The latter was evidently exhausted, for he was crouching in the freezing
mud of the street. Presently the soldiers shook him roughly and raised
him forcibly to his feet, and half supporting him between them they
moved slowly along, the Turk balancing on his stiffened legs and
swinging from side to side.
A most wretched object he was to look at. He had neither boots nor fez.
His feet were bare, and his trowsers were torn off near the knee, and
hung in tatters around his mud-splashed legs. An end of the red sash
fastened to his waist trailed far behind in the mud. A blue cloth jacket
hung loosely from his shoulders, and his hands and wrists dangled from
the ragged sleeves. His head rolled around at each movement of the body,
and at short intervals the muscles of the neck would rigidly contract.
All at once he drew himself up with a shudder and sank down in the mud
The guardsmen were themselves near the end of their strength, and their
patience was wellnigh finished as well. Rough mountain marching had torn
the soles from their boots, and great unsightly wraps of rawhide and
rags were bound on their feet. The thin worn overcoats, burned in many
places, flapped dismally against their ankles; and their caps, beaten
out of shape by many storms, clung drenched to their heads. They were in
no condition to help any one to walk, for they could scarcely get on
alone. They stood a moment shivering, looked at each other, shook their
heads as if discouraged, and proceeded to rouse the Turk by hauling him
upon his feet again. The three moved on a few yards, and the prisoner
fell again, and the same operation was repeated. All this time I was
crowding nearer and nearer, and as I got within a half dozen paces the
Turk fell once more, and this time lay at full length in the mud. The
guardsmen tried to rouse him by shaking, but in vain. Finally, one of
them, losing all patience, pricked him with his bayonet on the lower
part of the ribs exposed by the raising of the jacket as he fell. I was
now near enough to act, and with a sudden clutch I pulled the guardsman
away, whirled him around, and stood in his place. As I was stooping over
the Turk he raised himself slowly, doubtless aroused by the pain of the
puncture, and turned on me a most beseeching look, which changed at once
into something like joy and surprise. Immediately a deathlike pallor
spread over his face, and he sank back again with a groan.
By this time quite a crowd of Bulgarians had gathered around us, and
seemed to enjoy the sight of a suffering enemy. It was evident that they
did not intend to volunteer any assistance, so I helped the wounded
Russian down from my saddle, and invited the natives rather sternly to
put the Turk in his place. With true Bulgarian spirit they refused to
assist a Turk, and it required the argument of the rawhide (nagajka)
to bring them to their senses. Three of them, cornered and flogged,
lifted the unconscious man and carried him toward the horse, the
soldiers, meanwhile believing me to be an officer, standing in the
attitude of attention. As the Bulgarians bore the Turk to the horse, a
few drops of blood fell to the ground. I noticed then that he had his
shirt tied around his left shoulder, under his jacket. Supported in the
saddle by two natives on each side, his head falling forward on his
breast, the wounded prisoner was carried with all possible tenderness to
the Stafford House hospital, near the Konak. As we moved slowly up the
hill I looked back, and saw the two guardsmen sitting on the muddy
sidewalk, with their guns leaning against their shoulders—too much
exhausted to go either way.
I found room for my charge in one of the upper rooms of the hospital,
where he was washed and put into a warm bed. His wound proved to be a
severe one. A Berdan bullet had passed through the thick part of the
left pectoral, out again, and into the head of the humerus. The surgeon
said that the arm would have to be operated on, to remove the upper
quarter of the bone.
The next morning I went to the hospital to see what had become of the
wounded man, for the incident of the previous evening made a deep
impression on my mind. As I walked through the corridor I saw a group
around a temporary bed in the corner. Some one was evidently about to
undergo an operation, for an assistant held at intervals a great cone of
linen over a haggard face on the pillow, and a strong smell of
chloroform filled the air. As I approached the surgeon turned around,
and recognizing me, with a nod and a smile said, "We are at work on your
friend." While he was speaking he bared the left shoulder of the wounded
man, and I saw the holes made by the bullet as it passed from the
pectoral into the upper part of the deltoid. Without waiting longer, the
surgeon made a straight cut downward from near the acromion through the
thick fibre of the deltoid to the bone. He tried to sever the tendons to
slip the head of the humerus from the socket, but failed. He wasted no
time in further trial, but made a second incision from the bullet-hole
diagonally to the middle of the first cut, and turned the pointed flap
thus made up over the shoulder. It was now easy to unjoint the bones,
and but a moment's work to saw off the shattered piece, tie the severed
arteries, and bring the flap again into its place.
There was no time to pause, for the surgeon began to fear the effects of
the chloroform on the patient. We hastened to revive him by every
possible means at hand, throwing cold water on him and warming his hands
and feet. Although under the influence of chloroform to the degree that
he was insensible to pain, he had not been permitted to lose his entire
consciousness, and he appeared to be sensible of what we were doing.
Nevertheless, he awoke slowly, very slowly, the surgeon meanwhile
putting the stitches in the incision. At last he raised his eyelids and
made a movement with his lips. With a deliberate movement he surveyed
the circle of faces gathered closely around the bed. There was something
in his eyes which had an irresistible attraction for me, and I bent
forward to await his gaze. As his eyes met mine they changed as if a
sudden light had struck them, and the stony stare gave way to a look of
intelligence and recognition. Then, through the beard of a season's
growth and behind the haggard mask before me, I saw at once the
circus-rider of Turin and Paris. I remember being scarcely excited or
surprised at the meeting, for a great sense of irresponsibility came
over me, and I involuntarily accepted the coincidence as a matter of
course. He tried in vain to speak, but held up his right hand, and
feebly made with his fingers the sign of the letter which had played
such a part in the story of his life. Even at that instant the light
left his eyes, and something like a veil seemed drawn over them. With
the instinctive energy which possesses every one when there is a chance
of saving human life, we redoubled our efforts to restore the patient to
consciousness. But while we strove to feed the flame with some of our
own vitality, it flickered and went out, leaving the hue of ashes where
the rosy tinge of life had been. His heart was paralyzed.
As I turned away, my eye caught the surgeon's incision, which was now
plainly visible on the left shoulder. The cut was in the form of the
 Century Magazine, March, 1883.
THE END OF NEW YORK.
BY PARK BENJAMIN.
THE WAR CLOUD.
Towards dusk on the afternoon of Monday, December 5th, 1881, the French
steamer "Canada," from Havre, arrived at her pier in New York City.
Among the passengers was a tall, dark, rather fine-looking man, of about
middle-age. After the usual examination of his baggage by the Custom
House officials had been made, this person, accompanied by a lady, took
a hack at the entrance of the pier, and was driven to the Fifth Avenue
Hotel. The initials on the luggage strapped on the rear of the vehicle
In conversing with the driver the gentleman—for his appearance and
bearing fully indicated his right to the title—spoke English, though
somewhat imperfectly; with the lady he talked in sonorous Castilian.
Apparently, no one bestowed any particular notice upon the pair. They
were two foreigners out of the great throng of foreigners which lands
daily in the metropolis; they were Spaniards and reasonably well-to-do,
seeing that they came over in the saloon, and not in the steerage.
The names registered at the hotel were Manuel Blanco and wife.
Late during the following evening the lady personally came to the office
seemingly in great distress. An interpreter being procured, it was
learned that Señor Blanco, in response to a visiting-card sent to his
room, had left the apartment shortly after breakfast that morning, and
had not since returned.
The lady explained that he had no business affairs in New York, and that
they were merely resting in the city for a few days to recover from the
effects of the ocean voyage, before going to Charleston, S.C., their
The clerk in the office simply knew that a stranger had called and sent
a card to Señor Blanco, and that the two, after meeting, had left the
The anxiety of Señora Blanco was evidently excessive. She rejected such
commonplace reasons as that her husband might have lost his way, or that
some unlooked-for business matters had claimed his attention.
"No, no!" she repeated, almost hysterically; "no beezness. Ah, Dios! El
A physician was sent for, and the lady, who was fast reaching a stage of
nervous prostration, placed in his care. The hotel detective proceeded
at once to Police Headquarters, whence telegrams were despatched to the
various precincts, giving a description of the missing man, and making
inquiries concerning him. The replies were all in the negative: no such
person had come under the notice of the police.
From what has thus far been narrated, it might be inferred that Blanco's
absence was due to one of those strange disappearances which happen in
great cities. The inference, however, would be wrong. Blanco had not
True, his agonized wife and the police of New York City had no trace of
his whereabouts; but Mr. Michael Chalmette, an officer detailed by the
U.S. Marshal in New Orleans to arrest Leon Sangrado, at the request of
the Republic of Chili, on the charge of repeatedly committing murder and
highway robbery in that country, was entirely sure that the missing
person was sitting beside him, handcuffed to his left wrist, and that
both were speeding toward New Orleans as fast as a railway-car could
When the French steamer "Canada" arrived, Mr. Michael Chalmette, wearing
the uniform and badge of a Custom House officer, stationed himself by
the gang-plank and narrowly scrutinized each passenger that came
ashore. While Blanco's trunks were being examined, he stood near that
gentleman, and furtively compared his features with those on a
photograph. It was Chalmette who sent the card to Blanco's room, in the
hotel, next day, and who induced Blanco to accompany him in a carriage,
as he said, to the Custom House, to arrange some irregularity in the
passing of Blanco's luggage. The driver of that carriage, however, was
told to go to the Pennsylvania Railroad Dépôt, in Jersey City.
Blanco evinced some surprise on being taken across the ferry, but was
easily satisfied by his companion's explanation that the branch of the
Custom House to be visited was on the Jersey side.
When the station was reached Chalmette led the way to the waiting-room,
and quietly observed, before the unsuspecting Blanco could finish a
"Ees it posseeble zat zees is ze Custom—"
"You are my prisoner. You had better come without making trouble."
Blanco looked at him aghast—not half comprehending the words.
"A prisoner—I—for what?"
Chalmette returned no answer, but produced his warrant.
"But I no understand—I—"
Just then the warning bell rung. Chalmette seized his prisoner by the
arm and pushed him through the gateway.
On the platform Blanco made some slight resistance. The policeman,
whose attention was attracted thereby, after a few words with Chalmette,
assisted the latter in forcing him upon the train, which was already
slowly moving out of the dépôt.
* * * * *
It is necessary to break the thread of the story here to note an odd
coincidence. While there is a French steamer "Canada" belonging to the
Compagnie Générale Trans Atlantique, and plying between New York and
Havre, there is also an English steamer "Canada" belonging to the
National Line, which travels between New York and London. It so happened
that on the same afternoon that the French vessel came in, as before
narrated, the English steamer of like name also arrived.
Among the passengers who landed from the English "Canada" there was also
a couple, man and woman, apparently Spaniards, and there was an
undeniable resemblance between the man and Blanco. The former, however,
had features cast in a much rougher mould, and his general bearing
indicated that he was not a gentleman, as plainly as Blanco's did the
The luggage of the pair consisted of a single valise, which was carried
by the woman, the man striding on ahead, leisurely puffing a cigarette.
They hired no carriage, but walked from the pier, across and up West
Street, and took a street-car going to the east side of the city.
As soon as they left the conveyance the man spread out his arms and
expanded his chest with a long breath. The woman half smiled, and said
something to him in Spanish. Then they mingled with the crowd around
Tompkins Square and disappeared.
* * * * *
Two days after Blanco's arrest the physician, now in constant attendance
upon his wife, filed the death certificate of a stillborn child.
Puerperal fever set in, and the life of the unhappy woman for more than
two weeks trembled in the balance. During the first week a telegram from
New Orleans, which Blanco's captor had permitted him to send, came,
addressed to her.
The physician opened it; but as she was almost constantly unconscious,
it was impossible to inform her of its contents for some days. Then she
was simply told that her husband had been heard from, and was safe. The
doctor peremptorily forbade any information being given her of Blanco's
true situation; and as she could not understand the language, and so
glean intelligence from the newspapers, which contained reports of the
inquiry conducted by the Commissioner, and the complete identification
of the prisoner as Leon Sangrado, she, of course, remained in ignorance
of what had happened.
Some five weeks elapsed before she was judged sufficiently strong to
bear the shock which such news would inevitably produce. Then she was
told as gently as possible, all mention of the nature of the charges
against Blanco being avoided.
She listened in silent surprise.
"But he has never been in Chili in his life," she insisted.
The old doctor, himself a Spaniard, looked at her pityingly, but said
"He has been Consul before nowhere but at Trieste; how could he have
been in South America?" she continued.
"Consul? Is your husband, then, in the Consular service of Spain?"
queried the doctor, somewhat surprised.
"He is here as Consul to Charleston—in—ah, what is the
"Can you prove that?" demanded the physician, somewhat excitedly.
"I can—that is, I think there are official papers in the trunks. Is it
"Here are the keys, then."
The doctor in her presence opened the luggage, and in a curiously
arranged secret compartment in one of the trunks found the documents.
After a few moments spent in looking them over, he said:
"Do you feel strong to-day?"
"I think you could travel, however. I will see that your baggage is
properly packed, if you will be prepared to accompany me to-morrow
"To Washington; to the Spanish Minister. This is a serious business."
Under the supervision of the doctor the journey was safely accomplished.
After proper repose Señora Blanco and the physician proceeded to the
Spanish Legation, and within a very short time Señor Antonio Mantilla,
Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary of His Catholic
Majesty, was in possession of Blanco's papers, and of the facts, so far
as known to his visitors, attending that gentleman's arrest.
Señor Mantilla looked grave and said little. He thanked the physician,
however, warmly for the part he had taken in the matter, and calling a
secretary placed Señora Blanco in his charge, with instructions that she
should receive the greatest care and attention.
He then desired the attendance of his Secretary of Legation, and the two
officials remained in earnest consultation for more than two hours.
During this period several telegrams were sent to the Spanish Consul at
New Orleans, and a long cipher-message to the Minister of Foreign
Affairs in Madrid.
A few days later a lengthy report was received from the Consul at New
Orleans, accompanied by three letters from Blanco to his wife, not one
of which had been forwarded from the jail in which he was confined.
Another consultation was held at the Spanish Legation, during which
this report and an answering message from Madrid were frequently
The report set forth the facts of the identification of Blanco as
Sangrado by the Chilian representatives, with sufficient certainty to
convince the U.S. Commissioner. Until a late period in the inquiry
Blanco had had no counsel. He had, however, asseverated from the
beginning that he was the Consul of Spain at Charleston—a fact not
believed, because there was already a Consul resident at that place.
Communication with that official simply showed that he expected to be
transferred to another post, but had not been informed of the name of
his successor. The Commissioner, seeing that Blanco was doing nothing to
obtain testimony in his own favor, quietly arranged that counsel should
be provided for him; and the lawyers, as a matter of course, at once
sent to New York for Blanco's papers.
Señora Blanco, being then in a dangerous condition, was helpless. Search
was made through the trunks, without finding any trace of the documents
hidden in the secret compartment.
The Legation of Spain in Washington had information that Manuel Blanco
had been sent to assume the Consulship at Charleston, but no one could
personally identify the prisoner to be the Manuel Blanco appointed.
The Chilian witnesses had sworn that the prisoner was Leon Sangrado in
the most unequivocal manner—and Chalmette deposed that he saw him land
from the "Canada," in which vessel he had been instructed to look for
The facts, as thus gathered by the Spanish diplomatists from the Consul
at New Orleans, from Señora Blanco, and from her physician, were
complete. The outcome of their deliberations upon them was twofold.
First.—The departure of Señora Blanco, under care of an attaché of
the Spanish Legation, to join her husband at New Orleans.
Second.—The following diplomatic communication from the Minister of
Spain to the Secretary of State of the United States of America.
Legation of Spain at Washington,
January 16th, 1882.
The undersigned, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary
of His Catholic Majesty, has the honor to address the Honorable
Secretary of State, with a view to obtaining from the Federal
Government reparation for the arrest of Señor Don Manuel Blanco,
His Catholic Majesty's Consul at Charleston, S.C., at the demand of
the Republic of Chili, on a charge of crime preferred by the
Government of that country. The undersigned is instructed to
protest, in the most distinct terms, against this grave breach of
international obligations, to insist upon the immediate release of
the said Blanco, and to require from the Federal Government an
apology suited to the circumstances. The undersigned avails
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
WASHINGTON, January 20th, 1882.
SIR: Referring to your communication of the 16th inst., in which
you protest against the arrest of the person alleged to be Señor
Don Manuel Blanco, His Catholic Majesty's Consul at Charleston, at
the instance of the Republic of Chili, and demand the release of
the said person, with a suitable apology from this Government in
the premises, I have the honor to inform you that the
representatives of the Chilian Government allege the person in
question to be one Leon Sangrado, a fugitive from justice, charged
with the crimes of murder and robbery; that, before the United
States Commissioner at New Orleans, the Chilian representatives
have produced evidence identifying the prisoner as Leon Sangrado,
which evidence has warranted the said Commissioner in rendering
judgment accordingly; and that the proceedings and judgment, on
review by the President of the United States, have been confirmed,
and the warrant of extradition ordered. I have the honor to
transmit herewith a copy of the record of the evidence in the case
for your Excellency's information. I have also to state that, in
the circumstances, this Government conceives itself to be acting
in a spirit of strict international comity with the Republic of
Chili, and, upon the representations made by your Excellency,
cannot admit that any reparation or apology is due to the
Government of His Catholic Majesty.
I have the honor, etc.,
JAS. G. BLAINE,
Secretary of State.
Some days later the Spanish Minister forwarded a note to the State
Department, wherein, after the usual formal recitals, he stated as
The undersigned has the honor to inform the Honorable Secretary of
State that, having transmitted his communication by cable to the
Government of His Catholic Majesty, he is now instructed to make
the following demands:
1st. That the Federal Government shall deliver Señor Don Manuel
Blanco, His Catholic Majesty's Consul at Charleston, S.C., alleged
to be Leon Sangrado, a fugitive from justice from the Republic of
Chili, to the undersigned, at the Legation of Spain at Washington,
by or before the first day of February, proximo.
2. That the Federal Government shall address to the Government of
His Catholic Majesty a formal and solemn apology for the insult
offered by the arrest of said Blanco. And, in further proof
thereof, shall, on said first day of February, at noon, cause the
Spanish flag to be hoisted over Fort Columbus, in New York Harbor;
Fort Warren, in Boston Harbor; the Navy Yard, in Washington; and at
the mast-head of the flag-ship of the North Atlantic squadron—then
and there to be saluted with twenty-one guns.
I have the honor, etc.,
The reply sent by Secretary Blaine to this peremptory demand was, as
might be expected, an equally peremptory refusal.
Thereupon the Spanish Minister demanded his passports, and with his
Legation left the country.
The passports of the American Minister at Madrid were at the same time
forwarded to him, and he returned to the United States.
Blanco was delivered to the Chilian representatives, and duly
extradited, his wife accompanying him.
The anti-administration newspapers commented with great severity upon
the case, alleging that undue haste was manifested in forwarding the
proceedings; that proper opportunity was not afforded the accused to
establish his true identity; that the warrant of extradition was
illegal, inasmuch as it had been issued by an Assistant Secretary of
State during the absence of both the President and Secretary from
Washington, and that, consequently, there had been in fact no real
review of the proceedings by the Executive.
The administration journals, on the contrary, found the extradition of
the prisoner to be perfectly within the letter of the law; but were not
inclined to say much on this point, preferring rather to applaud Mr.
Blaine's new proof of a "vigorous foreign policy," as exemplified in the
previously quoted correspondence with the Spanish Minister.
* * * * *
THE GATHERING OF THE STORM.
That the friendly relations of two great nations should be ruptured by a
difficulty which, to all appearances, might easily have been adjusted,
seems incredible; but it should be remembered that at this period Spain
and the United States were by no means on the best of terms. Spanish
war-vessels in the West Indies had been overhauling American merchantmen
in a high-handed way, which had already called forth the remonstrances
of our Government; and the complaints from Cuba of the insecurity of
property and life of American citizens had become more numerous than
ever. Still, the result of the dispute was a surprise to the world;
especially as the overt act of rupture had come from Spain, and not
from the United States, as had so frequently hitherto seemed probable.
The popular excitement throughout the country was intense. There was a
universal demand for war. It was pointed out that the country was never
so prosperous, or better able to bear the burden of a conflict; that,
with our immense resources, an army could be raised and a navy equipped
inside of sixty days; that such a war would be of short duration, and
that the result could be none other than the humiliation of Spain, and
the ceding to us of the Spanish West Indies as a war indemnity.
The House of Representatives fairly rung with bellicose speeches, and
the press, with a few exceptions, reflected the popular feeling.
On the other hand, however, there was a powerful party attempting to
stem the precipitancy of the nation. The great moneyed corporations
viewed the matter with alarm, and advocated peaceful settlement, or, at
most, inaction. This, however, was attributed to their fears of
unsettlement of values, and consequent depreciation of their property.
The Senate, refusing to be influenced by popular clamor, steadily
opposed all hasty legislation originating in the lower House. The
President and Cabinet brought down upon themselves the bitter
denunciation of the opposition press for "cowardly truckling to Spain,"
because no immediate steps were taken to place army and navy on a war
footing, and no volunteers were called for.
A month went by. The popular excitement in this period perceptibly
decreased; and, as it did so, the New York World and Tribune, which,
from the first, had given but weak support to the cry for war, became
more outspoken against hostilities. The bill agreed to by both Houses of
Congress, providing for the immediate construction of ten swift armored
cruisers, was strongly attacked in both journals, and the arming of the
harbor forts, and the elaborate preparations which began to be visible
for protecting the harbor by torpedoes, were sneered at as "useless
precautions, dictated by an unworthy fear of a nation which would never
venture to attack us."
The stocks of the New York Central, Western Union Telegraph, Lake Shore,
and other corporations controlled by Vanderbilt and Jay Gould, which had
fallen during the excitement of the previous month, rose slowly, but
On the afternoon of March 6th, the Evening Telegram issued an extra,
reporting the sailing from Coruna of four Spanish ironclads. The
announcement on the London Stock Exchange was that they were going to
On the following day there was a decided fall in American Securities in
London, and a weak market in Wall Street; which degenerated into a
rapidly declining one when it became rumored that Gould was selling
Western Union short in large blocks, and that Vanderbilt's brokers were
similarly disposing of N.Y. Central and other stocks.
At 10 o'clock that night the news came that Spain had formally declared
war upon the United States. It was posted in all the hotels, and read
from the stages of all the theatres. The people flocked into the streets
en masse. Speeches were made, breathing defiance and demands for an
immediate attack upon Spain, before tremendous crowds, in Madison and
Union Squares. No one slept that night.
Next morning there was a panic in Wall Street, which was arrested,
however, by the intelligence from London that, although Government
four-per-cents had fallen to 86, they were steady at that figure, and
that the Rothschilds and Baring Brothers were buying them in largely.
Before night Congress had voted a special appropriation of a hundred
million dollars for purposes of defense, authorized the immediate
construction of twenty armored ships, and the President issued his
proclamation, calling for the raising of four hundred thousand men "to
repel an invasion of the Union."
Within twenty-four hours the regiments of the National Guard in New York
and vicinity were mustered into the service of the United States and
ordered into camp, under command of General Hancock. That officer at
once began the construction of sea-coast batteries on Coney Island,
Rockaway Beach, and the New Jersey coast. A crack city regiment was
detailed to complete the partially finished fort on Sandy Hook and throw
up earthworks along the Peninsula; but, as the hands of most of the men
became quite sore through wielding shovels and picks, they were relieved
and sent to garrison Governor's Island, where they gave exhibition
drills daily, and, on Friday evenings, invited their female friends to
hops of the most enjoyable description. The Hook fort was subsequently
completed by a volunteer regiment of Cuban cigar-makers, from the
As a matter of course, notice was immediately given to all foreign
vessels in port of the proposed blocking of the Narrows and the Main,
Swash and East Channels with torpedoes, and forty-eight hours' time was
accorded them wherein to take their departure. The European steamers
were the first to leave, each one towing from two to five
sailing-vessels. Later on, General Hancock impressed all the harbor tugs
into service; and, by their aid, before the specified period had
elapsed, not a single ship floating a foreign flag remained in New York
Harbor. A battalion of army engineers, under command of General Abbot,
and another of sailors, under Captain Selfridge, at once began
In the Narrows, torpedoes were moored at distances of one hundred feet
apart, and were connected with the shore by electric wires. At various
points along the beach shell-proof huts were constructed, to which these
wires led. In each hut was arranged a camera lucida, so that a picture
of the harbor, over a limited area, was thrown upon a whitened table. In
this way an observer could recognize the instant an enemy's vessel
arrived over a sunken mine, and could explode the latter by simply
touching a button which allowed the electric current to pass to the
torpedo. In the Harbor channels the torpedoes were so arranged as to be
exploded on contact of an enemy's vessel with a partially submerged
The torpedo-stations on Staten and Coney Islands and the Jersey coast
were provided with movable fish-torpedoes of the Ericsson and Lay types,
intended to be sent out against a hostile vessel, and manoeuvred from
the shore. All the steam-tugs in the Harbor were moored in Gowanus bay,
and each tug was rigged with a long boom projecting from her bow, on
which a torpedo, containing some fifty pounds of dynamite, was carried.
With the tugs, and serving as flag-ship for the squadron, was the U.S.
torpedo-boat "Alarm," Lieutenant-Commander H.H. Gorringe.
The armament of the sea-coast batteries was not calculated to strike
terror into the soul of any nation owning a modern ironclad vessel. It
consisted mainly of old-fashioned smooth-bore guns, a system of
artillery which has been rejected by every European power as the weakest
and most inefficient. The greatest range attainable with the best of
these cannon was 8000 yards, or some four and one half miles. At one
quarter this range their shot would be utterly unable to penetrate even
moderately thin armor. Besides these guns there were a few ten and
twelve-inch rifles of cast-iron, and hence of unreliable and inferior
material; some old smooth-bore cannon, converted into rifles by
wrought-iron linings; and a number of mortars and pieces of small
calibre, altogether contemptible in the light of the advances made in
the art of war during the last quarter of a century.
Meanwhile the inventors were not idle, and the press fairly teemed with
novel suggestions for the defense of the city. It was proposed to run
all the oil stored in the Williamsburgh refineries into the lower bay,
and set it on fire when the enemy's fleet appeared.
The Herald suggested the raising of a regiment of divers to live in a
submarine fort, the guns of which should be arranged to fire upwards
into a vessel floating above, and immediately offered to contribute
$250,000 to begin the construction of such defenses.
General Newton proposed the building of continuous earthworks on both
shores of the bay and Narrows, behind which a broad-gauge railroad
should be constructed. On the track he placed heavy platform-cars, each
car carrying one heavy gun. Embrasures were made at regular intervals
along the embankment. His idea was, that if a hostile vessel made her
way into the Harbor, the gun-cars should move along behind the
earthworks, keeping abreast of the ship, and thus pour into her a
continuous fire. Measures were promptly taken to follow this plan.
Mr. T.A. Edison announced that he had invented everything which, up to
that time, any one else had suggested. He invited all the reporters to
Menlo Park, and, after elaborately explaining the merits of a new
catarrh remedy, showed some lines on a piece of paper, which, he said,
represented huge electro-magnets, which he proposed to set up along the
coast, say, near Barnegat. When the enemy's iron ships appeared, he
proposed to excite these magnets, and draw the vessels on the rocks.
Somebody said that this notion had been anticipated by one Sindbad the
Sailor, whereupon Mr. Edison denounced that person as a "patent pirate."
He also said that these magnets would be exhibited in working order next
Professor Bell proposed the "induction balance," as a way of recognizing
the approach of the enemy's iron vessels. He went down the Bay with his
instrument, and sent back some telegrams which were alarming, until it
was discovered that the professor had made a slight error in the
direction from which he asserted the ships were coming, it being
manifestly impossible for them to sail overland from the Pacific, as his
The condition of affairs in the city reminded one of the early days of
the Rebellion. Wall Street was panicky—chiefly because of the immense
depreciation in railway securities. Government four-per-cent bonds,
however, had gone up to ninety-eight. Provisions were high, and, through
the stoppage of European commerce, the cost of imported articles, such
as dress-goods, tea, etc., became excessive. Recruiting was going on
everywhere; the regiments, as fast as organized, being dispatched to
different points along the sea-board, or to swell the numbers of an army
under command of General Sheridan, which was preparing to sail to Key
West, to invade Cuba.
During the month of March New York remained in a state of suspense. Army
contractors did a brisk business; but otherwise there was little doing.
News was eagerly sought. It was known that Spain was mobilizing her army
and fitting out transports; but beyond this, and the dispatching of the
four ironclads, which had duly reached Havana, she had taken no steps
pointing toward an invasion of the United States. All the European
nations had issued proclamations of neutrality, except Russia and
France. England had ordered the great Spanish ironclad, "El Cid," in
which Sir William Armstrong had just placed two 100-ton guns, out of her
waters inside of twenty-four hours after Spain had declared war; and
this, although the vessel was in many respects unfinished. The Queen's
proclamation was most stringent against the fitting out or coaling of
the vessels of either belligerent, and a special Act of Parliament was
passed, inflicting penalties of the greatest severity for any violation
of it. John Bull evidently proposed to pay for no more "Alabamas."
The first great news of the war came during the first week in June. The
Spanish screw corvette "Tornado," six guns, had sailed from Cartagena
for Havana. Off Cape Trafalgar she encountered the "Lancaster,"
flag-ship of the United States European squadron, bearing the flag of
Rear-Admiral Nicholson. The "Lancaster" carried two-eleven-inch and
twenty nine-inch old-fashioned smooth-bore Dahlgren guns. The action was
short, sharp, and decisive.
It terminated in the surrender of the "Tornado," after the loss of her
captain, five officers, and forty of her crew. The "Lancaster" was badly
cut up about the rigging, but otherwise uninjured. Her loss was but five
men. The first tidings of this was the arrival of the "Tornado" in
Hampton Roads, with a prize crew on board, and the royal ensign of Spain
floating beneath the stars and stripes.
When the extras announcing the news were shouted in the streets, the
enthusiasm of the people knew no bounds. From every building, from every
window, the flag was displayed. Throngs of excited men marched through
the avenues, cheering and shouting, and the recruiting was renewed so
vigorously, that New York's quota of the four hundred thousand men
called for by the President was filled within the next twenty-four
hours after the news came.
In the midst of this furore, the bulletins announced that the Spanish
ironclads "Zaragoza" and "Numancia" had sailed from Havana, with no
destination announced; that their consorts, the "Arapiles" and
"Vittoria," together with three transports, "San Quentin," "Patino," and
"Ferrol," the latter well laden with coal and provisions, were preparing
to follow; also, that the huge "El Cid" had been fitted for sea, and was
about to sail from Vigo, Spain.
Just before this intelligence arrived, the United States steam frigate
"Franklin," forty-three guns, carrying the flag of Vice-Admiral Stephen
C. Rowan, left Hampton Roads on a cruise, northwardly.
Where were the Spanish ironclads going?
On Sunday morning, April 9th, Trinity Church was crowded with
worshipers. The venerable Bishop of New York was present, and was to
deliver the sermon. His erect, stately form, clad in the flowing robes
of his office, had just appeared in the pulpit, and he had spoken the
words of his text, when a commotion in the rear of the church caused him
to stop and look up, wondering at the unseemly interruption.
A soldier emerged from the crowd, and, making his way to the Astor pew,
handed a letter to Mr. John Jacob Astor. The ruddy face of that
gentleman blanched as he read its contents. Then he rose, walked to the
pulpit, and handed the missive to the bishop.
A dead silence prevailed—at last broken by these simple words:
"Brethren, the war-vessels of the public enemy have appeared off our
Harbor. Let us pray."
A deep, heart-felt Amen responded to the appeal made in eloquent, though
faltering, tones; and then, quiet and orderly, the congregation left the
temple. It was fitting that such a prayer should be the last ever
offered in a sanctuary of which, but a few days later, only a heap of
smoking ruins remained.
The same news had been forwarded to the other churches, and the
congregations, dismissed, had gathered in front of the great
bulletin-boards which had been erected in the various parts of the city.
In huge letters were the words:
"A large steamer, showing Spanish flag, sighted off Barnegat."
Shortly afterwards came another dispatch:
"The United States frigate 'Franklin' has been signaled off Fire
Then another dispatch:
"The Spanish steamer has gone to the eastward."
And then, three hours later:
"Heavy firing has been heard from the south and east."
THE BATTLE OF FIRE ISLAND.
The "Franklin," on leaving Fire Island, where she had communication with
the shore, stood to the westward. At 3 p.m. the mast-head look-out
reported a large steamer on the port bow. As is customary on vessels at
sea, the "Franklin" showed no colors; the stranger displayed a flag
which could not be made out.
On the poop-deck of the "Franklin" were Admiral Rowan, Captain Greer,
commanding the ship, and the executive officer, Lieutenant-Commander
"Mast-head, there! can you make out her colors yet?" hailed the latter.
"Take your glass and go aloft, Mr. Rodgers," said Admiral Rowan to his
aid; "perhaps you can see better."
The officer rapidly ascended the rigging to the foretopmast cross-trees.
"It is the English flag, sir!" he shouted.
"Hoist English colors, Captain," said the admiral, quietly; "and bend on
our own, ready to go up."
The red cross of St. George, the British man-of-war flag, rose slowly to
The stranger was seen to alter her course, and head for the "Franklin."
The admiral turned to Captain Greer and nodded. The latter gave an order
to a midshipman standing near.
The quick drum-beat to quarters for action rang sharply through the
ship. The executive officer took his speaking-trumpet and stationed
himself on the quarter-deck. The men sprang to their guns.
"Silence! man the port-guns. Cast loose and provide!"
A momentary confusion, as the thirty-eight nine-inch smooth-bore guns on
the main-deck, the four hundred-pound rifles on the spar-deck, and the
eleven-inch pivot on the forecastle were cleared of their tackle, and
got ready for training. The guns' crews then stood erect and silent in
their places beside the guns, on the side of the ship turned toward the
Meanwhile the magazine had been opened, and the powder-boys flocked to
the scuttles, receiving cartridges in the leather boxes slung to their
shoulders. Shell were hoisted from below. The surgeon and his
assistants, including the chaplain, laid out instruments, and converted
the cock-pit into an operating-room. The fires in the galley were put
out, and those under the boilers urged to their fiercest heat. The decks
were sanded, in grim anticipation of their becoming slippery with
blood. Tackles and slings were prepared to lower the wounded below. The
Gatling guns aloft were made ready to fire upon the enemy's decks, in
case the two vessels came near enough together.
"Prime!" shouted the officer on the quarter-deck. Primers were placed in
the vents of the already loaded guns, and the gun-captains stepped back,
tautening the lock-strings, and bending down to glance along the sights.
"Point! Tell the division officers to train on the craft that's coming,
and wait orders." This last command to a midshipman aid.
The silence throughout the great ship was profound. The gun-captains
eyed the approaching vessels over the sights of their guns. Only the
quick throb of the engines and the sough of the waves were audible.
The two vessels were now within some four miles of each other. There was
no question but that the stranger was a man-of-war—and an ironclad, at
that—provided with a formidable ram.
"I thought so," suddenly ejaculated the admiral: "Now show him who we
The English flag had been replaced by the red-yellow-and-red bars of
Spain. Down came the red cross from the peak of the "Franklin;" and
then, not only there, but from every mast-head, floated the stars and
A puff of smoke from the Spaniard—a whirr, a shriek, and a solid shot
struck the water, having passed entirely over the American frigate.
"He fires at long range!" remarked the admiral, calmly.
"It would be useless for us to reply," answered the captain.
"Shall we stop and wait for him, sir?"
"Wait for him? No! Go for him! Four bells, sir! Ring four bells and go
The clang of the engine-bell resounded through the ship; the thump of
the machinery grew more rapid; the whole vessel thrilled and shook, as
if eager for the attack.
The distance between the two ships was reduced to about two miles.
Again the Spaniard fired. The shot struck the "Franklin" broad on her
port-bow, knocked over a gun, killed six men, and passed through the
other side of the ship.
Still the "Franklin" pressed on.
Crash! a huge shell from an Armstrong eighteen-ton gun burst between the
fore and mainmasts; the bow pivot-gun was dismounted; ten men of her
crew down; the maintopmast stays cut, and the maintopmast tottering.
Crash! Another shell, and the jib-boom hangs dragging under the bows;
the fore topgallantmast is carried away. Men hacked at the rigging to
clear away the wreck which now impeded the ship's advance.
"Now let him have it," said the admiral, quietly.
The captain speaks to the executive officer, who shouts through his
trumpet: "Port guns! Ready! Fire!!"
The concussion of the explosion made the ship stagger for a moment.
When the smoke cleared away, the Spaniard's mizzenmast was seen dragging
overboard; but otherwise no damage had been inflicted.
"His armor is too thick for us," gravely remarked the admiral; "get boom
torpedoes over the bows!"
"All ready, now, sir," reported the captain.
"Continue firing, and keep right for him."
"Shall we ram him, sir?"
"Yes, sir; as straight amidships as you can."
The "Franklin" now poured in her fire with all possible rapidity; but it
was evident that her shot made little or no impression on the massive
iron shield of her antagonist, although it played havoc amid his
rigging. Another fact now became apparent—that the Spaniard was much
the faster vessel of the two; for he was evidently nearing the
"Franklin" more quickly than the "Franklin" was approaching him.
"Do you know who that ship is?" asked the admiral.
"The 'Numancia,' sir," replied the captain; "her armament is immensely
better than ours. She has twenty-five Armstrong guns."
Crash! crash! Two more shells struck the wooden hull of the "Franklin"
between the fore and mainmasts, tearing a great rent in her side and
literally annihilating the crews of four guns.
"There is three feet of water in the hold, sir and it is gaining!"
shouted the carpenter at the pump-well.
Men were sent at once to the pumps.
Crash! This time a double explosion, followed by dense clouds of steam.
Men, scalded and horribly burned, climbed up the ladders from below.
"Our boilers are gone," reported the captain.
"Keep her broadside toward the enemy, sir," returned the admiral.
The guns of the "Franklin" were now firing slowly. Their smoke overhung
the vessel so that the Spaniard could not be seen, but the reports of
his cannon sounded closer and closer.
Suddenly the huge prow of the "Numancia" loomed up close aboard the
"Starboard! Hard a starboard!" shouted the admiral.
It was too late. There was no one at the helm. A shell, bursting close
to the wheel, had killed the helmsman, and a fragment had buried itself
in the captain's breast.
The admiral himself turned to go toward the wheel, but suddenly
staggered and pitched forward, dead.
Then came the frightful explosion of the "Numancia's" bow-torpedo,
striking the ill-fated frigate; and then the crushing and splintering of
timbers under the fearful stroke of the ram.
Five minutes afterwards the Spanish war-ship was alone. Slowly the
"Franklin" sank—her lofty mast-heads going under with the stars and
stripes still proudly floating from them. The "Numancia" lowered her
boats to pick up survivors. They returned with one officer and two
seamen—all that remained of the crew of nearly one thousand souls.
The American flag ship had been sunk by a fourth-rate European
ironclad—the first practical proof of the miserably short-sighted
policy of a nation of fifty millions of inhabitants, with an enormous
coast line and innumerable ports to be protected, relying for its safety
upon a navy the fifty-five available vessels of which are too slow to
run away, and too lightly armed and too weakly built to defend
The "Numancia" hoisted her boats and stood to the westward. Shortly
afterward she exchanged signals with the "Zaragoza," "Arapiles" and
"Vittoria." The war-vessels drew together, the transports came alongside
of them, and fresh supplies of coal and provisions were delivered. Then
the transports headed to the south, and the men-of-war laid their course
for New York.
THE METROPOLIS BELEAGUERED.
Three ships of the Spanish squadron named were armed with Armstrong
guns. Their combined batteries aggregated eight cannon of eighteen tons
four of twelve tons, eleven of nine tons, and twenty-eight of seven
tons. The "Zaragoza" carried twenty guns of another pattern, ranging in
calibre from eleven to seven and three-fourths inches. The total number
of cannon which would thus be brought to bear upon New York and its
suburbs was seventy-one.
The shot of the Armstrong guns above named vary in weight from four
hundred to one hundred and fifteen pounds. If the entire number of guns
should each deliver one shot, the total amount of iron projected would
exceed six tons in weight.
The arrival of the Spanish vessels was not known until dawn of the
morning of April 11th. Then they were descried on the horizon by the
watchers at Sandy Hook. At first sight it was supposed that they had
encountered heavy weather and lost their light spars; but, as they
approached nearer, it was seen that each ship had sent down all her
upper rigging, and had housed topmasts.
There was no mistaking what this meant. It was the stripping for battle.
It was also noticed that the ships steamed very slowly in single file;
that from the bows of each projected a fork-like contrivance, and that
in advance of the leader were several steam-launches, between which, and
crossing the path of the large vessel, extended hawsers which dipped
into the water. Evidently the new-comers had a wholesome dread of
torpedoes, and hence the use of bow torpedo-catchers and the
No flag of any sort was exhibited.
Meanwhile the guns of all the sea-coast batteries along the shores had
been manned, ready to fire upon the huge black monsters as soon as they
should come within range. The order had been given to commence firing on
the hoisting of a flag and on the discharge of a heavy gun from the
signal station on Sandy Hook, where General Hancock had posted himself
with his staff.
In the city the time for excitement had passed. The business section was
deserted, most of the men being either in the fortifications or under
arms in the camps, ready to move as directed to repel any attempt on the
part of the enemy to effect a landing.
There had been no general exodus from New York, as it was not believed
possible that the enemy's missiles could reach the city proper. In
Brooklyn, however, but few people remained. All the churches in the city
were open, and with singular unanimity the people flocked into them. No
public conveyances were running; few vehicles moved through the
streets. The silence was like that of a summer holiday, when the people
are in the suburbs, pleasure-seeking.
"They seem to have stopped, general," said an aid who was attentively
watching the advance of the Spanish vessels through his glass.
"They are a long way out of our range," remarked General Hancock. "We
have nothing that carries far enough to injure them. They are fully five
"Now they go ahead again. No, they are turning," said the aid.
The leading ship had ported her helm, and, followed by the others, filed
to the eastward, bringing the port broadsides to bear upon the Long
"They certainly are not going into action there," said the general.
A cloud of white smoke arose from the bow of the leading vessel, and
then across the water came the deep "boom" of a heavy gun.
"Why, that fellow has fired out to sea," exclaimed one of the general's
"No, it was a blank cartridge. He fired to attract attention. See! there
goes a white flag up to his mast-head!" said the officer at the
telescope: "A boat with a flag-of-truce is putting off, general."
"Send a launch out to meet it," said Hancock, shortly: "and see that it
does not come nearer than a mile or so from the shore."
A few minutes after, the steam-yacht "Ideal," which had been offered by
its owner as a dispatch boat to the general, was swiftly running towards
the Spanish messenger.
The aid at the telescope saw an officer step from the Spanish boat into
the yacht, and then the latter put back to the Hook, the enemy's launch
remaining where she was.
The Spanish officer was conducted to the presence of the general. In
excellent English, he announced himself as the Fleet Captain and
Chief-of-Staff of the admiral commanding the Spanish squadron present,
and with much ceremony presented the communication with which he was
The general received the missive courteously and opened it. The
expression of astonishment which came over his face as he read it for a
moment gave place to one of anger. His eyes flashed, his face reddened,
and his fingers nervously played with the end of his moustache. Then, as
he read it over the second time, a rather contemptuous smile seemed to
lurk about the corners of his mouth.
The staff stood by in silent but eager anticipation. The general held
the letter in his hands behind his back and walked up and down the small
apartment, as if in deep thought, raising his eyes occasionally to
glance at the Spanish vessels, which lay almost motionless, blowing off
Finally, he turned to the Spanish officer, who stood erect, with his
hand resting upon the hilt of his sword, and said, in a quiet, though
"You will make my compliments to the admiral commanding, and deliver, in
reply to his communication, that which I will now dictate."
An aid at once seated himself at the table, and, at the general's
dictation, wrote as follows:
SENOR DON ALMIRANTE VIZCARRO, Commanding Squadron off New York.
SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge your communication of this
date, sent per flag-of-truce, in which you demand—
1st.—That immediate surrender to the force under your command be
made of the fortifications of this harbor, together with the Navy
Yard at Brooklyn, and all munitions of war here existing.
2nd.—That the cities of New York, Brooklyn and Jersey City do
cause to be paid, on board of your flag-ship, within three days
after the said surrender, the sum of fifty millions of dollars in
gold, or in the paper currency of England or France.
And in which you announce that non-acquiescence in the foregoing
will be followed by the bombardment of the said fortifications, the
Navy Yard and the arsenals in New York City, by your squadron,
after the lapse of twenty-four hours from noon this day.
In reply, I have to state that these demands are peremptorily
refused and I have most solemnly to protest against so gross a
violation of the laws of civilized warfare, as is indicated in your
intention to attack a city within a period too short to enable the
non-combatants to be safely removed.
I have the honor to be, etc.,
WINFIELD S. HANCOCK,
This reply was telegraphed to New York, and Mr. Pierrepont Edwards, Her
Britannic Majesty's Consul-General, was one of the first to receive it.
He acted with the usual force and promptness with which British
interests and the lives of British subjects are protected by British
officials abroad. That is to say, he first telegraphed to the British
Minister at Washington, Mr. West, requesting, that the three great
ironclads, "Devastation," "Orion" and "Agamemnon," all of which were
then in Hampton Roads, be at once sent to New York. Then he prepared a
formal protest against the proposed action of the Spanish Admiral, which
all the other foreign consuls at once signed, and which was delivered
aboard the Spanish flag-ship by a boat bearing the British flag before
three o'clock that afternoon.
The Spanish admiral took the protest into consideration to the extent of
granting forty-eight hours' time. The consuls protested again at this as
not being sufficient, and demanded five clear days. The admiral refused
to grant more than three; but when, before the three days had expired,
the trio of English war-ships made their appearance, and calmly moved
between his fleet and the shore, he changed his mind and granted the
desired time—which was wise, seeing that the English vessels could blow
his squadron out of water with little trouble and not much injury to
The railroads which go out of New York, while perhaps adequate for all
purposes of traffic in time of peace, are scarcely equal to the removal
from the city of several hundred thousand women, children, sick and aged
persons within a period of even five days. People of this description
cannot be moved as easily as armies; and hence, when the morning of the
fifth day dawned, fully one-half of the non-combatant population was
still in the city.
This, however, was attributable not only to the inadequacy of the means
of transportation, but to the singular apathy—it was not
fearlessness—of the people themselves. In the great tenement districts,
it became necessary to send soldiers into the houses to drive people out
Among the Irish and Germans there was actual rioting, when force was
thus used. The impression was general that the missiles of the enemy
could not reach the populated parts of New York.
The crowds, however, at the Grand Central Dépôt, trying to leave the
city, were enormous. People were placed in cattle-cars, on wood cars—in
fact, every sort of conveyance adapted to the tracks was pressed into
The Thirtieth Street Dépôt, on the west side, also was crowded, and
trains were leaving thence every few minutes.
Just before noon, the city was horror-stricken by the news of a
frightful accident at Spuyten Duyvil. An overloaded train from the
Thirtieth Street Dépôt there, through a broken switch, came into
collision with another overloaded train from the Grand Central Dépôt.
The slaughter was horrible. Twelve cars were derailed, and more than a
hundred and twenty people, mostly women and children, killed.
While people were repeating this news to one another with white faces
and trembling lips, the Spanish squadron was taking position and
preparing to attack.
The English squadron moved outside the Spanish ships, and stood off and
on under easy steam.
At precisely noon the white flag was lowered from the mast-head of the
Spanish flag-ship and the Spanish flags were hoisted by all of the
vessels. Immediately afterwards the "Numancia" delivered her broadside
full upon the Coney Island battery.
Instantly the flag from the general's station was flung out, the
signal-gun was discharged, and from all the sea-coast batteries the
The position chosen by the attacking vessels was about one and a half
miles to the south of Plumb Inlet. This point is distant from Fort
Hamilton six miles, from Sandy Hook light seven miles, from Brooklyn
Navy Yard nine and a half miles, and from the City Hall, New York City,
about eleven miles, in a straight line. An ample depth of water to float
ships drawing twenty-four feet here exists. The situation was
sufficiently distant from the shore batteries to render the effect of
their projectiles on the armor of the vessels quite inconsiderable.
The ships, however, did not remain motionless, but steamed slowly around
in a circle of some two miles in diameter, each vessel delivering her
fire as she reached the point above specified. In this way, the chances
of being struck by projectiles from shore were not only lessened, but
the injury which they could do was decreased by the greater distance
which they would be compelled to traverse to strike the ships during the
progress of the latter around the further side of the circle.
It was evident that the Spanish commander had no idea of attempting to
land his forces, but simply proposed to keep up a slow, persistent
bombardment. It was further apparent that only his lighter artillery
was directed upon the shore batteries, and that he was practising with
his heavy metal at high elevations, to find out how much range he could
When the second day of the bombardment opened, there were about a
hundred thousand people still in New York, including two of the city
regiments doing police duty. A strong force for this purpose was
necessary, as a large number of roughs and criminals, who had hurried
away during the first panic, now returned, and signalized their advent
by the attempted pillage of the Vanderbilt residences.
About a hundred and fifty of this mob remained on the pavement of Fifth
Avenue, after a well-directed mitrailleuse fire had been kept up for
some fifteen minutes by the troops. The rest took to their heels, and
lurked about the lower part of the city, waiting for a better
opportunity, and thinking hungrily of the contents of the magnificent
dwellings in the up-town districts.
The sea-coast batteries nearest to the attacking ships were soon
rendered untenable by their fire. The large hotels on Coney Island were
all struck by shells and burned, and the villages of Flatlands,
Gravesend, and New Utrecht were quickly destroyed.
Shell after shell then fell in Flatbush, and occasionally a terrific
explosion in Prospect Park, in Greenwood Cemetery, and in the outlying
avenues of Brooklyn, showed that the enemy was throwing his missiles
over distances constantly augmenting.
On the morning of the third day a futile attempt was made to blow up the
"Numancia," first by the Lay and then by the Ericsson submarine
torpedo-boats. The Lay boat, however, ran up on the east bank and could
not be got off, and the Ericsson started finely from the shore, but,
apparently, sank before she had gone a mile.
The attack by the "Alarm" and her attendant fleet of torpedo-tugs had
the effect of stopping the bombardment and of concentrating the enemy's
attention upon his own safety. The tugs advanced gallantly to the onset,
six of them rushing almost simultaneously upon the "Vittoria." That
vessel met them with a broadside which sank four at once, and the other
two were riddled by shell from Hotchkiss revolving cannon from the decks
of the Spaniard; their machinery was crippled, and they drifted
helplessly out to sea. Of the others, some ran aground on the bank, some
were sunk, and not one succeeded in exploding her torpedo near a Spanish
vessel. The "Alarm" planted a shell from her bow-rifle, at close range,
squarely into the stern of the "Zaragoza," piercing the armor and
killing a dozen men, besides disabling two guns. She was rammed,
however, by the "Arapiles," and so badly injured as to compel her to
make her escape into shoal water to prevent sinking. There she grounded,
and the Spaniards leisurely made a target of her, although they
considerately permitted her crew to go ashore in their boats without
firing a shot at them.
Meanwhile the remaining citizens of New York had held a mass meeting,
and appointed a committee of Public Safety, with General Grant at its
head. There had been a great popular movement to have that gentleman put
in supreme command of the army, but the authorities at Washington, for
some occult reason, known only to themselves, had offered him a
major-general's commission, which he promptly declined. Then he
deliberately went to the nearest recruiting-station and tried to enlist
as a private; but the recruiting-officer, after recovering his senses,
with which he parted in dumb astonishment for some seconds, refused him
on the ground that he was over forty-five years of age.
The general contented himself with remarking: "Guess they'll want me
yet," and thereupon lighting a huge cigar, calmly marched out of the
office and went over to Flatbush, to "see where the shells are hitting;"
serenely oblivious of the possibility of personal danger involved in
As chief of the Safety Committee, however, Grant became the real ruler
of New York. Martial law existed, and the senior colonel of the
regiments quartered in the city was in nominal charge; but, as this
individual was not blessed with especial force of character, he never
asserted his authority, and, in fact, seemed rather pleased to
gravitate to the position of Grant's immediate subordinate.
On the evening of April 18th the watchers on Sandy Hook saw a fifth
vessel join the Spanish fleet; a long, low craft, having, apparently,
two turrets and very light spars. They also saw the admiral's flag on
the "Numancia" lowered, only to be hoisted again on the foremast of the
At daybreak on the following morning a shell crashed through the roof of
the Fifth Avenue Hotel, descended to the cellar, burst there and wrecked
a quarter of the building. What new fury had thus been let loose?
It has already been stated that the great ironclad "El Cid" had sailed
from Vigo—she had arrived.
She carried four guns. Two one-hundred-ton Armstrongs, each having an
effectual range of 12 miles, and two Krupp 15.7-inch guns, which throw
shot weighing nearly 2000 pounds over ten miles. Krupp claims a range of
15 miles; but this is doubtful. She also was encased in 21-1/2 inches of
compound steel and iron armor, capable of resisting the projectiles of
any cannon known—except, perhaps, those of her own Armstrongs.
The most powerfully armed and most impregnable ironclad in the world now
lay before New York.
It was an Armstrong shell which struck the Fifth Avenue Hotel. It was a
Krupp shell which shortly after knocked down the steeple of Trinity
Church as if it were a turret of cards.
In view of this new attack General Grant was requested to call a
meeting of the Committee of Safety, to consider the question of
capitulation, as it was evident that the continuation of such a
bombardment would speedily destroy property in value far beyond the
immense sum asked by the besiegers.
He notified the members to meet in the City Hall. When he arrived, he
found nobody but a messenger-boy, who tremblingly emerged from the
The General quietly removed his cigar and asked:
"Where's the Committee?"
"They—they—is—up ter Inwood, sir."
The boy's teeth chattered so that he could hardly speak.
"What the deuce are they doing there?"
"Dunno, sir. They told me as to tell you, sir, that they wuz a Committee
of Safety, and that's wot they wanted, sir."
"And they deputized you to tell me that, eh?"
"And you looked for me down in the cellar?"
"N-no, sir. I wanted safety, too, sir. Oh, Lordy!"
This last interjection was elicited by seeing the upper part of the
Tribune tall tower suddenly fly off, and land on the roof of the Sun
A sort of a sphinx-like smile overspread the general's features.
He looked around for the messenger-boy, but that youth was making
extraordinary speed up Broadway.
The general leisurely proceeded up that thoroughfare—occasionally
stopping, as a shot went crashing into some near building, to note the
On arriving at Union Square, he met a cavalry squad looking for him, and
mounting the horse of one of the men, he proceeded with this escort to
the upper end of the island, which was now densely packed with people.
The projectiles from the heavy guns of the great ironclad were now
falling in the lower part of the city with terrible effect. The Western
Union building was shattered from cellar to roof; the City Hall was on
fire; so also was St. Paul's Church and the Herald building. The
last-mentioned conflagration was put out by the editors and compositors
of that journal—the entire Herald staff being then in the underground
press-rooms, busily preparing and working off extras giving the latest
details of the bombardment.
The Morse Building was completely demolished by two Krupp shells, and
not an edifice in Wall Street, except the sub-Treasury, had escaped
The result of the conference of the Safety Committee was the dispatching
of a messenger to Sandy Hook, informing General Hancock of the
condition of affairs, and asking him to request an armistice for
The "Ideal," bearing a white flag, was at once dispatched to the Spanish
flag-ship, and shortly after the firing ceased.
The Spanish admiral refused to alter the terms already proposed, except
that, in view of the injury already inflicted on the city and the
probable increased difficulty of collecting the sum demanded, he would
agree to allow five days' time in which to pay the latter, on board his
General Hancock declined to consider this proposal.
"El Cid" now began a new manoeuvre. All the steam-launches of the fleet,
provided with long, forked spars extending from their bows, formed in
front of her, and, thus preceded, she deliberately steamed up to the
The fort on the Hook at once opened upon her, but the shot glanced like
dry peas from her armor. She, in return, shelled the fort, the masonry
of which literally crumbled before the enormous projectiles hurled
against it. Meanwhile, the launches had entered the channel and were
picking up such torpedoes as could be detected. Other launches, having
no crews on board, but being governed entirely by electric wires, were
sent into the channel and caused to drop counter mines, which, on being
fired, caused the explosion of such torpedoes as remained: thus making a
broad and safe channel for the ironclad to enter.
Finally the remaining launches returned to the "Cid" and evidently
reported the channel clear for she boldly steamed into it, stopping only
for an instant, when off the end of the peninsula, to send a double
charge of grape and canister from her huge guns into the ranks of the
fugitives, who were precipitately rushing from the fort.
It was then that General Hancock was killed although the fact has since
often been disputed. His body, wounded in a dozen places, was found on
the sand near the highest wall of the fort, from the top of which, it is
conjectured, he was swept by the fearful hail of the Spanish ironclad.
"El Cid" continued on into the bay, occasionally stopping as signaled by
the launches preceding her, when a torpedo was encountered, and finally
took up her position within about a mile of Fort Hamilton, and hence
about seven miles from the Battery.
As the projectiles from the fort glanced harmlessly from her armor, she
paid no attention to that attack, but resumed her fire upon the city.
Shells now began to fall as far up-town as Forty-second Street.
AT THE MERCY OF THE FOE.
Meanwhile, the other four vessels had ceased their bombardment of the
batteries, as the latter no longer answered them.
They appeared to have new work in hand.
During the following afternoon a fresh sea-breeze set in. Then a large,
swaying globe made its appearance on the deck of each of the vessels.
Examination with the telescope showed to the signal men, who had
established a new station on the Jersey highlands, that these mysterious
spheres were balloons; and that the ships were about to dispatch them,
was evident from the fact that small pilot-balloons were soon sent up.
These last were wafted directly toward the city.
What possible object could the Spanish war-vessels have in this, was a
question asked by every one, as soon as the intelligence became known.
The balloon which rose from the "Numancia" had a car attached, but there
was clearly no one in it. Therefore the balloons were not to be used for
purposes of observation.
The people in New York saw the balloons as they successively rose from
the four vessels, and wonderingly watched their progress.
They saw the first of them gently sail toward the city until about over
the Roman Catholic Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. Then a dark object seemed
to fall from the car, the lightened balloon shot upward, the object
struck the roof of the cathedral there was a fearful explosion, a
trembling of the earth as if an angry volcano were beneath, and the
crash of falling buildings followed.
Through the great clouds of dust and smoke it could be seen that not
only was the cathedral shattered, but that the walls of every building
adjacent to the square on which it stood were down.
The Spaniards were dropping nitro-glycerine bombs into the city from
the balloons. They knew how long it would take the breeze to waft the
air-ships over the built-up portion, and it was an easy matter to adjust
clock-work in the car to cause the dropping of the torpedo at about the
Accuracy was not needed. A shell, filled with fifty or a hundred pounds
of dynamite or nitro-glycerine, would be sure to do terrible damage
anywhere within a radius of three miles around Madison Square.
A second balloon dropped its charge into the receiving reservoir in
Central Park, luckily doing no damage, but throwing up a tremendous jet
of water. The third and fourth balloons let fall their dejectiles, the
one among the tenements near Tompkins Square destroying an entire block
of houses simultaneously; the other on High Bridge, completely
shattering that structure, and so breaking the aqueduct through which
the city obtains its water supply.
The Spanish admiral now ceased firing voluntarily and sent a message by
flag-of-truce announcing his intention to continue the throwing of
balloon torpedoes into the city until it capitulated, and, in order to
avoid further destruction of property, he renewed the proposal already
General Grant, on receiving this message—for the citizens had literally
forced him to take active command of the troops—simply remarked:
"Let him fire away!"
But the Safety Committee vehemently protested; and finally, after much
discussion, induced Grant to send back word that the terms were
The situation was, in truth, one of sadness—of bitter humiliation. The
Empire City had fallen, and lay at the mercy of a foreign foe. The
immense ransom demanded must be raised and paid, or the work of
destruction would be resumed until the defenders of the bay removed
their torpedoes from the Narrows and permitted the Spanish forces to
enter and occupy the metropolis.
THE FLAG WITH THE LONE STAR.
As it was manifestly impossible to obtain fifty millions of dollars in
specie and foreign notes within New York—for all the money in the
vaults of the banks and the treasury had long since been sent to other
cities—the general government assumed payment of the amount demanded by
the Spaniards, which, however, it was decided not to make until just
before the expiration of the last of the five days of grace.
As will now be seen, this was a fortunate decision. The unremitting
bombardment which had been maintained by the four vessels off the Long
Island shore had so greatly reduced their supply of ammunition that it
became necessary to send for more: and for this purpose the "Vittoria"
was dispatched to meet a transport which had been ordered to sail from
Cuba at about this time.
On the evening of the third day the weather assumed a threatening
appearance, and the "El Cid" left her position near Fort Hamilton for a
more secure anchorage near Sandy Hook. The other ships stood out to sea.
It stormed heavily during that night, and before evening on the morrow
one of the strongest gales ever known in this vicinity had set in.
The situation in which the Spanish flag-ship now found herself was
critical. She had put down her two bower anchors, but they were clearly
insufficient to hold her. To veer out cable was dangerous, for it was
not known how near the ship was to sunken torpedoes; to allow her to
drag was to run the double chance of striking a torpedo or going ashore.
During the night she parted both cables, and the morning found her
firmly imbedded in the beach off the Hook. Of the other vessels, the
"Numancia" only was in sight.
The signal men, however, could see black smoke on the horizon; and this
they anxiously watched, expecting momentarily to make out the "Arapiles"
and "Zaragoza." Shortly after daybreak, a thick fog settled down,
completely cutting off the seaward view.
In the signal station were General Grant and several members of the
Safety Commission. The ransom money was in readiness, and the intention
was to pay it over during the morning.
At about eight o'clock, heavy firing was heard from the sea.
It was too far distant to be accounted for by a supposed renewal of the
bombardment by the Spanish ships, even under the assumption that they
had thus broken the truce.
The watchers at the signal station looked at each other in astonishment,
and eagerly waited for the fog to lift.
An hour later, the mist began to clear away. The sight that met the
eyes of the spectators was one never to be forgotten.
The "Numancia" was evidently ashore on the East bank. Her fore and
mainmasts were gone, and clouds of dark smoke were lazily ascending from
her forecastle. Suddenly, the whole ship seemed to burst into a sheet of
flame, there was a deep explosion, the air was filled with flying
fragments, and a blackened hull was all that was left of the proud
The "Arapiles," about two miles further out to sea, was making a gallant
defense against three strange vessels. Two, lying at short range on her
quarters, were pouring in a fearful fire; the third, which had evidently
been engaged with the "Numancia," was rapidly bearing down upon her,
apparently intending to ram.
Who could the strangers be?
The flags which floated from their mast-heads bore a strong resemblance
to our own, yet they were not the stars and stripes; for the stripes
were replaced by but two broad bands of red and white, and in the blue
field there was but a single star.
"Chili, by Jove!" ejaculated some one in the signal station.
He was right.
The new-comers were the "Huascar," the "Almirante Cochrane" and the
"Blanco Encelada," the three armored vessels of the South American
It was the "Huascar" which was now bearing down upon the "Arapiles."
Suddenly, the Chilian monitor was seen to slacken her speed and change
She no longer meant to ram; the necessity had ceased. At the same time,
the other Chilian vessels ceased firing.
The Spanish ensign on the "Arapiles" had been lowered. In a few minutes
after it rose again, but this time surmounted by the Chilian flag.
Then the four vessels stood in toward the Hook.
The watchers on the signal station now waited in breathless suspense.
The "Arapiles," with a prize crew from the other vessels to work her
guns, was to be made to attack her former consort, the stranded "El
Cid;" and that vessel, aware of her danger, was now firing rapidly at
her approaching enemies.
It was not reserved, however, for the Chilians to complete their victory
by the capture of the great ironclad.
The giant was to be killed by a pigmy scarce larger than one of his own
huge weapons. A smaller steam-launch slowly crept out from the Staten
Island shore. But two men could be seen on board of her—one in the bow,
the other at the helm.
"They don't see us yet, Ned," said the man in the bow.
"No; they have all they can do to take care of the other fellows. Look
out! Are you hurt?"
A shell from the Chilians just then came over the Hook, and, bursting
under the water near the launch, deluged the boat with spray.
"Not a bit," said the other.
"Is your boom clear?"
Bang! A shot, this time from the Spaniard came skipping along the water
in the direction of the launch, and flew over the heads of the daring
"Hang them! They've seen us."
"Rig out your boom. We're in for it now!"
The man in the stern pushed shut the door of the boiler furnace, and
turned on full steam.
The little craft fairly leaped ahead.
The two men set their teeth. He of the stern lashed the tiller
amidships, and crept forward, aiding the other to push out the long boom
which projected from the bow.
Ten seconds passed. Then the torpedo on the end of the boom struck the
"El Cid" under the stern. There was a crash—a vast upheaval of water
The great ironclad rolled over on her side and lay half submerged.
Of the two men who had done this, one swam ashore bearing the other,
wounded to the death.
A mighty cheer arose from the Chilian fleet, repeated from the shore
with redoubled volume.
"El Cid" lay sullen and silent; two of her guns were pointing under
water, two up to the clouds.
The "Arapiles" fired the last shell at her own admiral—now a corpse,
torn to pieces by the torpedo.
Then some one scrambled along the deck of the wrecked monster and
lowered the Spanish flag.
"I think we'll keep that money," remarked Grant, as he lit another
* * * * *
The Chilian fleet had relieved New York. Elated by her victory over
Peru, and thirsting for revenge against Spain for the latter's merciless
bombardment of Valparaiso in 1866, the Chilians, as soon as they had
learned of the declaration of war against the United States, tore up the
treaty of truce and armistice made with Spain in 1871, and announced
themselves an ally of this country. Realizing the weakness of our navy,
and the unprotected position of our seaports, Chili instantly dispatched
her three ironclads to New York. They made the voyage with remarkable
celerity, stopping only for coal and provisions, and reached the
beleaguered city just in the nick of time, as has already been detailed.
It was fortunate that the "Zaragoza" had been obliged to put so far out
to sea that she could not return in season to take part in the conflict,
otherwise the result might have been different.
As it was, when she came back a day later, and discovered the position
of affairs, she took to her heels without delay.
It is not necessary here to speak of the greeting which the Chilians
received, or the thanks which were lavished upon them by the people of
the United States. Neither need we picture the dismay of the citizens of
New York when they came to realize the fearful damage which had been
inflicted upon their city. Fully one-half of the town lay in ruins. The
metropolis was the metropolis no longer. The proudest city of the Great
Republic had been at the mercy of a conqueror, and, as if this
humiliation were not deep enough, she owed her preservation from utter
destruction to the guns of an insignificant Republic of South America.
* * * * *
Six months after the relief of the city, a Chilian sailor belonging to
the "Huascar," which was lying off the Battery, stopped to watch a crowd
of workmen who were busily engaged in clearing away the ruins of some
tenement buildings near Tompkins Square.
The face of one of the workmen had evidently attracted the foreigner's
attention, as he gazed at him intently and curiously.
Suddenly there was a sharp detonation. The crowd scattered in all
directions. An unexploded shell which had lodged in the building had
been struck by a pick in the hands of one of the laborers, and had been
The sailor helped carry out the dead.
Among the victims was the man at whom he had been so intently looking a
moment before. This one he took in his arms and bore him apart from the
Nervously he tore open the dead man's shirt. On the bared breast was a
curiously shaped mole.
The sailor sank on his knees in prayer beside the body for a moment.
Then he turned, and addressing an officer who, with a file of soldiers,
had come upon the scene, and was directing the removal of the dead, he
asked in broken English, pointing to the corpse:
"Will you give me this?"
"He was my brother—Leon Sangrado."
The war had found a victim in him who had caused it.
 Fiction, October 31, 1881.
WHY THOMAS WAS DISCHARGED.
BY GEORGE ARNOLD.
Brant Beach is a long promontory of rock and sand, jutting out at an
acute angle from a barren portion of the coast. Its farthest extremity
is marked by a pile of many-colored, wave-washed boulders; its junction
with the mainland is the site of the Brant House, a watering-place of
The attractions of this spot are not numerous. There is surf-bathing all
along the outer side of the beach, and good swimming on the inner. The
fishing is fair; and in still weather yachting is rather a favorite
amusement. Further than this there is little to be said, save that the
hotel is conducted upon liberal principles, and the society generally
But to the lover of nature—and who has the courage to avow himself
aught else?—the sea-shore can never be monotonous. The swirl and sweep
of ever-shifting waters, the flying mist of foam breaking away into a
gray and ghostly distance down the beach, the eternal drone of ocean,
mingling itself with one's talk by day and with the light dance-music in
the parlors by night—all these are active sources of a passive
pleasure. And to lie at length upon the tawny sand, watching, through
half-closed eyes, the heaving waves, that mount against a dark blue sky
wherein great silvery masses of cloud float idly on, whiter than the
sunlit sails that fade and grow and fade along the horizon, while some
fair damsel sits close by, reading ancient ballads of a simple metre, or
older legends of love and romance—tell me, my eater of the fashionable
lotos, is not this a diversion well worth your having?
There is an air of easy sociality among the guests at the Brant House, a
disposition on the part of all to contribute to the general amusement,
that makes a summer sojourn on the beach far more agreeable than in
certain larger, more frequented watering-places, where one is always in
danger of discovering that the gentlemanly person with whom he has been
fraternizing is a faro-dealer, or that the lady who has half-fascinated
him is Anonyma herself. Still, some consider the Brant rather slow, and
many good folk were a trifle surprised when Mr. Edwin Salsbury and Mr.
Charles Burnham arrived by the late stage from Wikhasset Station, with
trunks enough for two first-class belles, and a most unexceptionable
man-servant in gray livery, in charge of two beautiful setter-dogs.
These gentlemen seemed to have imagined that they were about visiting
some backwoods wilderness, some savage tract of country, "remote,
unfriended, melancholy, slow," for they brought almost everything with
them that men of elegant leisure could require, as if the hotel were but
four walls and a roof, which they must furnish with their own chattels.
I am sure it took Thomas, the man-servant, a whole day to unpack the
awnings, the bootjacks, the game-bags, the cigar-boxes, the guns, the
camp-stools, the liquor-cases, the bathing-suits, and other
paraphernalia that these pleasure-seekers brought. It must be owned,
however, that their room, a large one in the Bachelors' Quarter, facing
the sea, wore a very comfortable, sportsmanlike look when all was
Thus surrounded, the young men betook themselves to the deliberate
pursuit of idle pleasures. They arose at nine and went down the shore,
invariably returning at ten with one unfortunate snipe, which was
preserved on ice, with much ceremony, till wanted. At this rate it took
them a week to shoot a breakfast; but to see them sally forth, splendid
in velveteen and corduroy, with top-boots and a complete harness of
green cord and patent-leather straps, you would have imagined that all
game-birds were about to become extinct in that region. Their dogs,
even, recognized this great-cry-little-wool condition of things, and
bounded off joyously at the start, but came home crestfallen, with an
air of canine humiliation that would have aroused Mr. Mayhew's tenderest
After breakfasting, usually in their room, the friends enjoyed a long
and contemplative smoke upon the wide piazza in front of their windows,
listlessly regarding the ever-varied marine view that lay before them in
flashing breadth and beauty. Their next labor was to array themselves in
wonderful morning-costumes of very shaggy English cloth, shiny flasks
and field-glasses about their shoulders, and loiter down the beach, to
the point and back, making much unnecessary effort over the walk—a
brief mile—which they spoke of, with importance, as their
"constitutional." This killed time till bathing-hour, and then another
toilet for dinner. After dinner a siesta: in the room, when the weather
was fresh; when otherwise, in hammocks hung from the rafters of the
piazza. When they had been domiciled a few days, they found it expedient
to send home for what they were pleased to term their "crabs" and
"traps," and excited the envy of less fortunate guests by driving up and
down the beach at a racing gait to dissipate the languor of the
This was their regular routine for the day—varied, occasionally, when
the tide served, by a fishing trip down the narrow bay inside the point.
For such emergencies they provided themselves with a sail-boat and
skipper, hired for the whole season, and arrayed themselves in a highly
nautical rig. The results were, large quantities of sardines and pale
sherry consumed by the young men, and a reasonable number of sea-bass
and blackfish caught by the skipper.
There were no regular "hops" at the Brant House, but dancing in a quiet
way every evening to a flute, violin, and violoncello, played by some of
the waiters. For a time Burnham and Salsbury did not mingle much in
these festivities, but loitered about the halls and piazzas, very
elegantly dressed and barbered (Thomas was an unrivalled coiffeur),
and apparently somewhat ennuyé.
That two well-made, full-grown, intelligent, and healthy young men
should lead such a life as this for an entire summer might surprise one
of a more active temperament. The aimlessness and vacancy of an
existence devoted to no earthly purpose save one's own comfort must soon
weary any man who knows what is the meaning of real, earnest life—life
with a battle to be fought and a victory to be won. But these elegant
young gentlemen comprehended nothing of all that: they had been born
with golden spoons in their mouths, and educated only to swallow the
delicately insipid lotos-honey that flows inexhaustibly from such
shining spoons. Clothes, complexions, polish of manner, and the
avoidance of any sort of shock were the simple objects of their
I do not know that I have any serious quarrel with such fellows, after
all. They have strong virtues. They are always clean; and your rough
diamond, though manly and courageous as Coeur de Lion, is not apt to be
scrupulously nice in his habits. Affability is another virtue. The
Salsbury and Burnham kind of man bears malice toward no one, and is
disagreeable only when assailed by some hammer-and-tongs utilitarian.
All he asks is to be permitted to idle away his pleasant life
unmolested. Lastly, he is extremely ornamental. We all like to see
pretty things; and I am sure that Charley Burnham, in his fresh white
duck suit, with his fine, thoroughbred face—gentle as a girl's—shaded
by a snowy Panama, his blonde moustache carefully pointed, his golden
hair clustering in the most picturesque possible waves, his little red
neck-ribbon—the only bit of color in his dress—tied in a studiously
careless knot, and his pure, untainted gloves of pearl gray or lavender,
was, if I may be allowed the expression, just as pretty as a picture.
And Ned Salsbury was not less "a joy forever," according to the dictum
of the late Mr. Keats. He was darker than Burnham, with very black hair,
and a moustache worn in the manner the French call triste, which
became him, and increased the air of pensive melancholy that
distinguished his dark eyes, thoughtful attitudes, and slender figure.
Not that he was in the least degree pensive or melancholy, or that he
had cause to be; quite the contrary; but it was his style, and he did it
These two butterflies sat, one afternoon, upon the piazza, smoking very
large cigars, lost, apparently, in profoundest meditation. Burnham, with
his graceful head resting upon one delicate hand, his clear blue eyes
full of a pleasant light, and his face warmed by a calm, unconscious
smile, might have been revolving some splendid scheme of universal
philanthropy. The only utterance, however, forced from him by the
sublime thoughts that permeated his soul, was the emission of a white
rolling volume of fragrant smoke, accompanied by two words: "Doocéd
Salsbury did not reply. He sat, leaning back, with his fingers
interlaced behind his head, and his shadowy eyes downcast, as in sad
remembrance of some long-lost love. So might a poet have looked, while
steeped in mournfully rapturous daydreams of remembered passion and
severance. So might Tennyson's hero have mused, while he sang:
"Oh, that 'twere possible,
After long grief and pain,
To find the arms of my true love
Round me once again!"
But the poetic lips opened not to such numbers. Salsbury gazed long and
earnestly, and finally gave vent to his emotion, indicating, with the
amber tip of his cigar-tube, the setter that slept in the sunshine at
"Shocking place, this, for dogs!"—I regret to say he pronounced it
"dawgs"—"Why, Carlo is as fat—as fat as—as a—"
His mind was unequal to a simile even, and he terminated the sentence
in a murmur.
More silence; more smoke; more profound meditation. Directly Charley
Burnham looked around with some show of vitality.
"There comes the stage," said he.
The driver's bugle rang merrily among the drifted sand-hills that lay
warm and glowing in the orange light of the setting sun. The young men
leaned forward over the piazza-rail and scrutinized the occupants of the
vehicle as it appeared.
"Old gentleman and lady, aw, and two children," said Ned Salsbury; "I
hoped there would be some nice girls."
This, in a voice of ineffable tenderness and poetry, but with that odd,
tired little drawl, so epidemic in some of our universities.
"Look there, by Jove!" cried Charley, with a real interest at last; "now
that's what I call a regular thing!"
The "regular thing" was a low, four-wheeled pony-chaise of basket-work,
drawn by two jolly little fat ponies, black and shiny as vulcanite,
which jogged rapidly in, just far enough behind the stage to avoid its
This vehicle was driven by a young lady of decided beauty, with a spice
of Amazonian spirit. She was rather slender and very straight, with a
jaunty little hat and feather perched coquettishly above her dark brown
hair, which was arranged in one heavy mass and confined in a silken net.
Her complexion was clear, without brilliancy; her eyes blue as the
ocean horizon, and spanned by sharp, characteristic brows; her mouth
small and decisive; and her whole cast of features indicative of quick
talent and independence.
Upon the seat beside her sat another damsel, leaning indolently back in
the corner of the carriage. This one was a little fairer than the first,
having one of those beautiful English complexions of mingled rose and
snow, and a dash of gold-dust in her hair where the sun touched it. Her
eyes, however, were dark hazel and full of fire, shaded and intensified
by their long, sweeping lashes. Her mouth was a rosebud, and her chin
and throat faultless in the delicious curve of their lines. In a word,
she was somewhat of the Venus-di-Milo type; her companion was more of a
Diana. Both were neatly habited in plain travelling-dresses and cloaks
of black and white plaid, and both seemed utterly unconscious of the
battery of eyes and eye-glasses that enfiladed them from the whole
length of the piazza as they passed.
"Who are they?" asked Salsbury; "I don't know them."
"Nor I," said Burnham; "but they look like people to know. They must be
Half an hour later the hotel-office was besieged by a score of young
men, all anxious for a peep at the last names upon the register. It is
needless to say that our friends were not in the crowd. Ned Salsbury was
no more the man to exhibit curiosity than Charley Burnham was the man
to join in a scramble for anything under the sun. They had educated
their emotions clear down, out of sight, and piled upon them a mountain
of well-bred inertia.
But, somehow or other, these fellows who take no trouble are always the
first to gain the end. A special Providence seems to aid the poor,
helpless creatures. So, while the crowd still pressed at the
office-desk, Jerry Swayne, the head clerk, happened to pass directly by
the piazza where the inert ones sat, and, raising a comical eye, saluted
"Heavy arrivals to-night. See the turnout?"
"Y-e-s," murmured Ned.
"Old Chapman and family. His daughter drove the pony-phaeton, with her
friend, a Miss Thurston. Regular nobby ones. Chapman's the steam-ship
man, you know. Worth thousands of millions! I'd like to be connected
with his family—by marriage, say!"—and Jerry went off, rubbing his
cropped head and smiling all over, as was his wont.
"I know who they are now," said Charley. "Met a cousin of theirs, Joe
Faulkner, abroad two years ago. Doocéd fine fellow. Army."
The manly art of wagoning is not pursued vigorously at Brant Beach. The
roads are too heavy back from the water, and the drive is confined to a
narrow strip of wet sand along the shore; so carriages are few, and the
pony-chaise became a distinguished element at once. Salsbury and Burnham
whirled past it in their light trotting-wagons at a furious pace, and
looked hard at the two young ladies in passing, but without eliciting
even the smallest glance from them in return.
"Confounded distingué-looking girls, and all that," owned Ned, "but,
aw, fearfully unconscious of a fellow!"
This condition of matters continued until the young men were actually
driven to acknowledge to each other that they should not mind knowing
the occupants of the pony carriage. It was a great concession, and was
rewarded duly. A bright, handsome boy of seventeen, Miss Thurston's
brother, came to pass a few days at the seaside, and fraternized with
everybody, but was especially delighted with Ned Salsbury, who took him
out sailing and shooting, and, I am afraid, gave him cigars stealthily,
when out of range of Miss Thurston's fine eyes. The result was that the
first time the lad walked on the beach with the two girls and met the
young man, introductions of an enthusiastic nature were instantly sprung
upon them. An attempt at conversation followed.
"How do you like Brant Beach?" asked Ned.
"Oh, it is a very pretty place," said Miss Chapman, "but not lively
"Well, Burnham and I find it pleasant; aw, we have lots of fun."
"Indeed! Why, what do you do?"
"Oh, I don't know. Everything."
"Is the shooting good? I saw you with your guns yesterday."
"Well, there isn't a great deal of game. There is some fishing, but we
haven't caught much."
"How do you kill time, then?"
Salsbury looked puzzled.
"Aw—it is a first-rate air, you know. The table is good, and you can
sleep like a top. And then, you see, I like to smoke around, and do
nothing, on the sea-shore. It is real jolly to lie on the sand, aw, with
all sorts of little bugs running over you, and listen to the water
"Let's try it!" cried vivacious Miss Chapman; and down she sat on the
sand. The others followed her example, and in five minutes they were
picking up pretty pebbles and chatting away as sociably as could be. The
rumbling of the warning gong surprised them.
At dinner Burnham and Salsbury took seats opposite the ladies, and were
honored with an introduction to papa and mamma, a very dignified, heavy,
rosy, old-school couple, who ate a good deal and said very little. That
evening, when flute and viol wooed the lotos-eaters to agitate the light
fantastic toe, these young gentlemen found themselves in dancing humor,
and revolved themselves into a grievous condition of glow and wilt in
various mystic and intoxicating measures with their new-made friends.
On retiring, somewhat after midnight, Miss Thurston paused while "doing
her hair," and addressed Miss Chapman.
"Did you observe, Hattie, how very handsome those gentlemen are? Mr.
Burnham looks like a prince of the sang azur, and Mr. Salsbury like
"Yes, dear," responded Hattie; "I have been considering those flowers of
the field and lilies of the valley."
"Ned," said Charlie, at about the same time, "we won't find anything
nicer here this season, I think."
"They're pretty worth while," replied Ned, "and I'm rather pleased with
"Which do you like best?"
"Oh, bother! I haven't thought of that yet."
The next day the young men delayed their "constitutional" until the
ladies were ready to walk, and the four strolled off together, mamma and
the children following in the pony-chaise. At the rocks on the end of
the point Ned got his feet very wet fishing up specimens of seaweed for
the damsels; and Charley exerted himself super-humanly in assisting them
to a ledge which they considered favorable for sketching purposes.
In the afternoon a sail was arranged, and they took dinner on board the
boat, with any amount of hilarity and a good deal of discomfort. In the
evening more dancing and vigorous attentions to both the young ladies,
but without a shadow of partiality being shown by either of the four.
This was very nearly the history of many days. It does not take long to
get acquainted with people who are willing, especially at
watering-places; and in the course of a few weeks these young folks
were, to all intents and purposes, old friends—calling each other by
their given names, and conducting themselves with an easy familiarity
quite charming to behold. Their amusements were mostly in common now.
The light wagons were made to hold two each instead of one, and the
matinal snipe escaped death, and was happy over his early worm.
One day, however, Laura Thurston had a headache, and Hattie Chapman
stayed at home to take care of her; so Burnham and Salsbury had to amuse
themselves alone. They took their boat and idled about the waters inside
the point, dozing under an awning, smoking, gaping, and wishing that
headaches were out of fashion, while the taciturn and tarry skipper
instructed the dignified and urbane Thomas in the science of trolling
At length Ned tossed his cigar-end overboard and braced himself for an
"I say, Charlie," said he, "this sort of thing can't go on forever, you
know. I've been thinking lately."
"Phenomenon!" replied Charlie; "and what have you been thinking about?"
"Those girls. We've got to choose."
"Why? Isn't it well enough as it is?"
"Yes—so far. But I think, aw, that we don't quite do them justice.
They're grands partis, you see. I hate to see clever girls wasting
themselves on society, waiting and waiting, and we fellows swimming
about just like fish around a hook that isn't baited properly."
Charley raised himself upon his elbow.
"You don't mean to tell me, Ned, that you have matrimonial intentions?"
"Oh, no! Still, why not? We've all got to come to it some day, I
"Not yet, though. It is a sacrifice we can escape for some years yet."
"Yes—of course—some years; but we may begin to look about us a bit.
I'm, aw, I'm six and twenty, you know."
"And I'm very near that. I suppose a fellow can't put off the yoke too
long. After thirty chances aren't so good. I don't know, by Jove! but
what we ought to begin thinking of it."
"But it is a sacrifice. Society must lose a fellow, though, one time
or another. And I don't believe we will ever do better than we can now."
"Hardly, I suspect."
"And we're keeping other fellows away, maybe. It is a shame!"
Thomas ran his line in rapidly, with nothing on the hook.
"Cap'n Hull," he said, gravely, "I had the biggest kind of a fish then
I'm sure; but d'rectly I went to pull him in, sir, he took and let go."
"Yaas," muttered the taciturn skipper, "the biggest fish allers falls
back inter the warter."
"I've been thinking a little about this matter, too," said Charlie,
after a pause, "and I had about concluded we ought to pair off. But I'll
be confounded if I know which is the best! They're both nice girls."
"There isn't much choice," Ned replied. "If they were as different, now,
as you and me, I'd take the blonde, of course, aw, and you'd take the
brunette. But Hattie Chapman's eyes are blue, and her hair isn't black,
you know, so you can't call her dark, exactly."
"No more than Laura is exactly light. Her hair is brown more than
golden, and her eyes are hazel. Hasn't she a lovely complexion, though?
"Better than Hattie's. Yet I don't know but Hattie's features are a
little the best."
"They are. Now, honest, Ned, which do you prefer? Say either; I'll take
the one you don't want. I haven't any choice."
"Neither have I."
"How shall we settle?"
"Aw, throw for it?"
"Yes. Isn't there a backgammon board forward, in that locker, Thomas?"
The board was found and the dice produced.
"The highest takes which?"
"Say Laura Thurston."
"Very good; throw."
"No. Go on."
Charlie threw with about the same amount of excitement he might have
exhibited in a turkey raffle.
"Five-three," said he; "now for your luck."
"Six-four! Laura's mine. Satisfied?"
"Perfectly—if you are. If not, I don't mind exchanging."
"Oh, no. I'm satisfied."
Both reclined upon the deck once more with a sigh of relief, and a long
"I say," began Charlie, after a time, "it is a comfort to have these
little matters arranged without any trouble, eh?"
"Do you know, I think I'll marry mine?"
"I will, if you will."
"Done! It is a bargain."
This "little matter" being arranged, a change gradually took place in
the relations of the four. Ned Salsbury began to invite Laura Thurston
out driving and bathing somewhat oftener than before, and Hattie Chapman
somewhat less often; while Charlie Burnham followed suit with the
last-named young lady. As the line of demarcation became fixed, the
damsels recognized it, and accepted with gracious readiness the
cavaliers that Fate, through the agency of a chance-falling pair of
dice, had allotted to them.
The other guests of the house remarked the new position of affairs, and
passed whispers about it to the effect that the girls had at last
succeeded in getting their fish on hooks instead of in a net. No
suitors could have been more devoted than our friends. It seemed as if
each knight bestowed upon the chosen one all the attentions he had
hitherto given to both; and whether they went boating, sketching, or
strolling upon the sands, they were the very picture of a partie
carrée of lovers.
Naturally enough, as the young men became more in earnest, with the
reticence common to my sex they spoke less frequently and freely on the
subject. Once, however, after an unusually pleasant afternoon, Salsbury
ventured a few words.
"I say, we're a couple of lucky dogs! Who'd have thought now, aw, that
our summer was going to turn out so well? I'm sure I didn't. How do you
get along, Charley, boy?"
"Deliciously. Smooth sailing enough. Wasn't it a good idea, though, to
pair off? I'm just as happy as a bee in clover. You seem to prosper,
"Couldn't ask anything different. Nothing but devotion, and all that.
I'm delighted. I say, when are you going to pop?"
"Oh, I don't know. It is only a matter of form. Sooner the better, I
suppose, and have it over."
"I was thinking of next week. What do you say to a quiet picnic down on
the rocks, and a walk afterwards? We can separate, you know, and do the
thing up systematically."
"All right. I will, if you will."
"That's another bargain. I notice there isn't much doubt about the
A close observer might have seen that the gentlemen increased their
attentions a little from time to time. The objects of their devotion
perceived it, and smiled more and more graciously upon them.
The day set for the picnic arrived duly, and was radiant. It pains me to
confess that my heroes were a trifle nervous. Their apparel was more
gorgeous and wonderful than ever, and Thomas, who was anxious to be off
courting Miss Chapman's lady's-maid, found his masters dreadfully
exacting in the matter of hair-dressing. At length, however, the toilet
was over, and "Solomon in all his glory" would have been vastly
astonished at finding himself "arrayed as one of these."
The boat lay at the pier, receiving large quantities of supplies for the
trip, stowed by Thomas, under the supervision of the grim and tarry
skipper. When all was ready the young men gingerly escorted their fair
companions aboard, the lines were cast off, and the boat glided gently
down the bay, leaving Thomas free to fly to the smart presence of Susan
Jane and to draw glowing pictures for her of a neat little porter-house
in the city, wherein they should hold supreme sway, be happy with each
other, and let rooms up-stairs for single gentlemen.
The brisk land breeze swelling the sail, the fluttering of the gay
little flag at the gaff, the musical rippling of water under the
counter, and the spirited motion of the boat combined, with the bland
air and pleasant sunshine, to inspire the party with much vivacity. They
had not been many minutes afloat before the guitar-case was opened, and
the girls' voices—Laura's soprano and Hattie's contralto—rang
melodiously over the waves, mingled with feeble attempt at bass
accompaniment from their gorgeous guardians.
Before these vocal exercises wearied, the skipper hauled down his jib,
let go his anchor, and brought the craft to just off the rocks; and
bringing the yawl alongside, unceremoniously plucked the girls down into
it, without giving their cavaliers a chance for the least display of
agile courtliness. Rowing ashore, this same tarry person left them
huddled upon the beach, with their hopes, their hampers, their emotions,
and their baskets, and returned to the vessel to do a little private
fishing on his own account till wanted.
The maidens gave vent to their high spirits by chasing each other among
the rocks, gathering shells and seaweed for the construction of those
ephemeral little ornaments—fair, but frail—in which the sex delights,
singing, laughing, quoting poetry, attitudinizing upon the peaks and
ledges of the fine old boulders—mossy and weedy and green with the wash
of a thousand storms, worn into strange shapes, and stained with the
multitudinous dyes of mineral oxidization—and, in brief, behaved
themselves with all the charming abandon that so well becomes young
girls set free, by the entourage of a holiday ramble, from the buckram
and clear-starch of social etiquette.
Meanwhile Ned and Charley smoked the pensive cigar of preparation in a
sheltered corner, and gazed out seaward, dreaming and seeing nothing.
Erelong the breeze and the romp gave the young ladies not only a
splendid color and sparkling eyes, but excellent appetites also. The
baskets and hampers were speedily unpacked, the table-cloth laid on a
broad, flat stone, so used by generations of Brant House picnickers, and
the party fell to. Laura's beautiful hair, a little disordered, swept
her blooming cheek, and cast a pearly shadow upon her neck. Her bright
eyes glanced archly out from under her half-raised veil, and there was
something inexpressibly naïve in the freedom with which she ate,
taking a bird's wing in her fingers, and boldly attacking it with teeth
as white and even as can be imagined. Notwithstanding all the mawkish
nonsense that has been put forth by sentimentalists concerning feminine
eating, I hold that it is one of the nicest things in the world to see a
pretty woman enjoying the creature comforts; and Byron himself, had he
been one of this picnic party, would have been unable to resist the
admiration that filled the souls of Burnham and Salsbury. Hattie Chapman
stormed the fortress of boned turkey with a gusto equal to that of
Laura, and made highly successful raids upon certain outlying salads
and jellies. The young men were not in a very ravenous condition; they
were, as I have said, a little nervous, and bent their energies
principally to admiring the ladies and coquetting with pickled oysters.
When the repast was over, with much accompanying chat and laughter, Ned
glanced significantly at Charley, and proposed to Laura that they should
walk up the beach to a place where, he said, there were "some pretty
rocks and things, you know." She consented, and they marched off. Hattie
also arose, and took her parasol, as if to follow, but Charley remained
seated, tracing mysterious diagrams upon the table-cloth with his fork,
and looked sublimely unconscious.
"Sha'n't we walk, too?" Hattie asked.
"Oh, why, the fact is," said he, hesitatingly, "I—I sprained my ankle
getting out of that confounded boat, so I don't feel much like
exercising just now."
The young girl's face expressed concern.
"That is too bad! Why didn't you tell us of it before? Is it painful?
I'm so sorry!"
"N-no—it doesn't hurt much. I dare say it will be all right in a
minute. And then—I'd just as soon stay here—with you—as to walk
This very tenderly, with a little sigh.
Hattie sat down again, and began to talk to this factitious cripple in
the pleasant, purring way some damsels have, about the joys of the
sea-shore, the happy summer that was, alas! drawing to a close, her own
enjoyment of life, and kindred topics, till Charley saw an excellent
opportunity to interrupt with some aspirations of his own, which, he
averred, must be realized before his life would be considered a
If you had ever been placed in analogous circumstances, you know, of
course, just about the sort of thing that was being said by the two
gentlemen at nearly the same moment: Ned, loitering slowly along the
sands with Laura on his arm, and Charley, stretched in indolent
picturesqueness upon the rocks, with Hattie sitting beside him. If you
do not know from experience, ask any candid friend who has been through
the form and ceremony of an orthodox proposal.
When the pedestrians returned the two couples looked very hard at each
other. All were smiling and complacent, but devoid of any strange or
unusual expression. Indeed, the countenance is subject to such severe
education, in good society, that one almost always looks smiling and
complacent. Demonstration is not fashionable, and a man must preserve
the same demeanor over the loss of a wife or a glove-button, over the
gift of a heart's whole devotion or a bundle of cigars. Under all these
visitations the complacent smile is in favor as the neatest, most
serviceable, and convenient form of non-committalism.
The sun was approaching the blue range of misty hills that bounded the
mainland swamps by this time; so the skipper was signalled, the dinner
paraphernalia gathered up, and the party were soon en route for home
once more. When the young ladies were safely in, Ned and Charley met in
their room, and each caught the other looking at him stealthily. Both
"Did I give you time, Charley?" asked Ned; "we came back rather soon."
"Oh, yes; plenty of time."
"Did you—aw, did you pop?
"Y-yes. Did you?"
"And you were—"
"Rejected, by Jove!"
"So was I!"
The day following this disastrous picnic the baggage of Mr. Edwin
Salsbury and Mr. Charles Burnham was sent to the depot at Wikhasset
Station, and they presented themselves at the hotel-office with a
request for their bill. As Jerry Swayne deposited their key upon its
hook, he drew forth a small tri-cornered billet from the pigeon-hole
beneath, and presented it.
"Left for you this morning, gentlemen."
It was directed to both, and Charley read it over Ned's shoulder. It ran
"DEAR BOYS: The next time you divert yourselves by throwing dice
for two young ladies, we pray you not to do so in the presence of a
valet who is upon terms of intimacy with the maid of one of them.
"With many sincere thanks for the amusement
you have given us—often when you least suspected
it—we bid you a lasting adieu, and remain, with
the best wishes,
"It is all the fault of that, aw—that confounded Thomas!" said Ned.
So Thomas was discharged.
 Atlantic Monthly, June, 1863.
A MATHEMATICAL DEMONSTRATION.
BY E.P. MITCHELL.
There was nothing mysterious about Professor Surd's dislike for me. I
was the only poor mathematician in an exceptionally mathematical class.
The old gentleman sought the lecture-room every morning with eagerness,
and left it reluctantly. For was it not a thing of joy to find seventy
young men who, individually and collectively, preferred x to XX; who
had rather differentiate than dissipate; and for whom the limbs of the
heavenly bodies had more attractions than those of earthly stars upon
the spectacular stage?
So affairs went on swimmingly between the Professor of Mathematics and
the Junior Class at Polyp University. In every man of the seventy the
sage saw the logarithm of a possible La Place, of a Sturm, or of a
Newton. It was a delightful task for him to lead them through the
pleasant valleys of conic sections, and beside the still waters of the
integral calculus. Figuratively speaking, his problem was not a hard
one. He had only to manipulate, and eliminate, and to raise to a higher
power, and the triumphant result of examination day was assured.
But I was a disturbing element, a perplexing unknown quantity, which had
somehow crept into the work, and which seriously threatened to impair
the accuracy of his calculations. It was a touching sight to behold the
venerable mathematician as he pleaded with me not so utterly to
disregard precedent in the use of cotangents; or as he urged, with eyes
almost tearful, that ordinates were dangerous things to trifle with. All
in vain. More theorems went on to my cuff than into my head. Never did
chalk do so much work to so little purpose. And, therefore, it came that
Furnace Second was reduced to zero in Professor Surd's estimation. He
looked upon me with all the horror which an unalgebraic nature could
inspire. I have seen the Professor walk around an entire square rather
than meet the man who had no mathematics in his soul.
For Furnace Second were no invitations to Professor Surd's house.
Seventy of the class supped in delegations around the periphery of the
Professor's tea-table. The seventy-first knew nothing of the charms of
that perfect ellipse, with its twin bunches of fuchsias and geraniums
in gorgeous precision at the two foci.
This, unfortunately enough, was no trifling deprivation. Not that I
longed especially for segments of Mrs. Surd's justly celebrated lemon
pies; not that the spheroidal damsons of her excellent preserving had
any marked allurements; not even that I yearned to hear the Professor's
jocose table-talk about binomials, and chatty illustrations of abstruse
paradoxes. The explanation is far different. Professor Surd had a
daughter. Twenty years before, he made a proposition of marriage to the
present Mrs. S. He added a little Corollary to his proposition not long
after. The Corollary was a girl.
Abscissa Surd was as perfectly symmetrical as Giotto's circle, and as
pure, withal, as the mathematics her father taught. It was just when
spring was coming to extract the roots of frozen-up vegetation that I
fell in love with the Corollary. That she herself was not indifferent I
soon had reason to regard as a self-evident truth.
The sagacious reader will already recognize nearly all the elements
necessary to a well-ordered plot. We have introduced a heroine, inferred
a hero, and constructed a hostile parent after the most approved model.
A movement for the story, a Deus ex machina, is alone lacking. With
considerable satisfaction I can promise a perfect novelty in this line,
a Deus ex machina never before offered to the public.
It would be discounting ordinary intelligence to say that I sought with
unwearying assiduity to figure my way into the stern father's good-will;
that never did dullard apply himself to mathematics more patiently than
I; that never did faithfulness achieve such meagre reward. Then I
engaged a private tutor. His instructions met with no better success.
My tutor's name was Jean Marie Rivarol. He was a unique Alsatian—though
Gallic in name, thoroughly Teuton in nature; by birth a Frenchman, by
education a German. His age was thirty; his profession, omniscience; the
wolf at his door, poverty; the skeleton in his closet, a consuming but
unrequited passion. The most recondite principles of practical science
were his toys; the deepest intricacies of abstract science his
diversions. Problems which were foreordained mysteries to me were to him
as clear as Tahoe water. Perhaps this very fact will explain our lack of
success in the relation of tutor and pupil; perhaps the failure is alone
due to my own unmitigated stupidity. Rivarol had hung about the skirts
of the University for several years; supplying his few wants by writing
for scientific journals, or by giving assistance to students who, like
myself, were characterized by a plethora of purse and a paucity of
ideas; cooking, studying and sleeping in his attic lodgings; and
prosecuting queer experiments all by himself.
We were not long discovering that even this eccentric genius could not
transplant brains into my deficient skull. I gave over the struggle in
despair. An unhappy year dragged its slow length around. A gloomy year
it was, brightened only by occasional interviews with Abscissa, the
Abbie of my thoughts and dreams.
Commencement day was coming on apace. I was soon to go forth, with the
rest of my class, to astonish and delight a waiting world. The Professor
seemed to avoid me more than ever. Nothing but the conventionalities, I
think kept him from shaping his treatment of me on the basis of
At last, in the very recklessness of despair, I resolved to see him,
plead with him, threaten him if need be, and risk all my fortunes on one
desperate chance. I wrote him a somewhat defiant letter, stating my
aspirations, and, as I flattered myself, shrewdly giving him a week to
get over the first shock of horrified surprise. Then I was to call and
learn my fate.
During the week of suspense I nearly worried myself into a fever. It was
first crazy hope, and then saner despair. On Friday evening, when I
presented myself at the Professor's door, I was such a haggard, sleepy,
dragged-out spectre, that even Miss Jocasta, the harsh-favored maiden
sister of the Surd's, admitted me with commiserate regard, and suggested
Professor Surd was at a faculty meeting. Would I wait?
Yes, till all was blue, if need be. Miss Abbie?
Abscissa had gone to Wheelborough to visit a school-friend. The aged
maiden hoped I would make myself comfortable, and departed to the
unknown haunts which knew Jocasta's daily walk.
Comfortable! But I settled myself in a great uneasy chair and waited,
with the contradictory spirit common to such junctures, dreading every
step lest it should herald the man whom, of all men, I wished to see.
I had been there at least an hour, and was growing right drowsy.
At length Professor Surd came in. He sat down in the dusk opposite me,
and I thought his eyes glinted with malignant pleasure as he said,
"So, young man, you think you are a fit husband for my girl?"
I stammered some inanity about making up in affection what I lacked in
merit; about my expectations, family and the like. He quickly
"You misapprehend me, sir. Your nature is destitute of those
mathematical perceptions and acquirements which are the only sure
foundations of character. You have no mathematics in you. You are fit
for treason, stratagems, and spoils.—Shakespeare. Your narrow intellect
cannot understand and appreciate a generous mind. There is all the
difference between you and a Surd, if I may say it, which intervenes
between an infinitesimal and an infinite. Why, I will even venture to
say that you do not comprehend the Problem of the Couriers!"
I admitted that the Problem of the Couriers should be classed rather
without my list of accomplishments than within it. I regretted this
fault very deeply, and suggested amendment. I faintly hoped that my
fortune would be such—
"Money!" he impatiently exclaimed. "Do you seek to bribe a Roman Senator
with a penny whistle? Why, boy, do you parade your paltry wealth, which,
expressed in mills, will not cover ten decimal places, before the eyes
of a man who measures the planets in their orbits, and close crowds
I hastily disclaimed any intention of obtruding my foolish dollars, and
he went on:
"Your letter surprised me not a little. I thought you would be the
last person in the world to presume to an alliance here. But having a
regard for you personally"—and again I saw malice twinkle in his small
eyes—"and still more regard for Abscissa's happiness, I have decided
that you shall have her—upon conditions. Upon conditions," he repeated,
with a half-smothered sneer.
"What are they?" cried I, eagerly enough. "Only name them."
"Well, sir," he continued, and the deliberation of his speech seemed the
very refinement of cruelty, "you have only to prove yourself worthy an
alliance with a mathematical family. You have only to accomplish a task
which I shall presently give you. Your eyes ask me what it is. I will
tell you. Distinguish yourself in that noble branch of abstract science
in which, you cannot but acknowledge, you are at present sadly
deficient. I will place Abscissa's hand in yours whenever you shall come
before me and square the circle to my satisfaction. No! That is too easy
a condition. I should cheat myself. Say perpetual motion. How do you
like that? Do you think it lies within the range of your mental
capabilities? You don't smile. Perhaps your talents don't run in the way
of perpetual motion. Several people have found that theirs didn't. I'll
give you another chance. We were speaking of the Problem of the
Couriers, and I think you expressed a desire to know more of that
ingenious question. You shall have the opportunity. Sit down some day,
when you have nothing else to do, and discover the principle of infinite
speed. I mean the law of motion which shall accomplish an infinitely
great distance in an infinitely short time. You may mix in a little
practical mechanics, if you choose. Invent some method of taking the
tardy Courier over his road at the rate of sixty miles a minute.
Demonstrate me this discovery (when you have made it!) mathematically,
and approximate it practically, and Abscissa is yours. Until you can, I
will thank you to trouble neither myself nor her."
I could stand his mocking no longer. I stumbled mechanically out of the
room, and out of the house. I even forgot my hat and gloves. For an
hour I walked in the moonlight. Gradually I succeeded to a more hopeful
frame of mind. This was due to my ignorance of mathematics. Had I
understood the real meaning of what he asked, I should have been utterly
Perhaps this problem of sixty miles a minute was not so impossible after
all. At any rate I could attempt, though I might not succeed. And
Rivarol came to my mind. I would ask him. I would enlist his knowledge
to accompany my own devoted perseverance. I sought his lodgings at once.
The man of science lived in the fourth story, back. I had never been in
his room before. When I entered, he was in the act of filling a beer mug
from a carboy labelled Aqua fortis.
"Seat you," he said. "No, not in that chair. That is my Petty Cash
Adjuster." But he was a second too late. I had carelessly thrown myself
into a chair of seductive appearance. To my utter amazement it reached
out two skeleton arms and clutched me with a grasp against which I
struggled in vain. Then a skull stretched itself over my shoulder and
grinned with ghastly familiarity close to my face.
Rivarol came to my aid with many apologies. He touched a spring
somewhere and the Petty Cash Adjuster relaxed its horrid hold. I placed
myself gingerly in a plain cane-bottomed rocking-chair, which Rivarol
assured me was a safe location.
"That seat," he said, "is an arrangement upon which I much felicitate
myself. I made it at Heidelberg. It has saved me a vast deal of small
annoyance. I consign to its embraces the friends who bore, and the
visitors who exasperate, me. But it is never so useful as when
terrifying some tradesman with an insignificant account. Hence the pet
name which I have facetiously given it. They are invariably too glad to
purchase release at the price of a bill receipted. Do you well apprehend
While the Alsatian diluted his glass of Aqua fortis, shook into it an
infusion of bitters, and tossed off the bumper with apparent relish, I
had time to look around the strange apartment.
The four corners of the room were occupied respectively by a
turning-lathe, a Rhumkorff Coil, a small steam-engine and an orrery in
stately motion. Tables, shelves, chairs and floor supported an odd
aggregation of tools, retorts, chemicals, gas-receivers, philosophical
instruments, boots, flasks, paper-collar boxes, books diminutive and
books of preposterous size. There were plaster busts of Aristotle,
Archimedes, and Comte, while a great drowsy owl was blinking away,
perched on the benign brow of Martin Farquhar Tupper. "He always roosts
there when he proposes to slumber," explained my tutor. "You are a bird
of no ordinary mind. Schlafen Sie wohl."
Through a closet door, half open, I could see a human-like form covered
with a sheet. Rivarol caught my glance.
"That," said he, "will be my masterpiece. It is a Microcosm, an
Android, as yet only partially complete. And why not? Albertus Magnus
constructed an image perfect to talk metaphysics and confute the
schools. So did Sylvester II.; so did Robertus Greathead. Roger Bacon
made a brazen head that held discourses. But the first named of these
came to destruction. Thomas Aquinas got wrathful at some of its
syllogisms and smashed its head. The idea is reasonable enough. Mental
action will yet be reduced to laws as definite as those which govern the
physical. Why should not I accomplish a manikin which shall preach as
original discourses as the Rev. Dr. Allchin, or talk poetry as
mechanically as Paul Anapest? My Android can already work problems in
vulgar fractions and compose sonnets. I hope to teach it the Positive
Out of the bewildering confusion of his effects Rivarol produced two
pipes and filled them. He handed one to me.
"And here," he said, "I live and am tolerably comfortable. When my coat
wears out at the elbows I seek the tailor and am measured for another.
When I am hungry I promenade myself to the butcher's and bring home a
pound or so of steak, which I cook very nicely in three seconds by this
oxy-hydrogen flame. Thirsty, perhaps, I send for a carboy of Aqua
fortis. But I have it charged, all charged. My spirit is above any
small pecuniary transaction. I loathe your dirty greenbacks, and never
handle what they call scrip."
"But are you never pestered with bills?" I asked. "Don't the creditors
worry your life out?"
"Creditors!" gasped Rivarol. "I have learned no such word in your very
admirable language. He who will allow his soul to be vexed by creditors
is a relic of an imperfect civilization. Of what use is science if it
cannot avail a man who has accounts current? Listen. The moment you or
any one else enters the outside door this little electric bell sounds me
warning. Every successive step on Mrs. Grimier's staircase is a spy and
informer vigilant for my benefit. The first step is trod upon. That
trusty first step immediately telegraphs your weight. Nothing could be
simpler. It is exactly like any platform scale. The weight is registered
up here upon this dial. The second step records the size of my visitor's
feet. The third his height, the fourth his complexion, and so on. By the
time he reaches the top of the first flight I have a pretty accurate
description of him right here at my elbow, and quite a margin of time
for deliberation and action. Do you follow me? It is plain enough. Only
the A B C of my science."
"I see all that," I said, "but I don't see how it helps you any. The
knowledge that a creditor is coming won't pay his bill. You can't escape
unless you jump out of the window."
Rivarol laughed softly. "I will tell you. You shall see what becomes of
any poor devil who goes to demand money of me—of a man of science. Ha!
ha! It pleases me. I was seven weeks perfecting my Dun Suppressor. Did
you know"—he whispered exultingly—"did you know that there is a hole
through the earth's centre? Physicists have long suspected it; I was the
first to find it. You have read how Rhuyghens, the Dutch navigator,
discovered in Kerguellen's Land an abysmal pit which fourteen hundred
fathoms of plumb-line failed to sound. Herr Tom, that hole has no
bottom! It runs from one surface of the earth to the antipodal surface.
It is diametric. But where is the antipodal spot? You stand upon it. I
learned this by the merest chance. I was deep-digging in Mrs. Grimler's
cellar, to bury a poor cat I had sacrificed in a galvanic experiment,
when the earth under my spade crumbled, caved in, and wonder-stricken I
stood upon the brink of a yawning shaft. I dropped a coal-hod in. It
went down, down down, bounding and rebounding. In two hours and a
quarter that coal-hod came up again. I caught it and restored it to the
angry Grimler. Just think a minute. The coal-hod went down, faster and
faster, till it reached the centre of the earth. There it would stop,
were it not for acquired momentum. Beyond the centre its journey was
relatively upward, toward the opposite surface of the globe. So, losing
velocity, it went slower and slower till it reached that surface. Here
it came to rest for a second and then fell back again, eight thousand
odd miles, into my hands. Had I not interfered with it, it would have
repeated its journey, time after time, each trip of shorter extent,
like the diminishing oscillations of a pendulum, till it finally came
to eternal rest at the centre of the sphere. I am not slow to give a
practical application to any such grand discovery. My Dun Suppressor was
born of it. A trap, just outside my chamber door: a spring in here: a
creditor on the trap:—need I say more?"
"But isn't it a trifle inhuman?" I mildly suggested. "Plunging an
unhappy being into a perpetual journey to and from Kerguellen's Land,
without a moment's warning."
"I give them a chance. When they come up the first time I wait at the
mouth of the shaft with a rope in hand. If they are reasonable and will
come to terms, I fling them the line. If they perish, 'tis their own
fault. Only," he added, with a melancholy smile, "the centre is getting
so plugged up with creditors that I am afraid there soon will be no
choice whatever for 'em."
By this time I had conceived a high opinion of my tutor's ability. If
anybody could send me waltzing through space at an infinite speed,
Rivarol could do it. I filled my pipe and told him the story. He heard
with grave and patient attention. Then, for full half an hour, he
whiffed away in silence. Finally he spoke.
"The ancient cipher has overreached himself. He has given you a choice
of two problems, both of which he deems insoluble. Neither of them is
insoluble. The only gleam of intelligence Old Cotangent showed was when
he said that squaring the circle was too easy. He was right. It would
have given you your Liebchen in five minutes. I squared the circle
before I discarded pantalets. I will show you the work—but it would be
a digression, and you are in no mood for digressions. Our first chance,
therefore, lies in perpetual motion. Now, my good friend, I will frankly
tell you that, although I have compassed this interesting problem, I do
not choose to use it in your behalf. I too, Herr Tom, have a heart. The
loveliest of her sex frowns upon me. Her somewhat mature charms are not
for Jean Marie Rivarol. She has cruelly said that her years demand of me
filial rather than connubial regard. Is love a matter of years or of
eternity? This question did I put to the cold, yet lovely Jocasta."
"Jocasta Surd!" I remarked in surprise, "Abscissa's aunt!"
"The same," he said, sadly. "I will not attempt to conceal that upon the
maiden Jocasta my maiden heart has been bestowed. Give me your hand, my
nephew in affliction as in affection!"
Rivarol dashed away a not discreditable tear, and resumed:
"My only hope lies in this discovery of perpetual motion. It will give
me the fame, the wealth. Can Jocasta refuse these? If she can, there is
only the trap-door and—Kerguellen's Land!"
I bashfully asked to see the perpetual-motion machine. My uncle in
affliction shook his head.
"At another time," he said. "Suffice it at present to say, that it is
something upon the principle of a woman's tongue. But you see now why we
must turn in your case to the alternative condition—infinite speed.
There are several ways in which this may be accomplished, theoretically.
By the lever, for instance. Imagine a lever with a very long and a very
short arm. Apply power to the shorter arm which will move it with great
velocity. The end of the long arm will move much faster. Now keep
shortening the short arm and lengthening the long one, and as you
approach infinity in their difference of length, you approach infinity
in the speed of the long arm. It would be difficult to demonstrate this
practically to the Professor. We must seek another solution. Jean Marie
will meditate. Come to me in a fortnight. Good-night. But stop! Have you
the money—das Geld?"
"Much more than I need."
"Good! Let us strike hands. Gold and Knowledge; Science and Love. What
may not such a partnership achieve? We go to conquer thee, Abscissa.
When, at the end of a fortnight, I sought Rivarol's chamber, I passed
with some little trepidation over the terminus of the Air Line to
Kerguellen's Land, and evaded the extended arms of the Petty Cash
Adjuster. Rivarol drew a mug of ale for me, and filled himself a retort
of his own peculiar beverage.
"Come," he said at length. "Let us drink success to the TACHYPOMP."
"Yes. Why not? Tachu, quickly, and pempo, pepompa to send. May it
send you quickly to your wedding-day. Abscissa is yours. It is done.
When shall we start for the prairies?"
"Where is it?" I asked, looking in vain around the room for any
contrivance which might seem calculated to advance matrimonial
"It is here," and he gave his forehead a significant tap. Then he held
"There is force enough in existence to yield us a speed of sixty miles a
minute, or even more. All we need is the knowledge how to combine and
apply it. The wise man will not attempt to make some great force yield
some great speed. He will keep adding the little force to the little
force, making each little force yield its little speed, until an
aggregate of little forces shall be a great force, yielding an aggregate
of little speeds, a great speed. The difficulty is not in aggregating
the forces; it lies in the corresponding aggregation of the speeds. One
musket-ball will go, say a mile. It is not hard to increase the force of
muskets to a thousand, yet the thousand musket-balls will go no farther,
and no faster, than the one. You see, then, where our trouble lies. We
cannot readily add speed to speed, as we add force to force. My
discovery is simply the utilization of a principle which extorts an
increment of speed from each increment of power. But this is the
metaphysics of physics. Let us be practical or nothing.
"When you have walked forward, on a moving train, from the rear car,
toward the engine, did you ever think what you were really doing?"
"Why, yes, I have generally been going to the smoking-car to have a
"Tut, tut—not that! I mean, did it ever occur to you on such an
occasion, that absolutely you were moving faster than the train? The
train passes the telegraph poles at the rate of thirty miles an hour,
say. You walk toward the smoking-car at the rate of four miles an hour.
Then you pass the telegraph poles at the rate of thirty-four miles.
Your absolute speed is the speed of the engine, plus the speed of your
own locomotion. Do you follow me?"
I began to get an inkling of his meaning, and told him so.
"Very well. Let us advance a step. Your addition to the speed of the
engine is trivial, and the space in which you can exercise it, limited.
Now suppose two stations, A and B, two miles distant by the track.
Imagine a train of platform cars, the last car resting at station A. The
train is a mile long, say. The engine is therefore within a mile of
station B. Say the train can move a mile in ten minutes. The last car,
having two miles to go, would reach B in twenty minutes, but the engine,
a mile ahead, would get there in ten. You jump on the last car, at A, in
a prodigious hurry to reach Abscissa, who is at B. If you stay on the
last car it will be twenty long minutes before you see her. But the
engine reaches B and the fair lady in ten. You will be a stupid
reasoner, and an indifferent lover, if you don't put for the engine over
those platform cars, as fast as your legs will carry you. You can run a
mile, the length of the train, in ten minutes. Therefore, you reach
Abscissa when the engine does, or in ten minutes—ten minutes sooner
than if you had lazily sat down upon the rear car and talked politics
with the brakeman. You have diminished the time by one half. You have
added your speed to that of the locomotive to some purpose. Nicht
I saw it perfectly; much plainer, perhaps, for his putting in the clause
"This illustration, though a slow one, leads up to a principle which may
be carried to any extent. Our first anxiety will be to spare your legs
and wind. Let us suppose that the two miles of track are perfectly
straight, and make our train one platform car, a mile long, with
parallel rails laid upon its top. Put a little dummy engine on these
rails, and let it run to and fro along the platform car, while the
platform car is pulled along the ground track. Catch the idea? The dummy
takes your place. But it can run its mile much faster. Fancy that our
locomotive is strong enough to pull the platform car over the two miles
in two minutes. The dummy can attain the same speed. When the engine
reaches B in one minute, the dummy, having gone a mile a-top the
platform car, reaches B also. We have so combined the speeds of those
two engines as to accomplish two miles in one minute. Is this all we can
do? Prepare to exercise your imagination."
I lit my pipe.
"Still two miles of straight track, between A and B. On the track a long
platform car, reaching from A to within a quarter of a mile of B. We
will now discard ordinary locomotives and adopt as our motive power a
series of compact magnetic engines, distributed underneath the platform
car, all along its length."
"I don't understand those magnetic engines."
"Well, each of them consists of a great iron horseshoe, rendered
alternately a magnet and not a magnet by an intermittent current of
electricity from a battery, this current in its turn regulated by
clock-work. When the horseshoe is in the circuit, it is a magnet, and it
pulls its clapper toward it with enormous power. When it is out of the
circuit, the next second, it is not a magnet, and it lets the clapper
go. The clapper, oscillating to and fro, imparts a rotatory motion to a
fly-wheel, which transmits it to the drivers on the rails. Such are our
motors. They are no novelty, for trial has proved them practicable.
"With a magnetic engine for every truck of wheels, we can reasonably
expect to move our immense car, and to drive it along at a speed, say,
of a mile a minute.
"The forward end, having but a quarter of a mile to go, will reach B in
fifteen seconds. We will call this platform car number 1. On top of
number 1 are laid rails on which another platform car, number 2, a
quarter of a mile shorter than number 1, is moved in precisely the same
way. Number 2, in its turn, is surmounted by number 3, moving
independently of the tiers beneath, and a quarter of a mile shorter than
number 2. Number 2 is a mile and a half long; number 3 a mile and a
quarter. Above, on successive levels, are number 4, a mile long; number
5, three quarters of a mile; number 6, half a mile; number 7, a quarter
of a mile, and number 8, a short passenger car, on top of all.
"Each car moves upon the car beneath it, independently of all the
others, at the rate of a mile a minute. Each car has its own magnetic
engines. Well, the train being drawn up with the latter end of each car
resting against a lofty bumping-post at A, Tom Furnace, the gentlemanly
conductor, and Jean Marie Rivarol, engineer, mount by a long ladder to
the exalted number 8. The complicated mechanism is set in motion. What
"Number 8 runs a quarter of a mile in fifteen seconds and reaches the
end of number 7. Meanwhile number 7 has run a quarter of a mile in the
same time and reached the end of number 6; number 6, a quarter of a mile
in fifteen seconds, and reached the end of number 5; number 5, the end
of number 4; number 4, of number 3; number 3, of number 2; number 2, of
number 1. And number 1, in fifteen seconds, has gone its quarter of a
mile along the ground track, and has reached station B. All this has
been done in fifteen seconds. Wherefore, numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,
and 8 come to rest against the bumping-post at B, at precisely the same
second. We, in number 8, reach B just when number 1 reaches it. In other
words, we accomplish two miles in fifteen seconds. Each of the eight
cars, moving at the rate of a mile a minute, has contributed a quarter
of a mile to our journey, and has done its work in fifteen seconds. All
the eight did their work at once, during the same fifteen seconds.
Consequently we have been whizzed through the air at the somewhat
startling speed of seven and a half seconds to the mile. This is the
Tachypomp. Does it justify the name?"
Although a little bewildered by the complexity of cars, I apprehended
the general principle of the machine. I made a diagram, and understood
it much better. "You have merely improved on the idea of my moving
faster than the train when I was going to the smoking car?"
"Precisely. So far we have kept within the bounds of the practicable. To
satisfy the Professor, you can theorize in something after this fashion:
If we double the number of cars, thus decreasing by one half the
distance which each has to go, we shall attain twice the speed. Each of
the sixteen cars will have but one eighth of a mile to go. At the
uniform rate we have adopted, the two miles can be done in seven and a
half instead of fifteen seconds. With thirty-two cars, and a sixteenth
of a mile, or twenty rods difference in their length, we arrive at the
speed of a mile in less than two seconds; with sixty-four cars, each
travelling but ten rods, a mile under the second. More than sixty miles
a minute! If this isn't rapid enough for the Professor, tell him to go
on, increasing the number of his cars and diminishing the distance each
one has to run. If sixty-four cars yield a speed of a mile inside the
second, let him fancy a Tachypomp of six hundred and forty cars, and
amuse himself calculating the rate of car number 640. Just whisper to
him that when he has an infinite number of cars with an infinitesimal
difference in their lengths, he will have obtained that infinite speed
for which he seems to yearn. Then demand Abscissa."
I wrung my friend's hand in silent and grateful admiration. I could say
"You have listened to the man of theory," he said proudly. "You shall
now behold the practical engineer. We will go to the west of the
Mississippi and find some suitably level locality. We will erect thereon
a model Tachypomp. We will summon thereunto the professor, his daughter,
and why not his fair sister Jocasta, as well? We will take them a
journey which shall much astonish the venerable Surd. He shall place
Abscissa's digits in yours and bless you both with an algebraic formula.
Jocasta shall contemplate with wonder the genius of Rivarol. But we have
much to do. We must ship to St. Joseph the vast amount of material to
be employed in the construction of the Tachypomp. We must engage a small
army of workmen to effect that construction, for we are to annihilate
time and space. Perhaps you had better see your bankers."
I rushed impetuously to the door. There should be no delay.
"Stop! stop! Um Gottes Willen, stop!" shrieked Rivarol. "I launched my
butcher this morning and I haven't bolted the——"
But it was too late. I was upon the trap. It swung open with a crash,
and I was plunged down, down, down! I felt as if I were falling through
illimitable space. I remember wondering, as I rushed through the
darkness, whether I should reach Kerguellen's Land or stop at the
centre. It seemed an eternity. Then my course was suddenly and painfully
I opened my eyes. Around me were the walls of Professor Surd's study.
Under me was a hard, unyielding plane which I knew too well was
Professor Surd's study floor. Behind me was the black, slippery,
hair-cloth chair which had belched me forth, much as the whale served
Jonah. In front of me stood Professor Surd himself, looking down with a
not unpleasant smile.
"Good-evening, Mr. Furnace. Let me help you up. You look tired, sir. No
wonder you fell asleep when I kept you so long waiting. Shall I get you
a glass of wine? No? By the way, since receiving your letter I find
that you are a son of my old friend, Judge Furnace. I have made
inquiries, and see no reason why you should not make Abscissa a good
Still I can see no reason why the Tachypomp should not have succeeded.
 Scribner's Monthly, March, 1874.