ALONZO FITZ AND OTHER STORIES
It was well along in the forenoon of a bitter winter's
day. The town of
Presently the sky darkened; then the wind rose and began to blow in fitful, vigorous gusts, which sent clouds of powdery snow aloft, and straight ahead, and everywhere. Under the impulse of one of these gusts, great white drifts banked themselves like graves across the streets; a moment later another gust shifted them around the other way, driving a fine spray of snow from their sharp crests, as the gale drives the spume flakes from wave-crests at sea; a third gust swept that place as clean as your hand, if it saw fit. This was fooling, this was play; but each and all of the gusts dumped some snow into the sidewalk ditches, for that was business.
Alonzo Fitz Clarence was sitting in his snug and elegant little parlor, in a lovely blue silk dressing-gown, with cuffs and facings of crimson satin, elaborately quilted. The remains of his breakfast were before him, and the dainty and costly little table service added a harmonious charm to the grace, beauty, and richness of the fixed appointments of the room. A cheery fire was blazing on the hearth.
A furious gust of wind shook the windows, and a great wave of snow washed against them with a drenching sound, so to speak. The handsome young bachelor murmured:
"That means, no going out to-day. Well, I am content. But what to do for company? Mother is well enough, Aunt Susan is well enough; but these, like the poor, I have with me always. On so grim a day as this, one needs a new interest, a fresh element, to whet the dull edge of captivity. That was very neatly said, but it doesn't mean anything. One doesn't want the edge of captivity sharpened up, you know, but just the reverse."
He glanced at his pretty French mantel-clock.
"That clock's wrong again. That clock hardly ever knows what time it is; and when it does know, it lies about it--which amounts to the same thing. Alfred!"
There was no answer.
"Alfred! . . . Good servant, but as uncertain as the clock."
Alonzo touched an electric bell button in the wall. He waited a moment, then touched it again; waited a few moments more, and said:
"Well, that's no use. Mother's battery is out of order, too. Can't raise anybody down-stairs--that is plain."
He sat down at a rosewood desk, leaned his chin on the left-hand edge of it and spoke, as if to the floor: "Aunt Susan!"
A low, pleasant voice answered, "Is that you, Alonzo?'
"Yes. I'm too lazy and comfortable to go downstairs; I am in extremity, and I can't seem to scare up any help."
"Dear me, what is the matter?"
"Matter enough, I can tell you!"
"Oh, don't keep me in suspense, dear! What is it?"
"I want to know what time it is."
"You abominable boy, what a turn you did give me! Is that all?"
"All--on my honor. Calm yourself. Tell me the time, and receive my blessing."
"Just five minutes after nine. No charge--keep your blessing."
"Thanks. It wouldn't have impoverished me, aunty, nor so enriched you that you could live without other means."
He got up, murmuring, "Just five minutes after nine," and faced his clock. "Ah," said he, "you are doing better than usual. You are only thirty-four minutes wrong. Let me see . . . let me see. . . . Thirty-three and twenty-one are fifty-four; four times fifty-four are two hundred and thirty-six. One off, leaves two hundred and thirty-five. That's right."
He turned the hands of his clock forward till they marked twenty-five minutes to one, and said, "Now see if you can't keep right for a while --else I'll raffle you!"
He sat down at the desk again, and said, "Aunt Susan!"
"Yes, indeed, an hour ago."
"No--except sewing. Why?"
"Got any company?"
"No, but I expect some at half past nine."
"I wish I did. I'm lonesome. I want to talk to somebody."
"Very well, talk to me."
"But this is very private."
"Don't be afraid--talk right along, there's nobody here but me."
"I hardly know whether to venture or not, but--"
"But what? Oh, don't stop there! You know you can trust me, Alonzo--you know, you can."
"I feel it, aunt, but this is very serious. It affects me deeply--me, and all the family---even the whole community."
"Oh, Alonzo, tell me! I will never breathe a word of it. What is it?"
"Aunt, if I might dare--"
"Oh, please go on! I love you, and feel for you. Tell me all. Confide in me. What is it?"
"Plague take the weather! I don't see how you can have the heart to serve me so, Lon."
"There, there, aunty dear, I'm sorry; I am, on my honor. I won't do it again. Do you forgive me?"
"Yes, since you seem so sincere about it, though I know I oughtn't to. You will fool me again as soon as I have forgotten this time."
"No, I won't, honor bright. But such weather, oh, such weather! You've got to keep your spirits up artificially. It is snowy, and blowy, and gusty, and bitter cold! How is the weather with you?"
"Warm and rainy and melancholy. The mourners go about the streets with their umbrellas running streams from the end of every whalebone. There's an elevated double pavement of umbrellas, stretching down the sides of the streets as far as I can see. I've got a fire for cheerfulness, and the windows open to keep cool. But it is vain, it is useless: nothing comes in but the balmy breath of December, with its burden of mocking odors from the flowers that possess the realm outside, and rejoice in their lawless profusion whilst the spirit of man is low, and flaunt their gaudy splendors in his face while his soul is clothed in sackcloth and ashes and his heart breaketh."
Alonzo opened his lips to say, "You ought to print that, and get it framed," but checked himself, for he heard his aunt speaking to some one else. He went and stood at the window and looked out upon the wintry prospect. The storm was driving the snow before it more furiously than ever; window-shutters were slamming and banging; a forlorn dog, with bowed head and tail withdrawn from service, was pressing his quaking body against a windward wall for shelter and protection; a young girl was plowing knee-deep through the drifts, with her face turned from the blast, and the cape of her waterproof blowing straight rearward over her head. Alonzo shuddered, and said with a sigh, "Better the slop, and the sultry rain, and even the insolent flowers, than this!"
He turned from the window, moved a step, and stopped in a listening attitude. The faint, sweet notes of a familiar song caught his ear. He remained there, with his head unconsciously bent forward, drinking in the melody, stirring neither hand nor foot, hardly breathing. There was a blemish in the execution of the song, but to Alonzo it seemed an added charm instead of a defect. This blemish consisted of a marked flatting of the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh notes of the refrain or chorus of the piece. When the music ended, Alonzo drew a deep breath, and said, "Ah, I never have heard 'In the Sweet By-and-by' sung like that before!"
He stepped quickly to the desk, listened a moment, and said in a guarded, confidential voice, "Aunty, who is this divine singer?"
"She is the company I was expecting. Stays with me a month or two. I will introduce you. Miss--"
"For goodness' sake, wait a moment, Aunt Susan! You never stop to think what you are about!"
He flew to his bedchamber, and returned in a moment perceptibly changed in his outward appearance, and remarking, snappishly:
"Hang it, she would have introduced me to this angel in that sky-blue dressing-gown with red-hot lapels! Women never think, when they get a-going."
He hastened and stood by the desk, and said eagerly, "Now, Aunty, I am ready," and fell to smiling and bowing with all the persuasiveness and elegance that were in him.
"Very well. Miss Rosannah Ethelton, let me introduce to you my favorite nephew, Mr. Alonzo Fitz Clarence. There! You are both good people, and I like you; so I am going to trust you together while I attend to a few household affairs. Sit down, Rosannah; sit down, Alonzo. Good-by; I sha'n't be gone long."
Alonzo had been bowing and smiling all the while, and motioning imaginary young ladies to sit down in imaginary chairs, but now he took a seat himself, mentally saying, "Oh, this is luck! Let the winds blow now, and the snow drive, and the heavens frown! Little I care!"
While these young people chat themselves into an
acquaintanceship, let us take the liberty of inspecting the sweeter and fairer
of the two. She sat alone, at her
graceful ease, in a richly furnished apartment which was manifestly the private
parlor of a refined and sensible lady, if signs and symbols may go for
anything. For instance, by a low,
comfortable chair stood a dainty, top-heavy workstand, whose summit was a
fancifully embroidered shallow basket, with varicolored crewels, and other strings
and odds and ends protruding from under the gaping lid and hanging down in
negligent profusion. On the floor lay
bright shreds of Turkey red, Prussian blue, and kindred fabrics, bits of
ribbon, a spool or two, a pair of scissors, and a roll or so of tinted silken
stuffs. On a luxurious sofa, upholstered with some sort of soft Indian goods
wrought in black and gold threads interwebbed with other threads not so
pronounced in color, lay a great square of coarse white stuff, upon whose
surface a rich bouquet of flowers was growing, under the deft cultivation of
the crochet-needle. The household cat
was asleep on this work of art. In a bay-window stood an easel with an
unfinished picture on it, and a palette and brushes on a chair beside it. There were books everywhere: Robertson's
Sermons, Tennyson, Moody and Sankey,
But the sweet young girl was the daintiest thing these premises, within or without, could offer for contemplation: delicately chiseled features, of Grecian cast; her complexion the pure snow of a japonica that is receiving a faint reflected enrichment from some scarlet neighbor of the garden; great, soft blue eyes fringed with long, curving lashes; an expression made up of the trustfulness of a child and the gentleness of a fawn; a beautiful head crowned with its own prodigal gold; a lithe and rounded figure, whose every attitude and movement was instinct with native grace.
Her dress and adornment were marked by that exquisite harmony that can come only of a fine natural taste perfected by culture. Her gown was of a simple magenta tulle, cut bias, traversed by three rows of light-blue flounces, with the selvage edges turned up with ashes-of-roses chenille; overdress of dark bay tarlatan with scarlet satin lambrequins; corn-colored polonaise, en zanier, looped with mother-of-pearl buttons and silver cord, and hauled aft and made fast by buff velvet lashings; basque of lavender reps, picked out with valenciennes; low neck, short sleeves; maroon velvet necktie edged with delicate pink silk; inside handkerchief of some simple three-ply ingrain fabric of a soft saffron tint; coral bracelets and locket-chain; coiffure of forget-me-nots and lilies-of-the-valley massed around a noble calla.
This was all; yet even in this subdued attire she was divinely beautiful. Then what must she have been when adorned for the festival or the ball?
All this time she had been busily chatting with Alonzo, unconscious of our inspection. The minutes still sped, and still she talked. But by and by she happened to look up, and saw the clock. A crimson blush sent its rich flood through her cheeks, and she exclaimed:
"There, good-by, Mr. Fitz Clarence; I must go now!"
She sprang from her chair with such haste that she hardly heard the young man's answering good-by. She stood radiant, graceful, beautiful, and gazed, wondering, upon the accusing clock. Presently her pouting lips parted, and she said:
"Five minutes after eleven! Nearly two hours, and it did not seem twenty minutes! Oh, dear, what will he think of me!"
At the self-same moment Alonzo was staring at his clock. And presently he said:
"Twenty-five minutes to three! Nearly two hours, and I didn't believe it was two minutes! Is it possible that this clock is humbugging again? Miss Ethelton! Just one moment, please. Are you there yet?"
"Yes, but be quick; I'm going right away."
"Would you be so kind as to tell me what time it is?"
The girl blushed again, murmured to herself, "It's right down cruel of him to ask me!" and then spoke up and answered with admirably counterfeited unconcern, "Five minutes after eleven."
"Oh, thank you! You have to go, now, have you?"
"You you're there yet, ain't you?"
"Yes; but please hurry. What did you want to say?"
"Well, I--well, nothing in particular. It's very lonesome here. It's asking a great deal, I know, but would you mind talking with me again by and by--that is, if it will not trouble you too much?"
"I don't know but I'll think about it. I'll try."
"Oh, thanks! Miss Ethelton! . . . Ah, me, she's gone, and here are the black clouds and the whirling snow and the raging winds come again! But she said good-by. She didn't say good morning, she said good-by! . . . The clock was right, after all. What a lightning-winged two hours it was!"
He sat down, and gazed dreamily into his fire for a while, then heaved a sigh and said:
"How wonderful it is!
Two little hours ago I was a free man, and now my heart's
About that time Rosannah Ethelton, propped in the window-seat of her bedchamber, book in hand, was gazing vacantly out over the rainy seas that washed the Golden Gate, and whispering to herself, "How different he is from poor Burley, with his empty head and his single little antic talent of mimicry!"
Four weeks later Mr. Sidney Algernon Burley was entertaining a gay luncheon company, in a sumptuous drawing-room on Telegraph Hill, with some capital imitations of the voices and gestures of certain popular actors and San Franciscan literary people and Bonanza grandees. He was elegantly upholstered, and was a handsome fellow, barring a trifling cast in his eye. He seemed very jovial, but nevertheless he kept his eye on the door with an expectant and uneasy watchfulness. By and by a nobby lackey appeared, and delivered a message to the mistress, who nodded her head understandingly. That seemed to settle the thing for Mr. Burley; his vivacity decreased little by little, and a dejected look began to creep into one of his eyes and a sinister one into the other.
The rest of the company departed in due time, leaving him with the mistress, to whom he said:
"There is no longer any question about it. She avoids me. She continually excuses herself. If I could see her, if I could speak to her only a moment, but this suspense--"
"Perhaps her seeming avoidance is mere accident, Mr. Burley. Go to the small drawing-room up-stairs and amuse yourself a moment. I will despatch a household order that is on my mind, and then I will go to her room. Without doubt she will be persuaded to see you."
Mr. Burley went up-stairs, intending to go to the small drawing-room, but as he was passing "Aunt Susan's" private parlor, the door of which stood slightly ajar, he heard a joyous laugh which he recognized; so without knock or announcement he stepped confidently in. But before he could make his presence known he heard words that harrowed up his soul and chilled his young blood, he heard a voice say:
"Darling, it has come!"
Then he heard Rosannah Ethelton, whose back was toward him, say:
"So has yours, dearest!"
He saw her bowed form bend lower; he heard her kiss something--not merely once, but again and again! His soul raged within him. The heartbreaking conversation went on:
"Rosannah, I knew you must be beautiful, but this is dazzling, this is blinding, this is intoxicating!"
"Alonzo, it is such happiness to hear you say it. I know it is not true, but I am so grateful to have you think it is, nevertheless! I knew you must have a noble face, but the grace and majesty of the reality beggar the poor creation of my fancy."
Burley heard that rattling shower of kisses again.
"Thank you, my Rosannah! The photograph flatters me, but you must not allow yourself to think of that. Sweetheart?"
"I am so happy, Rosannah."
"Oh, Alonzo, none that have gone before me knew what love was, none that come after me will ever know what happiness is. I float in a gorgeous cloud land, a boundless firmament of enchanted and bewildering ecstasy!"
"Oh, my Rosannah! for you are mine, are you not?"
"Wholly, oh, wholly yours, Alonzo,
now and forever! All the day
long, and all through my nightly dreams, one song sings itself, and its sweet
burden is, 'Alonzo Fitz Clarence, Alonzo Fitz Clarence, Eastport, state of
"Curse him, I've got his address, anyway!" roared Burley, inwardly, and rushed from the place.
Just behind the unconscious Alonzo stood his mother, a picture of astonishment. She was so muffled from head to heel in furs that nothing of herself was visible but her eyes and nose. She was a good allegory of winter, for she was powdered all over with snow.
Behind the unconscious Rosannah stood "Aunt Susan," another picture of astonishment. She was a good allegory of summer, for she was lightly clad, and was vigorously cooling the perspiration on her face with a fan.
Both of these women had tears of joy in their eyes.
"So ho!" exclaimed Aunt Susan, "this explains why you have been a hermit for the past six weeks, Rosannah!"
The young couple were on their feet in an instant, abashed, and standing like detected dealers in stolen goods awaiting judge Lynch's doom.
"Bless you, my son! I am happy in your happiness. Come to your mother's arms, Alonzo!"
"Bless you, Rosannah, for my dear nephew's sake! Come to my arms!"
Then was there a mingling of hearts and of tears of
rejoicing on Telegraph Hill and in
Servants were called by the elders, in both places. Unto one was given the order, "Pile this fire high, with hickory wood, and bring me a roasting-hot lemonade."
Unto the other was given the order, "Put out this fire, and bring me two palm-leaf fans and a pitcher of ice-water."
Then the young people were dismissed, and the elders sat down to talk the sweet surprise over and make the wedding plans.
Some minutes before this Mr. Burley rushed from the mansion on Telegraph Hill without meeting or taking formal leave of anybody. He hissed through his teeth, in unconscious imitation of a popular favorite in melodrama, "Him shall she never wed! I have sworn it! Ere great Nature shall have doffed her winter's ermine to don the emerald gauds of spring, she shall be mine!"
Two weeks later.
Every few hours, during same three or four days, a very prim and
devout-looking Episcopal clergyman, with a cast in his eye, had visited
Alonzo. According to his card, he was
the Rev. Melton Hargrave, of
"Well," answered Alonzo, "if the owner of the music could not miss what was stolen, why should he care?"
"He shouldn't care," said the Reverend.
"Well?" said Alonzo, inquiringly.
"Suppose," replied the Reverend, "suppose that, instead of music that was passing along and being stolen, the burden of the wire was loving endearments of the most private and sacred nature?"
Alonzo shuddered from head to heel. "Sir, it is a priceless invention," said he; "I must have it at any cost."
But the invention was delayed somewhere on the road from
One forenoon the Reverend ascended the stairs and knocked at Alonzo's door. There was no response. He entered, glanced eagerly around, closed the door softly, then ran to the telephone. The exquisitely soft and remote strains of the "Sweet By-and-by" came floating through the instrument. The singer was flatting, as usual, the five notes that follow the first two in the chorus, when the Reverend interrupted her with this word, in a voice which was an exact imitation of Alonzo's, with just the faintest flavor of impatience added:
"Please don't sing that any more this week--try something modern."
The agile step that goes with a happy heart was heard on the stairs, and the Reverend, smiling diabolically, sought sudden refuge behind the heavy folds of the velvet window-curtains. Alonzo entered and flew to the telephone. Said he:
"Rosannah, dear, shall we sing something together?"
"Something modern?" asked she, with sarcastic bitterness.
"Yes, if you prefer."
"Sing it yourself, if you like!"
This snappishness amazed and wounded the young man. He said:
"Rosannah, that was not like you."
"I suppose it becomes me as much as your very polite speech became you, Mr. Fitz Clarence."
"Mister Fitz Clarence! Rosannah, there was nothing impolite about my speech."
"Oh, indeed! Of course, then, I misunderstood you, and I most humbly beg your pardon, ha-ha-ha! No doubt you said, 'Don't sing it any more to-day.'"
"Sing what any more to-day?"
"The song you mentioned, of course, How very obtuse we are, all of a sudden!"
"I never mentioned any song."
"Oh, you didn't?"
"No, I didn't!"
"I am compelled to remark that you did."
"And I am obliged to reiterate that I didn't."
"A second rudeness! That is sufficient, sir. I will never forgive you. All is over between us."
Then came a muffled sound of crying. Alonzo hastened to say:
"Oh, Rosannah, unsay those words! There is some dreadful mystery here, some hideous mistake. I am utterly earnest and sincere when I say I never said anything about any song. I would not hurt you for the whole world . . . . Rosannah, dear speak to me, won't you?"
There was a pause; then Alonzo heard the girl's sobbings retreating, and knew she had gone from the telephone. He rose with a heavy sigh, and hastened from the room, saying to himself, "I will ransack the charity missions and the haunts of the poor for my mother. She will persuade her that I never meant to wound her."
A minute later the Reverend was crouching over the telephone like a cat that knoweth the ways of the prey. He had not very many minutes to wait. A soft, repentant voice, tremulous with tears, said:
"Alonzo, dear, I have been wrong. You could not have said so cruel a thing. It must have been some one who imitated your voice in malice or in jest."
The Reverend coldly answered, in Alonzo's tones:
"You have said all was over between us. So let it be. I spurn your proffered repentance, and despise it!"
Then he departed, radiant with fiendish triumph, to return no more with his imaginary telephonic invention forever.
Four hours afterward Alonzo arrived with his mother from her
favorite haunts of poverty and vice.
They summoned the
At length, when it was sunset in
But, alas, it was Aunt Susan's voice that spake. She said:
"I have been out all day; just got in. I will go and find her."
The watchers waited two minutes--five minutes--ten minutes. Then came these fatal words, in a frightened tone:
"She is gone, and her baggage with her. To visit another friend, she told the servants. But I found this note on the table in her room. Listen: 'I am gone; seek not to trace me out; my heart is broken; you will never see me more. Tell him I shall always think of him when I sing my poor "Sweet By-and-by," but never of the unkind words he said about it.' That is her note. Alonzo, Alonzo, what does it mean? What has happened?"
But Alonzo sat white and cold as the dead. His mother threw back the velvet curtains and
opened a window. The cold air refreshed
the sufferer, and he told his aunt his dismal story. Meantime his mother was inspecting a card
which had disclosed itself upon the floor when she cast the curtains back. It read, "Mr. Sidney Algernon Burley,
"The miscreant!" shouted Alonzo, and rushed forth to seek the false Reverend and destroy him; for the card explained everything, since in the course of the lovers' mutual confessions they had told each other all about all the sweethearts they had ever had, and thrown no end of mud at their failings and foibles for lovers always do that. It has a fascination that ranks next after billing and cooing.
During the next two months many things happened. It had early transpired that Rosannah, poor
suffering orphan, had neither returned to her grandmother in
Did Alonzo give her up? Not he. He said to himself, "She will sing that sweet song when she is sad; I shall find her." So he took his carpet-sack and a portable telephone, and shook the snow of his native city from his arctics, and went forth into the world. He wandered far and wide and in many states. Time and again, strangers were astounded to see a wasted, pale, and woe-worn man laboriously climb a telegraph-pole in wintry and lonely places, perch sadly there an hour, with his ear at a little box, then come sighing down, and wander wearily away. Sometimes they shot at him, as peasants do at aeronauts, thinking him mad and dangerous. Thus his clothes were much shredded by bullets and his person grievously lacerated. But he bore it all patiently.
In the beginning of his pilgrimage he used often to say, "Ah, if I could but hear the 'Sweet By-and-by'!" But toward the end of it he used to shed tears of anguish and say, "Ah, if I could but hear something else!"
Thus a month and three weeks drifted by, and at last some
humane people seized him and confined him in a private mad-house in
At the end of a week the patient was able to leave his bed
for the first time. He was lying,
comfortably pillowed, on a sofa, listening to the plaintive Miserere of the
bleak March winds and the muffled sound of tramping feet in the street below
for it was about six in the evening, and
"It is! it is she! Oh, the divine hated notes!"
He dragged himself eagerly to the corner whence the sounds proceeded, tore aside a curtain, and discovered a telephone. He bent over, and as the last note died away he burst forthwith the exclamation:
"Oh, thank Heaven, found at last! Speak tome, Rosannah, dearest! The cruel mystery has been unraveled; it was the villain Burley who mimicked my voice and wounded you with insolent speech!"
There was a breathless pause, a waiting age to Alonzo; then a faint sound came, framing itself into language:
"Oh, say those precious words again, Alonzo!"
"They are the truth, the veritable truth, my Rosannah, and you shall have the proof, ample and abundant proof!"
"Oh; Alonzo, stay by me! Leave me not for a moment! Let me feel that you are near me! Tell me we shall never be parted more! Oh, this happy hour, this blessed hour, this memorable hour!"
"We will make record of it, my Rosannah; every year, as this dear hour chimes from the clock, we will celebrate it with thanksgivings, all the years of our life."
"We will, we will, Alonzo!"
"Four minutes after six, in the evening, my Rosannah, shall henceforth--"
"Twenty-three minutes after twelve, afternoon shall--"
"Why; Rosannah, darling, where are you?"
"No, dear, I am in
An agonizing shriek came buzzing to Alonzo's ear, like the sharp buzzing of a hurt gnat; it lost power in traveling five thousand miles. Alonzo hastened to say:
"Calm yourself, my child. It is nothing. Already I am getting well under the sweet healing of your presence. Rosannah?"
"Yes, Alonzo? Oh, how you terrified me! Say on."
"Name the happy day, Rosannah!"
There was a little pause. Then a diffident small voice replied, "I blush--but it is with pleasure, it is with happiness. Would--would you like to have it soon?"
"This very night, Rosannah! Oh, let us risk no more delays. Let it be now!--this very night, this very moment!"
"Oh, you impatient creature! I have nobody here but my good old uncle, a missionary for a generation, and now retired from service--nobody but him and his wife. I would so dearly like it if your mother and your Aunt Susan--"
"Our mother and our Aunt Susan, my Rosannah."
"Yes, our mother and our Aunt Susan--I am content to word it so if it pleases you; I would so like to have them present."
"So would I. Suppose you telegraph Aunt Susan. How long would it take her to come?"
"The steamer leaves
"Then name the 1st of April; do, Rosannah, dear."
"Mercy, it would make us April fools, Alonzo!"
"So we be the happiest ones that that day's suit looks down upon in the whole broad expanse of the globe, why need we care? Call it the 1st of April, dear."
"Then the 1st of April at shall be, with all my heart!"
"Oh, happiness! Name the hour, too, Rosannah."
"I like the morning, it is so blithe. Will eight in the morning do, Alonzo?"
"The loveliest hour in the day--since it will make you mine."
There was a feeble but frantic sound for some little time, as if wool-upped, disembodied spirits were exchanging kisses; then Rosannah said, "Excuse me just a moment, dear; I have an appointment, and am called to meet it."
The young girl sought a large parlor and took her place at a window which looked out upon a beautiful scene. To the left one could view the charming Nuuana Valley, fringed with its ruddy flush of tropical flowers and its plumed and graceful cocoa palms; its rising foothills clothed in the shining green of lemon, citron, and orange groves; its storied precipice beyond, where the first Kamehameha drove his defeated foes over to their destruction, a spot that had forgotten its grim history, no doubt, for now it was smiling, as almost always at noonday, under the glowing arches of a succession of rainbows. In front of the window one could see the quaint town, and here and there a picturesque group of dusky natives, enjoying the blistering weather; and far to the right lay the restless ocean, tossing its white mane in the sunshine.
Rosannah stood there, in her filmy white raiment, fanning her flushed and heated face, waiting. A Kanaka boy, clothed in a damaged blue necktie and part of a silk hat, thrust his head in at the door, and announced, "'Frisco haole!"
"Show him in," said the girl, straightening herself up and assuming a meaning dignity. Mr. Sidney Algernon Burley entered, clad from head to heel in dazzling snow--that is to say, in the lightest and whitest of Irish linen. He moved eagerly forward, but the girl made a gesture and gave him a look which checked him suddenly. She said, coldly, "I am here, as I promised. I believed your assertions, I yielded to your importune lies, and said I would name the day. I name the 1st of April --eight in the morning. NOW GO!"
"Oh, my dearest, if the gratitude of a lifetime--"
"Not a word. Spare me all sight of you, all communication with you, until that hour. No--no supplications; I will have it so."
When he was gone, she sank exhausted in a chair, for the long siege of troubles she had undergone had wasted her strength. Presently she said, "What a narrow escape! If the hour appointed had been an hour earlier --Oh, horror, what an escape I have made! And to think I had come to imagine I was loving this beguiling, this truthless, this treacherous monster! Oh, he shall repent his villainy!"
Let us now draw this history to a close, for little more needs to be told. On the 2d of the ensuing April, the Honolulu Advertiser contained this notice:
MARRIED.--In this city, by telephone, yesterday morning,--at
eight o'clock, by Rev. Nathan Hays, assisted by Rev. Nathaniel Davis, of New
York, Mr. Alonzo Fitz Clarence, of Eastport, Maine, U. S., and Miss Rosannah
Ethelton, of Portland, Oregon, U. S. Mrs.
Susan Howland, of
MARRIED.--In this city, yesterday, by
telephone, at half-past two in the morning, by Rev. Nathaniel Davis,
assisted by Rev. Nathan Hays, of
Toward the close of that memorable day Mr. and Mrs. Alonzo Fitz Clarence were buried in sweet converse concerning the pleasures of their several bridal tours, when suddenly the young wife exclaimed: "Oh, Lonny, I forgot! I did what I said I would."
"Did you, dear?"
"Indeed, I did. I made him the April fool! And I told him so, too! Ah, it was a charming surprise! There he stood, sweltering in a black dress-suit, with the mercury leaking out of the top of the thermometer, waiting to be married. You should have seen the look he gave when I whispered it in his ear. Ah, his wickedness cost me many a heartache and many a tear, but the score was all squared up, then. So the vengeful feeling went right out of my heart, and I begged him to stay, and said I forgave him everything. But he wouldn't. He said he would live to be avenged; said he would make our lives a curse to us. But he can't, can he, dear?"
"Never in this world, my Rosannah!"
Aunt Susan, the Oregonian grandmother, and the young couple and their Eastport parents, are all happy at this writing, and likely to remain so. Aunt Susan brought the bride from the islands, accompanied her across our continent, and had the happiness of witnessing the rapturous meeting between an adoring husband and wife who had never seen each other until that moment.
A word about the wretched Burley, whose wicked machinations came so near wrecking the hearts and lives of our poor young friends, will be sufficient. In a murderous attempt to seize a crippled and helpless artisan who he fancied had done him some small offense, he fell into a caldron of boiling oil and expired before he could be extinguished.
ESSAY, FOR DISCUSSION, READ AT A MEETING
OF THE HISTORICAL AND ANTIQUARIAN CLUB OF
Observe, I do not mean to suggest that the custom of lying
has suffered any decay or interruption--no, for the Lie, as a Virtue, a
Principle, is eternal; the Lie, as a recreation, a solace, a refuge in time of
need, the fourth Grace, the tenth Muse, man's best and surest friend, is
immortal, and cannot perish from the earth while this Club remains. My complaint simply concerns the decay of the
art of lying. No high-minded man, no man
of right feeling, can contemplate the lumbering and slovenly lying of the
present day without grieving to see a noble art so prostituted. In this veteran presence I naturally enter
upon this scheme with diffidence; it is like an old maid trying to teach
nursery matters to the mothers in
[It had been my intention, at this point, to mention names and give illustrative specimens, but indications observable about me admonished me to beware of particulars and confine myself to generalities.]
No fact is more firmly established than that lying is a necessity of our circumstances--the deduction that it is then a Virtue goes without saying. No virtue can reach its highest usefulness without careful and diligent cultivation--therefore, it goes without saying that this one ought to be taught in the public schools--at the fireside--even in the newspapers. What chance has the ignorant, uncultivated liar against the educated expert? What chance have I against Mr. Per-- against a lawyer? Judicious lying is what the world needs. I sometimes think it were even better and safer not to lie at all than to lie injudiciously. An awkward, unscientific lie is often as ineffectual as the truth.
Now let us see what the philosophers say. Note that venerable proverb: Children and fools always speak the truth. The deduction is plain --adults and wise persons never speak it. Parkman, the historian, says, "The principle of truth may itself be carried into an absurdity." In another place in the same chapter he says, "The saying is old that truth should not be spoken at all times; and those whom a sick conscience worries into habitual violation of the maxim are imbeciles and nuisances." It is strong language, but true. None of us could live with an habitual truth-teller; but, thank goodness, none of us has to. An habitual truth-teller is simply an impossible creature; he does not exist; he never has existed. Of course there are people who think they never lie, but it is not so--and this ignorance is one of the very things that shame our so-called civilization. Everybody lies--every day; every hour; awake; asleep; in his dreams; in his joy; in his mourning; if he keeps his tongue still, his hands, his feet, his eyes, his attitude, will convey deception--and purposely. Even in sermons--but that is a platitude.
In a far country where I once lived the ladies used to go around paying calls, under the humane and kindly pretense of wanting to see each other; and when they returned home, they would cry out with a glad voice, saying, "We made sixteen calls and found fourteen of them out"--not meaning that they found out anything against the fourteen--no, that was only a colloquial phrase to signify that they were not at home--and their manner of saying it--expressed their lively satisfaction in that fact. Now, their pretense of wanting to see the fourteen--and the other two whom they had been less lucky with--was that commonest and mildest form of lying which is sufficiently described as a deflection from the truth. Is it justifiable? Most certainly. It is beautiful, it is noble; for its object is, not to reap profit, but to convey a pleasure to the sixteen. The iron-souled truth-monger would plainly manifest, or even utter the fact, that he didn't want to see those people--and he would be an ass, and inflict a totally unnecessary pain. And next, those ladies in that far country--but never mind, they had a thousand pleasant ways of lying, that grew out of gentle impulses, and were a credit to their intelligence and at honor to their hearts. Let the particulars go.
The men in that far country were liars; every one. Their mere howdy-do was a lie, because they didn't care how you did, except they were undertakers. To the ordinary inquirer you lied in return; for you made no conscientious diagnosis of your case, but answered at random, and usually missed it considerably. You lied to the undertaker, and said your health was failing--a wholly commendable lie, since it cost you nothing and pleased the other man. If a stranger called and interrupted you, you said with your hearty tongue, "I'm glad to see you," and said with your heartier soul, "I wish you were with the cannibals and it was dinner-time." When he went, you said regretfully, "Must you go?" and followed it with a "Call again"; but you did no harm, for you did not deceive anybody nor inflict any hurt, whereas the truth would have made you both unhappy.
I think that all this courteous lying is a sweet and loving art, and should be cultivated. The highest perfection of politeness is only a beautiful edifice, built, from the base to the dome, of graceful and gilded forms of charitable and unselfish lying.
What I bemoan is the growing prevalence of the brutal truth. Let us do what we can to eradicate it. An injurious truth has no merit over an injurious lie. Neither should ever be uttered. The man who speaks an injurious truth, lest his soul be not saved if he do otherwise, should reflect that that sort of a soul is not strictly worth saving. The man who tells a lie to help a poor devil out of trouble is one of whom the angels doubtless say, "Lo, here is an heroic soul who casts his own welfare into jeopardy to succor his neighbor's; let us exalt this magnanimous liar."
An injurious lie is an uncommendable thing; and so, also, and in the same degree, is an injurious truth--a fact which is recognized by the law of libel.
Among other common lies, we have the silent lie, the deception which one conveys by simply keeping still and concealing the truth. Many obstinate truth-mongers indulge in this dissipation, imagining that if they speak no lie, they lie not at all. In that far country where I once lived, there was a lovely spirit, a lady whose impulses were always high and pure, and whose character answered to them. One day I was there at dinner, and remarked, in a general way, that we are all liars. She was amazed, and said, "Not all!" It was before "Pinafore's" time so I did not make the response which would naturally follow in our day, but frankly said, "Yes, all--we are all liars; there are no exceptions." She looked almost offended, and said, "Why, do you include me?" "Certainly," I said, "I think you even rank as an expert." She said, "'Sh!--'sh! the children!"
So the subject was changed in deference to the children's presence, and we went on talking about other things. But as soon as the young people were out of the way, the lady came warmly back to the matter and said, "I have made it the rule of my life to never tell a lie; and I have never departed from it in a single instance." I said, "I don't mean the least harm or disrespect, but really you have been lying like smoke ever since I've been sitting here. It has caused me a good deal of pain, because I am not used to it." She required of me an instance--just a single instance. So I said:
"Well, here is the unfilled duplicate of the blank
But that was all lost. Before I was half-way through she was in a carriage and making thirty miles an hour toward the Jones mansion to save what was left of Willie and tell all she knew about the deadly nurse. All of which was unnecessary, as Willie wasn't sick; I had been lying myself. But that same day, all the same, she sent a line to the hospital which filled up the neglected blank, and stated the facts, too, in the squarest possible manner.
Now, you see, this lady's fault was not in lying, but only in lying injudiciously. She should have told the truth there, and made it up to the nurse with a fraudulent compliment further along in the paper. She could have said, "In one respect the sick-nurse is perfection--when she is on watch, she never snores." Almost any little pleasant lie would have taken the sting out of that troublesome but necessary expression of the truth.
Lying is universal we all do it; we all must do it. Therefore, the wise thing is for us diligently to train ourselves to lie thoughtfully, judiciously; to lie with a good object, and not an evil one; to lie for others' advantage, and not our own; to lie healingly, charitably, humanely, not cruelly, hurtfully, maliciously; to lie gracefully and graciously, not awkwardly and clumsily; to lie firmly, frankly, squarely, with head erect, not haltingly, tortuously, with pusillanimous mien, as being ashamed of our high calling. Then shall we be rid of the rank and pestilent truth that is rotting the land; then shall we be great and good and beautiful, and worthy dwellers in a world where even benign Nature habitually lies, except when she promises execrable weather. Then--but I am but a new and feeble student in this gracious art; I can not instruct this Club.
Joking aside, I think there is much need of wise examination into what sorts of lies are best and wholesomest to be indulged, seeing we must all lie and do all lie, and what sorts it may be best to avoid--and this is a thing which I feel I can confidently put into the hands of this experienced Club--a ripe body, who may be termed, in this regard, and without undue flattery, Old Masters.
All my life, from boyhood up, I have had the habit of reading a certain set of anecdotes, written in the quaint vein of The World's ingenious Fabulist, for the lesson they taught me and the pleasure they gave me. They lay always convenient to my hand, and whenever I thought meanly of my kind I turned to them, and they banished that sentiment; whenever I felt myself to be selfish, sordid, and ignoble I turned to them, and they told me what to do to win back my self-respect. Many times I wished that the charming anecdotes had not stopped with their happy climaxes, but had continued the pleasing history of the several benefactors and beneficiaries. This wish rose in my breast so persistently that at last I determined to satisfy it by seeking out the sequels of those anecdotes myself. So I set about it, and after great labor and tedious research accomplished my task. I will lay the result before you, giving you each anecdote in its turn, and following it with its sequel as I gathered it through my investigations.
One day a benevolent physician (who had read the books) having found a stray poodle suffering from a broken leg, conveyed the poor creature to his home, and after setting and bandaging the injured limb gave the little outcast its liberty again, and thought no more about the matter. But how great was his surprise, upon opening his door one morning, some days later, to find the grateful poodle patiently waiting there, and in its company another stray dog, one of whose legs, by some accident, had been broken. The kind physician at once relieved the distressed animal, nor did he forget to admire the inscrutable goodness and mercy of God, who had been willing to use so humble an instrument as the poor outcast poodle for the inculcating of, etc., etc., etc.
The next morning the benevolent physician found the two dogs, beaming with gratitude, waiting at his door, and with them two other dogs-cripples. The cripples were speedily healed, and the four went their way, leaving the benevolent physician more overcome by pious wonder than ever. The day passed, the morning came. There at the door sat now the four reconstructed dogs, and with them four others requiring reconstruction. This day also passed, and another morning came; and now sixteen dogs, eight of them newly crippled, occupied the sidewalk, and the people were going around. By noon the broken legs were all set, but the pious wonder in the good physician's breast was beginning to get mixed with involuntary profanity. The sun rose once more, and exhibited thirty-two dogs, sixteen of them with broken legs, occupying the sidewalk and half of the street; the human spectators took up the rest of the room. The cries of the wounded, the songs of the healed brutes, and the comments of the onlooking citizens made great and inspiring cheer, but traffic was interrupted in that street. The good physician hired a couple of assistant surgeons and got through his benevolent work before dark, first taking the precaution to cancel his church-membership, so that he might express himself with the latitude which the case required.
But some things have their limits. When once more the morning dawned, and the good physician looked out upon a massed and far-reaching multitude of clamorous and beseeching dogs, he said, "I might as well acknowledge it, I have been fooled by the books; they only tell the pretty part of the story, and then stop. Fetch me the shotgun; this thing has gone along far enough."
He issued forth with his weapon, and chanced to step upon the tail of the original poodle, who promptly bit him in the leg. Now the great and good work which this poodle had been engaged in had engendered in him such a mighty and augmenting enthusiasm as to turn his weak head at last and drive him mad. A month later, when the benevolent physician lay in the death-throes of hydrophobia, he called his weeping friends about him, and said:
"Beware of the books. They tell but half of the story. Whenever a poor wretch asks you for help, and you feel a doubt as to what result may flow from your benevolence, give yourself the benefit of the doubt and kill the applicant."
And so saying he turned his face to the wall and gave up the ghost.
A poor and young literary beginner had tried in vain to get his manuscripts accepted. At last, when the horrors of starvation were staring him in the face, he laid his sad case before a celebrated author, beseeching his counsel and assistance. This generous man immediately put aside his own matters and proceeded to peruse one of the despised manuscripts. Having completed his kindly task, he shook the poor young man cordially by the hand, saying, "I perceive merit in this; come again to me on Monday." At the time specified, the celebrated author, with a sweet smile, but saying nothing, spread open a magazine which was damp from the press. What was the poor young man's astonishment to discover upon the printed page his own article. "How can I ever," said he, falling upon his knees and bursting into tears, "testify my gratitude for this noble conduct!"
The celebrated author was the renowned Snodgrass; the poor young beginner thus rescued from obscurity and starvation was the afterward equally renowned Snagsby. Let this pleasing incident admonish us to turn a charitable ear to all beginners that need help.
The next week Snagsby was back with five rejected manuscripts. The celebrated author was a little surprised, because in the books the young struggler had needed but one lift, apparently. However, he plowed through these papers, removing unnecessary flowers and digging up some acres of adjective stumps, and then succeeded in getting two of the articles accepted.
A week or so drifted by, and the grateful Snagsby arrived with another cargo. The celebrated author had felt a mighty glow of satisfaction within himself the first time he had successfully befriended the poor young struggler, and had compared himself with the generous people in the books with high gratification; but he was beginning to suspect now that he had struck upon something fresh in the noble-episode line. His enthusiasm took a chill. Still, he could not bear to repulse this struggling young author, who clung to him with such pretty simplicity and trustfulness.
Well, the upshot of it all was that the celebrated author presently found himself permanently freighted with the poor young beginner. All his mild efforts to unload this cargo went for nothing. He had to give daily counsel, daily encouragement; he had to keep on procuring magazine acceptances, and then revamping the manuscripts to make them presentable. When the young aspirant got a start at last, he rode into sudden fame by describing the celebrated author's private life with such a caustic humor and such minuteness of blistering detail that the book sold a prodigious edition, and broke the celebrated author's heart with mortification. With his latest gasp he said, "Alas, the books deceived me; they do not tell the whole story. Beware of the struggling young author, my friends. Whom God sees fit to starve, let not man presumptuously rescue to his own undoing."
One day a lady was driving through the principal street of a great city with her little boy, when the horses took fright and dashed madly away, hurling the coachman from his box and leaving the occupants of the carnage paralyzed with terror. But a brave youth who was driving a grocery-wagon threw himself before the plunging animals, and succeeded in arresting their flight at the peril of his own.--[This is probably a misprint.--M. T.]--The grateful lady took his number, and upon arriving at her home she related the heroic act to her husband (who had read the books), who listened with streaming eyes to the moving recital, and who, after returning thanks, in conjunction with his restored loved ones, to Him who suffereth not even a sparrow to fall to the ground unnoticed, sent for the brave young person, and, placing a check for five hundred dollars in his hand, said, "Take this as a reward for your noble act, William Ferguson, and if ever you shall need a friend, remember that Thompson McSpadden has a grateful heart." Let us learn from this that a good deed cannot fail to benefit the doer, however humble he may be.
William Ferguson called the next week and asked Mr. McSpadden to use his influence to get him a higher employment, he feeling capable of better things than driving a grocer's wagon. Mr. McSpadden got him an underclerkship at a good salary.
Presently William Ferguson's mother fell sick, and
William--Well, to cut the story short, Mr. McSpadden consented to take her into
his house. Before long she yearned for the society of her younger children; so
Mary and Julia were admitted also, and little Jimmy, their brother. Jimmy had a pocket knife, and he wandered
into the drawing-room with it one day, alone, and reduced ten thousand dollars'
worth of furniture to an indeterminable value in rather less than three-quarters
of an hour. A day or two later he fell down-stairs and broke his neck, and
seventeen of his family's relatives came to the house to attend the
funeral. This made them acquainted, and
they kept the kitchen occupied after that, and likewise kept the McSpaddens
busy hunting-up situations of various sorts for them, and hunting up more when
they wore these out. The old woman drank
a good deal and swore a good deal; but the grateful McSpaddens knew it was
their duty to reform her, considering what her son had done for them, so they
clave nobly to their generous task.
William came often and got decreasing sums of money, and asked for
higher and more lucrative employments--which the grateful McSpadden more or
less promptly procured for him.
McSpadden consented also, after some demur, to fit William for college;
but when the first vacation came and the hero requested to be sent to
William said, "Is this your gratitude? Did I save your wife's life or not? Tell me that!"
Seven relations swarmed in from the kitchen and each said, "And this is his gratitude!"
William's sisters stared, bewildered, and said, "And this is his grat--" but were interrupted by their mother, who burst into tears and exclaimed,
"To think that my sainted little Jimmy threw away his life in the service of such a reptile!"
Then the pluck of the revolutionary McSpadden rose to the occasion, and he replied with fervor, "Out of my house, the whole beggarly tribe of you! I was beguiled by the books, but shall never be beguiled again --once is sufficient for me." And turning to William he shouted, "Yes, you did save my, wife's life, and the next man that does it shall die in his tracks!"
Not being a clergyman, I place my text at the end of my sermon instead of at the beginning. Here it is, from Mr. Noah Brooks's Recollections of President Lincoln in Scribners Monthly:
J. H. Hackett, in his part of Falstaff, was an
actor who gave Mr. Lincoln great delight.
With his usual desire to signify to others his sense of obligation, Mr.
Lincoln wrote a genial little note to the actor expressing his pleasure at
witnessing his performance. Mr. Hackett, in reply, sent a book of some sort;
perhaps it was one of his own authorship.
He also wrote several notes to the President. One night, quite late, when the episode had
passed out of my mind, I went to the white House in answer to a message.
Passing into the President's office, I noticed, to my surprise, Hackett sitting
in the anteroom as if waiting for an audience.
The President asked me if any one was outside. On being told, he said, half sadly, "Oh,
I can't see him, I can't see him; I was in hopes he had gone away." Then he added,
"Now this just illustrates the difficulty of having pleasant friends and
acquaintances in this place. You know
how I liked Hackett as an actor, and how I wrote to tell him so. He sent me that book, and there I thought the
matter would end. He is a master of his
place in the profession, I suppose, and well fixed in it; but just because we
had a little friendly correspondence, such as any two men might have, he wants
something. What do you suppose he
wants?" I could not guess, and Mr.
Lincoln added, "well, he wants to be consul to
I will observe, in conclusion, that the William Ferguson incident occurred, and within my personal knowledge--though I have changed the nature of the details, to keep William from recognizing himself in it.
All the readers of this article have in some sweet and gushing hour of their lives played the role of Magnanimous-Incident hero. I wish I knew how many there are among them who are willing to talk about that episode and like to be reminded of the consequences that flowed from it.
Will the reader please to cast his eye over the following lines, and see if he can discover anything harmful in them?
Conductor, when you receive a fare, Punch in the presence of the passenjare! A blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare, A buff trip slip for a six-cent fare, A pink trip slip for a three-cent fare, Punch in the presence of the passenjare!
Punch, brothers! punch with care! Punch in the presence of the passenjare!
I came across these jingling rhymes in a newspaper, a little while ago, and read them a couple of times. They took instant and entire possession of me. All through breakfast they went waltzing through my brain; and when, at last, I rolled up my napkin, I could not tell whether I had eaten anything or not. I had carefully laid out my day's work the day before--thrilling tragedy in the novel which I am writing. I went to my den to begin my deed of blood. I took up my pen, but all I could get it to say was, "Punch in the presence of the passenjare." I fought hard for an hour, but it was useless. My head kept humming, "A blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare, a buff trip slip for a six-cent fare," and so on and so on, without peace or respite. The day's work was ruined--I could see that plainly enough. I gave up and drifted down-town, and presently discovered that my feet were keeping time to that relentless jingle. When I could stand it no longer I altered my step. But it did no good; those rhymes accommodated themselves to the new step and went on harassing me just as before. I returned home, and suffered all the afternoon; suffered all through an unconscious and unrefreshing dinner; suffered, and cried, and jingled all through the evening; went to bed and rolled, tossed, and jingled right along, the same as ever; got up at midnight frantic, and tried to read; but there was nothing visible upon the whirling page except "Punch! punch in the presence of the passenjare." By sunrise I was out of my mind, and everybody marveled and was distressed at the idiotic burden of my ravings--"Punch! oh, punch! punch in the presence of the passenjare!"
Two days later, on Saturday morning, I arose, a tottering wreck, and went forth to fulfil an engagement with a valued friend, the Rev. Mr.------, to walk to the Talcott Tower, ten miles distant. He stared at me, but asked no questions. We started. Mr.------ talked, talked, talked as is his wont. I said nothing; I heard nothing. At the end of a mile, Mr.------ said "Mark, are you sick? I never saw a man look so haggard and worn and absent-minded. Say something, do!"
Drearily, without enthusiasm, I said: "Punch brothers, punch with care! Punch in the presence of the passenjare!"
My friend eyed me blankly, looked perplexed, they said:
"I do not think I get your drift, Mark. Then does not seem to be any relevancy in what you have said, certainly nothing sad; and yet--maybe it was the way you said the words--I never heard anything that sounded so pathetic. What is--"
But I heard no more. I was already far away with my pitiless, heartbreaking "blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare, buff trip slip for a six-cent fare, pink trip slip for a three-cent fare; punch in the presence of the passenjare." I do not know what occurred during the other nine miles. However, all of a sudden Mr.------ laid his hand on my shoulder and shouted:
"Oh, wake up! wake up! wake up! Don't sleep all day! Here we are at the Tower, man! I have talked myself deaf and dumb and blind, and never got a response. Just look at this magnificent autumn landscape! Look at it! look at it! Feast your eye on it! You have traveled; you have seen boaster landscapes elsewhere. Come, now, deliver an honest opinion. What do you say to this?"
I sighed wearily; and murmured:
"A buff trip slip for a six-cent fare, a pink trip slip for a three-cent fare, punch in the presence of the passenjare."
Rev. Mr. ------ stood there, very grave, full of concern, apparently, and looked long at me; then he said:
"Mark, there is something about this that I cannot understand. Those are about the same words you said before; there does not seem to be anything in them, and yet they nearly break my heart when you say them. Punch in the--how is it they go?"
I began at the beginning and repeated all the lines.
My friend's face lighted with interest. He said:
"Why, what a captivating jingle it is! It is almost music. It flows along so nicely. I have nearly caught the rhymes myself. Say them over just once more, and then I'll have them, sure."
I said them over. Then Mr. ------ said them. He made one little mistake, which I corrected. The next time and the next he got them right. Now a great burden seemed to tumble from my shoulders. That torturing jingle departed out of my brain, and a grateful sense of rest and peace descended upon me. I was light-hearted enough to sing; and I did sing for half an hour, straight along, as we went jogging homeward. Then my freed tongue found blessed speech again, and the pent talk of many a weary hour began to gush and flow. It flowed on and on, joyously, jubilantly, until the fountain was empty and dry. As I wrung my friend's hand at parting, I said:
"Haven't we had a royal good time! But now I remember, you haven't said a word for two hours. Come, come, out with something!"
The Rev. Mr.------ turned a lack-luster eye upon me, drew a deep sigh, and said, without animation, without apparent consciousness:
"Punch, brothers, punch with care! Punch in the presence of the passenjare!"
A pang shot through me as I said to myself, "Poor fellow, poor fellow! he has got it, now."
I did not see Mr.------ for two or three days after that. Then, on Tuesday evening, he staggered into my presence and sank dejectedly into a seat. He was pale, worn; he was a wreck. He lifted his faded eyes to my face and said:
"Ah, Mark, it was a ruinous investment that I made in
those heartless rhymes. They have ridden
me like a nightmare, day and night, hour after hour, to this very moment. Since I saw you I have suffered the torments
of the lost. Saturday evening I had a
sudden call, by telegraph, and took the night train for
"'Oh, oh, he is gone, he is gone, and I didn't see him before he died!'
"'Yes!' I said, 'he is gone, he is gone, he is gone--oh, will this suffering never cease!'
"'You loved him, then! Oh, you too loved him!'
"'Loved him! Loved who?'
"'Why, my poor George! my poor nephew!'
"'Oh--him! Yes--oh, yes, yes. Certainly--certainly. Punch--punch--oh, this misery will kill me!'
"'Bless you! bless you, sir, for these sweet words! I, too, suffer in this dear loss. Were you present during his last moments?'
"'Yes. I--whose last moments?'
"'His. The dear departed's.'
"'Yes! Oh, yes--yes--yes! I suppose so, I think so, I don't know! Oh, certainly--I was there I was there!'
"'Oh, what a privilege! what a precious privilege! And his last words --oh, tell me, tell me his last words! What did he say?'
"'He said--he said--oh, my head, my head, my head! He said--he said--he never said anything but Punch, punch, punch in the presence of the passenjare! Oh, leave me, madam! In the name of all that is generous, leave me to my madness, my misery, my despair!--a buff trip slip for a six-cent fare, a pink trip slip for a three-cent fare--endu--rance can no fur--ther go!--PUNCH in the presence of the passenjare!"
My friend's hopeless eyes rested upon mine a pregnant minute, and then he said impressively:
"Mark, you do not say anything. You do not offer me any hope. But, ah me, it is just as well--it is just as well. You could not do me any good. The time has long gone by when words could comfort me. Something tells me that my tongue is doomed to wag forever to the jigger of that remorseless jingle. There--there it is coming on me again: a blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare, a buff trip slip for a--"
Thus murmuring faint and fainter, my friend sank into a peaceful trance and forgot his sufferings in a blessed respite.
How did I finally save him from an asylum? I took him to a neighboring university and made him discharge the burden of his persecuting rhymes into the eager ears of the poor, unthinking students. How is it with them, now? The result is too sad to tell. Why did I write this article? It was for a worthy, even a noble, purpose. It was to warn you, reader, if you should came across those merciless rhymes, to avoid them--avoid them as you would a pestilence.
Let me refresh the reader's memory a little. Nearly a hundred years ago the crew of the
British ship Bounty mutinied, set the captain and his officers adrift upon the
open sea, took possession of the ship, and sailed southward. They procured wives for themselves among the
natives of Tahiti, then proceeded to a lonely little rock in mid-Pacific,
called Pitcairn's Island, wrecked the vessel, stripped her of everything that
might be useful to a new colony, and established themselves on shore.
Pitcairn's is so far removed from the track of commerce that it was many years
before another vessel touched there. It
had always been considered an uninhabited island; so when a ship did at last
drop its anchor there, in 1808, the captain was greatly surprised to find the
place peopled. Although the mutineers had fought among themselves, and
gradually killed each other off until only two or three of the original stock
remained, these tragedies had not occurred before a number of children had been
born; so in 1808 the island had a population of twenty-seven persons. John
Adams, the chief mutineer, still survived, and was to live many years yet, as
governor and patriarch of the flock.
From being mutineer and homicide, he had turned Christian and teacher,
and his nation of twenty-seven persons was now the purest and devoutest in
To-day the population numbers ninety persons--sixteen men, nineteen women, twenty-five boys, and thirty girls--all descendants of the mutineers, all bearing the family names of those mutineers, and all speaking English, and English only. The island stands high up out of the sea, and has precipitous walls. It is about three-quarters of a mile long, and in places is as much as half a mile wide. Such arable land as it affords is held by the several families, according to a division made many years ago. There is some live stock--goats, pigs, chickens, and cats; but no dogs, and no large animals. There is one church-building used also as a capitol, a schoolhouse, and a public library. The title of the governor has been, for a generation or two, "Magistrate and Chief Ruler, in subordination to her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain." It was his province to make the laws, as well as execute them. His office was elective; everybody over seventeen years old had a vote--no matter about the sex.
The sole occupations of the people were farming and fishing; their sole recreation, religious services. There has never been a shop in the island, nor any money. The habits and dress of the people have always been primitive, and their laws simple to puerility. They have lived in a deep Sabbath tranquillity, far from the world and its ambitions and vexations, and neither knowing nor caring what was going on in the mighty empires that lie beyond their limitless ocean solitudes. Once in three or four years a ship touched there, moved them with aged news of bloody battles, devastating epidemics, fallen thrones, and ruined dynasties, then traded them some soap and flannel for some yams and breadfruit, and sailed away, leaving them to retire into their peaceful dreams and pious dissipations once more.
On the 8th of last September, Admiral de Horsey,
commander-in-chief of the British fleet in the Pacific, visited Pitcairn's
They have beans, carrots, turnips, cabbages, and a little maize; pineapples, fig trees, custard-apples, and oranges; lemons, and cocoanuts. Clothing is obtained alone from passing ships, in barter for refreshments. There are no springs on the island, but as it rains generally once a month they have plenty of water, although at times in former years they have suffered from drought. No alcoholic liquors, except for medicinal purposes, are used, and a drunkard is unknown....
The necessary articles required by the islanders are best
shown by those we furnished in barter for refreshments: namely, flannel, serge,
drill, half-boots, combs, tobacco, and soap.
They also stand much in need of maps and slates for their school, and
tools of any kind are most acceptable. I
caused them to be supplied from the public stores with a Union jack: for
display on the arrival of ships, and a pit-saw, of which they were greatly in
need. This, I trust, will meet the approval
of their lordships. If the munificent
Divine service is held every Sunday at 10.30 A.M. and at 3 P.M., in the house built and used by John Adams for that purpose until he died in 1829. It is conducted strictly in accordance with the liturgy of the Church of England, by Mr. Simon Young, their selected pastor, who is much respected. A Bible class is held every Wednesday, when all who conveniently can attend. There is also a general meeting for prayer on the first Friday in every month. Family prayers are said in every house the first thing in the morning and the last thing in the evening, and no food is partaken of without asking God's blessing before and afterward. Of these islanders' religious attributes no one can speak without deep respect. A people whose greatest pleasure and privilege is to commune in prayer with their God, and to join in hymns of praise, and who are, moreover, cheerful, diligent, and probably freer from vice than any other community, need no priest among them.
Now I come to a sentence in the admiral's report which he dropped carelessly from his pen, no doubt, and never gave the matter a second thought. He little imagined what a freight of tragic prophecy it bore! This is the sentence:
One stranger, an American, has settled on the island--a doubtful acquisition.
A doubtful acquisition, indeed! Captain Ormsby, in the American ship Hornet, touched at Pitcairn's nearly four months after the admiral's visit, and from the facts which he gathered there we now know all about that American. Let us put these facts together in historical form. The American's name was Butterworth Stavely. As soon as he had become well acquainted with all the people--and this took but a few days, of course --he began to ingratiate himself with them by all the arts he could command. He became exceedingly popular, and much looked up to; for one of the first things he did was to forsake his worldly way of life, and throw all his energies into religion. He was always reading his Bible, or praying, or singing hymns, or asking blessings. In prayer, no one had such "liberty" as he, no one could pray so long or so well.
At last, when he considered the time to be ripe, he began secretly to sow the seeds of discontent among the people. It was his deliberate purpose, from the beginning, to subvert the government, but of course he kept that to himself for a time. He used different arts with different individuals. He awakened dissatisfaction in one quarter by calling attention to the shortness of the Sunday services; he argued that there should be three three-hour services on Sunday instead of only two. Many had secretly held this opinion before; they now privately banded themselves into a party to work for it. He showed certain of the women that they were not allowed sufficient voice in the prayer-meetings; thus another party was formed. No weapon was beneath his notice; he even descended to the children, and awoke discontent in their breasts because--as he discovered for them--they had not enough Sunday-school. This created a third party.
Now, as the chief of these parties, he found himself the strongest power in the community. So he proceeded to his next move--a no less important one than the impeachment of the chief magistrate, James Russell Nickoy; a man of character and ability, and possessed of great wealth, he being the owner of a house with a parlor to it, three acres and a half of yam-land, and the only boat in Pitcairn's, a whaleboat; and, most unfortunately, a pretext for this impeachment offered itself at just the right time.
One of the earliest and most precious laws of the island was the law against trespass. It was held in great reverence, and was regarded as the palladium of the people's liberties. About thirty years ago an important case came before the courts under this law, in this wise: a chicken belonging to Elizabeth Young (aged, at that time, fifty-eight, a daughter of John Mills, one of the mutineers of the Bounty) trespassed upon the grounds of Thursday October Christian (aged twenty-nine, a grandson of Fletcher Christian, one of the mutineers). Christian killed the chicken. According to the law, Christian could keep the chicken; or, if he preferred, he could restore its remains to the owner and receive damages in "produce" to an amount equivalent to the waste and injury wrought by the trespasser. The court records set forth that "the said Christian aforesaid did deliver the aforesaid remains to the said Eliza beth Young, and did demand one bushel of yams in satisfaction of the damage done." But Elizabeth Young considered the demand exorbitant; the parties could not agree; therefore Christian brought suit in the courts. He lost his case in the justice's court; at least, he was awarded only a half-peck of yams, which he considered insufficient, and in the nature of a defeat. He appealed. The case lingered several years in an ascending grade of courts, and always resulted in decrees sustaining the original verdict; and finally the thing got into the supreme court, and there it stuck for twenty years. But last summer, even the supreme court managed to arrive at a decision at last. Once more the original verdict was sustained. Christian then said he was satisfied; but Stavely was present, and whispered to him and to his lawyer, suggesting, "as a mere form," that the original law be exhibited, in order to make sure that it still existed. It seemed an odd idea, but an ingenious one. So the demand was made. A messenger was sent to the magistrate's house; he presently returned with the tidings that it had disappeared from among the state archives.
The court now pronounced its late decision void, since it had been made under a law which had no actual existence.
Great excitement ensued immediately. The news swept abroad over the whole island that the palladium of the public liberties was lost--maybe treasonably destroyed. Within thirty minutes almost the entire nation were in the court-room--that is to say, the church. The impeachment of the chief magistrate followed, upon Stavely's motion. The accused met his misfortune with the dignity which became his great office. He did not plead, or even argue; he offered the simple defense that he had not meddled with the missing law; that he had kept the state archives in the same candle-box that had been used as their depository from the beginning; and that he was innocent of the removal or destruction of the lost document.
But nothing could save him; he was found guilty of misprision of treason, and degraded from his office, and all his property was confiscated.
The lamest part of the whole shameful matter was the reason suggested by his enemies for his destruction of the law, to wit: that he did it to favor Christian, because Christian was his cousin! Whereas Stavely was the only individual in the entire nation who was not his cousin. The reader must remember that all these people are the descendants of half a dozen men; that the first children intermarried together and bore grandchildren to the mutineers; that these grandchildren intermarried; after them, great and great-great-grandchildren intermarried; so that to-day everybody is blood kin to everybody. Moreover, the relationships are wonderfully, even astoundingly, mixed up and complicated. A stranger, for instance, says to an islander:
"You speak of that young woman as your cousin; a while ago you called her your aunt."
"Well, she is my aunt, and my cousin, too. And also my stepsister, my niece, my fourth cousin, my thirty-third cousin, my forty-second cousin, my great-aunt, my grandmother, my widowed sister-in-law--and next week she will be my wife."
So the charge of nepotism against the chief magistrate was weak. But no matter; weak or strong, it suited Stavely. Stavely was immediately elected to the vacant magistracy, and, oozing reform from every pore, he went vigorously to work. In no long time religious services raged everywhere and unceasingly. By command, the second prayer of the Sunday morning service, which had customarily endured some thirty-five or forty minutes, and had pleaded for the world, first by continent and then by national and tribal detail, was extended to an hour and a half, and made to include supplications in behalf of the possible peoples in the several planets. Everybody was pleased with this; everybody said, "Now this is something like." By command, the usual three-hour sermons were doubled in length. The nation came in a body to testify their gratitude to the new magistrate. The old law forbidding cooking on the Sabbath was extended to the prohibition of eating, also. By command, Sunday-school was privileged to spread over into the week. The joy of all classes was complete. In one short month the new magistrate had become the people's idol!
The time was ripe for this man's next move. He began, cautiously at first, to poison the
public mind against
But the simple islanders answered:
"We had not noticed that it galled. How does it gall?
"She lets you go your own way! So slaves have felt and spoken in all the ages! This speech shows how fallen you are, how base, how brutalized you have become, under this grinding tyranny! What! has all manly pride forsaken you? Is liberty nothing? Are you content to be a mere appendage to a foreign and hateful sovereignty, when you might rise up and take your rightful place in the august family of nations, great, free, enlightened, independent, the minion of no sceptered master, but the arbiter of your own destiny, and a voice and a power in decreeing the destinies of your sister-sovereignties of the world?"
Speeches like this produced an effect by and by. Citizens began to feel the English yoke; they did not know exactly how or whereabouts they felt it, but they were perfectly certain they did feel it. They got to grumbling a good deal, and chafing under their chains, and longing for relief and release. They presently fell to hating the English flag, that sign and symbol of their nation's degradation; they ceased to glance up at it as they passed the capitol, but averted their eyes and grated their teeth; and one morning, when it was found trampled into the mud at the foot of the staff, they left it there, and no man put his hand to it to hoist it again. A certain thing which was sure to happen sooner or later happened now. Some of the chief citizens went to the magistrate by night, and said:
"We can endure this hated tyranny no longer. How can we cast it off?"
"By a coup d'etat."
"A coup d'etat. It is like this: everything is got ready, and at the appointed moment I, as the official head of the nation, publicly and solemnly proclaim its independence, and absolve it from allegiance to any and all other powers whatsoever."
"That sounds simple and easy. We can do that right away. Then what will be the next thing to do?"
"Seize all the defenses and public properties of all kinds, establish martial law, put the army and navy on a war footing, and proclaim the empire!"
This fine program dazzled these innocents. They said:
"This is grand--this is splendid; but will not
"Let her. This
rock is a
"True. But about the empire? Do we need an empire and an emperor?"
"What you need, my friends, is unification. Look at
So on the 8th day of December Pitcairn's Island was proclaimed a free and independent nation; and on the same day the solemn coronation of Butterworth I, Emperor of Pitcairn's Island, took place, amid great rejoicings and festivities. The entire nation, with the exception of fourteen persons, mainly little children, marched past the throne in single file, with banners and music, the procession being upward of ninety feet long; and some said it was as much as three-quarters of a minute passing a given point. Nothing like it had ever been seen in the history of the island before. Public enthusiasm was measureless.
Now straightway imperial reforms began. Orders of nobility were instituted. A minister of the navy was appointed, and the whale-boat put in commission. A minister of war was created, and ordered to proceed at once with the formation of a standing army. A first lord of the treasury was named, and commanded to get up a taxation scheme, and also open negotiations for treaties, offensive, defensive, and commercial, with foreign powers. Some generals and admirals were appointed; also some chamberlains, some equerries in waiting, and some lords of the bedchamber.
At this point all the material was used up. The Grand Duke of Galilee, minister of war, complained that all the sixteen grown men in the empire had been given great offices, and consequently would not consent to serve in the ranks; wherefore his standing army was at a standstill. The Marquis of Ararat, minister of the navy, made a similar complaint. He said he was willing to steer the whale-boat himself, but he must have somebody to man her.
The emperor did the best he could in the circumstances: he took all the boys above the age of ten years away from their mothers, and pressed them into the army, thus constructing a corps of seventeen privates, officered by one lieutenant-general and two major-generals. This pleased the minister of war, but procured the enmity of all the mothers in the land; for they said their precious ones must now find bloody graves in the fields of war, and he would be answerable for it. Some of the more heartbroken and unappeasable among them lay constantly wait for the emperor and threw yams at him, unmindful of the body-guard.
On account of the extreme scarcity of material, it was found necessary to require the Duke of Bethany postmaster-general, to pull stroke-oar in the navy and thus sit in the rear of a noble of lower degree namely, Viscount Canaan, lord justice of the common pleas. This turned the Duke of Bethany into tolerably open malcontent and a secret conspirator--a thing which the emperor foresaw, but could not help.
Things went from bad to worse. The emperor raised Nancy Peters to the peerage on one day, and married her the next, notwithstanding, for reasons of state, the cabinet had strenuously advised him to marry Emmeline, eldest daughter of the Archbishop of Bethlehem. This caused trouble in a powerful quarter--the church. The new empress secured the support and friendship of two-thirds of the thirty-six grown women in the nation by absorbing them into her court as maids of honor; but this made deadly enemies of the remaining twelve. The families of the maids of honor soon began to rebel, because there was nobody at home to keep house. The twelve snubbed women refused to enter the imperial kitchen as servants; so the empress had to require the Countess of Jericho and other great court dames to fetch water, sweep the palace, and perform other menial and equally distasteful services. This made bad blood in that department.
Everybody fell to complaining that the taxes levied for the
support of the army, the navy, and the rest of the imperial establishment were intolerably
burdensome, and were reducing the nation to beggary. The emperor's reply--"Look--Look at
But the grumblers only replied, "We can't stand the taxes--we can't stand them."
Now right on top of this the cabinet reported a national
debt amounting to upward of forty-five dollars--half a dollar to every
individual in the nation. And they
proposed to fund something. They had
heard that this was always done in such emergencies. They proposed duties on exports; also on
imports. And they wanted to issue bonds;
also paper money, redeemable in yams and cabbages in fifty years. They said the pay of the army and of the navy
and of the whole governmental machine was far in arrears, and unless something
was done, and done immediately, national bankruptcy must ensue, and possibly
insurrection and revolution. The emperor
at once resolved upon a high-handed measure, and one of a nature never before heard
of in Pitcairn's
That was the feather that broke the camel's back. First one citizen, and then another, rose and refused to submit to this unheard-of outrage --and each refusal was followed by the immediate confiscation of the malcontent's property. This vigor soon stopped the refusals, and the collection proceeded amid a sullen and ominous silence. As the emperor withdrew with the troops, he said, "I will teach you who is master here." Several persons shouted, "Down with unification!" They were at once arrested and torn from the arms of their weeping friends by the soldiery.
But in the mean time, as any prophet might have foreseen, a Social Democrat had been developed. As the emperor stepped into the gilded imperial wheelbarrow at the church door, the social democrat stabbed at him fifteen or sixteen times with a harpoon, but fortunately with such a peculiarly social democratic unprecision of aim as to do no damage.
That very night the convulsion came. The nation rose as one man--though forty-nine of the revolutionists were of the other sex. The infantry threw down their pitchforks; the artillery cast aside their cocoanuts; the navy revolted; the emperor was seized, and bound hand and foot in his palace. He was very much depressed. He said:
"I freed you from a grinding tyranny; I lifted you up out of your degradation, and made you a nation among nations; I gave you a strong, compact, centralized government; and, more than all, I gave you the blessing of blessings--unification. I have done all this, and my reward is hatred, insult, and these bonds. Take me; do with me as you will. I here resign my crown and all my dignities, and gladly do I release myself from their too heavy burden. For your sake I took them up; for your sake I lay them down. The imperial jewel is no more; now bruise and defile as ye will the useless setting."
By a unanimous voice the people condemned the ex-emperor and the social democrat to perpetual banishment from church services, or to perpetual labor as galley-slaves in the whale-boat--whichever they might prefer. The next day the nation assembled again, and rehoisted the British flag, reinstated the British tyranny, reduced the nobility to the condition of commoners again, and then straightway turned their diligent attention to the weeding of the ruined and neglected yam patches, and the rehabilitation of the old useful industries and the old healing and solacing pieties. The ex-emperor restored the lost trespass law, and explained that he had stolen it not to injure any one, but to further his political projects. Therefore the nation gave the late chief magistrate his office again, and also his alienated Property.
Upon reflection, the ex-emperor and the social democrat chose perpetual banishment from religious services in preference to perpetual labor as galley slaves "with perpetual religious services," as they phrased it; wherefore the people believed that the poor fellows' troubles had unseated their reason, and so they judged it best to confine them for the present. Which they did.
Such is the history of Pitcairn's "doubtful acquisition."
Poor, sad-eyed stranger! There was that about his humble mien, his tired look, his decayed-gentility clothes, that almost reached the mustard, seed of charity that still remained, remote and lonely, in the empty vastness of my heart, notwithstanding I observed a portfolio under his arm, and said to myself, Behold, Providence hath delivered his servant into the hands of another canvasser.
Well, these people always get one interested. Before I well knew how it came about, this one was telling me his history, and I was all attention and sympathy. He told it something like this:
My parents died, alas, when I was a little, sinless child. My uncle Ithuriel took me to his heart and reared me as his own. He was my only relative in the wide world; but he was good and rich and generous. He reared me in the lap of luxury. I knew no want that money could satisfy.
In the fullness of time I was graduated, and went with two of my servants--my chamberlain and my valet--to travel in foreign countries. During four years I flitted upon careless wing amid the beauteous gardens of the distant strand, if you will permit this form of speech in one whose tongue was ever attuned to poesy; and indeed I so speak with confidence, as one unto his kind, for I perceive by your eyes that you too, sir, are gifted with the divine inflation. In those far lands I reveled in the ambrosial food that fructifies the soul, the mind, the heart. But of all things, that which most appealed to my inborn esthetic taste was the prevailing custom there, among the rich, of making collections of elegant and costly rarities, dainty objets de vertu, and in an evil hour I tried to uplift my uncle Ithuriel to a plane of sympathy with this exquisite employment.
I wrote and told him of one gentleman's vast collection of shells; another's noble collection of meerschaum pipes; another's elevating and refining collection of undecipherable autographs; another's priceless collection of old china; another's enchanting collection of postage-stamps--and so forth and so on. Soon my letters yielded fruit. My uncle began to look about for something to make a collection of. You may know, perhaps, how fleetly a taste like this dilates. His soon became a raging fever, though I knew it not. He began to neglect his great pork business; presently he wholly retired and turned an elegant leisure into a rabid search for curious things. His wealth was vast, and he spared it not. First he tried cow-bells. He made a collection which filled five large salons, and comprehended all the different sorts of cow-bells that ever had been contrived, save one. That one--an antique, and the only specimen extant--was possessed by another collector. My uncle offered enormous sums for it, but the gentleman would not sell. Doubtless you know what necessarily resulted. A true collector attaches no value to a collection that is not complete. His great heart breaks, he sells his hoard, he turns his mind to some field that seems unoccupied.
Thus did my uncle. He
next tried brickbats. After piling up a
vast and intensely interesting collection, the former difficulty supervened;
his great heart broke again; he sold out his soul's idol to the retired brewer
who possessed the missing brick. Then he
tried flint hatchets and other implements of Primeval Man, but by and by discovered
that the factory where they were made was supplying other collectors as well as
tried Aztec inscriptions and stuffed whales--another failure, after incredible
labor and expense. When his collection
seemed at last perfect, a stuffed whale arrived from Greenland and an Aztec
inscription from the Cundurango regions of
Now he waited, and thought. He knew another disappointment might kill him. He was resolved that he would choose things next time that no other man was collecting. He carefully made up his mind, and once more entered the field-this time to make a collection of echoes.
"Of what?" said I.
Echoes, sir. His first purchase was an echo in Georgia
that repeated four times; his next was a six-repeater in Maryland; his next was
a thirteen-repeater in Maine; his next was a nine-repeater in Kansas; his next
was a twelve-repeater in Tennessee, which he got cheap, so to speak, because it
was out of repair, a portion of the crag which reflected it having tumbled
down. He believed he could repair it at
a cost of a few thousand dollars, and, by increasing the elevation with
masonry, treble the repeating capacity; but the architect who undertook the job
had never built an echo before, and so he utterly spoiled this one. Before he meddled with it, it used to talk back
like a mother-in-law, but now it was only fit for the deaf-and-dumb
asylum. Well, next he bought a lot of
cheap little double-barreled echoes, scattered around over various states and
territories; he got them at twenty per cent. off by
taking the lot. Next he bought a perfect Gatling-gun of an echo in
Well, in the mean time my path was a path of roses. I was the accepted suitor of the only and lovely daughter of an English earl, and was beloved to distraction. In that dear presence I swam in seas of bliss. The family were content, for it was known that I was sole heir to an uncle held to be worth five millions of dollars. However, none of us knew that my uncle had become a collector, at least in anything more than a small way, for esthetic amusement.
Now gathered the clouds above my
unconscious head. That divine
echo, since known throughout the world as the Great Koh-i-noor, or
Now, do you perceive the natural result? Why, the noblest collection of echoes on earth was forever and ever incomplete, since it possessed but the one-half of the king echo of the universe. Neither man was content with this divided ownership, yet neither would sell to the other. There were jawings, bickerings, heart-burnings. And at last that other collector, with a malignity which only a collector can ever feel toward a man and a brother, proceeded to cut down his hill!
You see, as long as he could not have the echo, he was resolved that nobody should have it. He would remove his hill, and then there would be nothing to reflect my uncle's echo. My uncle remonstrated with him, but the man said, "I own one end of this echo; I choose to kill my end; you must take care of your own end yourself."
Well, my uncle got an injunction put an
him. The other man appealed and fought
it in a higher court. They carried it on
up, clear to the Supreme Court of the
It was finally decided that the echo was property; that the hills were property; that the two men were separate and independent owners of the two hills, but tenants in common in the echo; therefore defendant was at full liberty to cut down his hill, since it belonged solely to him, but must give bonds in three million dollars as indemnity for damages which might result to my uncle's half of the echo. This decision also debarred my uncle from using defendant's hill to reflect his part of the echo, without defendant's consent; he must use only his own hill; if his part of the echo would not go, under these circumstances, it was sad, of course, but the court could find no remedy. The court also debarred defendant from using my uncle's hill to reflect his end of the echo, without consent. You see the grand result! Neither man would give consent, and so that astonishing and most noble echo had to cease from its great powers; and since that day that magnificent property is tied up and unsalable.
A week before my wedding-day, while I was still swimming in bliss and the nobility were gathering from far and near to honor our espousals, came news of my uncle's death, and also a copy of his will, making me his sole heir. He was gone; alas, my dear benefactor was no more. The thought surcharges my heart even at this remote day. I handed the will to the earl; I could not read it for the blinding tears. The earl read it; then he sternly said, "Sir, do you call this wealth?--but doubtless you do in your inflated country. Sir, you are left sole heir to a vast collection of echoes--if a thing can be called a collection that is scattered far and wide over the huge length and breadth of the American continent; sir, this is not all; you are head and ears in debt; there is not an echo in the lot but has a mortgage on it; sir, I am not a hard man, but I must look to my child's interest; if you had but one echo which you could honestly call your own, if you had but one echo which was free from incumbrance, so that you could retire to it with my child, and by humble, painstaking industry cultivate and improve it, and thus wrest from it a maintenance, I would not say you nay; but I cannot marry my child to a beggar. Leave his side, my darling; go, sir, take your mortgage-ridden echoes and quit my sight forever."
My noble Celestine clung to me in tears, with loving arms,
and swore she would willingly, nay gladly, marry me, though I had not an echo
in the world. But it could not be. We were torn asunder, she to pine and die
within the twelvemonth, I to toil life's long journey sad and alone, praying
daily, hourly, for that release which shall join us together again in that dear
realm where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest. Now, sir, if you will be so kind as to look
at these maps and plans in my portfolio, I am sure I can sell you an echo for
less money than any man in the trade.
Now this one, which cost my uncle ten dollars, thirty years ago, and is
one of the sweetest things in
"Let me interrupt you," I said. "My friend, I have not had a moment's respite from canvassers this day. I have bought a sewing-machine which I did not want; I have bought a map which is mistaken in all its details; I have bought a clock which will not go; I have bought a moth poison which the moths prefer to any other beverage; I have bought no end of useless inventions, and now I have had enough of this foolishness. I would not have one of your echoes if you were even to give it to me. I would not let it stay on the place. I always hate a man that tries to sell me echoes. You see this gun? Now take your collection and move on; let us not have bloodshed."
But he only smiled a sad, sweet smile, and got out some more diagrams. You know the result perfectly well, because you know that when you have once opened the door to a canvasser, the trouble is done and you have got to suffer defeat.
I compromised with this man at the end of an intolerable hour. I bought two double-barreled echoes in good condition, and he threw in another, which he said was not salable because it only spoke German. He said, "She was a perfect polyglot once, but somehow her palate got down."
The nervous, dapper, "peart" young man took the chair I offered him, and said he was connected with the Daily Thunderstorm, and added:
"Hoping it's no harm, I've come to interview you."
"Come to what?"
"Ah! I see. Yes--yes. Um! Yes--yes."
I was not feeling bright that morning. Indeed, my powers seemed a bit under a cloud. However, I went to the bookcase, and when I had been looking six or seven minutes I found I was obliged to refer to the young man. I said:
"How do you spell it?"
"Oh, my goodness! what do you want to spell it for?"
"I don't want to spell it; I want to see what it means."
"Well, this is astonishing, I must say. I can tell you what it means, if you--if you--"
"Oh, all right! That will answer, and much obliged to you, too."
"In, in, ter, ter, inter--"
"Then you spell it with an h"
"Oh, that is what took me so long."
"Why, my dear sir, what did you propose to spell it with?"
"Well, I--I--hardly know. I had the Unabridged, and I was ciphering around in the back end, hoping I might tree her among the pictures. But it's a very old edition."
"Why, my friend, they wouldn't have a picture of it in even the latest e--- My dear sir, I beg your pardon, I mean no harm in the world, but you do not look as--as--intelligent as I had expected you would. No harm --I mean no harm at all."
"Oh, don't mention it! It has often been said, and by people who would not flatter and who could have no inducement to flatter, that I am quite remarkable in that way. Yes--yes; they always speak of it with rapture."
"I can easily imagine it. But about this interview. You know it is the custom, now, to interview any man who has become notorious."
"Indeed, I had not heard of it before. It must be very interesting. What do you do it with?"
"Ah, well--well--well--this is disheartening. It ought to be done with a club in some cases; but customarily it consists in the interviewer asking questions and the interviewed answering them. It is all the rage now. Will you let me ask you certain questions calculated to bring out the salient points of your public and private history?"
"Oh, with pleasure--with pleasure. I have a very bad memory, but I hope you will not mind that. That is to say, it is an irregular memory --singularly irregular. Sometimes it goes in a gallop, and then again it will be as much as a fortnight passing a given point. This is a great grief to me."
"Oh, it is no matter, so you will try to do the best you can."
"I will. I will put my whole mind on it."
"Thanks. Are you ready to begin?"
Q. How old are you?
A. Nineteen, in June.
Q. Indeed. I would have taken you to be thirty-five or six. Where were you born?
Q. When did you begin to write?
A. In 1836.
Q. Why, how could that be, if you are only nineteen now?
A. I don't know. It does seem curious, somehow.
Q. It does, indeed. Whom do you consider the most remarkable man you ever met?
A. Aaron Burr.
Q. But you never could have met Aaron Burr, if you are only nineteen years!
A. Now, if you know more about me than I do, what do you ask me for?
Q. Well, it was only a suggestion; nothing more. How did you happen to meet Burr?
A. Well, I happened to be at his funeral one day, and he asked me to make less noise, and--
Q. But, good heavens! if you were at his funeral, he must have been dead, and if he was dead how could he care whether you made a noise or not?
A. I don't know. He was always a particular kind of a man that way.
Q. Still, I don't understand it at all, You say he spoke to you, and that he was dead.
A. I didn't say he was dead.
Q. But wasn't he dead?
A. Well, some said he was, some said he wasn't.
Q. What did you think?
A. Oh, it was none of my business! It wasn't any of my funeral.
Q. Did you--However, we can never get this matter straight. Let me ask about something else. What was the date of your birth?
A. Monday, October 31, 1693.
Q. What! Impossible! That would make you a hundred and eighty years old. How do you account for that?
A. I don't account for it at all.
Q. But you said at first you were only nineteen, and now you make yourself out to be one hundred and eighty. It is an awful discrepancy.
A. Why, have you noticed that? (Shaking hands.) Many a time it has seemed to me like a discrepancy, but somehow I couldn't make up my mind. How quick you notice a thing!
Q. Thank you for the compliment, as far as it goes. Had you, or have you, any brothers or sisters?
A. Eh! I--I--I think so--yes--but I don't remember.
Q. Well, that is the most extraordinary statement I ever heard!
A. Why, what makes you think that?
Q. How could I think otherwise? Why, look here! Who is this a picture of on the wall? Isn't that a brother of yours?
A. Oh, yes, yes, yes! Now you remind me of it; that was a brother of mine. That's William--Bill we called him. Poor old Bill!
Q. Why? Is he dead, then?
A. Ah! well, I suppose so. We never could tell. There was a great mystery about it.
Q. That is sad, very sad. He disappeared, then?
A. Well, yes, in a sort of general way. We buried him.
Q. Buried him! Buried him, without knowing whether he was dead or not?
A. Oh, no! Not that. He was dead enough.
Q. Well, I confess that I can't understand this. If you buried him, and you knew he was dead
A. No! no! We only thought he was.
Q. Oh, I see! He came to life again?
A. I bet he didn't.
Q. Well, I never heard anything like this. Somebody was dead. Somebody was buried. Now, where was the mystery?
A. Ah! that's just it! That's it exactly. You see, we were twins --defunct--and I--and we got mixed in the bathtub when we were only two weeks old, and one of us was drowned. But we didn't know which. Some think it was Bill. Some think it was me.
Q. Well, that is remarkable. What do you think?
A. Goodness knows! I would give whole worlds to know. This solemn, this awful mystery has cast a gloom over my whole life. But I will tell you a secret now, which I never have revealed to any creature before. One of us had a peculiar mark--a large mole on the back of his left hand; that was me. That child was the one that was drowned!
Q. Very well, then, I don't see that there is any mystery about it, after all.
A. You don't? Well, I do. Anyway, I don't see how they could ever have been such a blundering lot as to go and bury the wrong child. But, 'sh! --don't mention it where the family can hear of it. Heaven knows they have heartbreaking troubles enough without adding this.
Q. Well, I believe I have got material enough for the present, and I am very much obliged to you for the pains you have taken. But I was a good deal interested in that account of Aaron Burr's funeral. Would you mind telling me what particular circumstance it was that made you think Burr was such a remarkable man?
A. Oh! it was a mere trifle! Not one man in fifty would have noticed it at all. When the sermon was over, and the procession all ready to start for the cemetery, and the body all arranged nice in the hearse, he said he wanted to take a last look at the scenery, and so he got up and rode with the driver.
Then the young man reverently withdrew. He was very pleasant company, and I was sorry to see him go.
--[Crowded out of "A Tramp Abroad" to make room for more vital statistics.--M. T.]
The Parisian travels but little, he knows no language but his own, reads no literature but his own, and consequently he is pretty narrow and pretty self-sufficient. However, let us not be too sweeping; there are Frenchmen who know languages not their own: these are the waiters. Among the rest, they know English; that is, they know it on the European plan --which is to say, they can speak it, but can't understand it. They easily make themselves understood, but it is next to impossible to word an English sentence in such away as to enable them to comprehend it. They think they comprehend it; they pretend they do; but they don't. Here is a conversation which I had with one of these beings; I wrote it down at the time, in order to have it exactly correct.
I. These are fine oranges. Where are they grown?
He. More? Yes, I will bring them.
I. No, do not bring any more; I only want to know where they are from where they are raised.
He. Yes? (with imperturbable mien and rising inflection.)
I. Yes. Can you tell me what country they are from?
He. Yes? (blandly, with rising inflection.)
He. Good night. (Bows, and retires, quite satisfied with himself.)
That young man could have become a good English scholar by
taking the right sort of pains, but he was French, and wouldn't do that. How different is the case with our people;
they utilize every means that offers.
There are some alleged French Protestants in
These students probably acquire more language than general information, for I am told that a French sermon is like a French speech--it never names a historical event, but only the date of it; if you are not up in dates, you get left. A French speech is something like this:
Comrades, citizens, brothers, noble parts of the only sublime and perfect nation, let us not forget that the 21st January cast off our chains; that the 10th August relieved us of the shameful presence of foreign spies; that the 5th September was its own justification before heaven and humanity; that the 18th Brumaire contained the seeds of its own punishment; that the 14th July was the mighty voice of liberty proclaiming the resurrection, the new day, and inviting the oppressed peoples of the earth to look upon the divine face of France and live; and let us here record our everlasting curse against the man of the 2d December, and declare in thunder tones, the native tones of France, that but for him there had been no 17th March in history, no 12th October, no 19th January, no 22d April, no 16th November, no 30th September, no 2d July, no 14th February, no 29th June, no 15th August, no 31st May--that but for him, France the pure, the grand, the peerless, had had a serene and vacant almanac today!
I have heard of one French sermon which closed in this odd yet eloquent way:
My hearers, we have sad cause to remember the man of the 13th January. The results of the vast crime of the 13th January have been in just proportion to the magnitude of the set itself. But for it there had been no 30 November--sorrowful spectacle! The grisly deed of the 16th June had not been done but for it, nor had the man of the 16th June known existence; to it alone the 3d September was due, also the fatal 12th October. Shall we, then, be grateful for the 13th January, with its freight of death for you and me and all that breathe? Yes, my friends, for it gave us also that which had never come but for it, and it atone--the blessed 25th December.
It may be well enough to explain, though in the case of many
of my readers this will hardly be necessary.
The man of the 13th January is Adam; the crime of that date was the
eating of the apple; the sorrowful spectacle of the 30th November was the
expulsion from Eden; the grisly deed of the 16th June was the murder of Abel;
the act of the 3d September was the beginning of the journey to the land of
Nod; the 12th day of October, the last mountain-tops disappeared under the
flood. When you go to church in
--[Left out of "A Tramp Abroad" because its authenticity seemed doubtful, and could not at that time be proved.--M. T.]
More than a thousand years ago this small district was a kingdom --a little bit of a kingdom, a sort of dainty little toy kingdom, as one might say. It was far removed from the jealousies, strifes, and turmoils of that old warlike day, and so its life was a simple life, its people a gentle and guileless race; it lay always in a deep dream of peace, a soft Sabbath tranquillity; there was no malice, there was no envy, there was no ambition, consequently there were no heart-burnings, there was no unhappiness in the land.
In the course of time the old king died and his little son Hubert came to the throne. The people's love for him grew daily; he was so good and so pure and so noble, that by and by his love became a passion, almost a worship. Now at his birth the soothsayers had diligently studied the stars and found something written in that shining book to this effect:
In Hubert's fourteenth year a pregnant event will happen; the animal whose singing shall sound sweetest in Hubert's ear shall save Hubert's life. So long as the king and the nation shall honor this animal's race for this good deed, the ancient dynasty shall not fail of an heir, nor the nation know war or pestilence or poverty. But beware an erring choice!
All through the king's thirteenth year but one thing was talked of by the soothsayers, the statesmen, the little parliament, and the general people. That one thing was this: How is the last sentence of the prophecy to be understood? What goes before seems to mean that the saving animal will choose itself at the proper time; but the closing sentence seems to mean that the king must choose beforehand, and say what singer among the animals pleases him best, and that if he choose wisely the chosen animal will save his life, his dynasty, his people, but that if he should make "an erring choice"--beware!
By the end of the year there were as many opinions about this matter as there had been in the beginning; but a majority of the wise and the simple were agreed that the safest plan would be for the little king to make choice beforehand, and the earlier the better. So an edict was sent forth commanding all persons who owned singing creatures to bring them to the great hall of the palace in the morning of the first day of the new year. This command was obeyed. When everything was in readiness for the trial, the king made his solemn entry with the great officers of the crown, all clothed in their robes of state. The king mounted his golden throne and prepared to give judgment. But he presently said:
"These creatures all sing at once; the noise is unendurable; no one can choose in such a turmoil. Take them all away, and bring back one at a time."
This was done. One sweet warbler after another charmed the young king's ear and was removed to make way for another candidate. The precious minutes slipped by; among so many bewitching songsters he found it hard to choose, and all the harder because the promised penalty for an error was so terrible that it unsettled his judgment and made him afraid to trust his own ears. He grew nervous and his face showed distress. His ministers saw this, for they never took their eyes from him a moment. Now they began to say in their hearts:
"He has lost courage--the cool head is gone--he will err--he and his dynasty and his people are doomed!"
At the end of an hour the king sat silent awhile, and then said:
"Bring back the linnet."
The linnet trilled forth her jubilant music. In the midst of it the king was about to uplift his scepter in sign of choice, but checked himself and said:
"But let us be sure. Bring back the thrush; let them sing together."
The thrush was brought, and the two birds poured out their marvels of song together. The king wavered, then his inclination began to settle and strengthen--one could see it in his countenance. Hope budded in the hearts of the old ministers, their pulses began to beat quicker, the scepter began to rise slowly, when: There was a hideous interruption! It was a sound like this--just at the door:
"Waw . . . he! waw . . . he! waw-he!-waw he!-waw-he!"
Everybody was sorely startled--and enraged at himself for showing it.
The next instant the dearest, sweetest, prettiest little peasant-maid of nine years came tripping in, her brown eyes glowing with childish eagerness; but when she saw that august company and those angry faces she stopped and hung her head and put her poor coarse apron to her eyes. Nobody gave her welcome, none pitied her. Presently she looked up timidly through her tears, and said:
"My lord the king, I pray you pardon me, for I meant no wrong. I have no father and no mother, but I have a goat and a donkey, and they are all in all to me. My goat gives me the sweetest milk, and when my dear good donkey brays it seems to me there is no music like to it. So when my lord the king's jester said the sweetest singer among all the animals should save the crown and nation, and moved me to bring him here--"
All the court burst into a rude laugh, and the child fled away crying, without trying to finish her speech. The chief minister gave a private order that she and her disastrous donkey be flogged beyond the precincts of the palace and commanded to come within them no more.
Then the trial of the birds was resumed. The two birds sang their best, but the scepter lay motionless in the king's hand. Hope died slowly out in the breasts of all. An hour went by; two hours, still no decision. The day waned to its close, and the waiting multitudes outside the palace grew crazed with anxiety and apprehension. The twilight came on, the shadows fell deeper and deeper. The king and his court could no longer see each other's faces. No one spoke--none called for lights. The great trial had been made; it had failed; each and all wished to hide their faces from the light and cover up their deep trouble in their own hearts.
Finally-hark! A rich, full strain of the divinest melody streamed forth from a remote part of the hall the nightingale's voice!
"Up!" shouted the king, "let all the bells make proclamation to the people, for the choice is made and we have not erred. King, dynasty, and nation are saved. From henceforth let the nightingale be honored throughout the land forever. And publish it among all the people that whosoever shall insult a nightingale, or injure it, shall suffer death. The king hath spoken."
All that little world was drunk with joy. The castle and the city blazed with bonfires all night long, the people danced and drank and sang; and the triumphant clamor of the bells never ceased.
From that day the nightingale was a sacred bird. Its song was heard in every house; the poets wrote its praises; the painters painted it; its sculptured image adorned every arch and turret and fountain and public building. It was even taken into the king's councils; and no grave matter of state was decided until the soothsayers had laid the thing before the state nightingale and translated to the ministry what it was that the bird had sung about it.
The young king was very fond of the chase. When the summer was come he rode forth with hawk and hound, one day, in a brilliant company of his nobles. He got separated from them by and by, in a great forest, and took what he imagined a neat cut, to find them again; but it was a mistake. He rode on and on, hopefully at first, but with sinking courage finally. Twilight came on, and still he was plunging through a lonely and unknown land. Then came a catastrophe. In the dim light he forced his horse through a tangled thicket overhanging a steep and rocky declivity. When horse and rider reached the bottom, the former had a broken neck and the latter a broken leg. The poor little king lay there suffering agonies of pain, and each hour seemed a long month to him. He kept his ear strained to hear any sound that might promise hope of rescue; but he heard no voice, no sound of horn or bay of hound. So at last he gave up all hope, and said, "Let death come, for come it must."
Just then the deep, sweet song of a nightingale swept across the still wastes of the night.
"Saved!" the king said. "Saved! It is the sacred bird, and the prophecy is come true. The gods themselves protected me from error in the choice."
He could hardly contain his joy; he could not word his gratitude. Every few moments, now he thought he caught the sound of approaching succor. But each time it was a disappointment; no succor came. The dull hours drifted on. Still no help came--but still the sacred bird sang on. He began to have misgivings about his choice, but he stifled them. Toward dawn the bird ceased. The morning came, and with it thirst and hunger; but no succor. The day waxed and waned. At last the king cursed the nightingale.
Immediately the song of the thrush came from out the wood. The king said in his heart, "This was the true-bird--my choice was false--succor will come now."
But it did not come. Then he lay many hours insensible. When he came to himself, a linnet was singing. He listened with apathy. His faith was gone. "These birds," he said, "can bring no help; I and my house and my people are doomed." He turned him about to die; for he was grown very feeble from hunger and thirst and suffering, and felt that his end was near. In truth, he wanted to die, and be released from pain. For long hours he lay without thought or feeling or motion. Then his senses returned. The dawn of the third morning was breaking. Ah, the world seemed very beautiful to those worn eyes. Suddenly a great longing to live rose up in the lad's heart, and from his soul welled a deep and fervent prayer that Heaven would have mercy upon him and let him see his home and his friends once more. In that instant a soft, a faint, a far-off sound, but oh, how inexpressibly sweet to his waiting ear, came floating out of the distance:
"Waw . . . he! waw . . . he! waw-he!--waw-he!--waw-he!"
"That, oh, that song is sweeter, a thousand times sweeter than the voice of the nightingale, thrush, or linnet, for it brings not mere hope, but certainty of succor; and now, indeed, am I saved! The sacred singer has chosen itself, as the oracle intended; the prophecy is fulfilled, and my life, my house, and my people are redeemed. The ass shall be sacred from this day!"
The divine music grew nearer and nearer, stronger and stronger and ever sweeter and sweeter to the perishing sufferer's ear. Down the declivity the docile little donkey wandered, cropping herbage and singing as he went; and when at last he saw the dead horse and the wounded king, he came and snuffed at them with simple and marveling curiosity. The king petted him, and he knelt down as had been his wont when his little mistress desired to mount. With great labor and pain the lad drew himself upon the creature's back, and held himself there by aid of the generous ears. The ass went singing forth from the place and carried the king to the little peasant-maid's hut. She gave him her pallet for a bed, refreshed him with goat's milk, and then flew to tell the great news to the first scouting-party of searchers she might meet.
The king got well. His first act was to proclaim the sacredness and inviolability of the ass; his second was to add this particular ass to his cabinet and make him chief minister of the crown; his third was to have all the statues and effigies of nightingales throughout his kingdom destroyed, and replaced by statues and effigies of the sacred donkey; and, his fourth was to announce that when the little peasant maid should reach her fifteenth year he would make her his queen and he kept his word.
Such is the legend. This explains why the moldering image of the ass adorns all these old crumbling walls and arches; and it explains why, during many centuries, an ass was always the chief minister in that royal cabinet, just as is still the case in most cabinets to this day; and it also explains why, in that little kingdom, during many centuries, all great poems, all great speeches, all great books, all public solemnities, and all royal proclamations, always began with these stirring words:
"Waw . . . he! waw . . . he!--waw he! Waw-he!"
AT THE BANQUET, IN
The fifteenth regular toast was "The Babies--as they comfort us in our sorrows, let us not forget them in our festivities."
I like that. We have
not all had the good fortune to be ladies.
We have not all been generals, or poets, or statesmen; but when the
toast works down to the babies, we stand on common ground. It is a shame that for a thousand years the
world's banquets have utterly ignored the baby, as if he didn't amount to
anything. If you will stop and think a
minute --if you will go back fifty or one hundred years to your early married
life and recontemplate your first baby--you will remember that he amounted to a
great deal, and even something over. You
soldiers all know that when the little fellow arrived at family headquarters
you had to hand in your resignation. He
took entire command. You became his
lackey, his mere body servant, and you had to stand around, too. He was not a commander who made allowances
for time, distance, weather, or anything else.
You had to execute his order whether it was possible or not. And there was only one form of marching in
his manual of tactics, and that was the double-quick. He treated you with every sort of insolence
and disrespect, and the bravest of you didn't dare to say a word. You could face the death-storm at Donelson
Yes, it was high time for a toast-master to recognize the importance of the babies. Think what is in store for the present crop! Fifty years from now we shall all be dead, I trust, and then this flag, if it still survive (and let us hope it may), will be floating over a Republic numbering 200,000,000 souls, according to the settled laws of our increase. Our present schooner of State will have grown into a political leviathan--a Great Eastern. The cradled babies of to-day will be on deck. Let them be well trained, for we are going to leave a big contract on their hands. Among the three or four million cradles now rocking in the land are some which this nation would preserve for ages as sacred things, if we could know which ones they are. In one of them cradles the unconscious Farragut of the future is at this moment teething--think of it!--and putting in a world of dead earnest, unarticulated, but perfectly justifiable profanity over it, too. In another the future renowned astronomer is blinking at the shining Milky Way with but a languid interest--poor little chap!--and wondering what has become of that other one they call the wet-nurse. In another the future great historian is lying--and doubtless will continue to lie until his earthly mission is ended. In another the future President is busying himself with no profounder problem of state than what the mischief has become of his hair so early; and in a mighty array of other cradles there are now some 60,000 future office-seekers, getting ready to furnish him occasion to grapple with that same old problem a second time. And in still one more cradle, somewhere under the flag, the future illustrious commander-in-chief of the American armies is so little burdened with his approaching grandeurs and responsibilities as to be giving his whole strategic mind at this moment to trying to find out some way to get his big toe into his mouth--an achievement which, meaning no disrespect, the illustrious guest of this evening turned his entire attention to some fifty-six years ago; and if the child is but a prophecy of the man, there are mighty few who will doubt that he succeeded.
AT THE NEW ENGLAND SOCIETY'S SEVENTY-FIRST ANNUAL DINNER,
The next toast was: "The Oldest Inhabitant--The Weather of New England."
Who can lose it and forget it? Who can have it and regret it?
Be interposes 'twixt us Twain. Merchant of
To this Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) replied as follows:--
I reverently believe that the Maker who made us all makes
--[Being part of a chapter which was crowded out of "A Tramp Abroad."--M.T.]
There was as Englishman in our compartment, and he complimented me on --on what? But you would never guess. He complimented me on my English. He said Americans in general did not speak the English language as correctly as I did. I said I was obliged to him for his compliment, since I knew he meant it for one, but that I was not fairly entitled to it, for I did not speak English at all--I only spoke American.
He laughed, and said it was a distinction without a difference. I said no, the difference was not prodigious, but still it was considerable. We fell into a friendly dispute over the matter. I put my case as well as I could, and said:
"The languages were identical several generations ago, but our changed conditions and the spread of our people far to the south and far to the west have made many alterations in our pronunciation, and have introduced new words among us and changed the meanings of many old ones. English people talk through their noses; we do not. We say know, English people say nao; we say cow, the Briton says kaow; we--"
"Oh, come! that is pure Yankee; everybody knows that."
"Yes, it is pure Yankee; that is true. One cannot hear it in
We argued this point at some length; nobody won; but no
matter, the fact remains Englishmen say nao and kaow for "know" and
"cow," and that is what the rustic inhabitant of a very small section
"You conferred your 'a' upon New England, too, and
there it remains; it has not traveled out of the narrow limits of those six
little states in all these two hundred and fifty years. All
"The same is the case in
"Yes, that is true; but a nation's language is a very large matter. It is not simply a manner of speech obtaining among the educated handful; the manner obtaining among the vast uneducated multitude must be considered also. Your uneducated masses speak English, you will not deny that; our uneducated masses speak American it won't be fair for you to deny that, for you can see, yourself, that when your stable-boy says, 'It isn't the 'unting that 'urts the 'orse, but the 'ammer, 'ammer, 'ammer on the 'ard 'ighway,' and our stable-boy makes the same remark without suffocating a single h, these two people are manifestly talking two different languages. But if the signs are to be trusted, even your educated classes used to drop the 'h.' They say humble, now, and heroic, and historic etc., but I judge that they used to drop those h's because your writers still keep up the fashion of patting an before those words instead of a. This is what Mr. Darwin might call a 'rudimentary' sign that as an was justifiable once, and useful when your educated classes used to say 'umble, and 'eroic, and 'istorical. Correct writers of the American language do not put an before three words."
The English gentleman had something to say upon this matter, but never mind what he said--I'm not arguing his case. I have him at a disadvantage, now. I proceeded:
"I don't wish to flatter you, but it is about all I can do to understand you now."
That was a very pretty compliment, and it put us on the pleasantest terms directly--I use the word in the English sense.
[Later--1882. Esthetes in many of our schools are now beginning to teach the pupils to broaden the 'a,' and to say "don't you," in the elegant foreign way.]
This Man Rogers happened upon me and introduced himself at
the town of -----, in the South of England, where I stayed awhile. His stepfather had married a distant relative
of mine who was afterward hanged; and so he seemed to think a blood
relationship existed between us. He came
in every day and sat down and talked. Of
all the bland, serene human curiosities I ever saw, I think he was the
chiefest. He desired to look at my new
chimney-pot hat. I was very willing, for
I thought he would notice the name of the great
Another time he examined my coat. I had no terrors, for over my tailor's door was the legend, "By Special Appointment Tailor to H. R. H. the Prince of Wales," etc. I did not know at the time that the most of the tailor shops had the same sign out, and that whereas it takes nine tailors to make an ordinary man, it takes a hundred and fifty to make a prince. He was full of compassion for my coat. Wrote down the address of his tailor for me. Did not tell me to mention my nom de plume and the tailor would put his best work on my garment, as complimentary people sometimes do, but said his tailor would hardly trouble himself for an unknown person (unknown person, when I thought I was so celebrated in England!--that was the cruelest cut), but cautioned me to mention his name, and it would be all right. Thinking to be facetious, I said:
"But he might sit up all night and injure his health."
"Well, let him," said
I might as well have tried to disconcert a mummy with my
I made one more attempt. I said, "I wish you had brought one with you --I would like to look at it."
"Bless your heart, haven't I got one on?--this article is Morgan's make."
I examined it. The coat had been bought ready-made, of a Chatham Street Jew, without any question--about 1848. It probably cost four dollars when it was new. It was ripped, it was frayed, it was napless and greasy. I could not resist showing him where it was ripped. It so affected him that I was almost sorry I had done it. First he seemed plunged into a bottomless abyss of grief. Then he roused himself, made a feint with his hands as if waving off the pity of a nation, and said --with what seemed to me a manufactured emotion--"No matter; no matter; don't mind me; do not bother about it. I can get another."
When he was thoroughly restored, so that he could examine the rip and command his feelings, he said, ah, now he understood it--his servant must have done it while dressing him that morning.
His servant! There was something awe-inspiring in effrontery like this.
Nearly every day he interested himself in some article of my clothing. One would hardly have expected this sort of infatuation in a man who always wore the same suit, and it a suit that seemed coeval with the Conquest.
It was an unworthy ambition, perhaps, but I did wish I could
make this man admire something about me or something I did--you would have felt
the same way. I saw my opportunity: I
was about to return to
His gloves were the saddest ruin, but he told me where I could get some like them. His shoes would hardly hold walnuts without leaking, but he liked to put his feet up on the mantelpiece and contemplate them. He wore a dim glass breastpin, which he called a "morphylitic diamond"
--whatever that may mean--and said only two of them had ever been found
--the Emperor of China had the other one.
"Sackville!" No answer.
"Hi-Sackville!" No answer.
"Now what the devil can have become of that butler? I never allow a servant to--Oh, confound that idiot, he's got the keys. Can't get into the other rooms without the keys."
(I was just wondering at his intrepidity in still keeping up the delusion of the champagne, and trying to imagine how he was going to get out of the difficulty.)
Now he stopped calling Sackville and began to call "Anglesy." But Anglesy didn't come. He said, "This is the second time that that equerry has been absent without leave. To-morrow I'll discharge him." Now he began to whoop for "Thomas," but Thomas didn't answer. Then for "Theodore," but no Theodore replied.
"Well, I give it up," said
I offered to help him dress, but he would not hear of it; and besides, he said he would not feel comfortable unless dressed by a practised hand. However, he finally concluded that he was such old friends with the Earl that it would not make any difference how he was dressed. So we took a cab, he gave the driver some directions, and we started. By and by we stopped before a large house and got out. I never had seen this man with a collar on. He now stepped under a lamp and got a venerable paper collar out of his coat pocket, along with a hoary cravat, and put them on. He ascended the stoop, and entered. Presently he reappeared, descended rapidly, and said:
We hurried away, and turned the corner.
"Now we're safe," he said, and took off his collar and cravat and returned them to his pocket.
"Made a mighty narrow escape," said he.
"How?" said I.
"B' George, the Countess was there!"
"Well, what of that?--don't she know you?"
"Know me? Absolutely worships me. I just did happen to catch a glimpse of her before she saw me--and out I shot. Haven't seen her for two months--to rush in on her without any warning might have been fatal. She could not have stood it. I didn't know she was in town--thought she was at the castle. Let me lean on you--just a moment--there; now I am better--thank you; thank you ever so much. Lord bless me, what an escape!"
So I never got to call on the Earl, after all. But I marked the house for future reference. It proved to be an ordinary family hotel, with about a thousand plebeians roosting in it.
In most things