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Title: A Chosen Few - Short Stories
Author: Stockton, Frank Richard, 1834-1902
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Chosen Few - Short Stories" ***

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[Illustration]



                            A CHOSEN FEW

                           SHORT STORIES

                                 BY

                         FRANK R. STOCKTON

            WITH AN ETCHED PORTRAIT BY W. H. W. BICKNELL

                              NEW YORK
                      CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
                                1895



                        Copyright, 1895, by
                      CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

                        THE DE VINNE PRESS.



PREFACE


The stories contained in this little volume were chosen, by virtue
of a sort of literary civil-service examination, in order that they
might be grouped together as a representative class of the author's
best-known work in this line.

Several of these stories have points of peculiar interest to the
author. For instance, "Negative Gravity" was composed in Switzerland
when the author was temporarily confined to the house in full view
of unreachable Alps.

"His Wife's Deceased Sister" was suggested by an editorial
disposition to compare all the author's work with one previous
production, and to discard everything which did not accord exactly
with the particular story which had been selected as a standard of
merit.

"The Lady, or the Tiger?" was printed in the hope that the author
might receive the cheerful coöperation of some of his readers in a
satisfactory solution of the problem contained in the little story;
but although he has had much valuable assistance in this direction
he has also been the recipient of a great deal of scolding.

After reading several stories by Clark Russell, the author's mind
was led to consider the possibility of inventing some sort of
shipwreck which had never yet been made the subject of a story. His
efforts in this line resulted in "The Remarkable Wreck of the
'Thomas Hyke.'"

"A Piece of Red Calico" is a description, with exaggerated points,
of an actual experience.



CONTENTS


  A TALE OF NEGATIVE GRAVITY
    From "The Christmas Wreck"

  ASAPH
    From "The Watchmaker's Wife"

  "HIS WIFE'S DECEASED SISTER"
    From "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

  THE LADY, OR THE TIGER?

  THE REMARKABLE WRECK OF THE "THOMAS HYKE"
    From "The Christmas Wreck"

  OLD PIPES AND THE DRYAD
    From "The Bee-man of Orn"

  THE TRANSFERRED GHOST
    From "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

  "THE PHILOSOPHY OF RELATIVE EXISTENCES"
    From "The Watchmaker's Wife"

  A PIECE OF RED CALICO
    From "The Lady, or the Tiger?"



A TALE OF NEGATIVE GRAVITY


My wife and I were staying at a small town in northern Italy; and on
a certain pleasant afternoon in spring we had taken a walk of six or
seven miles to see the sun set behind some low mountains to the west
of the town. Most of our walk had been along a hard, smooth highway,
and then we turned into a series of narrower roads, sometimes
bordered by walls, and sometimes by light fences of reed or cane.
Nearing the mountain, to a low spur of which we intended to ascend,
we easily scaled a wall about four feet high, and found ourselves
upon pasture-land, which led, sometimes by gradual ascents, and
sometimes by bits of rough climbing, to the spot we wished to reach.
We were afraid we were a little late, and therefore hurried on,
running up the grassy hills, and bounding briskly over the rough and
rocky places. I carried a knapsack strapped firmly to my shoulders,
and under my wife's arm was a large, soft basket of a kind much used
by tourists. Her arm was passed through the handles and around the
bottom of the basket, which she pressed closely to her side. This
was the way she always carried it. The basket contained two bottles
of wine, one sweet for my wife, and another a little acid for
myself. Sweet wines give me a headache.

When we reached the grassy bluff, well known thereabouts to lovers
of sunset views, I stepped immediately to the edge to gaze upon the
scene, but my wife sat down to take a sip of wine, for she was very
thirsty; and then, leaving her basket, she came to my side. The
scene was indeed one of great beauty. Beneath us stretched a wide
valley of many shades of green, with a little river running through
it, and red-tiled houses here and there. Beyond rose a range of
mountains, pink, pale green, and purple where their tips caught the
reflection of the setting sun, and of a rich gray-green in shadows.
Beyond all was the blue Italian sky, illumined by an especially fine
sunset.

My wife and I are Americans, and at the time of this story were
middle-aged people and very fond of seeing in each other's company
whatever there was of interest or beauty around us. We had a son
about twenty-two years old, of whom we were also very fond; but he
was not with us, being at that time a student in Germany. Although
we had good health, we were not very robust people, and, under
ordinary circumstances, not much given to long country tramps. I was
of medium size, without much muscular development, while my wife was
quite stout, and growing stouter.

The reader may, perhaps, be somewhat surprised that a middle-aged
couple, not very strong, or very good walkers, the lady loaded with
a basket containing two bottles of wine and a metal drinking-cup,
and the gentleman carrying a heavy knapsack, filled with all sorts
of odds and ends, strapped to his shoulders, should set off on a
seven-mile walk, jump over a wall, run up a hillside, and yet feel
in very good trim to enjoy a sunset view. This peculiar state of
things I will proceed to explain.

I had been a professional man, but some years before had retired
upon a very comfortable income. I had always been very fond of
scientific pursuits, and now made these the occupation and pleasure
of much of my leisure time. Our home was in a small town; and in a
corner of my grounds I built a laboratory, where I carried on my
work and my experiments. I had long been anxious to discover the
means not only of producing, but of retaining and controlling, a
natural force, really the same as centrifugal force, but which I
called negative gravity. This name I adopted because it indicated
better than any other the action of the force in question, as I
produced it. Positive gravity attracts everything toward the centre
of the earth. Negative gravity, therefore, would be that power which
repels everything from the centre of the earth, just as the negative
pole of a magnet repels the needle, while the positive pole attracts
it. My object was, in fact, to store centrifugal force and to render
it constant, controllable, and available for use. The advantages of
such a discovery could scarcely be described. In a word, it would
lighten the burdens of the world.

I will not touch upon the labors and disappointments of several
years. It is enough to say that at last I discovered a method of
producing, storing, and controlling negative gravity.

The mechanism of my invention was rather complicated, but the method
of operating it was very simple. A strong metallic case, about eight
inches long, and half as wide, contained the machinery for producing
the force; and this was put into action by means of the pressure of
a screw worked from the outside. As soon as this pressure was
produced, negative gravity began to be evolved and stored, and the
greater the pressure the greater the force. As the screw was moved
outward, and the pressure diminished, the force decreased, and when
the screw was withdrawn to its fullest extent, the action of
negative gravity entirely ceased. Thus this force could be produced
or dissipated at will to such degrees as might be desired, and its
action, so long as the requisite pressure was maintained, was
constant.

When this little apparatus worked to my satisfaction I called my
wife into my laboratory and explained to her my invention and its
value. She had known that I had been at work with an important
object, but I had never told her what it was. I had said that if I
succeeded I would tell her all, but if I failed she need not be
troubled with the matter at all. Being a very sensible woman, this
satisfied her perfectly. Now I explained everything to her--the
construction of the machine, and the wonderful uses to which this
invention could be applied. I told her that it could diminish, or
entirely dissipate, the weight of objects of any kind. A heavily
loaded wagon, with two of these instruments fastened to its sides,
and each screwed to a proper force, would be so lifted and supported
that it would press upon the ground as lightly as an empty cart, and
a small horse could draw it with ease. A bale of cotton, with one of
these machines attached, could be handled and carried by a boy. A
car, with a number of these machines, could be made to rise in the
air like a balloon. Everything, in fact, that was heavy could be
made light; and as a great part of labor, all over the world, is
caused by the attraction of gravitation, so this repellent force,
wherever applied, would make weight less and work easier. I told her
of many, many ways in which the invention might be used, and would
have told her of many more if she had not suddenly burst into tears.

"The world has gained something wonderful," she exclaimed, between
her sobs, "but I have lost a husband!"

"What do you mean by that?" I asked, in surprise.

"I haven't minded it so far," she said, "because it gave you
something to do, and it pleased you, and it never interfered with
our home pleasures and our home life. But now that is all over. You
will never be your own master again. It will succeed, I am sure, and
you may make a great deal of money, but we don't need money. What we
need is the happiness which we have always had until now. Now there
will be companies, and patents, and lawsuits, and experiments, and
people calling you a humbug, and other people saying they discovered
it long ago, and all sorts of persons coming to see you, and you'll
be obliged to go to all sorts of places, and you will be an altered
man, and we shall never be happy again. Millions of money will not
repay us for the happiness we have lost."

These words of my wife struck me with much force. Before I had
called her my mind had begun to be filled and perplexed with ideas
of what I ought to do now that the great invention was perfected.
Until now the matter had not troubled me at all. Sometimes I had
gone backward and sometimes forward, but, on the whole, I had always
felt encouraged. I had taken great pleasure in the work, but I had
never allowed myself to be too much absorbed by it. But now
everything was different. I began to feel that it was due to myself
and to my fellow-beings that I should properly put this invention
before the world. And how should I set about it? What steps should I
take? I must make no mistakes. When the matter should become known
hundreds of scientific people might set themselves to work; how
could I tell but that they might discover other methods of producing
the same effect? I must guard myself against a great many things. I
must get patents in all parts of the world. Already, as I have said,
my mind began to be troubled and perplexed with these things. A
turmoil of this sort did not suit my age or disposition. I could not
but agree with my wife that the joys of a quiet and contented life
were now about to be broken into.

"My dear," said I, "I believe, with you, that the thing will do us
more harm than good. If it were not for depriving the world of the
invention I would throw the whole thing to the winds. And yet," I
added, regretfully, "I had expected a great deal of personal
gratification from the use of this invention."

"Now listen," said my wife, eagerly; "don't you think it would be
best to do this: use the thing as much as you please for your own
amusement and satisfaction, but let the world wait? It has waited a
long time, and let it wait a little longer. When we are dead let
Herbert have the invention. He will then be old enough to judge for
himself whether it will be better to take advantage of it for his
own profit, or simply to give it to the public for nothing. It would
be cheating him if we were to do the latter, but it would also be
doing him a great wrong if we were, at his age, to load him with
such a heavy responsibility. Besides, if he took it up, you could
not help going into it, too."

I took my wife's advice. I wrote a careful and complete account of
the invention, and, sealing it up, I gave it to my lawyers to be
handed to my son after my death. If he died first, I would make
other arrangements. Then I determined to get all the good and fun
out of the thing that was possible without telling any one anything
about it. Even Herbert, who was away from home, was not to be told
of the invention.

The first thing I did was to buy a strong leathern knapsack, and
inside of this I fastened my little machine, with a screw so
arranged that it could be worked from the outside. Strapping this
firmly to my shoulders, my wife gently turned the screw at the back
until the upward tendency of the knapsack began to lift and sustain
me. When I felt myself so gently supported and upheld that I seemed
to weigh about thirty or forty pounds, I would set out for a walk.
The knapsack did not raise me from the ground, but it gave me a very
buoyant step. It was no labor at all to walk; it was a delight, an
ecstasy. With the strength of a man and the weight of a child, I
gayly strode along. The first day I walked half a dozen miles at a
very brisk pace, and came back without feeling in the least degree
tired. These walks now became one of the greatest joys of my life.
When nobody was looking, I would bound over a fence, sometimes just
touching it with one hand, and sometimes not touching it at all. I
delighted in rough places. I sprang over streams. I jumped and I
ran. I felt like Mercury himself.

I now set about making another machine, so that my wife could
accompany me in my walks; but when it was finished she positively
refused to use it. "I can't wear a knapsack," she said, "and there
is no other good way of fastening it to me. Besides, everybody about
here knows I am no walker, and it would only set them talking."

I occasionally made use of this second machine, but I will give only
one instance of its application. Some repairs were needed to the
foundation-walls of my barn, and a two-horse wagon, loaded with
building-stone, had been brought into my yard and left there. In the
evening, when the men had gone away, I took my two machines and
fastened them, with strong chains, one on each side of the loaded
wagon. Then, gradually turning the screws, the wagon was so lifted
that its weight became very greatly diminished. We had an old donkey
which used to belong to Herbert, and which was now occasionally used
with a small cart to bring packages from the station. I went into
the barn and put the harness on the little fellow, and, bringing him
out to the wagon, I attached him to it. In this position he looked
very funny with a long pole sticking out in front of him and the
great wagon behind him. When all was ready I touched him up; and, to
my great delight, he moved off with the two-horse load of stone as
easily as if he were drawing his own cart. I led him out into the
public road, along which he proceeded without difficulty. He was an
opinionated little beast, and sometimes stopped, not liking the
peculiar manner in which he was harnessed; but a touch of the switch
made him move on, and I soon turned him and brought the wagon back
into the yard. This determined the success of my invention in one of
its most important uses, and with a satisfied heart I put the donkey
into the stable and went into the house.

Our trip to Europe was made a few months after this, and was mainly
on our son Herbert's account. He, poor fellow, was in great trouble,
and so, therefore, were we. He had become engaged, with our full
consent, to a young lady in our town, the daughter of a gentleman
whom we esteemed very highly. Herbert was young to be engaged to be
married, but as we felt that he would never find a girl to make him
so good a wife, we were entirely satisfied, especially as it was
agreed on all hands that the marriage was not to take place for some
time. It seemed to us that, in marrying Janet Gilbert, Herbert would
secure for himself, in the very beginning of his career, the most
important element of a happy life. But suddenly, without any reason
that seemed to us justifiable, Mr. Gilbert, the only surviving
parent of Janet, broke off the match; and he and his daughter soon
after left the town for a trip to the West.

This blow nearly broke poor Herbert's heart. He gave up his
professional studies and came home to us, and for a time we thought
he would be seriously ill. Then we took him to Europe, and after a
Continental tour of a month or two we left him, at his own request,
in Göttingen, where he thought it would do him good to go to work
again. Then we went down to the little town in Italy where my story
first finds us. My wife had suffered much in mind and body on her
son's account, and for this reason I was anxious that she should
take outdoor exercise, and enjoy as much as possible the bracing air
of the country. I had brought with me both my little machines. One
was still in my knapsack, and the other I had fastened to the inside
of an enormous family trunk. As one is obliged to pay for nearly
every pound of his baggage on the Continent, this saved me a great
deal of money. Everything heavy was packed into this great
trunk--books, papers, the bronze, iron, and marble relics we had
picked up, and all the articles that usually weigh down a tourist's
baggage. I screwed up the negative-gravity apparatus until the trunk
could be handled with great ease by an ordinary porter. I could have
made it weigh nothing at all, but this, of course, I did not wish to
do. The lightness of my baggage, however, had occasioned some
comment, and I had overheard remarks which were not altogether
complimentary about people travelling around with empty trunks; but
this only amused me.

Desirous that my wife should have the advantage of negative gravity
while taking our walks, I had removed the machine from the trunk and
fastened it inside of the basket, which she could carry under her
arm. This assisted her wonderfully. When one arm was tired she put
the basket under the other, and thus, with one hand on my arm, she
could easily keep up with the free and buoyant steps my knapsack
enabled me to take. She did not object to long tramps here, because
nobody knew that she was not a walker, and she always carried some
wine or other refreshment in the basket, not only because it was
pleasant to have it with us, but because it seemed ridiculous to go
about carrying an empty basket.

There were English-speaking people stopping at the hotel where we
were, but they seemed more fond of driving than walking, and none of
them offered to accompany us on our rambles, for which we were very
glad. There was one man there, however, who was a great walker. He
was an Englishman, a member of an Alpine Club, and generally went
about dressed in a knickerbocker suit, with gray woollen stockings
covering an enormous pair of calves. One evening this gentleman was
talking to me and some others about the ascent of the Matterhorn,
and I took occasion to deliver in pretty strong language my opinion
upon such exploits. I declared them to be useless, foolhardy, and,
if the climber had any one who loved him, wicked.

"Even if the weather should permit a view," I said, "what is that
compared to the terrible risk to life? Under certain circumstances,"
I added (thinking of a kind of waistcoat I had some idea of making,
which, set about with little negative-gravity machines, all
connected with a conveniently handled screw, would enable the wearer
at times to dispense with his weight altogether), "such ascents
might be divested of danger, and be quite admissible; but ordinarily
they should be frowned upon by the intelligent public."

The Alpine Club man looked at me, especially regarding my somewhat
slight figure and thinnish legs.

"It's all very well for you to talk that way," he said, "because it
is easy to see that you are not up to that sort of thing."

"In conversations of this kind," I replied, "I never make personal
allusions; but since you have chosen to do so, I feel inclined to
invite you to walk with me to-morrow to the top of the mountain to
the north of this town."

"I'll do it," he said, "at any time you choose to name." And as I
left the room soon afterward I heard him laugh.

The next afternoon, about two o'clock, the Alpine Club man and
myself set out for the mountain.

"What have you got in your knapsack?" he said.

"A hammer to use if I come across geological specimens, a
field-glass, a flask of wine, and some other things."

"I wouldn't carry any weight, if I were you," he said.

"Oh, I don't mind it," I answered, and off we started.

The mountain to which we were bound was about two miles from the
town. Its nearest side was steep, and in places almost precipitous,
but it sloped away more gradually toward the north, and up that side
a road led by devious windings to a village near the summit. It was
not a very high mountain, but it would do for an afternoon's climb.

"I suppose you want to go up by the road," said my companion.

"Oh no," I answered, "we won't go so far around as that. There is a
path up this side, along which I have seen men driving their goats.
I prefer to take that."

"All right, if you say so," he answered, with a smile; "but you'll
find it pretty tough."

After a time he remarked:

"I wouldn't walk so fast, if I were you."

"Oh, I like to step along briskly," I said. And briskly on we went.

My wife had screwed up the machine in the knapsack more than usual,
and walking seemed scarcely any effort at all. I carried a long
alpenstock, and when we reached the mountain and began the ascent, I
found that with the help of this and my knapsack I could go uphill
at a wonderful rate. My companion had taken the lead, so as to show
me how to climb. Making a _détour_ over some rocks, I quickly passed
him and went ahead. After that it was impossible for him to keep up
with me. I ran up steep places, I cut off the windings of the path
by lightly clambering over rocks, and even when I followed the
beaten track my step was as rapid as if I had been walking on level
ground.

"Look here!" shouted the Alpine Club man from below, "you'll kill
yourself if you go at that rate! That's no way to climb mountains."

"It's my way!" I cried. And on I skipped.

Twenty minutes after I arrived at the summit my companion joined me,
puffing, and wiping his red face with his handkerchief.

"Confound it!" he cried, "I never came up a mountain so fast in my
life."

"You need not have hurried," I said, coolly.

"I was afraid something would happen to you," he growled, "and I
wanted to stop you. I never saw a person climb in such an utterly
absurd way."

"I don't see why you should call it absurd," I said, smiling with an
air of superiority. "I arrived here in a perfectly comfortable
condition, neither heated nor wearied."

He made no answer, but walked off to a little distance, fanning
himself with his hat and growling words which I did not catch. After
a time I proposed to descend.

"You must be careful as you go down," he said. "It is much more
dangerous to go down steep places than to climb up."

"I am always prudent," I answered, and started in advance. I found
the descent of the mountain much more pleasant than the ascent. It
was positively exhilarating. I jumped from rocks and bluffs eight
and ten feet in height, and touched the ground as gently as if I had
stepped down but two feet. I ran down steep paths, and, with the aid
of my alpenstock, stopped myself in an instant. I was careful to
avoid dangerous places, but the runs and jumps I made were such as
no man had ever made before upon that mountain-side. Once only I
heard my companion's voice.

"You'll break your ---- neck!" he yelled.

"Never fear!" I called back, and soon left him far above.

When I reached the bottom I would have waited for him, but my
activity had warmed me up, and as a cool evening breeze was
beginning to blow I thought it better not to stop and take cold.
Half an hour after my arrival at the hotel I came down to the court,
cool, fresh, and dressed for dinner, and just in time to meet the
Alpine man as he entered, hot, dusty, and growling.

"Excuse me for not waiting for you," I said; but without stopping to
hear my reason, he muttered something about waiting in a place where
no one would care to stay, and passed into the house.

There was no doubt that what I had done gratified my pique and
tickled my vanity.

"I think now," I said, when I related the matter to my wife, "that
he will scarcely say that I am not up to that sort of thing."

"I am not sure," she answered, "that it was exactly fair. He did not
know how you were assisted."

"It was fair enough," I said. "He is enabled to climb well by the
inherited vigor of his constitution and by his training. He did not
tell me what methods of exercise he used to get those great muscles
upon his legs. I am enabled to climb by the exercise of my
intellect. My method is my business and his method is his business.
It is all perfectly fair."

Still she persisted:

"He _thought_ that you climbed with your legs, and not with your
head."

And now, after this long digression, necessary to explain how a
middle-aged couple of slight pedestrian ability, and loaded with a
heavy knapsack and basket, should have started out on a rough walk
and climb, fourteen miles in all, we will return to ourselves,
standing on the little bluff and gazing out upon the sunset view.
When the sky began to fade a little we turned from it and prepared
to go back to the town.

"Where is the basket?" I said.

"I left it right here," answered my wife. "I unscrewed the machine
and it lay perfectly flat."

"Did you afterward take out the bottles?" I asked, seeing them lying
on the grass.

"Yes, I believe I did. I had to take out yours in order to get at
mine."

"Then," said I, after looking all about the grassy patch on which we
stood, "I am afraid you did not entirely unscrew the instrument, and
that when the weight of the bottles was removed the basket gently
rose into the air."

"It may be so," she said, lugubriously. "The basket was behind me as
I drank my wine."

"I believe that is just what has happened," I said. "Look up there!
I vow that is our basket!"

I pulled out my field-glass and directed it at a little speck high
above our heads. It was the basket floating high in the air. I gave
the glass to my wife to look, but she did not want to use it.

"What shall I do?" she cried. "I can't walk home without that
basket. It's perfectly dreadful!" And she looked as if she was going
to cry.

"Do not distress yourself," I said, although I was a good deal
disturbed myself. "We shall get home very well. You shall put your
hand on my shoulder, while I put my arm around you. Then you can
screw up my machine a good deal higher, and it will support us both.
In this way I am sure that we shall get on very well."

We carried out this plan, and managed to walk on with moderate
comfort. To be sure, with the knapsack pulling me upward, and the
weight of my wife pulling me down, the straps hurt me somewhat,
which they had not done before. We did not spring lightly over the
wall into the road, but, still clinging to each other, we clambered
awkwardly over it. The road for the most part declined gently toward
the town, and with moderate ease we made our way along it. But we
walked much more slowly than we had done before, and it was quite
dark when we reached our hotel. If it had not been for the light
inside the court it would have been difficult for us to find it. A
travelling-carriage was standing before the entrance, and against
the light. It was necessary to pass around it, and my wife went
first. I attempted to follow her, but, strange to say, there was
nothing under my feet. I stepped vigorously, but only wagged my legs
in the air. To my horror I found that I was rising in the air! I
soon saw, by the light below me, that I was some fifteen feet from
the ground. The carriage drove away, and in the darkness I was not
noticed. Of course I knew what had happened. The instrument in my
knapsack had been screwed up to such an intensity, in order to
support both myself and my wife, that when her weight was removed
the force of the negative gravity was sufficient to raise me from
the ground. But I was glad to find that when I had risen to the
height I have mentioned I did not go up any higher, but hung in the
air, about on a level with the second tier of windows of the hotel.

I now began to try to reach the screw in my knapsack in order to
reduce the force of the negative gravity; but, do what I would, I
could not get my hand to it. The machine in the knapsack had been
placed so as to support me in a well-balanced and comfortable way;
and in doing this it had been impossible to set the screw so that I
could reach it. But in a temporary arrangement of the kind this had
not been considered necessary, as my wife always turned the screw
for me until sufficient lifting power had been attained. I had
intended, as I have said before, to construct a negative-gravity
waistcoat, in which the screw should be in front, and entirely under
the wearer's control; but this was a thing of the future.

When I found that I could not turn the screw I began to be much
alarmed. Here I was, dangling in the air, without any means of
reaching the ground. I could not expect my wife to return to look
for me, as she would naturally suppose I had stopped to speak to
some one. I thought of loosening myself from the knapsack, but this
would not do, for I should fall heavily, and either kill myself or
break some of my bones. I did not dare to call for assistance, for
if any of the simple-minded inhabitants of the town had discovered
me floating in the air they would have taken me for a demon, and
would probably have shot at me. A moderate breeze was blowing, and
it wafted me gently down the street. If it had blown me against a
tree I would have seized it, and have endeavored, so to speak, to
climb down it; but there were no trees. There was a dim street-lamp
here and there, but reflectors above them threw their light upon the
pavement, and none up to me. On many accounts I was glad that the
night was so dark, for, much as I desired to get down, I wanted no
one to see me in my strange position, which, to any one but myself
and wife, would be utterly unaccountable. If I could rise as high as
the roofs I might get on one of them, and, tearing off an armful of
tiles, so load myself that I would be heavy enough to descend. But I
did not rise to the eaves of any of the houses. If there had been a
telegraph-pole, or anything of the kind that I could have clung to,
I would have taken off the knapsack, and would have endeavored to
scramble down as well as I could. But there was nothing I could
cling to. Even the water-spouts, if I could have reached the face of
the houses, were embedded in the walls. At an open window, near
which I was slowly blown, I saw two little boys going to bed by the
light of a dim candle. I was dreadfully afraid that they would see
me and raise an alarm. I actually came so near to the window that I
threw out one foot and pushed against the wall with such force that
I went nearly across the street. I thought I caught sight of a
frightened look on the face of one of the boys; but of this I am not
sure, and I heard no cries. I still floated, dangling, down the
street. What was to be done? Should I call out? In that case, if I
were not shot or stoned, my strange predicament, and the secret of
my invention, would be exposed to the world. If I did not do this, I
must either let myself drop and be killed or mangled, or hang there
and die. When, during the course of the night, the air became more
rarefied, I might rise higher and higher, perhaps to an altitude of
one or two hundred feet. It would then be impossible for the people
to reach me and get me down, even if they were convinced that I was
not a demon. I should then expire, and when the birds of the air had
eaten all of me that they could devour, I should forever hang above
the unlucky town, a dangling skeleton with a knapsack on its back.

Such thoughts were not reassuring, and I determined that if I could
find no means of getting down without assistance, I would call out
and run all risks; but so long as I could endure the tension of the
straps I would hold out, and hope for a tree or a pole. Perhaps it
might rain, and my wet clothes would then become so heavy that I
would descend as low as the top of a lamp-post.

As this thought was passing through my mind I saw a spark of light
upon the street approaching me. I rightly imagined that it came from
a tobacco-pipe, and presently I heard a voice. It was that of the
Alpine Club man. Of all people in the world I did not want him to
discover me, and I hung as motionless as possible. The man was
speaking to another person who was walking with him.

"He is crazy beyond a doubt," said the Alpine man. "Nobody but a
maniac could have gone up and down that mountain as he did! He
hasn't any muscles, and one need only look at him to know that he
couldn't do any climbing in a natural way. It is only the excitement
of insanity that gives him strength."

The two now stopped almost under me, and the speaker continued:

"Such things are very common with maniacs. At times they acquire an
unnatural strength which is perfectly wonderful. I have seen a
little fellow struggle and fight so that four strong men could not
hold him."

Then the other person spoke.

"I am afraid what you say is too true," he remarked. "Indeed, I have
known it for some time."

At these words my breath almost stopped. It was the voice of Mr.
Gilbert, my townsman, and the father of Janet. It must have been he
who had arrived in the travelling-carriage. He was acquainted with
the Alpine Club man, and they were talking of me. Proper or
improper, I listened with all my ears.

"It is a very sad case," Mr. Gilbert continued. "My daughter was
engaged to marry his son, but I broke off the match. I could not
have her marry the son of a lunatic, and there could be no doubt of
his condition. He has been seen--a man of his age, and the head of a
family--to load himself up with a heavy knapsack, which there was no
earthly necessity for him to carry, and go skipping along the road
for miles, vaulting over fences and jumping over rocks and ditches
like a young calf or a colt. I myself saw a most heartrending
instance of how a kindly man's nature can be changed by the
derangement of his intellect. I was at some distance from his house,
but I plainly saw him harness a little donkey which he owns to a
large two-horse wagon loaded with stone, and beat and lash the poor
little beast until it drew the heavy load some distance along the
public road. I would have remonstrated with him on this horrible
cruelty, but he had the wagon back in his yard before I could reach
him."

"Oh, there can be no doubt of his insanity," said the Alpine Club
man, "and he oughtn't to be allowed to travel about in this way.
Some day he will pitch his wife over a precipice just for the fun of
seeing her shoot through the air."

"I am sorry he is here," said Mr. Gilbert, "for it would be very
painful to meet him. My daughter and I will retire very soon, and go
away as early to-morrow morning as possible, so as to avoid seeing
him."

And then they walked back to the hotel.

For a few moments I hung, utterly forgetful of my condition, and
absorbed in the consideration of these revelations. One idea now
filled my mind. Everything must be explained to Mr. Gilbert, even if
it should be necessary to have him called to me, and for me to speak
to him from the upper air.

Just then I saw something white approaching me along the road. My
eyes had become accustomed to the darkness, and I perceived that it
was an upturned face. I recognized the hurried gait, the form; it
was my wife. As she came near me, I called her name, and in the same
breath entreated her not to scream. It must have been an effort for
her to restrain herself, but she did it.

"You must help me to get down," I said, "without anybody seeing us."

"What shall I do?" she whispered.

"Try to catch hold of this string."

Taking a piece of twine from my pocket, I lowered one end to her.
But it was too short; she could not reach it. I then tied my
handkerchief to it, but still it was not long enough.

"I can get more string, or handkerchiefs," she whispered, hurriedly.

"No," I said; "you could not get them up to me. But, leaning against
the hotel wall, on this side, in the corner, just inside of the
garden gate, are some fishing-poles. I have seen them there every
day. You can easily find them in the dark. Go, please, and bring me
one of those."

The hotel was not far away, and in a few minutes my wife returned
with a fishing-pole. She stood on tiptoe, and reached it high in
air; but all she could do was to strike my feet and legs with it. My
most frantic exertions did not enable me to get my hands low enough
to touch it.

"Wait a minute," she said; and the rod was withdrawn.

I knew what she was doing. There was a hook and line attached to the
pole, and with womanly dexterity she was fastening the hook to the
extreme end of the rod. Soon she reached up, and gently struck at my
legs. After a few attempts the hook caught in my trousers, a little
below my right knee. Then there was a slight pull, a long scratch
down my leg, and the hook was stopped by the top of my boot. Then
came a steady downward pull, and I felt myself descending. Gently
and firmly the rod was drawn down; carefully the lower end was kept
free from the ground; and in a few moments my ankle was seized with
a vigorous grasp. Then some one seemed to climb up me, my feet
touched the ground, an arm was thrown around my neck, the hand of
another arm was busy at the back of my knapsack, and I soon stood
firmly in the road, entirely divested of negative gravity.

"Oh that I should have forgotten," sobbed my wife, "and that I
should have dropped your arms and let you go up into the air! At
first I thought that you had stopped below, and it was only a little
while ago that the truth flashed upon me. Then I rushed out and
began looking up for you. I knew that you had wax matches in your
pocket, and hoped that you would keep on striking them, so that you
would be seen."

"But I did not wish to be seen," I said, as we hurried to the hotel;
"and I can never be sufficiently thankful that it was you who found
me and brought me down. Do you know that it is Mr. Gilbert and his
daughter who have just arrived? I must see him instantly. I will
explain it all to you when I come upstairs."

I took off my knapsack and gave it to my wife, who carried it to our
room, while I went to look for Mr. Gilbert. Fortunately I found him
just as he was about to go up to his chamber. He took my offered
hand, but looked at me sadly and gravely.

"Mr. Gilbert," I said, "I must speak to you in private. Let us step
into this room. There is no one here."

"My friend," said Mr. Gilbert, "it will be much better to avoid
discussing this subject. It is very painful to both of us, and no
good can come from talking of it."

"You cannot now comprehend what it is I want to say to you," I
replied. "Come in here, and in a few minutes you will be very glad
that you listened to me."

My manner was so earnest and impressive that Mr. Gilbert was
constrained to follow me, and we went into a small room called the
smoking-room, but in which people seldom smoked, and closed the
door. I immediately began my statement. I told my old friend that I
had discovered, by means that I need not explain at present, that he
had considered me crazy, and that now the most important object of
my life was to set myself right in his eyes. I thereupon gave him
the whole history of my invention, and explained the reason of the
actions that had appeared to him those of a lunatic. I said nothing
about the little incident of that evening. That was a mere accident,
and I did not care now to speak of it.

Mr. Gilbert listened to me very attentively.

"Your wife is here?" he asked, when I had finished.

"Yes," I said; "and she will corroborate my story in every item, and
no one could ever suspect her of being crazy. I will go and bring
her to you."

In a few minutes my wife was in the room, had shaken hands with Mr.
Gilbert, and had been told of my suspected madness. She turned pale,
but smiled.

"He did act like a crazy man," she said, "but I never supposed that
anybody would think him one." And tears came into her eyes.

"And now, my dear," said I, "perhaps you will tell Mr. Gilbert how I
did all this."

And then she told him the story that I had told.

Mr. Gilbert looked from the one to the other of us with a troubled
air.

"Of course I do not doubt either of you, or rather I do not doubt
that you believe what you say. All would be right if I could bring
myself to credit that such a force as that you speak of can possibly
exist."

"That is a matter," said I, "which I can easily prove to you by
actual demonstration. If you can wait a short time, until my wife
and I have had something to eat--for I am nearly famished, and I am
sure she must be--I will set your mind at rest upon that point."

"I will wait here," said Mr. Gilbert, "and smoke a cigar. Don't
hurry yourselves. I shall be glad to have some time to think about
what you have told me."

When we had finished the dinner, which had been set aside for us, I
went upstairs and got my knapsack, and we both joined Mr. Gilbert in
the smoking-room. I showed him the little machine, and explained,
very briefly, the principle of its construction. I did not give any
practical demonstration of its action, because there were people
walking about the corridor who might at any moment come into the
room; but, looking out of the window, I saw that the night was much
clearer. The wind had dissipated the clouds, and the stars were
shining brightly.

"If you will come up the street with me," said I to Mr. Gilbert, "I
will show you how this thing works."

"That is just what I want to see," he answered.

"I will go with you," said my wife, throwing a shawl over her head.
And we started up the street.

When we were outside the little town I found the starlight was quite
sufficient for my purpose. The white roadway, the low walls, and
objects about us, could easily be distinguished.

"Now," said I to Mr. Gilbert, "I want to put this knapsack on you,
and let you see how it feels, and how it will help you to walk." To
this he assented with some eagerness, and I strapped it firmly on
him. "I will now turn this screw," said I, "until you shall become
lighter and lighter."

"Be very careful not to turn it too much," said my wife, earnestly.

"Oh, you may depend on me for that," said I, turning the screw very
gradually.

Mr. Gilbert was a stout man, and I was obliged to give the screw a
good many turns.

"There seems to be considerable hoist in it," he said, directly. And
then I put my arms around him, and found that I could raise him from
the ground.

"Are you lifting me?" he exclaimed, in surprise.

"Yes; I did it with ease," I answered.

"Upon--my--word!" ejaculated Mr. Gilbert.

I then gave the screw a half-turn more, and told him to walk and
run. He started off, at first slowly, then he made long strides,
then he began to run, and then to skip and jump. It had been many
years since Mr. Gilbert had skipped and jumped. No one was in sight,
and he was free to gambol as much as he pleased. "Could you give it
another turn?" said he, bounding up to me. "I want to try that
wall." I put on a little more negative gravity, and he vaulted over
a five-foot wall with great ease. In an instant he had leaped back
into the road, and in two bounds was at my side. "I came down as
light as a cat," he said. "There was never anything like it." And
away he went up the road, taking steps at least eight feet long,
leaving my wife and me laughing heartily at the preternatural
agility of our stout friend. In a few minutes he was with us again.
"Take it off," he said. "If I wear it any longer I shall want one
myself, and then I shall be taken for a crazy man, and perhaps
clapped into an asylum."

"Now," said I, as I turned back the screw before unstrapping the
knapsack, "do you understand how I took long walks, and leaped and
jumped; how I ran uphill and downhill, and how the little donkey
drew the loaded wagon?"

"I understand it all," cried he. "I take back all I ever said or
thought about you, my friend."

"And Herbert may marry Janet?" cried my wife.

"_May_ marry her!" cried Mr. Gilbert. "Indeed, he _shall_ marry her,
if I have anything to say about it! My poor girl has been drooping
ever since I told her it could not be."

My wife rushed at him, but whether she embraced him or only shook
his hands I cannot say; for I had the knapsack in one hand and was
rubbing my eyes with the other.

"But, my dear fellow," said Mr. Gilbert, directly, "if you still
consider it to your interest to keep your invention a secret, I wish
you had never made it. No one having a machine like that can help
using it, and it is often quite as bad to be considered a maniac as
to be one."

"My friend," I cried, with some excitement, "I have made up my mind
on this subject. The little machine in this knapsack, which is the
only one I now possess, has been a great pleasure to me. But I now
know it has also been of the greatest injury indirectly to me and
mine, not to mention some direct inconvenience and danger, which I
will speak of another time. The secret lies with us three, and we
will keep it. But the invention itself is too full of temptation and
danger for any of us."

As I said this I held the knapsack with one hand while I quickly
turned the screw with the other. In a few moments it was high above
my head, while I with difficulty held it down by the straps. "Look!"
I cried. And then I released my hold, and the knapsack shot into the
air and disappeared into the upper gloom.

I was about to make a remark, but had no chance, for my wife threw
herself upon my bosom, sobbing with joy.

"Oh, I am so glad--so glad!" she said. "And you will never make
another?"

"Never another!" I answered.

"And now let us hurry in and see Janet," said my wife.

"You don't know how heavy and clumsy I feel," said Mr. Gilbert,
striving to keep up with us as we walked back. "If I had worn that
thing much longer, I should never have been willing to take it off!"

Janet had retired, but my wife went up to her room.

"I think she has felt it as much as our boy," she said, when she
rejoined me. "But I tell you, my dear, I left a very happy girl in
that little bedchamber over the garden."

And there were three very happy elderly people talking together
until quite late that evening. "I shall write to Herbert to-night,"
I said, when we separated, "and tell him to meet us all in Geneva.
It will do the young man no harm if we interrupt his studies just
now."

"You must let me add a postscript to the letter," said Mr. Gilbert,
"and I am sure it will require no knapsack with a screw in the back
to bring him quickly to us."

And it did not.

There is a wonderful pleasure in tripping over the earth like a
winged Mercury, and in feeling one's self relieved of much of that
attraction of gravitation which drags us down to earth and gradually
makes the movement of our bodies but weariness and labor. But this
pleasure is not to be compared, I think, to that given by the
buoyancy and lightness of two young and loving hearts, reunited
after a separation which they had supposed would last forever.

What became of the basket and the knapsack, or whether they ever met
in upper air, I do not know. If they but float away and stay away
from ken of mortal man, I shall be satisfied.

And whether or not the world will ever know more of the power of
negative gravity depends entirely upon the disposition of my son
Herbert, when--after a good many years, I hope--he shall open the
packet my lawyers have in keeping.

       *       *       *       *       *

[NOTE.--It would be quite useless for any one to interview my wife
on this subject, for she has entirely forgotten how my machine was
made. And as for Mr. Gilbert, he never knew.]



ASAPH


About a hundred feet back from the main street of a village in New
Jersey there stood a very good white house. Half-way between it and
the sidewalk was a large chestnut-tree, which had been the pride of
Mr. Himes, who built the house, and was now the pride of Mrs. Himes,
his widow, who lived there.

Under the tree was a bench, and on the bench were two elderly men,
both smoking pipes, and each one of them leaning forward with his
elbows on his knees. One of these, Thomas Rooper by name, was a
small man with gray side-whiskers, a rather thin face, and very good
clothes. His pipe was a meerschaum, handsomely colored, with a long
amber tip. He had bought that pipe while on a visit to Philadelphia
during the great Centennial Exposition; and if any one noticed it
and happened to remark what a fine pipe it was, that person would be
likely to receive a detailed account of the circumstances of its
purchase, with an appendix relating to the Main Building, the Art
Building, the Agricultural Building, and many other salient points
of the great Exposition which commemorated the centennial of our
national independence.

The other man, Asaph Scantle, was of a different type. He was a
little older than his companion, but if his hair were gray, it did
not show very much, as his rather long locks were of a sandy hue and
his full face was clean shaven, at least on Wednesdays and Sundays.
He was tall, round-shouldered, and his clothes were not good,
possessing very evident claims to a position on the retired list.
His pipe consisted of a common clay bowl with a long reed stem.

For some minutes the two men continued to puff together as if they
were playing a duet upon tobacco-pipes, and then Asaph, removing his
reed from his lips, remarked, "What you ought to do, Thomas, is to
marry money."

"There's sense in that," replied the other; "but you wasn't the
first to think of it."

Asaph, who knew very well that Mr. Rooper never allowed any one to
suppose that he received suggestions from without, took no notice of
the last remark, but went on: "Lookin' at the matter in a friendly
way, it seems to me it stands to reason that when the shingles on a
man's house is so rotten that the rain comes through into every room
on the top floor, and when the plaster on the ceilin' is tumblin'
down more or less all the time, and the window-sashes is all loose,
and things generally in a condition that he can't let that house
without spendin' at least a year's rent on it to git it into decent
order, and when a man's got to the time of life--"

"There's nothin' the matter with the time of life," said Thomas;
"that's all right."

"What I was goin' to say was," continued Asaph, "that when a man
gits to the time of life when he knows what it is to be comfortable
in his mind as well as his body--and that time comes to sensible
people as soon as they git fairly growed up--he don't want to give
up his good room in the tavern and all the privileges of the house,
and go to live on his own property and have the plaster come down on
his own head and the rain come down on the coverlet of his own bed."

"No, he don't," said Thomas; "and what is more, he isn't goin' to do
it. But what I git from the rent of that house is what I have to
live on; there's no gittin' around that pint."

"Well, then," said Asaph, "if you don't marry money, what are you
goin' to do? You can't go back to your old business."

"I never had but one business," said Thomas. "I lived with my folks
until I was a good deal more than growed up; and when the war broke
out I went as sutler to the rigiment from this place; and all the
money I made I put into my property in the village here. That's what
I've lived on ever since. There's no more war, so there's no more
sutlers, except away out West where I wouldn't go; and there are no
more folks, for they are all dead; and if what Mrs. McJimsey says is
true, there'll be no more tenants in my house after the 1st of next
November. For when the McJimseys go on account of want of general
repairs, it is not to be expected that anybody else will come there.
There's nobody in this place that can stand as much as the McJimseys
can."

"Consequently," said Asaph, deliberately filling his pipe, "it
stands to reason that there ain't nothin' for you to do but marry
money."

Thomas Rooper took his pipe from his mouth and sat up straight.
Gazing steadfastly at his companion, he remarked, "If you think that
is such a good thing to do, why don't you do it yourself? There
can't be anybody much harder up than you are."

"The law's agin' my doin' it," said Asaph. "A man can't marry his
sister."

"Are you thinkin' of Marietta Himes?" asked Mr. Rooper.

"That's the one I'm thinkin' of," said Asaph. "If you can think of
anybody better, I'd like you to mention her."

Mr. Rooper did not immediately speak. He presently asked, "What do
you call money?"

"Well," said Asaph, with a little hesitation, "considerin' the
circumstances, I should say that in a case like this about fifteen
hundred a year, a first-rate house with not a loose shingle on it
nor a crack anywhere, a good garden and an orchard, two cows, a
piece of meadow-land on the other side of the creek, and all the
clothes a woman need have, is money."

Thomas shrugged his shoulders. "Clothes!" he said. "If she marries
she'll go out of black, and then she'll have to have new ones, and
lots of 'em. That would make a big hole in her money, Asaph."

The other smiled. "I always knowed you was a far-seein' feller,
Thomas; but it stands to reason that Marietta's got a lot of clothes
that was on hand before she went into mournin', and she's not the
kind of woman to waste 'em. She'll be twistin' 'em about and makin'
'em over to suit the fashions, and it won't be like her to be buyin'
new colored goods when she's got plenty of 'em already."

There was now another pause in the conversation, and then Mr. Rooper
remarked, "Mrs. Himes must be gettin' on pretty well in years."

"She's not a young woman," said Asaph; "but if she was much younger
she wouldn't have you, and if she was much older you wouldn't have
her. So it strikes me she's just about the right pint."

"How old was John Himes when he died?" asked Thomas.

"I don't exactly know that; but he was a lot older than Marietta."

Thomas shook his head. "It strikes me," said he, "that John Himes
had a hearty constitution and hadn't ought to died as soon as he
did. He fell away a good deal in the last years of his life."

"And considerin' that he died of consumption, he had a right to fall
away," said Asaph. "If what you are drivin' at, Thomas, is that
Marietta isn't a good housekeeper and hasn't the right sort of
notions of feedin', look at me. I've lived with Marietta just about
a year, and in that time I have gained forty-two pounds. Now, of
course, I ain't unreasonable, and don't mean to say that you would
gain forty-two pounds in a year, 'cause you ain't got the frame and
bone to put it on; but it wouldn't surprise me a bit if you was to
gain twenty, or even twenty-five, pounds in eighteen months, anyway;
and more than that you ought not to ask, Thomas, considerin' your
height and general build."

"Isn't Marietta Himes a good deal of a freethinker?" asked Thomas.

"A what?" cried Asaph. "You mean an infidel?"

"No," said Thomas, "I don't charge nobody with nothin' more than
there's reason for; but they do say that she goes sometimes to one
church and sometimes to another, and that if there was a Catholic
church in this village she would go to that. And who's goin' to say
where a woman will turn up when she don't know her own mind better
than that?"

Asaph colored a little. "The place where Marietta will turn up,"
said he, warmly, "is on a front seat in the kingdom of heaven; and
if the people that talk about her will mend their ways, they'll see
that I am right. You need not trouble yourself about that, Thomas.
Marietta Himes is pious to the heel."

Mr. Rooper now shifted himself a little on the bench and crossed one
leg over the other. "Now look here, Asaph," he said, with a little
more animation than he had yet shown, "supposin' all you say is
true, have you got any reason to think that Mrs. Himes ain't
satisfied with things as they are?"

"Yes, I have," said Asaph. "And I don't mind tellin' you that the
thing she's least satisfied with is me. She wants a man in the
house; that is nateral. She wouldn't be Marietta Himes if she
didn't. When I come to live with her I thought the whole business
was settled; but it isn't. I don't suit her. I don't say she's
lookin' for another man, but if another man was to come along, and
if he was the right kind of a man, it's my opinion she's ready for
him. I wouldn't say this to everybody, but I say it to you, Thomas
Rooper, 'cause I know what kind of a man you are."

Mr. Rooper did not return the compliment. "I don't wonder your
sister ain't satisfied with you," he said, "for you go ahead of all
the lazy men I ever saw yet. They was sayin' down at the tavern
yesterday--only yesterday--that you could do less work in more time
than anybody they ever saw before."

"There's two ways of workin'," said Asaph. "Some people work with
their hands and some with their heads."

Thomas grimly smiled. "It strikes me," said he, "that the most
head-work you do is with your jaws."

Asaph was not the man to take offence readily, especially when he
considered it against his interest to do so, and he showed no
resentment at this remark. "'Tain't so much my not makin' myself
more generally useful," he said, "that Marietta objects to; though,
of course, it could not be expected that a man that hasn't got any
interest in property would keep workin' at it like a man that has
got an interest in it, such as Marietta's husband would have; but
it's my general appearance that she don't like. She's told me more
than once she didn't so much mind my bein' lazy as lookin' lazy."

"I don't wonder she thinks that way," said Thomas. "But look here,
Asaph, do you suppose that if Marietta Himes was to marry a man, he
would really come into her property?"

"There ain't nobody that knows my sister better than I know her, and
I can say, without any fear of bein' contradicted, that when she
gives herself to a man the good-will and fixtures will be included."

Thomas Rooper now leaned forward with his elbows on his knees
without smoking, and Asaph Scantle leaned forward with his elbows on
his knees without smoking. And thus they remained, saying nothing to
each other, for the space of some ten minutes.

Asaph was a man who truly used his head a great deal more than he
used his hands. He had always been a shiftless fellow, but he was no
fool, and this his sister found out soon after she asked him to come
and make his home with her. She had not done this because she wanted
a man in the house, for she had lived two or three years without
that convenience and had not felt the need of it. But she heard that
Asaph was in very uncomfortable circumstances, and she had sent for
him solely for his own good. The arrangement proved to be a very
good one for her brother, but not a good one for her. She had always
known that Asaph's head was his main dependence, but she was just
beginning to discover that he liked to use his head so that other
people's hands should work for him.

"There ain't nobody comin' to see your sister, is there?" asked
Thomas, suddenly.

"Not a livin' soul," said Asaph, "except women, married folk, and
children. But it has always surprised me that nobody did come; but
just at this minute the field's clear and the gate's open."

"Well," said Mr. Rooper, "I'll think about it."

"That's right," said Asaph, rubbing his knees with his hands.
"That's right. But now tell me, Thomas Rooper, supposin' you get
Marietta, what are you goin' to do for me?"

"For you?" exclaimed the other. "What have you got to do with it?"

"A good deal," said Asaph. "If you get Marietta with her fifteen
hundred a year--and it wouldn't surprise me if it was eighteen
hundred--and her house and her garden and her cattle and her field
and her furniture, with not a leg loose nor a scratch, you will get
her because I proposed her to you, and because I backed you up
afterward. And now, then, I want to know what you are goin' to do
for me?"

"What do you want?" asked Thomas.

"The first thing I want," said Asaph, "is a suit of clothes. These
clothes is disgraceful."

"You are right there," said Mr. Rooper. "I wonder your sister lets
you come around in front of the house. But what do you mean by
clothes--winter clothes or summer clothes?"

"Winter," said Asaph, without hesitation. "I don't count summer
clothes. And when I say a suit of clothes, I mean shoes and hat and
underclothes."

Mr. Rooper gave a sniff. "I wonder you don't say overcoat," he
remarked.

"I do say overcoat," replied Asaph. "A suit of winter clothes is a
suit of clothes that you can go out into the weather in without
missin' nothin'."

Mr. Rooper smiled sarcastically. "Is there anything else you want?"
he asked.

"Yes," said Asaph, decidedly; "there is. I want a umbrella."

"Cotton or silk?"

Asaph hesitated. He had never had a silk umbrella in his hand in his
life. He was afraid to strike too high, and he answered, "I want a
good stout gingham."

Mr. Rooper nodded his head. "Very good," he said. "And is that all?"

"No," said Asaph, "it ain't all. There is one more thing I want, and
that is a dictionary."

The other man rose to his feet. "Upon my word," he exclaimed, "I
never before saw a man that would sell his sister for a dictionary!
And what you want with a dictionary is past my conceivin'."

"Well, it ain't past mine," said Asaph. "For more than ten years I
have wanted a dictionary. If I had a dictionary I could make use of
my head in a way that I can't now. There is books in this house, but
amongst 'em there is no dictionary. If there had been one I'd been a
different man by this time from what I am now, and like as not
Marietta wouldn't have wanted any other man in the house but me."

Mr. Rooper stood looking upon the ground; and Asaph, who had also
arisen, waited for him to speak. "You are a graspin' man, Asaph,"
said Thomas. "But there is another thing I'd like to know: if I give
you them clothes, you don't want them before she's married?"

"Yes, I do," said Asaph. "If I come to the weddin', I can't wear
these things. I have got to have them first."

Mr. Rooper gave his head a little twist. "There's many a slip 'twixt
the cup and the lip," said he.

"Yes," said Asaph; "and there's different cups and different lips.
But what's more, if I was to be best man--which would be nateral,
considerin' I'm your friend and her brother--you wouldn't want me
standin' up in this rig. And that's puttin' it in your own point of
view, Thomas."

"It strikes me," said the other, "that I could get a best man that
would furnish his own clothes; but we will see about that. There's
another thing, Asaph," he said, abruptly; "what are Mrs. Himes's
views concernin' pipes?"

This question startled and frightened Asaph. He knew that his sister
could not abide the smell of tobacco and that Mr. Rooper was an
inveterate smoker.

"That depends," said he, "on the kind of tobacco. I don't mind
sayin' that Marietta isn't partial to the kind of tobacco I smoke.
But I ain't a moneyed man and I can't afford to buy nothin' but
cheap stuff. But when it comes to a meerschaum pipe and the very
finest Virginia or North Carolina smoking-tobacco, such as a moneyed
man would be likely to use--"

At this moment there came from the house the sound of a woman's
voice, not loud, but clear and distinct, and it said "Asaph."

This word sent through Mr. Rooper a gentle thrill such as he did not
remember ever having felt before. There seemed to be in it a
suggestion, a sort of prophecy, of what appeared to him as an
undefined and chaotic bliss. He was not a fanciful man, but he could
not help imagining himself standing alone under that chestnut-tree
and that voice calling "Thomas."

Upon Asaph the effect was different. The interruption was an
agreeable one in one way, because it cut short his attempted
explanation of the tobacco question; but in another way he knew that
it meant the swinging of an axe, and that was not pleasant.

Mr. Rooper walked back to the tavern in a cogitative state of mind.
"That Asaph Scantle," he said to himself, "has got a head-piece,
there's no denying it. If it had not been for him I do not believe I
should have thought of his sister; at least not until the McJimseys
had left my house, and then it might have been too late."

Marietta Himes was a woman with a gentle voice and an appearance and
demeanor indicative of a general softness of disposition; but
beneath this mild exterior there was a great deal of firmness of
purpose. Asaph had not seen very much of his sister since she had
grown up and married; and when he came to live with her he thought
that he was going to have things pretty much his own way. But it was
not long before he entirely changed his mind.

Mrs. Himes was of moderate height, pleasant countenance, and a
figure inclined to plumpness. Her dark hair, in which there was not
a line of gray, was brushed down smoothly on each side of her face,
and her dress, while plain, was extremely neat. In fact, everything
in the house and on the place was extremely neat, except Asaph.

She was in the bright little dining-room which looked out on the
flower-garden, preparing the table for supper, placing every plate,
dish, glass, and cup with as much care and exactness as if a civil
engineer had drawn a plan on the table-cloth with places marked for
the position of each article.

As she finished her work by placing a chair on each side of the
table, a quiet smile, the result of a train of thought in which she
had been indulging for the past half-hour, stole over her face. She
passed through the kitchen, with a glance at the stove to see if the
tea-kettle had begun to boil; and going out of the back door, she
walked over to the shed where her brother was splitting
kindling-wood.

"Asaph," said Mrs. Himes, "if I were to give you a good suit of
clothes, would you promise me that you would never smoke when
wearing them?"

Her brother looked at her in amazement. "Clothes!" he repeated.

"Mr. Himes was about your size," said his sister, "and he left a
good many clothes, which are most of them very good and carefully
packed away, so that I am sure there is not a moth-hole in any one
of them. I have several times thought, Asaph, that I might give you
some of his clothes; but it did seem to me a desecration to have the
clothes of such a man, who was so particular and nice, filled and
saturated with horrible tobacco-smoke, which he detested. But now
you are getting to be so awful shabby, I do not see how I can stand
it any longer. But one thing I will not do--I will not have Mr.
Himes's clothes smelling of tobacco as yours do; and not only your
own tobacco, but Mr. Rooper's."

"I think," said Asaph, "that you are not exactly right just there.
What you smell about me is my smoke. Thomas Rooper never uses
anything but the finest-scented and delicatest brands. I think that
if you come to get used to his tobacco-smoke you would like it. But
as to my takin' off my clothes and puttin' on a different suit every
time I want to light my pipe, that's pretty hard lines, it seems to
me."

"It would be a good deal easier to give up the pipe," said his
sister.

"I will do that," said Asaph, "when you give up tea. But you know as
well as I do that there's no use of either of us a-tryin' to change
our comfortable habits at our time of life."

"I kept on hoping," said Mrs. Himes, "that you would feel yourself
that you were not fit to be seen by decent people, and that you
would go to work and earn at least enough money to buy yourself some
clothes. But as you don't seem inclined to do that, I thought I
would make you this offer. But you must understand that I will not
have you smoke in Mr. Himes's clothes."

Asaph stood thinking, the head of his axe resting upon the ground, a
position which suited him. He was in a little perplexity. Marietta's
proposition seemed to interfere somewhat with the one he had made to
Thomas Rooper. Here was a state of affairs which required most
careful consideration. "I've been arrangin' about some clothes," he
said, presently; "for I know very well I need 'em; but I don't know
just yet how it will turn out."

"I hope, Asaph," said Marietta, quickly, "that you are not thinking
of going into debt for clothing, and I know that you haven't been
working to earn money. What arrangements have you been making?"

"That's my private affair," said Asaph, "but there's no debt in it.
It is all fair and square--cash down, so to speak; though, of
course, it's not cash, but work. But, as I said before, that isn't
settled."

"I am afraid, Asaph," said his sister, "that if you have to do the
work first you will never get the clothes, and so you might as well
come back to my offer."

Asaph came back to it and thought about it very earnestly. If by any
chance he could get two suits of clothes, he would then feel that he
had a head worth having. "What would you say," he said, presently,
"if when I wanted to smoke I was to put on a long duster--I guess
Mr. Himes had dusters--and a nightcap and rubbers? I'd agree to hang
the duster and the cap in the shed here and never smoke without
putting 'em on." There was a deep purpose in this proposition, for,
enveloped in the long duster, he might sit with Thomas Rooper under
the chestnut-tree and smoke and talk and plan as long as he pleased,
and his companion would not know that he did not need a new suit of
clothes.

"Nonsense," said Mrs. Himes; "you must make up your mind to act
perfectly fairly, Asaph, or else say you will not accept my offer.
But if you don't accept it, I can't see how you can keep on living
with me."

"What do you mean by clothes, Marietta?" he asked.

"Well, I mean a complete suit, of course," said she.

"Winter or summer?"

"I hadn't thought of that," Mrs. Himes replied; "but that can be as
you choose."

"Overcoat?" asked Asaph.

"Yes," said she, "and cane and umbrella, if you like, and
pocket-handkerchiefs, too. I will fit you out completely, and shall
be glad to have you looking like a decent man."

At the mention of the umbrella another line of perplexity showed
itself upon Asaph's brow. The idea came to him that if she would add
a dictionary he would strike a bargain. Thomas Rooper was certainly
a very undecided and uncertain sort of man. But then there came up
the thought of his pipe, and he was all at sea again. Giving up
smoking was almost the same as giving up eating. "Marietta," said
he, "I will think about this."

"Very well," she answered; "but it's my opinion, Asaph, that you
ought not to take more than one minute to think about it. However, I
will give you until to-morrow morning, and then if you decide that
you don't care to look like a respectable citizen, I must have some
further talk with you about our future arrangements."

"Make it to-morrow night," said Asaph. And his sister consented.

The next day Asaph was unusually brisk and active; and very soon
after breakfast he walked over to the village tavern to see Mr.
Rooper.

"Hello!" exclaimed that individual, surprised at his visitor's early
appearance at the business centre of the village. "What's started
you out? Have you come after them clothes?"

A happy thought struck Asaph. He had made this visit with the
intention of feeling his way toward some decision on the important
subject of his sister's proposition, and here a way seemed to be
opened to him. "Thomas," said he, taking his friend aside, "I am in
an awful fix. Marietta can't stand my clothes any longer. If she
can't stand them she can't stand me, and when it comes to that, you
can see for yourself that I can't help you."

A shade settled upon Mr. Rooper's face. During the past evening he
had been thinking and puffing, and puffing and thinking, until
everybody else in the tavern had gone to bed; and he had finally
made up his mind that, if he could do it, he would marry Marietta
Himes. He had never been very intimate with her or her husband, but
he had been to meals in the house, and he remembered the fragrant
coffee and the light, puffy, well-baked rolls made by Marietta's own
hands; and he thought of the many differences between living in that
very good house with that gentle, pleasant-voiced lady and his
present life in the village tavern.

And so, having determined that without delay he would, with the
advice and assistance of Asaph, begin his courtship, it was natural
that he should feel a shock of discouragement when he heard Asaph's
announcement that his sister could not endure him in the house any
longer. To attack that house and its owner without the friendly
offices upon which he depended was an undertaking for which he was
not at all prepared.

"I don't wonder at her," he said, sharply--"not a bit. But this puts
a mighty different face on the thing what we talked about
yesterday."

"It needn't," said Asaph, quietly. "The clothes you was goin' to
give me wouldn't cost a cent more to-day than they would in a couple
of months, say; and when I've got 'em on Marietta will be glad to
have me around. Everything can go on just as we bargained for."

Thomas shook his head. "That would be a mighty resky piece of
business," he said. "You would be all right, but that's not sayin'
that I would; for it strikes me that your sister is about as much a
bird in the bush as any flyin' critter."

Asaph smiled. "If the bush was in the middle of a field," said he,
"and there was only one boy after the bird, it would be a pretty tough
job. But if the bush is in the corner of two high walls, and there's
two boys, and one of 'em's got a fishnet what he can throw clean
over the bush, why, then the chances is a good deal better. But
droppin' figgers, Thomas, and speakin' plain and straightforward, as
I always do--"

"About things you want to git," interrupted Thomas.

"--about everything," resumed Asaph. "I'll just tell you this: if I
don't git decent clothes now to-day, or perhaps to-morrow, I have
got to travel out of Marietta's house. I can do it and she knows it.
I can go back to Drummondville and git my board for keepin' books in
the store, and nobody there cares what sort of clothes I wear. But
when that happens, your chance of gittin' Marietta goes up higher
than a kite."

To the mind of Mr. Rooper this was most conclusive reasoning; but he
would not admit it and he did not like it. "Why don't your sister
give you clothes?" he said. "Old Himes must have left some."

A thin chill like a needleful of frozen thread ran down Asaph's
back. "Mr. Himes's clothes!" he exclaimed. "What in the world are
you talkin' about, Thomas Rooper? 'Tain't likely he had many, 'cept
what he was buried in; and what's left, if there is any, Marietta
would no more think of givin' away than she would of hangin' up his
funeral wreath for the canary-bird to perch on. There's a room up in
the garret where she keeps his special things--for she's awful
particular--and if there is any of his clothes up there I expect
she's got 'em framed."

"If she thinks as much of him as that," muttered Mr. Rooper.

"Now don't git any sech ideas as them into your head, Thomas," said
Asaph, quickly. "Marietta ain't a woman to rake up the past, and you
never need be afraid of her rakin' up Mr. Himes. All of the premises
will be hern and yourn except that room in the garret, and it ain't
likely she'll ever ask you to go in there."

"The Lord knows I don't want to!" ejaculated Mr. Rooper.

The two men walked slowly to the end of a line of well-used, or,
rather, badly used, wooden arm-chairs which stood upon the tavern
piazza, and seated themselves. Mr. Rooper's mind was in a highly
perturbed condition. If he accepted Asaph's present proposition he
would have to make a considerable outlay with a very shadowy
prospect of return.

"If you haven't got the ready money for the clothes," said Asaph,
after having given his companion some minutes for silent
consideration, "there ain't a man in this village what they would
trust sooner at the store for clothes," and then after a pause he
added, "or books, which, of course, they can order from town."

At this Mr. Rooper simply shrugged his shoulders. The question of
ready money or credit did not trouble him.

At this moment a man in a low phaeton, drawn by a stout gray horse,
passed the tavern.

"Who's that?" asked Asaph, who knew everybody in the village.

"That's Doctor Wicker," said Thomas. "He lives over at Timberley. He
'tended John Himes in his last sickness."

"He don't practise here, does he?" said Asaph. "I never see him."

"No; but he was called in to consult." And then the speaker dropped
again into cogitation.

After a few minutes Asaph rose. He knew that Thomas Rooper had a
slow-working mind, and thought it would be well to leave him to
himself for a while. "I'll go home," said he, "and 'tend to my
chores, and by the time you feel like comin' up and takin' a smoke
with me under the chestnut-tree, I reckon you will have made up your
mind, and we'll settle this thing. Fer if I have got to go back to
Drummondville, I s'pose I'll have to pack up this afternoon."

"If you'd say pack off instead of pack up," remarked the other,
"you'd come nearer the facts, considerin' the amount of your
personal property. But I'll be up there in an hour or two."

When Asaph came within sight of his sister's house he was amazed to
see a phaeton and a gray horse standing in front of the gate. From
this it was easy to infer that the doctor was in the house. What on
earth could have happened? Was anything the matter with Marietta?
And if so, why did she send for a physician who lived at a distance,
instead of Doctor McIlvaine, the village doctor? In a very anxious
state of mind Asaph reached the gate, and irresolutely went into the
yard. His impulse was to go to the house and see what had happened;
but he hesitated. He felt that Marietta might object to having a
comparative stranger know that such an exceedingly shabby fellow was
her brother. And, besides, his sister could not have been overtaken
by any sudden illness. She had always appeared perfectly well, and
there would have been no time during his brief absence from the
house to send over to Timberley for a doctor.

So he sat down under the chestnut-tree to consider this strange
condition of affairs. "Whatever it is," he said to himself, "it's
nothin' suddint, and it's bound to be chronic, and that'll skeer
Thomas. I wish I hadn't asked him to come up here. The best thing
for me to do will be to pretend that I have been sent to git
somethin' at the store, and go straight back and keep him from
comin' up."

But Asaph was a good deal quicker to think than to move, and he
still sat with brows wrinkled and mind beset by doubts. For a moment
he thought that it might be well to accept Marietta's proposition
and let Thomas go; but then he remembered the conditions, and he
shut his mental eyes at the prospect.

At that moment the gate opened and in walked Thomas Rooper. He had
made up his mind and had come to say so; but the sight of the
phaeton and gray horse caused him to postpone his intended
announcement. "What's Doctor Wicker doin' here?" he asked, abruptly.

"Dunno," said Asaph, as carelessly as he could speak. "I don't
meddle with household matters of that kind. I expect it's somethin'
the matter with that gal Betsey, that Marietta hires to help her.
She's always wrong some way or other so that she can't do her own
proper work, which I know, havin' to do a good deal of it myself. I
expect it's rickets, like as not. Gals do have that sort of thing,
don't they?"

"Never had anything to do with sick gals," said Thomas, "or sick
people of any sort, and don't want to. But it must be somethin'
pretty deep-seated for your sister to send all the way to Timberley
for a doctor."

Asaph knew very well that Mrs. Himes was too economical a person to
think of doing such a thing as that, and he knew also that Betsey
was as good a specimen of rustic health as could be found in the
county. And therefore his companion's statement that he wanted to
have nothing to do with sick people had for him a saddening import.

"I settled that business of yourn," said Mr. Rooper, "pretty soon
after you left me. I thought I might as well come straight around
and tell you about it. I'll make you a fair and square offer. I'll
give you them clothes, though it strikes me that winter goods will
be pretty heavy for this time of year; but it will be on this
condition: if I don't get Marietta, you have got to give 'em back."

Asaph smiled.

"I know what you are grinnin' at," said Thomas; "but you needn't
think that you are goin' to have the wearin' of them clothes for two
or three months and then give 'em back. I don't go in for any long
courtships. What I do in that line will be short and sharp."

"How short?" asked Asaph.

"Well, this is Thursday," replied the other, "and I calculate to ask
her on Monday."

Asaph looked at his companion in amazement. "By George!" he
exclaimed, "that won't work. Why, it took Marietta more'n five days
to make up her mind whether she would have the chicken-house painted
green or red, and you can't expect her to be quicker than that in
takin' a new husband. She'd say No just as certain as she would now
if you was to go in and ask her right before the doctor and Betsey.
And I'll just tell you plain that it wouldn't pay me to do all the
hustlin' around and talkin' and argyin' and recommendin' that I'd
have to do just for the pleasure of wearin' a suit of warm clothes
for four July days. I tell you what it is, it won't do to spring
that sort of thing on a woman, especially when she's what you might
call a trained widder. You got to give 'em time to think over the
matter and to look up your references. There's no use talkin' about
it; you must give 'em time, especially when the offer comes from a
person that nobody but me has ever thought of as a marryin' man."

"Humph!" said Thomas. "That's all you know about it."

"Facts is facts, and you can't git around 'em. There isn't a woman
in this village what wouldn't take at least two weeks to git it into
her head that you was really courtin' her. She would be just as
likely to think that you was tryin' to git a tenant in place of the
McJimseys. But a month of your courtin' and a month of my workin'
would just about make the matter all right with Marietta, and then
you could sail in and settle it."

"Very good," said Mr. Rooper, rising suddenly. "I will court your
sister for one month; and if, on the 17th day of August, she takes
me, you can go up to the store and git them clothes; but you can't
do it one minute afore. Good-mornin'."

Asaph, left alone, heaved a sigh. He did not despair; but truly,
fate was heaping a great many obstacles in his path. He thought it
was a very hard thing for a man to get his rights in this world.

Mrs. Himes sat on one end of a black hair-covered sofa in the
parlor, and Doctor Wicker sat on a black hair-covered chair opposite
to her and not far away. The blinds of the window opening upon the
garden were drawn up; but those on the front window, which commanded
a view of the chestnut-tree, were down. Doctor Wicker had just made
a proposal of marriage to Mrs. Himes, and at that moment they were
both sitting in silence.

The doctor, a bluff, hearty-looking man of about forty-five, had
been very favorably impressed by Mrs. Himes when he first made her
acquaintance, during her husband's sickness, and since that time he
had seen her occasionally and had thought about her a great deal.
Latterly letters had passed between them, and now he had come to
make his declaration in person.

It was true, as her brother had said, that Marietta was not quick in
making up her mind. But in this case she was able to act more
promptly than usual, because she had in a great measure settled this
matter before the arrival of the doctor. She knew he was going to
propose, and she was very much inclined to accept him. This it was
which had made her smile when she was setting the table the
afternoon before, and this it was which had prompted her to make her
proposition to her brother in regard to his better personal
appearance.

But now she was in a condition of nervous trepidation, and made no
answer. The doctor thought this was natural enough under the
circumstances, but he had no idea of the cause of it. The cause of
it was sitting under the chestnut-tree, the bright sunlight,
streaming through a break in the branches above, illuminating and
emphasizing and exaggerating his extreme shabbiness. The doctor had
never seen Asaph, and it would have been a great shock to Marietta's
self-respect to have him see her brother in his present aspect.

Through a crack in the blind of the front window she had seen Asaph
come in and sit down, and she had seen Mr. Rooper arrive and had
noticed his departure. And now, with an anxiety which made her chin
tremble, she sat and hoped that Asaph would get up and go away. For
she knew that if she should say to the doctor what she was perfectly
willing to say then and there, he would very soon depart, being a
man of practical mind and pressing business; and that, going to the
front door with him, she would be obliged to introduce him to a
prospective brother-in-law whose appearance, she truly believed,
would make him sick. For the doctor was a man, she well knew, who
was quite as nice and particular about dress and personal appearance
as the late Mr. Himes had been.

Doctor Wicker, aware that the lady's perturbation was increasing
instead of diminishing, thought it wise not to press the matter at
this moment. He felt that he had been, perhaps, a little over-prompt
in making his proposition. "Madam," said he, rising, "I will not ask
you to give me an answer now. I will go away and let you think about
it, and will come again to-morrow."

Through the crack in the window-blind Marietta saw that Asaph was
still under the tree. What could she do to delay the doctor? She did
not offer to take leave of him, but stood looking upon the floor. It
seemed a shame to make so good a man go all the way back to
Timberley and come again next day, just because that ragged, dirty
Asaph was sitting under the chestnut-tree.

The doctor moved toward the door, and as she followed him she
glanced once more through the crack in the window-blind, and, to her
intense delight, she saw Asaph jump up from the bench and run around
to the side of the house. He had heard the doctor's footsteps in the
hallway and had not wished to meet him. The unsatisfactory condition
of his outward appearance had been so strongly impressed upon him of
late that he had become a little sensitive in regard to it when
strangers were concerned. But if he had only known that his
exceedingly unattractive garments had prevented his sister from
making a compact which would have totally ruined his plans in regard
to her matrimonial disposition and his own advantage, he would have
felt for those old clothes the respect and gratitude with which a
Roman soldier regarded the shield and sword which had won him a
battle.

Down the middle of the garden, at the back of the house, there ran a
path, and along this path Asaph walked meditatively, with his hands
in his trousers pockets. It was a discouraging place for him to
walk, for the beds on each side of him were full of weeds, which he
had intended to pull out as soon as he should find time for the
work, but which had now grown so tall and strong that they could not
be rooted up without injuring the plants, which were the legitimate
occupants of the garden.

Asaph did not know it, but at this moment there was not one person
in the whole world who thought kindly of him. His sister was so
mortified by him that she was in tears in the house. His crony,
Thomas, had gone away almost angry with him, and even Betsey, whom
he had falsely accused of rickets, and who had often shown a pity
for him simply because he looked so forlorn, had steeled her heart
against him that morning when she found he had gone away without
providing her with any fuel for the kitchen fire.

But he had not made a dozen turns up and down the path before he
became aware of the feeling of Marietta. She looked out of the back
door and then walked rapidly toward him. "Asaph," said she, "I hope
you are considering what I said to you yesterday, for I mean to
stick to my word. If you don't choose to accept my offer, I want you
to go back to Drummondville early to-morrow morning. And I don't
feel in the least as if I were turning you out of the house, for I
have given you a chance to stay here, and have only asked you to act
like a decent Christian. I will not have you here disgracing my
home. When Doctor Wicker came to-day, and I looked out and saw you
with that miserable little coat with the sleeves half-way up to the
elbows and great holes in it which you will not let anybody patch
because you are too proud to wear patches, and those wretched faded
trousers, out at the knees, and which have been turned up and hemmed
at the bottom so often that they are six inches above your shoes,
and your whole scarecrow appearance, I was so ashamed of you that I
could not keep the tears out of my eyes. To tell a respectable
gentleman like Doctor Wicker that you were my brother was more than
I could bear; and I was glad when I saw you get up and sneak out of
the way. I hate to talk to you in this way, Asaph, but you have
brought it on yourself."

Her brother looked at her a moment. "Do you want me to go away
before breakfast?" he said.

"No," answered Marietta, "but immediately afterward." And in her
mind she resolved that breakfast should be very early the next
morning.

If Asaph had any idea of yielding, he did not intend to show it
until the last moment, and so he changed the subject. "What's the
matter with Betsey?" said he. "If she's out of health you'd better
get rid of her."

"There's nothing the matter with Betsey," answered his sister.
"Doctor Wicker came to see me."

"Came to see you!" exclaimed her brother. "What in the world did he
do that for? You never told me that you were ailin'. Is it that
sprain in your ankle?"

"Nonsense," said Marietta. "I had almost recovered from that sprain
when you came here. There's nothing the matter with my ankle; the
trouble is probably with my heart."

The moment she said this she regretted it, for Asaph had so good a
head, and could catch meanings so quickly.

"I'm sorry to hear that, Marietta," said Asaph. "That's a good deal
more serious."

"Yes," said she. And she turned and went back to the house.

Asaph continued to walk up and down the path. He had not done a
stroke of work that morning, but he did not think of that. His
sister's communication saddened him. He liked Marietta, and it
grieved him to hear that she had anything the matter with her heart.
He knew that that often happened to people who looked perfectly
well, and there was no reason why he should have suspected any
disorder in her. Of course, in this case, there was good reason for
her sending for the very best doctor to be had. It was all plain
enough to him now.

But as he walked and walked and walked, and looked at the garden,
and looked at the little orchard, and looked at the house and the
top of the big chestnut-tree, which showed itself above the roof, a
thought came into his mind which had never been there before--he was
Marietta's heir. It was a dreadful thing to think of his sister's
possible early departure from this world; but, after all, life is
life, reality is reality, and business is business. He was
Marietta's only legal heir.

Of course he had known this before, but it had never seemed to be of
any importance. He was a good deal older than she was, and he had
always looked upon her as a marrying woman. When he made his
proposition to Mr. Rooper the thought of his own heirship never came
into his mind. In fact, if any one had offered him ten dollars for
said heirship, he would have asked fifteen, and would have afterward
agreed to split the difference and take twelve and a half.

But now everything had changed. If Marietta had anything the matter
with her heart there was no knowing when all that he saw might be
his own. No sooner had he walked and thought long enough for his
mind to fully appreciate the altered aspects of his future than he
determined to instantly thrust out Mr. Rooper from all connection
with that future. He would go and tell him so at once.

To the dismay of Betsey, who had been watching him, expecting that
he would soon stop walking about and go and saw some wood with which
to cook the dinner, he went out of the front gate and strode rapidly
into the village. He had some trouble in finding Mr. Rooper, who had
gone off to take a walk and arrange a conversation with which to
begin his courtship of Mrs. Himes; but he overtook him under a tree
by the side of the creek. "Thomas," said he, "I have changed my mind
about that business between us. You have been very hard on me, and
I'm not goin' to stand it. I can get the clothes and things I need
without makin' myself your slave and workin' myself to death, and,
perhaps, settin' my sister agin me for life by tryin' to make her
believe that black's white, that you are the kind of husband she
ought to have, and that you hate pipes and never touch spirits. It
would be a mean thing for me to do, and I won't do it. I did think
you were a generous-minded man, with the right sort of feeling for
them as wanted to be your friends; but I have found out that I was
mistook, and I'm not goin' to sacrifice my sister to any such
person. Now that's my state of mind plain and square."

Thomas Rooper shrunk two inches in height. "Asaph Scantle," he said,
in a voice which seemed also to have shrunk, "I don't understand
you. I wasn't hard on you. I only wanted to make a fair bargain. If
I'd got her, I'd paid up cash on delivery. You couldn't expect a man
to do more than that. But I tell you, Asaph, that I am mighty
serious about this. The more I have thought about your sister the
more I want her. And when I tell you that I've been a-thinkin' about
her pretty much all night, you may know that I want her a good deal.
And I was intendin' to go to-morrow and begin to court her."

"Well, you needn't," said Asaph. "It won't do no good. If you don't
have me to back you up you might as well try to twist that tree as
to move her. You can't do it."

"But you don't mean to go agin me, do you, Asaph?" asked Thomas,
ruefully.

"'Tain't necessary," replied the other. "You will go agin yourself."

For a few moments Mr. Rooper remained silent. He was greatly
discouraged and dismayed by what had been said to him, but he could
not yet give up what had become the great object of his life.
"Asaph," said he, presently, "it cuts me to the in'ards to think
that you have gone back on me; but I tell you what I'll do: if you
will promise not to say anything agin me to Mrs. Himes, and not to
set yourself in any way between me and her, I'll go along with you
to the store now, and you can git that suit of clothes and the
umbrella, and I'll tell 'em to order the dictionary and hand it over
to you as soon as it comes. I'd like you to help me, but if you will
only promise to stand out of the way and not hinder, I'll do the
fair thing by you and pay in advance."

"Humph!" said Asaph. "I do believe you think you are the only man
that wants Marietta."

A pang passed through the heart of Mr. Rooper. He had been thinking
a great deal of Mrs. Himes and everything connected with her, and he
had even thought of that visit of Doctor Wicker's. That gentleman
was a widower and a well-to-do and well-appearing man; and it would
have been a long way for him to come just for some trifling rickets
in a servant-girl. Being really in love, his imagination was in a
very capering mood, and he began to fear that the doctor had come to
court Mrs. Himes. "Asaph," he said, quickly, "that's a good offer I
make you. If you take it, in less than an hour you can walk home
looking like a gentleman."

Asaph had taken his reed pipe from his coat pocket and was filling
it. As he pushed the coarse tobacco into the bowl, he considered.
"Thomas," said he, "that ain't enough. Things have changed, and it
wouldn't pay me. But I won't be hard on you. I'm a good friend of
yourn, and I'll tell you what I'll do. If you will give me now all
the things we spoke of between us--and I forgot to mention a cane
and pocket-handkerchiefs--and give me, besides, that meerschaum pipe
of yourn, I'll promise not to hinder you, but let you go ahead and
git Marietta if you kin. I must say it's a good deal for me to do,
knowin' how much you'll git and how little you'll give, and knowin',
too, the other chances she's got if she wanted 'em; but I'll do it
for the sake of friendship."

"My meerschaum pipe!" groaned Mr. Rooper. "My Centennial Exhibition
pipe!" His tones were so plaintive that for a moment Asaph felt a
little touch of remorse. But then he reflected that if Thomas really
did get Marietta the pipe would be of no use to him, for she would
not allow him to smoke it. And, besides, realities were realities
and business was business. "That pipe may be very dear to you," he
said, "Thomas, but I want you to remember that Marietta's very dear
to me."

This touched Mr. Rooper, whose heart was sensitive as it had never
been before. "Come along, Asaph," he said. "You shall have
everything, meerschaum pipe included. If anybody but me is goin' to
smoke that pipe, I'd like it to be my brother-in-law." Thus, with
amber-tipped guile, Mr. Rooper hoped to win over his friend to not
only not hinder, but to help him.

As the two men walked away, Asaph thought that he was not acting an
unfraternal part toward Marietta, for it would not be necessary for
him to say or do anything to induce her to refuse so unsuitable a
suitor as Thomas Rooper.

About fifteen minutes before dinner--which had been cooked with bits
of wood which Betsey had picked up here and there--was ready, Asaph
walked into the front yard of his sister's house attired in a
complete suit of new clothes, thick and substantial in texture,
pepper-and-salt in color, and as long in the legs and arms as the
most fastidious could desire. He had on a new shirt and a clean
collar, with a handsome black silk cravat tied in a great bow; and a
new felt hat was on his head. On his left arm he carried an
overcoat, carefully folded, with the lining outside, and in his
right hand an umbrella and a cane. In his pockets were half a dozen
new handkerchiefs and the case containing Mr. Rooper's Centennial
meerschaum.

Marietta, who was in the hallway when he opened the front door,
scarcely knew him as he approached.

"Asaph!" she exclaimed. "What has happened to you? Why, you actually
look like a gentleman!"

Asaph grinned. "Do you want me to go to Drummondville right after
breakfast to-morrow?" he asked.

"My dear brother," said Marietta, "don't crush me by talking about
that. But if you could have seen yourself as I saw you, and could
have felt as I felt, you would not wonder at me. You must forget all
that. I should be proud now to introduce you as my brother to any
doctor or king or president. But tell me how you got those beautiful
clothes."

Asaph was sometimes beset by an absurd regard for truth, which much
annoyed him. He could not say that he had worked for the clothes,
and he did not wish his sister to think that he had run in debt for
them. "They're paid for, every thread of 'em," he said. "I got 'em
in trade. These things is mine, and I don't owe no man a cent for
'em; and it seems to me that dinner must be ready."

"And proud I am," said Marietta, who never before had shown such
enthusiastic affection for her brother, "to sit down to the table
with such a nice-looking fellow as you are."

The next morning Mr. Rooper came into Mrs. Himes's yard, and there
beheld Asaph, in all the glory of his new clothes, sitting under the
chestnut-tree smoking the Centennial meerschaum pipe. Mr. Rooper
himself was dressed in his very best clothes, but he carried with
him no pipe.

"Sit down," said Asaph, "and have a smoke."

"No," replied the other; "I am goin' in the house. I have come to
see your sister."

"Goin' to begin already?" said Asaph.

"Yes," said the other; "I told you I was goin' to begin to-day."

"Very good," said his friend, crossing his pepper-and-salt legs;
"and you will finish the 17th of August. That's a good, reasonable
time."

But Mr. Rooper had no intention of courting Mrs. Himes for a month.
He intended to propose to her that very morning. He had been turning
over the matter in his mind, and for several reasons had come to
this conclusion. In the first place, he did not believe that he
could trust Asaph, even for a single day, not to oppose him.
Furthermore, his mind was in such a turmoil from the combined effect
of the constantly present thought that Asaph was wearing his
clothes, his hat, and his shoes, and smoking his beloved pipe, and
of the perplexities and agitations consequent upon his sentiments
toward Mrs. Himes, that he did not believe he could bear the mental
strain during another night.

Five minutes later Marietta Himes was sitting on the horsehair sofa
in the parlor, with Mr. Rooper on the horsehair chair opposite to
her, and not very far away, and he was delivering the address which
he had prepared.

"Madam," said he, "I am a man that takes things in this world as
they comes, and is content to wait until the time comes for them to
come. I was well acquainted with John Himes. I knowed him in life,
and I helped lay him out. As long as there was reason to suppose
that the late Mr. Himes--I mean that the grass over the grave of Mr.
Himes had remained unwithered, I am not the man to take one step in
the direction of his shoes, nor even to consider the size of 'em in
connection with the measure of my own feet. But time will pass on in
nater as well as in real life; and while I know very well, Mrs.
Himes, that certain feelin's toward them that was is like the leaves
of the oak-tree and can't be blowed off even by the fiercest
tempests of affliction, still them leaves will wither in the fall
and turn brown and curl up at the edges, though they don't depart,
but stick on tight as wax all winter until in the springtime they is
pushed off gently without knowin' it by the green leaves which come
out in real life as well as nater."

When he had finished this opening Mr. Rooper breathed a little sigh
of relief. He had not forgotten any of it, and it pleased him.

Marietta sat and looked at him. She had a good sense of humor, and,
while she was naturally surprised at what had been said to her, she
was greatly amused by it, and really wished to hear what else Thomas
Rooper had to say to her.

"Now, madam," he continued, "I am not the man to thrash a tree with
a pole to knock the leaves off before their time. But when the young
leaves is pushin' and the old leaves is droppin' (not to make any
allusion, of course, to any shrivellin' of proper respect), then I
come forward, madam, not to take the place of anybody else, but jest
as the nateral consequence of the seasons, which everybody ought to
expect; even such as you, madam, which I may liken to a
hemlock-spruce which keeps straight on in the same general line of
appearance without no reference to the fall of the year, nor winter
nor summer. And so, Mrs. Himes, I come here to-day to offer to lead
you agin to the altar. I have never been there myself, and there
ain't no woman in the world that I'd go with but you. I'm a
straightforward person, and when I've got a thing to say I say it,
and now I have said it. And so I set here awaitin' your answer."

At this moment the shutters of the front window, which had been
closed, were opened, and Asaph put in his head. "Look here, Thomas
Rooper," he said, "these shoes is pegged. I didn't bargain for no
pegged shoes; I wanted 'em sewed; everything was to be first-class."

Mr. Rooper, who had been leaning forward in his chair, his hands
upon his knees, and his face glistening with his expressed feelings
as brightly as the old-fashioned but shining silk hat which stood on
the floor by his side, turned his head, grew red to the ears, and
then sprang to his feet. "Asaph Scantle," he cried, with extended
fist, "you have broke your word; you hindered."

"No, I didn't," said Asaph, sulkily; "but pegged shoes is too much
for any man to stand." And he withdrew from the window, closing the
shutters again.

"What does this mean?" asked Mrs. Himes, who had also risen.

"It means," said Thomas, speaking with difficulty, his indignation
was so great, "that your brother is a person of tricks and meanders
beyond the reach of common human calculation. I don't like to say
this of a man who is more or less likely to be my brother-in-law,
but I can't help sayin' it, so entirely upset am I at his goin' back
on me at such a minute."

"Going back on you?" asked Mrs. Himes. "What do you mean? What has
he promised?"

Thomas hesitated. He did not wish to interrupt his courtship by the
discussion of any new question, especially this question. "If we
could settle what we have been talkin' about, Mrs. Himes," he said,
"and if you would give me my answer, then I could git my mind down
to commoner things. But swingin' on a hook as I am, I don't know
whether my head or my heels is uppermost, or what's revolvin' around
me."

"Oh, I can give you your answer quickly enough," she said. "It is
impossible for me to marry you, so that's all settled."

"Impossible is a big word," said Mr. Rooper. "Has anybody else got
afore me?"

"I am not bound to answer that question," said Marietta, slightly
coloring; "but I cannot accept you, Mr. Rooper."

"Then there's somebody else, of course," said Thomas, gazing darkly
upon the floor. "And what's more, Asaph knew it; that's just as
clear as daylight. That's what made him come to me yesterday and go
back on his first bargain."

"Now then," said Mrs. Himes, speaking very decidedly, "I want to
know what you mean by this talk about bargains."

Mr. Rooper knit his brows. "This is mighty different talk," he said,
"from the kind I expected when I come here. But you have answered my
question, now I'll answer yours. Asaph Scantle, no longer ago than
day before yesterday, after hearin' that things wasn't goin' very
well with me, recommended me to marry you, and agreed that he would
do his level best, by day and by night, to help me git you, if I
would give him a suit of clothes, an umbrella, and a dictionary."

At this Mrs. Himes gave a little gasp and sat down.

"Now, I hadn't no thoughts of tradin' for a wife," continued Thomas,
"especially in woollen goods and books; but when I considered and
turned the matter over in my mind, and thought what a woman you was,
and what a life there was afore me if I got you, I agreed to do it.
Then he wanted pay aforehand, and that I wouldn't agree to, not
because I thought you wasn't wuth it, but because I couldn't trust
him if anybody offered him more before I got you. But that ain't the
wust of it; yesterday he come down to see me and went back on his
bargain, and that after I had spent the whole night thinkin' of you
and what I was goin' to say. And he put on such high-cockalorum airs
that I, bein' as soft as mush around the heart, jest wilted and
agreed to give him everything he bargained for if he would promise
not to hinder. But he wasn't satisfied with that and wouldn't come
to no terms until I'd give him my Centennial pipe, what's been like
a child to me this many a year. And when he saw how disgruntled I
was at sich a loss, he said that my pipe might be very dear to me,
but his sister was jest as dear to him. And then, on top of the
whole thing, he pokes his head through the shutters and hinders jest
at the most ticklish moment."

"A dictionary and a pipe!" ejaculated poor Marietta, her eyes fixed
upon the floor.

"But I'm goin' to make him give 'em all back," exclaimed Thomas.
"They was the price of not hinderin', and he hindered."

"He shall give them back," said Marietta, rising, "but you must
understand, Mr. Rooper, that in no way did Asaph interfere with your
marrying me. That was a matter with which he did have and could have
nothing to do. And now I wish you could get away without speaking to
him. I do not want any quarrelling or high words here, and I will
see him and arrange the matter better than you can do it."

"Oh, I can git away without speakin' to him," said Mr. Rooper, with
reddened face. And so saying, he strode out of the house, through
the front yard, and out of the gate, without turning his head toward
Asaph, still sitting under the tree.

"Oh, ho!" said the latter to himself; "she's bounced him short and
sharp; and it serves him right, too, after playin' that trick on me.
Pegged shoes, indeed!"

At this moment the word "Asaph" came from the house in tones
shriller and sharper and higher than any in which he had ever heard
it pronounced before. He sprang to his feet and went to the house.
His sister took him into the parlor and shut the door. Her eyes were
red and her face was pale. "Asaph," said she, "Mr. Rooper has told
me the whole of your infamous conduct. Now I know what you meant
when you said that you were making arrangements to get clothes. You
were going to sell me for them. And when you found out that I was
likely to marry Doctor Wicker, you put up your price and wanted a
dictionary and a pipe."

"No, Marietta," said Asaph, "the dictionary belonged to the first
bargain. If you knew how I need a dictionary--"

"Be still!" she cried. "I do not want you to say a word. You have
acted most shamefully toward me, and I want you to go away this very
day. And before you go you must give back to Mr. Rooper everything
that you got from him. I will fit you out with some of Mr. Himes's
clothes and make no conditions at all, only that you shall go away.
Come upstairs with me, and I will get the clothes."

The room in the garret was opened, and various garments which had
belonged to the late Mr. Himes were brought out.

"This is pretty hard on me, Marietta," said Asaph, as he held up a
coat, "to give up new all-wool goods for things what has been worn
and is part cotton, if I am a judge."

Marietta said very little. She gave him what clothes he needed, and
insisted on his putting them on, making a package of the things he
had received from Mr. Rooper, and returning them to that gentleman.
Asaph at first grumbled, but he finally obeyed with a willingness
which might have excited the suspicions of Marietta had she not been
so angry.

With an enormous package wrapped in brown paper in one hand, and a
cane, an umbrella, and a very small hand-bag in the other, Asaph
approached the tavern. Mr. Rooper was sitting on the piazza alone.
He was smoking a very common-looking clay pipe and gazing intently
into the air in front of him. When his old crony came and stood
before the piazza he did not turn his head nor his eyes.

"Thomas Rooper," said Asaph, "you have got me into a very bad
scrape. I have been turned out of doors on account of what you said
about me. And where I am goin' I don't know, for I can't walk to
Drummondville. And what's more, I kept my word and you didn't. I
didn't hinder you; for how could I suppose that you was goin' to pop
the question the very minute you got inside the door? And that
dictionary you promised I've not got."

Thomas Rooper answered not a word, but looked steadily in front of
him. "And there's another thing," said Asaph. "What are you goin' to
allow me for that suit of clothes what I've been wearin', what I
took off in your room and left there?"

At this Mr. Rooper sprang to his feet with such violence that the
fire danced out of the bowl of his pipe. "What is the fare to
Drummondville?" he cried.

Asaph reflected a moment. "Three dollars and fifty cents, includin'
supper."

"I'll give you that for them clothes," said the other, and counted
out the money.

Asaph took it and sighed. "You've been hard on me, Thomas," said he,
"but I bear you no grudge. Good-by."

As he walked slowly toward the station Mr. Scantle stopped at the
store. "Has that dictionary come that was ordered for me?" he said;
and when told that it could not be expected for several days he did
not despair, for it was possible that Thomas Rooper might be so
angry that he would forget to countermand the order; in that case he
might yet hope to obtain the coveted book.

The package containing the Rooper winter suit was heavy, and Asaph
walked slowly. He did not want to go to Drummondville, for he hated
bookkeeping, and his year of leisure and good living had spoiled him
for work and poor fare. In this moody state he was very glad to stop
and have a little chat with Mrs. McJimsey, who was sitting at her
front window.

This good lady was the principal dressmaker of the village; and by
hard work and attention to business she made a very comfortable
living. She was a widow, small of stature, thin of feature, very
neatly dressed and pleasant to look at. Asaph entered the little
front yard, put his package on the door-step, and stood under the
window to talk to her. Dressed in the clothes of the late Mr. Himes,
her visitor presented such a respectable appearance that Mrs.
McJimsey was not in the least ashamed to have people see him
standing there, which she would have been a few days ago. Indeed,
she felt complimented that he should want to stop. The conversation
soon turned upon her removal from her present abode.

"I'm awfully sorry to have to go," she said; "for my time is up just
in the middle of my busy season, and that's goin' to throw me back
dreadfully. He hasn't done right by me, that Mr. Rooper, in lettin'
things go to rack and ruin in this way, and me payin' his rent so
regular."

"That's true," said Asaph. "Thomas Rooper is a hard man--a hard man,
Mrs. McJimsey. I can see how he would be overbearin' with a lone
woman like you, neither your son nor your daughter bein' of age yet
to take your part."

"Yes, Mr. Scantle, it's very hard."

Asaph stood for a moment looking at a little bed of zinnias by the
side of the door-step. "What you want, Mrs. McJimsey," said he, "is
a man in the house."

In an instant Mrs. McJimsey flushed pink. It was such a strange
thing for a gentleman to say to her.

Asaph saw the flush. He had not expected that result from his
remark, but he was quick to take advantage of it. "Mrs. McJimsey,"
said he, "you are a widow, and you are imposed upon, and you need
somebody to take care of you. If you will put that job into my hands
I will do it. I am a man what works with his head, and if you will
let me I'll work for you. To put it square, I ask you to marry me.
My sister's goin' to be married, and I'm on the pint of goin' away;
for I could not abear to stay in her house when strangers come into
it. But if you say the word, I'll stay here and be yours for ever
and ever more."

Mrs. McJimsey said not a word, but her head drooped and wild
thoughts ran through her brain. Thoughts not wild, but well trained
and broken, ran through Asaph's brain. The idea of going to
Drummondville and spending for the journey thither a dollar and
seventy-five cents of the money he had received from Mr. Rooper now
became absolutely repulsive to him.

"Mrs. McJimsey," said he, "I will say more. Not only do I ask you to
marry me, but I ask you to do it now. The evenin' sun is settin',
the evenin' birds is singin', and it seems to me, Mrs. McJimsey,
that all nater pints to this softenin' hour as a marryin' moment.
You say your son won't be home from his work until supper-time, and
your daughter has gone out for a walk. Come with me to Mr. Parker's,
the Methodist minister, and let us join hands at the altar there.
The gardener and his wife is always ready to stand up as witnesses.
And when your son and your daughter comes home to supper, they can
find their mother here afore 'em married and settled."

"But, Mr. Scantle," exclaimed Mrs. McJimsey, "it's so suddint. What
will the neighbors say?"

"As for bein' suddint, Mrs. McJimsey, I've knowed you for nearly a
year, and now, bein' on the way to leave what's been my happy home,
I couldn't keep the truth from you no longer. And as for the
neighbors, they needn't know that we hain't been engaged for
months."

"It's so queer, so very queer," said the little dressmaker. And her
face flushed again, and there were tears, not at all sorrowful ones,
in her eyes; and her somewhat needle-pricked left hand accidentally
laid itself upon the window-sill in easy reach of any one outside.

The next morning Mr. Rooper, being of a practical way of thinking,
turned his thoughts from love and resentment to the subject of his
income. And he soon became convinced that it would be better to keep
the McJimseys in his house, if it could be done without too great an
outlay for repairs. So he walked over to his property. When he
reached the house he was almost stupefied to see Asaph in a chair in
the front yard, dressed in the new suit of clothes which he, Thomas
Rooper, had paid for, and smoking the Centennial pipe.

"Good-morning, Mr. Rooper," said Asaph, in a loud and cheery voice.
"I suppose you've come to talk to Mrs. McJimsey about the work
you've got to do here to make this house fit to live in. But there
ain't no Mrs. McJimsey. She's Mrs. Scantle now, and I'm your tenant.
You can talk to me."

Doctor Wicker came to see Mrs. Himes in the afternoon of the day he
had promised to come, and early in the autumn they were married.
Since Asaph Scantle had married and settled he had not seen his
sister nor spoken to her; but he determined that on so joyful an
occasion as this he would show no resentment. So he attended the
wedding in the village church dressed in the suit of clothes which
had belonged to the late Mr. Himes.



"HIS WIFE'S DECEASED SISTER"


It is now five years since an event occurred which so colored my
life, or rather so changed some of its original colors, that I have
thought it well to write an account of it, deeming that its lessons
may be of advantage to persons whose situations in life are similar
to my own.

When I was quite a young man I adopted literature as a profession;
and having passed through the necessary preparatory grades, I found
myself, after a good many years of hard and often unremunerative
work, in possession of what might be called a fair literary
practice. My articles, grave, gay, practical, or fanciful, had come
to be considered with a favor by the editors of the various
periodicals for which I wrote, on which I found in time I could rely
with a very comfortable certainty. My productions created no
enthusiasm in the reading public; they gave me no great reputation
or very valuable pecuniary return; but they were always accepted,
and my receipts from them, at the time to which I have referred,
were as regular and reliable as a salary, and quite sufficient to
give me more than a comfortable support.

It was at this time I married. I had been engaged for more than a
year, but had not been willing to assume the support of a wife until
I felt that my pecuniary position was so assured that I could do so
with full satisfaction to my own conscience. There was now no doubt
in regard to this position, either in my mind or in that of my wife.
I worked with great steadiness and regularity; I knew exactly where
to place the productions of my pen, and could calculate, with a fair
degree of accuracy, the sums I should receive for them. We were by
no means rich; but we had enough, and were thoroughly satisfied and
content.

Those of my readers who are married will have no difficulty in
remembering the peculiar ecstasy of the first weeks of their wedded
life. It is then that the flowers of this world bloom brightest;
that its sun is the most genial; that its clouds are the scarcest;
that its fruit is the most delicious; that the air is the most
balmy; that its cigars are of the highest flavor; that the warmth
and radiance of early matrimonial felicity so rarefies the
intellectual atmosphere that the soul mounts higher, and enjoys a
wider prospect, than ever before.

These experiences were mine. The plain claret of my mind was changed
to sparkling champagne, and at the very height of its effervescence
I wrote a story. The happy thought that then struck me for a tale
was of a very peculiar character; and it interested me so much that
I went to work at it with great delight and enthusiasm, and finished
it in a comparatively short time. The title of the story was "His
Wife's Deceased Sister"; and when I read it to Hypatia she was
delighted with it, and at times was so affected by its pathos that
her uncontrollable emotion caused a sympathetic dimness in my eyes,
which prevented my seeing the words I had written. When the reading
was ended, and my wife had dried her eyes, she turned to me and
said, "This story will make your fortune. There has been nothing so
pathetic since Lamartine's 'History of a Servant-girl.'"

As soon as possible the next day I sent my story to the editor of
the periodical for which I wrote most frequently, and in which my
best productions generally appeared. In a few days I had a letter
from the editor, in which he praised my story as he had never before
praised anything from my pen. It had interested and charmed, he
said, not only himself, but all his associates in the office. Even
old Gibson, who never cared to read anything until it was in proof,
and who never praised anything which had not a joke in it, was
induced by the example of the others to read this manuscript, and
shed, as he asserted, the first tears that had come from his eyes
since his final paternal castigation some forty years before. The
story would appear, the editor assured me, as soon as he could
possibly find room for it.

If anything could make our skies more genial, our flowers brighter,
and the flavor of our fruit and cigars more delicious, it was a
letter like this. And when, in a very short time, the story was
published, we found that the reading public was inclined to receive
it with as much sympathetic interest and favor as had been shown to
it by the editors. My personal friends soon began to express
enthusiastic opinions upon it. It was highly praised in many of the
leading newspapers; and, altogether, it was a great literary
success. I am not inclined to be vain of my writings, and, in
general, my wife tells me, think too little of them; but I did feel
a good deal of pride and satisfaction in the success of "His Wife's
Deceased Sister." If it did not make my fortune, as my wife asserted
that it would, it certainly would help me very much in my literary
career.

In less than a month from the writing of this story, something very
unusual and unexpected happened to me. A manuscript was returned by
the editor of the periodical in which "His Wife's Deceased Sister"
had appeared. "It is a good story," he wrote, "but not equal to what
you have just done. You have made a great hit; and it would not do
to interfere with the reputation you have gained by publishing
anything inferior to 'His Wife's Deceased Sister,' which has had
such a deserved success."

I was so unaccustomed to having my work thrown back on my hands that
I think I must have turned a little pale when I read the letter. I
said nothing of the matter to my wife, for it would be foolish to
drop such grains of sand as this into the smoothly oiled machinery
of our domestic felicity; but I immediately sent the story to
another editor. I am not able to express the astonishment I felt
when, in the course of a week, it was sent back to me. The tone of
the note accompanying it indicated a somewhat injured feeling on the
part of the editor. "I am reluctant," he said, "to decline a
manuscript from you; but you know very well that if you sent me
anything like 'His Wife's Deceased Sister' it would be most promptly
accepted."

I now felt obliged to speak of the affair to my wife, who was quite
as much surprised, though, perhaps, not quite as much shocked, as I
had been.

"Let us read the story again," she said, "and see what is the matter
with it." When we had finished its perusal, Hypatia remarked, "It is
quite as good as many of the stories you have had printed, and I
think it very interesting; although, of course, it is not equal to
'His Wife's Deceased Sister.'"

"Of course not," said I; "that was an inspiration that I cannot
expect every day. But there must be something wrong about this last
story which we do not perceive. Perhaps my recent success may have
made me a little careless in writing it."

"I don't believe that," said Hypatia.

"At any rate," I continued, "I will lay it aside, and will go to
work on a new one."

In due course of time I had another manuscript finished, and I sent
it to my favorite periodical. It was retained some weeks, and then
came back to me. "It will never do," the editor wrote, quite warmly,
"for you to go backward. The demand for the number containing 'His
Wife's Deceased Sister' still continues, and we do not intend to let
you disappoint that great body of readers who would be so eager to
see another number containing one of your stories."

I sent this manuscript to four other periodicals, and from each of
them was it returned with remarks to the effect that, although it
was not a bad story in itself, it was not what they would expect
from the author of "His Wife's Deceased Sister."

The editor of a Western magazine wrote to me for a story to be
published in a special number which he would issue for the holidays.
I wrote him one of the character and length he asked for, and sent
it to him. By return mail it came back to me. "I had hoped," the
editor wrote, "when I asked for a story from your pen, to receive
something like 'His Wife's Deceased Sister,' and I must own that I
am very much disappointed."

I was so filled with anger when I read this note that I openly
objurgated "His Wife's Deceased Sister." "You must excuse me," I
said to my astonished wife, "for expressing myself thus in your
presence; but that confounded story will be the ruin of me yet.
Until it is forgotten nobody will ever take anything I write."

"And you cannot expect it ever to be forgotten," said Hypatia, with
tears in her eyes.

It is needless for me to detail my literary efforts in the course of
the next few months. The ideas of the editors with whom my principal
business had been done, in regard to my literary ability, had been
so raised by my unfortunate story of "His Wife's Deceased Sister"
that I found it was of no use to send them anything of lesser merit.
And as to the other journals which I tried, they evidently
considered it an insult for me to send them matter inferior to that
by which my reputation had lately risen. The fact was that my
successful story had ruined me. My income was at end, and want
actually stared me in the face; and I must admit that I did not like
the expression of its countenance. It was of no use for me to try to
write another story like "His Wife's Deceased Sister." I could not
get married every time I began a new manuscript, and it was the
exaltation of mind caused by my wedded felicity which produced that
story.

"It's perfectly dreadful!" said my wife. "If I had had a sister, and
she had died, I would have thought it was my fault."

"It could not be your fault," I answered, "and I do not think it was
mine. I had no intention of deceiving anybody into the belief that I
could do that sort of thing every time, and it ought not to be
expected of me. Suppose Raphael's patrons had tried to keep him
screwed up to the pitch of the Sistine Madonna, and had refused to
buy anything which was not as good as that. In that case I think he
would have occupied a much earlier and narrower grave than that on
which Mr. Morris Moore hangs his funeral decorations."

"But, my dear," said Hypatia, who was posted on such subjects, "the
Sistine Madonna was one of his latest paintings."

"Very true," said I; "but if he had married, as I did, he would have
painted it earlier."

I was walking homeward one afternoon about this time, when I met
Barbel--a man I had known well in my early literary career. He was
now about fifty years of age, but looked older. His hair and beard
were quite gray; and his clothes, which were of the same general
hue, gave me the idea that they, like his hair, had originally been
black. Age is very hard on a man's external appointments. Barbel had
an air of having been to let for a long time, and quite out of
repair. But there was a kindly gleam in his eye, and he welcomed me
cordially.

"Why, what is the matter, old fellow?" said he. "I never saw you
look so woebegone."

I had no reason to conceal anything from Barbel. In my younger days
he had been of great use to me, and he had a right to know the state
of my affairs. I laid the whole case plainly before him.

"Look here," he said, when I had finished, "come with me to my room:
I have something I would like to say to you there."

I followed Barbel to his room. It was at the top of a very dirty and
well-worn house which stood in a narrow and lumpy street, into which
few vehicles ever penetrated, except the ash and garbage carts, and
the rickety wagons of the venders of stale vegetables.

"This is not exactly a fashionable promenade," said Barbel, as we
approached the house; "but in some respects it reminds me of the
streets in Italian towns, where the palaces lean over toward each
other in such a friendly way."

Barbel's room was, to my mind, rather more doleful than the street.
It was dark, it was dusty, and cobwebs hung from every corner. The
few chairs upon the floor and the books upon a greasy table seemed
to be afflicted with some dorsal epidemic, for their backs were
either gone or broken. A little bedstead in the corner was covered
with a spread made of New York _Heralds_, with their edges pasted
together.

"There is nothing better," said Barbel, noticing my glance toward
this novel counterpane, "for a bed-covering than newspapers: they
keep you as warm as a blanket, and are much lighter. I used to use
_Tribunes_, but they rattled too much."

The only part of the room which was well lighted was at one end near
the solitary window. Here, upon a table with a spliced leg, stood a
little grindstone.

"At the other end of the room," said Barbel, "is my cook-stove,
which you can't see unless I light the candle in the bottle which
stands by it; but if you don't care particularly to examine it, I
won't go to the expense of lighting up. You might pick up a good
many odd pieces of bric-à-brac around here, if you chose to strike a
match and investigate; but I would not advise you to do so. It would
pay better to throw the things out of the window than to carry them
downstairs. The particular piece of indoor decoration to which I
wish to call your attention is this." And he led me to a little
wooden frame which hung against the wall near the window. Behind a
dusty piece of glass it held what appeared to be a leaf from a small
magazine or journal. "There," said he, "you see a page from the
_Grasshopper_, a humorous paper which flourished in this city some
half-dozen years ago. I used to write regularly for that paper, as
you may remember."

"Oh yes, indeed!" I exclaimed. "And I shall never forget your
'Conundrum of the Anvil' which appeared in it. How often have I
laughed at that most wonderful conceit, and how often have I put it
to my friends!"

Barbel gazed at me silently for a moment, and then he pointed to the
frame. "That printed page," he said, solemnly, "contains the
'Conundrum of the Anvil.' I hang it there so that I can see it while
I work. That conundrum ruined me. It was the last thing I wrote for
the _Grasshopper_. How I ever came to imagine it I cannot tell. It
is one of those things which occur to a man but once in a lifetime.
After the wild shout of delight with which the public greeted that
conundrum, my subsequent efforts met with hoots of derision. The
_Grasshopper_ turned its hind legs upon me. I sank from bad to
worse--much worse--until at last I found myself reduced to my
present occupation, which is that of grinding points to pins. By
this I procure my bread, coffee, and tobacco, and sometimes potatoes
and meat. One day while I was hard at work an organ-grinder came
into the street below. He played the serenade from "Trovatore"; and
the familiar notes brought back visions of old days and old
delights, when the successful writer wore good clothes and sat at
operas, when he looked into sweet eyes and talked of Italian airs,
when his future appeared all a succession of bright scenery and
joyous acts, without any provision for a drop-curtain. And as my ear
listened, and my mind wandered in this happy retrospect, my every
faculty seemed exalted, and, without any thought upon the matter, I
ground points upon my pins so fine, so regular and smooth, that they
would have pierced with ease the leather of a boot, or slipped
among, without abrasion, the finest threads of rare old lace. When
the organ stopped, and I fell back into my real world of cobwebs and
mustiness, I gazed upon the pins I had just ground, and, without a
moment's hesitation, I threw them into the street, and reported the
lot as spoiled. This cost me a little money, but it saved me my
livelihood."

After a few moments of silence, Barbel resumed:

"I have no more to say to you, my young friend. All I want you to do
is to look upon that framed conundrum, then upon this grindstone,
and then to go home and reflect. As for me, I have a gross of pins
to grind before the sun goes down."

I cannot say that my depression of mind was at all relieved by what
I had seen and heard. I had lost sight of Barbel for some years, and
I had supposed him still floating on the sun-sparkling stream of
prosperity where I had last seen him. It was a great shock to me to
find him in such a condition of poverty and squalor, and to see a
man who had originated the "Conundrum of the Anvil" reduced to the
soul-depressing occupation of grinding pin-points. As I walked and
thought, the dreadful picture of a totally eclipsed future arose
before my mind. The moral of Barbel sank deep into my heart.

When I reached home I told my wife the story of my friend Barbel.
She listened with a sad and eager interest.

"I am afraid," she said, "if our fortunes do not quickly mend, that
we shall have to buy two little grindstones. You know I could help
you at that sort of thing."

For a long time we sat together and talked, and devised many plans
for the future. I did not think it necessary yet for me to look out
for a pin-contract; but I must find some way of making money, or we
should starve to death. Of course the first thing that suggested
itself was the possibility of finding some other business; but,
apart from the difficulty of immediately obtaining remunerative work
in occupations to which I had not been trained, I felt a great and
natural reluctance to give up a profession for which I had carefully
prepared myself, and which I had adopted as my life-work. It would
be very hard for me to lay down my pen forever, and to close the top
of my inkstand upon all the bright and happy fancies which I had
seen mirrored in its tranquil pool. We talked and pondered the rest
of that day and a good deal of the night, but we came to no
conclusion as to what it would be best for us to do.

The next day I determined to go and call upon the editor of the
journal for which, in happier days, before the blight of "His Wife's
Deceased Sister" rested upon me, I used most frequently to write,
and, having frankly explained my condition to him, to ask his
advice. The editor was a good man, and had always been my friend. He
listened with great attention to what I told him, and evidently
sympathized with me in my trouble.

"As we have written to you," he said, "the only reason why we did
not accept the manuscripts you sent us was that they would have
disappointed the high hopes that the public had formed in regard to
you. We have had letter after letter asking when we were going to
publish another story like 'His Wife's Deceased Sister.' We felt,
and we still feel, that it would be wrong to allow you to destroy
the fair fabric which yourself has raised. But," he added, with a
kind smile, "I see very plainly that your well-deserved reputation
will be of little advantage to you if you should starve at the
moment that its genial beams are, so to speak, lighting you up."

"Its beams are not genial," I answered. "They have scorched and
withered me."

"How would you like," said the editor, after a short reflection, "to
allow us to publish the stories you have recently written under some
other name than your own? That would satisfy us and the public,
would put money in your pocket, and would not interfere with your
reputation."

Joyfully I seized that noble fellow by the hand, and instantly
accepted his proposition. "Of course," said I, "a reputation is a
very good thing; but no reputation can take the place of food,
clothes, and a house to live in; and I gladly agree to sink my
over-illumined name into oblivion, and to appear before the public
as a new and unknown writer."

"I hope that need not be for long," he said, "for I feel sure that
you will yet write stories as good as 'His Wife's Deceased Sister.'"

All the manuscripts I had on hand I now sent to my good friend the
editor, and in due and proper order they appeared in his journal
under the name of John Darmstadt, which I had selected as a
substitute for my own, permanently disabled. I made a similar
arrangement with other editors, and John Darmstadt received the
credit of everything that proceeded from my pen. Our circumstances
now became very comfortable, and occasionally we even allowed
ourselves to indulge in little dreams of prosperity.

Time passed on very pleasantly; one year, another, and then a little
son was born to us. It is often difficult, I believe, for thoughtful
persons to decide whether the beginning of their conjugal career, or
the earliest weeks in the life of their first-born, be the happiest
and proudest period of their existence. For myself I can only say
that the same exaltation of mind, the same rarefication of idea and
invention, which succeeded upon my wedding-day came upon me now. As
then, my ecstatic emotions crystallized themselves into a motive for
a story, and without delay I set myself to work upon it. My boy was
about six weeks old when the manuscript was finished; and one
evening, as we sat before a comfortable fire in our sitting-room,
with the curtains drawn, and the soft lamp lighted, and the baby
sleeping soundly in the adjoining chamber, I read the story to my
wife.

When I had finished, my wife arose and threw herself into my arms.
"I was never so proud of you," she said, her glad eyes sparkling,
"as I am at this moment. That is a wonderful story! It is--indeed I
am sure it is--just as good as 'His Wife's Deceased Sister.'"

As she spoke these words a sudden and chilling sensation crept over
us both. All her warmth and fervor, and the proud and happy glow
engendered within me by this praise and appreciation from one I
loved, vanished in an instant. We stepped apart, and gazed upon each
other with pallid faces. In the same moment the terrible truth had
flashed upon us both.

This story _was_ as good as "His Wife's Deceased Sister"!

We stood silent. The exceptional lot of Barbel's superpointed pins
seemed to pierce our very souls. A dreadful vision rose before me of
an impending fall and crash, in which our domestic happiness should
vanish, and our prospects for our boy be wrecked, just as we had
begun to build them up.

My wife approached me and took my hand in hers, which was as cold as
ice. "Be strong and firm," she said. "A great danger threatens us,
but you must brace yourself against it. Be strong and firm."

I pressed her hand, and we said no more that night.

The next day I took the manuscript I had just written, and carefully
infolded it in stout wrapping-paper. Then I went to a neighboring
grocery-store and bought a small, strong tin box, originally
intended for biscuit, with a cover that fitted tightly. In this I
placed my manuscript; and then I took the box to a tinsmith and had
the top fastened on with hard solder. When I went home I ascended
into the garret, and brought down to my study a ship's cash-box,
which had once belonged to one of my family who was a sea-captain.
This box was very heavy, and firmly bound with iron, and was secured
by two massive locks. Calling my wife, I told her of the contents of
the tin case, which I then placed in the box, and, having shut down
the heavy lid, I doubly locked it.

"This key," said I, putting it in my pocket, "I shall throw into the
river when I go out this afternoon."

My wife watched me eagerly, with a pallid and firm, set countenance,
but upon which I could see the faint glimmer of returning happiness.

"Wouldn't it be well," she said, "to secure it still further by
sealing-wax and pieces of tape?"

"No," said I. "I do not believe that any one will attempt to tamper
with our prosperity. And now, my dear," I continued, in an
impressive voice, "no one but you, and, in the course of time, our
son, shall know that this manuscript exists. When I am dead, those
who survive me may, if they see fit, cause this box to be split open
and the story published. The reputation it may give my name cannot
harm me then."



THE LADY, OR THE TIGER?


In the very olden time there lived a semi-barbaric king, whose
ideas, though somewhat polished and sharpened by the progressiveness
of distant Latin neighbors, were still large, florid, and
untrammelled, as became the half of him which was barbaric. He was a
man of exuberant fancy, and, withal, of an authority so irresistible
that, at his will, he turned his varied fancies into facts. He was
greatly given to self-communing; and when he and himself agreed upon
anything, the thing was done. When every member of his domestic and
political systems moved smoothly in its appointed course, his nature
was bland and genial; but whenever there was a little hitch, and
some of his orbs got out of their orbits, he was blander and more
genial still, for nothing pleased him so much as to make the crooked
straight, and crush down uneven places.

Among the borrowed notions by which his barbarism had become
semified was that of the public arena, in which, by exhibitions of
manly and beastly valor, the minds of his subjects were refined and
cultured.

But even here the exuberant and barbaric fancy asserted itself. The
arena of the king was built not to give the people an opportunity of
hearing the rhapsodies of dying gladiators, nor to enable them to
view the inevitable conclusion of a conflict between religious
opinions and hungry jaws, but for purposes far better adapted to
widen and develop the mental energies of the people. This vast
amphitheatre, with its encircling galleries, its mysterious vaults,
and its unseen passages, was an agent of poetic justice, in which
crime was punished, or virtue rewarded, by the decrees of an
impartial and incorruptible chance.

When a subject was accused of a crime of sufficient importance to
interest the king, public notice was given that on an appointed day
the fate of the accused person would be decided in the king's
arena--a structure which well deserved its name; for, although its
form and plan were borrowed from afar, its purpose emanated solely
from the brain of this man, who, every barleycorn a king, knew no
tradition to which he owed more allegiance than pleased his fancy,
and who ingrafted on every adopted form of human thought and action
the rich growth of his barbaric idealism.

When all the people had assembled in the galleries, and the king,
surrounded by his court, sat high up on his throne of royal state on
one side of the arena, he gave a signal, a door beneath him opened,
and the accused subject stepped out into the amphitheatre. Directly
opposite him, on the other side of the enclosed space, were two
doors, exactly alike and side by side. It was the duty and the
privilege of the person on trial to walk directly to these doors and
open one of them. He could open either door he pleased: he was
subject to no guidance or influence but that of the afore-mentioned
impartial and incorruptible chance. If he opened the one, there came
out of it a hungry tiger, the fiercest and most cruel that could be
procured, which immediately sprang upon him and tore him to pieces,
as a punishment for his guilt. The moment that the case of the
criminal was thus decided, doleful iron bells were clanged, great
wails went up from the hired mourners posted on the outer rim of the
arena, and the vast audience, with bowed heads and downcast hearts,
wended slowly their homeward way, mourning greatly that one so young
and fair, or so old and respected, should have merited so dire a
fate.

But if the accused person opened the other door, there came forth
from it a lady, the most suitable to his years and station that his
Majesty could select among his fair subjects; and to this lady he
was immediately married, as a reward of his innocence. It mattered
not that he might already possess a wife and family, or that his
affections might be engaged upon an object of his own selection: the
king allowed no such subordinate arrangements to interfere with his
great scheme of retribution and reward. The exercises, as in the
other instance, took place immediately, and in the arena. Another
door opened beneath the king, and a priest, followed by a band of
choristers, and dancing maidens blowing joyous airs on golden horns
and treading an epithalamic measure, advanced to where the pair
stood side by side; and the wedding was promptly and cheerily
solemnized. Then the gay brass bells rang forth their merry peals,
the people shouted glad hurrahs, and the innocent man, preceded by
children strewing flowers on his path, led his bride to his home.

This was the king's semibarbaric method of administering justice.
Its perfect fairness is obvious. The criminal could not know out of
which door would come the lady: he opened either he pleased, without
having the slightest idea whether, in the next instant, he was to be
devoured or married. On some occasions the tiger came out of one
door, and on some out of the other. The decisions of this tribunal
were not only fair, they were positively determinate: the accused
person was instantly punished if he found himself guilty; and if
innocent, he was rewarded on the spot, whether he liked it or not.
There was no escape from the judgments of the king's arena.

The institution was a very popular one. When the people gathered
together on one of the great trial-days, they never knew whether
they were to witness a bloody slaughter or a hilarious wedding. This
element of uncertainty lent an interest to the occasion which it
could not otherwise have attained. Thus the masses were entertained
and pleased, and the thinking part of the community could bring no
charge of unfairness against this plan; for did not the accused
person have the whole matter in his own hands?

This semibarbaric king had a daughter as blooming as his most florid
fancies, and with a soul as fervent and imperious as his own. As is
usual in such cases, she was the apple of his eye, and was loved by
him above all humanity. Among his courtiers was a young man of that
fineness of blood and lowness of station common to the conventional
heroes of romance who love royal maidens. This royal maiden was well
satisfied with her lover, for he was handsome and brave to a degree
unsurpassed in all this kingdom; and she loved him with an ardor
that had enough of barbarism in it to make it exceedingly warm and
strong. This love-affair moved on happily for many months, until one
day the king happened to discover its existence. He did not hesitate
nor waver in regard to his duty in the premises. The youth was
immediately cast into prison, and a day was appointed for his trial
in the king's arena. This, of course, was an especially important
occasion; and his Majesty, as well as all the people, was greatly
interested in the workings and development of this trial. Never
before had such a case occurred; never before had a subject dared to
love the daughter of a king. In after-years such things became
commonplace enough; but then they were, in no slight degree, novel
and startling.

The tiger-cages of the kingdom were searched for the most savage and
relentless beasts, from which the fiercest monster might be selected
for the arena; and the ranks of maiden youth and beauty throughout
the land were carefully surveyed by competent judges, in order that
the young man might have a fitting bride in case fate did not
determine for him a different destiny. Of course everybody knew that
the deed with which the accused was charged had been done. He had
loved the princess, and neither he, she, nor any one else thought of
denying the fact; but the king would not think of allowing any fact
of this kind to interfere with the workings of the tribunal, in
which he took such great delight and satisfaction. No matter how the
affair turned out, the youth would be disposed of; and the king
would take an æsthetic pleasure in watching the course of events,
which would determine whether or not the young man had done wrong in
allowing himself to love the princess.

The appointed day arrived. From far and near the people gathered,
and thronged the great galleries of the arena; and crowds, unable to
gain admittance, massed themselves against its outside walls. The
king and his court were in their places, opposite the twin
doors--those fateful portals, so terrible in their similarity.

All was ready. The signal was given. A door beneath the royal party
opened, and the lover of the princess walked into the arena. Tall,
beautiful, fair, his appearance was greeted with a low hum of
admiration and anxiety. Half the audience had not known so grand a
youth had lived among them. No wonder the princess loved him! What a
terrible thing for him to be there!

As the youth advanced into the arena, he turned, as the custom was,
to bow to the king: but he did not think at all of that royal
personage; his eyes were fixed upon the princess, who sat to the
right of her father. Had it not been for the moiety of barbarism in
her nature it is probable that lady would not have been there; but
her intense and fervid soul would not allow her to be absent on an
occasion in which she was so terribly interested. From the moment
that the decree had gone forth that her lover should decide his fate
in the king's arena, she had thought of nothing, night or day, but
this great event and the various subjects connected with it.
Possessed of more power, influence, and force of character than any
one who had ever before been interested in such a case, she had done
what no other person had done--she had possessed herself of the
secret of the doors. She knew in which of the two rooms that lay
behind those doors stood the cage of the tiger, with its open front,
and in which waited the lady. Through these thick doors, heavily
curtained with skins on the inside, it was impossible that any noise
or suggestion should come from within to the person who should
approach to raise the latch of one of them; but gold, and the power
of a woman's will, had brought the secret to the princess.

And not only did she know in which room stood the lady ready to
emerge, all blushing and radiant, should her door be opened, but she
knew who the lady was. It was one of the fairest and loveliest of
the damsels of the court who had been selected as the reward of the
accused youth, should he be proved innocent of the crime of aspiring
to one so far above him; and the princess hated her. Often had she
seen, or imagined that she had seen, this fair creature throwing
glances of admiration upon the person of her lover, and sometimes
she thought these glances were perceived and even returned. Now and
then she had seen them talking together; it was but for a moment or
two, but much can be said in a brief space; it may have been on most
unimportant topics, but how could she know that? The girl was
lovely, but she had dared to raise her eyes to the loved one of the
princess; and, with all the intensity of the savage blood
transmitted to her through long lines of wholly barbaric ancestors,
she hated the woman who blushed and trembled behind that silent
door.

When her lover turned and looked at her, and his eye met hers as she
sat there paler and whiter than any one in the vast ocean of anxious
faces about her, he saw, by that power of quick perception which is
given to those whose souls are one, that she knew behind which door
crouched the tiger, and behind which stood the lady. He had expected
her to know it. He understood her nature, and his soul was assured
that she would never rest until she had made plain to herself this
thing, hidden to all other lookers-on, even to the king. The only
hope for the youth in which there was any element of certainty was
based upon the success of the princess in discovering this mystery;
and the moment he looked upon her, he saw she had succeeded, as in
his soul he knew she would succeed.

Then it was that his quick and anxious glance asked the question,
"Which?" It was as plain to her as if he shouted it from where he
stood. There was not an instant to be lost. The question was asked
in a flash; it must be answered in another.

Her right arm lay on the cushioned parapet before her. She raised
her hand, and made a slight, quick movement toward the right. No one
but her lover saw her. Every eye but his was fixed on the man in the
arena.

He turned, and with a firm and rapid step he walked across the empty
space. Every heart stopped beating, every breath was held, every eye
was fixed immovably upon that man. Without the slightest hesitation,
he went to the door on the right, and opened it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now, the point of the story is this: Did the tiger come out of that
door, or did the lady?

The more we reflect upon this question the harder it is to answer.
It involves a study of the human heart which leads us through
devious mazes of passion, out of which it is difficult to find our
way. Think of it, fair reader, not as if the decision of the
question depended upon yourself, but upon that hot-blooded,
semibarbaric princess, her soul at a white heat beneath the combined
fires of despair and jealousy. She had lost him, but who should have
him?

How often, in her waking hours and in her dreams, had she started in
wild horror and covered her face with her hands as she thought of
her lover opening the door on the other side of which waited the
cruel fangs of the tiger!

But how much oftener had she seen him at the other door! How in her
grievous reveries had she gnashed her teeth and torn her hair when
she saw his start of rapturous delight as he opened the door of the
lady! How her soul had burned in agony when she had seen him rush to
meet that woman, with her flushing cheek and sparkling eye of
triumph; when she had seen him lead her forth, his whole frame
kindled with the joy of recovered life; when she had heard the glad
shouts from the multitude, and the wild ringing of the happy bells;
when she had seen the priest, with his joyous followers, advance to
the couple, and make them man and wife before her very eyes; and
when she had seen them walk away together upon their path of
flowers, followed by the tremendous shouts of the hilarious
multitude, in which her one despairing shriek was lost and drowned!

Would it not be better for him to die at once, and go to wait for
her in the blessed regions of semibarbaric futurity?

And yet, that awful tiger, those shrieks, that blood!

Her decision had been indicated in an instant, but it had been made
after days and nights of anguished deliberation. She had known she
would be asked, she had decided what she would answer, and, without
the slightest hesitation, she had moved her hand to the right.

The question of her decision is one not to be lightly considered,
and it is not for me to presume to set myself up as the one person
able to answer it. And so I leave it with all of you: Which came out
of the opened door--the lady, or the tiger?



THE REMARKABLE WRECK OF THE "THOMAS HYKE"


It was half-past one by the clock in the office of the Registrar of
Woes. The room was empty, for it was Wednesday, and the Registrar
always went home early on Wednesday afternoons. He had made that
arrangement when he accepted the office. He was willing to serve his
fellow-citizens in any suitable position to which he might be
called, but he had private interests which could not be neglected.
He belonged to his country, but there was a house in the country
which belonged to him; and there were a great many things
appertaining to that house which needed attention, especially in
pleasant summer weather. It is true he was often absent on
afternoons which did not fall on the Wednesday, but the fact of his
having appointed a particular time for the furtherance of his
outside interests so emphasized their importance that his associates
in the office had no difficulty in understanding that affairs of
such moment could not always be attended to in a single afternoon of
the week.

But although the large room devoted to the especial use of the
Registrar was unoccupied, there were other rooms connected with it
which were not in that condition. With the suite of offices to the
left we have nothing to do, but will confine our attention to a
moderate-sized room to the right of the Registrar's office, and
connected by a door, now closed, with that large and handsomely
furnished chamber. This was the office of the Clerk of Shipwrecks,
and it was at present occupied by five persons. One of these was the
clerk himself, a man of goodly appearance, somewhere between
twenty-five and forty-five years of age, and of a demeanor such as
might be supposed to belong to one who had occupied a high position
in state affairs, but who, by the cabals of his enemies, had been
forced to resign the great operations of statesmanship which he had
been directing, and who now stood, with a quite resigned air,
pointing out to the populace the futile and disastrous efforts of
the incompetent one who was endeavoring to fill his place. The Clerk
of Shipwrecks had never fallen from such a position, having never
occupied one, but he had acquired the demeanor referred to without
going through the preliminary exercises.

Another occupant was a very young man, the personal clerk of the
Registrar of Woes, who always closed all the doors of the office of
that functionary on Wednesday afternoons, and at other times when
outside interests demanded his principal's absence, after which he
betook himself to the room of his friend the Shipwreck Clerk.

Then there was a middle-aged man named Mathers, also a friend of the
clerk, and who was one of the eight who had made application for a
subposition in this department, which was now filled by a man who
was expected to resign when a friend of his, a gentleman of
influence in an interior county, should succeed in procuring the
nomination as congressional Representative of his district of an
influential politician, whose election was considered assured in
case certain expected action on the part of the administration
should bring his party into power. The person now occupying the
subposition hoped then to get something better, and Mathers,
consequently, was very willing, while waiting for the place, to
visit the offices of the department and acquaint himself with its
duties.

A fourth person was J. George Watts, a juryman by profession, who
had brought with him his brother-in-law, a stranger in the city.

The Shipwreck Clerk had taken off his good coat, which he had worn
to luncheon, and had replaced it by a lighter garment of linen, much
bespattered with ink; and he now produced a cigar-box, containing
six cigars.

"Gents," said he, "here is the fag end of a box of cigars. It's not
like having the pick of a box, but they are all I have left."

Mr. Mathers, J. George Watts, and the brother-in-law each took a
cigar with that careless yet deferential manner which always
distinguishes the treatee from the treator; and then the box was
protruded in an offhand way toward Harry Covare, the personal clerk
of the Registrar; but this young man declined, saying that he
preferred cigarettes, a package of which he drew from his pocket. He
had very often seen that cigar-box with a Havana brand, which he
himself had brought from the other room after the Registrar had
emptied it, passed around with six cigars, no more nor less, and he
was wise enough to know that the Shipwreck Clerk did not expect to
supply him with smoking-material. If that gentleman had offered to
the friends who generally dropped in on him on Wednesday afternoon
the paper bag of cigars sold at five cents each when bought singly,
but half a dozen for a quarter of a dollar, they would have been
quite as thankfully received; but it better pleased his deprecative
soul to put them in an empty cigar-box, and thus throw around them
the halo of the presumption that ninety-four of their imported
companions had been smoked.

The Shipwreck Clerk, having lighted a cigar for himself, sat down in
his revolving chair, turned his back to his desk, and threw himself
into an easy cross-legged attitude, which showed that he was
perfectly at home in that office. Harry Covare mounted a high stool,
while the visitors seated themselves in three wooden arm-chairs. But
few words had been said, and each man had scarcely tossed his first
tobacco-ashes on the floor, when some one wearing heavy boots was
heard opening an outside door and entering the Registrar's room.
Harry Covare jumped down from his stool, laid his half-smoked
cigarette thereon, and bounced into the next room, closing the door
after him. In about a minute he returned, and the Shipwreck Clerk
looked at him inquiringly.

"An old cock in a pea-jacket," said Mr. Covare, taking up his
cigarette and mounting his stool. "I told him the Registrar would be
here in the morning. He said he had something to report about a
shipwreck, and I told him the Registrar would be here in the
morning. Had to tell him that three times, and then he went."

"School don't keep Wednesday afternoons," said Mr. J. George Watts,
with a knowing smile.

"No, sir," said the Shipwreck Clerk, emphatically, changing the
crossing of his legs. "A man can't keep grinding on day in and out
without breaking down. Outsiders may say what they please about it,
but it can't be done. We've got to let up sometimes. People who do
the work need the rest just as much as those who do the looking on."

"And more too, I should say," observed Mr. Mathers.

"Our little let-up on Wednesday afternoons," modestly observed Harry
Covare, "is like death--it is sure to come; while the let-ups we get
other days are more like the diseases which prevail in certain
areas--you can't be sure whether you're going to get them or not."

The Shipwreck Clerk smiled benignantly at this remark, and the rest
laughed. Mr. Mathers had heard it before, but he would not impair
the pleasantness of his relations with a future colleague by hinting
that he remembered it.

"He gets such ideas from his beastly statistics," said the Shipwreck
Clerk.

"Which come pretty heavy on him sometimes, I expect," observed Mr.
Mathers.

"They needn't," said the Shipwreck Clerk, "if things were managed
here as they ought to be. If John J. Laylor"--meaning thereby the
Registrar--"was the right kind of a man you'd see things very
different here from what they are now. There'd be a larger force."

"That's so," said Mr. Mathers.

"And not only that, but there'd be better buildings and more
accommodations. Were any of you ever up to Anster? Well, take a run
up there some day, and see what sort of buildings the department has
there. William Q. Green is a very different man from John J. Laylor.
You don't see him sitting in his chair and picking his teeth the
whole winter, while the Representative from his district never says
a word about his department from one end of a session of Congress to
the other. Now if I had charge of things here, I'd make such changes
that you wouldn't know the place. I'd throw two rooms off here, and
a corridor and entrance-door at that end of the building. I'd close
up this door"--pointing toward the Registrar's room--"and if John J.
Laylor wanted to come in here he might go round to the end door like
other people."

The thought struck Harry Covare that in that case there would be no
John J. Laylor, but he would not interrupt.

"And what is more," continued the Shipwreck Clerk, "I'd close up
this whole department at twelve o'clock on Saturdays. The way things
are managed now, a man has no time to attend to his own private
business. Suppose I think of buying a piece of land, and want to go
out and look at it, or suppose any one of you gentlemen were here
and thought of buying a piece of land and wanted to go out and look
at it, what are you going to do about it? You don't want to go on
Sunday, and when are you going to go?"

Not one of the other gentlemen had ever thought of buying a piece of
land, nor had they any reason to suppose that they ever would
purchase an inch of soil unless they bought it in a flower-pot; but
they all agreed that the way things were managed now there was no
time for a man to attend to his own business.

"But you can't expect John J. Laylor to do anything," said the
Shipwreck Clerk.

However, there was one thing which that gentleman always expected
John J. Laylor to do. When the clerk was surrounded by a number of
persons in hours of business, and when he had succeeded in
impressing them with the importance of his functions and the
necessity of paying deferential attention to himself if they wished
their business attended to, John J. Laylor would be sure to walk
into the office and address the Shipwreck Clerk in such a manner as
to let the people present know that he was a clerk and nothing else,
and that he, the Registrar, was the head of that department. These
humiliations the Shipwreck Clerk never forgot.

There was a little pause here, and then Mr. Mathers remarked:

"I should think you'd be awfully bored with the long stories of
shipwrecks that the people come and tell you."

He hoped to change the conversation, because, although he wished to
remain on good terms with the subordinate officers, it was not
desirable that he should be led to say much against John J. Laylor.

"No, sir," said the Shipwreck Clerk, "I am not bored. I did not come
here to be bored, and as long as I have charge of this office I
don't intend to be. The long-winded old salts who come here to
report their wrecks never spin out their prosy yarns to me. The
first thing I do is to let them know just what I want of them; and
not an inch beyond that does a man of them go, at least while I am
managing the business. There are times when John J. Laylor comes in,
and puts in his oar, and wants to hear the whole story; which is
pure stuff and nonsense, for John J. Laylor doesn't know anything
more about a shipwreck than he does about--"

"The endemies in the Lake George area," suggested Harry Covare.

"Yes; or any other part of his business," said the Shipwreck Clerk;
"and when he takes it into his head to interfere, all business stops
till some second mate of a coal-schooner has told his whole story
from his sighting land on the morning of one day to his getting
ashore on it on the afternoon of the next. Now I don't put up with
any such nonsense. There's no man living that can tell me anything
about shipwrecks. I've never been to sea myself, but that's not
necessary; and if I had gone, it's not likely I'd been wrecked. But
I've read about every kind of shipwreck that ever happened. When I
first came here I took care to post myself upon these matters,
because I knew it would save trouble. I have read 'Robinson Crusoe,'
'The Wreck of the "Grosvenor,"' 'The Sinking of the "Royal George,"'
and wrecks by water-spouts, tidal waves, and every other thing which
would knock a ship into a cocked hat, and I've classified every sort
of wreck under its proper head; and when I've found out to what
class a wreck belongs, I know all about it. Now, when a man comes
here to report a wreck, the first thing he has to do is just to shut
down on his story, and to stand up square and answer a few questions
that I put to him. In two minutes I know just what kind of shipwreck
he's had; and then, when he gives me the name of his vessel, and one
or two other points, he may go. I know all about that wreck, and I
make a much better report of the business than he could have done if
he'd stood here talking three days and three nights. The amount of
money that's been saved to our taxpayers by the way I've
systematized the business of this office is not to be calculated in
figures."

The brother-in-law of J. George Watts knocked the ashes from the
remnant of his cigar, looked contemplatively at the coal for a
moment, and then remarked:

"I think you said there's no kind of shipwreck you don't know
about?"

"That's what I said," replied the Shipwreck Clerk.

"I think," said the other, "I could tell you of a shipwreck, in
which I was concerned, that wouldn't go into any of your classes."

The Shipwreck Clerk threw away the end of his cigar, put both his
hands into his trousers pockets, stretched out his legs, and looked
steadfastly at the man who had made this unwarrantable remark. Then
a pitying smile stole over his countenance, and he said: "Well, sir,
I'd like to hear your account of it; and before you get a quarter
through I can stop you just where you are, and go ahead and tell the
rest of the story myself."

"That's so," said Harry Covare. "You'll see him do it just as sure
pop as a spread rail bounces the engine."

"Well, then," said the brother-in-law of J. George Watts, "I'll tell
it." And he began:

       *       *       *       *       *

"It was just two years ago the 1st of this month that I sailed for
South America in the 'Thomas Hyke.'"

At this point the Shipwreck Clerk turned and opened a large book at
the letter T.

"That wreck wasn't reported here," said the other, "and you won't
find it in your book."

"At Anster, perhaps?" said the Shipwreck Clerk, closing the volume
and turning round again.

"Can't say about that," replied the other. "I've never been to
Anster, and haven't looked over their books."

"Well, you needn't want to," said the clerk. "They've got good
accommodations at Anster, and the Registrar has some ideas of the
duties of his post, but they have no such system of wreck reports as
we have here."

"Very like," said the brother-in-law. And he went on with his story.
"The 'Thomas Hyke' was a small iron steamer of six hundred tons, and
she sailed from Ulford for Valparaiso with a cargo principally of
pig-iron."

"Pig-iron for Valparaiso?" remarked the Shipwreck Clerk. And then he
knitted his brows thoughtfully, and said, "Go on."

"She was a new vessel," continued the narrator, "and built with
water-tight compartments; rather uncommon for a vessel of her class,
but so she was. I am not a sailor, and don't know anything about
ships. I went as passenger, and there was another one named William
Anderson, and his son Sam, a boy about fifteen years old. We were
all going to Valparaiso on business. I don't remember just how many
days we were out, nor do I know just where we were, but it was
somewhere off the coast of South America, when, one dark night--with
a fog besides, for aught I know, for I was asleep--we ran into a
steamer coming north. How we managed to do this, with room enough on
both sides for all the ships in the world to pass, I don't know; but
so it was. When I got on deck the other vessel had gone on, and we
never saw anything more of her. Whether she sunk or got home is
something I can't tell. But we pretty soon found that the 'Thomas
Hyke' had some of the plates in her bow badly smashed, and she took
in water like a thirsty dog. The captain had the forward water-tight
bulkhead shut tight, and the pumps set to work, but it was no use.
That forward compartment just filled up with water, and the 'Thomas
Hyke' settled down with her bow clean under. Her deck was slanting
forward like the side of a hill, and the propeller was lifted up so
that it wouldn't have worked even if the engine had been kept going.
The captain had the masts cut away, thinking this might bring her up
some, but it didn't help much. There was a pretty heavy sea on, and
the waves came rolling up the slant of the deck like the surf on the
sea-shore. The captain gave orders to have all the hatches battened
down so that water couldn't get in, and the only way by which
anybody could go below was by the cabin door, which was far aft.
This work of stopping up all openings in the deck was a dangerous
business, for the decks sloped right down into the water, and if
anybody had slipped, away he'd have gone into the ocean, with
nothing to stop him; but the men made a line fast to themselves, and
worked away with a good will, and soon got the deck and the house
over the engine as tight as a bottle. The smoke-stack, which was
well forward, had been broken down by a spar when the masts had been
cut, and as the waves washed into the hole that it left, the captain
had this plugged up with old sails, well fastened down. It was a
dreadful thing to see the ship a-lying with her bows clean under
water and her stern sticking up. If it hadn't been for her
water-tight compartments that were left uninjured, she would have
gone down to the bottom as slick as a whistle. On the afternoon of
the day after the collision the wind fell, and the sea soon became
pretty smooth. The captain was quite sure that there would be no
trouble about keeping afloat until some ship came along and took us
off. Our flag was flying, upside down, from a pole in the stern; and
if anybody saw a ship making such a guy of herself as the 'Thomas
Hyke' was then doing, they'd be sure to come to see what was the
matter with her, even if she had no flag of distress flying. We
tried to make ourselves as comfortable as we could, but this wasn't
easy with everything on such a dreadful slant. But that night we
heard a rumbling and grinding noise down in the hold, and the slant
seemed to get worse. Pretty soon the captain roused all hands and
told us that the cargo of pig-iron was shifting and sliding down to
the bow, and that it wouldn't be long before it would break through
all the bulkheads, and then we'd fill and go to the bottom like a
shot. He said we must all take to the boats and get away as quick as
we could. It was an easy matter launching the boats. They didn't
lower them outside from the davits, but they just let 'em down on
deck and slid 'em along forward into the water, and then held 'em
there with a rope till everything was ready to start. They launched
three boats, put plenty of provisions and water in 'em, and then
everybody began to get aboard. But William Anderson and me and his
son Sam couldn't make up our minds to get into those boats and row
out on the dark, wide ocean. They were the biggest boats we had, but
still they were little things enough. The ship seemed to us to be a
good deal safer, and more likely to be seen when day broke, than
those three boats, which might be blown off, if the wind rose,
nobody knew where. It seemed to us that the cargo had done all the
shifting it intended to, for the noise below had stopped; and,
altogether, we agreed that we'd rather stick to the ship than go off
in those boats. The captain he tried to make us go, but we wouldn't
do it; and he told us if we chose to stay behind and be drowned it
was our affair and he couldn't help it; and then he said there was a
small boat aft, and we'd better launch her, and have her ready in
case things should get worse and we should make up our minds to
leave the vessel. He and the rest then rowed off so as not to be
caught in the vortex if the steamer went down, and we three stayed
aboard. We launched the small boat in the way we'd seen the others
launched, being careful to have ropes tied to us while we were doing
it; and we put things aboard that we thought we should want. Then we
went into the cabin and waited for morning. It was a queer kind of a
cabin, with a floor inclined like the roof of a house; but we sat
down in the corners, and were glad to be there. The swinging lamp
was burning, and it was a good deal more cheerful in there than it
was outside. But, about daybreak, the grinding and rumbling down
below began again, and the bow of the 'Thomas Hyke' kept going down
more and more; and it wasn't long before the forward bulkhead of the
cabin, which was what you might call its front wall when everything
was all right, was under our feet, as level as a floor, and the lamp
was lying close against the ceiling that it was hanging from. You
may be sure that we thought it was time to get out of that. There
were benches with arms to them fastened to the floor, and by these
we climbed up to the foot of the cabin stairs, which, being turned
bottom upward, we went down in order to get out. When we reached the
cabin door we saw part of the deck below us, standing up like the
side of a house that is built in the water, as they say the houses
in Venice are. We had made our boat fast to the cabin door by a long
line, and now we saw her floating quietly on the water, which was
very smooth and about twenty feet below us. We drew her up as close
under us as we could, and then we let the boy Sam down by a rope,
and after some kicking and swinging he got into her; and then he
took the oars and kept her right under us while we scrambled down by
the ropes which we had used in getting her ready. As soon as we were
in the boat we cut her rope and pulled away as hard as we could; and
when we got to what we thought was a safe distance we stopped to
look at the 'Thomas Hyke.' You never saw such a ship in all your
born days. Two thirds of the hull was sunk in the water, and she was
standing straight up and down with the stern in the air, her rudder
up as high as the topsail ought to be, and the screw propeller
looking like the wheel on the top of one of these windmills that
they have in the country for pumping up water. Her cargo had shifted
so far forward that it had turned her right upon end, but she
couldn't sink, owing to the air in the compartments that the water
hadn't got into; and on the top of the whole thing was the distress
flag flying from the pole which stuck out over the stern. It was
broad daylight, but not a thing did we see of the other boats. We'd
supposed that they wouldn't row very far, but would lay off at a
safe distance until daylight; but they must have been scared and
rowed farther than they intended. Well, sir, we stayed in that boat
all day and watched the 'Thomas Hyke'; but she just kept as she was
and didn't seem to sink an inch. There was no use of rowing away,
for we had no place to row to; and besides, we thought that passing
ships would be much more likely to see that stern sticking high in
the air than our little boat. We had enough to eat, and at night two
of us slept while the other watched, dividing off the time and
taking turns to this. In the morning there was the 'Thomas Hyke'
standing stern up just as before. There was a long swell on the
ocean now, and she'd rise and lean over a little on each wave, but
she'd come up again just as straight as before. That night passed as
the last one had, and in the morning we found we'd drifted a good
deal farther from the 'Thomas Hyke'; but she was floating just as
she had been, like a big buoy that's moored over a sandbar. We
couldn't see a sign of the boats, and we about gave them up. We had
our breakfast, which was a pretty poor meal, being nothing but
hardtack and what was left of a piece of boiled beef. After we'd sat
for a while doing nothing, but feeling mighty uncomfortable, William
Anderson said, 'Look here, do you know that I think we would be
three fools to keep on shivering all night, and living on hardtack
in the daytime, when there's plenty on that vessel for us to eat and
to keep us warm. If she's floated that way for two days and two
nights, there's no knowing how much longer she'll float, and we
might as well go on board and get the things we want as not.' 'All
right,' said I, for I was tired doing nothing; and Sam was as
willing as anybody. So we rowed up to the steamer, and stopped close
to the deck, which, as I said before, was standing straight up out
of the water like the wall of a house. The cabin door, which was the
only opening into her, was about twenty feet above us, and the ropes
which we had tied to the rails of the stairs inside were still
hanging down. Sam was an active youngster, and he managed to climb
up one of these ropes; but when he got to the door he drew it up and
tied knots in it about a foot apart, and then he let it down to us,
for neither William Anderson nor me could go up a rope hand over
hand without knots or something to hold on to. As it was, we had a
lot of bother getting up, but we did it at last; and then we walked
up the stairs, treading on the front part of each step instead of
the top of it, as we would have done if the stairs had been in their
proper position. When we got to the floor of the cabin, which was
now perpendicular like a wall, we had to clamber down by means of
the furniture, which was screwed fast, until we reached the
bulkhead, which was now the floor of the cabin. Close to this
bulkhead was a small room which was the steward's pantry, and here
we found lots of things to eat, but all jumbled up in a way that
made us laugh. The boxes of biscuits and the tin cans and a lot of
bottles in wicker covers were piled up on one end of the room, and
everything in the lockers and drawers was jumbled together. William
Anderson and me set to work to get out what we thought we'd want,
and we told Sam to climb up into some of the state-rooms--of which
there were four on each side of the cabin--and get some blankets to
keep us warm, as well as a few sheets, which we thought we could rig
up for an awning to the boat; for the days were just as hot as the
nights were cool. When we'd collected what we wanted, William
Anderson and me climbed into our own rooms, thinking we'd each pack
a valise with what we most wanted to save of our clothes and things;
and while we were doing this Sam called out to us that it was
raining. He was sitting at the cabin door looking out. I first
thought to tell him to shut the door so's to keep the rain from
coming in; but when I thought how things really were, I laughed at
the idea. There was a sort of little house built over the entrance
to the cabin, and in one end of it was the door; and in the way the
ship now was the open doorway was underneath the little house, and
of course no rain could come in. Pretty soon we heard the rain
pouring down, beating on the stern of the vessel like hail. We got
to the stairs and looked out. The rain was falling in perfect
sheets, in a way you never see except round about the tropics. 'It's
a good thing we're inside,' said William Anderson, 'for if we'd been
out in this rain we'd been drowned in the boat.' I agreed with him,
and we made up our minds to stay where we were until the rain was
over. Well, it rained about four hours; and when it stopped, and we
looked out, we saw our little boat nearly full of water, and sunk so
deep that if one of us had stepped on her she'd have gone down,
sure. 'Here's a pretty kittle of fish,' said William Anderson;
'there's nothing for us to do now but to stay where we are.' I
believe in his heart he was glad of that, for if ever a man was
tired of a little boat, William Anderson was tired of that one we'd
been in for two days and two nights. At any rate, there was no use
talking about it, and we set to work to make ourselves comfortable.
We got some mattresses and pillows out of the state-rooms, and when
it began to get dark we lighted the lamp--which we had filled with
sweet-oil from a flask in the pantry, not finding any other
kind--and we hung it from the railing of the stairs. We had a good
night's rest, and the only thing that disturbed me was William
Anderson lifting up his head every time he turned over and saying
how much better this was than that blasted little boat. The next
morning we had a good breakfast, even making some tea with a
spirit-lamp we found, using brandy instead of alcohol. William
Anderson and I wanted to get into the captain's room--which was near
the stern and pretty high up--so as to see if there was anything
there that we ought to get ready to save when a vessel should come
along and pick us up; but we were not good at climbing, like Sam,
and we didn't see how we could get up there. Sam said he was sure he
had once seen a ladder in the compartment just forward of the
bulkhead, and as William was very anxious to get up to the captain's
room, we let the boy go and look for it. There was a sliding door in
the bulkhead under our feet, and we opened this far enough to let
Sam get through; and he scrambled down like a monkey into the next
compartment, which was light enough, although the lower half of it,
which was next to the engine-room, was under the water-line. Sam
actually found a ladder with hooks at one end of it, and while he
was handing it up to us--which was very hard to do, for he had to
climb up on all sorts of things--he let it topple over, and the end
with the iron hooks fell against the round glass of one of the
port-holes. The glass was very thick and strong, but the ladder came
down very heavy and shivered it. As bad luck would have it, this
window was below the water-line, and the water came rushing in in a
big spout. We chucked blankets down to Sam for him to stop up the
hole, but 'twas of no use; for it was hard for him to get at the
window, and when he did the water came in with such force that he
couldn't get a blanket into the hole. We were afraid he'd be drowned
down there, and told him to come out as quick as he could. He put up
the ladder again, and hooked it on to the door in the bulkhead, and
we held it while he climbed up. Looking down through the doorway, we
saw, by the way the water was pouring in at the opening, that it
wouldn't be long before that compartment was filled up; so we shoved
the door to and made it all tight, and then said William Anderson,
'The ship'll sink deeper and deeper as that fills up, and the water
may get up to the cabin door, and we must go and make that as tight
as we can.' Sam had pulled the ladder up after him, and this we
found of great use in getting to the foot of the cabin stairs. We
shut the cabin door, and locked and bolted it; and as it fitted
pretty tight, we didn't think it would let in much water if the ship
sunk that far. But over the top of the cabin stairs were a couple of
folding doors, which shut down horizontally when the ship was in its
proper position, and which were only used in very bad, cold weather.
These we pulled to and fastened tight, thus having a double
protection against the water. Well, we didn't get this done any too
soon, for the water did come up to the cabin door, and a little
trickled in from the outside door and through the cracks in the
inner one. But we went to work and stopped these up with strips from
the sheets, which we crammed well in with our pocket-knives. Then we
sat down on the steps and waited to see what would happen next. The
doors of all the state-rooms were open, and we could see through the
thick plate-glass windows in them, which were all shut tight, that
the ship was sinking more and more as the water came in. Sam climbed
up into one of the after state-rooms, and said the outside water was
nearly up to the stern; and pretty soon we looked up to the two
portholes in the stern, and saw that they were covered with water;
and as more and more water could be seen there, and as the light
came through less easily, we knew that we were sinking under the
surface of the ocean. 'It's a mighty good thing,' said William
Anderson, 'that no water can get in here.' William had a hopeful
kind of mind, and always looked on the bright side of things; but I
must say that I was dreadfully scared when I looked through those
stern windows and saw water instead of sky. It began to get duskier
and duskier as we sank lower and lower; but still we could see
pretty well, for it's astonishing how much light comes down through
water. After a little while we noticed that the light remained about
the same; and then William Anderson he sings out, 'Hooray, we've
stopped sinking!' 'What difference does that make?' says I. 'We must
be thirty or forty feet under water, and more yet, for aught I
know.' 'Yes, that may be,' said he; 'but it is clear that all the
water has got into that compartment that can get in, and we have
sunk just as far down as we are going.' 'But that don't help
matters,' said I; 'thirty or forty feet under water is just as bad
as a thousand as to drowning a man.' 'Drowning!' said William; 'how
are you going to be drowned? No water can get in here.' 'Nor no air,
either,' said I; 'and people are drowned for want of air, as I take
it.' 'It would be a queer sort of thing,' said William, 'to be
drowned in the ocean and yet stay as dry as a chip. But it's no use
being worried about air. We've got air enough here to last us for
ever so long. This stern compartment is the biggest in the ship, and
it's got lots of air in it. Just think of that hold! It must be
nearly full of air. The stern compartment of the hold has got
nothing in it but sewing-machines. I saw 'em loading her. The
pig-iron was mostly amidships, or at least forward of this
compartment. Now, there's no kind of a cargo that'll accommodate as
much air as sewing-machines. They're packed in wooden frames, not
boxes, and don't fill up half the room they take. There's air all
through and around 'em. It's a very comforting thing to think the
hold isn't filled up solid with bales of cotton or wheat in bulk.'
It might be comforting, but I couldn't get much good out of it. And
now Sam, who'd been scrambling all over the cabin to see how things
were going on, sung out that the water was leaking in a little again
at the cabin door and around some of the iron frames of the windows.
'It's a lucky thing,' said William Anderson, 'that we didn't sink
any deeper, or the pressure of the water would have burst in those
heavy glasses. And what we've got to do now is to stop up all the
cracks. The more we work the livelier we'll feel.' We tore off more
strips of sheets and went all round, stopping up cracks wherever we
found them. 'It's fortunate,' said William Anderson, 'that Sam found
that ladder, for we would have had hard work getting to the windows
of the stern state-rooms without it; but by resting it on the bottom
step of the stairs, which now happens to be the top one, we can get
to any part of the cabin.' I couldn't help thinking that if Sam
hadn't found the ladder it would have been a good deal better for
us; but I didn't want to damp William's spirits, and I said nothing.

"And now I beg your pardon, sir," said the narrator, addressing the
Shipwreck Clerk, "but I forgot that you said you'd finish this story
yourself. Perhaps you'd like to take it up just here?"

The Shipwreck Clerk seemed surprised, and had apparently forgotten
his previous offer. "Oh no," said he, "tell your own story. This is
not a matter of business."

"Very well, then," said the brother-in-law of J. George Watts, "I'll
go on. We made everything as tight as we could, and then we got our
supper, having forgotten all about dinner, and being very hungry. We
didn't make any tea and we didn't light the lamp, for we knew that
would use up air; but we made a better meal than three people sunk
out of sight in the ocean had a right to expect. 'What troubles me
most,' said William Anderson, as he turned in, 'is the fact that if
we are forty feet under water our flagpole must be covered up. Now,
if the flag was sticking out, upside down, a ship sailing by would
see it and would know there was something wrong.' 'If that's all
that troubles you,' said I, 'I guess you'll sleep easy. And if a
ship was to see the flag, I wonder how they'd know we were down
here, and how they'd get us out if they did!' 'Oh, they'd manage
it,' said William Anderson; 'trust those sea-captains for that.' And
then he went to sleep. The next morning the air began to get mighty
disagreeable in the part of the cabin where we were, and then
William Anderson he says, 'What we've got to do is to climb up into
the stern state-rooms, where the air is purer. We can come down here
to get our meals, and then go up again to breathe comfortable.' 'And
what are we going to do when the air up there gets foul?' says I to
William, who seemed to be making arrangements for spending the
summer in our present quarters. 'Oh, that'll be all right,' said he.
'It don't do to be extravagant with air any more than with anything
else. When we've used up all there is in this cabin, we can bore
holes through the floor into the hold and let in air from there. If
we're economical, there'll be enough to last for dear knows how
long.' We passed the night each in a state-room, sleeping on the end
wall instead of the berth, and it wasn't till the afternoon of the
next day that the air of the cabin got so bad we thought we'd have
some fresh; so we went down on the bulkhead, and with an auger that
we found in the pantry we bored three holes, about a yard apart, in
the cabin floor, which was now one of the walls of the room, just as
the bulkhead was the floor, and the stern end, where the two round
windows were, was the ceiling or roof. We each took a hole, and I
tell you it was pleasant to breathe the air which came in from the
hold. 'Isn't this jolly?' said William Anderson. 'And we ought to be
mighty glad that that hold wasn't loaded with codfish or soap. But
there's nothing that smells better than new sewing-machines that
haven't ever been used, and this air is pleasant enough for
anybody.' By William's advice we made three plugs, by which we
stopped up the holes when we thought we'd had air enough for the
present. 'And now,' says he, 'we needn't climb up into those awkward
state-rooms any more. We can just stay down here and be comfortable,
and let in air when we want it.' 'And how long do you suppose that
air in the hold is going to last?' said I. 'Oh, ever so long,' said
he, 'using it so economically as we do; and when it stops coming out
lively through these little holes, as I suppose it will after a
while, we can saw a big hole in this flooring and go into the hold
and do our breathing, if we want to.' That evening we did saw a hole
about a foot square, so as to have plenty of air while we were
asleep; but we didn't go into the hold, it being pretty well filled
up with machines; though the next day Sam and I sometimes stuck our
heads in for a good sniff of air, though William Anderson was
opposed to this, being of the opinion that we ought to put ourselves
on short rations of breathing so as to make the supply of air hold
out as long as possible. 'But what's the good,' said I to William,
'of trying to make the air hold out if we've got to be suffocated in
this place after all?' 'What's the good?' says he. 'Haven't you
enough biscuits and canned meats and plenty of other things to eat,
and a barrel of water in that room opposite the pantry, not to speak
of wine and brandy if you want to cheer yourself up a bit, and
haven't we good mattresses to sleep on, and why shouldn't we try to
live and be comfortable as long as we can?' 'What I want,' said I,
'is to get out of this box. The idea of being shut up in here down
under the water is more than I can stand. I'd rather take my chances
going up to the surface and swimming about till I found a piece of
the wreck, or something to float on.' 'You needn't think of anything
of that sort,' said William, 'for if we were to open a door or a
window to get out, the water'd rush in and drive us back and fill up
this place in no time; and then the whole concern would go to the
bottom. And what would you do if you did get to the top of the
water? It's not likely you'd find anything there to get on, and if
you did you wouldn't live very long floating about with nothing to
eat. No, sir,' says he, 'what we've got to do is to be content with
the comforts we have around us, and something will turn up to get us
out of this; you see if it don't.' There was no use talking against
William Anderson, and I didn't say any more about getting out. As
for Sam, he spent his time at the windows of the state-rooms
a-looking out. We could see a good way into the water--farther than
you would think--and we sometimes saw fishes, especially porpoises,
swimming about, most likely trying to find out what a ship was doing
hanging bows down under the water. What troubled Sam was that a
swordfish might come along and jab his sword through one of the
windows. In that case it would be all up, or rather down, with us.
Every now and then he'd sing out, 'Here comes one!' And then, just
as I'd give a jump, he'd say, 'No, it isn't; it's a porpoise.' I
thought from the first, and I think now, that it would have been a
great deal better for us if that boy hadn't been along. That night
there was a good deal of motion to the ship, and she swung about and
rose up and down more than she had done since we'd been left in her.
'There must be a big sea running on top,' said William Anderson,
'and if we were up there we'd be tossed about dreadful. Now the
motion down here is just as easy as a cradle; and, what's more, we
can't be sunk very deep, for if we were there wouldn't be any motion
at all.' About noon the next day we felt a sudden tremble and shake
run through the whole ship, and far down under us we heard a
rumbling and grinding that nearly scared me out of my wits. I first
thought we'd struck bottom; but William he said that couldn't be,
for it was just as light in the cabin as it had been, and if we'd
gone down it would have grown much darker, of course. The rumbling
stopped after a little while, and then it seemed to grow lighter
instead of darker; and Sam, who was looking up at the stern windows
over our heads, he sung out, 'Sky!' And, sure enough, we could see
the blue sky, as clear as daylight, through those windows! And then
the ship she turned herself on the slant, pretty much as she had
been when her forward compartment first took in water, and we found
ourselves standing on the cabin floor instead of the bulkhead. I was
near one of the open state-rooms, and as I looked in there was the
sunlight coming through the wet glass in the window, and more
cheerful than anything I ever saw before in this world. William
Anderson he just made one jump, and, unscrewing one of the
state-room windows, he jerked it open. We had thought the air inside
was good enough to last some time longer; but when that window was
open and the fresh air came rushing in, it was a different sort of
thing, I can tell you. William put his head out and looked up and
down and all around. 'She's nearly all out of water,' he shouted,
'and we can open the cabin door!' Then we all three rushed at those
stairs, which were nearly right side up now, and we had the cabin
doors open in no time. When we looked out we saw that the ship was
truly floating pretty much as she had been when the captain and crew
left her, though we all agreed that her deck didn't slant as much
forward as it did then. 'Do you know what's happened?' sung out
William Anderson, after he'd stood still for a minute to look around
and think. 'That bobbing up and down that the vessel got last night
shook up and settled down the pig-iron inside of her, and the iron
plates in the bow, that were smashed and loosened by the collision,
have given way under the weight, and the whole cargo of pig-iron has
burst through and gone to the bottom. Then, of course, up we came.
Didn't I tell you something would happen to make us all right?'

"Well, I won't make this story any longer than I can help. The next
day after that we were taken off by a sugar-ship bound north, and we
were carried safe back to Ulford, where we found our captain and the
crew, who had been picked up by a ship after they'd been three or
four days in their boats. This ship had sailed our way to find us,
which, of course, she couldn't do, as at that time we were under
water and out of sight.

"And now, sir," said the brother-in-law of J. George Watts to the
Shipwreck Clerk, "to which of your classes does this wreck of mine
belong?"

"Gents," said the Shipwreck Clerk, rising from his seat, "it's four
o'clock, and at that hour this office closes."



OLD PIPES AND THE DRYAD


A mountain brook ran through a little village. Over the brook there
was a narrow bridge, and from the bridge a foot-path led out from
the village and up the hillside to the cottage of Old Pipes and his
mother. For many, many years Old Pipes had been employed by the
villagers to pipe the cattle down from the hills. Every afternoon,
an hour before sunset, he would sit on a rock in front of his
cottage and play on his pipes. Then all the flocks and herds that
were grazing on the mountains would hear him, wherever they might
happen to be, and would come down to the village--the cows by the
easiest paths, the sheep by those not quite so easy, and the goats
by the steep and rocky ways that were hardest of all.

But now, for a year or more, Old Pipes had not piped the cattle
home. It is true that every afternoon he sat upon the rock and
played upon his familiar instrument; but the cattle did not hear
him. He had grown old and his breath was feeble. The echoes of his
cheerful notes, which used to come from the rocky hill on the other
side of the valley, were heard no more; and twenty yards from Old
Pipes one could scarcely tell what tune he was playing. He had
become somewhat deaf, and did not know that the sound of his pipes
was so thin and weak, and that the cattle did not hear him. The
cows, the sheep, and the goats came down every afternoon as before,
but this was because two boys and a girl were sent up after them.
The villagers did not wish the good old man to know that his piping
was no longer of any use, so they paid him his little salary every
month, and said nothing about the two boys and the girl.

Old Pipes's mother was, of course, a great deal older than he was,
and was as deaf as a gate--posts, latch, hinges, and all--and she
never knew that the sound of her son's pipe did not spread over all
the mountain-side and echo back strong and clear from the opposite
hills. She was very fond of Old Pipes, and proud of his piping; and
as he was so much younger than she was, she never thought of him as
being very old. She cooked for him, and made his bed, and mended his
clothes; and they lived very comfortably on his little salary.

One afternoon, at the end of the month, when Old Pipes had finished
his piping, he took his stout staff and went down the hill to the
village to receive the money for his month's work. The path seemed a
great deal steeper and more difficult than it used to be; and Old
Pipes thought that it must have been washed by the rains and greatly
damaged. He remembered it as a path that was quite easy to traverse
either up or down. But Old Pipes had been a very active man, and as
his mother was so much older than he was, he never thought of
himself as aged and infirm.

When the Chief Villager had paid him, and he had talked a little
with some of his friends, Old Pipes started to go home. But when he
had crossed the bridge over the brook and gone a short distance up
the hillside, he became very tired and sat down upon a stone. He had
not been sitting there half a minute when along came two boys and a
girl.

"Children," said Old Pipes, "I'm very tired to-night, and I don't
believe I can climb up this steep path to my home. I think I shall
have to ask you to help me."

"We will do that," said the boys and the girl, quite cheerfully; and
one boy took him by the right hand and the other by the left, while
the girl pushed him in the back. In this way he went up the hill
quite easily, and soon reached his cottage door. Old Pipes gave each
of the three children a copper coin, and then they sat down for a
few minutes' rest before starting back to the village.

"I'm sorry that I tired you so much," said Old Pipes.

"Oh, that would not have tired us," said one of the boys, "if we had
not been so far to-day after the cows, the sheep, and the goats.
They rambled high up on the mountain, and we never before had such a
time in finding them."

"Had to go after the cows, the sheep, and the goats!" exclaimed Old
Pipes. "What do you mean by that?"

The girl, who stood behind the old man, shook her head, put her hand
on her mouth, and made all sorts of signs to the boy to stop talking
on this subject; but he did not notice her and promptly answered Old
Pipes.

"Why, you see, good sir," said he, "that as the cattle can't hear
your pipes now, somebody has to go after them every evening to drive
them down from the mountain, and the Chief Villager has hired us
three to do it. Generally it is not very hard work, but to-night the
cattle had wandered far."

"How long have you been doing this?" asked the old man.

The girl shook her head and clapped her hand on her mouth more
vigorously than before, but the boy went on.

"I think it is about a year now," he said, "since the people first
felt sure that the cattle could not hear your pipes; and from that
time we've been driving them down. But we are rested now and will go
home. Good-night, sir."

The three children then went down the hill, the girl scolding the
boy all the way home. Old Pipes stood silent a few moments and then
he went into his cottage.

"Mother," he shouted, "did you hear what those children said?"

"Children!" exclaimed the old woman; "I did not hear them. I did not
know there were any children here."

Then Old Pipes told his mother--shouting very loudly to make her
hear--how the two boys and the girl had helped him up the hill, and
what he had heard about his piping and the cattle.

"They can't hear you?" cried his mother. "Why, what's the matter
with the cattle?"

"Ah me!" said Old Pipes, "I don't believe there's anything the
matter with the cattle. It must be with me and my pipes that there
is something the matter. But one thing is certain: if I do not earn
the wages the Chief Villager pays me, I shall not take them. I shall
go straight down to the village and give back the money I received
to-day."

"Nonsense!" cried his mother. "I'm sure you've piped as well as you
could, and no more can be expected. And what are we to do without
the money?"

"I don't know," said Old Pipes; "but I'm going down to the village
to pay it back."

The sun had now set; but the moon was shining very brightly on the
hillside, and Old Pipes could see his way very well. He did not take
the same path by which he had gone before, but followed another,
which led among the trees upon the hillside, and, though longer, was
not so steep.

When he had gone about half-way the old man sat down to rest,
leaning his back against a great oak-tree. As he did so he heard a
sound like knocking inside the tree, and then a voice distinctly
said:

"Let me out! let me out!"

Old Pipes instantly forgot that he was tired, and sprang to his
feet. "This must be a Dryad-tree!" he exclaimed. "If it is, I'll let
her out."

Old Pipes had never, to his knowledge, seen a Dryad-tree, but he
knew there were such trees on the hillsides and the mountains, and
that Dryads lived in them. He knew, too, that in the summer-time, on
those days when the moon rose before the sun went down, a Dryad
could come out of her tree if any one could find the key which
locked her in, and turn it. Old Pipes closely examined the trunk of
the tree, which stood in the full moonlight. "If I see that key," he
said, "I shall surely turn it." Before long he perceived a piece of
bark standing out from the tree, which appeared to him very much
like the handle of a key. He took hold of it, and found he could
turn it quite around. As he did so a large part of the side of the
tree was pushed open, and a beautiful Dryad stepped quickly out.

For a moment she stood motionless, gazing on the scene before
her--the tranquil valley, the hills, the forest, and the
mountain-side, all lying in the soft clear light of the moon. "Oh,
lovely! lovely!" she exclaimed. "How long it is since I have seen
anything like this!" And then, turning to Old Pipes, she said, "How
good of you to let me out! I am so happy and so thankful that I must
kiss you, you dear old man!" And she threw her arms around the neck
of Old Pipes and kissed him on both cheeks. "You don't know," she
then went on to say, "how doleful it is to be shut up so long in a
tree. I don't mind it in the winter, for then I am glad to be
sheltered; but in summer it is a rueful thing not to be able to see
all the beauties of the world. And it's ever so long since I've been
let out. People so seldom come this way; and when they do come at
the right time they either don't hear me, or they are frightened and
run away. But you, you dear old man, you were not frightened, and
you looked and looked for the key, and you let me out, and now I
shall not have to go back till winter has come and the air grows
cold. Oh, it is glorious! What can I do for you to show you how
grateful I am?"

"I am very glad," said Old Pipes, "that I let you out, since I see
that it makes you so happy; but I must admit that I tried to find
the key because I had a great desire to see a Dryad. But if you wish
to do something for me, you can, if you happen to be going down
toward the village."

"To the village!" exclaimed the Dryad. "I will go anywhere for you,
my kind old benefactor."

"Well, then," said Old Pipes, "I wish you would take this little bag
of money to the Chief Villager and tell him that Old Pipes cannot
receive pay for the services which he does not perform. It is now
more than a year that I have not been able to make the cattle hear
me when I piped to call them home. I did not know this until
to-night; but now that I know it I cannot keep the money, and so I
send it back." And, handing the little bag to the Dryad, he bade her
good-night and turned toward his cottage.

"Good-night," said the Dryad. "And I thank you over and over and
over again, you good old man!"

Old Pipes walked toward his home, very glad to be saved the fatigue
of going all the way down to the village and back again. "To be
sure," he said to himself, "this path does not seem at all steep,
and I can walk along it very easily; but it would have tired me
dreadfully to come up all the way from the village, especially as I
could not have expected those children to help me again." When he
reached home his mother was surprised to see him returning so soon.

"What!" she exclaimed, "have you already come back? What did the
Chief Villager say? Did he take the money?"

Old Pipes was just about to tell her that he had sent the money to
the village by a Dryad when he suddenly reflected that his mother
would be sure to disapprove such a proceeding, and so he merely said
he had sent it by a person whom he had met.

"And how do you know that the person will ever take it to the Chief
Villager?" cried his mother. "You will lose it, and the villagers
will never get it. Oh, Pipes! Pipes! when will you be old enough to
have ordinary common sense?"

Old Pipes considered that as he was already seventy years of age he
could scarcely expect to grow any wiser, but he made no remark on
this subject; and, saying that he doubted not that the money would
go safely to its destination, he sat down to his supper. His mother
scolded him roundly, but he did not mind it; and after supper he
went out and sat on a rustic chair in front of the cottage to look
at the moon-lit village, and to wonder whether or not the Chief
Villager really received the money. While he was doing these two
things he went fast asleep.

When Old Pipes left the Dryad, she did not go down to the village
with the little bag of money. She held it in her hand and thought
about what she had heard. "This is a good and honest old man," she
said, "and it is a shame that he should lose this money. He looked
as if he needed it, and I don't believe the people in the village
will take it from one who has served them so long. Often, when in my
tree, have I heard the sweet notes of his pipes. I am going to take
the money back to him." She did not start immediately, because there
were so many beautiful things to look at; but after a while she went
up to the cottage, and, finding Old Pipes asleep in his chair, she
slipped the little bag into his coat pocket and silently sped away.

The next day Old Pipes told his mother that he would go up the
mountain and cut some wood. He had a right to get wood from the
mountain, but for a long time he had been content to pick up the
dead branches which lay about his cottage. To-day, however, he felt
so strong and vigorous that he thought he would go and cut some fuel
that would be better than this. He worked all the morning, and when
he came back he did not feel at all tired, and he had a very good
appetite for his dinner.

Now, Old Pipes knew a good deal about Dryads, but there was one
thing which, although he had heard, he had forgotten. This was that
a kiss from a Dryad made a person ten years younger. The people of
the village knew this, and they were very careful not to let any
child of ten years or younger go into the woods where the Dryads
were supposed to be; for if they should chance to be kissed by one
of these tree-nymphs, they would be set back so far that they would
cease to exist. A story was told in the village that a very bad boy
of eleven once ran away into the woods and had an adventure of this
kind; and when his mother found him he was a little baby of one year
old. Taking advantage of her opportunity, she brought him up more
carefully than she had done before; and he grew to be a very good
boy indeed.

Now, Old Pipes had been kissed twice by the Dryad, once on each
cheek, and he therefore felt as vigorous and active as when he was a
hale man of fifty. His mother noticed how much work he was doing,
and told him that he need not try in that way to make up for the
loss of his piping wages; for he would only tire himself out and get
sick. But her son answered that he had not felt so well for years,
and that he was quite able to work. In the course of the afternoon,
Old Pipes, for the first time that day, put his hand in his coat
pocket, and there, to his amazement, he found the little bag of
money. "Well, well!" he exclaimed, "I am stupid indeed! I really
thought that I had seen a Dryad; but when I sat down by that big
oak-tree I must have gone to sleep and dreamed it all; and then I
came home thinking I had given the money to a Dryad, when it was in
my pocket all the time. But the Chief Villager shall have the money.
I shall not take it to him to-day; but to-morrow I wish to go to the
village to see some of my old friends, and then I shall give up the
money."

Toward the close of the afternoon, Old Pipes, as had been his custom
for so many years, took his pipes from the shelf on which they lay,
and went out to the rock in front of the cottage.

"What are you going to do?" cried his mother. "If you will not
consent to be paid, why do you pipe?"

"I am going to pipe for my own pleasure," said her son. "I am used
to it, and I do not wish to give it up. It does not matter now
whether the cattle hear me or not, and I am sure that my piping will
injure no one."

When the good man began to play upon his favorite instrument he was
astonished at the sound that came from it. The beautiful notes of
the pipes sounded clear and strong down into the valley, and spread
over the hills and up the sides of the mountain beyond, while, after
a little interval, an echo came back from the rocky hill on the
other side of the valley.

"Ha! ha!" he cried, "what has happened to my pipes? They must have
been stopped up of late, but now they are as clear and good as
ever."

Again the merry notes went sounding far and wide. The cattle on the
mountain heard them, and those that were old enough remembered how
these notes had called them from their pastures every evening, and
so they started down the mountain-side, the others following.

The merry notes were heard in the village below, and the people were
much astonished thereby. "Why, who can be blowing the pipes of Old
Pipes?" they said. But, as they were all very busy, no one went up
to see. One thing, however, was plain enough: the cattle were coming
down the mountain. And so the two boys and the girl did not have to
go after them, and had an hour for play, for which they were very
glad.

The next morning Old Pipes started down to the village with his
money, and on the way he met the Dryad. "Oh, ho!" he cried, "is that
you? Why, I thought my letting you out of the tree was nothing but a
dream."

"A dream!" cried the Dryad; "if you only knew how happy you have
made me you would not think it merely a dream. And has it not
benefited you? Do you not feel happier? Yesterday I heard you
playing beautifully on your pipes."

"Yes, yes," cried he. "I did not understand it before, but I see it
all now. I have really grown younger. I thank you, I thank you, good
Dryad, from the bottom of my heart. It was the finding of the money
in my pocket that made me think it was a dream."

"Oh, I put it in when you were asleep," she said, laughing, "because
I thought you ought to keep it. Good-by, kind, honest man. May you
live long and be as happy as I am now."

Old Pipes was greatly delighted when he understood that he was really
a younger man; but that made no difference about the money, and he
kept on his way to the village. As soon as he reached it he was
eagerly questioned as to who had been playing his pipes the evening
before; and when the people heard that it was himself, they were
very much surprised. Thereupon Old Pipes told what had happened to
him, and then there was greater wonder, with hearty congratulations
and hand-shakes; for Old Pipes was liked by every one. The Chief
Villager refused to take his money, and, although Old Pipes said
that he had not earned it, every one present insisted that, as he
would now play on his pipes as before, he should lose nothing
because, for a time, he was unable to perform his duty.

So Old Pipes was obliged to keep his money, and after an hour or two
spent in conversation with his friends, he returned to his cottage.

There was one individual, however, who was not at all pleased with
what had happened to Old Pipes. This was an Echo-dwarf, who lived on
the hills on the other side of the valley, and whose duty it was to
echo back the notes of the pipes whenever they could be heard. There
were a great many other Echo-dwarfs on these hills, some of whom
echoed back the songs of maidens, some the shouts of children, and
others the music that was often heard in the village. But there was
only one who could send back the strong notes of the pipes of Old
Pipes, and this had been his sole duty for many years. But when the
old man grew feeble, and the notes of his pipes could not be heard
on the opposite hills, this Echo-dwarf had nothing to do, and he
spent his time in delightful idleness; and he slept so much and grew
so fat that it made his companions laugh to see him walk.

On the afternoon on which, after so long an interval, the sound of
the pipes was heard on the echo-hills, this dwarf was fast asleep
behind a rock. As soon as the first notes reached them, some of his
companions ran to wake him. Rolling to his feet, he echoed back the
merry tune of Old Pipes. Naturally he was very much annoyed and
indignant at being thus obliged to give up his life of comfortable
leisure, and he hoped very much that this pipe-playing would not
occur again. The next afternoon he was awake and listening, and,
sure enough, at the usual hour, along came the notes of the pipes as
clear and strong as they ever had been; and he was obliged to work
as long as Old Pipes played. The Echo-dwarf was very angry. He had
supposed, of course, that the pipe-playing had ceased forever, and
he felt that he had a right to be indignant at being thus deceived.
He was so much disturbed that he made up his mind to go and try to
find out whether this was to be a temporary matter or not. He had
plenty of time, as the pipes were played but once a day, and he set
off early in the morning for the hill on which Old Pipes lived. It
was hard work for the fat little fellow, and when he had crossed the
valley and had gone some distance into the woods on the hillside, he
stopped to rest, and in a few minutes the Dryad came tripping along.

"Ho, ho!" exclaimed the dwarf; "what are you doing here? and how did
you get out of your tree?"

"Doing!" cried the Dryad, "I am being happy; that's what I am doing.
And I was let out of my tree by a good old man who plays the pipes
to call the cattle down from the mountain. And it makes me happier
to think that I have been of service to him. I gave him two kisses
of gratitude, and now he is young enough to play his pipes as well
as ever."

The Echo-dwarf stepped forward, his face pale with passion. "Am I to
believe," he said, "that you are the cause of this great evil that
has come upon me? and that you are the wicked creature who has again
started this old man upon his career of pipe-playing? What have I
ever done to you that you should have condemned me for years and
years to echo back the notes of those wretched pipes?"

At this the Dryad laughed loudly.

"What a funny little fellow you are!" she said. "Any one would think
you had been condemned to toil from morning till night; while what
you really have to do is merely to imitate for half an hour every
day the merry notes of Old Pipes's piping. Fie upon you, Echo-dwarf!
You are lazy and selfish; and that is what is the matter with you.
Instead of grumbling at being obliged to do a little wholesome
work--which is less, I am sure, than that of any other Echo-dwarf
upon the rocky hillside--you should rejoice at the good fortune of
the old man who has regained so much of his strength and vigor. Go
home and learn to be just and generous; and then, perhaps, you may
be happy. Good-by."

"Insolent creature!" shouted the dwarf, as he shook his fat little
fist at her. "I'll make you suffer for this. You shall find out what
it is to heap injury and insult upon one like me, and to snatch from
him the repose that he has earned by long years of toil." And,
shaking his head savagely, he hurried back to the rocky hillside.

Every afternoon the merry notes of the pipes of Old Pipes sounded
down into the valley and over the hills and up the mountain-side;
and every afternoon when he had echoed them back, the little dwarf
grew more and more angry with the Dryad. Each day, from early
morning till it was time for him to go back to his duties upon the
rocky hillside, he searched the woods for her. He intended, if he
met her, to pretend to be very sorry for what he had said, and he
thought he might be able to play a trick upon her which would avenge
him well. One day, while thus wandering among the trees, he met Old
Pipes. The Echo-dwarf did not generally care to see or speak to
ordinary people; but now he was so anxious to find the object of his
search that he stopped and asked Old Pipes if he had seen the Dryad.
The piper had not noticed the little fellow, and he looked down on
him with some surprise.

"No," he said, "I have not seen her, and I have been looking
everywhere for her."

"You!" cried the dwarf; "what do you wish with her?"

Old Pipes then sat down on a stone, so that he should be nearer the
ear of his small companion, and he told what the Dryad had done for
him.

When the Echo-dwarf heard that this was the man whose pipes he was
obliged to echo back every day, he would have slain him on the spot
had he been able; but, as he was not able, he merely ground his
teeth and listened to the rest of the story.

"I am looking for the Dryad now," Old Pipes continued, "on account
of my aged mother. When I was old myself, I did not notice how very
old my mother was; but now it shocks me to see how feeble and
decrepit her years have caused her to become; and I am looking for
the Dryad to ask her to make my mother younger, as she made me."

The eyes of the Echo-dwarf glistened. Here was a man who might help
him in his plans.

"Your idea is a good one," he said to Old Pipes, "and it does you
honor. But you should know that a Dryad can make no person younger
but one who lets her out of her tree. However, you can manage the
affair very easily. All you need do is to find the Dryad, tell her
what you want, and request her to step into her tree and be shut up
for a short time. Then you will go and bring your mother to the
tree; she will open it, and everything will be as you wish. Is not
this a good plan?"

"Excellent!" cried Old Pipes; "and I will go instantly and search
more diligently for the Dryad."

"Take me with you," said the Echo-dwarf. "You can easily carry me on
your strong shoulders; and I shall be glad to help you in any way
that I can."

"Now, then," said the little fellow to himself, as Old Pipes carried
him rapidly along, "if he persuades the Dryad to get into a
tree--and she is quite foolish enough to do it--and then goes away
to bring his mother, I shall take a stone or a club and I will break
off the key of that tree, so that nobody can ever turn it again.
Then Mistress Dryad will see what she has brought upon herself by
her behavior to me."

Before long they came to the great oak-tree in which the Dryad had
lived, and, at a distance, they saw that beautiful creature herself
coming toward them.

"How excellently well everything happens!" said the dwarf. "Put me
down, and I will go. Your business with the Dryad is more important
than mine; and you need not say anything about my having suggested
your plan to you. I am willing that you should have all the credit
of it yourself."

Old Pipes put the Echo-dwarf upon the ground, but the little rogue
did not go away. He concealed himself between some low, mossy rocks,
and he was so much of their color that you would not have noticed
him if you had been looking straight at him.

When the Dryad came up, Old Pipes lost no time in telling her about
his mother, and what he wished her to do. At first the Dryad
answered nothing, but stood looking very sadly at Old Pipes.

"Do you really wish me to go into my tree again?" she said. "I
should dreadfully dislike to do it, for I don't know what might
happen. It is not at all necessary, for I could make your mother
younger at any time if she would give me the opportunity. I had
already thought of making you still happier in this way, and several
times I have waited about your cottage, hoping to meet your aged
mother; but she never comes outside, and you know a Dryad cannot
enter a house. I cannot imagine what put this idea into your head.
Did you think of it yourself?"

"No, I cannot say that I did," answered Old Pipes. "A little dwarf
whom I met in the woods proposed it to me."

"Oh!" cried the Dryad, "now I see through it all. It is the scheme
of that vile Echo-dwarf--your enemy and mine. Where is he? I should
like to see him."

"I think he has gone away," said Old Pipes.

"No, he has not," said the Dryad, whose quick eyes perceived the
Echo-dwarf among the rocks. "There he is. Seize him and drag him
out, I beg of you."

Old Pipes perceived the dwarf as soon as he was pointed out to him,
and, running to the rocks, he caught the little fellow by the arm
and pulled him out.

"Now, then," cried the Dryad, who had opened the door of the great
oak, "just stick him in there and we will shut him up. Then I shall
be safe from his mischief for the rest of the time I am free."

Old Pipes thrust the Echo-dwarf into the tree; the Dryad pushed the
door shut; there was a clicking sound of bark and wood, and no one
would have noticed that the big oak had ever had an opening in it.

"There!" said the Dryad; "now we need not be afraid of him. And I
assure you, my good piper, that I shall be very glad to make your
mother younger as soon as I can. Will you not ask her to come out
and meet me?"

"Of course I will," cried Old Pipes; "and I will do it without
delay."

And then, the Dryad by his side, he hurried to his cottage. But when
he mentioned the matter to his mother, the old woman became very
angry indeed. She did not believe in Dryads; and, if they really did
exist, she knew they must be witches and sorceresses, and she would
have nothing to do with them. If her son had ever allowed himself to
be kissed by one of them, he ought to be ashamed of himself. As to
its doing him the least bit of good, she did not believe a word of
it. He felt better than he used to feel, but that was very common;
she had sometimes felt that way herself. And she forbade him ever to
mention a Dryad to her again.

That afternoon Old Pipes, feeling very sad that his plan in regard
to his mother had failed, sat down upon the rock and played upon his
pipes. The pleasant sounds went down the valley and up the hills and
mountain, but, to the great surprise of some persons who happened to
notice the fact, the notes were not echoed back from the rocky
hillside, but from the woods on the side of the valley on which Old
Pipes lived. The next day many of the villagers stopped in their
work to listen to the echo of the pipes coming from the woods. The
sound was not as clear and strong as it used to be when it was sent
back from the rocky hillside, but it certainly came from among the
trees. Such a thing as an echo changing its place in this way had
never been heard of before, and nobody was able to explain how it
could have happened. Old Pipes, however, knew very well that the
sound came from the Echo-dwarf shut up in the great oak-tree. The
sides of the tree were thin, and the sound of the pipes could be
heard through them, and the dwarf was obliged by the laws of his
being to echo back those notes whenever they came to him. But Old
Pipes thought he might get the Dryad in trouble if he let any one
know that the Echo-dwarf was shut up in the tree, and so he wisely
said nothing about it.

One day the two boys and the girl who had helped Old Pipes up the
hill were playing in the woods. Stopping near the great oak-tree,
they heard a sound of knocking within it, and then a voice plainly
said:

"Let me out! let me out!"

For a moment the children stood still in astonishment, and then one
of the boys exclaimed:

"Oh, it is a Dryad, like the one Old Pipes found! Let's let her
out!"

"What are you thinking of?" cried the girl. "I am the oldest of all,
and I am only thirteen. Do you wish to be turned into crawling
babies? Run! run! run!"

And the two boys and the girl dashed down into the valley as fast as
their legs could carry them. There was no desire in their youthful
hearts to be made younger than they were. And for fear that their
parents might think it well that they should commence their careers
anew, they never said a word about finding the Dryad-tree.

As the summer days went on Old Pipes's mother grew feebler and
feebler. One day when her son was away--for he now frequently went
into the woods to hunt or fish, or down into the valley to work--she
arose from her knitting to prepare the simple dinner. But she felt
so weak and tired that she was not able to do the work to which she
had been so long accustomed. "Alas! alas!" she said, "the time has
come when I am too old to work. My son will have to hire some one to
come here and cook his meals, make his bed, and mend his clothes.
Alas! alas! I had hoped that as long as I lived I should be able to
do these things. But it is not so. I have grown utterly worthless,
and some one else must prepare the dinner for my son. I wonder where
he is." And tottering to the door, she went outside to look for him.
She did not feel able to stand, and reaching the rustic chair, she
sank into it, quite exhausted, and soon fell asleep.

The Dryad, who had often come to the cottage to see if she could
find an opportunity of carrying out Old Pipes's affectionate design,
now happened by; and seeing that the much-desired occasion had come,
she stepped up quietly behind the old woman and gently kissed her on
each cheek, and then as quietly disappeared.

In a few minutes the mother of Old Pipes awoke, and looking up at
the sun, she exclaimed, "Why, it is almost dinner-time! My son will
be here directly, and I am not ready for him." And rising to her
feet, she hurried into the house, made the fire, set the meat and
vegetables to cook, laid the cloth, and by the time her son arrived
the meal was on the table.

"How a little sleep does refresh one!" she said to herself, as she
was bustling about. She was a woman of very vigorous constitution,
and at seventy had been a great deal stronger and more active than
her son was at that age. The moment Old Pipes saw his mother, he
knew that the Dryad had been there; but, while he felt as happy as a
king, he was too wise to say anything about her.

"It is astonishing how well I feel to-day," said his mother; "and
either my hearing has improved or you speak much more plainly than
you have done of late."

The summer days went on and passed away, the leaves were falling
from the trees, and the air was becoming cold.

"Nature has ceased to be lovely," said the Dryad, "and the night
winds chill me. It is time for me to go back into my comfortable
quarters in the great oak. But first I must pay another visit to the
cottage of Old Pipes."

She found the piper and his mother sitting side by side on the rock
in front of the door. The cattle were not to go to the mountain any
more that season, and he was piping them down for the last time.
Loud and merrily sounded the pipes of Old Pipes, and down the
mountain-side came the cattle, the cows by the easiest paths, the
sheep by those not quite so easy, and the goats by the most
difficult ones among the rocks; while from the great oak-tree were
heard the echoes of the cheerful music.

"How happy they look, sitting there together!" said the Dryad; "and
I don't believe it will do them a bit of harm to be still younger."
And moving quietly up behind them, she first kissed Old Pipes on his
cheek and then his mother.

Old Pipes, who had stopped playing, knew what it was, but he did not
move, and said nothing. His mother, thinking that her son had kissed
her, turned to him with a smile and kissed him in return. And then
she arose and went into the cottage, a vigorous woman of sixty,
followed by her son, erect and happy, and twenty years younger than
herself.

The Dryad sped away to the woods, shrugging her shoulders as she
felt the cool evening wind.

When she reached the great oak, she turned the key and opened the
door. "Come out," she said to the Echo-dwarf, who sat blinking
within. "Winter is coming on, and I want the comfortable shelter of
my tree for myself. The cattle have come down from the mountain for
the last time this year, the pipes will no longer sound, and you can
go to your rocks and have a holiday until next spring."

Upon hearing these words the dwarf skipped quickly out, and the
Dryad entered the tree and pulled the door shut after her. "Now,
then," she said to herself, "he can break off the key if he likes.
It does not matter to me. Another will grow out next spring. And
although the good piper made me no promise, I know that when the
warm days arrive next year he will come and let me out again."

The Echo-dwarf did not stop to break the key of the tree. He was too
happy to be released to think of anything else, and he hastened as
fast as he could to his home on the rocky hillside.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Dryad was not mistaken when she trusted in the piper. When the
warm days came again he went to the oak-tree to let her out. But, to
his sorrow and surprise, he found the great tree lying upon the
ground. A winter storm had blown it down, and it lay with its trunk
shattered and split. And what became of the Dryad no one ever knew.



THE TRANSFERRED GHOST


The country residence of Mr. John Hinckman was a delightful place to
me, for many reasons. It was the abode of a genial, though somewhat
impulsive, hospitality. It had broad, smooth-shaven lawns and
towering oaks and elms; there were bosky shades at several points,
and not far from the house there was a little rill spanned by a
rustic bridge with the bark on; there were fruits and flowers,
pleasant people, chess, billiards, rides, walks, and fishing. These
were great attractions; but none of them, nor all of them together,
would have been sufficient to hold me to the place very long. I had
been invited for the trout season, but should probably have finished
my visit early in the summer had it not been that upon fair days,
when the grass was dry, and the sun was not too hot, and there was
but little wind, there strolled beneath the lofty elms, or passed
lightly through the bosky shades, the form of my Madeline.

This lady was not, in very truth, my Madeline. She had never given
herself to me, nor had I, in any way, acquired possession of her.
But as I considered her possession the only sufficient reason for
the continuance of my existence, I called her, in my reveries, mine.
It may have been that I would not have been obliged to confine the
use of this possessive pronoun to my reveries had I confessed the
state of my feelings to the lady.

But this was an unusually difficult thing to do. Not only did I
dread, as almost all lovers dread, taking the step which would in an
instant put an end to that delightful season which may be termed the
ante-interrogatory period of love, and which might at the same time
terminate all intercourse or connection with the object of my
passion, but I was also dreadfully afraid of John Hinckman. This
gentleman was a good friend of mine, but it would have required a
bolder man than I was at that time to ask him for the gift of his
niece, who was the head of his household, and, according to his own
frequent statement, the main prop of his declining years. Had
Madeline acquiesced in my general views on the subject, I might have
felt encouraged to open the matter to Mr. Hinckman; but, as I said
before, I had never asked her whether or not she would be mine. I
thought of these things at all hours of the day and night,
particularly the latter.

I was lying awake one night, in the great bed in my spacious
chamber, when, by the dim light of the new moon, which partially
filled the room, I saw John Hinckman standing by a large chair near
the door. I was very much surprised at this, for two reasons. In the
first place, my host had never before come into my room; and, in the
second place, he had gone from home that morning, and had not
expected to return for several days. It was for this reason that I
had been able that evening to sit much later than usual with
Madeline on the moon-lit porch. The figure was certainly that of
John Hinckman in his ordinary dress, but there was a vagueness and
indistinctness about it which presently assured me that it was a
ghost. Had the good old man been murdered? and had his spirit come
to tell me of the deed, and to confide to me the protection of his
dear--? My heart fluttered at what I was about to think, but at this
instant the figure spoke.

"Do you know," he said, with a countenance that indicated anxiety,
"if Mr. Hinckman will return to-night?"

I thought it well to maintain a calm exterior, and I answered:

"We do not expect him."

"I am glad of that," said he, sinking into the chair by which he
stood. "During the two years and a half that I have inhabited this
house, that man has never before been away for a single night. You
can't imagine the relief it gives me."

And as he spoke he stretched out his legs and leaned back in the
chair. His form became less vague, and the colors of his garments
more distinct and evident, while an expression of gratified relief
succeeded to the anxiety of his countenance.

"Two years and a half!" I exclaimed. "I don't understand you."

"It is fully that length of time," said the ghost, "since I first
came here. Mine is not an ordinary case. But before I say anything
more about it, let me ask you again if you are sure Mr. Hinckman
will not return to-night?"

"I am as sure of it as I can be of anything," I answered. "He left
to-day for Bristol, two hundred miles away."

"Then I will go on," said the ghost, "for I am glad to have the
opportunity of talking to some one who will listen to me; but if
John Hinckman should come in and catch me here I should be
frightened out of my wits."

"This is all very strange," I said, greatly puzzled by what I had
heard. "Are you the ghost of Mr. Hinckman?"

This was a bold question, but my mind was so full of other emotions
that there seemed to be no room for that of fear.

"Yes, I am his ghost," my companion replied, "and yet I have no
right to be. And this is what makes me so uneasy, and so much afraid
of him. It is a strange story, and, I truly believe, without
precedent. Two years and a half ago John Hinckman was dangerously
ill in this very room. At one time he was so far gone that he was
really believed to be dead. It was in consequence of too precipitate
a report in regard to this matter that I was, at that time,
appointed to be his ghost. Imagine my surprise and horror, sir,
when, after I had accepted the position and assumed its
responsibilities, that old man revived, became convalescent, and
eventually regained his usual health. My situation was now one of
extreme delicacy and embarrassment. I had no power to return to my
original unembodiment, and I had no right to be the ghost of a man
who was not dead. I was advised by my friends to quietly maintain my
position, and was assured that, as John Hinckman was an elderly man,
it could not be long before I could rightfully assume the position
for which I had been selected. But I tell you, sir," he continued,
with animation, "the old fellow seems as vigorous as ever, and I
have no idea how much longer this annoying state of things will
continue. I spend my time trying to get out of that old man's way. I
must not leave this house, and he seems to follow me everywhere. I
tell you, sir, he haunts me."

"That is truly a queer state of things," I remarked. "But why are
you afraid of him? He couldn't hurt you."

"Of course he couldn't," said the ghost. "But his very presence is a
shock and terror to me. Imagine, sir, how you would feel if my case
were yours."

I could not imagine such a thing at all. I simply shuddered.

"And if one must be a wrongful ghost at all," the apparition
continued, "it would be much pleasanter to be the ghost of some man
other than John Hinckman. There is in him an irascibility of temper,
accompanied by a facility of invective, which is seldom met with.
And what would happen if he were to see me, and find out, as I am
sure he would, how long and why I had inhabited his house, I can
scarcely conceive. I have seen him in his bursts of passion; and,
although he did not hurt the people he stormed at any more than he
would hurt me, they seemed to shrink before him."

All this I knew to be very true. Had it not been for this
peculiarity of Mr. Hinckman I might have been more willing to talk
to him about his niece.

"I feel sorry for you," I said, for I really began to have a
sympathetic feeling toward this unfortunate apparition. "Your case
is indeed a hard one. It reminds me of those persons who have had
doubles, and I suppose a man would often be very angry indeed when
he found that there was another being who was personating himself."

"Oh, the cases are not similar at all," said the ghost. "A double or
doppelgänger lives on the earth with a man, and, being exactly like
him, he makes all sorts of trouble, of course. It is very different
with me. I am not here to live with Mr. Hinckman. I am here to take
his place. Now, it would make John Hinckman very angry if he knew
that. Don't you know it would?"

I assented promptly.

"Now that he is away I can be easy for a little while," continued
the ghost; "and I am so glad to have an opportunity of talking to
you. I have frequently come into your room and watched you while you
slept, but did not dare to speak to you for fear that if you talked
with me Mr. Hinckman would hear you and come into the room to know
why you were talking to yourself."

"But would he not hear you?" I asked.

"Oh no!" said the other; "there are times when any one may see me,
but no one hears me except the person to whom I address myself."

"But why did you wish to speak to me?" I asked.

"Because," replied the ghost, "I like occasionally to talk to
people, and especially to some one like yourself, whose mind is so
troubled and perturbed that you are not likely to be frightened by a
visit from one of us. But I particularly wanted to ask you to do me
a favor. There is every probability, so far as I can see, that John
Hinckman will live a long time, and my situation is becoming
insupportable. My great object at present is to get myself
transferred, and I think that you may, perhaps, be of use to me."

"Transferred!" I exclaimed. "What do you mean by that?"

"What I mean," said the other, "is this: now that I have started on
my career I have got to be the ghost of somebody, and I want to be
the ghost of a man who is really dead."

"I should think that would be easy enough," I said. "Opportunities
must continually occur."

"Not at all! not at all!" said my companion, quickly. "You have no
idea what a rush and pressure there is for situations of this kind.
Whenever a vacancy occurs, if I may express myself in that way,
there are crowds of applications for the ghostship."

"I had no idea that such a state of things existed," I said,
becoming quite interested in the matter. "There ought to be some
regular system, or order of precedence, by which you could all take
your turns like customers in a barber's shop."

"Oh dear, that would never do at all!" said the other. "Some of us
would have to wait forever. There is always a great rush whenever a
good ghostship offers itself--while, as you know, there are some
positions that no one would care for. And it was in consequence of
my being in too great a hurry on an occasion of the kind that I got
myself into my present disagreeable predicament, and I have thought
that it might be possible that you would help me out of it. You
might know of a case where an opportunity for a ghostship was not
generally expected, but which might present itself at any moment. If
you would give me a short notice I know I could arrange for a
transfer."

"What do you mean?" I exclaimed. "Do you want me to commit suicide?
or to undertake a murder for your benefit?"

"Oh no, no, no!" said the other, with a vapory smile. "I mean
nothing of that kind. To be sure, there are lovers who are watched
with considerable interest, such persons having been known, in
moments of depression, to offer very desirable ghostships; but I did
not think of anything of that kind in connection with you. You were
the only person I cared to speak to, and I hoped that you might give
me some information that would be of use; and, in return, I shall be
very glad to help you in your love-affair."

"You seem to know that I have such an affair," I said.

"Oh yes!" replied the other, with a little yawn. "I could not be
here so much as I have been without knowing all about that."

There was something horrible in the idea of Madeline and myself
having been watched by a ghost, even, perhaps, when we wandered
together in the most delightful and bosky places. But then this was
quite an exceptional ghost, and I could not have the objections to
him which would ordinarily arise in regard to beings of his class.

"I must go now," said the ghost, rising, "but I will see you
somewhere to-morrow night. And remember--you help me and I'll help
you."

I had doubts the next morning as to the propriety of telling
Madeline anything about this interview, and soon convinced myself
that I must keep silent on the subject. If she knew there was a
ghost about the house she would probably leave the place instantly.
I did not mention the matter, and so regulated my demeanor that I am
quite sure Madeline never suspected what had taken place. For some
time I had wished that Mr. Hinckman would absent himself, for a day
at least, from the premises. In such case I thought I might more
easily nerve myself up to the point of speaking to Madeline on the
subject of our future collateral existence; and, now that the
opportunity for such speech had really occurred, I did not feel
ready to avail myself of it. What would become of me if she refused
me?

I had an idea, however, that the lady thought that, if I were going
to speak at all, this was the time. She must have known that certain
sentiments were afloat within me, and she was not unreasonable in
her wish to see the matter settled one way or the other. But I did
not feel like taking a bold step in the dark. If she wished me to
ask her to give herself to me she ought to offer me some reason to
suppose that she would make the gift. If I saw no probability of
such generosity I would prefer that things should remain as they
were.

       *       *       *       *       *

That evening I was sitting with Madeline in the moon-lit porch. It
was nearly ten o'clock, and ever since supper-time I had been
working myself up to the point of making an avowal of my sentiments.
I had not positively determined to do this, but wished gradually to
reach the proper point, when, if the prospect looked bright, I might
speak. My companion appeared to understand the situation--at least I
imagined that the nearer I came to a proposal the more she seemed to
expect it. It was certainly a very critical and important epoch in
my life. If I spoke I should make myself happy or miserable forever;
and if I did not speak I had every reason to believe that the lady
would not give me another chance to do so.

Sitting thus with Madeline, talking a little, and thinking very hard
over these momentous matters, I looked up and saw the ghost not a
dozen feet away from us. He was sitting on the railing of the porch,
one leg thrown up before him, the other dangling down as he leaned
against a post. He was behind Madeline, but almost in front of me,
as I sat facing the lady. It was fortunate that Madeline was looking
out over the landscape, for I must have appeared very much startled.
The ghost had told me that he would see me sometime this night, but
I did not think he would make his appearance when I was in the
company of Madeline. If she should see the spirit of her uncle I
could not answer for the consequences. I made no exclamation, but
the ghost evidently saw that I was troubled.

"Don't be afraid," he said. "I shall not let her see me; and she
cannot hear me speak unless I address myself to her, which I do not
intend to do."

I suppose I looked grateful.

"So you need not trouble yourself about that," the ghost continued;
"but it seems to me that you are not getting along very well with
your affair. If I were you I should speak out without waiting any
longer. You will never have a better chance. You are not likely to
be interrupted; and, so far as I can judge, the lady seems disposed
to listen to you favorably; that is, if she ever intends to do so.
There is no knowing when John Hinckman will go away again; certainly
not this summer. If I were in your place I should never dare to make
love to Hinckman's niece if he were anywhere about the place. If he
should catch any one offering himself to Miss Madeline he would then
be a terrible man to encounter."

I agreed perfectly to all this.

"I cannot bear to think of him!" I ejaculated aloud.

"Think of whom?" asked Madeline, turning quickly toward me.

Here was an awkward situation. The long speech of the ghost, to
which Madeline paid no attention, but which I heard with perfect
distinctness, had made me forget myself.

It was necessary to explain quickly. Of course it would not do to
admit that it was of her dear uncle that I was speaking; and so I
mentioned hastily the first name I thought of.

"Mr. Vilars," I said.

This statement was entirely correct; for I never could bear to think
of Mr. Vilars, who was a gentleman who had at various times paid
much attention to Madeline.

"It is wrong for you to speak in that way of Mr. Vilars," she said.
"He is a remarkably well-educated and sensible young man, and has
very pleasant manners. He expects to be elected to the legislature
this fall, and I should not be surprised if he made his mark. He
will do well in a legislative body, for whenever Mr. Vilars has
anything to say he knows just how and when to say it."

This was spoken very quietly and without any show of resentment,
which was all very natural; for if Madeline thought at all favorably
of me she could not feel displeased that I should have disagreeable
emotions in regard to a possible rival. The concluding words
contained a hint which I was not slow to understand. I felt very
sure that if Mr. Vilars were in my present position he would speak
quickly enough.

"I know it is wrong to have such ideas about a person," I said, "but
I cannot help it."

The lady did not chide me, and after this she seemed even in a
softer mood. As for me, I felt considerably annoyed, for I had not
wished to admit that any thought of Mr. Vilars had ever occupied my
mind.

"You should not speak aloud that way," said the ghost, "or you may
get yourself into trouble. I want to see everything go well with
you, because then you may be disposed to help me, especially if I
should chance to be of any assistance to you, which I hope I shall
be."

I longed to tell him that there was no way in which he could help me
so much as by taking his instant departure. To make love to a young
lady with a ghost sitting on the railing near by, and that ghost the
apparition of a much-dreaded uncle, the very idea of whom in such a
position and at such a time made me tremble, was a difficult, if not
an impossible, thing to do; but I forbore to speak, although I may
have looked, my mind.

"I suppose," continued the ghost, "that you have not heard anything
that might be of advantage to me. Of course I am very anxious to
hear; but if you have anything to tell me I can wait until you are
alone. I will come to you to-night in your room, or I will stay here
until the lady goes away."

"You need not wait here," I said; "I have nothing at all to say to
you."

Madeline sprang to her feet, her face flushed and her eyes ablaze.

"Wait here!" she cried. "What do you suppose I am waiting for?
Nothing to say to me indeed!--I should think so! What should you
have to say to me?"

"Madeline," I exclaimed, stepping toward her, "let me explain."

But she had gone.

Here was the end of the world for me! I turned fiercely to the
ghost.

"Wretched existence!" I cried. "You have ruined everything. You have
blackened my whole life. Had it not been for you--"

But here my voice faltered. I could say no more.

"You wrong me," said the ghost. "I have not injured you. I have
tried only to encourage and assist you, and it is your own folly
that has done this mischief. But do not despair. Such mistakes as
these can be explained. Keep up a brave heart. Good-by."

And he vanished from the railing like a bursting soap-bubble.

I went gloomily to bed, but I saw no apparitions that night except
those of despair and misery which my wretched thoughts called up.
The words I had uttered had sounded to Madeline like the basest
insult. Of course there was only one interpretation she could put
upon them.

As to explaining my ejaculations, that was impossible. I thought the
matter over and over again as I lay awake that night, and I
determined that I would never tell Madeline the facts of the case.
It would be better for me to suffer all my life than for her to know
that the ghost of her uncle haunted the house. Mr. Hinckman was
away, and if she knew of his ghost she could not be made to believe
that he was not dead. She might not survive the shock! No, my heart
could bleed, but I would never tell her.

The next day was fine, neither too cool nor too warm; the breezes
were gentle, and Nature smiled. But there were no walks or rides
with Madeline. She seemed to be much engaged during the day, and I
saw but little of her. When we met at meals she was polite, but very
quiet and reserved. She had evidently determined on a course of
conduct, and had resolved to assume that, although I had been very
rude to her, she did not understand the import of my words. It would
be quite proper, of course, for her not to know what I meant by my
expressions of the night before.

I was downcast and wretched and said but little, and the only bright
streak across the black horizon of my woe was the fact that she did
not appear to be happy, although she affected an air of unconcern.
The moon-lit porch was deserted that evening, but wandering about
the house, I found Madeline in the library alone. She was reading,
but I went in and sat down near her. I felt that, although I could
not do so fully, I must in a measure explain my conduct of the night
before. She listened quietly to a somewhat labored apology I made
for the words I had used.

"I have not the slightest idea what you meant," she said, "but you
were very rude."

I earnestly disclaimed any intention of rudeness, and assured her,
with a warmth of speech that must have made some impression upon
her, that rudeness to her would be an action impossible to me. I
said a great deal upon the subject, and implored her to believe that
if it were not for a certain obstacle I could speak to her so
plainly that she would understand everything.

She was silent for a time, and then she said, rather more kindly, I
thought, than she had spoken before:

"Is that obstacle in any way connected with my uncle?"

"Yes," I answered, after a little hesitation, "it is, in a measure,
connected with him."

She made no answer to this, and sat looking at her book, but not
reading. From the expression of her face I thought she was somewhat
softened toward me. She knew her uncle as well as I did, and she may
have been thinking that, if he were the obstacle that prevented my
speaking (and there were many ways in which he might be that
obstacle), my position would be such a hard one that it would excuse
some wildness of speech and eccentricity of manner. I saw, too, that
the warmth of my partial explanations had had some effect on her,
and I began to believe that it might be a good thing for me to speak
my mind without delay. No matter how she should receive my
proposition, my relations with her could not be worse than they had
been the previous night and day, and there was something in her face
which encouraged me to hope that she might forget my foolish
exclamations of the evening before if I began to tell her my tale of
love.

I drew my chair a little nearer to her, and as I did so the ghost
burst into the room from the doorway behind her. I say burst,
although no door flew open and he made no noise. He was wildly
excited, and waved his arms above his head. The moment I saw him my
heart fell within me. With the entrance of that impertinent
apparition every hope fled from me. I could not speak while he was
in the room.

I must have turned pale; and I gazed steadfastly at the ghost,
almost without seeing Madeline, who sat between us.

"Do you know," he cried, "that John Hinckman is coming up the hill?
He will be here in fifteen minutes; and if you are doing anything in
the way of love-making you had better hurry it up. But this is not
what I came to tell you. I have glorious news! At last I am
transferred! Not forty minutes ago a Russian nobleman was murdered
by the Nihilists. Nobody ever thought of him in connection with an
immediate ghostship. My friends instantly applied for the situation
for me, and obtained my transfer. I am off before that horrid
Hinckman comes up the hill. The moment I reach my new position I
shall put off this hated semblance. Good-by. You can't imagine how
glad I am to be, at last, the real ghost of somebody."

"Oh!" I cried, rising to my feet, and stretching out my arms in
utter wretchedness, "I would to Heaven you were mine!"

"I _am_ yours," said Madeline, raising to me her tearful eyes.



"THE PHILOSOPHY OF RELATIVE EXISTENCES"


In a certain summer, not long gone, my friend Bentley and I found
ourselves in a little hamlet which overlooked a placid valley,
through which a river gently moved, winding its way through green
stretches until it turned the end of a line of low hills and was
lost to view. Beyond this river, far away, but visible from the door
of the cottage where we dwelt, there lay a city. Through the mists
which floated over the valley we could see the outlines of steeples
and tall roofs; and buildings of a character which indicated thrift
and business stretched themselves down to the opposite edge of the
river. The more distant parts of the city, evidently a small one,
lost themselves in the hazy summer atmosphere.

Bentley was young, fair-haired, and a poet; I was a philosopher, or
trying to be one. We were good friends, and had come down into this
peaceful region to work together. Although we had fled from the
bustle and distractions of the town, the appearance in this rural
region of a city, which, so far as we could observe, exerted no
influence on the quiet character of the valley in which it lay,
aroused our interest. No craft plied up and down the river; there
were no bridges from shore to shore; there were none of those
scattered and half-squalid habitations which generally are found on
the outskirts of a city; there came to us no distant sound of bells;
and not the smallest wreath of smoke rose from any of the buildings.

In answer to our inquiries our landlord told us that the city over
the river had been built by one man, who was a visionary, and who
had a great deal more money than common sense. "It is not as big a
town as you would think, sirs," he said, "because the general
mistiness of things in this valley makes them look larger than they
are. Those hills, for instance, when you get to them are not as high
as they look to be from here. But the town is big enough, and a good
deal too big; for it ruined its builder and owner, who when he came
to die had not money enough left to put up a decent tombstone at the
head of his grave. He had a queer idea that he would like to have
his town all finished before anybody lived in it, and so he kept on
working and spending money year after year and year after year until
the city was done and he had not a cent left. During all the time
that the place was building hundreds of people came to him to buy
houses, or to hire them, but he would not listen to anything of the
kind. No one must live in his town until it was all done. Even his
workmen were obliged to go away at night to lodge. It is a town,
sirs, I am told, in which nobody has slept for even a night. There
are streets there, and places of business, and churches, and public
halls, and everything that a town full of inhabitants could need;
but it is all empty and deserted, and has been so as far back as I
can remember, and I came to this region when I was a little boy."

"And is there no one to guard the place?" we asked; "no one to
protect it from wandering vagrants who might choose to take
possession of the buildings?"

"There are not many vagrants in this part of the country," he said,
"and if there were they would not go over to that city. It is
haunted."

"By what?" we asked.

"Well, sirs, I scarcely can tell you; queer beings that are not
flesh and blood, and that is all I know about it. A good many people
living hereabouts have visited that place once in their lives, but I
know of no one who has gone there a second time."

"And travellers," I said, "are they not excited by curiosity to
explore that strange uninhabited city?"

"Oh yes," our host replied; "almost all visitors to the valley go
over to that queer city--generally in small parties, for it is not a
place in which one wishes to walk about alone. Sometimes they see
things and sometimes they don't. But I never knew any man or woman
to show a fancy for living there, although it is a very good town."

This was said at supper-time, and, as it was the period of full
moon, Bentley and I decided that we would visit the haunted city
that evening. Our host endeavored to dissuade us, saying that no one
ever went over there at night; but as we were not to be deterred he
told us where we would find his small boat tied to a stake on the
river-bank. We soon crossed the river, and landed at a broad but low
stone pier, at the land end of which a line of tall grasses waved in
the gentle night wind as if they were sentinels warning us from
entering the silent city. We pushed through these, and walked up a
street fairly wide, and so well paved that we noticed none of the
weeds and other growths which generally denote desertion or little
use. By the bright light of the moon we could see that the
architecture was simple, and of a character highly gratifying to the
eye. All the buildings were of stone, and of good size. We were
greatly excited and interested, and proposed to continue our walks
until the moon should set, and to return on the following
morning--"to live here, perhaps," said Bentley. "What could be so
romantic and yet so real? What could conduce better to the marriage
of verse and philosophy?" But as he said this we saw around the
corner of a cross-street some forms as of people hurrying away.

"The spectres," said my companion, laying his hand on my arm.

"Vagrants, more likely," I answered, "who have taken advantage of
the superstition of the region to appropriate this comfort and
beauty to themselves."

"If that be so," said Bentley, "we must have a care for our lives."

We proceeded cautiously, and soon saw other forms fleeing before us
and disappearing, as we supposed, around corners and into houses.
And now suddenly finding ourselves upon the edge of a wide, open
public square, we saw in the dim light--for a tall steeple obscured
the moon--the forms of vehicles, horses, and men moving here and
there. But before, in our astonishment, we could say a word one to
the other, the moon moved past the steeple, and in its bright light
we could see none of the signs of life and traffic which had just
astonished us.

Timidly, with hearts beating fast, but with not one thought of
turning back, nor any fear of vagrants--for we were now sure that
what we had seen was not flesh and blood, and therefore harmless--we
crossed the open space and entered a street down which the moon
shone clearly. Here and there we saw dim figures, which quickly
disappeared; but, approaching a low stone balcony in front of one of
the houses, we were surprised to see, sitting thereon and leaning
over a book which lay open upon the top of the carved parapet, the
figure of a woman who did not appear to notice us.

"That is a real person," whispered Bentley, "and she does not see
us."

"No," I replied; "it is like the others. Let us go near it."

We drew near to the balcony and stood before it. At this the figure
raised its head and looked at us. It was beautiful, it was young;
but its substance seemed to be of an ethereal quality which we had
never seen or known of. With its full, soft eyes fixed upon us, it
spoke.

"Why are you here?" it asked. "I have said to myself that the next
time I saw any of you I would ask you why you come to trouble us.
Cannot you live content in your own realms and spheres, knowing, as
you must know, how timid we are, and how you frighten us and make us
unhappy? In all this city there is, I believe, not one of us except
myself who does not flee and hide from you whenever you cruelly come
here. Even I would do that, had not I declared to myself that I
would see you and speak to you, and endeavor to prevail upon you to
leave us in peace."

The clear, frank tones of the speaker gave me courage. "We are two
men," I answered, "strangers in this region, and living for the time
in the beautiful country on the other side of the river. Having
heard of this quiet city, we have come to see it for ourselves. We
had supposed it to be uninhabited, but now that we find that this is
not the case, we would assure you from our hearts that we do not
wish to disturb or annoy any one who lives here. We simply came as
honest travellers to view the city."

The figure now seated herself again, and as her countenance was
nearer to us, we could see that it was filled with pensive thought.
For a moment she looked at us without speaking. "Men!" she said.
"And so I have been right. For a long time I have believed that the
beings who sometimes come here, filling us with dread and awe, are
men."

"And you," I exclaimed--"who are you, and who are these forms that
we have seen, these strange inhabitants of this city?"

She gently smiled as she answered, "We are the ghosts of the future.
We are the people who are to live in this city generations hence.
But all of us do not know that, principally because we do not think
about it and study about it enough to know it. And it is generally
believed that the men and women who sometimes come here are ghosts
who haunt the place."

"And that is why you are terrified and flee from us?" I exclaimed.
"You think we are ghosts from another world?"

"Yes," she replied; "that is what is thought, and what I used to
think."

"And you," I asked, "are spirits of human beings yet to be?"

"Yes," she answered; "but not for a long time. Generations of men--I
know not how many--must pass away before we are men and women."

"Heavens!" exclaimed Bentley, clasping his hands and raising his
eyes to the sky, "I shall be a spirit before you are a woman."

"Perhaps," she said again, with a sweet smile upon her face, "you
may live to be very, very old."

But Bentley shook his head. This did not console him. For some
minutes I stood in contemplation, gazing upon the stone pavement
beneath my feet. "And this," I ejaculated, "is a city inhabited by
the ghosts of the future, who believe men and women to be phantoms
and spectres?"

She bowed her head.

"But how is it," I asked, "that you discovered that you are spirits
and we mortal men?"

"There are so few of us who think of such things," she answered, "so
few who study, ponder, and reflect. I am fond of study, and I love
philosophy; and from the reading of many books I have learned much.
From the book which I have here I have learned most; and from its
teachings I have gradually come to the belief, which you tell me is
the true one, that we are spirits and you men."

"And what book is that?" I asked.

"It is 'The Philosophy of Relative Existences,' by Rupert Vance."

"Ye gods!" I exclaimed, springing upon the balcony, "that is my
book, and I am Rupert Vance." I stepped toward the volume to seize
it, but she raised her hand.

"You cannot touch it," she said. "It is the ghost of a book. And did
you write it?"

"Write it? No," I said; "I am writing it. It is not yet finished."

"But here it is," she said, turning over the last pages. "As a
spirit book it is finished. It is very successful; it is held in
high estimation by intelligent thinkers; it is a standard work."

I stood trembling with emotion. "High estimation!" I said. "A
standard work!"

"Oh yes," she replied, with animation; "and it well deserves its
great success, especially in its conclusion. I have read it twice."

"But let me see these concluding pages," I exclaimed. "Let me look
upon what I am to write."

She smiled, and shook her head, and closed the book. "I would like
to do that," she said, "but if you are really a man you must not
know what you are going to do."

"Oh, tell me, tell me," cried Bentley from below, "do you know a
book called 'Stellar Studies,' by Arthur Bentley? It is a book of
poems."

The figure gazed at him. "No," it said, presently, "I never heard of
it."

I stood trembling. Had the youthful figure before me been flesh and
blood, had the book been a real one, I would have torn it from her.

"O wise and lovely being!" I exclaimed, falling on my knees before
her, "be also benign and generous. Let me but see the last page of
my book. If I have been of benefit to your world; more than all, if
I have been of benefit to you, let me see, I implore you--let me see
how it is that I have done it."

She rose with the book in her hand. "You have only to wait until you
have done it," she said, "and then you will know all that you could
see here." I started to my feet and stood alone upon the balcony.

"I am sorry," said Bentley, as we walked toward the pier where we
had left our boat, "that we talked only to that ghost girl, and that
the other spirits were all afraid of us. Persons whose souls are
choked up with philosophy are not apt to care much for poetry; and
even if my book is to be widely known, it is easy to see that she
may not have heard of it."

I walked triumphant. The moon, almost touching the horizon, beamed
like red gold. "My dear friend," said I, "I have always told you
that you should put more philosophy into your poetry. That would
make it live."

"And I have always told you," said he, "that you should not put so
much poetry into your philosophy. It misleads people."

"It didn't mislead that ghost girl," said I.

"How do you know?" said Bentley. "Perhaps she is wrong, and the
other inhabitants of the city are right, and we may be the ghosts
after all. Such things, you know, are only relative. Anyway," he
continued, after a little pause, "I wish I knew that those ghosts
were now reading the poem which I am going to begin to-morrow."



A PIECE OF RED CALICO


I was going into town one morning from my suburban residence, when
my wife handed me a little piece of red calico, and asked me if I
would have time, during the day, to buy her two yards and a half of
calico like that. I assured her that it would be no trouble at all;
and putting the sample in my pocket, I took the train for the city.

At lunch-time I stopped in at a large dry-goods store to attend to
my wife's commission. I saw a well-dressed man walking the floor
between the counters, where long lines of girls were waiting on much
longer lines of customers, and asked him where I could see some red
calico.

"This way, sir." And he led me up the store. "Miss Stone," said he
to a young lady, "show this gentleman some red calico."

"What shade do you want?" asked Miss Stone.

I showed her the little piece of calico that my wife had given me.
She looked at it and handed it back to me. Then she took down a
great roll of red calico and spread it out on the counter.

"Why, that isn't the shade!" said I.

"No, not exactly," said she; "but it is prettier than your sample."

"That may be," said I; "but, you see, I want to match this piece.
There is something already made of this kind of calico which needs
to be enlarged or mended or something. I want some calico of the
same shade."

The girl made no answer, but took down another roll.

"That's the shade," said she.

"Yes," I replied, "but it's striped."

"Stripes are more worn than anything else in calicoes," said she.

"Yes, but this isn't to be worn. It's for furniture, I think. At any
rate, I want perfectly plain stuff, to match something already in
use."

"Well, I don't think you can find it perfectly plain unless you get
Turkey red."

"What is Turkey red?" I asked.

"Turkey red is perfectly plain in calicoes," she answered.

"Well, let me see some."

"We haven't any Turkey-red calico left," she said, "but we have some
very nice plain calicoes in other colors."

"I don't want any other color. I want stuff to match this."

"It's hard to match cheap calico like that," she said. And so I left
her.

I next went into a store a few doors farther up the street. When I
entered I approached the "floor-walker," and handing him my sample,
said:

"Have you any calico like this?"

"Yes, sir," said he. "Third counter to the right."

I went to the third counter to the right, and showed my sample to
the salesman in attendance there. He looked at it on both sides.
Then he said:

"We haven't any of this."

"I was told you had," said I.

"We had it, but we're out of it now. You'll get that goods at an
upholsterer's."

I went across the street to an upholsterer's.

"Have you any stuff like this?" I asked.

"No," said the salesman, "we haven't. Is it for furniture?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Then Turkey red is what you want."

"Is Turkey red just like this?" I asked.

"No," said he; "but it's much better."

"That makes no difference to me," I replied. "I want something just
like this."

"But they don't use that for furniture," he said.

"I should think people could use anything they wanted for
furniture," I remarked, somewhat sharply.

"They can, but they don't," he said, quite calmly. "They don't use
red like that. They use Turkey red."

I said no more, but left. The next place I visited was a very large
dry-goods store. Of the first salesman I saw I inquired if they kept
red calico like my sample.

"You'll find that on the second story," said he.

I went upstairs. There I asked a man:

"Where will I find red calico?"

"In the far room to the left. Over there." And he pointed to a
distant corner.

I walked through the crowds of purchasers and salespeople, and
around the counters and tables filled with goods, to the far room to
the left. When I got there I asked for red calico.

"The second counter down this side," said the man.

I went there and produced my sample. "Calicoes downstairs," said the
man.

"They told me they were up here," I said.

"Not these plain goods. You'll find 'em downstairs at the back of
the store, over on that side."

I went downstairs to the back of the store.

"Where will I find red calico like this?" I asked.

"Next counter but one," said the man addressed, walking with me in
the direction pointed out.

"Dunn, show red calicoes."

Mr. Dunn took my sample and looked at it.

"We haven't this shade in that quality of goods," he said.

"Well, have you it in any quality of goods?" I asked.

"Yes; we've got it finer." And he took down a piece of calico, and
unrolled a yard or two of it on the counter.

"That's not this shade," I said.

"No," said he. "The goods is finer and the color's better."

"I want it to match this," I said.

"I thought you weren't particular about the match," said the
salesman. "You said you didn't care for the quality of the goods,
and you know you can't match goods without you take into
consideration quality and color both. If you want that quality of
goods in red, you ought to get Turkey red."

I did not think it necessary to answer this remark, but said:

"Then you've got nothing to match this?"

"No, sir. But perhaps they may have it in the upholstery department,
in the sixth story."

So I got in the elevator and went up to the top of the house.

"Have you any red stuff like this?" I said to a young man.

"Red stuff? Upholstery department--other end of this floor."

I went to the other end of the floor.

"I want some red calico," I said to a man.

"Furniture goods?" he asked.

"Yes," said I.

"Fourth counter to the left."

I went to the fourth counter to the left, and showed my sample to a
salesman. He looked at it, and said:

"You'll get this down on the first floor--calico department."

I turned on my heel, descended in the elevator, and went out on the
street. I was thoroughly sick of red calico. But I determined to
make one more trial. My wife had bought her red calico not long
before, and there must be some to be had somewhere. I ought to have
asked her where she obtained it, but I thought a simple little thing
like that could be bought anywhere.

I went into another large dry-goods store. As I entered the door a
sudden tremor seized me. I could not bear to take out that piece of
red calico. If I had had any other kind of a rag about me--a
pen-wiper or anything of the sort--I think I would have asked them
if they could match that.

But I stepped up to a young woman and presented my sample, with the
usual question.

"Back room, counter on the left," she said.

I went there.

"Have you any red calico like this?" I asked of the saleswoman
behind the counter.

"No, sir," she said, "but we have it in Turkey red."

Turkey red again! I surrendered.

"All right," I said, "give me Turkey red."

"How much, sir?" she asked.

"I don't know--say five yards."

She looked at me rather strangely, but measured off five yards of
Turkey-red calico. Then she rapped on the counter and called out
"Cash!" A little girl, with yellow hair in two long plaits, came
slowly up. The lady wrote the number of yards, the name of the
goods, her own number, the price, the amount of the bank-note I
handed her, and some other matters, probably the color of my eyes
and the direction and velocity of the wind, on a slip of paper. She
then copied all this into a little book which she kept by her. Then
she handed the slip of paper, the money, and the Turkey red to the
yellow-haired girl. This young person copied the slip into a little
book she carried, and then she went away with the calico, the paper
slip, and the money.

After a very long time--during which the little girl probably took
the goods, the money, and the slip to some central desk, where the
note was received, its amount and number entered in a book, change
given to the girl, a copy of the slip made and entered, girl's entry
examined and approved, goods wrapped up, girl registered, plaits
counted and entered on a slip of paper and copied by the girl in her
book, girl taken to a hydrant and washed, number of towel entered on
a paper slip and copied by the girl in her book, value of my note
and amount of change branded somewhere on the child, and said
process noted on a slip of paper and copied in her book--the girl
came to me, bringing my change and the package of Turkey-red calico.

I had time for but very little work at the office that afternoon,
and when I reached home I handed the package of calico to my wife.
She unrolled it and exclaimed:

"Why, this don't match the piece I gave you!"

"Match it!" I cried. "Oh no! it don't match it. You didn't want that
matched. You were mistaken. What you wanted was Turkey red--third
counter to the left. I mean, Turkey red is what they use."

My wife looked at me in amazement, and then I detailed to her my
troubles.

"Well," said she, "this Turkey red is a great deal prettier than
what I had, and you've got so much of it that I needn't use the
other at all. I wish I had thought of Turkey red before."

"I wish from the bottom of my heart you had," said I.



CAMEO EDITION.


REVERIES OF A BACHELOR; or, a Book of the Heart. By Donald G.
Mitchell. With an Etching by Percy Moran.

DREAM LIFE. A Fable of the Seasons. With an Etching by Percy Moran.

OLD CREOLE DAYS. By George W Cable. With an Etching by Percy Moran.

IN OLE VIRGINIA. By Thomas Nelson Page. With an Etching by W. L.
Sheppard.

BITTER-SWEET. A Poem. By J. G. Holland. With an Etching by Otto
Bacher.

KATHRINA. A Poem. By J. G. Holland. With an Etching by Otto Bacher.

LETTERS TO DEAD AUTHORS. By Andrew Lang. With an Etched Portrait by
S. J. Ferris.

"VIRGINIBUS PUERISQUE." By Robert Louis Stevenson With an Etched
Portrait by S. J. Ferris.

A CHOSEN FEW. Short Stories. By Frank R. Stockton. With an Etched
Portrait by W. H. W. Bicknell.

A LITTLE BOOK OF PROFITABLE TALES. By Eugene Field. With an Etched
Portrait by W. H. W. Bicknell.

THE REFLECTIONS OF A MARRIED MAN. By Robert Grant. With an Etching
by W. H. Hyde.

THE OPINIONS OF A PHILOSOPHER. By Robert Grant. With an Etching by
W. H. Hyde.


Each, one volume, 16mo.

Half Calf, g. t., $2.75; half levant, $3.50; cloth, $1.25



Transcriber's Notes

Four typographic errors have been corrected:
  Donald G. Mitchell. With an Etching by Percy Moran.[period inserted]
  and then she'll have to have new ones, and lots[was: lot's]
  standing on the cabin floor instead[was: intead] of the bulkhead.
  him in there and we will shut him up[was: no]. Then I

Three structural changes have been made:
  The half-title text (A CHOSEN FEW) was removed.
  The booklist "Cameo Edition" was moved from before the
    frontispiece to the end of the book.
  The original had the story names alone on a page before the
    story, as well as on the page where the story started. These
    duplicate titles have been removed.





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