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Title: The Blunders of a Bashful Man
Author: Victor, Metta Victoria Fuller, 1831-1885
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "The Blunders of a Bashful Man" ***

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                         Transcriber's Note:

The author of this book is Metta Victoria Fuller Victor writing under the
Pen name of Walter T. Gray. But the Author's name is not given in the
original text.

       The Table of Contents is not part of the original text.



                             THE BLUNDERS

                                 OF A

                             BASHFUL MAN.


                          _By the Author of_

                         "A BAD BOY'S DIARY"



                 COPYRIGHT, 1881, BY STREET & SMITH.



                              NEW YORK:

                  J. S. OGILVIE PUBLISHING COMPANY.

                           57 ROSE STREET.

       *       *       *       *       *



CONTENTS


CHAPTER

I.      HE ATTENDS A PICNIC.

II.     HE MAKES AN EVENING CALL.

III.    GOES TO A TEA-PARTY.

IV.     HE DOES HIS DUTY AS A CITIZEN.

V.      HE COMMITS SUICIDE.

VI.     HE IS DOOMED FOR WORSE ACCIDENTS.

VII.    I MAKE A NARROW ESCAPE.

VIII.   HE ENACTS THE PART OF GROOMSMAN.

IX.     MEETS A PAIR OF BLUE EYES.

X.      HE CATCHES A TROUT AND PRESENTS IT TO A LADY.

XI.     HE GOES TO THE CIRCUS.

XII.    A LEAP FOR LIFE.

XIII.   ONE OF THE FAIR SEX COMES TO HIS RESCUE.

XIV.    HIS DIFFIDENCE BRINGS ABOUT AN ACCIDENT.

XV.     HE BECOMES ACQUAINTED WITH A CHICAGO WIDOW.

XVI.    AT LAST HE SECURES A TREASURE.

XVII.   HE ENJOYS HIMSELF AT A BALL.

XVIII.  HE OPENS THE WRONG DOOR.

XIX.    DRIVEN FROM HIS LAST DEFENCE.

       *       *       *       *       *



THE

BLUNDERS OF A BASHFUL MAN.

CHAPTER I.

HE ATTENDS A PICNIC.


I have been, am now, and shall always be, a bashful man. I have been
told that I am the only bashful man in the world. How that is I can
not say, but should not be sorry to believe that it is so, for I am of
too generous a nature to desire any other mortal to suffer the mishaps
which have come to me from this distressing complaint. A person can
have smallpox, scarlet fever, and measles but once each. He can even
become so inoculated with the poison of bees and mosquitoes as to make
their stings harmless; and he can gradually accustom, himself to the
use of arsenic until he can take 444 grains safely; but for
bashfulness--like mine--there is no first and only attack, no becoming
hardened to the thousand petty stings, no saturation of one's being
with the poison until it loses its power.

I am a quiet, nice-enough, inoffensive young gentleman, now rapidly
approaching my twenty-sixth year. It is unnecessary to state that I am
unmarried. I should have been wedded a great many times, had not some
fresh attack of my malady invariably, and in some new shape, attacked
me in season to prevent the "consummation devoutly to be wished." When
I look back over twenty years of suffering through which I have
literally stumbled my way--over the long series of embarrassments and
mortifications which lie behind me--I wonder, with a mild and patient
wonder, why the Old Nick I did not commit suicide ages ago, and thus
end the eventful history with a blank page in the middle of the book.
I dare say the very bashfulness which has been my bane has prevented
me; the idea of being cut down from a rafter, with a black-and-blue
face, and drawn out of the water with a swollen one, has put me so out
of countenance that I had not the courage to brave a coroner's jury
under the circumstances.

Life to me has been a scramble through briers. I do not recall one
single day wholly free from the scratches inflicted on a cruel
sensitiveness. I will not mention those far-away agonies of boyhood,
when the teacher punished me by making me sit with the girls, but will
hasten on to a point that stands out vividly against a dark background
of accidents. I was nineteen. My sentiments toward that part of
creation known as "young ladies" were, at that time, of a mingled and
contradictory nature. I adored them as angels; I dreaded them as if
they were mad dogs, and were going to bite me.

My parents were respected residents of a small village in the western
part of the State of New York. I had been away at a boys' academy for
three years, and returned about the first of June to my parents and to
Babbletown to find that I was considered a young man, and expected to
take my part in the business and pleasures of life as such. My father
dismissed his clerk and put me in his place behind the counter of our
store.

Within three days every girl in that village had been to that store
after something or another--pins, needles, a yard of tape, to look at
gloves, to _try on shoes_, or examine gingham and calico, until I was
happy, because out of sight, behind a pile high enough to hide my
flushed countenance. I shall never forget that week. I ran the
gauntlet from morning till night. I believe those heartless wretches
told each other the mistakes I made, for they kept coming and coming,
looking as sweet as honey and as sly as foxes. Father said I'd break
him if I didn't stop making blunders in giving change--he wasn't in
the prize-candy business, and couldn't afford to have me give
twenty-five sheets of note paper, a box of pens, six corset laces, a
bunch of whalebones, and two dollars and fifty cents change for a
two-dollar bill.

He explained to me that the safety-pins which I had offered Emma Jones
for crochet-needles were _not_ crochet-needles; nor the red wafers I
had shown Mary Smith for gum-drops, gum-drops--that gingham was not
three dollars per yard, nor pale-blue silk twelve-and-a-half cents,
even to Squire Marigold's daughter. He said I must be more careful.

"I don't think the mercantile business is my _forte_, father," said I.

"Your fort!" replied the old gentleman; "fiddlesticks! We have nothing
to do with military matters. But if you think you have a special call
to anything, John, speak out. Would you like to study for the
ministry, my son?"

"Oh, no, indeed! I don't know exactly what I would like, unless it
were to be a Juan Fernandez, or a--a light-house keeper."

Then father said I was a disgrace to him, and I knew I was.

On the fourth day some young fellows came to see me, and told me there
was to be a picnic on Saturday, and I must get father's horse and
buggy and take one of the girls. In vain I pleaded that I did not know
any of them well enough. They laughed at me, and said that Belle
Marigold had consented to go with me; that I knew her--she had been in
the store and bought some blue silk for twelve-and-a-half cents a
yard; and they rather thought she fancied me, she seemed so ready to
accept my escort; should they tell her I would call for her at ten
o'clock, sharp, on Saturday morning?

There was no refusing under the circumstances, and I said "yes" with
the same gaiety with which I would have signed my own death-warrant.
Yet I wanted to go to the picnic, dreadfully; and of all the young
ladies in Babbletown I preferred Belle Marigold. She was the
handsomest and most stylish girl in the county. Her eyes were large,
black, and mischievous; her mouth like a rose; she dressed prettily,
and had an elegant little way of tossing back her dark ringlets that
was fascinating even at first sight. I was told my doom on Thursday
afternoon, and do not think I slept any that or Friday night--am
positive I did not Saturday night. I wanted to go and I wanted to take
that particular girl, yet I was in a cold sweat at the idea. I would
have given five dollars to be let off, and I wouldn't have taken
fifteen for my chance to go. I asked father if I could have the horse
and buggy, and if he would tend store. I hoped he would say No; but
when he said Yes, I was delighted.

"I'll take the opportunity when you are at the picnic to get the
accounts out of the quirks you've got 'em into," said he.

Well, Saturday came. As I opened my eyes my heart jumped into my
throat. "I've got to go through with it now if it kills me," I
thought.

Mother asked me why I ate no breakfast.

"Saving my appetite for the picnic," I responded, cheerfully; which
was one of the white lies my miserable bashfulness made me tell every
day of my life--I knew that I should go dinner-less at the picnic
unless I could get behind a tree with my plate of goodies.

I never to this day can abide to eat before strangers; things _always_
go by my windpipe instead of my æsophagus, and I'm tired to death of
scalding my legs with hot tea, to say nothing of adding to one's
embarrassment to have people asking if one has burned oneself, and
feeling that one has broken a cup out of a lady's best china tea-set.
But about tea and tea-parties I shall have more to say hereafter. I
must hurry on to my first picnic, where I made my first public
appearance as the Bashful Man.

I made a neat toilet--a fresh, light summer suit that I flattered
myself beat any other set of clothes in Babbletown--ordered Joe, our
chore-boy, to bring the buggy around in good order, with everything
shining; and when he had done so, had the horse tied in front of the
store.

"Come, my boy," said father, after a while, "it's ten minutes to ten.
Never keep the ladies waiting."

"Yes, sir; as soon as I've put these raisins away."

"Five minutes to ten, John. Don't forget the lemons."

"No, sir." But I _did_ forget them in my trepidation, and a man had
to be sent back for them afterward.

It was just ten when I stepped into the buggy with an attempt to
appear in high spirits. As I drove slowly toward Squire Marigold's
large mansion on Main Street, I met dozens of gay young folks on the
way out of town, some of them calling out that I would be late, and to
try and catch up with them after I got my girl.

As I came in sight of the house my courage failed. I turned off on a
by-street, drove around nearly half a mile, and finally approached the
object of my dread from another direction. I do believe I should have
passed the house after I got to it had I not seen a vision of pink
ribbons, white dress, and black eyes at the window, and realized that
I was observed. So I touched the horse with the whip, drove up with a
flourish, and before I had fairly pulled up at the block, Belle was at
the door, with a servant behind her carrying a hamper.

"You are late, Mr. Flutter," she called out, half gayly, half crossly.

I arose from the seat, flung down the reins, and leaped out, like a
flying-fish out of the water, to hand the beautiful apparition in. In
my nervousness I did not observe how I placed the lines, my foot
became entangled in them, I was brought up in the most unexpected
manner, landing on the pavement on my new hat instead of the soles of
my boots.

This was not only embarrassing, but positively painful. There was a
bump on my forehead, the rim of my hat was crushed, my new suit was
soiled, my knee ached like Jericho, and there was a rent in my
pantaloons right opposite where my knee hurt.

Belle tittered, the colored girl stuffed her apron in her mouth, and
said "hi! hi!" behind it. I would have given all I had in life to give
if I could have started on an exploring expedition for China just
then, but I couldn't. The pavement was not constructed with reference
to swallowing up bashful young men who wanted to be swallowed.

"I hope you are not hurt, Mr. Flutter, te-he?"

"Oh, not at all, not in the least; it never hurts me to fall. It was
those constricted reins, they caught my foot. Does the basket go with
us? I mean the servant. No, I don't, I mean the basket--does she go
with us?"

"The hamper does, Mr. Flutter, or we should be minus sandwiches. Jane,
put the hamper in."

Miss Marigold was in the buggy before I had straightened my hat-rim.

"I hope your horse is a fast one; we shall be late," she remarked, as
I took my place by her side. "Here is a pin, Mr. Flutter; you can pin
up that tear."

I was glad she asked me to let the horse go at full speed; it was the
most soothing thing which could happen at that time. As he flew along
I could affect to be busy with the cares of driving, and so escape
the trials of conversation. I spoke to my lovely companion only three
times in the eight miles between her house and the grove. The first
time I remarked, "We are going to have a warm day"; the second, "I
think the day will be quite warm"; the third time I launched out
boldly: "Don't you think, Miss Marigold, we shall have it rather warm
about noon?"

"You seem to feel the heat more than I do," she answered, demurely,
which was true, for she looked as cool as a cucumber and as
comfortable as a mouse in a cheese, while I was mopping my face every
other minute with my handkerchief.

When we reached the picnic grounds she offered to hold the reins while
I got out. As I lifted her down, the whole company, who had been
watching for our arrival, burst out laughing. Miss Belle looked at me
and burst out laughing, too.

"What's the matter?" I stammered.

"Oh, nothing," said she; "only you dusted your clothes with your
handkerchief after you fell, and now you've wiped your face with it,
and it's all streaked up as if you'd been making mud pies, and your
hat's a little out of shape, and--"

"You look as if you'd been on a bender," added the fellow who had
induced me to come to the confounded affair.

"Well, I guess I can wash my face," I retorted, a little mad. "I've
met with an accident, that's all. Just wait until I've tied my horse."

There was a pond close by--part of the programme of the picnic was to
go out rowing on the pond--and as soon as I had fastened my horse, I
went down to the bank and stooped over to wash my face, and the bank
gave way and I pitched headlong into twelve feet of water.

I was not scared, for I could swim, but I was puzzled as to how to
enjoy a picnic in my wet clothes. I wanted to go home, but the boys
said:

"No--I must walk about briskly and let my things dry on me--the day
was so warm I wouldn't take cold."

So I walked about briskly, all by myself, for about two hours, while
the rest of them were having a good time. Then some one asked where
the lemons were that I was to bring, and I had to confess that they
were at home in the store, and dinner was kept waiting another two
hours while a man took my horse and went for those lemons. I walked
about all the time he was gone, and was dry enough by the time the
lemonade was made to wish I had some. But the water had shrunk my
clothes so that the legs of my pantaloons and the arms of my coat were
about six inches too short, while my boots, which had been rather
tight in the first place, made my feet feel as if they were in a
red-hot iron vise. I couldn't face all those giggling girls, and I
got down behind a tree and the tears came in my eyes, I felt so
miserable.

Belle was a tease, but she wasn't heartless; she got two plates,
heaped with nice things, and two tumblers of lemonade, and sat down by
my side coaxing me to eat, and telling me how sorry she was that I had
had my pleasure destroyed by an accident.

I had a piece of spring chicken, but being too bashful to masticate it
properly, I attempted to swallow it whole. It stuck!--she had to pat
me on the back--I became purple and kicked about wildly, ruining her
new sash by upsetting both plates. She became seriously alarmed, and
ran for aid; two of the fellows stood me on my head and pounded the
soles of my feet, by which wise course the morsel was dislodged, and
"Richard was himself again."

After the excitement had partially subsided, the punster of the
village--there is always one punster in every community--broke out
with:

"Oh, swallow, swallow, flying South, fly to her and tell her what I
tell to thee."

The girls laughed; I looked and saw Belle trying to wipe the ice-cream
from her sash.

"Never mind the sash, Miss Marigold," I said, in desperation, "I'll
send you another to-morrow. But if you'll excuse me, I'll go home now.
I'm not well, and mother'll be alarmed about me--I ought not to have
left father alone to tend store, and I feel that I've taken cold. I
presume some of these folks will have a spare seat, and my boots have
shrunk, and I don't care for picnics as a general thing, anyway. My
clothes are shrinking all the time, and I think we're going to have a
thunder-shower, and I guess I'll go."--and I went.



CHAPTER II.

HE MAKES AN EVENING CALL.


It's very provoking to a bashful man to have the family pew only one
remove from the pulpit. I didn't feel like going to church the day
after the picnic, but father wouldn't let me off. I caught my foot in
a hole in the carpet walking up the aisle, which drew particular
attention to me; and dropped by hymn-book twice, to add to the
interest I had already excited in the congregation. My fingers are
always all thumbs when I have to find the hymn.

"I do believe you did take cold yesterday," said mother, when we came
out. "You must have a fever, for your face is as red as fire."

Very consoling when a young man wants to look real sweet. But that's
my luck. I'll be as pale as a poet when I leave my looking-glass, but
before I enter a ball-room or a dining-room I'll be as red as an
alderman. I have often wished that I could be permanently whitewashed,
like a kitchen wall or a politician's record. I think, perhaps, if I
were whitewashed for a month or two I might cure myself of my habit of
blushing when I enter a room. I bought a box of "Meen Fun" once, and
tried to powder; but I guess I didn't understand the art as well as
the women do; it was mean fun in good earnest, for the girl I was
going to take to singing-school wanted to know if I'd been helping my
ma make biscuits for supper; and then she took her handkerchief and
brushed my face, which wasn't so bad as it might have been, for her
handkerchief had patchouly on it and was as soft as silk. But that
wasn't Belle Marigold, and so it didn't matter.

To return to church. I went again in the evening, and felt more at
home, for the kerosene was not very bright. I got along without any
accident. After meeting was out, father stopped to speak to the
minister. As I stood in the entry, waiting for him, Belle came out,
and asked me how I felt after the picnic. I saw she was alone, and so
I hemmed, and said: "Have you any one to see you home?"

She said, "No; but I'm not afraid--it's not far," and stopped and
waited for me to offer her my arm, looking up at me with those
bewitching eyes.

"Oh," said I, dying to wait upon her, but not daring to crook my elbow
before the crowd, "I'm glad of that; but if you are the least bit
timid, Miss Marigold, father and I will walk home with you."

Then I heard a suppressed laugh behind me, and, turning, saw that
detestable Fred Hencoop, who never knew what it was to feel modest
since the day his nurse tied his first bib on him.

"Miss Marigold," said he, looking as innocent as a lamb, "if you do me
the honor to accept my arm, I'll try and take you home without calling
on my pa to assist me in the arduous duty." And she went with him.

I was very low-spirited on the way home.

"As sure as I live I'll go and call on her to-morrow evening, and show
her I'm not the fool she thinks I am," I said, between my gritted
teeth. "I'll take her a new sash to replace the one I spoiled at the
picnic, and we'll see who's the best fellow, Hencoop or I."

The next afternoon I measured off four yards of the sweetest
sash-ribbon ever seen in Babbletown, and charged myself with seven
dollars--half my month's salary, as agreed upon between father and
me--and rolled up the ribbon in white tissue paper, preparatory to the
event of the evening.

"Where are you going?" father asked, as I edged out of the store just
after dark.

"Oh, up the street a piece."

"Well, here's a pair o' stockings to be left at the Widow Jones'. Just
call as you go by and leave 'em, will you?"

I stuck the little bundle he gave me in my coat-tail pocket; but by
the time I passed the Widow Jones' house I was so taken up with the
business on hand that I forgot all about the stockings.

I could see Miss Marigold sitting at the piano and hear her singing as
I passed the window. It was awful nice, and, to prolong the pleasure,
I stayed outside about half an hour, then a summer shower came up, and
I made up my mind and rang the bell. Jane came to the door.

"Is the squire at home?" says I.

"No, sir, he's down to the hotel; but Miss Marigold, she's to hum,"
said the black girl, grinning. "Won't you step in? Miss will be
dreffle sorry her pa is out."

She took my hat and opened the parlor door; there was a general
dazzle, and I bowed to somebody and sat down somewhere, and in about
two minutes the mist cleared away, and I saw Belle Marigold, with a
rose in her hair, sitting not three feet away, and smiling at me as if
coaxing me to say something.

"Quite a shower?" I remarked.

"Indeed--is it raining?" said she.

"Yes, indeed," said I; "it came up very sudden."

"I hope you didn't get wet?" said she, with a sly look.

"Not this time," said I, trying to laugh.

"Does it lighten?" said she.

"A few," said I.

Miss Marigold coughed and looked out of the window. There was a pause
in our brilliant conversation.

"I think we shall have a rainy night," I resumed.

"I'm _so_ afraid of thunder," said she. "I shall not sleep a bit if it
thunders. I shall sit up until the rain is over. I never like to be
alone in a storm. I always want some one _close by me_," she said,
with a little shiver.

[Illustration: "I'M SO FRIGHTENED, MR. FLUTTER," SAID SHE; "I FEEL, IN
MOMENTS LIKE THESE, HOW SWEET IT WOULD BE TO HAVE SOME ONE TO CLING
TO."]

I hitched my chair about a foot nearer hers. It thundered pretty loud,
and she gave a little squeal, and brought her chair alongside mine.

"I'm so frightened, Mr. Flutter," said she: "I feel, in moments like
these, how sweet it would be to have someone to cling to."

And she glanced at me out of the corner of her eye.

"Dear Belle," said I, "would you--would you--could you--now--"

"What?" whispered she, very softly.

"If I thought," I stammered, "that you could--that you would--that it
was handy to give me a drink of water." She sprang up as if shot, and
rang a little hand-bell.

"Jane, a glass of water for this gentleman--_ice_-water," in a very
chilly tone, and she sat down over by the piano.

Bashful fool and idiot that I was. I had lost another opportunity.

After I had swallowed the water Jane had left the room. I bethought me
of the handsome present which I had in my pocket, and, hoping to
regain her favor by that, I drew out the little package and tossed it
carelessly in her lap.

"Belle," said I, "I have not forgotten that I spilled lemonade on your
sash; I hope you will not refuse to allow me to make such amends as
are in my power. If the color does not suit you, I will exchange it
for any you may select."

She began to smile again, coquettishly untying the string and
unwrapping the paper. Instead of the lovely rose-colored ribbon, out
rolled a long pair of coarse blue cotton stockings.

Miss Marigold screamed louder than she had at the thunder.

"It's all a mistake!" I cried; "a ridiculous mistake! I beg your
pardon ten thousand times! They are for the Widow Jones. _Here_ is
what I intended for _you_, dear, dear Belle," and I thrust another
package into heir hands.

"Fine-cut!" said she, examining the wrapper by the light of the lamp
on the piano. "Do you think I chew, Mr. Flutter?--or _dip_? Do you
intend to willfully insult me? Leave the hou----"

"Oh, I beg of you, listen! Here it is at last!" I exclaimed in
desperation, drawing out the right package at last, and myself
displaying to her dazzled view the four yards of glittering ribbon.
"There's not another in Babbletown so handsome. Wear it for _my sake_,
Belle!"

"I will," she sighed, after she had secretly rubbed it, and held it to
the light to make sure of its quality. "I will, John, for your sake."

We were friends again; she was very sweet, and played something on the
piano, and an hour slipped away as if I were in Paradise. I rose to
go, the rain being over.

"But about that paper of fine-cut!" she said, archly, as she went into
the hall with me to get my hat; "do you chew, John?"

"No, Belle, that tobacco was for old man Perkins, as sure as I stand
here. If you don't believe me, smell my breath," said I, and I tried
to get my arm about her waist.

It was kind of dark in the hall; she did not resist so very much; my
lips were only about two inches from hers--for I wanted her to be sure
about my breath--when a voice that almost made me faint away, put a
conundrum to me:

"If you'd a kissed my girl, young man, why would it have been like a
Centennial fire-arm?"

"Because it hasn't gone off yet!" I gasped, reaching for my hat.

"Wrong," said he grimly. "Because it would have been a blunder-buss."

I reckon the squire was right.



CHAPTER III.

GOES TO A TEA-PARTY.


The Widow Jones got her stockings the next day. As I left them at the
door she stuck her head out of an upper window and said to me that
"the sewing society met at her house on Thursday afternoon, and the
men-folks was coming to tea and to spend the evening, and I must be
_sure_ an' come, or the girls would be _so_ disappointed," and she
urged and urged until I had to promise her I would attend her
sociable.

Drat all tea-parties! say I. I was never comfortable at one in my
life. If you'd give me my choice between going to a tea-party and
picking potato-bugs off the vines all alone on a hot summer day, I
shouldn't hesitate a moment between the two. I should choose the bugs;
and I can't say I fancy potato-bugs, either.

On Wednesday I nearly killed an old lady, putting up tartar-emetic for
cream-tartar. If she'd eaten another biscuit made with it she'd have
died and I'd have been responsible--and father was really vexed and
said I might be a light-house keeper as quick as I pleased; but by
that time I felt as if I couldn't keep a light-house without Belle
Marigold to help me, and so I promised to be more careful, and kept
on clerking.

The thermometer stood at eighty degrees in the shade when I left the
store at five o'clock Thursday afternoon to go to that infallible
tea-party. I was glad the day was warm, for I wanted to wear my white
linen suit, with a blue cravat and Panama hat. I felt independent even
of Fred Hencoop, as I walked along the street under the shade of the
elms; but, the minute I was inside Widow Jones' gate and walking up to
the door, the thermometer went up to somewhere near 200 degrees. There
were something like a dozen heads at each of the parlor windows, and
all women's heads at that. Six or eight more were peeping out of the
sitting-room, where they were laying the table for tea. Babbletown
always did seem to me to have more than its fair share of female
population. I think I would like to live in one of those mining towns
out in Colorado, where women are as scarce as hairs on the inside of a
man's hand. Somebody coughed as I was going up the walk. Did you ever
have a girl cough at you?--one of those mean, teasing, expressive
little coughs?

I had practiced--at home in my own room--taking off my Panama with a
graceful, sweeping bow, and saying in calm, well-bred tones:
"Good-evening, Mrs. Jones. Good-evening, ladies. I trust you have had
a pleasant as well as profitable afternoon."

I had _practiced_ that in the privacy of my chamber. What I really did
get off was something like this:

"Good Jones, Mrs. Evening. I should say, good-evening, widows--ladies,
I beg your pardon," by which time I was mopping my forehead with my
handkerchief, and could just ask, as I sank into the first chair I
saw, "Is your mother well, Mrs. Jones?" which was highly opportune,
since said mother had been years dead before I was born. As I sat
down, a pang sharper than some of those endured by the Spartans ran
through my right leg. I was instantly aware that I had plumped down on
a needle, as well as a piece of fancy-work, but I had not the courage
to rise and extract the excruciating thing.

I turned pale with pain, but by keeping absolutely still I found that
I could endure it, and so I sat motionless, like a wooden man, with a
frozen smile on my features.

Belle was out in the other room helping set the table, for which
mitigating circumstances I was sufficiently thankful.

Fred Hencoop was on the other side of the room holding a skein of silk
for Sallie Brown. He looked across at me, smiling with a malice which
made me hate him.

Out of that hate was born a stern resolve--I would conquer my
diffidence; I would prove to Fred Hencoop, and any other fellow like
him, that I was as good as he was, and could at least equal him in
the attractions of my sex.

There was a pretty girl sitting quite near me. I had been introduced
to her at the picnic. It seemed to me that she was eyeing me
curiously, but I was mad enough at Fred to show him that I could be as
cool as anybody, after I got used to it. I hemmed, wiped the
perspiration from my face--caused now more by the needle than by the
heat--and remarked, sitting stiff as a ramrod and smiling like an
angel:

"June is my favorite month, Miss Smith--is it yours? When I think of
June I always think of strawberries and cream and ro-oh-oh-ses!"

It was the needle. I had forgotten in the excitement of the subject
and had moved.

"_Is_ anything the matter?" Miss Smith tenderly inquired.

"Nothing in the world, Miss Smith. I had a stitch in my side, but it
is over now."

"Stitches are very painful," she observed, sympathizingly. "I don't
like to trouble you, Mr. Flutter, but I think, I believe, I guess you
are sitting on my work. If you will rise, I will try and finish it
before tea."

No help for it, and I arose, at the same moment dexterously slipping
my hand behind me and withdrawing the thorn in the flesh.

"Oh, dear, where is my needle?" said the young lady, anxiously
scrutinizing the crushed worsted-work.

I gave it to her with a blush. She burst out laughing.

"I don't wonder you had a stitch in your side," she remarked, shyly.

"Hem!" observed Fred very loud, "do you feel sew-sew, John?"

Just then Belle entered the parlor, looking as sweet as a pink, and
wearing the sash I had given her. She bowed to me very coquettishly
and announced tea.

"Too bad!" continued Fred; "you have broken the thread of Mr.
Flutter's discourse with Miss Smith. But I do not wish to inflict
_needle_-less pain, so I will not betray him."

"I hope Mr. Flutter is not in trouble again," said Belle quickly.

"Oh, no. Fred is only trying to say something _sharp_," said I.

"Come with me; I will take care of you, Mr. Flutter," said Belle,
taking my arm and marching me out into the sitting-room, where a long
table was heaped full of inviting eatables. She sat me down by her
side, and I felt comparatively safe. But Fred and Miss Smith were just
opposite and they disconcerted me.

"Mr. Flutter," said the hostess when it came my turn, "will you have
tea or coffee?"

"Yes'm," said I.

"Tea or coffee?"

"If you please," said I.

"_Which_?" whispered Belle.

"Oh, excuse me; coffee, ma'am."

"Cream and sugar, Mr. Flutter?"

"I'm not particular which, Mrs. Jones."

"Do you take _both_?" she persisted, with everybody at the table
looking my way.

"No, ma'am, only coffee," said I, my face the color of the
beet-pickles.

She finally passed me a cup, and, in my embarrassment, I immediately
took a swallow and burnt my mouth.

"Have you lost any friends lately?" asked that wretched Fred, seeing
the tears in my eyes.

I enjoyed that tea-party as geese enjoy _pate de fois gras_. It was a
prolonged torment under the guise of pleasure. I refused everything I
wanted, and took everything I didn't want. I got a back of the cold
chicken; there was nothing of it but bone. I thought I must appear to
be eating it, and it slipped out from under my fork and flew into the
dish of preserved cherries.

We had strawberries. I am very partial to strawberries and cream. I
got a saucer of the berries, and was looking about for the cream when
Miss Smith's mother, at my right hand, said:

"Mr. Flutter, will you have some _whip_ with your strawberries?"

Whip with my berries! I thought she was making fun of me, and
stammered:

"No, I thank you," and so I lost the delicious frothed cream that I
coveted.

The agony of the thing was drawing to a close. I was longing for the
time when I could go home and get some cold potatoes out of mother's
cupboard. I hadn't eaten worth a cent.

Pretty soon we all moved back our chairs and rose. I offered my arm to
Belle, as I supposed. Between the sitting-room and parlor there was a
little dark hall, and when we got in there I summoned up courage,
passed my arm around my fair partner, and gave her a hug.

"You ain't so bashful as you look," said she, and then we stepped into
the parlor, and I found I'd been squeezing Widow Jones' waist.

She gave me a look full of languishing sweetness that scared me nearly
to death. I thought of Mr. Pickwick and Mrs. Bardell. Visions of suits
for breaches of promise arose before my horrified vision. I glanced
wildly around in search of Belle; she was hanging on a young lawyer's
arm, and not looking at me.

"La, now, you needn't color up so," said the widow, coquettishly, "I
know what young men are."

She said it aloud, on purpose for Belle to hear. I felt like killing
her. I might have done it, but one thought restrained me--I should be
hung for murder, and I was too bashful to submit to so public an
ordeal.

I hurried across the room to get rid of her. There was a young fellow
standing there who looked about as out-of-place as I felt. I thought
I would speak to him.

"Come," said I, "let us take a little promenade outside--the women are
too much for me."

He made no answer. I heard giggling and tittering breaking out all
around the room, like rash on a baby with the measles.

"Come on," said I; "like as not they're laughing at us."

"Look-a-here, you shouldn't speak to a fellow till you've been
introduced," said that wicked Fred behind me. "Mr. Flutter, allow me
to make you acquainted with Mr. Flutter. He's anxious to take a little
walk with you."

It was so; I had been talking to myself in a four-foot looking-glass.

I did not feel like staying for the ice-cream and kissing-plays, but
had a sly hunt for my hat, and took leave of the tea-party about the
eighth of a second afterward.



CHAPTER IV.

HE DOES HIS DUTY AS A CITIZEN.


Babbletown began to be very lively as soon as the weather got cool,
the fall after I came home. We had a singing-school once a week, a
debating society that met every Wednesday evening, and then we had
sociables, and just before Christmas a fair. All the other young men
had a good time. Every day, when some of them dropped in the store for
a chat and a handful of raisins, they would aggravate me by asking:

"_Aren't_ we having a jolly winter of it, John?"

_I_ never had a good time. _I_ never enjoyed myself like other folks.
I spent enough money and made enough good resolutions, but something
always occurred to destroy my anticipated pleasure. I can't hear a
lyceum or debating society mentioned to this day, without feeling
"cold-chills" run down my spine.

I took part in the exercises the evening ours was opened. I had been
requested by the committee to furnish the poem for the occasion. As I
was just from a first-class academy, where I had read the valedictory,
it was taken for granted that I was the most likely one to "fill the
bill."

I accepted the proposition. To be bashful is a far different thing
from being modest. I wrote the poem. I sat up nights to do it. The way
candles were consumed caused father to wonder where his best box of
spermacetis had gone to. I knew I could do the poetry, and I firmly
resolved that I would read it through, from beginning to end, in a
clear, well-modulated voice, that could be heard by all, including the
minister and Belle Marigold. I would not blush, or stammer, or get a
frog in my throat. I swore solemnly to myself that I would not. _Some
folks_ should see that my bashfulness was wearing off faster than the
gold from an oroide watch. Oh, I would show 'em! Some things could be
done as well as others. I would no longer be the laughing-stock of
Babbletown. My past record should be wiped out! I would write my poem,
and I would _read it_--read it calmly and impressively, so as to do
full justice to it.

I got the poem ready. I committed it to memory, so that if the lights
were dim, or I lost my place, I should not be at the mercy of the
manuscript. The night came. I entered the hall with Belle on my arm,
early, so as to secure her a front seat.

"Keep cool, John," were her whispered words, as I left her to take my
place on the platform.

"Oh, I shall be cool enough. I know every line by heart; have said it
to myself one hundred and nineteen times without missing a word."

I'm not going to bore you with the poem here; but will give the first
four lines as they were _written_ and as I _spoke_ them:

    "Hail! Babbletown, fair village of the plain!
    Hail! friends and fellow-citizens. In vain
    I strive to sing the glories of this place,
    Whose history back to early times I trace."

The room was crowded, the president of the society made a few opening
remarks, which closed by presenting Mr. Flutter, the poet of the
occasion. I was quite easy and at home until I arose and bowed as he
spoke my name. Then something happened to my senses, I don't know
what; I only knew I lost every one of them for about two minutes. I
was blind, deaf, dumb, tasteless, senseless, and feelingless. Then I
came to a little, rallied, and perceived that some of the boy were
beginning to pound the floor with their heels. I made a feint of
holding my roll of verses nearer the lamp at my right hand, summoned
traitor memory to return, and began:

"Hail!"

Was that my voice? I did not recognize it. It was more as if a mouse
in the gallery had squeaked. It would never do. I cleared any
throat--which was to have been free from frogs--and a strange, hoarse
voice, no more like mine than a crow is like a nightingale, came out
with a jerk, about six feet away, and remarked, as if surprised:

"Hail!"

With a desperate effort, I resolved that this night or never I was to
achieve greatness. I cleared the way again and recommenced:

"Hail!"

A boy's voice at the back of the room was heard to insinuate that
perhaps it would be easier for me to let it snow or rain. That made me
angry. I was as cool as ice all in a moment; I felt that I had the
mastery of the situation, and, making a sweeping gesture with my left
hand, I looked over my hearers' heads, and continued:

"Hail! Fabbletown, bare village of the plain--Babbletown, fair pillage
of the vain--. Hail! friends and fellow-citizens--!"

It was evident that I had borrowed somebody else's voice--my own
mother wouldn't have recognized it--and a mighty poor show of a voice,
too. It was like a race-horse that suddenly balks, and loses the race.
I had put up heavy stakes on that voice, but I couldn't budge it. Not
an inch faster would it go. In vain I whipped and spurred in silent
desperation--it balked at "fellow-citizens," and there it stuck. The
audience, good-naturedly, waited five minutes. At the end of that
time, I sat down, amid general applause, conscious that I had made
the sensation of the evening.

Belle gave me the mitten that evening, and went home in Fred Hencoop's
sleigh.

We didn't speak, after that, until about a week before the fair. She,
with some other girls, then came in the store to beg for "scraps" of
silk, muslin, and so-forth, to dress dolls for the fair. They were
very sweet, for they knew they could make a fool of me. Father was not
in, and I guess they timed their visit so that he wouldn't be. They
got half a yard of pink silk, as much of blue, ditto of lilac and
black, a yard of every kind of narrow ribbon in the store, a remnant
of book-muslin, three yards--in all, about six dollars' worth of
"scraps," and then asked me if I wasn't going to give a box of raisins
and the coffee for the table. I said I would.

"And you'll come, Mr. Flutter, won't you? It'll be a failure unless
_you_ are there. You must _promise_ to come. We won't go out of this
store till you do. And, oh, don't forget to bring _your purse_ along.
We expect all the young gentlemen to _come prepared_, you know."

There is no doubt that I went to the fair. It made my heart ache to do
it--for I'd already been pretty extravagant, one way and another--but
I put a ten-dollar bill in my wallet, resolved to spend every cent of
it rather than appear mean.

I don't know whether I appeared mean or not; I do know that I spent
every penny of that ten dollars, and considerable more besides. If
there was anything at that fair that no one else wanted, and that was
not calculated to supply any known want of the human race, it was
palmed off on me. I became the unhappy possessor of five dressed
dolls, a lady's "nubia," a baby-jumper, fourteen "tidies," a set of
parlor croquet with wickets that wouldn't stand on their legs, a
patent churn warranted to make a pound of fresh butter in three
minutes out of a quart of chalk-and-water, a set of ladies' nightcaps,
two child's aprons, a castle-in-the-air, a fairy-palace, a doll's
play-house, a toy-balloon, a box of marbles, a pair of spectacles, a
pair of pillow-shams, a young lady's work-basket, seven needle-books,
a cradle-quilt, a good many bookmarks, a sofa-cushion, and an infant's
rattle, warranted to cut one's eye teeth; besides which I had tickets
in a fruit cake, a locket, a dressing-bureau, a baby-carriage, a
lady's watch-chain, and an infant's wardrobe complete.

When I feebly remonstrated that I'd spent all the money I brought, I
was smilingly assured by innumerable female Tootses that "it was of no
consequence"; but I found there _were_ consequences when I came to
settle afterward for half the things at the fair, because I was too
bashful to say No, boldly.

Fred Hencoop auctioned off the remaining articles after eleven
o'clock. Every time he put up something utterly unsalable, he would
look over at me, nod, and say: "Thank you, John; did you say fifty
cents?" or "Did I hear you say a dollar? A dollar--dollar--going, gone
to our friend and patron, John Flutter, Jr.," and some of the lady
managers would "make a note of it," and I was too everlastingly
embarrassed to deny it.

"John," said father, about four o'clock in the afternoon the day after
the fair--"John, did you buy all these things?"--the front part of the
store was piled and crammed with my unwilling purchases.

"Father, I don't know whether I did or not."

"How much is the bill?"

"$98.17."

"How are you going to pay it?"

"I've got the hundred dollars in bank grandmother gave me when she
died."

"Draw the money, pay your debts, and either get married at once and
make these things useful, or we'll have a bonfire in the back yard."

"I guess we'd better have the bonfire, father. I don't care for any
girl but Belle, and she won't have me."

"Won't have you! I'm worth as much as Squire Marigold any day."

"I know it, father; but I took her down to supper last night, and I
was so confused, with all the married ladies looking on, I made a
mess of it. I put two teaspoonfuls of sugar in her oyster stew,
salted her coffee, and insisted on her taking pickles with her
ice-cream. She didn't mind that so much, but when I stuffed my saucer
into my pocket, and conducted her into the coal-cellar instead of the
hall, she got out of patience. Father, I think I'd better go to
Arizona in the spring. I'm--"

"Go to grass! if you want to," was the unfeeling reply; "but don't you
ever go to another fair, unless I go along to take care of you."

But I think the bonfire made him feel better.



CHAPTER V.

HE COMMITS SUICIDE.


Two days after the fair (one day after the bonfire), some time during
the afternoon, I found myself alone in the store. Business was so dull
that father, with a yawn, said he guessed he'd go to the post-office
and have a chat with the men.

"Be sure you don't leave the store a moment alone, John," was his
parting admonition.

Of course I wouldn't think of such a thing--he need not have mentioned
it. I was a good business fellow for my age; the only blunders I ever
made were those caused by my failing--the unhappy failing to which I
have hitherto alluded.

I sat mournfully on the counter after father left me, my head
reclining pensively against a pile of ten-cent calicoes; I was
thinking of my grandmother's legacy gone up in smoke--of how Belle
looked when she found I had conducted her into the coal-cellar--of
those tidies, cradle-quilts, bib-aprons, dolls' and ladies' fixings,
which had been nefariously foisted upon me, a base advantage taken of
my diffidence!--and I felt sad. I felt more than melancholy--I felt
mad. I resented the tricks of the fair ones. And I made a mighty
resolution! "Never--never--never," said I, between my clenched teeth,
"will I again be guilty of the crime of bashfulness--_never_!"

I felt that I could face a female regiment--all Babbletown! I was
indignant; and there's nothing like honest, genuine indignation to
give courage. Oh, I'd show 'em. I wouldn't give a cent when the deacon
passed the plate on Sundays; I wouldn't subscribe to the char----

In the midst of my dark and vengeful resolutions I heard merry voices
on the pavement outside.

Hastily raising my head from the pile of calicoes, I saw at least five
girls making for the store door--a whole bevy of them coming in upon
me at once. They were the same rosy-cheeked, bright-eyed, deceitful,
shameless creatures who had persuaded me into such folly at the fair.
There was Hetty Slocum, the girl who coaxed me into buying the doll;
and Maggie Markham, who sold me the quilt; and Belle, and two others,
and they were chatting and giggling over some joke, and had to stop on
the steps until they could straighten their faces. I grew
fire-red--with indignation.

"Oh, father, why are you not here?" I cried inwardly. "Oh, father,
what a shame to go off to the post-office and leave your son to face
these tried to feel as I felt five minutes before, like facing a
female regiment. _Now_ was the time to prove my courage--to turn over
a new leaf, take a new departure, begin life over again, show to these
giggling girls that I had some pride--some self-independence--some
self-resp----"

The door creaked on its hinges, and at the sound a blind confusion
seized me. In vain I attempted, like a brave but despairing general,
to rally my forces; but they all deserted me at once; I was hidden
behind the calicoes, and with no time to arrange for a nobler plan of
escaping a meeting with the enemy--no auger-hole though which to
crawl. I followed the first impulse, stooped, and _hid under the
counter_.

In a minute I wished myself out of that; but the minute had been too
much--the bevy had entered and approached the counter, at the very
place behind which I lay concealed. I was so afraid to breathe; the
cold sweat started on my forehead.

"Why! there's no one in the store!" exclaimed Belle's voice.

"Oh, yes; there must be. Let us look around and see," responded
Maggie, and they went tiptoeing around the room, peeping here and
there, while I silently tore my hair. I was so afraid they would come
behind the counter and discover me.

In three minutes, which seemed as many hours, they came to the
starting-point again.

"There isn't a soul here."

"La, how funny! We might take something."

"Yes, if we were thieves, what a fine opportunity we would have."

"I'll bet three cents it's John's fault; his father would never leave
the store in this careless way."

"What a queer fellow he is, anyway!"

"Ha, ha, ha! so perfectly absurd! _Isn't_ it fun when he's about?"

"I never was so tickled in my life as when he bought that quilt."

"I thought I would die laughing when he took me into the coal-cellar,
but I kept a straight face."

"Do _you_ think he's good-looking, Hetty?"

"Who? John Flutter! _good-looking_? He's a perfect fright."

"That's just what I think. Oh, isn't it too good to see the way he
nurses that little mustache of his? I'm going to send him a
magnifying-glass, so that he can count the hairs with less trouble."

"If you will, I'll send a box of cold cream; we can send them through
the post-office, and he'll never find out who they came from."

"Jolly! we'll do it! Belle won't send anything, for he's dead in love
with _her_."

"Much good it'll do him, girls! Do you suppose I wouldn't marry that
simpleton if he was made of gold."

"Did you ever see such a red face as he has? I would be afraid to come
near it with a light dress on."

"And his ears!"

"Monstrous! and always burning."

"And the awkwardest fellow that ever blundered into a parlor. You know
the night he waited on me to Hetty's party? he stepped on my toes so
that I had to poultice them before I went to bed; he tore the train
all off my pink tarlatan; he spilled a cup of hot coffee down old Mrs.
Ballister's back, and upset his saucer of ice-cream over Ada's sweet
new book-muslin. Why, girls, just as sure as I am standing here, I saw
him cram the saucer into his pocket when Belle came up to speak with
him! I tell you, I was glad to get home that night without any more
accidents."

"They say he always puts the tea-napkins into his pocket when he takes
tea away from home. But it's not kleptomania, it's only bashfulness. I
never heard before of his pocketing the saucers."

"Well, he really did. It's awful funny. I don't know how we'd get
along without John this winter--he makes all the fun we have. What's
that?"

"I don't know, it sounded like rats gnawing the floor."

(It was only the amusing John gritting his teeth, I am able to
explain).

"Did you ever notice his mouth?--how large it is."

"Yes, it's frightful. I don't wonder he's ashamed of himself with that
mouth."

"I don't mind his mouth so much--but his _nose_! I never did like a
turn-up nose in a man. But his father's pretty well off. It would be
nice to marry a whole store full of dry-goods and have a new dress
every time you wanted one. I wonder where they have gone to! I believe
I'll rap."

The last speaker seized the yard-stick and thumped on the counter
directly over my head.

"Oh, girls! let's go behind, and see how they keep things. I wonder
how many pieces of dress-silk there are left!"

"I guess I'll go behind the counter, and play clerk. If any one comes
in, I'll go, as sure as the world! and wait on 'em. Won't it be fun?
There comes old Aunty Harkness now. I dare say she is after a spool of
thread or a paper of needles. I'm going to wait on her. Mr. Flutter
won't care--I'll explain when he comes in. What do you want, auntie?"
in a very loud voice.

My head buzzed like a saw--my heart made such a loud thud against my
side I thought stars! she wanted "an ounce o' snuff," and that
article was kept in a glass jar in plain sight on the other side of
the store. There was a movement in that direction, and I recovered
partially, I half resolved to rise up suddenly--pretend I'd been
hiding for fun--and laugh the whole thing off as a joke. But the
insulting, the ridiculous comments I had overheard, had made me too
indignant. Pretty joke, indeed! But I wished I had obeyed the dictates
of prudence and affected to consider it so. Father came bustling in
while the girls were trying to tie up the snuff, and sneezing
beautifully.

"What! what! young ladies! Where's John?"

"That's more than we know--tschi-he! We've been waiting at least ten
minutes. Auntie Harkness wanted some stch-uff, and we thought we'd do
it for her. I s'pose you've no objections, Mr. Flutter?"

"Not the least in the world, girls. Go ahead. I wonder where John is!
There! you'll sneeze your pretty noses off--let me finish it. John has
no business to leave the store. I don't like it--five cents, auntie,
to _you_--and I told him particularly not to leave it a minute. I
don't understand it; very sorry you've been kept waiting. What shall I
show you, young lady?" and father passed behind the counter and stood
with his toes touching my legs, notwithstanding I had shrunk into as
small space as was convenient, considering my size and weight. It was
getting toward dusk of the short winter afternoon, and I hoped and
prayed he wouldn't notice me.

"What shall I show you, young ladies?"

"Some light kid gloves, No. 6, please."

"Yes, certainly--here they are. I do believe there's a strange dog
under the counter! Get out--get out, sir, I say!" and my cruel parent
gave me a vicious kick.

I pinched his leg impressively. I meant it as a warning, to betray to
him that it was I, and to implore him, figuratively, to keep silence.

But he refused to comprehend that agonized pinch; he resented it. He
gave another vicious kick. Then he stooped and looked under--it was a
little dark--too dark, alas! under there. He saw a man--but not to
recognize him.

"Ho!" he yelled; "robber! thief! burglar! I've got you, fellow! Come
out o' that!"

I never before realized father's strength. He got his hand in my
collar, and he jerked me out from under that counter, and shook me,
and held me off at arm's length.

"There, Mr. Burglar," said he, triumphantly, "sneak in here again
will--JOHN!"

The girls had been screaming and running, but they stood still now.

"Yes, _John_!" said I, in desperation. "The drawer came loose under
the counter, and I was nailing on a strip of board when those _young
ladies_ came in. I kept quiet, just for fun. They began to talk in an
interesting manner, curiosity got the better of politeness, and I'm
afraid I've played eavesdropper," and I made a killing bow, meant
especially for Belle.

"Well, you're a pretty one!" exclaimed father.

"_So they say_," said I. "Don't leave, young ladies. I'd like to sell
you a magnifying-glass, and some cold cream." But they all left in a
hurry. They didn't even buy a pair of gloves.

The girls must have told of it, for the story got out, and Fred
advised me to try counter-irritation for my bashfulness.

"You're not a burglar," said he, "but you're guilty of
counter-fitting."

"Nothing would suit me better," I retorted, "than to be tried for it,
and punished by solitary confinement."

And there was nothing I should have liked so much. The iron had
entered my soul. I was worse than ever. I purchased a four-ounce vial
of laudanum, went to my room, and wrote a letter to my mother:

"Mother, I am tired of life. My nose is turn-up, my mouth is large; I
pocket other people's saucers and napkins; I am always making
blunders. This is my last blunder. I shall never blush again.
Farewell. Let the inscription on my tombstone be--'Died of
Bashfulness.' JOHN."

And I swallowed the contents of the vial, and threw myself on my
little bed.



CHAPTER VI.

HE IS DOOMED FOR WORSE ACCIDENTS.


It may seem strange for you to hear of me again, after the conclusion
of the last chapter of my blunders. But it was not I who made the last
blunder--it was the druggist. Quite by mistake the imbecile who waited
upon me put up four ounces of the aromatic syrup of rhubarb. I felt
myself gradually sinking into the death-sleep after I had taken it;
with the thought of Belle uppermost in my mind, I allowed myself to
sink--"no more catastrophes after this last and grandest one--no more
red faces--big mouth--tea-napkins--wonder--if she--will be--sorry!"
and I became unconscious.

I was awakened from a comfortable slumber by loud screams; mother
stood by my bed, with the vial labeled "laudanum" in one hand, my
letter in the other. Father rushed into the room.

"Father, John's committed suicide. Oh! bring the tartar-emetic quick!
Make some coffee as strong as lye! Oh! send for a stomach-pump. Tell
Mary to bring the things and put the coffee on; and you come here, an'
we'll walk him up and down--keep him a-going--that's his only
salvation! Oh! John, John! that ever your bashfulness should drive you
into this! Up with him, father! Oh! he's dying! He ain't able to help
himself one bit!"

They dragged me off the bed, and marched me up and down the room.
Supposing, as a matter of course, that I ought to be expiring, I felt
that I was expiring. My knees tottered under me; they only hauled me
around the more violently. They forced a spoonful of tartar-emetic
down my throat; Mary, the servant-girl, poured a quart of black coffee
down me, half outside and half in; then they jerked me about the floor
again, as if we were dancing a Virginia reel.

The doctor came and poked a long rubber tube down and converted me
into a patent pump, until the tartar-emetic, and the coffee, and the
pumpkin-pie I had eaten for dinner had all revisited this mundane
sphere.

They had no mercy on me; I promenaded up and down and across with
father, with Mary, with the doctor, until I felt that I should die if
they didn't allow me to stop promenading.

The worst of it was, the house was full of folks; they crowded about
the chamber door and looked at me, dancing up and down with the hired
girl and the doctor.

"Shut the door--they shall _not_ look at me!" I gasped, at last. The
doctor felt my pulse and said proudly to my mother:

"Madam, your son will live! Our skill and vigilance have saved him."

"Bless you, doctor!" sobbed my parents.

"I will _not_ live," I moaned, "to be the laughing stock of
Babbletown. I will buy some more."

"John," said my father, weeping, "arouse yourself! You shall leave
this place, if you desire it--only live! I will get you the position
of weather-gauger on top of Mount Washington, if you say so, but don't
commit any more suicide, my son!"

I was affected, and promised that I wouldn't, provided that I was
found a situation somewhere by myself. So the excitement subsided.
Father slept with me that night, keeping one eye open; the doctor got
the credit of saving my life, and the girls of Babbletown were scared
out of laughing at me for a whole month.

When we came to talk the matter over seriously--father and I--it was
found to be too late in the season to procure me the Mount Washington
appointment for the winter; besides, the effect of my attempt to
"shuffle off this mortal coil" was to literally overrun our store with
customers. People came from the country for fifteen miles around, in
ox teams, on horse-back, in sleighs and cutters, and bob-sleds, and
crockery-crates, to buy something, in hopes of getting a glimpse of
the bashful young man who swallowed the pizen. Now, father was too
cute a Yankee not to take advantage of the mob. He forgot his
promises, and made me stay in the store from morning till night, so
that women could say: "I bought this 'ere shirting from the young man
who committed suicide; he did it up with his own hands."

"I'll give you a fair share o' the profits, John," father would say,
slyly.

Well, things went on as it greased; the girls mostly stayed away--the
Babbletown girls, for they had guilty consciences, I suspect; and in
February there came a thaw. I stood looking out of the store window
one day; the snow had melted in the street, and right over the stones
that had been laid across the road for a walk, there was a great
puddle of muddy water about two yards wide and a foot deep. I soon saw
Hetty Slocum tripping across the street; she came to the puddle and
stood still; the soft slush was heaped up on either side--she couldn't
get around and she couldn't go through. My natural gallantry got the
better of my resentment, and I went out to help her over,
notwithstanding what she had said when I was under the counter.
Planting one foot firmly in the center of the puddle and bracing the
other against the curb-stone, I extended my hand.

"If you're good at jumping, Miss Slocum," said I, "I'll land you
safely on this side."

"Oh," said she, roguishly, "Mr. Flutter, can I trust you?" and she
reached out her little gloved hand.

All my old embarrassment rushed over me. I became nervous at the
critical moment when I should have been cool. I never could tell just
how it happened--whether her glove was slippery, or my foot slipped on
a piece of ice under slush, or what--but the next moment we were both
of us sitting down in fourteen inches of very cold, very muddy water.

[Illustration: THE NEXT MOMENT WE WERE BOTH OF US SITTING DOWN IN
FOURTEEN INCHES OF VERY COLD, VERY MUDDY WATER.]

My best beaver hat flew off and was run over by a passing sled, while
a little dog ran away with Hetty's seal-skin muff.

I floundered around in that puddle for about two minutes, and then I
got up. Hetty still sat there. She was white, she was so mad.

"I might a known better," said she. "Let me alone. I'd sit here
forever, before I'd let _you_ help me up."

The boys were coming home from school, and they began to hoot and
laugh. I ran after the little dog who was making off with the muff.
How Hetty got up, or who came to her rescue I don't know. That cur
belonged about four miles out of town, and he never let up until he
got home.

I grabbed the muff just as he was disappearing under the house with
it, and then I walked slowly back. The people who didn't know me took
me for an escaped convict--I was water-soaked and muddy, hatless, and
had a sneaking expression, like that of a convicted horse-thief. Two
or three persons attempted to arrest me. Finally, two stout farmers
succeeded, and brought me into the village in triumph, and marched me
between them to the jail.

"Why, what's Mr. Flutter been doin'?" asked the sheriff, coming out to
meet us.

"Do you mean to say you know him?" inquired one of the men.

"Yes, I know him. That's our esteemed fellow-citizen, young Flutter."

"And he ain't no horse-thief nor nuthin'!"

"Not a bit of it, I assure you."

The man eyed me from head to foot, critically and contemptuously.

"Then all I've got to say," he remarked slowly, "is this--appearances
is very deceptive."

It was getting dusk by this time, and I was thankful for it.

"I slipped down in a mud-puddle and lost my hat," I explained to the
sheriff, as I turned away, and had the satisfaction of hearing the
other one of my arresters say, behind my back:

"Oh, drunk!"

I hired a little boy, for five cents, to deliver Miss Slocum's muff at
her residence. Then I went into the house by the kitchen, bribed Mary
to clean my soiled pants without telling mother, slipped up-stairs,
and went to bed without my supper.

The next day I bought a handsome seven-dollar ring, and sent it to
Hetty as some compensation for the damage done to her dress.

That evening was singing-school evening. I went early, so as to get my
seat without attracting attention. Early as I was, I was not the
first. A group of young people was gathered about the great
black-board, on which the master illustrated his lessons. They were
having lots of fun, and did not notice me as I came in. I stole
quietly to a seat behind a pillar. Fred Hencoop was drawing something
on the board, and explaining it. As he drew back and pointed with the
long stick, I saw a splendid caricature of myself pursuing a small
dog with a muff, while a young lady sat quietly in a mud-puddle in the
corner of the black-board, and Fred was saying, with intense gravity:

"This is the man, all tattered and torn, that spattered the maiden all
forlorn. _This_ is the dog that stole the muff. _This_ is the ring he
sent the maid--"

"Muff-in ring," suggested some one, and then they laughed louder than
ever.

I felt that that singing-school was no place for me that evening, and
I stole away as noiselessly as I had entered.

I went home and packed my trunk. The next morning I said to father:

"Give me my share of the profits for the last month," and he gave me
one hundred and thirty dollars. "I am going where no one knows me,
mother, so good-bye. You'll hear from me when I'm settled," and I was
actually off on the nine o'clock New York express.

Every seat was full in every car but one--one seat beside a pretty,
fashionably-dressed young lady was vacant. I stood up against the
wood-box and looked at that seat, as a boy looks at a jar of
peppermint-drops in a candy-store window. After a while I reflected
that these people were all strangers, and, of course, unaware of my
infirmity; this gave me a certain degree of courage. I left the
support of the wood-box and made my way along the aisle until I came
to the vacant seat.

"Miss," I began, politely, but the lady purposely looked the other
way; she had her bag in the place where I wanted to sit, and she
didn't mean to move it, if she could help it. "Miss," I said again, in
a louder tone.

Two or three people looked at us. That confused me; her refusing to
look around confused me; one of my old bad spells began to come on.

"Miss," I whispered, leaning toward her, blushing and embarrassed, "I
would like to know if you are engaged--if--if you are taken, I mean?"

She looked at me then sharp enough.

"Yes, sir, I _am_," she said calmly; "and going to be married next
week."

The passengers began to laugh, and I began to back out. I didn't stop
at the wood-box, but retreated into the next car, where I stood until
my legs ached, and then sat down by an ancient lady, with a long nose,
blue spectacles, and a green veil.



CHAPTER VII.

I MAKE A NARROW ESCAPE.


It is a serious thing to be as bashful as I am. There's nothing at all
funny about it, though some people seem to think there is. I was
assured, years ago, that it would wear off and betray the brass
underneath; but I must have been triple-plated. I have had rubs enough
to wear out a wash-board, yet there doesn't a bit of brass come to the
surface yet. Beauty may be only skin-deep; modesty, like mine,
pervades the grain. If I really believed my bashfulness was only
cuticle-deep, I'd be flayed to-day, and try and grow a hardier
complexion without any Bloom of Youth in it. No use! I could pave a
ten-thousand-acre prairie with the "good intentions" I have wasted,
the firm resolutions I have broken. Born to be bashful is only another
way of expressing the Bible truth, "Born to trouble as the sparks are
to fly upward."

When I sat down by the elderly lady in the railway train, I felt
comparatively at ease. She was older than mother, and I didn't mind
her rather aggressive looks and ways; in short, I seemed to feel that
in case of necessity she would protect me. Not that I was afraid of
anything, but she would probably at least keep me from proposing to
any more young ladies. Alas! how _could_ I have any presentiment of
the worse danger lurking in store for me? How could I, young,
innocent, and inexperienced, foresee the unforeseeable? I could not.
Reviewing all the circumstances by the light of wiser days, I still
deny that I was in any way, shape, or manner to blame for what
occurred. I sat in my half of the seat, occupying as little room as
possible, my eyes fixed on the crimson plush cushions of the seat
before me, my thoughts busy with the mortifying past, and the great
unknown future into which I was blindly rushing at the rate of thirty
miles an hour--sat there, dreading the great city into which I was so
soon to plunge--when a voice, closely resembling vinegar sweetened
with honey, said, close to my ear:

"Goin' to New York, sir?"

"Yes, ma'am," I answered, coming out of my reverie with a little jump.

"I'm real glad," said my companion, taking off her blue spectacles,
and leaning toward me confidentially; "so I am. I'm quite unprotected,
sir, quite, and I shall be thankful to place myself under your care.
I'm goin' down to the city to buy my spring stock o' millinery, an'
any little attention you can show me will be gratefully
received--gratefully. I don't mind admitting to _you_, young man, for
you look pure and uncorrupted, that I am terribly afraid of men. They
are wicked, heartless creatures. I feel that I might more safely trust
myself with ravening wolves than with men in general, but _you_ are
different. _You_ have had a good mother."

"Yes, ma'am, I have," I responded, rather warmly.

I was pleased at her commendation of me and mother, but puzzled as to
the character of the danger to which she referred. I finally concluded
that she was afraid of being robbed, and I put my lips close to her
ear, so that no one should overhear us, and asked:

"Do you carry your money about you?--you ought not to run such a risk.
I've been told there are always one or more thieves on every express
train."

"My dear young friend," she whispered back, very, very close in my
ear, "I was not thinking of money--_that_ is all in checks, safely
deposited in--in--in te-he! inside the lining of my waist. I was only
referring to the dangers which ever beset the unmarried lady,
especially the unsophisticated maiden, far, far from her native
village. Why, would you believe it, already, sir, since I left home, a
man, a _gentleman_, sitting in the very seat where you sit now, made
love to me, out-and-out!"

"Made love to you?" I stammered, shrinking into the farthest corner,
and regarding her with undisguised astonishment.

"You may well appear surprised. Promise me that you will remain by my
side until we reach our destination."

She appeared kind of nervous and agitated, and I promised. Instead of
being protected, I found myself figuring in the _role_ of protector.
My timid companion did the most of the talking; she pumped me pretty
dry of facts about myself, and confided to me that she was doing a
good business--making eight hundred a year clear profit--and all she
wanted to complete her satisfaction was the right kind of a partner.

She proposed to me to become that partner. I said that I did not
understand the millinery business; she said I had been a clerk in a
dry-goods store, and that was the first step; I said I didn't think I
should fancy the bonnet line. She said I should be a _silent_ partner;
all in the world I'd have to do would be to post the books, and she'd
warrant me a thousand dollars a year, for the business would double. I
said I had but one hundred and thirty dollars; she said, write to my
pa for more, but she'd take me without a cent--there was something in
my face that showed her I was to be trusted.

She was so persistent that I began to be alarmed--I felt that I should
be drawn into that woman's clutches against my will. I got pale and
cold, and the perspiration broke out on my brow. Was it for this I
had fled from home and friends? To become a partner in the
hat-and-bonnet business, with a dreadful old maid, who wore blue
spectacles and curled her false hair. I shivered.

"Poor darling!" said she, "the boy is cold," and she wrapped me up in
a big plaid shawl of her own.

The very touch of that shawl made me feel as if I had a thousand
caterpillars crawling over me; yet I was too bashful to break loose
from its folds. I grew feverish.

"There," said she, "you are getting your color back."

The more attention she paid to me the more homesick I grew. I looked
piteously in the conductor's face as he passed by. He smiled
relentlessly. I glanced wildly yet furtively about to see if,
perchance, a vacant seat were to be descried.

"Rest thy head on this shoulder; thou art weary," she said. "I will
put my veil over your face and you can catch a nap."

But I was not to be caught napping.

"No, I thank you--I never sleep in the day time," I stammered.

Oh, what a ride I was having! How wretched I felt! Yet I was too
bashful to shake off the shawl and stand up before a car-load of
people.

Suddenly, something happened. The blue spectacles flew over my head,
and I flew over the seat in front of me. Thank goodness! I was saved
from that female! I picked myself up from out of the _débris_ of the
wreck. I saw a green veil, and a lady looking around for her lost
teeth, and having ascertained that no one was killed, I limped away
and hid behind a stump. I stayed behind that stump three mortal hours.
When the train went again on its winding way I was not one of the
passengers. I walked, bruised and sore as I was, to the nearest
village, and took the first train in the opposite direction. That
evening, as father and mother were sitting down to their solitary but
excellent tea, I walked in on 'em.

"No more foreign trips for me," said I; "I will stick to Babbletown,
and try and stand the consequences."

About four days after this, father laid a letter on the counter before
me--a large, long, yellow envelope, with a big red seal. "Read that,"
was his brief comment.

I took it up, unfolded the foolscap, and read:

     "JOHN FLUTTER, SENIOR:--I have the honor to inform you that
     my client, Miss Alvira Slimmens, has instructed me to
     proceed against your son for breach of promise of marriage,
     laying her damages at twelve hundred dollars. As your son is
     not legally of age, we shall hold you responsible. A
     compromise, to avoid publicity of suit, is possible. Send
     us your check for $1,000 and you will hear no more of this
     matter.

"Respectfully,

"WILLIAM BLACK, Attorney-at-Law,

"_Pennyville, N. Y._"

"Oh, father!" I cried, "I swear to you this is not my fault!" Looking
up in distress I saw that my parent was laughing.

"I have heard of Alvira before," said he; "no, it is _not_ your fault,
my poor boy. Let me see, Alvira was thirty twenty-one years ago when I
was married to your ma. I used to be in Pennyville sometimes, in those
days, and she was sweet on me, John, then. I'll answer this letter,
and answer it to her, and not her lawyer. Don't you be uneasy, my son.
I'll tend to her. But you had a narrow escape; I don't wonder you,
with your bashfulness, fled homeward to your ma."

"Then it wasn't my blunder this time, father?"

"I exonerate you, my son!"

For once a glow of happiness diffused itself over my much-tried
spirits. I was so exalted that when a young lady came in for a bottle
of bandoline I gave her Spaulding's prepared glue instead; and the
next time I met that young lady she wore a bang--she had used the
new-fangled bandoline, and the only way to get the stuff out of her
hair was to cut it off.



CHAPTER VIII.

HE ENACTS THE PART OF GROOMSMAN.


"Out of the frying-pan into the fire!" This should have been my chosen
motto from the beginning. The performance of the maddening feat
indicated in the proverb has been the principal business of my life. I
am always finding myself in the frying-pan, and always flopping out
into the fire. My father's interference saved me from the dreadful old
creature into whose net I had stumbled when I fled from my native
village, only to return with the certainty that I was unfit to cope
with the world outside of it.

"I will never put my foot beyond the township line again," I vowed to
my secret soul. I had a harrowing sorrow preying upon me all the
remainder of the winter. I was given to understand that Belle Marigold
was actually engaged to Fred Hencoop. And she might have been mine!
Alas, that mighty _might_!

    "Of all sad words of tongue or pen
    The saddest are these--'It might have been!'"

I am positive that when I first came home from school she admired me
very much. She welcomed my early attentions. It was only the
ridiculous blunders into which my bashfulness continually drove me
that alienated her regard. If I had not caught my foot in the reins
that time I got out of the buggy in front of her house--if I had not
fallen in the water and had my clothes shrink in drying--nor choked
almost to death--nor got under the counter--nor failed to "speak my
piece"--nor sat down in that mud-puddle--nor committed suicide--nor
run away from home--nor performed any other of the thousand-and-one
absurd feats into which my constitutional embarrassment was
everlastingly urging me, I declare boldly, "Belle might have been
mine." She had encouraged me at first. Now it was too late. She had
"declined," as Tennyson says, "on a lower love than mine"--on Fred
Hencoop's.

The thought was despair. Never did I realized of what the human heart
is capable until Belle came into the store, one lovely spring morning,
looking like a seraph in a new spring bonnet, and blushingly--with a
saucy flash of her dark eyes that made her rising color all the more
divine--inquired for table-damask and 4-4 sheetings.

With an ashen brow and quivering lip, I displayed before her our best
assortment of table-cloths and napkins, pillow-casing and sheeting.
Her mother accompanied her to give her the benefit of her experience;
and kept telling her daughter to choose the best, and what and how
many dozens she had before she was married.

They ran up a big bill at the store that morning, and father came
behind the counter to help, and was mightily pleased; but I felt as if
I were measuring off cloth for my own shroud.

"Come, John, you go do up the sugar for Widow Smith, her boy is
waiting," said my parent, seeing the muddle into which I was getting
things. "I will attend to these ladies--twelve yards of the
pillow-casing, did you say, Mrs. Marigold?"

I moved down to the end of the store and weighed and tied up in brown
paper the "three pounds of white sugar to make cake for the
sewin'-society," which the lad had asked for. A little girl came in
for a pound of bar-soap, and I attended to her wants. Then another
boy, with a basket, came in a hurry for a dozen of eggs. You see, ours
was one of those village-stores that combine all things.

While I waited on these insignificant customers father measured off
great quantities of white goods for the two ladies; and I strained my
ears to hear every word that was said. They asked father if he was
going to New York _soon_? He said, in about ten days. Then Mrs.
Marigold confided to him that they wanted him to purchase twenty-five
yards of white corded silk.

If every cord in that whole piece of silk had been drawing about my
throat I couldn't have felt more suffocated. I sat right down, I felt
so faint, in a tub of butter. I had just sense enough left to remember
that I had on my new spring lavender pants. The butter was
disgustingly soft and mushy.

"Come here, John, and add up this bill," called father.

"I can't; I'm sick."

I had got up from the tub and was leaning on the counter--I was pale,
I know.

"Why, what's the matter?" he asked.

Belle cast one guilty look in my direction. "It's the spring weather,
I dare say," she said softly to my parent.

I sneaked out of the back door and went across the yard to the house
to change my pants. I _was_ sick, and I did not emerge from my room
until the dinner-bell rang.

I went down then, and found father, usually so good-natured, looking
cross, as he carved the roast beef.

"You will never be good for anything, John," was his salutation--"at
least, not as a clerk. I've a good mind to write to Captain Hall to
take you to the North Pole."

"What's up, father?"

"Oh, nothing!" _very_ sarcastically. "That white sugar you sent Mrs.
Smith was table-salt, and she made a whole batch of cake out of it
before she discovered her mistake. She was out of temper when she flew
in the store, I tell you. I had not only to give her the sugar, but
enough butter and eggs to make good her loss, and throw in a neck-tie
to compensate her for waste of time. Before she got away, in came the
mother of the little girl to whom you had given a slab of molasses
candy for bar-soap, and said that the child had brought nothing home
but some streaks of molasses on her face. Just as I was coming out to
dinner the other boy brought back the porcelain eggs you had given him
with word that 'Ma had biled 'em an hour, and she couldn't even budge
the shells.' So you see, my son, that in a miscellaneous store you are
quite out of your element."

"It was that flirt of a Belle Marigold that upset him," said mother,
laughing so that she spilled the gravy on the table-cloth. "He'll be
all right when she is once Mrs. Hencoop."

That very evening Fred came in the store to ask me to be his
groomsman.

"We're going to be married the first of June," he told me, grinning
like an idiot.

"Does Belle know that you invite me to be groomsman?" I responded,
gloomily.

"Yes; she suggested that you be asked. Rose Ellis is to be
bridesmaid."

"Very well; I accept."

"All right, old fellow. Thank you," slapping me on the back.

As I lay tossing restlessly on my bed that night--after an hour spent
in a vain attempt to take the butter out of my lavenders with French
chalk--I made a new and firm resolution. I would make Belle sorry that
she had given her preference to Fred. I would so bear myself--during
our previous meetings and consultations, and during the day of the
ceremony--that she should bitterly repent not having given me an
opportunity to conquer my diffidence before taking up with Frederick
Hencoop. The opportunity was given me to redeem myself. I would prove
that, although modest, I was a gentleman; that the blushing era of
inexperience could be succeeded by one of calm grandeur. Chesterfield
could never have been more quietly self-possessed; Beau Brummell more
imperturbable. I would get by heart all the little formalities of the
occasion, and, when the time came, I would execute them with
consummate ease.

These resolutions comforted me--supported me under the weight of
despair I had to endure. Ha! yes. I would show some people that some
things could be done as well as others.

It was four weeks to the first of June. As I had ruined my lavender
trousers I ordered another pair, with suitable neck-tie, vest, and
gloves, from New York. I also ordered three different and
lately-published books on etiquette. I studied in all three of these
the etiquette of weddings. I thoroughly posted myself on the ancient,
the present, and the future duties of "best men" on such occasions. I
learned how they do it in China, in Turkey, in Russia, in New Zealand,
more particularly how it is done, at present, in England and America.
As the day drew nigh I felt equal to the emergency I had a powerful
motive for acquitting myself handsomely. I wanted to show _her_ what a
mistake she had made.

The wedding was to take place in church at eight o'clock in the
evening. The previous evening we--that is, the bride-elect, groom,
bridesmaid, and groomsman, parents, and two or three friends--had a
private rehearsal, one of the friends assuming the part of clergyman.
All went merry as a marriage bell. I was the soul of ease and grace:
Fred was the awkward one, stepping on the bride's train, dropping the
ring, and so forth.

"I declare, Mr. Flutter, I never saw any one improve as you have,"
said Belle, aside to me, when we had returned to her house. "I do hope
poor Fred will get along better to-morrow. I shall be really vexed at
him if anything goes wrong."

"You must forgive a little flustration on his part," I loftily
answered. "Perhaps, were I in his place, I should be agitated too."

Well, the next evening came, and at seven o'clock I repaired to the
squire's residence. Fred was already there, walking up and down the
parlor, a good deal excited, but dressed faultlessly and looking
frightfully well.

"Why, John," was his first greeting, "aren't you going to wear any
cravat?"

I put my hand up to my neck and dashed madly back a quarter of a mile
for the delicate white silk tie I had left on my dressing bureau.
This, of course, made me uncomfortably warm. When I got back to the
squire's I was in a perspiration, felt that my calm brow was flushed,
and had to wipe it with my handkerchief.

"Come," said that impatient Fred, "you have just two minutes to get
your gloves on."

My hands were damp, and being hurried had the effect to make me
nervous, in spite of four long weeks' constant resolution. What with
the haste and perspiration, I tore the thumb completely out of the
left glove.

Never mind; no time to mend, in spite of the proverb.

The bride came down-stairs, cool, white, and delicious as an orange
blossom. She was helped into one carriage; Fred and I entered another.

"I hope you feel cool," I said to Fred.

"I hope _you_ do," he retorted.

I have always laid the catastrophe which followed to the first mistake
in having to fly home for my neck-tie. I was disconcerted by that, and
I couldn't exactly get concerted again.

I don't know what happened after the carriage stopped at the church
door--I must take the report of my friends for it. They say that I
bolted at the last moment, and followed the bride up one aisle instead
of the groom up the other, as I should have done. But I was perfectly
calm and collected. Oh, yes, that was why, when we attempted to form
in front of the altar, I insisted on standing next to Belle, and when
I was finally pushed into my place by the irate Fred, I kept diving
forward every time the clergyman said anything, trying to take the
bride's hand, and responding, "Belle, I take thee to be my lawful,
wedded," answering, "I do," loudly, to every question, even to that
"Who gives this woman?" etc., until every man, woman, and child in
church was tittering and giggling, and the holy man had to come to a
full pause, and request me to realize that it was not I who was being
married.

"I do. With all my worldly goods I thee endow," was my reply to his
reminder.

"For Heaven's sake subside, or I'll thrash you within an inch of your
life when I get out of this," whispered Fred.

Dimly mistrusting that I was on the wrong track, I turned and seized
Mrs. Marigold by the hand, and began to feel in my pocket for a ring,
because I saw the groom taking one out of his pocket.

The giggling and tittering increased; somebody--father or the
constable--took me by the shoulder and marched me out of that; after
which, I suppose, the ceremony was duly concluded. I only know that
somebody knocked me down about five minutes afterward--I have been
told that it was the bridegroom who did it--and that all the books of
etiquette on earth won't fortify a man against the attacks of
constitutional bashfulness.



CHAPTER IX.

MEETS A PAIR OF BLUE EYES.


I kept pretty quiet the remainder of that summer--didn't even attend
church for several weeks. In fact, I got father to give me a vacation,
and beat a retreat into the country during the month of July, to an
aunt of mine, who lived on a small farm with her husband, her son of
fourteen, and a "hand." Their house was at least a mile from the
nearest neighbor's, and as I was less afraid of Aunt Jerusha than of
any other being of her sex, and as there was not another frock,
sun-bonnet, or apron within the radius of a mile, I promised myself a
month of that negative bliss which comes from retrospection, solitude,
and the pleasure of following the men about the harvest-field. Sitting
quietly under some shadowing tree, with my line cast into the still
pool of a little babbling trout-brook, where it was held in some
hollow of nature's hand, I had leisure to forget the past and to make
good resolutions for the future. Belle Marigold was forever lost to
me. She was Mrs. Hencoop; and Fred had knocked me down because I had
been so unfortunate as to lose my presence of mind at his wedding.
All was over between us.

The course now open for me to pursue was to forever steel my heart to
the charms of the other sex, to attend strictly to business, to grow
rich and honored, while, at the same time, I hardened into a sort of
granite obelisk, incapable of blushing, faltering, or stepping on
other people's toes.

One day, as the men were hauling in the "loaded wains" from the fields
to the great barn, I sat under my favorite tree, as usual, waiting for
a bite. Three speckled beauties already lay in a basin of water at my
side, and I was thinking what a pleasant world this would be were
there no girls in it, when suddenly I heard a burst of silvery
laughter!

Looking up, there, on the opposite side of the brook, stood two young
ladies! They were evidently city girls. Their morning toilets were the
perfection of simple elegance--hats, parasols, gloves, dresses, the
very cream of style.

Both of them were pretty--one a dark, bright-eyed brunette, the other
a blonde, fair as a lily and sweet as a rose. Their faces sparkled
with mischief, but they made a great effort to resume their dignity.

I jumped to my feet, putting one of them--my feet, I mean--in the
basin of water I had for my trout.

"Oh, it's too bad to disturb you, sir," said the dark-eyed one. "You
were just having a nibble, I do believe. But we have lost our way. We
are boarding at the Widow Cooper's, and came out for a ramble in the
woods, and got lost; and here, just as we thought we were on the right
way home, we came to this naughty little river, or whatever you call
it, and can't go a step farther. Is there no way of getting across it,
sir?"

"There is a bridge about a quarter of a mile above here, but to get to
it you will have to go through a field in which there is a very cross
bull. Then there is a log just down here a little ways--I'll show it
to you, ladies"; and tangling my beautiful line inextricably in my
embarrassment, I threw down my fishing-rod and led the way, I on one
side of the stream and they on the other.

"Oh, oh!" cried Blue-Eyes, when we reached the log. "I'll be sure to
get dizzy and fall off."

"Nonsense!" said Black-Eyes, bravely, and walked over without winking.

"I shall never--never dare!" screamed Blue-Eyes.

"Allow me to assist you, miss," I said, in my best style, going on the
log and reaching out my hand to steady her.

She laid her little gray glove in my palm, and put one tiny slipper on
the log, and then she stood, the little coquette! shrinking and
laughing, and taking a step and retreating, and I falling head over
ears in love with her, deeper and deeper every second. I do believe,
if the other one hadn't been there, I would have taken her right up in
my arms and carried her over. Well, Black-Eyes began to scold, and so,
at last, she ventured across, and then she said she was tired and
thirsty, and did wish she had a glass of milk; and so I asked her to
go to the house, and rest a few minutes, and Aunt Jerusha would give
them some milk. You'd better believe aunt opened her eyes, when she
saw me marching in as bold as brass, with two stylish young ladies;
while, the moment I met her sly look, all my customary confusion--over
which I had contrived to hold a tight rein--ran rampant and jerked at
my self-possession until I lost control of it!

"These young ladies, Aunt Jerusha," I stammered, "would like a glass
of milk. They've got lost, and don't know where they are, and can't
find their way back, and I expect I'll have to show them the way."

"They're very welcome," said aunt, who was kindness itself, and she
went into the milk-pantry and brought out two large goblets of
morning's milk, with the rising cream sticking around the inside.

I started forward gallantly, took the server from aunt's hand, and
conveyed it, with almost the grace of a French waiter, across the
large kitchen to where the two beautiful beings were resting in the
chairs which I had set for them. Unfortunately, being blinded by my
bashfulness, I caught my toe in a small hole in aunt's rag carpet, the
result being that I very abruptly deposited both glasses of milk,
bottom up, in the lap of Blue-Eyes. A feeling of horror overpowered me
as I saw that exquisite toilet in ruins--those dainty ruffles, those
cunning bows the color of her eyes, submerged in the lacteal fluid.

I think a ghastly pallor must have overspread my face as I stood
motionless, grasping the server in my clenched hands.

What do you think Blue-Eyes said? _This_ is the way she "gave me
fits." Looking up prettily to my aunt, she says:

"Oh, madam, I am _so_ sorry for your carpet."

"Your dress!" exclaimed Aunt Jerusha.

"Never mind _that_, madam. It can go to the laundry."

"Well, I never!" continued aunt, flying about for a towel, and wiping
her off as well as she could; "but John Flutter is so careless. He's
_always_ blundering. He means well enough, but he's bashful. You'd
think a clerk in a dry-goods store would get over it some time now,
wouldn't you? Well, young ladies, I'll get some more milk for you; but
I won't trust it in _his_ hands."

When Aunt Jerusha let the cat out of the bag about my bashfulness,
Blue-Eyes flashed, at me from under her long eyelashes a glance so
roguish, so perfectly infatuating, that my heart behaved like a
thermometer that is plunged first into a tea-kettle and then into
snow; it went up into my throat, and then down into my boots. I still
grasped the server and stood there like a revolving lantern--one
minute white, another red. Finally my heart settled into my boots. It
was evident that fate was against me. I was _doomed_ to go on leading
a blundering existence. My admiration for this lovely girl was already
a thousand times stronger than any feeling I had ever had for Belle
Marigold. Yet how ridiculous I must appear to her. How politely she
was laughing at me.

The sense of this, and the certainty that I was born to blunder, came
home to me with crushing weight. I turned slowly to Aunt Jerusha, who
was bringing fresh milk, and said, with a simplicity to which pathos
must have given dignity:

"Aunt, will you show them the way to Widow Cooper's? I am going to the
barn to hang myself," and I walked out.

"Is he in earnest?" I heard Blue-Eyes inquire.

"Wall, now, I shouldn't be surprised," avowed Aunt Jerusha. "He's been
powerful low-spirited lately. You see, ladies, he was born that
bashful that life is a burden to him."

I walked on in the direction of the barn; I would not pause to listen
or to cast a backward glance. Doubtless, my relative told them of my
previous futile attempt to poison myself--perhaps became so interested
in relating anecdotes of her nephew's peculiar temperament, that she
forgot the present danger which threatened him. At least, it was some
time before she troubled herself to follow me to ascertain if my
threat meant anything serious.

When she finally arrived at the large double door, standing wide open
for the entrance of the loaded wagons, she gave a sudden shriek.

I was standing on the beam which supported the light flooring of the
hay-loft; beneath was the threshing-floor; above me the great rafters
of the barn, and around one of these I had fastened a rope, the other
terminus of which was knotted about my neck.

I stood ready for the fatal leap.

As she screamed, I slightly raised my hand:

"Silence, Aunt Jerusha, and receive my parting instructions. Tell
Blue-Eyes that I love her madly, but not to blame herself for my
untimely end. The ruin of her dress was only the last drop in the
cup--the last straw on the camel's back. Farewell!" and as she threw
up her arms and shrieked to me to desist, I rolled up my eyes--and
sprang from the beam.

For a moment I thought myself dead. The experience was different from
what I had anticipated. Instead of feeling choked, I had a pain in my
legs, and it seemed to me that I had been shut together like an
opera-glass. Still I knew that I must be dead, and I kept very quiet
until the sound of little screams and gurgles of--what?--_laughter_,
smote my ears!

Then I opened my eyes and looked about. I was not dangling in the air
overhead, but standing on the threshing-floor, with a bit of broken
halter about my neck. The rope had played traitor and given way
without even chafing my throat.

[Illustration: "I STOOD READY FOR THE FATAL LEAP."]

I dare say the sight of me, standing there with my eyes closed and
looking fully convinced that I was dead, must have been vastly
amusing to the two young ladies, who had followed Aunt Jerusha to the
door. They laughed as if I had been the prince of clowns, and had just
performed a most funny trick in the ring. I began to feel as if I had,
too.

Aunt rushed forward and gave me a shake.

"Another blunder, John," she said; "it's plain as the nose on a man's
face that Providence never intended you to commit suicide."

And then Blue-Eyes, repressing her mirth, came forward, half shy and
half coaxing, and said to me:

"How my sister and I would feel if you had killed yourself on our
account! Come! do please show us the way to our boarding-house. Mamma
will be so anxious about us."

Cunning witch! she knows, how to twist a man around her little finger.

"Come," she continued, "let _me_ untie this ugly rope."

And I did let her, and picked up my hat to walk with them to the Widow
Cooper's.

They made themselves very agreeable on the way--so that I would think
no more of hanging myself, I suppose.

Only one more little incident occurred on the road. We met a tramp. He
was a roughly-dressed fellow, with a straw hat such as farmers wear,
whose broad brim nearly hid his face. He sauntered up impudently, and,
before we could pass him, he chucked Blue-Eyes under the chin. In
less than half a second he was flying backward over the rail fence,
although he was a tall fellow, more than my weight.

"Now," said I proudly to myself, "she will forget that unlucky circus
performance in the barn."

Imagine my sensations when she turned on me with the fire flashing out
of those soft blue eyes.

"What did you fling my brother over the fence for?"

That was what she asked me.



CHAPTER X.

HE CATCHES A TROUT AND PRESENTS IT TO A LADY.


"Some achieve greatness; some have greatness thrust upon them." I
think I have achieved greatness. Of one thing I am convinced: that it
is only necessary to do some one thing _well_--as well or better than
any one else--in order to acquire distinction. The thing I do really
well--better than any living human being--is to blunder. I defy
competition. There are champion tight-rope dancers, billiard players,
opera singers, swindlers, base-ballists, candidates for the
Presidency. I am the champion blunderer. You remember the man who
asked of another, "Who is that coarse, homely creature across the
room?" and received for answer, "That creature is my wife!" Well, I
_ought_ to have been that man, although in that case I did not happen
to be. My compliments always turn out to be left-handed ones; all my
remarks, all my efforts to please are but so many never-ending
_faux-pas_.

As a general seeks to retrieve one defeat by some act of unparalleled
bravery, so had I sought to wipe out from the memory of the lovely
pair whom I escorted, my shameful failure to hang myself, by gallantly
pitching over the fence the fellow who had made himself too familiar
with the fairer of the two; and, as a _matter of course_, he turned
out to be her favorite brother.

He was a good-natured fellow, after all--a perfect gentleman; and when
I stammered out my excuses, saying that I had mistaken him for a
tramp, he laughed and shook hands with me, explaining that he was in
his fishing costume, and saying very handsomely that were his dear
sister ever in such danger of being insulted, he hoped some person as
plucky as I would be on hand to defend her. This was applying cold
cream to my smarting self-love. But it did not prevent me from
observing the sly glances exchanged between the girls, nor prevent my
hearing the little bursts of suppressed giggling which they pretended
were caused by the funny motions of the hay-cutter in a neighboring
field. So, as their brother could show them the way to Widow Cooper's,
I said good-morning rather abruptly. He called me back, however, and
asked if I would not like to join him on a fishing tramp in the
morning. I said "I would, and I knew all the best places."

Then we shook hands again, while the young ladies smiled like angels;
but I had not more than turned a bend in the road, which hid me from
view, than I heard such shrieks and screams of laughter as turned my
two ears into boiled lobsters for the remainder of the day.

But, spite of my burning ears, I could not get mad at those girls.
They had a right to laugh at me, for I had, as usual, made myself
ridiculous. I was head over ears in love with Blue-Eyes. The feeling I
had once cherished toward Belle Marigold, compared with my sudden
adoration of this glorious stranger, was as bean-soup to the condensed
extract of beef, as water to wine, as milk to cream, as mush to
mince-pie.

I do not think I slept a wink that night. My room was suffocating, and
I took a pillow, and crawled out on the roof of the kitchen, just
under my window, and stretched myself out on the shingles, and winked
back at the stars which winked at me, and thought of the bright,
flashing eyes of the bewitching unknown. I resolved to seek her
acquaintance, through her brother, and never, never to blunder again,
but to be calm and cool like other young men--calm, cool, and
persistent. It might have been four o'clock in the morning that I came
to this determination, and so soothing was it, that I was able to take
a brief nap after it.

I was awakened by young Knickerbocker, the lady's brother, tickling
the soles of my feet with a rake, and I started up with such violence
from a sound sleep, that I slipped on the inclined plane, rolled down
to the edge, and went over into a hogshead of rain-water just
underneath.

"A capital way to take your morning bath," smiled Knickerbocker.
"Come, Mr. Flutter, get out of that, and find your rod and line, and
come along. I have a good breakfast in this basket, which we will eat
in some dewy nook of the woods, while we are waiting for a nibble. The
early bird catches the worm, you know."

"I'll be with you in a moment," I answered with a blank grin,
determined to be cool and composed, though my sudden plunge had
somewhat dazed me; and scrambling out of the primitive cistern, I
regained the roof by means of a ladder standing against a cherry-tree
not far away.

Consoling myself with the idea that this early adventure was an
_accident_ and not a _blunder_, I hastily dressed, and rejoined my new
friend, with rod and line, and a box of flies.

We had a delightful morning. Knickerbocker was affable. Alone in the
solitudes of nature with one of my own sex, I was tolerably at home,
and flattered myself that I appeared to considerable advantage,
especially as I really was a skillful angler, and landed two trout to
my friend's landing one. By ten o'clock we each had a lovely string of
the speckled beauties, and decided to go home for the day, returning
on the morrow.

The path we took out of the woods came into the highway just in front
of the Widow Cooper's. I knew it, but I felt quite cool, and
determined to make some excuse to catch another glimpse of my
companion's sister. I had one splendid fish among my treasures,
weighing over two pounds, while none of his weighed over a pound. I
would present that trout to Flora Knickerbocker! I would ask her to
have the cook prepare it for her special delectation.

We emerged upon the lawn and sauntered up to the front of the house,
where some half-dozen ladies were sitting on the long porch, doing
worsted-work and reading novels. I saw my charmer among them, and, as
she looked up from the book she was reading, and shot at me a
mischievous glance from those thrilling eyes, I felt my coolness
melting at the most alarming rate.

How I envied the easy, careless grace with which my friend sauntered
up to the group! Why should I not be as graceful, as easy? I would
make a desperate effort to "assume a virtue if I had it not." I, too,
sauntered elegantly, lifted my hat killingly, and approached my
charmer just as if I didn't realize that I was turning all the colors
of the chameleon.

"Miss Knickerbocker," I began, "will you deign to accept the champion
trout of the season?"

The string of glistening fish hung from the fine patent rod which I
carried over my shoulder. I never could undo the tangle of how it all
came about; but, in my embarrassment, I must have handled things not
quite so gracefully as I intended--the line had become unwound, and
the hook dangling at the end of it as I attempted to lower the rod
caught in my coat collar behind, and the more I tugged the more it
would not come out. I flushed and jerked, and tried to see the back of
my head, while the ladies smiled encouragingly, rendering me more and
more desperate, until I gave a fearful twitch, and the barb came
flying out and across the porch, striking a prim maiden lady on the
head.

More and more confused, I gave a sudden pull to relieve the lady, and
succeeded in getting a very queer bite indeed. At first I thought, in
my horror, that I had drawn the whole top of the unfortunate
spinster's head off; but a second frightened look showed me that it
was only her scalpette, or false front, or whatever the dear creatures
call a half-wig, all frizzes and crimps. Almost faint with dismay at
the glare of anger in the lady's eyes, and the view of the bald white
spot on top of her head, I hurriedly drew the thing toward me to
remove it from the hook, when a confounded little Spitz, seeing the
spot, and thinking, doubtless, I was playing with him, made a dash at
the wig, and in less time than it takes to tell it, that thing of
beauty was a wreck forever. Its unfortunate owner, with a look which
nearly annihilated me, fled up-stairs to her apartment.

Nor was my discomfiture then ended. That Spitz--that precious
Spitz--belonged to Blue-Eyes; I tried to coax him to relinquish his
game; he would not be persuaded, and, in the ardor of his pursuit, he
swallowed the cruel hook. I had wanted to present her with a trout,
and had only succeeded in hooking her favorite pet--"her darling, her
dear, dear little Spitzy-witzy," as she called him, in tones of
mingled endearment and anguish, as she flew to rescue him from his
cruel fate.

"Oh, what can I do?" she sobbed, looking up at her brother.

"Cut him open and remove the hook," he answered gravely; "there is no
other possible way of relieving the poor fellow."

"I wish _I_ had swallowed it," I murmured, bitterly, throwing my fish
into the grass of the lawn, and pulling at my mustache desperately in
my despair of ever doing as other people do.

"I really wish you had," snapped Blue-Eyes, satirically, and with that
I walked off and left them to take Spitz from around that fish-hook
the best way they could.

I don't imagine I left many female friends on that porch, nor did I
see any of the Widow Cooper's boarders again for a week, when we were
brought together, under rather peculiar circumstances at a circus.



CHAPTER XI.

HE GOES TO THE CIRCUS.


In vain I struggled to regain the peace of mind I was beginning to
enjoy before I met Flora Knickerbocker. I could not forget her; I
dared not approach her--for I had heard a rumor that her dog had died
a _barb_-arous death, and his young mistress was inconsolable. I spent
the long, lazy summer days in dreaming of her, and wishing that
bashfulness were a curable disease.

One morning, very early, when

    "The window slowly grew a glimmering square,"

I heard an unwonted commotion on our quiet road, and slipping out of
bed, I went to the window to see "what was up." It was a circus
company, with a menagerie attachment, winding through the dim dawn,
elephant and all.

For a moment my heart beat, as in its childish days, at sight of the
unique cavalcade; but it soon grew sad, and ached worse than ever at
the reflection that Miss Flora was a city girl, and would despise a
circus. However, some time during the day I heard from aunt that
_all_ of Widow Cooper's boarders had made up their minds to attend,
that evening, the performance, which was to take place in a small town
two miles from us. These fine city folks doubtless thought it would be
an innocent "lark" to go to the circus in this obscure country
village.

I had outgrown my childish taste for the hyena, the gnu, and the
anaconda; I was indifferent to the india-rubber man; nor did I care
much for the beautiful bare-back rider who was to flash through the
hoops like a meteor through the orbits of the planets; but I did long
to steal one more look, unseen, unsuspected, at the sweet face which
was lovelier to me, even in its anger, than any other. I had been the
means of Spitz's death--very well, I could hide myself in some obscure
corner of the amphitheater, and gaze at her mournfully from the
distance. While she gazed at the ring, I would gaze at _her_.

So I went to the circus, along with a good many other people. _She_
came early with the Cooper party, and seemed interested and amused by
the rough-board seats, and the novelty of the scene, and the audience.
I had not yet chosen my perch on the boards, for I wanted to get as
near to her as I could without her observing me.

The sight of her--resolved as I was to be cool, calm, and
collected--so affected my eyesight that I walked right into the rope
stretched around the ring, and fell over into the tan-bark.

All the boys hooted and laughed, and made personal remarks, wanting to
know if I were the clown, and similar questions, which I heard with
silent dignity. I hoped and prayed that _she_ had not recognized the
tumbler who had begun the performances as an amateur, and without any
salary from Barnum. They were on the opposite side of the circle, and
perhaps I escaped their remark.

Contriving to mingle myself with some newcomers, I made my way more
cautiously to within a few feet of my charmer. I did not intend she
should see me, and was surprised when she whispered to her brother,
upon which he immediately looked in my direction and beckoned me to a
seat in their party.

Oh, bliss! In another moment I was at her feet--sitting on the plank
next lower than that which held her lovely form, with the dainty
billows of lace and organdie rippling around me, and her little toes
pressed into the small of my back. Was this a common, vulgar
circus--with a menagerie attachment? To me it was the seventh heaven.
The clown leaped lightly into the ring, cracked his whip, and began
his witticisms. I heard him as one hears the murmur of the sea in his
dreams. The beautiful bare-back rider galloped, ran, jumped, smiled,
kissed her hand, and trotted off the stage with Master Clown at her
heels and the whole scene was to me only as a scene in a painting on
which my eye casually fell. The only living, breathing fact of which
I was really conscious was that those blue eyes were shining like
stars just over my head.

In the pauses of the drama, the lemonade man went by. What was he to
me, or I to him? Noisy boys or verdant farming youths might patronize
him at their will--I slaked my thirst with deep draughts of a nectar
no lemonade-fellow could dispense at two cents a glass. While the
cannon-ball man was catching a ten-pound ball between his teeth, and
the boneless boy was tying himself in a double bow-knot, I was
pleasing myself with images of the darling little Spitz I would seek,
purchase, and present to Miss Flora in place of the one who had
thoughtlessly swallowed my fish-hook.

"Were you ever in love, young man?" suddenly asked the clown, after
the india-rubber athlete had got tired of turning himself, like a
dozen flap-jacks on a hot griddle.

The question startled me. I looked up. It seemed to me, as he eyed me,
that he had addressed it particularly to me. I blushed. Some strange
country girls on either side of me began to titter. I blushed more
decidedly. The motley chap in the ring must have seen it. He grinned
from ear to ear, walked up to the very edge of the rope, and repeated:

"Were you ever in love, young man?"

There were young men all round me; he might have looked at
Knickerbocker, or any one of a dozen others; if I had not been
supersensitive I never should have imagined that he meant to be
personal.

If I had not retained the self-possession of an egotist, I should have
reflected that it was not the thing to notice the vulgar wit of a
circus-clown. Unfortunately self-possession is the last possession of
a bashful man. I half rose from my seat, demanding fiercely:

"Are you speaking to me, sir?"

"If the shoe fits, you can wear it," was the grinning answer; and then
there was a shout from the whole audience--hooting, laughter, clapping
of hands--and I felt that I had made a Dundreary of myself.

"We beg parding," went on the rascal, stepping back and bowing. "We
had no intentions of being personal--meant no young gentleman in
partikilar. We _always_ make a point of asking a few questions in
general. Here comes mademoiselle, the celebrated tight-rope dancer,"
etc., etc., and the thousand eyes which had been glued to my scarlet
face were diverted to a new attraction.

"I'll thrash that scoundrel within an inch of his life," I said to
young Knickerbocker, who was sitting behind me beside his sister.

"You will have to whip the whole circus, then; these fellows all stand
by each other. Your policy is to let the matter drop."

"I'll whip the whole circus, then," I retorted, savagely.

"Please don't," said a soft voice, and I wilted under it.

"It maddens me to be always made ridiculous before _you_," I
whispered. "I'm a dreadfully unfortunate man, Miss Knick----"

"_Fire_!"

A frightful cry in such a place as that! Something flashed up
brightly--I saw flames about something in the ring--the crowd arose
from the benches--women screamed--men yelled.

"Sit still, Flora!" I heard young Knickerbocker say, sternly.

I thought of a million things in the thousandth part of a second--of
the flaming canvas, the deadly crush, the wild beasts, terrified and
breaking from their cages. It was folly, it was madness, to linger a
moment in hopes of the fire being subdued. I looked toward the
entrance--it was not far from us; a few people were going quickly out.
I was stronger than her brother; I could fight my way through any
crowd with that slight form held in one arm.

"_Fire_!"

I dallied with fate no longer. Grasping Flora by her slender waist, I
dragged her from her seat, and hurried her along through the
thickening throng. When she could no longer keep her feet. I supported
her entirely, elbowing, pushing, struggling with the maddest of them.
I reached the narrow exit--I fought my way through like a tiger.
Bleeding, exhausted, my hat gone, my coat torn from my back, I at last
emerged under the calm moonlight with my darling held to my panting
heart. Bearing her apart from the jostling crowd, I looked backward,
expecting to see the devouring flames stream high from the combustible
roof. As yet they had not broken through. I set my treasure gently
down on her little feet. Her bonnet was gone, her wealth of golden
hair hung disheveled about her pale face.

"Are we safe?" she murmured.

"Yes, thank Heaven, your precious life is saved!"

"Oh! where is my brother?"

"Here!" said a cold voice behind us, and young Knickerbocker coolly
took his sister on his own arm. "What in the name of folly did you
drag her off in that style for? A pretty-looking girl you are, Flora,
I must say!"

"But the fire!" I gasped.

"Was all out in less than a minute. A lamp exploded, but fortunately
set fire to nothing else. I never saw anything more utterly ridiculous
than you dragging my sister off through that crowd, and me sitting
still and laughing at you. I don't know whether to look on you as a
hero or a fool, Mr. Flutter."

"Look on me as a blunderer," I said meekly.

But the revulsion of feeling was too great; I felt myself turning sick
and faint, and when I knew anything again I was home in bed. And now I
owe Miss Flora a new bonnet as well as a little dog.



CHAPTER XII.

A LEAP FOR LIFE.


It is impossible to make an ordinary person understand the chaos of
mingled feelings with which I heard, two days after the circus
performance in which I had so large a share, that Blue-Eyes and
Company had departed for a tour of the watering-places--feelings of
anguish and relief mixed in about equal proportions. I madly loved
her, but I had known from the first that my love was hopeless, and the
thought of meeting her, after having made myself so ridiculous, was
torture. Therefore I felt relief that I was no longer in danger of
encountering the mocking laughter of those blue eyes, but I lost my
appetite. I moped, pined, grew pale, freckled, and listless.

"What's the use of wasting harvest apples making dumplings, when you
don't eat none, John?" asked my aunt, one day at dinner, after the
hands had left the table.

"Aunt," replied I, solemnly, "don't mock me with apple dumplings; they
may be light, but my heart is heavy."

"La, John, try a little east on your heart," said she, laughing--by
"east" she meant yeast, I suppose.

"No, aunt, not 'east,' but west. My mind is made up. I'm going out to
Colorado to fight the Indians."

She let the two-tined steel fork drop out of her hand.

"What will your ma say to that?" she gasped.

"I tell you I am going," was my firm reply, and I went.

Yes, I had long sighed to be a Juan Fernandez, or a Mount Washington
weatherologist, or something lonesome and sad, as my readers know.
Fighting Indians would be a terrible risky business; but compared to
facing the "girls of the period" it would be the merest play. I was
weary of a life that was all mistakes. "Better throw it away," I
thought, bitterly, "and give my scalp to dangle at a redskin's belt,
than make another one of my characteristic and preposterous blunders."

I had heard that Buffalo Bill was about to start for the Rocky
Mountains, and I wrote to New York asking permission to join him. He
answered that I could, if I was prepared to pay my own way. I
immediately bade my relatives farewell, went home, borrowed two
hundred dollars of father, told mother she was the only woman I wasn't
afraid of, kissed her good-bye, and met Buffalo Bill at the next large
town by appointment, he being already on his way West. I came home
_after dark_, and left again _before daylight_, and that was the last
I saw of my native village for some time.

"You don't let on yer much of a fighter?" asked the great scout, as he
saw me hunt all over six pockets and blush like a girl when the
conductor came for our tickets, and finally hand him a postal-card
instead of the bit of pasteboard he was impatiently waiting to punch.

"Oh, I guess I'll fight like a rat when it comes to that," I answered.
"I'm brave as a lion--only I'm bashful."

"Great tomahawks! is that yer disease?" groaned Bill.

"Yes, that's my trouble," I said, quite confidentially, for somehow I
seemed to get on with the brave hunter more easily than with the
starched minions of society. "I'm bashful, and I'm tired of civilized
life. I'm always putting my foot in it when I'm trying the hardest to
keep it out. Besides, I'm in love, and the girl I want don't want me.
It's either deliberate suicide or death on the plains with me."

"Precisely. I understand. _I've been thar!_" said Buffalo Bill; and we
got along well together from the first.

He encouraged the idea that in my present state of mind I would make a
magnificent addition to his chosen band; but I have since had some
reason to believe that he was leading me on for the sole purpose of
making a scarecrow of me--setting me up in some spot frequented by
the redskins, to become their target, while he and his comrades
scooped down from some ambush and wiped out a score or two of them
after I had perished at my post. I _suspect_ this was his plan. He
probably considered that so stupid a blunderer as I deserved no better
fate than to be used as a decoy. I think so myself. I have nothing
like the extravagant opinion of my own merits that I had when I first
launched out into the sea of human conflict.

At all events, Buffalo Bill was very kind to me all the way out to the
plains; he protected me as if I had been a timid young lady--took
charge of my tickets, escorted me to and fro from the station
eating-houses, almost cut up my food and eating it for me; and if a
woman did but glance in my direction, he scowled ferociously. Under
such patronage I got through without any accident.

It was the last day of our ride by rail. In the car which we helped to
occupy there was not a single female, and I was happy. A sense of
repose--of safety--stole over me, which even the knowledge that on the
morrow we were to take the war-path could not overcome.

"Oh," sighed I, "no women! This _is_ bliss!"

In about five minutes after I had made this remark the train drew up
at one of those little stations that mark off the road, and the scout
got off a minute to see a man. Fatal minute! In that brief sixty
seconds of time a female made her appearance in the car door, looked
all along the line, and, either because the seat beside me was the
only vacant one, or because she liked my looks, she came, and, without
so much as "by your leave," plumped down by me.

"This seat is engaged," I mildly remonstrated, growing as usual very
red.

She looked around at me, saw me blush, and began to titter.

"No, young man," said she, "I ain't engaged, but I told ma I bet I
would be before I got to Californy."

By this time my protector had returned; but, seeing a woman, and a
young woman at that, in his seat, he coolly ignored my imploring looks
and passed out into the next car.

"I'm going on the platform to smoke," he whispered.

"Be _you_ engaged?" continued my new companion.

"No, miss," I stammered.

"Ain't that lucky?" she giggled. "Who knows but what we may make up
our minds to hitch horses afore we get to Californy!" and she eyed me
all over without a bit of bashfulness, and seemed to admire me. My
goodness! this was worse than Alvira Slimmens!

"But I'm only going a few hours farther, and I'm not a marrying man,
and I'm bound for the Indian country," I murmured.

She remained silent a few moments, and I stole a side-glance at her.
She was a sharp-looking girl; her hair was cut short, and in the
morocco belt about her waist I saw the glitter of a small revolver.
Before I had finished these observations she turned suddenly toward
me, and her black eyes rested fully on me as she asked:

"Stranger, do you believe in love at first sight?"

"No--no, indeed, miss; not for worlds!" I murmured, startled.

"Well, I _do_," said she; "and mebbe you will, yet."

"I--I don't believe in anything of the kind," I reiterated, getting as
far as possible into my corner of the seat.

"La! you needn't be bashful," she went on, laughing; "I ain't a-going
to scourge you. Thar's room enough for both of us."

She subsided again, and again broke out:

"Bound for the Injun country, are you? So'm I. Whar do you get off?"

"I thought you said you were going to California?" I remarked, more
and more alarmed.

Then that girl with the revolver winked at me slyly.

"I _am_ going there--in the course of time; but I'm going by easy
stages. I ain't in no hurry. I told ma I'd be married by the time I
got there, and I mean to keep my word I may be six months going, yer
see."

Another silence, during which I mutely wondered how long it would take
Buffalo Bill to smoke his pipe.

"Don't believe in love at first sight! Sho!" resumed my companion.
"You ain't got much spunk, you ain't! Why, last week a girl and a
fellow got acquainted in this very car--this very seat, for all I
know--and afore they reached Lone Tree Station they was _engaged_.
There happened to be a clergyman going out to San Francisco on the
train, and he married 'em afore sunset, he did. When I heerd of that,
I said to myself, 'Sally Spitfire, why don't _you_ fix up and travel,
too? Who knows what may happen?'"

Unmerciful fates! had I fled from civilization only to fall a prey to
a female like this? It looked like it. There wasn't much fooling about
this damsel's love-making. Cold chills ran down my spine. My eye
avoided hers; I bit my nails and looked out of the window.

"Ain't much of a talker, are ye?" she ran on. "That just suits me. My
tongue is long enough for both of us. I always told ma I wouldn't
marry a great talker--there'd be one too many in the house."

I groaned in anguish of spirit; I longed to see a thousand wild and
painted warriors swoop down upon the train. I thought of our peaceful
dry-goods store at home, and I would gladly have sat down in another
butter-tub could I have been there. I even thought of earthquakes
with a sudden longing; but we were not near enough the Western shore
to hope for anything so good as an earthquake.

"I do wonder if thar's a clergyman on _this_ train," remarked the
young lady, reflectively.

"Supposing there is," I burst out, in desperation, "does any one need
his services? Is anybody going to die?"

"Not as I know of," was the meaning reply, while Miss Spitfire looked
at me firmly, placing her hand on her revolver as she spoke; "not if
people behave as they ought--like gentlemen--and don't go trifling
with an unprotected girl's affections in a railroad car."

"Who--who--who's been doing so?" I stammered.

"_You_ have, and I hold you accountable. You've got to marry me. I've
made up my mind. And when Sally Spitfire makes up her mind, she means
it. To refuse my hand is to insult me, and no man shall insult me with
safety. No, sir! not so long as I carry a Colt's revolver. I took a
fancy to you, young man, the minute my eyes rested on you. I froze to
you to oncst. I calculate to marry you right off. Will you inquire
around for a clergyman? or shall I do it myself?"

"I will go," I said, quickly.

"P'raps I'd better go 'long," she said, suspiciously, and as I arose
she followed suit, and we walked down the car together, she twice
asking in a loud voice if there was a minister on board.

"One in the next car," at last spoke a fellow, looking at us with a
broad grin.

We stepped out on the platform to enter the next car--now was my
time--now or never! I looked at the ground--it was tolerably level and
covered with grass; the train was running at moderate speed; there was
but one way to escape my tormentor. Making my calculations as
accurately as possible, I suddenly leaped from the steps of the car;
my head and feet seemed driven into one another; I rolled over and
over--thought I was dead, was surprised to find I was not dead, picked
myself up, shook myself.

"Ha! ha! ha!" I laughed hysterically; "I'm out of that scrape,
anyway!"

"Oh, are you?" said a voice behind me.

I whirled about. As true as I'm writing this, there stood that girl!
Her hat was knocked off, her nose was bleeding, but she was smiling
right in my face.

I cast a look of anguish at the retreating train. No one had noticed
our mad leap; and the cars were gliding smoothly away--away--leaving
me alone on the wide plains with that determined female!



CHAPTER XIII.

ONE OF THE FAIR SEX COMES TO HIS RESCUE.


Before I comprehended that the indomitable female stood beside me, the
train was puffing pitilessly away.

"Oh, stop! stop! stop! stop!" I called and yelled in an agony of
apprehension; but I might as well have appealed to the wind that went
whistling by.

"Perhaps the locomotive will hear you, and down brakes of its own
accord," said Miss Spitfire, scornfully. "I told ma I was gwine to get
a husband 'fore I got to Californy, an' I _have_ got one. You jest set
down on that bowlder, an' don't you try to make a move till the train
from 'Frisco comes along. Then you git aboard along with me, an' if
there ain't no minister to be found in them cars, I'll haul you off at
Columbus, where there's two to my certain knowledge."

She had her revolver in her hand, directed _point blank_ at my
quivering, quaking heart. Though I am bashful, I am no coward, and I
thought for full two minutes that I'd let her fire away, if such was
her intention.

"Better be dead than live in a land so full of women that I can never
hope for any comfort!" I thought, bitterly; and so confronted the
enemy in the growing calmness of despair.

"Ain't you a-going fur to set down on that bowlder?"

"No, madam, I am _not_! I would rather be shot than married, at any
time. Why! I was going to fight the Indians with Buffalo Bill, on
purpose to get rid of the girls."

Sally looked at me curiously; her outstretched arm settled a little
until the revolver pointed at my knee instead of my heart.

"P'raps you've been disappointed in love?" she queried.

"Not that entirely," I answered, honestly.

"P'raps you've run away from a breach of promise?"

"Oh, no! no, indeed!"

"What on airth do you want to get rid o' the girls fur, then?"

"Miss Spitfire," said I, scraping the gravel with the toe of my boot,
"I'm afraid of them. I'm bashful."

"BASHFUL!" Miss Spitfire cried, and then she began to laugh.

She laughed and laughed until I believed and hoped she would laugh
herself into pieces. The idea struck this creature in so ludicrous a
light that she nearly went into convulsions. _She_, alas, had never
been troubled by such a weakness. I watched my opportunity, when she
was doubled up with mirth, to snatch the revolver from her hand.

The tables were now turned, but not for long. She sprang at me like a
wildcat; I defended myself as well as I could without really hurting
her, maintaining my hold on the revolver, but not attempting to use it
on my scratching, clawing antagonist. The station-master came out of
Lone Tree station, a mile away, and walked up the track to see what
was going on. Of course he had no notion of what it was, but it amused
him to see the fight, and he kept cheering and urging on Miss Sally,
probably with the idea that she was my wife and we were indulging in a
domestic squabble. At the same time it chanced that a boat load of six
or eight of the roughest fellows it had ever been my lot to meet, and
all with their belts stuck full of knives and revolvers, came rowing
across the river, not far away, and landed just in time to "see the
fun." When Miss Spitfire saw these ruffians she ceased clawing and
biting me, and appealed to them.

I was dumbfounded by the falsehood ready on her lips.

"Will you, _gentlemen_," said she, "stand by and see a young lady
deserted by this sneak?"

"What's up?" asked a brawny fellow, seven feet high, glaring at me as
if he thought I had committed seventeen murders.

"I'll tell you," responded Spitfire, panting for breath. "We was
engaged to be married, we was, all fair an' square. He pretended to
be goin' through the train to look fur a minister fur to tie the knot,
an' just sneaked off the train, when it stopped yere; but I see him in
time, an' I jumped off, too, an' I nabbed him."

"Shall we hang the little skunk up to yonder tree? or shall we set him
up fur a target an' practice firing at a mark fur about five minutes?
Will do whatever you say, young lady. We're a rough set; but we don't
lay out to see no wimmen treated scurvy."

I'm no coward, as I said, but I dare say my face was not very smiling
as I met the flashing eyes and saw the scowling brows of those giant
ruffians, whose hands were already drawing the bowie-knives and
pistols from their belts. But I steadied my voice and spoke up:

"Boys," said I, very friendly, "what's the use of a pair hitching
together who do not like each other, and who will always be uneasy in
harness? If I married her, she would be sorry. Come, let us go up to
the station and have something to drink. Choose your own refreshments,
and don't be backward."

There was a good deal of growling and muttering; but the temptation
was irresistible. The result was that in half an hour not a drop of
liquor remained to the poor fellow who kept the station--that I paid
up the score "like a man," as my drunken companions assured me, who
now clapped me familiarly on the shoulder, and called me "Little
Grit," as a pet name--that Miss Spitfire, minus her revolver, sat
biting her nails about two rods away--and that she waited anxiously
for the expected arrival of the 'Frisco train, bound eastward.

"Come, now, Little Grit," said the leader of the band, when the whisky
had all disappeared, "you was gwine with Buffalo Bill; better come
along with me--I'm a better fellow, an' hev killed more Injuns than
ever Bill did. We're arter them pesky redskins now. A lot of 'em
crossed the stream a couple o' nights ago, and stole our best horses.
We're bound to hev 'em back. Some o' them red thieves will miss their
skalps afore to-morrow night. A feller as kin fight a woman is jist
the chap for us. You come along; we'll show you how to tree your first
Injun."

The long and the short of it was I had to go. I did not want to. I
thought of my mother, of Belle, of Blue-Eyes, and I hung back. But I
was taken along. These giants, with their bristling belts, did not
understand a person who said "no" to them. And as the secondary effect
of the liquor was to make them quarrelsome, I had to pretend that I
liked the expedition.

Not to weary the reader, we tracked the marauders, and came across
them at earliest dawn the following morning, cooking their dog-stew
under the shelter of a high bluff, with the stolen horses picketed
near, in a cluster of young cottonwoods.

I have no talent for depicting skirmishes with the redskins; I leave
all that to Buffalo Bill. I will here simply explain that the Indians
were surprised, but savage; that the whites were resolved to get back
their horses, and that they did get them, and rode off victorious,
leaving six dead and nine wounded red warriors on the battle-ground,
with only one mishap to their own numbers.

The mishap was a trifling one to the border ruffians. It was not so
trifling to me.

It consisted of their leaving me a prisoner in the hands of the
Indians.

I was bound to a tree, while the wretches jabbered around me, as to
what they should do for me. Then, while I was reflecting whether I
would not prefer marriage with Miss Spitfire to this horrible
predicament, they drove a stake into the ground, untied me, led me to
the stake, re-tied me to that, and piled branches of dry cottonwood
about me up to my neck.

Then one of them ran, howling, to bring a brand from the fire under
the upset breakfast pot.

I raised my eyes to the bright sun, which had risen over the plain,
and was smiling at my despair. The hideous wretch came running with
the fire-brand. The braves leaped, danced, and whooped.

I closed my eyes. Then a sharp, shrill yell pierced the air, and in
another moment something touched my neck. It was not the scorching
flames I dreaded. I opened my eyes. A hideous face, copper-colored,
distorted by a loving grin, was close to mine; a pair of arms were
about my neck--a pair of woman's arms! They were those of a ferocious
and ugly squaw, old enough to be my mother. The warrior with the
fire-brand was replacing it, with a disappointed expression, under the
stewed dog. _I was saved!_

All in a flash I comprehended the truth. Here was I, John Flutter,
enacting the historical part of the John Smith, of Virginia, who was
rescued by the lovely Pocahontas.

This hideous creature smirking in my face was my Pocahontas. It was
not leap-year, but she had chosen me for her brave. The charms of
civilized life could no longer trouble me. She would lovingly paint my
face, hang the wampum about my waist, and lead me to her wigwam in the
wilderness, where she would faithfully grind my corn and fricassee my
puppy. It was for _this_ I had escaped Sally Spitfire--for _this_ that
my unhappy bashfulness had driven me far from home and friends.

She unfastened the rope from the stake, and led me proudly away. My
very soul blushed with shame. Oh, fatal, fatal blunder!



CHAPTER XIV.

HIS DIFFIDENCE BRINGS ABOUT AN ACCIDENT.


That was a long day for me. I could not eat the dog-bone which my
Pocahontas handed me, having drawn it from the kettle with her own
sweet fingers. We traveled all day; having lost their stolen horses as
well as their own ponies, the savages had to foot it back to their
tribe. I could see that they got as far away from the railroad and
from traces of white men as possible.

It began to grow dark, and we were still plodding along. I was
foot-sore, discouraged, and woe-begone. All the former trials of my
life, which had seemed at the time so hard to bear, now appeared like
the merest trifles.

Ah, if I were only home again! How gladly would I sit down in
butter-tubs, and spill hot tea into my lap! How joyfully would I walk
up the church aisles, with my ears burning, and sit down on my new
beaver in father's pew of a Sunday. How sweet would be the suppressed
giggle of the saucy girls behind me! How easily, how almost
audaciously, would I ask Miss Miller if I might see her home! What an
active part I would take in debating societies! Vain dream! My
hideous Pocahontas marched stolidly on, dragging me like a frightened
calf, at the rope's end. My throat was dry as ashes. I guess the
redskins suffered for want of water, too. We came to a little brackish
stream after sunset, and here they camped. They had taken from me Miss
Spitfire's revolver, or I should have shot myself.

The squaws made some suppawn in a big kettle, and my squaw brought me
some in a dirty wooden bowl. I was too homesick to eat, and this
troubled her. She tried to coax me, with atrocious grins and nods, to
eat the smoking suppawn. I couldn't, and she looked unhappy.

Then something happened--something hit the bowl and sent the hot mush
flying into my beauty's face, and spattering over me. At the same
instant about twenty Indians were hit, also, and went tumbling over,
with their mouths full of supper. There were yells, and jumps, and a
general row. I jerked away from Pocahontas and ran as fast as my tired
legs would carry me. I went toward the attacking party. It might be of
Indians too, but I didn't care. I was afraid of Pocahontas--more
afraid of her than of any braves in the world. But these invaders
proved to be white men; a large party of miners going toward Pike's
Peak, by wagon instead of by the new railroad.

I threw myself on their protection. They had routed out the savages,
and now took possession of their camping-ground. I passed a peaceful
night; except that my dreams were disturbed by visions of Pocahontas.
In the morning my new friends proposed that I should join their party,
and try my luck in the mining regions; they were positive that each
would find more gold than he knew what to do with.

"Then you can go home and marry some pretty girl, my boy," said one
friendly fellow, slapping me on the shoulder.

"Never," I murmured. "I have no object in life, save one."

"And what is that, my young friend?"

"To go where there never has been nor never will be a woman."

"Good! the mines will be just the place then. None of the fair sex
there, my boy. You can enjoy the privilege of doing up your own linen
to the fullest extent. You won't have anybody to iron your collars
there, you bet."

"Lead on--I follow!" I cried, almost like an actor on the stage.

I felt exhilarated--a wild, joyous sense of freedom. My two recent
narrow escapes added to the pleasure with which I viewed my present
prospects. This was better than sailing for some Juan Fernandez, or
being clerk of the weather on Mount Washington. Ho! for Pike's Peak.
In those high solitudes, while heaping up the yellow gold which should
purchase all the luxuries of life for the woman whom _sometime_ I
should choose, I could, at the same time, be gradually overcoming my
one weakness. When I did see fit to return to my native village, no
man should be so calm, so cool, so self-possessed as John Flutter,
Jr., mine-owner, late of the Rocky Mountains. I felt very bold over
the prospect. I was not a bit bashful just then. I joined the
adventurers, paying them in money for my seat in their wagons, and my
place at their camp-table. In due time we reached the scene of action.
I would not go into any of the canvas villages which had sprung up
like mushrooms. There might be a woman in some one of these places. I
went directly into the hills, where I bought out a sick man's claim,
and went to work. I blistered my white hands, but I didn't mind that
much--there were no blue eyes to notice the disfigurement.

I had been at work six days. I was a good young man, and I would not
dig on Sunday, as some of the fellows did. I sat in the door of my
little hut, and read an old newspaper, and thought of those far-away
days when I used to be afraid of the girls. How glad I felt that I was
outgrowing that folly. A shadow fell across my paper, and I glanced
up. Thunder out of a clear sky could not so have astonished me. There
stood a young lady, smiling at me! None of those rough Western pioneer
girls, either, but a pale, delicate, beautiful young lady, about
eighteen, with cheeks like wild roses, so faintly, softly flushed
with the fatigue of climbing, and great starry hazel eyes, and dressed
in a fashionable traveling suit, made up in the latest style.

"Pardon me, sir, for startling you so," she said, pleasantly. "Can you
give me a drink of water? I have been climbing until I am thirsty.
Papa is not far behind, around the rock there. I out-climbed him, you
see--as I told him I could!" and she laughed like an angel.

Yes! it was splendid to find how I had improved! I jumped to my feet
and made a low bow. I wasn't red in the face--I wasn't confused--I
didn't stammer; I felt as cool as I do this moment, as I answered her
courteously:

"Cer-cer-certainly, madam--miss, I mean--you shall have a spring fresh
from me--a drink, I mean--we've a nice, cold spring in the rocks just
behind the cabin; I'll get you one in a second."

"No such _great_ hurry, sir"--another smile.

I dashed inside and brought a tin cup--my only goblet--hurried to the
spring, and brought her the sparkling draught, saying, as I handed it
to her:

"You must excuse the din tipper, miss."

She took it politely! and began to quaff, but from some reason she
choked and choked, and finally shook so, that she spilled the water
all over the front breadth of her gray-check silk. She was laughing at
my "din tipper," just as if the calmest people did not sometimes get
the first letters of their words mixed up.

While she giggled and pretended to cough the old gentleman came in
sight, puffing and blowing like a porpoise, and looking very warm. He
told me he was "doing the mountains" for his daughter's health, and
that they were going on to California to spend the winter; ending by
stating that he was thirsty too, and so fatigued with his climb that
he would be obliged to me if I would add a stick in his, if I had it.
Now I kept a little whisky for medicine, and I was only too anxious to
oblige the girl's father, so I darted into the cabin again and brought
out one of the two bottles which I owned--two bottles, just alike, one
containing whisky, the other kerosene. In my confusion I--well, I was
very hospitable, and I added as much kerosene as there was water; and
when he had taken three large swallows, he began to spit and splutter;
then to groan; then to double up on the hard rock in awful
convulsions. I smelled the kerosene, and I felt that I had murdered
him. It had come to this at last! My bashfulness was to do worse than
urge me to suicide--it was to be the means of my causing the death of
an estimable old gentleman--her father! She began to cry and wring her
hands. As yet she did not suspect me! She supposed her father had
fallen in a fit of apoplexy.

"If he dies, I will allow her always to think so," I resolved.

My eyes stuck out of my head with terror at what I had done. I was
rooted to the ground. But only for a moment. Remorse, for once, made
me self-possessed. I remembered that I had salt in the cabin. I got
some, mixed it with water, and poured it down his throat. It had the
desired effect, soon relieving him of the poisonous dose he had
swallowed.

"Ah! you have saved my papa's life!" cried the young lady, pressing my
trembling hand.

"Saved it!" growled old Cresus, as he sat up and glared about. "Let
him alone, Imogen! He tried to poison and murder me, so as to rob me
after I was dead, and keep you prisoner, my pet. The scoundrel!"

"It was all a mistake--a wretched mistake!" I murmured.

He wouldn't believe me; but he was too ill to get up, as he wanted. I
tried to make him more comfortable by assisting him to a seat on my
keg of blasting powder.

As he began to revive a little, he drew a cigar from his pocket, and
asked me if I had a match. I had none; but there was a small fire
under my frying-pan, and I brought him a coal on a chip. Miss Imogen,
when she saw the coal on the chip, began to laugh again. That
embarrassed me. My nerves were already unstrung, and my trembling
fingers unfortunately spilled the burning ember just as the old
gentleman was about to stoop over it with his cigar. It fell between
his knees, onto the head of the keg, rolled over, and dropped plumb
through the bung-hole onto the giant-powder inside.

This cured me of my bashfulness for some time, as it was over a week
before I came to my senses.



CHAPTER XV.

HE BECOMES ACQUAINTED WITH A CHICAGO WIDOW.


I came to my senses in one of the bedrooms of the Shantytown Hotel.
There was only a partition between that and the other bedrooms of
brown cotton cloth, and as I slowly became conscious of things about
me, I heard two voices beyond the next curtain talking of my affairs.

"I reckon he won't know where the time's gone to when he comes to
himself ag'in. Lucky for him he didn't go up, like the old gentleman,
in such small pieces as to never come down. I don't see, fur the life
of me, what purvented. He was standin' right over the kag on which the
old chap sot. Marakalous escape, that of the young lady. Beats
everything."

"You bet, pardner, 'twouldn't happen so once in a thousand times. You
see, she was jist blowed over the ledge an' rolled down twenty or
thirty feet, an' brought up on a soft spot--wa'n't hurt a particle.
But how she does take on about her pop! S'pose you knew her brother's
come on fur her?"

"No."

"Yes; got here by the noon stage. They're reckoning to leave
Shantytown immegitly. Less go down and see 'em off!"

They shuffled away.

I don't know whether my head ached, but I know my heart did. I was a
murderer. Or, if not quite so bad as a deliberate murderer, I was, at
the very least, guilty of manslaughter. And why? Because I had not
been able to overcome my wicked weakness. I felt sick of life, of
everything--especially of the mines.

"I can never return to the scene of the accident," I thought.

I groaned and tossed, but it was the torture of my conscience, and not
of my aching limbs. The doctor and others came in.

"How long shall I have to lie here?" I asked.

"Not many days; no bones are broken. Your head is injured and you are
badly bruised, that's all. You must keep quiet--you must not excite
yourself."

Excite myself! As if I could, for one moment, forget the respectable
old capitalist whom I had first poisoned and then blown into ten
thousand pieces through my folly. I had brain fever. It set in that
night. For two weeks I raved deliriously; for two weeks I was doing
the things I ought not to have done--in imagination. I took a young
lady skating, and slipped down with her on the ice, and broke her
Grecian nose. I went to a grand reception, and tore the point lace
flounce off of Mrs. Grant's train, put my handkerchief in my saucer,
and my coffee-cup in my pocket. I was left to entertain a handsome
young lady, and all I could say was to cough and "Hem! hem!" until at
last she asked me if I had any particular article I would like hemmed.

I killed a baby by sitting down on it in a fit of embarrassment, when
asked by a neighbor to take a seat. I waltzed and waltzed and waltzed
with Blue-Eyes, and every time I turned I stepped on her toes with my
heavy boots, until they must have been jelly in her little satin
slippers, and finally we fell down-stairs, and I went out of that
fevered dream only to find myself again giving blazing kerosene to an
estimable old gentleman, who swallowed it unsuspiciously, and then sat
down on a powder keg, and we all blew up--up--up--and came
down--down--bump! I never want to have brain fever again--at least,
not until I have conquered myself.

When I was once more rational, I resolved that a miner's life was too
rough for me; and, as soon as I could be bolstered up in a corner of
the coach, I set out to reach the railroad, where I was to take a
palace-car for home. I gained strength rapidly during the change and
excitement of the journey; so that, the day before we were to reach
Chicago, I no longer remained prone in my berth, but, "clothed and in
my right mind," took my seat with the other passengers, looked about
and tried to forget the past and to enjoy myself. At first, I had a
seat to myself; but, at one of the stations, about two in the
afternoon, a lady, dressed in deep black, and wearing a heavy crepe
veil, which concealed her face, entered our car, and slipped quietly
in to the vacant half of my seat. She sat quite motionless, with her
veil down. Every few moments a long, tremulous, heart-broken sigh
stirred this sable curtain which shut in my companion's face. I felt a
deep sympathy for her, whoever she might be, old or young, pretty or
ugly. I inferred that she was a widow; I could hear that she was in
affliction; but I was far too diffident to invent any little courteous
way of expressing my sympathy. In about half an hour, she put her veil
to one side, and asked me, in a low, sweet, pathetic voice, if I had
any objection to drawing down the blind, as her veil smothered her,
and she had wept so much that her eyes could not bear the strong light
of the afternoon sun. I drew down the blind--with such haste as to
pinch my fingers cruelly between the sash and the sill.

"Oh, I am _so_ sorry!" said she.

"It's of no consequence," I stammered, making a Toots of myself.

"Oh, but _it is_! and in my service too! Let me be your surgeon, sir,"
and she took from her traveling-bag a small bottle of cologne, with
which she drenched a delicate film of black-bordered handkerchief,
and then wound the same around my aching fingers. "You are pale," she
continued, slightly pressing my hand before releasing it--"ah, how
sorry I am!"

"I am pale because I have been ill recently," I responded, conscious
that all my becoming pallor was changing to turkey-red.

"Ill?--oh, how sad! What a world of trouble we live in! Ill?--and so
young--so hand----. Excuse me, I meant not to flatter you, but I have
seen so much sorrow myself. I am only twenty-two, and I've been a
wid--wid--wid--ow over a year."

She wiped away a tear with handkerchief No. 2, and smiled sadly in my
face.

"Sorrow has aged her," I thought, for, although the blind was down,
she looked to me nearer thirty than twenty-two.

Still, she was pretty, with dark eyes that looked into yours in a
wonderfully confiding way--melting, liquid, deep eyes, that even a man
who is perfectly self-possessed can not see to the bottom of soon
enough for his own good. As for me, those eyes confused while they
pleased me. The widow never noticed my embarrassment; but, the ice
once broken, talked on and on. She gave me, in soft, sweet, broken
accents, her history--how she had been her mother's only pet, and had
married a rich Chicago broker, who had died in less than two years,
leaving her alone--all alone--with plenty of money, plenty of
jewelry, a fine house, but alas, "no one to love her, none to caress,"
as the song says, and the world a desert.

"But I can still love _a friend_," she added, with a melancholy smile.
"One as disinterested, as ignorant of the world as you, would please
me best. You must stop in Chicago," she said, giving me her card
before we parted. "Every traveler should spend a few days in our
wonderful city. Call on me, and I will have up my carriage and take
you out to see the sights."

Need I say that I stopped in Chicago? or add that I went to call on
the fair widow? She took me out driving according to promise. I found
that she was just the style of woman that suited me best. I was
bashful; she was not. I was silent; she could keep up the conversation
with very little aid from me. With such a woman as that I could get
along in life. She would always be willing to take the lead. All I
would have to do would be to give her the reins, and she would keep
the team going. She would be willing to walk the first into church--to
interview the butcher and baker--to stand between me and the world. A
wife like that would be some comfort to a bashful man. Besides, she
was rich! Had she not said it? I have seldom had a happier hour than
that of our swift, exhilarating drive. The colored driver, gorgeous in
his handsome livery, kept his eyes and ears to himself. I lolled back
in the luxurious carriage beside my charmer. I forgot the unhappy
accident of the blasting-powder--all the mortifications and
disappointments of my life. I reveled in bliss. For once, I had
nothing to do but be courted. How often had I envied the girls their
privilege of keeping quiet and being made love to. How often had I
sighed to be one of the sex who is popped to and does not have to pop.
And now, this lovely, brilliant creature who sat beside me, having
been once married, and seeing my natural timidity, "knew how it was
herself," and took on her own fair hands all the responsibility.

"Mr. Flutter," said she, "I know just how you feel--you want to ask me
to marry you, but you are too bashful. Have I guessed right?"

I pressed her hand in speechless assent.

"Yes, my dear boy, I knew it. Well, this is leap-year, and I will not
see you sacrificed to your own timidity. I am yours, whenever you
wish--to-morrow if you say so--yours forever. You shall have no
trouble about it, I will speak to the Rev. Mr. Coalyard myself--I know
him. When shall it be?--speak, dearest!"

I gasped out "to-morrow," and buried my blushing face on her shoulder.

For a moment her soft arms were twined around me--a moment only, for
we were on the open lake drive. Not more than ten seconds did the
pretty widow embrace me, but that was time enough, as I learned to my
sorrow, for her to extract my pocket-book, containing the five hundred
dollars I still had remaining from the sale of my mining-stock, and
not one dollar of which did I ever see again.



CHAPTER XVI.

AT LAST HE SECURES A TREASURE.


I had to pawn my watch to get away from Chicago, for the police failed
to find my pretty widow. The thought of getting again under my mother's
wing was as welcome as my desire to get away from it had been eager. At
night my dreams were haunted by all sorts of horrible fire-works, where
old gentlemen sat down on powder-kegs, etc. Oh, for home! I knew there
were no widows in my native village, except Widow Green, and I was not
afraid of her. Well, I took the cars once more, and I had been riding
two days and a night, and was not over forty miles from my destination,
when the little incident occurred which proved to lead me into one of
the worst blunders of all. It's _awful_ to be a bashful young man!
Everybody takes advantage of you. You are the victim of practical
jokes--folks laugh if you do nothing on earth but enter a room. If you
happen to hit your foot against a stool, or trip over a rug, or call a
lady "sir," the girls giggle and the boys nudge each other, as if it
were extremely amusing. But to blow up a confiding Wall street
speculator, and to be swindled out of all your money by a pretty widow,
is enough to make a sensitive man a raving lunatic. I had all this to
think of as I was whirled along toward home. So absorbed was I in
melancholy reflection, that I did not notice what was going on until a
sudden shrill squawk close in my ear caused me to turn, when I found
that a very common-looking young woman, with a by no means interesting
infant of six months, had taken the vacant half of my seat. I was
annoyed. There were plenty of unoccupied seats in the car, and I saw no
reason why she should intrude upon my comfort. The infant shrieked
wildly when I looked at it; but its mother stopped its mouth with one of
those what-do-you-call-'ems that are stuck on the end of a flat bottle
containing sweetened milk, and, after sputtering and gurgling in a vain
attempt to keep on squalling, it subsided and went vigorously to work.
It seemed after a time to become more accustomed to my harmless visage,
and stared at me stolidly, with round, unwinking eyes, after it had
exhausted the contents of the bottle.

In about half an hour the train stopped at a certain station; the
conductor yelled out "ten minutes for refreshments," the eating-house
man rang a big bell, and the passengers, many of them, hurried out.
Then the freckle-faced woman leaned toward me.

"Are you goin' out?" said she.

"No," I replied, politely; "I am not far from home, and prefer waiting
for my lunch until I get there."

[Illustration: "WOULD YOU HOLD MY BABY WHILE I RUN IN AN' GET A CUP O'
TEA?"]

"Then," said she, very earnestly, "would you hold my baby while I run
in an' get a cup o' tea? Indeed, sir, I'm half famished, riding over
twenty-four hours, and only a biscuit or two in my bag, and I must get
some milk for baby's bottle or she'll starve."

It was impossible, under such circumstances, for one to refuse, though
I would have preferred to head a regiment going into battle, for
there were three young ladies, about six seats behind me, who were
eating their lunch in the car, and I knew they would laugh at me;
besides, the woman gave me no chance to decline, for she thrust the
wide-eyed terror into my awkward arms, and rushed quickly out to
obtain her cup of tea.

Did you ever see a bashful young man hold a strange baby? I expect I
furnished--I and the baby--a comic opera, music and all, for the
entertainment of the three girls, as they nibbled their cold chicken
and pound-cake. For the mother had not been gone over fifteen seconds
when that confounded young one began to cry. I sat her down on my knee
and trotted her. She screamed with indignation, and grew so purple in
the face I thought she was strangling, and I patted her on the back.
This liberty she resented by going into a sort of spasm, legs and arms
flying in every direction, worse than a wind-mill in a gale.

"This will never do," I thought; at the same time I was positive I
heard a suppressed giggle in my rear.

A happy thought occurred to me--infants were always tickled with
watches! But, alas I had pawned mine. However, I had a gold locket in
my pocket, with my picture in it, which I had bought in Chicago, to
present to the widow, and didn't present: this I drew forth and
dangled before the eyes of the little infernal threshing-machine.

The legs and arms quieted down; the fat hands grabbed the glittering
trinket. "Goo--goo--goo--goo," said the baby, and thrust the locket in
her mouth. I think she must have been going through the interesting
process of teething, for she made so many dents in the handsome face,
that it was rendered useless as a future gift to some fortunate girl,
while the way she slobbered over it was disgusting. I scarcely regretted
the ruin of the locket, I was so delighted to have her keep quiet; but,
alas! the little wretch soon dropped it and began howling like ten
thousand midnight cats. I trotted her again--I tossed her--I laid her
over my knees on her stomach--I said "Ssh--ssh--ssssh--sssssh!" all in
vain. Instead of ten minutes for refreshments it seemed to me that they
gave ten hours.

In desperation I raised her and hung her over my shoulder, rising at
the same time and walking up and down the aisle. The howling ceased:
but now the young ladies, after choking with suppressed laughter,
finally broke into a scream of delight. Something must be up! I took
the baby down and looked over my shoulder--the little rip had opened
her mouth and sent a stream of white, curdy milk down the back of my
new overcoat. For one instant the fate of that child hung in the
balance. I walked to the door, and made a movement to throw her to
the dogs; but humanity gained the day, and I refrained.

I felt that my face was redder than the baby's; every passenger
remaining in the car was smiling. I went calmly back, and laid her
down on the seat, while I took off my coat and made an attempt to
remove the odious matters with my handkerchief, which ended by my
throwing the coat over the back of the seat in disgust, resolving that
mother would have to finish the job with her "Renovator." My
handkerchief I threw out of the window.

Thank goodness! the engine bell was ringing at last and the people
crowding back into the train.

I drew a long breath of relief, snatched the shrieking infant up
again, for fear the mother would blame me for neglecting her ugly
brat--and waited.

"All aboard!" shouted the conductor; the bell ceased to ring, the
wheels began to revolve, the train was in motion.

"Great Jupiter Ammen!" I thought, while a cold sweat started out all
over me, "she will be left!"

The cars moved faster and more mercilessly fast; the conductor
appeared at the door; I rose and rushed toward him, the baby in my
arms, crying:

"For Heaven's sake, conductor, stop the cars!"

"What's up?" he asked.

"What's up? Stop the cars, I say! Back down to the station again!
_This baby's mother's left!_"

"Then she left on purpose," he answered coolly; "she never went into
the eating-house at all. I saw her making tall tracks for the train
that goes the other way. I thought it was all right. I didn't notice
she hadn't her baby with her. I'll telegraph at the next station;
that's all that can be done now."

This capped the climax of all my previous blunders! Why had I blindly
consented to care for that woman's progeny? Why? why? Here was I, John
Flutter, a young, innocent, unmarried man, approaching the home of my
childhood with an infant in my arms! The horror of my situation turned
me red and pale by turns as if I had apoplexy or heart disease.

There was always a crowd of young people down at the depot of our
village; what would they think to see me emerge from the cars carrying
that baby? Even the child seemed astonished, ceasing to cry, and
staring around upon the passengers as if in wonder and amazement at
our predicament. Yet not one of those heartless travelers seemed to
pity me; every mouth was stretched in a broad grin; not a woman came
forward and offered to relieve me of my burden; and thus, in the midst
of my embarrassment and horror, the train rolled up to the well-known
station, and I saw my father and mother, and half the boys and girls
of the village, crowding the platform and waiting to welcome my
arrival.



CHAPTER XVII.

HE ENJOYS HIMSELF AT A BALL.


Once more I was settled quietly down to my old life, clerking in my
father's store. You would naturally suppose that my travels would have
given me some confidence, and that I had worn out, as it were, the
bashfulness of youth; but in my case this was an inborn quality which
I could no more get rid of, than I could of my liver or my spleen.

I had never confessed to any one the episode of the giant-powder or
the Chicago widow; but the story of the baby had crept out, through
the conductor, who told it to the station-master. If you want to know
how _that_ ended, I'll just tell you that, maddened by the grins and
giggles of the passengers, I started for the car door with that baby,
but, in passing those three giggling young ladies, I suddenly slung
the infant into their collective laps, and darted out upon the station
platform. That's the way I got out of that scrape.

As I was saying, after all those dreadful experiences, I was glad to
settle down in the store, where I honestly strove to overcome my
weakness; but it was still so troublesome that father always
interfered when the girls came in to purchase dry-goods. He said I
almost destroyed the profits of the business, giving extra measure on
ribbons and silks, and getting confused over the calicoes. But I'm
certain the shoe was on the other foot; there wasn't a girl in town
would go anywhere else to shop when they could enjoy the fun of
teasing me; so that if I made a few blunders, I also brought custom.

Cold weather came again, and I was one year older. There was a grand
ball on the twenty-second of February, to which I invited Hetty
Slocum, who accepted my escort. We expected to have lots of fun. The
ball-room was in the third story of the Spread-Eagle Hotel. There was
to be a splendid supper at midnight in the big dining-room; hot
oysters "in every style," roast turkey, chicken-pie, coffee, and all
the sweet fixings.

It turned out to be a clear night; I took Hetty to the hotel in
father's fancy sleigh, in good style, and having got her safely to the
door of the ladies' parlor without a blunder to mar my peace of mind,
except that I stepped on her slippered foot in getting into the
sleigh, and crushed it so, that Hetty could hardly dance for the pain,
I began to feel an unusual degree of confidence in myself, which I
fortified by a stern resolution, on no account to get to blushing and
stammering, but to walk coolly up to the handsomest girls and ask them
out on the floor with all the self-possessed gallantry of a man of
the world.

Alas! "the best-laid plans of mice an' men must aft gang," like a
balky horse--just opposite to what you want them to. I spoke to my
acquaintances in the bar-room easily enough, but when one after one
the fellows went up to the door of the ladies' dressing-room to escort
their fair companions to the ball-room, I felt my courage oozing away,
until, under the pretext of keeping warm by the fire, I remained in
the bar-room until every one else had deserted it. Then I slowly made
my way up, intending to enter the gentlemen's dressing-room, to tie my
white cravat, and put on my white kids. I found the room
deserted--every one had entered the ball-room but myself; I could hear
the gay music of the violins, and the tapping of the feet on the floor
overhead. Surely it was time that I had called for _my_ lady, and
taken her up.

I knew that Hetty would be mad, because I had made her lose the first
dance; yet, I fooled and fooled over the tying of my cravat, dreading
the ordeal of entering the ball-room with a lady on my arm. At last it
was tied. I turned to put on my gloves; then, for the first time, I
was made aware that I had mistaken the room. I was in the ladies', not
the gentlemen's dressing-room. There were the heaps of folded cloaks,
and shawls, and the hoods. That very instant, before I could beat a
retreat, I heard voices at the door--Hetty's among them. I glared
around for some means of escape. There were none. What excuse could I
make for my singular intrusion? Would it be believed if I swore that I
had been unaware of the character of my surroundings? Would I be
suspected of being a kleptomaniac? In the intensity of my
mortification I madly followed the first impulse which moved me. This
was to dive under the bed.

I had no more than taken refuge in this curious hiding-place, than I
regretted the foolish act; to be discovered there would be infamy and
disgrace too deep for words. I would have crawled out at the last
second, but it was too late; I heard the girls in the room, and was
forced to try and keep still as a mouse, though my heart thumped so I
was certain they must hear it.

"Where do you suppose he has gone?" asked one.

"Goodness knows," answered Hetty. "I have looked in the gentlemen's
room--he's not there. Catch me going to a ball with John Flutter
again."

"It's a real insult, his not coming for you," added another; "but, la!
you must excuse it. I know what's the trouble. I'll bet you two cents
he's afraid to come up-stairs. He! he! he!"

Then all of them tittered "he! he! he" and "ha! ha! ha!"

"Did you ever see such a bashful young fellow?"

"He's a perfect goose!"

"Isn't it fun alive to tease him?"

"Do you remember when he tumbled in the lake?"

"Oh! and the time he sat down in the butter-tub?"

"Yes; and that day he came to our house and sat down in Old Mother
Smith's cap instead of a vacant chair, because he was blushing so it
made him blind."

"Well, if he hadn't crushed my foot getting into the sleigh, I
wouldn't care," added Hetty, spitefully. "I shall limp all the
evening."

"I do despise a blundering, stupid fellow that can't half take care of
a girl."

"Yes; but what would you do without Mr. Flutter to laugh at?"

"That's so. As long as he stays around we will have somebody to amuse
us."

"He'd be good-looking if he wasn't always so red in the face."

"If I was in his place I'd never go out without a veil."

"To hide his blushes?"

"Of course. What a pity he forgot to take his hat off in church last
Sunday, until his mother nudged him."

"Yes. Did you hear it smash when he put his foot in it when he got up
to go?"

Heavens and earth! There I was, under the bed, an enforced listener to
this flattering conversation. My breast nearly burst with anger at
them, at myself, at a cruel fate which had sent me into the world,
doomed to grow up a bashful man. If, by falling one thousand feet
plumb down, I could have sunk through that floor, I would have run the
risk.

"You heard about the ba----" began Hetty.

It was too much! In my torment I moved my feet without meaning to, and
they hit against the leg of the bedstead with some force.

"What's that?"

"A cat under the bed, I should say."

"More likely a rat. Oh, girls! it may gnaw our cloaks; mine is under
there, I know."

"Well, let us drive it out."

"Oh! oh! oh! I'm afraid!"

"I'm not; I'm going to see what is under there."

My heart ceased to beat. Should I live to the next centennial, I shall
never forget that moment.

The girl who had spoken last stooped and looked under the bed; this
motion was followed by a thrilling shriek.

"There's a _man_ under the bed!" she screamed.

The other girls joined in; a wild chorus of shrieks arose, commingled
with cries of "Robber!" "Thief!" "Burglar!"

Urged to desperation, I was about to roll out from my hiding-place and
make a rush to get out, hoping to pass unrecognized by covering my
face with my hands, when two or three dozen young men swooped into the
room.

"What is it?"

"Where?"

"A man under the bed!"

"Let me at the rascal!"

"Ha! come out here, you villain!"

All was over. They dragged me out, covered with dust and feathers,
and, pulling my despairing hands from over my miserable face, they
turned me to the light. Then the fury and the threats subsided. There
was a moment's profound silence--girls and fellows stared in mute
astonishment, and then--then broke from one and all a burst of
convulsive laughter. And in the midst of those shrieks and groans of
mirth at my expense, everything grew dark, and I suffered no more.
They told me afterward that I fainted dead away.



CHAPTER XVIII.

HE OPENS THE WRONG DOOR.


My mother and the ancient lady who presided over the mysteries of my
initiation as a member of the human fraternity, say that I was born
with a caul over my face. Now, what I want to know is, why didn't they
leave that caul where they found it? What business had they to meddle
with the veil which beneficent nature gave me as a shield to my
infirmity? Had they respected her intention, they would have let it
alone--poked a hole in it for me to eat and breathe through, and left
the veil which she kindly provided to hide my blushing face from the
eyes of my fellow-creatures.

Nature knew beforehand that I was going to be born to be bashful.
Therefore she gave me a caul. Had this been respected as it should
have been, I could have blossomed out into my full luxuriance as a
_cauli_flower whereas now I am an ever-blooming peony.

When I rushed home after recovering from the fainting fit into which
my hiding under the bed had driven me, I threw myself down in he
sanctity of my private apartment and howled and shrieked for that caul
of my infancy. But no caul came at my call. That dried and withered
thing was reposing somewhere amid the curiosities of an old hag's
bureau-drawer.

Then I wildly wished that I were the veiled prophet of Khorassan. But
no! I was only bashful John Flutter, the butt and ridicule of a little
meddling village.

I knew that this last adventure would revive the memory of all my
previous exploits. I knew the girls would all go to see each other the
next day so as to have a good giggle together. Worse than that, I knew
there would be an unprecedented run of custom at the store. There
wouldn't be a girl in the whole place who wouldn't require something
in the dry-goods line the coming day; they would come and ask for pins
and needles just for the heartless fun of seeing _me_ enduring the
pangs of mental pins and needles.

So I resolved that I would not get up that morning. The breakfast-bell
rang three times; mother came up to knock at my door.

"Oh, I am so sleepy, mother!" I answered, with a big yawn; "you knew I
was up last night. Don't want any breakfast, just another little nap."

So the good soul went down, leaving me to my wretched thoughts. At
noon she came up again.

"John, you had better rise now. Father can't come to dinner there's so
many customers in the store. Seems as if there was going to be a ball
to-night again; every girl in town is after ribbon, or lace, or
hair-pins, or something."

"I can't get up to-day, mother. I'm awfully unwell--got a high
fever--_you'll_ have to go in and lend father a helping hand"; and so
she brought me a cup of tea and a piece of toast, and then went up to
take father's place while he ate his dinner.

I _guess_ she suspected I'd been done for again by the way those young
women laughed when she told them I was sick in bed: for she was pretty
cross when I sneaked down to tea, and didn't seem to worry about how I
felt. Well, I kept pretty quiet the rest of the season. There were
dances and sleighing parties, but I stayed away from them, and
attended strictly to business.

I don't know but that I might have begun to enjoy some peace of mind,
after the winter and part of the spring had passed without any very
awful catastrophe having occurred to me; but, some time in the latter
part of May, when the roses were just beginning to bloom, and
everything was lovely, a pretty cousin from some distant part of the
State came to spend a month at our house. I had never seen her before,
and you may imagine how I felt when she rushed at me and kissed me,
and called me her dear cousin John, just as if we had known each other
all the days of our lives. I think it was a constant surprise to her
to find that I was bashful. _She_ wasn't a bit so. It embarrassed me a
thousand times more to see how she would slyly watch out of the corner
of her laughing eye for the signs of my diffidence.

Well, of course, all the girls called on her, and boys too, as to
that, and I had to take her to return their visits, and I was in hot
water all the time. Before she went away, mother gave her a large
evening party. I behaved with my usual elegance of manner, stepping on
the ladies' trains and toes in dancing, calling them by other people's
names, and all those little courtesies for which I was so famous. I
even contrived to sit down where there was no chair, to the amusement
of the fellows. My cousin Susie was going away the next day. I was
dead in love with her, and my mind was taken up with the intention of
telling her so. I had not the faintest idea of whether she cared for
me or not. She had laughed at me and teased me mercilessly.

On the contrary, she had been very encouraging to Tom Todd, a young
lawyer of the place--a little snob, with self-conceit enough in his
dapper body for six larger men. This evening he had been particularly
attentive to her. Susie was pretty and quite an heiress, so I knew Tom
Todd would try to secure her. He was just that kind of a fellow who
could propose to a girl while he was asking her out for a set of the
lanciers, or handing her a plate of salad at supper. Alas, I could do
nothing of the kind. With all my superior opportunities, here the last
evening was half through, and I had not yet made a motion to secure
the prize. I watched Tom as if he had been a thief and I a detective.
I was cold and hot by turns whenever he bent to whisper in Susie's
ear, as he did about a thousand times. At last, as supper-time
approached, I saw my cousin slip out into the dining-room. I thought
mother had sent her to see that all was right, before marshalling the
company out to the feast.

"Now, or never," I thought, turning pale as death; and with one
resolute effort I slipped into the hall and so into the dining-room.

Susie was there, doing something; but when she saw me enter she gave a
little shriek and darted into the pantry. No! I was not to be baffled
thus. A cold sweat broke out on my forehead, but I thought of that
snob in the parlor, and pressed on to the pantry-door.

"Susie," said I, very softly, trying to open it--"Susie, I _must_
speak to you. Let me in."

The more I tried to open the door the more firmly she held it.

"Do go along with you, cousin John," she answered.

"I can't, Susie. I want to see you a minute."

"See me? Oh, what a wicked fellow! Go along, or I'll tell your
mother."

"Tell, or not; for once I'm going to have my own way," I said, and
pressing my knee against the door, I forced it open, and there stood
my pretty cousin, angry and blushing, trying to hide from my view the
crinoline which had come off in the parlor.

I retreated, closing the door and waiting for her to re-appear.

In a few minutes she came out, evidently offended.

"Susie," I stammered, "I did--did--didn't dream your bus--bus--bustle
had come off. I only wanted to tell you that--that I pr--pr--pri--prize
your li--li--li--"

"But I never lie," she interrupted me, saucily.

"That I shall be the most mis--is--is--er--able fellow that ever--"

"Now don't make a goose of yourself, cousin John," she said, sweetly,
laying her little hand on my shoulder for an instant. "Stop where you
are! Tom Todd asked me to marry him, half an hour ago, and I said I
would."

Tom Todd, then, had got the start of me; after all. Worse! he had
sneaked into the dining-room after Susie, and had come up behind us
and heard every word. As I turned, dizzy and confused, I saw his
smiling, insolent face. Enraged, unhappy, and embarrassed by his
grieving triumph, I hastily turned to retreat into the pantry!
Unfortunately, there were two doors close together, one leading to the
pantry, the other to the cellar. In my blind embarrassment I mistook
them; and the next moment the whole company were startled by a loud
bump--bumping, a crash, and a woman's scream.

There was a barrel of soft-soap at the foot of the cellar-stairs, and
I fell, head first, into that.



CHAPTER XIX.

DRIVEN FROM HIS LAST DEFENCE.


Susie was Mrs. Todd before I recovered from the effects of my
involuntary soap-bath.

"Smart trick!" cried my father when he fished me out of the barrel.

I thought it _was_ smart, sure enough, by the sensation in my eyes.
But I have drawn a veil over that bit of my history. I know my
eyesight was injured for all that summer. I could not tell a piece of
silk from a piece of calico, except by the feeling; so I was excused
from clerking in the store, and sat round the house with green goggles
on, and wished I were different from what I was. By fall my eyesight
got better. One day father came in the parlor where I was sitting
moping, having just seen Tom Todd drive by in a new buggy with his
bride, and said to me:

"John, I am disappointed in you."

"I know it," I answered him meekly.

"You look well enough, and you have talent enough," he went on; "but
you are too ridiculously bashful for an ostrich."

"I know it," I again replied. "Oh, father, father, why did they take
that caul from my face?"

"That--what?" inquired my puzzled sire.

"That caul--wasn't I born with a caul, father?"

"Now that I recall it, I believe you were," responded father, while
his stern face relaxed into a smile, "and I wish to goodness they had
left it on you, John; but they didn't, and that's an end of it. What I
was going to say was this. Convinced that you will never succeed as my
successor--that your unconquerable diffidence unfits you for the
dry-goods trade--I have been looking around for some such situation as
I have often heard you sigh for. The old light-house keeper on
Buncombe Island is dead, and I have caused you to be appointed his
successor. You will not see a human being except when supplies are
brought to you, which, in the winter, will be only once in two months.
Even then your peace will not be disturbed by any sight of one of the
other sex. You will not need a caul there! Go, my son, and remain
until you can outgrow your absurd infirmity."

I felt dismayed at the prospect, now that it was so near at hand. I
had often--in the distance--yearned for the security of a light-house.
Yet I now looked about on our comfortable parlor with a longing eye. I
recalled the pleasant tea-hour when there were no visitors; I thought
of the fun the boys and girls would have this coming winter, and I
wished father had not been so precipitate in securing that vacant
place.

Just then Miss Gabble came up our steps, and shortly after entered the
parlor. She was one of those dreaded beings, who always filled me with
the direst confusion. She sat right down by my side and squeezed my
hand.

"My poor, dear fellow-mortal!" said she, getting her sharp face so
close to mine I thought she was going to kiss me, "how do you do?
Wearing them goggles yet? It is too bad. And yet, after all, they are
sort of becoming to you. In fact, you're so good-looking you can wear
anything. And how your mustache does grow, to be sure!"

I saw father was getting up to leave the room, and I flung her hand
away, saying quickly to him: "I'll get the glass of water, father."

And so I beat him that time, and got out of the room, quite willing to
live in the desert of Sahara, if by it I could get rid of such
females.

Well, I went to Buncombe Island. I retired from the world to a
light-house in the first bloom of my youth. I did not want to be a
monk--I could not be a man--and so I did what fate and my father laid
out for me to do. Through the fine autumn weather I enjoyed my
retirement. I had taken plenty of books and magazines with me to while
away the time; there was a lovely promenade along the sea-wall on
which the tall tower stood, and I could walk there for hours without
my pulse being disturbed by visions of parasols, loves of bonnets, and
pretty faces under them. I communed with the sea. I told it my rations
were too salt; that I didn't like the odor of the oil in filling the
lamps; that my legs got tired going up to the lantern, and that my
arms gave out polishing the lenses. I also confided to it that I would
not mind these little trifles if I only had one being to share my
solitude--a modest, shy little creature that I wouldn't be afraid to
ask to be my wife.

    "Oh, had we some bright little isle of our own,
    In a blue summer ocean far off and alone."

I'd forget the curse of my life and be happy in spite of it.

When winter shut down, however, I didn't talk quite so much to the
sea; it was ugly and boisterous, and the windy promenade was
dangerous, and I shut myself up and pined like the "Prisoner of
Chillon." I have lots of spunk and pride, if I am bashful; and so I
never let on to those at home--when I sent them a letter once in two
months by the little tug that brought my oil and provisions--that I
was homesick. I said the ocean was glorious; that there was a Byronic
sublimity in lighting up the lantern; that standing behind a counter
and showing dry-goods to silly, giggling girls couldn't be compared
with it; that I hadn't blushed in six months, and that I didn't think
I should ever be willing to come back to a world full of grinning
snobs and confusing women.

And now, what do you think happened to me? My fate was too strong even
for Buncombe Island. It was the second of January. The tug had not
left the island, after leaving a nine-weeks' supply, more than twelve
hours before a fearful gale began to blow; it rose higher and higher
through the night, and in the morning I found that a small
sailing-vessel had been wrecked about half a mile from the
light-house, where the beach ran out for some distance into the water,
and the land was not so high as on the rock. I ran down there, the
wind still roaring enough to blow me away, and the spray dashing into
my eyes, and I found the vessel had gone to pieces and every man was
drowned.

But what was this that lay at my feet? A woman, lashed to a spar, and
apparently dead. When I picked her up, though, she opened her eyes and
shut them again. Enough! this was no time to think of peculiar
difficulties. I lugged her to the warm room in the light-house where I
sat and lived. I put her before the fire; I heated some brandy and
poured it between her lips; in short, when I sat down to my little
tea-table late that afternoon, somebody sat on the opposite side--a
woman--a girl, rather, not more than eighteen or nineteen. Here she
was, and here she must remain for two long months.

_She_ did not seem half so much put out as I. In fact, she was quite
calm, after she had explained to me that she was one of three
passengers on board the sailing-vessel, and that all the others were
drowned.

"You will have to remain here for two months," I ventured to explain
to her, coloring like a lobster dabbed into hot water.

"Oh, then, I may as well begin pouring the tea at once," she observed
coolly; "that's a feminine duty, you know, sir."

"I'm glad you're not afraid of me," I ventured to say.

"Afraid of you!" she replied, tittering. "No, indeed. It is _you_ who
are afraid of _me_. But I sha'n't hurt you, sir. You mind your
affairs, and I'll mind mine, and neither of us will come to grief.
Why, what a lot of books you've got! And such an easy-chair! It's just
splendid here, and so romantic, like the stories we read."

I repressed a groan, and allowed her, after supper, and she had done
as she said--washed the dishes--to take possession of my favorite book
and my favorite seat. She was tired with her adventures of the night
before, and soon asked where she was to sleep.

"In there," I answered, pointing to the door of a small bedroom which
opened out of the living-room.

She went in, and locked the door; and I went up to the lantern to see
that all was right, and to swear and tear around a little. Here was a
two-months'-long embarrassment! Here was all my old trouble back in a
new shape! What would my folks--what would the world say? Would they
believe the story about the wreck? Must my character suffer? Even at
the best, I must face this girl of the period from morning until
night. She had already discovered that I was bashful; she would take
advantage of it to torment me. What would the rude men say when they
came again with supplies?

Better measure tape in my father's store for a lot of teasing young
ladies whom I know, than dwell alone in a light-house with this
inconsiderate young woman!

"If ever I get out of this scrape, I will know when I am well off!" I
moaned, tearing my hair, and gazing wildly at the pitiless lights.

Suddenly a thought struck me. I had seen a small boat beached near the
scene of the wreck; it probably had belonged to the ship. I remained
in the lantern until it began to grow daybreak; then I crept down and
out, and ran to examine that boat. It was water-proof, and one of its
oars still remained. The waves were by this time comparatively calm. I
pushed the boat into the water, jumped in, rowed around to the other
side of the island, and that day I made thirty miles, with only one
oar, landing at the city dock at sunset. I was pretty well used-up I
tell you. But I had got away from that solitary female, who must have
spent a pensive day at Buncombe, in wondering what had become of me. I
reported at headquarters that night, resigned, and started for home.
I'm afraid the light-house lamps were not properly tended that night;
still, they may have been, and that girl was equal to anything.

Such is life! Such has been _my_ experience. Do you wonder that I am
still a bachelor? I will not go on, relating circumstances in my life
which have too much resemblance to each other. It would only be a
repetition of my miserable blunders. But I will make a proposition to
young ladies in general. I am well-to-do; the store is in a most
flourishing condition; I have but one serious fault, and you all know
what that is. Now, will not some of you take pity on me? I might be
waylaid, blindfolded, lifted into a carriage, and abducted. I might be
brought before a minister and frightened into marrying any nice,
handsome, well-bred girl that had courage enough for such an
emergency. Once safely wedded, I have a faint idea that my bashfulness
will wear off. Come! who is ready to try the experiment?

       *       *       *       *       *



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       *       *       *       *       *

OGILVIE'S POPULAR

RAILROAD SERIES.

[Illustration]

A KENTUCKY EDITOR                                    O. READ

FACE TO FACE WITH DEATH                      A. W. MARCHMONT

WITH FORCE AND ARMS                          HOWARD R. GARIS

THE BUBBLE FAMILY 175 illus                       BOB BUBBLE

200 OLD-TIME SONGS. Words and Music.

CHORUS GIRLS I HAVE KNOWN                       FRANK DESHON

'WAY BACK IN '61                                 G. M. WHITE

MODERN PALMISTRY; or, Guide to the Hand         INA OXENFORD

THE RACING PARSON CHAS.                         JOSIAH ADAMS

'WAY DOWN EAST                               JOS. R. GRISMER

MORE TO BE PITIED THAN SCORNED                  C. E. BLANEY

DESERTED AT THE ALTAR                     GRACE MILLER WHITE

A WIFE'S CONFESSIONS                      GRACE MILLER WHITE

WHY WOMEN SIN                             GRACE MILLER WHITE

A CLEVER ESCAPE                                    NAT GOULD

A BID FOR FREEDOM                                GUY BOOTHBY

CHASED BY FIRE                                     NAT GOULD

A GREAT STRUGGLE                                   NAT GOULD

PEOPLE I'VE SMILED WITH                   MARSHALL P. WILDER

HIS CUBAN SWEETHEART RICHARD                    HENRY SAVAGE

A FASCINATING TRAITOR RICHARD                   HENRY SAVAGE

A CAPTIVE PRINCESS RICHARD                      HENRY SAVAGE

AN EXILE FROM LONDON RICHARD                    HENRY SAVAGE

MY OFFICIAL WIFE RICHARD                        HENRY SAVAGE

THE TRAGEDY OF ADREA                   E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM

RICHARD BAXTER                               EDWARD F. JONES

THE DREAM OF LOVE                                  EMIL ZOLA

HIRAM BIRDSEED AT JAMESTOWN                   HIRAM BIRDSEED

A FAITHFUL LOVER                                AMELIE RIVES

A GENTLEMAN FROM MISSISSIPPI                   THOS. A. WISE

THE LETTERS OF MILDRED'S MOTHER TO MILDRED       E. D. PRICE

THE PRIDE OF THE RANCHO                       HENRY E. SMITH

THE ASHES OF LOVE                            CHARLES GARVICE

ST. ELMO AUGUSTA                                    J. EVANS

ARSENE LUPIN, Gentleman Burglar              MAURICE LEBLANO

ARSENE LUPIN versus HERLOCK SHOLMES               M. LEBLANO

TANGLES UNTANGLED                                   PAT RICE

100 STORIES IN BLACK                           BRIDGES SMITH

A WOMAN'S SOUL                               CHARLES GARVICE

THE CHINATOWN TRUNK MYSTERY                     OLIVE HARPER

SHERLOCK HOLMES DETECTIVE STORIES.               A. C. DOYLE

Any of the above books are for sale by newsdealers everywhere, or they
will be sent by mail, postpaid, upon receipt of 25 cents per copy.
Address all orders to

J. S. OGILVIE PUB. CO., 57, Ross Street, New york.

       *       *       *       *       *

HERE'S ANOTHER ONE!

If you have read any of the detective stories which we have
recommended to you, such as THE WORLD'S FINGER, MACON MOORE, Etc., you
know that our statements in regard to their being "the real thing"
were not overdrawn. We now have another one just as good, which we
unhesitatingly recommend. It is entitled

[Illustration]

THE HOUSE

BY THE RIVER

BY

FLORENCE WARDEN.

WHAT THE REVIEWERS SAY OF IT.

     "Florence Warden is the Anna Katharine Greene of England.
     She apparently has the same marvelous capacity as Mrs.
     Rohlfs for concocting the most complicated plots and most
     mystifying mysteries, and serving them up hot to her
     readers."--_N. Y. Globe._

     "The author has a knack of intricate plot-work which will
     keep an intelligent reader at _her_ books, when he would
     become tired over far better novels not so strongly
     peppered. For even the 'wisest men' now and then relish not
     only a little nonsense, but as well do they enjoy a
     thrilling story of mystery. And this is one--a dark, deep,
     awesome, compelling if not convincing tale."--_Sacramento
     Bee._

     "The interest of the story is deep and intense, and many
     guesses might be made of the outcome, as one reads along,
     without hitting on the right one."--_Salt Lake Tribune_.

This book contains 310 pages, printed in large clear type, and is
bound in handsome paper cover. It is for sale by booksellers and
newsdealers everywhere, or it will be sent by mail, postpaid, upon
receipt of price, 25 cents. Address all orders to

J. S. OGILVIE PUBLISHING COMPANY,

P.O. Box 767, 57 ROSE STREET, NEW YORK.

       *       *       *       *       *

SENSATIONAL

FRENCH FICTION

makes a strong appeal to a certain class of readers--people who have
lived long enough to realize that there are huge problems of sex and
matrimony, that can only be solved through the actual experience of
the persons concerned. Numberless books have been and are being
written and published treating on these questions, and if through
reading them we are enabled to enlarge our view, look at our problem
from a different angle, appropriate for our own use the benefit of
others' experience either actual or imaginary, by just so much are we
better able to live and think aright and secure to ourselves the
happiness that is our inherent right and goal.

[Illustration]

SAPPHO

BY ALPHONSE DAUDET,

is a book dealing with the great elements of love and passion as
depicted by life in the gay French capital, Paris. It created an
enormous sensation when first written, and has been in steady demand
ever since from those who, for the first time, have a chance to read
it. It should be read by every thoughtful man and woman.

For sale by booksellers and newsdealers everywhere, or sent by mail,
postpaid, on receipt of price, 50 cents.

       *       *       *       *       *

WELL! WELL!! WELL!!!

[Illustration]

Talk about your mystery and detective stories--

THE MYSTERY

OF THE

RAVENSPURS

By FRED. M. WHITE,

is certainly a hummer.

Mr. White stands in the forefront of the mystery and detective story
writers of the English speaking world to-day, and this is one of his
best and latest books.

Do you like surprises that make your eyes open wide? Sustained
excitement and strange scenes that compel you to read on page after
page with unflagging interest? Something that lifts you out of your
world of care and business, and transports you to another land, clime,
and scenes? Then don't fail to read

The Mystery of the Ravenspurs.

It is a romantic tale of adventure, mystery and amateur detective
work, with scenes laid in England, India, and the distant and
comparatively unknown Thibet. A band of mystics from the latter
country are the prime movers in the various conspiracies, and their
new, unique, weird, strange methods form one of the features of the
story.

Read of the clever detective work by blind Ralph, which borders upon
the supernatural; of walking the black Valley of Death in Thibet, with
its attendant horrors; of the Princess Zara, and her power, intrigue
and treachery laid bare; of the poisonous bees and the deadly perfume
flowers. Unflagging interest holds your spell-bound attention from
cover to cover.

NEW! UP-TO-DATE! ENTERTAINING!

The book contains 320 pages, bound in paper cover, with handsome
illustration in colors. Formerly published in cloth at $1.25, now
issued in paper covers at 25 CENTS.

For sale by booksellers everywhere, or sent by mail, postpaid, upon
receipt of price. Address

J. S. OGILVIE PUBLISHING COMPANY,

P.O. Box 767, 57 ROSE STREET, NEW YORK.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Price Inevitable;

OR,

THE CONFESSIONS OF IRENE.

BY

AURELIA I. SIDNER.

Confessions of whatever nature always seem to appeal to the American
people, possibly because of the fact that in writing such a confession
the author usually lays bare the one great wrong committed, and
endeavors to show and teach by example and experience how the mistake
or indiscretion could have been avoided, and how, also, there must
always be paid THE PRICE INEVITABLE.

This story tells, in a series of letters, of a woman who was divorced
from her husband, but who in order to win the love and respect of a
pure, honest man, strives to live aright. She fails to win his love,
however, owing to her past life, but does succeed in redeeming
herself. The story is charmingly written, and is more than
interesting--it holds one spell-bound. It is full of excitement and
action, and the characters are strongly drawn and true to nature. The
moral tone is refreshing and the climax is a lengthy SERMON in itself.

The book contains 212 pages with 3 full-page half-tone illustrations,
and can be obtained at your dealers or from us, cloth bound, for 50
cents, postpaid.

       *       *       *       *       *

HERE WE COME AGAIN

With Another Rattling Good

ADVENTURE AND DETECTIVE STORY!

SPRIGGS, THE

CRACKSMAN.

By HEADON HILL

[Illustration]

Ordinarily Spriggs was a cracksman, but the information he gained
while at work one night so surprised him, that he forgot to "burgle,"
and then and there decided to get busy on a job that meant a cleanup
of a $60,000 diamond. It led him a perilous chase in which the native
priests and followers of a hidden band in India showed him some things
not seen on the "Strand."

He also has trouble awaiting him on his return to England. His heart
is in the right place, however, a little kindness, sympathy and help
having been all that were required to change his attitude toward
humanity, and he is able to show his gratitude at an opportune moment.

A STIRRING, ENTERTAINING,

SPELL-BINDING STORY!

The book contains 345 solid pages of reading matter, bound in
attractive paper cover printed in colors. For sale by booksellers and
newsdealers everywhere, or sent by mail, postpaid, on receipt of
price, 25 cents.

       *       *       *       *       *

DO YOU ENJOY

reading a book that has just enough dash and piquancy about it to
cause a smile to wreathe your face? A book that tells in an extremely
humorous way of the doings of some smart theatrical folk? Life is many
sided, and our book,

[Illustration]

THE LETTERS OF

MILDRED'S MOTHER TO MILDRED

BY E. D. PRICE,

shows one of the sides with which you may not be familiar.

Mildred is a girl in the chorus at one of New York's famous theatres,
and her mother is a woman who "travels" with a friend by the name of
Blanche. The book is written by E. D. Price, "The Man Behind the
Scenes," one well qualified to touch upon the stage-side of life.

The following is the Table of Contents:

Mother at the Races.

Mother at a Chicago Hotel.

Mother Goes Yachting.

Mother Escapes Matrimony,

Mother Meets Nature's Noblemen.

Mother Joins the Repertoire Company.

Mother in the One Night Stands.

Mother and the Theatrical Angel.

Mother Returns to Mildred.

Read what Blakely Hall says of it:

     "I don't know whether you are aware of it or not, but you
     are turning out wonderful, accurate and convincing character
     studies in the Mildred's Mother articles. They are as
     refreshing and invigorating as showers on the hottest July
     day."

The book contains 160 pages, with attractive cover in colors. Price,
cloth bound, $1.00; paper cover, 50 cents. For sale by all booksellers
everywhere, or sent by mail, postpaid, upon receipt of price. Address

J. S. OGILVIE PUBLISHING COMPANY,

P.O. Box 767, 57 ROSE STREET, NEW YORK.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Testing of

Olive Vaughan

By PERCY J. BREBNER,

_Author of "The Princess Maritza," Etc._

The stage has ever held an allurement for the lay reader, the general
public, and the uninitiated, so to speak, and Mr. Brebner has chosen
this background for the setting of his story, and has woven around
Olive Vaughan, scenes and incidents showing the temptations to which
every aspirant for theatrical fame and fortune is subject, and showing
too, how, through right decisions and correct judgment based on inborn
and developing strength of character, she is able to rise superior to
her surroundings and wrest a great success. This is not easy to
accomplish, however, and its telling, which shows a fine literary
style and unquestioned powers of characterization and description, is
what makes the author one of the most popular among fiction writers of
the present day.

It will appeal strongly to every woman who has at any time in her
career been called upon to decide the momentous question of
marrying--whether to follow the dictates of the heart and marry the
one she loves, or follow the decisions of the mind overruling the
heart, and marry one who can give her position and plenty, and whom
she expects to be able to learn to love.

The book contains 296 pages, printed from new, large type on good
paper, bound in paper cover with attractive design in colors. For sale
by newsdealers everywhere, or sent by mail, postpaid, upon receipt of
25 cents. Bound in cloth, price, 75 cents.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Confessions

Of a Princess

A book of this sort would necessarily be anonymous, and the name of
the author is not necessary as indicative of literary ability, the
strength of the story depending upon its action as revealed through
the laying bare of the innermost secrets of a "Princess of the Realm"
whose disposition and character were such as to compel her to find
elsewhere than in her own home the love, tenderness, admiration, and
society which was lacking there, and which her being craved.

Position, money and power, seem to those who do not possess them, to
bring happiness. Such is not the case, however, where stability of
character is lacking and where one depends upon the pleasures of sense
for the enjoyment of life rather than on the accomplishment of things
worth while based on high ideals.

The writer has taken a page from her life and has given it to the
world. She has laid bare the soul of a woman, that some other woman
(or some man) might profit thereby. The names have been changed, and
such events omitted as might lead too readily to the discovery of
their identity. Each the victim of circumstance, yet the _price_ is
demanded of the one who fell the victim of environment.

_The Confessions of a Princess_ is the story of a woman who saw,
conquered and fell.

The book contains 270 pages, printed from new, large type on good
paper, bound in paper cover with attractive design in colors. For sale
by newsdealers everywhere, or sent by mail, postpaid, upon receipt, of
25 cents. Bound in cloth, price, 75 cents.

       *       *       *       *       *

AN AUTOMOBILE

has a fascination for millions of people. There is an exhilaration, a
restful, soothing, satisfying feeling about automobiling for pleasure
that seems different from that achieved in other ways. But it has its
trying, adventurous, and fearful side as well, and so to those who
have experienced these emotions, and to those who would like to
experience them, we heartily recommend the book

[Illustration]

THE CAR

AND THE LADY

By GRACE S. MASON and PERCY F. MEGARGEL,

in which actual experience has been partially interwoven with fiction
in an exciting narrative of a race across the American continent.
Adventure, mistakes, accidents, good fortune, and surprise, follow one
another in rapid succession, keeping the tension of the reader at
excitement pitch until the goal is reached and the prize won--a prize
which at some time in every one's career is quite the only prize on
earth.

The book contains 276 pages of solid reading matter, printed from
large, new type on good quality of paper, and bound in attractive
paper covers printed in colors. It is for sale by booksellers and
newsdealers everywhere, or will be sent by mail, postpaid, upon
receipt of 25 cents.

       *       *       *       *       *

LATEST ADDITIONS

TO

OGILVIE'S

POPULAR

RAILROAD

SERIES.

[Illustration]

SPRIGGS, THE CRACKSMAN                           HEADON HILL

LADY VERNER'S FLIGHT                            THE "DUCHESS"

THE TESTING OF OLIVE VAUGHAN                   P. T. BREBNER

THE CONFESSIONS OF A PRINCESS                     ---- ----

SELF-RAISED                      MRS. E. D. E. N. SOUTHWORTH

ISHMAEL                          MRS. E. D. E. N. SOUTHWORTH

ONLY A GIRL'S LOVE                           CHARLES GARVICE

SAPPHO                                       ALPHONSE DAUDET

THE HUMOROUS MR. BOWSER                              M. QUAD

A BAD BOY'S DIARY                                 BY HIMSELF

A WOUNDED HEART                              CHARLES GARVICE

EAST LYNNE                                   MRS. HENRY WOOD

THE PEER AND THE WOMAN                 E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM

ALONE ON A WIDE, WIDE SEA                   W. CLARK RUSSELL

DANGERS OF WORKING GIRLS                  GRACE MILLER WHITE

A LOYAL SLAVE                             GRACE MILLER WHITE

Any of the above books are for sale by newsdealers everywhere, or they
will be sent by mail, postpaid, upon receipt of 25 cents per copy.
Address all orders to

J. S. OGILVIE PUBLISHING COMPANY,

57 ROSE STREET, NEW YORK.

       *       *       *       *       *

MACON MOORE,

THE

SOUTHERN DETECTIVE.

[Illustration]

Here is another rattling good book that we unhesitatingly recommend to
every one who enjoys a thrilling detective story. Each chapter
contains a startling episode in the attempt of MACON MOORE to run to
earth a gang of moonshiners in Southern Georgia, whose business was
that of manufacturing illicit whisky.

His capture by the "Night Riders," and his daring escape from them at
their meeting in the Valley of Death, forms one of the many exciting
incidents of the story.

One of our readers writes to us as follows:

     "I was absolutely unable to stop reading "Macon Moore" until
     I had finished it. I expected to read for an hour or so, but
     the situations were so dramatic and exciting at the end of
     each chapter, that before I knew it I had started the next
     one. I have read it three times, once while practicing
     exercises on the piano, and shall read it again. It is a
     corker."

The book contains 250 pages, is bound in paper covers, and will be
sent to any address by mail, postpaid, upon receipt of 25 cents.
Address all orders to

J. S. OGILVIE PUBLISHING COMPANY,

P.O. Box 767, 57 ROSE STREET, NEW YORK.

       *       *       *       *       *

_READ IT! READ IT! READ IT!_

[Illustration]

THE ASHES OF LOVE.

... BY ...

CHARLES GARVICE,

The Matchless Magician of Fiction.

UNPARALLELED IN INTEREST!

UNEQUALLED IN ITS

THRILLING SITUATIONS!

Unsurpassed in Dramatic Intensity

This Marvellous Story of Love,

Passion, Mystery, Intrigue

and Adventure Holds the

Reader Spell-bound.

From the pastoral beauty and palatial mansions of a northern clime, we
follow hero and heroine, with breathless interest, to the sun-scorched
veldt and arid plains of Southern Africa.

On two continents we watch the battle between VIRTUE AND
VILLAINY--HONOR AND RASCALITY--JUSTICE AND KNAVERY.

By the magic art of the author we are transformed from mere readers,
and become actual participants in a life drama of tremendous
interest--a drama which stirs every fibre of our being and sends the
blood coursing like a mill-race through the tense arteries of a
spell-bound body.

THE CONVENTIONAL SCORNED!

THE COMMONPLACE SPURNED!

New Faces! New Types! New Scenes! New Thrills!

SEIZE THE GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY HERE AND NOW.

Don't Procrastinate! Don't Delay! But Buy and Read this

Stupendous Masterpiece of Matchless Fiction.

PRICE, 25 CENTS.

The Ashes of Love contains nearly 450 pages of solid reading matter,
printed in large type on good quality of paper, bound in paper covers
with attractive cover design in two colors. It is for sale by
newsdealers and booksellers everywhere, or will be sent by mail,
postpaid, upon receipt of 25 cents.

       *       *       *       *       *

Do You Enjoy

A Good Story of the Western Plains?

If So, Don't Fail to Read

[Illustration]

The Pride of the Rancho.

By HENRY E. SMITH.

_12mo, 192 Pages. Price, Paper Bound_,

_25 Cents; Bound in Cloth, $1.00._

The story is founded upon his play of the same name.

The scene is laid in the West, where two college men have gone in
quest of health, and found it. It shows two manly, unselfish
characters, such as the youth of the present day might well emulate.

It is full of the air, the love, and the excitement of the plains. The
plot is fascinating and the love story charming.

A pretty romance is woven into the narrative, portraying the personal
charms and clever attractiveness of the Western girl, even though the
daughter of a ranchman. It carries a good moral throughout and is
eminently attractive to both young and old.

The book contains 192 pages, with a frontispiece illustration. Price,
paper bound, 25 cents; bound in cloth, $1.00. For sale by all
booksellers and newsdealers, or sent by mail, postpaid, on receipt of
price.

       *       *       *       *       *

Eureka Detective Series

[Illustration]

All of the books in the Eureka Series are clever detective stories,
and each one of those mentioned below has received the heartiest
recommendation. Ask for the Eureka Series detective books.

1. Inspector Henderson, the Central Office Detective. By H. I. Hancock

2. His Evil Eye.                                  By Harrie I. Hancock

3. Detective Johnson of New Orleans.                  By H. I. Hancock

4. Harry Blount, the Detective.                      By T. J. Flanagan

5. Harry Sharp, the New York Detective.                 By H. Rockwood

6. Private Detective No. 39.                       By John W. Postgate

7. Not Guilty.              By the author of "The Original Mr. Jacobs"

8. A Confederate Spy.                         By Capt. Thos. N. Conrad

9. A Study in Scarlet.                               By A. Conan Doyle

10. The Unwilling Bride.                             By Fergus W. Hume

11. The Man Who Vanished.                            By Fergus W. Hume

12. The Lone Inn.                                    By Fergus W. Hume

13. The World's Finger.                                  By T. Hanshew

14. Tour of the World in Eighty Days.                   By Jules Verne

15. The Frozen Pirate.                             By W. Clark Russell

16. Mystery of a Hansom Cab.                         By Fergus W. Hume

17. A Close Call.                                       By J. L. Berry

18. No. 99; A Detective Story.                      By Arthur Griffith

19. The Sign of the Four.                            By A. Conan Doyle

20. The Mystery of the Montauk Mills.                By E. L. Coolidge

21. The Mountain Limited.                            By E. L. Coolidge

22. Gilt-Edge Tom, Conductor.                        By E. L. Coolidge

23. The Mossbank Murder.                                By Harry Mills

24. The Woman Stealer.                                  By Harry Mills

25. King Dan, The Factory Detective.                    By G. W. Goode

See other advertisement for other list of titles in the Eureka Series.

You can obtain the Eureka Series books where you bought this one, or
we will mail them to you, postpaid, for 25 cents each, or any five for
$1.00. Address all orders to

J. S. OGILVIE PUBLISHING COMPANY,

57 ROSE STREET, NEW YORK.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration]

NEW YORK'S LATEST SENSATION

We have just issued in novel form

the story of

THE DEVIL,

founded upon the successful and much discussed play of the same name
by

FERENC MOLNAR,

as produced by

HENRY W. SAVAGE.

The title is startling. The story is not so startling as the title
would indicate. It is a strongly moral one, showing in a vivid,
realistic manner the result of evil thinking. The Devil in this story
is evil thinking materialized.

The scene centers in Vienna, and deals with the early love of a poor
artist and a poorer maiden. As the years go by the artist achieves
distinction, and the maiden becomes the wife of a millionaire
merchant--with very little romance in his composition, but thoroughly
devoted to his young and beautiful bride.

Seven years later the artist (who has been received as a valued friend
of the family) is commissioned to paint the wife's portrait--and the
old love re-asserts itself. For a while the issue is problematical;
but stability of character conquers, and the ending is quite as the
heart would wish.

The book also contains an article by the noted author, Ella Wheeler
Wilcox, pointing out the strong moral to be deduced.

It contains 190 pages, printed in large, clear type on best quality of
book paper, with eight half-tone illustrations from the play. Price,
handsomely bound in cloth, 50 cents, net, postage 10 cents additional;
bound in paper covers, 25 cents, postpaid.

For sale by booksellers and newsdealers everywhere, or sent by mail
upon receipt of price.

       *       *       *       *       *

OGILVIE'S POPULAR COPYRIGHT LINE

THE NEW MAYOR

A Novel

Founded upon GEORGE BROADHURST'S play

The Man of the Hour

Handsomely bound in cloth and stamped in colors, containing 250 pages
with twelve illustrations from the play

Price 50 cents, net, postage 10 cents additional

It has been issued under the title of THE NEW MAYOR, in order not to
conflict with a book published under the title, The Man of the Hour.

Thousands of people have not had the opportunity of seeing the play,
and to them, as well as to those who have seen it, we desire to
announce that we are the authorized publishers of the Story of George
Broadhurst's Play in book form. There is already an enormous demand
for this book, owing to the fact that the play is meeting with such a
tremendous success, having been presented in New York for over six
hundred consecutive performances, with four companies on tour
throughout the United States.

The play has received the highest praise and commendation from critics
and the press, a few of which we give herewith:

    "THE FINEST PLAY I EVER SAW."--Ex-President Roosevelt.

    "The best in years."--_N. Y. Telegram._

    "A perfect success."--_N. Y. Sun._

    "A triumph."--_N. Y. American._

    "Best play yet."--_N. Y. Commercial._

    "A sensation."--_N. Y. Herald._

    "An apt appeal."--_N. Y Globe._

    "A straight hit."--_N. Y. World._

    "A play worth while."--_N. Y. News._

    "Means something."--_N. Y. Tribune._

    "An object lesson."--_N. Y. Post._

This novel is a strong story of politics, love, and graft, and appeals
powerfully to every true American.

SENT BY MAIL, POSTAGE PAID, FOR 60 CENTS.

Be sure to get the book founded on the play.

You can buy this at any bookstore or direct from us.

       *       *       *       *       *

THE BIG NOISE! THE LOUD SCREAM! THE TALL HOLLER!

[Illustration]

You Will Laugh, You Will Yell,

You Will Scream at

THE BLUNDERS OF

A BASHFUL MAN

The World's Champion

Funny Book.

READ IT! READ IT! READ IT!

It eradicates wrinkles, banishes care, and by its laughter-compelling
mirth and irresistible humor rejuvenates the whole body. Whether you
are a bashful man or not, you should read

THE BLUNDERS OF A BASHFUL MAN.

In this screamingly funny volume the reader follows, with rapt
attention and hilarious delight, the mishaps, mortifications,
confusions, and agonizing mental and physical distresses of a
self-conscious, hypersensitive, appallingly bashful young man, in a
succession of astounding accidents, and ludicrous predicaments, that
convulse the reader with cyclonic laughter, causing him to hold both
sides for fear of exploding from an excess of uproarious merriment.

All records beaten as a fun-maker, rib-tickler, and laugh-provoker.
This marvellous volume of merriment proves melancholy an impostor, and
grim care a joke. With joyous gales of mirth it dissipates gloom and
banishes trouble.

YOU WANT IT! YOU CANNOT DO WITHOUT IT!

Better Than Drugs! Better Than Vaudeville!

A WHOLE CIRCUS IN ITSELF!

The Time, the Place, the Opportunity is Here!

BUY IT NOW!

THE BLUNDERS OF A BASHFUL MAN contains 170 solid pages of reading
matter, illustrated, is bound in heavy lithographed paper covers, and
will be sent by mail, postpaid, to any address on receipt of price, 25
cents. Address orders to

J. S. OGILVIE PUBLISHING COMPANY,

P.O. Box 767, 57 ROSE STREET, NEW YORK.

       *       *       *       *       *

SYMPATHY AROUSED! SENTIMENT CULTIVATED!

LONGING SATISFIED!

LADY VERNER'S FLIGHT.

[Illustration]

By "THE DUCHESS."

Author of "Molly Bawn," "The Honorable Mrs. Vereker," Etc.

"The Duchess" is famous as an author of those stories which delight
the heart and mind of young women readers through the artistic
word-painting of scenes and incidents which arouse interest, stimulate
desire, and satisfy the appetite for mental diversion, recreation,
entertainment, and pleasure.

LADY VERNER'S FLIGHT is no exception to her reputed ability; in fact,
in it she quite surpasses her own standard, and the reader follows
with breathless interest the vicissitudes and trials that mark the
course of this pure story of English life in which there are no less
than three love affairs going on at the same time.

WITHOUT A PARALLEL IN INTEREST!

ABOUNDING IN TENSE SITUATIONS!

REPLETE WITH THRILLING INCIDENTS!

TRUE TO LIFE!

You read this book with delight, and finish it with a sigh!

Now is the time to secure a copy!

Don't delay, but buy and read this masterpiece of fiction!

The book contains 310 solid pages of reading matter, bound in
attractive paper cover printed in colors. For sale by booksellers and
newsdealers everywhere, or sent by mail, postpaid, on receipt of
price, 25 cents.

       *       *       *       *       *

THE SHADOW OF A CROSS.

BY

MRS. DORA NELSON

AND

F. C. HENDERSCHOTT.

[Illustration]

"The sweetest American story ever written," wrote one critic in
reviewing the story, which first appeared as a serial in a magazine of
large circulation. A strong inquiry for the novel in book form
developed, and we have just issued the book to meet this demand.

The story is wholly American in sentiment, and every chapter appeals
to the reader's sympathies, as the whole book pulsates with pure and
cherished ideals. The love theme is sweet and intensely interesting.
Through the political fight, the victory and the defeat, the love
thread is never lost sight of. The intense struggle in the heart of
the heroine between her Church and her lover is of such deep human
interest, that it holds the reader in ardent sympathy until the happy
solution, when the reader smiles, wipes the moisture from the eyes,
and breathes happily again.

While the narrative is intensely interesting, it is more; it instructs
and educates. To read it is to feel improved and delighted. Don't miss
this treat; it is one of the very best American stories of recent
years.

The book is printed on best quality of laid book paper, contains
nearly 200 pages, and is bound in paper covers with handsome
illustration. It will be sent by mail, postpaid, to any address upon
receipt of price, 25 cents. Address all orders to

J. S. OGILVIE PUBLISHING COMPANY,

P.O. Box 767, 57 ROSE STREET, NEW YORK.

       *       *       *       *       *

LAUGH! YELL! SCREAM!

Read It! Read It! Read It!

A Bad

Boy's Diary

By "LITTLE GEORGIE,"

The Laughing Cyclone.

[Illustration]

THE FUNNIEST BOOK EVER WRITTEN!

In this matchless volume of irresistible, rib-tickling fun, the Bad
Boy, an incarnate but lovable imp of mischief, records his daily
exploits, experiences, pranks and adventures, through all of which you
follow him with an absorbing interest that never flags, stopping only
when convulsions of laughter and aching sides force the mirth-swept
body to take an involuntary respite from a feast of fun, stupendous
and overwhelming.

In the pages of this excruciatingly funny narrative can be found the
elixir of youth for all man and womankind. The magic of its pages
compel the old to become young, the careworn gay, and carking trouble
hides its gloomy head and flies away on the blithesome wings of
uncontrollable laughter.

IT MAKES YOU A BOY AGAIN!

IT MAKES LIFE WORTH WHILE!

For old or young it is a tonic and sure cure for the blues. The BAD
BOY'S DIARY is making the whole world scream with laughter. Get in
line and laugh too. BUY IT TO-DAY! It contains 276 solid pages of
reading matter, illustrated, is bound in lithographed paper covers,
and will be sent by mail, postpaid, to any address on receipt of
price, 25 cents. Address all orders to

J. S. OGILVIE PUBLISHING COMPANY,

P.O. Box 767, 57 ROSE STREET, NEW YORK.

       *       *       *       *       *

The World's Finger

is the title of the most absorbing detective narrative ever written.

[Illustration]

One would not surmise from the title that such was the fact; but the
closing chapter of the book gives the clue to its meaning: "I swore to
my father on his death-bed that The World's Finger should never point
to a Davanant as amongst the list of known convicts, and that oath I
will keep."

T. W. HANSHEW is the author, and a writer of more exciting and
sensational detective stories cannot be found at the present day.

One reader writes: "I thought I would read a chapter or two of THE
WORLD'S FINGER, to see what it was all about. I soon found out, and it
was two o'clock in the morning before I lay it down, having read it to
the end at one sitting. It certainly is a corker."

Bound in paper covers; price, 25 cents. Sent by mail to any address
upon receipt of price. Address all orders to

J. S. OGILVIE PUBLISHING COMPANY,

P.O. Box 767, 57 ROSE STREET, NEW YORK.

       *       *       *       *       *

STOP! HALT! ATTENTION!

Read the most astounding and exciting love story of the age

ONLY A

GIRL'S LOVE

BY

CHARLES GARVICE.

IT

ENRAPTURES! ENTRANCES!

THRILLS! DELIGHTS!

[Illustration]

In this intensely dramatic and thrilling love story, we watch with
bated breath the unfolding of a high life drama of absorbing interest.
Rank and wealth, pride and prejudice, vice and villainy, combine in a
desperate and determined effort to break off a romantic and thrilling
love match, the development, temporary rupture and final consummation
of which, by the genius of the author, we are, with spell-bound
interest, tense arteries and throbbing hearts privileged to witness.
This desperate attempt to halt the course of true love and dam the
well-springs of an ardent and romantic affection, will be watched by
the reader with a boundless and untiring interest.

New Scenes! New Faces! New Features! New Thrills!

SECURE THIS SUPERB NOVEL

and learn for yourself the result of this astounding battle of true
love against terrific odds.

FICTION LOVERS, NOVEL READERS, TAKE NOTICE!

Just What You Are Looking For!

A story that grips the heart and holds the reader spell-bound from
start to finish!

A MENTAL FEAST, A LITERARY BANQUET!

You Want It! You Cannot Do Without It! Buy It To-day! Now!

The book contains 380 pages of solid reading matter, bound in
attractive paper cover, printed in colors. For sale by booksellers and
newsdealers everywhere, or sent by mail, postpaid, on receipt of
price, 25 cents.

       *       *       *       *       *

THRILLING! ABSORBING! DELIGHTFUL!

The Story Sensation of the Year!

A WOUNDED HEART

BY

CHARLES GARVICE,

Author of "The Ashes of Love," "A Woman's Soul," Etc.

It Grips! It Holds! It Thrills!

[Illustration]

By the magic pen of the author we are carried through the seductive
and intricate mazes of a thrilling and romantic life drama of
unparalleled interest.

In beautiful England, sunny France, and distant Australia, we watch
the movements of life-like, splendidly drawn flesh and blood
characters, and follow their fortunes with a zealous devotion that
never flags.

With breathless interest we witness the struggle for an ancestral
home, which finally passes into the possession of the scion of a noble
house, the rightful heir, Sir Herrick Powis, thanks to the sacrifices
of the heroine, than whom no more entrancing and beautiful character
exists in the whole range of modern fiction. The ending of the story
is, of course, a happy one, but this is not achieved until the
trusting heart of the heroine has been sorely wounded, and she has
passed through trials and tribulations, which win for her the love and
sympathy of the spell-bound reader.

REPLETE WITH THRILLING INCIDENTS!

Teeming With Heart Interest and Dramatic Action!

NEW! NOVEL! UNIQUE!

You Read this Book with Delight! You Lay It Down with a Sigh!

BUY IT! BUY IT! BUY IT! TO-DAY! NOW!

The book contains 400 pages of solid reading matter bound in
attractive paper cover printed in colors. For sale by booksellers and
newsdealers everywhere, or sent by mail, postpaid, on receipt of
Price, 25 Cents.

       *       *       *       *       *

100 STORIES

IN BLACK

BY BRIDGES SMITH.

Not in years, if ever, have we seen or read anything which approaches
the stories in this book for real, true depiction of character of the
Southern darkey of the present day. They are full of humor and
entertainment, and absolutely true to life both as to the incidents
related, and the language used. The latter is so true, in fact, that
our compositor who set the type for the book, said that he had never
before seen anything like the diction and spelling.

The author held for some years the position of City Clerk in the
Mayor's Office of the City of Macon, Georgia, where opportunities were
presented for full and complete observation of the people in the world
of which he writes.

The stories originally appeared in the "Macon Daily Telegraph," but
the demand for them in book form was so great that we have now issued
them in permanent binding.

The book contains 320 pages with illustrations, and is bound in paper
covers with attractive and appropriate cover design. Retail price, 25
cents. For sale by booksellers and newsdealers everywhere, or sent by
mail, postpaid, upon receipt of price.

       *       *       *       *       *

THIS IS IT! IT!! IT!!!

A WOMAN'S SOUL

By CHARLES GARVICE.

[Illustration]

A Literary Sensation!

A Matchless Masterpiece!

The Big Noise of Fiction!

A Story that Grips the Heart!

A Story that Stirs the Soul!

Guided by a master hand we watch with bated breath the unfolding of a
story of unparalleled interest. Ever the unexpected happens, surprise
follows surprise, plot is succeeded by counterplot. Vice and virtue,
honor and knavery, true love and duplicity, struggle desperately and
incessantly for mastery until the mind is bewildered and the heart and
soul are stirred to their very depths.

Swept irresistibly along the seductive and entrancing streams of
romantic fiction, never for one instant is the reader's interest
allowed to flag. When almost exhausted with the thrilling nature of
the narrative, the end of this matchless story is reached, and it is
then with a sigh of regret the reader bids adieu to characters that
have woven themselves around his heart, and have become part and
parcel of his very life.

UNPARALLELED AND UNSURPASSED!

New, Novel, and Unconventional!

AWAY FROM THE BEATEN TRACK OF FICTION!

Classy! Unique! The Story of the Century!

READ IT! BUY IT! JUDGE FOR YOURSELF!

_PRICE, 25 CENTS._

A WOMAN'S SOUL contains 326 pages of solid reading matter, printed in
large type on good quality of paper, bound in paper covers with
attractive cover design in two colors. For sale by newsdealers and
booksellers everywhere, or sent by mail, postpaid, upon receipt of 25
cents.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Most Popular Book In

America To-Day

--IS--

"ST. ELMO,"

--BY--

AUGUSTA J. EVANS,

[Illustration]

The history of this Book is remarkable. It was first published nearly
45 years ago, and met with a fair measure of success; but it was not
until within the last three years that it achieved special prominence,
since which time over half a million copies have been sold.

It is hard to account for this wonderful jump into popularity at the
present time, except for the fact that the story is one of real merit,
and is now doubly recognized as such. It is a mark of signal
distinction for the author, to think that she wrote a story so much
ahead of the times.

The story is founded upon the never-old theme of love--the pure love
of a good woman--and shows the wonders that can be accomplished with
and through it, even to the extent of the reclamation of an extremely
talented and extraordinary man having a predilection for evil and sin.

No story written in years has aroused the discussion that this book
has.

Can you afford to miss it?

Do you want to keep abreast of the times, and read what other people
are talking about? Then buy and read "ST. ELMO."

The book contains 440 pages, bound in paper cover. For sale by
booksellers and newsdealers everywhere, or sent by mail, postpaid,
upon receipt of price, 25 CENTS.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration]

DON'T MISS IT! DON'T MISS IT!! DON'T MISS IT!!!

=FATE=

By CHARLES GARVICE,

Regal Ruler of the Resplendent

Realm of Romance.

Tremendous in its Interest.

Weird and Witchingly Fascinating in Plot and Action.

Tense In Its Astounding Situations.

It Grips! Amazes!! Thrills!!!

IT TUGS AT THE HEART STRINGS AND HOLDS ONE

CAPTIVE FROM COVER TO COVER.

In this astounding story of unparalleled interest, we see the sinister
figure of FATE stalk deviously but relentlessly through the mystifying
mazes of love, devotion, intrigue, cunning, cruelty and crime, until a
conscienceless fiend, in human shape, lies prostrate in death,
overwhelmed by the ruthless forces of his own creating.

Right, truth, justice and love dashed to earth by desperate villainy
and inconceivable cunning, finally triumph in the face of crimes that
crush, and difficulties that overwhelm.

The reader breathes a sigh of relief that hero and heroine, who have
wound themselves about his heart, are once more happily united, and
that

LOVE, THE CONQUEROR, WINS AT LAST.

This story of love, passion, mystery and revenge, makes the sluggish
blood course wildly through every artery of the spell-bound frame.

It awakens every emotion of the human heart, and sweeps the vibrant
chords of sympathy and compassion. The book you need. The book you
must have. To-day! Now!! Here!!!

PRICE, 25 CENTS.

"Fate" contains over 450 pages of solid reading matter, printed in
large type on good quality of paper, bound in paper covers with
attractive cover design in two colors. It is for sale by newsdealers
and booksellers everywhere, or will be sent by mail, postpaid, upon
receipt of 25 cents.

       *       *       *       *       *

VAIL'S DREAM BOOK

AND

COMPLETE FORTUNE TELLER

By J. R. & A. M. VAIL

You dream like everyone else does, but can you interpret them--do you
understand what your dream portends? If you wish to know what it
means, you should buy this book, which contains the full and correct
interpretation of all dreams and their lucky numbers. This book is
also the most complete fortune teller on the market.

We give herewith a partial list of the contents:

Dreams and Their Interpretations.

Palmistry, or Telling Fortunes by the Lines of the Hand.

Fortune Telling by the Grounds in a Tea or Coffee Cup.

How to Read Your Fortunes by the White of an Egg.

How to Determine the Lucky and Unlucky Days of any Month in the Year.

How to Ascertain Whether You will Marry Soon.

Fortune Telling by Cards, including the Italian Method.

A Chapter on Somniloquism and Spiritual Mediums.

The book contains 128 pages, size 7-5/8 x 5-1/4 set in new, large,
clear type, and will be sent by mail, postpaid, to any address upon
receipt of 25 cents. For sale where you bought this book.

       *       *       *       *       *

LOVE--COURTSHIP--MARRIAGE.

[Illustration]

This is the newest and most up-to-date book on these subjects. It
explains how girls may become happy wives, bachelors become happy
husbands. It includes a treatise on "The Etiquette of Marriage,"
describing invitations, the dresses, the ceremony, and the proper
behavior of bride and groom.

In addition to the above there is a most brilliant editorial entitled
"The Real Divorce Question"; also an article giving statistics, dates,
etc., entitled "Alarming Growth of the Divorce Evil," by the
well-known writer, Rev. Thomas B. Gregory; and, lastly, an editorial
entitled "Woman's Dignity," which should be read by every woman in the
country. If the young people of this country would read and study
these serious subjects before marriage the now-popular divorce would
soon become a thing of the past. Remember, from some one little thing
in this book you may be spared a life of misery. 125 pages, paper
bound; postpaid, 25 cents.

LOVE AND COURTSHIP CARDS.

Sparking, Courting, and Love-making made easy with these cards. They
are arranged with such apt conversation that you will be able to find
out whether a girl loves you or not without her even thinking that you
are doing so. These cards may be used by two persons only, or they can
be used to entertain an evening party of young people. There are sixty
cards in all, and each answer will respond differently to every one of
the questions. Sent by mail, postpaid, for 30 cents.

Either of the above will be sent by mail, postpaid, on receipt of
price by J. S. OGILVIE PUBLISHING COMPANY, 57 Rose Street, New York.

       *       *       *       *       *

JUST OUT

TEMPTATIONS OF THE STAGE.

There is probably no other book of this kind on the market that tells
so much truth from Stage Life as does this one. If there is, we do not
know of it. We herewith give the contents and leave you to draw your
own conclusions:--

[Illustration]

Ever in the Limelight.

"Propinquity" _versus_ "Association."

Flattery.

See How it Sparkles.

Gambling--Drugs.

Dangerous Pitfalls on the Road to Success.

My Narrow Escape. _By Della Fox._

Girls in Burlesque Companies. _By May Howard._

A Nation at Her Feet. _By Pauline Markham._

Jane Hading's Career. _By Herself._

A Woman's Blighted Life. _By Jennie O'Neill Potter._

Cigarette Smoking.

A Unique Sensation. _By Nina Farrington._

Yvette Guilbert's Songs.

A Tragic End.

Triumphs and Failures. _By Isabelle Urquhart._

A Mad Career.

Likes to Wear Tights. _By Jessie Bartlett Davis._

Jolly Jennie Joyce.

Thorns of Stage Life. _By Maud Gregory._

The Stage is Not Degenerating. _By Eva Mudge._

Ethics of Stage Morality. _By Jessie Olivier._

Stage-Door Johnnies.

The Pace That Kills.

Cure For the Stage Struck.

Stage Love Letters. _Mlle. Fougere._

Stock Companies.

From Tights to Tea Parties.

In Other Walks.

The above book contains 128 pages, bound in paper cover handsomely
illustrated in colors, and will be sent by mail, postpaid, to any
address upon receipt of 25 cents. Address all orders to

J. S. OGILVIE PUBLISHING COMPANY,

P.O. Box 767, 57 ROSE STREET, NEW YORK.

       *       *       *       *       *

OLD WITCHES' DREAM BOOK

AND

COMPLETE FORTUNE TELLER.

You dream like everyone else does, but can you interpret them--do you
understand what your dream portends? If you wish to know what it
means, you should buy this book, which contains the full and correct
interpretation of all dreams and their lucky numbers. This book is
also the most complete fortune teller on the market.

We give herewith a partial list of the contents:

Dreams and Their Interpretations.

Palmistry, or Telling Fortunes by the Lines of the Hand.

Fortune Telling by the Grounds in a Tea or Coffee Cup.

How to Read Your Fortune by the White of an Egg.

How to Determine the Lucky and Unlucky Days of any Month in the Year.

How to Ascertain Whether You will Marry Soon.

Fortune Telling by Cards, Including the Italian Method.

The book contains 128 pages, set in new, large, clear type, and will
be sent by mail, postpaid, to any address upon receipt of 25 cents in
U. S. stamps or postal money order. Address all orders to

J. S. OGILVIE PUBLISHING COMPANY,

P. O. Box 767. 57 ROSE STREET, NEW YORK.

       *       *       *       *       *





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