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Title: Mrs. Korner Sins Her Mercies
Author: Jerome, Jerome K. (Jerome Klapka)
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 "Mrs. Korner Sins Her Mercies" ***

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By Jerome K. Jerome

“I do mean it,” declared Mrs. Korner, “I like a man to be a man.”

“But you would not like Christopher--I mean Mr. Korner--to be that sort
of man,” suggested her bosom friend.

“I don’t mean that I should like it if he did it often. But I should
like to feel that he was able to be that sort of man.--Have you told
your master that breakfast is ready?” demanded Mrs. Korner of the
domestic staff, entering at the moment with three boiled eggs and a

“Yus, I’ve told ‘im,” replied the staff indignantly.

The domestic staff at Acacia Villa, Ravenscourt Park, lived in a state
of indignation. It could be heard of mornings and evenings saying its
prayers indignantly.

“What did he say?”

“Said ‘e’ll be down the moment ‘e’s dressed.”

“Nobody wants him to come before,” commented Mrs. Korner. “Answered me
that he was putting on his collar when I called up to him five minutes

“Answer yer the same thing now, if yer called up to ‘im agen, I ‘spect,”
 was the opinion of the staff. “Was on ‘is ‘ands and knees when I looked
in, scooping round under the bed for ‘is collar stud.”

Mrs. Korner paused with the teapot in her hand. “Was he talking?”

“Talkin’? Nobody there to talk to; I ‘adn’t got no time to stop and

“I mean to himself,” explained Mrs. Korner. “He--he wasn’t swearing?”
 There was a note of eagerness, almost of hope, in Mrs. Korner’s voice.

“Swearin’! ‘E! Why, ‘e don’t know any.”

“Thank you,” said Mrs. Korner. “That will do, Harriet; you may go.”

Mrs Korner put down the teapot with a bang. “The very girl,” said Mrs.
Korner bitterly, “the very girl despises him.”

“Perhaps,” suggested Miss Greene, “he had been swearing and had

But Mrs. Korner was not to be comforted. “Finished! Any other man would
have been swearing all the time.”

“Perhaps,” suggested the kindly bosom friend, ever the one to plead the
cause of the transgressor, “perhaps he was swearing, and she did not
hear him. You see, if he had his head well underneath the bed--”

The door opened.

“Sorry I am late,” said Mr. Korner, bursting cheerfully into the room.
It was a point with Mr. Korner always to be cheerful in the morning.
“Greet the day with a smile and it will leave you with a blessing,” was
the motto Mrs. Korner, this day a married woman of six months and three
weeks standing had heard her husband murmur before getting out of bed on
precisely two hundred and two occasions. The Motto entered largely into
the scheme of Mr. Korner’s life. Written in fine copperplate upon cards
all of the same size, a choice selection counselled him each morning
from the rim of his shaving-glass.

“Did you find it?” asked Mrs. Korner.

“It is most extraordinary,” replied Mr. Korner, as he seated himself
at the breakfast-table. “I saw it go under the bed with my own eyes.

“Don’t ask me to look for it,” interrupted Mrs. Korner. “Crawling about
on their hands and knees, knocking their heads against iron bedsteads,
would be enough to make some people swear.” The emphasis was on the

“It is not bad training for the character,” hinted Mr. Korner,
“occasionally to force oneself to perform patiently tasks calculated--”

“If you get tied up in one of those long sentences of yours, you will
never get out in time to eat your breakfast,” was the fear of Mrs.

“I should be sorry for anything to happen to it,” remarked Mr. Korner,
“its intrinsic value may perhaps--”

“I will look for it after breakfast,” volunteered the amiable Miss
Greene. “I am good at finding things.”

“I can well believe it,” the gallant Mr. Korner assured her, as with the
handle of his spoon he peeled his egg. “From such bright eyes as yours,

“You’ve only got ten minutes,” his wife reminded him. “Do get on with
your breakfast.”

“I should like,” said Mr. Korner, “to finish a speech occasionally.”

“You never would,” asserted Mrs. Korner.

“I should like to try,” sighed Mr. Korner, “one of these days--”

“How did you sleep, dear? I forgot to ask you,” questioned Mrs. Korner
of the bosom friend.

“I am always restless in a strange bed the first night,” explained Miss
Greene. “I daresay, too, I was a little excited.”

“I could have wished,” said Mr. Korner, “it had been a better example
of the delightful art of the dramatist. When one goes but seldom to the

“One wants to enjoy oneself” interrupted Mrs. Korner.

“I really do not think,” said the bosom friend, “that I have ever
laughed so much in all my life.”

“It was amusing. I laughed myself,” admitted Mr. Korner. “At the same
time I cannot help thinking that to treat drunkenness as a theme--”

“He wasn’t drunk,” argued Mrs. Korner, “he was just jovial.”

“My dear!” Mr. Korner corrected her, “he simply couldn’t stand.”

“He was much more amusing than some people who can,” retorted Mrs.

“It is possible, my dear Aimee,” her husband pointed out to her, “for
a man to be amusing without being drunk; also for a man to be drunk

“Oh, a man is all the better,” declared Mrs. Korner, “for letting
himself go occasionally.”

“My dear--”

“You, Christopher, would be all the better for letting yourself

“I wish,” said Mr. Korner, as he passed his empty cup, “you would not
say things you do not mean. Anyone hearing you--”

“If there’s one thing makes me more angry than another,” said Mrs.
Korner, “it is being told I say things that I do not mean.”

“Why say them then?” suggested Mr. Korner.

“I don’t. I do--I mean I do mean them,” explained Mrs. Korner.

“You can hardly mean, my dear,” persisted her husband, “that you really
think I should be all the better for getting drunk--even occasionally.”

“I didn’t say drunk; I said ‘going it.’”

“But I do ‘go it’ in moderation,” pleaded Mr. Korner, “‘Moderation in
all things,’ that is my motto.”

“I know it,” returned Mrs. Korner.

“A little of everything and nothing--” this time Mr. Korner interrupted
himself. “I fear,” said Mr. Korner, rising, “we must postpone the
further discussion of this interesting topic. If you would not mind
stepping out with me into the passage, dear, there are one or two little
matters connected with the house--”

Host and hostess squeezed past the visitor and closed the door behind
them. The visitor continued eating.

“I do mean it,” repeated Mrs. Korner, for the third time, reseating
herself a minute later at the table. “I would give anything--anything,”
 reiterated the lady recklessly, “to see Christopher more like the
ordinary sort of man.”

“But he has always been the sort--the sort of man he is,” her bosom
friend reminded her.

“Oh, during the engagement, of course, one expects a man to be perfect.
I didn’t think he was going to keep it up.”

“He seems to me,” said Miss Greene, “a dear, good fellow. You are one of
those people who never know when they are well off.”

“I know he is a good fellow,” agreed Mrs. Korner, “and I am very fond of
him. It is just because I am fond of him that I hate feeling ashamed of
him. I want him to be a manly man, to do the things that other men do.”

“Do all the ordinary sort of men swear and get occasionally drunk?”

“Of course they do,” asserted Mrs. Korner, in a tone of authority. “One
does not want a man to be a milksop.”

“Have you ever seen a drunken man?” inquired the bosom friend, who was
nibbling sugar.

“Heaps,” replied Mrs. Korner, who was sucking marmalade off her fingers.

By which Mrs. Korner meant that some half a dozen times in her life she
had visited the play, choosing by preference the lighter form of British
drama. The first time she witnessed the real thing, which happened just
precisely a month later, long after the conversation here recorded had
been forgotten by the parties most concerned, no one could have been
more utterly astonished than was Mrs. Korner.

How it came about Mr. Korner was never able to fully satisfy himself.
Mr. Korner was not the type that serves the purpose of the temperance
lecturer. His “first glass” he had drunk more years ago than he could
recollect, and since had tasted the varied contents of many others. But
never before had Mr. Korner exceeded, nor been tempted to exceed, the
limits of his favourite virtue, moderation.

“We had one bottle of claret between us,” Mr. Korner would often recall
to his mind, “of which he drank the greater part. And then he brought
out the little green flask. He said it was made from pears--that in Peru
they kept it specially for Children’s parties. Of course, that may have
been his joke; but in any case I cannot see how just one glass--I wonder
could I have taken more than one glass while he was talking.” It was a
point that worried Mr. Korner.

The “he” who had talked, possibly, to such bad effect was a distant
cousin of Mr. Korner’s, one Bill Damon, chief mate of the steamship
_La Fortuna_. Until their chance meeting that afternoon in Leadenhall
Street, they had not seen each other since they were boys together. The
_Fortuna_ was leaving St. Katherine’s Docks early the next morning bound
for South America, and it might be years before they met again. As Mr.
Damon pointed out, Fate, by thus throwing them into each other’s arms,
clearly intended they should have a cosy dinner together that very
evening in the captain’s cabin of the _Fortuna_.

Mr. Korner, returning to the office, despatched to Ravenscourt Park an
express letter, announcing the strange news that he might not be home
that evening much before ten, and at half-past six, for the first time
since his marriage, directed his steps away from home and Mrs. Korner.

The two friends talked of many things. And later on they spoke of
sweethearts and of wives. Mate Damon’s experiences had apparently been
wide and varied. They talked--or, rather, the mate talked, and Mr.
Korner listened--of the olive-tinted beauties of the Spanish Main, of
the dark-eyed passionate creoles, of the blond Junos of the Californian
valleys. The mate had theories concerning the care and management of
women: theories that, if the mate’s word could be relied upon, had stood
the test of studied application. A new world opened out to Mr. Korner;
a world where lovely women worshipped with doglike devotion men who,
though loving them in return, knew how to be their masters. Mr. Korner,
warmed gradually from cold disapproval to bubbling appreciation,
sat entranced. Time alone set a limit to the recital of the mate’s
adventures. At eleven o’clock the cook reminded them that the captain
and the pilot might be aboard at any moment. Mr. Korner, surprised at
the lateness of the hour, took a long and tender farewell of his cousin,
and found St. Katherine’s Docks one of the most bewildering places out
of which he had ever tried to escape. Under a lamp-post in the Minories,
it suddenly occurred to Mr. Korner that he was an unappreciated man.
Mrs. Korner never said and did the sort of things by means of which
the beauties of the Southern Main endeavoured feebly to express their
consuming passion for gentlemen superior in no way--as far as he could
see--to Mr. Korner himself. Thinking over the sort of things Mrs. Korner
did say and did do, tears sprung into Mr. Korner’s eyes. Noticing that
a policeman was eyeing him with curiosity, he dashed them aside and
hurried on. Pacing the platform of the Mansion House Station, where
it is always draughty, the thought of his wrongs returned to him with
renewed force. Why was there no trace of doglike devotion about Mrs.
Korner? The fault--so he bitterly told himself--the fault was his.
“A woman loves her master; it is her instinct,” mused Mr. Korner to
himself. “Damme,” thought Mr. Korner, “I don’t believe that half her
time she knows I am her master.”

“Go away,” said Mr. Korner to a youth of pasty appearance who, with open
mouth, had stopped immediately in front of him.

“I’m fond o’ listening,” explained the pasty youth.

“Who’s talking?” demanded Mr. Korner.

“You are,” replied the pasty youth.

It is a long journey from the city to Ravenscourt Park, but the task of
planning out the future life of Mrs. Korner and himself kept Mr. Korner
wide awake and interested. When he got out of the train the thing
chiefly troubling him was the three-quarters of a mile of muddy road
stretching between him and his determination to make things clear to
Mrs. Korner then and there.

The sight of Acacia Villa, suggesting that everybody was in bed and
asleep, served to further irritate him. A dog-like wife would have been
sitting up to see if there was anything he wanted. Mr. Korner, acting
on the advice of his own brass plate, not only knocked but also rang. As
the door did not immediately fly open, he continued to knock and ring.
The window of the best bedroom on the first floor opened.

“Is that you?” said the voice of Mrs. Korner. There was, as it happened,
a distinct suggestion of passion in Mrs. Korner’s voice, but not of the
passion Mr. Korner was wishful to inspire. It made him a little more
angry than he was before.

“Don’t you talk to me with your head out of the window as if this were a
gallanty show. You come down and open the door,” commanded Mr. Korner.

“Haven’t you got your latchkey?” demanded Mrs. Korner.

For answer Mr. Korner attacked the door again. The window closed. The
next moment but six or seven, the door was opened with such suddenness
that Mr. Korner, still gripping the knocker, was borne inward in a
flying attitude. Mrs. Korner had descended the stairs ready with a
few remarks. She had not anticipated that Mr. Korner, usually slow of
speech, could be even readier.

“Where’s my supper?” indignantly demanded Mr. Korner, still supported by
the knocker.

Mrs. Korner, too astonished for words, simply stared.

“Where’s my supper?” repeated Mr. Korner, by this time worked up into
genuine astonishment that it was not ready for him. “What’s everybody
mean, going off to bed, when the masterororous hasn’t had his supper?”

“Is anything the matter, dear?” was heard the voice of Miss Greene,
speaking from the neighbourhood of the first landing.

“Come in, Christopher,” pleaded Mrs. Korner, “please come in, and let me
shut the door.”

Mrs. Korner was the type of young lady fond of domineering with a not
un-graceful hauteur over those accustomed to yield readily to her; it is
a type that is easily frightened.

“I wan’ grilled kinneys-on-toast,” explained Mr. Korner, exchanging the
knocker for the hat-stand, and wishing the next moment that he had not.
“Don’ let’s ‘avareytalk about it. Unnerstan’? I dowan’ any talk about

“What on earth am I to do?” whispered the terrified Mrs. Korner to her
bosom friend, “there isn’t a kidney in the house.”

“I should poach him a couple of eggs,” suggested the helpful bosom
friend; “put plenty of Cayenne pepper on them. Very likely he won’t

Mr. Korner allowed himself to be persuaded into the dining-room, which
was also the breakfast parlour and the library. The two ladies, joined
by the hastily clad staff, whose chronic indignation seemed to have
vanished in face of the first excuse for it that Acacia Villa had
afforded her, made haste to light the kitchen fire.

“I should never have believed it,” whispered the white-faced Mrs.
Korner, “never.”

“Makes yer know there’s a man about the ‘ouse, don’t it?” chirped the
delighted staff. Mrs. Korner, for answer, boxed the girl’s ears; it
relieved her feelings to a slight extent.

The staff retained its equanimity, but the operations of Mrs. Korner and
her bosom friend were retarded rather than assisted by the voice of Mr.
Korner, heard every quarter of a minute, roaring out fresh directions.

“I dare not go in alone,” said Mrs. Korner, when all things were in
order on the tray. So the bosom friend followed her, and the staff
brought up the rear.

“What’s this?” frowned Mr. Korner. “I told you chops.”

“I’m so sorry, dear,” faltered Mrs. Korner, “but there weren’t any in
the house.”

“In a perfectly organizedouse, such as for the future I meanterave,”
 continued Mr. Korner, helping himself to beer, “there should always be
chopanteak. Unnerstanme? chopanteak!”

“I’ll try and remember, dear,” said Mrs. Korner.

“Pearsterme,” said Mr. Korner, between mouthfuls, “you’re norrer sort of
housekeeper I want.”

“I’ll try to be, dear,” pleaded Mrs. Korner.

“Where’s your books?” Mr. Korner suddenly demanded.

“My books?” repeated Mrs. Korner, in astonishment.

Mr. Korner struck the corner of the table with his fist, which made most
things in the room, including Mrs. Korner, jump.

“Don’t you defy me, my girl,” said Mr. Korner. “You know whatermean,
your housekeepin’ books.”

They happened to be in the drawer of the chiffonier. Mrs. Korner
produced them, and passed them to her husband with a trembling hand. Mr.
Korner, opening one by hazard, bent over it with knitted brows.

“Pearsterme, my girl, you can’t add,” said Mr. Korner.

“I--I was always considered rather good at arithmetic, as a girl,”
 stammered Mrs. Korner.

“What you mayabeen as a girl, and what--twenner-seven and nine?”
 fiercely questioned Mr. Korner.

“Thirty-eight--seven,” commenced to blunder the terrified Mrs. Korner.

“Know your nine tables or don’t you?” thundered Mr. Korner.

“I used to,” sobbed Mrs. Korner.

“Say it,” commanded Mr. Korner.

“Nine times one are nine,” sobbed the poor little woman, “nine times

“Goron,” said Mr. Korner sternly.

She went on steadily, in a low monotone, broken by stifled sobs. The
dreary rhythm of the repetition may possibly have assisted. As she
mentioned fearfully that nine times eleven were ninety-nine, Miss Greene
pointed stealthily toward the table. Mrs. Korner, glancing up fearfully,
saw that the eyes of her lord and master were closed; heard the rising
snore that issued from his head, resting between the empty beer-jug and
the cruet stand.

“He will be all right,” counselled Miss Greene. “You go to bed and lock
yourself in. Harriet and I will see to his breakfast in the morning. It
will be just as well for you to be out of the way.”

And Mrs. Korner, only too thankful for some one to tell her what to do,
obeyed in all things.

Toward seven o’clock the sunlight streaming into the room caused Mr.
Korner first to blink, then yawn, then open half an eye.

“Greet the day with a smile,” murmured Mr. Korner, sleepily, “and it

Mr. Korner sat up suddenly and looked about him. This was not bed.
The fragments of a jug and glass lay scattered round his feet. To the
tablecloth an overturned cruet-stand mingled with egg gave colour. A
tingling sensation about his head called for investigation. Mr. Korner
was forced to the conclusion that somebody had been trying to make a
salad of him--somebody with an exceptionally heavy hand for mustard. A
sound directed Mr. Korner’s attention to the door.

The face of Miss Greene, portentously grave, was peeping through the

Mr. Korner rose. Miss Greene entered stealthily, and, closing the door,
stood with her back against it.

“I suppose you know what--what you’ve done?” suggested Miss Greene.

She spoke in a sepulchral tone; it chilled poor Mr. Korner to the bone.

“It is beginning to come back to me, but not--not very clearly,”
 admitted Mr. Korner.

“You came home drunk--very drunk,” Miss Greene informed him, “at two
o’clock in the morning. The noise you made must have awakened half the

A groan escaped from his parched lips.

“You insisted upon Aimee cooking you a hot supper.”

“I insisted!” Mr. Korner glanced down upon the table. “And--and she did

“You were very violent,” explained Miss Greene; “we were terrified at
you, all three of us.” Regarding the pathetic object in front of her,
Miss Greene found it difficult to recollect that a few hours before she
really had been frightened of it. Sense of duty alone restrained her
present inclination to laugh.

“While you sat there, eating your supper,” continued Miss Greene
remorselessly, “you made her bring you her books.”

Mr. Korner had passed the stage when anything could astonish him.

“You lectured her about her housekeeping.” There was a twinkle in the
eye of Mrs. Korner’s bosom friend. But lightning could have flashed
before Mr. Korner’s eyes without his noticing it just then.

“You told her that she could not add, and you made her say her tables.”

“I made her--” Mr. Korner spoke in the emotionless tones of one merely
desiring information. “I made Aimee say her tables?”

“Her nine times,” nodded Miss Greene.

Mr. Korner sat down upon his chair and stared with stony eyes into the

“What’s to be done?” said Mr. Korner, “she’ll never forgive me; I know
her. You are not chaffing me?” he cried with a momentary gleam of hope.
“I really did it?”

“You sat in that very chair where you are sitting now and ate poached
eggs, while she stood opposite to you and said her nine times table. At
the end of it, seeing you had gone to sleep yourself, I persuaded her
to go to bed. It was three o’clock, and we thought you would not mind.”
 Miss Greene drew up a chair, and, with her elbows on the table, looked
across at Mr. Korner. Decidedly there was a twinkle in the eyes of Mrs.
Korner’s bosom friend.

“You’ll never do it again,” suggested Miss Greene.

“Do you think it possible,” cried Mr. Korner, “that she may forgive me?”

“No, I don’t,” replied Miss Greene. At which Mr. Korner’s face fell back
to zero. “I think the best way out will be for you to forgive her.”

The idea did not even amuse him. Miss Greene glanced round to satisfy
herself that the door was still closed, and listened a moment to assure
herself of the silence.

“Don’t you remember,” Miss Greene took the extra precaution to whisper
it, “the talk we had at breakfast-time the first morning of my
visit, when Aimee said you would be all the better for ‘going it’

Yes, slowly it came back to Mr. Korner. But she only said “going it,”
 Mr. Korner recollected to his dismay.

“Well, you’ve been ‘going it,’” persisted Miss Greene. “Besides, she did
not mean ‘going it.’ She meant the real thing, only she did not like to
say the word. We talked about it after you had gone. She said she would
give anything to see you more like the ordinary man. And that is her
idea of the ordinary man.”

Mr. Korner’s sluggishness of comprehension irritated Miss Greene. She
leaned across the table and shook him. “Don’t you understand? You have
done it on purpose to teach her a lesson. It is she who has got to ask
you to forgive her.”

“You think--?”

“I think, if you manage it properly, it will be the best day’s work
you have ever done. Get out of the house before she wakes. I shall say
nothing to her. Indeed, I shall not have the time; I must catch the
ten o’clock from Paddington. When you come home this evening, you talk
first; that’s what you’ve got to do.” And Mr. Korner, in his excitement,
kissed the bosom friend before he knew what he had done.

Mrs. Korner sat waiting for her husband that evening in the
drawing-room. She was dressed as for a journey, and about the corners
of her mouth were lines familiar to Christopher, the sight of which sent
his heart into his boots. Fortunately, he recovered himself in time to
greet her with a smile. It was not the smile he had been rehearsing half
the day, but that it was a smile of any sort astonished the words away
from Mrs. Korner’s lips, and gave him the inestimable advantage of first

“Well,” said Mr. Korner cheerily, “and how did you like it?”

For the moment Mrs. Korner feared her husband’s new complaint had
already reached the chronic stage, but his still smiling face reassured
her--to that extent at all events.

“When would you like me to ‘go it’ again? Oh, come,” continued Mr.
Korner in response to his wife’s bewilderment, “you surely have not
forgotten the talk we had at breakfast-time--the first morning of
Mildred’s visit. You hinted how much more attractive I should be for
occasionally ‘letting myself go!’”

Mr. Korner, watching intently, perceived that upon Mrs. Korner
recollection was slowly forcing itself.

“I was unable to oblige you before,” explained Mr. Korner, “having to
keep my head clear for business, and not knowing what the effect upon
one might be. Yesterday I did my best, and I hope you are pleased with
me. Though, if you could see your way to being content--just for the
present and until I get more used to it--with a similar performance not
oftener than once a fortnight, say, I should be grateful,” added Mr.

“You mean--” said Mrs. Korner, rising.

“I mean, my dear,” said Mr. Korner, “that almost from the day of our
marriage you have made it clear that you regard me as a milksop. You
have got your notion of men from silly books and sillier plays, and your
trouble is that I am not like them. Well, I’ve shown you that, if you
insist upon it, I can be like them.”

“But you weren’t,” argued Mrs. Korner, “not a bit like them.”

“I did my best,” repeated Mr. Korner; “we are not all made alike. That
was _my_ drunk.”

“I didn’t say ‘drunk.’”

“But you meant it,” interrupted Mr. Korner. “We were talking about
drunken men. The man in the play was drunk. You thought him amusing.”

“He was amusing,” persisted Mrs. Korner, now in tears. “I meant that
sort of drunk.”

“His wife,” Mr. Korner reminded her, “didn’t find him amusing. In the
third act she was threatening to return home to her mother, which, if
I may judge from finding you here with all your clothes on, is also the
idea that has occurred to you.”

“But you--you were so awful,” whimpered Mrs. Korner.

“What did I do?” questioned Mr. Korner.

“You came hammering at the door--”

“Yes, yes, I remember that. I wanted my supper, and you poached me a
couple of eggs. What happened after that?”

The recollection of that crowning indignity lent to her voice the true
note of tragedy.

“You made me say my tables--my nine times!”

Mr. Korner looked at Mrs. Korner, and Mrs. Korner looked at Mr. Korner,
and for a while there was silence.

“Were you--were you really a little bit on,” faltered Mrs. Korner, “or
only pretending?”

“Really,” confessed Mr. Korner. “For the first time in my life. If you
are content, for the last time also.”

“I am sorry,” said Mrs. Korner, “I have been very silly. Please forgive

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Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.