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Title: Short Stories - A Magazine of Select Fiction
Author: Various
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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SHORT STORIES

A MAGAZINE OF FACT AND FICTION

=Vol V. No. 2=

_This magazine is planned to cover the story-telling field of the
world. Its selections will be of the best procurable in all the
languages._

=MAR. 1891=



CONTENTS

                                       PAGE
  Deceptions: A Matrimonial Study       129

  Etchings: Frozen                      137

  A Deputy Governor’s Wooing            138

  Etchings: the Sad Hour                147

  Abrum, Ca’line and Asphalt            148

  Etchings: Afterward                   159

  The Man Who Never Was Found           160

  Etchings: the Old Violinist           168

  The Devils in Heaven                  169

  The Races on the Neva                 172

  Etchings: The Ferryman                178

  The Players at the Chess              179

  Etchings: Go Lead the Horse In!       190

  Two Afternoons                        191

  Following the Sea                     197

  Etchings: Jeannette                   200

  In the House of Suddhoo               201

  Etchings: the Husking Bee             208

  My Baboon Bedfellow                   209

  Professor Jovanny’s Funeral           215

  Etchings: That Door                   227

  Among the Aoulâd Naîel                228

  Etchings: Comfort                     235

  Timmy Mulligan’s Rally                236

  The Goblin Barber                     240



DECEPTIONS: A MATRIMONIAL STUDY

(Italian of Haydée: Translated for Short Stories by E. Cavazza.)


When, before the altar, the priest asked her, “are you content?” it was
with all her soul Gemma had responded, “Yes!”

Oh, yes; she was content indeed. Through the cloud of costly lace
which enwrapped her in its snowy transparence, she saw the vast church
all dotted with lights, resplendent in the dark gleam of mosaics upon
golden backgrounds, animated by the slight movement of the very elegant
crowd that filled it; lighted by oblique rays descending from the nave,
all a glitter of gold, silks and brilliants; and it was her own future
that she seemed to see thus--the years of luxury and wealth which her
rich marriage was preparing for her. And had it not been the dream for
which she sighed? She, the ideal blonde, of eighteen years, with the
tall and proud figure; the pure, disdainful profile under heavy curls
like those of an archangel; with haughty eyes sparkling like blue gems
under the golden fringes of her long eyelashes.

She had been for a long time a poor girl, the daughter of citizens who
had seen better days, that marvelous human lily. She had experienced
all the petty troubles, all the cruel daily sufferings of misery that
conceals itself. The poor and inelegant gowns, painfully remodeled
every year; the insolence of creditors; humiliations; continual and
tormenting thoughts of money--she had experienced them all, and in
her little heart, eager for pleasure and enjoyment, swollen with
unsatisfied longings, a dream was arisen little by little, occupying
all the room, rendering her insensible to all the rest: the dream of at
last becoming rich.

She wanted it, absolutely; she was born for it; she was rich, now.
That “yes,” which she had just pronounced, had, by its three magic
letters, changed her destiny; and she was so content, so happy, that
it appeared to her it was all a dream, that her Mechlin veil was a
cloud that transported her into the realms of the impossible, across
a sidereal heaven, of which the diamond pins thrust among her laces
formed the flaming stars; and, in order to return to reality, she
must cast her eyes toward her husband, Luigo Marchis, kneeling beside
her, in the mystic, velvety shade of the altar, lit by the tremulous
brightness of the candles.

Ah, there was nothing ideal about him, poor fellow! In vain he
straightened his correct person of an elegant man, with his accurately
shaven face, with slender brown moustaches, and a still fresh color
that gave him something the look of an actor; he remained none the
less old, with his powerful shoulders a little bent, with his eyelids
grown heavy, and crow’s feet toward his temples, with the gray locks
that appeared here and there among his brown hair, with his forty-seven
years, of which the weariness was more conspicuous beside that radiant
and blonde Spring.

Forty-seven years! How was it possible? He felt his heart so
palpitating, full of tears as in youth! And he could not comprehend
how so much time had passed, he could not persuade himself of the
incredible fact--forty-seven years passed without knowing Gemma.

For they had been acquainted with each other only two months. Marchis,
however much he had frequented society, drawn there by his banking
connections, had never let himself be talked to of marriage. What! A
wife, children, troubles, cares, disappointments ... not even by idea!

And at forty-seven years, one evening, present from motives of
curiosity at a ball to which the employees of his bank had invited
him, he must needs be smitten by the exquisite, vaporous grace of that
blonde girl, dressed simply in white, entering on the arm of a funny
little man with a baby-face and a big, silvery beard, her father, a
modest clerk in the bank, a rather ridiculous little old man who,
beside that divine apparition, slender in her robes of snow, made one
think of the gnomes of folk-tales, always crouching at the feet of the
fairies.

Ah, weakness of hearts growing old! That apparition was enough to shake
all the ideas of Luigo Marchis concerning matrimony, and as the old
gnome, despite his absolute nullity, was an honest citizen, incapable
of resisting the assiduities of the Director to his pretty daughter,
the suitor had been greatly pleased with the consent of that little
maiden of eighteen, that beautiful creature, that blonde being, to
become his wife. Now he trembled with joy; his eyes were misty with
vivid emotion--not perceiving that that too was a sign of old age--and
it was a voice choked with joy that to the question of the priest, “Are
you content?” replied: “Oh, yes.”

Now, it is done. United, forever united. Having arisen to their feet,
she with an elegant and light impulse, like a lily, wind-lifted on its
stem; he with a little effort and difficulty, wearied by emotion, they
go down from the altar arm-in-arm. Now they pass through the church
amid the murmurs of compliments which arise amid the shadows of the
aisles, among the dull scraping of feet and the rustle of gowns; there
on the peristyle, among the white columns, is a living wave of sun and
air which comes to meet them, like a recall to real life, outside of
the mystic dream of the church, the creaking of the line of carriages
that advanced, the slow descent of the steps, with the white train of
the bride spreading and dragging upon the stairs, in folds like snow,
soft and light; then the carriages depart; they are alone for the first
time, in the narrow space of the carriage, which the bridal dress fills
with its whiteness, and the bouquet of orange-blossoms with its acute
perfume of intoxicating virginity; and it is then that, conquered by
the charm of that face, so delicate and proud amid its large pallid
curls, by the splendor of those blue eyes, the elderly bridegroom bends
over her to kiss her--

“Dear me, dear me....”

And to see the tranquility with which those finely cut, rose-colored
lips return the kisses, through the veil, the question arises whether
it is the bridegroom that she kisses, or the Mechlin lace, at five
hundred the metre.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ah! there were adorers around that beautiful signora Marchis, so lovely
and so young, married to an old man! It was expected that this fortress
would be an easy one to conquer. Precisely on her wedding day, Vico
Molise, the most elegant and skeptical of the journalists of Upper
Italy, had propounded to his friends this theorem:

“Given a beautiful girl, very poor; given that she marries a rich
old man; divide the number of his years by that of the hundreds of
thousands of lire of which she becomes mistress, and you will have the
number of months necessary for her to take a lover.”

And as soon as he could, he began, with many others, to attempt the
demonstration of that theorem.

Well, this time the impeccable psychological diagnosis of Vico Molise
had been found to fail. Not only, after some months, the beautiful
signora Marchis had no lover, but it appeared also that she never was
to have one.

Always dressed with an adorable elegance, with a luxury full of good
taste, the beautiful Gemma loved to amuse herself, moving freely in
that society new for her, finding herself in her right place as a
marvelous plant in a vase of valuable porcelain, developing itself in
all its splendor. She went to dances, to the theatre, enjoying the
plebiscite of admiration provoked by her beauty, coquetting a little
with her adorers, fluttering about the fire in order to make them
sparkle, her wings of a golden butterfly; but never letting herself be
burned.

In the very moment of a declaration, in the midst of one of those
waltzes whose notes seem made on purpose to stifle expiring virtue
in their serpentine spirals, she cut short her adorer by turning her
angelic head, and saying serenely:

“I don’t see my husband.... Look a little where my husband is, if you
will be so kind.”

And it was known that her greatest delight was to relate, precisely to
her husband, the declarations which she had received. When she came
home with him from a ball, all wrapped in the white silken folds of
her _sortie du bal_, with her pure throat, her snowy shoulders that
blossomed still more fair from her swansdown boa; when in the evening
she met him in the dining-room, still in visiting costume, with her
slim waist tightly compressed by an exquisitely elegant gown, with
her face animated by the slight excitement which elegant conversation
always produces in a young woman, she amused herself immensely in
addressing to her husband some of these provoking and roguish phrases:

“You know, I was at Countess Foschis’.... Molise was there, you
know.... Always faithful and always in despair.... And also Comelli, he
that has such lugubrious gallantry.... He has promised to kill himself
for my sake, within a month, we shall see.... Ah! Ah!”

And sitting opposite to him, in a rustle of satin and jet, making shine
like two stars the brilliants, large as hazelnuts, which adorned her
small ears, she continued to laugh, with her elastic laughter, full of
mischief and full of tenderness.

Ah, indeed, old Marchis could call himself a fortunate man!

Fortunate? Yes, he ought to have considered himself so. When he
set himself to reason about it, to describe mentally his conjugal
situation, he had to conclude that he would have done wrong to complain
of his destiny. And yet....

What of the terribly unexpected had he now discovered in the depths
of the pure sapphire of Gemma’s eyes? Was there arisen in his soul
the doubt that that faithfulness against every trial, that coldness
toward her admirers was nothing but the wish to preserve intact a
position acquired with difficulty, and that precisely to that position
was directed all the tenderness shown toward himself! I do not know;
but the vivid and impetuous joy of the wedding was no longer in him,
although his love remained the same; and a painful doubt thrilled in
his voice when he replied to the playful confidence of Gemma, forcing
himself to laugh too:

“Take care, now, take care.... The vengeance of the tyrant hangs over
you....”

Ah, the poor tyrant, how he loved her! How she had known how to bind
him with her little hands, white and perfumed as two lilies. For
nothing in the world would he have discovered the truth, changed into
certainty his fomenting doubt; so, she had only to ask in order to
obtain; for now for him that love of which he doubted, had become his
life; and he felt a painful stricture at his heart at the mere thought
that a day might come when he would be obliged to refuse her something.
Yet that day came. Suddenly, by one of those mysterious complications
of business his bank, which until then had gone from triumph to
triumph, underwent a violent shock. Not a noisy downfall, one of those
open, public ruins, which produce great failures; but one of those
deep, intimate secret crises, that must be borne without a word, a
lament, under penalty of death; that can be overcome only by force of
small privations, little hidden savings; it is then that strict economy
in the family becomes necessary. The luxury of Gemma, in those moments,
became absolutely ruinous for her husband; he ought to have warned her,
sought to check her; he dared not; and continued to content her, but
very soon came the time when he could do so no more.

It was on the occasion of a great ball to which she was to go; she
had ordered from Paris a marvelous gown that became her to perfection;
still she was not satisfied. Some days before, in the showcase of the
most fashionable jeweler of the city, a diadem had set in revolution
all the feminine imaginations; a superb jewel, of antique style, set in
silver gilt, of a starry pallor, where the brilliants seemed drops of
flame. Gemma wished to have it and indeed it would be difficult to find
a face adapted to the almost religious richness of that jewel, more
than her snowy profile of an angel in ecstacy.

Ten thousand francs was the price of that jewel; and Marchis did not
have them. Mute, immovable, his heart oppressed, he listened to Gemma’s
words as she described it to him. How could he tell her, how could he
even tell her that he had not the ten thousand francs. It was terrible.
To another woman who should have had that caprice, one might have
proposed to have her own diamonds reset after that model or perhaps
even to have an imitation diadem made; no one would have suspected it;
but he felt that the danger lay in confessing his powerlessness. Yet,
it must be done.... And he made an effort at courage.

Gemma had seated herself beside him, throwing back and bending a little
to one side her blonde head, with that irresistible feminine movement
which displays the white throat, the pure line descending from the
slender neck to the full-bloomed bust down to the round and flexible
waist.

“I would like to have it, it seems to me that I should look well....
Don’t you think so? I have a great wish to be beautiful.... If you knew
why?”

She laughed, now, deliciously, with the air of her roguish hours. He
was silent for a moment; then, fixing a vague look upon the delicate
designs of the oriental carpet, paling as if from an inward wound, he
murmured:

“The fact is that I do not know.... I do not really know whether ...
whether I shall be able to buy it for you....”

“Why?”

She had quickly raised her head, much surprised, uneasy, looking at
him. Such a thing had never happened to her.

Marchis wiped his forehead and resumed his discourse.

“The fact is ... you see, in a bank like ours, there are moments that
... certain moments in which one cannot ... in which it is impossible.”

What was impossible for him, in that moment, was to finish the phrase.
He stopped, and lifted his eyes timidly to her, desolately, as if to
beg her to help him. She was very pale, with a sudden hardness in
all her features, in her compressed mouth, in her knit brows, in her
sparkling eyes.

“Have you not ten thousand francs? Is it possible?”

And her voice was hard as her look ... a profound hardness that
startled him. But all at once her face changed expression, she
recovered her fresh, tuneful laugh, the sweet and limpid ray was
rekindled in her blue eyes.

“Come you want to tell me stories, so as not to buy me anything....
Deceiver! I that wished to be beautiful in order to drive Vico Molise a
little crazy; he has declared to me that he is tired of my perfidy....
See, you deserve.... Do you know that I am becoming angry with you?”

She really believed that she had hit the truth, with her words.
Indeed, he had so well kept up the illusion with her, he had hidden so
jealously his embarrassment, that she did not know how to explain this
sudden restriction. But meanwhile, every word of hers was a blow to
the heart of Marchis; he saw her already at the ball, passing from arm
to arm with her step like a flying angel; listening to the insidious
compliments of Vico Molise and his kind, and keeping meantime in her
heart that leaven of rancor against him because of his refusal; and
he saw himself again, as he had seen himself a little while before in
the mirror, old, weary, worn, beside her so fresh, young, with eyes
sparkling from the cruel scorn of one who has made an unequal bargain.

Suddenly he rose, like one who has taken a decision, passed his hand
across his brow, and without replying, went away to go out of the
house. She believed that she had conquered, and let him go without
moving herself, only with a flash of cunning in her eyes; but when he
was on the stairs the door opened, a blonde head appeared between the
folding-doors--

“We are agreed, then?”

He did not reply; and she heard his step down the stairway, slow,
heavy, weary.

       *       *       *       *       *

The evening of the ball, Marchis knocked at the door of his wife’s
dressing-room. “Come in,” and he entered.

In the little dressing-room so illumined as to seem on fire, with
the air filled with fragrance from the little unstoppered bottle of
perfume, all gleaming white with the disorder of feminine apparel
scattered about, Gemma stood erect before the mirror, between two
kneeling maids, ready dressed for the ball. She was truly radiant in
her gown of white satin with almond blossoms, with fresh sprays of
almond flowers around the neck of the dress, at the waist, among the
waving folds of the train, issuing from that covering of delicate,
pale, dawn-tinted flowers, she too was fresh as they, with her faintly
rosy complexion, as if she were one of those flowers become a person.
But under her lashes gleamed anon the flash of cold and cruel rancor.

Her husband had not given her the diadem!

But hearing him enter, she turned, and seeing that he held a casket in
his hands, she comprehended everything. With a bound, she was beside
him, her arms twined around his neck.

“Oh, how good you are! How good you are! How I love you!” He trembled
all over, and was very pale. Gemma did not even perceive it. All at
once, with one of her irresistible movements, she loosened her arms
from his neck, took with one hand the casket and with the other holding
her husband’s hand, she led him after her to the mirror. She seated
herself and opened the casket. Among puffs of red plush, under the
burning light, the diadem sent forth sparks like a flame. She had a new
outburst of joy, took the husband’s head between her hands, drew it
down, and kissed his forehead--oh! the forehead of a corpse, icy and
livid; then without looking at his features, his wandering gaze, she
offered him the diadem and bent before him her blonde head, which was
so well suited to that mystical jewel.

“Come sir, crown me!”

And while he sought to unite with trembling hands the clasp of the gems
among those marvelous blonde curls, waving and breaking into ripples of
gold at every movement, she, still with bent head, lifted her smiling
eyes to meet his look. And he answered with a resigned gentleness to
the smile of those perilous blue eyes; he, the poor man who deceived
for the sake of desire to be deceived, and who bought for himself a
little mock love with ... mock diamonds.



ETCHINGS: FROZEN

(E. Henderson: For Short Stories.)


A bleak afternoon in Dakota ... a sledge containing two women and
several men is driven rapidly across the prairie.

Alighting at a “shanty,” the women and one of the men enter. The rest
of the men immediately begin digging, or rather “chopping” a grave in
the frozen ground. They work silently and unceasingly, by turns, for
the short winter afternoon already shows signs of merging into night.

The three that entered the house are standing, nervously looking on the
scene before them. A fireless stove, unmade beds, everything desolate
and untidy. In the middle of the room, a table; on it a motionless
form, covered with a coarse gray blanket; on the bed a much smaller,
shrouded, form.

One of the women advances to the table, and summoning all her
fortitude, throws aside the blanket, and looks on the face of the
frozen woman ... frozen solid as a block of ice, the clenched hands,
filled with fine, dry snow, fine as sand, sifted into every tress of
hair, into her eyes, her ears, down into her bosom, that lay bare,
showing how she had tried to nourish her babe, in the face of that
pitiless storm ... what availed the warmest mother love, against that
relentless cold ... frozen with the blood still in her cheeks and lips
... no time for the crimson stream of life to leave the face.

Bare and comfortless as their home was, no one knows what tempted them
to leave it that terrible day. They were bound for a neighbor’s house
half a mile distant but had not gone quarter the way when they turned
in the wrong direction. They struggled on, husband and wife, carrying
the babe less than a year old, until the woman could go no further, and
throwing up her hands, fell down. Laying the now stiffening form of the
child beside its mother, the bewildered father wandered on, on, until
he reached by chance, miles distant, a place to incoherently tell his
story and--perish.

The family belonged to the poor “dumb driven cattle” class of Russian
Jews. Their own kind had left them to their fate. So the settlers had
turned out to give them Christian burial. When the desolate funeral
was over the party drove rapidly home again, with the picture before
them, of what might be their own fate, if night overtook them on the
prairies.



A DEPUTY GOVERNOR’S WOOING

(French of Andre Theuriet: Isabel Smithson: For Short Stories.)


“Can you receive Madame Blouet, sir?” asked an attendant, as he opened
the door of the deputy governor’s office.

It was a large, severe-looking apartment, with a very high ceiling, two
windows draped with green damask curtains, walls and arm-chairs of the
same color, and heavy bookcases of mahogany. The highly waxed floor
reflected the cold symmetry of the official furniture, and the mirror
over the mantel-piece reproduced with exactness a black marble clock,
two bronze lamps and a pair of gilt candlesticks.

Hubert Boinville, the deputy governor, was seated, with his back to the
fire-place, at a large mahogany desk which was littered over with deeds
and various papers. He raised his grave, melancholy face which was
framed in a brown beard, tinged with a few gray hairs, and his black
eyes, with tired-looking lids, glanced at the card which the solemn
usher handed to him.

On this card was written in a trembling hand, _Veuve Blouet_ (widow
Blouet), but the name conveyed no information to him and he put it down
impatiently.

“It is an old lady, sir,” said the attendant, in explanation, “shall I
send her away?”

“No, let her come in,” replied the deputy governor in a tone of
resignation.

The usher straightened himself up in his uniform, bowed, and
disappeared, returning the next minute to show in the visitor, who
stopped on the threshold and dropped an old-fashioned courtesy.

Hubert Boinville half rose from his chair, and with cold politeness
signed her to a seat, which she took, after making another courtesy.

She was a little old lady, dressed in shabby mourning. Her black
merino gown had a greenish tinge, and was wrinkled and darned; a limp
crape veil, which had evidently served through more than one period
of mourning, hung down on each side from an old-fashioned bonnet, and
beneath a front of false brown hair was a round, wrinkled face with
bright little eyes, a small mouth, and no teeth.

“Sir,” she began, in a somewhat breathless voice, “I am the daughter,
sister and widow, of men who served their country. I applied some time
ago to the Department for help, and I have come to see whether there is
any hope.”

The deputy governor listened without moving a muscle of his face. He
had heard so many supplications of this kind!

“Have you ever received any assistance!” he asked, coldly. “No, sir,”
she replied. “I have managed to get on until now without asking. I have
a small pension.”

“Ah!” he interrupted in a dry tone, “in that case I am afraid we can do
nothing for you. We have a great many applicants who have no pension to
rely upon.”

“Ah, listen, sir!” she cried despairingly, “I have not explained
everything. I had three sons and they are all dead. The last one taught
mathematics, and one day during the winter, when he was going from the
Pantheon to Chaptal College he caught a violent cold which settled on
his lungs and carried him off in two weeks. He had supported me and
his child by teaching; the expenses of his illness and death used up
all our little savings, and I had to raise money on my pension. Now I
am alone in the world with my grandchild, and we have nothing. I am
eighty-two years old, sir.”

Tears had gathered under her wrinkled eyelids as she spoke, and the
deputy governor was listening more attentively than he had done at
first. A peculiar singing intonation of the speaker’s voice, and the
sound of certain provincial expressions seemed to his ears like once
familiar music; the old lady’s way of speaking had for him a flavor of
home which produced a most singular sensation in his mind. He rang his
bell and sent for Madame Blouet’s “papers,” and when the sedate usher
had laid a thin package before him, he examined the yellow pages with
evident interest.

“You are from Lorraine, I see, Madame,” he said at last, turning
toward her a face less stern, and on which a faint smile was seen, “I
suspected it from your accent.”

“Yes, Sir, I am from Argonne,” she answered, “and you recognized my
accent! I thought I had long singe lost it--I have been knocking about
France like a flying camp.”

The deputy governor looked with increasing compassion at this poor
widow whom a harsh wind had torn from her native forest, and cast into
Paris like a withered leaf. He felt his official heart growing softer,
and smiling again, he said:

“I also am from Argonne. I lived near your village for a long time,
at Clermont,” and then he added gaily, “keep up your courage, Madame
Blouet, I hope we shall be able to help you. Will you give me your
address?”

“Number 12, Rue de la Sante, near the Capuchin convent. Thank you, Sir,
for your kindness. I am very glad to have found a fellow countryman,”
and after repeated courtesies the widow took her departure.

As soon as she was gone M. Boinville rose, and going to the window
stood looking down into the garden with his face against the glass. But
he was not looking at the tops of the half leafless chestnut trees; his
dreamy gaze wandered far off toward the East, beyond the plains and
the chalky hills of Champagne, past a large forest, to a valley where
a quiet river flowed between two rows of poplar trees, to a little
old town with tile-roofed houses. There his early childhood had been
passed, and later, his vacations. His father, who was registrar in the
office of the Chief Justice, led a narrow, monotonous life, and he
himself was early accustomed to hard work and strict discipline. He had
left home when in his twenty-first year and had returned only to attend
his father’s funeral. Possessing a superior intellect and an iron will,
and being an indefatigable worker he had risen rapidly on the official
ladder, and at thirty-eight years of age was made deputy governor.
Austere, punctual, reserved, and coldly polite, he arrived at his
office every morning at exactly ten o’clock and remained there until
six, taking work with him when he went home. Although he was possessed
of keen sensibilities, his bearing was so reserved and undemonstrative
that he was thought cold and stern; he saw very little of society, his
life being devoted to business, and he had never had enough leisure to
think of marrying. His heart indeed, had once asserted itself, before
he had left home, but as he then had neither position nor fortune,
the girl he loved had refused him in order to marry a rich tradesman.
This early disappointment had left in Hubert Boinville a feeling of
bitterness which even the other successes of his life could not wholly
efface, and there was still a tinge of melancholy in his being. The old
lady’s voice and accent had recalled the thought of the past, and his
quiet was overwhelmed by a flood of recollections. While he stood there
motionless, with his forehead pressing against the window-pane, he was
stirring, as one would a heap of dead leaves, the long slumbering
memories of his youth, and like a sweet delicate perfume, rose the
thoughts of by-gone scenes and days.

Suddenly he returned to his chair, drew Madame Blouet’s petition to
him, and wrote upon it the words, _very deserving case_. Then he rang
his bell, and sent the document to the clerk in charge of the relief
fund.

On the day of the official assent to Madame Blouet’s petition, Mr.
Boinville left his office earlier than usual, for the idea had occurred
to him, to announce the good news himself to his aged countrywoman.

Three hundred francs. The sum was but a drop in the enormous reservoir
of the ministerial fund, but to the poor widow it would be as a
beneficent dew!

Although it was December, the weather was mild, so Hubert Boinville
walked all the way to the Rue de la Sante, and by the time he reached
his destination, that lonely neighborhood was wrapped in gloom. By the
light of a gas lamp near the Capuchin convent, he saw “Number 12” over
a half-open door in a rough stone wall, and on entering, found himself
in a large market garden. He could just distinguish in the darkness,
square plots of vegetables, some groups of rose bushes and here and
there the silhouettes of fruit trees. At the other end of the garden,
two or three dim lights showed the front of a plain, square building,
and to this the deputy governor made his way and had the good luck
to run against the gardener, who directed him to the widow Blouet’s
lodgings upstairs. After twice stumbling on the muddy steps, M.
Boinville knocked at a door under which a line of light was to be seen,
and great was his surprise when, the door being opened, he saw before
him a girl of about twenty years, holding up a lighted lamp and looking
at him with astonished eyes. She was dressed in black, and had a fair,
fresh face, and the lamp light was shining on her wavy chestnut hair,
round dimpled cheeks, smiling mouth, and limpid blue eyes.

“Is this where Madame Blouet lives?” asked M. Boinville after a
moment’s hesitation, and the girl replied, “Yes, sir. Be kind enough to
walk in. Grandmother, here is a gentleman who wants to see you.”

“I am coming,” cried a thin, piping voice from the next room, and the
next minute the old lady came trotting out, with her false front all
awry under her black cap, and trying to untie the strings of a blue
apron which she wore.

“Holy mother!” she cried in amazement on recognizing the deputy
governor, “is it possible, sir? Excuse my appearance, I was not
expecting the honor of a visit from you. Claudette, give M. Boinville a
chair. This is my grandchild, sir. She is all I have in the world.”

The gentleman seated himself in an antique arm-chair covered with
Utrecht velvet, and cast a rapid glance round the room, which evidently
served as both parlor and dining-room. It contained very little
furniture; a small stove of white delft-ware, next to which stood an
old-fashioned oaken clothes-press; a round table covered with oil-cloth
and some rush-bottom chairs, while on the wall hung two old colored
lithographs. Everything was very neat, and the place had an old-time
air of comfort and rusticity. M. Boinville explained the object of his
visit in a few words, and the widow exclaimed:

“Oh, thank you, sir! How good you are. It is quite true that pleasant
surprises never come singly; my grandchild has passed an examination
in telegraphy, and while she is waiting for a position she is doing
a little painting for one and another. Only to-day she has been paid
for a large order, and so we made up our minds,” said the grandmother,
“to celebrate the event by having only old home dishes for dinner. The
gardener down stairs gave us a cabbage, some turnips and potatoes to
make a _potée_; we bought a Lorraine sausage, and when you came in I
had just made a _tôt-fait_.”

“Oh, a _tôt-fait_!” cried Boinville. “That is a sort of cake made of
eggs, milk and farina; it is twenty years since I heard its name and
more than that since I tasted it.”

His face became strangely animated, and the young girl, who was
watching him curiously, saw a look of actual greediness in his brown
eyes. While he was lost in a reverie of the _tôt-fait_, Claudette and
her grandmother turned away and began discussing, and at last the girl
whispered:

“I am afraid it would not do.”

“Why not?” returned the old lady, “I think it would please him.” And
then, seeing that he was looking at them wonderingly, she went toward
him, saying:

“M. Boinville, you have already been so kind to us that I am going
to ask of you another favor. It is late, and you have a long way
to go--we should be so glad if you would stay here and taste our
_tôt-fait_--should we not, Claudette?”

“Certainly,” said the girl, “but M. Boinville will have a plain dinner,
and besides, he is, no doubt, expected at home.”

“No one is waiting for me,” answered the gentleman, thinking of his
usual dull, solitary meals in the restaurant. “I have no engagement,
but--” he hesitated, looked at Claudette’s smiling eyes, and suddenly
exclaimed:--

“I accept, with pleasure.”

“That is right!” said the old lady, briskly. “What did I tell you,
Claudette? Quick, my pet, set the table and run for the wine, while I
go back to my _tôt-fait_.”

The girl had already opened the press and taken out a striped
table-cloth and three napkins, and in the twinkling of an eye the table
was ready. Then she lighted a candle and went down stairs to fetch the
wine, while the old dame sat down with her lap full of chestnuts, which
she proceeded to crack and place upon the stove.

“Is not that a bright, lively girl?” she said, “she is my consolation;
she cheers me like a linnet on an old roof.”

Here the speaker rattled the chestnuts on the stove, and then Claudette
reappeared, a little flushed and out of breath, and the old woman went
and brought in the _potée_ and set it steaming and fragrant on the
table.

Seated between the cheery octogenarian and the artless, smiling girl,
and in the midst of half-rural surroundings which constantly recalled
the memory of his youth, Hubert Boinville, the deputy governor, did
honor to the _potée_. His grave, cold manner thawed out rapidly and he
conversed familiarly with his new friends, returning the gay sallies
of Claudette and shouting with merriment at the sound of the _patois_
words and phrases which the old lady used.

From time to time the widow would rise and go to attend to her cookery,
and at last she returned triumphant, bringing in an iron baking-dish
in which rose the gently swelling golden-brown _tôt-fait_, smelling of
orange-flower water.

Then came the roasted chestnuts in their brown, crisped shells, and the
old lady brought from her press a bottle of _fignolette_, a liquor made
of brandy and sweet wine.

When Claudette had cleared the table, the grandmother took up her
knitting mechanically and sat near the stove, chatting gaily at first,
but she now yielded to the combined effects of the warmth and the
_fignolette_ and fell asleep. Claudette put the lamp on the table,
and she and the visitor were left to entertain each other. The girl,
sprightly and light-hearted, did nearly all the talking. She had
been brought up at Argonne, and described the neighborhood with such
exactness that Boinville seemed to be carried back to his native place;
as the room was warm Claudette had opened a window, and the fresh air
came in laden with the odors of the market-garden, and the gurgling
sound of a fountain, while farther off was heard the bell of the
Capuchin convent.

Hubert Boinville had an hallucination, for which the _fignolette_, and
the blue eyes of his young countrywoman were responsible. It seemed as
if twenty years had rolled backward and that he was still in his native
village. The wind in the fruit trees was the rustling of the Argonne
forest, the soft murmur of running water was the caressing voice of the
river Aire. His youth, which for twenty years had been buried under old
papers and deeds was now revived, and before him were the blue laughing
eyes of Claudette, looking at him so artlessly that his long torpid
heart awoke suddenly and beat a delightful pit-a-pat against his breast.

Suddenly the old lady awoke with a start and stammered an apology. M.
Boinville rose, for it was time to go, and after thanking the widow
warmly for her hospitality and promising to come again, he extended his
hand to Claudette. Their eyes met, and the deputy governor’s glance
was so earnest that the young girl’s eyelids drooped suddenly. She
accompanied him down stairs, and when they reached the house door he
clasped her hand again, but without knowing what to say to her. And yet
his heart was full.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hubert Boinville continued to give, as is said in official language,
“active and brilliant impulse to the Department.” The ministerial
machine went on heaping up on his desk the daily grist of reports and
papers, and the sittings of the Council, audiences, commissions and
other official duties kept him so busy that he could not find a spare
hour in which to go to the humble lodgings near the Capuchin convent.
In the midst of his work, however, his thoughts often wandered back
to the humble little dinner, and several times his attention was
distracted from an official document by a vision of Claudette’s bright
azure eyes, which seemed to flutter about on the paper like a pair of
blue butterflies. When he returned to his gloomy bachelor apartment,
those eyes went before him, and seemed to laugh merrily as he stirred
his dull fire, and then he thought again of the dinner in the cheerful
room, of the fire blazing up gaily in the delft stove, and of the young
girl’s merry prattle, which had temporarily resuscitated the sensation
of his twenty-first year. More than once he went to his mirror and
looked gloomily at his gray-streaked beard, thought of his loveless
youth, and of his increasing years, and said with La Fontaine:

“Have I passed the time for loving?”

Then he would be seized with a sort of tender homesickness which filled
him with dismay, and made him regret that he had never married.

One cloudy afternoon toward the end of December, the solemn usher
opened the door and announced:

“Madame Blouet, sir.”

Boinville rose eagerly to greet his visitor, and inquired, with a
slight blush, for her granddaughter.

“She is very well, sir,” was the answer, “and your visit brought her
luck; she received an appointment yesterday in a telegraph office. I
could not think of leaving Paris without again thanking you, sir, for
your kindness to us.”

Boinville’s heart sank.

“You are to leave Paris; is this position in the provinces?”

“Yes, in the Vosges. Of course I shall go with Claudette; I am eighty
years old, and cannot have much longer to live; we shall never part, in
this world.”

“Do you go soon?”

“In January. Good-bye, sir; you have been very kind to us, and
Claudette begged me to thank you in her name.”

The deputy governor was thunderstruck, and answered only in
monosyllables, and when the good woman had left him he sat motionless
for a long time with his head in his hands.

That night he slept badly, and the next day was very taciturn with his
employes.

Toward three o’clock he brushed his hat, left the office, and jumped
into a cab that was passing, and half an hour later he hurried
through the market garden of Number 12, Rue de la Santé, and knocked
tremblingly at Madame Blouet’s door. Claudette answered the knock, and
on seeing the deputy governor, she started and blushed.

“Grandmother is out,” she said, “but she will soon be home and will be
so glad to see you.”

“I have come to see, not your grandmother, but yourself, Mademoiselle
Claudette,” he returned.

“Me?” she exclaimed anxiously, and he repeated, “Yes, you,” in an
abrupt tone, and then his throat seemed to close and he could hardly
speak.

“You are going away next month?” he asked at last.

The girl nodded assent.

“Are you not sorry to leave Paris?”

“Yes indeed I am. It grieves me to think of it, but then, this position
is a fortune to us, and grandmother will be able to live in peace for
the rest of her days.”

“Suppose I should offer you the means of remaining in Paris, at the
same time assuring comfort to Madame Blouet?”

“Oh, sir!” exclaimed the young girl, her face brightening.

“It is rather a violent remedy,” he said, hesitating again, “perhaps
you would think it too great an effort.”

“Oh no, I am very resolute--only tell me what it is.”

He took a long breath, and then said quietly, almost harshly,

“Will you marry me?”

“Heaven!” she gasped, in a voice of deep emotion; but although her
face expressed the deepest surprise, there was no sign of repugnance
or alarm. Her bosom heaved, her lips parted, and her eyes became moist
with tender brightness.

Boinville dared not look at her, lest he should read refusal in her
face, but at last, alarmed by her long silence, he raised his head,
saying, “You think me too old--you are frightened--”

“Not frightened,” she answered, simply, “but surprised, and--glad. It
is too good. I can hardly believe it.”

“My darling!” he cried, taking both her hands “you must believe it. I
am the one to be glad, for I love you.”

She was silent, but there was no mistaking the tenderness and gratitude
that were shining in her eyes, and Hubert Boinville must have read them
aright, for he drew her closely to him, and meeting with no resistance,
raised her hands to his lips and kissed them with youthful fervor.

“Holy Mother!” cried the old lady, appearing on the scene at that
instant, and the others turned round, he a little confused; the girl
blushing, but radiant.

“Do not be shocked, Madame Blouet,” said the deputy governor. “The
evening that I dined here I found a wife; the ceremony will take place
next month--with your permission.”



ETCHINGS: THE SAD HOUR

(H. A. Grace: For Short Stories.)


A florist-shop in the city of Philadelphia.

A lady, apparently about thirty years of age, dressed somberly in
black, enters, and approaching the proprietor, who is behind the
counter, demurely asks:

“Does anyone ever use those floral pieces that I see in the window, as
wedding presents?”--at the same time indicating by a gesture that she
referred to mementoes of immortelles there conspicuously displayed.

“Well,” answered the florist, somewhat astonished, “that is a use to
which I have never before heard of their being put; still I know of no
reason why they could not be so used, if one desired to give such an
emblem as a token of esteem at such a time. What design would you think
of using?” setting on the counter such emblems as Gates Ajar, a harp,
and a lyre.

“I hardly know,” continued the lady, “still, I think possibly this one
might answer,” picking up the lyre.

“What inscription would you wish on it?” asked the florist.

“The sad hour.”

“Is not that rather sombre for such a joyous occasion?”

“Well, it might be ordinarily, but the fact is simply this: the
gentleman to whom I wish to send it and myself were engaged to be
married, and he is now about to marry another lady; so if you think the
immortelles that you put in it will last a long time, I will take this
lyre, and have the motto--

                            +--------------+
                            | THE SAD HOUR |
                            +--------------+

--just as large and prominent as ever you can make it.”

To this the polite florist replies that he had no doubt but that the
immortelles would last as long as could be desired.

The lady left, composed and satisfied.

The emblem was finished in strict accordance with the order and
promptly delivered to the address given.

       *       *       *       *       *

What the recipient said may be recorded in heaven, but is not known on
earth, and the florist and his customer still live.



ABRUM, CA’LINE AND ASPHALT

(W. N. Harben: The Round Table.)


Upon the church, the negro denizens of Crippletown focused their
opinions. They were about equally divided between the Methodist and
Baptist denominations, and no matter how much sociability existed
among the men as they went to work together, or among the women as
they chatted or sang over their wash-tubs, when Sunday came with its
suggestive clangor of church bells, friendliness drew itself into its
shell of finery, and only protruded its head to cast depreciative
glances at members of any church save its own.

Squads of people bound for the Baptist church, passed squads of
people bound for the Methodist church without exchanging even nods
of greeting. Extreme reserve and solemnity characterized the general
religious bearing.

It is Sunday evening in the cottage of Abraham Wilson, a most devout
Methodist of the blackest physical type. He had talked Methodism to his
young wife until her brain and tongue were in a tangle. He made it the
theme of his evening and morning discourses, and threw in foot-notes at
all possible opportunities. He, as well as his neighbors, were curious
to know which denomination Caroline would finally join, especially
as it had been whispered for some time that she was “on the fence”
owing to the fact that her parents had been Baptists and her husband a
Methodist.

Few doubted that Abraham’s powers of argument would in time bring her
wavering mind to his views. But it seemed that Caroline’s besetting
sin, vanity, and love of display, linked with the persuasive powers of
the Baptist minister, who called on her often through the day while
Abraham was away, were to bulwark the latter’s earnest endeavors.

She had ever looked with charmed eyes on the baptismal ceremonies,
which usually took place in a neighboring creek, and her heart had
suffered frequent pangs at thinking that she was hindered from being
the cynosure of the thousands that sung and shouted on the shore as the
dripping candidates were led from the stream. From childhood up she had
looked forward to immersion with as much anticipation as she had to
marriage. Regardless of this she had married a Methodist, because she
had loved him.

“Abrum,” said she, after listening to him in silence for an hour,
“Abrum, I know you think you is right, en ev’ybody kin hat der own
way er thinkin’ ’bout chu’ches, but ez fur me, I know I’s hat my min’
set on ’mersion in runnin’ water ev’y since I know my min’. I’s been
puttin’ it off frum summer ter summer, en now you gwine to disagree wid
me.”

Abraham’s surprise rendered him almost speechless. He had felt
intuitively that Caroline did not agree with him for a long time, but
had nursed the belief that his arguments would wear away her objections
ere she gave them voice.

“You ever let me yer er you gwine wadin’ in ’at creek en I swear ’fo’
God I’ll trash you ev’y step frum deh home.”

“Huh!” his wife grunted defiantly. “Shuh, Abrum Wilson! you ain’t man
enough; your feared to tech me. I don’t want none er yo’ ol’ ’ligion.
’Sides anything ’at’s good ’nough for Jesus Christ certney is good
’nough fer me. De bible seh He went down into de water; now, Abrum, I
can’t go down into de water en hat de preacher des sprinkle my haid
out’n er gravy bowl, same as I does w’en I’s ironin’. Now w’t’s de use
in talkin’ dat way. Whyn’t Christ des ax um fer er lil in er goa’d
dipper? Seem lak dat enough ’cordin’ ter yo all’s way.”

Abraham had exhausted every argument in his brain already, so he could
formulate no reply, but inflated almost to explosion with turbulent
spleen, he resumed his seat in the door, while she, momentarily
triumphant, bustled round the cottage to put their only child, little
Asphalt, to bed. The latter two-year old innocent owed its name to
the fact that he happened to be born one day while Abram was employed
in laying asphalt pavement in the city. He was struck with the
high-sounding name and told Caroline that the mixture had “des enough
pitch in it fer er nigger child’s name.”

When she had put Asphalt to bed, Caroline timidly drew her chair near
to his. He did not look at her.

“Now, Abrum,” said she, pacifically, “you is hat yo’ way, en I hain’t
seh nothin’ ergin it all ’long sence we is married.” She waited a
moment for him to speak, but as he was stubbornly silent she went on
with growing firmness, as she slily eyed him askance: “I ’low ter jine
de Baptist chu’ch, de Lawd willin’, en git my ’mersion ’long wid Sallie
en Lindy. Brer Brown was here yistiddy en I done give ’im my promise;
an he give me lessons w’en ter hol’ my bref ter keep from stranglin’.”

Abraham turned upon her with such suddenness that she shrank back into
her chair as if smitten.

“You seh you is hehn? You seh you is?” he growled. “Well, we gwine see.
You seh you is gwine wade out in dat creek lak er crippled duck. Le’ me
des see it en I’ll git er divo’ce sho en never put my foot in dis house
ergin.

“You go git yo’ divo’ce,” she said sullenly, “I’s got er right ter my
side same ez you.”

“Look yer, Ca’line!” he snapped out, rising clumsily to his feet, “you
des seh ernurr word en I’ll pick up dat plank deh en ’fo’ God I’ll
split it over yo’ haid. Huh!”

He waited a moment for the silenced woman to speak, but she did not
answer him in words. She angered him more than ever by stealthily
regarding him from the corner of her eye and humming, with as much
gusto as her caution would allow, a hymn that was usually sung by the
Baptists during their baptismal ceremonies.

To this Abraham had no reply, save to look at the offender as if he
would thus scorch her with the volcanic heat of his supreme contempt,
and walked away into the darkness.

Caroline’s song dwindled into a murmur as he vanished. She went to the
door and peered after him as he receded in the misty moonlight, with a
look of deep concern upon her.

Abraham went on until he came to the cottage of his widowed sister,
Martha Todd. Here he took a seat on the doorstep. A woman came out of
the unlighted room.

“Dat you, Abrum?” she grunted in surprise. “Well, well; I do know you
skeered me, sho, kase I ain’t ’spectin’ you. What kin er happen ter tek
you off frum home dis time er night; I des fixin’ ter go ter baid?”

“Marfy,” said the visitor, in a deeply pained voice, “de storm has riz
in my own home at las’. I reckon me en Ca’line done bust up fer good.”

“Why, Abrum; whut’s de matter? How come you seh dat? My!”

“Sister Marfy, you know Ca’line. You know how she is w’en she set ’er
haid. She is sho’ nough set on ’mersion en de Baptist chu’ch. You know
how I is on dat subjec’.”

“Brer Abrum, dis done come on us at las’.” The woman seemed to filter
her tones through a mixture of resignation and satisfaction. “I been
hat my eye open fer er long time. I ain’t seh nothin’ kase it no
business er mine, en I ’low it bes’ ter wait. Ev’y day while you hard
at wuk de Baptist preacher is been er buzzin’ in Ca’line’s ear. I don’t
see no way out’n it. It sholly is too bad; Asphy is so young; you is
sech er big Mephodis’ an’ er deacon, too. I do know how you feel.”

“Marfy,” said the ebon devotee, sternly, as he evoked a dull thud from
his knee onto which his broad hand descended; “Marfy, me en Ca’line
gwine be divo’ced, ’at’s de end.”

“Too bad she tuk dat way,” sighed Martha Todd, more deeply than she was
given to over her own misfortunes.

The truth was that nothing could have pleased the widowed and childless
woman more than to have her brother, who was such a prominent
Methodist, and a steady laborer, a member of her own household, which
would be, she knew, in case of a separation between the couple.

“Women is er caution, sho, brer,” she went on, “I do know Ca’line is
haid-strong. Mighty bad fer bofe, dis disagreement. ’Tain’t ’cordin’
ter scriptur’.”

Silence fell upon the pair, save for the sound of Martha’s breath as
it contended with the nicotine in her uncleanly pipe-stem. The hours
passed until the clock within struck twelve jingling strokes. Abraham
rose stiffly, lingered, stretched himself, for he felt that he needed
to apologize for going back.

“Yer gwine back ter ’er, brer?” Martha Todd asked significantly. “May
de Lo’d be ’long wid you den.”

“I wouldn’t go er step, but I hatter git my clothes frum ’er’,” said he
sheepishly. “You reckon I gwine ’low dat gal ter keep my clothes? Huh!
Marfy, w’at you rekon I is?”

“Once you git back she gwine ’suade you ter let ’er be ’mersed. Who
knows, we may see Deacon Abrum wid wet clothes on, too. Some women is
too sly----”

“You go ’long, sister, I tell you too much is done pass twixt me en
Ca’line. I des gwine atter my things, den I’ll come live wid you--I’ll
be yer in de mornin’.”

Thus speaking, Abraham turned slowly homeward. Late as it was he found
Caroline sitting in the door smoking her pipe. She had a sulky mien on
her bent, portly form. She drew her feet under her chair as her liege
lord passed wordless into the cottage. He turned up the wick of the
low-burning lamp, and as its feeble rays struggled through the room his
glance fell on the features of sleeping Asphalt, and a lump rose in his
throat.

A crude wardrobe stood against the wall. Through its open door he
caught a glimpse of his clothing crowded into the piece of furniture
with Caroline’s finery. Therein was his long-tailed broadcloth coat,
his bell-shaped silk hat, his shining doeskin trousers, and an overcoat.

He had magnanimously made up his mind that he would demand nothing
of the domestic wreck except his own clothing. The furniture of the
cottage, all other belongings of him and his wife, should remain with
her, even little Asphalt.

While he was looking under the child’s bed for his best boots, which
he remembered casting off there a few hours previous, Caroline, with a
meaning smile playing round her lips, as if she had divined his plans,
rose automatically, walked with a well-assumed air of sleepiness to
the wardrobe, and locking it, put the key in her pocket. Then, as if
unaware that his startled orbs were on her, she went to the clock on
the mantelpiece and began to wind it, singing the while a little air
which she often sung when wholly at ease with herself and all the rest
of the world.

Abraham stood behind her rigid form, boots in hand, in silence.
Something in Caroline’s prompt flank movement gave him a thrill
of vague pleasure, while it aroused his aggressiveness. She had
thwarted him, it was true, but in doing so had of her own will raised
a hindrance to his quitting the place. Abraham had a struggle with
himself. Somehow the room seemed to be more cozy than ever before,
while Martha Todd’s house rose bleak and dreary before his mental
sight. How amicably all might be arranged if Caroline would only
relinquish her dream of “runnin’ water.”

Then it occurred to him that, in justice to his usual sternness of
manner, he must say something hard to her, must force the key of the
wardrobe from her, and secure his clothing, but he could not do it; he
was softened by her quiet mien as she stood in the door and looked out
at the night. But if he did not take his clothing to his sister in the
morning what excuse could he offer for having failed so ignominiously?
He decided that he would wait until the next day and see what could be
done; so he went into the adjoining room, the “guest-room,” and retired.

He lay in bed with his eyes open, reflecting over the ridiculous
position Caroline had placed him in before his fellow churchmen,
and smarting over the knowledge that the Baptists were enjoying his
discomfiture.

After a while the lamp was extinguished in Caroline’s room, and by her
snoring he knew that she was sound asleep. He knew that it would be an
easy matter for him to steal into her room and take the wardrobe key
from her gown pocket and get possession of his guarded property, but he
shrank from hastening matters in any such way. After a while he slept
and snored in harmony with his estranged wife.

When he awoke in the morning a most tempting breakfast was waiting him
on the table, and Caroline and little Asphalt were looking neat and
interesting. He took his accustomed seat glumly and ate his breakfast
with a good relish. His pride prevented him from speaking to the
woman from whom he was to be divorced, though it did not in any wise
interfere with his partaking of the food she had cooked before he was
awake. By his wounded taciturnity he would have her comprehend that his
day in the cottage was over, that he only delayed to get a chance to
lessen the overpacked wardrobe.

So far, it was true, he had made little headway, but then Rome was
not built in a day, and he could afford to abide his time, especially
as the immersion season had not yet arrived. But he remembered, with
a chill, that on his way to work that morning he would be obliged to
pass Martha Todd’s house. She would be expecting him to bring along
an armful of clothing. What could he do to excuse his delay? He
bethought himself all at once of his Sunday boots and the blacking and
blacking-brush, still under Asphalt’s little bed. With them he could
pay an installment on his sister’s hopes and also shield himself from
the appearance of defeat.

Rising from the table, he reached under the bed, and securing the
articles in question he tucked them under his arm and sailed forth
without looking at Caroline or Asphalt.

Martha Todd was on the lookout, pacing up and down her front yard.
She vanquished a rather open look of curiosity as he sauntered down
the sidewalk, and gave her face an expression of absolute vacancy of
thought.

“Good mornin’, Abrum?” said she.

“Good-mornin’, sister,” he replied, in a sigh, as he passed her into
the cottage, “kin I ax yer ter save dese yer boots en blackin’-bresh
fer me. It’s all my things I kin git my han’s on now. Ca’line is de
beatenes’ woman in dis wull I do know. She’s locked um all up in de
wa’drobe en hid de key som’rs. But I gwine back ter night en watch my
chances. She ’low she mighty sharp, but you gwine see. You gwine hear
supin drap; now min’ whut I seh. She hatter git up ’fo’ day to haid
me off. De minute I git my han’s on any er my things I gwine fetch um
right ter you, en w’en I got um all frum ’er she kin des go, now you
min’ whut I seh. She kin des go ’long en wade en swim tell she tek er
tail lak er tadpole fer all I keer. All I want is whut b’longs ter me.
I gwine hat um, too, en not many words be passed nurr.”

Discerning Martha began to place a small value on her prospect of
gaining her point, but in the sweet delight of being a partner in a
family disagreement she did not make her fears known, and pretended to
think that he was in the right to a final separation from Caroline.

That day Abraham’s companions wondered at his moods. He was very
absent-minded, and seemed extremely nervous and ill at ease. As the
hour for dinner arrived he remembered that he would be obliged to go
home for a small piece of plug tobacco which he had forgotten.

“My lord, Abrum!” exclaimed a dusky companion in surprise, “whyn’t you
step er crost ter de sto’ en buy a piece. It’s er mile, en’ll push you
lak smoke ter git back.”

“No use,” said Abraham, taking his luncheon in his hands and eating it
as he started off. “No use; I des got ter hat it. It’s my sweet navy,
en deh ain’t non er dat kin’ in dat sto’. I cay’nt do er lick dis
evenin’ less’n I got it.”

He found it necessary to avoid passing in view of Martha Todd’s house,
so his distance was a trifle longer than usual.

He stood in the door in surprise. Caroline and Asphalt were seated
at the dining table, and on it for that midday repast was only some
bread and water. His heart smote him suddenly as he remembered what a
delightful luncheon she had always put up in his pail of mornings. But
he must not weaken. He remembered that the desired piece of tobacco
was in the pocket of a pair of trousers now locked in the wardrobe.
Notwithstanding this knowledge, he went to the mantelpiece, looked in
the clock, turned over papers, and ran his hands over the covering of
Asphalt’s bed.

Then feeling that some explanation was due Caroline, who was regarding
him surreptitiously, he said to Asphalt, whose lack of comprehension
was as positive as his blackness:

“Asphy, honey, has you seed yo’ papa’s piece er terbaccer? Seem lak I
lef’ it in my blue check pants.”

Caroline, however, as if taking the remark to herself, without deigning
to look at him, went to the wardrobe, unlocked it, and threw the pair
of trousers referred to on the bed, and placidly resumed her work over
the fire-place.

With marked eagerness Abraham ran his hand into a pocket of the
garment, and finding the tobacco, he forthwith partook of a quid, as
if he were unable to stay his desire for another moment. Then he stood
and gazed at his wife steadily for a minute with a mingled look of
embarrassment and resentment.

But she took not the slightest notice of him. She did not move save to
reach over and fan the flies from Asphalt’s face.

Abraham was in hasty argument with himself in regard to the disposal
of the trousers lying before him. He did not like to take them away,
for he would be obliged to go to Martha Todd’s house to leave them
in her care. If the trousers had been his best he might have thought
differently, but as fate would have it they were of the very least
value of any of his clothes. They were adorned with vari-colored
patches, and fringed badly at the knees.

On the other hand, Caroline, he feared, would consider his failing to
take them as an evidence that he was weakening from the rigorous course
he was pursuing toward a divorce. He decided upon an exhibition of
contempt for the trousers, and again brought his child into diplomatic
service.

“Asphy,” said he ruefully, holding the trousers out at arm’s length,
while the child was most desperately chewing his cheek to dislocate the
colony of flies from the Oklahoma below a wildly rolling orb, “Asphy,
yo’ papa has certney got all de use out’n dese yer pants. Some tramp
kin hat um. ’Sides I mus’ git er lots er new things ter wear in Texas.”
With those words, the last of which caused Caroline to start, he threw
the trousers into a corner and left the cottage.

As night after night passed the breach seemed to be widening between
the couple. Morning after morning Abraham emerged from his house
bearing some article of clothing he had managed to secure. He took
them to Martha Todd. She smiled, and shed some crocodile tears over
the coat, vest, or trousers, as the case might be, cast depreciating
looks at certain grease spots or rents, with a sigh that too plainly
suggested her opinion of Caroline’s domestic negligence.

One night while Abraham was sedulously searching under the beds, behind
trunks, and everywhere for something belonging to him, he was deeply
surprised to detect a loud grunt, indicating a burthen of both defiance
and disgust, in the bosom of his hitherto wordless wife. He was even
more surprised to see her go with a hasty shuffle to the wardrobe and
show him that it had not been locked by throwing the door of it wide
open.

With another most contemptuous grunt she resumed her seat and began to
pat her foot on the floor vigorously, as if to vent her boiling spleen.

Abraham felt cold to his very marrow. She was then willing to remove
every hinderance to his leaving, had, indeed, made an opening by which
he could hasten his departure.

He approached the wardrobe slowly, casting helpless glances at
Caroline’s heaving back. There among her gowns hung naught he could
call his own save a soiled linen duster and his overcoat. With
trembling fingers he took the duster from its hook, and stalked out
into the night. Slowly he glided with bowed head toward his sister’s
house. She sat in the doorway behind a cloud of tobacco smoke.

“Well,” said he almost in a whisper, “well, Marfy, dis trouble is
mos’ over wid now. ’Twon’t be long ’fo’ I’ll come, now. I think I got
de las’ thing ’cep’ er overcoat. Wid good luck I think I kin git dat
ter-morrer night. Ter-night I hope you’ll ’low me ter sleep in yo’
company-room. I want ter let Ca’line en Asphy git use’n ter stayin’ in
dat house alone.”

Martha rose and moved into the adjoining room to arrange his bed. Her
movements betrayed high elation. Things had taken a shape at last that
she had hardly hoped for. She lay awake until past midnight listening
to Abraham’s creaking bedstead and gloating over the prospective
triumph over her heretical sister-in-law.

The next morning Abraham ate his breakfast at Martha’s and went to
work without going home. He thought that an additional twelve hours to
Caroline’s suspense would do much toward showing her how desirable it
was to have a man around the house. The ensuing day, be it said, was a
long one to him, and he suffered more than he thought she did.

When he slouched into his cottage at dusk that day, he was shocked to
see the inevitable wardrobe open. Indeed the door of that receptacle
was frowningly held ajar by means of a stick of stovewood.

Abraham, however, had arranged a grand _coup d’ etat_ for this last
visit to his home. It remained to be seen how the enemy would receive
the movement.

It was Saturday. He had his entire earnings of the week--twelve silver
dollars--in his pocket. He wondered whether twenty-four halves or
twelve whole dollars would make the biggest display, and had finally
decided on the latter.

Drawing his hand from his pocket to scratch his head he contrived to
evoke quite a merry jingle of coin as he stepped across the room to a
small table. Caroline’s face flushed and she followed his movements
with a mien of deep interest. Not since their marriage had he failed to
divide his week’s wages with her. He did not, as she feared, hand it
to her on this momentous occasion. Instead, he sat down at the table,
after he had dusted and carefully rolled up his overcoat in a newspaper
and began to arrange his money in divers piles and positions by the
light of a small piece of candle which he had taken from his pocket and
lighted to show Caroline that he was not obliged to call for the lamp,
which shone on the supper table.

Then he drew forth a soiled piece of writing paper, a small stub of
a pencil, and seemed to be engrossed in a deep calculation, as he
scratched down some strange hieroglyphics and lines, as if they marked
out his course in the future.

“Asphy,” said he, dreamily, the better to assume utter unconsciousness
of the fact that the child was asleep on its bed. “Asphy, honey, you
ain’t never yer anybody seh how fur ’tis ter Texas, has you? De boss
’low it’s er long way off frum Atlanta, but I reckon I kin git deh--de
train starts at twelve ter-night.”

Caroline was so excited that her trembling hands made the dishes in
the cupboard rattle as she was putting away the supper, which he had
refused to touch, although she had kept it waiting for his arrival. She
took a seat in the doorway and turned her dusky face out toward the
night in order that he might not see her tear-dimmed eyes.

At the table he sat over his coin chessmen and figures until the
far-away strokes of a clock-bell rang the hour of ten out to them
from the heart of the sleeping city. As if to answer the bell came a
rasping, labored cough from slumbering Asphalt, a disconnected jargon
murmured as from a breast of pain, half subdued by sleep.

Two pairs of eyes were raised suddenly; one from the coin-strewn
table, the other from the long rows of lights which mark out a street
on the blackness far away, between long lines of tall buildings. Two
hearts quickened their beatings simultaneously. Two minds were focused
on one idea.

The mother rose quickly and with a cat-like tread went to the child
and bent over him. Abraham all at once had eyes for aught besides his
gains. His mouth relaxed from its drawn sternness and fell open as he
watched Caroline’s anxious posture at the bed. He went to her side.

They looked like a pair of ebony statues. The light of the lamp and
candle seemed to be struggling to produce shadows of the couple on the
wall, but the rays of one lessened the power of the other, so that four
dim contortions in shade took the place of two. The mother’s hand was
on the brow of the sleeper; her breath was held in suspense.

“Ca’line,” more in a rasping gasp was the name pronounced than in
Abraham’s usual tones; “Ca’line, dat child has got ’is feet wet
somewhar’. Dis typhoid fever is all roun’ dis settlement en pow’ful bad
wid chillun. You look atter him honey; I gwine fur er doctor. I’ll be
back ez soon ez I kin git yer.” He left his money on the table, without
giving it a thought or glance, and darted hurriedly from the room.

Day after day the troubled pair watched over their sick child, hoping
and praying for its life to be spared to them.

“Ef it had en’ er been fur dis yer divo’ce we hat up ’twix us, Ca’line,
it wouldn’t er come, I know,” said Abraham, in sackcloth and ashes one
night. “It’s mighty bad ter tamper wid whut de Lo’d have done jined
tergerr, en all ’bout His Own Son, too; better not hat no chu’ches en
dat. Sister done gwine sen’ me my things back.”

Caroline was husky of voice when she replied, dampening a towel to
cool Asphalt’s hot brow: “Abrum, I’m willin’, en only too willin’ ter
go wid you in yo’ chu’ch. I don’t know no diffunce ’twix de two; I des
hat my min’ sot on foolish showin’ off. En if God will only spar dis
one child, I’ll never open my mouf ergin. Who knows but er gwine in der
water wid wet clothes might er been my regular death? Mebby dis spell
er Asphy’s is er warnin’ ergin it.”

Slowly Asphalt passed the dread climax, and began to grow better, and
to-day Crippletown does not contain a more happy couple than Abraham
and Caroline.



ETCHINGS: AFTERWARD

(Annie Reeve Aldrich: For Short Stories.)


It is deep winter. A fierce storm shakes the windows in their casement.
Melting flakes were in his beard when he entered.

Within is no light save from the fire; a dull, steady glow that bathes
the room in soft rose. There are lordly furnishings; about the floor
great cushions; skins of the leopard and lion.

There is a screen.

_My God, do not let me look behind that screen!_

Hush! Where was I? Yes, on the furs before the fire, my head, with
loosened hair, pillowed on the rug at his feet.

It was pleasant to listen to the raging of the wind.

He had come to tell me of his approaching marriage--a marriage of love,
he said, and laughed.

It was then all the room seemed to burst into a firelight of blood;
all the sounds of hell rang in my ears; and my wrist had the sudden
strength of ten men to drive the blade in his breast. His great muscles
and firm flesh gave momentary resistance to the point, and then, what
joy to feel them yield, and the steel slip deftly in!

The wet crimson poured over my fingers into the creases of the palms he
had kissed, and the dimples he had counted.

He rolled, so much clay, onto the white furs, and see, I have drawn
the screen in front of him ... for he is still laughing ... the happy
bridegroom.

I wish the bride might see that smile!

There is a dark stream crawling through the fur, meandering and
choosing its crooked way like a little brook in the summer grasses, and
it creeps on and on lazily toward the polished hearth. It will run on
until the flames drink it ... and when it reaches them I must get some
snow at the window and wash my hands ... but just now I can think of
nothing but how long it will be by the tick of the carved clock against
the wall before it reaches its goal ... of nothing but that, and how,
when the fire sinks and crumbles to ashes the waiting shadows will
steal from the corners where they hide and gather closer around me ...
and I shall have to sit motionless until the dawn, lest by chance I
should set my foot in that black little brook ... it is quiet ... but
those shadows are only waiting ... waiting in the corners!



THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS FOUND

(Edmond Spencer: Parisian Police Archives.)


M. Scipion Desruelles kept a small shop in the Rue de Seine, Paris. He
had a wife, but no children.

He was a small tradesman, and his wife a large, coarse-looking woman,
quite capable of taking care of shop and Scipion.

Scipion’s past life had been singularly uneventful.

One single circumstance had ruffled it, and that he used often to
relate to his gossips, in proof that a hero was spoiled in the making
when Scipion became a shopkeeper.

One night, ten years before the time of his introduction to the reader,
Scipion had gone to the theatre, and after the performance had taken
Madame to a restaurant and treated her to a little supper. Returning
home, after he was in bed Scipion heard a noise in the shop. He armed
himself with a bootjack, went down, and, with the assistance of the
hastily summoned police, captured a burglar.

The man, who said he was an Italian, named Vedova, disclaimed earnestly
all felonious intentions, but could give no good account of himself.
Scipion prosecuted him vigorously, and he was convicted and sent to
Brest.

Two years later Scipion met Vedova in a café and had him arrested as an
escaped convict.

In the early part of 1852 Scipion received official notification from
Martinique that a bachelor cousin of his on the island, whose name was
Pache, was dead and had left him heir to all his property which was
large, and included a valuable sugar plantation. Desruelles was further
informed by the notary at St. Jean, that it would be necessary for him
to come out in person and administer on the estate in order to save
himself great loss and inconvenience and many delays.

The bourgeois of Paris is not a traveling character, but neither is
he willing to lose money if he can help it. Scipion bought himself a
trunk, committed the little boutique in the Rue de Seine to Madame’s
charge--she was quite as competent to take care of it as he--made
a deed of all his property in Paris to Madame as a preventive of
accidents, and then bidding her the most tender adieu, sailed for
Martinique, via Bourdeaux, in a brig which took out a cargo of claret
and oil for the French islands and New Orleans.

When Desruelles reached Martinique and went to St. Jean, he was simply
struck dumb to find his cousin alive and well, and all the notarial
papers he had received forgeries!

There was nothing for him to do but go back again.

The brig was to sail in a day for New Orleans, and Scipion determined
to go thither in her, take the cars to New York and the steamer thence
to Havre, in order to get home again as speedily as possible. He was
burning to send the police in search of the rascals who had hoaxed him
and made him spend his money and suffer sea-sickness in a wild-goose
chase. He was armed with all the preliminary depositions and statements
necessary to open the case, duplicates of which were to be forwarded by
the authorities from Martinique.

Arrived in New Orleans, Scipion determined to spend a day or two in the
city before taking the cars for New York. He put up at a boarding house
in the French quarter, and devoted himself to sight-seeing with great
assiduity.

While at breakfast the second morning after his arrival he was warmly
greeted by a stranger, who took his hand and said: “I am truly
delighted to see you, Monsieur Quentineau! When did you arrive?”

Scipion gently informed the man that he was not Quentineau, but Scipion
Desruelles.

The stranger with great violence said that the dodge wouldn’t go down
there! Next thing he’d want to repudiate that bill of $725 he owed
Marais & Hughes.

Scipion said he had only been in the city a day, had never seen
the stranger before, nor knew he who or what Marais & Hughes
were--consequently could not possibly owe them or anybody else anything.

An hour later Scipion was arrested on a warrant taken out by Marais &
Hughes, liquor dealers in Canal street, against Pierre Quentineau, an
absconding debtor.

Scipion Desruelles, alias Quentineau, was cast into prison. He found a
lawyer, and with great difficulty, and at the cost of half his money,
proved that he was not Quentineau, but Scipion Desruelles, a passenger
aboard the brig Braganza, of Bordeaux. But for the captain he would
have been convicted, for several witnesses swore that he was Quentineau.

As soon as Scipion was released he went to the levee and embarked on a
steamer for Memphis, intending to make his way thence by rail to New
York.

At Memphis he was misdirected, enticed into a low groggery under the
bluffs and robbed of every cent he had left. Scipion found his way to
the mayor of the city, who promised to write to the French Consul at
New Orleans about it and to send the police in search of the thieves.

Scipion meantime wrote to Paris to Madame for a remittance, and
went about in search of a situation. A cotton broker gave him some
correspondence with Louisiana Creole planters to look after, and he was
thus enabled to earn enough to eat. But no answer nor remittance came
from Madame, and our poor exile could not make money enough to take
him home. At last he wrote to his cousin in Martinique, stating his
circumstances, and received shortly after in reply a draft for 2,500
francs.

Scipion immediately bought himself some clothes and necessaries, took
the cars and started for New York.

Here, while waiting for the sailing of the Havre steamer, he was again
arrested as being Pierre Quentineau a fugitive from justice and a
bond-forger.

By the merest good luck the cotton-broker in whose employ he had
been in Memphis happened to be in the city, and Scipion was able to
establish an alibi. His passport was stolen from him on the Memphis
steamer, and he had to get another one in New York, being thus delayed
a week.

Finally, to his intense joy, he was outside Sandy Hook on his return
voyage.

Arrived at Havre, he was accosted on the quay by a customs officer
with, “Eh bien! Monsieur Quentineau! What have you to declare at _this_
time?”

“Sacre bete de Quentineau!” cried the exasperated boutiquier; “I am
Scipion Desruelles, marchand, numero 79 _bis_ rue de Seine.”

“Then, sir, you must be detained,” said the officer.

While he was waiting in the customs office a man came behind him,
slipped something in his hand, and whispered: “Don’t be afraid,
Quentineau! They have nothing whatever against you! Here’s what I owe
you!”

Desruelles turned quickly, but the man who had spoken to him was
already lost in the crowd, and Scipion found eight gold Napoleons in
his hand. Mechanically he put the money in his pocket, cursing this
Quentineau whom everybody persisted in mistaking him for.

His baggage proving all right, and his passport not objectionable,
Scipion was after some delay permitted to start for Paris, but still
under the suspicion of the authorities that he was not Desruelles, but
Quentineau. At Rouen, in the railroad restaurant, he changed a Napoleon
to buy a bottle of wine and half a chicken. As soon as he reached Paris
he took a fiacre and drove to numero 79 Rue de Seine. His modest sign
was no longer there, but instead of it one of:

“Lamballe, coiffeur et parfumeur.”

Astounded, he rushed into the little shop; “Madame Desruelles,” he
said, “where is she?”

The attendant answered, “In America. It is four months since she
went--at the summons of her husband!”

“At the summons of me!” cried Scipion, sitting down abruptly. “This is
all a dream!”

Before he could say another word, a sergeant de ville entered the shop
and laid hands upon him. “You are wanted, Quentineau.”

“I am not Quentineau--I am Desruelles!” shouted the unhappy man, but
the officer of the law was incredulous, and bore Scipion off to prison.

He was examined on a charge of coining and of passing counterfeit
Napoleons upon the _dame du comptoir_ of the railroad restaurant at
Rouen, and fully committed for trial as Quentineau, alias Desruelles,
_faussaire_.

Desruelles employed an able advocate, and laid all the facts before
him. “It is a mere question of mistaken identity,” said the lawyer,
“and of course there will be no difficulty in proving who you really
are--a boutiquier of the Rue de Seine, of twenty years’ standing.”

But the advocate reckoned rather too hastily. One of the most
interesting trials that ever came off in Paris, now ensued. The
advocate employed by Desruelles was thoroughly persuaded of his
client’s innocence and good character, but the _Procureur Imperial_
was of a different opinion. The case was sent before the Court
d’Assises, and was tried by the president. A great number of witnesses
were called, and the whole question turned upon the identity of the
prisoner, by the mutual agreement of parties, for the reason that if
the accused were Desruelles his account of how he received the gold
Napoleons (admitted to be counterfeit) was probable; but if he were
Quentineau, no defense was possible. Quentineau was established to be
a desperate character, who had been several times convicted of minor
offenses, such as smuggling, and was more than suspected of being a
criminal of much deeper dye--a counterfeiter and forger.

The testimony of the customs officers at Havre and of the _dame du
comptoir_ at Rouen was first taken, and then a mass of police testimony
to prove that Desruelles was unquestionably Quentineau. This was
chiefly from the provinces, Quentineau having apparently operated
very little in the capital. At the outset the defense experienced an
unexpected difficulty. There were some hundreds of witnesses willing to
swear that they knew Desruelles perfectly well, but not nearly so many
who were satisfied that the prisoner was that person. His hardships,
his voyages, his poverty had told upon Desruelles. He was deeply
sunburnt, his hair was grizzled, his hand was hard, his manner nervous
and excited--as little like as possible to the placid shopkeeper of
the Rue de Seine. Unquestionably the accused resembled Desruelles
remarkably, and knew as much about that person’s antecedents as if he
were really himself, but then--. In short, Desruelles’ neighbors were
exceedingly conscientious, and the police exceedingly positive, and the
unfortunate shop keeper was convicted of being not himself at all, but
Pierre Quentineau, _faussaire et faux monnayeur_.

The rebutting testimony adduced by the advocate general not only
convinced the jury but overwhelmed Desruelles. It was a letter which
one of his neighbors, a woman, testified she had received from
Desruelles’ wife, from New York, that she and her Scipion were happily
accommodated with a shop and a thriving custom in Broadway in that
great city! Desruelles admitted that the handwriting was his wife’s,
but the statement impossible, for the reason that he was in the Palais
de Justice, and consequently could not be in New York.

Pierre Quentineau, calling himself Scipion Desruelles was sentenced to
ten years’ close imprisonment.

The unhappy convict was moved by his sense of injustice to carry
himself with unexpected dignity. He shed no tears, but said he felt
certain that time would remove the evils that now bore upon him
so heavily. He was sent to Brest, and set to learn the trade of
shoe-making. He was one of the most tractable prisoners ever confined
at the _bagnes_.

When Scipion had served out three years of his sentence, an unexpected
episode occurred in his history. Visitors were announced to Quentineau.
He went to the office of the prison and found his Martinique cousin,
Pache, and--his wife! He attempted to throw himself into the arms of
the latter, but was repulsed with severe dignity.

“We know you are not Quentineau, but Desruelles,” she said; “but there
are crimes charged against Desruelles.”

Scipion demanded an explanation and his release, but Madame was
inexorable.

M. Pache then told him to wait. Through influence, and the facts
presented by the Martinique cousin, the Court of Cassation had
consented to re-examine the question as to his identity. “Of course you
are Desruelles,” said M. Pache, confidently, “and I mean to prove it,
if it costs me a million.” After you are shown to be not Quentineau but
Desruelles, it will be time enough to go into Madame’s grievances.

Desruelles was now brought back to Paris, and M. Pache set to work to
establish his cousin’s identity.

The notary he employed suggested that M. Jules Favre be retained as
advocate and that eminent lawyer consented to take the case, but two
days later sent a note declining to serve on account of the pressure of
uncontrollable circumstances. M. Plongoulm, was consequently retained.

After various delays, the case of Desruelles or Quentineau was again
called up, this time not before a jury, but before the first President
of the Court of Cassation. The array of witnesses was formidable, and
the testimony of the most conflicting character. For the Procureur’s
side a great number of witnesses were brought who positively identified
Desruelles as Quentineau. In addition to this, substantial proof was
brought to the fact that Desruelles himself was dead. One of the
sailors of the brig Braganza was produced, who had made the Martinique
voyage with Desruelles. This man testified that after cargo was
discharged at New Orleans the brig took on cotton and was towed down
the river on her return voyage. Off Chandeleur Bay the brig was boarded
by a tug from Lake Bargne, and Desruelles came aboard from her. Three
days out Desruelles was taken with yellow fever, and died just as the
brig dropped anchor in the harbor of Basse Terre, Gaudeloupe. He was
buried on the extreme eastern point of the island after a considerable
difficulty with the authorities, who deeply resented the brig’s
anchoring at the island with such a fatal disease aboard. The log of
the Braganza and the burial record from Guadeloupe were presented in
court in corroboration of the sailor’s testimony, which made a deep
impression.

For the side of the defense Mme. Desruelles positively identified her
husband, naming marks and peculiarities upon his person which were
found to be singularly identical with those on the prisoner’s person.
An amusing colloquy between her and the prisoner was permitted, in
which both were seen to be mutually so intimate with all the details of
a domestic life together of twenty year’s standing that nothing short
of a miracle could suppose the privity of a third party. The books of
the shop were produced and the two went over them together, witnesses
being called to corroborate these minutiæ whenever they concerned a
third party, and it was thus shown by a mass of particulars that if
the prisoner were really Quentineau, he must likewise be Desruelles.
Having gone so far, the ingenious advocate proved, by an accumulation
of circumstances that Desruelles could not be Quentineau.

The President of the Court, who seemed to take a great interest in the
problem on trial before him, questioned Mme. Desruelles as to the cause
of her sudden trip to New York.

She pointed to Desruelles with a scornful finger. “_Ca!_” she cried,
“he had a mistress; he wished to abandon me; he called me Cosaque!
He appointed to meet her in New York after settling up his cousin’s
estate. I determined to make his amours uncomfortable. I pursued the
woman to New York. I pulled her hair; I boxed her ears; I made her flee
in dismay to California; then, my mission performed, I returned to
Paris.”

The unhappy Scipion, in utter prostration of astonished protest, lifted
his helpless hands and denied the mistress, the assignation--everything.

His wife turned away with an incredulous, scornful shrug.

“I have your letters, Monsieur. I compelled the creature to surrender
them to me.”

The President ordered Mme. Desruelles to produce the letters, and while
the huissier was gone examined M. Pache.

The latter gentleman testified as to the facts of Desruelles’ visit to
Martinique, the false will, etc., and positively identified Desruelles.

“Have you ever seen that will?” asked the President.

“No,” said Pache.

“I have it here,” said the President. “It is duly authenticated, signed
and sealed--look at it!”

“Mon Dieu! that is my own signature, and that notarial signature I
would swear to as Alphonse Domairon’s!”

At this moment the huissier came into court with the package of
letters, which he handed to the president. That officer looked over
them, with Pache still upon the stand.

“M. Pache,” said the president, handing a letter to the witness, “do
you identify that handwriting?”

“I do; it is undoubtedly Desruelles’.”

“Be kind enough to read that letter aloud to the Court.”

M. Pache, adjusting his eye glasses, read, “Ma Mignon: The will is
all perfect. The Cosaque totally deceived. I sail for Martinique
to-morrow, and _ma poudre de succession_ will make short work of my
stumbling-block of a cousin!”

He turned severely upon Desruelles: “Atrocious wretch! You plotted to
poison me, then! I abandon the case.”

Desruelles fell back fainting. Mme. Desruelles eagerly came forward. “I
swear, Judge, that letter was not in the parcel I received from Mlle.
Tolly! I never saw it before!”

The president turned from her coldly. “The handwriting is precisely the
same.”

The prisoner, reviving, stared around him with a ghastly face, and the
president looked down upon him gloomily.

“The Court,” he said, “is not able to determine with satisfaction
whether the prisoner is Desruelles or Quentineau. The evidence
preponderates in favor of Desruelles. But, so far as the ends of
justice are concerned, it does not matter. Quentineau was a bad man,
but Desruelles is evidently a man much worse. The prisoner is remanded
to serve out his sentence, and at the expiration of his full term is
doomed to transportation to New Caledonia for fifteen years.”

Desruelles fainted once more and was removed. That afternoon, waiting
wearily in the _salle des gardes_, a man came and stood before him,
looking at him fixedly, then turning away. Everybody paid him the
utmost respect. Desruelles asked the sergeant by his side who that
personage was.

“It is M. M----, chief of the secret police.”

“Good God!” cried Desruelles--“Vedova!”

He fell in an apoplectic fit, and before morning brought the question
of his identity to the tribunal of a higher court.



ETCHINGS: THE OLD VIOLINIST

(Emma Churchman Hewitt: For Short Stories.)


The chorus has just ended and the conductor has acknowledged the
plaudits of an enthusiastic audience.

Waiting in the side wings is a little bent old man, his silvery hair
lying across his violin as he murmurs to it loving words.

At last! at last he will be heard in solo!

What matter all the weary years without recognition? He will be heard!
What matter that it is only a charity concert and he has proffered his
services? He will be heard! and the appreciation of the audience will
testify to his genius.

But hark!

There has been some mistake!

That should have been _his_ number, not the tenor solo!

Never mind, it is all right! What matters a few moments more or less,
when one is about to reach one’s soul’s desire?

So he sits and listens, his heart beating loudly with suppressed but
consuming excitement.

At last! At last!

But what is that?

The audience is leaving!

_Why he hasn’t played yet!_

He looks around in a dazed way. Moritz will explain it, he tells
himself wearily, Moritz always understands everything, and he lays his
head down on the table beside him.

       *       *       *       *       *

A young man hastens from among the orchestra players, his face pale
and his teeth set, as he thinks of the disappointed old man behind
the scenes. He thinks his father is weeping over his disappointment.
“Father,” he cries, a sob in his voice, “it is all right, it _shall_
be all right! There were so many encores, you see there was not time
for all. The manager didn’t know and he left out the wrong thing. But
you are to play to-morrow night, father, so it will be all right, you
see,” and he smiles as he raises the dear old face, as he would have
done that of a child. Upon the furrowed cheeks there are no tears, but
on the face, chiseled by the stern hand of death ... a look of pained
surprise ... bewildered disappointment ... the old man’s heart is
broken.



THE DEVILS IN HEAVEN

(A legend of the Origin of the Daisy: German of Rudolf Baumbach:
Translated for Short Stories by Albert Gleaves.)


It is usually thought that when good children die they go to heaven and
become angels. But if anyone imagines that they live there with nothing
to do but fly around, and play hide-and-seek in the clouds, he is very
much mistaken.

The angel children have to go to school every day like the boys and
girls on earth, three hours in the forenoon and two hours in the
afternoon. They write with gold pencils on silver slates, and instead
of the A B C books, they have story books with all sorts of gay-colored
pictures. They do not study geography, for a knowledge of the earth
would be of no use in heaven, neither do they learn the long and
terrible multiplication table, because they live in Eternity.

The school teacher is Doctor Faust. He was a magistrate on earth, but
on account of certain affairs that caused him a good deal of trouble
and were very much talked about, he was required to teach school for
three thousand years before he can have a vacation. On Wednesday and
Saturday afternoon there is no school, and the children are permitted
to play by themselves in the Milky Way; but on Sunday, which is the
grand holiday, they can go outside of heaven and play in the big
meadow. There they enjoy themselves more than all the rest of the week
put together.

The meadow is not green but blue, and thousands and tens of thousands
of silver and golden flowers are all aglow with light and men call them
stars.

In the afternoon of the great holiday, St. Peter takes care of the
children, while Dr. Faust rests and recuperates from his labors during
school-hours. St. Peter, who is always on guard at the gate of heaven,
sees that there is no boisterous playing, and no running away or flying
off too far; if he discovers any straying or wandering, he at once
blows on his golden whistle the call to “come back.”

       *       *       *       *       *

One Wednesday afternoon it was very warm in heaven and St. Peter fell
asleep, tired out with watching. The children noticed this and took
advantage of it to steal by the old man and spread themselves over
the entire meadow. The most enterprising ventured out to explore the
extent of their play-ground, and discovered that it was abruptly ended
by a high board fence. This they examined carefully for cracks to look
through, but finding none flew to the top of the fence and commenced
shouting across the space beyond.

Now hell was on the other side of the fence, and a multitude of little
devils had just been driven out of the door. They were coal-black, with
horns on their heads and long tails behind. Soon they looked up and
saw the angels above them fluttering around the top of the fence, and
at once they began to beg that they might be allowed to come up into
heaven, promising faithfully to behave, if only the angels could let
them in for “just a little while.”

Moved with pity, the innocent angels decided to get the Jacobs’ ladder
out of the garret and let the little imps come up. Fortunately St.
Peter was still asleep and they managed to drag the ladder out without
disturbing him. After a good many efforts they succeeded in raising
it up against the fence and then lowering it into hell. It scarcely
touched the ground before the long-tailed little varlets were swarming
up the rounds like monkeys.

When they got near the top the angels took them by the hand and helped
them over the fence.

This is how the devils got into heaven.

At first they behaved very well, tiptoeing here and there, and carrying
their tails under their arms like a lady’s trail, as they had often
seen the big devil grandmothers do. But this didn’t last long, and in
a few minutes they began to let themselves out and give full vent to
their feelings. They turned hand-springs and somersaults, and growled
and yelled like veritable imps. They mocked the good and happy people
who were dreamily looking out of the windows of heaven; they stuck out
their tongues and made faces at them.

Finally they began to tear up the flowers and throw them down on the
earth.

In the meantime the little angels had become very much frightened and
bitterly they repented their rashness in letting such unmannerly guests
into heaven. In vain they pleaded with the rascals to be quiet and go
back to hell, but the devils only laughed at them.

At last, in despair, they awakened St. Peter and tearfully told him
what they had done.

He clasped his hands over his head, as he always did when angry, and
thundered, “Come in.”

And the little angels went sneaking through the gates, very
crestfallen, with wings drooping and trailing on the floor. Then St.
Peter called for the sleeping angel policemen, and when all the devils
were caught, they were hand-cuffed and taken back where they belonged.

But this was not the end of the matter. For two consecutive Sundays the
angels were not allowed to leave heaven, and when they were permitted
to play they had to take off their wings and halo; this was the
severest of all punishments for it is considered a great shame for an
angel to be seen without his wings or his nimbus.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is an ill-wind that blows no good. The flowers that the devils threw
out of heaven, took root in the earth and grew from year to year. To be
sure these star-flowers have lost much of their heavenly brightness,
but they are still lovely to look at with their great hearts of gold
and silver glory.

And because of this heavenly birth they do indeed possess a hidden
power of their own.

When a maiden with doubt in her soul plucks off the white petals of the
flower one by one, singing at the same time a certain song, she knows
by the token of the last little petal the answer to the question of her
heart.



THE RACES ON THE NEVA

(French of Iola Dorian: Nita Fitch: New York Saturday Review.)


It is the morning of the Epiphany.

The intense cold of the night has moderated, but the barometer still
marks fifteen degrees below zero. From the tall steeples of innumerable
churches the bells of St. Petersburg ring in the sacred feast. In an
exquisitely appointed room of a palace, where tender lights filter
through the golden shadows of silken hangings, sits a woman. Her
attitude is one of repose, deep, unruffled. From the crown of her
little flame colored head, to the tip of her dainty shoe, she is a
perfect bit of dame Nature’s art. If she were standing we should call
her tall, but she sits crouching in her chair with all the abandon of a
dozing tigress. She gives a little yawn.

“Ah! late as usual,” she says aloud.

As she speaks the door opens and a servant enters.

“Captain Repine,” he announces.

He follows quickly on the man’s heels, short, thickset, with a dull
Cossack face and kindly smile, wearing the uniform of an officer of the
Imperial body-guard.

“Pardon, my dear Elisaveta. Have I made you wait?”

She gives her shapely shoulders a slight shrug, but watches him with
contemplative eyes as he rattles on.

“Imagine, my beloved, I thought that I should not be able to take you
to the races. I was so rushed at the last moment. Oh! but they will be
superb! Never has the track been more perfect; hard as a rock and not a
flake of snow.”

“Indeed,” says the lady languidly. Putting out a lazy, be-ringed hand
she draws back the curtain that hides her window. “It is superb,” she
assents.

“You know how difficult it is to accomplish that,” continues the young
officer, “with this cursed wind drifting the Ladoga snow. Still I must
tell you that five hundred men have worked all night at it. Brave
fellows!

“The journals say something of a three-horse-race.”

“Yes; the event of the day. But come--”

“We have still an hour,” she answers, and motions him to a seat beside
her.

“No, no, at your feet, always at your feet, Princess Veta,” says the
young man gayly, flinging his head back to better look into the
opal-tinted eyes above him. Keeping time with a heavy finger, he sings
in a not unmusical baritone, two lines from a French love song:

   “Quand tu seras ma femme
    M’obeiras--tu mieux?”

But the fair Elisaveta is oblivious to the importance of his melody’s
burthen. With her little pointed chin against the rose of her palm she
sits lost in a world of reverie.

“Do you remember Sergius Hotzka?” she asks suddenly.

He shrugs his shoulders, accustomed to the willful wanderings of the
great city’s petted belle.

“How could I ever forget him,” he says in turn. “Was there ever a
man who left more ineffaceable traces behind him? He was an original
madman.”

“Original!” echoes Elisaveta. “Ah! what a cowardly word. Original?”
she repeats, as though interrogating her own thought. The young man
frowns slightly, but she goes on with calm retrospection. “Only three
years ago,” she said, “and he appeared among us like some brilliant
meteor; fabulously rich; astonishing the world with his eccentric
prodigalities. Then all those clod rooting swine, they deserted him
when he was no longer wealthy.”

Her lover’s white teeth are like a wolfish danger signal as he turns to
look at her.

“My dear,” he says coldly, “you can’t expect the world to be faithful
to a proscript.”

“Proscript?”

“Exactly. They say that political complications were his ruin. At any
rate he is banished from St. Petersburg.”

“Then he is in Siberia?”

With all a soldier’s diplomacy he says indifferently: “I believe
not. The peasants tell a story of a hermit of the Steppes, who mends
kettles, and plows for the farmers. Many believe it to be Hotzka with
the remains of his own famous stud.”

“Farmers,--Kettles,” echoes Elisaveta, absently.

Suddenly she turns on her moody swain.

“Come, Alexander,” she cries; “I can see the crowds gather from here.
Quick--we must hurry.”

It is scarcely a half-hour later and the race course presents a
brilliant spectacle. The river Neva is now only a colossal roadway,
between two walls of splendid rose granite that line its quays. It
is a mirror of polished steel. Stands, richly decorated with flags,
occupy at least a quarter of the inclosure, and over a hundred thousand
spectators surround the arena. In the center of everything, a great
pavilion draped in purple and gold shows that royalty is expected to
take part in the city’s festival. A huge figure in a white uniform
shows itself. The impassiveness of this countenance, with its eagle
profile and small glittering eyes, is unmistakable.

’Tis he, the Autocrat--the Emperor of all the Russias.

From the human hive mounts and swells a growing noise; cries, oaths,
calls from the _Kras_ senders, all blend themselves in a formidable
roar: “Long live the Tzar!”

At this moment a rosewood sled, drawn by white horses, stops in
front of the box nearest the royal pavilion; the president of the
jury precipitates himself at the horses feet and aids a young woman
to descend. The tall figure, with its long, loose wrap of priceless
blue fox and its aureole of wonderful red hair, is well-known in St.
Petersburg. She is the Princess Elisaveta Palorna, the beauty of three
seasons. Repine follows her. Under her little fur cap, with its jeweled
fez, Veta’s eyes look out, serene, impenetrable. A bell sounds and
silence falls on the waiting multitude. From open gates stream a dozen
or more horses harnessed to light sleds of gilded osier. They are pure
blooded Arabians, thickset mustangs from the Steppes, and highly bred
Orloffs with sweeping manes white and shiny as spun glass.

The people watch these preliminaries apathetically. They are waiting
for the _piece de resistance_, the three-horse-race with princes as
drivers. Already four races have been run, the track is cleared and the
five hundred workers take up their task of sweeping away the powdered
ice beaten up by the iron hoofs. Once more the gates open and three
splendid bays appear with the same sled of gilded osier, but larger and
more elegant; they are followed by three black Finlanders, with shaggy
coats and tails that sweep the ground. The last comers are Orloff
stallions, white and dazzling as the snow itself. Their short hair
glistens as though oiled, and silver reflections shadow their smooth
flanks and elegant necks; their mouths are black and their nostrils
immense, quivering and rose-lined; their eyes, tender, yet prominent
and full of fire, are circled by a sooty ring like those of the Asiatic
women. They are the pets of the hour. There they stand, the nine superb
creatures, controlled by a splendid discipline that does not permit
the most timid pawing of their impatient hoofs, and with over two
hundred thousand eyes admiring their matchless perfection.

Three sorry horses, emaciated and sad, splashed with mud, and covered
with a ragged harness, half string, half leather, advance slowly into
the arena; behind them trails a clumsy vehicle, made from the bark of
the Russian fir tree, and shaped like the Laplander’s hunting sled.
With drooping heads and dragging limbs the weary beasts come forward
and place themselves beside their aristocratic predecessors. A cry of
horror rises up from the crowd. Leaning back in her box, Veta watches
the late arrivals with fixed intentness.

The bell rings noisily. The race commences.

The bays lead by several lengths. The middle horse, an old favorite,
lifts his feet with all the alluring charm of a star of the nation’s
hippodrome; his companions, brothers from the Don, thin and ardent, run
without effort. After them come the Finlanders tearing furiously on
the reins. Sufficiently in the rear to astonish their backers, are the
Orloff stallions veritable wonders of beauty and breed.

Finally, following at a long distance behind their royal leaders,
are the three strange beasts with their Laplandish sled. They run
irregularly, and their little thin bells give out a melancholy sound.
It is in this order that the sleds pass for the first time in front of
the judges’ stand.

Half way on the second round the Finlanders fling out their sturdy
heels with such velocity that they look like the half circle of a
bounding hoop. They pass the bays. A quick swelling of their massive
chests and they forge ahead.

“Hurrah!” shriek the people, ravished with the success of their
favorites. At this moment the unknown peasant straightens up his giant
frame. Pushing back the heavy hat drawn down to his eyes, he grips the
reins with an iron hand and gives a curious prolonged whistle. His
skeleton horses are strangely metamorphosed. As though in answer to
some superhuman command, they give one gigantic leap and fairly fly.
For a moment they run beside the white stallions.

“The Orloffs lead!” screams the multitude, then shudders.

Beyond the shapely heads of the city’s favorites stretch six dark,
pointed ears, to be followed by three heads with glaring eyes, and
foaming, blood-flecked jaws.

With her body stretched half out of her box, Veta watches them with
fascinated eyes. Her chest heaves, her limbs tremble, and her face
takes on the anguish of the laboring brutes.

“Don’t worry,” whispers Repine. “They will lose.”

“They will _win_!” she answers hoarsely. “I know them.”

“The Orloffs gain,” says somebody in the next box.

“Ah!” groans Veta and bites her lip to the blood.

Once more the peasant’s whistle startles the still air, and with a
prodigious effort his horses leave the others behind. Transfigured by
the waking of their unknown blood, carried away by a secret ecstacy,
with floating manes and sonorous breath, they rush on toward the
expected goal.

They reach it--victorious--winners by three lengths.

For one long moment the people rest mute with stupefaction, literally
incapable of applause. They stare open-mouthed at the sordid beasts
that have beaten the noblest blood of the land, then like one man they
dash forward to look at them, to ask their race, and the name of their
uncouth driver.

As the victors pass Veta leans out to look at them. “I must see them,”
she says aloud.

At the sound of that voice, the peasant starts. Lifting his head their
eyes meet. She pales but that is all.

Months have passed, and the extraordinary event that astonished the
Peterbourgeois is no more than ancient history. Nobody has learned
the identity of the mysterious peasant. Many believed him a sorcerer.
Others thought him a great doctor of some unknown science, whose
powerful potion had galvanized the exhausted beasts. But it is all only
a memory now. A new sensation is on the _tapis_.

All St. Petersburg is talking of the marriage of Prince Alexander
Repine to Princess Elisaveta Palorna.

It is evening, and Veta stands for the first time in her husband’s
home. She is alone, on a great veranda that half circles the palace.
She still wears her wedding dress, and the stones of a diamond tiara
sparkle in her hair.

“Mistress,” says a voice behind her. She turns to confront her
husband’s faithful old servant. “Mistress, a present awaits you at the
palace gate. Shall I lead you thither?”

“Yes.”

She follows him down the steps with all the lazy insolence of a fine
lady who grants a favor; her long gown sweeps the dew off the grass,
and the moonlight mirrors itself in the soft curves of her naked arms
and shoulders.

Presently she stops, stricken by a mysterious influence.

A moment more and a strange sight meets her view.

They are the winners of the Neva.

With a wave from her hand, Ivan goes.

The horses whinny softly at the sound of her voice, and nose her hair
and face with dog-like gentleness.

“Why are you here?” she whispers, a sudden catch in her throat that she
stifles against the emaciated cheek nearest her.

From out of the deep shadow comes a trembling voice. “Why do you weep,
Princess?” it says.

She sees him now for the first time, still in his peasant’s garb and
with head uncovered, low before her. It is a noble head, with splendid
lines and a beautiful mouth, but worn and shadowed as those of the
famished beasts beside him.

“Why are they like this, Sergius? The best racers in the kingdom could
have brought their price; there certainly was no need to starve them.”

“We have starved together, Princess,” he answers gently.

“Then the story that the people tell is true?”

“Quite true.”

With the skeleton creatures between them they are silent a wavering
moment. Then with a mute caress of their unkempt necks he says: “Be
kind to Sergius Hotzka’s only friends. Good-night, Elizaveta Repine.”

“Repine!” she had forgotten that.

“Is it farewell?” she asks him blindly.

“Farewell!” he repeats.

The horses whinny piteously as the gates close behind him; then turn
with dumb, questioning eyes to the pallid woman beside them.

Brutes that they are they tremble at the sight of that countenance,
quivering and terrible.

“Wait,” is her husky whisper.

With her face pressed tight to the iron bars, she watches him turn an
angle in the roadway; his footsteps die away in the distance; he is
gone.

Flinging the gates wide open she says one word:

“Go.”

A sudden rush, and they are swallowed up in the night.

The next day the newspapers contain a sensation.

Three wild horses have killed a prince’s bride.



ETCHINGS: THE FERRYMAN

(Opie Read: “The Kentucky Colonel.”)


I followed, as nearly as possible, the roads I had pursued upon coming
into the country, and reached the ferry where the peculiar old fellow
had asked me to pray with him.

He still wore an expression of dejection, but, as we were crossing, a
mischievous light of recognition shone in his eyes.

“Wall, parson,” said he, “I have had a mighty tough time sence you was
along here--have had a powerful fight.”

“Whom did you fight?”

“A feller knowed in this here neighborhood as Satan.”

“Did you whip him?”

“Wall, kain’t say that I did. Choked him putty well one time, thought
I had him foul, but he riz with me and used me powerful rough. I tried
agin the next day, but he jumped straddle uv me, hooked his fingers
in my mouth, socked his spurs in my flanks ’an rid me all over the
cermunity.”

“You have decided, I suppose, not to fight him again?”

“Wall, I ain’t lookin’ for him. Ef he comes my way an’ tromps’ on me
I’ll hit him, but I ain’t goin’ out on narry nuther still hunt atter
him. Have you drawed many folks inter the church sence you went by
here?”

“Not many.”

“Don’t reckon they are ripe enough ter be shuck offen the trees down
whar you was.”

“Hardly.”

“Tell you what you mout do. You might pray with me a little jest fur
luck.”

“No, I’m still in a hurry.”

“You won’t git another chance ter pray with as lively a man as I am.”

“I suppose not.”

“Ain’t you got a bottle in that kyarpet-bag?”

“No.”

“Look an’ see.”

“I know I haven’t.”

“Wall” (with a disappointed sigh, as we touched the other side), “here
we air. I oughter charge you double price.”

“Why so?”

“Becaze you ain’t got no fun in you. Good-by.”



THE PLAYERS AT THE CHESS

(Sebastian Evans: Longmans.)


King Solomon ben David, the Wise, on whom be peace, was a mighty player
at the chess before the Lord. And he sent unto Vaphres, King of Egypt,
and Nabonassar, King of Babylon, and Shalmaneser, King of Assyria, and
unto others of the Kings round about, whether they were friends or
whether they were enemies; Hadad, King of Edom; Hiram, King of Tyre;
and Reson, King of Damascus, who alone of the princes of Syria refused
to bend the knee to the King of Israel, saying: “Greeting from my lord
Solomon, King of Israel, who desireth to play with thee at the chess.
And whosoever among ye is minded to play with me at the chess, either
I will come unto him, or otherwise, if he will, he shall come to me at
the House of Millo, in Jerusalem; and if he win of me a game he shall
have ten of the cities of Israel of them that are nighest his own
borders; but an if he lose, he shall forfeit me ten cities of those of
his own country that are nighest the land of Israel.” And King Vaphres,
which is Pharaoh, and the other Kings played with King Solomon, and the
Lord gave King Solomon the upperhand of them all, so that he gat fifty
walled cities beyond the borders of Israel, and made broad the borders
of Israel from the River Euphrates unto the land of Egypt, so that he
ruled all the kingdoms, as it is written, even from Tiphsah unto Uzzah.

And it came to pass after a time that there was no man so bold that he
durst adventure to play King Solomon at the chess unless he should give
him the advantage, as three of the foot soldiers, or an elephant, or a
camel of the right hand and a knight of the left, or the like. And all
of his viziers and all the poets and musicians of the Temple he made
a-weary of their lives because of disappointment. For he would say, “O,
such an one, do thou play me at the chess, and I will give thee three
or four, as it might be, of my fighting men; and if thou win the game
of me I will give thee a garment of broidered work of Hind worth a
thousand pieces of gold, or a sword of the steel of Cathay with a hilt
wrought of a single emerald, such as no King hath in his treasury, or a
charger of the colts of the dams of Arabia by the steeds of the sea.”
So they played at the chess with the King, and when he had won the
game of any of them, then would he laugh and say: “Behold, I leave thee
thy robe, for it is not meet for a King to take aught of his servants,”
and he bade them fill him wine that he might forget the bitterness of
his heart.

But after a time it came to pass that the King was weary of playing
with his viziers and the poets and musicians of the Temple, and his
Judges, and the Captains of his guard, and would fain find out others,
whose manner of play he knew not, to play against him at the chess. But
the dread of the King was sore in the hearts of them that he called to
play against him, and he said, “Behold, they are all daunted by the
terror of my wisdom, and I have no glory of all my skill; for though
the gazelle be fleeter of foot than the leopard, yet ever the leopard
leapeth on to the neck of the gazelle. Now therefore will I disguise
me and they that play against me shall not know that they play against
King Solomon.”

So he called unto him his chief vizier, Zabud ben Na, the King’s
friend, and at eventide they stained their faces and put on garments as
they had been merchants from Ophir, and went forth into the streets of
the city. And at the corner of the King’s-avenue, which is before the
House of Millo, they met a stranger clad in a rich garment of Baalbek,
walking slowly as one perplexed, not lifting his eyes from the ground.
And Solomon said, “Peace be upon thee, O brother.”

And the stranger answered, “Peace be upon thee, O brother, from the
Lord of Peace, the One, the Merciful.”

And Solomon said, “Who art thou, and whither goest thou, for meseemeth
thou art a stranger in the city?”

And the stranger said, “Men call me Jareb ben Othniel, and Vaphres,
King of Egypt, this long time hath entertained me in his palace as
one of his boon companions, for I am a poet and musician after his
own heart; and even now am I come into Jerusalem as a messenger unto
Jehoshaphat ben Abiud, King Solomon’s remembrancer, with whom I must
needs be before midnight.”

Then said Solomon, “It wanteth yet some hours of midnight; come with us
in the meanwhile to our lodging, and let us pass the time with wine and
music.”

“I will well,” said Jareb. And when they came into the lodging King
Solomon had prepared, Zabud let call for wine, and they made merry.

Then said King Solomon, “Let bring the tables, that thou and I may
play a bout at the chess, and then shalt thou sing us a song of them
that delight the heart of King Pharaoh.”

Then Jareb said, “Sweet is the song that closeth the eyes in sleep and
giveth ease to the sick man who crieth aloud for the soreness of his
pain. When he heareth my voice, the slave remembereth not his chain nor
the outcast his poverty; the toiler layeth aside his work and the angry
man his wrath. But as for playing at the chess at this time, I pray
thee hold thy servant excused, for the One Merciful, to whom be glory,
hath laid a burden on thy servant, so that he cannot lose a game at the
chess even if he so would, and haply if he win a game of thee thou wilt
be an-angered, and he should seem ungrateful in thine eyes for this
grace thou has shown him.”

Then Solomon laughed, and spake within himself, “This minstrel is of
the children of Eblis, the braggart, and the Lord hath given him into
my hands that I may put his boasting to shame. Surely I shall win a
game of him and pull his robe over his head, and then shall be given
him a lute wherewith to comfort the sadness of his spirit.”

But the King’s lips spake otherwise than the thought that was in his
heart, and he said, “Blessed be thou, Jareb ben Othniel! I would fain
lose a game unto thee, and behold, I give thee this cloak of mine own
in earnest of thy victory.”

And therewithal he set upon him his cloak, which was of stuff of Tyre,
with lynx’s fur, worth a hundred pieces of gold.

Then Zabud let call for tables, and King Solomon played at the chess
with Jareb ben Othniel; and King Solomon’s men were of the white and
Jareb’s of the black. And Jareb played without thought, as one that
could but little of the chess, so that in a brief space King Solomon
had taken prisoner both his elephants and a knight and a camel, besides
four of his foot soldiers, while Jareb had taken but one foot soldier
of King Solomon.

And Solomon said, within himself, “There is no glory in playing with a
foolish lutanist such as this. Shall leviathan put forth his strength
against the gadfly? I will contrive a combination and make an end of
him.” So he made a combination and took his captain.

Then Jareb rose up and made as though he would go. And Solomon said
unto him, “Whither away? for the game is not yet played out.”

Then Jareb said, “O, my lord King Solomon, when thou walkest abroad
the herbs of the field, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop on the
wall, find themselves a tongue to tell thee of their several virtues,
yet hast thou not heard the voice of these chess men. See now and
behold if thy servant should move yonder foot soldier on to the next
square, where would my lord the King be then?”

And Solomon looked at the tables, and behold if his adversary should
play his foot soldier on to the next square the King was checkmated
without redress.

And when he understood that his name was known of Jareb and that he
was defeated, a mighty wrath gat hold upon King Solomon, and the world
was straitened upon him. And the blackness of the tempest was in his
forehead, and his voice was as the thunder in the hills. And he drew
his sword and smote off the head of Jareb as he stood.

Then said he to Zabud, “Cast me this dog’s carrion into the ditch
without the city, that the fowls of uncleanness may feast themselves
therewithal.”

But behold there was no dead body, neither any blood; and Zabud said,
“May God, to whom be glory, preserve my lord the King. Verily this man
was a sorcerer.”

“Nay,” said King Solomon, “he was no sorcerer, for always the jewel of
my girdle warneth me so often as one who useth witchcraft cometh into
my presence; yet as at this time it spake not. But said he not that he
was bound unto the house of Jehoshaphat, our remembrancer? Haste thee
thither and bring tidings whether thou hear of him.”

So Zabud went to the house of Jehoshaphat, and asked at the gate
whether such an one had been there. And the master of the gate made
answer and said, “O my lord, of a truth such an one hath been here but
even now, and he went in unto my lord, and even as he bowed his head to
salute him my lord groaned thrice and gave up the ghost.”

So Zabud returned to King Solomon and told him all the tidings. And
King Solomon rent his garments for the death of Jehoshaphat and said,
“See now, this dog hath told me I know less than naught, yet knew he
less than naught himself, otherwise would he never have thought to bear
a message to a dead man. May God not have mercy on his soul.”

Now, it was about a seven years’ space, and King Solomon again
disguised his countenance and went forth with his chief vizier to seek
one to play at chess with the King. And as they walked along the
covered way of the Thousand Fountains that leadeth to the House of
Lebanon, at the corner of the street called Yellow there met them a
damsel, as it were a moon, and her countenance was as a treasure house
of the beauty of the elements. Her hair was golden as the flames in the
circle of fire that is the uttermost girdle of the world; her eyebrows
were as rainbows and her eyes as the stars of the air; her nose and
cheeks were as flowers of the earth, white and red as roses in the
rose gardens of Sharon, and the mole thereon of the color of the soil
of Eden; her lips were as the coral of the Seven Seas, and her teeth
as pearls of the waters of El Kerker; her garments were as the Milky
Way for the glitter of jewels, and as the nest of the Phœnix for sweet
smell of musk and myrrh and frankincense; and the swaying of her body
as she walked was as the bending of the willow withes on the banks of
Jordan when the wind of sundown reveals the inward whiteness of their
leaves.

And King Solomon’s eyes waxed swollen for gladness to look upon her,
and he said, “Peace be unto thee, O daughter of mine uncle.” And she
answered, “Peace be unto thee, O my lord, and the mercy of the One
Merciful.”

And Solomon said, “O, damsel, who art thou and whither goest thou?” And
she said, “Thy servant is a slave girl of the household of Ahimaaz, to
whom thy lord and mine, King Solomon, on whom be peace, hath given his
daughter Basmath in marriage; and even now am I bound to the house of
Ben Abinadab, to whom our lord King Solomon hath given his daughter
Taphath in marriage, for there is a feast there toward this night, and
thy slave hath been sent for to sing. And men call me Admatha, the
daughter of Adaiah.”

And the King said, “What songs canst thou sing?” And she said, “O my
lord, thy slave girl hath but little skill, and her voice to the many
soundeth harsh and untuneable; yet the lover, when he swooneth in the
extremity of his passion, is fain to hearken unto me, and my song is
blessed of the wise man to whom the vanity of all things hath been
revealed.”

And Solomon said, “O Admatha, it is not yet the hour of the feast; come
with us awhile to our lodging that we have prepared, and let us pass
the time with wine and music until it behoveth thee to depart.” And
she answered, “Peace be upon ye; I will well.” So they came into the
lodging, and Zabud let call for wine and they made merry.

Then King Solomon said, “Let bring tables, that thou and I may play a
bout at the chess, and then shalt thou sing us a song to the lover in
the torment of his passion.”

But Admatha said, “O my Lord, as for playing at the chess at this time,
I pray thee hold thy slave excused.”

“Wherefore so?” exclaimed King Solomon; “for my heart is set to play
with thee at the chess.”

Then said Admatha, “O my lord, the One Merciful, to whom be all glory,
hath laid a burden on thy slave, forasmuch as she may in no wise lose
a game at the chess, strive she never so sore; and if she play with
thee and win her game, thou wilt haply be an-angered with her, and she
should seem ungrateful to thee for this grace that thou hast shown her.”

And Solomon said within himself, “I have held converse with this damsel
aforetime, for of a surety I do remember this word she hath spoken that
none may have the upper hand of her at the chess.” And he looked upon
her straitly for a long time, yet could he call nothing to mind as of
her face or favor. And he said within himself, “Behold, that which is,
that which hath been, and that which shall be, shall be even as that
which is. Belike it was one of them I have defeated of old who boasted
himself thus.”

But he spake with his lips and said, “O Admatha, even to lose a game
at thy hands were sweeter than to overcome the King of Damascus, and,
behold, I give thee this cloak in earnest of thy victory.”

Then Zabud let call for tables, and Solomon the King played at the
chess with Admatha the slave girl; and Solomon’s men were of the white
and Admatha’s men of the black. And Admatha played without thought, as
one that could but little of the chess, so that in a brief space King
Solomon had taken prisoner both her elephants and a knight of the right
hand and a camel of the left, besides four of her foot soldiers, while
Admatha had taken but one foot soldier of King Solomon. And Solomon
said within himself, “What glory is it unto me to win at the chess of
this music girl? Shall I lift a cimeter of the steel of Cathay to crop
a flower of the balsam? I will contrive a combination and make an end
of her.” So he made a combination and took her captain.

Then Admatha rose up and made as though she would go. But Solomon said,
“Whither away, O Admatha? for the game is not yet played out.”

Then Admatha turned about and said, “O my lord King Solomon, when it
listeth thee to sit on thy carpet the winds become thy chariot, and
all the beasts of the field fare under thee to subdue thine enemies;
and the fowls of the air fly overhead to shield thee from the sun; yet
these chess men, that are but of ebony wood and the tusk of behemoth,
refuse to obey thee. See now and behold; if thy slave should move
yonder foot soldier on to the next square, where would my lord the King
be then? As for playing at chess, thy slave girl knoweth naught, yet
knoweth she more withal than my lord King Solomon.”

And when Solomon looked at the tables, behold if his adversary should
move the foot soldier on to the next square the King was checkmated
without redress.

And when he understood that he was known of Admatha and that he was
defeated, a mighty wrath gat hold upon King Solomon, and the world was
straitened upon him; the vein of fury stood out between his eyebrows,
and the fire flashed from his eyes as the blaze leaps from a burning
mountain, and the darkness which gathered on his brow was as the smoke
thereof, and his words rolled forth even as the molten stone from the
mouth of the caldrons of Eblis in the hills of Sikkel. And he drew his
sword and smote off the head of Admatha as she stood.

And he cried aloud to Zabud, “Cast me this swine’s carcas into the
ditch without the city, that the fowls of uncleanness may feast
themselves therewithal.”

But, behold, there was no dead body, neither was there any blood;
and Zabud said, “God preserve my lord the King! this damsel was a
sorceress.”

“Nay,” said King Solomon, “for my ring spake no word of warning. But
said she not that she was bound to the feast at the house of Ben
Abinadab? Now, therefore, go straightway thither and bring me tidings.”

And as Zabud went toward the house he met a great company of men and
women weeping and wailing and rending their garments; and when they saw
Zabud they cried: “O my lord, mayst thou survive my lord Ben Abinadab!
for, behold, as we all were feasting and making merry a certain slave
girl came into the company whom my lord bade sing to her lute. And
when she had tuned her lute she began to sing, and before ever she had
sung two words my lord turned his face to the wall and died. Now,
therefore, bear the tidings to King Solomon with haste, for our lady
Taphath, the widow of Ben Abinadab, is a daughter of my lord the King.”

Then Solomon was sore troubled, and rent his garments and cast ashes
upon his head, and the days were darkened upon him. And he said: “Who
is this slave girl? for of a surety I do remember all these things of
aforetime.” Howbeit he remembered not Jareb ben Othniel, and he said:
“I am as one that resteth on his oar when the image of his oar is bent
awry by reason of the water that is over it, so that he seeth not
aright that which he seemeth to see. O! the waters! the waters! They
have covered the whole world, so that no man seeth truly the things
that have been for the waters that are above them.”

And about a space of one-and-twenty years, yet once more King Solomon
and his chief vizier disguised themselves and went forth into the city,
if haply they might find one to play at the chess with the King. And as
they came nigh unto the Water Gate of the Temple, behold there stood at
the bottom of the steps an old man, as it were a sheikh of the Sons of
the Desert, and his hair was white as the water courses of the hills in
winter, and his beard flowed down to his knees, as it were icicles of
stone in the caverns of Hermon, and his eyebrows were as the snow on
the branches of the cedars of the forest, and his eyes as the torches
of them that seek for Thammuz on Lebanon.

And Solomon said unto him, “Peace be unto thee, O mine uncle.” And the
old man answered, “Peace be unto thee and mercy from the One Merciful.”
And Solomon said, “By what name shall I speak to my father’s brother,
and whitherward shall we bear him company?”

And the old man said, “I am Habakkuk ben Methusael, the chief of the
Benou Methusael, children of the Great Desert, and I have come hither
to Jerusalem that I may play a game at the chess with my lord King
Solomon.”

And Solomon said, “O Habakkuk, is there any of the Sons of the Desert
who is the equal of my lord King Solomon?”

And Habakkuk said, “Nay, my son, there is none among the Kings of the
earth who may be compared with my lord King Solomon in riches, or in
majesty, or in wisdom; yet haply in this matter of playing at the
chess, the Lord, to whom be all the glory, hath been minded not to
lay up the whole of his treasure in a single treasure house; for thy
servant hath played with men of understanding as well as with others
these two hundred years and more, yet hath he never lost a game to any
of the children of men.”

And Solomon said within himself, “Now will I win a game of this
patriarch of the Desert, and afterward we will bring him to the palace,
and when he seeth that it was none other than King Solomon himself who
hath defeated him his shame shall be the less.”

So he spake to the old man and said, “Behold, as at this time my
lord King Solomon hath gone to sup with the daughter of Pharoah, in
the House of Lebanon, and of a surety he will not return till after
midnight, for thy servants but even now met the bearers returning with
his litter. Wherefore do thou come with us to our lodging, and if it
irk thee not, win a game at the chess of thy servant.”

And Habakkuk said, “I will well.”

So they came into the lodging, and Zabud let call for wine and they
made merry; howbeit Habakkuk excused himself as for drinking of the
wine for that he was of kindred with Hammath of the tribe of Rechab.

And Zabud let call for tables, and Solomon the King played at the chess
with Habakkuk the Son of the Desert, and Solomon’s men were of the
white and Habakkuk’s of the black. And Habakkuk played without thought
as one that could but little of the chess, so that in a brief space
King Solomon had taken prisoner both his elephants and a knight of the
right hand and a camel of the left, besides four of his foot soldiers,
while Habakkuk had taken but one foot soldier of King Solomon. And
Solomon said within himself, “What glory is it to win at the chess
of a dog of the desert such as this? Doth the lightning make boast
of slaying the frog that croaketh in the marsh? I will contrive a
combination and make an end of him.” So he made a combination and took
his captain.

Then Habakkuk laid hold on one of his ebony foot soldiers, and said:
“O, my lord King Solomon, the One Merciful hath given thee dominion
over all ghouls and afrits and jina and marids of the jinn, them that
inhabit the houses of the fire and them that walk on the earth or creep
within its bowels, them that dwell within the deep waters and them that
fly upon the wings of the air; yea, all them that durst disobey thy
behests, hast thou imprisoned against the Day of Judgment in vessels
of copper, sealed in lead with thine own seal, and hast cast them into
the sea of El Kerker. Yet hath not the One Merciful, to whom be glory,
given thee lordship over these bits of ebony and ivory that they should
do thy will; for lo, when I shall set down this foot soldier on yonder
next square, where will my lord the King be then?”

And Solomon looked at the tables, and behold when his adversary should
set down the foot soldier he was checkmated without redress. And when
he understood that he was known of the Son of the Desert and had been
defeated by him, a mighty wrath gat hold upon King Solomon and the
world was straitened upon him; and his forehead waxed dark as the Night
of Retribution, and his eyes flashed thereunder as it were the burning
of the two Cities of the Plain, and his voice was as the roaring of the
fire wherewith they were consumed. And he leapt to his feet and would
have drawn his sword to smite off the head of Habakkuk. But Habakkuk
abode still and lifted up the ebony foot soldier in his right hand, and
the King was as one striken with a sudden palsy; and there came upon
him a great whiteness and trembling, and his tongue clave to the roof
of his mouth, and the sword dropped from his right hand.

And Habakkuk said unto him, “O my lord King Solomon, where is the
wisdom wherewith the One Merciful hath gifted thee beyond all others of
the sons of men? Behold now these three times hast thou gone about to
slay the servant of the living God. How is it that thou hast not known
me?”

And as Solomon looked straitly at Habakkuk the snow of his hair and his
beard was melted away, and the manner of his garments were changed, and
even while Solomon was yet marveling at the change, behold it was the
slave girl, Admatha, who held up the ebony foot soldier against the
King.

And the waters of forgetfulness were rolled back from the King’s
memory, and he said: “Verily I should have remembered and repented, for
lo this game is the very game, move for move, that I played with thee,
O, Admatha, what time thou wert sent for to sing in the house of Ben
Abinadab my son.”

And Admatha said, “O my lord King Solomon, of a truth this is even so,
but where is the wisdom wherewith the One Merciful hath gifted thee
beyond all others of the children of men? How is it thou hast not known
me?”

And as Solomon looked straitly at Admatha her countenance and the
manner of her garments were changed, and even while the King was yet
marveling at the change behold it was Jareb ben Othniel who held up the
ebony foot soldier against the King.

And the things which had been were lifted above the waters of
forgetfulness, and Solomon saw them even as they were. And he said,
“Verily I should have remembered and repented, for lo these two games
are the very same, move for move, and combination for combination, with
the game I played aforetime with thee, O Jareb ben Othniel, when thou
didst bear a message to Jehoshaphat my remembrancer.”

And Jareb said, “Oh, my lord King Solomon, of a truth this is even so,
but where is the wisdom wherewith the One Merciful hath gifted thee
above all thy fellows? How is it that thou hast not known me?”

And as Solomon looked straitly at Jareb his countenance and the manner
of his garments were changed, and even while the King was yet marveling
at the change a glory as of the unspoken Name lighted his face, and his
hair was as the rays of the sun at noonday, and his raiment was as a
flame of fire, and from his shoulders came forth wings, whereof every
feather was as a rainbow after the storm.

And the Angel said, “O, King Solomon, where is the wisdom wherewith
the One Merciful hath gifted thee above thy brethern? Even yet hast
thou not known me.” And the Angel still held up the ebony foot soldier
against the King.

And Solomon said, “Verily long since should I have known thee and
repented, O Azrael, angel of death, for none save the brother of the
Four who uphold the throne of God, to whom be glory, could have played
this game at the chess that thou hast played against me, lo these three
times.”

And Azrael said, “Oh King Solomon, may the One Merciful have much mercy
upon thee, for thou needest much!”

And he set down the ebony foot soldier.

And King Solomon was dead.



ETCHINGS: GO LEAD THE HORSE IN!

(From the Silician Folk Lore Dialect: E. C.: For Short Stories.)


Once upon a time there was a carter; he married, and took to wife a
pretty girl. The wedding over, and the newly married pair alone, the
carter turned and said to the bride:

“See, Rusidda (says he) now we are husband and wife. What happiness!
Now I will buy me a horse, I will make me a cart, and so I will go with
loads and we shall get bread. But there is this about it: When I come
home, I will not work any more. Then, see, my little Rusidda, from now
henceforth when I come home, you take the horse, unharness him from
the cart, lead him in and water him; in short, care for him, for I am
tired.” The girl began to shrug her shoulders and says, “I won’t do
it!” “What do you mean? Then who is to lead the horse in, I?” “I don’t
know how to do such things.” “Well,” says the young man, “I will teach
you.” “No, I am not used to such things. At my home I was not taught in
that way.” “Well, I will teach you now, little by little.” “No, I won’t
lead the horse in!” “But what is to be done if you must lead him in?”
“And I won’t lead him and I won’t lead him in!” “And I tell you, either
you will lead him or you will come out badly.” “No, no; neither now or
ever!” At this the young man arose in a rage, and unbuckled his leather
belt. “Now I tell you either you lead the horse in, or I will set on
you with my hands.... Go lead the horse in!” “No, I will not lead him
in!”--“Ah, what is that?... Go lead the horse in” ... and he took her
with a great blow of the strap on her shoulders. What would you expect
of the girl? She began to scream like one burnt. “Alas, I’m dying ... I
won’t lead the horse in! I won’t lead him in!” “Go, lead the horse in,
I told you!...” and here blows with the strap that took off the skin.
And “Go, lead the horse in,” and “I won’t lead him in!” The neighbors
came running. “Children, children, what is it? You are just married and
begin the quarrels! What is it? About the horse? Come off, we will lead
him in.... Where is the horse?” “But,” says the young man, “It was talk
... we have yet to buy the horse.” “An apoplexy take you! For a talk,
you make all this disturbance!” And the whole village fell upon them.



TWO AFTERNOONS

(Buckey O’Neill: San Francisco Chronicle.)


A hot day. The sun directly overhead, glowing with a fire that made the
air in the shadeless canyon quiver as if heated in an oven. Not a tree
in sight, not a bush--everything brown and barren. Everywhere boulders
of lava immense in size and sometimes split in twain, as if in rapid
cooling from the intense heat which gave them birth. Here and there
between the gray-green of the giant cacti, raising their thorny forms
fifty and sixty feet in the air, assuming with their strangely formed
limbs the shapes of immense crosses or trunks of trees from which all
leaves and smaller branches have been torn. Between the black and brown
of the sunburnt lava an occasional tuft of tall, almost colorless
grass. Over all a stillness that to one unaccustomed to the land would
seem strange and oppressive. Not a bird to break it with its song. Even
the lizards sought out what shade they could, making with their green,
red and variegated coats, almost the only dash of color to relieve the
monotony of the all-prevailing brown and black lava that each moment
grew more oppressive to look at under the glow of the fierce heat.

Save these not a living thing was in sight except where off to the west
a buzzard floated high in the air, and two men, with a burro lazily
following, passing down the canyon.

Prospectors and their outfit.

Opened shirts, showing red, hairy breasts, while their loosely buckled
belts, heavy with long, bright cartridges, whose tarnished surfaces,
made doubly bright from the rays of the hot sun, seemed strangely out
of place in such quietude.

Neither spoke. Each walked along as if alone, looking for the “float”
that might indicate the presence of some mineral ledge higher up,
more from habit than from hope, as the “formation” gave but little
indication of treasure.

How hot the sun. The burro, patient-eyed, forgot his old trick of
nipping the tops of the long gaete grass, and contented himself with
keeping closely in the trail of the two men, whose worldly possessions
of blankets, cooking utensils and tools, capped with an enormous
canteen of water, he so patiently bore. Not a breath of air stirring.
Only the quivering heat that made the eyes burn and ache. The men
shifted their rifles constantly from one hand to another, as if to
avoid getting blisters from the places where they touched the highly
heated metallic parts of their guns.

Crack! crack! crack!

Not fifty yards ahead from behind a dozen boulders leap out as many
jets of fire, while the snowy white puffs of smoke float up a few feet
and disappear in the quivering air.

One of the men stops for an almost imperceptible instant, as if to
brace himself. His hands rise to the level of his chest as if to bring
his rifle to his shoulder and then--down he falls headlong to the
ground in a limp mass. Dead! Shot through the head. Not a quiver; not a
motion; without a sound, were it not for that made by his falling rifle.

As he falls his companion staggers back a pace or two, catches himself,
and then, half crouching, half falling, drops behind one of the many
boulders. “Hit!” he thinks to himself, “but, thank God! not fatally;
only a scratch.” Life seems a new thing; to live, a new joy.

Only a scratch. “Where?” He hardly has time to think as he places his
gun across the boulder and fires at a figure, naked, dark, clothed only
in a breech clout and with a red scarf wound around the head. He notes
almost unconsciously how pronounced its color is against the dark face
and darker hair of its wearer. “A miss!” he mentally remarks, as the
figure disappears. “But better luck next time,” he thinks, as he pushes
down the lever of his gun and throws out the empty shell, replacing it
with a cartridge. “Short range;” he should have hit. It can’t be that
he was losing his old cunning; that his aim was bad. “No;” he fired in
haste and was “rattled.” “Another shot and he will show them” are the
thoughts that flash through his mind as he peers cautiously ahead to
discover his enemies.

None in sight.

For the first time he feels pain. Half numbness, half fire; how it
tears as he raises his shirt and looks at a little blue hole hardly
larger than a pea near the right side in the short ribs. “Only a
scratch or it would bleed worse. Did it go through?” he asks himself,
as he passes his hand up his back to find if there be an orifice of
exit. “No.” “That is bad, for there is no surgeon to be had to cut
the missile out. Pshaw, what matters it? Other men have lived with
bullets in them--why could not he? Night would soon come and then with
darkness he would go. He was not losing blood sufficient to weaken him
much, and by morning he would be far away. After all, it would only be
a close call, something to tell about. But poor Tom! he was gone,” and
as he looked at the lifeless form of his partner he could hardly keep
back the tears.

Crack! crack! go a couple of shots off to his left, and he sees the
dust flying up from near his feet. He tries to draw his limbs up to get
them in a safer position. Tries again, and the cold sweat breaks from
him. He cannot move them!

They are dead--paralyzed!

Something like a sob breaks from him. It is all over. In the first
flush of possible escape he had not thought of the spine being injured.
He knew it now. The game was played. A few hours longer at the best.
To-morrow and the next day, and the days and the years to come would
find him there. The end was only a question of a short time. Yet he had
only thought it a scratch.

With his arms he drags himself into a safer position. This done, he
unbuckles his belt, and as he lays it before him to have it handier
he thinks of the time away back on the Platte when he had first put
one on. How proud he then felt, as a stripling boy, of the outfit. How
bright the future had looked, and now it was all to end. After all,
life with him had been a hard one. It had brought to him few of the
treasures for which he had longed. For an instant he thought “why not
take the sixshooter and end it all?”

“Suicide?”

“No,” he would die fighting.

He would take some of them with him. Yet, why kill at all. They were
but savages--Apaches. Their deaths would mean nothing, would gain
nothing. Better to kill himself and keep from them the satisfaction of
doing it. No; relief might come. Some of the many scouting parties of
cavalry always in the field, or, perhaps, a party of prospectors might
hear the firing, and then with a good doctor all would yet be well. He
could find one at any of the military posts.

All these thoughts and a thousand others crowded through his brain
while he was placing himself in a better position for defense.
Cautiously raising himself he glanced over the boulder in the direction
from whence the last shots came. Crack! crack! crack! the bullets whiz
surlily around him.

Bang! bang! bang! goes the rifle.

A new feeling takes possession of him. His nerves tighten like steel,
and he pumps empty shells out of the rifle’s chamber and cartridges
in with a fierce speed. Kill! kill! let him take one of those howling
murderers with him, and he doesn’t care how soon after death comes. But
what is the matter with his aim? He has not yet killed one, not even
wounded one that he knows of. He refills the magazine of his rifle in
nervous, feverish haste, and then peeps through the crevices of the
boulders to see if there is an enemy in sight. None. They are there,
though. They are waiting and he is dying. How hot it is! He is burning
up with thirst and heat. How “it” hurts. He has got so that he thinks
of his wound only as “it,” as if it were some terrible monster that he
could not escape. The blood--small as the quantity--that flows from
his wound has formed a pool, clotted and coagulated. It adds to his
discomfort by its stickiness. He thinks, how strange that one’s own
blood should annoy one so, and then wonders where so many flies could
have come from, as he raises a swarm by the movement of his body. He
looks across to where the burro has fallen with the canteen and sees
that the vessel has been jammed by coming in contact with the boulder,
and that the precious fluid has nearly all run out. How much he would
give to have what little water remains! He feels almost tempted to try
to reach it, but no; that would mean throwing his life away without a
chance for revenge. Revenge. He will have it. Thirst is nothing; death
is nothing now if he can only kill, kill!

If he could only kill them all, how happy he would die!

He looks over the boulder. Nothing in sight but boulders, lava, cacti,
sand and gaete grass. “They are there, though.” He almost laughs in
sarcasm as he catches himself scanning the horizon to see if any relief
were in sight. Relief? For days he and the man that laid dead there had
traveled without finding a trail made by a shod horse--without finding
a trail of any kind. How childish to expect any help. Better brace up
and die like a man.

He looked at the body of the dead man. How hideous the face looked with
its swollen lips, open mouth, staring eyes. How black it had grown.
What a vast quantity of blood had come from the wound in the head. His
eye catches a movement in the tuft of grass to his left. Bang! bang!
goes his rifle. “Nothing there,” he thinks, as he crouches closer to
the ground to escape the shots that come in return.

So the hours go, but he hardly marks their flight. The sun is getting
lower in the west, and the white heat of day gives way to the
yellowish-purple haze that in Apache land is always the forerunner
of night. How when he was first hit he had longed for night; how
little he cared for it now. He could feel himself growing weaker. His
Winchester was heavier than any he had ever before lifted. Even “it,”
that terrible thing that chained him there, pained him less, but the
thirst grew horrible. Anyhow night would give him a chance to reach the
canteen. At times he felt almost drowsy, but fought off the feeling.
He was merely waiting for the end. He thought it strange that he could
face it so complacently. He hardly cared now how soon it came. Would
he shoot all his cartridges away before it reached him? He would not
waste them though. If he could only reach Tom’s gun and revolver and
destroy them it would make those that killed him angry. It was for
these things, worth perhaps $50, that he and Tom had been murdered. He
was beginning to think of himself as already dead. At least how easy
to ruin Tom’s rifle. It was only two or three paces away. He took his
revolver and fired at it, aiming to hit it just in front and below the
hammer, its most vulnerable part. Instead, the bullet hits the ground
and ricocheting enters the breast of the dead man. He shudders as the
body stirs from the force of the shot, although he knows that life has
been gone for hours. Everything is plain to him now why his other shots
had not taken effect. He was unnerved. How could a man with a hole
through his body hope to hit anything. He had heard of men shot through
the heart killing their assailants, and had often wondered if he could
do it. Could Tom have done it? How far off and yet how short seemed
the years that he and Tom had been together. How little there had been
in them that seemed worth now recalling. Crack! a single shot off to
the right, and he fires where he sees the smoke curling upward. Fires
again. Nothing. He counts his cartridges and is astonished that he has
fired so many. He must have lost some. No, there are the empty shells.

Another shot off to the right. One to the front. He fires at both. He
feels that he is growing nervous, and brings all his remaining powers
into play to secure better control of himself. He will put away the
idea of death, of his wound, of everything but revenge. Only one and
he will be satisfied, and for the first time in years he prays, prays
without words though, that he may kill but one.

The sun is sinking lower, it has almost reached the far off western
mountain tops. It would soon be night, and then what would “they” do?
Steal up under cover of the darkness and shoot him from behind some
boulder before he would be aware of it. He would keep a close lookout,
and perhaps he might after all “get” one of them.

Crack! crack! to the right and left, and he glances in both directions,
firing at each; and then right over him takes place a terrible
explosion, and he feels as if something heavy and blunt had struck
him in the back. He half raises himself, just enough to turn his face
upward. Another explosion, another heavy, blunt blow, and through the
smoke from a revolver he sees a dark young face, with black, glittering
eyes, white teeth, across which the lips are tightly drawn. The face
and the form of one almost a boy, and then he falls back while a dark
hand and arm snatches his gun from his half-clinging clasp. He hears
wild shouting and through his glazing eyes sees dark forms scrambling
for his arms, for Tom’s. They are even quarreling in their eagerness
to tear the pack from the dead burro, and then instinctively he sees
one raise something in the air ... and when it falls there is no longer
anything human in the face or the head of the man who has spent the
afternoon in fight. Nothing but a bloody pulp of skull, hair, brains,
broken teeth, crushed into a misshapen mass by the boulder cast upon it
by an Apache.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another afternoon, years after, a tall sergeant and his detail of
cavalry escorting through the canyon a party locating a road, looks
down on the whitened bones of two men and a burro scattered by coyotes
and bleached by the winds and rains, and as he, with the toe of his
boot, pushes to one side the ribs of one of the skeletons, his eyes
mark the many empty cartridge shells. He looks up and sees that his
comrades have already noted them, while some one remarks:

“By----, he stayed with them while he lasted.”



FOLLOWING THE SEA

(Ambrose Bierce: Collected Sketches.)


At the time of “the great earthquake of ’68,” said Mr.
Swiddler--William Swiddler; of Calaveras--I was at Arica, Peru. I have
not a map by me, and am not certain that Arica is not in Chili, but it
can’t make much difference; there was earthquake all along there.

Sam Baxter was with us; I think he had gone from San Francisco to make
a railway, or something. On the morning of the ’quake, Sam and I had
gone down to the beach to bathe. We had shed our boots, and begun to
moult, when there was a slight tremor of the earth, as if the elephant
who supports it was pushing upward, or lying down and getting up again.
Next, the surges, which were flattening themselves upon the sand and
dragging away such small trifles as they could lay hold of, began
racing out seaward, as if they had received a dispatch that somebody
was not expected to live. This was needless, for _we_ did not expect to
live.

When the sea had receded entirely out of sight, we started after it;
for, it will be remembered, we had come to bathe; and bathing without
some kind of water is not refreshing in a hot climate.

For the first four or five miles the walking was very difficult,
although the grade was tolerably steep. The ground was soft, there were
tangled forests of sea-weed, old rotten ships, rusty anchors, human
skeletons, and a multitude of things to impede the pedestrian. The
floundering sharks bit our legs as we toiled past them, and we were
constantly slipping down upon the flat fish strewn about like orange
peel on a sidewalk. Sam, too, had stuffed his shirt front with such a
weight of doubloons from the wreck of an old galleon, that I had to
help him across all the worst places. It was very dispiriting.

Presently, away on the western horizon, I saw the sea coming back. It
occurred to me then that I did not wish it to come back. A tidal wave
is nearly always wet, and I was now a good way from home, with no means
of making a fire.

The same was true of Sam, but he did not appear to think of it in that
way. He stood quite still a moment with his eyes fixed on the advancing
line of water; then turned to me, saying, very earnestly:

“Tell you what, William; I never wanted a ship so bad from the cradle
to the grave! I would give m-o-r-e for a ship!--More than for all
the railways and turnpikes you could scare up! I’d give more than a
hundred, thousand, million dollars! I would--I’d give all I’m worth,
for--just--one--little--ship!”

To show how lightly he could part with his wealth, he lifted his shirt
out of his trousers, unbosoming himself of his doubloons, which tumbled
about his feet, a golden storm.

By this time the tidal wave was close upon us. Call _that_ a wave!
It was one solid green wall of water, higher than Niagara Falls,
stretching as far as we could see to right and left, without a break
in its towering front! It was by no means clear what we ought to do.
The moving wall showed no projections by means of which the most daring
climber could hope to reach the top. There was no ivy; there were no
window-ledges. Stay!--there was the lightning rod! No, there wasn’t any
lightning rod. Of course, not!

Looking despairingly upward, I made a tolerably good beginning at
thinking of all the mean actions I had wrought in the flesh, when I saw
projecting beyond the crest of the wave a ship’s bowsprit, with a man
sitting on it reading a newspaper! Thank fortune, we were saved!

Falling upon our knees with tearful gratitude, we got up again and
ran--ran as fast as we could, I suspect; for now the whole fore-part of
the ship budged through the water just above our heads, and might lose
its balance any moment. If we had only brought along our umbrellas!

I shouted to the man on the bowsprit to drop us a line. He merely
replied that his correspondence was already very onerous, and he hadn’t
any pen and ink.

Then I told him I wanted to get aboard. He said I would find one on the
beach, about three leagues to the south’ard, where the “Nancy Tucker”
went ashore.

At these replies I was disheartened. It was not so much that the man
withheld assistance, as that he made puns. Presently, however, he
folded his newspaper, put it carefully away in his pocket, went and
got a line, and let it down to us just as we were about to give up the
race. Sam made a lunge at it, and got it. I laid hold of his legs,
the end of the rope was passed about the capstan, and as soon as the
men on board had had a little grog, we were hauled up. I can assure
you that it was no fine experience to go up in that way, close to the
smooth, vertical front of water, with the whales tumbling out all round
and above us, and the sword-fishes nosing us pointedly with vulgar
curiosity.

We had no sooner set foot on deck, and got Sam disengaged from the
hook, than the purser stepped up with book and pencil--“Tickets,
gentlemen.”

We told him we hadn’t any tickets, and he ordered us to be set ashore
in a boat. It was represented to him that this was quite impossible
under the circumstances; but he replied that he had nothing to do with
circumstances--did not know anything about circumstances. Nothing would
move him till the captain, who was really a kind-hearted man, came on
deck and knocked him overboard. We were now stripped of our clothing,
chafed all over with stiff brushes, rolled on our stomachs, wrapped
in flannels, laid before a hot stove in the saloon, and strangled
with scalding brandy. We had not been wet, nor had we swallowed any
sea-water, but the surgeon said this was the proper treatment. It is
uncertain what he might have done to us if the tender-hearted captain
had not thrashed him into his cabin, and told us to go on deck.

By this time the ship was passing the town of Arica, and we were about
to go astern and fish a little, when she grounded on a hill-top.
The captain hove out all the anchors he had about him; and when the
water went swirling back to its legal level, taking the town along
for company, there we were, in the midst of a charming agricultural
country, but at some distance from any seaport.

At sunrise next morning we were all on deck. Sam sauntered aft to the
binnacle, cast his eye carelessly upon the compass, and uttered an
ejaculation of astonishment.

“Tell _you_, captain,” he called out, “this has been a direr convulsion
of nature than you have any idea. Everythin’s been screwed right round.
Needle points due south!”

“Why, you lubber!” growled the skipper, taking a look, “it p’ints
d’rectly to labbard, an’ there’s the sun, dead ahead!”

Sam turned and confronted him, with a steady gaze of ineffable contempt.

“Now, who said it wasn’t dead ahead?--tell me _that_. Shows how
much _you_ know about earthquakes. ’Course, I didn’t mean just this
continent, nor just this earth: I tell you, the _whole thing’s_
turned!”



ETCHINGS: JEANNETTE

(French of George Le Faure: I. S: For Short Stories.)


Every day there came down to the long stone wharf a smiling fair-haired
girl of seven, followed by an old, old man.

The child carried a spy-glass, hugging it in her arms as if it were a
doll, and she skipped along gaily till she reached the end of the pier.
Then she handed the long glass to her companion, and resting her chubby
little hands on the cold stone coping, looked wistfully out to sea.

With the soft breeze blowing her hair about her shoulders, and her eyes
fixed searchingly on the horizon she stood perfectly silent until a
tiny white speck appeared in the far distance where sea and sky seemed
to mingle.

“A sail, a sail!” she cried, and the old man sat down and laid the
spy-glass upon his arm.

Breathless and eager, the child grasped the brass tube with both hands
and peered through it without speaking. After a few minutes, however,
she said with a sigh of disappointment: “Not yet, grandpa,” and
returning patiently to her post resumed the watch until another sail
appeared.

This was kept up hour after hour, and when the sun, a golden ball,
had slipped behind the rising billows, and a soft mist rose from the
sea, the child turned round, her little face saddened, and walked away
slowly at the old man’s side.

One day I spoke to an old sailor and asked about the child.

“That is Jeannette,” he said, taking his short clay pipe out of his
mouth, “her father was killed eighteen months ago; the mast of his boat
fell on him, and since the day his body was carried home, she has never
been the same. She does not think that he is dead, and every afternoon
her grandfather has to bring her down here to watch for him.”

He tapped his head expressively, and, as a merry laugh sounded, a smile
of tenderness softened his rugged features.

I looked up and saw Jeannette coming as usual, carrying the telescope,
and skipping gleefully before the old man.

“How sad, how sad!” I murmured with a sigh, but the old sailor shook
his head; putting his pipe into his mouth hastily he puffed out a cloud
of smoke to hide the tears that had gathered in his eyes, and answered
softly--“God is good. She will never know, and so she will never cease
to hope.”



IN THE HOUSE OF SUDDHOO

(Rudyard Kipling: Collected Sketches.)

    A stone’s throw out on either hand
    From that well-ordered road we tread,
        And all the world is wild and strange;
    Churel and ghoul and Djinn and sprite
    Shall bear us company to-night,
        Wherein the Powers of Darkness range,
            --From the Dusk to the Dawn.


The house of Suddhoo, near the Taksali Gate, is two-storied, with four
carved windows of old, brown wood, and a flat roof. You may recognize
it by five red handprints arranged like the Five of Diamonds on the
whitewash between the upper windows. Bhagwan Dass, the bunnia, and a
man who says he gets his living by seal-cutting, live in the lower
story with a troop of wives, servants, friends, and retainers. The
two upper rooms used to be occupied by Janoo and Azizun and a little
black-and-tan terrier that was stolen from an Englishman’s house and
given to Janoo by a soldier. To-day, only Janoo lives in the upper
rooms. Suddhoo sleeps on the roof generally, except when he sleeps in
the street. He used to go to Peshawar in the cold weather to visit his
son, who sells curiosities near the Edwards’ Gate, and then he slept
under a real mud roof. Suddhoo is a great friend of mine, because his
cousin had a son who secured, thanks to my recommendation, the post of
head messenger to a big firm in the Station. Suddhoo says that God will
make me a Lieutenant-Governor one of these days. I daresay his prophecy
will come true. He is very, very old, with white hair and no teeth
worth showing, and he has outlived his wits--outlived nearly everything
except his fondness for his son at Peshawar. Janoo and Azizun are
Kashmiris, Ladies of the City, and theirs was an ancient and more or
less honorable profession; but Azizun has since married a medical
student from the Northwest and has settled down to a most respectable
life somewhere near Bareilly. Bhagwan Dass is an extortionate and an
adulterator. He is very rich. The man who is supposed to get his living
by seal-cutting pretends to be very poor. This lets you know as much
as is necessary of the four principal tenants in the house of Suddhoo.
Then there is Me, of course; but I am only the chorus that comes in at
the end to explain things. So I do not count.

Suddhoo was not clever. The man who pretended to cut seals was the
cleverest of them all--Bhagwan Dass only knew how to lie--except Janoo.
She was also beautiful, but that was her own affair.

Suddhoo’s son at Peshawar was attacked by pleurisy, and old Suddhoo
was troubled. The seal-cutter man heard of Suddhoo’s anxiety and made
capital out of it. He was abreast of the times. He got a friend in
Peshawar to telegraph daily accounts of the son’s health. And here the
story begins.

Suddhoo’s cousin’s son told me, one evening, that Suddhoo wanted to
see me; that he was too old and feeble to come personally, and that I
should be conferring an everlasting honor on the House of Suddhoo if I
went to him. I went; but I think, seeing how well-off Suddhoo was then,
that he might have sent something better than an ekka, which jolted
fearfully, to haul out a future Lieutenant-Governor to the City on a
muggy April evening. The ekka did not run quickly. It was full dark
when we pulled up opposite the door of Ranjit Singh’s Tomb near the
main gate of the Fort. Here was Suddhoo and he said that, by reason
of my condescension, it was absolutely certain that I should become a
Lieutenant-Governor while my hair was yet black. Then we talked about
the weather, and the state of my health, for fifteen minutes, in the
Huzuri Bagh, under the stars.

Suddhoo came to the point at last. He said that Janoo had told him
that there was an order of the Sirkar against magic, because it was
feared that magic might one day kill the Empress of India. I didn’t
know anything about the state of the law; but I fancied that something
interesting was going to happen. I said that so far from magic being
discouraged by the Government, it was highly commended. The greatest
officials of the State practised it themselves. (If the Financial
Statement isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.) Then, to encourage him
further, I said that, if there was any jadoo afoot, I had not the least
objection to giving it my countenance and sanction, and to seeing that
it was clean jadoo--white magic, as distinguished from the unclean
jadoo which kills folk. It took a long time before Suddhoo admitted
that this was just what he had asked me to come for. Then he told me,
in jerks and quavers, that the man who said he cut seals was a sorcerer
of the cleanest kind; that every day he gave Suddhoo news of the sick
son in Peshawar more quickly than the lightning could fly, and that
this news was always corroborated by the letters. Further, that he had
told Suddhoo how a great danger was threatening his son, which could
be removed by clean jadoo; and, of course, heavy payment. I began to
see exactly how the land lay, and told Suddhoo that I also understood
a little jadoo in the Western line, and would go to his house to see
that everything was done decently and in order. We set off together;
and on the way Suddhoo told me that he had paid the seal-cutter between
one hundred and two hundred rupees already; and the jadoo of that night
would cost two hundred more, which was cheap, he said, considering the
greatness of his son’s danger; but I do not think he meant it.

The lights were all cloaked in the front of the house when we arrived.
I could hear awful noises from behind the seal-cutter’s shop-front,
as if some one were groaning his soul out. Suddhoo shook all over,
and while we groped our way up stairs told me that the jadoo had
begun. Janoo and Azizun met us at the stair-head, and told us that the
jadoo-work was coming off in their rooms, because there was more space
there. Janoo is a lady of a freethinking turn of mind. She whispered
that the jadoo was an invention to get money out of Suddhoo, and that
the seal-cutter would go to a hot place when he died. Suddhoo was
nearly crying with fear and old age. He kept walking up and down the
room in the half light, repeating his son’s name over and over again,
and asking Azizun if the seal-cutter ought not to make a reduction in
the case of his own landlord. Janoo pulled me over to the shadow in the
recess of the bow-windows. The boards were up, and the rooms were only
lit by one tiny oil-lamp. There was no chance of my being seen if I
stayed still.

Presently, the groans below ceased, and we heard steps on the
staircase. That was the seal-cutter. He stopped outside the door as the
terrier barked and Azizun fumbled at the chain, and he told Suddhoo
to blow out the lamp. This left the place in jet darkness, except for
the red glow from the two huqas that belonged to Janoo and Azizun.
The seal-cutter came in, and I heard Suddhoo throw himself down on
the floor and groan. Azizun caught her breath, and Janoo backed on
to one of the beds with a shudder. There was a clink of something
metallic, and then shot up a pale, blue-green flame near the ground.
The light was just enough to show Azizun, pressed against one corner
of the room with the terrier between her knees; Janoo, with her hands
clasped, leaning forward as she sat on the bed; Suddhoo, face down,
quivering--and the seal-cutter?

I hope I may never see another man like that seal-cutter. He was
stripped to the waist, with a wreath of white jasmine as thick as
my wrist around his forehead, a salmon colored loin-cloth round his
middle, and a steel bangle on each ankle. This was not awe-inspiring.
It was the face of the man that turned me cold. It was blue-gray in the
first place. In the second, the eyes were rolled back till you could
only see the whites of them; and, in the third, the face was the face
of a demon--a ghoul--anything you please except of the sleek, oily old
ruffian who sat in the day time over his turning lathe downstairs. He
was lying on his stomach with his arms turned and crossed behind him,
as if he had been thrown down pinioned. His head and neck were the only
parts of him off the floor. They were nearly at right angles to the
body, like the head of a cobra at spring. It was ghastly. In the center
of the room, on the bare earth floor, stood a big, deep, brass basin,
with a pale blue-green light floating in the center like a night light.
Round that basin the man on the floor wriggled himself three times. How
he did it I do not know. I could see the muscles ripple along his spine
and fall smooth again; but I could not see any other motion. The head
seemed the only thing alive about him, except that slow curl and uncurl
of the laboring back muscles. Janoo from the bed was breathing seventy
to the minute; Azizun held her hands before her eyes; and old Suddhoo,
fingering at the dirt that had got into his white beard, was crying to
himself. The horror of it was that the creeping, crawly thing made no
sound--only crawled; and, remember, this lasted for ten minutes, while
the terrier whined, and Azizun shuddered, and Janoo gasped, and Suddhoo
cried.

I felt the hair lift at the back of my head, and my heart thump like a
thermantidote paddle. Luckily, the seal-cutter betrayed himself by his
most impressive trick and made me calm again. After he had finished
that unspeakable crawl, he stretched his head away from the floor as
high as he could, and sent out a jet of fire from his nostrils. Now
I know how fire-spouting is done--I can do it myself--so I felt at
ease. The business was a fraud. If he had only kept to that crawl
without trying to raise the effect, goodness knows what I might not
have thought. Both the girls shrieked at the jet of fire and the head
dropped, chin down on the floor, with a thud; the whole body lying
then like a corpse with its arms trussed. There was a pause of five
full minutes after this, and the blue-green flame died down. Janoo
stooped to settle one of her anklets, while Azizun turned her face
to the wall and took the terrier in her arms. Suddhoo put out an arm
mechanically to Janoo’s huqa, and she slid it across the floor with her
foot. Directly above the body and on the wall, were a couple of flaming
portraits, in stamped paper frames, of the Queen and the Prince of
Wales. They looked down on the performance, and, to my thinking, seemed
to heighten the grotesqueness of it all.

Just when the silence was getting unendurable, the body turned over
and rolled away from the basin to the side of the room, where it lay
stomach up. There was a faint “plop” from the basin--exactly like the
noise a fish makes when it takes a fly--and the green light in the
center revived.

I looked at the basin, and saw, bobbing in the water the dried,
shrivelled, black head of a native baby--open eyes, open mouth and
shaved scalp. It was worse, being so very sudden, than the crawling
exhibition. We had no time to say anything before it began to speak.

Read Poe’s account of the voice that came from the mesmerized dying
man, and you will realize less than one-half the horror of that head’s
voice.

There was an interval of a second or two between each word, and a sort
of “ring, ring, ring,” in the note of the voice like the timbre of a
bell. It pealed slowly, as if talking to itself, for several minutes
before I got rid of my cold sweat. Then the blessed solution struck me.
I looked at the body lying near the doorway, and saw, just where the
hollow of the throat joins on the shoulders, a muscle that had nothing
to do with any man’s regular breathing, twitching away steadily. The
whole thing was a careful reproduction of the Egyptian teraphim that
one reads about sometimes; and the voice was as clever and as appalling
a piece of ventriloquism as one could wish to hear. All this time the
head was “lip-lip-lapping” against the side of the basin, and speaking.
It told Suddhoo, on his face again whining, of his son’s illness, and
of the state of the illness up to the evening of that very night. I
always shall respect the seal-cutter for keeping so faithfully to the
time of the Peshawar telegrams. It went on to say that skilled doctors
were night and day watching over the man’s life, and that he would
eventually recover if the fee to the potent sorcerer, whose servant was
the head in the basin, was doubled.

Here the mistake from the artistic point of view came in. To ask for
twice your stipulated fee in a voice that Lazarus might have used
when he rose from the dead, is absurd. Janoo, who is really a woman
of masculine intellect, saw this as quickly as I did. I heard her say
“Asli nahin! Fareib!” scornfully under her breath; and just as she said
so, the light in the basin died out, the head stopped talking, and we
heard the room door creak on its hinges. Then Janoo struck a match,
lit the lamp, and we saw that head, basin and seal-cutter were gone.
Suddhoo was wringing his hands and explaining to anyone who cared to
listen, that if his chances of eternal salvation depended on it, he
could not raise another 200 rupees. Azizun was nearly in hysterics in
the corner; while Janoo sat down on one of the beds to discuss the
probabilities of the whole thing being a bunao, or “make-up.”

I explained as much as I knew of the seal-cutter’s way of jadoo; but
her argument was much more simple: “The magic that is always demanding
gifts is no true magic,” said she. “My mother told me that the only
potent love-spells are those which are told you for love. This
seal-cutter man is a liar and a devil. I dare not tell, do anything or
get anything done, because I am in debt to Bhagwan Dass, the bunnia,
for two gold rings and a heavy anklet. I must get my food from his
shop. The seal-cutter is the friend of Bhagwan Dass, and he would
poison my food. A fool’s jadoo has been going on for ten days, and
has cost Suddhoo many rupees each night. The seal-cutter used black
hens and lemons and mantras before. He never showed us anything like
this till to-night. Azizun is a fool, and will be a purdahnashin soon.
Suddhoo has lost his strength and his wits. See now! I had hoped to get
from Suddhoo many rupees while he lived, and many more after his death;
and behold, he is spending everything on that offspring of a devil and
a she-ass, the seal-cutter!”

Here I said: “But what induced Suddhoo to drag me into the business? Of
course I can speak to the seal-cutter, and he shall refund. The whole
thing is child’s talk--shameful--senseless.”

“Suddhoo is an old child,” said Janoo. “He has lived on the roofs these
seventy years and is as senseless as a milch-goat. He brought you here
to assure himself that he was not breaking any law of Sirkar, whose
salt he ate many years ago. He worships the dust off the feet of the
seal-cutter, and that cow-devourer has forbidden him to go and see his
son. What does Suddhoo know of your laws or the lightning-post? I have
to watch his money going day by day to that lying beast below.”

Janoo stamped her foot and nearly cried with vexation; while Suddhoo
was whimpering under a blanket, and Azizun was trying to guide the
pipe-stem to his foolish old mouth.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now the case stands thus. Unthinkingly, I have laid myself open to the
charge of aiding and abetting the seal-cutter in obtaining money under
false pretenses, which is forbidden by Section 420 of the Indian Penal
Code. I am helpless in the matter for these reasons. I cannot inform
the police. What witnesses would support my statement? Janoo refuses
flatly, and Azizun is a veiled woman somewhere near Bareilly--lost
in this big India of ours. I dare not again take the law into my own
hands, and speak to the seal-cutter; for certain am I that not only
would Suddhoo disbelieve me, but this step would end in the poisoning
of Janoo, who is bound hand and foot by her debt to the bunnia. Suddhoo
is an old dotard; and whenever we meet mumbles my idiotic joke that the
Sirkar rather patronizes the Black Art than otherwise. His son is well
now; but Suddhoo is completely under the influence of the seal-cutter,
by whose advice he regulates the affairs of his life. Janoo watches
daily the money that she hoped to weedle out of Suddhoo taken by the
seal-cutter, and becomes daily more furious and sullen.

She will never tell, because she dare not; but I am afraid--unless
something happens to prevent her--that the seal-cutter will die of
cholera--the white arsenic kind--about the middle of May. And thus I
shall have to be privy to a murder in the House of Suddhoo.



ETCHINGS: THE HUSKING BEE

(R. L. Ketchum: For Short Stories.)


The great farm-house is ablaze with lights twinkling from every room.
Long tables groan beneath the loads of good things the busy housewife
has been days preparing.

From the barn come merry voices; joyous laughter.

Let us stand, unobserved, in the open door.

What a happy, merry lot of young folks--stalwart, handsome young men
and healthy maidens!

They are ranged around the walls with rapidly-diminishing piles of corn
before them, which they husk and throw upon the golden heap which is
growing up rapidly in the center.

Ah! That young man has found a red ear in his pile! He leaps to his
feet and dashes at one of the prettiest girls! A short chase--a
struggle--a resounding smack--and it is over. He has kissed her--maybe
on her collar, or her back hair; but that doesn’t matter; she counts it
all the same.

How happy they all seem.

But no. Over there in a dark corner sits a tall, powerful, handsome
young fellow all alone. He speaks to nobody unless addressed, and then
his answers are short and sullen.

Ever and anon he casts a piercing glance at a young man of about his
own age who sits at the end of the row opposite, chatting with a pretty
young girl. His face darkens. There is murder in his eye. He is in
love, perhaps, and jealous.

The bell rings for supper just as the husking is done, and the huskers
jump up and scamper pell-mell toward the house, but the tall, handsome
young man remains seated and drops his face in his hands with something
that sounds like a sob.

For a long time he sits thus alone, then a light, hurried step is heard
and a sweet-voiced girl asks:

“Joe, what’s the matter? Had trouble with Mary? You haven’t spoken to
her to-night, hardly. Sick? Better come into supper. It will do you
good, maybe.”

“No, Sis, it ain’t that.”

“Tell me, Joe,” says his sister kindly.

“Well,” he answers, “I’ve got on my thin pants ... I rid Dobbin over
... thar wuz a nail or a chafe in th’ saddle....”

And the stalwart young hayseed Adonis broke down and shed a drenching
shower of salt and bitter tears.



MY BABOON BEDFELLOW

(Belgravia.)


It has been said by the wise man of old that “there is no new thing
under the sun.” If this means that the adventure I am about to relate
was only a repetition of something that occurred to some other hapless
damsel in the pre-historic ages, I herewith accord her my sincerest
sympathies.

The intelligent reader must be kind enough to understand, as a
preliminary, that I am impulsive, and apt to embrace opinions with a
degree of enthusiasm and a total disregard of all adverse arguments,
however weighty, that is truly feminine. When, therefore, shortly
after leaving school, I, as my brother says, “took up” evolution, and
read various abstruse treatises upon the “development of species” and
the “descent of man,” it was in no half-hearted manner that I rode my
hobby, but so thoroughly that I became a thorn in the flesh to most of
my relations and friends, and my schoolboy brothers, denouncing the
theory laconically, but forcibly, as “awful bosh,” bestowed upon me the
contemptuous appellation of the “baboon,” and made unkind allusions to
my frequent visits to the Regent’s Park Gardens as being paid to “next
of kin.”

Certainly I did resort often, almost every day, to the monkey house
to study the attributes of its interesting occupants. Perhaps some
lingering, infatuated idea possessed me that it might be my brilliant
mission to discover the “missing link;” at any rate, my note-book of
that period contains many finely worded desires to “watch the agile
monkey in its native habitat,” and to “trace the simian likeness to the
human amid the primeval forests of another hemisphere.”

At length I was enabled to partially fulfill my dreams.

Having received a warm invitation from an old school friend to spend
some weeks with her at her home in the West of Ireland, I started,
with my maid as escort, for Ballynaghader. My friend, Marian Edwards,
had married three years before, an Irish gentleman of some property,
and I had never seen either her husband or herself since her marriage;
so that it was with delightful anticipations of renewing an old
friendship, and forming a new one, that I set out on my journey. My
brothers accompanied me to the station, and sped me on my way with a
unanimous wish that I might meet a gorilla or a chimpanze while taking
my walks abroad in what they persisted in calling the “wilds.”

My maid, Hannah, was an estimable woman, very much privileged by reason
of her long and faithful service; and as we neared our destination
after a long and fatiguing journey, the details of which would be as
tiresome as unnecessary, became overwhelmed with dismay, falling into
tears, alleging between her sobs that P. C. B. 192 had told her the day
before we started that Ireland was a country where nobody cared for the
police. This was, in my worthy Hannah’s eyes, the climax of barbarism;
and when she proceeded to state from “information received”--presumably
from the same reliable source--“that being murdered in one’s bed” was
considered in Ireland quite an ordinary and peaceful way of departing
this life, I felt that it behooved me to assert myself, and, finding
all soothing arguments of no avail, I administered a sharp scolding,
which had the desired effect, and induced my abigail to dry her eyes,
while she “hoped” with an incredulous snort and desponding shake of her
head, “that things would turn out better than she expected.”

The prospective pleasure of my visit was largely enhanced by the
discovery that Mr. Ardagh, whom I liked directly I saw him, was a
great lover and student of zoölogy, and had quite a menagerie of
tame and wild animals, to which he was constantly adding interesting
specimens. I promised myself great pleasure in inspecting the animals
and cultivating their acquaintance on the morrow, but was recalled
from my pleasurable anticipations to devote all my attention to an
account Marian was giving me of the mysterious loss of a very handsome
and much-valued bracelet which had occurred that very day. Some hours
before my arrival her maid had informed her that this bracelet, which
had been recently under repair and had been returned that morning
from the jeweler, was missing. It had been laid carelessly on the
dressing-table when it arrived, and had disappeared. Search had been
made in every likely and unlikely spot, servants had been questioned,
and, as usual, under such circumstances, had all indignantly, and
some tearfully, denied any knowledge of the missing trinket, which,
apart from its intrinsic value, was dear to Marian from associations
connected with it. I could suggest no steps for its recovery beyond the
ordinary English alternative of communicating with the police. This, I
found, had been already done, though evidently my friends had small
hope of any good results following upon the exertions of that estimable
force, of whom, according to Hannah, no one in Ireland stood in awe.
Altogether it was an uncomfortable state of things; and although we
discussed the subject in all its bearings, entering into the most
minute details of any burglaries we had previously heard of or read
about, we only succeeded in making ourselves distinctly uneasy, and had
to decide at last, as at first, that it was most mysterious.

Directly after dinner I begged that I might be allowed to retire for
the night, as my journey had thoroughly tired me. Marian took me to my
room, and, wishing me a good night’s rest, left me to the ministrations
of Hannah, whose equanimity was thoroughly restored, and who was in
a state of discursive contentment, very trying to the patience of
one whose eyes were closing fast under the soothing process of hair
brushing, and whose sole idea was “bed,” and that speedily. But at last
I got rid of my talkative attendant; and having as a last precaution
looked under my bed (my constant practice, though if for one moment I
had supposed there could be anything there, nothing would have induced
me to look), I retired to rest, and was soon wrapped in dreamless
slumber.

After, I suppose, some hours, I was awakened by a loud noise close to
my bed, as of some heavy body falling on the floor from a height; but
being only partially roused, I drowsily conjectured it was fancy on my
part, and turned over on my side, preparatory to again composing myself
to sleep. This movement brought my face opposite the window, the blind
of which I had desired Hannah to draw up the last thing at night, that
I might enjoy the sight of the sunrise, if by some untoward and unusual
event I should not sleep as late as usual. The room was flooded with
bright moonlight, and I had an uneasy feeling as I gazed at the white
expanse of toilet-cover on the dressing-table before the window that
there was something wrong about its appearance. Suddenly I remembered
that I had certainly placed my watch and chain on the corner of the
table after winding it up the night before. It was no longer there.
Trying to persuade myself that I was mistaken, I raised myself on my
elbow to look more carefully after my missing watch, when I distinctly
felt the bed-clothes, which my movement had a little displaced, tugged
toward the foot of the bed. Instinctively I clutched my retreating
coverings, and in spite of some unseen opposing agency, succeeded in
restoring them to their former position, only to feel them again slowly
drawn away. Three times this agitating phenomenon occurred. At last I
determined to abandon some portion of the bed-clothes, retaining only
the sheet, in which I wrapped myself tightly, and watched the blankets,
etc., pulled to the floor and slowly dragged under the bed. Motionless
with terror, I lay scarcely daring to breathe, while numerous and dire
possibilities occurred to my distracted imagination. Was my unseen
visitor a moonlighter? Was this a preliminary measure to the “murdering
in one’s bed,” so graphically quoted by Hannah from the P. C.--. 192,
the well informed? Certainly I was not in favor of home rule. Could the
Land League be about to make an example of so insignificant a unit as
myself.

After a space which seemed to me interminable, although it could have
been only of a few minutes’ duration, my nocturnal visitant, who had
been emitting sundry very terrifying snorts and suppressed demoniacal
cackles, put out a hairy hand, and grasped the edge of the bedstead
furthest from me, slowly drawing to its full height the body of a large
baboon, clad in a species of loose tunic. Round its neck was suspended
my chain; while the watch, still attached to the chain, was held in
its hand. I gazed horror-stricken upon this fearful sight, recalling
in a kind of agony all the stories I had heard and read of the extreme
ferocity of the baboon, remembering, too, that my door was locked, and
that I was entirely at the mercy of a brute almost as large as, and
infinitely more powerful than myself.

It was not in this way that I had so ardently desired to study the
fascinating ways of the _Simiæ_, and as I thought of my brothers’
laughing wishes at parting with me. I was struck with a sense of the
grim humor of the situation. But the humorous aspect did not appeal to
me for long, as I watched with fascinating eagerness the movements of
my terrible visitor. With uncouth, shambling steps the creature walked
to the window, and by the light of the moon examined my unfortunate
watch. Its glittering case evidently delighted the baboon, as it
stroked it repeatedly with one finger; but the ticking, of which it
could not discover the cause or the whereabouts, appeared to exasperate
it, and it tossed the watch contemptuously aside, though it remained
dangling from its chain down the animal’s back. Once I made a slight
sound; but my undesirable visitor resented it by so savage a spring
in my direction that I feigned profound slumber, and only ventured to
open my eyes after several minutes of strained expectation that I was
about to receive practical illustration of that which I had so often
carelessly spoken about--the extraordinary physical force in the fore
limbs of the _Quadrumana_. When I did dare to look again, I saw that
the baboon had seated itself before the toilet glass, and, by the aid
of my brushes and combs, was attempting to reduce its bushy locks
to some order. Finding this task a fruitless one, it proceeded to
ransack my jewel-case, which Hannah had carelessly left open, and one
by one examined various articles it contained. Rings and brooches and
bracelets the creature appeared to approve of, but a jewel comb for
the hair and a diamond star it evidently did not at all appreciate,
flinging them down and snarling at them savagely.

I dared not attract the creature’s attention to myself by making any
sound, and had to watch in silent agony this rifling and appropriation
of my most cherished possessions by an unappreciative baboon! At last
it turned away from the window, and came in a leisurely manner toward
the bed, eyeing me stealthily while it advanced; and having reached
the bedside, stooped down and proceeded to draw out from under the
bed the blankets of which it had despoiled me at a very early stage
of the operations. Upon these blankets it tried to find a comfortable
resting-place, but after turning and twisting uneasily for some
minutes, emitting short grunts of ill-temper and dissatisfaction,
it got up and, to my horror lay down on the bed across my feet! The
discomfort and pain were almost unbearable; but fortunately after a
short time the baboon rolled further down the bed, and lay at the very
foot with its face turned in my direction. Its regular breathing soon
showed if was asleep; but I remained in an agony of fear least some
movement of mine should awaken the brute.

How the remaining hours of the night wore away I knew not--to me they
seemed interminable. But when the sounds of the awakened household made
themselves heard my terror increased, for I feared that the baboon
would certainly be roused and attack me. Still it slept, and still I
lay and watched it, until Hannah’s knock at my door awakened me to the
consciousness that this could not go on forever.

In a very low voice I bade my maid call Mrs. Ardagh; and when Marian’s
voice was heard outside demanding anxiously what had happened, I
hurriedly explained the dreadful situation. To my surprise she
exclaimed in what sounded almost a tone of relief, “Why, that must
be Molly! Oh, how pleased Tom will be! Please lie quite still until
I fetch him.” My feelings, while I lay and awaited the end of this
most unpleasant adventure, may be better imagined than described,
but at last Mr. Ardagh’s voice was heard outside the door calling in
tones of authority, “Molly, Molly, come here!” The baboon sprang to
her feet, gave a startled glance round the room, and, rushing to the
fireplace, made its exit, as it had made its entrance, by the chimney.
When the extreme tension was relaxed my nerves gave way and I fainted.
Mrs. Ardagh and Hannah, having forced the lock off my door, applied
restoratives, and, after some time, I regained consciousness, and was
able to hear a detailed account of the capture of the baboon, which
Mr. Ardagh accomplished with much difficulty. Her escape had not been
discovered until late on the night of my arrival, and the idea of her
being in the house had never occurred to him, as all the doors and
windows were carefully fastened, and the chimney never suggested itself
to him as a mode of ingress, though it had evidently appeared to the
fancy of Molly.

Many of my possessions which had been appropriated by this kleptomaniac
baboon were restored to me; but my watch was hopelessly damaged
in Molly’s ascent of the chimney. In the pocket of her tunic
was discovered with my trinkets Marian’s bracelet, which had so
mysteriously disappeared, proving, beyond a doubt, that Molly had made
her escape much earlier than was at first supposed.

I stayed at Ballynaghader only long enough to recruit my strength
sufficiently to travel, and then started for home, accompanied by
Marian. For a long while my nerves did not recover from the shock
they had sustained. Every one was very considerate about it; even my
brothers did not chaff me as I had dreaded they would, and made very
few remarks anent my want of “philoprogenitiveness” when I begged to be
excused from accompanying them to the Zoo.



PROFESSOR JOVANNY’S FUNERAL

(Edward Iraneus Stephenson: The Manhattan.)


Unaffected was the regret in Yellow Bear City, Storey County, Nevada,
when, upon a certain January evening in the year 187--, the news spread
that Professor Jovanny was dead. Professor Jovanny had been a long time
(as time runs in communities like Yellow Bear City) piano-player in
ordinary to the “Cosmopolitan Hotel and Dancing Pavilion--Ladies Free.”
Yellow Bear was yet something uncultivated. It was true that its small
population found advantage in pursuing the study of geology, after the
methods advocated by Mr. Squeers, and that tons of gold-hiding quartz
were daily crushed through their energies; but, in spite of a weekly
newspaper, thirteen saloons (where discussion upon our national policy
not unfrequently led to--lead), an unfinished Methodist mission chapel
and six dance-houses (including the Cosmopolitan), the advances of art
and sentiment within Yellow Bear’s straggling limits had been coy.
The dint of pity was quite a different matter. It was genuinely felt
now. All was excitement at “Cosmopolitan End,” where a notice, nailed
above the bar of the popular resort, apprised patrons, first, of the
sad event, and, second, of the omission of the usual evening dance,
which Professor Jovanny’s untimely taking-off rendered impracticable.
The street-corner next the Cosmopolitan, just around which stood the
house of mourning, was the rallying-spot for groups of sympathizing
Yellow Bear citizens. “Poor old One-Two-Three!”--“Handlin’ a golden
harp, mebbe, by this, think?” and many other more potent and entirely
unquotable remarks and testimonials to the virtuoso’s virtues were
plentiful and loud. The old and cracked piano itself, at the upper end
of the long dance-room, was already draped with sundry torn strips of
bombazine and white cambric. A yellow and scarcely relevant engraving
of Abraham Lincoln, which the Yellow Bear flies seemed to have visited
with cruel pertinacity, had been propped upright upon its cover. Its
legend, “We Mourn our Loss,” struck the barkeeper as an appropriate
and delicate expression of personal grief, under the circumstances.
San Monito street was unanimous in confessing that Yellow Bear could
well have spared a better man; thereby signifying a man who could
drink deep, swing a pick long and shoot informally--in none of which
accomplishments the dead musician had been versed. The editor of
the Weekly Intelligencer was, during the last moments of the waning
twilight, correcting in proof an obituary headed in his heaviest-faced
capitals, “Muses in the Mud. Death of our Talented Fellow-Citizen,
Professor Jovanny.” In short, as Rioba Jack expressed it to the crowd
of choice spirits hanging about the Cosmopolitan bar, Professor
Jovanny’s decease was “a suc--cess.”

And as to this dead Nevada Orpheus who lay white and rigid around the
corner, and whose name, when pronounced nearer to the Atlantic, must
have been Giovanni something, or something Giovanni, what was now to
him the petty bustle of Yellow Bear City--or what the scarcely more
important bustle that the whole round earth makes as it spins. Six
months back the “Professor” had landed in this rude mining-town of the
Sierras. Gaunt, middle-aged, travel-stained and timid was this waif
and stray of art, blown by some ironical wind hither. Under one arm
was a music portfolio; hanging to the other, a daughter. Nevertheless,
Professor Jovanny made his advent in a smiling hour for his fortunes.
Between Dennison, proprietor of the Cosmopolitan, and the newcomer
an out-of-hand bargain was struck in very Western English and very
badly mangled Italian ditto that was satisfactory to both parties.
Professor Jovanny abode in Yellow Bear and won reputation. Whether he
had ever tried his hand at other music than the festive waltz, jig
and walk-around is open to doubt. But certain it was that he played
everything of that stamp with such irresistible vigor and spirit that
the Cosmopolitan outrivaled all its compeers apace, and the mirth and
fun of its nightly revels (termed upon Sundays, out of deference to
religious scruples, “grand sacred concerts”) waxed nightly more fast
and furious. As for the daughter, one single relic of her father’s
early refinement asserted itself on her behalf, namely, that not one of
the Yellow Bear species-male could truly say that he knew her. Rioba
Jack, Dennison of the Cosmopolitan, “Mister” (whose sobriquet was the
derisive contraction of one lone visiting card unfortunately discovered
among the effects of Mr. James Thornborough Harrington, formerly of
the State of Maine), nor any of their fraternity, had been able to get
the advantage of this mortifying dilemma. The girl was hardly ever
seen upon the street, so jealous was her father’s watchfulness. In
time Rioba Jack and the rest of them came to respect this position.
That is, they ceased to combat it actively. “After all,” remarked some
one, during a discussion of the topic, “it ain’t a bad idea to _have_
one real woman in this here town.” There happened to be a considerable
female contingent already in Yellow Bear society, so the remark last
quoted evinced a good deal of nice discrimination on the speaker’s part.

It was not until evening that, with the session of the wonted
parliament around the Cosmopolitan bar, the proposition to inter
Professor Jovanny with civic honors took shape. The full quorum was
present in that hospitable retreat. Distilled liquors flowed, albeit
no dance was forthcoming. Rioba Jack rose to address the company. “It
appears to me,” said that gentleman, covering both his awkwardness as
orator and his mouth with a tumbler, when desirable--“it appears to me
that we had ought--that in view of his position in Yellow Bear--that
we had ought to give Professor Jovanny his funeral.” “My sentiments,”
interrupted an approving voice, promptly. Rioba Jack continued: “He
hain’t left nothin’ worth chattering about, except the gal, and all
gals ain’t cash. Jovanny was a artist way above tide-level--there ain’t
no mistake about that. Talk about your celluloid-clawyers! Talk about
your Dumb Toms! Talk of your--of your scales,” the Rioba concluded
hastily, suddenly realizing that he was drifting among breakers in any
rash employment of technical terms, “unless a man had heerd Jovanny
rattlin’ ‘Where was Moses,’ in this here hotel, he hadn’t never heerd
no genuine tunin’ up at all. I say, we had ought to give Jovanny a big
time.”

The chorus of approval came _fortissimo_.

“I move that Rioba Jack be app’inted a committee of one to wait on
deceased and ask his gal if the notion jumps with her feelin’s, like as
it were.” This suggestion from a distant quarter, however mixed, was
to the point. It was carried. Every man present felt equal to himself
undertaking this preliminary; but this was no time for permitting
personal interests to dam the current of popular feeling. Rioba Jack
strode from the barroom. Applause and suggestion swelled behind his
back. “Make it a square out-and-out show.” “Borry the Methodist’s
gospel stamp.” “Pay an entrance fee for the benefit of the gal.”
“E_m_balm the corpse!” and the like, were distinguishable among these.
High over all the tumult broke the stentorian voice of Dennison of the
Cosmopolitan, commanding order and enforcing the same by the handle of
his knife applied vigorously to a tumbler. Finally some settled plan of
action crystalized. A “square funeral” Professor Jovanny should have.
His body should “lay in state” for the whole of the ensuing day--on the
piano in the adjoining dance-room--that piano which had so often been
shaken to its center beneath the defunct’s nimble fingers. “Mister’s”
proposal of an admission fee--for gentlemen only--was accepted. The
entire male population of Yellow Bear City was to be duly invited
to appear and “view the remains” for the modest sum of one dollar,
during any hour of the morrow’s daylight most suited to individual
convenience. A brass band had not yet been organised in Yellow Bear, or
it would unquestionably have been provided. A free bar was--of course.
At nightfall Professor Jovanny should be buried with all the mortuary
pomp practicable.

Rioba Jack was greeted eagerly upon his return. “It’s all right,”
responded that worthy, composedly resuming his seat. “Go ahead, all
hands! I didn’t see the gal, but Big Jinny and Pearl Kate are settin’
round with her, and they give her the message. Jinny says its all
right. We can go ahead.”

The Rioba was fully posted on the progress of affairs during his
absence. The idea of Professor Jovanny’s “laying in state” upon the old
piano alone drew forth his contempt in round terms; which, although
they betrayed surprising acquaintance with scriptural phraseology, were
by no means pious. “D---- any such half-way style as that,” he ended,
explosively; “What _I_ say is, buy the old tune-box from Dennison and
bury Jovanny _in_ it!” The uproar that greeted this novel proposal,
like Prospero’s tale, might have cured deafness. Naturally, each person
present promptly claimed to have thought of it himself--and rejected
it unuttered. Dennison announced his entire willingness to dispose of
the widowed instrument at a reasonable figure. There was a unanimous
rush into the long dance-room adjoining. Away flew the emblems of
grief dangling about the object of special inspection. Its cover was
laid off, bodily, in a twinkling. Its length, its depth, its available
breadth and strength of bottom were excitedly ascertained. It was
bought within ten minutes by a lavish collection, Dennison mentioning a
price that certainly showed him to be an astute man in recognizing a
commercial opportunity. Thereupon did the whole roomful resolve itself
into a committee on destruction. Alas! what soft-hearted story-teller
can dwell upon the unholy hammering and cleaving, the ruthless hacking
and smashing which ended in making visible for weeks thereafter in the
back yard of the Cosmopolitan a hideous wreck of tangled steel wire,
white and black keys and splinters of sounding-board--in a word, the
entrails of the murdered piano?

By ten o’clock the work was fairly done. The crowd had departed,
and only Dennison, Rioba Jack and “Mister” now remained in the long
dance-room. Dennison was smoking, as he leaned against one end of his
late piece of property. “Mister,” with bared arms, diligently rubbed
oil over sundry scratches upon its case. Rioba Jack was strengthening
with hammer and nails some weak spot beneath. The flaring light from a
couple of oil lamps on the side of the wall brought out strong shadows
on the three dark, heavily-mustached faces. Neither of the trio broke
the silence for a few moments. Presently the Rioba emerged from his
close quarters and began hammering at the end opposite to Dennison. He
looked up. “What’s goin’ to become of the gal?” he queried, abruptly;
“Yellow Bear ain’t no place for a decent one like her, ’specially if
she’s left alone in it.”

“Oh, I’ve fixed that,” replied Dennison, leisurely, “Mother Sal’s
a-goin’ to take keer of her till she can do for herself.”

The Rioba dropped his lathe-nail and stopped his pounding. “Mother
Sal,” he repeated--“Mother Sal around on San Monito street?”

“Yes! who else?”

Rioba Jack quietly turned and slipped on his coat.

“Dennison,” he said, with an unwonted accent of expostulation lurking
in his voice, “don’t do this thing. Keep your hand out of deviltry for
once--leastways such deviltry as this. I don’t know Jovanny’s gal. I
hain’t hardly ever seen her. ’Taint for myself I’m askin’ it--but just
you let her alone. Won’t you?”

Dennison had removed his pipe from his mouth for good now. He stood
staring angrily at the Rioba, whose clear, dark eyes under their bushy
brows were fixed with unwonted brilliancy upon his own. The proprietor
of the Cosmopolitan burst into a rude laugh. “What’s the matter with
the man?” he ejaculated. Then returning the Rioba’s steadfast gaze
with an equally pertinacious and meaning one, he answered with much
deliberateness, “Look-a-here, Rioba, I suppose I _can_ take a hint if
I _must_--especially when it’s rammed down into my skull as this one
appears to be. You and me has got along without trouble for ever since
we come to Yellow Bear. I should be sorry, very sorry, to be obleeged
to have any unpleasantness between us now. I always feel bound _to_
have unpleasantness with any man, partner or stranger, who interferes
with my own partic’ler concerns. Do you take?”

The Rioba made no direct reply. He stood with his eyes bent upon
the floor abstractedly. Nevertheless he “took.” “Good-night,
Dennison--good-night, ‘Mister,’” he suddenly said, and turning abruptly
upon his heel he quitted the Cosmopolitan without another syllable.

The gray Nevada dawn was beginning to filter between the sharp Sierra
peaks. Yellow Bear looked like a sketch in India-ink on gray paper.
Around the corner of the Cosmopolitan came a little procession not
irreverently conveying upon a shutter something over which a sheet
had been loosely spread. The air was raw and cold. “Careful--that’s
it--steady now,” cautioned Dennison in a low voice as they mounted the
Cosmopolitan doorstep. “Mister,” Rioba Jack, Big Jinny, and Pearl Kate
set down their burden at the upper end of the dance-room. “Come gals,
fly round,” exhorted Dennison, “there’s all the bar to be set up across
there--them windows has got to be darkened up--there ain’t no time to
waste. ‘Mister’ and me’ll tend to our share of the performance.” “I
say, Jinny,” questioned the Rioba _sotto voce_ to that Paphian nymph a
moment later, when Dennison and “Mister” were engaged at a distance,
“you left her asleep, eh?” (There had, by the way, been no allusion
from either party concerned as to the embryo “unpleasantness” of the
preceding night--again to “Mister’s” secret regret). “Sound, Jack--just
like she was dead drunk,” responded Big Jinny, cheerfully, pounding
away with her hammer at the window-sash. Her interrogator frowned. The
answer somehow gritted against his dormant sense of the fitting. Big
Jinny drove another tack and began to whistle.

A little later a magnificent eastern flare of pink and gold fell
through the one window yet undarkened upon the face of Professor
Jovanny, peacefully upturned from his last pillow--a roll of his
own thumbed dance-music wrapped about with a white bar napkin. A
moth-eaten knitted lap-robe was thrown across his feet. Dressed in
his one threadbare black suit--a pile of his own music beneath the
forlorn gray head--truly here went one to the grave with all that he
possessed--except a daughter.

Dennison, the Rioba, “Mister” and the women stood for a moment
motionless beside the body--their tasks completed.

“A becomin’ caskit, altogether,” exclaimed the proprietor of the
Cosmopolitan, eyeing it critically.

“There’s somethin’ wanting all the same,” quoth “Mister,” after the
continued pause had grown oppressive.

“Wantin’,” retorted Dennison; “I’d like to know what it is. Look at
them there flags over the windows! Look at that there bar, where all
that a man’s got to do is to walk up, after he’s paid his dollar,
and help himself or let Pearl and Jinny here help him! Look at this
here coffin--solid rosewood, round corners, carved legs and ag-graffe
treble,” he went on, with a grin at his own wit. “Come, now, ‘Mister,’
what more could Jovanny or anybody else want?”

But “Mister” was paying no attention to this sally or the mirth it
had provoked. “Flowers--flowers and fruit--fruit and flowers,” he was
muttering to himself, apparently confounding a conventional Eastern
attention from the friends of an afflicted family with the catalogue
of some Maine county-fair. “Must come to the same thing--of course,”
he exclaimed, conclusively, striding away from the _de facto_ coffin
and his companions. He disappeared within the barroom. “I’ve made free
with them new stores of yourn, Dennison,” he called out presently,
staggering down the room toward the expectant party, weighted with an
awkward load--two stems of bananas and four spiky pineapples. “It won’t
hurt their sellin’,” he apologized, as with a dexterous balancing and
tying he disposed of the two first-named decorations upright, one upon
either side of poor Professor Jovanny’s perpendicular feet--vegetable
obelisks. A pineapple stood upon each one of the “round corners.”
Dennison and the rest were hearty in commendations of their friend’s
thoughtfulness and taste. “That just fixes her off too slick!”
exclaimed Big Jinny, in high delight.

The sun mounted; the barkeeper appeared in the adjoining room. First
stragglers, curious to learn the truth of any rumors concerning the
day’s novelties at the Cosmopolitan, strolled across the threshold.
Dennison put “Mister” and a table on which was deposited a loaded
revolver and an empty biscuit-tin, with a slit in its cover, over
against the door; Big Jinny and the Pearl, he posted at the special
bar for the day, which he had by no means ungenerously furnished
forth; himself, he stationed in an arm-chair, without the dance-room,
to advertise the obsequies, urge entrance into the penetralia of the
dance-room, as a matter of duty and pleasure, and act as master of
ceremonies generally.

It will be remarked that, designedly or accidentally, Rioba Jack was
appointed unto no prominent function in these festivities of grief,
so he dropped an eagle into “Mister’s” resonant receptacle and walked
out of the Cosmopolitan. The street was sparsely peopled at that early
hour. He turned the corner of the hotel and halted abruptly to avoid
collision with a figure--a girl standing motionless, and leaning
against the wall, as if summoning up the courage to advance further.
What told the Rioba instantly that it was Professor Jovanny’s daughter,
was not difficult to appreciate. The set young face, tear-stained
and pallid, but independent of a pair of dark, mournful eyes for
its beauty, the slender form not ungracefully draped by the scanty,
black-stuff dress; the head bared to the sharp morning wind--it was a
vignette of young grief, passive, despairing, solitary, that the Rioba
gazed at pityingly.

“Good--good-day,” he said, awkwardly. “You’re--his gal, I take it. Can
I--might I help you, Miss?” The last word in respectful salute to the
unmarried, weaker sex, had been a stranger to the Rioba’s lips for a
dozen years.

“I am going to my father,” the girl replied, in a curiously abstracted
fashion of speech; one wherein lay just a shadow of foreign accent. She
looked away from the Rioba’s clear gaze, and continued, as if partly
speaking to herself, “I wish to see where they have put my father. I
must sit by him. He will need me.”

“But,” began the Rioba, in distressed perplexity, as she wrapped her
shawl closer about her exposed throat (it was a beautiful throat),
and made a motion to pass him, “yer father’s dead, Miss. Poor,
old Jovanny’s dead. He’s layin’ in state in his pianny--coffin, I
mean--round to the Cosmopolitan here. You wouldn’t like to be a sittin’
alone there all day ’side the coffin, and everybody starin’ at you.
’Twouldn’t do.”

“I want to sit by my father,” the girl answered more decidedly. “Take
me to him.”

The Rioba was mute. He saw that his new _protégée_ (for such he
instinctively recognized her), was in that state of mind that the eyes
of all the universe were as naught to her. Extremity of sorrow had
taken hold upon her, and to reason with her would be like reasoning
with the clouded mind. He looked again down upon her white, pathetic
face. Its innocence awoke a new emotion in the Rioba’s heart.

“Come along,” he ejaculated, not unkindly. He turned and led the way
to the Cosmopolitan. His companion followed mutely with bowed head.
The gathering crowd in the dance-room stared as the two entered. The
girl heeded the whispers not a whit. She uttered a low exclamation
and walked quickly across to the “caskit.” “He is here, you see,”
she said slowly, half turning to the Rioba with a recognizing smile
whose transforming effect upon her wan face, utterly obliterated from
his mind any further sense of the awkwardness of his position. Some
one pushed a chair forward. She seated herself beside the coffin and
fixed her eyes upon the marble face within it--a statue gazing upon a
statue. The room was hushed. Suddenly some human vermin, audibly of
the feminine gender, laughed from a far corner. The girl raised her
head and looked fixedly whence the sound had proceeded. A troubled
expression came over her countenance. But at the same moment she caught
sight of the Rioba standing not distant, his face flushed with wrath
at the insult, his eyes brimming with compassion encountering her
own. Some shadowy, tardy sense of her utterly unprotected situation
must have tinged that brief look of hers with an unconscious appeal.
The effect upon the Rioba was electric. Leisurely drawing his pistol
from its belt, the stalwart cavalier of the Sierras, whose education
in chivalry had been intuitive, stepped quietly toward the coffin
of Professor Jovanny, against the edge of which that loneliest of
mourners had rested her forehead. The Rioba laid his hand gently upon
her shoulder, and drew himself up. “Friends and feller-citizens,” he
said, running his eye comprehensively round the room as he spoke,
“this here young woman and this here corpse is under _my_ protection.
Look at that there comb in Big Jinny’s head!” Before any one in the
room had discovered the gaudy ornament in question it was smashed to
atoms by the bullet from the revolver discharged by the Rioba as a
period to his sentence. Big Jinny uttered one single staccato screech
(to which luxury she was certainly entitled), not much relishing being
made a target of; and then became in common with the entire company,
significantly silent.

Dennison’s startled face appeared at the door outside; he had listened
to speech and shot. The Rioba caught his eye and smiled. It was a smile
of wholesale defiance!

The morning wore on--noon came--afternoon. Professor Jovanny’s “laying
in state” had been, in the language of “Mister,” “a big go.” Within its
allotted limits of time, wellnigh the entire male and female population
of Yellow Bear City had one by one entered the door of the Cosmopolitan
dance-room, contributed (so far as concerned the male proportion),
inspected, imbibed at discretion, departed. The “heft” of “Mister’s”
biscuit-tin was something to excite the dormant cupidity of anyone.
All day long that ill-sorted pathetic tableau in the center of the
place had remained changeless--the voiceless, motionless watcher; the
tranquil tenant of that uncouth coffin; the Rioba standing beside both,
erect, attentive, grave. The room was scarcely entirely still; even the
Rioba had not expected that. There was some shuffling of feet, subdued
commenting and query. Big Jinny and the Pearl exchanged pleasantries
of a more or less Doric character with passing acquaintances. Glasses
clinked and coin jingled. But no word, no ejaculation was let fall that
could reflect upon or annoy her who sat in the midst of the staring,
sluggishly revolving whirlpool. Big Jinny had stuck sundry disconnected
fragments of her unlucky adornment in her ropy locks--a laconic hint.
More than once did some acquaintance offer to relieve the Rioba on
guard; but that gentleman only smiled and said, in an offhand fashion,
“I guess I’ll finish.”

Darkness had set in as the funeral procession took order before the
Cosmopolitan door. The majority of the sterner sex in Yellow Bear
seemed disposed to swell it. “Mister’s” mule-cart preceded, whereon,
amputated as to its legs and with its cover nailed fast, was placed
the coffin. Dennison and “Mister” drove the hearse slowly. Immediately
in its rear walked, bareheaded still, and as walks the somnambulist,
Professor Jovanny’s daughter. The instant that the Rioba had said, “You
shall go with it,” she had not offered to interfere with the shutting
up, at last, from view of her dead father’s body, or the removal of
the dismembered piano itself to the cart. The Rioba himself walked
a pace to the right, very much with the air of a young man who was
dimly aware that he was moving toward an emergency. A miscellaneous
crowd lengthened out in the rear. The pitchy flame of the pine-wood
torches filled the evening air and played strange tricks with the
tree shadows. Professor Jovanny’s funeral _cortège_ began to get
straggling and unsteady. In fact the liberty of outside locomotion and
potations of strong waters had begun to battle against further decorum.
Fragments of ribald songs, unseemly pranks and hilarities broke out
behind intermittently. At one stage of the progress a good part of
the procession seceded to witness (and assist at) the settlement of
a “melancholy dispute for precedence between two of Yellow Bear’s
foremost citizens”--as their obituaries in the next _Intelligencer_
recorded. Nevertheless, the cavernous hole dug for the reception of
poor Professor Jovanny, or, rather for his bulky sarcophagus, yawned at
last down a little declivity under a clump of firs.

“Dig her big enough for a hoss,” had been Dennison’s prudential
injunction to the “committee” of grave-diggers. In their zeal they had
excavated a pit that was fearful. The crowd gathered about, holding
up the torches. Dennison and “Mister” superintended carefully the
lowering of the coffin, a feat accomplished not without difficulty.
Yellow Bear was, by this time, too weary of affliction, and, it is only
veracious to add, too inebriated to think of carrying out any of the
_quasi_ religious or municipal ceremonies discussed. The first shovels
of clay were discharged into the black depth. Then all at once, with
this most merciless of earthly sounds suddenly breaking the stillness,
the desolate mourner’s soul awoke from its long lethargy to active
grief. The girl uttered an exceedingly bitter cry. “My father!--O God,
my father!” came from her white lips again and again, interrupted by a
tempest of sobs and tears under which she bowed, crouching down upon
the earth in an agony of loss and loneliness. The Rioba stood with his
head bent suspiciously near to her side. Dennison stood opposite.

The crowd had dispersed before the work of “filling in” was ended. The
girl would not be moved until all was over. Rioba Jack did not shift
from his own station. At last, however, the shovels were thrown aside
and the few men left, beside the Rioba and Dennison, began relieving
each other of the torches, or collecting the tools.

“Come, my gal,” said the Rioba, with unconscious but wondrous
tenderness. The sound of his voice seemed to give the kneeling one
strength. She nodded her bowed head, checked her sobs piteously and
presently rose. Still keeping her wet eyes averted from the flaring
lights, she half-turned toward him and--put out her hand.

The Rioba took it as if it had been an angel’s. Suddenly Dennison, who
had been the most attentive of spectators, approached. The Rioba looked
and discerned at his back, holding a torch, the swart, greasy face of
Mother Sal, whom the other man had selected as consignee of the orphan.

“Look-a-here, Rioba,” exclaimed the proprietor of the Cosmopolitan,
abruptly, and standing squarely a couple of yards in front of him, “it
strikes me as it’s about time now for you and me to turn over Jovanny’s
gal here to one of her own _sect_. She needs a mother’s care now--a
mother’s, not a father’s, except her own; nor yit a--a brother’s.”

The Rioba quite understood the situation. He changed his position,
looked Dennison squarely in the eye, and with great coolness drew the
young girl’s arm through his own--He had settled upon this course of
action while walking with the procession. He baulked not. Pointing
straight at Mother Sal’s puffy, oily countenance, he ejaculated, “A
mother!” with ineffable scorn--and then added concisely: “Dennison, I
p’rpose to be responsible henceforth for this here young woman. You are
a liar--a thief--and--”

With a face whereon flashed out in a second all his pent-up wrath
Dennison brought his pistol from behind his back and fired, but passion
made his aim less true than that of the unscathed Rioba; who, entirely
on his guard to meet what he had designedly provoked, fired almost
simultaneously, and laid Dennison dead at his feet.



ETCHINGS: THAT DOOR

(French of Lermina: E. C. Waggener: For Short Stories.)


More nervous than drunk, he closed and locked the door, and by the
light of a taper went to bed. Profound silence! Then, on his ear-drums
tinkled a sound, crystalline, swelling to a vibration, like the notes
of a hautboy interspersed with trumpet calls. The pillow, too, rose and
fell under his head, sucking the brain like an exhauster, to eject it
like a pump.

He opened his eyes. The light hushed the symphony; constrained the
pillow to immobility. The taper flickered and leaped. Then, in the
aureole of light, something black appeared, big, sprawling, with great
antennæ. Ugh! he hated beasts! A beast? No. His arm hung from the bed;
it was the shadow of his hand he saw, thrown by the taper. He turned
on his back, seeing and not seeing; a misty film stretching across the
sclerotic like the nyctoloptic membrane of birds. Fiery atoms danced in
the darkness; his palate like a stopper closed his throat and gummed
it with saliva. Then, in that obscurity, he was conscious of a slow
gliding. It was the door, which he had locked, opening with wing-like
sweeps, uncovering a hole long, narrow, always broader, never longer,
showing black and always blacker.

He stared, lips puffed, parched and parted. But from that hole, that
abyss of nothingness, nothing issued. He waited; a locked door would
never thus open without something coming! He waited; still nothing;
more and more feebly the taper danced; soon it would fall, splutter,
drown in oil. He quickly decided. That something that did not come
_should not come_! Doubling like a serpent he slipped to the floor,
threw himself forward, seized, slammed the door, braced it with one
hand, turned the key with the other. It was done! Breathless, panting,
he returned to bed; not to sleep. His hot skin pricked and stung him;
that devilish symphony, with the roar of a torrent, had recommenced.
And that door, which a second time he had closed, was a second time
reopening, swinging itself back like a vertical sepulchre. The
wing-like sweeps began anew; the black hole widened, blacker always
blacker, then--the taper fell, flashed, died to ember....

He was dead when they found him. The door? Both locked and bolted; but
neither lock nor bolt had caught the socket.



AMONG THE AOULÂD NAÎEL

(Algerian Sketches: Emile Masqueray: Le Figaro: Translated for Short
Stories by Eleanor Moore Hiestand.)


For two wearisome days I had been journeying back and forth in the
country of the Aoulâd Naîel. I was still far from my tent when I threw
myself prone upon the sands, worn out with fatigue. On the previous
afternoon, my guide and I had made a little excursion to a neighboring
_douar_, and I could still hear echoes of the singular greetings
showered upon me by my entertainers:

“Our father! Thy tent is blessed! Thy spurs are strong!”

Suddenly, as I lay there, the clouds seemed to lower above my head;
they grew strangely dense and shone like brass. The manes and tails of
our horses bristled with apprehension. I felt a prolonged shiver pass
over me. A powerful hand seemed to press its weight upon my temples.
Now the frozen sky was streaked with white; now it settled into
oppressive darkness again; and with no living thing in sight upon the
dry and barren plain, we felt utterly alone and at the mercy of some
awful power. Presently a veil seemed to be thrown over our heads, and
night came upon us as suddenly as when a lamp is extinguished in an
otherwise unlighted room.

My guide shouted. We leaped upon our horses who galloped away with
winged feet, trembling with fear, away into the fathomless shadows. In
vain I tried to check this mad pace. I felt like throwing myself face
downward upon the ground, for I thought death awaited us in the saddle;
but my guide spurred on, quite oblivious of me, murmuring:

“There is no God! but God!”

A moment more and the clouds were cleft in twain with an awful crash.
The sky was spread with a sheet of darting flame, and the earth became
so bright that I saw quite plainly the gray lizards crawling in a tuft
of _chih_. Our horses wheeled about, but we used our spurs, and, giving
them the rein, we fled on, not knowing whither we went. We were quite
beside ourselves; we no longer knew what danger it was that lashed us
on. My guide urged on my horse with a hempen whip; I shouted to his.
Again and again lurid flashes of lightning diffused about as dazzling
circles which we traversed with a bound only to enter again into the
terrible darkness. How long had we been flying? How many times had we
barely escaped those awful thunderbolts? I knew only that we sped like
bullets till we struck suddenly against a black cone which loomed up in
our course.

Human cries rent the air, mingled with the howls of dogs.

We were trampling down somebody’s tent.

“Have a care, friend!” cried a voice from the darkness. “Thou art
welcome. I would that thy countenance were known--that thou hadst come
while it was yet day, but praised be God who sent thee to thy servants
to herald the rain.”

We leaped from our saddles and sprang under cover just in time to
escape a cascade from the clouds that would have drenched our very
bones.

       *       *       *       *       *

My host told me in the morning that he was about setting out in company
with all the men of the _douar_ to meet a distinguished _hadj_ who had
just made his third pilgrimage to the Kaaba and Medina, one of the
Brotherhood of Lidi-Abd-el-Kader-el-Djilani, who was now regarded as
almost a saint.

Upon their return, there was to be a festival. In the afternoon, a
banquet of cuckoos, several roast sheep and honey-cakes would be
served; this would be followed by target-practice and dancing--that
is, there would be dancing-girls to entertain us. The tent occupied
by these girls was in the remotest part of the semi-circle which the
_douar_ described. I could see it at a distance; the borders were drawn
up and something red showed from beneath.

I was talking to a youth who asked me in good faith whether I believed
in God and whether it were true that the Europeans married their
sisters. He was evidently studying me as a kind of savage beyond the
reach of Mohammed. Several young women passed by us, bending beneath
the weight of black leathern bottles. The water glued their thin robes
to their skin. They wore no undergarments, and the wind which tossed
their torn clothing, revealed their whole figures in clear profile.
Some were bearing on their heads bundles of briars which they steadied
with their hands. Their arms were long and well shaped; their throats
had no voluptuous fullness; their figures were almost straight up and
down. They looked to me like primitive caryatids of Asia.

My host had a daughter who was barely sixteen; his niece was about
twenty. These girls were eyeing me from afar and could not resist
their curiosity to see and speak to the _Roumi_, who was evidently
bored by the youth talking to him. Under the pretext of bringing me
some water, they came up, one behind the other. They looked very pretty
with their abundant hair intertwined with coral and their smooth
cheeks mingling the hues of amber and rose. The _Roumi_ took the bowl
and drank with his eyes on his pretty servitors. As the eldest seemed
surprised at this impertinence, he apologized for daring to drink in
her presence, and, the ice being broken, they chatted freely. They
sank their dark eyes into the depths of mine, and smiled till their
beautiful teeth dazzled me.

“Why do you not cut off your moustache up to your lip? Why don’t you
shave half of your head? you look like a monkey with all that hair
falling over your face! Of what kind of cloth are your clothes made?
Let us see, please, how it is sewed together. Did your wife make it?
Tell us now--won’t you?--if your wives look like us?”

The elder who plied all these questions was half reclining in the sand,
resting her body on her right hand and leaning forward so as to gain my
ear. I answered her with the first lines of a song:

   “Thy eyes are black without kohol,
    Thy cheeks are red without fard!”

She completed the stanza:

   “’Tis thou who hast given me the fever,
    Thou who hast hurled me upon the mountain!”

Then she turned her face toward the furthest tent, through whose lifted
borders something red shone, and said, abruptly:

“Dost thou know Khamissa?”

“What Khamissa?”

“The dancer.”

“No!”

“Then give us something right away, because, as soon as thou hast seen
her, thy heart will burn itself out, and then wilt thou have nothing to
do with us!”

I had in my pocket a little mirror which I gave her. The younger girl
took my silk handkerchief and begged also for a red girdle I wore. So
they plundered me outright--the little savages--and I was obliged to
smile.

Fortunately for me, some shots were heard; sharp you-yous echoed along
the line of the tents. The _hadj_ was approaching from the depth of
a ravine. There were at least thirty cavaliers attending him, all
mounted on spirited horses which galloped over the brow of the hill,
their tails flying. More than one of these horsemen wore only a shirt,
a shabby sort of a burnous over his shoulders, a rag twisted around his
head, and was mounted on a wooden saddle with no covering, and only two
ends of rope for a bridle! I cannot describe the effect as they came
riding over the hill, their bronzed legs pressing the flanks of their
steeds. What a superb poverty it was! What wonderful bandits these men
were!

The holy pilgrim permitted himself to be borne on a mule’s back. His
eyes were half closed, his cheeks looked pale beneath a large turban
of white muslin. He trembled a little as he set foot upon the ground,
and still more when he seated himself in the midst of a group of young
people, who looked at him with profound awe. I suggested giving him
some quinine, but I was informed that it was the fear of God which
caused him to tremble; the _hadj_ thanked me with a glance which said I
was only a pagan, or else I was a terrible blunderer! The women of the
_douar_ had hidden themselves. They dared not appear before this holy
man, perhaps for fear his sanctity should suffer. Angels have fallen
for love of women.

       *       *       *       *       *

Powder was flashing from noonday till sunset. The women emerged from
their tents, clad in their best. They wore long veils, white or
flowered, which fell from the summit of their lofty head-dresses to
the ground. Their faces were uncovered and quite brilliant with ochre
and vermillion. The horses went prancing by them, and the cavaliers,
in their honor, rode so close that the flaming wads from their guns
burned the women’s red robes. They were intoxicated by the acid odor of
smoke, they cried out like birds of prey, but kept waving handkerchiefs
in the air. A cavalier seized one and galloped away with it. Several
shots were fired after him across the plain. He wheeled about and rode
back to his elected mistress. We grew excited. A breath of anger and
combat blew over us, but, at a sign from the senior cavalier, every
gun was discharged at once, and the noise of this fusillade rose to
the very skies. It was not long ere we were gathered around the roast
sheep, whose savory flanks were decorated with gold, white cuckoos
surmounted by pats of butter and bathed in red sauce. We praised God
and their was no one who complained of being slighted. The holy
pilgrim was not with us. The wife of my host had served him apart
with a young lamb, a huge bowl of sour milk, a fine cake of dates and
semoule. Several piles of shining pieces were also given him in a
kerchief and he was now reciting his litanies in honor of God and of
his patron, dead to all the world but living in celestial councils,
Sidi-Aba-el-Kader-el-Ghilâni-el-Baghdâdi. Khamissa had not yet shown
herself. Only her two companions, Fatma and Zeineb appeared. They wore
blue robes and golden diadems. They said that Khamissa must be either
ill or praying.

       *       *       *       *       *

At last the moon rose and in the open space in the center of the
_douar_, I saw some tapers placed in parallel lines forming a sort of
avenue of light. On either side the women scooped out little holes in
the sand, and executed a few dancing steps. The men squatted alongside
of the rows of tapers, but the women stood in the background, looking
like dark phantoms. I sat with my host and some persons of distinction
at the end and in the middle of the road. Opposite us sat Fatma and
Zeineb, half-reclining in a group of halfa; beyond them a royal profile
was visible. It was she! The words I had heard in the morning rang in
my ears: “Thy heart will be burnt out!” Already the fires kindled as I
looked at her. The flutes discoursed a tender strain. Zenieb and Fatma
were whirling about each other, blue as the sky, shining with golden
stars. Only in the shadow could I see her form outlined softly beneath
the folds of a great piece of white silk which enveloped her.

What said the flutes now? The space was empty. The crackling briars
shot flames up higher than the tents. The flutes called with imperious
vibrating accents, in sad supplications, in wild outbursts, while the
dull thud of the drums in the interval seemed to fire the soul with a
holy enthusiasm.

Khamissa lifted her arms, tossed aside the haïk which enveloped her
and slowly rose. She took several steps and then paused, her elbows
pressed to her sides, her two hands folded against her cheeks, her
head inclining somewhat to the left, her eyes half-closed--it was
the attitude of prayer. She sparkled from head to foot, and, in her
attitude of absolute repose, she looked like a splendid idol.

Her robes were of red, silver and gold. The scarlet drapery, cunningly
drawn about her in thick folds, reached all the way to the ground. A
belt of embossed silver, high under the breasts but low at the sides,
encompassed her like a piece of armor. Upon her bosom lay numerous
golden chains dependant from both sides of her head, which was crowned
by a lofty headdress. This coiffure was made of a black silk turban and
tresses of wool, over which were worn two diadems of gold with pendants
that twinkled upon her forehead. A long white veil parted at her
temples and fell backward over her shoulders to the ground. Neither her
hair nor her ears nor her neck were visible. The perfect oval of her
face, her beautiful cheeks and her long eyes were framed in gold. Her
lips were painted red, her cheeks were touched with saffron and with
rose, her eyelids were colored blue. It was only when she held out her
arms that I saw the velvet whiteness of her flesh, and yet these arms
were laden to the elbows with huge bracelets of silver that bristled
with points.

Was it Pallas-Athene? Was it a Byzantine madonna? Was it a painted
statue from the Acropolis? Who was this coming toward us with slow
steps that glided softly over the sand keeping time with the thunder of
the gongs and the wild flutes that rent the air? She swayed gently and
turned her hands reddened with henna, now holding her head to the right
while her wide-open eyes shone like stars. Her tall and supple body was
invisible, but its movements communicated a divine grace and harmony to
the garments she wore. She swayed to and fro by an insensible movement.
To the young men who gazed upon her, she seemed a goddess! She advanced
in this way till she stood within a few steps of my fascinated eyes;
then she paused and fell back into her first attitude, the pose of a
Virgin in a cathedral window. I watched her deliberately. The pendant
of her diadems were golden fish, the symbols of Jesus Christ, our
Saviour; in the center of her forehead hung the Christian cross; on her
chin which was sculptured out of purest marble, the cross of Buddha
lay; on her blood-colored hands were the seven darts of Solomon’s
candlestick; around her thumbs were two blue threads, the Egyptian
symbol of eternal life. This marvelous creature was unconsciously
consecrated to all religions of the world.

She turned about to retire as slowly as she had advanced. Her long
white veil trailed on the ground. Then she came back with a new rhythm
in her movements, yet still gliding quickly, softly, subtly like
a ray of sunlight. Her steps were longer now. Her lips parted in a
charming smile; her head was half-turned to one side; now the right,
now the left arm was extended to give a playful little tap to some
lover or adorer as she advanced in the midst of beseeching shadows.
Again she paused before the group of which I was a part, turned with
suspended motion and then retreated. As yet not an Arab had stirred.
They were squatting there with their knees pressed against their chins,
half-hidden by their barnous. When she advanced for the third time, the
scene changed. Then she was truly superb!

“O, Heaven! Wonderful! May God bless thy mother! God keep misery from
all who belong to thee!”

Thus the men exclaimed as they pressed each other for a better view,
and the women stifled the _you-yous_ in their throats, pressing their
hands to their eyes.

With a backward motion, she drew off her veil; a quick movement
unfastened the first row of chains from her breast. She turned her
head, spread her arms in a semi-circle, bent her round bust upon her
body, and, as though inspired by the beating of the drums, she tapped
the earth with her naked feet. She came forward with a simple movement,
with no seductive oscillation of the body, yet perfectly intoxicating!
Her eyes shot sparks which fell to her very ankles where circlets of
gold were flashing. It would not have surprised me, had some one of
the young brigands who watched her, snatched her up in his iron grasp,
swung her into his saddle and galloped away. But they seemed content
simply to foreswear and ruin themselves for her. They tossed under
her feet every bit of silver the holy pilgrim had left them; the sand
shone with coins--five franc pieces, the _boudjous_ of Tunis, and old
Spanish _douros_. Now and then, she would pause and start anew, smiling
more radiantly each time she threw out her arms. I shut my eyes for
a moment; I felt she was before me. I saw her kneeling, her breast
swelling beneath the golden chains, raising her blue eyelids, showing
her white teeth set in coral. I leaned toward her; I felt her warm
breath fan my cheek. I laid three gold pieces on her brow and one on
either cheek.

“Khamissa!” I murmured. “Lovely one! Leave me not!”

She smiled her alluring smile. The flutes burst forth in a passionate
appeal. I held out my arms, but she was gone!



ETCHINGS: COMFORT

(Edward Marshall: For Short Stories.)


She was not a pretty sight ... an old woman tottering under sixty years
of poverty ... and now was the worst poverty of all. Her hand, which
gathered a grimy plaid shawl at her throat, trembled ceaselessly from
privation, and the vile liquor privation had brought. She was hungry;
it seemed to her that she had never eaten. She was cold; it seemed to
her that she had never known warmth.

She crept into a little hallway on the water front. The breeze from
the river was not a strong one; but to her it was a hurricane. The
drizzling rain hurt her. The minor tones of a bell from a ship at the
near-by docks told that it was midnight. With inarticulate moans she
crouched down in a corner, closing the door to keep out the wind and
rain.

Something was in the corner, she felt it with her benumbed hands. It
was soft and warm to her touch. A plaintive mew followed. The something
was a cat. At first she rather resented its presence. Then she gathered
it up in her arms and pressed it against the bosom of her ragged old
dress. Here was a creature as miserable as she. It was only a cat, but
she felt less lonely with it in her arms. When she had been a little
girl she had had a pet kitten.

Each was cold--the cat and the woman--but each found some warmth in
the other. The cat stopped mewing and the woman stopped moaning. The
wind had shifted and the rain had ceased. The door swung open again and
the moon hanging calmly beautiful among the clouds, shone through the
tangle of masts and cordage and into the hallway.

The woman, crouched in the corner, held the cat as she would have held
a child. By-and-by she began to rock slowly to and fro. The clouds
drifted away, and the stars joined the moon in peeping through the door.

The woman’s eyes were closed and she was crooning an old-fashioned
lullaby. The cat was very faintly purring and one of its paws rested
on her bare neck. The moon sank slowly out of sight and new clouds
obscured the stars.

When the policeman peered in the hallway just before daybreak, the
woman and the cat were asleep.

And they are still sleeping.



TIMMY MULLIGAN’S RALLY

(James E. Kinsella: Chicago News.)


Little Timmy Mulligan was very sick. Some of his chums said in an awed
whisper: “He is dyin’ dis time, sure pop.”

No more would his 9-year-old war-whoop resound around the corner. No
more would the lake front know Timmy, his bare feet, and his stone
bruises. Never again would he occupy the pitcher’s box and captain
the “Red Hots, de champeens uv all de 9-year-olds on de wes’-side”--a
nine which, through Capt. Timmy’s masterly inshoots, had attained
proud preëminence. Never again would Timmy refresh his jaded spirits
by throwing rocks at the Italian on the corner, who had incurred his
enmity by once refusing him a banana.

Timmy was as sturdy a youngster as ever the west side turned out; he
was as manly and self-reliant as the average Chicago 9-year-old. He was
the cock of the walk among all his companions--the best swimmer, the
best fighter, and the best pitcher in the ward. The neighborhood was
lonesome without Timmy. People could not imagine “what was on the boy,”
once so hearty and vigorous, to keep to his bed.

The little invalid lay stretched out on his couch as flat and as
pallid as a pancake, in the front room away up in Sylvester Mulligan’s
ten-story flat building. The neighbors were coming in droves to cheer
up the ailing youngster.

“You’re not goan to lave me, yer poor ould mither, are ye, Timmy
asthore?” wailed his mother, rocking from side to side in her frenzy of
grief, like a ship in a storm, her voice choked with grief, her eyes
drowned in tears.

“Ye were allus a dutiful child to me, Timmy alanna, and ye wud not be
afther lavin’ yer poor old mither to fight the wurld alone, now wud
ye? You’re the only boy I have left, Timmy, and ye’ll not lave me now
afther raisin’ ye as long as I have. Sphake to him, Father Murphy;
plase do, yer Rivirince--he’ll moind you; he wuz allus a good-hearted
boy, though a thrifle wild. Rayson wid him, father; the fayver has
rached his brain, and he turns his face to the wall from me. He won’t
sphake to me. Oh, it’s heart-scalded I am!”

“What’s this I hear, Timmy, about your talking of dying,” cheerfully
sung out the good Father Murphy, approaching the bedside of the little
sufferer, and taking the boy’s wasted hand in his own. “Why, your
worth a dozen dead men, yet. I could never spare you in the world. Who
could I put in your place as monitor in the school; who else could I
get to run my errands and to bring me my Evening News, eh? Why, Timmy,
my boy, you are indispensable to the parish--you’re a little pillar of
the church--all by yourself. You’re only pretending to be sick--you
who were always so strong and hearty, with the rosiest cheeks and the
brightest eye of all the lads for squares around. Brace up, and leave
all thoughts of dying to old folks like your mother and myself. Do you
hear, Tim?”

Tim did hear, nodding his head feverishly upon his clammy pillow. His
eyes burned with an unnatural fire. They had the appealing glance of a
wounded deer; it would melt your heart but to look at them.

The little invalid tossed uneasily upon the bed; his curling hair, damp
with perspiration and pain, strayed uneasily o’er the pillow; his thin
hands beat the coverlid with the petulance of a sturdy youngster unused
to such close confinement. Yet he spoke not a word.

“Haven’t you a word for your old teacher, Tim, my boy?” asked Father
Murphy, softly.

“Where’s Corkey O’Neill?” yelled out Timmy, suddenly, heedless of the
worthy priest’s entreaty. “I wanter see Corkey; bring ’im up ’ere
immejiate.”

Corkey was instantly produced, shuffling shamefacedly across the
room to the bedside of his stricken comrade. Tim’s brow was knitted
in meditation. His fingers played a tattoo on the blanket. He had a
load on his mind he wanted to dump. Turning restlessly, he unburdened
himself thus:

“I done ye up two weeks ter day, Corkey.”

Corkey admitted the “doing up.”

“But I fout ye fair, Corkey; I didn’t use brass knuckles?”

Corkey was forced to declare that brass knuckles took no active part in
the youthful encounter.

“Ye sed I wuz a ’snide,’ Corkey, didn’t ye?”

It appeared that Corkey had said so.

“I t’umped ye pretty hard. I blacked both o’ yer eyes--or wuz it ony
one?”

It was “ony one,” for Corkey still bore the echo of it on his tinted
left optic.

“Well, wot I wanter say, Corkey, is I’m sorry I bunged you up so
bad. I don’t believe I could whip you the way I am here, but ef you
want satisfaction ye can take it out o’ me now--if you bear enny hard
feelings.”

“I wouldn’t hit a dying kid, not fur de hull west side,” cried out
Corkey, sobbing as if his heart would break, “ye only guv me wot I
deserved, Timmy; I had no right roastin’ you de way I did.”

“Who duz the Red Hots play a Sunday?”

“We wuz a goan to play de Hard Times, Timmy, but now dat you’re sick
an’ can’t pitch we’ve declared the match off--we’d git skunked.”

“Wot did ye do dat for?” savagely exclaimed Timmy. “I’ve a good mind to
black yer other eye for ye.”

“Well, we all made up we wudn’t play till ye got well, Tim; it’s no use
going out on de dimund unless you’re pitchin’.”

Mr. Mulligan appeared to see matters in the proper light.

“Well, I guess you’re about right, Corkey,” he was moved to admit. “I
guess I’ll hav ter get well. I wanter skunk dat crowd of Hard Times wid
me in-shoots and me new snake curve that I’ve been studying out here
the last two weeks while I’ve been rastlin’ wid de blankets. Wot duz
de gang say about me, Corkey, layin’ here in me bed on the flat o’ me
back, like an old granny--me who wuz never sick before?”

“Say, Tim, dey’re orful sorry; they’d cum up here themselves to see ye,
ony yer ole ’ooman wudn’t let ’em.”

“Stick yer hed out uv the windy and yell for ’em to come up,” commanded
the prostrate pitcher.

Corkey thrust his Bulwer Lytton brow out of the window emitting a yell
that caused all the members of the Red Hots to file into the room on
tiptoe, wiping their mouths with their coat sleeves, and hanging their
heads.

“Hello, fellers!”

“Hello, Tim!”

“Wot’s de matter wid ye, Philly Burke? Wot are ye snivellin’ for?
Didn’t ye ever see a sick kid before? An’ you, too, Patsy Carroll--why,
I nivir see sich weakeners as you kids before in all me life. You’re a
nice gang to let yourself be bluffed by them Hard Times crowd. Ye have
no more sand in yer craw than a chicken. I’ve a good notion to sick me
poodle on de hull gang o’ ye. Cum up yere, Danger!”

The little black-and-tan that had retreated under the bureau, where
he kept up growling and showing his teeth at the crowd of strange
visitors, jumped up on the bed and began licking his youthful master’s
hand. Then, turning round, he glared fiercely at the roomful of
sympathizers, his tail lashing the bed, his little black nose uplifted
defiantly. He showed his teeth in a subdued and dangerous snarl, as if
looking out for the shins of the undertaker. All through little Tim’s
sickness the dog had hung around his master’s room in a subdued and
listless manner. When not squatting on the sick boy’s pillow, licking
Tim’s hot and feverish hand, and vigilantly guarding his restless
slumber, the dog would slink away under the bed, as if the boy’s
illness had affected him, also, and had cowed his honest bark and
native pluck into a cowardly snarling and showing of his vicious teeth.

“If that dood of a doctor comes a-monkeying around here enny more
a-pizening me with the medicines he makes me swaller, we’ll giv him
hydrophoby--won’t we, Danger?”

Danger showed his red gums in fierce assent.

“Where’s me ould woman?”

“Here I am, Timmy asthore; what is it?”

“Sind out the kittle for a quart o’ beer. I wanter do the right thing
and treat de gang as has called on me. I guess it’ll be about square.
Whin ye go over with the growler to Danny Shay’s, Corkey, mind ye scoop
in all the free lunch as ye can crib. I guess I could go a little
cheese sandwich meself. Be sure you tell Danny Shay to pack the growler
as tight as he can, Corkey,” was the latter part of the languid yet
hospitable injunction of the stricken Timmy, as he turned over on his
side for a refreshing slumber, the vigilant Danger snugly perched on
his fifth rib.

Mr. Mulligan, I am pleased to state, recovered in time to give the Hard
Times the worst skunking they ever got.

In that match, digging his toenails in the pitcher’s box, his cap
cocked rakishly over his left eye, and Danger coaching “on de side” and
howling like a demon when his master struck out any of the opposing
batsmen, Timmy ladled out to the demoralized Hard Times those justly
celebrated curves of his, reinforced with the famous snake shoot which
he had acquired while tossing oranges on a feverish bed.

Timmy was carried home to the 19th ward in triumph, Danger bringing up
the rear, leaving in his trail the vibrating air churned to a white
heat by his wagging tail.



THE GOBLIN BARBER

_Famous Stories--The Old-time Favorites_

(By Johann Musäus. This writer, little known save to scholars, enjoyed
a great reputation during his life--1733 to 1787--as a collector of his
native folk lore. The Goblin Barber is founded on an old German legend.
Franz Melcherson, a good-for-nothing, squanders a fortune; becomes
beggared; falls in love with his landlady’s daughter, Meta; tramps to
Antwerp to recover money due him; fails to collect, and on his way back
asks shelter at an inn; is refused; curses the landlord, who, to be
revenged, calls him back and lodges him in the haunted castle where the
incidents of this story befall him.)


The castle lay hard by the hamlet, on a steep rock, right opposite
the inn, from which it was divided merely by the highway and a little
gurgling brook. The situation being so agreeable, the edifice was still
kept in repair, and well provided with all sorts of house-gear; for
it served the owner as a hunting-lodge, where he frequently caroused
all day; and so soon as the stars began to twinkle in the sky, retired
with his whole retinue, to escape the mischief of the ghost, who rioted
about in it the whole night over, but by day gave no disturbance.
Unpleasant as the owner felt this spoiling of his mansion by a bugbear,
the nocturnal sprite was not without advantages, for the great security
it gave from thieves. The count could have appointed no trustier or
more watchful keeper over the castle than this same spectre, for the
rashest troop of robbers never ventured to approach this old tower in
the hamlet of Rummelsburg, near Rheinberg.

The sunshine had sunk, the dark night was coming heavily on, when
Franz, with a lantern in his hand, proceeded to the castle-gate,
under the guidance of mine host, who carried in his hand a basket of
victuals, with a flask of wine, which he said should not be marked
against him. He had also taken along with him a pair of candlesticks
and two wax-lights; for in the whole castle there was neither lamp nor
taper, as no one ever stayed in it after twilight. On the way, Franz
noticed the creaking, heavy-laden basket, and the wax-lights, which he
thought he should not need, and yet must pay for. Therefore he said:
“What is this superfluity and waste, as at a banquet? The light in the
lantern is enough to see with till I go to bed; and when I awake the
sun will be high enough, for I am tired, and shall sleep with both
eyes.”

“I will not hide from you,” replied the landlord, “that a story runs
of there being mischief in the castle, and a goblin that frequents it.
You, however, need not let the thing disturb you; we are near enough,
you see, for you to call us; should you meet with aught unnatural I and
my folks will be at your hand in a twinkling to assist you. Down in the
house there we keep astir all night through, some one is always moving.
I have lived here these thirty years, yet I cannot say that I have ever
seen aught. If there be now and then a little hurly-burlying at nights,
it is nothing but cats and martens rummaging about the granary. As a
precaution I have provided you with candles; the night is no friend of
man; and the tapers are consecrated, so that sprites, if there be such
in the castle, will avoid their shine.”

It was no lying in mine host to say that he had never seen anything
of spectres in the castle; for by night he had taken special care not
once to set foot in it; and by day, the goblin did not come to sight.
In the present case, too, the traitor would not risk himself across the
border. After opening the door he handed Franz the basket, directed
him what way to go, and wished him good-night. Franz entered the lobby
without anxiety or fear, believing the ghost story to be empty tattle,
or a tradition of some real occurrence in the place, which idle fancy
had shaped into an unnatural adventure. He had laid it down as a rule
deduced from experiences, when he heard any rumor, to believe exactly
the reverse, and left the grain of truth which, in the opinion of the
wise knight, always lies in such reports, entirely out of sight.

Pursuant to mine host’s direction, he ascended the winding stone stair;
and reached a bolted door, which he opened with his key. A long, dark
gallery, where his footsteps resounded, led him into a large hall, and
from this, a side-door, into a suite of apartments, richly provided
with all furniture for decoration or convenience. Out of these he
chose the room which had the friendliest aspect, where he found a
well-pillowed bed, and from the window could look right down upon
the inn, and catch every loud word that was spoken there. He lit his
wax-tapers, furnished his table, and feasted with the commodiousness
and relish of an Otaheitean noble. The big-bellied flask was an
antidote to thirst. So long as his teeth were in full occupation, he
had no time to think of the reported devilry in the castle. If aught
now and then made a stir in the distance, and Fear called to him,
“Hark! hark! There comes the goblin;” Courage answered: “Stuff! it
is cats and martens bickering and caterwauling.” But in the digestive
half-hour after meat, when the sixth sense, that of hunger and thirst,
no longer occupied the soul, she directed her attention from the other
five exclusively upon the sense of hearing; and already Fear was
whispering three timid thoughts into the listener’s ear, before Courage
had time to answer once.

As the first resource, he locked the door, bolted it, and made his
retreat to the walled seat in the vault of the window. He opened this,
and to dissipate his thoughts a little, looked out on the spangled sky,
gazed at the corroded moon, and counted how often the stars snuffed
themselves. On the road beneath him all was void; and in spite of the
pretended nightly bustle in the inn, the doors were shut, the lights
out, and everything as still as in a sepulchre. On the other hand, the
watchman blew his horn, making his “List, gentlemen!” sound over all
the hamlet; and for the composure of the timorous astronomer, who still
kept feasting his eyes on the splendor of the stars, uplifted a rusty
evening hymn right under his window; so that Franz might easily have
carried on a conversation with him, which, for the sake of company,
he would willingly have done, had he in the least expected that the
watchman would make answer to him.

In a populous city, in the middle of a numerous household, where
there is a hubbub equal to that of a bee-hive, it may form a pleasant
entertainment for the thinker to philosophize on solitude, to decorate
her as the loveliest playmate of the human spirit, to view her under
all her advantageous aspects, and long for her enjoyment as for hidden
treasure. But in scenes where she is no exotic, in the isle of Juan
Fernandez, where a solitary eremite, escaped from shipwreck, lives with
her through long years; or in the dreary nighttime, in a deep wood,
or in an old uninhabited castle, where empty walls and vaults awaken
horror, and nothing breathes of life but the moping owl in the ruinous
turret; there, in good sooth, she is not the most agreeable companion
for the timid anchorite that has to pass his time in her abode,
especially if he is every moment looking for the entrance of a spectre
to augment the party. In such a case it may easily chance that a window
conversation with the watchman shall afford a richer entertainment
for the spirit and the heart, than a reading of the most attractive
eulogy on solitude. If Ritter Zimmerman had been in Franz’s place,
in the castle of Rummelsburg, on the Westphalian marches, he would
doubtless in this position have struck out the fundamental topics of as
interesting a treatise on _Society_, as, inspired to all appearances by
the irksomeness of some ceremonious assembly, he has poured out from
the fullness of his heart in praise of _Solitude_.

Midnight is the hour at which the world of spirits acquires activity
and life, when hebetated animal nature lies entombed in deep slumber.
Franz inclined getting through this critical hour in sleep rather than
awake; so he closed his window, went the round of his rooms once more,
spying every nook and crevice, to see whether all was safe and earthly;
snuffed the lights to make them burn clearer; and without undressing
or delaying, threw himself upon his bed, with which his wearied person
felt unusual satisfaction. Yet he could not get asleep so fast as
he wished. A slight palpitation at the heart, which he ascribed to
a tumult in the blood, arising from the sultriness of the day, kept
him waking for a while; and he failed not to employ this respite in
offering up such a pithy prayer as he had not prayed for many years.
This produced the usual effect, and he softly fell asleep while saying
it.

After about an hour, as he supposed, he started up with a sudden
terror; a thing not at all surprising when there is tumult in the
blood. He was broad awake; he listened whether all was quiet, and
heard nothing but the clock strike twelve; a piece of news which the
watchman forthwith communicated to the hamlet in doleful recitative.
Franz listened for a while, turned on the other side, and was again
about to sleep, when he caught, as it were, the sound of a door grating
in the distance, and immediately it shut with a stifled bang. “Alack!
alack!” bawled Fright into his ear; “this is the ghost in very deed!”
“’Tis nothing but the wind,” said Courage manfully. But quickly it came
nearer, nearer, like the sound of heavy footsteps. Clink here, clink
there, as if a criminal were rattling his irons, or as if the porter
were walking about the castle with his bunch of keys. Alas, here was no
wind business! Courage held his peace; and quaking Fear drove all the
blood to the heart, and made it thump like a smith’s forehammer.

The thing was now beyond jesting. If Fear would still have let Courage
get a word, the latter would have put the terror-struck watcher in
mind of his subsidiary treaty with mine host, and incited him to claim
the stipulated assistance loudly from the window; but for this there
was a want of proper resolution. The quaking Franz had recourse to the
bedclothes, the last fortress of the timorous, and drew them close
over his ears, as bird-ostrich sticks his head in the grass when he
can no longer escape the huntsman. Outside it came along, door up,
door to, with hideous uproar; and at last it reached the bedroom. It
jerked sharply at the lock, tried several keys till it found the right
one; yet the bar still held the door, till a bounce like a thunderclap
made bolt and rivet start, and threw it wide open. Now stalked in a
long, lean man, with a black beard, in ancient garb, and with a gloomy
countenance, his eyebrows hanging down in deep earnestness from his
brow. Over his right shoulder he had a scarlet cloak, and on his head
he wore a peaked hat. With a heavy step he walked thrice in silence up
and down the chamber; looked at the consecrated tapers, and snuffed
them that they might burn brighter. Then he drew aside his cloak,
girded on a scissor pouch which he had under it, produced a set of
shaving tackle, and immediately began to whet a sharp razor on the
broad strap which he wore at his girdle.

Franz perspired in mortal agony under his coverlet; recommended himself
to the keeping of the Virgin; and anxiously speculated on the object of
this manœuvre, not knowing whether it was meant for his throat or his
beard. To his comfort, the goblin poured some water from a silver flask
into a basin of silver, and with his skinny hand lathered the soap into
a light foam; then set a chair, and beckoned with a solemn look to the
quaking looker-on to come forth from among the quivering bedclothes.

Against so pertinent a sign remonstrance was as bootless as against
the rigorous commands of the Grand Turk when he transmits an exiled
vizier to the angel of death, the Capichi Bashi with the silken cord,
to take delivery of his head. The most rational procedure that can be
adopted in this critical case is to comply with necessity, put a good
face on a bad business, and with stoical composure let one’s throat be
noosed. Franz honored the spectre’s order; the coverlet began to move,
he sprang sharply from his couch, and took the place pointed out to
him. However strange this quick transition from the uttermost terror
to the boldest resolution may appear, I doubt not but Moritz in his
_Psychological Journal_ could explain the matter till it seemed quite
natural.

Immediately the goblin barber tied the towel about the shivering
customer, seized the comb and scissors, and clipped off his hair and
beard. Then he soaped him scientifically; first the beard, next the
eyebrows, at last the temples and the hind-head; and shaved him from
throat to nape, as smooth and bald as a death’s-head. This operation
finished, he washed his head, dried it clean, made his bow, and
buttoned up his scissor pouch, wrapped himself in his scarlet mantle,
and made for departing. The consecrated tapers had burned with an
exquisite brightness through the whole transaction; and Franz, by the
light of them, perceived in the mirror that the shaver had changed him
into a Chinese pagoda. In secret he heartily deplored the loss of his
fair brown locks; yet took fresh breath as he observed that with this
sacrifice the account was settled, and the ghost had no more power over
him.

So it was in fact; Redcloak went toward the door, silently as he had
entered, without salutation or good-bye, and seemed entirely the
contrast of his talkative guild-brethern. But scarcely was he gone
three steps when he paused, looked round with a mournful expression at
his well-served customer, and stroked the flat of his hand over his
black, bushy beard. He did the same a second time, and again just as
he was in the act of stepping out at the door. A thought struck Franz
that the spectre wanted something, and a rapid combination of ideas
suggested that perhaps he was expecting the very service he himself had
just performed.

As the ghost, notwithstanding his rueful look, seemed more disposed
for banter than for seriousness, and had played his guest a scurvy
trick--not done him any real injury, the panic of the latter had now
almost subsided. So he ventured the experiment, and beckoned to the
ghost to take the seat from which he had himself just risen. The goblin
instantly obeyed, threw off his coat, laid his barber tackle on the
table, and placed himself in the chair, in the posture of a man that
wishes to be shaved. Franz carefully observed the same procedure which
the spectre had observed to him; clipped his beard with the scissors,
cropped away his hair, lathered his whole scalp, and the ghost all the
while sat steady as a wig-block. The awkward journeyman came ill at
handling the razor; he had never had another in his hand, and he shore
the beard right against the grain, whereat the goblin made as strange
grimaces as Erasmus’s ape when imitating its master’s shaving. Nor
was the unpracticed bungler himself well at ease, and he thought more
than once of the sage aphorism, “What is not thy trade make not thy
business;” yet he struggled through the task the best way he could, and
scraped the ghost as bald as he himself had been scraped.

Hitherto the scene between the spectre and the traveler had been played
pantomimically; the action now became dramatic. “Stranger,” said the
ghost, “accept my thanks for the service thou hast done me. By thee I
am delivered from the long imprisonment which has chained me for three
hundred years within these walls, to which my departed soul was doomed,
till a mortal hand should consent to retaliate on me what I practiced
on others in my lifetime.

“Know that of old a reckless scorner dwelt within this tower, who
took his sport on priests as well as laics. Count Hardman, such his
name, was no philanthropist, acknowledged no superior, and no law, but
practiced vain caprice and waggery, regarding not the sacredness of
hospitable rights; the wanderer who came beneath his roof, the needy
man who asked a charitable alms of him, he never sent away unvisited by
wicked joke. I was his castle barber, still a willing instrument, and
did whatever pleased him. Many a pious pilgrim, journeying past us, I
allured with friendly speeches to the hall; prepared the bath for him,
and when he thought to take good comfort, shaved him smooth and bald,
and packed him out of doors. Then would Count Hardman, looking from the
window, see with pleasure how the foxes’ whelps of children gathered
from the hamlet to assail the outcast, and to cry, as once their
fellows to Elijah:

“‘Baldhead! Baldhead!’

“In this the scoffer took pleasure, laughing with a devilish joy till
he would hold his pot-paunch, and his eyes ran down with water.

“Once came a saintly man from foreign lands; he carried, like a
penitent, a heavy cross upon his shoulder, and had stamped five nail
marks on his hands and feet and side; upon his head there was a ring
of hair like to the crown of thorns. He called upon us here, requested
water for his feet and a small crust of bread. Immediately I took him
to the bath to serve him in my common way; respected not the sacred
ring, but shore it clean from off him. Then the pious pilgrim spoke
a heavy malison upon me: ‘Know, accursed man, that when thou diest,
heaven, and hell, and purgatory’s iron gate are shut against thy soul.
As goblin it shall rage within these walls, till unrequired, unbid, a
traveler come and exercise retaliation on thee.’

“That hour I sickened, and the marrow in my bones dried up; I faded
like a shadow. My spirit left the wasted carcass, and was exiled to
this castle, as the saint had doomed it. In vain I struggled for
deliverance from the torturing bonds that fettered me to earth; for
thou must know that when the soul forsakes her clay she panteth for her
place of rest, and this sick longing spins her years to aeons, while
in foreign elements she languishes for home. Now self-tormenting, I
pursued the mournful occupation I had followed in my lifetime. Alas! my
uproar soon made desolate this house. But seldom came a pilgrim here to
lodge. And though I treated all like thee, no one would understand me,
and perform, as thou, the service which has freed my soul from bondage.
Henceforth shall no hobgoblin wander in this castle; I return to my
long-wished-for rest. And now, young stranger, once again my thanks
that thou hast loosed me! Were I keeper of deep-hidden treasures, they
were thine; but wealth in life was not my lot, nor in this castle lies
there any cash entombed. Yet mark my counsel. Tarry here till beard
and locks again shall cover chin and scalp; then turn thee homeward to
thy native town; and on the Weser-bridge of Bremen, at the time when
day and night in autumn are alike, wait for a friend who there will
meet thee, who will tell thee what to do, that it be well with thee on
earth. If from the golden horn of plenty blessing and abundance flow to
thee, then think of me; and ever as the day thou freedst me from the
curse comes round, cause for my soul’s repose three masses to be said.
Now fare thee well. I go, no more returning.”

With these words the ghost, having by his copiousness of talk
satisfactorily attested his former existence as court-barber in the
castle of Rummelsburg, vanished into air, and left his deliverer
full of wonder at the strange adventure. He stood for a long while
motionless, in doubt whether the whole matter had actually happened, or
an unquiet dream had deluded his senses; but his bald head convinced
him that there had been a real occurrence. He returned to bed, and
slept, after the fright he had undergone, till the hour of noon. The
treacherous landlord had been watching since morning, when the traveler
with the scalp was to come forth, that he might receive him with jibing
speeches under pretext of astonishment at his nocturnal adventure. But
as the stranger loitered too long, and midday was approaching, the
affair became serious; and mine host began to dread that the goblin
might have treated his guest a little harshly, have beaten him to a
jelly perhaps, or so frightened him that he had died of terror; and
to carry his wanton revenge to such a length as this had not been
his intention. He therefore rung his people together, hastened out
with man and maid to the tower, and reached the door of the apartment
where he had observed the light on the previous evening. He found an
unknown key in the lock; but the door was barred within, for after the
disappearance of the goblin, Franz had again secured it. He knocked
with a perturbed violence, till the Seven Sleepers themselves would
have awoke at the din. Franz started up, and thought in his first
confusion that the ghost was again standing at the door to favor him
with another call. But hearing mine host’s voice, who required nothing
more but that his guest would give some sign of life, he gathered
himself up and opened the door.

With seeming horror at the sight of him, mine host, striking his hands
together, exclaimed, “By heaven and all the saints! Redcloak” (by this
name the ghost was known among them) “_has_ been here, and has shaved
you bald as a block! Now, it is clear as day that the old story is no
fable. But tell me, how looked the goblin; what did he say to you? what
did he do?”

Franz, who had now seen through the questioner, made answer: “The
goblin looked like a man in a red cloak; what he did is not hidden from
you, and what he said I well remember: ‘Stranger,’ said he, ‘trust no
innkeeper who is a Turk in grain. What would befall thee here he knew.
Be wise and happy. I withdraw from this my ancient dwelling, for my
time is run. Henceforth no goblin riots here; I now become a silent
incubus to plague the landlord; nip him, tweak him, harrass him, unless
the Turk do expiate his sin; do freely give thee food and lodging till
brown locks again shall cluster round thy head.’”

The landlord shuddered at these words, cut a large cross in the air
before him, vowed by the Holy Virgin to give the traveler free board so
long as he liked to continue, led him over to his house and treated him
with the best. By this adventure Franz had well-nigh got the reputation
of a conjurer, as the spirit thenceforth never once showed face. He
often passed the night in the tower; and a desperado of the village
once kept him company, without having beard or scalp disturbed. The
owner of the place, having learned that Redcloak no longer walked in
Rummelsburg, was delighted at the news, and ordered that the stranger,
who, as he supposed, had laid him, should be well taken care of.

By the time when the clusters were beginning to be colored on the vine,
and the advancing autumn reddened the apples, Franz’s brown locks were
again curling over his temples, and he girded up his knapsack; for all
thoughts and meditations were turned upon the Weser-bridge, to seek
the friend, who, at the behest of the goblin barber, was to direct
him how to make his fortune. When about taking leave of mine host,
that charitable person led from his stable a horse well saddled and
equipped, which the owner of the castle had presented to the stranger,
for having made his house again habitable; nor had the count forgot to
send a sufficient purse along with it to bear his traveling charges;
and so Franz came riding back into his native city, brisk and light
of heart. He sought out his old quarters, but kept himself quite
retired, only inquiring underhand how matters stood with the fair Meta,
whether she was still alive and unwedded. To this inquiry he received
a satisfactory answer, and contented himself with it in the meanwhile;
for, till his fate was decided, he would not risk appearing in her
sight, or making known to her his arrival in Bremen.

With unspeakable longing he waited the equinox; his impatience made
every intervening day a year. At last the long-wished-for term
appeared. The night before he could not close an eye for thinking of
the wonders that were coming. The blood was whirling and beating in
his arteries, as it had done at the Castle of Rummelsburg, when he lay
in expectation of his spectre visitant. To be sure of not missing his
expected friend, he rose by daybreak, and proceeded with the earliest
dawn to the Weser-bridge, which as yet stood empty, and untrod by
passengers. He walked along it several times in solitude, with that
presentiment of coming gladness which includes in it the real enjoyment
of all terrestrial felicity; for it is not the attainment of our
wishes, but the undoubted hope of attaining them, which offers to the
human soul the full measure of highest and most heartfelt satisfaction.
He formed many projects as to how he should present himself to his
beloved Meta, when his looked-for happiness should have arrived;
whether it would be better to appear before her in full splendor, or
to mount from his former darkness with the first gleam of morning
radiance, and discover to her by degrees the change in his condition.
Curiosity, moreover, put a thousand questions to Reason in regard
to the adventure. Who can the friend be that is to meet me on the
Weser-bridge? Will it be one of my old acquaintances, by whom, since my
ruin, I have been entirely forgotten? How will he pave the way to me
for happiness? And will this way be short or long, easy or toilsome?
To the whole of which Reason, in spite of her thinking, answered not a
word.

In about an hour the bridge began to get awake; there was riding,
driving, walking to and fro on it, and much commercial ware passing
this way and that. The usual dayguard of beggars and importunate
persons also by degrees took up this post, so favorable for their
trade, to levy contributions on the public benevolence; for of
poorhouses and workhouses the wisdom of legislators had as yet formed
no scheme. The first of the tattered cohort that applied for alms to
the jovial promenader, from whose eyes gay hope laughed forth, was a
discharged soldier, provided with the military badge of a timber leg,
which had been lent him, seeing he had fought so stoutly in former
days for his native country, as the recompense of his valor, with the
privilege of begging where he pleased; and who now, in the capacity of
physiognomist, pursued the study of man upon the Weser-bridge, with
such success, that he very seldom failed in his attempts for charity.
Nor did his exploratory glance mislead him in the present instance; for
Franz, in the joy of his heart, threw a white engelgroshen into the
cripple’s hat.

During the morning hours, when none but the laborious artisan is
busy, and the more exalted townsmen still lie in sluggish rest, he
scarcely looked for his promised friend; he expected him in the higher
classes, and took little notice of the present passengers. About the
council-hour, however, when the proceres of Bremen were driving past
to the hall, in their gorgeous robes of office, and about exchange
time, he was all eye and ear; he spied the passengers from afar, and
when a right man came along the bridge his blood began to flutter, and
he thought here was the creator of his fortune. Meanwhile hour after
hour passed on; the sun rose high; ere long the noontide brought a
pause in business; the rushing crowd faded away, and still the expected
friend appeared not. Franz now walked up and down the bridge quite
alone; had no society in view but the beggars, who were serving out
their cold collations without moving from the place. He made no scruple
to do the same; purchased some fruit, and took his dinner _inter
ambulandum_.

The whole club that was dining on the Weser-bridge had remarked
the young man watching here from early morning till noon, without
addressing any one or doing any sort of business. They held him to
be a lounger; and though all of them had tasted his bounty, he did
not escape their critical remarks. In jest they had named him the
bridge-bailiff. The physiognomist with the timber-toe, however, noticed
that his countenance was not now so gay as in the morning; he appeared
to be reflecting earnestly on something; he had drawn his hat close
over his face; his movement was slow and thoughtful; he had nibbled at
an apple rind for some time, without seeming to be conscious that he
was doing so. From this appearance of affairs the man-spier thought he
might extract some profit; therefore he put his wooden and his living
leg in motion, and stilted off to the other end of the bridge, and lay
in wait for the thinker, that he might assail him, under the appearance
of a new arrival, for a fresh alms. This invention prospered to the
full; the musing philosopher gave no heed to the mendicant, put his
hand into his pocket mechanically, and threw a six-groat piece into the
fellow’s hat, to be rid of him.

In the afternoon a thousand new faces once more came abroad. The
watcher was now tired of his unknown friend’s delaying, yet hope still
kept his attention on the stretch. He stepped into the view of every
passenger, hoped that one of them would clasp him in his arms; but all
proceeded coldly on their way, the most did not observe him at all,
and few returned his salute with a slight nod. The sun was already
verging to decline, the shadows were becoming longer, the crowd upon
the bridge diminished; and the beggar-brigade by degrees drew back into
their barracks in the Mattenburg. A deep sadness sank upon the hopeless
Franz when he saw his expectation mocked, and the lordly prospect which
had lain before him in the morning vanish from his eyes at evening. He
fell into a sort of sulky desperation; was on the point of springing
over the parapet, and dashing himself down from the bridge into the
river. But the thought of Meta kept him back, and induced him to
postpone his purpose till he had seen her yet once more. He resolved to
watch her next day when she should go to church, for the last time to
drink delight from her looks, and then forthwith to still his warm love
forever in the cold stream of the Weser.

While about to leave the bridge he was met by the invalided pikeman
with the wooden leg, who, for pastime, had been making many
speculations as to what could be the young man’s object, that had
made him watch upon the bridge from dawn to darkness. He himself had
lingered beyond his usual time, that he might wait him out; but as the
matter hung too long upon the pegs, curiosity incited him to turn to
the youth himself, and question him respecting it.

“No offence, young gentleman,” said he, “allow me to ask you a
question.”

Franz, who was not in a talking humor, and was meeting, from the mouth
of a cripple, the address which he had looked for with such longing
from a friend, answered rather testily, “Well, then, what is it? Speak,
old graybeard.”

“We two,” said the other, “were the first upon the bridge to-day, and
now, you see, we are the last. As to me and others of my kidney, it is
our vocation brings us hither, our trade of alms-gathering; but for
you, in sooth you are not of our guild; yet you have watched here the
whole blessed day. Now I pray you, tell me, if it is not a secret, what
is it that brings you hither, or what stone is lying on your heart.”

“What good were it to thee, old blade,” said Franz, bitterly, “to know
where the shoe pinches me, or what concern is lying on my heart? It
will give thee small care.”

“Sir, I have a kind wish toward you, because you opened your hand and
gave me alms; but your countenance at night is not so cheerful as in
the morning, and that grieves my heart.”

The kindly sympathy of this old warrior pleased the misanthrope, so
that he willingly pursued the conversation.

“Why, then,” answered he, “if thou wouldst know what has made me battle
here all day with tedium, thou must understand that I was waiting for a
friend, who appointed me hither, and now leaves me to expect in vain.”

“Under favor,” answered Timbertoe, “if I might speak my mind, this
friend of yours, be he who he like, is little better than a rogue, to
lead you such a dance. If he treated _me_ so, by my faith, his crown
should get acquainted with my crutch next time we met. If he could not
keep his word he should have let you know, and not thus bamboozle you
as if you were a child.”

“Yet I cannot altogether blame this friend,” said Franz, “for being
absent; he did not promise; it was but a dream that told me I should
meet him here.”

The goblin tale was too long for him to tell, so he veiled it under
cover of a dream.

“Ah! that is another story,” said the beggar; “if you build on dreams
it is little wonder that your hope deceives you. I myself have dreamed
much foolish stuff in my time, but I was never such a madman as to heed
it. Had I all the treasures that have been allotted to me in dreams,
I might buy the city of Bremen, were it sold by auction. But I never
credited a jot of them, or stirred hand or foot to prove their worth or
worthlessness. I knew well it would be lost. Ha! I must really laugh
in your face, to think that, on the order of an empty dream, you have
squandered a fair day of your life, which you might have spent better
at a merry banquet.”

“The issue shows that thou art right, old man, and that dreams many
times deceive. But,” continued Franz, defensively, “I dreamed so
vividly and circumstantially, above three months ago, that on this very
day, in this very place, I should meet a friend, who would tell me
things of the deepest importance, that it was well worth while to come
and see if it would come to pass.”

“O, as for vividness,” said Timbertoe, “no man can dream more vividly
than I. There is one dream I had, which I shall never in my life
forget. I dreamed, who knows how many years ago, that my guardian angel
stood before my bed in the figure of a youth, with golden hair, and
two silver wings on his back, and said to me: ‘Berthold, listen to the
words of my mouth, that none of them be lost from thy heart. There is
a treasure appointed thee which thou shalt dig, to comfort thy heart
withal for the remaining days of thy life. To-morrow, about evening,
when the sun is going down, take spade and shovel upon thy shoulder;
go forth from the Mattenburg on the right, across the Tieber, by the
Balkenbrücke, past the cloister of St. John’s, and on to the Great
Roland. Then take thy way over the court of the cathedral, through the
Schüsselkorb, till thou arrive without the city at a garden, which
has this mark, that a stair of three stone steps leads down from the
highway to its gate. Wait by a side, in secret, till the sickle of the
moon shall shine on thee, then push with the strength of a man against
the weak-barred gate, which will resist thee little. Enter boldly into
the garden, and turn thee to the vine trellises which overhang the
covered walk; behind this, on the left, a tall apple tree overtops
the lowly shrubs. Go to the trunk of this tree, thy face turned right
against the moon; look three ells before thee on the ground, thou shalt
see two cinnamon rose bushes; there strike in and dig three spans deep,
till thou find a stone plate; under this lies the treasure, buried
in an iron chest, full of money and money’s worth. Though the chest
be heavy and clumsy, avoid not the labor of lifting it from its bed;
it will reward thy trouble well, if thou seek the key which lies hid
beneath it.’”

In astonishment at what he heard, Franz stared and gazed upon the
dreamer, and could not have concealed his amazement had not the dusk
of night been on his side. By every mark in the description he had
recognized his own garden, left him by his father, and which in the
days of his extravagance, he had sold for an old song.

To Franz the pikeman had at once become extremely interesting, as he
perceived that this was the very friend to whom the goblin in the
castle of Rummelsburg had consigned him. Gladly could he have embraced
the veteran, and in the first rapture called him friend and father; but
he restrained himself, and found it more advisable to keep his thoughts
about this piece of news to himself. So he said, “Well, this is what I
call a circumstantial dream. But what didst thou do, old master, in the
morning, on awakening? Didst thou not follow whither thy guardian angel
beckoned thee?”

“Pooh,” said the dreamer, “why should I toil, and have my labor for my
pain? It was nothing, after all, but a mere dream. My guardian angel
takes little charge of me, I think, else I should not, to his shame,
be going hitching about here on a wooden leg.”

Franz took out the last piece of silver he had on him: “There,” said
he, “old father, take this other gift from me, to get thee a pint of
wine for evening-cup; thy talk has driven away my ill humor. Neglect
not diligently to frequent this bridge; we shall see each other here, I
hope, again.”

The lame old man had not gathered so rich a stock of alms for many a
day as he was now possessed off; he blessed his benefactor for his
kindness, hopped away into a drinking shop to do himself a good turn;
while Franz, enlivened with new hope, hastened off to his lodging in
the alley.

Next day he got in readiness everything that is required for
treasure-digging. The unessential equipments, conjurations, magic
formulas, magic girdles, hieroglyphic characters, and such like, were
entirely wanting; but these are not indispensable, provided there be no
failure in the three main requisites--shovel, spade, and, before all, a
treasure underground. The necessary implements he carried to the place
a little before sunset, and hid them for the meanwhile in a hedge; and
as to the treasure itself, he had the firm conviction that the goblin
in the castle and the friend on the bridge would prove no liars to him.
With longing impatience he expected the rising of the moon, and no
sooner did she stretch her silver horns over the bushes than he briskly
set to work, observing exactly everything the old man had taught him;
and happily raised the treasure without meeting any adventure in the
process, without any black dog having frightened him, or any bluish
flame having lighted him to the spot.

Father Melchior, in burying this penny for a rainy day, had nowise
meant that his son should be deprived of so considerable part of
his inheritance. The mistake lay in this, that death had escorted
the testator out of the world in another way than said testator had
expected. He had been completely convinced that he should take his
journey, old and full of days, after regulating his temporal concerns
with all the formalities of an ordinary sick-bed; for so it had been
prophesied to him in his youth. In consequence he purposed, when,
according to the usage of the church, extreme unction should have
been dispensed to him, to call his beloved son to his bedside, having
previously dismissed all bystanders, there to give him the paternal
blessing, and by way of farewell memorial direct him to this treasure
buried in the garden. All this, too, would have happened in just order,
if the light of the old man had departed like that of a wick whose
oil is done; but as death had privily snuffed him out at a feast, he
undesignedly took along with him his secret to the grave.

With immeasurable joy the treasure-digger took possession of the
shapeless Spanish pieces, which, with a vast multitude of other
finer coins the old chest had faithfully preserved. When the first
intoxication of delight had in some degree evaporated, he bethought
him how the treasure was to be transported, safe and unobserved into
the narrow alley. The burden was too heavy to be carried without help;
thus, with the possession of riches, all the cares attendant on them
were awakened. The new Crœsus found no better plan than to intrust his
capital to the hollow trunk of a tree that stood behind the garden,
in a meadow; the empty chest he again buried under the rose-bush, and
smoothed the place as well as possible. In the space of three days the
treasure had been faithfully transmitted by instalments from the hollow
tree into the narrow alley; and now the owner of it thought he might
with honor lay aside his strict incognito. He dressed himself with the
finest; had his prayer displaced from the church, and required, instead
of it, “A Christian thanksgiving for a traveler on returning to his
native town, after happily arranging his affairs.” He hid himself in
a corner of the church, where he could observe the fair Meta, without
himself being seen; he turned not his eye from the maiden, and drank
from her looks the actual rapture which in foretaste had restrained him
from suicide on the bridge of the Weser. When the thanksgiving came in
hand, a glad sympathy shone from all her features and the cheeks of the
virgin glowed with joy.

Franz now appeared once more on the Exchange; began a branch of trade
which in a few weeks extended to a great scale; and as his wealth
became daily more apparent, Neighbor Grudge, the scandal-chewer, was
obliged to conclude, that in the cashing of his old debts he must have
had more luck than sense. He hired a large house, fronting the Roland,
in the market-place; engaged clerks and warehousemen; carried on his
trade unweariedly; married Meta; provided for old Timbertoe; lived
happily with his wife; and found the most tolerable mother-in-law that
has ever been discovered.



Transcriber’s Notes


The Table of Contents was added by the Transcriber.

Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant
preference was found in the original book; otherwise they were not
changed. Inconsistent hyphenation was not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; all unbalanced quotation
marks were remedied.

Words in dialect have not been checked for consistency and have not
been changed.

The credit line for each story was printed at the bottom of the
story’s first page. In this eBook, those credit lines have been
repositioned just below the titles and enclosed in parentheses.

Page 151: “mien” was printed as “mein”; changed here.

Page 160: “via Bourdeaux” was printed as “via., Bourdeaux”; changed
here.

Page 195: “ricocheting” was printed as “richocheting”; changed here.

Page 201: “curiosities” was printed as “curosities”; changed here.

Page 210: “chimpanze” was printed that way.

Page 217: The “m” in “Embalm” was italicized in the original book; not
changed here.

Page 252: “young gentleman” was printed as “young gentlemen”; changed
here.

Page 255: “he was now possessed off” was printed that way.





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