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Title: Told by the Colonel
Author: Alden, W. L. (William Livingston)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Told by the Colonel" ***

Transcriber’s Note: Readers may wish to be warned that the Colonel’s
tales, and the accompanying illustrations, contain outdated racial
stereotyping and language.

                           TOLD BY THE COLONEL.

                               W. L. ALDEN,
          _Author of “A Lost Soul,” “Adventures of Jimmy Brown,”
                   “Trying to Find Europe,” etc., etc._

                              ILLUSTRATED BY
                       RICHARD JACK AND HAL HURST.

                                 NEW YORK
                          J. SELWIN TAIT & SONS

                           COPYRIGHT, 1893, BY
                          J. SELWIN TAIT & SONS




    JEWSEPPY,                         12

    THAT LITTLE FRENCHMAN,            26

    THOMPSON’S TOMBSTONE,             38

    A UNION MEETING,                  52

    A CLERICAL ROMANCE,               63

    A MYSTERY,                        80

    MY BROTHER ELIJAH,                93

    THE ST. BERNARD MYTH,            108

    A MATRIMONIAL ROMANCE,           124

    HOSKINS’ PETS,                   139

    THE CAT’S REVENGE,               153

    SILVER-PLATED,                   168



Four Americans were sitting in the smoking-room of a Paris hotel. One
of them was a grizzled, middle-aged man, who sat silent and apart from
the others and consumed his heavy black cigar with a somewhat gloomy
air. The other three were briskly talking. They had been three days in
Paris, and had visited the Moulin Rouge, the tomb of Napoleon, and the
sewers, and naturally felt that they were thoroughly acquainted with
the French capital, the French government, and the French people. They
were unanimously of the opinion that Paris was in all things fifty years
behind the age, and at least sixty behind Chicago. There was nothing
fit to eat, drink, or smoke in Paris. The French railway carriages were
wretched and afforded no facilities for burning travellers in case of
an accident. The morals of French society—as studied at the Moulin
Rouge—were utterly corrupt, owing possibly to that absence of free trade
in wives and husbands which a liberal system of divorce permits. The
French people did not understand English, which was alone sufficient to
prove them unfit for self-government, and their preference for heavy
five-franc pieces when they might have adopted soft and greasy dollar
bills showed their incurable lack of cleanliness.

Suddenly the silent man touched the bell and summoned a waiter.

“Waiter,” he said, as that functionary entered the room, “bring me an

“If you please, sir?” suggested the waiter, timidly.

“I said, bring me an owl! If you pretend to talk English you ought to
understand that.”

“Yes, sir. Certainly, sir. How would you please to have the nowl?”

“Never you mind. You go and bring me an owl, and don’t be too long about

The waiter was gone some little time, and, then returning, said, “I am
very sorry, sir, but we cannot give you a nowl to-night. The barkeeper is
out of one of the materials for making nowls. But I can bring you a very
nice cocktail.”

“Never mind,” replied the American. “That’ll do. You can go now.”

“I beg your pardon, sir,” said one of the three anatomizers of the French
people, speaking with that air of addressing a vast popular assemblage
which is so characteristic of dignified American conversationalists.
“Would you do me the favor to tell me and these gentlemen why you ordered
an owl?”

“I don’t mind telling you,” was the answer, “but I can’t very well do it
without telling you a story first.”

“All right, Colonel. Give us the story, by all means.”

The elderly American leaned back in his chair searching for inspiration
with his gaze fixed on the chandelier. He rolled his cigar lightly from
one corner of his mouth to the other and back again, and presently began:

“A parrot, gentlemen, is the meanest of all creation. People who are
acquainted with parrots, and I don’t know that you are, generally admit
that there is nothing that can make a parrot ashamed of himself. Now this
is a mistake, for I’ve seen a parrot made ashamed of himself, and he was
the most conceited parrot that was ever seen outside of Congress. It
happened in this way.

“I came home one day and found a parrot in the house. My daughter Mamie
had bought him from a sailor who was tramping through the town. Said he
had been shipwrecked, and he and the parrot were the only persons saved.
He had made up his mind never to part with that bird, but he was so
anxious to get to the town where his mother lived that he would sell him
for a dollar. So Mamie she buys him, and hangs him up in the parlor and
waits for him to talk.


“It turned out that the parrot couldn’t talk anything but Spanish, and
very little of that. And he wouldn’t learn a word of English, though my
daughter worked over him as if he had been a whole Sunday-school. But one
day he all at once began to teach himself English. Invented a sort of
Ollendorff way of studying, perhaps because he had heard Mamie studying
French that way. He’d begin by saying, ‘Does Polly want a cracker?’ and
then he’d go on and ring the changes. For example, just to give you an
idea of the system, he’d say, ‘Does Polly want the lead cracker of the
plumber or the gold cracker of the candlestick maker?’ and then he’d
answer, ‘No, Polly does not want the lead cracker of the plumber nor the
gold cracker of the candlestick maker, but the large steel cracker of the
blacksmith.’ He used to study in this way three hours every morning and
three every afternoon, and never stop for Sundays, being, as I suppose,
a Roman Catholic, and not a Sabbath-keeping bird. I never saw a bird
so bent on learning a language as this one was, and he fetched it. In
three months’ time that parrot could talk English as well as you or I,
and a blamed sight better than that waiter who pretends that he talks
English. The trouble was the parrot would talk all the time when he was
not asleep. My wife is no slouch at talking, but I’ve seen her burst into
tears and say, ‘It’s no use, I can’t get in a word edgewise.’ And no
more could she. That bird was just talking us deaf, dumb, and blind. The
cat, he gave it up at an early stage of the proceedings. The parrot was
so personal in his remarks—asking the cat if he had ever seen a mouse in
his whole life, and wanting to know who it was that helped him to paint
the back fence red the other night, till the cat, after cursing till all
was blue, went out of the house and never showed up again. He hadn’t the
slightest regard for anybody’s feelings, that bird hadn’t. No parrot ever

“He wasn’t content with talking three-fourths of the time, but he had a
habit of thinking out loud which was far worse than his conversation.
For instance, when young Jones called of an evening on my daughter, the
parrot would say, ‘Well, I suppose that young idiot will stay till
midnight, and keep the whole house awake as usual.’ Or when the Unitarian
minister came to see my wife the parrot would just as likely as not
remark, ‘Why don’t he hire a hall if he must preach, instead of coming
here and wearing out the furniture?’ Nobody would believe that the parrot
made these remarks of his own accord, but insisted that we must have
taught them to him. Naturally, folks didn’t like this sort of thing, and
after a while hardly anybody came inside our front door.

“And then that bird developed a habit of bragging that was simply
disgusting. He would sit up by the hour and brag about his superiority
to other birds, and the beauty of his feathers, and his cage, and the
gorgeousness of the parlor, and the general meanness of everything except
himself and his possessions. He made me so tired that I sometimes wished
I were deaf. You see, it was the infernal ignorance of the bird that
aggravated me. He didn’t know a thing of the world outside of our parlor;
and yet he’d brag and brag till you couldn’t rest.


“You may ask why didn’t we kill him, or sell him, or give him to the
missionaries, or something of that sort. Well, Mamie, she said it would
be the next thing to murder if we were to wring his neck; and that
selling him would be about the same as the slave-trade. She wouldn’t let
me take the first step toward getting rid of the parrot, and the prospect
was that he’d drive us clean out of the house.

“One day a man who had had considerable experience of parrots happened to
come in, and when I complained of the bird he said, ‘Why don’t you get
an owl? You get an owl and hang him up close to that parrot’s cage, and
in about two days you’ll find that your bird’s dead sick of unprofitable

“Well, I got a small owl and put him in a cage close to the parrot’s
cage. The parrot began by trying to dazzle the owl with his conversation,
but it wouldn’t work. The owl sat and looked at the parrot just as solemn
as a minister whose salary has been cut down, and after a while the
parrot tried him with Spanish. It wasn’t of any use. Not a word would
the owl let on to understand. Then the parrot tried bragging, and laid
himself out to make the owl believe that of all the parrots in existence
he was the ablest. But he couldn’t turn a feather of the owl. That noble
bird sat silent as the grave, and looked at the parrot as if to say,
‘This is indeed a melancholy exhibition of imbecility!’ Well, before
night that parrot was so ashamed of himself that he closed for repairs,
and from that day forth he never spoke an unnecessary word. Such,
gentlemen, is the influence of example even on the worst of birds.”

The American lit a fresh cigar, and pulling his hat over his eyes, fell
into profound meditation. His three auditors made no comment on his
story, and did not repeat the inquiry why he had asked the waiter for
an owl. They smoked in silence for some moments, and then one of them
invited the other two to step over to Henry’s and take something—an
invitation which they promptly accepted, and the smoking-room knew them
no more that night.


“Yes, sir!” said the Colonel. “Being an American, I’m naturally in favor
of elevating the oppressed and down-trodden, provided, of course, they
live in other countries. All Americans are in favor of Home Rule for
Ireland, because it would elevate the Irish masses and keep them at home;
but if I were living in Ireland, perhaps I might prefer elevating Russian
Jews or Bulgarian Christians. You see, the trouble with elevating the
oppressed at home is that the moment you get them elevated they begin to
oppress you. There is no better fellow in the world than the Irishman, so
long as you govern him; but when he undertakes to govern you it’s time to
look out for daybreak to westward. You see, we’ve been there and know all
about it.

“Did I ever tell you about Jewseppy? He was an organ-grinder, and,
take him by and large, he was the best organ-grinder I ever met. He
could throw an amount of expression into ‘Annie Rooney,’ or, it might
be, ‘The Old Folks at Home,’ that would make the strongest men weep and
heave anything at him that they could lay their hands to. He wasn’t a
Jew, as you might suppose from his name, but only an Italian—‘Jewseppy’
being what the Italians would probably call a Christian name if they
were Christians. I knew him when I lived in Oshkosh, some twenty years
ago. My daughter, who had studied Italian, used to talk to him in his
native language; that is, she would ask him if he was cold, or hungry,
or ashamed, or sleepy, as the books direct, but as he never answered in
the way laid down in the books, my daughter couldn’t understand a word he
said, and so the conversation would begin to flag. I used to talk to him
in English, which he could speak middling well, and I found him cranky,
but intelligent.

“He was a little, wizened, half-starved-looking man, and if he had only
worn shabby black clothes, you would have taken him for a millionaire’s
confidential clerk, he was so miserable in appearance. He had two
crazes—one was for monkeys, who were, he said, precisely like men, only
they had four hands and tails, which they could use as lassoes, all of
which were in the nature of modern improvements, and showed that they
were an advance on the original pattern of men. His other craze was his
sympathy for the oppressed. He wanted to liberate everybody, including
convicts, and have every one made rich by law and allowed to do anything
he might want to do. He was what you would call an Anarchist to-day, only
he didn’t believe in disseminating his views by dynamite.


“He had a monkey that died of consumption, and the way that Jewseppy
grieved for the monkey would have touched the heart of an old-fashioned
Calvinist, let alone a heart of ordinary stone. For nearly a month he
wandered around without his organ, occasionally doing odd jobs of work,
which made most people think that he was going out of his mind. But one
day a menagerie came to town, and in the menagerie was what the show-bill
called a gorilla. It wasn’t a genuine gorilla, as Professor Amariah G.
Twitchell, of our university, proved after the menagerie men had refused
to give him and his family free tickets. However, it was an animal to
that effect, and it would probably have made a great success, for our
public, though critical, is quick to recognize real merit, if it wasn’t
that the beast was very sick. This was Jewseppy’s chance, and he went for
it as if he had been a born speculator. He offered to buy the gorilla
for two dollars, and the menagerie men, thinking the animal was as good
as dead, were glad to get rid of it, and calculated that Jewseppy would
never get the worth of the smallest fraction of his two dollars. There is
where they got left, for Jewseppy knew more about monkeys than any man
living, and could cure any sick monkey that called him in, provided, of
course, the disease was one which medical science could collar. In the
course of a month he got the gorilla thoroughly repaired, and was giving
him lessons in the theory and practice of organ-grinding.

“The gorilla didn’t take to the work kindly, which, Jewseppy said, was
only another proof of his grand intellect, but Jewseppy trained him so
well that it was not long before he could take the animal with him when
he went out with the organ, and have him pass the plate. The gorilla
always had a line round his waist, and Jewseppy held the end of it, and
sort of telegraphed to him through it when he wanted him to come back
to the organ. Then, too, he had a big whip, and he had to use it on the
gorilla pretty often. Occasionally he had to knock the animal over the
head with the butt end of the whip-handle, especially when he was playing
something on the organ that the gorilla didn’t like, such as ‘Marching
through Georgia,’ for instance. The gorilla was a great success as a
plate-passer, for all the men were anxious to see the animal, and all
the women were afraid not to give something when the beast put the plate
under their noses. You see, he was as strong as two or three men, and
his arms were as long as the whole of his body, not to mention that his
face was a deep blue, all of which helped to make him the most persuasive
beast that ever took up a collection.

“Jewseppy had so much to say to me about the gorilla’s wonderful
intelligence that he made me tired, and one day I asked him if he thought
it was consistent with his principles to keep the animal in slavery.
‘You say he is all the same as a man,’ said I. ‘Then why don’t you give
him a show? You keep him oppressed and down-trodden the whole time. Why
don’t you let him grind the organ for a while, and take up the collection
yourself? Turn about is fair play, and I can’t see why the gorilla
shouldn’t have his turn at the easy end of the business.’ The idea seemed
to strike Jewseppy where he lived. He was a consistent idiot. I’ll give
him credit for that. He wasn’t ready to throw over his theories every
time he found they didn’t pay. Now that I had pointed out to him his duty
toward the gorilla, he was disposed to do it.


“You see, he reasoned that while it would only be doing justice to the
beast to change places with him, it would probably increase the receipts.
When a man can do his duty and make money by it his path is middling
plain; and after Jewseppy had thought it over he saw that he must do
justice to the gorilla without delay.

“It didn’t take the beast long to learn the higher branches of

“He saw the advantages of putting the money in his own pocket instead
of collecting it and handing it over to Jewseppy, and he grasped the
idea that when he was pushing the little cart that carried the organ and
turning the handle, he was holding a much better place in the community
than when he was dancing and begging at the end of a rope. I thought, a
day or two after I had talked to Jewseppy, that there was considerable
uproar in town, but I didn’t investigate it until toward evening, when
there seemed to be a sort of riot or temperance meeting, or something
of the kind, in front of my house, and I went out to see about it.
There were nearly two thousand people there watching Jewseppy and his
gorilla, or rather the gorilla and his Jewseppy. The little man had been
elevating the oppressed with great success. A long rope was tied around
his waist, and he was trotting around among the people, taking up the
collection and dancing between times.

“The gorilla was wearing Jewseppy’s coat, and was grinding away at the
organ with one hand and holding Jewseppy’s rope with the other. Every few
minutes he would haul in the rope, hand over hand, empty all the money
out of Jewseppy’s pocket, and start him out again. If the man stopped to
speak to anybody for a moment the gorilla would haul him in and give him
a taste of the whip, and if he didn’t collect enough money to suit the
gorilla’s idea, the animal would hold him out at arm’s length with one
hand and lay into him with the other till the crowd were driven wild with
delight. Nothing could induce them to think that Jewseppy was in earnest
when he begged them to protect him. They supposed it was all a part of
the play, and the more he implored them to set him free, the more they
laughed and said that ‘thish yer Eyetalian was a bang-up actor.’

“As soon as Jewseppy saw me he began to tell me of his sufferings.
His story lacked continuity, as you might say, for he would no sooner
get started in his narrative than the gorilla would jerk the rope as a
reminder to him to attend strictly to business if he wanted to succeed in
his profession. Jewseppy said that as soon as he tied the rope around his
waist and put the handle of the organ in the gorilla’s hand the beast saw
his chance and proceeded to take advantage of it. He had already knocked
the man down twice with the handle of the whip, and had lashed him till
he was black and blue, besides keeping him at work since seven o’clock
that morning without anything to eat or drink.


“At this point the gorilla hauled Jewseppy in and gave him a fairly good
thrashing for wasting his time in conversation. When the man came around
again with the plate I told him that he was taking in more money than he
had ever taken in before, and that this ought to console him, even if the
consciousness that he was doing justice to the oppressed had no charms
for him. I’m sorry to say that Jewseppy used such bad language that I
really couldn’t stay and listen to him any longer. I understood him to
say that the gorilla took possession of every penny that was collected,
and would be sure to spend it on himself, but as this was only what
Jewseppy had been accustomed to do it ought not to have irritated a man
with a real sense of justice. Of course I was sorry that the little man
was being ill treated, but he was tough, and I thought that it would not
hurt him if the gorilla were to carry out his course of instruction in
the duty of elevating the oppressed a little longer. I have always been
sort of sorry that I did not interfere, for although Jewseppy was only a
foreigner who couldn’t vote, and was besides altogether too set in his
ideas, I didn’t want him to come to any real harm. After that day no man
ever saw Jewseppy, dead or alive. He was seen about dusk two or three
miles from town on the road to Sheboygan. He was still tied to the rope
and was using a lot of bad language, while the gorilla was frequently
reminding him with the whip of the real duties of his station and the
folly of discontent and rebellion. That was the last anybody ever saw
of the Italian. The gorilla turned up the next day at a neighboring town
with his organ, but without anybody to take up the collection for him,
and as the menagerie happened to be there the menagerie men captured
him and put him back in his old cage, after having confiscated the
organ. No one thought of making any search for Jewseppy, for, as I have
said, he had never been naturalized and had no vote, and there were not
enough Italians in that part of the country to induce any one to take an
interest in bringing them to the polls. It was generally believed that
the gorilla had made away with Jewseppy, thinking that he could carry
on the organ business to more advantage without him. It’s always been
my impression that if Jewseppy had lived he would have been cured of
the desire to elevate the down-trodden, except, of course, in foreign
countries. He was an excellent little man—enthusiastic, warm-hearted, and
really believing in his talk about the rights of monkeys and the duty
of elevating everybody. But there isn’t the least doubt that he made a
mistake when he tried to do justice to that gorilla.”


“Does anybody doubt my patriotism?” asked the Colonel. We all hastened
to say that we should as soon doubt our own existence. Had he not made a
speech no longer ago than last Fourth of July, showing that America was
destined to have a population of 1,000,000,000 and that England was on
the verge of extinction? Had he not perilled his life in the cause of
freedom, and was he not tireless in insisting that every Chinaman should
be driven out of the United States? If there ever was one American more
patriotic than another it was the Colonel.

“Well, then,” continued the speaker, “you won’t misunderstand me when
I say that the American railroad car is a hundred times more dangerous
than these European compartment cars. In thirty years there have been
just four felonious assaults in English railroad cars. There have been
a few more than that in France, but not a single one in Germany. Now, I
admit that you are in no danger of being shot in an American car, unless,
of course, two gentlemen happen to have a difficulty and shoot wild, or
unless the train is held up by train robbers who are a little too free
with their weapons. But I do say that the way in which we heat our cars
with coal-stoves kills thousands of passengers with pneumonia and burns
hundreds alive when the trains are wrecked.

“You see, I’ve looked into this thing and I’ve got the statistics down
fine. I’m the only man I know who ever had any trouble with a passenger
while travelling in Europe, and I don’t mind telling you about it,
although it will be giving myself away. Kindly push me over those
matches, will you? These French cigars take a lot of fuel, and you have
to encourage them with a match every three minutes if you expect them to

“When I was over here in Paris, ten years ago, there was a fellow here
from Chicago who was trying to introduce American cars, and he gave
me a pamphlet he had got up showing the horrors of the compartment
system. It told of half a dozen murders, fifteen assaults, eleven cases
of blackmail, and four cases in which a solitary traveller was shut up
in a compartment with a lunatic—all these incidents having occurred on
European railways. I was on my way to Egypt, and when I had read the
pamphlet I began to wonder if I should ever manage to live through the
railroad journey without being killed, or blackmailed, or lunaticked, or
something of the kind. You see, I believed the stories then, though I
know now that about half of them were false.

“I took the express train—the Peninsular and Oriental they call it—from
Paris about twelve o’clock one night. I went early to the train,
and until just before we started I thought I was going to have the
compartment to myself. All at once a man very much out of breath jumped
in, the door was slammed, and we were off.


“I didn’t like the looks of the fellow. He was a Frenchman, though
of course that wasn’t his fault. He was small but wiry-looking, and
his sharp black eyes were not the style of eyes that inspires me with
confidence. Then he had no baggage except a small paper parcel, which
was queer, considering that the train was a long-distance one. I kept
a close watch on him for a while, thinking that he might be one of the
professional lunatics that, according to the Chicago chap’s pamphlet, are
always travelling in order to frighten solitary passengers; but after a
while I became so sleepy that I decided to lie down and take a nap and my
chances of being killed at the same time. Just then the man gets up and
begins to talk to me in French.

“Now, I needn’t say that I don’t speak French nor any of those fool
languages. Good American is good enough for me. One reason why these
Europeans have been enslaved for centuries is that they can’t make each
other understand their views without shouting at the top of their lungs,
and so bringing the police about their ears. But I did happen to know,
or thought I did, the French word for going to sleep, and so I thought
I would just heave it at this chap so that he would understand that I
didn’t require his conversation. I have always found that if you talk
to a Frenchman in English very slowly and impressively he will get the
hang of what you say. That is, if he isn’t a cabman. You can’t get an
idea into a French cabman’s head unless you work it in with a club. So I
said to the fellow in the train: ‘My friend! I haven’t any time to waste
in general conversation. I’m going to sleep, and I advise you to do the
same. You can tell me all about your institutions and your revolutions
and things in the morning.’ And then I hove in the French word ‘cochon,’
which I supposed meant something like ‘Now I lay me down to sleep.’

“The fellow staggered back as if I had hit him, and then he began to
sling the whole French language at me. I calculate that he could have
given Bob Ingersoll fifty points in a hundred and beaten him, and, as you
know, Bob is the ablest vituperator now in the business. The Frenchman
kept on raving and getting madder and madder every minute, and I saw
that there wasn’t the least doubt that he was a dangerous lunatic.

“I stood up and let him talk for a while, occasionally saying ‘non
comprenny’ and ‘cochon,’ just to soothe him, but presently he came close
to me and shook his fist in my face. This was too much, so I took him
by the shoulders and slammed him down in a corner seat, and said, ‘You
sit there, sonny, and keep quiet, or you’ll end by getting me to argue
with you.’ But the minute I let go of him he bounced up again as if he
was made of India-rubber, and came at me just as a terrier will come at
a horse, pretending that he is going to tear him into small pieces. So I
slammed him down into his corner again, and said, ‘This foolishness has
gone far enough, and we’ll have it stopped right here. Didn’t you hear me
say cochon? I’m going to cochon, and you’d better cochon, too, or I’ll
make you.’

“This time he jumped up as soon as I had let go of him and tried to hit
me. Of course I didn’t want to hit so small a chap, letting alone that
he knew no more about handling his fists than the angel Gabriel, so
I just took and twisted his arms behind his back and tied them with a
shawl-strap. Then, seeing as he showed a reprehensible disposition to
kick, I put another strap around his legs and stretched him on the seat
with his bundle under his head. But kindness was thrown away on that
Frenchman. He tried to bite me, and not content with spitting like a cat,
he set up a yell that was the next thing to the locomotive whistle, and
rolling off the seat tried to kick at me with both legs.

“I let him exercise himself for a few minutes, while I got my hair-brush
and some twine out of my bag. Then I put him back on the seat, gagged
him with the handle of the hair-brush, and lashed him to the arm of the
seat so that he couldn’t roll off. Then I offered him a drink, but he
shook his head, not having any manners, in spite of what people say about
the politeness of Frenchmen. Having secured my own safety and made the
lunatic reasonably comfortable, I turned in and went to sleep. I must
have slept very sound, for although the train stopped two or three times
during the night, I never woke up until we pulled up for breakfast
about eight o’clock the next morning. I sat up and looked at my lunatic,
who was wide awake and glaring at me. I wished him good-morning, for I
couldn’t bear any grudge against a crazy man; but he only rolled his eyes
and seemed madder than ever, so I let him lie and got out of the train.

“Two policemen were walking up and down the platform, and I took one of
them by the arm and led him to the car, explaining what had happened. I
don’t know whether he understood or not, but he pretended that he didn’t.

“As soon as he saw the lunatic there was a pretty row. He called two
more policemen, and after they had ungagged the fellow they hauled us
both before a magistrate who had his office in the railroad station.
At least he acted like a magistrate, although he wore the same uniform
as the policemen. Here the fellow I had travelled with was allowed to
speak first, and he charged me, as I afterward found, with having first
insulted and then assaulted him. He said he rather thought I was a
lunatic, but at any rate he must have my blood. Then an interpreter was
sent for, and I told my story, but I could see that nobody believed me.


“‘Accused,’ said the magistrate very sternly, ‘you called this gentleman
a pig. What was your motive?’

“Of course I swore that I had never called him a pig, that I hardly knew
half a dozen words of his infamous language, and that I had used only one
of those. Being asked what it was, I said ‘cochon.’ And then that idiot
ordered me to be locked up.

“By rare good luck there happened to be an American secretary of legation
on the train. You know him. It was Hiram G. Trask, of West Centreopolis.
He recognized me, and it didn’t take him very long to explain the
whole affair. It seems that the Frenchman had asked me if I objected
to smoking, and when I tried to tell him that we ought to go to sleep,
I said ‘cochon,’ which means pig, instead of ‘couchons,’ which was the
word I ought to have used. He was no more of a lunatic than a Frenchman
naturally is, but he was disgusted at being carried two hundred miles
beyond his destination, which was the first stopping-place beyond Paris,
and I don’t know that I blame him very much. And then, too, he seemed to
feel that his dignity had been some ruffled by being gagged and bound.
However, both he and the policemen listened to reason, and the man agreed
to compromise on my paying him damages and withdrawing the assertion that
he was morally or physically a pig. The affair cost considerable, but
it taught me a lesson, and I have quit believing that you can’t travel
in a European railroad car without being locked up with a lunatic or a
murderer. I admit that the whole trouble was due to my foolishness. When
the Frenchman began to make a row, I ought to have killed him and dropped
the body out of the door, instead of fooling with him half the night and
trying to make him comfortable. But we can’t always command presence of
mind or see just where our duty lies at all times.”


We had just dined in the little Parisian restaurant where Americans are
in the habit of going in order to obtain those truly French delicacies,
pork and beans, buckwheat cakes, corned beef, apple pie, and overgrown
oysters. I knew a man from Chicago who dined at this restaurant every
day during the entire month spent by him in Paris, and who, at the end
of that time, said that he was heartily sick of French cookery. Thus
does the profound study of the manners and customs of foreign nations
enlighten the mind and ripen the judgment.

The Colonel had finished his twelfth buckwheat cake and had lighted his
cigar, when he casually and reprovingly remarked to young Lathrop, who,
on principle, was disputing the bill with the waiter, that “he was making
more trouble than Thompson’s tombstone.” Being called upon to explain
this dark saying, he stretched his legs to their limit, tipped back his
chair, knocked the ashes of his cigar among the remnants of his pork and
beans, and launched into his story.

“In the town where I was raised—and I’m not going to give away the name
of it at present—there were two brothers, James and John Thompson. They
were twins and about forty years old, as I should judge. James was a
bachelor and John he was a widower, and they were both pretty well to do
in the world, for those times at least. John was a farmer and James was
a wagon maker and owned the village hearse besides, which he let out for
funerals, generally driving it himself, so that any profit that was to be
made out of a melancholy occasion he could make without sharing it with
anybody. Both the men were close-fisted, and would look at a dollar until
their eyesight began to fail before they could bring themselves to spend
it. It was this miserly spirit that brought about the trouble that I’m
going to tell you of.

“After John Thompson had been a widower so long that the unmarried
women had given up calling on him to ask his advice about the best way
of raising money for the heathen, and had lost all expectation that any
one of them would ever gather him in, he suddenly ups and marries Maria
Slocum, who used to keep a candy store next door to the school-house and
had been a confirmed old maid for twenty years. She had a little money,
though, and folks did say that she could have married James Thompson if
she had been willing to take the risk; but the fact that James always had
the hearse standing in his carriage-house made him unpopular with the
ladies. She took John because his views on infant baptism agreed with
hers, and he took her because she had a good reputation for making pies
and was economical and religious.

“The Thompson brothers owned burial lots in the new cemetery that were
close together. James, of course, had, so far, no use for his lot, but
John had begun to settle his by burying his first wife in about the
middle of it. The lot was a good-sized one, with accommodation for a
reasonably large family without crowding them, and without, at the same
time, scattering them in any unsocial way. I don’t know how it came
about, but no sooner was John married than he took a notion to put up a
tombstone over his first wife. He thought that as he was going to incur
such an expense he would manage it so that he wouldn’t have to incur it
again; and so he got up a design for a combination family tombstone, and
had it made, and carved, and lettered, and set up in his burial lot.

“Near the top of the stone was John Thompson’s name, the date of his
birth, and a blank space for the date of his death. Next came the name of
‘Sarah Jane, beloved wife of the above,’ and the date of her birth and
death. Then came the name of ‘Maria, beloved and lamented wife of the
above John Thompson,’ with the date of her birth and a space for the date
of her death. You see, John worked in this little compliment about Maria
being ‘lamented’ so as to reconcile her to having the date of her birth
given away to the public. The lower half of the tombstone was left vacant
so as to throw in a few children should any such contingency arise, and
the whole advertisement ended with a verse of a hymn setting forth that
the entire Thompson family was united in a better land above.

“The cost of the affair was about the same as that of one ordinary
tombstone, the maker agreeing to enter the dates of John’s death and of
his wife’s death free of charge whenever the time for so doing might
arrive; and also agreeing to enter the names of any children that might
appear at a very low rate. The tombstone attracted a great deal of
attention, and the summer visitors from the city never failed to go
and see it. John was proud of his stroke of economy, and used to say
that he wasn’t in danger of being bankrupted by any epidemic, as those
people were who held that every person must have his separate tombstone.
Everybody admitted that the Thompson tombstone gave more general
amusement to the public than any other tombstone in the whole cemetery.
Every summer night John used to walk over to his lot and smoke his pipe,
leaning on the fence and reading over the inscriptions. And then he
would go and take a fresh look at the Rogers’ lot, where there were nine
different tombstones, and chuckle to think how much they must have cost
old man Rogers, who had never thought of a combination family tomb. In
the course of about three years the inscriptions had grown, for there
had been added the names of Charles Henry and William Everett Thompson,
‘children of the above John and Maria Thompson,’ and John calculated
that with squeezing he could enter four more children on the same stone,
though he didn’t really think that he would ever have any call so to do.

“Well, a little after the end of the third year John’s troubles began.
He took up with Second Advent notions and believed that the end of the
world would arrive, as per schedule, on the 21st of November, at 8:30
A.M. Maria said that this was not orthodox and that she wouldn’t allow
any such talk around her house. Both of them were set in their ways,
and what with John expressing his views with his whip-handle and Maria
expressing hers with the rolling-pin, they didn’t seem to get on very
well together, and one day Maria left the house and took the train to
Chicago, where she got a divorce and came back a free and independent
woman. That wasn’t all: James Thompson now saw his chance. He offered to
sell out the hearse business, and after waiting ten months, so as to give
no opportunity for scandal, Maria married him.

“John didn’t seem to mind the loss of his wife very much until it
happened to occur to him that his combination family tombstone would
have to be altered, now that Maria was not his wife any longer. He was
a truthful man, and he felt that he couldn’t sleep in peace under a
tombstone that was constantly telling such a thumping lie as that Maria
was resting in the same burying-lot and that she was his beloved wife,
when, in point of fact, she was another man’s wife and would be, at
the proper time, lying in that other man’s part of the cemetery. So he
made up his mind to have the marble-cutter chisel out Maria’s name and
the date of her birth. But before this was done he saw that it wouldn’t
be the square thing so far as Charles Henry and William Everett were
concerned. It would be playing it low down on those helpless children
to allow that tombstone to assert that they were the children of John
Thompson and some unspecified woman called Maria, who, whatever else
she may have been, was certainly not John Thompson’s wife. Matters would
not be improved if the name of Maria were to be cut out of the line
which stated the parentage of the children, for in that case it would
appear that they had been independently developed by John, without the
intervention of any wife, which would be sure to give rise to gossip and
all sorts of suspicions.


“Of course the difficulty could have been settled by erasing from the
tombstone all reference to Maria and her two children, but in that case
a separate stone for the children would some day become necessary,
and, what was of more consequence, John’s grand idea of a combination
tombstone would have to be completely abandoned. John was not a hasty
man, and after thinking the matter over until the mental struggle turned
his hair gray, he decided to compromise the matter by putting a sort of
petticoat around the lower half of the tombstone, which would hide all
reference to Maria and the children. This was easily done with the aid of
an old pillow-case, and the tombstone became more an object of interest
to the public than ever, while John, so to speak, sat down to wait for
better times.


“Now, James had been thinking over the tombstone problem, and fancied
that he had found a solution of it that would put money in his own pocket
and at the same time satisfy his brother. He proposed to John that the
inscription should be altered so as to read: ‘Maria, formerly wife of
John and afterward of James Thompson,’ and that a hand should be carved
on the stone with an index-finger pointing toward James’ lot, and a line
in small type saying, ‘See small tombstone.’ James said that he would
pay the cost of putting up a small uninscribed stone in his own lot over
the remains of Maria—waiting, of course, until she should come to be
remains—and that John could pay the cost of altering the inscriptions on
the large stone. The two brothers discussed this scheme for months, each
of them being secretly satisfied with it, but John maintaining that James
should pay all the expenses.

“This James would not do, for he reasoned that unless John came to his
terms the combination tombstone would be of no good to anybody, and that
if he remained firm John would come round to his proposal in time.

“There isn’t the least doubt that this would have been the end of the
affair, if it had not been that James chuckled over it so much that one
day he chuckled a fishbone into his throat and choked to death on the
spot. He was buried in his own lot, with nothing but a wooden headboard
to mark the spot. His widow said that if he had been anxious to have
a swell marble monument he would have made provision for it in his
lifetime, and as he had done nothing of the kind, she could not see that
she had any call to waste her money on worldly vanities.

“How did this settle the affair of the combination tombstone? I’m just
telling you. You see, by this time the world had not come to an end, and
John, who always hated people who didn’t keep their engagements, seeing
that the Second Adventists didn’t keep theirs, left them and returned to
the regular Baptist fold. When his brother died he went to the funeral,
and did what little he could, in an inexpensive way, to comfort the
widow. The long and short of it was that they became as friendly as they
ever had been, and John finally proposed that Maria should marry him
again. ‘You know, Maria,’ he said, ‘that we never disagreed except about
that Second Advent nonsense. You were right about that and I was wrong,
as the event has proved, and now that we’re agreed once more, I don’t see
as there is anything to hinder our getting married again.’

“Maria said that she had a comfortable support, and she couldn’t feel
that it was the will of Providence for her to be married so often,
considering how many poor women there were who couldn’t get a single

“‘Well,’ continued John, ‘there is that there tombstone. It always
pleased you and I was always proud of it. If we don’t get married again
that tombstone is as good as thrown away, and it seems unchristian to
throw away a matter of seventy-five dollars when the whole thing could be
arranged so easy.’

“The argument was one which Maria felt that she could not resist, and
so, after she had mourned James Thompson for a fitting period, she
married John a second time, and the tombstone’s reputation for veracity
was restored. John and Maria often discussed the feasibility of selling
James’ lot and burying him where the combination tombstone would take
him in, but there was no more room for fresh inscriptions, and besides,
John didn’t see his way clear to stating in a short and impressive way
the facts as to the relationship between James and Maria. So, on the
whole, he judged it best to let James sleep in his own lot, and let
the combination tombstone testify only to the virtues of John Thompson
and his family. That’s the story of Thompson’s tombstone, and if you
don’t believe it I can show you a photograph of the stone with all the
inscriptions. I’ve got it in my trunk at this very moment, and when we go
back to the hotel, if you remind me of it, I’ll get it out.”


“Well, sir,” said the Colonel, “since you ask me what struck me most
forcibly during my tour of England, and supposing that you want a civil
answer to a civil question, I will say that the thing that astonished me
more than anything else was the lack of religious enterprise in England.


“I have visited nearly every section of your country, and what did I
find? Why, sir, in every town there was a parish church of the regulation
pattern and one other kind of church, which was generally some sort of
Methodist in its persuasion. Now, in America there is hardly a village
which hasn’t half a dozen different kinds of churches, and as a rule at
least one of them belongs to some brand-new denomination, one that has
just been patented and put on the market, as you might say. When I lived
in Middleopolis, Iowa, there were only fifteen hundred people in the
place, but we had six kinds of churches. There was the Episcopalian,
the Methodist, the Congregational, the Baptist, the Presbyterian, the
Unitarian, and the Unleavened Disciples church, not to mention the
colored Methodist church, which, of course, we didn’t count among
respectable white denominations. All these churches were lively and
aggressive, and the Unleavened Disciples, that had just been brought
out, was as vigorous as the oldest of them. All of them were furnishing
good preaching and good music, and striving to outdo one another in
spreading the Gospel and raising the price of pew-rents. I could go for
two or three months to the Presbyterian church, and then I could take a
hack at the Baptists and pass half a dozen Sundays with the Methodists,
and all this variety would not cost me more than it would have cost to
pay pew-rent all the year round in any one church. And then, besides the
preaching, there were the entertainments that each church had to get up
if it didn’t want to fall behind its rivals. We had courses of lectures,
and returned missionaries, and ice-cream festivals till you couldn’t
rest. Why, although I am an old theatrical manager, I should not like
to undertake to run a first-class American church in opposition to one
run by some young preacher who had been trained to the business and knew
just what the popular religious taste demanded. I never was mixed up in
church business but once, and then I found that I wasn’t in my proper

The Colonel chuckled slowly to himself, as his custom was when anything
amused him, and I asked him to tell me his ecclesiastical experience.

“Well, this was the way of it,” he replied. “One winter the leading
citizens of the place decided to get up a series of union meetings.
Perhaps you don’t know what a union meeting is? I thought so. It bears
out what I was saying about your want of religious enterprise. Well, it’s
a sort of monster combination, as we would say in the profession. All the
churches agree to hold meetings together, and all the preaching talent of
the whole of them is collected in one pulpit, and each man preaches in
turn. Of course every minister has his own backers, who are anxious to
see him do himself and his denomination credit, and who turn out in full
force so as to give him their support. The result is that a union meeting
will always draw, even in a town where no single church can get a full
house, no matter what attractions it may offer.

“Now, a fundamental rule of a union meeting is that no doctrines are
to be preached to which any one could object. The Baptist preacher is
forbidden to say anything about baptism, and the Methodist can’t allude
to falling from grace in a union meeting. This is supposed to keep things
peaceful and to avoid arguments and throwing of hymn-books and such-like
proceedings, which would otherwise be inevitable.

“The union meetings had been in progress for three or four nights when I
looked into the Presbyterian church, where they were held one evening,
just to see how the thing was drawing. All the ministers in town, except
the Episcopalian minister, were sitting on the platform waiting their
cues. The Episcopalian minister had been asked to join in the services,
but he had declined, saying that if it was all the same to his dissenting
and partially Christian friends he would prefer to play a lone hand; and
the colored minister was serving out his time in connection with some of
his neighbors’ chickens that, he said, had flown into his kitchen and
committed suicide there, so he couldn’t have been asked, even if the
white ministers had been willing to unite with him.

“The Presbyterian minister was finishing his sermon when I entered, and
soon as he had retired the Baptist minister got up and gave out a hymn
which was simply crowded with Baptist doctrine. I had often heard it, and
I remember that first verse, which ran this way:

    “‘I’d rather be a Baptist
      And wear a smiling face,
    Than for to be a Methodist
      And always fall from grace.’

“The hymn was no sooner given out than the Methodist minister rose and
claimed a foul, on the ground that Baptist doctrine had been introduced
into a union meeting. There was no manner of doubt that he was right,
but the Baptists in the congregation sang the hymn with such enthusiasm
that they drowned the minister’s voice. But when the hymn was over there
was just a heavenly row. One Presbyterian deacon actually went so far
as to draw on a Baptist elder, and there would have been blood shed if
the elder had not knocked him down with a kerosene lamp, and convinced
him that drawing pistols in church was not the spirit of the Gospel.
Everybody was talking at once, and the women who were not scolding
were crying. The meeting was beginning to look like an enthusiastic
political meeting in Cork, when I rapped on the pulpit and called for
order. Everybody knew me and wanted to hear what I had to say, so the
meeting calmed down, except near the door, where the Methodists had got a
large Baptist jammed into the wood-box, and in the vestibule, where the
Unitarians had formed a ring to see the Unitarian minister argue with an
Unleavened Disciple.

“I told the people that they were making a big mistake in trying to run
that sort of an entertainment without an umpire. The idea pleased them,
and before I knew what was going to be done they had passed a resolution
making me umpire and calling on me to decide whether the Baptist hymn
constituted a foul. I decided that it did not, on the ground that,
according to the original agreement, no minister was to preach any
sectarian doctrines, but that nothing was said about the hymns that might
be sung. Then I proposed that in order to prevent any future disputes and
to promote brotherly feeling, a new system of singing hymns should be
adopted. I said, as far as I can recollect, that singing hymns did not
come under the head of incidental music, but was a sort of _entr’acte_
music, intended to relax and divert the audience while bracing up to
hear the next sermon. This being the case, it stood to reason that
hymn-singing should be made a real pleasure, and not an occasion for hard
feeling and the general heaving of books and foot-stools. ‘Now,’ said I,
‘that can be managed in this way. When you sing let everybody sing the
same tune, but each denomination sing whatever words it prefers to sing.
Everybody will sing his own doctrines, but nobody will have any call to
feel offended.’

“The idea was received with general enthusiasm, especially among the
young persons present, and the objections made by a few hard-headed
old conservatives were overruled. The next time singing was in order
the Unitarian minister selected a familiar short-metre tune, and each
minister told his private flock what hymn to sing to it. Everybody sang
at the top of his or her lungs, and as nobody ever understands the
words that anybody else is singing, there did not seem to be anything
strange in the singing of six different hymns to the same tune. There
was a moment when things were a little strained in consequence of the
Presbyterians, who were a strong body, and had got their second wind,
singing a verse about predestination with such vigor as partly to swamp
their rivals, but I decided that there was no foul, and the audience,
being rather tired with their exertions, settled down to listen to the
next sermon.

“The next time it was the Methodist minister who gave out the tune,
and he selected one that nobody who was not born and bred a Methodist
had ever heard of. We used to sing something very much like it at the
windlass when I was a sailor, and it had a regular hurricane chorus. When
the Methodist contingent started in to sing their hymn to this tune,
not a note could any of the rival denominations raise. They stood it in
silence until two verses had been sung, and then——

“Well, I won’t undertake to describe what followed. After about five
minutes the Methodists didn’t feel like singing any more. In fact,
most of them were outside the meeting-house limping their way home,
and remarking that they had had enough of ‘thish yer fellowship with
other churches’ to last them for the rest of their lives. Inside the
meeting-house the triumphant majority were passing resolutions calling me
a depraved worldling, who, at the instigation of the devil, had tried to
convert a religious assemblage into an Orange riot. Even the Unitarians,
who always maintained that they did not believe in the devil, voted
for the resolutions, and three of them were appointed on the committee
charged with putting me out. I didn’t stay to hear any more sermons, but
I afterward understood that all the ministers preached at me, and that
the amount of union displayed in putting the blame of everything on my
shoulders was so touching that men who had been enemies for years shook
hands and called one another brothers.

“Yes! we are an enterprising people in ecclesiastical matters, and I
calculate that it will be a long time before an English village will see
a first-class union meeting.”


“If you want to know my opinion of women-preachers,” said the Colonel,
“I can give it to you straight. They draw well at first, but you can’t
depend upon them for a run. I have had considerable experience of them,
and at one time I thought well of them, but a woman, I think, is out of
place in the pulpit.

“Although I never was a full member of the New Berlinopolisville
Methodist church, I was treated as a sort of honorary member, partly
because I subscribed pretty largely to the pastor’s salary, the annual
picnics, and that sort of thing, and partly because the deacons, knowing
that I had some little reputation as a theatrical manager and was a man
of from fair to middling judgment, used to consult me quietly about the
management of the church. There was a large Baptist church in the same
town, and its opposition was a little too much for us. The Baptist
house was crowded every Sunday, while ours was thin and discouraging. We
had a good old gentleman for a minister, but he was over seventy, and a
married man besides, which kept the women from taking much interest in
him; while his old-fashioned notions didn’t suit the young men of the
congregation. The Baptists, on the other hand, had a young unmarried
preacher, with a voice that you could hear a quarter of a mile off, and a
way of giving it to the Jews, and the Mormons, and other safe and distant
sinners that filled his hearers with enthusiasm and offended nobody. It
was growing more and more evident every day that our establishment was
going behindhand, and that something must be done unless we were willing
to close our doors and go into bankruptcy; so one day the whole board of
trustees and all the deacons came round to talk the matter over with me.

“My mind was already made up, and I was only waiting to have my advice
asked before giving it. ‘What we want,’ said I, ‘is a woman-preacher.
She’ll be a sensation that will take the wind out of that Baptist
windmill, and if she is good-looking, which she has got to be, I will bet
you—that is, I am prepared to say—that within a fortnight there will be
standing-room only in the old Methodist church.’

“‘But what are we to do with Dr. Brewster?’ asked one of the deacons. ‘He
has been preaching to us now for forty years, and it don’t seem quite the
square thing to turn him adrift.’

“‘Oh! that’s all right,’ said I. ‘We’ll retire him on a pension, and
he’ll be glad enough to take it. As for your woman-preacher, I’ve got
just what you want. At least, I know where she is and how much we’ll
have to pay to get her. She’ll come fast enough for the same salary that
we are paying Dr. Brewster, and if she doesn’t double the value of your
pew-rents in six months, I will make up the deficit myself.’

“The trustees were willing to take my advice, and in the course of a few
days Dr. Brewster had been retired on half-pay, the church had extended a
call to the Rev. Matilda Marsh, and the reverend girl, finding that the
salary was satisfactory, accepted it.

“She was only about twenty-five years old, and as pretty as a picture
when she stood in the pulpit in her black silk dress with a narrow
white collar, something like the sort of thing that your clergymen
wear. I couldn’t help feeling sad, when I first saw her, to think that
she did not go into the variety business or a circus, where she would
have made her fortune and the fortune of any intelligent manager. As
a dance-and-song artiste she would have been worth a good six hundred
dollars a week. But women are always wasting their talents, when they
have any, and doing exactly what Nature didn’t mean them to do.

[Illustration: “THE REV. MATILDA MARSH.”]

“Miss Marsh was a success from the moment that she came among us. Being
both unmarried and pretty, she naturally fetched the young men, and as
she let it be understood that she believed in the celibacy of the clergy
and never intended to marry under any circumstances, the greater part of
the women were willing to forgive her good looks. Then she could preach a
first-class sermon, and I call myself a judge of sermons, for at one time
I managed an agency for supplying preachers with ready-made sermons, and
I never put a single one on the market that I hadn’t read myself. I don’t
mean to say that Miss Marsh was strong on doctrinal sermons, but every
one knows that the public doesn’t want doctrinal sermons. What it wants
is poetry and pathos, and Miss Marsh used to ladle them out as if she had
been born and bred an undertaker’s poet.

“As I had prophesied, the Baptists couldn’t stand the competition when
we opened with our woman-preacher. Their minister took to going to the
gymnasium to expand his chest, and by that means increased his lung-power
until he could be heard almost twice as far as formerly, but it didn’t
do any good. His congregation thinned out week by week, and while our
church was crowded, his pew-rents fell below what was necessary to pay
his salary, not to speak of the other incidental expenses. A few of
the young men continued to stick by him until our minister began her
series of sermons ‘To Young Men Only,’ and that brought them in. I had
the sermons advertised with big colored posters, and they proved to be
the most attractive thing ever offered to the religious public. The
church was crammed with young men, while lots of men of from fifty to
seventy years old joined the Young Men’s Christian Association as soon
as they heard of the course of sermons, and by that means managed to get
admission to hear them. Miss Marsh preached to young men on the vices
of the day, such as drinking, and card-playing, and dancing, and going
to the theatre, and she urged them to give up these dissipations and
cultivate their minds. Some of them started a Browning Club that for a
time was very popular. Every time the club met one of Browning’s poems
would be selected by the president, and each member who put up a dollar
was allowed to guess its meaning. The man who made the best guess took
all the money, and sometimes there was as much as thirty dollars in the
pool. The young men told Miss Marsh that they had given up poker and
gone in for Browning, and of course she was greatly pleased. Then some
of the older men started a Milton Club, and used to cut for drinks by
putting a knife-blade into ‘Paradise Lost’—the man who made it open at
a page the first letter of which was nearer to the head of the alphabet
than any letter cut by any other man winning the game. Under Miss Marsh’s
influence a good many other schemes for mental cultivation were invented
and put into operation, and everybody said that that noble young woman
was doing an incalculable amount of good.

“As a matter of course, at least half the young men of the congregation
fell in love with the girl-preacher. They found it very difficult to make
any progress in courting her, for she wouldn’t listen to any conversation
on the subject. When Christmas came, the question what to give her kept
the young men awake night after night. The women had an easy job, for
they could give the preacher clothes, and lace, and hairpins, and such,
which the young men knew that they could not give without taking a
liberty. If she had been a man, slippers would, of course, have been the
correct thing, but the young men felt that they couldn’t work slippers
for a girl that always wore buttoned boots, and that if they did venture
upon such a thing the chances were that she would feel herself insulted.
One chap thought of working on the front of an underskirt—if that is the
right name of it—I mean one of those petticoats that are built for show
rather than use—the words, ‘Bless our Pastor,’ in yellow floss silk, but
when he asked his sister to lend him one of her skirts as a model, she
told him that he was the champion fool of the country. You may ask, why
didn’t the preacher’s admirers give her jewelry? For the reason that
she never wore anything of the kind except a pair of ear-rings that her
mother had given her, and which she had promised always to wear. They
represented chestnut-burs, and it is clear to my mind that her mother
knew that no young man who had much regard for his eyesight would come
very near a girl defended by that sort of ear-ring. Miss Marsh used to
say that other people could wear what they thought right, but she felt it
to be inconsistent with her holy calling to wear any jewelry except the
ear-rings that her sainted mother had given her.

“The best running was undoubtedly made by the cashier of the savings bank
and a young lawyer. Not that either of them had any real encouragement
from Miss Marsh, but she certainly preferred them to the rest of the
field, and was on what was certainly entitled to be called friendly terms
with both of them. Of the two the cashier was by far the most devoted.
He was ready to do anything that might give him a chance of winning. He
even wanted to take a class in the Sunday-school, but the bank directors
forbade it. They said it would impair the confidence of the public in the
bank, and would be pretty sure to bring about a run which the bank might
not be able to stand. They consented, however, that he should become
the president of the new temperance society which the Rev. Miss Marsh
had started, as the president had the right to buy wines and liquors at
wholesale in order to have them analyzed, and thus show how poisonous
they were. As the cashier offered to stand in with the bank directors
and let them fill their cellars at wholesale rates, both he and the
directors made a good thing of it.

“The other young man, the lawyer, was a different sort of chap. He was
one of those fellows that begin to court a girl by knocking her down with
a club. I don’t mean to say that he ever actually knocked a woman down,
but his manner toward women was that of a superior being, instead of a
slave, and I am bound to say that as a general thing the women seemed
to like it. He wasn’t a handsome man, like the cashier, but he had a
big yellow beard that any sensible girl would have held to be worth
twice the smooth-shaved cheek of his rival. He never tried to join the
Sunday-school or the temperance society, or do anything else of the kind
to curry favor with the minister; but he used occasionally to give her
good advice, and to tell her that this or that thing which she was doing
was a mistake. Indeed, he didn’t hesitate to tell her that she had no
business in the pulpit, and had better go out as a governess or a circus
rider, and so conform to the dictates of Nature.

[Illustration: “MAKING THE RUNNING.”]

“I used to watch the game pretty closely, because I had staked my
professional reputation on the financial success of the girl-preacher,
and I didn’t want her to marry and so put an end to her attractiveness
with the general public. I didn’t really think that there was much danger
of any such thing, for Miss Marsh seemed to be entirely absorbed in her
work, and her salary was exceptionally large. Still, you can never tell
when a woman will break the very best engagement, and that is one reason
why they will never succeed as preachers. You pay a man a good salary,
and he will never find that Providence calls him elsewhere, unless, of
course, he has a very much better offer; but a woman-preacher is capable
of throwing up a first-class salary because she don’t like the color of a
deacon’s hair, or because the upholstery of the pulpit doesn’t match with
her complexion.

“That winter we had a very heavy fall of snow, and after that the
sleighing was magnificent for the next month or two. The cashier made the
most of it by taking the minister out sleigh-riding two or three times a
week. The lawyer did not seem to care anything about it, even when he saw
the minister whirling along the road behind the best pair of horses in
the town, with the cashier by her side and her lap full of caramels. But
one Saturday afternoon, when he knew that the cashier would be detained
at the bank until very late—the president having just skipped to Canada,
and it being necessary to ascertain the amount of the deficit without
delay—the lawyer hired a sleigh and called for the minister. Although
she was preparing her next day’s sermon by committing to memory a lot of
Shelley’s poetry, she dropped Shelley and had on her best hat and was
wrapped in the buffalo robe by the side of the lawyer in less than half
an hour after she had told him that she positively wouldn’t keep him
waiting three minutes.

[Illustration: “CALLED FOR THE MINISTER.”]

“You remember what I said about the peculiar pattern of her ear-rings. It
is through those ear-rings that the Methodist church lost its minister,
and I became convinced that a female ministry is not a good thing to tie
to. Miss Marsh and her admirer were driving quietly along and enjoying
themselves in a perfectly respectable way, when one runner of the
sleigh went over a good-sized log that had dropped from somebody’s load
of wood and had been left in the road. The sleigh didn’t quite upset,
but Miss Marsh was thrown against the lawyer with a shock for which
she apologized, and he thanked her. But it happened that one of her
ear-rings caught in the lawyer’s beard, and was so twisted up with it
that it was impossible to disentangle it. Unless Miss Marsh was ready to
drag about half her companion’s heard out by the roots, there was nothing
to be done except for her to sit with her cheek close against his until
some third person could manage to disentangle the ear-ring. While she
was in this painful position—at least she said at the time that it was
painful—a sleigh containing two of her deacons and a prominent Baptist
drove by. Miss Marsh saw them and saw the horrified expression on their
faces. She knew quick enough that her usefulness as a minister in New
Berlinopolisville was at an end and that there was going to be a terrible
scandal. So, being a woman, she burst into tears and said that she wished
she were dead.

“But the lawyer was equal to the occasion. He told her that there was
nothing left to be done except for them to be married and disentangled at
the next town. Then he would take her on a long wedding-trip, stopping
at Chicago to buy some clothes, and that if she so wished they would
afterward settle in some other town, instead of coming back to New
Berlinopolisville. Of course she said that the proposal was not to be
thought of for a moment, and of course she accepted it within the next
ten minutes. They drove to the house of the nearest minister, and the
minister’s wife disentangled them, to save time, while the minister was
engaged in marrying them.

“That was the end of the experiment of playing a woman-preacher on the
boards of the First Methodist Church of Berlinopolisville. Everybody was
content to call a man in the place of Miss Marsh, and everybody agreed
to blame me for the failure of the experiment. I don’t know whether the
lawyer ever had any reason to regret his marriage or not, but when I saw
his wife at a fancy dress hall at Chicago, a year or two later, I could
see that she was not sorry that she had given up the ministry. Ever since
that time I have been opposed to women-preachers, and consider a woman in
the pulpit as much out of place as a deacon in the ballet.”


“Do I believe in spiritualism?” repeated the Colonel. “Well, you wouldn’t
ask me that question if you knew that I had been in the business myself.
I once ran a ‘Grand Spiritual Combination Show.’ I had three first-class
mediums, who did everything, from knocking on a table to materializing
Napoleon, or Washington, or any of your dead friends. It was a good
business while it lasted, but, unfortunately, we showed one night in a
Texas town before a lot of cowboys. One of them brought his lasso under
his coat, and when the ghost of William Penn appeared the cowboy lassoed
him and hauled him in, hand over hand, for further investigation. The
language William Penn used drove all the ladies out of the place, and
his want of judgment in tackling the cowboy cost him all his front
teeth. I and the other mediums and the doorkeeper had to take a hand
in the manifestation, and the result was that the whole Combination was
locked up over-night, and the fines that we had to pay made me tired of

“No, sir! I don’t believe in spiritualism, but for all that there are
curious things in the world. Why is it that if a man’s name is Charles
G. Haseltine he will lose his right leg in a railway accident? The
police some years ago wanted a Charles G. Haseltine with a wooden right
leg in the State of Massachusetts, and they found no less than five
Charles G. Haseltines, and every one of them had lost his right leg in
a railway accident. What makes it all the more curious is that they
were no relation to one another, and not one of them had ever heard of
the existence of the others. Then, will someone tell me what is the
connection between darkies and chickens? I say ‘darkies’ instead of
‘niggers’ because I had a colored regiment on my right flank at the
battle of Corinth, and that night I swore I would never say ‘nigger’
again. However, that don’t concern you. What I meant to say was that
there is a connection between darkies and chickens which nobody has ever
yet explained. Of course no darky can resist the temptation to steal a
chicken. Everybody knows that. Why, I knew a colored minister who was as
honest a man as the sun ever tried to tan—and failed—and I have known
him to preach a sermon with a chicken that he had lifted on his way
to meeting shoved up under his vest. He wouldn’t have stolen a dollar
bill if he was starving, but he would steal every chicken that he could
lay his hands on, no matter if his own chicken-house was crowded with
chickens. It’s in the blood—or the skin—and no darky can help it.

“What was I going to say about the connection between darkies and
chickens? I had very nearly forgotten it. This was what I was referring
to. A chicken will draw a darky just as a dead sheep will draw vultures
in Egypt, though there may have been no vultures within twenty miles
when the sheep was killed. You may be living in a town where there isn’t
a single darky within ten miles, but if you put up a chicken-house and
stock it there will be darkies in the town within twenty-four hours, and
just so long as your chicken-house has a chicken in it fresh darkies
will continue to arrive from all sections of the country. This beats any
trick that I ever saw a spiritual medium perform, and I can’t see the
explanation of it. You may say that some one carries word to the darkies
that there is a new chicken-house waiting to be visited, but the answer
to this is that it isn’t true. My own idea is that it is a matter of
instinct. When you carry a cat twenty miles away from home in a bag and
let her out, we all know that her instinct will show her the way home
again before you can get there yourself. Just in the same way instinct
will draw a darky to a chicken-house he has never seen or heard of.
You’ll say that to talk about instinct doesn’t explain the matter. That
is true enough, but it makes you feel as if you had struck the trail,
which is some satisfaction at any rate. So far as I can see, that is
about all that scientific theories ever do.


“If you care to listen, I’ll tell you what happened within my knowledge
in connection with darkies and chickens. I was located a little after the
war in the town of South Constantinople, in the western part of Illinois,
and my next-door neighbor was Colonel Ephraim J. Hickox, who commanded
the 95th Rhode Island Regiment. The town was a growing place, and it had
the peculiarity that there wasn’t a darky in it. The nearest one lived
over at West Damascus, seven miles away, and there was only two of him—he
and his wife. Another curious thing about the place was the scarcity
of labor. There weren’t above a dozen Irishmen in the place, and they
wouldn’t touch a spade or a hoe under three dollars a day, and wouldn’t
work more than four days in a week. You see, a certain amount of digging
and gardening had to be done, and there wasn’t anybody to do it except
these Irishmen, so they naturally made a good thing of it, working half
the time and holding meetings for the redemption of Ireland the rest of
the time in the bar-room of the International Hotel.

“One day Colonel Ephraim, as I always used to call him, wanted to drain
his pasture lot, and he hired the Irishmen to dig a ditch about a quarter
of a mile long. They would dig for a day, and then they would knock off
and attend to suffering Ireland, till Ephraim, who was a quick-tempered
man, was kept in a chronic state of rage. He had no notion of going
into politics, so he didn’t care a straw what the Irishmen thought of
him, and used to talk to them as free as if they couldn’t vote. Why, he
actually refused to subscribe to a dynamite fund and for a gold crown to
be presented to Mr. Gladstone, and you can judge how popular he was in
Irish circles. I used to go down to Ephraim’s pasture every once in a
while to see how his ditch was getting along, and one afternoon I found
the whole lot of Irishmen lying on the grass smoking instead of working,
and Ephraim in the very act of discharging them.

“‘Perhaps it’s “nagurs” that you’d be preferring,’ said one of the men,
as they picked themselves up and made ready to leave.

“‘You bet it is,’ said Ephraim, ‘and, what’s more, I’ll have that ditch
finished by darkies before the week is out.’ This seemed to amuse the
Irishmen, for they went away in good spirits, in spite of the language
that had been hove at them, and it amused me too, for I knew that there
were no darkies to be had, no matter what wages a man might be willing to
pay. I said as much to Ephraim, who, instead of taking it kindly, grew
madder than ever, and said, ‘Colonel! I’ll bet you fifty dollars that
I’ll have that ditch finished by darkies inside of four days, and that
they’ll do all the digging without charging me a dollar.’

“‘If you’re going to send over into Kentucky and import negro labor,’
said I, ‘you can do it, and get your ditch dug, but you’ll have to pay
either the darkies or the contractor who furnishes them.’

“‘I promise you not to pay a dollar to anybody, contractor or nigger.
And I won’t ask anybody to send me a single man. What I’m betting on is
that the darkies will come to my place of their own accord and work for
nothing. Are you going to take the bet or ain’t you?’

“I didn’t hesitate any longer, but I took the bet, thinking that
Ephraim’s mind was failing, and that it was a Christian duty in his
friends to see that if he did fool away his money, it should go into
their pockets instead of the pockets of outsiders. But, as you will see,
Ephraim didn’t lose that fifty dollars.

“Early the next morning Ephraim had a couple of masons employed in
turning his brick smoke-house into a chicken-house, and he had two
dozen chickens with their legs tied lying on the grass waiting for the
chicken-house to be finished. The masons broke a hole through the side
of the house and lined it with steel rods about four feet long, which
Ephraim had bought to use in some experiments in gun-making that he was
always working at. The rods were set in a circle which was about a foot
and a half wide at one end and tapered to about four inches at the other
end. The arrangement was just like the wire entrance to a mouse-trap,
of the sort that is meant to catch mice alive and never does it. It was
nothing less than a darky-trap, although Ephraim pretended that it was a
combined ventilator and front door for the chickens. The masons, so far
as I could judge, thought that Ephraim’s mind was going fast, and I made
up my mind that it would be a sin to let the man bet with anybody who
would be disposed to take advantage of his infirmity.

[Illustration: “‘DUNNO!’”]

“The trap was finished before dark, and baited with two dozen young
chickens. I came by the place a second time about sunset, just as
Ephraim was locking up his chicken-house, and I saw a small darky boy
leaning on the fence. I asked him where he came from, but he only said
‘Dunno.’ I found out afterward that he came from a house at least ten
miles away, and that those two dozen chickens had drawn him there wasn’t
a shadow of doubt in my mind. At the time, however, I was a little
afraid that Ephraim had begun to import colored labor, and that there
was some trick about his bet that might prove that his mind was all
right. Two days afterward I went down to the pasture and found sixteen
darkies digging away at that ditch and Ephraim superintending with a
twenty-five-cent cigar in his mouth. ‘Come to pay that fifty dollars,
I suppose!’ he said when he saw me. ‘You can wait till the ditch is
finished, which will be some time to-day. You see I was as good as my

“I asked him to explain how he had collected his darkies, and being in
unusually good spirits he told me about it.

“He had made his trap just large enough to admit a good-sized darky, who
could push the steel rods apart as he crawled in but who couldn’t crawl
out again, no matter how hard he might try. The morning after he had set
the trap Ephraim took his shot-gun and went down to his chicken-house.
He found that the night’s catch had been larger than he had hoped. There
were sixteen colored men of different sizes sitting on the ground or
leaning up against the side of the house. There was a good deal of wool
and cloth sticking to the ends of the steel rods, and some of the younger
darkies looked as if they had been fighting with wild-cats, but they
didn’t try to explain things. Besides the darkies, there were two white
tramps in the trap, but Ephraim just kicked them into the streets without
even proposing work to them. Then he came back and told the darkies that
the legislature had just passed a bill making it felony to break into a
chicken-house, and that he was very much afraid that they would be hung
and dissected, unless they could show him some reason for being merciful
to them.

“The darkies were frightened, besides being hungry and cold, and when
Ephraim said that he had a job of ditching to be done, and that if
they would do it for him he would let them off scot-free, they were
delighted, and the whole chicken-house was lit up with their teeth. They
went into that ditch a happy and contented gang and finished it before
night. Ephraim was a liberal man, and considering that he had won fifty
dollars and had got his ditch finished for nothing, he was disposed to be
generous. So he gave the darkies a lot of good advice and informed them
that, with a view of removing temptation from their way, he should sell
his chickens and go out of the business. The darkies went away as happy
as if they had been well paid, and the next morning there wasn’t a darky
in the whole town. They had gone back to their homes, or else they had
been drawn somewhere else by other chickens.

“Do I mean to say that Ephraim had not made arrangements with some one
to send him those sixteen darkies? That is just what I do mean to say.
When he fitted up his chicken-house he had no more idea where his darkies
would come from than I had, but he knew that the chickens would draw
darkies and that his trap would hold them, so he felt that he had a sure
thing. I have no more doubt that those darkies were drawn to Ephraim’s
place by those chickens than I have that a magnet will draw a needle. I
can’t explain how it was done, but I believe it all the same. It is what
is called a mystery, and the good book says that the less you try to
explain mysteries the better.”


“I never told you about my brother, the inventor, did I?” asked the
Colonel. “Speaking of flying-machines reminds me of him, for he invented
seven of them, and one of the lot was a stunning success. Stunned one
darky and came very near stunning a whole camp-meeting of darkies. My
brother Lije—his name was Elijah—was what you might call a general
inventor. He didn’t stick to any one line, such as electricity, for
example, but he would invent anything, from a woman’s pocket to a new
motive power. He invented a pocket for a woman’s skirt that was warranted
never to be found by the most expert pickpocket, and he put the pocket
in the skirt of his wife’s dress on trial. She searched for it for about
a month—not all the time, you understand, but on an average three or
four hours a day—and then gave it up. She said she could always find
her usual old-fashioned pocket in the course of a week or ten days, and
that was as much time as she could afford to waste on the subject. As for
Elijah’s perpetual-motion machines, he invented a new one at least every
year, and the loft in our barn was always full of them. Of course they
were failures, but that did not discourage Lije. You can’t discourage
a born inventor—that is, unless he is in the chemical line and blows
himself up with some new kind of dynamite. Lije’s inventions were, to my
mind, as smart as those of Edison, but the trouble with them was that for
the most part they wouldn’t work. However, they amused him and did no
harm to anybody.

[Illustration: “ELIJAH.”]

“My brother was not in the least like me in anything. He was short and
stout and the best-tempered man in the State. Everybody liked him,
especially the darkies, who said that there was no more harm in him
than if he was a child. I’ve seen him when he had just accidentally
chopped off a finger or had burnt all his hair off, and I never heard
him use the smallest swear-word. I never could see why he got married.
A man with that sort of heavenly temper doesn’t need the discipline
that other folks need, and he was too much absorbed in science to have
any time to associate with a wife. He spent nearly all his time in his
workshop monkeying with his inventions, and his only companion was a
darky boy, about twelve years old, named Aristophanes, who waited on him
and was so fond of him that there is nothing that Lije told him to do
that Aristophanes wouldn’t do. If Lije had invented a new guillotine and
wanted to try it on Aristophanes’ neck, the boy would have consented to
have his head chopped off, and would never have doubted that Massa Lije
would put it on again without even leaving a scar.

“You were speaking of this new flying-machine that somebody had just
invented and that acts on the principle of a kite. ‘Resistance of an
inclined plane to the air’ is what you called it, but that means kite,
and nothing else. Why, Elijah invented that machine forty years ago, and
it was one of his greatest successes, the only one, in fact, that I ever
remember his making. When I say that it was successful, I don’t mean to
say that it was practicable. It would rise and it would carry a man with
it, but it never came into general use, for it was about impossible to
get the man down again without killing him. Next to a Swiss excursion
steamboat, it was the riskiest mode of locomotion ever invented.

“The way in which Lije’s machine was constructed was very simple. You
must have seen what we boys used to call a spider-web kite. If you
haven’t, I might as well tell you that it is made with three sticks that
cross one another at the same point in about the middle of the kite, or
rather a little above the middle, and gave the kite something the shape
and look of a big spider-web. Lije was fond of kite-flying, and was
always trying to make improvements in kite-building, which were naturally
failures, for you can be sure that the millions of boys that have been
making kites ever since boys were first invented know a great sight more
about kites than any scientific man knows.

“Elijah’s flying-machine was nothing more or less than the biggest
spider-web kite that was ever built. The sticks were ash poles an inch
in diameter, and they were covered with silk instead of paper. I forget
the exact dimensions of the kite, but according to Lije’s calculations
it would sustain a hundred and fifty pounds of human being, in addition
to its own weight and the weight of its tail. The question of the exact
amount of tail that the kite would require gave Lije a good deal of
trouble, but he solved it like a man of science by sending up an ordinary
kite and finding by experiment how much tail it needed, after which he
calculated by the rule of three how much tail to give his flying-machine.
In order to get the necessary weight without too great length, the tail
of the flying-machine was made of light iron chain, and at the end of
it there was an iron hook, so that a lantern could be attached to it at
night. As for the string that was to hold the kite, it was about the size
of a ship’s signal-halyards, and Lije calculated that it would bear twice
the amount of any strain that could possibly be put on it.

“Aristophanes was to make the trial trip, and he was perfectly willing
to go, never having the least doubt that Massa Lije would secure him a
safe and pleasant trip to the moon or thereabouts. Lije fastened the boy
in the centre of the kite, in about the position of some celebrated
Scotchman—St. Andrew, wasn’t it?—whose picture is in Fox’s ‘Book of
Martyrs.’ Aristophanes’ arms and legs were lashed to the kite sticks, and
he had a sort of rest for each foot, so as to take the strain from off
the lashings. In order to make him comfortable, Lije fastened a pillow
under the boy’s head, so that he could go to sleep in case he should
feel sleepy, which he nearly always did. If Aristophanes could only have
managed to take his dinner with him and eat it in the air, he would have
been about as happy as a darky can be, and an average darky can hold more
happiness to the square inch than any white man.

“The trial trip was made from the back yard of our house, and nobody was
present except Lije and Aristophanes, for my brother was a little shy
of exhibiting his inventions in public, owing to their habit of proving
failures. The kite was laid on the ground, and Aristophanes was strapped
to it and told that he must keep perfectly cool and remember everything
that he might see in the clouds. When all was ready, the kite was leaned
up against the side of the barn, with the tail neatly coiled so that it
would not foul anything, and then Elijah, taking a good run with the
string over his shoulder, had the satisfaction of making the kite climb
up as if it had been made by the best boy kite-builder in town.

“Holding the string was rather a tough job, for the kite pulled
tremendously, and Lije was not a strong man. However, he paid out the
line as fast as he could, and so managed to keep the kite steady. He was
a little afraid that it would accidentally get away from him, so he tied
the end of the string round his waist. There was where he made his great

[Illustration: “ELIJAH’S FLYING-MACHINE.”]

“The kite attracted a good deal of attention in the town, and everybody
agreed that the figure in the middle of the kite was a remarkably good
representation of a darky, but nobody thought for a moment that it was
a genuine darky. Lije had forgotten, in estimating the amount of tail
that the kite required, the fact that the wind might rise while the kite
was in the air, and that in such case the amount of tail might not be
enough to keep it from diving. That is just what happened. After the kite
had run out all the string and was as high as the string would let it
go, the wind increased and the kite began to dive. Now, everybody knows
that diving is one of the most dangerous things a kite can do, and that
unless it can be stopped it is sure to bring the kite down and smash it
to pieces. Moreover, in this particular case there was Aristophanes,
who was pretty sure to be frightened by the diving of the kite—that is,
supposing that he was awake. When a kite dives the only remedy is to
give it string. As Lije had no more string to let out he was obliged to
do the next best thing, which was to slack the string by running with it
toward the kite. That stopped the diving, but only for a moment. Every
time that Lije tried to stop running and managed to hold back a little
against the kite, it would begin to dive again, and about half the time
was describing circles in the air and turning Aristophanes upside down.
However, Lije knew that so long as he could keep the kite from dashing
itself to the ground the darky would come to no harm.

“The wind kept on increasing and the kite pulled harder than ever. Even
if Lije had not wanted to run, the kite would have dragged him. He went
through the town at about eight miles an hour, yelling to everybody he
met, ‘Gimme some string!’ But nobody understood what he said, and they
all thought that it was a good joke to see a fat little man careering
over the country in tow of a big kite. Of course they supposed that
Lije was acting of his own free will and accord. They knew that he was
peculiar in his ways, and they fancied that he was taking a little
holiday after his hard work. So beyond encouraging him to keep it up and
remarking to one another that ‘Lije was the most amusing darned fool in
the county,’ they paid no attention to his outcries.

“My brother was not used to active exercise and had next to no wind. The
longer he ran with the kite, the more he felt convinced that a tragedy
was about to happen. If he kept on running he believed he would drop dead
with stoppage of the heart, and if he stopped running he knew that the
kite would dash Aristophanes to pieces; and though, of course, it was not
as if Aristophanes had been a white boy, still there was the chance that
his parents would be disagreeable if he were killed. They were ordinary
ignorant darkies, with no sort of love for science. But Lije had grit in
him, in spite of all the science that he had pumped into his head. He
stuck to the kite-string, and ran his level best until the moment came
when he was unable to catch another breath. Then he threw himself against
a telegraph pole and clung to it with all his might. The kite couldn’t
drag him away from it, and so it gave one tremendous dive, and Lije felt
by the sudden slackening of the string that the kite had reached the


“It came down in the middle of a negro camp-meeting that was in progress
about a quarter of a mile away. The spot was a sandy one, and the kite,
which naturally fell head downward, buried the ends of its upper sticks
in the sand, and did no injury whatever to Aristophanes. The chain tail,
however, damaged the eye of the Rev. Hannibal Blue, and then hit the
Rev. Julius Cæsar Washington on the side of the head and stunned him
for half an hour. There was a good deal of excitement in the camp when
Aristophanes descended. Most of the colored people were of the opinion
that he was an angel who had come down to express his satisfaction with
the services, though the Rev. Mr. Blue was strongly of the opinion that
Aristophanes was the devil in person, who was seeking to buffet the
faithful. In time, however, Aristophanes was recognized as the private
servant of Massa Lije, and was released from the kite and allowed to
return to Lije’s workshop to report the result of his voyage in the

“The flying-machine was never tried again. Lije had had enough of it,
and besides, some of the Rev. Mr. Blue’s friends, who were not exactly
what you would call law-abiding citizens, sent Lije word that they
rather thought that if he quit inventing things he would live longer
than he otherwise might. Aristophanes didn’t seem to think anything of
his adventure, and said he was ready to go up again whenever Massa Lije
should want to send him. But Lije told him that he intended to make a
little modification in his flying-machine before using it again. That
was what he always said when he gave an invention up as a bad job, and
accordingly nobody ever saw or heard of the flying-machine again. He was
a remarkable man, was my brother, and the doctor of the asylum where he
spent his declining years said that he was the most interesting lunatic
that he had ever met.”


Some one had told a dog-story showing the miraculous intelligence
and profound piety of a French poodle. The Colonel listened with an
incredulous smile on his grim face. When the story was ended and we
had all expressed our surprise and admiration, as is the custom when
dog-stories are told, and had carefully suppressed our conviction that
the man who told the story was as impudent as he was mendacious—as is
also the custom on these occasions—I asked the Colonel to favor us with
his views in regard to canine sagacity.

“There are dogs that show signs of good sense now and then,” he replied.
“Even human beings do that occasionally. But as to these yarns about dogs
who calculate eclipses and have conscientious objections to chasing cats
on Sunday, I don’t believe a word of them. Talk about fish-stories!
Why, there isn’t a fish caught or uncaught that can begin to stimulate
the imagination to the extent that a dog will stimulate it. I have
known fishermen who could convert two minnows into a string of thirty
trout, averaging two pounds each, and I have seen these men slink away
crestfallen before a man who told stories of what his fox-terrier had
done the day before. What I don’t understand is why people pretend to
believe dog-stories. We all know that the dog is a well-meaning, stupid,
parish-vestry sort of an animal, but we listen to the thumpers that some
men tell about him without even a cough.


“Look at the lies that have been told for the last hundred years about
the St. Bernard dogs! People really believe that when a snow-storm comes
on the St. Bernard dog goes out with a blanket, a flask of whiskey, a
spirit-lamp, a box of matches, some mustard plasters, and a foot-bath
strapped on his back. When he meets a frozen traveller we are told that
he sits down and lights his spirit-lamp, mixes some hot-whiskey and
pours it down the traveller’s throat, gives him a hot foot-bath, puts
mustard plasters on the soles of his feet, rubs him down and wraps him
up in the blanket, and then hoists him on his back and brings him to the
convent, where the monks put him to bed and read prayers to him till he
feels strong enough to put some money in the contribution-box and to
continue his journey. Now, I’ve been to the St. Bernard Convent. I went
there just to meet one of these dogs and see for myself what he could
do. There was a pack of about forty of them, but the only thing they
did was to sit up all night and bark at the moon, while the monks shied
prayer-books and wooden sandals at them out of the windows. I wanted to
see a few travellers rescued from the snow, but the monks said the supply
of travellers had been running low of late years; still, they added, if
I’d go and sleep in a snow-bank a mile or two from the convent, they
would see what could be done. I wasn’t going to risk the forfeiture of
my life-insurance policy by any such foolishness as that, so I came away
without seeing any dog performance. However, I saw enough, a little later
on, to convince me that the St. Bernard dog is about the biggest kind of
canine fool that ever imposed on credulous people.

“The monks had a whole penful of genuine St. Bernard puppies, and
I bought one. I am ashamed to tell you how much I paid for it.
I could hire an army mule to kick me every time I think of the
transaction. I took the puppy to the States with me—I was living at
New Berlinopolisville, in the State of Iowa, at the time—and brought
him up as carefully as if he had been my own son. He grew to be a big,
rough-haired dog—one of the biggest I ever saw. And I can’t say that
the monks cheated me in respect to his breed. Of course it was all a
matter of luck that he didn’t turn out to be a poodle or a black and
tan terrier. The fact is that no man or monk knows what one of those
pure-blooded St. Bernard pups that are sold at the convent will turn out
to be when he gets his growth. He is liable to be anything in the line of
dog, from a yellow cur up to a Siberian bloodhound. I once knew a man who
bought a St. Bernard pup from one of the very holiest of the entire gang
of monks, and that puppy grew up to be a red fox. But you all know of the
St. Bernard puppy lottery, and I won’t take up your time commenting on it.


“The monks told me that the puppy would not need the least training. His
instinct was so wonderful that the moment he should catch a glimpse of
snow on the ground he would rush off to rescue travellers. ‘You just
load him up with blankets and things,’ said the monk, ‘and send him out
in the snow, and he’ll rescue travellers till you can’t rest.’ The dog
was nearly a year old before I had a chance to try his powers, but one
November we had a regular blizzard, and when the snow quit falling it
was at least two feet deep on a level, not to speak of the drifts.

“After breakfast I tied a whiskey-flask around the dog’s neck and put a
blanket on his back, and told him to go out and begin his blessed work
of mercy. I was alone in the house at the time, for my wife had gone on
a visit to her mother and the cook had got herself arrested for being
drunk and disorderly, so there was no one to make any objection to my use
of one of my wife’s best blankets. The dog barked with delight when he
saw the snow, and rolled in it for a few moments just so as to get the
blanket good and wet, and then he started down the street at a gallop.
I lived something more than a mile from the village, and there were no
houses nearer than half a mile, and as the dog took the road leading
away from the village, I did not think that he would stand much chance
of picking up any travellers. He didn’t return until noon, and then he
didn’t bring anybody home on his back. He did, however, bring six tramps
with him, three of whom were pretty drunk, they having drank all the
whiskey in the flask. The other three said that the dog had promised
them a drink if they would follow him, and they hoped that I would be
as good as the dog’s word. As I wasn’t armed, and as the tramps carried
big sticks and evidently meant business, I judged it best to sustain the
dog’s character for veracity and get rid of them peaceably. They went
away after wrestling with a pint of good whiskey, and all the time that
idiotic dog was wagging his tail as if he deserved the Humane Society’s
medal, instead of deserving a thrashing for trying to rescue tramps when
Nature had taken the trouble to furnish a blizzard expressly to thin them

“I explained to the dog with my riding-whip the view that he must take
of tramps in the future, and then I sent him out again, after filling up
his whiskey-flask and giving him another blanket in the place of the one
that the tramps had stolen. I told him that in future I should prefer to
have him rescue women and children, especially the latter, and that if he
found a frozen male traveller he had better confine himself to giving
information to the police, instead of lavishing whiskey on possibly
undeserving people. He went off, somewhat humbled, but still in excellent
spirits, and in a short time rushed up my front steps, dropped something
on the door-mat, and rushed off again. At first I thought that the idiot
had been rescuing somebody’s linen that had been hung out to dry, but
when the linen began to make remarks in a loud voice, I found that it was
a particularly lively baby.

“Of course I couldn’t let the little innocent lie and freeze on my
doorstep, so I brought it into the house and did my best to quiet it. As
I had never had much experience with babies, I found myself in a pretty
tight place. I had no milk to give the baby, so I mixed a little flour
and water till it looked like milk and got a little of it down the baby’s
throat. Then I shook it on my knee till it dropped asleep. I put it in my
bed, intending to go out and find some woman who would come and attend
to it, when I heard the dog barking, and on opening the front door saw
his tail disappearing down the street, and saw that he had left another
infant on the door-mat.

“The first baby was a saint in comparison with this one, which was a
sort of infantile tramp in appearance and was as noisy as it was dirty.
It would not have anything to do with the flour and water, and though I
shook it on my knee till I must have loosened all its organs, it refused
to go to sleep. So I finally gave it a rubber overshoe to bite on, and
put it in a bureau drawer in the spare room and told it to howl its head
off if it felt that such was its duty toward mankind. Then I started a
second time to search for a woman, and I nearly fell over a third baby
on the doorstep. That infernal dog had brought it while I was struggling
with the infantile tramp, and he was now off searching for more infants.
I wrapped this one up in a blanket and sat down on the doorstep with it,
resolved to wait till that dog came back and to lock him up till I could
get enough babies off my hands to give me a chance to kill him. I was
bound not to miss him, for if I did he would probably keep on till he
had brought me all the babies in the county. This baby was the best of
the lot, for it slept in my arms without saying a word or expressing the
slightest desire to be shaken. In about twenty minutes the dog reappeared
with another invoice of babies. This time he brought a brace of twins,
as nearly as I could judge, but it was his last exploit that day. I got
him by the collar before he could start out again and locked him up in
the cellar. The babies I put in a heap in a big clothes-basket that they
could not climb out of, and left them to have a crying-match for the
championship till I could find a nurse.

“I didn’t have as much trouble in that matter as I had anticipated, for
before I could get out of the house some one rang the front-door bell and
pounded and yelled as if it was a matter of life and death that the door
should be opened instantly. I opened it, and there was a woman who called
me every name she could lay her tongue to, and wanted me to give her back
her baby instantly. I showed her the babies and told her to take her
choice. In fact, I begged her to take away the whole lot, but she said I
was worse than a murderer, and after selecting one of the least desirable
of the babies, she rushed off with it, promising to send me a policeman
immediately. I had never expressed the least desire to see a policeman,
but such is female gratitude! I had offered that woman five babies, free,
gratis, and for nothing, and instead of being grateful she wanted to get
me into trouble.

“I had still four babies on my hands, and as they were now all awake
and making all the noise they knew how to make, I put them all in the
clothes-basket together, so they could enjoy one another’s society. It
wasn’t a bad plan, and I recommend it to any mother with a noisy pair of
twins, as it is certain to reduce the noise by one-half. Two of my babies
were so occupied with putting their fingers in the other babies’ eyes and
in investigating their hair that they had no time to cry. I admit that
the two who were undergoing investigation did their best to make a riot,
but even then there was only half as much noise as there would have been
had the other two joined the concert.

“I thought it so probable that the mother who had visited me was only the
first of a procession of mothers, that I gave up the idea of going out
to look for a nurse, and stayed at home to receive the mothers politely.
It was not long before one presented herself. She was an Irishwoman and
the only sensible one of the lot. When she saw that her baby was safe and
contented and had a good grip on the hair of a black-eyed baby, she sat
down and laughed, and said that she never saw anything so sweet before.
According to her account, she lived about a mile from my house, and she
was standing at her front door looking at the landscape, when the dog
bounded in, caught up the baby out of the cradle, and carried it off. At
first she thought the dog was the devil, but presently she remembered
that the devil’s time was too much occupied with Irish affairs to permit
him to steal babies in Iowa, so she followed the dog as rapidly as she
could make her way through the snow. She tracked him by the prints of his
paws until she came to my door, and instead of calling me a kidnapper and
talking about the police, she was full of pity for me, and volunteered
to stay and take care of the whole menagerie until the last of the babies
should be called for and taken away.

“The remaining mothers arrived in the course of an hour. I locked myself
in the top of the house and left the Irishwoman to explain things. As I
afterward learned, the intelligent dog had knocked two women down in the
street and stolen their babies out of their arms, and had also broken
into two houses, in the last one of which he had bagged his brace of
twins. All the mothers, except the Irishwoman, were as unreasonable as
they could possibly be. They insisted that I deliberately trained dogs
to steal babies, and they had no doubt that my object in stealing them
was to vivisect them. As for the dog, they were convinced that he was mad
and that their babies would be sure to die of hydrophobia. Two of the
women brought their husbands with them, who asked to see me, explaining
that they desired to blow my head off. The Irishwoman nobly lied to them,
telling them that she had driven me out of the house with a club, and
that I was on my way to Chicago and far out of reach. The mothers and
their husbands went away at last, and as soon as it was dark I stole out
of the back door and took the first train for St. Paul. I didn’t show
myself in New Berlinopolisville for the next year.

“What became of the dog? Oh! I forgot to say that the Irishwoman promised
to take care of him and to cure him of his passion for babies. I am sorry
to say that she did not succeed. She kept him tied up for six weeks, but
one day he broke loose and captured a baby out of a baby-wagon in the
park. But the baby’s father happened to be with it, and he was one of the
best pistol-shots in town, having been a judge of the Montana Supreme
Court. He got the drop on the dog before the beast had gone ten feet away
with the baby, and though they afterward had to pry the dog’s jaws open
in order to get the baby loose, no harm was done to the latter. I settled
all the lawsuits without letting them go to trial, although it cost me
considerable and I finally judged it best to remove to another State.

“Now, I suppose that some one will be enough of an idiot to repeat this
story with variations as a proof of the wonderful intelligence of the
St. Bernard dog. If it is intelligence that leads a dog to steal other
people’s babies and dump them on a respectable man, I’d like to see what
idiocy would do for such a dog. No, sir! depend upon it, the stories
about St. Bernard dogs are invented by the monks after stimulating their
minds by reading the ‘Lives of the Saints’ and by going trout-fishing.
Probably the monks have gradually brought themselves to believe most
of the stories. They look like a credulous set of people, and I should
rather like to try them with a good American political speech, full of
campaign statistics, and see if they could believe it. I shouldn’t be in
the least surprised if they could.”


“And by the way,” continued the Colonel, “a curious thing about this
Josiah Wilson was that he was married for fifteen years and never had any
wife whatever.”

The Colonel had begun a story concerning one Josiah Wilson which
promised to be interesting, but his incidental allusion to Mr. Wilson’s
matrimonial experience awakened our curiosity, and we begged him to
interrupt his narrative long enough to tell us how it came to pass that
Josiah was a married man who never had a wife.


“The marriage laws in the United States,” said the Colonel, giving his
chair an increased tilt backward, which was his usual way of beginning a
fresh anecdote, “are as peculiar in their way as are the divorce laws.
You would think to look at them that they would permit anybody to marry
anybody else in any way that either of them might choose; but for all
that they sometimes make it impossible for a man or a woman to get
married. There was a couple who intended to be married in a balloon,
which is a style of lunacy that is quite fashionable in some parts of the
country, though I can’t see why a man should want to risk his neck in a
balloon on his wedding-day, unless it is that it takes so much courage
to be married at all that a man forgets all about such minor dangers as
are connected with ballooning. The bride, the minister, and two witnesses
of assorted sexes went up in the balloon at the appointed time, and,
naturally, the bridegroom intended to go with them, but he accidentally
caught his foot in a neglected guy-rope and went up head downward about
twenty feet below the car. The party in the balloon could not haul him
up because they could not get hold of the rope, and the bride would not
consent to give up the trip because the groom had always been a little
shy, and she was afraid that if she let him go this time she might not
be able to land him again. So the parson went on with the ceremony, and
the groom made most of his responses in bad language, and howled for help
when he wasn’t swearing. When the ceremony was over the aeronaut managed
to land the balloon without seriously damaging the bridegroom, but when,
a year or two afterward, the bride wanted to get her divorce, the court
held that there had never been any marriage, for the reason that both
the groom and the bride had not appeared together in the presence of the
officiating minister, and that, furthermore, there was no provision in
the law which would permit a man to be married upside down.

“But to get back to Josiah Wilson. He lived in Indiana, close to the
boundary line between that State and Illinois, and he courted Melinda
Smith, a young woman who lived a little way up the mountain-side with
her father and three brothers. The girl was anxious to be married,
but her family were dead against it. You see, Josiah was a Republican
and a Methodist, while the Smiths were Democrats and Baptists, and,
naturally, they hated each other like poison; and one night as old man
Smith and Josiah met on their way to rival prayer-meetings they exchanged
revolver-shots, without, however, doing any harm. Then, once Josiah had
most of the calf of his leg taken off by the Smiths’ bull-dog, and twice
the Smith boys came into the sitting-room where Josiah was calling on
Melinda, and suggested to him with their shot-guns that he had better go
home. Gradually Josiah and Melinda came to the conclusion that her family
were resolved to discourage the match, so they determined to elope and be
married without the knowledge or consent of anybody.

“One dark night Josiah carried a ladder and planted it under Melinda’s
window. He had advised her to walk out of the front door, which was
always left unlocked at night, but she refused, saying that if she was
going to elope she should do it in the proper way, and that if Josiah had
no respect for her she had some little respect for herself. She climbed
down the ladder with a good deal of difficulty, because she insisted that
Josiah should help her, and also that he should stand forty yards away,
for reasons connected with her ankles, and he found it rather trying
to follow out these contradictory orders. However, Melinda reached the
ground at last, and the pair started in a carriage that had been waiting
just around a bend in the road, in company with the Methodist minister.
Their plan was to drive to the next town and there to be married, but it
happened that one of the Smith boys, being restless, got up in the night,
and, looking out of the window, saw the ladder standing at Melinda’s
window. In about twenty minutes after the young people had started, the
whole Smith family and their shot-guns were following the runaways in a
wagon and gaining on them fast.

“The Methodist minister, whose hearing was unusually good, heard the
sound of hoofs before Josiah noticed it, and told the young people
that there was not the least doubt that they were pursued, and would
be overtaken in a very few minutes. ‘And then, you know,’ he added,
‘the chances are that, being Baptists, they will shoot first and ask
for explanations afterward. The only thing for us to do is to get the
marriage ceremony over before they come up. Then they will see that
opposition is of no use and will listen to reason.’

“Josiah and Melinda at once consented, and the parson, noticing a little
clearing in the woods on the left-hand side of the road and a flat sort
of tombstone standing in the middle of it, said that he would stand on
that stone and marry his young friends so quick that it would make their
hair curl. He was particularly glad to meet with a handy tombstone, for
he said that a tombstone was the next thing to a church, and that to be
married by the side of a tomb would be almost as solemn as to be married
in a minister’s study. So the party hastily descended, the parson mounted
the stone, Josiah and Melinda joined hands in front of him, and they were
married and the parson had kissed the bride and pocketed his fee just
as the Smiths’ wagon drove up and the Smith boys cocked their guns and
covered the party. But the parson was wide awake. He had his revolver
out and old man Smith covered before anybody had taken aim at him, but
instead of shooting he remarked that he was a minister of the blessed
gospel of peace, that there was no necessity for bloodshed, and that he
would blow a hole through old Smith unless the Smith boys lowered their
weapons and consented to argue the matter. ‘The fact is, Colonel Smith,’
said the parson, ‘you’re too late. The young people are legally married,
and the sooner you accept the situation the better. I married them not
two minutes ago, standing on that identical tombstone.’


“Colonel Smith was a lawyer, and the sharpest one in that part of the
country. He saw the force of the minister’s remarks, so he told the
boys to put up their guns and he shook hands with the minister. Then he
inquired, in a careless sort of way, where Josiah and Melinda had stood
while they were being married. The parson showed the footprints of the
bride and groom, and then Colonel Smith turned to Melinda and said,
‘You’ll come straight home with me. There hasn’t been any marriage yet.
That stone is the boundary mark between Indiana and Illinois, and you
were standing in Indiana and that other idiot was standing in Illinois
when the parson tried to marry you. Nobody can marry in two States at the
same time, and I shan’t recognize the pretended marriage till a court
of law compels me to do so, which will be never. I hope this will teach
you the folly of fooling with Methodism. When you want to get married
next time try a Baptist minister, who will know the difference between a
tombstone and a boundary mark.’ There were too many Smiths and they were
too well armed to be reasoned with successfully, so the upshot was that
Melinda went home with her family and Josiah and the parson went to see a

“The next day Josiah brought a suit for divorce against Melinda. It was
a friendly suit, you understand, and his only object was to test the
question of the validity of his marriage, for, of course, no man can
get a divorce unless he first proves that he is married. Old man Smith
conducted the case on his side, and a lawyer named Starkweather, who is
now a member of the Illinois Legislature, appeared for Josiah Wilson.
Colonel Smith argued that while the parson who conducted the alleged
marriage ceremony could undoubtedly have married a couple in the State
of Indiana, he could not marry a woman in Indiana to a man in Illinois,
for the reason that the man and the woman could not be in the same place
while they were in two different commonwealths, and that hence Josiah
and Melinda had not legally appeared together before the officiating
minister. Furthermore, he argued that the minister at the time of the
pretended marriage was standing neither in Indiana nor in Illinois,
but on the boundary line; that the statute defined the boundary line as
‘an imaginary line’ running from such and such a point to such and such
a point, and that a minister who stands in a purely imaginary locality
stands virtually nowhere, and hence cannot perform any function of his

“On the other hand, Josiah’s lawyer claimed that the minister had married
Melinda Smith in the State of Indiana; that consequently she must have
been married to somebody, and that that somebody was unquestionably
Josiah Wilson. As to the point that the minister stood in an imaginary
locality because, as was alleged, he stood on the boundary line, the
lawyer maintained that it was a physical impossibility that a minister
weighing two hundred and fifty pounds could stand in a purely imaginative
place. Moreover, he was prepared to prove that while performing the
ceremony at least one of the minister’s feet was in the State of Indiana,
which was sufficient to make him legally present in that State.

“The arguments lasted three days, and the court before which it was
tried, consisting of three judges, took all the third day to deliver its
verdict. It decided that Melinda Smith was legally married to some person
unknown, though not to Josiah Wilson, and that Josiah Wilson was also
married to some unknown woman, who was not Melinda Smith, whoever else
she might be; that no marriage between the plaintiff and the defendant
had ever taken place; and that no divorce could be granted, but that if
either of them married any one else he or she would be guilty of bigamy.

“The Smiths, with the exception of Melinda, were delighted with the
decision, for it made it reasonably certain that Josiah could never be
recognized as her husband. She was a good deal cast down about it, for,
like every other Indiana girl, she had looked forward to being married
and divorced as the natural lot of woman. Now it appeared that she was
married, but in such an unsatisfactory way that she could never have
a husband and never be divorced from any one. As for Josiah, he was
furious, but there was no help for it; the law was against him, and, as a
law-abiding man, he was obliged to respect it, especially as he could not
hope to kill off all four of the Smiths if he decided to make a family
feud of it; he himself having no family whatever, and no one to help him
to keep up his end of the feud.

“For the next fifteen years Josiah lived a single man except in name, and
Melinda mourned her hard fate and kept house for her father and brothers;
but one day Josiah’s lawyer, who was by this time in the legislature,
came to him and offered to have his marriage to Melinda made legal in
all respects for five hundred dollars. The lawyer was so certain that
he could do this that he was willing to wait for his pay until after
he had gained a verdict, and Josiah, after a little bargaining such as
every self-respecting man would have made in his place, consented to the
lawyer’s terms. It seems that the lawyer had accidentally discovered
that there had been a mistake in the survey of part of the boundary line
between Indiana and Illinois, and at the very place where Josiah and
Melinda were married. A rectification of this mistake would move the line
ten feet west, and so place the spot where the pair stood during their
wedding entirely within the State of Indiana. The proper steps to obtain
the rectification of the boundary were taken, and it was rectified.
Then Melinda in her turn began a suit for divorce against Josiah, and
had no difficulty in proving the marriage and in obtaining a decree.
Josiah paid the lawyer his five hundred dollars and was overjoyed at
being finally able to call his Melinda his own. But he met with a little
disappointment. Now that Melinda had obtained her divorce, she thought
she might as well live up to it and marry a fresh husband. So she married
the Methodist minister, who had just lost his third wife, and lived
happily ever afterward.

“It was just after this that Josiah, being perhaps made a little reckless
by his disappointment, became involved in the affair that I was going
to tell you about when you interrupted me and wanted to hear about his
marriage. Matrimony is a mighty curious thing, and you can never tell
precisely how it is going to turn out. That is one reason why I was never
married but once, though I spent ten years of my life in Chicago, and
had friends at the bar who stood ready to obtain divorces for me at any
moment and without a dollar of expense.”


“Yes!” said the Colonel reflectively, “I’ve been almost everywhere in my
time except in jail, and I’ve been in a great deal worse places than a
first-class American jail with all the modern improvements. The fact is
that philanthropic people have gone so far in improving the condition of
prisoners that most of our prisons are rather better than most of our
hotels. At any rate, they are less expensive and the guests are treated
with more respect.

“I never could understand a craze that some people have for prisoners.
For instance, in New York and Chicago the young ladies have a society
for giving flowers to murderers. Whenever a man is convicted of murder
and sentenced to be hanged, the girls begin to heave flowers into his
cell till he can’t turn round without upsetting a vase of roses or a big
basinful of pansies and getting his feet wet. I once knew a murderer who
told me that if anything could reconcile him to being hung it would be in
getting rid of the floral tributes that the girls lavished on him. You
see, he was one of the leading murderers in that section of country, and
consequently he received about a cart-load of flowers every day.


“I had a neighbor when I lived in New Berlinopolisville who was President
of the Society for Ameliorating the Condition of Prisoners, and he
was the craziest man on the subject that I ever met. His name was
Hoskins—Colonel Uriah Hoskins. He was the author of the Hoskins Bill
that attracted so much attention when it was before the legislature,
though it never became law. The hill provided that every prisoner should
have a sitting-room as well as a sleeping-room, and that it should be
furnished with a piano, a banjo, a library, a typewriter, a wine-cooler,
and a whist-table; that the prisoner should be permitted to hold two
weekly receptions, to which everybody should be allowed to come, and that
he should be taught any branch of study that he might care to take up,
books and masters being, of course, supplied free. Colonel Hoskins used
to insist that the only thing that made a man go wrong was the lack of
kindness, and that the sure way to reform a criminal was to treat him
with so much kindness that he would grow ashamed of being wicked, and
would fall on everybody’s neck and devote the rest of his life to weeping
tears of repentance and singing hymns of joy.

“While Colonel Hoskins was fond of all styles of criminals, burglars were
his particular pets. According to him, a burglar was more deserving of
kindness than any other man. ‘How would you like it,’ he used to say, ‘if
you had to earn your living by breaking into houses in the middle of the
night, instead of sleeping peacefully in your bed? Do you think you would
be full of good thoughts after you had been bitten by the watch-dog and
fired at by the man of the house, and earned nothing by your labor except
a bad cold and the prospect of hydrophobia? There is nothing more brutal
than the way in which society treats the burglar; and so long as society
refuses to put him in the way of earning an easier and less dangerous
living, he cannot be blamed if he continues to practise his midnight

“I must say this for Colonel Hoskins. He did not confine himself to talk,
like many other philanthropists, but was always trying to carry out his
principles. He really meant what he said about burglars, and there isn’t
the least doubt that he had more sympathy for them than he had for the
honest men of his acquaintance.

“When people asked him what he would do if he woke up in the night and
found a burglar in his house, and whether or not he would shoot at him,
he said that he would as soon think of shooting at his own wife, and that
he would undertake to reform that burglar, then and there, by kindness
alone. Once somebody said to Hoskins that he ought really to let the
burglars know his feelings toward them, and Hoskins said that he would do
it without delay.

“That same day he drew up a beautiful ‘Notice to Burglars,’ and had it
printed in big letters and framed and hung up in the dining-room of his
house. It read in this way: ‘Burglars are respectfully informed that the
silverware is all plated, and that the proprietor of this house never
keeps ready money on hand. Cake and wine will be found in the dining-room
closet, and burglars are cordially invited to rest and refresh
themselves. Please wipe your feet on the mat, and close the window when
leaving the house.’

“Colonel Hoskins took a good deal of pride in that notice. He showed it
to every one who called at the house, and said that if other people would
follow his example and treat burglars like Christians and gentlemen,
there would soon be an end of burglary, for the burglars would be so
touched by the kindness of their treatment that they would abandon the
business and become honored members of society—insurance presidents,
or bank cashiers, or church treasurers. He didn’t say how the reformed
burglars were to find employment in banks and insurance offices and such,
but that was a matter of detail, and he always preferred to devise large
and noble schemes, and leave the working details of them to other men.

“One morning Colonel Hoskins, who was an early riser, went down to the
dining-room before breakfast, and was surprised to find that he had had a
midnight visit from burglars. Two empty wine-bottles stood on the table,
and all the cake was eaten, which showed that the burglars had accepted
the invitation to refresh themselves. But they did not seem to have
accepted it in quite the right spirit. All Hoskins’ spoons and forks lay
in a heap in the middle of the floor, and every one was twisted or broken
so as to be good for nothing. The window had been left open and the rain
had ruined the curtains, and on a dirty piece of paper the burglars had
scrawled with a lead-pencil the opinion that ‘Old Hoskins is the biggest
fule and the gol-darndest skinflint in the country. You set out whiskey
next time, or we’ll serve you out.’

“Hoskins was not in the least cast down by the rudeness of the burglars.
‘Poor fellows,’ he said, ‘they have been so used to bad treatment that
they don’t altogether appreciate kindness at first. But they will learn.’
So he laid in some new spoons and forks and added a bottle of whiskey
to the wine that he kept in the closet for the burglars, and was as
confident as ever that the next gang that might break into his house
would be melted into tears and repentance and would call him their best
and dearest friend.

“A week or two later Mrs. Hoskins was awakened by a noise in the
dining-room, and after waking up her husband told him that there were
burglars in the house, and that he must get out of the back window and
go for the police. He told her that he was sorry to see her manifest
such an unchristian spirit, and he would show her how burglars ought to
be treated. There was not the least doubt that there were burglars in
the house, and they were making a good deal more noise than was strictly
consistent with the prospect of rising in their profession, for no able
burglar ever makes any unnecessary noise while engaged in business,
unless, of course, he falls over a coal-scuttle, and then he naturally
uses language. St. Paul himself would probably say something pretty
strong in similar circumstances. Hoskins was sincerely delighted to have
the opportunity to meet his burglarious friends, and he lost no time in
dressing and descending to the dining-room.

“He wore his slippers, and the burglars—there were two of them—did not
hear him until he was fairly in the dining room. They were seated at
the table, with their feet on the damask table-cloth, and the bottle of
whiskey was nearly empty. The Colonel was much pleased to see that they
had not damaged his silverware, and he was just about to thank them when
they saw him. They started up, and one of them caught him by the throat,
while the other held a pistol to his head and promised to blow out his
brains if he made the slightest noise. Then they tied him hand and foot,
gagged him, and laid him on the floor, and then sat down to finish the

“Both the burglars were partly drunk, which accounted for the
unprofessional noise they had been making. They talked in rather a
low tone, but Hoskins could hear everything they said, and it was not
particularly encouraging to a gagged and bound philanthropist. They
agreed that he was a fool, and a stingy fool, or else he would have kept
money in the house, and would have set out lemons and sugar as well as
plain whiskey. They said that any man who treated poor working-men in
that way wasn’t fit to live, and that Hoskins would have to be killed,
even if it was not necessary—as it plainly was in this case—to kill him
in order to prevent him from appearing at any future time as a witness
against them. They admitted that the whiskey was not bad of its kind, but
they were of the opinion that Hoskins had left it in their way so that
they might get drunk and be caught by the police.

“Colonel Hoskins listened to this conversation with horror, and the
prospect that the drunken rascals would be as good as their word, and
kill him before they left the house, was only a little more painful
than the conviction that his method, appealing to the better nature of
burglars, had failed for the second time. When the whiskey was exhausted
the men rose up and looked at Hoskins, and a happy thought struck one of
them. ‘Thishyer idiot,’ he said, ‘may not have any money in the house,
but he’s bound to have some in the bank, and he’s going to write us a
check for a thousand dollars, provided we let him off and don’t kick his
brains out this time.’ The other burglar, who was in that benevolent
frame of mind that Irish whiskey and conscious virtue sometimes produce,
agreed to the suggestion, and Hoskins was therefore unbound and seated at
the table, and told to draw a check at once if he had the least regard
for his life. As he was gagged he could not explain to the burglars the
kind feelings that he still had toward them, and the fact that they could
not draw the money on the check without being captured by the police. So
he simply signed the check, and groaned to think that the poor burglars
were so slow to be reformed in the way that he had hoped they would be.

[Illustration: “TIED HIM IN A CHAIR.”]

“When this business was over, the burglars tied Hoskins’ wrists together
again and then tied him in a chair. Then they set to work to do all
the damage they could do without making too much noise. They tore the
curtains and hacked the piano with knives, and poured a jug of golden
syrup over the carpet. Then they plastered Colonel Hoskins’ face with
raspberry jam and emptied a sack of flour over his head, and went away,
telling him that if he ever again ventured to trifle with the feelings
of poor but self-respecting men, they would put him to death by slow

“Hoskins sat in the chair for a couple of hours, till his wife timidly
crept downstairs and released him. It took him a good hour to get the jam
and the flour out of his hair and whiskers, and as Mrs. Hoskins said that
he was in no state to enter a decent bedroom and made him wash at the
pump in the back yard, he found it a rather cold operation. Perhaps it
was the remarks that Mrs. Hoskins addressed to him during the operation
that irritated him, for she intimated very plainly that he was no better
than a professional idiot, and when a man’s hair is stuck together with
jam, remarks of this sort from the wife of his bosom seem to be lacking
in tenderness. However that may be, Colonel Hoskins had no sooner got
himself into what his wife condescended to call a state of comparative
decency, than he took down his ‘Notice to Burglars’ and tore it into a
thousand pieces. That day he had an electric burglar-alarm put into his
house, he bought the savagest dog that he could find, and he stopped the
payment of the check, which, however, was never presented. He continued
to be the President of the Society for Ameliorating the Condition of
Prisoners, but he steadily refused to ameliorate a single prisoner
convicted of burglary, and while he was always a lunatic in regard to
other criminals, he openly maintained that a burglar was the worst of
men and that kindness was utterly thrown away upon him. He never had any
more burglars in his house, though the dog now and then lunched off warm
leg when some stranger to that part of the country ventured into the
Hoskins premises at night. Hoskins was very fond of the animal, which was
quite right, but his practice of leaving a bottle of whiskey, with an
ounce of strychnine in it, on the dining-room table every night, in case
a burglar should succeed in getting into the house, was, in my opinion,
going a little too far. Antimonial wine would have been much more humane
and sufficiently effective. But there is no man who is more severe than a
philanthropist who has been turned sour.”


We had been discussing the Darwinian hypothesis, and the Colonel had
maintained a profound silence, which was sufficient evidence that he did
not believe in the development of man from the lower animals. Some one,
however, asked him plumply his opinion of Darwinism, and he sententiously
replied, “Darned nonsense!”

Feeling that this view of the matter possibly merited expansion, the
Colonel caused his chair to assume its customary oratorical attitude on
its two rear legs, and began to discourse.

“There are some things,” he remarked, “which do look as if there might
be a grain of truth in this monkey theory. For instance, when I was in
France I was pretty nearly convinced that the monkey is the connecting
link between man and the Frenchmen, but after all there is no proof
of it. That’s what’s the matter with Darwinism. When you produce a man
who can remember that his grandfather was a monkey, or when you show me
a monkey that can produce papers to prove that he is my second cousin,
I’ll believe all Darwin said on the subject; but as the thing stands
I’ve nothing but Darwin’s word to prove that men and monkeys are near
relations. So far as I can learn, Darwin didn’t know as much about
animals as a man ought to know who undertakes to invent a theory about
them. He never was intimate with dogs and he never drove an army mule. He
had a sort of bowing acquaintance with monkeys and a few other animals of
no particular standing in the community, but he couldn’t even understand
a single animal language. Now, if he had gone to work and learned to read
and write and speak the monkey language, as that American professor that
you were just speaking of has done, he might have been able to give us
some really valuable information.

“Do I believe that animals talk? I don’t simply believe it, I know
it. When I was a young man I had a good deal to do with animals, and
I learned to understand the cat language just as well as I understood
English. It’s an easy language when once you get the hang of it, and
from what I hear of German the two are considerably alike. You look as
if you didn’t altogether believe me, though why you should doubt that a
man can learn cat language when the world is full of men that pretend to
have learned German, and nobody calls their word in question, I don’t
precisely see.

“Of course, I don’t pretend to understand all the cat dialects. For
example, I don’t know a word of the Angora dialect and can only
understand a sentence here and there of the tortoise-shell dialect; but
so far as good, pure standard cat language goes, it’s as plain as print
to me to-day, though I haven’t paid any attention to it for forty years.
I don’t want you to understand that I ever spoke it. I always spoke
English when I was talking with cats. They all understand English as well
as you do. They pick it up just as a child picks up a language from
hearing it spoken.

“Forty years ago I was a young man, and, like most young men, I fancied
that I was in love with a young woman of our town. There isn’t the least
doubt in my mind that I should have married her if I had not known the
cat language. She afterward married a man whom she took away to Africa
with her as a missionary. I knew him well, and he didn’t want to go to
Africa. Said he had no call to be a missionary, and that all he wanted
was to live in a Christian country where he could go and talk with the
boys in the bar-room evenings. But his wife carried him off, and it’s my
belief that if I had married her she would have made me turn missionary,
or pirate, or anything else that she thought best. I shall never cease to
be grateful to Thomas Aquinas for saving me from that woman.


“This was the way of it. I was living in a little cottage that belonged
to my uncle, and that he let me have rent free on condition that I should
take care of it and keep the grounds in an attractive state until he
could sell it. I had an old negro housekeeper and two cats. One of them,
Martha Washington by name, was young and handsome, and about as bright
a cat as I ever knew. She had a strong sense of humor, too, which is
unusual with cats, and when something amused her she would throw back her
head and open her mouth wide, and laugh a silent laugh that was as hearty
and rollicking as a Methodist parson’s laugh when he hears a gray-haired
joke at a negro minstrel show. Martha was perhaps the most popular cat in
the town, and there was scarcely a minute in the day when there wasn’t
some one of her admirers in the back yard. As for serenades, she had
three or four every night that it didn’t rain. There was a quartette
club formed by four first-class feline voices, and the club used to give
Martha and me two or three hours of music three times a week. I used
sometimes to find as many as six or seven old boots in the back yard of
a morning that had been contributed by enthusiastic neighbors. As for
society, Martha Washington was at the top of the heap. There wasn’t a
more fashionable cat in the whole State of Ohio—I was living in Ohio at
the time—and in spite of it all she was as simple and unaffected in her
ways as if she had been born and bred in a Quaker meeting-house.

“One afternoon Martha was giving a four-o’clock milk on the veranda
next to my room. I always gave her permission to give that sort of
entertainment whenever she wanted to, for the gossip of her friends used
to be very amusing to me. Among the guests that afternoon was Susan’s
Maltese cat. Susan was the young lady I wanted to marry. Now, this cat
had always pretended to be very fond of me, and Susan often said that
her cat never made a mistake in reading character, and that the cat’s
approval of me was equivalent to a first-class Sunday-school certificate
of moral character. I didn’t care anything about the cat myself, for
somehow I didn’t place any confidence in her professions. There was an
expression about her tail which, to my mind, meant that she was insincere
and treacherous. The Maltese cat had finished her milk, when the
conversation drifted around to the various mistresses of the cats, and
presently some one spoke of Susan. Then the Maltese began to say things
about Susan that made my blood boil. It was not only what she said, but
what she insinuated, and according to her Susan was one of the meanest
and most contemptible women in the whole United States. I stood it as
long as I could, and then I got up and said to Martha Washington, ‘I
think your Maltese friend is needed at her home, and the sooner she goes
the better if she doesn’t want to be helped home with a club.’ That was
enough. The Maltese, who was doing up her back fur when I spoke, stopped,
looked at me as if she could tear me into pieces, and then flounced out
of the house without saying a word. I understood that there was an end to
her pretence of friendship for me, and that henceforth I should have an
enemy in Susan’s house who might, perhaps, be able to do me a good deal
of harm.


“The next time I called to see Susan the Maltese was in the room, and she
instantly put up her back and tail and swore at me as if I was a Chinaman
on the lookout for material for a stolen dinner. ‘What can be the matter
with poor pussy?’ said Susan. ‘She seems to be so terribly afraid of
you all of a sudden. I hope it doesn’t mean that you have been doing
something that she doesn’t approve of.’ I didn’t make any reply to this
insinuation, except to say that the cat might perhaps be going mad, but
this didn’t help me any with Susan, who was really angry at the idea that
her cat could be capable of going mad.

“The same sort of thing happened every time I went to the house. The cat
was always in the room, and always expressed, in the plainest way, the
opinion that I was a thief and a murderer and an enemy of the temperance
society. When I asked her what she meant to do, she would give me no
reply except a fresh oath or other bad language. Threats had no effect on
her, for she knew that I could not touch her in Susan’s house, and she
didn’t intend that I should catch her outside of the house. Nothing was
clearer than that the Maltese was bound to make a quarrel between me and
Susan, in revenge for what I had said at Martha’s four-o’clock milk.

“Meanwhile Susan began to take the thing very seriously, and hinted that
the cat’s opposition to me might be a providential warning against me.
‘I never knew her to take such a prejudice against any one before,’ she
said, ‘except against that converted Jew who afterward turned out to be
a burglar, and nearly murdered poor dear Mr. Higby, the Baptist preacher,
the night he broke into Mr. Higby’s house and stole all his hams.’ Once
when I did manage to give the Maltese a surreptitious kick, and she
yelled as if she was half-killed, Susan said, ‘I am really afraid I shall
have to ask you to leave us now. Poor pussy’s nerves are so thoroughly
upset that I must devote all my energies to soothing her. I do hope she
is mistaken in her estimate of you.’ This was not very encouraging, and I
saw clearly that if the Maltese kept up her opposition the chances that
Susan would marry me were not worth a rush.

“Did I tell you that I had a large gray cat by the name of Thomas
Aquinas? He was in some respects the most remarkable cat I ever met.
Most people considered him rather a dull person, but among cats he was
conceded to have a colossal mind. Cats would come from miles away to
ask his advice about things. I don’t mean such trifling matters as his
views on mice-catching—which, by the way, is a thing that has very
little interest for most cats—or his opinion of the best way in which
to get a canary bird through the bars of a cage. They used to consult
him on matters of the highest importance, and the opinions that he used
to give would have laid over those of Benjamin Franklin himself. Why,
Martha Washington told me that Thomas Aquinas knew more about bringing up
kittens than the oldest and most experienced feline matron that she had
ever known. As for common sense, Thomas Aquinas was just a solid chunk of
it, as you might say, and I get into the habit of consulting him whenever
I wanted a good, safe, cautious opinion. He would see at a glance where
the trouble was, and would give me advice that no lawyer could have
beaten, no matter how big a fee he might have charged.

“Well, I went home from Susan’s house, and I said to Thomas Aquinas,
‘Thomas’—for he was one of those cats that you would no more have called
‘Tom’ than you would call Mr. Gladstone ‘Bill’—‘Thomas,’ I said, ‘I want
you to come with me to Miss Susan’s and tell that Maltese beast that if
she doesn’t quit her practice of swearing at me whenever I come into the
room it will be the worse for her.’

“‘That’s easy enough,’ said Thomas. ‘I know one or two little things
about that cat that would not do to be told, and she knows that I know
them. Never you fear but that I can shut her up in a moment. I heard
that she was going about bragging that she would get square with you
for something you said to her one day, but I didn’t feel called upon to
interfere without your express approval.’”

“The next day Thomas and I strolled over to Susan’s, and, as luck
would have it, we were shown into her reception-room before she came
downstairs. The Maltese cat was in the room, and began her usual game
of being filled with horror at the sight of such a hardened wretch as
myself. Of course, Thomas Aquinas took it up at once, and the two had
a pretty hot argument. Now Thomas, in spite of his colossal mind, was
a quick-tempered cat, and he was remarkably free-spoken when he was
roused. One word led to another, and presently the Maltese flew at
Thomas, and for about two minutes that room was so thick with fur that
you could hardly see the fight. Of course, there could have been only one
end to the affair. My cat weighed twice what the Maltese weighed, and
after a few rounds he had her by the neck, and never let go until he had
killed her. I was just saying ‘Hooray! Thomas!’ when Susan came into the

“I pass over what she said. Its general sense was that a man who
encouraged dumb animals to fight, and who brought a great savage brute
into her house to kill her sweet little pussy in her own parlor, wasn’t
fit to live. She would listen to no explanations, and when I said that
Thomas had called at my request to reason with the Maltese about her
unkind conduct toward me, Susan said that my attempt to turn an infamous
outrage into a stupid joke made the matter all the worse, and that she
must insist that I and my prize-fighting beast should leave her house at
once and never enter it again.

“So you see that if it had not been that I understood what the Maltese
cat said at Martha Washington’s milk party, I should probably never have
quarrelled with either Susan or her cat, and should now have been a
missionary in Central Africa, if I hadn’t blown my brains out or taken
to drink. I have often thought that the man Susan did marry might have
been saved if he had known the cat language in time and had made the
acquaintance of the Maltese.”

The Colonel paused, and presently I asked him if he really expected us to
believe his story.

“Why not?” he replied. “It isn’t any stiffer than Darwin’s yarn about our
being descended from monkeys. You believe that on the word of a man you
never saw, and I expect you to believe my story that I understand the cat
language on my unsupported word. Perhaps the story is a little tough,
but if you are going in for science you shouldn’t let your credulity be
backed down by any story.”


The _Etruria_ was nearing New York, and the prospect of the inevitable
interview with the custom-house officers had already cast a gloom over
the passengers. For the most part they were silent, and their faces wore
an anxious and solemn expression. The Rev. Mr. Waterman, of the Eighth
Day Baptist Church, who had bought largely of ready-made clothing in
London, even suggested that it might be well to hold a prayer-meeting in
the saloon.

A group of half a dozen men were sitting in the lee of one of the
deck-houses, smoking silently, when one of the number, a young and
sanguine person, suddenly exclaimed:

“I don’t believe any honest man ever has any trouble with the
custom-house. It’s the fellows who want to defraud the Government who
make all the complaints.”

“What you say may be patriotism and it may be ignorance——”

“What’s the difference?” murmured a cynical interrupter.

“But,” continued the speaker, “it isn’t true. I never tried to defraud
the Government, but for all that I’ve had more trouble with the
custom-house than if I’d been an honest collector of the port trying not
to mix up politics with the business of the office.”

“America expects every man to pay his duty, Colonel,” replied the
sanguine young man, with a vague reminiscence of Nelson. “Tell us about
your trouble, and I rather think you’ll have to admit that it was because
you didn’t want to pay duty on something.”

The Colonel was generally understood by the rest of the passengers to
be a sort of theatrical manager, a position which in the United States
entitles a man to the relative rank of colonel in the militia and
commodore in the canal-boat service. He had on several occasions shown a
knowledge of music and of professional musicians which had won for him
some respect among those of his fellow-passengers who did not know the
difference between a hurdy-gurdy and a hautboy, and were therefore fond
of posing as musical critics. He was a shrewd, good-tempered colonel, and
the barkeeper said that he was the most elegant, high-toned gentleman he
had ever crossed with.

“Electricity, gentlemen,” resumed the Colonel, “is the biggest thing of
the century, but it has its drawbacks. Did any of you ever happen to ride
on that electric railroad in Berlin? Well, I have, and ’most anybody who
goes to Berlin is liable to ride on it. It taught me, however, that a man
ought to be pretty careful when he trusts himself in an electric car.

“It happened in this way. I was an agent in the general show business,
and was collecting an opera company for a friend of mine who was going
to open in Chicago. I had come across a first-class tenor—found him in a
country church choir in Germany—and was bringing him home with me under
a contract, when he and I took that ride on that Berlin electric road.
He was a careless sort of chap, and he sat down in a corner of the car
where the electricity had been leaking and the seat was pretty wet.”

“I never knew before,” remarked the young man, “that electricity could
make a seat wet.”

“Probably not,” retorted the Colonel. “I should judge that there might
be a right smart lot of things that you mightn’t know. Most of these
gentlemen here, however, have probably heard that nowadays electricity
is put up for use in bottles and metallic cans. It stands to reason that
anything capable of being put into a bottle is capable of leaking, and
wetting whatever it leaks on. If there is anybody here who knows more
about bottles than I do, I’m ready to let him tell this story.

“As I was saying, my man sat down in a sort of pool of electric fluid,
and sat there for about half an hour. He was wearing in the fob-pocket
of his trousers a cheap silver watch. I had given it to him so that he
might get some exercise and prevent himself from getting too fat. He
never suspected my motive, but he tired himself all out winding it up
for two hours every night. Now you may not believe it, but I give you
my word that the electricity completely dissolved that watch-case and
deposited the silver around the man’s waist. He didn’t find it out till
night, and you never saw a man so scared as when he found that there was
a band about four inches wide silver-plated all round his waist. The
doctor told him that the only possible way of getting it off would be to
dissolve it with acid, but that the acid would eat clean through to his
spine and injure his voice. So my tenor had to let bad enough alone, and
be satisfied with another ten-and-sixpenny gymnasium that I gave him to
mollify his feelings.

“We came over on the _Arizona_, and it got around during the passage that
my man was silver-plated. There was a custom-house spy on board, and it
happened that after the tenor had sworn that he had nothing dutiable with
him, the inspector ordered him to strip and be personally examined. Of
course when this was done it was discovered that he was silver-plated,
and he was held for duty under the general heading in the tariff of
‘all other articles, silver-plated, or in whole, and not elsewhere
enumerated,’ and taxed fifty per cent _ad valorem_ and fined two hundred
and fifty dollars for failing to declare that he was plated. He couldn’t
pay and I wouldn’t pay, and so he was locked up in a bonded warehouse,
and I went to consult my lawyer.

“I laid all the facts before him, and told him I would pay him handsomely
if he could get my man out of the custom-house without paying either
duty or fine. Now, the lawyer knew the tariff from beginning to end, and
if any man could help me I knew he could. He didn’t promise anything at
first, but he discussed the question by and large and in all its bearings.

“‘I’m afraid,’ said he, ‘that there is no hope of getting your friend out
without paying duty, but we may succeed in having him classified so as to
make the duty very low. For instance, you say the man is a professional
singer. Now, we might have him classed as a musical instrument and taxed
forty-five per cent _ad valorem_. By the bye, what did you agree to pay

“‘I agreed to pay him,’ says I, ‘a hundred dollars per week.’

“‘That’s bad,’ says the lawyer. ‘A hundred dollars a week is fifty-two
hundred per year, which is about the interest at six per cent on
eighty-seven thousand dollars. You wouldn’t like to pay forty-three or
four thousand dollars duty on him.’

“‘I’d see him sent to Congress first!’ says I.

“‘Very well,’ says the lawyer. ‘Then perhaps we could classify him as
machinery or parts thereof. But you wouldn’t save much in that way. You’d
have to pay forty per cent _ad valorem_, and very likely the appraisers
would say that you had undervalued the man, and would value him at double
what your contract seems to say he is worth. They’re bound to protect
American machinery against the pauper labor of Europe every time.’

“‘How would it do to classify him as old family plate?’ said I.

“‘Worse and worse,’ said the lawyer. ‘He’d have to pay sixty per cent,
and you’d have a good deal of difficulty in proving that he is old
family plate. Of course it could be done, but it would probably cost you
more than the whole amount of the duty. They’re a perfectly honest set of
men, the appraisers, and they naturally come high.’

“‘What will I do, then?’ said I; ‘let him die in the custom-house and
then sue for damages?’

“‘There might be something worth while done in that way,’ says the
lawyer, ‘but it would be middling hard on the man. But I’ll tell you what
we can do. Didn’t you say that the man was singing in a church choir when
you hired him?’

“‘I did so,’ says I.

“‘All right,’ says the lawyer. ‘We’ll classify him as an “article used
in the service of religion,” and get him in free of any duty whatever.
You go and get him an engagement in a church without an hour’s delay, and
then come to me. We’ll beat the custom-house this time, sure enough.’

“I got the man an engagement to sing for a week in a Methodist
meeting-house, and before the week was out he was decided to be an
article used in the service of religion, and was returned to me free of
duty, and cursing the head off of every officer in the revenue service.
The end of it was that my tenor claimed that I had broken my contract by
setting him to sing in a church, and he sued me for damages, and got them
too. So you see, my young friend, that a man may have trouble with the
custom-house who does not want to defraud the Government out of anything,
not even the duty on that sealskin sack that I hear you have taken apart
and packed in a spare pair of boots.”


*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Told by the Colonel" ***

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