A Mortal Antipathy
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (The Physician and Poet)
Part 2 out of 5
We are dying to get a look at him, of course--though there is a
horrid story about him--that he has the evil eye did you ever hear
about the evil eye? If a person who is born with it looks at you,
you die, or something happens--awful--is n't it?
"The rector says he never goes to church, but then you know a good
many of the people that pass the summer at the village never do--they
think their religion must have vacations--that's what I've heard they
say--vacations, just like other hard work--it ought not to be hard
work, I'm sure, but I suppose they feel so about it. Should you feel
afraid to have him look at you? Some of the girls say they would n't
have him for the whole world, but I shouldn't mind it--especially if
I had on my eyeglasses. Do you suppose if there is anything in the
evil eye it would go through glass? I don't believe it. Do you
think blue eye-glasses would be better than common ones? Don't laugh
at me--they tell such weird stories! The Terror--Lurida Vincent, you
know-makes fun of all they say about it, but then she 'knows
everything and doesn't believe anything,' the girls say--Well, I
should be awfully scared, I know, if anybody that had the evil eye
should look at me--but--oh, I don't know--but if it was a young man--
and if he was very--very good-looking--I think--perhaps I would run
the risk--but don't tell anybody I said any such horrid thing--and
burn this letter right up--there 's a dear good girl."
It is to be hoped that no reader will doubt the genuineness of this
letter. There are not quite so many "awfuls" and "awfullys" as one
expects to find in young ladies' letters, but there are two "weirds,"
which may be considered a fair allowance. How it happened that
"jolly" did not show itself can hardly be accounted for; no doubt it
turns up two or three times at least in the postscript.
Here is an extract from another letter. This was from one of the
students of Stoughton University to a friend whose name as it was
written on the envelope was Mr. Frank Mayfield. The old postmaster
who found fault with Miss "Lulu's" designation would probably have
quarrelled with this address, if it had come under his eye. "Frank"
is a very pretty, pleasant-sounding name, and it is not strange that
many persons use it in common conversation all their days when
speaking of a friend. Were they really christened by that name, any
of these numerous Franks? Perhaps they were, and if so there is
nothing to be said. But if not, was the baptismal name Francis or
Franklin? The mind is apt to fasten in a very perverse and
unpleasant way upon this question, which too often there is no
possible way of settling. One might hope, if he outlived the bearer
of the appellation, to get at the fact; but since even gravestones
have learned to use the names belonging to childhood and infancy in
their solemn record, the generation which docks its Christian names
in such an un-Christian way will bequeath whole churchyards full of
riddles to posterity. How it will puzzle and distress the historians
and antiquarians of a coming generation to settle what was the real
name of Dan and Bert and Billy, which last is legible on a white
marble slab, raised in memory of a grown person, in a certain burial-
ground in a town in Essex County, Massachusetts!
But in the mean time we are forgetting the letter directed to Mr.
"DEAR FRANK,--Hooray! Hurrah! Rah!
"I have made the acquaintance of 'The Mysterious Stranger'! It
happened by a queer sort of accident, which came pretty near
relieving you of the duty of replying to this letter. I was out in
my little boat, which carries a sail too big for her, as I know and
ought to have remembered. One of those fitful flaws of wind to which
the lake is so liable struck the sail suddenly, and over went my
boat. My feet got tangled in the sheet somehow, and I could not get
free. I had hard work to keep my head above water, and I struggled
desperately to escape from my toils; for if the boat were to go down
I should be dragged down with her. I thought of a good many things
in the course of some four or five minutes, I can tell you, and I got
a lesson about time better than anything Kant and all the rest of
them have to say of it. After I had been there about an ordinary
lifetime, I saw a white canoe making toward me, and I knew that our
shy young gentleman was coming to help me, and that we should become
acquainted without an introduction. So it was, sure enough. He saw
what the trouble was, managed to disentangle my feet without drowning
me in the process or upsetting his little flimsy craft, and, as I was
somewhat tired with my struggle, took me in tow and carried me to the
landing where he kept his canoe. I can't say that there is anything
odd about his manners or his way of talk. I judge him to be a native
of one of our Northern States,--perhaps a New Englander. He has
lived abroad during some parts of his life. He is not an artist, as
it was at one time thought he might be. He is a good-looking fellow,
well developed, manly in appearance, with nothing to excite special
remark unless it be a certain look of anxiety or apprehension which
comes over him from time to time. You remember our old friend Squire
B., whose companion was killed by lightning when he was standing
close to him. You know the look he had whenever anything like a
thundercloud came up in the sky. Well, I should say there was a look
like that came over this Maurice Kirkwood's face every now and then.
I noticed that he looked round once or twice as if to see whether
some object or other was in sight. There was a little rustling in
the grass as if of footsteps, and this look came over his features.
A rabbit ran by us, and I watched to see if he showed any sign of
that antipathy we have heard so much of, but he seemed to be pleased
watching the creature.
"If you ask me what my opinion is about this Maurice Kirkwood, I
think he is eccentric in his habit of life, but not what they call a
'crank' exactly. He talked well enough about such matters as we
spoke of,--the lake, the scenery in general, the climate. I asked
him to come over and take a look at the college. He did n't promise,
but I should not be surprised if I should get him over there some
day. I asked him why he did n't go to the Pansophian meetings. He
did n't give any reason, but he shook his head in a very peculiar
way, as much as to say that it was impossible.
"On the whole, I think it is nothing more than the same feeling of
dread of human society, or dislike for it, which under the name of
religion used to drive men into caves and deserts. What a pity that
Protestantism does not make special provision for all the freaks of
individual character! If we had a little more faith and a few more
caverns, or convenient places for making them, we should have hermits
in these holes as thick as woodchucks or prairie dogs. I should like
to know if you never had the feeling,
"'Oh, that the desert were my dwelling-place!'
"I know what your answer will be, of course. You will say,
"'With one fair spirit for my minister;"'
"but I mean alone,--all alone. Don't you ever feel as if you should
like to have been a pillar-saint in the days when faith was as strong
as lye (spelt with a y), instead of being as weak as dish-water?
(Jerry is looking over my shoulder, and says this pun is too bad to
send, and a disgrace to the University--but never mind.) I often feel
as if I should like to roost on a pillar a hundred feet high,--yes,
and have it soaped from top to bottom. Wouldn't it be fun to look
down at the bores and the duns? Let us get up a pillar-roosters'
association. (Jerry--still looking over says there is an absurd
contradiction in the idea.)
"What a matter-of-fact idiot Jerry is!
"How do you like looking over, Mr. Inspector general?"
The reader will not get much information out of this lively young
fellow's letter, but he may get a little. It is something to know
that the mysterious resident of Arrowhead Village did not look nor
talk like a crazy person; that he was of agreeable aspect and
address, helpful when occasion offered, and had nothing about him, so
far as yet appeared, to prevent his being an acceptable member of
Of course the people in the village could never be contented without
learning everything there was to be learned about their visitor. All
the city papers were examined for advertisements. If a cashier had
absconded, if a broker had disappeared, if a railroad president was
missing, some of the old stories would wake up and get a fresh
currency, until some new circumstance gave rise to a new hypothesis.
Unconscious of all these inquiries and fictions, Maurice Kirkwood
lived on in his inoffensive and unexplained solitude, and seemed
likely to remain an unsolved enigma. The "Sachem" of the boating
girls became the "Sphinx" of the village ramblers, and it was agreed
on all hands that Egypt did not hold any hieroglyphics harder to make
out than the meaning of this young man's odd way of living.
THE ENIGMA STUDIED.
It was a curious, if it was not a suspicious, circumstance that a
young man, seemingly in good health, of comely aspect, looking as if
made for companionship, should keep himself apart from all the world
around him in a place where there was a general feeling of good
neighborhood and a pleasant social atmosphere. The Public Library
was a central point which brought people together. The Pansophian
Society did a great deal to make them acquainted with each other for
many of the meetings were open to outside visitors, and the subjects
discussed in the meetings furnished the material for conversation in
their intervals. A card of invitation had been sent by the Secretary
to Maurice, in answer to which Paolo carried back a polite note of
regret. The paper had a narrow rim of black, implying apparently
some loss of relative or friend, but not any very recent and crushing
bereavement. This refusal to come to the meetings of the society was
only what was expected. It was proper to ask him, but his declining
the invitation showed that he did not wish for attentions or
courtesies. There was nothing further to be done to bring him out of
his shell, and seemingly nothing more to be learned about him at
In this state of things it was natural that all which had been
previously gathered by the few who had seen or known anything of him
should be worked over again. When there is no new ore to be dug, the
old refuse heaps are looked over for what may still be found in them.
The landlord of the Anchor Tavern, now the head of the boarding-
house, talked about Maurice, as everybody in the village did at one
time or another. He had not much to say, but he added a fact or two.
The young gentleman was good pay,--so they all said. Sometimes he
paid in gold; sometimes in fresh bills, just out of the bank. He
trusted his man, Mr. Paul, with the money to pay his bills. He knew
something about horses; he showed that by the way he handled that
colt,--the one that threw the hostler and broke his collar-bone.
"Mr. Paul come down to the stable. 'Let me see that cult you all
'fraid of,' says he. 'My master, he ride any hoss,' says Paul. 'You
saddle him,' says be; and so they did, and Paul, he led that colt--
the kickinest and ugliest young beast you ever see in your life--up
to the place where his master, as he calls him, and he lives. What
does that Kirkwood do but clap on a couple of long spurs and jump on
to that colt's back, and off the beast goes, tail up, heels flying,
standing up on end, trying all sorts of capers, and at last going it
full run for a couple of miles, till he'd got about enough of it.
That colt went off as ferce as a wild-cat, and come back as quiet as
a cosset lamb. A man that pays his bills reg'lar, in good money, and
knows how to handle a hoss is three quarters of a gentleman, if he is
n't a whole one,--and most likely he is a whole one."
So spake the patriarch of the Anchor Tavern. His wife had already
given her favorable opinion of her former guest. She now added
something to her description as a sequel to her husband's remarks.
"I call him," she said, "about as likely a young gentleman as ever I
clapped my eyes on. He is rather slighter than I like to see a young
man of his age; if he was my sun, I should like to see him a little
more fleshy. I don't believe he weighs more than a hundred and
thirty or forty pounds. Did y' ever look at those eyes of his,
M'randy? Just as blue as succory flowers. I do like those light-
complected young fellows, with their fresh cheeks and their curly
hair; somehow, curly hair doos set off anybody's face. He is n't any
foreigner, for all that he talks Italian with that Mr. Paul that's
his help. He looks just like our kind of folks, the college kind,
that's brought up among books, and is handling 'em, and reading of
'em, and making of 'em, as like as not, all their lives. All that
you say about his riding the mad colt is just what I should think he
was up to, for he's as spry as a squirrel; you ought to see him go
over that fence, as I did once. I don't believe there's any harm in
that young gentleman,--I don't care what people say. I suppose he
likes this place just as other people like it, and cares more for
walking in the woods and paddling about in the water than he doos for
company; and if he doos, whose business is it, I should like to
The third of the speakers was Miranda, who had her own way of judging
"I never see him but two or three times," Miranda said. "I should
like to have waited on him, and got a chance to look stiddy at him
when he was eatin' his vittles. That 's the time to watch folks,
when their jaws get a-goin' and their eyes are on what's afore 'em.
Do you remember that chap the sheriff come and took away when we kep'
tahvern? Eleven year ago it was, come nex' Thanksgivin' time. A
mighty grand gentleman from the City he set up for. I watched him,
and I watched him. Says I, I don't believe you're no gentleman,
says I. He eat with his knife, and that ain't the way city folks
eats. Every time I handed him anything I looked closeter and
closeter. Them whiskers never grooved on them cheeks, says I to
myself. Them 's paper collars, says I. That dimun in your shirt-
front hain't got no life to it, says I. I don't believe it's
nothiri' more 'n a bit o' winderglass. So says I to Pushee, 'You
jes' step out and get the sheriff to come in and take a look at that
chap.' I knowed he was after a fellah. He come right in, an' he goes
up to the chap. 'Why, Bill,' says he, 'I'm mighty glad to see yer.
We've had the hole in the wall you got out of mended, and I want your
company to come and look at the old place,' says he, and he pulls out
a couple of handcuffs and has 'em on his wrists in less than no time,
an' off they goes together! I know one thing about that young
gentleman, anyhow,--there ain't no better judge of what's good eatin'
than he is. I cooked him some maccaroni myself one day, and he sends
word to me by that Mr. Paul, 'Tell Miss Miranda,' says he, I that the
Pope o' Rome don't have no better cooked maccaroni than what she sent
up to me yesterday,' says he. I don' know much about the Pope o'
Rome except that he's a Roman Catholic, and I don' know who cooks for
him, whether it's a man or a woman; but when it comes to a dish o'
maccaroni, I ain't afeard of their shefs, as they call 'em,--them he-
cooks that can't serve up a cold potater without callin' it by some
name nobody can say after 'em. But this gentleman knows good
cookin', and that's as good a sign of a gentleman as I want to tell
STILL AT FAULT.
The house in which Maurice Kirkwood had taken up his abode was not a
very inviting one. It was old, and had been left in a somewhat
dilapidated and disorderly condition by the tenants who had lived in
the part which Maurice now occupied. They had piled their packing-
boxes in the cellar, with broken chairs, broken china, and other
household wrecks. A cracked mirror lay on an old straw mattress, the
contents of which were airing themselves through wide rips and rents.
A lame clothes-horse was saddled with an old rug fringed with a
ragged border, out of which all the colors had been completely
trodden. No woman would have gone into a house in such a condition.
But the young man did not trouble himself much about such matters,
and was satisfied when the rooms which were to be occupied by himself
and his servant were made decent and tolerably comfortable. During
the fine season all this was not of much consequence, and if Maurice
made up his mind to stay through the winter he would have his choice
among many more eligible places.
The summer vacation of the Corinna Institute had now arrived, and the
young ladies had scattered to their homes. Among the graduates of
the year were Miss Euthymia Tower and Miss Lurida Vincent, who had
now returned to their homes in Arrowhead Village. They were both
glad to rest after the long final examinations and the exercises of
the closing day, in which each of them had borne a conspicuous part.
It was a pleasant life they led in the village, which was lively
enough at this season. Walking, riding, driving, boating, visits to
the Library, meetings of the Pansophian Society, hops, and picnics
made the time pass very cheerfully, and soon showed their restoring
influences. The Terror's large eyes did not wear the dull, glazed
look by which they had too often betrayed the after effects of over-
excitement of the strong and active brain behind them. The Wonder
gained a fresher bloom, and looked full enough of life to radiate
vitality into a statue of ice. They had a boat of their own, in
which they passed many delightful hours on the lake, rowing,
drifting, reading, telling of what had been, dreaming of what might
The Library was one of the chief centres of the fixed population, and
visited often by strangers. The old Librarian was a peculiar
character, as these officials are apt to be. They have a curious
kind of knowledge, sometimes immense in its way. They know the backs
of books, their title-pages, their popularity or want of it, the
class of readers who call for particular works, the value of
different editions, and a good deal besides. Their minds catch up
hints from all manner of works on all kinds of subjects. They will
give a visitor a fact and a reference which they are surprised to
find they remember and which the visitor might have hunted for a
year. Every good librarian, every private book-owner, who has grown
into his library, finds he has a bunch of nerves going to every
bookcase, a branch to every shelf, and a twig to every book. These
nerves get very sensitive in old librarians, sometimes, and they do
not like to have a volume meddled with any more than they would like
to have their naked eyes handled. They come to feel at last that the
books of a great collection are a part, not merely of their own
property, though they are only the agents for their distribution, but
that they are, as it were, outlying portions of their own
organization. The old Librarian was getting a miserly feeling about
his books, as he called them. Fortunately, he had a young lady for
his assistant, who was never so happy as when she could find the work
any visitor wanted and put it in his hands,--or her hands, for there
were more readers among the wives and--daughters, and especially
among the aunts, than there were among their male relatives. The old
Librarian knew the books, but the books seemed to know the young
assistant; so it looked, at least, to the impatient young people who
wanted their services.
Maurice had a good many volumes of his own,--a great many, according
to Paolo's account; but Paolo's ideas were limited, and a few well-
filled shelves seemed a very large collection to him. His master
frequently sent him to the Public Library for books, which somewhat
enlarged his notions; still, the Signor was a very learned man, he
was certain, and some of his white books (bound in vellum and richly
gilt) were more splendid, according to Paolo, than anything in the
There was no little curiosity to know what were the books that
Maurice was in the habit of taking out, and the Librarian's record
was carefully searched by some of the more inquisitive investigators.
The list proved to be a long and varied one. It would imply a
considerable knowledge of modern languages and of the classics; a
liking for mathematics and physics, especially all that related to
electricity and magnetism; a fancy for the occult sciences, if there
is any propriety in coupling these words; and a whim for odd and
obsolete literature, like the Parthenologia of Fortunius Licetus, the
quaint treatise 'De Sternutatione,' books about alchemy, and
witchcraft, apparitions, and modern works relating to Spiritualism.
With these were the titles of novels and now and then of books of
poems; but it may be taken for granted that his own shelves held the
works he was most frequently in the habit of reading or consulting.
Not much was to be made out of this beyond the fact of wide
scholarship,--more or less deep it might be, but at any rate implying
no small mental activity; for he appeared to read very rapidly, at
any rate exchanged the books he had taken out for new ones very
frequently. To judge by his reading, he was a man of letters. But
so wide-reading a man of letters must have an object, a literary
purpose in all probability. Why should not he be writing a novel?
Not a novel of society, assuredly, for a hermit is not the person to
report the talk and manners of a world which he has nothing to do
with. Novelists and lawyers understand the art of "cramming" better
than any other persons in the world. Why should not this young man
be working up the picturesque in this romantic region to serve as a
background for some story with magic, perhaps, and mysticism, and
hints borrowed from science, and all sorts of out-of-the-way
knowledge which his odd and miscellaneous selection of books
furnished him? That might be, or possibly he was only reading for
amusement. Who could say?
The funds of the Public Library of Arrowhead Village allowed the
managers to purchase many books out of the common range of reading.
The two learned people of the village were the rector and the doctor.
These two worthies kept up the old controversy between the
professions, which grows out of the fact that one studies nature from
below upwards, and the other from above downwards. The rector
maintained that physicians contracted a squint which turns their eyes
inwardly, while the muscles which roll their eyes upward become
palsied. The doctor retorted that theological students developed a
third eyelid,--the nictitating membrane, which is so well known in
birds, and which serves to shut out, not all light, but all the light
they do not want. Their little skirmishes did not prevent their
being very good friends, who had a common interest in many things and
many persons. Both were on the committee which had the care of the
Library and attended to the purchase of books. Each was scholar
enough to know the wants of scholars, and disposed to trust the
judgment of the other as to what books should be purchased.
Consequently, the clergyman secured the addition to the Library of a
good many old theological works which the physician would have called
brimstone divinity, and held to be just the thing to kindle fires
with,--good books still for those who know how to use them,
oftentimes as awful examples of the extreme of disorganization the
whole moral system may undergo when a barbarous belief has strangled
the natural human instincts. The physician, in the mean time,
acquired for the collection some of those medical works where one may
find recorded various rare and almost incredible cases, which may not
have their like for a whole century, and then repeat themselves, so
as to give a new lease of credibility to stories which had come to be
looked upon as fables.
Both the clergyman and the physician took a very natural interest in
the young man who had come to reside in their neighborhood for the
present, perhaps for a long period. The rector would have been glad
to see him at church. He would have liked more especially to have
had him hear his sermon on the Duties of Young Men to Society. The
doctor, meanwhile, was meditating on the duties of society to young
men, and wishing that he could gain the young man's confidence, so as
to help him out of any false habit of mind or any delusion to which
he might be subject, if he had the power of being useful to him.
Dr. Butts was the leading medical practitioner, not only of Arrowhead
Village, but of all the surrounding region. He was an excellent
specimen of the country doctor, self-reliant, self-sacrificing,
working a great deal harder for his living than most of those who
call themselves the laboring classes,--as if none but those whose
hands were hardened by the use of farming or mechanical implements
had any work to do. He had that sagacity without which learning is a
mere incumbrance, and he had also a fair share of that learning
without which sagacity is like a traveller with a good horse, but who
cannot read the directions on the guideboards. He was not a man to
be taken in by names. He well knew that oftentimes very innocent-
sounding words mean very grave disorders; that all, degrees of
disease and disorder are frequently confounded under the same term;
that "run down" may stand for a fatigue of mind or body from which a
week or a month of rest will completely restore the over-worked
patient, or an advanced stage of a mortal illness; that "seedy" may
signify the morning's state of feeling, after an evening's over-
indulgence, which calls for a glass of soda-water and a cup of
coffee, or a dangerous malady which will pack off the subject of it,
at the shortest notice, to the south of France. He knew too well
that what is spoken lightly of as a "nervous disturbance" may imply
that the whole machinery of life is in a deranged condition, and that
every individual organ would groan aloud if it had any other language
than the terrible inarticulate one of pain by which to communicate
with the consciousness.
When, therefore, Dr. Butts heard the word antipatia he did not smile,
and say to himself that this was an idle whim, a foolish fancy, which
the young man had got into his head. Neither was he satisfied to set
down everything to the account of insanity, plausible as that
supposition might seem. He was prepared to believe in some
exceptional, perhaps anomalous, form of exaggerated sensibility,
relating to what class of objects he could not at present conjecture,
but which was as vital to the subject of it as the insulating
arrangement to a piece of electrical machinery. With this feeling he
began to look into tho history of antipathies as recorded in all the
books and journals on which he could lay his hands.
The holder of the Portfolio asks leave to close it for a brief
interval. He wishes to say a few words to his readers, before
offering them some verses which have no connection with the narrative
now in progress.
If one could have before him a set of photographs taken annually,
representing the same person as he or she appeared for thirty or
forty or fifty years, it would be interesting to watch the gradual
changes of aspect from the age of twenty, or even of thirty or forty,
to that of threescore and ten. The face might be an uninteresting
one; still, as sharing the inevitable changes wrought by time, it
would be worth looking at as it passed through the curve of life,--
the vital parabola, which betrays itself in the symbolic changes of
the features. An inscription is the same thing, whether we read it
on slate-stone, or granite, or marble. To watch the lights and
shades, the reliefs and hollows, of a countenance through a lifetime,
or a large part of it, by the aid of a continuous series of
photographs would not only be curious; it would teach us much more
about the laws of physiognomy than we could get from casual and
The same kind of interest, without any assumption of merit to be
found in them, I would claim for a series of annual poems, beginning
in middle life and continued to what many of my correspondents are
pleased to remind me--as if I required to have the fact brought to my
knowledge--is no longer youth. Here is the latest of a series of
annual poems read during the last thirty-four years. There seems to
have been one interruption, but there may have been other poems not
recorded or remembered. This, the latest poem of the series, was
listened to by the scanty remnant of what was a large and brilliant
circle of classmates and friends when the first of the long series
was read before them, then in the flush of ardent manhood:--
THE OLD SONG.
The minstrel of the classic lay
Of love and wine who sings
Still found the fingers run astray
That touched the rebel strings.
Of Cadmus he would fair have sung,
Of Atreus and his line;
But all the jocund echoes rung
With songs of love and wine.
Ah, brothers! I would fair have caught
Some fresher fancy's gleam;
My truant accents find, unsought,
The old familiar theme.
Love, Love! but not the sportive child
With shaft and twanging bow,
Whose random arrows drove us wild
Some threescore years ago;
Not Eros, with his joyous laugh,
The urchin blind and bare,
But Love, with spectacles and staff,
And scanty, silvered hair.
Our heads with frosted locks are white,
Our roofs are thatched with snow,
But red, in chilling winter's spite,
Our hearts and hearthstones glow.
Our old acquaintance, Time, drops in,
And while the running sands
Their golden thread unheeded spin,
He warms his frozen hands.
Stay, winged hours, too swift, too sweet,
And waft this message o'er
To all we miss, from all we meet
On life's fast-crumbling shore:
Say that to old affection true
We hug the narrowing chain
That binds our hearts,--alas, how few
The links that yet remain!
The fatal touch awaits them all
That turns the rocks to dust;
From year to year they break and fall,
They break, but never rust.
Say if one note of happier strain
This worn-out harp afford,--
One throb that trembles, not in vain,
Their memory lent its chord.
Say that when Fancy closed her wings
And Passion quenched his fire,
Love, Love, still echoed from the strings
As from Anacreon's lyre!
January 8, 1885.
A RECORD OF ANTIPATHIES
In thinking the whole matter over, Dr. Butts felt convinced that,
with care and patience and watching his opportunity, he should get at
the secret, which so far bad yielded nothing but a single word. It
might be asked why he was so anxious to learn what, from all
appearances, the young stranger was unwilling to explain. He may
have been to some extent infected by the general curiosity of the
persons around him, in which good Mrs. Butts shared, and which she
had helped to intensify by revealing the word dropped by Paolo. But
this was not really his chief motive. He could not look upon this
young man, living a life of unwholesome solitude, without a natural
desire to do all that his science and his knowledge of human nature
could help him to do towards bringing him into healthy relations with
the world about him. Still, he would not intrude upon him in any
way. He would only make certain general investigations, which might
prove serviceable in case circumstances should give him the right to
counsel the young man as to his course of life. The first thing to
be done was to study systematically the whole subject of antipathies.
Then, if any further occasion offered itself, he would be ready to
take advantage of it. The resources of the Public Library of the
place and his own private collection were put in requisition to
furnish him the singular and widely scattered facts of which he was
It is not every reader who will care to follow Dr. Butts in his study
of the natural history of antipathies. The stories told about them
are, however, very curious; and if some of them may be questioned,
there is no doubt that many of the strangest are true, and
consequently take away from the improbability of others which we are
disposed to doubt.
But in the first place, what do we mean by an antipathy? It is an
aversion to some object, which may vary in degree from mere dislike
to mortal horror. What the cause of this aversion is we cannot say.
It acts sometimes through the senses, sometimes through the
imagination, sometimes through an unknown channel. The relations
which exist between the human being and all that surrounds him vary
in consequence of some adjustment peculiar to each individual. The
brute fact is expressed in the phrase "One man's meat is another
In studying the history of antipathies the doctor began with those
referable to the sense of taste, which are among the most common. In
any collection of a hundred persons there will be found those who
cannot make use of certain articles of food generally acceptable.
This may be from the disgust they occasion or the effects they have
been found to produce. Every one knows individuals who cannot
venture on honey, or cheese, or veal, with impunity. Carlyle, for
example, complains of having veal set before him,--a meat he could
not endure. There is a whole family connection in New England, and
that a very famous one, to many of whose members, in different
generations, all the products of the dairy are the subjects of a
congenital antipathy. Montaigne says there are persons who dread the
smell of apples more than they would dread being exposed to a fire of
musketry. The readers of the charming story "A Week in a French
Country-House" will remember poor Monsieur Jacque's piteous cry in
the night: "Ursula, art thou asleep? Oh, Ursula, thou sleepest, but
I cannot close my eyes. Dearest Ursula, there is such a dreadful
smell! Oh, Ursula, it is such a smell! I do so wish thou couldst
smell it! Good-night, my angel!----Dearest! I have found them!
They are apples! "The smell of roses, of peonies, of lilies, has
been known to cause faintness. The sight of various objects has had
singular effects on some persons. A boar's head was a favorite dish
at the table of great people in Marshal d'Albret's time; yet he used
to faint at the sight of one. It is not uncommon to meet with
persons who faint at the sight of blood. One of the most
inveterately pugnacious of Dr. Butts's college-mates confessed that
he had this infirmity. Stranger and far more awkward than this is
the case mentioned in an ancient collection, where the subject of the
antipathy fainted at the sight of any object of a red color. There
are sounds, also, which have strange effects on some individuals.
Among the obnoxious noises are the crumpling of silk stuffs, the
sound of sweeping, the croaking of frogs. The effects in different
cases have been spasms, a sense of strangling, profuse sweating,--all
showing a profound disturbance of the nervous system.
All these effects were produced by impressions on the organs of
sense, seemingly by direct agency on certain nerve centres. But
there is another series of cases in which the imagination plays a
larger part in the phenomena. Two notable examples are afforded in
the lives of two very distinguished personages.
Peter the Great was frightened, when an infant, by falling from a
bridge into the water. Long afterward, when he had reached manhood,
this hardy and resolute man was so affected by the sound of wheels
rattling over a bridge that he had to discipline himself by listening
to the sound, in spite of his dread of it, in order to overcome his
antipathy. The story told by Abbe Boileau of Pascal is very similar
to that related of Peter. As he was driving in his coach and four
over the bridge at Neuilly, his horses took fright and ran away, and
the leaders broke from their harness and sprang into the river,
leaving the wheel-horses and the carriage on the bridge. Ever after
this fright it is said that Pascal had the terrifying sense that he
was just on the edge of an abyss, ready to fall over.
What strange early impression was it which led a certain lady always
to shriek aloud if she ventured to enter a church, as it is recorded?
The old and simple way of accounting for it would be the scriptural
one, that it was an unclean spirit who dwelt in her, and who, when
she entered the holy place and brought her spiritual tenant into the
presence of the sacred symbols, "cried with a loud voice, and came
out of" her. A very singular case, the doctor himself had recorded,
and which the reader may accept as authentic, is the following: At
the head of the doctor's front stairs stood, and still stands, a tall
clock, of early date and stately presence. A middle-aged visitor,
noticing it as he entered the front door, remarked that he should
feel a great unwillingness to pass that clock. He could not go near
one of those tall timepieces without a profound agitation, which he
dreaded to undergo. This very singular idiosyncrasy he attributed to
a fright when he was an infant in the arms of his nurse.
She was standing near one of those tall clocks, when the cord which
supported one of its heavy leaden weights broke, and the weight came
crashing down to the bottom of the case. Some effect must have been
produced upon the pulpy nerve centres from which they never
recovered. Why should not this happen, when we know that a sudden
mental shock may be the cause of insanity? The doctor remembered the
verse of "The Ancient Mariner:"
"I moved my lips; the pilot shrieked
And fell down in a fit;
The holy hermit raised his eyes
And prayed where he did sit.
I took the oars; the pilot's boy,
Who now doth crazy go,
Laughed loud and long, and all the while
His eyes went to and fro."
This is only poetry, it is true, but the poet borrowed the
description from nature, and the records of our asylums could furnish
many cases where insanity was caused by a sudden fright.
More than this, hardly a year passes that we do not read of some
person, a child commonly, killed outright by terror,--scared to
death, literally. Sad cases they often are, in which, nothing but a
surprise being intended, the shock has instantly arrested the
movements on which life depends. If a mere instantaneous impression
can produce effects like these, such an impression might of course be
followed by consequences less fatal or formidable, but yet serious in
their nature. If here and there a person is killed, as if by
lightning, by a sudden startling sight or sound, there must be more
numerous cases in which a terrible shock is produced by similar
apparently insignificant causes,--a shock which falls short of
overthrowing the reason and does not destroy life, yet leaves a
lasting effect upon the subject of it.
This point, then, was settled in the mind of Dr. Butts, namely, that,
as a violent emotion caused by a sudden shock can kill or craze a
human being, there is no perversion of the faculties, no prejudice,
no change of taste or temper, no eccentricity, no antipathy, which
such a cause may not rationally account for. He would not be
surprised, he said to himself, to find that some early alarm, like
that which was experienced by Peter the Great or that which happened
to Pascal, had broken some spring in this young man's nature, or so
changed its mode of action as to account for the exceptional
remoteness of his way of life. But how could any conceivable
antipathy be so comprehensive as to keep a young man aloof from all
the world, and make a hermit of him? He did not hate the human race;
that was clear enough. He treated Paolo with great kindness, and the
Italian was evidently much attached to him. He had talked naturally
and pleasantly with the young man he had helped out of his dangerous
situation when his boat was upset. Dr. Butts heard that he had once
made a short visit to this young man, at his rooms in the University.
It was not misanthropy, therefore, which kept him solitary. What
could be broad enough to cover the facts of the case? Nothing that
the doctor could think of, unless it were some color, the sight of
which acted on him as it did on the individual before mentioned, who
could not look at anything red without fainting. Suppose this were a
case of the same antipathy. How very careful it would make the
subject of it as to where he went and with whom he consorted! Time
and patience would be pretty sure to bring out new developments, and
physicians, of all men in the world, know how to wait as well as how
Such were some of the crude facts as Dr. Butts found them in books or
gathered them from his own experience. He soon discovered that the
story had got about the village that Maurice Kirkwood was the victim
of an "antipathy," whatever that word might mean in the vocabulary of
the people of the place. If he suspected the channel through which
it had reached the little community, and, spreading from that centre,
the country round, he did not see fit to make out of his suspicions a
domestic casus belli. Paolo might have mentioned it to others as
well as to himself. Maurice might have told some friend, who had
divulged it. But to accuse Mrs. Butts, good Mrs. Butts, of petit
treason in telling one of her husband's professional secrets was too
serious a matter to be thought of. He would be a little more
careful, he promised himself, the next time, at any rate; for he had
to concede, in spite of every wish to be charitable in his judgment,
that it was among the possibilities that the worthy lady had
forgotten the rule that a doctor's patients must put their tongues
out, and a doctor's wife must keep her tongue in.
THE PANSOPHIAN SOCIETY.
The Secretary of this association was getting somewhat tired of the
office, and the office was getting somewhat tired of him. It
occurred to the members of the Society that a little fresh blood
infused into it might stir up the general vitality of the
organization. The woman suffragists saw no reason why the place of
Secretary need as a matter of course be filled by a person of the
male sex. They agitated, they made domiciliary visits, they wrote
notes to influential citizens, and finally announced as their
candidate the young lady who had won and worn the school name of "The
Terror," who was elected. She was just the person for the place:
wide awake, with all her wits about her, full of every kind of
knowledge, and, above all, strong on points of order and details of
management, so that she could prompt the presiding officer, to do
which is often the most essential duty of a Secretary. The
President, the worthy rector, was good at plain sailing in the track
of the common moralities and proprieties, but was liable to get
muddled if anything came up requiring swift decision and off-hand
speech. The Terror had schooled herself in the debating societies of
the Institute, and would set up the President, when he was floored by
an awkward question, as easily as if he were a ninepin which had been
It has been already mentioned that the Pansophian Society received
communications from time to time from writers outside of its own
organization. Of late these had been becoming more frequent. Many
of them were sent in anonymously, and as there were numerous visitors
to the village, and two institutions not far removed from it, both
full of ambitious and intelligent young persons, it was often
impossible to trace the papers to their authors. The new Secretary
was alive with curiosity, and as sagacious a little body as one might
find if in want of a detective. She could make a pretty shrewd guess
whether a paper was written by a young or old person, by one of her
own sex or the other, by an experienced hand or a novice.
Among the anonymous papers she received was one which exercised her
curiosity to an extraordinary degree. She felt a strong suspicion
that "the Sachem," as the boat-crews used to call him, "the Recluse,"
"the Night-Hawk," "the Sphinx," as others named him, must be the
author of it. It appeared to her the production of a young person of
a reflective, poetical turn of mind. It was not a woman's way of
writing; at least, so thought the Secretary. The writer had
travelled much; had resided in Italy, among other places. But so had
many of the summer visitors and residents of Arrowhead Village. The
handwriting was not decisive; it had some points of resemblance with
the pencilled orders for books which Maurice sent to the Library, but
there were certain differences, intentional or accidental, which
weakened this evidence. There was an undertone in the essay which
was in keeping with the mode of life of the solitary stranger. It
might be disappointment, melancholy, or only the dreamy sadness of a
young person who sees the future he is to climb, not as a smooth
ascent, but as overhanging him like a cliff, ready to crush him, with
all his hopes and prospects. This interpretation may have been too
imaginative, but here is the paper, and the reader can form his own
MY THREE COMPANIONS.
"I have been from my youth upwards a wanderer. I do not mean
constantly flitting from one place to another, for my residence has
often been fixed for considerable periods. From time to time I have
put down in a notebook the impressions made upon me by the scenes
through which I have passed. I have long hesitated whether to let
any of my notes appear before the public. My fear has been that they
were too subjective, to use the metaphysician's term,--that I have
seen myself reflected in Nature, and not the true aspects of Nature
as she was meant to be understood. One who should visit the Harz
Mountains would see--might see, rather his own colossal image shape
itself on the morning mist. But if in every mist that rises from the
meadows, in every cloud that hangs upon the mountain, he always finds
his own reflection, we cannot accept him as an interpreter of the
"There must be many persons present at the meetings of the Society to
which this paper is offered who have had experiences like that of its
author. They have visited the same localities, they have had many of
the same thoughts and feelings. Many, I have no doubt. Not all,--
no, not all. Others have sought the companionship of Nature; I have
been driven to it. Much of my life has been passed in that
communion. These pages record some of the intimacies I have formed
with her under some of her various manifestations.
"I have lived on the shore of the great ocean, where its waves broke
wildest and its voice rose loudest.
"I have passed whole seasons on the banks of mighty and famous
"I have dwelt on the margin of a tranquil lake, and floated through
many a long, long summer day on its clear waters.
"I have learned the 'various language' of Nature, of which poetry has
spoken,--at least, I have learned some words and phrases of it. I
will translate some of these as I best may into common speech.
"The OCEAN says to the dweller on its shores:--
"You are neither welcome nor unwelcome. I do not trouble myself with
the living tribes that come down to my waters. I have my own people,
of an older race than yours, that grow to mightier dimensions than
your mastodons and elephants; more numerous than all the swarms that
fill the air or move over the thin crust of the earth. Who are you
that build your palaces on my margin? I see your white faces as
I saw the dark faces of the tribes that came before you, as I shall
look upon the unknown family of mankind that will come after you.
And what is your whole human family but a parenthesis in a single
page of my history? The raindrops stereotyped themselves on my
beaches before a living creature left his footprints there. This
horseshoe-crab I fling at your feet is of older lineage than your
Adam,--perhaps, indeed, you count your Adam as one of his
descendants. What feeling have I for you? Not scorn, not hatred,--
not love,--not loathing. No!---indifference,--blank indifference to
you and your affairs that is my feeling, say rather absence of
feeling, as regards you.---Oh yes, I will lap your feet, I will cool
you in the hot summer days, I will bear you up in my strong arms, I
will rock you on my rolling undulations, like a babe in his cradle.
Am I not gentle? Am I not kind? Am I not harmless? But hark! The
wind is rising, and the wind and I are rough playmates! What do you
say to my voice now? Do you see my foaming lips? Do you feel the
rocks tremble as my huge billows crash against them? Is not my anger
terrible as I dash your argosy, your thunder-bearing frigate, into
fragments, as you would crack an eggshell?--No, not anger; deaf,
blind, unheeding indifference,--that is all. Out of me all things
arose; sooner or later, into me all things subside. All changes
around me; I change not. I look not at you, vain man, and your frail
transitory concerns, save in momentary glimpses: I look on the white
face of my dead mistress, whom I follow as the bridegroom follows the
bier of her who has changed her nuptial raiment for the shroud.
"Ye whose thoughts are of eternity, come dwell at my side.
Continents and islands grow old, and waste and disappear. The
hardest rock crumbles; vegetable and animal kingdoms come into being,
wax great, decline, and perish, to give way to others, even as human
dynasties and nations and races come and go. Look on me! "Time
writes no wrinkle" on my forehead. Listen to me! All tongues are
spoken on my shores, but I have only one language: the winds taught
me their vowels the crags and the sands schooled me in my rough or
smooth consonants. Few words are mine but I have whispered them and
sung them and shouted them to men of all tribes from the time when
the first wild wanderer strayed into my awful presence. Have you a
grief that gnaws at your heart-strings? Come with it to my shore, as
of old the priest of far-darting Apollo carried his rage and anguish
to the margin of the loud-roaring sea. There, if anywhere you will
forget your private and short-lived woe, for my voice speaks to the
infinite and the eternal in your consciousness.'
"To him who loves the pages of human history, who listens to the
voices of the world about him, who frequents the market and the
thoroughfare, who lives in the study of time and its accidents rather
than in the deeper emotions, in abstract speculation and spiritual
contemplation, the RIVER addresses itself as his natural companion.
"Come live with me. I am active, cheerful, communicative, a natural
talker and story-teller. I am not noisy, like the ocean, except
occasionally when I am rudely interrupted, or when I stumble and get
a fall. When I am silent you can still have pleasure in watching my
changing features. My idlest babble, when I am toying with the
trifles that fall in my way, if not very full of meaning, is at least
musical. I am not a dangerous friend, like the ocean; no highway is
absolutely safe, but my nature is harmless, and the storms that strew
the beaches with wrecks cast no ruins upon my flowery borders. Abide
with me, and you shall not die of thirst, like the forlorn wretches
left to the mercies of the pitiless salt waves. Trust yourself to
me, and I will carry you far on your journey, if we are travelling to
the same point of the compass. If I sometimes run riot and overflow
your meadows, I leave fertility behind me when I withdraw to my
natural channel. Walk by my side toward the place of my destination.
I will keep pace with you, and you shall feel my presence with you as
that of a self-conscious being like yourself. You will find it hard
to be miserable in my company; I drain you of ill-conditioned
thoughts as I carry away the refuse of your dwelling and its grounds."
But to him whom the ocean chills and crushes with its sullen
indifference, and the river disturbs with its never-pausing and
never-ending story, the silent LAKE shall be a refuge and a place of
rest for his soul.
"'Vex not yourself with thoughts too vast for your limited
faculties,' it says; 'yield not yourself to the babble of the running
stream. Leave the ocean, which cares nothing for you or any living
thing that walks the solid earth; leave the river, too busy with its
own errand, too talkative about its own affairs, and find peace with
me, whose smile will cheer you, whose whisper will soothe you. Come
to me when the morning sun blazes across my bosom like a golden
baldric; come to me in the still midnight, when I hold the inverted
firmament like a cup brimming with jewels, nor spill one star of all
the constellations that float in my ebon goblet. Do you know the
charm of melancholy? Where will you find a sympathy like mine in
your hours of sadness? Does the ocean share your grief? Does the
river listen to your sighs? The salt wave, that called to you from
under last month's full moon, to-day is dashing on the rocks of
Labrador; the stream, that ran by you pure and sparkling, has
swallowed the poisonous refuse of a great city, and is creeping to
its grave in the wide cemetery that buries all things in its tomb of
liquid crystal. It is true that my waters exhale and are renewed
from one season to another; but are your features the same,
absolutely the same, from year to year? We both change, but we know
each other through all changes. Am I not mirrored in those eyes of
yours? And does not Nature plant me as an eye to behold her beauties
while she is dressed in the glories of leaf and flower, and draw the
icy lid over my shining surface when she stands naked and ashamed in
the poverty of winter?'
"I have had strange experiences and sad thoughts in the course of a
life not very long, but with a record which much longer lives could
not match in incident. Oftentimes the temptation has come over me
with dangerous urgency to try a change of existence, if such change
is a part of human destiny,--to seek rest, if that is what we gain by
laying down the burden of life. I have asked who would be the friend
to whom I should appeal for the last service I should have need of.
Ocean was there, all ready, asking no questions, answering none.
What strange voyages, downward through its glaucous depths, upwards
to its boiling and frothing surface, wafted by tides, driven by
tempests, disparted by rude agencies; one remnant whitening on the
sands of a northern beach, one perhaps built into the circle of a
coral reef in the Pacific, one settling to the floor of the vast
laboratory where continents are built, to emerge in far-off ages!
What strange companions for my pall-bearers! Unwieldy sea-monsters,
the stories of which are counted fables by the spectacled collectors
who think their catalogues have exhausted nature; naked-eyed
creatures, staring, glaring, nightmare-like spectres of the ghastly-
green abysses; pulpy islands, with life in gelatinous immensity,--
what a company of hungry heirs at every ocean funeral! No! No!
Ocean claims great multitudes, but does not invite the solitary who
would fain be rid of himself.
"Shall I seek a deeper slumber at the bottom of the lake I love than
I have ever found when drifting idly over its surface? No, again. I
do not want the sweet, clear waters to know me in the disgrace of
nature, when life, the faithful body-servant, has ceased caring for
me. That must not be. The mirror which has pictured me so often
shall never know me as an unwelcome object.
"If I must ask the all-subduing element to be my last friend, and
lead me out of my prison, it shall be the busy, whispering, not
unfriendly, pleasantly companionable river.
"But Ocean and River and Lake have certain relations to the periods
of human life which they who are choosing their places of abode
should consider. Let the child play upon the seashore. The wide
horizon gives his imagination room to grow in, untrammelled. That
background of mystery, without which life is a poor mechanical
arrangement, is shaped and colored, so far as it can have outline, or
any hue but shadow, on a vast canvas, the contemplation of which
enlarges and enriches the sphere of consciousness. The mighty ocean
is not too huge to symbolize the aspirations and ambitions of the yet
untried soul of the adolescent.
"The time will come when his indefinite mental horizon has found a
solid limit, which shuts his prospect in narrower bounds than he
would have thought could content him in the years of undefined
possibilities. Then he will find the river a more natural intimate
than the ocean. It is individual, which the ocean, with all its
gulfs and inlets and multitudinous shores, hardly seems to be. It
does not love you very dearly, and will not miss you much when you
disappear from its margin; but it means well to you, bids you good-
morning with its coming waves, and good-evening with those which are
leaving. It will lead your thoughts pleasantly away, upwards to its
source, downwards to the stream to which it is tributary, or the wide
waters in which it is to lose itself. A river, by choice, to live by
in middle age.
"In hours of melancholy reflection, in those last years of life which
have little left but tender memories, the still companionship of the
lake, embosomed in woods, sheltered, fed by sweet mountain brooks and
hidden springs, commends itself to the wearied and saddened spirit.
I am not thinking of those great inland seas, which have many of the
features and much of the danger that belong to the ocean, but of
those 'ponds,' as our countrymen used to call them until they were
rechristened by summer visitors; beautiful sheets of water from a
hundred to a few thousand acres in extent, scattered like raindrops
over the map of our Northern sovereignties. The loneliness of
contemplative old age finds its natural home in the near neighborhood
of one of these tranquil basins."
Nature does not always plant her poets where they belong, but if we
look carefully their affinities betray themselves. The youth will
carry his Byron to the rock which overlooks the ocean the poet loved
so well. The man of maturer years will remember that the sonorous
couplets of Pope which ring in his ears were written on the banks of
the Thames. The old man, as he nods over the solemn verse of
Wordsworth, will recognize the affinity between the singer and the
calm sheet that lay before him as he wrote,--the stainless and sleepy
"The dwellers by Cedar Lake may find it an amusement to compare their
own feelings with those of one who has lived by the Atlantic and the
Mediterranean, by the Nile and the Tiber, by Lake Leman and by one of
the fairest sheets of water that our own North America embosoms in
Miss Lurida Vincent, Secretary of the Pansophian Society, read this
paper, and pondered long upon it. She was thinking very seriously of
studying medicine, and had been for some time in frequent
communication with Dr. Butts, under whose direction she had begun
reading certain treatises, which added to such knowledge of the laws
of life in health and in disease as she had brought with her from the
Corinna Institute. Naturally enough, she carried the anonymous paper
to the doctor, to get his opinion about it, and compare it with her
own. They both agreed that it was probably, they would not say
certainly, the work of the solitary visitor. There was room for
doubt, for there were visitors who might well have travelled to all
the places mentioned, and resided long enough on the shores of the
waters the writer spoke of to have had all the experiences mentioned
in the paper. The Terror remembered a young lady, a former
schoolmate, who belonged to one of those nomadic families common in
this generation, the heads of which, especially the female heads, can
never be easy where they are, but keep going between America and
Europe, like so many pith-balls in the electrical experiment,
alternately attracted and repelled, never in contented equilibrium.
Every few years they pull their families up by the roots, and by the
time they have begun to take hold a little with their radicles in the
spots to which they have been successively transplanted up they come
again, so that they never get a tap-root anywhere. The Terror
suspected the daughter of one of these families of sending certain
anonymous articles of not dissimilar character to the one she had
just received. But she knew the style of composition common among
the young girls, and she could hardly believe that it was one of them
who had sent this paper. Could a brother of this young lady have
written it? Possibly; she knew nothing more than that the young lady
had a brother, then a student at the University. All the chances
were that Mr. Maurice Kirkwood was the author. So thought Lurida,
and so thought Dr. Butts.
Whatever faults there were in this essay, it interested them both.
There was nothing which gave the least reason to suspect insanity on
the part of the writer, whoever he or she might be. There were
references to suicide, it is true, but they were of a purely
speculative nature, and did not look to any practical purpose in that
direction. Besides, if the stranger were the author of the paper, he
certainly would not choose a sheet of water like Cedar Lake to
perform the last offices for him, in case he seriously meditated
taking unceremonious leave of life and its accidents. He could find
a river easily enough, to say nothing of other methods of effecting
his purpose; but he had committed himself as to the impropriety of
selecting a lake, so they need not be anxious about the white canoe
and its occupant, as they watched it skimming the surface of the deep
The holder of the Portfolio would never have ventured to come before
the public if he had not counted among his resources certain papers
belonging to the records of the Pansophian Society, which he can make
free use of, either for the illustration of the narrative, or for a
diversion during those intervals in which the flow of events is
languid, or even ceases for the time to manifest any progress. The
reader can hardly have failed to notice that the old Anchor Tavern
had become the focal point where a good deal of mental activity
converged. There were the village people, including a number of
cultivated families; there were the visitors, among them many
accomplished and widely travelled persons; there was the University,
with its learned teachers and aspiring young men; there was the
Corinna Institute, with its eager, ambitious, hungry-souled young
women, crowding on, class after class coming forward on the broad
stream of liberal culture, and rounding the point which, once passed,
the boundless possibilities of womanhood opened before them. All
this furnished material enough and to spare for the records and the
archives of the society.
The new Secretary infused fresh life into the meetings. It may be
remembered that the girls had said of her, when she was The Terror,
that "she knew everything and didn't believe anything." That was
just the kind of person for a secretary of such an association.
Properly interpreted, the saying meant that she knew a great deal,
and wanted to know a great deal more, and was consequently always on
the lookout for information; that she believed nothing without
sufficient proof that it was true, and therefore was perpetually
asking for evidence where, others took assertions on trust.
It was astonishing to see what one little creature like The Terror
could accomplish in the course of a single season. She found out
what each member could do and wanted to do. She wrote to the outside
visitors whom she suspected of capacity, and urged them to speak at
the meetings, or send written papers to be read. As an official,
with the printed title at the head of her notes, PANSOPHIAN SOCIETY,
she was a privileged personage. She begged the young persons who had
travelled to tell something of their experiences. She had
contemplated getting up a discussion on the woman's rights question,
but being a wary little body, and knowing that the debate would
become a dispute and divide the members into two hostile camps, she
deferred this project indefinitely. It would be time enough after
she had her team well in hand, she said to herself,--had felt their
mouths and tried their paces. This expression, as she used it in her
thoughts, seems rather foreign to her habits, but there was room in
her large brain for a wide range of illustrations and an ample
vocabulary. She could not do much with her own muscles, but she had
known the passionate delight of being whirled furiously over the road
behind four scampering horses, in a rocking stage-coach, and thought
of herself in the Secretary's chair as not unlike the driver on his
box. A few weeks of rest had allowed her nervous energy to store
itself up, and the same powers which had distanced competition in the
classes of her school had of necessity to expend themselves in
vigorous action in her new office.
Her appeals had their effect. A number of papers were very soon sent
in; some with names, some anonymously. She looked these papers over,
and marked those which she thought would be worth reading and
listening to at the meetings. One of them has just been presented to
the reader. As to the authorship of the following one there were
many conjectures. A well-known writer, who had spent some weeks at
Arrowhead Village, was generally suspected of being its author.
Some, however, questioned whether it was not the work of a new hand,
who wrote, not from experience, but from his or her ideas of the
condition to which a story-teller, a novelist, must in all
probability be sooner or later reduced. The reader must judge for
himself whether this first paper is the work of an old hand or a
SOME EXPERIENCES OF A NOVELIST.
"I have written a frightful number of stories, forty or more, I
think. Let me see. For twelve years two novels a year regularly:
that makes twenty-four. In three different years I have written
three stories annually: that makes thirty-three. In five years one a
year,--thirty-eight. That is all, is n't it? Yes. Thirty-eight,
not forty. I wish I could make them all into one composite story, as
Mr. Galton does his faces.
"Hero--heroine--mamma--papa--uncle--sister, and so on. Love--
obstacles--misery--tears--despair--glimmer of hope--unexpected
solution of difficulties--happy finale.
"Landscape for background according to season. Plants of each month
got up from botanical calendars.
"I should like much to see the composite novel. Why not apply Mr.
Galton's process, and get thirty-eight stories all in one? All the
Yankees would resolve into one Yankee, all the P---- West Britons
into one Patrick, etc., what a saving of time it would be!
"I got along pretty well with my first few stories. I had some
characters around me which, a little disguised, answered well enough.
There was the minister of the parish, and there was an old
schoolmaster either of them served very satisfactorily for
grandfathers and old uncles. All I had to do was to shift some of
their leading peculiarities, keeping the rest. The old minister wore
knee-breeches. I clapped them on to the schoolmaster. The
schoolmaster carried a tall gold-headed cane. I put this in the
minister's hands. So with other things,--I shifted them round, and
got a set of characters who, taken together, reproduced the chief
persons of the village where I lived, but did not copy any individual
exactly. Thus it went on for a while; but by and by my stock company
began to be rather too familiarly known, in spite of their change of
costume, and at last some altogether too sagacious person published
what he called a 'key' to several of my earlier stories, in which I
found the names of a number of neighbors attached to aliases of my
own invention. All the 'types,' as he called them, represented by
these personages of my story had come to be recognized, each as
standing for one and the same individual of my acquaintance. It had
been of no use to change the costume. Even changing the sex did no
good. I had a famous old gossip in one of my tales,--a much-babbling
Widow Sertingly. 'Sho!' they all said, that 's old Deacon Spinner,
the same he told about in that other story of his,--only the deacon's
got on a petticoat and a mob-cap,--but it's the same old sixpence.'
So I said to myself, I must have some new characters. I had no
trouble with young characters; they are all pretty much alike,--dark-
haired or light-haired, with the outfits belonging to their
complexion, respectively. I had an old great-aunt, who was a tip-top
eccentric. I had never seen anything just like her in books. So I
said, I will have you, old lady, in one of my stories; and, sure
enough, I fitted her out with a first-rate odd-sounding name, which I
got from the directory, and sent her forth to the world, disguised,
as I supposed, beyond the possibility of recognition. The book sold
well, and the eccentric personage was voted a novelty. A few weeks
after it was published a lawyer called upon me, as the agent of the
person in the directory, whose family name I had used, as he
maintained, to his and all his relatives' great damage, wrong, loss,
grief, shame, and irreparable injury, for which the sum of blank
thousand dollars would be a modest compensation. The story made the
book sell, but not enough to pay blank thousand dollars. In the mean
time a cousin of mine had sniffed out the resemblance between the
character in my book and our great-aunt. We were rivals in her good
graces. 'Cousin Pansie' spoke to her of my book and the trouble it
was bringing on me,--she was so sorry about it! She liked my story,
--only those personalities, you know. 'What personalities?' says old
granny-aunt. 'Why, auntie, dear, they do say that he has brought in
everybody we know,--did n't anybody tell you about--well,--I suppose
you ought to know it,--did n't anybody tell you you were made fun of
in that novel?' Somebody--no matter who--happened to hear all this,
and told me. She said granny-aunt's withered old face had two red
spots come to it, as if she had been painting her cheeks from a pink
saucer. No, she said, not a pink saucer, but as if they were two
coals of fire. She sent out and got the book, and made her (the
somebody that I was speaking of) read it to her. When she had heard
as much as she could stand,--for 'Cousin Pansie' explained passages
to her,--explained, you know,--she sent for her lawyer, and that same
somebody had to be a witness to a new will she had drawn up. It was
not to my advantage. 'Cousin Pansie' got the corner lot where the
grocery is, and pretty much everything else. The old woman left me a
legacy. What do you think it was? An old set of my own books, that
looked as if it had been bought out of a bankrupt circulating
"After that I grew more careful. I studied my disguises much more
diligently. But after all, what could I do? Here I was, writing
stories for my living and my reputation. I made a pretty sum enough,
and worked hard enough to earn it. No tale, no money. Then every
story that went from my workshop had to come up to the standard of my
reputation, and there was a set of critics,--there is a set of
critics now and everywhere,--that watch as narrowly for the decline
of a man's reputation as ever a village half drowned out by an
inundation watched for the falling of the waters. The fame I had
won, such as it was, seemed to attend me,--not going before me in the
shape of a woman with a trumpet, but rather following me like one of
Actaeon's hounds, his throat open, ready to pull me down and tear me.
What a fierce enemy is that which bays behind us in the voice of our
proudest bygone achievement!
"But, as I said above, what could I do? I must write novels, and I
must have characters. 'Then why not invent them?' asks some novice.
Oh, yes! Invent them! You can invent a human being that in certain
aspects of humanity will answer every purpose for which your
invention was intended. A basket of straw, an old coat and pair of
breeches, a hat which has been soaked, sat upon, stuffed a broken
window, and had a brood of chickens raised in it,--these elements,
duly adjusted to each other, will represent humanity so truthfully
that the crows will avoid the cornfield when your scarecrow displays
his personality. Do you think you can make your heroes and
heroines,--nay, even your scrappy supernumeraries,--out of refuse
material, as you made your scarecrow? You can't do it. You must
study living people and reproduce them. And whom do you know so well
as your friends? You will show up your friends, then, one after
another. When your friends give out, who is left for you? Why,
nobody but your own family, of course. When you have used up your
family, there is nothing left for you but to write your
"After my experience with my grand-aunt, I be came more cautious,
very naturally. I kept traits of character, but I mixed ages as well
as sexes. In this way I continued to use up a large amount of
material, which looked as if it were as dangerous as dynamite to
meddle with. Who would have expected to meet my maternal uncle in
the guise of a schoolboy? Yet I managed to decant his
characteristics as nicely as the old gentleman would have decanted a
bottle of Juno Madeira through that long siphon which he always used
when the most sacred vintages were summoned from their crypts to
render an account of themselves on his hospitable board. It was a
nice business, I confess, but I did it, and I drink cheerfully to
that good uncle's memory in a glass of wine from his own cellar,
which, with many other more important tokens of his good will, I call
my own since his lamented demise.
"I succeeded so well with my uncle that I thought I would try a
course of cousins. I had enough of them to furnish out a whole
gallery of portraits. There was cousin 'Creeshy,' as we called her;
Lucretia, more correctly. She was a cripple. Her left lower limb
had had something happen to it, and she walked with a crutch. Her
patience under her trial was very pathetic and picturesque, so to
speak,--I mean adapted to the tender parts of a story; nothing could
work up better in a melting paragraph. But I could not, of course,
describe her particular infirmity; that would point her out at once.
I thought of shifting the lameness to the right lower limb, but even
that would be seen through. So I gave the young woman that stood for
her in my story a lame elbow, and put her arm in a sling, and made
her such a model of uncomplaining endurance that my grandmother cried
over her as if her poor old heart would break. She cried very
easily, my grandmother; in fact, she had such a gift for tears that I
availed myself of it, and if you remember old Judy, in my novel
"Honi Soit" (Honey Sweet, the booksellers called it),--old Judy, the
black-nurse,--that was my grandmother. She had various other
peculiarities, which I brought out one by one, and saddled on to
different characters. You see she was a perfect mine of
singularities and idiosyncrasies. After I had used her up pretty
well, I came dawn upon my poor relations. They were perfectly fair
game; what better use could I put them to? I studied them up very
carefully, and as there were a good many of them I helped myself
freely. They lasted me, with occasional intermissions, I should say,
three or four years. I had to be very careful with my poor
relations,--they were as touchy as they could be; and as I felt bound
to send a copy of my novel, whatever it might be, to each one of
them,--there were as many as a dozen,--I took care to mix their
characteristic features, so that, though each might suspect I meant
the other, no one should think I meant him or her. I got through all
my relations at last except my father and mother. I had treated my
brothers and sisters pretty fairly, all except Elisha and Joanna.
The truth is they both had lots of odd ways,--family traits, I
suppose, but were just different enough from each other to figure
separately in two different stories. These two novels made me some
little trouble; for Elisha said he felt sure that I meant Joanna in
one of them, and quarrelled with me about it; and Joanna vowed and
declared that Elnathan, in the other, stood for brother 'Lisha, and
that it was a real mean thing to make fun of folks' own flesh and
blood, and treated me to one of her cries. She was n't handsome when
she cried, poor, dear Joanna; in fact, that was one of the personal
traits I had made use of in the story that Elisha found fault with.
"So as there was nobody left but my father and mother, you see for
yourself I had no choice. There was one great advantage in dealing
with them,--I knew them so thoroughly. One naturally feels a certain
delicacy it handling from a purely artistic point of view persons who
have been so near to him. One's mother, for instance: suppose some
of her little ways were so peculiar that the accurate delineation of
them would furnish amusement to great numbers of readers; it would
not be without hesitation that a writer of delicate sensibility would
draw her portrait, with all its whimsicalities, so plainly that it
should be generally recognized. One's father is commonly of tougher
fibre than one's mother, and one would not feel the same scruples,
perhaps, in using him professionally as material in a novel; still,
while you are employing him as bait,--you see I am honest and plain-
spoken, for your characters are baits to catch readers with,--I would
follow kind Izaak Walton's humane counsel about the frog you are
fastening to your fish-hook: fix him artistically, as he directs, but
in so doing I use him as though you loved him.'
"I have at length shown up, in one form and another, all my townsmen
who have anything effective in their bodily or mental make-up, all my
friends, all my relatives; that is, all my blood relatives. It has
occurred to me that I might open a new field in the family connection
of my father-in-law and mother-in-law. We have been thinking of
paying them a visit, and I shall have an admirable opportunity of
studying them and their relatives and visitors. I have long wanted a
good chance for getting acquainted with the social sphere several
grades below that to which I am accustomed, and I have no doubt that
I shall find matter for half a dozen new stories among those
connections of mine. Besides, they live in a Western city, and one
doesn't mind much how he cuts up the people of places he does n't
himself live in. I suppose there is not really so much difference in
people's feelings, whether they live in Bangor or Omaha, but one's
nerves can't be expected to stretch across the continent. It is all
a matter of greater or less distance. I read this morning that a
Chinese fleet was sunk, but I did n't think half so much about it as
I did about losing my sleeve button, confound it! People have
accused me of want of feeling; they misunderstand the artist-nature,
--that is all. I obey that implicitly; I am sorry if people don't
like my descriptions, but I have done my best. I have pulled to
pieces all the persons I am acquainted with, and put them together
again in my characters. The quills I write with come from live
geese, I would have you know. I expect to get some first-rate
pluckings from those people I was speaking of, and I mean to begin my
thirty-ninth novel as soon as I have got through my visit."
THE SOCIETY AND ITS NEW SECRETARY.
There is no use in trying to hurry the natural course of events, in a
narrative like this. June passed away, and July, and August had
come, and as yet the enigma which had completely puzzled Arrowhead
Village and its visitors remained unsolved. The white canoe still
wandered over the lake, alone, ghostly, always avoiding the near
approach of the boats which seemed to be coming in its direction.
Now and then a circumstance would happen which helped to keep inquiry
alive. Good horsemanship was not so common among the young men of
the place and its neighborhood that Maurice's accomplishment in that
way could be overlooked. If there was a wicked horse or a wild colt
whose owner was afraid of him, he would be commended to Maurice's
attention. Paolo would lead him to his master with all due
precaution,--for he had no idea of risking his neck on the back of
any ill-conditioned beast,--and Maurice would fasten on his long
spurs, spring into the saddle, and very speedily teach the creature
good behavior. There soon got about a story that he was what the
fresh-water fisherman called "one o' them whisperers." It is a
common legend enough, coming from the Old World, but known in
American horse-talking circles, that some persons will whisper
certain words in a horse's ear which will tame him if he is as wild
and furious as ever Cruiser was. All this added to the mystery which
surrounded the young man. A single improbable or absurd story
amounts to very little, but when half a dozen such stories are told
about the same individual or the same event, they begin to produce
the effect of credible evidence. If the year had been 1692 and the
place had been Salem Village, Maurice Kirkwood would have run the
risk of being treated like the Reverend George Burroughs.
Miss Lurida Vincent's curiosity had been intensely excited with
reference to the young man of whom so many stories were told. She
had pretty nearly convinced herself that he was the author of the
paper on Ocean, Lake, and River, which had been read at one of the
meetings of the Pansophian Society. She was very desirous of meeting
him, if it were possible. It seemed as if she might, as Secretary of
the Society, request the cooperation of any of the visitors, without
impropriety. So, after much deliberation, she wrote a careful note,
of which the following is an exact copy. Her hand was bold, almost
masculine, a curious contrast to that of Euthymia, which was
ARROWHEAD VILLAGE, August 3, 18-.
MAURICE KIRKWOOD, ESQ.
DEAR SIR,--You have received, I trust, a card of invitation to the
meetings of our Society, but I think we have not yet had the pleasure
of seeing you at any of them. We have supposed that we might be
indebted to you for a paper read at the last meeting, and listened to
with much interest. As it was anonymous, we do not wish to be
inquisitive respecting its authorship; but we desire to say that any
papers kindly sent us by the temporary residents of our village will
be welcome, and if adapted to the wants of our Association will be
read at one of its meetings or printed in its records, or perhaps
both read and printed. May we not hope for your presence at the
meeting, which is to take place next Wednesday evening?
Secretary of the Pansophian Society.
To this note the Secretary received the following reply:
MISS LURIDA VINCENT,
ARROWHEAD VILLAGE, August 4, 18-.
Secretary of the Pansophian Society:
DEAR MISS VINCENT,--I have received the ticket you refer to, and
desire to express my acknowledgments for the polite attention. I
regret that I have not been and I fear shall not be able to attend
the meetings of the Society; but if any subject occurs to me on which
I feel an inclination to write, it will give me pleasure to send a
paper, to be disposed of as the Society may see fit.
Very respectfully yours,
"He says nothing about the authorship of the paper that was read the
other evening," the Secretary said to herself. "No matter,--he
wrote it,--there is no mistaking his handwriting. We know something
about him, now, at any rate. But why doesn't he come to our
meetings? What has his antipathy to do with his staying away? I
must find out what his secret is, and I will. I don't believe it's
harder than it was to solve that prize problem which puzzled so many
teachers, or than beating Crakowitz, the great chess-player."
To this enigma, then, The Terror determined to bend all the faculties
which had excited the admiration and sometimes the amazement of those
who knew her in her school-days. It was a very delicate piece of
business; for though Lurida was an intrepid woman's rights advocate,
and believed she was entitled to do almost everything that men dared
to, she knew very well there were certain limits which a young woman
like herself must not pass.
In the mean time Maurice had received a visit from the young student
at the University,--the same whom he had rescued from his dangerous
predicament in the lake. With him had called one of the teachers,--
an instructor in modern languages, a native of Italy. Maurice and
the instructor exchanged a few words in Italian. The young man spoke
it with the ease which implied long familiarity with its use.
After they left, the instructor asked many curious questions about
him,--who he was, how long he had been in the village, whether
anything was known of his history,--all these inquiries with an
eagerness which implied some special and peculiar reason for the
interest they evinced.
"I feel satisfied," the instructor said, "that I have met that young
man in my own country. It was a number of years ago, and of course
he has altered in appearance a good deal; but there is a look about
him of--what shall I call it?---apprehension,--as if he were fearing
the approach of something or somebody. I think it is the way a man
would look that was haunted; you know what I mean,--followed by a
spirit or ghost. He does not suggest the idea of a murderer,--very
far from it; but if he did, I should think he was every minute in
fear of seeing the murdered man's spirit."
The student was curious, in his turn, to know all the instructor
could recall. He had seen him in Rome, he thought, at the Fountain
of Trevi, where so many strangers go before leaving the city. The
youth was in the company of a man who looked like a priest. He could
not mistake the peculiar expression of his countenance, but that was
all he now remembered about his appearance. His attention had been
called to this young man by seeing that some of the bystanders were
pointing at him, and noticing that they were whispering with each
other as if with reference to him. He should say that the youth was
at that time fifteen or sixteen years old, and the time was about ten
After all, this evidence was of little or no value. Suppose the
youth were Maurice; what then? We know that he had been in Italy,
and had been there a good while,--or at least we infer so much from
his familiarity with the language, and are confirmed in the belief by
his having an Italian servant, whom he probably brought from Italy
when he returned. If he wrote the paper which was read the other
evening, that settles it, for the writer says he had lived by the
Tiber. We must put this scrap of evidence furnished by the Professor
with the other scraps; it may turn out of some consequence, sooner or
later. It is like a piece of a dissected map; it means almost
nothing by itself, but when we find the pieces it joins with we may
discover a very important meaning in it.
In a small, concentrated community like that which centred in and
immediately around Arrowhead Village, every day must have its local
gossip as well as its general news. The newspaper tells the small
community what is going on in the great world, and the busy tongues
of male and female, especially the latter, fill in with the
occurrences and comments of the ever-stirring microcosm. The fact
that the Italian teacher had, or thought he had, seen Maurice ten
years before was circulated and made the most of,--turned over and
over like a cake, until it was thoroughly done on both sides and all
through. It was a very small cake, but better than nothing. Miss
Vincent heard this story, as others did, and talked about it with her
friend, Miss Tower. Here was one more fact to help along.
The two young ladies who had recently graduated at the Corinna
Institute remained, as they had always been, intimate friends. They
were the natural complements of each other. Euthymia represented a
complete, symmetrical womanhood. Her outward presence was only an
index of a large, wholesome, affluent life. She could not help being
courageous, with such a firm organization. She could not help being
generous, cheerful, active. She had been told often enough that she
was fair to look upon. She knew that she was called The Wonder by
the schoolmates who were dazzled by her singular accomplishments, but
she did not overvalue them. She rather tended to depreciate her own
gifts, in comparison with those of her friend, Miss Lurida Vincent.
The two agreed all the better for differing as they did. The octave
makes a perfect chord, when shorter intervals jar more or less on the
ear. Each admired the other with a heartiness which if they had been
less unlike, would have been impossible.
It was a pleasant thing to observe their dependence on each other.
The Terror of the schoolroom was the oracle in her relations with her
friend. All the freedom of movement which The Wonder showed in her
bodily exercises The Terror manifested in the world of thought. She
would fling open a book, and decide in a swift glance whether it had
any message for her. Her teachers had compared her way of reading to
the taking of an instantaneous photograph. When she took up the
first book on Physiology which Dr. Butts handed her, it seemed to him
that if she only opened at any place, and gave one look, her mind
drank its meaning up, as a moist sponge absorbs water. "What can I
do with such a creature as this?" he said to himself. "There is
only one way to deal with her, treat her as one treats a silkworm:
give it its mulberry leaf, and it will spin its own cocoon. Give her
the books, and she will spin her own web of knowledge."
"Do you really think of studying medicine?" said Dr. Butts to her.
"I have n't made up my mind about that," she answered, "but I want to
know a little more about this terrible machinery of life and death we
are all tangled in. I know something about it, but not enough. I
find some very strange beliefs among the women I meet with, and I
want to be able to silence them when they attempt to proselyte me to
their whims and fancies. Besides, I want to know everything."
"They tell me you do, already," said Dr. Butts.
"I am the most ignorant little wretch that draws the breath of life!"
exclaimed The Terror.
The doctor smiled. He knew what it meant. She had reached that
stage of education in which the vast domain of the unknown opens its
illimitable expanse before the eyes of the student. We never know
the extent of darkness until it is partially illuminated.
"You did not leave the Institute with the reputation of being the
most ignorant young lady that ever graduated there," said the doctor.
"They tell me you got the highest marks of any pupil on their record
since the school was founded."
"What a grand thing it was to be the biggest fish in our small
aquarium, to be sure!" answered The Terror. "He was six inches long,
the monster,--a little too big for bait to catch a pickerel with!
What did you hand me that schoolbook for? Did you think I did n't
know anything about the human body?"
"You said you were such an ignorant creature I thought I would try
you with an easy book, by way of introduction."
The Terror was not confused by her apparent self-contradiction.
"I meant what I said, and I mean what I say. When I talk about my
ignorance, I don't measure myself with schoolgirls, doctor. I don't
measure myself with my teachers, either. You must talk to me as if I
were a man, a grown man, if you mean to teach me anything. Where is
your hat, doctor? Let me try it on."
The doctor handed her his wide-awake. The Terror's hair was not
naturally abundant, like Euthymia's, and she kept it cut rather
short. Her head used to get very hot when she studied hard. She
tried to put the hat on.
"Do you see that?" she said. "I could n't wear it--it would squeeze
my eyes out of my head. The books told me that women's brains were
smaller than men's: perhaps they are,--most of them,--I never
measured a great many. But when they try to settle what women are
good for, by phrenology, I like to have them put their tape round my
head. I don't believe in their nonsense, for all that. You might as
well tell me that if one horse weighs more than another horse he is
worth more,--a cart-horse that weighs twelve or fourteen hundred
pounds better than Eclipse, that may have weighed a thousand. Give
me a list of the best books you can think of, and turn me loose in
your library. I can find what I want, if you have it; and what I
don't find there I will get at the Public Library. I shall want to
ask you a question now and then."
The doctor looked at her with a kind of admiration, but thoughtfully,
as if he feared she was thinking of a task too formidable for her
slight constitutional resource.
She returned, instinctively, to the apparent contradiction in her
statements about herself.
"I am not a fool, if I am ignorant. Yes, doctor, I sail on a wide
sea of ignorance, but I have taken soundings of some of its shallows
and some of its depths. Your profession deals with the facts of life
that interest me most just now, and I want to know something of it.
Perhaps I may find it a calling such as would suit me."
"Do you seriously think of becoming a practitioner of medicine?" said
"Certainly, I seriously think of it as a possibility, but I want to
know something more about it first. Perhaps I sha'n't believe in
medicine enough to practise it. Perhaps I sha'n't like it well
enough. No matter about that. I wish to study some of your best
books on some of the subjects that most interest me. I know about
bones and muscles and all that, and about digestion and respiration
and such things. I want to study up the nervous system, and learn
all about it. I am of the nervous temperament myself, and perhaps
that is the reason. I want to read about insanity and all that
relates to it."
A curious expression flitted across the doctor's features as The
Terror said this.
"Nervous system. Insanity. She has headaches, I know,--all those
large-headed, hard-thinking girls do, as a matter of course; but what
has set her off about insanity and the nervous system? I wonder if
any of her more remote relatives are subject to mental disorder.
Bright people very often have crazy relations. Perhaps some of her
friends are in that way. I wonder whether"--the doctor did not speak
any of these thoughts, and in fact hardly shaped his "whether," for
The Terror interrupted his train of reflection, or rather struck into
it in a way which startled him.
"Where is the first volume of this Medical Cyclopaedia?" she asked,
looking at its empty place on the shelf.
"On my table," the doctor answered. "I have been consulting it."
Lurida flung it open, in her eager way, and turned the pages rapidly
until she came to the one she wanted. The doctor cast his eye on the
beading of the page, and saw the large letters A N T.
"I thought so," he said to himself. "We shall know everything there
is in the books about antipathies now, if we never did before. She
has a special object in studying the nervous system, just as I
suspected. I think she does not care to mention it at this time; but
if she finds out anything of interest she will tell me, if she does
anybody. Perhaps she does not mean to tell anybody. It is a rather
delicate business,--a young girl studying the natural history of a
young man. Not quite so safe as botany or palaeontology!"
Lurida, lately The Terror, now Miss Vincent, had her own plans, and
chose to keep them to herself, for the present, at least. Her hands
were full enough, it might seem, without undertaking the solution of
the great Arrowhead Village enigma. But she was in the most perfect
training, so far as her intelligence was concerned; and the summer
rest had restored her bodily vigor, so that her brain was like an
overcharged battery which will find conductors somewhere to carry off
its crowded energy.
At this time Arrowhead Village was enjoying the most successful
season it had ever known. The Pansophian Society flourished to an
extraordinary degree under the fostering care of the new Secretary.
The rector was a good figure-head as President, but the Secretary was
the life of the Society. Communications came in abundantly: some
from the village and its neighborhood, some from the University and
the Institute, some from distant and unknown sources. The new
Secretary was very busy with the work of examining these papers.
After a forenoon so employed, the carpet of her room looked like a
barn floor after a husking-match. A glance at the manuscripts
strewed about, or lying in heaps, would have frightened any young
writer away from the thought of authorship as a business. If the
candidate for that fearful calling had seen the process of selection
and elimination, he would have felt still more desperately. A paper
of twenty pages would come in, with an underscored request to please
read through, carefully. That request alone is commonly sufficient
to condemn any paper, and prevent its having any chance of a hearing;
but the Secretary was not hardened enough yet for that kind of
martial law in dealing with manuscripts. The looker-on might have
seen her take up the paper, cast one flashing glance at its title,
read the first sentence and the last, dip at a venture into two or
three pages, and decide as swiftly as the lightning calculator would
add up a column of figures what was to be its destination. If
rejected, it went into the heap on the left; if approved, it was laid
apart, to be submitted to the Committee for their judgment. The
foolish writers who insist on one's reading through their manuscript
poems and stories ought to know how fatal the request is to their
prospects. It provokes the reader, to begin with. The reading of
manuscript is frightful work, at the best; the reading of worthless
manuscript--and most of that which one is requested to read through
is worthless--would add to the terrors of Tartarus, if any infernal
deity were ingenious enough to suggest it as a punishment.
If a paper was rejected by the Secretary, it did not come before the
Committee, but was returned to the author, if he sent for it, which
he commonly did. Its natural course was to try for admission into
some one of the popular magazines: into "The Sifter," the most
fastidious of them all; if that declined it, into "The Second Best;"
and if that returned it, into "The Omnivorous." If it was refused
admittance at the doors of all the magazines, it might at length find
shelter in the corner of a newspaper, where a good deal of very
readable verse is to be met with nowadays, some of which has been, no
doubt, presented to the Pansophian Society, but was not considered up
to its standard.
A NEW ARRIVAL.
There was a recent accession to the transient population of the
village which gave rise to some speculation. The new-comer was a
young fellow, rather careless in his exterior, but apparently as much
at home as if he owned Arrowhead Village and everything in it. He
commonly had a cigar in his mouth, carried a pocket pistol, of the
non-explosive sort, and a stick with a bulldog's bead for its knob;
wore a soft bat, a coarse check suit, a little baggy, and gaiterboots
which had been half-soled,--a Bohemian-looking personage, altogether.
This individual began making explorations in every direction. He was
very curious about the place and all the people in it. He was
especially interested in the Pansophian Society, concerning which he
made all sorts of inquiries. This led him to form a summer
acquaintance with the Secretary, who was pleased to give him whatever
information he asked for; being proud of the Society, as she had a
right to be, and knowing more about it than anybody else.
The visitor could not have been long in the village without hearing
something of Maurice Kirkwood, and the stories, true and false,
connected with his name. He questioned everybody who could tell him
anything about Maurice, and set down the answers in a little note-
book he always had with him.
All this naturally excited the curiosity of the village about this
new visitor. Among the rest, Miss Vincent, not wanting in an
attribute thought to belong more especially to her sex, became
somewhat interested to know more exactly who this inquiring, note-
taking personage, who seemed to be everywhere and to know everybody,
might himself be. Meeting him at the Public Library at a fortunate
moment, when there was nobody but the old Librarian, who was hard of
hearing, to interfere with their conversation, the little Secretary
had a chance to try to find out something about him.
"This is a very remarkable library for a small village to possess,"
he remarked to Miss Lurida.
"It is, indeed," she said. "Have you found it well furnished with
the books you most want?"
"Oh, yes,--books enough. I don't care so much for the books as I do
for the Newspapers. I like a Review well enough,--it tells you all
there is in a book; but a good abstract of the Review in a Newspaper
saves a fellow the trouble of reading it."
"You find the papers you want, here, I hope," said the young lady.
"Oh, I get along pretty well. It's my off-time, and I don't do much
reading or writing. Who is the city correspondent of this place?"
"I don't think we have any one who writes regularly. Now and then,
there is a letter, with the gossip of the place in it, or an account
of some of the doings at our Society. The city papers are always
glad to get the reports of our meetings, and to know what is going on
in the village."
"I suppose you write about the Society to the papers, as you are the
This was a point-blank shot. She meant to question the young man
about his business, and here she was on the witness-stand. She
ducked her head, and let the question go over her.
"Oh, there are plenty of members who are willing enough to write,--
especially to give an account of their own papers. I think they like
to have me put in the applause, when they get any. I do that
sometimes." (How much more, she did not say.)
"I have seen some very well written articles, which, from what they
tell me of the Secretary, I should have thought she might have
He looked her straight in the eyes.
"I have transmitted some good papers," she said, without winking, or
swallowing, or changing color, precious little color she had to
change; her brain wanted all the blood it could borrow or steal, and
more too. "You spoke of Newspapers," she said, without any change of
tone or manner: "do you not frequently write for them yourself?"
"I should think I did," answered the young man. "I am a regular
correspondent of 'The People's Perennial and Household Inquisitor.'"
"The regular correspondent from where?"
"Where! Oh, anywhere,--the place does not make much difference. I
have been writing chiefly from Naples and St. Petersburg, and now and
then from Constantinople."
"How long since your return to this country, may I ask?"
"My return? I have never been out of this country. I travel with a
gazetteer and some guide-books. It is the cheapest way, and you can
get the facts much better from them than by trusting your own
observation. I have made the tour of Europe by the help of them and
the newspapers. But of late I have taken to interviewing. I find
that a very pleasant specialty. It is about as good sport as trout-
tickling, and much the same kind of business. I should like to send
the Society an account of one of my interviews. Don't you think they
would like to hear it?"
"I have no doubt they would. Send it to me, and I will look it over;
and if the Committee approve it, we will have it at the next meeting.
You know everything has to be examined and voted on by the
Committee," said the cautious Secretary.
"Very well,--I will risk it. After it is read, if it is read, please
send it back to me, as I want to sell it to 'The Sifter,' or 'The
Second Best,' or some of the paying magazines."
This is the paper, which was read at the next meeting of the
"I was ordered by the editor of the newspaper to which I am attached,
'The People's Perennial and Household Inquisitor,' to make a visit to
a certain well-known writer, and obtain all the particulars I could
concerning him and all that related to him. I have interviewed a
good many politicians, who I thought rather liked the process; but I
had never tried any of these literary people, and I was not quite
sure how this one would feel about it. I said as much to the chief,
but he pooh-poohed my scruples. 'It is n't our business whether they
like it or not,' said he; 'the public wants it, and what the public
wants it's bound to have, and we are bound to furnish it. Don't be
afraid of your man; he 's used to it,--he's been pumped often enough
to take it easy, and what you've got to do is to pump him dry. You
need n't be modest,--ask him what you like; he is n't bound to
answer, you know.'
"As he lived in a rather nice quarter of the town, I smarted myself up
a little, put on a fresh collar and cuffs, and got a five-cent shine
on my best high-lows. I said to myself, as I was walking towards the
house where he lived, that I would keep very shady for a while and
pass for a visitor from a distance; one of those 'admiring strangers'
who call in to pay their respects, to get an autograph, and go home
and say that they have met the distinguished So and So, which gives
them a certain distinction in the village circle to which they
"My man, the celebrated writer, received me in what was evidently his
reception-room. I observed that he managed to get the light full on
my face, while his own was in the shade. I had meant to have his
face in the light, but he knew the localities, and had arranged
things so as to give him that advantage. It was like two frigates
manoeuvring,--each trying to get to windward of the other. I never
take out my note-book until I and my man have got engaged in artless
and earnest conversation,--always about himself and his works, of
course, if he is an author.
"I began by saying that he must receive a good many callers. Those
who had read his books were naturally curious to see the writer of
"He assented, emphatically, to this statement. He had, he said, a
great many callers.
"I remarked that there was a quality in his books which made his
readers feel as if they knew him personally, and caused them to
cherish a certain attachment to him.
"He smiled, as if pleased. He was himself disposed to think so, he
said. In fact, a great many persons, strangers writing to him, had
told him so.
"My dear sir, I said, there is nothing wonderful in the fact you
mention. You reach a responsive chord in many human breasts.
'One touch of Nature makes the whole world kin.'
"Everybody feels as if he, and especially she (his eyes sparkled),
were your blood relation. Do they not name their children after you
"He blushed perceptibly. 'Sometimes,' he answered. 'I hope they
will all turn out well.'
"I am afraid I am taking up too much of your time, I said.
"No, not at all,' he replied. 'Come up into my library; it is warmer
and pleasanter there.'
"I felt confident that I had him by the right handle then; for an
author's library, which is commonly his working-room, is, like a
lady's boudoir, a sacred apartment.
"So we went upstairs, and again he got me with the daylight on my
face, when I wanted it on has.
"You have a fine library, I remarked. There were books all round the
room, and one of those whirligig square book-cases. I saw in front a
Bible and a Concordance, Shakespeare and Mrs. Cowden Clarke's book,
and other classical works and books of grave aspect. I contrived to
give it a turn, and on the side next the wall I got a glimpse of
Barnum's Rhyming Dictionary, and several Dictionaries of Quotations
and cheap compends of knowledge. Always twirl one of those revolving
book-cases when you visit a scholar's library. That is the way to
find out what books he does n't want you to see, which of course are
the ones you particularly wish to see.
"Some may call all this impertinent and inquisitive. What do you
suppose is an interviewer's business? Did you ever see an oyster
opened? Yes? Well, an interviewer's business is the same thing.
His man is his oyster, which he, not with sword, but with pencil and
note-book, must open. Mark how the oysterman's thin blade insinuates
itself,--how gently at first, how strenuously when once fairly
between the shells!
"And here, I said, you write your books,--those books which have
carried your name to all parts of the world, and will convey it down
to posterity! Is this the desk at which you write? And is this the
pen you write with?
"'It is the desk and the very pen,' he replied.
"He was pleased with my questions and my way of putting them. I took
up the pen as reverentially as if it had been made of the feather
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