A Mortal Antipathy
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (The Physician and Poet)
Part 3 out of 5
which the angel I used to read about in Young's "Night Thoughts"
ought to have dropped, and did n't.
"Would you kindly write your autograph in my note-book, with that
pen? I asked him. Yes, he would, with great pleasure.
"So I got out my note-book.
"It was a spick and span new one, bought on purpose for this
interview. I admire your bookcases, said I. Can you tell me just
how high they are?
"'They are about eight feet, with the cornice.'
"I should like to have some like those, if I ever get rich enough,
said I. Eight feet,--eight feet, with the cornice. I must put that
"So I got out my pencil.
"I sat there with my pencil and note-book in my hand, all ready, but
not using them as yet.
"I have heard it said, I observed, that you began writing poems at a
very early age. Is it taking too great a liberty to ask how early
you began to write in verse?
"He was getting interested, as people are apt to be when they are
themselves the subjects of conversation.
"'Very early,--I hardly know how early. I can say truly, as Louise
"'Je fis mes premiers vers sans savoir les ecrire.'"
"I am not a very good French scholar, said I; perhaps you will be
kind enough to translate that line for me.
"'Certainly. With pleasure. I made my first
verses without knowing how to write them.'
"How interesting! But I never heard of Louise Colet. Who was she?
"My man was pleased to gi-ve me a piece of literary information.
"'Louise the lioness! Never heard of her? You have heard of
"Why,--yes,--more or less. To tell the truth, I am not very well up
in French literature. What had he to do with your lioness?
"'A good deal. He satirized her, and she waited at his door with a
case-knife in her hand, intending to stick him with it. By and by he
came down, smoking a cigarette, and was met by this woman flourishing
her case-knife. He took it from her, after getting a cut in his
dressing-gown, put it in his pocket, and went on with his cigarette.
He keeps it with an inscription:
"Donne a Alphonse Karr
Par Madame Louise Colet....
Dans le dos.
"Lively little female!'
"I could n't help thinking that I should n't have cared to interview
the lively little female. He was evidently tickled with the interest
I appeared to take in the story he told me. That made him feel
amiably disposed toward me.
"I began with very general questions, but by degrees I got at
everything about his family history and the small events of his
boyhood. Some of the points touched upon were delicate, but I put a
good bold face on my most audacious questions, and so I wormed out a
great deal that was new concerning my subject. He had been written
about considerably, and the public wouldn't have been satisfied
without some new facts; and these I meant to have, and I got. No
matter about many of them now, but here are some questions and
answers that may be thought worth reading or listening to:
"How do you enjoy being what they call 'a celebrity,' or a celebrated
"'So far as one's vanity is concerned it is well enough. But self-
love is a cup without any bottom, and you might pour the Great Lakes
all through it, and never fill it up. It breeds an appetite for more
of the same kind. It tends to make the celebrity a mere lump of
egotism. It generates a craving for high-seasoned personalities
which is in danger of becoming slavery, like that following the abuse
of alcohol, or opium, or tobacco. Think of a man's having every day,
by every post, letters that tell him he is this and that and the
other, with epithets and endearments, one tenth part of which would
have made him blush red hot before he began to be what you call a
"Are there not some special inconveniences connected with what is
"'I should think so! Suppose you were obliged every day of your life
to stand and shake hands, as the President of the United States has
to after his inauguration: how do you think your hand would feel
after a few months' practice of that exercise? Suppose you had given
you thirty-five millions of money a year, in hundred-dollar coupons,
on condition that you cut them all off yourself in the usual manner:
how do you think you should like the look of a pair of scissors at
the end of a year, in which you had worked ten hours a day every day
but Sunday, cutting off a hundred coupons an hour, and found you had
not finished your task, after all? Yon have addressed me as what you
are pleased to call "a literary celebrity." I won't dispute with you
as to whether or not I deserve that title. I will take it for
granted I am what you call me, and give you some few hints on my
"'You know there was formed a while ago an Association of Authors for
Self-Protection. It meant well, and it was hoped that something
would come of it in the way of relieving that oppressed class, but I
am sorry to say that it has not effected its purpose.'
"I suspected he had a hand in drawing up the Constitution and Laws of
that Association. Yes, I said, an admirable Association it was, and
as much needed as the one for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
I am sorry to hear that it has not proved effectual in putting a stop
to the abuse of a deserving class of men. It ought to have done it;
it was well conceived, and its public manifesto was a masterpiece.
(I saw by his expression that he was its author.)
"'I see I can trust you,' he said. 'I will unbosom myself freely of
some of the grievances attaching to the position of the individual to
whom you have applied the term "Literary Celebrity."
"'He is supposed to be a millionaire, in virtue of the immense sales
of his books, all the money from which, it is taken for granted, goes
into his pocket. Consequently, all subscription papers are handed to
him for his signature, and every needy stranger who has heard his
name comes to him for assistance.
"'He is expected to subscribe for all periodicals, and is goaded by
receiving blank formulae, which, with their promises to pay, he is
expected to fill up.
"'He receives two or three books daily, with requests to read and
give his opinion about each of them, which opinion, if it has a word
which can be used as an advertisement, he will find quoted in all the
"'He receives thick masses of manuscript, prose and verse, which he
is called upon to examine and pronounce on their merits; these
manuscripts having almost invariably been rejected by the editors to
whom they have been sent, and having as a rule no literary value
"'He is expected to sign petitions, to contribute to journals, to
write for fairs, to attend celebrations, to make after-dinner
speeches, to send money for objects he does not believe in to places
he never heard of.
"'He is called on to keep up correspondences with unknown admirers,
who begin by saying they have no claim upon his time, and then
appropriate it by writing page after page, if of the male sex; and
sheet after sheet, if of the other.
"'If a poet, it is taken for granted that he can sit down at any
moment and spin off any number of verses on any subject which may be
suggested to him; such as congratulations to the writer's great-
grandmother on her reaching her hundredth year, an elegy on an infant
aged six weeks, an ode for the Fourth of July in a Western township
not to be found in Lippincott's last edition, perhaps a valentine for
some bucolic lover who believes that wooing in rhyme is the way to
win the object of his affections.'
"Is n't it so? I asked the Celebrity.
"'I would bet on the prose lover. She will show the verses to him,
and they will both have a good laugh over them.'
"I have only reported a small part of the conversation I had with the
Literary Celebrity. He was so much taken up with his pleasing self-
contemplation, while I made him air his opinions and feelings and
spread his characteristics as his laundress spreads and airs his
linen on the clothes-line, that I don't believe it ever occurred to
him that he had been in the hands of an interviewer until he found
himself exposed to the wind and sunshine in full dimensions in the
columns of The People's Perennial and Household Inquisitor.'"
After the reading of this paper, much curiosity was shown as to who
the person spoken of as the "Literary Celebrity" might be. Among the
various suppositions the startling idea was suggested that he was
neither more nor less than the unexplained personage known in the
village as Maurice Kirkwood. Why should that be his real name? Why
should not he be the Celebrity, who had taken this name and fled to
this retreat to escape from the persecutions of kind friends, who
were pricking him and stabbing him nigh to death with their daggers
of sugar candy?
The Secretary of the Pansophian Society determined to question the
Interviewer the next time she met him at the Library, which happened
soon after the meeting when his paper was read.
"I do not know," she said, in the course of a conversation in which
she had spoken warmly of his contribution to the literary
entertainment of the Society, "that you mentioned the name of the
Literary Celebrity whom you interviewed so successfully."
"I did not mention him, Miss Vincent," he answered, "nor do I think
it worth while to name him. He might not care to have the whole
story told of how he was handled so as to make him communicative.
Besides, if I did, it would bring him a new batch of sympathetic
letters, regretting that he was bothered by those horrid
correspondents, full of indignation at the bores who presumed to
intrude upon him with their pages of trash, all the writers of which
would expect answers to their letters of condolence."
The Secretary asked the Interviewer if he knew the young gentleman
who called himself Maurice Kirkwood.
"What," he answered, "the man that paddles a birch canoe, and rides
all the wild horses of the neighborhood? No, I don't know him, but I
have met him once or twice, out walking. A mighty shy fellow, they
tell me. Do you know anything particular about him?"
"Not much. None of us do, but we should like to. The story is that
be has a queer antipathy to something or to somebody, nobody knows
what or whom."
"To newspaper correspondents, perhaps," said the interviewer. "What
made you ask me about him? You did n't think he was my 'Literary
Celebrity,' did you?"
"I did not know. I thought he might be. Why don't you interview
this mysterious personage? He would make a good sensation for your
paper, I should think."
"Why, what is there to be interviewed in him? Is there any story of
crime, or anything else to spice a column or so, or even a few
paragraphs, with? If there is, I am willing to handle him
"I told you he has what they call an antipathy. I don't know how
much wiser you are for that piece of information."
"An antipathy! Why, so have I an antipathy. I hate a spider, and as
for a naked caterpillar,--I believe I should go into a fit if I had
to touch one. I know I turn pale at the sight of some of those great
green caterpillars that come down from the elm-trees in August and
"Afraid of them?" asked the young lady.
"Afraid? What should I be afraid of? They can't bite or sting. I
can't give any reason. All I know is that when I come across one of
these creatures in my path I jump to one side, and cry out,--
sometimes using very improper words. The fact is, they make me crazy
for the moment."
"I understand what you mean," said Miss Vincent. "I used to have the
same feeling about spiders, but I was ashamed of it, and kept a
little menagerie of spiders until I had got over the feeling; that
is, pretty much got over it, for I don't love the creatures very
dearly, though I don't scream when I see one."
"What did you tell me, Miss Vincent, was this fellow's particular
That is just the question. I told you that we don't know and we
can't guess what it is. The people here are tired out with trying to
discover some good reason for the young man's keeping out of the way
of everybody, as he does. They say he is odd or crazy, and they
don't seem to be able to tell which. It would make the old ladies of
the village sleep a great deal sounder,--yes, and some of the young
ladies, too,--if they could find out what this Mr. Kirkwood has got
into his head, that he never comes near any of the people here."
"I think I can find out," said the Interviewer, whose professional
ambition was beginning to be excited. "I never came across anybody
yet that I could n't get something out of. I am going to stay here a
week or two, and before I go I will find out the secret, if there is
any, of this Mr. Maurice Kirkwood."
We must leave the Interviewer to his contrivances until they present
us with some kind of result, either in the shape of success or
THE INTERVIEWER ATTACKS THE SPHINX.
When Miss Euthymia Tower sent her oar off in flashing splinters, as
she pulled her last stroke in the boat-race, she did not know what a
strain she was putting upon it. She did know that she was doing her
best, but how great the force of her best was she was not aware until
she saw its effects. Unconsciousness belonged to her robust nature,
in all its manifestations. She did not pride herself on her
knowledge, nor reproach herself for her ignorance. In every way she
formed a striking contrast to her friend, Miss Vincent. Every word
they spoke betrayed the difference between them: the sharp tones of
Lurida's head-voice, penetrative, aggressive, sometimes irritating,
revealed the corresponding traits of mental and moral character; the
quiet, conversational contralto of Euthymia was the index of a nature
restful and sympathetic.
The friendships of young girls prefigure the closer relations which
will one day come in and dissolve their earlier intimacies. The
dependence of two young friends may be mutual, but one will always
lean more heavily than the other; the masculine and feminine elements
will be as sure to assert themselves as if the friends were of
On all common occasions Euthymia looked up to her friend as her
superior. She fully appreciated all her varied gifts and knowledge,
and deferred to her opinion in every-day matters, not exactly as an
oracle, but as wiser than herself or any of her other companions. It
was a different thing, however, when the graver questions of life
came up. Lurida was full of suggestions, plans, projects, which were
too liable to run into whims before she knew where they were tending.
She would lay out her ideas before Euthymia so fluently and
eloquently that she could not help believing them herself, and
feeling as if her friend must accept them with an enthusiasm like her
own. Then Euthymia would take them up with her sweet, deliberate
accents, and bring her calmer judgment to bear on them.
Lurida was in an excited condition, in the midst of all her new
interests and occupations. She was constantly on the lookout for
papers to be read at the meetings of her Society,--for she made it
her own in great measure, by her zeal and enthusiasm,--and in the
mean time she was reading in various books which Dr. Butts selected
for her, all bearing on the profession to which, at least as a
possibility, she was looking forward. Privately and in a very still
way, she was occupying herself with the problem of the young
stranger, the subject of some delusion, or disease, or obliquity of
unknown nature, to which the vague name of antipathy had been
attached. Euthymia kept an eye upon her, partly in the fear that
over-excitement would produce some mental injury, and partly from
anxiety lest she should compromise her womanly dignity in her desire
to get at the truth of a very puzzling question.
"How do you like the books I see you reading?" said Euthymia to
Lurida, one day, as they met at the Library.
"Better than all the novels I ever read," she answered. "I have been
reading about the nervous system, and it seems to me I have come
nearer the springs of life than ever before in all my studies. I
feel just as if I were a telegraph operator. I was sure that I had a
battery in my head, for I know my brain works like one; but I did not
know how many centres of energy there are, and how they are played
upon by all sorts of influences, external and internal. Do you know,
I believe I could solve the riddle of the 'Arrowhead Village Sphinx,'
as the paper called him, if he would only stay here long enough?"
"What paper has had anything about it, Lurida? I have not seen or
heard of its being mentioned in any of the papers."
"You know that rather queer-looking young man who has been about here
for some time,--the same one who gave the account of his interview
with a celebrated author? Well, he has handed me a copy of a paper
in which he writes, 'The People's Perennial and Household
Inquisitor.' He talks about this village in a very free and easy way.
He says there is a Sphinx here, who has mystified us all."
"And you have been chatting with that fellow! Don't you know that
he'll have you and all of us in his paper? Don't you know that
nothing is safe where one of those fellows gets in with his note-book
and pencil? Oh, Lurida, Lurida, do be careful!" What with this
mysterious young man and this very questionable newspaper-paragraph
writer, you will be talked about, if you don't mind, before you know
it. You had better let the riddle of the Sphinx alone. If you must
deal with such dangerous people, the safest way is to set one of them
to find out the other.--I wonder if we can't get this new man to
interview the visitor you have so much curiosity about. That might
be managed easily enough without your having anything to do with it.
Let me alone, and I will arrange it. But mind, now, you must not
meddle; if you do, you will spoil everything, and get your name in
the 'Household Inquisitor' in a way you won't like."
"Don't be frightened about me, Euthymia. I don't mean to give him a
chance to work me into his paper, if I can help it. But if you can
get him to try his skill upon this interesting personage and his
antipathy, so much the better. I am very curious about it, and
therefore about him. I want to know what has produced this strange
state of feeling in a young man who ought to have all the common
instincts of a social being. I believe there are unexplained facts
in the region of sympathies and antipathies which will repay study
with a deeper insight into the mysteries of life than we have dreamed
of hitherto. I often wonder whether there are not heart-waves and
soul-waves as well as 'brain-waves,' which some have already
Euthymia wondered, as well she might, to hear this young woman
talking the language of science like an adept. The truth is, Lurida
was one of those persons who never are young, and who, by way of
compensation, will never be old. They are found in both sexes. Two
well-known graduates of one of our great universities are living
examples of this precocious but enduring intellectual development.
If the readers of this narrative cannot pick them out, they need not
expect the writer of it to help them. If they guess rightly who they
are, they will recognize the fact that just such exceptional
individuals as the young woman we are dealing with are met with from
time to time in families where intelligence has been cumulative for
two or three generations.
Euthymia was very willing that the questioning and questionable
visitor should learn all that was known in the village about the
nebulous individual whose misty environment all the eyes in the
village were trying to penetrate, but that he should learn it from
some other informant than Lurida.
The next morning, as the Interviewer took his seat on a bench outside
his door, to smoke his after-breakfast cigar, a bright-looking and
handsome youth, whose features recalled those of Euthymia so
strikingly that one might feel pretty sure he was her brother, took a
seat by his side. Presently the two were engaged in conversation.
The Interviewer asked all sorts of questions about everybody in the
village. When he came to inquire about Maurice, the youth showed a
remarkable interest regarding him. The greatest curiosity, he said,
existed with reference to this personage. Everybody was trying to
find out what his story was,--for a story, and a strange one, he must
surely have,--and nobody had succeeded.
The Interviewer began to be unusually attentive. The young man told
him the various antipathy stories, about the evil-eye hypothesis,
about his horse-taming exploits, his rescuing the student whose boat
was overturned, and every occurrence he could recall which would help
out the effect of his narrative.
The Interviewer was becoming excited. "Can't find out anything about
him, you said, did n-'t you? How do you know there's anything to
find? Do you want to know what I think he is? I'll tell you. I
think he is an actor,--a fellow from one of the city theatres. Those
fellows go off in their summer vacation, and like to puzzle the
country folks. They are the very same chaps, like as not, the
visitors have seen in plays at the city theatres; but of course they
don't know 'em in plain clothes. Kings and Emperors look pretty
shabby off the stage sometimes, I can tell you."
The young man followed the Interviewer's lead. "I shouldn't wonder
if you were right," he said. "I remember seeing a young fellow in
Romeo that looked a good deal like this one. But I never met the
Sphinx, as they call him, face to face. He is as shy as a woodchuck.
I believe there are people here that would give a hundred dollars to
find out who he is, and where he came from, and what he is here for,
and why he does n't act like other folks. I wonder why some of those
newspaper men don't come up here and get hold of this story. It
would be just the thing for a sensational writer."
To all this the Interviewer listened with true professional interest.
Always on the lookout for something to make up a paragraph or a
column about; driven oftentimes to the stalest of repetitions,--to
the biggest pumpkin story, the tall cornstalk, the fat ox, the live
frog from the human stomach story, the third set of teeth and reading
without spectacles at ninety story, and the rest of the marvellous
commonplaces which are kept in type with e o y or e 6 m (every
other year or every six months) at the foot; always in want of a
fresh incident, a new story, an undescribed character, an unexplained
mystery, it is no wonder that the Interviewer fastened eagerly upon
this most tempting subject for an inventive and emotional
He had seen Paolo several times, and knew that he was Maurice's
confidential servant, but had never spoken to him. So he said to
himself that he must make Paolo's acquaintance, to begin with. In
the summer season many kinds of small traffic were always carried on
in Arrowhead Village. Among the rest, the sellers of fruits--
oranges, bananas, and others, according to the seasons--did an active
business. The Interviewer watched one of these fruit-sellers, and
saw that his hand-cart stopped opposite the house where, as he knew,
Maurice Kirkwood was living. Presently Paolo came out of the door,
and began examining the contents of the hand-cart. The Interviewer
saw his opportunity. Here was an introduction to the man, and the
man must introduce him to the master.
He knew very well how to ingratiate himself with the man,--there was
no difficulty about that. He had learned his name, and that he was
an Italian whom Maurice had brought to this country with him.
"Good morning, Mr. Paul," he said. "How do you like the look of
"They pretty fair," said Paolo: "no so good as them las' week; no
sweet as them was."
"Why, how do you know without tasting them?" said the Interviewer.
"I know by his look,--I know by his smell,--he no good yaller,--he no
smell ripe,--I know orange ever since my head no bigger than he is,"
and Paolo laughed at his own comparison.
The Interviewer laughed louder than Paolo.
"Good!" said he,--"first-rate! Of course you know all about 'em.
Why can't you pick me out a couple of what you think are the best of
'em? I shall be greatly obliged to you. I have a sick friend, and I
want to get two nice sweet ones for him."
Paolo was pleased. His skill and judgment were recognized. He felt
grateful to the stranger, who had given him, an opportunity of
conferring a favor. He selected two, after careful examination and
grave deliberation. The Interviewer had sense and tact enough not to
offer him an orange, and so shift the balance of obligation.
"How is Mr. Kirkwood, to-day?" he asked.
"Signor? He very well. He always well. Why you ask? Anybody tell
you he sick?"
"No, nobody said he was sick. I have n't seen him going about for a
day or two, and I thought be might have something the matter with
him. Is he in the house now?"
"No: he off riding. He take long, long rides, sometime gone all day.
Sometime he go on lake, paddle, paddle in the morning, very, very
early,--in night when the moon shine; sometime stay in house, and
read, and study, and write,--he great scholar, Misser Kirkwood."
"A good many books, has n't he?"
"He got whole shelfs full of books. Great books, little books, old
books, new books, all sorts of books. He great scholar, I tell you."
"Has n't he some curiosities,--old figures, old jewelry, old coins,
or things of that sort?"
Paolo looked at the young man cautiously, almost suspiciously.
"He don't keep no jewels nor no money in his chamber. He got some
old things,--old jugs, old brass figgers, old money, such as they
used to have in old times: she don't pass now." Paolo's genders were
apt to be somewhat indiscriminately distributed.
A lucky thought struck the Interviewer. "I wonder if he would
examine some old coins of mine?" said he, in a modestly tentative
"I think he like to see anything curious. When he come home I ask
him. Who will I tell him wants to ask him about old coin?"
"Tell him a gentleman visiting Arrowhead Village would like to call
and show him some old pieces of money, said to be Roman ones."
The Interviewer had just remembered that he had two or three old
battered bits of copper which he had picked up at a tollman's, where
they had been passed off for cents. He had bought them as
curiosities. One had the name of Gallienus upon it, tolerably
distinct,--a common little Roman penny; but it would serve his
purpose of asking a question, as would two or three others with less
legible legends. Paolo told him that if he came the next morning he
would stand a fair chance of seeing Mr. Kirkwood. At any rate, he
would speak to his master.
The Interviewer presented himself the next morning, after finishing
his breakfast and his cigar, feeling reasonably sure of finding Mr.
Kirkwood at home, as he proved to be. He had told Paolo to show the
stranger up to his library,--or study, as he modestly called it.
It was a pleasant room enough, with a lookout on the lake in one
direction, and the wooded hill in another. The tenant had fitted it
up in scholarly fashion. The books Paolo spoke of were conspicuous,
many of them, by their white vellum binding and tasteful gilding,
showing that probably they had been bound in Rome, or some other
Italian city. With these were older volumes in their dark original
leather, and recent ones in cloth or paper. As the Interviewer ran
his eye over them, he found that he could make very little out of
what their backs taught him. Some of the paper-covered books, some
of the cloth-covered ones, had names which he knew; but those on the
backs of many of the others were strange to his eyes. The classics
of Greek and Latin and Italian literature were there; and he saw
enough to feel convinced that he had better not attempt to display
his erudition in the company of this young scholar.
The first thing the Interviewer had to do was to account for his
visiting a person who had not asked to make his acquaintance, and who
was living as a recluse. He took out his battered coppers, and
showed them to Maurice.
"I understood that you were very skilful in antiquities, and had a
good many yourself. So I took the liberty of calling upon you,
hoping that you could tell me something about some ancient coins I
have had for a good while." So saying, he pointed to the copper with
the name of Gallienus.
"Is this very rare and valuable? I have heard that great prices have
been paid for some of these ancient coins,--ever so many guineas,
sometimes. I suppose this is as much as a thousand years old."
"More than a thousand years old," said Maurice.
"And worth a great deal of money?" asked the Interviewer.
"No, not a great deal of money," answered Maurice.
"How much, should you say?" said the Interviewer.
Maurice smiled. "A little more than the value of its weight in
copper,--I am afraid not much more. There are a good many of these
coins of Gallienus knocking about. The peddlers and the shopkeepers
take such pieces occasionally, and sell them, sometimes for five or
ten cents, to young collectors. No, it is not very precious in money
value, but as a relic any piece of money that was passed from hand to
hand a thousand or fifteen hundred years ago is interesting. The
value of such relics is a good deal a matter of imagination."
"And what do you say to these others?" asked the Interviewer. Poor
old worn-out things they were, with a letter or two only, and some
faint trace of a figure on one or two of them.
"Very interesting, always, if they carry your imagination back to the
times when you may suppose they were current. Perhaps Horace tossed
one of them to a beggar. Perhaps one of these was the coin that was
brought when One said to those about Him, 'Bring me a penny, that I
may see it.' But the market price is a different matter. That
depends on the beauty and preservation, and above all the rarity, of
the specimen. Here is a coin, now,"--he opened a small cabinet, and
took one from it. "Here is a Syracusan decadrachm with the head of
Persephone, which is at once rare, well preserved, and beautiful. I
am afraid to tell what I paid for it."
The Interviewer was not an expert in numismatics. He cared very
little more for an old coin than he did for an old button, but he had
thought his purchase at the tollman's might prove a good speculation.
No matter about the battered old pieces: he had found out, at any
rate, that Maurice must have money and could be extravagant, or what
he himself considered so; also that he was familiar with ancient
coins. That would do for a beginning.
"May I ask where you picked up the coin you are showing me?" he said
"That is a question which provokes a negative answer. One does not
'pick up' first-class coins or paintings, very often, in these times.
I bought this of a great dealer in Rome."
"Lived in Rome once?" said the Interviewer.
"For some years. Perhaps you have been there yourself?"
The Interviewer said he had never been there yet, but he hoped he
should go there, one of these years. "suppose you studied art and
antiquities while you were there?" he continued.
"Everybody who goes to Rome must learn something of art and
antiquities. Before you go there I advise you to review Roman
history and the classic authors. You had better make a study of
ancient and modern art, and not have everything to learn while you
are going about among ruins, and churches, and galleries. You know
your Horace and Virgil well, I take it for granted?"
The Interviewer hesitated. The names sounded as if he had heard
them. "Not so well as I mean to before going to Rome," he answered.
"May I ask how long you lived in Rome?"
"Long enough to know something of what is to be seen in it. No one
should go there without careful preparation beforehand. You are
familiar with Vasari, of course?"
The Interviewer felt a slight moisture on his forehead. He took out
his handkerchief. "It is a warm day," he said. "I have not had time
to read all--the works I mean to. I have had too much writing to do,
myself, to find all the time for reading and study I could have
"In what literary occupation have you been engaged, if you will
pardon my inquiry? said Maurice.
"I am connected with the press. I understood that you were a man of
letters, and I hoped I might have the privilege of hearing from your
own lips some account of your literary experiences."
"Perhaps that might be interesting, but I think I shall reserve it
for my autobiography. You said you were connected with the press.
Do I understand that you are an author?"
By this time the Interviewer had come to the conclusion that it was a
very warm day. He did not seem to be getting hold of his pitcher by
the right handle, somehow. But he could not help answering Maurice's
very simple question.
"If writing for a newspaper gives one a right to be called an author,
I may call myself one. I write for the "People's Perennial and
"Are you the literary critic of that well-known journal, or do you
manage the political column?"
"I am a correspondent from different places and on various matters of
"Places you have been to, and people you have known?"
"Well, yes,-generally, that is. Sometimes I have to compile my
"Did you write the letter from Rome, published a few weeks ago?"
The Interviewer was in what he would call a tight place. However, he
had found that his man was too much for him, and saw that the best
thing he could do was to submit to be interviewed himself. He
thought that he should be able to pick up something or other which he
could work into his report of his visit.
"Well, I--prepared that article for our columns. You know one does
not have to see everything he describes. You found it accurate, I
hope, in its descriptions?"
"Yes, Murray is generally accurate. Sometimes he makes mistakes, but
I can't say how far you have copied them. You got the Ponte Molle--
the old Milvian bridge--a good deal too far down the stream, if I
remember. I happened to notice that, but I did not read the article
carefully. May I ask whether you propose to do me the honor of
reporting this visit and the conversation we have had, for the
columns of the newspaper with which you are connected?"
The Interviewer thought he saw an opening. "If you have no
objections," he said, "I should like very much to ask a few
questions." He was recovering his professional audacity.
"You can ask as many questions as you consider proper and discreet,--
after you have answered one or two of mine: Who commissioned you to
submit me to examination?"
"The curiosity of the public wishes to be gratified, and I am the
humble agent of its investigations."
"What has the public to do with my private affairs?"
"I suppose it is a question of majority and minority. That settles
everything in this country. You are a minority of one opposed to a
large number of curious people that form a majority against you.
That is the way I've heard the chief put it."
Maurice could not help smiling at the quiet assumption of the
American citizen. The Interviewer smiled, too, and thought he had
his man, sure, at last. Maurice calmly answered, "There is nothing
left for minorities, then, but the right of rebellion. I don't care
about being made the subject of an article for your paper. I am here
for my pleasure, minding my own business, and content with that
occupation. I rebel against your system of forced publicity.
Whenever I am ready I shall tell the public all it has any right to
know about me. In the mean time I shall request to be spared reading
my biography while I am living. I wish you a good-morning."
The Interviewer had not taken out his note-book and pencil. In his
next communication from Arrowhead Village he contented himself with a
brief mention of the distinguished and accomplished gentleman now
visiting the place, whose library and cabinet of coins he had had the
privilege of examining, and whose courtesy was equalled only by the
modesty that shunned the public notoriety which the organs of popular
intelligence would otherwise confer upon him.
The Interviewer had attempted the riddle of the Sphinx, and had
failed to get the first hint of its solution.
The many tongues of the village and its visitors could not remain
idle. The whole subject of antipathies had been talked over, and the
various cases recorded had become more or less familiar to the
conversational circles which met every evening in the different
centres of social life. The prevalent hypothesis for the moment was
that Maurice had a congenital aversion to some color, the effects of
which upon him were so painful or disagreeable that he habitually
avoided exposure to it. It was known, and it has already been
mentioned, that such cases were on record. There had been a great
deal of discussion, of late, with reference to a fact long known to a
few individuals, but only recently made a matter of careful
scientific observation and brought to the notice of the public. This
was the now well-known phenomenon of color-blindness. It did not
seem very strange that if one person in every score or two could not
tell red from green there might be other curious individual
peculiarities relating to color. A case has already been referred to
where the subject of observation fainted at the sight of any red
object. What if this were the trouble with Maurice Kirkwood? It
will be seen at once how such a congenital antipathy would tend to
isolate the person who was its unfortunate victim. It was an
hypothesis not difficult to test, but it was a rather delicate
business to be experimenting on an inoffensive stranger. Miss
Vincent was thinking it over, but said nothing, even to Euthymia, of
any projects she might entertain.
MISS VINCENT AS A MEDICAL STUDENT.
The young lady whom we have known as The Terror, as Lurida, as Miss
Vincent, Secretary of the Pansophian Society, had been reading
various works selected for her by Dr. Butts,--works chiefly relating
to the nervous system and its different affections. She thought it
was about time to talk over the general subject of the medical
profession with her new teacher,--if such a self-directing person as
Lurida could be said to recognize anybody as teacher.
She began at the beginning. "What is the first book you would put in
a student's hands, doctor?" she said to him one day. They were in
his study, and Lurida had just brought back a thick volume on
Insanity, one of Bucknill and Puke's, which she had devoured as if it
had been a pamphlet.
"Not that book, certainly," he said. "I am afraid it will put all
sorts of notions into your head. Who or what set you to reading
that, I should like to know?"
"I found it on one of your shelves, and as I thought I might perhaps
be crazy some time or other, I felt as if I should like to know what
kind of a condition insanity is. I don't believe they were ever very
bright, those insane people, most of them. I hope I am not stupid
enough ever to lose my wits."
"There is no telling, my dear, what may happen if you overwork that
busy brain of yours. But did n't it make you nervous, reading about
so many people possessed with such strange notions?"
"Nervous? Not a bit. I could n't help thinking, though, how many
people I had known that had a little touch of craziness about them.
Take that poor woman that says she is Her Majesty's Person,--not Her
Majesty, but Her Majesty's Person,--a very important distinction,
according to her: how she does remind me of more than one girl I have
known! She would let her skirts down so as to make a kind of train,
and pile things on her head like a sort of crown, fold her arms and
throw her head back, and feel as grand as a queen. I have seen more
than one girl act very much in that way. Are not most of us a little
crazy, doctor,--just a little? I think so. It seems to me I never
saw but one girl who was free from every hint of craziness."
"And who was that, pray?"
"Why, Euthymia,--nobody else, of course. She never loses her head,--
I don't believe she would in an earthquake. Whenever we were at work
with our microscopes at the Institute I always told her that her mind
was the only achromatic one I ever looked into,--I did n't say looked
through.---But I did n't come to talk about that. I read in one of
your books that when Sydenham was asked by a student what books he
should read, the great physician said, 'Read "Don Quixote."' I want
you to explain that to me; and then I want you to tell me what is the
first book, according to your idea, that a student ought to read."
"What do you say to my taking your question as the subject of a paper
to be read before the Society? I think there may be other young
ladies at the meeting, besides yourself, who are thinking of pursuing
the study of medicine. At any rate, there are a good many who are
interested in the subject; in fact, most people listen readily to
anything doctors tell them about their calling."
"I wish you would, doctor. I want Euthymia to hear it, and I don't
doubt there will be others who will be glad to hear everything you
have to say about it. But oh, doctor, if you could only persuade
Eutbymia to become a physician! What a doctor she would make! So
strong, so calm, so full of wisdom! I believe she could take the
wheel of a steamboat in a storm, or the hose of a fire-engine in a
conflagration, and handle it as well as the captain of the boat or of
"Have you ever talked with her about studying medicine?"
"Indeed I have. Oh, if she would only begin with me! What good
times we would have studying together!"
"I don't doubt it. Medicine is a very pleasant study. But how do
you think practice would be? How would you like being called up to
ride ten miles in a midnight snow-storm, just when one of your raging
headaches was racking you?"
"Oh, but we could go into partnership, and Euthymia is n't afraid of
storms or anything else. If she would only study medicine with me!"
"Well, what does she say to it?"
"She does n't like the thought of it. She does n't believe in women
doctors. She thinks that now and then a woman may be fitted for it
by nature, but she does n't think there are many who are. She gives
me a good many reasons against their practising medicine, you know
what most of them are, doctor,--and ends by saying that the same
woman who would be a poor sort of doctor would make a first-rate
nurse; and that, she thinks, is a woman's business, if her instinct
carries her to the hospital or sick-chamber. I can't argue her ideas
out of her."
"Neither can I argue you out of your feeling about the matter; but I
am disposed to agree with your friend, that you will often spoil a
good nurse to make a poor doctor. Doctors and side-saddles don't
seem to me to go together. Riding habits would be awkward things for
practitioners. But come, we won't have a controversy just now. I am
for giving women every chance for a good education, and if they think
medicine is one of their proper callings let them try it. I think
they will find that they had better at least limit themselves to
certain specialties, and always have an expert of the other sex to
fall back upon. The trouble is that they are so impressible and
imaginative that they are at the mercy of all sorts of fancy systems.
You have only to see what kinds of instruction they very commonly
flock to in order to guess whether they would be likely to prove
sensible practitioners. Charlatanism always hobbles on two crutches,
the tattle of women, and the certificates of clergymen, and I am
afraid that half the women doctors will be too much under both those
Lurida believed in Dr. Butts, who, to use the common language of the
village, had "carried her through" a fever, brought on by over-
excitement and exhausting study. She took no offence at his
reference to nursery gossip, which she had learned to hold cheap.
Nobody so despises the weaknesses of women as the champion of woman's
rights. She accepted the doctor's concession of a fair field and
open trial of the fitness of her sex for medical practice, and did
not trouble herself about his suggested limitations. As to the
imaginative tendencies of women, she knew too well the truth of the
doctor's remark relating to them to wish to contradict it.
"Be sure you let me have your paper in season for the next meeting,
doctor," she said; and in due season it came, and was of course
approved for reading.
DR. BUTTS READS A PAPER.
"Next to the interest we take in all that relates to our immortal
souls is that which we feel for our mortal bodies. I am afraid my
very first statement may be open to criticism. The care of the body
is the first thought with a great many,--in fact, with the larger
part of the world. They send for the physician first, and not until
he gives them up do they commonly call in the clergyman. Even the
minister himself is not so very different from other people. We must
not blame him if he is not always impatient to exchange a world of
multiplied interests and ever-changing sources of excitement for that
which tradition has delivered to us as one eminently deficient in the
stimulus of variety. Besides, these bodily frames, even when worn
and disfigured by long years of service, hang about our consciousness
like old garments. They are used to us, and we are used to them.
And all the accidents of our lives,--the house we dwell in, the
living people round us, the landscape we look over, all, up to the
sky that covers us like a bell glass,--all these are but looser
outside garments which we have worn until they seem a part of us, and
we do not like the thought of changing them for a new suit which we
have never yet tried on. How well I remember that dear ancient lady,
who lived well into the last decade of her century, as she repeated
the verse which, if I had but one to choose, I would select from that
string of pearls, Gray's 'Elegy'!
"'For who to dumb forgetfulness a prey
This pleasing, anxious being e'er resigned,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing, lingering look behind?'
"Plotinus was ashamed of his body, we are told. Better so, it may be,
than to live solely for it, as so many do. But it may be well
doubted if there is any disciple of Plotinus in this Society. On the
contrary, there are many who think a great deal of their bodies, many
who have come here to regain the health they have lost in the wear
and tear of city life, and very few who have not at some time or
other of their lives had occasion to call in the services of a
"There is, therefore, no impropriety in my offering to the members
some remarks upon the peculiar difficulties which beset the medical
practitioner in the discharge of his laborious and important duties.
"A young friend of mine, who has taken an interest in medical
studies, happened to meet with a very familiar story about one of the
greatest and most celebrated of all English physicians, Thomas
Sydenham. The story is that, when a student asked him what books he
should read, the great doctor told him to read 'Don Quixote.'
"This piece of advice has been used to throw contempt upon the study
of books, and furnishes a convenient shield for ignorant pretenders.
But Sydenham left many writings in which he has recorded his medical
experience, and he surely would not have published them if he had not
thought they would be better reading for the medical student than the
story of Cervantes. His own works are esteemed to this day, and he
certainly could not have supposed that they contained all the wisdom
of all the past. No remedy is good, it was said of old, unless
applied at the right time in the right way. So we may say of all
anecdotes, like this which I have told you about Sydenham and the
young man. It is very likely that he carried him to the bedside of
some patients, and talked to him about the cases he showed him,
instead of putting a Latin volume in his hand. I would as soon begin
in that way as any other, with a student who had already mastered the
preliminary branches,--who knew enough about the structure and
functions of the body in health.
"But if you ask me what reading I would commend to the medical
student of a philosophical habit of mind, you may be surprised to
hear me say it would be certain passages in 'Rasselas.' They are the
ones where the astronomer gives an account to Imlac of his management
of the elements, the control of which, as he had persuaded himself,
had been committed to him. Let me read you a few sentences from this
story, which is commonly bound up with the 'Vicar of Wakefield,' like
a woollen lining to a silken mantle, but is full of stately wisdom in
processions of paragraphs which sound as if they ought to have a
grammatical drum-major to march before their tramping platoons.
"The astronomer has taken Imlac into his confidence, and reveals to
him the secret of his wonderful powers:--
"'Hear, Imlac, what thou wilt not without difficulty credit. I have
possessed for five years the regulation of the weather and the
distribution of the seasons the sun has listened to my dictates, and
passed from tropic to tropic by my direction; the clouds, at my call,
have poured their waters, and the Nile has overflowed at my command;
I have restrained the rage of the dog-star, and mitigated the fervors
of the crab. The winds alone, of all the elemental powers, have
hitherto eluded my authority, and multitudes have perished by
equinoctial tempests, which I found myself unable to prohibit or
"The reader naturally wishes to know how the astronomer, a sincere,
devoted, and most benevolent man, for forty years a student of the
heavens, came to the strange belief that he possessed these
miraculous powers. This is his account:
"'One day, as I was looking on the fields withering with heat, I felt
in my mind a sudden wish that I could send rain on the southern
mountains, and raise the Nile to an inundation. In the hurry of my
imagination I commanded rain to fall, and by comparing the time of my
command with that of the inundation I found that the clouds had
listened to my lips.'
"'Might not some other cause,' said I, 'produce this concurrence?
The Nile does not always rise on the same day.'
"'Do not believe,' said he, with impatience, I that such objections
could escape me: I reasoned long against my own conviction, and
labored against truth with the utmost obstinacy. I sometimes
suspected myself of madness, and should not have dared to impart this
secret but to a man like you, capable of distinguishing the wonderful
from the impossible and the incredible from the false.'
"The good old astronomer gives his parting directions to Imlac, whom
he has adopted as his successor in the government of the elements and
the seasons, in these impressive words:
"Do not, in the administration of the year, indulge thy pride by
innovation; do not please thyself with thinking that thou canst make
thyself renowned to all future ages by disordering the seasons. The
memory of mischief is no desirable fame. Much less will it become
thee to let kindness or interest prevail. Never rob other countries
of rain to pour it on thine own. For us the Nile is sufficient.'
"Do you wonder, my friends, why I have chosen these passages, in
which the delusions of an insane astronomer are related with all the
pomp of the Johnsonian vocabulary, as the first lesson for the young
person about to enter on the study of the science and art of healing?
Listen to me while I show you the parallel of the story of the
astronomer in the history of medicine.
"This history is luminous with intelligence, radiant with
benevolence, but all its wisdom and all its virtue have had to
struggle with the ever-rising mists of delusion. The agencies which
waste and destroy the race of mankind are vast and resistless as the
elemental forces of nature; nay, they are themselves elemental
forces. They may be to some extent avoided, to some extent diverted
from their aim, to some extent resisted. So may the changes of the
seasons, from cold that freezes to heats that strike with sudden
death, be guarded against. So may the tides be in some small measure
restrained in their inroads. So may the storms be breasted by walls
they cannot shake from their foundations. But the seasons and the
tides and the tempests work their will on the great scale upon
whatever stands in their way; they feed or starve the tillers of the
soil; they spare or drown the dwellers by the shore; they waft the
seaman to his harbor or bury him in the angry billows.
"The art of the physician can do much to remove its subjects from
deadly and dangerous influences, and something to control or arrest
the effects of these influences. But look at the records of the
life-insurance offices, and see how uniform is the action of nature's
destroying agencies. Look at the annual reports of the deaths in any
of our great cities, and see how their regularity approaches the
uniformity of the tides, and their variations keep pace with those of
the seasons. The inundations of the Nile are not more certainly to
be predicted than the vast wave of infantile disease which flows in
upon all our great cities with the growing heats of July,--than the
fevers and dysenteries which visit our rural districts in the months
of the falling leaf.
"The physician watches these changes as the astronomer watched the
rise of the great river. He longs to rescue individuals, to protect
communities from the inroads of these destroying agencies. He uses
all the means which experience has approved, tries every rational
method which ingenuity can suggest. Some fortunate recovery leads
him to believe he has hit upon a preventive or a cure for a malady
which had resisted all known remedies. His rescued patient sounds
his praises, and a wide circle of his patient's friends joins in a
chorus of eulogies. Self-love applauds him for his sagacity. Self-
interest congratulates him on his having found the road to fortune;
the sense of having proved a benefactor of his race smooths the
pillow on which he lays his head to dream of the brilliant future
opening before him. If a single coincidence may lead a person of
sanguine disposition to believe that he has mastered a disease which
had baffled all who were before his time, and on which his
contemporaries looked in hopeless impotence, what must be the effect
of a series of such coincidences even on a mind of calmer temper!
Such series of coincidences will happen, and they may well deceive
the very elect. Think of Dr. Rush,--you know what a famous man he
was, the very head and front of American medical science in his day,
--and remember how he spoke about yellow fever, which he thought he
"Thus the physician is entangled in the meshes of a wide conspiracy,
in which he and his patient and their friends, and-Nature herself,
are involved. What wonder that the history of Medicine should be to
so great an extent a record of self-delusion!
"If this seems a dangerous concession to the enemies of the true
science and art of healing, I will remind you that it is all implied
in the first aphorism of Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine. Do not
draw a wrong inference from the frank statement of the difficulties
which beset the medical practitioner. Think rather, if truth is so
hard of attainment, how precious are the results which the consent of
the wisest and most experienced among the healers of men agrees in
accepting. Think what folly it is to cast them aside in favor of
palpable impositions stolen from the records of forgotten
charlatanism, or of fantastic speculations spun from the squinting
brains of theorists as wild as the Egyptian astronomer.
"Begin your medical studies, then, by reading the fortieth and the
following four chapters of 'Rasselas.' Your first lesson will teach
you modesty and caution in the pursuit of the most deceptive of all
practical branches of knowledge. Faith will come later, when you
learn how much medical science and art have actually achieved for the
relief of mankind, and how great are the promises it holds out of
still larger triumphs over the enemies of human health and
After the reading of this paper there was a lively discussion, which
we have no room to report here, and the Society adjourned.
MISS VINCENT'S STARTLING DISCOVERY.
The sober-minded, sensible, well-instructed Dr. Butts was not a
little exercised in mind by the demands made upon his knowledge by
his young friend, and for the time being his pupil, Miss Lurida
"I don't wonder they called her The Terror," he said to himself.
"She is enough to frighten anybody. She has taken down old books
from my shelves that I had almost forgotten the backs of, and as to
the medical journals, I believe the girl could index them from
memory. She is in pursuit of some special point of knowledge, I feel
sure, and I cannot doubt what direction she is working in, but her
wonderful way of dealing with books amazes me."
What marvels those "first scholars" in the classes of our great
universities and colleges are, to be sure! They are not, as a rule,
the most distinguished of their class in the long struggle of life.
The chances are that "the field" will beat "the favorite" over the
long race-course. Others will develop a longer stride and more
staying power. But what fine gifts those "first scholars" have
received from nature! How dull we writers, famous or obscure, are in
the acquisition of knowledge as compared with them! To lead their
classmates they must have quick apprehension, fine memories, thorough
control of their mental faculties, strong will, power of
concentration, facility of expression,--a wonderful equipment of
mental faculties. I always want to take my hat off to the first
scholar of his year.
Dr. Butts felt somewhat in the same way as he contemplated The
Terror. She surprised him so often with her knowledge that he was
ready to receive her without astonishment when she burst in upon him
one allay with a cry of triumph, "Eureka! Eureka!"
"And what have you found, my dear?" said the doctor.
Lurida was flushed and panting with the excitement of her new
"I do believe that I have found the secret of our strange visitor's
dread of all human intercourse!"
The seasoned practitioner was not easily thrown off his balance.
"Wait a minute and get your breath," said the doctor. "Are you not a
little overstating his peculiarity? It is not quite so bad as that.
He keeps a man to serve him, he was civil with the people at the Old
Tavern, he was affable enough, I understand, with the young fellow he
pulled out of the water, or rescued somehow,--I don't believe be
avoids the whole human race. He does not look as if he hated them,
so far as I have remarked his expression. I passed a few words with
him when his man was ailing, and found him polite enough. No, I
don't believe it is much more than an extreme case of shyness,
connected, perhaps, with some congenital or other personal repugnance
to which has been given the name of an antipathy."
Lurida could hardly keep still while the doctor was speaking. When
he finished, she began the account of her discovery:
"I do certainly believe I have found an account of his case in an
Italian medical journal of about fourteen years ago. I met with a
reference which led me to look over a file of the Giornale degli
Ospitali lying among the old pamphlets in the medical section of the
Library. I have made a translation of it, which you must read and
then tell me if you do not agree with me in my conclusion."
"Tell me what your conclusion is, and I will read your paper and see
for myself whether I think the evidence justifies the conviction you
seem to have reached."
Lurida's large eyes showed their whole rounds like the two halves of
a map of the world, as she said,
"I believe that Maurice Kirkwood is suffering from the effects of the
bite of a TARANTULA!"
The doctor drew a long breath. He remembered in a vague sort of way
the stories which used to be told of the terrible Apulian spider, but
he had consigned them to the limbo of medical fable where so many
fictions have clothed themselves with a local habitation and a name.
He looked into the round eyes and wide pupils a little anxiously, as
if he feared that she was in a state of undue excitement, but, true
to his professional training, he waited for another symptom, if
indeed her mind was in any measure off its balance.
"I know what you are thinking," Lurida said, "but it is not so. 'I
am not mad, most noble Festus.' You shall see the evidence and judge
for yourself. Read the whole case,--you can read my hand almost as
if it were print, and tell me if you do not agree with me that this
young man is in all probability the same person as the boy described
in the Italian journal,
"One thing you might say is against the supposition. The young
patient is spoken of as Signorino M . . . Ch. . . . But you
must remember that ch is pronounced hard in Italian, like k, which
letter is wanting in the Italian alphabet; and it is natural enough
that the initial of the second name should have got changed in the
record to its Italian equivalent."
Before inviting the reader to follow the details of this
extraordinary case as found in a medical journal, the narrator wishes
to be indulged in a few words of explanation, in order that he may
not have to apologize for allowing the introduction of a subject
which may be thought to belong to the professional student rather
than to the readers of this record. There is a great deal in medical
books which it is very unbecoming to bring before the general
public,--a great deal to repel, to disgust, to alarm, to excite
unwholesome curiosity. It is not the men whose duties have made them
familiar with this class of subjects who are most likely to offend by
scenes and descriptions which belong to the physician's private
library, and not to the shelves devoted to polite literature.
Goldsmith and even Smollett, both having studied and practised
medicine, could not by any possibility have outraged all the natural
feelings of delicacy and decency as Swift and Zola have outraged
them. But without handling doubtful subjects, there are many curious
medical experiences which have interest for every one as extreme
illustrations of ordinary conditions with which all are acquainted.
No one can study the now familiar history of clairvoyance profitably
who has not learned something of the vagaries of hysteria. No one
can read understandingly the life of Cowper and that of Carlyle
without having some idea of the influence of hypochondriasis and of
dyspepsia upon the disposition and intellect of the subjects of these
maladies. I need not apologize, therefore, for giving publicity to
that part of this narrative which deals with one of the most singular
maladies to be found in the records of bodily and mental infirmities.
The following is the account of the case as translated by Miss
Vincent. For obvious reasons the whole name was not given in the
original paper, and for similar reasons the date of the event and the
birthplace of the patient are not precisely indicated here.
[Giornale degli Ospitali, Luglio 21, 18-.]
REMARKABLE CASE OF TARANTISM.
"The great interest attaching to the very singular and exceptional
instance of this rare affection induces us to give a full account of
the extraordinary example of its occurrence in a patient who was the
subject of a recent medical consultation in this city.
"Signorino M . . . Ch . . . is the only son of a gentleman
travelling in Italy at this time. He is eleven years of age, of
sanguine-nervous temperament, light hair, blue eyes, intelligent
countenance, well grown, but rather slight in form, to all appearance
in good health, but subject to certain peculiar and anomalous nervous
symptoms, of which his father gives this history.
"Nine years ago, the father informs us, he was travelling in Italy
with his wife, this child, and a nurse. They were passing a few days
in a country village near the city of Bari, capital of the province
of the same name in the division (compartamento) of Apulia. The
child was in perfect health and had never been affected by any
serious illness. On the 10th of July he was playing out in the field
near the house where the family was staying when he was heard to
scream suddenly and violently. The nurse rushing to him found him in
great pain, saying that something had bitten him in one of his feet.
A laborer, one Tommaso, ran up at the moment and perceived in the
grass, near where the boy was standing, an enormous spider, which he
at once recognized as a tarantula. He managed to catch the creature
in a large leaf, from which he was afterwards transferred to a wide-
mouthed bottle, where he lived without any food for a month or more.
The creature was covered with short hairs, and had a pair of nipper-
like jaws, with which he could inflict an ugly wound. His body
measured about an inch in length, and from the extremity of one of
the longest limbs to the other was between two and three inches.
Such was the account given by the physician to whom the peasant
carried the great spider.
"The boy who had been bitten continued screaming violently while his
stocking was being removed and the foot examined. The place of the
bite was easily found and the two marks of the claw-like jaws already
showed the effects of the poison, a small livid circle extending
around them, with some puffy swelling. The distinguished Dr. Amadei
was immediately sent for, and applied cups over the wounds in the
hope of drawing forth the poison. In vain all his skill and efforts!
Soon, ataxic (irregular) nervous symptoms declared themselves, and it
became plain that the system had been infected by the poison.
"The symptoms were very much like those of malignant fever, such as
distress about the region of the heart, difficulty of breathing,
collapse of all the vital powers, threatening immediate death. From
these first symptoms the child rallied, but his entire organism had
been profoundly affected by the venom circulating through it. His
constitution has never thrown off the malady resulting from this
toxic (poisonous) agent. The phenomena which have been observed in
this young patient correspond so nearly with those enumerated in the
elaborate essay of the celebrated Baglivi that one might think they
had been transcribed from his pages.
"He is very fond of solitude,--of wandering about in churchyards and
other lonely places. He was once found hiding in an empty tomb,
which had been left open. His aversion to certain colors is
remarkable. Generally speaking, he prefers bright tints to darker
ones, but his likes and dislikes are capricious, and with regard to
some colors his antipathy amounts to positive horror. Some shades
have such an effect upon him that he cannot remain in the room with
them, and if he meets any one whose dress has any of that particular
color he will turn away or retreat so as to avoid passing that
person. Among these, purple and dark green are the least endurable.
He cannot explain the sensations which these obnoxious colors produce
except by saying that it is like the deadly feeling from a blow on
the epigastrium (pit of the stomach).
"About the same season of the year at which the tarantular poisoning
took place he is liable to certain nervous seizures, not exactly like
fainting or epilepsy, but reminding the physician of those
affections. All the other symptoms are aggravated at this time.
"In other respects than those mentioned the boy is in good health.
He is fond of riding, and has a pony on which he takes a great deal
of exercise, which seems to do him more good than any other remedy.
"The influence of music, to which so much has been attributed by
popular belief and even by the distinguished Professor to whom we
shall again refer, has not as yet furnished any satisfactory results.
If the graver symptoms recur while the patient is under our
observation, we propose to make use of an agency discredited by
modern skepticism, but deserving of a fair trial as an exceptional
remedy for an exceptional disease.
"The following extracts from the work of the celebrated Italian
physician of the last century are given by the writer of the paper in
the Giornale in the original Latin, with a translation into Italian,
subjoined. Here are the extracts, or rather here is a selection from
them, with a translation of them into English.
"After mentioning the singular aversion to certain colors shown by
the subject of Tarantism, Baglivi writes as follows:
"'Et si astantes incedant vestibus eo colore difusis, qui Tarantatis
ingrates est, necesse est ut ab illorum aspectu recedant; nam ad
intuitum molesti coloris angore cordis, et symptomatum recrudescantia
stating corripiuntur.' (G. Baglivi, Op. Omnia, page 614. Lugduni,
"That is, 'if the persons about the patient wear dresses of the color
which is offensive to him, he must get away from the sight of them,
for on seeing the obnoxious color he is at once seized with distress
in the region of the heart, and a renewal of his symptoms.'
"As to the recurrence of the malady, Baglivi says:
"'Dam calor solis ardentius exurere incip at, quod contingit circa
initia Julii et Augusti, Tarantati lente venientem recrudescentiam
veneni percipiunt.' (Ibid., page 619.)
"Which I render, 'When the heat of the sun begins to burn more
fiercely, which happens about the beginning of July and August, the
subjects of Tarantism perceive the gradually approaching
recrudescence (returning symptoms) of the poisoning. Among the
remedies most valued by this illustrious physician is that mentioned
in the following sentence:
"'Laudo magnopere equitationes in aere rusticano factas singulis
diebus, hord potissimum matutina, quibus equitationibus morbos
chronicos pene incurabiles protanus eliminavi.'
"Or in translation,
"'I commend especially riding on horseback in country air, every day,
by preference in the morning hours, by the aid of which horseback
riding I have driven off chronic diseases which were almost
Miss Vincent read this paper aloud to Dr. Butts, and handed it to him
to examine and consider. He listened with a grave countenance and
As she finished reading her account, she exclaimed in the passionate
tones of the deepest conviction,
"There, doctor! Have n't I found the true story of this strange
visitor? Have n't I solved the riddle of the Sphinx? Who can this
man be but the boy of that story? Look at the date of the journal
when he was eleven years old, it would make him twenty-five now, and
that is just about the age the people here think he must be of. What
could account so entirely for his ways and actions as that strange
poisoning which produces the state they call Tarantism? I am just as
sure it must be that as I am that I am alive. Oh, doctor, doctor, I
must be right,--this Signprino M . . . Ch . . . was the boy
Maurice Kirkwood, and the story accounts for everything,--his
solitary habits, his dread of people,--it must be because they wear
the colors he can't bear. His morning rides on horseback, his coming
here just as the season was approaching which would aggravate all his
symptoms, does n't all this prove that I must be right in my
conjecture,--no, my conviction?"
The doctor knew too much to interrupt the young enthusiast, and so he
let her run on until she ran down. He was more used to the rules of
evidence than she was, and could not accept her positive conclusion
so readily as she would have liked to have him. He knew that
beginners are very apt to make what they think are discoveries. But
he had been an angler and knew the meaning of a yielding rod and an
easy-running reel. He said quietly,
"You are a most sagacious young lady, and a very pretty prima facie
case it is that you make out. I can see no proof that Mr. Kirkwood
is not the same person as the M . . . Ch . . . of the medical
journal,--that is, if I accept your explanation of the difference in
the initials of these two names. Even if there were a difference,
that would not disprove their identity, for the initials of patients
whose cases are reported by their physicians are often altered for
the purpose of concealment. I do not know, however, that Mr.
Kirkwood has shown any special aversion to any particular color. It
might be interesting to inquire whether it is so, but it is a
delicate matter. I don't exactly see whose business it is to
investigate Mr. Maurice Kirkwood's idiosyncrasies and constitutional
history. If he should have occasion to send for me at any time, he
might tell me all about himself, in confidence, you know. These old
accounts from Baglivi are curious and interesting, but I am cautious
about receiving any stories a hundred years old, if they involve an
improbability, as his stories about the cure of the tarantula bite by
music certainly do. I am disposed to wait for future developments,
bearing in mind, of course, the very singular case you have
unearthed. It wouldn't be very strange if our young gentleman had to
send for me before the season is over. He is out a good deal before
the dew is off the grass, which is rather risky in this neighborhood
as autumn comes on. I am somewhat curious, I confess, about the
young man, but I do not meddle where I am not asked for or wanted,
and I have found that eggs hatch just as well if you let them alone
in the nest as if you take them out and shake them every day. This
is a wonderfully interesting supposition of yours, and may prove to
be strictly in accordance with the facts. But I do not think we have
all the facts in this young man's case. If it were proved that he
had an aversion to any color, it would greatly strengthen your case.
His 'antipatia,' as his man called it, must be one which covers a
wide ground, to account for his self-isolation,--and the color
hypothesis seems as plausible as any. But, my dear Miss Vincent,
I think you had better leave your singular and striking hypothesis in
my keeping for a while, rather than let it get abroad in a community
like this, where so many tongues are in active exercise. I will
carefully study this paper, if you will leave it with me, and we will
talk the whole matter over. It is a fair subject for speculation,
only we must keep quiet about it."
This long speech gave Lurida's perfervid brain time to cool off a
little. She left the paper with the doctor, telling him she would
come for it the next day, and went off to tell the result of this
visit to her bosom friend, Miss Euthymia Tower.
DR. BUTTS CALLS ON EUTHYMIA.
The doctor was troubled in thinking over his interview with the young
lady. She was fully possessed with the idea that she had discovered
the secret which had defied the most sagacious heads of the village.
It was of no use to oppose her while her mind was in an excited
state. But he felt it his duty to guard her against any possible
results of indiscretion into which her eagerness and her theory of
the equality, almost the identity, of the sexes might betray her.
Too much of the woman in a daughter of our race leads her to forget
danger. Too little of the woman prompts her to defy it. Fortunately
for this last class of women, they are not quite so likely to be
perilously seductive as their more emphatically feminine sisters.
Dr. Butts had known Lurida and her friend from the days of their
infancy. He had watched the development of Lurida's intelligence
from its precocious nursery-life to the full vigor of its trained
faculties. He had looked with admiration on the childish beauty of
Euthymia, and had seen her grow up to womanhood, every year making
her more attractive. He knew that if anything was to be done with
his self-willed young scholar and friend, it would be more easily
effected through the medium of Euthymia than by direct advice to the
young lady herself. So the thoughtful doctor made up his mind to
have a good talk with Euthymia, and put her on her guard, if Lurida
showed any tendency to forget the conventionalities in her eager
pursuit of knowledge.
For the doctor's horse and chaise to stop at the door of Miss
Euthymia Tower's parental home was an event strange enough to set all
the tongues in the village going. This was one of those families
where illness was hardly looked for among the possibilities of life.
There were other families where a call from the doctor was hardly
more thought of than a call from the baker. But here he was a
stranger, at least on his professional rounds, and when he asked for
Miss Euthymia the servant, who knew his face well, stared as if he
had held in his hand a warrant for her apprehension.
Euthymia did not keep the doctor waiting very long while she made
ready to meet him. One look at her glass to make sure that a lock
had not run astray, or a ribbon got out of place, and her toilet for
a morning call was finished. Perhaps if Mr. Maurice Kirkwood had
been announced, she might have taken a second look, but with the good
middle-aged, married doctor one was enough for a young lady who had
the gift of making all the dresses she wore look well, and had no
occasion to treat her chamber like the laboratory where an actress
Euthymia welcomed the doctor very heartily. She could not help
suspecting his errand, and she was very glad to have a chance to talk
over her friend's schemes and fancies with him.
The doctor began without any roundabout prelude.
"I want to confer with you about our friend Lurida. Does she tell
you all her plans and projects?"
"Why, as to that, doctor, I can hardly say, positively, but I do not
believe she keeps back anything of importance from me. I know what
she has been busy with lately, and the queer idea she has got into
her head. What do you think of the Tarantula business? She has
shown you the paper, she has written, I suppose."
"Indeed she has. It is a very curious case she has got hold of, and
I do not wonder at all that she should have felt convinced that she
had come at the true solution of the village riddle. It may be that
this young man is the same person as the boy mentioned in the Italian
medical journal. But it is very far from clear that he is so. You
know all her reasons, of course, as you have read the story. The
times seem to agree well enough. It is easy to conceive that Ch
might be substituted for K in the report. The singular solitary
habits of this young man entirely coincide with the story. If we
could only find out whether he has any of those feelings with
reference to certain colors, we might guess with more chance of
guessing right than we have at present. But I don't see exactly how
we are going to submit him to examination on this point. If he were
only a chemical compound, we could analyze him. If he were only a
bird or a quadruped, we could find out his likes and dislikes. But
being, as he is, a young man, with ways of his own, and a will of his
own, which he may not choose to have interfered with, the problem
becomes more complicated. I hear that a newspaper correspondent has
visited him so as to make a report to his paper,--do you know what he
"Certainly I do, very well. My brother has heard his own story,
which was this: He found out he had got hold of the wrong person to
interview. The young gentleman, he says, interviewed him, so that he
did not learn much about the Sphinx. But the newspaper man told
Willy about the Sphinx's library and a cabinet of coins he had; and
said he should make an article out of him, anyhow. I wish the man
would take himself off. I am afraid Lurida's love of knowledge will
get her into trouble!"
"Which of the men do you wish would take himself off?"
"I was thinking of the newspaper man."
She blushed a little as she said, "I can't help feeling a strange
sort of interest about the other, Mr. Kirkwood. Do you know that I
met him this morning, and had a good look at him, full in the face?"
"Well, to be sure! That was an interesting experience. And how did
you like his looks?"
"I thought his face a very remarkable one. But he looked very pale
as he passed me, and I noticed that he put his hand to his left side
as if he had a twinge of pain, or something of that sort,--spasm or
neuralgia,--I don't know what. I wondered whether he had what you
call angina pectoris. It was the same kind of look and movement, I
remember, as you trust, too, in my uncle who died with that
The doctor was silent for a moment. Then he asked, "Were you dressed
as you are now?"
"Yes, I was, except that I had a thin mantle over my shoulders. I
was out early, and I have always remembered your caution."
"What color was your mantle?"
"It was black. I have been over all this with Lucinda. A black
mantle on a white dress. A straw hat with an old faded ribbon.
There can't be much in those colors to trouble him, I should think,
for his man wears a black coat and white linen,--more or less white,
as you must have noticed, and he must have seen ribbons of all colors
often enough. But Lurida believes it was the ribbon, or something in
the combination of colors. Her head is full of Tarantulas and
Tarantism. I fear that she will never be easy until the question is
settled by actual trial. And will you believe it? the girl is
determined in some way to test her supposition!"
"Believe it, Euthymia? I can believe almost anything of Lurida. She
is the most irrepressible creature I ever knew. You know as well as
I do what a complete possession any ruling idea takes of her whole
nature. I have had some fears lest her zeal might run away with her
discretion. It is a great deal easier to get into a false position
than to get out of it."
"I know it well enough. I want you to tell me what you think about
the whole business. I don't like the look of it at all, and yet I
can do nothing with the girl except let her follow her fancy, until I
can show her plainly that she will get herself into trouble in some
way or other. But she is ingenious,--full of all sorts of devices,
innocent enough in themselves, but liable to be misconstrued. You
remember how she won us the boat-race?"
"To be sure I do. It was rather sharp practice, but she felt she was
paying off an old score. The classical story of Atalanta, told, like
that of Eve, as illustrating the weakness of woman, provoked her to
make trial of the powers of resistance in the other sex. But it was
audacious. I hope her audacity will not go too far. You must watch
her. Keep an eye on her correspondence."
The doctor had great confidence in the good sense of Lurida's friend.
He felt sure that she would not let Lurida commit herself by writing
foolish letters to the subject of her speculations, or similar
indiscreet performances. The boldness of young girls, who think no
evil, in opening correspondence with idealized personages is
something quite astonishing to those who have had an opportunity of
knowing the facts. Lurida had passed the most dangerous age, but her
theory of the equality of the sexes made her indifferent to the
by-laws of social usage. She required watching, and her two
guardians were ready to check her, in case of need.
MISS VINCENT WRITES A LETTER.
Euthymia noticed that her friend had been very much preoccupied for
two or three days. She found her more than once busy at her desk,
with a manuscript before her, which she turned over and placed inside
the desk, as Euthymia entered.
This desire of concealment was not what either of the friends
expected to see in the other. It showed that some project was under
way, which, at least in its present stage, the Machiavellian young
lady did not wish to disclose. It had cost her a good deal of
thought and care, apparently, for her waste-basket was full of scraps
of paper, which looked as if they were the remains of a manuscript
like that at which she was at work. "Copying and recopying,
probably," thought Euthymia, but she was willing to wait to learn
what Lurida was busy about, though she had a suspicion that it was
something in which she might feel called upon to interest herself.
"Do you know what I think?" said Euthymia to the doctor, meeting him
as he left his door. "I believe Lurida is writing to this man, and I
don't like the thought of her doing such a thing. Of course she is
not like other girls in many respects, but other people will judge
her by the common rules of life."
"I am glad that you spoke of it," answered the doctor; "she would
write to him just as quickly as to any woman of his age. Besides,
under the cover of her office, she has got into the way of writing to
anybody. I think she has already written to Mr. Kirkwood, asking him
to contribute a paper for the Society. She can find a pretext easily
enough if she has made up her mind to write. In fact, I doubt if she
would trouble herself for any pretext at all if she decided to write.
Watch her well. Don't let any letter go without seeing it, if you
can help it."
Young women are much given to writing letters to persons whom they
only know indirectly, for the most part through their books, and
especially to romancers and poets. Nothing can be more innocent and
simple-hearted than most of these letters. They are the spontaneous
outflow of young hearts easily excited to gratitude for the pleasure
which some story or poem has given them, and recognizing their own
thoughts, their own feelings, in those expressed by the author, as if
on purpose for them to read. Undoubtedly they give great relief to
solitary young persons, who must have some ideal reflection of
themselves, and know not where to look since Protestantism has taken
away the crucifix and the Madonna. The recipient of these letters
sometimes wonders, after reading through one of them, how it is that
his young correspondent has managed to fill so much space with her
simple message of admiration or of sympathy.
Lurida did not belong to this particular class of correspondents, but
she could not resist the law of her sex, whose thoughts naturally
surround themselves with superabundant drapery of language, as their
persons float in a wide superfluity of woven tissues. Was she indeed
writing to this unknown gentleman? Euthymia questioned her point-
"Are you going to open a correspondence with Mr. Maurice Kirkwood,
Lurida? You seem to be so busy writing, I can think of nothing else.
Or are you going to write a novel, or a paper for the Society,--do
tell me what you are so much taken up with."
"I will tell you, Euthymia, if you will promise not to find fault
with me for carrying out my plan as I have made up my mind to do.
You may read this letter before I seal it, and if you find anything
in it you don't like you can suggest any change that you think will
improve it. I hope you will see that it explains itself. I don't
believe that you will find anything to frighten you in it."
This is the letter, as submitted to Miss Tower by her friend. The
bold handwriting made it look like a man's letter, and gave it
consequently a less dangerous expression than that which belongs to
the tinted and often fragrant sheet with its delicate thready
characters, which slant across the page like an April shower with a
south wind chasing it.
ARROWHEAD VILLAGE, August--, 18--.
MY DEAR SIR,--You will doubtless be surprised at the sight of a
letter like this from one whom you only know as the Secretary of the
Pansophian Society. There is a very common feeling that it is
unbecoming in one of my sex to address one of your own with whom she
is unacquainted, unless she has some special claim upon his
attention. I am by no means disposed to concede to the vulgar
prejudice on this point. If one human being has anything to
communicate to another,--anything which deserves being communicated,
--I see no occasion for bringing in the question of sex. I do not
think the homo sum of Terence can be claimed for the male sex as its
private property on general any more than on grammatical grounds,
I have sometimes thought of devoting myself to the noble art of
healing. If I did so, it would be with the fixed purpose of giving
my whole powers to the service of humanity. And if I should carry
out that idea, should I refuse my care and skill to a suffering
fellow-mortal because that mortal happened to be a brother, and not a
sister? My whole nature protests against such one-sided humanity!
No! I am blind to all distinctions when my eyes are opened to any
form of suffering, to any spectacle of want.
You may ask me why I address you, whom I know little or nothing of,
and to whom such an advance may seem presumptuous and intrusive. It
is because I was deeply impressed by the paper which I attributed to
you,--that on Ocean, River, and Lake, which was read at one of our
meetings. I say that I was deeply impressed, but I do not mean this
as a compliment to that paper. I am not bandying compliments now,
but thinking of better things than praises or phrases. I was
interested in the paper, partly because I recognized some of the
feelings expressed in it as my own,--partly because there was an
undertone of sadness in all the voices of nature as you echoed them
which made me sad to hear, and which I could not help longing to
cheer and enliven. I said to myself, I should like to hold communion
with the writer of that paper. I have had my lonely hours and days,
as he has had. I have had some of his experiences in my intercourse
with nature. And oh! if I could draw him into those better human
relations which await us all, if we come with the right dispositions,
I should blush if I stopped to inquire whether I violated any
conventional rule or not.
You will understand me, I feel sure. You believe, do you not? in the
insignificance of the barrier which divides the sisterhood from the
brotherhood of mankind. You believe, do you not? that they should be
educated side by side, that they should share the same pursuits, due
regard being had to the fitness of the particular individual for hard
or light work, as it must always be, whether we are dealing with the
"stronger" or the "weaker" sex. I mark these words because,
notwithstanding their common use, they involve so much that is not
true. Stronger! Yes, to lift a barrel of flour, or a barrel of
cider,--though there have been women who could do that, and though
when John Wesley was mobbed in Staffordshire a woman knocked down
three or four men, one after another, until she was at last
overpowered and nearly murdered. Talk about the weaker sex! Go and
see Miss Euthymia Tower at the gymnasium! But no matter about which
sex has the strongest muscles. Which has most to suffer, and which
has most endurance and vitality? We go through many ordeals which
you are spared, but we outlast you in mind and body. I have been led
away into one of my accustomed trains of thought, but not so far away
from it as you might at first suppose.
My brother! Are you not ready to recognize in me a friend, an equal,
a sister, who can speak to you as if she had been reared under the
same roof? And is not the sky that covers us one roof, which makes
us all one family? You are lonely, you must be longing for some
human fellowship. Take me into your confidence. What is there that
you can tell me to which I cannot respond with sympathy? What
saddest note in your spiritual dirges which will not find its chord
I long to know what influence has cast its shadow over your
existence. I myself have known what it is to carry a brain that
never rests in a body that is always tired. I have defied its
infirmities, and forced it to do my bidding. You have no such
hindrance, if we may judge by your aspect and habits. You deal with
horses like a Homeric hero. No wild Indian could handle his bark
canoe more dexterously or more vigorously than we have seen you
handling yours. There must be some reason for your seclusion which
curiosity has not reached, and into which it is not the province of
curiosity to inquire. But in the irresistible desire which I have to
bring you into kindly relations with those around you, I must run the
risk of giving offence that I may know in what direction to look for
those restorative influences which the sympathy of a friend and
sister can offer to a brother in need of some kindly impulse to
change the course of a life which is not, which cannot be, in
accordance with his true nature.
I have thought that there may be something in the conditions with
which you are here surrounded which is repugnant to your feelings,--
something which can be avoided only by keeping yourself apart from
the people whose acquaintance you would naturally have formed. There
can hardly be anything in the place itself, or you would not have
voluntarily sought it as a residence, even for a single season.
there might be individuals here whom you would not care to meet,
there must be such, but you cannot have a personal aversion to
everybody. I have heard of cases in which certain sights and sounds,
which have no particular significance for most persons, produced
feelings of distress or aversion that made, them unbearable to the
subjects of the constitutional dislike. It has occurred to me that
possibly you might have some such natural aversion to the sounds of
the street, or such as are heard in most houses, especially where a
piano is kept, as it is in fact in almost all of those in the
village. Or it might be, I imagined, that some color in the dresses
of women or the furniture of our rooms affected you unpleasantly. I
know that instances of such antipathy have been recorded, and they
would account for the seclusion of those who are subject to it.
If there is any removable condition which interferes with your free
entrance into and enjoyment of the social life around you, tell me, I
beg of you, tell me what it is, and it shall be eliminated. Think it
not strange, O my brother, that I thus venture to introduce myself
into the hidden chambers of your life. I will never suffer myself to
be frightened from the carrying out of any thought which promises to
be of use to a fellow-mortal by a fear lest it should be considered
"unfeminine." I can bear to be considered unfeminine, but I cannot
endure to think of myself as inhuman. Can I help you, my brother'?
Believe me your most sincere well-wisher,
Euthymia had carried off this letter and read it by herself. As she
finished it, her feelings found expression in an old phrase of her
grandmother's, which came up of itself, as such survivals of early
days are apt to do, on great occasions.
"Well, I never!"
Then she loosened some button or string that was too tight, and went
to the window for a breath of outdoor air. Then she began at the
beginning and read the whole letter all over again.
What should she do about it? She could not let this young girl send
a letter like that to a stranger of whose character little was known
except by inference,--to a young man, who would consider it a most
extraordinary advance on the part of the sender. She would have
liked to tear it into a thousand pieces, but she had no right to
treat it in that way. Lurida meant to send it the next morning, and
in the mean time Euthymia had the night to think over what she should
do about it.
There is nothing like the pillow for an oracle. There is no voice
like that which breaks the silence--of the stagnant hours of the
night with its sudden suggestions and luminous counsels. When
Euthymia awoke in the morning, her course of action was as clear
before her as if it bad been dictated by her guardian angel. She
went straight over to the home of Lurida, who was just dressed for
She was naturally a little surprised at this early visit. She was
struck with the excited look of Euthymia, being herself quite calm,
and contemplating her project with entire complacency.
Euthymia began, in tones that expressed deep anxiety.
"I have read your letter, my dear, and admired its spirit and force.
It is a fine letter, and does you great credit as an expression of
the truest human feeling. But it must not be sent to Mr. Kirkwood.
If you were sixty years old, perhaps if you were fifty, it might be
admissible to send it. But if you were forty, I should question its
propriety; if you were thirty, I should veto it, and you are but a
little more than twenty. How do you know that this stranger will not
show your letter to anybody or everybody? How do you know that he
will not send it to one of the gossiping journals like the 'Household
Inquisitor'? But supposing he keeps it to himself, which is more
than you have a right to expect, what opinion is he likely to form of
a young lady who invades his privacy with such freedom? Ten to one
he will think curiosity is at the bottom of it,--and,--come, don't be
angry at me for suggesting it,--may there not be a little of that
same motive mingled with the others? No, don't interrupt me quite
yet; you do want to know whether your hypothesis is correct. You are
full of the best and kindest feelings in the world, but your desire
for knowledge is the ferment under them just now, perhaps more than
Lurida's pale cheeks flushed and whitened more than once while her
friend was speaking. She loved her too sincerely and respected her
intelligence too much to take offence at her advice, but she could
not give up her humane and sisterly intentions merely from the fear
of some awkward consequences to herself. She had persuaded herself
that she was playing the part of a Protestant sister of charity, and
that the fact of her not wearing the costume of these ministering
angels made no difference in her relations to those who needed her
"I cannot see your objections in the light in which they appear to
you," she said gravely. "It seems to me that I give up everything
when I hesitate to help a fellow-creature because I am a woman. I am
not afraid to send this letter and take all the consequences."
"Will you go with me to the doctor's, and let him read it in our
presence? And will you agree to abide by his opinion, if it
coincides with mine?"
Lurida winced a little at this proposal. "I don't quite like," she
said, "showing this letter to--to" she hesitated, but it had to come
out--"to a man, that is, to another man than the one for whom it was
The neuter gender business had got a pretty damaging side-hit.
"Well, never mind about letting him read the letter. Will you go
over to his house with me at noon, when he comes back after his
morning visits, and have a talk over the whole matter with him? You
know I have sometimes had to say must to you, Lurida, and now I say
you must go to the doctor's with me and carry that letter."
There was no resisting the potent monosyllable as the sweet but firm
voice delivered it. At noon the two maidens rang at the doctor's
door. The servant said he had been at the house after his morning
visits, but found a hasty summons to Mr. Kirkwood, who had been taken
suddenly ill and wished to see him at once. Was the illness
dangerous? The servant-maid did n't know, but thought it was pretty
bad, for Mr. Paul came in as white as a sheet, and talked all sorts
of languages which she couldn't understand, and took on as if he
thought Mr. Kirkwood was going to die right off.
And so the hazardous question about sending the letter was disposed
of, at least for the present.
Dr. BUTTS'S PATIENT.
The physician found Maurice just regaining his heat after a chill of
a somewhat severe character. He knew too well what this meant, and
the probable series of symptoms of which it was the prelude. His
patient was not the only one in the neighborhood who was attacked in
this way. The autumnal fevers to which our country towns are
subject, in the place of those "agues," or intermittents, so largely
prevalent in the South and West, were already beginning, and Maurice,
who had exposed himself in the early and late hours of the dangerous
season, must be expected to go through the regular stages of this
always serious and not rarely fatal disease.
Paolo, his faithful servant, would fain have taken the sole charge of
his master during his illness. But the doctor insisted that he must
have a nurse to help him in his task, which was likely to be long and
At the mention of the word "nurse" Paolo turned white, and exclaimed
in an agitated and thoroughly frightened way,
"No! no nuss! no woman! She kill him! I stay by him day and night,
but don' let no woman come near him,--if you do, he die!"
The doctor explained that he intended to send a man who was used to
taking care of sick people, and with no little effort at last
succeeded in convincing Paolo that, as he could not be awake day and
night for a fortnight or three weeks, it was absolutely necessary to
call in some assistance from without. And so Mr. Maurice Kirkwood
was to play the leading part in that drama of nature's composing
called a typhoid fever, with its regular bedchamber scenery, its
properties of phials and pill-boxes, its little company of stock
actors, its gradual evolution of a very simple plot, its familiar
incidents, its emotional alternations, and its denouement, sometimes
tragic, oftener happy.
It is needless to say that the sympathies of all the good people of
the village, residents and strangers, were actively awakened for the
young man about whom they knew so little and conjectured so much.
Tokens of their kindness came to him daily: flowers from the woods
and from the gardens; choice fruit grown in the open air or under
glass, for there were some fine houses surrounded by well-kept
grounds, and greenhouses and graperies were not unknown in the small
but favored settlement.
On all these luxuries Maurice looked with dull and languid eyes. A
faint smile of gratitude sometimes struggled through the stillness of
his features, or a murmured word of thanks found its way through his
parched lips, and he would relapse into the partial stupor or the
fitful sleep in which, with intervals of slight wandering, the slow
hours dragged along the sluggish days one after another. With no
violent symptoms, but with steady persistency, the disease moved on
in its accustomed course. It was at no time immediately threatening,
but the experienced physician knew its uncertainties only too well.
He had known fever patients suddenly seized with violent internal
inflammation, and carried off with frightful rapidity. He remembered
the case of a convalescent, a young woman who had been attacked while
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