Drift from Two Shores
Part 3 out of 4
of the vanity of human endeavor, when a scout entered, saying that
a pale-face youth had demanded access to his person.
"Is he a commissioner? If so, say that the red man is rapidly
passing to the happy hunting-grounds of his fathers, and now
desires only peace, blankets, and ammunition; obtain the latter and
then scalp the commissioner."
"But it is only a youth who asks an interview."
"Does he look like an insurance agent? If so, say that I have
already policies in three Hartford companies. Meanwhile prepare
the stake, and see that the squaws are ready with their implements
The youth was admitted; he was evidently only half the age of the
Boy Chief. As he entered the wigwam and stood revealed to his host
they both started. In another moment they were locked in each
"Jenky, old boy!"
"Bromley, old fel!"
B. F. Jenkins, for such was the name of the Boy Chief, was the
first to recover his calmness. Turning to his warriors he said,
"Let my children retire while I speak to the agent of our Great
Father in Washington. Hereafter no latch keys will be provided for
the wigwams of the warriors. The practice of late hours must be
"How!" said the warriors, and instantly retired.
"Whisper," said Jenkins, drawing his friend aside; "I am known here
only as the Boy Chief of the 'Pigeon toes.'"
"And I," said Bromley Chitterlings, proudly, "am known everywhere
as the Pirate Prodigy--the Boy Avenger of the Patagonian Coast."
"But how came you here?"
"Listen! My pirate brig, the 'Lively Mermaid,' now lies at
Meiggs's Wharf in San Francisco, disguised as a Mendocino lumber
vessel. My pirate crew accompanied me here in a palace car from
"It must have been expensive," said the prudent Jenkins.
"It was, but they defrayed it by a collection from the other
passengers--you understand, an enforced collection. The papers
will be full of it to-morrow. Do you take the 'New York Sun'?"
"No; I dislike their Indian policy. But why are you here?"
"Hear me, Jenk! 'Tis a long and a sad story. The lovely Eliza J.
Sniffen, who fled with me from Doemville, was seized by her parents
and torn from my arms at New Rochelle. Reduced to poverty by the
breaking of the savings bank of which he was president,--a failure
to which I largely contributed, and the profits of which I
enjoyed,--I have since ascertained that Eliza Jane Sniffen was
forced to become a schoolmistress, departed to take charge of a
seminary in Colorado, and since then has never been heard from."
Why did the Boy Chief turn pale, and clutch at the tent-pole for
support? Why, indeed!
"Eliza J. Sniffen," gasped Jenkins, "aged fourteen, red-haired,
with a slight tendency to strabismus?"
"Heaven help me! She died by my mandate!"
"Traitor!" shrieked Chitterlings, rushing at Jenkins with a drawn
But a figure interposed. The slight girlish form of Mushymush with
outstretched hands stood between the exasperated Pirate Prodigy and
the Boy Chief.
"Forbear," she said sternly to Chitterlings; "you know not what you
The two youths paused.
"Hear me," she said rapidly. "When captured in a confectioner's
shop at New Rochelle, E. J. Sniffen was taken back to poverty. She
resolved to become a schoolmistress. Hearing of an opening in the
West, she proceeded to Colorado to take exclusive charge of the
pensionnat of Mad. Choflie, late of Paris. On the way thither she
was captured by the emissaries of the Boy Chief--"
"In consummation of a fatal vow I made never to spare educational
instructors," interrupted Jenkins.
"But in her captivity," continued Mushymush, "she managed to stain
her face with poke-berry juice, and mingling with the Indian
maidens was enabled to pass for one of the tribe. Once undetected,
she boldly ingratiated herself with the Boy Chief,--how honestly
and devotedly he best can tell,--for I, Mushymush, the little
sister of the Boy Chief, am Eliza Jane Sniffen."
The Pirate Prodigy clasped her in his arms. The Boy Chief, raising
his hand, ejaculated:--
"Bless you, my children!"
"There is but one thing wanting to complete this reunion," said
Chitterlings, after a pause, but the hurried entrance of a scout
stopped his utterance.
"A commissioner from the Great Father in Washington."
"Scalp him!" shrieked the Boy Chief; "this is no time for
"We have, but he still insists upon seeing you, and has sent in his
The Boy Chief took it, and read aloud, in agonized accents:--
"Charles F. Hall Golightly, late Page in United States Senate, and
Acting Commissioner of United States."
In another moment, Golightly, pale, bleeding, and, as it were,
prematurely bald, but still cold and intellectual, entered the
wigwam. They fell upon his neck and begged his forgiveness.
"Don't mention it," he said, quietly; "these things must and will
happen under our present system of government. My story is brief.
Obtaining political influence through caucuses, I became at last
Page in the Senate. Through the exertions of political friends I
was appointed clerk to the commissioner whose functions I now
represent. Knowing through political spies in your own camp who
you were, I acted upon the physical fears of the commissioner, who
was an ex-clergyman, and easily induced him to deputize me to
consult with you. In doing so, I have lost my scalp, but as the
hirsute signs of juvenility have worked against my political
progress I do not regret it. As a partially bald young man I shall
have more power. The terms that I have to offer are simply this:
you can do everything you want, go anywhere you choose, if you will
only leave this place. I have a hundred thousand-dollar draft on
the United States Treasury in my pocket at your immediate
"But what's to become of me?" asked Chitterlings.
"Your case has already been under advisement. The Secretary of
State, who is an intelligent man, is determined to recognize you as
de jure and de facto the only loyal representative of the
Patagonian government. You may safely proceed to Washington as its
envoy extraordinary. I dine with the secretary next week."
"And yourself, old fellow?"
"I only wish that twenty years from now you will recognize by your
influence and votes the rights of C. F. H. Golightly to the
And here ends our story. Trusting that my dear young friends may
take whatever example or moral their respective parents and
guardians may deem fittest from these pages, I hope in future years
to portray further the career of those three young heroes I have
already introduced in the spring-time of life to their charitable
THE MAN WHOSE YOKE WAS NOT EASY
He was a spare man, and, physically, an ill-conditioned man, but at
first glance scarcely a seedy man. The indications of reduced
circumstances in the male of the better class are, I fancy, first
visible in the boots and shirt; the boots offensively exhibiting a
degree of polish inconsistent with their dilapidated condition, and
the shirt showing an extent of ostentatious surface that is
invariably fatal to the threadbare waist-coat that it partially
covers. He was a pale man, and, I fancied, still paler from his
He handed me a note.
It was from a certain physician; a man of broad culture and broader
experience; a man who had devoted the greater part of his active
life to the alleviation of sorrow and suffering; a man who had
lived up to the noble vows of a noble profession; a man who locked
in his honorable breast the secrets of a hundred families, whose
face was as kindly, whose touch was as gentle, in the wards of the
great public hospitals as it was beside the laced curtains of the
dying Narcissa; a man who, through long contact with suffering, had
acquired a universal tenderness and breadth of kindly philosophy; a
man who, day and night, was at the beck and call of anguish; a man
who never asked the creed, belief, moral or worldly standing of the
sufferer, or even his ability to pay the few coins that enabled him
(the physician) to exist and practice his calling; in brief, a man
who so nearly lived up to the example of the Great Master that it
seems strange I am writing of him as a doctor of medicine and not
The note was in pencil, characteristically brief, and ran thus:--
"Here is the man I spoke of. He ought to be good material for
For a moment I sat looking from the note to the man, and sounding
the "dim perilous depths" of my memory for the meaning of this
mysterious communication. The good "material," however, soon
relieved my embarrassment by putting his hand on his waistcoat,
coming toward me, and saying, "It is just here, you can feel it."
It was not necessary for me to do so. In a flash I remembered that
my medical friend had told me of a certain poor patient, once a
soldier, who, among his other trials and uncertainties, was
afflicted with an aneurism caused by the buckle of his knapsack
pressing upon the arch of the aorta. It was liable to burst at any
shock or any moment. The poor fellow's yoke had indeed been too
In the presence of such a tremendous possibility I think for an
instant I felt anxious only about myself. What I should do; how
dispose of the body; how explain the circumstance of his taking
off; how evade the ubiquitous reporter and the coroner's inquest;
how a suspicion might arise that I had in some way, through
negligence or for some dark purpose, unknown to the jury,
precipitated the catastrophe, all flashed before me. Even the
note, with its darkly suggestive offer of "good material" for me,
looked diabolically significant. What might not an intelligent
lawyer make of it?
I tore it up instantly, and with feverish courtesy begged him to be
"You don't care to feel it?" he asked, a little anxiously.
"Nor see it?"
He sighed, a trifle sadly, as if I had rejected the only favor he
could bestow. I saw at once that he had been under frequent
exhibition to the doctors, and that he was, perhaps, a trifle vain
of this attention. This perception was corroborated a moment later
by his producing a copy of a medical magazine, with a remark that
on the sixth page I would find a full statement of his case.
"Could I serve him in any way?" I asked.
It appeared that I could. If I could help him to any light
employment, something that did not require any great physical
exertion or mental excitement, he would be thankful. But he wanted
me to understand that he was not, strictly speaking, a poor man;
that some years before the discovery of his fatal complaint he had
taken out a life insurance policy for five thousand dollars, and
that he had raked and scraped enough together to pay it up, and
that he would not leave his wife and four children destitute. "You
see," he added, "if I could find some sort of light work to do, and
kinder sled along, you know--until--"
He stopped, awkwardly.
I have heard several noted actors thrill their audiences with a
single phrase. I think I never was as honestly moved by any spoken
word as that "until," or the pause that followed it. He was
evidently quite unconscious of its effect, for as I took a seat
beside him on the sofa, and looked more closely in his waxen face,
I could see that he was evidently embarrassed, and would have
explained himself further, if I had not stopped him.
Possibly it was the dramatic idea, or possibly chance; but a few
days afterward, meeting a certain kind-hearted theatrical manager,
I asked him if he had any light employment for a man who was an
invalid? "Can he walk?" "Yes." "Stand up for fifteen minutes?"
"Yes." "Then I'll take him. He'll do for the last scene in the
'Destruction of Sennacherib'--it's a tremendous thing, you know.
We'll have two thousand people on the stage." I was a trifle
alarmed at the title, and ventured to suggest (without betraying my
poor friend's secret that he could not actively engage in the
"Destruction of Sennacherib," and that even the spectacle of it
might be too much for him. "Needn't see it at all," said my
managerial friend; "put him in front, nothing to do but march in
and march out, and dodge curtain."
He was engaged. I admit I was at times haunted by grave doubts as
to whether I should not have informed the manager of his physical
condition, and the possibility that he might some evening
perpetrate a real tragedy on the mimic stage, but on the first
performance of "The Destruction of Sennacherib," which I
conscientiously attended, I was somewhat relieved. I had often
been amused with the placid way in which the chorus in the opera
invariably received the most astounding information, and witnessed
the most appalling tragedies by poison or the block, without
anything more than a vocal protest or command, always delivered to
the audience and never to the actors, but I think my poor friend's
utter impassiveness to the wild carnage and the terrible
exhibitions of incendiarism that were going on around him
transcended even that. Dressed in a costume that seemed to be the
very soul of anachronism, he stood a little outside the proscenium,
holding a spear, the other hand pressed apparently upon the secret
within his breast, calmly surveying, with his waxen face, the gay
auditorium. I could not help thinking that there was a certain
pride visible even in his placid features, as of one who was
conscious that at any moment he might change this simulated
catastrophe into real terror. I could not help saying this to the
Doctor, who was with me. "Yes," he said with professional
exactitude; "when it happens he'll throw his arms up above his
head, utter an ejaculation, and fall forward on his face,--it's a
singular thing, they always fall forward on their face,--and
they'll pick up the man as dead as Julius Caesar."
After that, I used to go night after night, with a certain hideous
fascination; but, while it will be remembered the "Destruction of
Sennacherib" had a tremendous run, it will also be remembered that
not a single life was really lost during its representation.
It was only a few weeks after this modest first appearance on the
boards of "The Man with an Aneurism," that, happening to be at
dinner party of practical business men, I sought to interest them
with the details of the above story, delivered with such skill and
pathos as I could command. I regret to say that, as a pathetic
story, it for a moment seemed to be a dead failure. At last a
prominent banker sitting next to me turned to me with the awful
question: "Why don't your friend try to realize on his life
insurance?" I begged his pardon, I didn't quite understand. "Oh,
discount, sell out. Look here--(after a pause). Let him assign
his policy to me, it's not much of a risk, on your statement.
Well--I'll give him his five thousand dollars, clear."
And he did. Under the advice of this cool-headed--I think I may
add warm-hearted--banker, "The Man with an Aneurism" invested his
money in the name of and for the benefit of his wife in certain
securities that paid him a small but regular stipend. But he still
continued upon the boards of the theatre.
By reason of some business engagements that called me away from the
city, I did not see my friend the physician for three months
afterward. When I did I asked tidings of The Man with the
Aneurism. The Doctor's kind face grew sad. "I'm afraid--that is,
I don't exactly know whether I've good news or bad. Did you ever
see his wife?"
I never had.
"Well, she was younger than he, and rather attractive. One of
those doll-faced women. You remember, he settled that life
insurance policy on her and the children: she might have waited;
she didn't. The other day she eloped with some fellow, I don't
remember his name, with the children and the five thousand
"And the shock killed him," I said with poetic promptitude.
"No--that is--not yet; I saw him yesterday," said the Doctor, with
conscientious professional precision, looking over his list of
"Well, where is the poor fellow now?"
"He's still at the theatre. James, if these powders are called
for, you'll find them, here in this envelope. Tell Mrs. Blank I'll
be there at seven--and she can give the baby this until I come.
Say there's no danger. These women are an awful bother! Yes, he's
at the theatre yet. Which way are you going? Down town? Why
can't you step into my carriage, and I'll give you a lift, and
we'll talk on the way down? Well--he's at the theatre yet. And--
and--do you remember the 'Destruction of Sennacherib?' No? Yes
you do. You remember that woman in pink, who pirouetted in the
famous ballet scene! You don't? Why, yes you do! Well, I
imagine, of course I don't know, it's only a summary diagnosis, but
I imagine that our friend with the aneurism has attached himself to
"Doctor, you horrify me."
"There are more things, Mr. Poet, in heaven and earth than are yet
dreamt of in your philosophy. Listen. My diagnosis may be wrong,
but that woman called the other day at my office to ask about him,
his health, and general condition. I told her the truth--and she
FAINTED. It was about as dead a faint as I ever saw; I was nearly
an hour in bringing her out of it. Of course it was the heat of
the room, her exertions the preceding week, and I prescribed for
her. Queer, wasn't it? Now, if I were a writer, and had your
faculty, I'd make something out of that."
"But how is his general health?"
"Oh, about the same. He can't evade what will come, you know, at
any moment. He was up here the other day. Why, the pulsation was
as plain--why, the entire arch of the aorta-- What! you get out
Of course no moralist, no man writing for a sensitive and strictly
virtuous public, could further interest himself in this man. So I
dismissed him at once from my mind, and returned to the literary
contemplation of virtue that was clearly and positively defined,
and of Sin, that invariably commenced with a capital letter. That
this man, in his awful condition, hovering on the verge of
eternity, should allow himself to be attracted by--but it was
horrible to contemplate.
Nevertheless, a month afterwards, I was returning from a festivity
with my intimate friend Smith, my distinguished friend Jobling, my
most respectable friend Robinson, and my wittiest friend Jones. It
was a clear, star-lit morning, and we seemed to hold the broad,
beautiful avenue to ourselves; and I fear we acted as if it were
so. As we hilariously passed the corner of Eighteenth Street, a
coupe rolled by, and I suddenly heard my name called from its
"I beg your pardon," said the Doctor, as his driver drew up by the
sidewalk, "but I've some news for you. I've just been to see our
poor friend ----. Of course I was too late. He was gone in a
"As Pharaoh! In an instant, just as I said. You see, the rupture
took place in the descending arch of--"
"It's a queer story. Am I keeping you from your friends? No?
Well, you see she--that woman I spoke of--had written a note to him
based on what I had told her. He got it, and dropped in his
dressing-room, dead as a herring."
"How could she have been so cruel, knowing his condition? She
might, with woman's tact, have rejected him less abruptly."
"Yes; but you're all wrong. By Jove! she ACCEPTED him! was willing
to marry him!"
"Yes. Don't you see? It was joy that killed him. Gad, we never
thought of THAT! Queer, ain't it? See here, don't you think you
might make a story out of it?"
"But, Doctor, it hasn't got any moral."
"Humph! That's so. Good morning. Drive on, John."
MY FRIEND, THE TRAMP
I had been sauntering over the clover downs of a certain noted New
England seaport. It was a Sabbath morning, so singularly reposeful
and gracious, so replete with the significance of the seventh day
of rest, that even the Sabbath bells ringing a mile away over the
salt marshes had little that was monitory, mandatory, or even
supplicatory in their drowsy voices. Rather they seemed to call
from their cloudy towers, like some renegade muezzin: "Sleep is
better than prayer; sleep on, O sons of the Puritans! Slumber
still, O deacons and vestrymen! Let, oh let those feet that are
swift to wickedness curl up beneath thee! those palms that are
itching for the shekels of the ungodly lie clasped beneath thy
pillow! Sleep is better than prayer."
And, indeed, though it was high morning, sleep was still in the
air. Wrought upon at last by the combined influences of sea and
sky and atmosphere, I succumbed, and lay down on one of the
boulders of a little stony slope that gave upon the sea. The great
Atlantic lay before me, not yet quite awake, but slowly heaving the
rhythmical expiration of slumber. There was no sail visible in the
misty horizon. There was nothing to do but to lie and stare at the
Suddenly I became aware of the strong fumes of tobacco. Turning my
head, I saw a pale blue smoke curling up from behind an adjacent
boulder. Rising, and climbing over the intermediate granite, I
came upon a little hollow, in which, comfortably extended on the
mosses and lichens, lay a powerfully-built man. He was very
ragged; he was very dirty; there was a strong suggestion about him
of his having too much hair, too much nail, too much perspiration;
too much of those superfluous excrescences and exudations that
society and civilization strive to keep under. But it was
noticeable that he had not much of anything else. It was The
With that swift severity with which we always visit rebuke upon the
person who happens to present any one of our vices offensively
before us, in his own person, I was deeply indignant at his
laziness. Perhaps I showed it in my manner, for he rose to a half-
sitting attitude, returned my stare apologetically, and made a
movement toward knocking the fire from his pipe against the
"Shure, sur, and if I'd belaved that I was trispassin on yer
honor's grounds, it's meself that would hev laid down on the say
shore and takin' the salt waves for me blankits. But it's
sivinteen miles I've walked this blessed noight, with nothin' to
sustain me, and hevin' a mortal wakeness to fight wid in me bowels,
by reason of starvation, and only a bit o' baccy that the Widdy
Maloney gi' me at the cross roads, to kape me up entoirley. But it
was the dark day I left me home in Milwaukee to walk to Boston; and
if ye'll oblige a lone man who has left a wife and six children in
Milwaukee, wid the loan of twenty-five cints, furninst the time he
gits worruk, God'll be good to ye."
It instantly flashed through my mind that the man before me had the
previous night partaken of the kitchen hospitality of my little
cottage, two miles away. That he presented himself in the guise of
a distressed fisherman, mulcted of his wages by an inhuman captain;
that he had a wife lying sick of consumption in the next village,
and two children, one of whom was a cripple, wandering in the
streets of Boston. I remembered that this tremendous indictment
against Fortune touched the family, and that the distressed
fisherman was provided with clothes, food, and some small change.
The food and small change had disappeared, but the garments for the
consumptive wife, where were they? He had been using them for a
I instantly pointed out this fact, and charged him with the
deception. To my surprise, he took it quietly, and even a little
"Bedad, yer roight; ye see, sur" (confidentially), "ye see, sur,
until I get worruk--and it's worruk I'm lukin' for--I have to
desave now and thin to shute the locality. Ah, God save us! but on
the say-coast thay'r that har-rud upon thim that don't belong to
I ventured to suggest that a strong, healthy man like him might
have found work somewhere between Milwaukee and Boston.
"Ah, but ye see I got free passage on a freight train, and didn't
sthop. It was in the Aist that I expected to find worruk."
"Have you any trade?"
"Trade, is it? I'm a brickmaker, God knows, and many's the lift
I've had at makin' bricks in Milwaukee. Shure, I've as aisy a hand
at it as any man. Maybe yer honor might know of a kill hereabout?"
Now to my certain knowledge, there was not a brick kiln within
fifty miles of that spot, and of all unlikely places to find one
would have been this sandy peninsula, given up to the summer
residences of a few wealthy people. Yet I could not help admiring
the assumption of the scamp, who knew this fact as well as myself.
But I said, "I can give you work for a day or two;" and, bidding
him gather up his sick wife's apparel, led the way across the downs
to my cottage. At first I think the offer took him by surprise,
and gave him some consternation, but he presently recovered his
spirits, and almost instantly his speech. "Ah, worruk, is it? God
be praised! it's meself that's ready and willin'. 'Though maybe me
hand is spoilt wid brickmakin'."
I assured him that the work I would give him would require no
delicate manipulation, and so we fared on over the sleepy downs.
But I could not help noticing that, although an invalid, I was a
much better pedestrian than my companion, frequently leaving him
behind, and that even as a "tramp," he was etymologically an
impostor. He had a way of lingering beside the fences we had to
climb over, as if to continue more confidentially the history of
his misfortunes and troubles, which he was delivering to me during
our homeward walk, and I noticed that he could seldom resist the
invitation of a mossy boulder or a tussock of salt grass. "Ye see,
sur," he would say, suddenly sitting down, "it's along uv me
misfortunes beginnin' in Milwaukee that--" and it was not until I
was out of hearing that he would languidly gather his traps again
and saunter after me. When I reached my own garden gate he leaned
for a moment over it, with both of his powerful arms extended
downward, and said, "Ah, but it's a blessin' that Sunday comes to
give rest fur the wake and the weary, and them as walks sivinteen
miles to get it." Of course I took the hint. There was evidently
no work to be had from my friend, the Tramp, that day. Yet his
countenance brightened as he saw the limited extent of my domain,
and observed that the garden, so called, was only a flower-bed
about twenty-five by ten. As he had doubtless before this been
utilized, to the extent of his capacity, in digging, he had
probably expected that kind of work; and I daresay I discomfitted
him by pointing him to an almost leveled stone wall, about twenty
feet long, with the remark that his work would be the rebuilding of
that stone wall, with stone brought from the neighboring slopes.
In a few moments he was comfortably provided for in the kitchen,
where the cook, a woman of his own nativity, apparently, "chaffed"
him with a raillery that was to me quite unintelligible. Yet I
noticed that when, at sunset, he accompanied Bridget to the spring
for water, ostentatiously flourishing the empty bucket in his hand,
when they returned in the gloaming Bridget was carrying the water,
and my friend, the Tramp, was some paces behind her, cheerfully
"colloguing," and picking blackberries.
At seven the next morning he started in cheerfully to work. At
nine, A. M., he had placed three large stones on the first course
in position, an hour having been spent in looking for a pick and
hammer, and in the incidental "chaffing" with Bridget. At ten
o'clock I went to overlook his work; it was a rash action, as it
caused him to respectfully doff his hat, discontinue his labors,
and lean back against the fence in cheerful and easy conservation.
"Are you fond uv blackberries, Captain?" I told him that the
children were in the habit of getting them from the meadow beyond,
hoping to estop the suggestion I knew was coming. "Ah, but,
Captain, it's meself that with wanderin' and havin' nothin' to pass
me lips but the berries I'd pick from the hedges,--it's meself
knows where to find thim. Sure, it's yer childer, and foine boys
they are, Captain, that's besaching me to go wid 'em to the place,
known'st only to meself." It is unnecessary to say that he
triumphed. After the manner of vagabonds of all degrees, he had
enlisted the women and children on his side--and my friend, the
Tramp, had his own way. He departed at eleven and returned at
four, P. M., with a tin dinner-pail half filled. On interrogating
the boys it appeared that they had had a "bully time," but on
cross-examination it came out that THEY had picked the berries.
From four to six, three more stones were laid, and the arduous
labors of the day were over. As I stood looking at the first
course of six stones, my friend, the Tramp, stretched his strong
arms out to their fullest extent and said: "Ay, but it's worruk
that's good for me; give me worruk, and it's all I'll be askin'
I ventured to suggest that he had not yet accomplished much.
"Wait till to-morror. Ah, but ye'll see thin. It's me hand that's
yet onaisy wid brick-makin' and sthrange to the shtones. An ye'll
wait till to-morror?"
Unfortunately I did not wait. An engagement took me away at an
early hour, and when I rode up to my cottage at noon my eyes were
greeted with the astonishing spectacle of my two boys hard at work
laying the courses of the stone wall, assisted by Bridget and
Norah, who were dragging stones from the hillsides, while
comfortably stretched on the top of the wall lay my friend, the
Tramp, quietly overseeing the operation with lazy and humorous
comment. For an instant I was foolishly indignant, but he soon
brought me to my senses. "Shure, sur, it's only larnin' the boys
the habits uv industhry I was--and may they niver know, be the same
token, what it is to worruk fur the bread betune their lips. Shure
it's but makin' 'em think it play I was. As fur the colleens
beyint in the kitchen, sure isn't it betther they was helping your
honor here than colloguing with themselves inside?"
Nevertheless, I thought it expedient to forbid henceforth any
interruption of servants or children with my friend's "worruk."
Perhaps it was the result of this embargo that the next morning
early the Tramp wanted to see me.
"And it's sorry I am to say it to ye, sur," he began, "but it's the
handlin' of this stun that's desthroyin' me touch at the brick-
makin', and it's better I should lave ye and find worruk at me own
thrade. For it's worruk I am nadin'. It isn't meself, Captain, to
ate the bread of oidleness here. And so good-by to ye, and if it's
fifty cints ye can be givin' me ontil I'll find a kill--it's God
that'll repay ye."
He got the money. But he got also conditionally a note from me to
my next neighbor, a wealthy retired physician, possessed of a large
domain, a man eminently practical and businesslike in his
management of it. He employed many laborers on the sterile waste
he called his "farm," and it occurred to me that if there really
was any work in my friend, the Tramp, which my own indolence and
preoccupation had failed to bring out, he was the man to do it.
I met him a week after. It was with some embarrassment that I
inquired after my friend, the Tramp. "Oh, yes," he said,
reflectively, "let's see: he came Monday and left me Thursday. He
was, I think, a stout, strong man, a well-meaning, good-humored
fellow, but afflicted with a most singular variety of diseases.
The first day I put him at work in the stables he developed chills
and fever caught in the swamps of Louisiana--"
"Excuse me," I said hurriedly, "you mean in Milwaukee!"
"I know what I'm talking about," returned the Doctor, testily; "he
told me his whole wretched story--his escape from the Confederate
service, the attack upon him by armed negroes, his concealment in
the bayous and swamps--"
"Go on, Doctor," I said, feebly; "you were speaking of his work."
"Yes. Well, his system was full of malaria; the first day I had
him wrapped up in blankets, and dosed with quinine. The next day
he was taken with all the symptoms of cholera morbus, and I had to
keep him up on brandy and capsicum. Rheumatism set in on the
following day, and incapacitated him for work, and I concluded I
had better give him a note to the director of the City Hospital
than keep him here. As a pathological study he was good; but as I
was looking for a man to help about the stable, I couldn't afford
to keep him in both capacities."
As I never could really tell when the Doctor was in joke or in
earnest, I dropped the subject. And so my friend, the Tramp,
gradually faded from my memory, not however without leaving behind
him in the barn where he had slept a lingering flavor of whisky,
onions, and fluffiness. But in two weeks this had gone, and the
"Shebang" (as my friends irreverently termed my habitation) knew
him no more. Yet it was pleasant to think of him as having at last
found a job at brick-making, or having returned to his family at
Milwaukee, or making his Louisiana home once more happy with his
presence, or again tempting the fish-producing main--this time with
a noble and equitable captain.
It was a lovely August morning when I rode across the sandy
peninsula to visit a certain noted family, whereof all the sons
were valiant and the daughters beautiful. The front of the house
was deserted, but on the rear veranda I heard the rustle of gowns,
and above it arose what seemed to be the voice of Ulysses, reciting
his wanderings. There was no mistaking that voice, it was my
friend, the Tramp!
From what I could hastily gather from his speech, he had walked
from St. John, N. B., to rejoin a distressed wife in New York, who
was, however, living with opulent but objectionable relatives.
"An' shure, miss, I wouldn't be askin' ye the loan of a cint if I
could get worruk at me trade of carpet-wavin'--and maybe ye know of
some mannfacthory where they wave carpets beyant here. Ah, miss,
and if ye don't give me a cint, it's enough for the loikes of me to
know that me troubles has brought the tears in the most beautiful
oiyes in the wurruld, and God bless ye for it, miss!"
Now I knew that the Most Beautiful Eyes in the World belonged to
one of the most sympathetic and tenderest hearts in the world, and
I felt that common justice demanded my interference between it and
one of the biggest scamps in the world. So, without waiting to be
announced by the servant, I opened the door, and joined the group
on the veranda.
If I expected to touch the conscience of my friend, the Tramp, by a
dramatic entrance, I failed utterly; for no sooner did he see me,
than he instantly gave vent to a howl of delight, and, falling on
his knees before me, grasped my hand, and turned oratorically to
"Oh, but it's himself--himself that has come as a witness to me
carrakther! Oh, but it's himself that lifted me four wakes ago,
when I was lyin' with a mortal wakeness on the say-coast, and tuk
me to his house. Oh, but it's himself that shupported me over the
faldes, and whin the chills and faver came on me and I shivered wid
the cold, it was himself, God bless him, as sthripped the coat off
his back, and giv it me, sayin', 'Take it, Dinnis, it's shtarved
with the cowld say air ye'll be entoirely.' Ah, but look at him--
will ye, miss! Look at his swate, modist face--a blushin' like
your own, miss. Ah! look at him, will ye? He'll be denyin' of it
in a minit--may the blessin' uv God folly him. Look at him, miss!
Ah, but it's a swate pair ye'd make! (the rascal knew I was a
married man). Ah, miss, if you could see him wroightin' day and
night with such an illigant hand of his own--(he had evidently
believed from the gossip of my servants that I was a professor of
chirography)--if ye could see him, miss, as I have, ye'd be proud
He stopped out of breath. I was so completely astounded I could
say nothing: the tremendous indictment I had framed to utter as I
opened the door vanished completely. And as the Most Beautiful
Eyes in the Wurruld turned gratefully to mine--well--
I still retained enough principle to ask the ladies to withdraw,
while I would take upon myself the duty of examining into the case
of my friend, the Tramp, and giving him such relief as was
required. (I did not know until afterward, however, that the
rascal had already despoiled their scant purses of three dollars
and fifty cents.) When the door was closed upon them I turned upon
"You infernal rascal!"
"Ah, Captain, and would ye be refusin' ME a carrakther and me
givin' YE such a one as Oi did! God save us! but if ye'd hav' seen
the luk that the purty one give ye. Well, before the chills and
faver bruk me spirits entirely, when I was a young man, and makin'
me tin dollars a week brick-makin', it's meself that wud hav'
"I consider," I broke in, "that a dollar is a fair price for your
story, and as I shall have to take it all back and expose you
before the next twenty-four hours pass, I think you had better
hasten to Milwaukee, New York, or Louisiana."
I handed him the dollar. "Mind, I don't want to see your face
"Ye wun't, captain."
And I did not.
But it so chanced that later in the season, when the migratory
inhabitants had flown to their hot-air registers in Boston and
Providence, I breakfasted with one who had lingered. It was a
certain Boston lawyer,--replete with principle, honesty, self-
discipline, statistics, aesthetics, and a perfect consciousness of
possessing all these virtues, and a full recognition of their
market values. I think he tolerated me as a kind of foreigner,
gently but firmly waiving all argument on any topic, frequently
distrusting my facts, generally my deductions, and always my ideas.
In conversation he always appeared to descend only half way down a
long moral and intellectual staircase, and always delivered his
conclusions over the balusters.
I had been speaking of my friend, the Tramp. "There is but one way
of treating that class of impostors; it is simply to recognize the
fact that the law calls him a 'vagrant,' and makes his trade a
misdemeanor. Any sentiment on the other side renders you particeps
criminis. I don't know but an action would lie against you for
encouraging tramps. Now, I have an efficacious way of dealing with
these gentry." He rose and took a double-barreled fowling-piece
from the chimney. "When a tramp appears on my property, I warn him
off. If he persists, I fire on him--as I would on any criminal
"Fire on him?" I echoed in alarm.
"Yes--BUT WITH POWDER ONLY! Of course HE doesn't know that. But
he doesn't come back."
It struck me for the first time that possibly many other of my
friend's arguments might be only blank cartridges, and used to
frighten off other trespassing intellects.
"Of course, if the tramp still persisted, I would be justified in
using shot. Last evening I had a visit from one. He was coming
over the wall. My shot gun was efficacious; you should have seen
It was useless to argue with so positive a mind, and I dropped the
subject. After breakfast I strolled over the downs, my friend
promising to join me as soon as he arranged some household
It was a lovely, peaceful morning, not unlike the day when I first
met my friend, the Tramp. The hush of a great benediction lay on
land and sea. A few white sails twinkled afar, but sleepily; one
or two large ships were creeping in lazily, like my friend, the
Tramp. A voice behind me startled me.
My host had rejoined me. His face, however, looked a little
"I just now learned something of importance," he began. "It
appears that with all my precautions that Tramp has visited my
kitchen, and the servants have entertained him. Yesterday morning,
it appears, while I was absent, he had the audacity to borrow my
gun to go duck-shooting. At the end of two or three hours he
returned with two ducks and--the gun."
"That was, at least, honest."
"Yes--but! That fool of a girl says that, as he handed back the
gun, he told her it was all right, and that he had loaded it up
again to save the master trouble."
I think I showed my concern in my face, for he added, hastily: "It
was only duck-shot; a few wouldn't hurt him!"
Nevertheless, we both walked on in silence for a moment. "I
thought the gun kicked a little," he said at last, musingly; "but
the idea of-- Hallo! what's this?"
He stopped before the hollow where I had first seen my Tramp. It
was deserted, but on the mosses there were spots of blood and
fragments of an old gown, blood-stained, as if used for bandages.
I looked at it closely: it was the gown intended for the
consumptive wife of my friend, the Tramp.
But my host was already nervously tracking the bloodstains that on
rock, moss, and boulder were steadily leading toward the sea. When
I overtook him at last on the shore, he was standing before a flat
rock, on which lay a bundle I recognized, tied up in a
handkerchief, and a crooked grape-vine stick.
"He may have come here to wash his wounds--salt is a styptic," said
my host, who had recovered his correct precision of statement.
I said nothing, but looked toward the sea. Whatever secret lay hid
in its breast, it kept it fast. Whatever its calm eyes had seen
that summer night, it gave no reflection now. It lay there
passive, imperturbable, and reticent. But my friend, the Tramp,
THE MAN FROM SOLANO
He came toward me out of an opera lobby, between the acts,--a
figure as remarkable as anything in the performance. His clothes,
no two articles of which were of the same color, had the appearance
of having been purchased and put on only an hour or two before,--a
fact more directly established by the clothes-dealer's ticket which
still adhered to his coat-collar, giving the number, size, and
general dimensions of that garment somewhat obtrusively to an
uninterested public. His trousers had a straight line down each
leg, as if he had been born flat but had since developed; and there
was another crease down his back, like those figures children cut
out of folded paper. I may add that there was no consciousness of
this in his face, which was good-natured, and, but for a certain
squareness in the angle of his lower jaw, utterly uninteresting and
"You disremember me," he said, briefly, as he extended his hand,
"but I'm from Solano, in Californy. I met you there in the spring
of '57. I was tendin' sheep, and you was burnin' charcoal."
There was not the slightest trace of any intentional rudeness in
the reminder. It was simply a statement of fact, and as such to be
"What I hailed ye for was only this," he said, after I had shaken
hands with him. "I saw you a minnit ago standin' over in yon box--
chirpin' with a lady--a young lady, peart and pretty. Might you be
telling me her name?"
I gave him the name of a certain noted belle of a neighboring city,
who had lately stirred the hearts of the metropolis, and who was
especially admired by the brilliant and fascinating young
Dashboard, who stood beside me.
The Man from Solano mused for a moment, and then said, "Thet's so!
thet's the name! It's the same gal!"
"You have met her, then?" I asked, in surprise.
"Ye-es," he responded, slowly: "I met her about fower months ago.
She'd bin makin' a tour of Californy with some friends, and I first
saw her aboard the cars this side of Reno. She lost her baggage-
checks, and I found them on the floor and gave 'em back to her, and
she thanked me. I reckon now it would be about the square thing to
go over thar and sorter recognize her." He stopped a moment, and
looked at us inquiringly.
"My dear sir," struck in the brilliant and fascinating Dashboard,
"if your hesitation proceeds from any doubt as to the propriety of
your attire, I beg you to dismiss it from your mind at once. The
tyranny of custom, it is true, compels your friend and myself to
dress peculiarly, but I assure you nothing could be finer than the
way that the olive green of your coat melts in the delicate yellow
of your cravat, or the pearl gray of your trousers blends with the
bright blue of your waistcoat, and lends additional brilliancy to
that massive oroide watch-chain which you wear."
To my surprise, the Man from Solano did not strike him. He looked
at the ironical Dashboard with grave earnestness, and then said
"Then I reckon you wouldn't mind showin' me in thar?"
Dashboard was, I admit, a little staggered at this. But he
recovered himself, and, bowing ironically, led the way to the box.
I followed him and the Man from Solano.
Now, the belle in question happened to be a gentlewoman--descended
from gentlewomen--and after Dashboard's ironical introduction, in
which the Man from Solano was not spared, she comprehended the
situation instantly. To Dashboard's surprise she drew a chair to
her side, made the Man from Solano sit down, quietly turned her
back on Dashboard, and in full view of the brilliant audience and
the focus of a hundred lorgnettes, entered into conversation with
Here, for the sake of romance, I should like to say he became
animated, and exhibited some trait of excellence,--some rare wit or
solid sense. But the fact is he was dull and stupid to the last
degree. He persisted in keeping the conversation upon the subject
of the lost baggage-checks, and every bright attempt of the lady to
divert him failed signally. At last, to everybody's relief, he
rose, and leaning over her chair, said:--
"I calklate to stop over here some time, miss, and you and me bein'
sorter strangers here, maybe when there's any show like this goin'
on you'll let me--"
Miss X. said somewhat hastily that the multiplicity of her
engagements and the brief limit of her stay in New York she feared
would, etc., etc. The two other ladies had their handkerchiefs
over their mouths, and were staring intently on the stage, when the
Man from Solano continued:--
"Then, maybe, miss, whenever there is a show goin' on that you'll
attend, you'll just drop me word to Earle's Hotel, to this yer
address," and he pulled from his pocket a dozen well-worn letters,
and taking the buff envelope from one, handed it to her with
something like a bow.
"Certainly," broke in the facetious Dashboard, "Miss X. goes to the
Charity Ball to-morrow night. The tickets are but a trifle to an
opulent Californian, and a man of your evident means, and the
object a worthy one. You will, no doubt, easily secure an
Miss X. raised her handsome eyes for a moment to Dashboard. "By
all means," she said, turning to the Man from Solano; "and as Mr.
Dashboard is one of the managers and you are a stranger, he will,
of course, send you a complimentary ticket. I have known Mr.
Dashboard long enough to know that he is invariably courteous to
strangers and a gentleman." She settled herself in her chair again
and fixed her eyes upon the stage.
The Man from Solano thanked the Man of New York, and then, after
shaking hands with every body in the box, turned to go. When he
had reached the door he looked back to Miss X., and said,--
"It WAS one of the queerest things in the world, miss, that my
findin' them checks--"
But the curtain had just then risen on the garden scene in "Faust,"
and Miss X. was absorbed. The Man from Solano carefully shut the
box door and retired. I followed him.
He was silent until he reached the lobby, and then he said, as if
renewing a previous conversation, "She IS a mighty peart gal--
that's so. She's just my kind, and will make a stavin' good wife."
I thought I saw danger ahead for the Man from Solano, so I hastened
to tell him that she was beset by attentions, that she could have
her pick and choice of the best of society, and finally, that she
was, most probably, engaged to Dashboard.
"That's so," he said quietly, without the slightest trace of
feeling. "It would be mighty queer if she wasn't. But I reckon
I'll steer down to the ho-tel. I don't care much for this
yellin'." (He was alluding to a cadenza of that famous cantatrice,
Signora Batti Batti.) "What's the time?"
He pulled out his watch. It was such a glaring chain, so obviously
bogus, that my eyes were fascinated by it. "You're looking at that
watch," he said; "it's purty to look at, but she don't go worth a
cent. And yet her price was $125, gold. I gobbled her up in
Chatham Street day before yesterday, where they were selling 'em
very cheap at auction."
"You have been outrageously swindled," I said, indignantly. "Watch
and chain are not worth twenty dollars."
"Are they worth fifteen?" he asked, gravely.
"Then I reckon it's a fair trade. Ye see, I told 'em I was a
Californian from Solano, and hadn't anything about me of
greenbacks. I had three slugs with me. Ye remember them slugs?"
(I did; the "slug" was a "token" issued in the early days--a
hexagonal piece of gold a little over twice the size of a twenty-
dollar gold piece--worth and accepted for fifty dollars.)
"Well, I handed them that, and they handed me the watch. You see
them slugs I had made myself outer brass filings and iron pyrites,
and used to slap 'em down on the boys for a bluff in a game of draw
poker. You see, not being reg'lar gov-ment money, it wasn't
counterfeiting. I reckon they cost me, counting time and anxiety,
about fifteen dollars. So, if this yer watch is worth that, it's
about a square game, ain't it?"
I began to understand the Man from Solano, and said it was. He
returned his watch to his pocket, toyed playfully with the chain,
and remarked, "Kinder makes a man look fash'nable and wealthy,
I agreed with him. "But what do you intend to do here?" I asked.
"Well, I've got a cash capital of nigh on seven hundred dollars. I
guess until I get into reg'lar business I'll skirmish round Wall
Street, and sorter lay low." I was about to give him a few words
of warning, but I remembered his watch, and desisted. We shook
hands and parted.
A few days after I met him on Broadway. He was attired in another
new suit, but I think I saw a slight improvement in his general
appearance. Only five distinct colors were visible in his attire.
But this, I had reason to believe afterwards, was accidental.
I asked him if he had been to the ball. He said he had. "That
gal, and a mighty peart gal she was too, was there, but she sorter
fought shy of me. I got this new suit to go in, but those waiters
sorter run me into a private box, and I didn't get much chance to
continner our talk about them checks. But that young feller,
Dashboard, was mighty perlite. He brought lots of fellers and
young women round to the box to see me, and he made up a party that
night to take me round Wall Street and in them Stock Boards. And
the next day he called for me and took me, and I invested about
five hundred dollars in them stocks--may be more. You see, we
sorter swopped stocks. You know I had ten shares in the Peacock
Copper Mine, that you was once secretary of."
"But those shares are not worth a cent. The whole thing exploded
ten years ago."
"That's so, may be; YOU say so. But then I didn't know anything
more about Communipaw Central, or the Naphtha Gaslight Company, and
so I thought it was a square game. Only I realized on the stocks I
bought, and I kem up outer Wall Street about four hundred dollars
better. You see it was a sorter risk, after all, for them Peacock
stocks MIGHT come up!"
I looked into his face: it was immeasurably serene and commonplace.
I began to be a little afraid of the man, or, rather, of my want of
judgment of the man; and after a few words we shook hands and
It was some months before I again saw the Man from Solano. When I
did, I found that he had actually become a member of the Stock
Board, and had a little office on Broad Street, where he transacted
a fair business. My remembrance going back to the first night I
met him, I inquired if he had renewed his acquaintance with Miss X.
"I heerd that she was in Newport this summer, and I ran down there
fur a week."
"And you talked with her about the baggage-checks?"
"No," he said, seriously; "she gave me a commission to buy some
stocks for her. You see, I guess them fash'nable fellers sorter
got to runnin' her about me, and so she put our acquaintance on a
square business footing. I tell you, she's a right peart gal. Did
ye hear of the accident that happened to her?"
I had not.
"Well, you see, she was out yachting, and I managed through one of
those fellers to get an invite, too. The whole thing was got up by
a man that they say is going to marry her. Well, one afternoon the
boom swings round in a little squall and knocks her overboard.
There was an awful excitement,--you've heard about it, may be?"
"No!" But I saw it all with a romancer's instinct in a flash of
poetry! This poor fellow, debarred through uncouthness from
expressing his affection for her, had at last found his fitting
opportunity. He had--
"Thar was an awful row," he went on. "I ran out on the taffrail,
and there a dozen yards away was that purty creature, that peart
"You jumped for her," I said, hastily.
"No!" he said gravely. "I let the other man do the jumping. I
sorter looked on."
I stared at him in astonishment.
"No," he went on, seriously. "He was the man who jumped--that was
just then his 'put'--his line of business. You see, if I had
waltzed over the side of that ship, and cavoorted in, and flummuxed
round and finally flopped to the bottom, that other man would have
jumped nateral-like and saved her; and ez he was going to marry her
anyway, I don't exactly see where I'D hev been represented in the
transaction. But don't you see, ef, after he'd jumped and hadn't
got her, he'd gone down himself, I'd hev had the next best chance,
and the advantage of heving him outer the way. You see, you don't
understand me--I don't think you did in Californy."
"Then he did save her?"
"Of course. Don't you see she was all right. If he'd missed her,
I'd have chipped in. Thar warn't no sense in my doing his duty
onless he failed."
Somehow the story got out. The Man from Solano as a butt became
more popular than ever, and of course received invitations to
burlesque receptions, and naturally met a great many people whom
otherwise he would not have seen. It was observed also that his
seven hundred dollars were steadily growing, and that he seemed to
be getting on in his business. Certain California stocks which I
had seen quietly interred in the old days in the tombs of their
fathers were magically revived; and I remember, as one who has seen
a ghost, to have been shocked as I looked over the quotations one
morning to have seen the ghostly face of the "Dead Beat Beach
Mining Co.," rouged and plastered, looking out from the columns of
the morning paper. At last a few people began to respect, or
suspect, the Man from Solano. At last, suspicion culminated with
He had long expressed a wish to belong to a certain "fash'n'ble"
club, and with a view of burlesque he was invited to visit the
club, where a series of ridiculous entertainments were given him,
winding up with a card party. As I passed the steps of the club-
house early next morning, I overheard two or three members talking
"He cleaned everybody out." "Why, he must have raked in nigh on
"Who?" I asked.
"The Man from Solano."
As I turned away, one of the gentlemen, a victim, noted for his
sporting propensities, followed me, and laying his hand on my
"Tell me fairly now. What business did your friend follow in
"He was a shepherd."
"A shepherd. Tended his flocks on the honey-scented hills of
"Well, all I can say is, d--n your California pastorals!"
THE OFFICE SEEKER
He asked me if I had ever seen the "Remus Sentinel."
I replied that I had not, and would have added that I did not even
know where Remus was, when he continued by saying it was strange
the hotel proprietor did not keep the "Sentinel" on his files, and
that he, himself, should write to the editor about it. He would
not have spoken about it, but he, himself, had been an humble
member of the profession to which I belonged, and had often written
for its columns. Some friends of his--partial, no doubt--had said
that his style somewhat resembled Junius's; but of course, you
know--well, what he could say was that in the last campaign his
articles were widely sought for. He did not know but he had a copy
of one. Here his hand dived into the breast-pocket of his coat,
with a certain deftness that indicated long habit, and, after
depositing on his lap a bundle of well-worn documents, every one of
which was glaringly suggestive of certificates and signatures, he
concluded he had left it in his trunk.
I breathed more freely. We were sitting in the rotunda of a famous
Washington hotel, and only a few moments before had the speaker, an
utter stranger to me, moved his chair beside mine and opened a
conversation. I noticed that he had that timid, lonely, helpless
air which invests the bucolic traveler who, for the first time,
finds himself among strangers, and his identity lost, in a world so
much larger, so much colder, so much more indifferent to him than
he ever imagined. Indeed, I think that what we often attribute to
the impertinent familiarity of country-men and rustic travelers on
railways or in cities is largely due to their awful loneliness and
nostalgia. I remember to have once met in a smoking-car on a
Kansas railway one of these lonely ones, who, after plying me with
a thousand useless questions, finally elicited the fact that I knew
slightly a man who had once dwelt in his native town in Illinois.
During the rest of our journey the conversation turned chiefly upon
his fellow-townsman, whom it afterwards appeared that my Illinois
friend knew no better than I did. But he had established a link
between himself and his far-off home through me, and was happy.
While this was passing through my mind I took a fair look at him.
He was a spare young fellow, not more than thirty, with sandy hair
and eyebrows, and eyelashes so white as to be almost imperceptible.
He was dressed in black, somewhat to the "rearward o' the fashion,"
and I had an odd idea that it had been his wedding suit, and it
afterwards appeared I was right. His manner had the precision and
much of the dogmatism of the country schoolmaster, accustomed to
wrestle with the feeblest intellects. From his history, which he
presently gave me, it appeared I was right here also.
He was born and bred in a Western State, and, as schoolmaster of
Remus and Clerk of Supervisors, had married one of his scholars,
the daughter of a clergyman, and a man of some little property. He
had attracted some attention by his powers of declamation, and was
one of the principal members of the Remus Debating Society. The
various questions then agitating Remus,--"Is the doctrine of
immortality consistent with an agricultural life?" and, "Are round
dances morally wrong?"--afforded him an opportunity of bringing
himself prominently before the country people. Perhaps I might
have seen an extract copied from the "Remus Sentinel" in the
"Christian Recorder" of May 7, 1875? No? He would get it for me.
He had taken an active part in the last campaign. He did not like
to say it, but it had been universally acknowledged that he had
Gen. Pratt C. Gashwiler, member of Congress from our deestrict.
A powerful man, sir--a very powerful man; a man whose influence
will presently be felt here, sir--HERE! Well, he had come on with
Gashwiler, and--well, he did not know why--Gashwiler did not know
why he should not, you know (a feeble, half-apologetic laugh here),
receive that reward, you know, for these services which, etc., etc.
I asked him if he had any particular or definite office in view.
Well, no. He had left that to Gashwiler. Gashwiler had said--he
remembered his very words: "Leave it all to me; I'll look through
the different departments, and see what can be done for a man of
He's looking. I'm expecting him back here every minute. He's gone
over to the Department of Tape, to see what can be done there. Ah!
here he comes.
A large man approached us. He was very heavy, very unwieldy, very
unctuous and oppressive. He affected the "honest farmer," but so
badly that the poorest husbandman would have resented it. There
was a suggestion of a cheap lawyer about him that would have
justified any self-respecting judge in throwing him over the bar at
once. There was a military suspicion about him that would have
entitled him to a court-martial on the spot. There was an
introduction, from which I learned that my office-seeking friend's
name was Expectant Dobbs. And then Gashwiler addressed me:--
"Our young friend here is waiting, waiting. Waiting, I may say, on
the affairs of State. Youth," continued the Hon. Mr. Gashwiler,
addressing an imaginary constituency, "is nothing but a season of
waiting--of preparation--ha, ha!"
As he laid his hand in a fatherly manner--a fatherly manner that
was as much of a sham as anything else about him--I don't know
whether I was more incensed at him or his victim, who received it
with evident pride and satisfaction. Nevertheless he ventured to
"Has anything been done yet?"
"Well, no; I can't say that anything--that is, that anything has
been COMPLETED; but I may say we are in excellent position for an
advance--ha, ha! But we must wait, my young friend, wait. What is
it the Latin philosopher says? 'Let us by all means hasten
slowly'--ha, ha!" and he turned to me as if saying confidentially,
"Observe the impatience of these boys!" "I met, a moment ago, my
old friend and boyhood's companion, Jim McGlasher, chief of the
Bureau for the Dissemination of Useless Information, and," lowering
his voice to a mysterious but audible whisper, "I shall see him
The "All aboard!" of the railway omnibus at this moment tore me
from the presence of this gifted legislator and his protege; but as
we drove away I saw through the open window the powerful mind of
Gashwiler operating, so to speak, upon the susceptibilities of Mr.
I did not meet him again for a week. The morning of my return I
saw the two conversing together in the hall, but with the palpable
distinction between this and their former interviews, that the
gifted Gashwiler seemed to be anxious to get away from his friend.
I heard him say something about "committees" and "to-morrow," and
when Dobbs turned his freckled face toward me I saw that he had got
at last some expression into it--disappointment.
I asked him pleasantly how he was getting on.
He had not lost his pride yet. He was doing well, although such
was the value set upon his friend Gashwiler's abilities by his
brother members that he was almost always occupied with committee
business. I noticed that his clothes were not in as good case as
before, and he told me that he had left the hotel, and taken
lodgings in a by-street, where it was less expensive. Temporarily
A few days after this I had business in one of the great
departments. From the various signs over the doors of its various
offices and bureaus it always oddly reminded me of Stewart's or
Arnold and Constable's. You could get pensions, patents, and
plants. You could get land and the seeds to put in it, and the
Indians to prowl round it, and what not. There was a perpetual
clanging of office desk bells, and a running hither and thither of
messengers strongly suggestive of "Cash 47."
As my business was with the manager of this Great National Fancy
Shop, I managed to push by the sad-eyed, eager-faced crowd of men
and women in the anteroom, and entered the secretary's room,
conscious of having left behind me a great deal of envy and
uncharitableness of spirit. As I opened the door I heard a
monotonous flow of Western speech which I thought I recognized.
There was no mistaking it. It was the voice of the Gashwiler.
"The appointment of this man, Mr. Secretary, would be most
acceptable to the people in my deestrict. His family are wealthy
and influential, and it's just as well in the fall elections to
have the supervisors and county judge pledged to support the
administration. Our delegates to the State Central Committee are
to a man"--but here, perceiving from the wandering eye of Mr.
Secretary that there was another man in the room, he whispered the
rest with a familiarity that must have required all the politician
in the official's breast to keep from resenting.
"You have some papers, I suppose?" asked the secretary, wearily.
Gashwiler was provided with a pocketful, and produced them. The
secretary threw them on the table among the other papers, where
they seemed instantly to lose their identity, and looked as if they
were ready to recommend anybody but the person they belonged to.
Indeed, in one corner the entire Massachusetts delegation, with the
Supreme Bench at their head, appeared to be earnestly advocating
the manuring of Iowa waste lands; and to the inexperienced eye, a
noted female reformer had apparently appended her signature to a
request for a pension for wounds received in battle.
"By the way," said the secretary, "I think I have a letter here
from somebody in your district asking an appointment, and referring
to you? Do you withdraw it?"
"If anybody has been presuming to speculate upon my patronage,"
said the Hon. Mr. Gashwiler, with rising rage.
"I've got the letter somewhere here," said the secretary, looking
dazedly at his table. He made a feeble movement among the papers,
and then sank back hopelessly in his chair, and gazed out of the
window as if he thought and rather hoped it might have flown away.
"It was from a Mr. Globbs, or Gobbs, or Dobbs, of Remus," he said
finally, after a superhuman effort of memory.
"Oh, that's nothing--a foolish fellow who has been boring me for
the last month."
"Then I am to understand that this application is withdrawn?"
"As far as my patronage is concerned, certainly. In fact, such an
appointment would not express the sentiments--indeed, I may say,
would be calculated to raise active opposition in the deestrict."
The secretary uttered a sigh of relief, and the gifted Gashwiler
passed out. I tried to get a good look at the honorable scamp's
eye, but he evidently did not recognize me.
It was a question in my mind whether I ought not to expose the
treachery of Dobbs's friend, but the next time I met Dobbs he was
in such good spirits that I forebore. It appeared that his wife
had written to him that she had discovered a second cousin in the
person of the Assistant Superintendent of the Envelope Flap
Moistening Bureau of the Department of Tape, and had asked his
assistance; and Dobbs had seen him, and he had promised it. "You
see," said Dobbs, "in the performance of his duties he is often
very near the person of the secretary, frequently in the next room,
and he is a powerful man, sir--a powerful man to know, sir--a VERY
How long this continued I do not remember. Long enough, however,
for Dobbs to become quite seedy, for the giving up of wrist cuffs,
for the neglect of shoes and beard, and for great hollows to form
round his eyes, and a slight flush on his cheek-bones. I remember
meeting him in all the departments, writing letters or waiting
patiently in anterooms from morning till night. He had lost all
his old dogmatism, but not his pride. "I might as well be here as
anywhere, while I'm waiting," he said, "and then I'm getting some
knowledge of the details of official life."
In the face of this mystery I was surprised at finding a note from
him one day, inviting me to dine with him at a certain famous
restaurant. I had scarce got over my amazement, when the writer
himself overtook me at my hotel. For a moment I scarcely
recognized him. A new suit of fashionably-cut clothes had changed
him, without, however, entirely concealing his rustic angularity of
figure and outline. He even affected a fashionable dilettante air,
but so mildly and so innocently that it was not offensive.
"You see," he began, explanatory-wise, "I've just found out the way
to do it. None of these big fellows, these cabinet officers, know
me except as an applicant. Now, the way to do this thing is to
meet 'em fust sociably; wine 'em and dine 'em. Why, sir,"--he
dropped into the schoolmaster again here,--"I had two cabinet
ministers, two judges, and a general at my table last night."
"On YOUR invitation?"
"Dear, no! all I did was to pay for it. Tom Soufflet gave the
dinner and invited the people. Everybody knows Tom. You see, a
friend of mine put me up to it, and said that Soufflet had fixed up
no end of appointments and jobs in that way. You see, when these
gentlemen get sociable over their wine, he says carelessly, 'By the
way, there's So-and-so--a good fellow--wants something; give it to
him.' And the first thing you know, or they know, he gets a
promise from them. They get a dinner--and a good one--and he gets
"But where did you get the money?"
"Oh,"--he hesitated,--"I wrote home, and Fanny's father raised
fifteen hundred dollars some way, and sent it to me. I put it down
to political expenses." He laughed a weak, foolish laugh here, and
added, "As the old man don't drink nor smoke, he'd lift his
eyebrows to know how the money goes. But I'll make it all right
when the office comes--and she's coming, sure pop."
His slang fitted as poorly on him as his clothes, and his
familiarity was worse than his former awkward shyness. But I could
not help asking him what had been the result of this expenditure.
"Nothing just yet. But the Secretary of Tape and the man at the
head of the Inferior Department, both spoke to me, and one of them
said he thought he'd heard my name before. He might," he added,
with a forced laugh, "for I've written him fifteen letters."
Three months passed. A heavy snow-storm stayed my chariot wheels
on a Western railroad, ten miles from a nervous lecture committee
and a waiting audience; there was nothing to do but to make the
attempt to reach them in a sleigh. But the way was long and the
drifts deep, and when at last four miles out we reached a little
village, the driver declared his cattle could hold out no longer,
and we must stop there. Bribes and threats were equally of no
avail. I had to accept the fact.
"What place is this?"
"Remus, Remus," where had I heard that name before? But while I
was reflecting he drove up before the door of the tavern. It was a
dismal, sleep-forbidding place, and only nine o'clock, and here was
the long winter's night before me. Failing to get the landlord to
give me a team to go further, I resigned myself to my fate and a
cigar, behind the red-hot stove. In a few moments one of the
loungers approached me, calling me by name, and in a rough but
hearty fashion condoled with me for my mishap, advised me to stay
at Remus all night, and added: "The quarters ain't the best in the
world yer at this hotel. But thar's an old man yer--the preacher
that was--that for twenty years hez taken in such fellers as you
and lodged 'em free gratis for nothing, and hez been proud to do
it. The old man used to be rich; he ain't so now; sold his big
house on the cross roads, and lives in a little cottage with his
darter right over yan. But ye couldn't do him a better turn than
to go over thar and stay, and if he thought I'd let ye go out o'
Remus without axing ye, he'd give me h-ll. Stop, I'll go with ye."
I might at least call on the old man, and I accompanied my guide
through the still falling snow until we reached a little cottage.
The door opened to my guide's knock, and with the brief and
discomposing introduction, "Yer, ole man, I've brought you one o'
them snow-bound lecturers," he left me on the threshold, as my
host, a kindly-faced, white-haired man of seventy, came forward to
His frankness and simple courtesy overcame the embarrassment left
by my guide's introduction, and I followed him passively as he
entered the neat, but plainly-furnished sitting-room. At the same
moment a pretty, but faded young woman arose from the sofa and was
introduced to me as his daughter. "Fanny and I live here quite
alone, and if you knew how good it was to see somebody from the
great outside world now and then, you would not apologize for what
you call your intrusion."
During this speech I was vaguely trying to recall where and when
and under what circumstances I had ever before seen the village,
the house, the old man or his daughter. Was it in a dream, or in
one of those dim reveries of some previous existence to which the
spirit of mankind is subject? I looked at them again. In the
careworn lines around the once pretty girlish mouth of the young
woman, in the furrowed seams over the forehead of the old man, in
the ticking of the old-fashioned clock on the shelf, in the faint
whisper of the falling snow outside, I read the legend, "Patience,
patience; Wait and Hope."
The old man filled a pipe, and offering me one, continued,
"Although I seldom drink myself, it was my custom to always keep
some nourishing liquor in my house for passing guests, but to-night
I find myself without any." I hastened to offer him my flask,
which, after a moment's coyness, he accepted, and presently under
its benign influence at least ten years dropped from his shoulders,
and he sat up in his chair erect and loquacious.
"And how are affairs at the National Capital, sir?" he began.
Now, if there was any subject of which I was profoundly ignorant,
it was this. But the old man was evidently bent on having a good
political talk. So I said vaguely, yet with a certain sense of
security, that I guessed there wasn't much being done.
"I see," said the old man, "in the matters of resumption; of the
sovereign rights of States and federal interference, you would
imply that a certain conservative tentative policy is to be
promulgated until after the electoral committee have given their
verdict." I looked for help towards the lady, and observed feebly
that he had very clearly expressed my views.
The old man, observing my look, said: "Although my daughter's
husband holds a federal position in Washington, the pressure of his
business is so great that he has little time to give us mere
gossip--I beg your pardon, did you speak?"
I had unconsciously uttered an exclamation. This, then, was Remus--
the home of Expectant Dobbs--and these his wife and father; and
the Washington banquet-table, ah me! had sparkled with the yearning
heart's blood of this poor wife, and had been upheld by this
tottering Caryatid of a father.
"Do you know what position he has?"
The old man did not know positively, but thought it was some
general supervising position. He had been assured by Mr. Gashwiler
that it was a first-class clerkship; yes, a FIRST class.
I did not tell him that in this, as in many other official
regulations in Washington, they reckoned backward, but said:--
"I suppose that your M. C., Mr.--Mr. Gashwiler--"
"Don't mention his name," said the little woman, rising to her feet
hastily; "he never brought Expectant anything but disappointment
and sorrow. I hate, I despise the man."
"Dear Fanny," expostulated the old man, gently, "this is
unchristian and unjust. Mr. Gashwiler is a powerful, a very
powerful man! His work is a great one; his time is preoccupied
with weightier matters."
"His time was not so preoccupied but he could make use of poor
Expectant," said this wounded dove, a little spitefully.
Nevertheless it was some satisfaction to know that Dobbs had at
last got a place, no matter how unimportant, or who had given it to
him; and when I went to bed that night in the room that had been
evidently prepared for their conjugal chamber, I felt that Dobbs's
worst trials were over. The walls were hung with souvenirs of
their ante-nuptial days. There was a portrait of Dobbs, aetat. 25;
there was a faded bouquet in a glass case, presented by Dobbs to
Fanny on examination-day; there was a framed resolution of thanks
to Dobbs from the Remus Debating Society; there was a certificate
of Dobbs's election as President of the Remus Philomathean Society;
there was his commission as Captain in the Remus Independent
Contingent of Home Guards; there was a Freemason's chart, in which
Dobbs was addressed in epithets more fulsome and extravagant than
any living monarch. And yet all these cheap glories of a narrow
life and narrower brain were upheld and made sacred by the love of
the devoted priestess who worshiped at this lonely shrine, and kept
the light burning through gloom and doubt and despair. The storm
tore round the house, and shook its white fists in the windows. A
dried wreath of laurel that Fanny had placed on Dobbs's head after
his celebrated centennial address at the school-house, July 4,
1876, swayed in the gusts, and sent a few of its dead leaves down
on the floor, and I lay in Dobbs's bed and wondered what a first-
class clerkship was.
I found out early the next summer. I was strolling through the
long corridors of a certain great department, when I came upon a
man accurately yoked across the shoulders, and supporting two huge
pails of ice on either side, from which he was replenishing the
pitchers in the various offices. As I passed I turned to look at
him again. It was Dobbs!
He did not set down his burden; it was against the rules, he said.
But he gossiped cheerily, said he was beginning at the foot of the
ladder, but expected soon to climb up. That it was Civil Service
Reform, and of course he would be promoted soon.
"Had Gashwiler procured the appointment?"
No. He believed it was ME. I had told his story to Assistant-
secretary Blank, who had, in turn related it to Bureau-director
Dash--both good fellows--but this was all they could do. Yes, it
was a foothold. But he must go now.
Nevertheless, I followed him up and down, and, cheered up with a
rose-colored picture of his wife and family, and my visit there,
and promising to come and see him the next time I came to
Washington, I left him with his self-imposed yoke.
With a new administration, Civil Service Reform came in, crude and
ill-digested, as all sudden and sweeping reforms must be; cruel to
the individual, as all crude reforms will ever be; and among the
list of helpless men and women, incapacitated for other work by
long service in the dull routine of federal office, who were
decapitated, the weak, foolish, emaciated head of Expectant Dobbs
went to the block. It afterward appeared that the gifted Gashwiler
was responsible for the appointment of twenty clerks, and that the
letter of poor Dobbs, in which he dared to refer to the now
powerless Gashwiler, had sealed his fate. The country made an
example of Gashwiler and--Dobbs.
From that moment he disappeared. I looked for him in vain in
anterooms, lobbies, and hotel corridors, and finally came to the
conclusion that he had gone home.
How beautiful was that July Sabbath, when the morning train from
Baltimore rolled into the Washington depot. How tenderly and
chastely the morning sunlight lay on the east front of the Capitol
until the whole building was hushed in a grand and awful repose.
How difficult it was to think of a Gashwiler creeping in and out of
those enfiling columns, or crawling beneath that portico, without
wondering that yon majestic figure came not down with flat of sword
to smite the fat rotundity of the intruder. How difficult to think
that parricidal hands have ever been lifted against the Great
Mother, typified here in the graceful white chastity of her
garments, in the noble tranquillity of her face, in the gathering
up her white-robed children within her shadow.
This led me to think of Dobbs, when, suddenly a face flashed by my
carriage window. I called to the driver to stop, and, looking
again, saw that it was a woman standing bewildered and irresolute
on the street corner. As she turned her anxious face toward me I
saw that it was Mrs. Dobbs.
What was she doing here, and where was Expectant?
She began an incoherent apology, and then burst into explanatory
tears. When I had got her in the carriage she said, between her
sobs, that Expectant had not returned; that she had received a
letter from a friend here saying he was sick,--oh very, very sick,--
and father could not come with her, so she came alone. She was so
frightened, so lonely, so miserable.
Had she his address?
Yes, just here! It was on the outskirts of Washington, near
Georgetown. Then I would take her there, if I could, for she knew
On our way I tried to cheer her up by pointing out some of the
children of the Great Mother before alluded to, but she only shut
her eyes as we rolled down the long avenues, and murmured, "Oh,
these cruel, cruel distances!"
At last we reached the locality, a negro quarter, yet clean and
neat in appearance. I saw the poor girl shudder slightly as we
stopped at the door of a low, two-story frame house, from which the
unwonted spectacle of a carriage brought a crowd of half-naked
children and a comely, cleanly, kind-faced mulatto woman.
Yes, this was the house. He was upstairs, rather poorly, but
asleep, she thought.
We went upstairs. In the first chamber, clean, though poorly
furnished, lay Dobbs. On a pine table near his bed were letters
and memorials to the various departments, and on the bed-quilt,
unfinished, but just as the weary fingers had relaxed their grasp
upon it, lay a letter to the Tape Department.
As we entered the room he lifted himself on his elbow. "Fanny!" he
said, quickly, and a shade of disappointment crossed his face. "I
thought it was a message from the secretary," he added,
The poor woman had suffered too much already to shrink from this
last crushing blow. But she walked quietly to his side without a
word or cry, knelt, placed her loving arms around him, and I left
them so together.
When I called again in the evening he was better; so much better
that, against the doctor's orders, he had talked to her quite
cheerfully and hopefully for an hour, until suddenly raising her
bowed head in his two hands, he said, "Do you know, dear, that in
looking for help and influence there was one, dear, I had
forgotten; one who is very potent with kings and councilors, and I
think, love, I shall ask Him to interest Himself in my behalf. It
is not too late yet, darling, and I shall seek Him to-morrow."
And before the morrow came he had sought and found Him, and I doubt
not got a good place.
A SLEEPING-CAR EXPERIENCE
It was in a Pullman sleeping-car on a Western road. After that
first plunge into unconsciousness which the weary traveler takes on
getting into his berth, I awakened to the dreadful revelation that
I had been asleep only two hours. The greater part of a long
winter night was before me to face with staring eyes.
Finding it impossible to sleep, I lay there wondering a number of
things: why, for instance, the Pullman sleeping-car blankets were
unlike other blankets; why they were like squares cut out of cold
buckwheat cakes, and why they clung to you when you turned over,
and lay heavy on you without warmth; why the curtains before you
could not have been made opaque, without being so thick and
suffocating; why it would not be as well to sit up all night half
asleep in an ordinary passenger-car as to lie awake all night in a
Pullman. But the snoring of my fellow-passengers answered this
question in the negative.
With the recollection of last night's dinner weighing on me as
heavily and coldly as the blankets, I began wondering why, over the
whole extent of the continent, there was no local dish; why the
bill of fare at restaurant and hotel was invariably only a weak
reflex of the metropolitan hostelries; why the entrees were always
the same, only more or less badly cooked; why the traveling
American always was supposed to demand turkey and cold cranberry
sauce; why the pretty waiter-girl apparently shuffled your plates
behind your back, and then dealt them over your shoulder in a
semicircle, as if they were a hand at cards, and not always a good
one? Why, having done this, she instantly retired to the nearest
wall, and gazed at you scornfully, as one who would say, "Fair sir,
though lowly, I am proud; if thou dost imagine that I would permit
undue familiarity of speech, beware!" And then I began to think of
and dread the coming breakfast; to wonder why the ham was always
cut half an inch thick, and why the fried egg always resembled a
glass eye that visibly winked at you with diabolical dyspeptic
suggestions; to wonder if the buckwheat cakes, the eating of which
requires a certain degree of artistic preparation and deliberation,
would be brought in as usual one minute before the train started.
And then I had a vivid recollection of a fellow-passenger who, at a
certain breakfast station in Illinois, frantically enwrapped his
portion of this national pastry in his red bandana handkerchief,
took it into the smoking-car, and quietly devoured it en route.
Lying broad awake, I could not help making some observations which
I think are not noticed by the day traveler. First, that the speed
of a train is not equal or continuous. That at certain times the
engine apparently starts up, and says to the baggage train behind
it, "Come, come, this won't do! Why, it's nearly half-past two;
how in h-ll shall we get through? Don't you talk to ME. Pooh,
pooh!" delivered in that rhythmical fashion which all meditation
assumes on a railway train. Exempli gratia: One night, having
raised my window-curtain to look over a moonlit snowy landscape, as
I pulled it down the lines of a popular comic song flashed across
me. Fatal error! The train instantly took it up, and during the
rest of the night I was haunted by this awful refrain: "Pull down
the bel-lind, pull down the bel-lind; simebody's klink klink, O
don't be shoo-shoo!" Naturally this differs on the different
railways. On the New York Central, where the road-bed is quite
perfect and the steel rails continuous, I have heard this
irreverent train give the words of a certain popular revival hymn
after this fashion: "Hold the fort, for I am Sankey; Moody slingers
still. Wave the swish swash back from klinky, klinky klanky kill."
On the New York and New Haven, where there are many switches, and
the engine whistles at every cross road, I have often heard, "Tommy
make room for your whooopy! that's a little clang; bumpity,
bumpity, boopy, clikitty, clikitty, clang." Poetry, I fear, fared
little better. One starlit night, coming from Quebec, as we
slipped by a virgin forest, the opening lines of Evangeline flashed
upon me. But all I could make of them was this: "This is the
forest primeval-eval; the groves of the pines and the hemlocks-
locks-locks-locks-loooock!" The train was only "slowing" or
"braking" up at a station. Hence the jar in the metre.
I had noticed a peculiar Aeolian harp-like cry that ran through the
whole train as we settled to rest at last after a long run--an
almost sigh of infinite relief, a musical sigh that began in C and
ran gradually up to F natural, which I think most observant
travelers have noticed day and night. No railway official has ever
given me a satisfactory explanation of it. As the car, in a rapid
run, is always slightly projected forward of its trucks, a
practical friend once suggested to me that it was the gradual
settling back of the car body to a state of inertia, which, of
course, every poetical traveler would reject. Four o'clock the
sound of boot-blacking by the porter faintly apparent from the
toilet-room. Why not talk to him? But, fortunately, I remembered
that any attempt at extended conversation with conductor or porter
was always resented by them as implied disloyalty to the company
they represented. I recalled that once I had endeavored to impress
upon a conductor the absolute folly of a midnight inspection of
tickets, and had been treated by him as an escaped lunatic. No,
there was no relief from this suffocating and insupportable
loneliness to be gained then. I raised the window-blind and looked
out. We were passing a farm-house. A light, evidently the lantern
of a farm-hand, was swung beside a barn. Yes, the faintest tinge
of rose in the far horizon. Morning, surely, at last.
We had stopped at a station. Two men had got into the car, and had
taken seats in the one vacant section, yawning occasionally and
conversing in a languid, perfunctory sort of way. They sat
opposite each other, occasionally looking out of the window, but
always giving the strong impression that they were tired of each
other's company. As I looked out of my curtains at them, the One
Man said, with a feebly concealed yawn:--
"Yes, well, I reckon he was at one time as poplar an ondertaker ez
The Other Man (inventing a question rather than giving an answer,
out of some languid, social impulse): "But was he--this yer
ondertaker--a Christian--hed he jined the church?"
The One Man (reflectively): "Well, I don't know ez you might call
him a purfessin' Christian; but he hed--yes, he hed conviction. I
think Dr. Wylie hed him under conviction. Et least that was the
way I got it from HIM."
A long, dreary pause. The Other Man (feeling it was incumbent upon
him to say something): "But why was he poplar ez an ondertaker?"
The One Man (lazily): "Well, he was kinder poplar with widders and
widderers--sorter soothen 'em a kinder, keerless way; slung 'em
suthin' here and there, sometimes outer the Book, sometimes outer
hisself, ez a man of experience as hed hed sorror. Hed, they say
(VERY CAUTIOUSLY), lost three wives hisself, and five children by
this yer new disease--dipthery--out in Wisconsin. I don't know the
facts, but that's what's got round."
The Other Man: "But how did he lose his poplarity?"
The One Man: "Well, that's the question. You see he interduced
some things into ondertaking that waz new. He hed, for instance, a
way, as he called it, of manniperlating the features of the
The Other Man (quietly): "How manniperlating?"
The One Man (struck with a bright and aggressive thought): "Look
yer, did ye ever notiss how, generally speakin', onhandsome a
The Other Man had noticed this fact.
The One Man (returning to his fact): "Why there was Mary Peebles,
ez was daughter of my wife's bosom friend--a mighty pooty girl and
a professing Christian--died of scarlet fever. Well, that gal--I
was one of the mourners, being my wife's friend--well, that gal,
though I hedn't, perhaps, oughter say--lying in that casket,
fetched all the way from some A1 establishment in Chicago, filled
with flowers and furbelows--didn't really seem to be of much
account. Well, although my wife's friend, and me a mourner--well,
now, I was--disappointed and discouraged."
The Other Man (in palpably affected sympathy): "Sho! now!"
"Yes, SIR! Well, you see, this yer ondertaker, this Wilkins, hed a
way of correctin' all thet. And just by manniperlation. He worked
over the face of the deceased ontil he perduced what the survivin'
relatives called a look of resignation,--you know, a sort of smile,
like. When he wanted to put in any extrys, he perduced what he
called--hevin' reglar charges for this kind of work--a Christian's
The Other Man: "I want to know."
"Yes. Well, I admit, at times it was a little startlin'. And I've
allers said (a little confidentially) that I had my doubts of its
being Scriptoorl, or sacred, we being, ez you know, worms of the
yearth; and I relieved my mind to our pastor, but he didn't feel
like interferin', ez long ez it was confined to church membership.
But the other day, when Cy Dunham died--you disremember Cy Dunham?"
A long interval of silence. The Other Man was looking out of the
window, and had apparently forgotten his companion completely. But
as I stretched my head out of the curtain I saw four other heads as
eagerly reached out from other berths to hear the conclusion of the
story. One head, a female one, instantly disappeared on my looking
around, but a certain tremulousness of her window-curtain showed an
unabated interest. The only two utterly disinterested men were the
One Man and the Other Man.
The Other Man (detaching himself languidly from the window): "Cy
"Yes; Cy never hed hed either convictions or purfessions. Uster
get drunk and go round with permiscous women. Sorter like the
prodigal son, only a little more so, ez fur ez I kin judge from the
facks ez stated to me. Well, Cy one day petered out down at Little
Rock, and was sent up yer for interment. The fammerly, being
proud-like, of course didn't spare no money on that funeral, and it
waz--now between you and me--about ez shapely and first-class and
prime-mess affair ez I ever saw. Wilkins hed put in his extrys.
He hed put onto that prodigal's face the A1 touch,--hed him fixed
up with a 'Christian's hope.' Well, it was about the turning-
point, for thar waz some of the members and the pastor hisself
thought that the line oughter to be drawn somewhere, and thar was
some talk at Deacon Tibbet's about a reg'lar conference meetin'
regardin' it. But it wasn't thet which made him onpoplar."
Another silence; no expression nor reflection from the face of the
Other Man of the least desire to know what ultimately settled the
unpopularity of the undertaker. But from the curtains of the
various berths several eager and one or two even wrathful faces,
anxious for the result.
The Other Man (lazily recurring to the fading topic): "Well, what
made him onpoplar?"
The One Man (quietly): "Extrys, I think--that is, I suppose, not
knowin'" (cautiously) "all the facts. When Mrs. Widdecombe lost
her husband, 'bout two months ago, though she'd been through the
valley of the shadder of death twice--this bein' her third
marriage, hevin' been John Barker's widder--"
The Other Man (with an intense expression of interest): "No, you're
The One Man (solemnly): "Ef I was to appear before my Maker to-
morrow, yes! she was the widder of Barker."
The Other Man: "Well, I swow."
The One Man: "Well, this Widder Widdecombe, she put up a big
funeral for the deceased. She hed Wilkins, and thet ondertaker
just laid hisself out. Just spread hisself. Onfort'natly,--
perhaps fort'natly in the ways of Providence,--one of Widdecombe's
old friends, a doctor up thar in Chicago, comes down to the
funeral. He goes up with the friends to look at the deceased,
smilin' a peaceful sort o' heavinly smile, and everybody sayin'
he's gone to meet his reward, and this yer friend turns round,
short and sudden on the widder settin' in her pew, and kinder
enjoyin, as wimen will, all the compliments paid the corpse, and he
says, says he:--
"'What did you say your husband died of, marm?'
"'Consumption,' she says, wiping her eyes, poor critter.
"'Consumption be d--d,' sez he, bein' a profane kind of Chicago
doctor, and not bein' ever under conviction. 'Thet man died of
strychnine. Look at thet face. Look at thet contortion of them
fashal muscles. Thet's strychnine. Thet's risers Sardonikus'
(thet's what he said; he was always sorter profane).
"'Why, doctor,' says the widder, 'thet--thet is his last smile.
It's a Christian's resignation.'
"'Thet be blowed; don't tell me,' sez he. 'Hell is full of thet
kind of resignation. It's pizon. And I'll--' Why, dern my skin,
yes we are; yes, it's Joliet. Wall, now, who'd hey thought we'd
been nigh onto an hour."
Two or three anxious passengers from their berths: "Say; look yer,
stranger! Old man! What became of--"
But the One Man and the Other Man had vanished.
MORNING ON THE AVENUE
Back to Full Books