Charles Heber Clark (AKA Max Adeler)
Part 4 out of 5
until I learned how to handle it; but when I put the mouth-piece to my
lips, no sound was evoked. Then I blew harder. Still the horn remained
silent. Then I drew a full breath and sent a whirlwind tearing through
the horn; but no music came. I blew at it for half an hour, and then I
ran a wire through the instrument to ascertain if anything blocked it
up. It was clear. Then I blew softly and fiercely, quickly and slowly.
I opened all the stops. I puffed and strained and worked until I
feared an attack of apoplexy. Then I gave it up and went down stairs;
and Mrs. A. asked me what made me look so red in the face. For four
days I labored with that horn, and got my lips so puckered up and
swollen that I went about looking as if I was perpetually trying to
whistle. Finally, I took the instrument back to the store and told the
man that the horn was defective. What I wanted was a horn with insides
to it; this one had no more music to it than a terra-cotta drainpipe.
The man took it in his hand, put it to his lips and played "Sweet
Spirit, Hear my Prayer," as easily as if he were singing. He said that
what I needed was to fix my mouth properly, and he showed me how.
After working for three more afternoons in the garret the horn at last
made a sound. But it was not a cheering noise; it reminded me forcibly
of the groans uttered by Butterwick's horse when it was dying last
November. The harder I blew, the more mournful became the noise, and
that was the only note I could get. When I went down to supper, Mrs.
A. asked me if I heard that awful groaning. She said she guessed it
came from Twiddler's cow, for she heard Mrs. Twiddler say yesterday
that the cow was sick.
For four weeks I could get nothing out of that horn but blood-curdling
groans; and, meantime, the people over the way moved to another house
because our neighborhood was haunted, and three of our hired girls
resigned successively for the same reason.
Finally, a man whom I consulted told me that "No One to Love" was an
easy tune for beginners; and I made an effort to learn it.
After three weeks of arduous practice, during which Mrs. A. several
times suggested that it was brutal that Twiddler didn't kill that
suffering cow and put it out of its misery, I conquered the first
three notes; but there I stuck. I could play "No One to--" and that
was all. I performed "No One to--" over eight thousand times; and
as it seemed unlikely that I would ever learn the whole tune, I
determined to try the effect of part of it on Mrs. A. About ten
o'clock one night I crept out to the front of the house and struck
up. First, "No One to--" about fifteen or twenty times, then a few of
those groans, then more of the tune, and so forth. Then Butterwick set
his dog on me, and I suddenly went into the house. Mrs. A. had the
children in the back room, and she was standing behind the door with
my revolver in her hand. When I entered, she exclaimed,
"Oh, I'm so glad you've come home! Somebody's been murdering a man in
our yard. He uttered the most awful shrieks and cries I ever heard. I
was dreadfully afraid the murderers would come into the house. It's
perfectly fearful, isn't it?"
[Illustration: A SCARED FAMILY]
Then I took the revolver away from her--it was not loaded, and she
had no idea that it would have to be cocked--and went to bed without
mentioning the horn. I thought perhaps it would be better not to.
I sold it the next day; and now if I want music I shall buy a good
hand-organ. I know I can play on that.
* * * * *
As music and sculpture are the first of the arts, I may properly refer
in this chapter to some facts relative to the condition of the latter
in the community in which I live. Some time ago there was an auction
out at the place of Mr. Jackson, and a very handsome marble statue
of William Penn was knocked down to Mr. Whitaker. He had the statue
carted over to the marble-yard, where he sought an interview with
Mr. Mix, the owner. He told Mix that he wanted that statue "fixed up
somehow so that 'twould represent one of the heathen gods." He had an
idea that Mix might chip the clothes off of Penn and put a lyre in his
hand, "so that he might pass muster as Apollo or Hercules."
But Mix said he thought the difficulty would be in wrestling with
William's hat. It was a marble hat, with a rim almost big enough for a
race-course; and Mix said that although he didn't profess to know much
about heathen mythology as a general thing, still it struck him
that Hercules in a broad-brimmed hat would attract attention by his
singularity, and might be open to criticism.
Mr. Whitaker said that what he really wanted with that statue, when he
bought it, was to turn it into Venus, and he thought perhaps the hat
might be chiseled up into some kind of a halo around her head.
But Mix said that he didn't exactly see how he could do that when the
rim was so curly at the sides. A halo that was curly was just no
halo at all. But, anyway, how was he going to manage about Penn's
waistcoat? It reached almost to his knees, and to attempt to get out
a bare-legged Venus with a halo on her head and four cubic feet of
waistcoat around her middle would ruin his business. It would make the
whole human race smile.
Then Whitaker said Neptune was a god he always liked, and perhaps Mix
could fix the tails of Penn's coat somehow so that it would look as
if the figure was riding on a dolphin; then the hat might be made to
represent seaweed, and a fish-spear could be put in the statue's hand.
Mix, however, urged that a white marble hat of those dimensions, when
cut into seaweed, would be more apt to look as if Neptune was coming
home with a load of hay upon his head; and he said that although art
had made gigantic strides during the past century, and evidently had
a brilliant future before it, it had not yet discovered a method by
which a swallow-tail coat with flaps to the pockets could be turned
into anything that would look like a dolphin.
Then Mr. Whitaker wanted to know if Pan wasn't the god that had horns
and split hoofs, with a shaggy look to his legs; for if he was, he
would be willing to have the statue made into Pan, if it could be done
without too much expense.
And Mr. Mix said that while nothing would please him more than to
produce such a figure of Pan, and while William Penn's square-toed
shoes, probably, might be made into cloven hoofs without a very
strenuous effort, still he hardly felt as if he could fix up those
knee-breeches to resemble shaggy legs; and as for trying to turn that
hat into a pair of horns, Mr. Whitaker might as well talk of emptying
the Atlantic Ocean through a stomach-pump.
Thereupon, Mr. Whitaker remarked that he had concluded, on the whole,
that it would be better to split the patriarch up the middle and take
the two halves to make a couple of little Cupids, which he could hang
in his parlor with a string, so that they would appear to be sporting
in air. Perhaps the flap of that hat might be sliced up into wings and
glued on the shoulders of the Cupids.
But Mr. Mix said that while nobody would put himself out more to
oblige a friend than he would, still he must say, if his honest
opinion was asked, that to attempt to make a Cupid out of one leg and
half the body of William Penn would be childish, because, if they used
the half one way, there would be a very small Cupid with one very long
leg; and if they used it the other way, he would have to cut Cupid's
head out of the calf of William's leg, and there wasn't room enough,
let alone the fact that the knee-joint would give the god of Love the
appearance of having a broken back. And as for wings, if the man had
been born who could chisel wings out of the flap of a hat, all he
wanted was to meet that man, so that he could gaze on him and study
him. Finally Whitaker suggested that Mix should make the statue into
an angel and sell it for an ornament to a tombstone.
But Mix said that if he should insult the dead by putting up in the
cemetery an angel with a stubby nose and a double-chin, that would let
him out as a manufacturer of sepulchres.
And so Whitaker sold him the statue for ten dollars, and Mix sawed it
up into slabs for marble-top tables. High art doesn't seem to flourish
to any large extent in this place.
_CERTAIN DENTAL EXPERIENCES.--AN UNFORTUNATE OFFICIAL_.
Mr. Potts has suffered a good deal from the toothache, and one day
he went around to the office of Dr. Slugg, the dentist, to have the
offending tooth pulled. The doctor has a very large practice; and in
order to economize his strength, he invented a machine for pulling
teeth. He constructed a series of cranks and levers fixed to a movable
stand and operating a pair of forceps by means of a leather belt,
which was connected with the shafting of a machine-shop in the street
back of the house. The doctor experimented with it several times on
nails firmly inserted in a board, and it worked splendidly. The first
patient he tried it on was Mr. Potts. When the forceps had been
clasped upon Potts' tooth, Dr. Slugg geared the machine and opened the
valve. It was never known with any degree of exactness whether the
doctor pulled the valve too far open or whether the engine was working
at that moment under extraordinary pressure. But in the twinkling of
an eye Mr. Potts was twisted out of the chair and the movable stand
began to execute the most surprising manoeuvres around the room.
It would jerk Mr. Potts high into the air and souse him down in
an appalling manner, with one leg among Slugg's gouges and other
instruments of torture, and with the other in the spittoon. Then it
would rear him up against the chandelier three or four times, and
shy across and drive Potts' head through the oil portrait of Slugg's
father over the mantel-piece. After bumping him against Slugg's
ancestor it would swirl Potts around among the crockery on the
wash-stand and dance him up and down in an exciting manner over the
stove, until finally the molar "gave," and as Potts landed with his
foot through the pier-glass and his elbow on a pink poodle worked in a
green rug, the machine dashed violently against Dr. Slugg and tried
to seize his leg with the forceps. When they carried Potts home, he
discovered that Slugg had pulled the wrong tooth; and Dr. Slugg never
sent to collect his bill. He canceled his contract with the man who
owned the planing-mill, and began to pull teeth in the old way, by
hand. I have an impression that Slugg's patent can be bought at a
[Illustration: DR. SLUGG'S INVENTION]
Mr. Potts, a day or two later, resolved to take the aching tooth out
himself. He had heard that a tooth could be removed suddenly and
without much pain by tying a string around it, fixing the string to
a bullet and firing the bullet from a gun. So he got some string and
fastened it to the tooth and to a ball, rammed the latter into his
gun, and aimed the gun out of the window. Then he began to feel
nervous about it, and he cocked and uncocked the gun about twenty
times, as his mind changed in regard to the operation. The last time
the gun was cocked he resolved _not_ to take the tooth out in that
way, and he began to let the hammer down preparatory to cutting the
string. Just then the hammer slipped, and the next minute Mr. Potts'
tooth was flying through the air at the rate of fifty miles a minute,
and he was rolling over on the floor howling and spitting blood. After
Mrs. Potts had picked him up and given him water with which to wash
out his mouth he went down to the front window. While he was sitting
there thinking that maybe it was all for the best, he saw some men
coming by carrying a body on a shutter. He asked what was the matter,
and they told him that Bill Dingus had been murdered by somebody.
Mr. Potts thought he would put on his hat and go down to the coroner's
office and see what the tragedy was. When he got there, Mr. Dingus
had revived somewhat, and he told his story to the coroner. He was
trimming a tree in Butterwick's garden, when he suddenly heard the
explosion of a gun, and the next minute a bullet struck him in the
thigh and he fell to the ground. He said he couldn't imagine who did
it. Then the doctor examined the wound and found a string hanging from
it, and a large bullet suspended upon the string. When he pulled the
string it would not move any, and he said it must be tied to
some other missile still in the flesh. He said it was the most
extraordinary case on record. The medical books reported nothing of
Then the doctor gave Mr. Dingus chloroform and proceeded to cut into
him with a knife to find the other end of the string, and while he was
at work Mr. Potts began to feel sick at his stomach and to experience
a desire to go home. At last the doctor cut deep enough; and giving
the string a jerk, out came a molar tooth that looked as if it
might have been aching. Then the doctor said the case was 'more
extraordinary than he had thought it was. He said that tooth couldn't
have been fired from a gun, because it would have been broken to
pieces; it couldn't have been swallowed by Dingus and then broken
through and buried itself in his thigh, for then how could the string
and ball be accounted for?
"The occurrence is totally unaccountable upon any reasonable theory,"
said the doctor, "and I do not know what to believe, unless we are to
conceive that the tooth and the ball were really meteoric stones that
have assumed these remarkable shapes and been shot down upon the earth
with such force as to penetrate Mr. Dingus' leg, and this is so very
improbable that we can hardly accept it unless it is impossible to
find any other. Hallo! What's the matter with you, Potts? Your mouth
and shirt are all stained with blood!"
"Oh, nothing," said Potts, forgetting himself. "I just lost a tooth,
"You lost a--Who pulled it?" asked the doctor.
"Gentlemen," said Potts, "the fact is I shot it out with my gun."
Then they put Potts under bail for attempted assassination, and Dingus
said that as soon as he got well he would bang Mr. Potts with a club.
When the crowd had gone, the coroner said to Potts,
"You're a mean sort of a man, now, ain't you?"
"Well, Mr. Maginn," replied Potts, "I really didn't know Mr. Dingus
was there; and the gun went off accidentally, any way."
"Oh, it isn't that," said the coroner--"it isn't that. I don't mind
your shooting him, but why in the thunder didn't you kill him while
you were at it, and give me a chance? You want to see me starve, don't
you? I wish you'd a buried the tooth in his lung and the ball in his
liver, and then I'd a had my regular fees. But as it is, I have all
the bother and get nothing. I'd starve to death if all men were like
And Potts went away with a dim impression that he had injured Maginn
rather more than Mr. Dingus.
* * * * *
Coroner Maginn's condition, however, is one of chronic discontent.
Upon the occasion of a recent encounter with him I said to him,
"Business seems to be dull to-day, Mr. Maginn."
"Dull! Well, that's just no name for it. This is the deadest town I
ever--Well, exceptin' Jim Busby's tumblin' off the market-house last
month, there hasn't been a decent accident in this place since last
summer. How'm I goin' to live, I want to know? In other countries
people keep things movin'. There are murders and coal-oil explosions
and roofs fallin' in--'most always somethin' lively to afford a
coroner a chance. But here! Why, I don't get 'nough fees in a year to
keep a poll-parrot in water-crackers. I don't--now, that's the honest
"That does seem discouraging."
"And then the worst of it is a man's friends won't stand by him.
There's Doolan, the coroner in the next county. He found a drowned man
up in the river just beyond the county line. I ought to have had the
first shy at the body by rights, for I know well enough he fell in
from this county and then skeeted up with the tide. But no; Doolan
would hold the inquest; and do you believe that man actually wouldn't
float the remains down the river so's I could sit on 'em after he'd
got through? Actually took 'em out and buried 'em, although I offered
to go halves with him on my fees if he would pass the body down this
way. That's a positive fact. He refused. Now, what do you think of a
man like that? He hasn't got enough soul in him to be worth preachin'
to. That's my opinion."
"It wasn't generous."
"No, sir. Why, there's Stanton come home from Peru with six mummies
that he dug out of some sepulchre in that country. They look exackly
like dried beef. Now, my view is that I ought to sit on those things.
They're human beings; nobody 'round here knows what they died of. The
law has a right to know. Stanton hasn't got a doctor's certificate
about 'em, and I'm sworn to look after all dead people that can't
account for bein' dead, or that are suspicioned of dyin' by foul play.
I could have made fifty dollars out of those deceased Peruvians, and
I ought to've done it. But no! Just as I was about to begin, the
supervisors, they shut down on it; they said the county didn't care
nothin' about people that had been dead for six hundred years, and
they wouldn't pay me a cent. Just as if _six thousand_ years was
anything in the eye of the law, when maybe a man's been stabbed, or
something, and when I'm under oath to tend to him! But it's just my
luck. Everything appears to be agin me, 'specially if there's money in
"You do seem rather unfortunate."
"Now, there's some countries where they frequently have earthquakes
which rattle down the houses and mash people, and volcanoes which
burst out and set hundreds of 'em afire, and hurricanes which blow 'em
into Hereafter. A coroner can have some comfort in such a place as
that. He can live honest and respectable. Just think of settin' on
four or five hundred bodies killed with an earthquake! It makes my
mouth water. But nothin' of that sort ever happens in this jackass
kind of a land. Things go along just 'sif they were asleep. We've got
six saw-mills 'round this town, but nobody ever gets tangled in the
machinery and sawed in half. We've got a gunpowder-factory out beyond
the turnpike, but will that ever go up? It wouldn't if you was to toss
a red-hot stove in among the powder--leastways, not while I'm coroner.
There's a river down there, but nobody ever drowns in it where I can
have a hitch at him; and if there's a freshet, everybody at once gets
out of reach. If there's a fire, all the inmates get away safe, and no
fireman ever falls off a ladder or stands where a wall might flatten
him out. No, sir; I don't have a fair show. There was that riot out
at the foundry. In any other place three or four men would have been
killed, and there'd a been fatness for the coroner; but of course,
bein' in my county, nothin' occurred exceptin' Sam Dixon got kicked
in the ribs and had part of his ear bitten off. A man can't make an
honest livin' under sech circumstances as them; he can't, really."
"It does appear difficult."
"I did think maybe I might get the supervisors to let me go out to
the cemetery and set on the folks that are buried there, so's I could
overhaul 'em and kinder revise the verdicts that've been rendered on
'em. I'd a done it for half price; but those fellows have got such
queer ideas of economy that they wouldn't listen to it; said the town
couldn't go to any fresh expense while it was buildin' water-works.
And I wanted to put the new school-house out yer by the railroad or
down by the river, so's some of the children'd now and then get
run over or fall in; but the parents were 'posed to it for selfish
reasons, and so I got shoved out of that chance. Yes, sir, it's rough
on me; and I tell you that if there are not more sudden deaths in this
county the law's got to give me a salary, or I'm goin' to perish by
starvation. Not that I'd mind that much for myself, but it cuts me up
to think that as soon as I stepped out the next coroner'd begin right
off to earn a livin' out of me."
Then I said "Good-morning" and left, while Mr. Maginn selected a fresh
stick to whittle. Mr. Maginn, however, had one good chance recently to
The country around the town of Millburg is of limestone formation. The
town stands, as has already been mentioned, on a high hill, at the
foot of which there is a wonderful spring, and the belief has always
been that the hill is full of great caves and fissures, through which
the water makes its way to feed the spring. A year or two ago they
organized a cemetery company at Millburg, and they located the
graveyard upon the hill a short distance back of the town. After
they had deposited several bodies in the ground, one day somebody
discovered a coffin floating in the river. It was hauled out, and it
turned out to be the remains of Mr. Piggott, who was buried in the
cemetery the day before. The coroner held an inquest, and they
reinterred the corpse.
On the following morning, however, Mr. Piggott was discovered bumping
up against the wharf at the gas-works in the river. People began to
be scared, and there was some talk to the effect that he had been
murdered and couldn't rest quietly in his grave. But the coroner was
not scared. He empaneled a jury, held another inquest, collected his
fees and buried the body. Two days afterward some boys, while in
swimming, found a burial-casket floating under the bushes down by the
saw-mill. They called for help, and upon examining the interior of the
casket they discovered the irrepressible Mr. Piggott again. This was
too much. Even the ministers began to believe in ghosts, and hardly
a man in town dared to go out of the house that night alone. But the
coroner controlled his emotions sufficiently to sit on the body, make
the usual charges and bury Mr. Piggott in a fresh place in his lot.
The next morning, while Peter Lamb was drinking out of the big spring,
he saw something push slowly out of the mud at the bottom of the pool.
He turned as white as a sheet as he watched it; and in a few minutes
he saw that it was a coffin. It floated out, down the creek into the
river, and then Peter ran to tell the coroner. That official had a
jury waiting, and he proceeded to the coffin. It was old Mr. Piggott,
as usual; and they went through the customary routine with him, and
were about to bury him, when his family came forward and said they
would prefer to inter him in another place, being convinced now there
must be a subterranean channel leading from the cemetery to the
spring. The coroner couldn't object; but after the Piggotts were gone
he said to the jury that people who would take the bread out of the
mouth of a poor man in that way would be certain to come to want
themselves some day. He said he could easily have paid off the
mortgage on his house and let his little girl take lessons on the
melodeon besides, if they'd just allowed Piggott to wobble around the
way he wanted to.
There was no more trouble up at the cemetery after that until they
buried old Joe Middles, who used to have the fish-house over the river
at Deacon's. They entombed the old man on Thursday night. On Friday
morning one of the Keysers was walking down on the river-bank, and he
saw a man who looked very much like Mr. Middles sitting up in a canoe
out in the stream fishing. He watched the man as he caught two or
three fish, and was just about to conclude that it was some unknown
brother of Mr. Middles, when the fisherman looked up and said,
[Illustration: JOE MIDDLES]
"Who are you?" asked Keyser.
"Who am I? Why, Joe Middles, of course. Who'd you think I was?"
remarked the fisherman.
"You ain't Joe Middles, for he's dead. I went to his funeral
"Funeral!" exclaimed the fisherman as he stepped ashore. "Well, now,
by George! maybe that explains the thing. I've been bothering myself
the worst kind to understand something. You know that I remember being
at home in bed, and then I went to sleep somehow; and when I woke up,
it was dark as pitch. I gave a kick to stretch myself, and knocked the
lid off of this thing here--a canoe I thought it was; and then I set
up and found myself out here in the river. I took the lid to split
into paddles, and I saw on it a plate with the words 'Joseph Middles,
aged sixty-four;' and I couldn't imagine how in thunder that ever got
on that lid. Howsomdever, I pulled over to the shanty and got some
lines and bait and floated out again, thinking while I was here I
might as well get a mess of fish before I got home. And so it's a
coffin, after all, and they buried me yesterday. Well, that beats the
very old Harry, now, don't it? I'm going to row right over to the
house. How it'll skeer the old woman to see me coming in safe and
Then the resurrected Mr. Middles paddled off. The cemetery company
failed the following month, from inability to sell the lots.
_JUSTICE, AND A LITTLE INJUSTICE_.
The administration of justice in this county is chiefly in the hands
of Judge Twiddler; and while his methods generally are excellent, he
sometimes makes unpleasant mistakes. Mr. Mix was the victim of one
such blunder upon a recent occasion. Mr. Mix is bald; and in order to
induce his hair to grow again, he is using a very excellent article
of "hair vigor" upon his scalp. Some time ago he was summoned as a
juryman upon a case in the court, and upon the day of the trial, just
before the hour at which the court met, he remembered that he had not
applied the vigor to his head that morning. He had only a few minutes
to spare, but he flew up stairs and into the dark closet where he kept
the bottle; and pouring some fluid upon a sponge, he rubbed his head
energetically. By some mishap Mr. Mix got hold of the wrong bottle,
and the substance with which he inundated his scalp was not vigor, but
the black varnish with which Mrs. Mix decorated her shoes. However,
Mix didn't perceive the mistake, but darted down stairs, put on his
hat and walked off to the courtroom. It was a very cold morning, and
by the time Mix reached his destination the varnish was as stiff as
a stone. He felt a little uncomfortable about the head, and he
endeavored to remove his hat to discover the cause of the difficulty,
but to his dismay it was immovable. It was glued fast to the skin, and
his efforts to take it off gave him frightful pain.
Just then he heard his name called by the crier, and he had to go into
court to answer. He was wild with apprehension of coming trouble;
but he took his seat in the jury-box and determined to explain the
situation to the court at the earliest possible moment. As he sat
there with a guilty feeling in his soul it seemed to him that his hat
kept getting bigger and bigger, until it appeared to him to be as
large as a shot-tower. Then he was conscious that the lawyers were
staring at him. Then the clerk looked hard at him and screamed, "Hats
off in court!" and Mix grew crimson. "Hats off!" yelled the clerk
again, and Mix was about to reply when the judge came in, and as his
eye rested on Mix he said,
"Persons in the court-room must remove their hats."
"May it please Your Honor, I kept my hat on because--"
"Well, sir, you must take it off now."
"But I say I keep it on because I----"
"We don't want any arguments upon the subject, sir. Take your hat off
instantly!" said the judge.
"But you don't let me--"
"Remove that hat this moment, sir! Are you going to bandy words with
me, sir? Uncover your head at once!"
"Judge, if you will only give me a chance to--"
"This is intolerable! Do you mean to insult the court, sir? Do you
mean to profane this sacred temple of justice with untimely levity?
Take your hat off, sir, or I will fine you for contempt. Do you hear
"Well, it's very hard that I can't say a word by way of ex--"
"This is too much," said the judge, warmly--"this is just a little
too much. Perhaps you'd like to come up on the bench here and run the
court and sentence a few convicts? Mr. Clerk, fine that man fifty
dollars. Now, sir, remove your hat."
"Judge, this is rough on me. I----"
"Won't do it yet?" said the judge, furiously. "Why, you impudent
scoundrel, I've a notion to--Mr. Clerk, fine him one hundred dollars
more, and, Mr. Jones, you go and take that hat off by force."
Then the tipstaff approached Mix, who was by this time half crazy with
wrath, and hit the hat with his stick. It did not move. Then he struck
it again and caved in the crown, but it still remained on Mix's head.
Then he picked up a volume of Brown _On Evidence_, and mashed the
crown in flat. Then Mix sprang at him; and shaking his fist under the
nose of Jones, he shrieked,
"You miserable scullion, I've half a notion to kill you! If that
jackass on the bench had any sense, he could see that the hat is glued
fast. I can't take it off if I wanted to, and I wouldn't take it off
now if I could."
[Illustration: A COURT SCENE]
Then the judge removed the fines and excused him, and Mix went home.
He slept in his hat for a week; and even when it came off, the top of
his head looked as black as if mortification had set in.
But if the judge is too particular, our sheriff is hardly careful
enough. The manner in which he permits our jail to be conducted always
seemed to me interesting and original.
One day I wanted to hire a man to wheel half a dozen loads of rubbish
out of my garden, and after looking around a while I found a seedy
chap sitting on the end of a wharf fishing. When I asked him if he
would attend to the job, he replied thus:
"I really can't. I'm sorry; but the fact is I'm in jail for six months
for larceny--sentenced last December. I don't mind it much, only they
don't act honest with me up at the jail. The first week I was there
Mrs. Murphy--she's the keeper's wife--wanted to clean up, and so she
turned me out, and I had to hang round homeless for more'n a week.
Then, just as I was getting settled agin comfortably, the provisions
ran short, and Murphy tried to borrow money of me to feed the
convicts; and as I had none to lend, out I had to go agin. In about
two weeks I started in fresh and got everything snug and cheerful,
when Murphy's aunt stepped out. Then what does that ass do but put me
out agin and lock up the jail and put crape on the door, while he went
off to the funeral.
"So, of course, I had to browse around, huntin' up meals where I could
get them, sometimes nibblin' somethin' at the tavern and other times
takin' tea with a friend. Well, sir, hardly was that old woman buried,
and me once more in the cell with the home-like feelin' beginnin' to
creep over me, but Murphy, he says he and his wife's got to go up
to the city to get a hired girl; and when I refused to quit, Murphy
grabbed me by the collar and pushed me into the street, and said he'd
sick his dog on me if I came around there makin' a fuss.
"I hung about a few days; and when I went to the jail, the boy said
Murphy hadn't got back and I'd have to call agin. Next time I applied
the boy hollered from the window that he was 'engaged' and couldn't
see me. Murphy was still rummagin' for that hired girl. I went there
eight times, and there was always some jackass of an excuse for
crowdin' me out, and I don't know if I'll ever get in agin. Night
afore last I busted a window with a brick and tried to crawl in
through the hole, but the boy fired a gun at me, and said if I'd just
wait till Mr. Murphy came back he'd have me arrested for burglary.
"Now, I think I've been treated mighty bad. I've got a right in that
jail, and it's pretty mean in a man like Murphy to shove me off in
weather like this; and I'm bound to live six months in the prison some
time or other, whether he likes it or not. I don't mind puttin' myself
to some trouble to oblige a friend, but I hate like thunder to be
"'Pears to me it's no way to run a penal institution any way. There's
Botts; he's in jail for perjury for nine years, and Murphy's actually
turned that convict out so often and made him run 'round after his
meals that Botts has lost heart, and has gone to canvassin' for a life
insurance company--gone to perambulatin' all over the country tryin'
to do a little somethin' to keep clothes on his back, when he ought to
be layin' serenely in that jail. But I ain't goin' to do that. If
the law keeps me in custody, it's got to support me; and that's what
Simpson says, too. Ketch him workin' for his livin'. He's in for four
years for assault and battery; and when they turn him out of the jail,
he puts up at a hotel and has the bills sent in to Murphy.
"Murphy don't have consideration for the prisoners, any way. You know
he raises fowls in the jail-yard; and just after Christmas he had a
big lot of turkeys left on his hands, and do you believe that man
actually kept feedin' us on those turkeys for more than a month?
Positively refused to allow us anything else until they was gone. I
had half a notion to quit for good. I was disgusted. And Simpson
said if that is the way they were goin' to treat convicts, why,
civilization is a failure. All through Lent, too, wouldn't allow us an
oyster; kept stuffin' us with beef and such trash, although Botts said
he'd never been used to such wickedness, for his parents were very
particular. Wouldn't even give us fish-balls twice a week. But what
does Murphy care? He's perfectly enthusiastic when he can tread on a
man's feelin's and stamp all the moral sensibility out of him.
"And Mrs. Murphy, she's not much better. All the warm days she's
home she hustles that baby of hers onto me. Makes me take the little
sucklin' out in his carriage for an airin', and then gets mad if he
falls out while I'm conversin' for a few minutes with a friend. I'd
a slid him into the river long ago, only I know well enough they'd
sentence me for life, and then I'd maybe have to stand Murphy's
persecution for about forty years; and that'd kill me. It would
indeed. He's so inconsiderate.
"He used to give me the key of the jail to keep while he'd go over to
Barnes' to fight roosters or to play poker, and one day I lost it.
He raised an awful fuss, and even Botts was down on me because they
couldn't keep the boys out, and they used to come in and tickle Botts
with straws while he was sleepin' in his cell. I believe they expect
Murphy back day after to-morrow, but I know mighty well I'm not goin'
to have much satisfaction when he does come. He'll find some excuse
for shufflin' me out 'bout as soon as I get stowed away in my old
quarters. If he does, I've got a notion to lock him out some night and
run the jail myself for a while, so's I kin have some peace. There's
such a thing as carryin' abuses a little too far. Excuse me for a
minute. I think I have a bite."
Then I left to hunt for another man. I feel that the Society for the
Alleviation of the Sufferings of Prisoners has a great work to perform
in our town.
_THE TRAMP WITH GENIUS AND WITHOUT IT_.
The tramp is as familiar a figure in the village and the surrounding
country as he is in other populous rural neighborhoods. The ruffian
tramp, of course, is the most constant of the class, but now and then
appears one of the fraternity who displays something like genius in
his attempts to impose himself upon people as a being of a higher
order than an idle, worthless vagabond. A fellow of this description
came into the editorial room of the _Patriot_ one day while I was
sitting there, and announced in a loud voice that he was a professor
of pisciculture and an aspirant for a position upon the State Fish
Commission. As the statement did not attract the attention of anybody,
he seated himself in a chair, placed his feet upon the table, and
aiming with surprising accuracy at a spittoon, said his name was
Powell. Still nobody paid any attention to him, but the fact did not
seem to depress his spirits, for he talked straight ahead fluently and
with some vehemence:
"What are they doing for the fishery interest, any way, these
commissioners? What do they know about fishing? More'n likely when
they go out they hold the hook in their hands and let the pole float
in the water. Why, one of 'em was talking with me the other day, and
says he, 'Powell, I want the Legislature to make an appropriation for
the cultivation of canned lobsters in the Susquehanna.' 'How are you
going to do it?' says I. 'Why,' says he, 'my plan is to cross the
original lobster with some good variety of tin can, breed 'em in and
in, and then feed the animal on solder and green labels.'
"Perfect ass, of course; but I let him run along, and pretty soon he
says, 'I've just bought half a barrel of salt mackerel, which I'm
going to put in the Schuylkill. My idea,' says he, 'is to breed a
mackerel that'll be all ready soaked when you catch him. The ocean
mackerel always tastes too much of the salt. What the people want is
a fish that is fresher.' And so, you know, that immortal idiot is
actually going to dump those mackerel overboard in the hope that
they'll swim about and make themselves at home. Well, if the governor
_will_ appoint such chuckle-head commissioners, what else can you
"However, I said nothing. I wasn't going to set him up in business
with my brains and experience, and so, directly, he says to me,
'Powell, I'm now engaged in transplanting some desiccated codfish into
the Schuylkill; but it scatters too much when it gets into the
water. Now, how would it do to breed the ordinary codfish with a
sausage-chopper or a mince-meat machine? Do you think a desiccated
codfish would rise to a fly, or wouldn't you have to fish for him with
a colander?' And so he kept reeling out a jackassery like that until
directly he said, 'I'll tell you, professor, what this country needs
is a fresh-water oyster. Now, it has occurred to me that maybe the
best variety to plant would be the ordinary fried oyster. It seems to
be popular, and it has the advantage of growing without a shell.
One of the other commissioners,' so this terrific blockhead said,
'insisted on trying the experiment with the oyster that produces
tripe, so's to enable the people to catch tripe and oysters when they
go a-fishing. But for my part,' says he, 'I want either the fried
oyster or the kind that grow in pie crust, like they have 'em at the
restaurants.' Actually said that.
"Well, he driveled along for a while, talking the awfulest bosh; and
pretty soon he asked me if I was fond of mock-turtle soup. Said
that the commission had discovered the feasibility of adding the
mock-turtle to the food-animals of our rivers. He allowed that he had
understood that they could be cultivated best by spawning calves'
heads on forcemeat balls, and that they were in season for the table
during the same months of the year that gravy is. And he said that a
strenuous effort ought to be made to have our rivers swarming with
this delicious fish.
"And then he talked a whole lot of delirious slush of that kind, and
about improving the tadpole crop, and so on, until I--Wh-wh-what d'you
say? Want me to take my legs off that table and quit? You don't want
to hear any more news about the fisheries? Oh, all right; there's
plenty of other papers that'll be glad to get the intelligence. Next
time you want my views about pisciculture you'll have to send for me."
Then the professor aimed again at the spittoon, missed it, rubbed the
ragged crown of his forlorn hat with his shining elbow, buttoned up
his coat over a shirt-bosom which last saw the washerwoman during the
presidency of General Harrison, and sauntered out and down stairs. The
impression that he left was that he would be more available to the
Fish Commission as bait than in any other capacity.
Upon another occasion a more forlorn and dismal vagabond, a cripple,
too, sauntered into Brown's grocery-store, where a crowd was sitting
around the stove discussing politics. Taking position upon a nail-keg,
"Mr. Brown, you don't want to buy a first-rate wooden leg, do you?
I've got one that I've been wearing for two or three years, and I want
to sell it. I'm hard up for money; and although I'm attached to that
leg, I'm willing to part with it so's I kin get the necessaries of
life. Legs are all well enough; they are handy to have around the
house, and all that; but a man must attend to his stomach if he has
to walk about on the small of his back. Now, I'm going to make you an
offer. That leg is Fairchild's patent; steel springs, India-rubber
joints, elastic toes and everything, and it's in better order now than
it was when I bought it. It'd be a comfort to any man. It's the most
luxurious leg I ever came across. If bliss ever kin be reached by a
man this side of the tomb, it belongs to the person that gets that leg
on and feels the consciousness creeping over his soul that it is his.
Consequently, I say that when I offer it to you I'm doing a personal
favor; and I think I see you jump at the chance and want to clinch the
bargain before I mention--you'll hardly believe it, I know--that I'll
actually knock that leg down to you at four hundred dollars. Four
hundred, did I say? I meant six hundred; but let it stand. I never
back out when I make an offer; but it's just throwing that leg
away--it is, indeed."
"But I don't want an artificial leg," said Brown.
"The beautiful thing about the limb," said the stranger, pulling up
his trousers and displaying the article, "is that it is reliable. You
kin depend on it. It's always there. Some legs that I've seen were
treacherous--most always some of the springs bursting out, or the
joints working backward, or the toes turning down and ketching in
things. Regular frauds. But it's almost pathetic the way this leg goes
on year in and year out like an old faithful friend, never knowing an
ache or a pain, no rheumatism, nor any such foolishness as that, but
always good-natured and ready to go out of its way to oblige you. A
man feels like a man when he gets such a thing under him. Talk about
your kings and emperors and millionaires, and all that sort of
nonsense! Which of 'em's got a leg like that? Which of 'em kin unscrew
his knee-pan and look at the gum thingamajigs in his calf? Which of
'em kin leave his leg down stairs in the entry on the hat-rack and go
to bed with only one cold foot? Why, it's enough to make one of them
monarchs sick to think of such a convenience. But they can't help it.
There's only one man kin buy that leg, and that's you. I want you to
have it so bad that I'll deed it to you for fifty dollars down. Awful,
isn't it? Just throwing it away; but take it, take it, if it does make
my heart bleed to see it go out of the family."
"Really, I have no use for such a thing," said Mr. Brown.
"You can't think," urged the stranger, "what a benediction a leg like
that is in a family. When you don't want to walk with it, it comes
into play for the children to ride horsey on; or you kin take it off
and stir the fire with it in a way that would depress the spirits of
a man with a real leg. It makes the most efficient potato-masher you
ever saw. Work it from the second joint and let the knee swing loose;
you kin tack carpets perfectly splendid with the heel; and when a cat
sees it coming at him from the winder, he just adjourns _sine die_
and goes down off the fence screaming. Now, you're probably afeard of
dogs. When you see one approaching, you always change your base. I
don't blame you; I used to be that way before I lost my home-made leg.
But you fix yourself with this artificial extremity, and then what do
you care for dogs? If a million of 'em come at you, what's the odds?
You merely stand still and smile, and throw out your spare leg, and
let 'em chaw, let 'em fool with that as much as they're a mind to, and
howl and carry on, for you don't care. An' that's the reason why I say
that when I reflect on how imposing you'd be as the owner of such a
leg I feel like saying that if you insist on offering only a dollar
and a half for it, why, take it; it's yours. I'm not the kinder man to
stand on trifles. I'll take it off and wrap it up in paper for you;
"I'm sorry," said Brown, "but the fact is I have no use for it. I've
got two good legs already. If I ever lose one, why, maybe then I'll--"
"I don't think you exactly catch my idea on the subject," said the
stranger. "Now, any man kin have a meat-and-muscle leg; they're as
common as dirt. It's disgusting how monotonous people are about such
things. But I take you for a man who wants to be original. You have
style about you. You go it alone, as it were. Now, if I had your
peculiarities, do you know what I'd do? I'd get a leg snatched off
some way, so's I could walk around on this one. Or if you hate to go
to the expense of amputation, why not get your pantaloons altered and
mount this beautiful work of art just as you stand? A centipede, a
mere ridicklous insect, has half a bushel of legs, and why can't a
man, the grandest creature on earth, own three? You go around this
community on three legs, and your fortune's made. People will go wild
over you as the three-legged grocer; the nation will glory in you;
Europe will hear of you; you will be heard of from pole to pole. It'll
build up your business. People'll flock from everywheres to see you,
and you'll make your sugar and cheese and things fairly hum. Look at
it as an advertisement! Look at it any way you please, and there's
money in it--there's glory, there's immortality. I think I see you now
moving around over this floor with your old legs working as usual, and
this one going clickety-click along with 'em, making music for you all
the time and attracting attention in a way to fill a man's heart with
rapture. Now, look at it that way; and if it strikes you, I tell you
what I'll do: I'll actually swap that imperishable leg off to you for
two pounds of water-crackers and a tin cup full of Jamaica rum. Is it
Then Brown weighed out the crackers, gave him an awful drink of rum,
and told him if he would take them as a present and quit he would
confer a favor. And he did. After emptying the crackers in his pockets
and smacking his lips over the rum, he went to the door, and as he
opened it he said,
"Good-bye. But if you ever really do want a leg, Old Reliable is ready
for you; it's yours. I consider that you've got a mortgage on it, and
you kin foreclose at any time. I dedicate this leg to you. My will
shall mention it; and if you don't need it when I die, I'm going to
have it put in the savings' bank to draw interest until you check it
out. I'll bid you good-evening."
The tramp that has a dog to sell is a little more common than such
children of genius as the professor and the owner of the patent leg.
But I had with one of them a queer experience which may be worth
One day recently a rough-looking vagabond called at my house,
accompanied by a forlorn mongrel dog. I came out upon the porch to see
him, and he said,
"I say, pardner, I understood that you wanted to buy a watch-dog, and
I brought one around for you You never seen such a dog for watching as
this one You tell that dog to watch a thing, and bet your life he'll
sit down and watch it until he goes stone blind. Now, I'll tell you
what I'll let you have--"
I cut his remarks short at this point with the information that I
didn't want a dog, and that if I had wanted a dog nothing on earth
could induce me to accept that particular dog. So he left and went
down the street. He must have made a mistake and come in again through
the back gate, thinking it was another place, for in a few minutes the
cook said there was a man in the kitchen who wanted to see me; and
when I went down, there was the same man with the same dog. He didn't
recognize me, and as soon as I entered he remarked,
"I say, old pard, somebody was saying that you wanted to buy a
watch-dog. Now, here's a watch-dog that'd rather watch than eat any
time. Give that dog something to fasten his eye on--don't care what
it is: anything from a plug hat to a skating-rink--and there his eye
stays like it was chained with a trace-chain. Now, I'll tell you what
I'll do with--"
I suddenly informed him in a peremptory tone that nothing would induce
me to purchase a dog at that moment, and then I pushed him out and
shut the door. When he was gone, I went across the street to see
Butterwick about top-dressing my grassplot. He was out, and I sat down
on the porch chair to wait for him. A second later the proprietor of
the dog came shuffling through the gate with the dog at his heels.
When he reached the porch, he said, not recognizing me,
"I say, pardner, the man across the street there told me you wanted a
good watch-dog, and I came right over with this splendid animal. Look
at him! Never saw such an eye as that in a dog, now, did you? Well,
now, when this dog fixes that eye on anything, it remains. There it
stays. Earthquakes, or fires, or torchlight processions, or bones, or
nothing, can induce him to move. Therefore, what I say is that I offer
you that dog for--"
[Illustration: A DOG FOR SALE]
Then I got up in silence and walked deliberately out into the street,
and left the man standing there. As I reached the sidewalk I saw
Butterwick going into Col. Coffin's office. I went over after him,
while the man with the dog went in the opposite direction. Butterwick
was in the back office; and as the front room was empty, I sat down
in a chair until he got through with Coffin and came out. In a few
minutes there was a rap at the door. I said,
The door slowly opened, and a dog crept in. Then the man appeared. He
didn't seem to know me. He said,
"I say, old pardy--I dunno your right name--I'm trying to sell a
watch-dog; that one there; and I thought maybe you might be hungry to
get a valuable animal who can watch the head off of any other dog in
this yer county, so I concluded to call and throw him away for the
ridic'lous sum of--"
"I wouldn't have him at any price."
"What! don't want him? Don't want a dog with an eye like a two-inch
auger, that'll sit and watch a thing for forty years if you'll tell
him to? Don't want a dog like that?"
"Certainly I don't".
"Well, this _is_ singular. There don't appear to be a demand for
watch-dogs in this place, now, does there? You're the fourth man I've
tackled about him. You really don't want him?"
"Of course not."
"Don't want any kind of a dog--not even a litter of good pups or a
"Well, maybe you could lend me five dollars on that dog. I'll pay you
"Can't do it."
"Will you take him as a gift, and give me a chaw of terbacker?"
"I don't chew."
"Very strange," he muttered, thoughtfully. "There's no encouragement
for a man in this world. Sure you won't take him?"
"Then, you miserable whelp, git out of here, or I'll kick the breath
out of you. Come, now, git!" And he gave the dog a kick that sent him
into the middle of the street, and then withdrew himself.
The trade in dogs certainly is not active in Millburg.
_THE DOG OF MR. BUTTERWICK'S, AND OTHER DOGS_.
One day I met Mr. Butterwick in the street leading his dog with a
chain. He said that it was a very valuable dog and he was anxious to
get it safely home, but he had to catch a train, and I would confer a
personal favor upon him if I would take the dog to my house and keep
it until he returned from the city. The undertaking was not a pleasant
one, but I disliked to disoblige Butterwick, and so I consented.
Butterwick gave me his end of the chain and left in a hurried manner.
I got the dog home with the greatest difficulty, and turned it into
the cellar. About an hour later I received a telegram from Butterwick
saying that he had been compelled to go down to the lower part of
Jersey, and that he wouldn't be home for a week or two. That was on
the 12th of June, and after that time only two persons entered the
cellar. The hired girl went down once after the cold beef, and came up
disheveled and bleeding, with a number of appalling dog-bites in
her legs, and I descended immediately afterward for the purpose of
pacifying the infuriated animal. He did not feel disposed to become
calm, however, and I deem it probable that if I had not suddenly
clambered into the coal-bin, where I remained until he fell asleep in
a distant corner about four hours later, I should certainly have been
torn to pieces. We thought we would have to try to get along with out
using the cellar until Butterwick could come up and take away his dog.
But Butterwick wrote to say that he couldn't come, and the dog, after
eating everything in the cellar and barking all through every night,
finally bolted up stairs into the kitchen on the 2d of July, and
established himself in the back yard. After that we used the front
door exclusively while we were waiting for Butterwick to come up. The
dog had fits regularly, and he always got on the geranium-bed when he
felt them coming on; and consequently, we did not enjoy our flowers
as much as we hoped to. The cherries were ripe during the reign of
Butterwick's dog, but they rotted on the trees, all but a few, which
were picked by Smith's boy, who subsequently went over the fence in a
sensational manner without stopping to ascertain what Butterwick's dog
was going to do with the mouthful of drawers and corduroy trousers
that he had removed from Smith's boy's leg. As Butterwick did not come
up, the dog enjoyed himself roaming about the yard a while; but one
day, finding the back window in the parlor open, he jumped in and
assumed control of that apartment and the hall. I tried to dislodge
him with a clothes-prop, but I only succeeded in knocking two costly
vases off of the mantel-piece, and the dog became so excited and
threatening that I shut the door hurriedly and went up stairs four
steps at a time.
[Illustration: SMITH'S BOY RETREATS]
There was nothing to interest him especially in the parlor, and
I cannot imagine why he wanted to stay there. But he did; and as
Butterwick didn't come up, we couldn't dislodge him. On Thursday he
smashed the mirror during an attempt to get up a fight with another
dog that he thought he saw in there, and he clawed the sofa to rags.
On Saturday he had a fit in the hall, and spoiled about eight square
yards of Brussels carpet utterly. When he recovered, he went back into
the parlor. At last I borrowed Coffin's dog and sent him in to fight
Butterwick's dog out. It was an exhilarating contest. They fought on
the chairs and sofas; they upset a table and smashed all the ornaments
on it; they scattered blood and hair in blotches all over the carpet;
they got entangled in one of the lace curtains and dragged it and the
frame down with a crash; they scratched and bit and tore and frothed
and yelled; and at last Coffin's dog gave in, put his tail between
his legs and retreated, while Butterwick's dog got on a sixty-dollar
Turkish rug, so that he could bleed comfortably.
It didn't seem to occur to him to go home, and still Butterwick didn't
come up. The next day I loaded a shot-gun and determined to kill him
at any sacrifice. I aimed carefully at him, but at the critical moment
he dodged, and two handfuls of bird-shot went into the piano and tore
it up badly. Then I tossed some poisoned meat' at him, but he ate all
around the poison, and seemed to feel better after the meal than he
had done for years. Finally, Butterwick came home, and he called to
get his dog. He entered the parlor bravely and attempted to seize
the animal, when it bit him. I was never so glad in my life. Then
Butterwick got mad; and seizing the dog by the tail, he smashed him
through my French glass window into the street. Then I was not so very
glad. Then the dog went mad and a policeman killed him. The next time
I am asked to take a strange dog home I will kill him to begin with.
When I explained to Colonel Coffin the unpleasant nature of my
experience with Mr. Butterwick's dog, the colonel said that he had had
a good deal to do lately, in a legal way, with dogs; and he gave me
the facts respecting two interesting cases. The first was Tompkins'
A man called at the colonel's law-office one day and said,
"Colonel, my name is Tompkins. I called to see you about a dog
difficulty that bewilders me, and I thought maybe you might throw some
light on it--might give me the law points, so's I'd know whether it
was worth while suing or not.
"Well, colonel, you see me and Potts went into partnership on a dog;
we bought him. He was a setter; and me and Potts went shares on him,
so's to take him out a-hunting. It was never exactly settled which
half of him I owned and which half belonged to Potts; but I formed an
idea in my own mind that the hind end was Tompkins' and the front end
Potts'. Consequence was that when the dog barked I always said, 'There
goes Potts half exercising himself;' and when the dog's tail wagged, I
always considered that my end was being agitated. And, of course,
when one of my hind legs scratched one of Potts' ears or one of his
shoulders, I was perfectly satisfied--first, because that sort of
thing was good for the whole dog; and, second, because the thing would
get about even when Potts' head would reach around and bite a flea off
my hind legs or snap at a fly.
"Well, things went along smooth enough for a while, until one day that
dog began to get into the habit of running around after his tail. He
was the foolishest dog about that I ever saw. Used to chase his tail
round and round until he'd get so giddy he couldn't bark. And you know
I was scared lest it might hurt the dog's health; and as Potts didn't
seem to be willing to keep his end from circulating in pursuit of my
end, I made up my mind to chop the dog's tail off, so's to make him
reform and behave. So last Saturday I caused the dog to back up agin a
log, and then I suddenly dropped the axe on his tail pretty close up,
and the next minute he was running around that yard howling like a
boat-load of wild-cats. Just then Potts came up, and he let on to be
mad because I'd cut off that tail. One word brought on another; and
pretty soon Potts set that dog on me--my own half too, mind you--and
the dog bit me in the leg. See that! look at that leg! About half a
pound gone; et up by that dog.
"Now, what I want to see you about is this: Can't I recover damages
for assault and battery from Potts? What I chopped off belonged to me,
recollect. I owned an undivided half of that setter pup, from the tip
of his tail clear up to his third rib, and I had a right to cut away
as much of it as I'd a mind to; while Potts, being sole owner of the
dog's head, is responsible when he bites anybody, or when he barks at
"I don't know," replied the colonel, musingly. "There haven't been any
decisions on cases exactly like this. But what does Mr. Potts say upon
"Why, Potts' view is that I divided the dog the wrong way. When he
wants to map out his half he draws a line from the middle of the nose
right along the spine and clear to the end of the tail. That gives me
one hind leg and one fore leg and makes him joint proprietor in the
tail. And he says that if I wanted to cut off my half of the tail I
might have done it, and he wouldn't've cared, but what made him mad
was that I wasted his property without consulting him. But that theory
seems to me a little strained; and if it's legal, why, I'm going to
close out my half of the dog at a sacrifice sooner than hold any
interest in him on those principles. Now, what do you think about it?"
"Well," said the colonel, "I can hardly decide so important a question
off-hand; but at the first glance my opinion is that you own the whole
dog, and that Potts also owns the whole dog. So when he bites you, a
suit won't lie against Potts, and the only thing you can do to obtain
justice is to make the dog bite Potts also. As for the tail, when it
is separated from the dog it is no longer the dog's tail, and it is
not worth fighting about."
"Can't sue Potts, you say?"
"I think not."
"Can't get damages for the piece that's been bit out of me?"
"I hardly think you can."
"Well, well, and yet they talk about American civilization, and
temples of justice, and such things! All right. Let it go. I can stand
it; but don't anybody ever undertake to tell me that the law protects
human beings in their rights. Good-morning."
"Wait a moment, Mr. Tompkins; you've forgotten my fee."
"F-f-f-fee! Why, you don't charge anything when I don't sue, do you?"
"Certainly, for my advice. My fee is ten dollars."
"Ten dollars! Ten dollars! Why, colonel, that's just what I paid for
my half of that dog. I haven't got fifty cents to my name. But I'll
tell you what I'll do: I'll make over all my rights in that setter pup
to you, and you kin go round and fight it out with Potts. If that dog
bites me again, I'll sue you and Potts as sure as my name's Tompkins."
The other case was of a somewhat more serious character. Upon a
subsequent occasion a man hobbled into the office upon crutches.
Proceeding to a chair and making a cushion of some newspapers, he sat
down very gingerly, placed a bandaged leg upon another chair, and
"Col. Coffin, my name is. Briggs. I want to get your opinion about a
little point of law. Now, colonel, s'posin' you lived up the 'pike
here a half a mile, next door to a man named Johnson. And s'posin' you
and Johnson was to get into an argument about the human intellect,
and you was to say to Johnson that a splendid illustration of the
superiority of the human intellect was to be found in the power of
the human eye to restrain the ferocity of a wild animal. And s'posin'
Johnson was to remark that that was all bosh, because nobody _could_
hold a wild animal with the human eye, and you should declare that you
could hold the savagest beast that was ever born if you could once fix
your gaze on him.
"Well, then, s'posin' Johnson was to say he'd bet a hundred dollars he
could bring a tame animal that you couldn't hold with your eye, and
you was to take him up on it, and Johnson was to ask you to come down
to his place to settle the bet. You'd go, we'll say, and Johnson'd
wander round to the back of the house and pretty soon come front
again with a dog bigger'n any four decent dogs ought to be. And then
s'posin' Johnson'd let go of that dog and set him on you, and he'd
come at you like a sixteen-inch shell out of a howitzer, and you'd
get scary about it and try to hold the dog with your eye, and
couldn't. And s'posin' you'd suddenly conclude that maybe your kind
of an eye wasn't calculated to hold that kind of a dog, and you'd
conclude to run for a plum tree in order to have a chance to collect
your thoughts, and to try to reflect what sort of an eye would be
best calculated to mollify that sort of a dog. You ketch my idea, of
"Very well, then; s'posin you'd take your eye off of that dog,
Johnson, mind you, all the time hissing him on and laughing, and you'd
turn and rush for the tree, and begin to swarm up as fast as you
could. Well, sir, s'posin' just as you got three feet from the ground
Johnson's dog would grab you by the leg and hold on like a vise,
shaking you until you nearly lost your hold. And s'posin' Johnson was
to stand there and holloa, "Fix your eye on him, Briggs! Why don't you
manifest the power of the human intellect?" and so on, howling out
ironical remarks like those; and s'posin' he kept that dog on that leg
until he made you swear to pay the bet, and then at last had to pry
the dog off with a hot poker, bringing away at the same time some of
your flesh in the dog's mouth, so that you had to be carried home on
a stretcher, and to hire several doctors to keep you from dying with
"S'posin' this, what I want to know is, couldn't you sue Johnson for
damages and make him pay heavily for what that dog did? That's what I
want to get at."
The colonel thought for a minute and then said, "Well, Mr. Briggs, I
don't think I could. If I agreed to let Johnson set the dog at me, I
should be a party to the transaction and I could not recover."
"Do you mean to say that the law won't make that infernal scoundrel
Johnson suffer for letting his dog eat me up?"
"I think not, if you state the case properly."
"It won't, hey?" exclaimed Mr. Briggs, hysterically. "Oh, very well,
very well! I s'pose if that dog had chewed me all up and spit me out
it'd've been all the same to this constitutional republic. But hang me
if I don't have satisfaction. I'll kill Johnson, poison his dog, and
emigrate to some country where the rights of citizens are protected.
If I don't, you may bust me open!"
Then Mr. Briggs got on his crutches and hobbled out. He is still a
citizen, and will vote at the next election.
_A PERSECUTED JOURNALIST_.
That the editor of every daily paper is persecuted by poetasters is an
unquestionable fact; and it is probable that some of the worst of the
sufferers would be justified in taking extreme measures to protect
themselves from such outrages. But that Major Slott of _The Patriot_
ever proposed to murder a poet in self-defence I doubt. The editor of
a rival sheet in our county declares, however, that the major actually
thirsts for blood; and in proof of the assertion he has printed the
following narrative, which, he says, he obtained from Mr. Grady, the
"One day recently the major sent for a policeman; and when Mr. Grady,
of the force, arrived, the major shut the door of his sanctum and
asked him to take a seat.
"Mr. Grady," he said, "your profession necessarily brings you into
contact with the criminal classes and familiarizes you with them. This
is why I have sent for you. My business is of a confidential nature,
and I trust to your honor to regard it as a sacred trust confided in
you. Mr. Grady, I wish to ascertain if among your acquaintances of the
criminal sort you know of any one who is a professional assassin--who
rents himself out to any one who wants to destroy a fellow-creature?
Do you know of such a person?'
"'I dunno as I do,' said Mr. Grady, thoughtfully rubbing his chin.
'There's not much demand for murderers now.'
"'Well,' said the editor, 'I wish you'd look around and see if you can
light on such a man, and get him to do a little job for me. I want a
butcher who will slay a person whom I will designate. I don't care
how he does it. He may stab him, or drown him, or bang him with a
shot-gun. It makes no difference to me; I will pay him all the same.
Now, will you get me such a man?'
"'I s'pose I might. I'll look round, any way.'
"'Between you and me,' said the editor, 'the chap I'm going to
assassinate is a poet--a fellow named Markley. He has been sending
poetry to this paper every day for eight months. I never printed a
line, but he keeps stuffing it in as if he thought I was depositing it
in the bank and drawing interest on it. Well, sir, it's got to be so
bad that it annoys me terribly. It keeps me awake at night. I'm losing
flesh. That man and his poetry haunt me. I'm getting gloomy and
morose. Life is beginning to pall upon me. I seem to be under the
influence of a perpetual nightmare. I can't stand it much longer, Mr.
Grady; my reason will totter upon its throne. Here, only this morning,
he sent me a poem entitled "Lines to Hannah." Are you fond of poetry,
"'Oh, I dunno; I don't care so very much about it.'"
"'Well, I'll read you one verse of the "Lines to Hannah." He says--to
Hannah, mind you--
"The little birds sing sweetly
In the weeping willows green,
The village girls dress neatly--
Oh, tell me, do I dream?"
Now, you see, Grady, that is what is unseating my mind. A man can't
stand more than a certain amount of that kind of thing. What do the
public care whether he is dreaming or whether he is drunk? What does
Hannah care? Why, they don't care a cent. Now, do they?
"'Not a red cent.'
"'Of course not. And yet Markley sends me another poem, entitled
"Despondency," in which he exclaims,
"Oh, bury me deep in the ocean blue,
Where the roaring billows laugh;
Oh, cast me away on the weltering sea,
Where the dolphins will bite me in half."
Now, Mr. Grady, if you can find a competent assassin, I wouldn't make
it a point with him to oblige Mr. Markley. I don't care particularly
to have the poet buried in the weltering sea. If he can't find a
roaring billow, I'll be perfectly satisfied to have him chucked into a
creek. And I dare say that it'll make no material difference whether
the dolphins gobble him or the catfish and eels nibble him up. It's
all the same in the long run. Mention this to your murderer when you
speak to him, will you? Now, I'll show you why this thing takes all
the heart out of me. In his poem entitled "Longings" he uses this
"Oh, sing to me, darling, a sweet song to-night,
While I bask in the smile of thine eyes,
While I kiss those dear lips in the dark silent room,
And whisper my saddening good-byes."
Now, you see how it is yourself, Grady, don't you? How is she going to
sing to him while he kisses those lips, and how is he going to whisper
good-bye? Isn't that awful slush? Now, isn't it? And then, if the room
is dark, what I want to know is how he's going to tell whether her
eyes are smiling or not? Mr. Grady, either the man is insane or I am;
and if your butcher is going to stab Markley, you'll oblige me by
telling him that I want him to jab him deep, and maybe fill him up
with poison or something to make it absolutely certain.
"'I know that when he sent me that poem about "The Unknown" I parsed
it, and examined it with a microscope, and sent it around to a
chemist's to be analyzed, but hang me if I know yet what he's driving
at when he says,
"The uffish spectral gleaming of that wild resounding clang
Came hooting o'er the margin of the dusky moors that hang
Like palls of inky darkness where the hoarse, weird raven calls,
And the bhang-drunk Hindoo staggers on and on until he falls."
Isn't that--Well, now, isn't that just the most fearful mess of stuff
that was ever ground out of a lunatic asylum?'
"'It's the awfullest I ever saw.'
"'Well, then, I get eighteen of them a week, and they madden me.
They keep my brain in a frenzied whirl. Grady, this man must die.
Self-preservation is the first law of nature. I have a wife and
children; I conduct a great paper; I educate the public mind. My life
is valuable to my country. Destroy this poet, and future generations
will praise your name. He must be wiped out, exterminated, obliterated
from the face of the earth. Kill him dead and bury him deep, and
fix him in so's he will stay down, and bring in the bill for the
tombstone. I leave the case to you. You need not tell me you have done
this job. When the poems cease to come to me, I will know that he is
dead. That will settle it. Good-morning.'"
It is believed that the poet must have been warned by Grady, for the
supplies suddenly ceased; and Markley is saving up his effusions for
some other victim.
* * * * *
But the major has other persecutors. One of them came into the
editorial-room of the _Patriot_ during one of those very hot days in
June. Major Slott was perspiring in an effort to hammer out an article
on "The Necessity for Speedy Resumption." The visitor seized a chair
and nudged up close to the major. Then he said,
"My name is Partridge. I called to show you a little invention of
"Haven't got time to look at it. I'm busy."
"I see you are. Won't keep you more'n a minute" (removing his hat).
"Look at that hat and tell me how it strikes you."
"Oh, don't bother me! I'm not interested in hats just now."
"I know you ain't, and that's not a hat. That's Partridge's Patent
Atmospheric Refresher. Looks exactly like a high hat, don't it? Now,
what's the thing you want most this kind of weather?"
"The thing I want most is to have you skip out of here."
"What everybody wants is to keep cool, of course. Now, how are you
going to do it? Why, if you know when you are well off, you will do it
with this hat. But how? I will explain. If you compress air until it
attains a considerable pressure, and then suddenly release it, the
rapid expansion causes the air to absorb heat and to produce quite a
marked degree of cold. You know this, of course?"
"I wish you'd compress _your_ air, and then expand it in the ears of
somebody besides me."
"Now, in my invention I have utilized this beautiful law of nature in
a manner that is certain to confer an inestimable blessing upon the
human race. This hat is really made of light boiler iron covered with
silk. The compressed air is contained in it. At the present moment it
is subjected to a pressure of eighty-seven pounds to the square inch.
If that hat should explode while I am sitting here, it would blow the
roof off of this building."
"So it killed you I wouldn't care."
"Well, sir, the way I work this wonderful appliance is this: The
air-pump is concealed in the small of my back, under my coat. A pipe
connects it with the receiver in my hat, and there is a kind of crank
running down my right trouser leg and fastened to my boot, so that
the mere act of walking pumps the air into the receiver. But how do
I effect the cooling process? Listen: Another pipe comes from
the receiver and empties into a kind of a sheet-iron undershirt,
perforated with holes, which I wear beneath my outside shirt--"
"If you'd wear something _over_ that shirt, so as to hide the dirt,
you'd be more agreeable."
"Now, s'posin' it's a warm day. I'm going along the street with the
air-crank in operation. The receiver is full. I want to cool off. I
pull the string which runs down my left sleeve; the air rushes from
the receiver, suddenly expands about my body, and makes me feel so
cold that I wish I had brought my overcoat with me."
"I wish to gracious you'd go home and get it now."
"You see, then, that this invention is of the utmost value and
importance, and my idea in calling upon you was to give you a chance
to mention and describe it in your paper, so that the public might
know about it. You are the only editor I have revealed the secret to.
I thought I'd give you the first chance to become a benefactor of your
"I'm the kind of benefactor that charges one dollar a line for such
"To assure yourself that the machine is perfect you must try it for
yourself. Just stand up and take your coat off. Then I'll put the hat
on your head, screw the pump into the small of your back and fix the
other machinery down your legs."
"I'll see you hanged first."
"Well, then, I'll put it on myself and illustrate the theory for you.
You see the rod here in my trousers? This is the air-pump here,
just above my suspender buttons. The hat now contains about six
atmospheres. Now I am ready to move. See? You observe how it works?
The only noise you hear is a slight click of the valve in the pump. A
couple more turns, and you put your hand on my shirt-collar and feel
how near zero it is. I will get the pressure up to one hundred pounds
As soon as the major began to realize the situation he crawled out from
beneath his overturned desk, wiped the contents of the inkstand from his
face and hair with the copy of that unfinished article upon "The
Necessity for Speedy Resumption," and looked about him. Mr. Partridge
was lying in the corner with a splintered table over his legs, his head
in a spittoon, and fragments of ruined machinery bursting out through
enormous rents in his trousers and his coat. His cast-iron undershirt
protruded in jagged points from a dozen orifices in his waistcoat. As
the major took him by the leg to haul him out of the _debris_ Partridge
opened his eyes wearily and said,
"Awful clap, wasn't it? You ought to've had lightning-rods on this
building. Struck by lightning, wasn't I?"
"You intolerable ass!" exclaimed the major as the clerks and reporters
came rushing in and began to place Partridge on his legs; "it wasn't
lightning. It was that infernal machine that you wanted me to put on
my head. If it had driven you under ground about forty feet, I'd have
been glad, even if it had also demolished the building."
"What! the receiver exploded, did it? Too bad, ain't it? Blamed if I
didn't think she was strong enough to bear twice that pressure. I must
have made a mistake in my calculations, however," said Partridge,
pinning up his clothes and holding his handkerchief to his bloody
nose; "I'll have another one made, and come around to show you the
invention to better advantage."
"If you do, I'll brain you with an inkstand," said the major.
Then Partridge limped out, and the major, abandoning the subject of
resumption, began a fresh editorial upon "The Extraordinary Prevalence
of Idiots at the Present Time."
* * * * *
The _Patriot_ has shown a remarkable amount of enterprise lately in
obtaining, or professing to obtain, an interview with the Wandering
Jew. The reader can form his own estimate of the value of the report,
which appeared in the _Patriot_ in the following fashion:
Reports were floating about the city yesterday to the effect that the
Wandering Jew had been seen over in New Jersey. A reporter was sent
over at once to hunt him up, and to interview him if he should be
found. After a somewhat protracted search the reporter discovered
a promising-looking person sitting on the top rail of a fence just
outside of Camden engaged in eating some crackers and cheese. The
reporter approached him and addressed him at a venture:
"Beautiful day, Cantaphilus!"
This familiarity seemed necessary; because if the Wandering Jew has
any family name, the fact has not been revealed to the public.
"Bless my soul, young man, how on earth did you know me?" exclaimed
"Oh, I don't know; something about your appearance told me who it was.
I'm mighty glad to see you, any way. When did you arrive?"
"I came on here yesterday. Been down in Terra del Fuego, where I heard
about the Centennial, and I thought I'd run up and have a look at it.
Be a good thing, I reckon. Time flies, though, don't it? Seems to me
only yesterday that a man over here in Siberia told me that you people
were fighting your Revolutionary war."
[Illustration: THE WANDERING JEW]
He sat upon the fence as he talked; his feet, cased in gum shoes,
rested on the third rail from the bottom; his umbrella was under his
arm; his face was deeply wrinkled, and his long white beard bobbed up
and down as he ate his lunch voraciously, diving into his carpet-bag
every now and then for more. The reporter remarked that he feared that
such a liberal diet of cheese would disagree with the eater, but the
old man said,
"Why, my goodness, sonny, I've been hunting all over the earth for
seventeen centuries for something to disagree with me. That's what I
yearn for. If I could only get dyspepsia once, I might hope to wear
myself out. But it's no use. I could lunch on a pound of nails and
feel as comfortable as a baby after a bottle of milk. That's one of my
peculiarities. You know nothing ever hurts me. Why, I've been thrown
out of volcanoes--lemme see: well, dozens of times--and never been
singed a bit. 'Most always, in real cold weather, I step over to Italy
and roost around inside of Vesuvius; and then, maybe, there's an
eruption, and I'm heaved out a couple of hundred miles or so, but
always safe and sound. What I don't know about volcanic eruptions, my
child, isn't worth knowing. I went sailing around through the air when
Pompeii was destroyed. Yes, sir, I was there; saw the whole thing.
Why, I could tell you the most wonderful stories. You wouldn't
"How do you travel generally?"
"Oh, different ways. I have gone around some in sleeping-cars, and had
my baggage checked through; but generally I prefer to walk. I'm never
in a hurry, and I like to take my own route. I'm a mighty good walker.
I did think of getting up some kind of a pedestrian match with some
of your champion walkers, but it's no use; it'd only create an
"How do people treat you usually?"
"Well, I can't complain. Snap me up for a tramp sometimes, or make
disagreeable remarks about me. But generally I get along well enough.
The undertakers are hardest on me. They say I exercise a depressing
influence on their business by setting a bad example to other people;
and one of 'em, over in Constantinople, he said a man who'd defrauded
about fifty-four generations of undertakers ought to be ashamed to
show his face in civilized society. But bless you, sonny, I don't mind
them. Business, you know, is business. It's perfectly natural for them
to feel that way about it; now, isn't it?"
"Will you have a cigar, after eating?"
"No; none for me. Raleigh wanted me to learn to smoke when he was in
Virginia, but I didn't care for it. You remember him, of course?
Oh no; I forgot how young you are. Pleasant man, but a little too
chimerical. I liked Columbus better. Nero was a man who'd've suited
you newspaper people. 'Most always a murder every day. And then that
fire in Rome when he fiddled; made a splendid report for the papers,
wouldn't it? Poor sort of a man, though. The only time I ever saw him
was when he was drowning his mother. Dropped the old lady over and let
her drift off as if he didn't care a cent."
"Talking of newspapers, how would you like to make an engagement as
the traveling correspondent of the _Patriot_?"
"Well, I dunno. I wouldn't mind sending you a letter now and then, but
I don't care to make any regular engagement. You see I haven't written
a great deal for about eighteen hundred years, and a man kind of gets
out of practice in that time. I write such an awful poor hand, too.
No; I guess I won't contribute regularly. I have thought sometimes
maybe I might do a little work as a book-agent, so's to pick up a few
stray dollars. But I never had a fair chance offered to me, and I
didn't care enough about it to hunt it up; and so nothing ever came
of it. I could make a good book fairly hum around this globe, though,
don't you think?"
"Were you ever married? Did you ever have a wife?"
"See here, my son, I never did you any harm, and what's the use of
your bringing up such disagreeable reminiscences? The old lady died in
Egypt in 73. They made her up into a mummy, and I reckon they put a
pyramid on her to hold her down. That's enough; that satisfies me."
"Is your memory generally good?"
"Well, about fair; that's all. I know I used to get Petrarch mixed up
in my mind with St. Peter, and I've several times alluded to Plutarch
as the god of the infernal regions. I'm often hazy about people. The
queerest thing! You know that once, in conversation with Benjamin
Franklin, I confounded Mark Antony with Saint Anthony, and actually
alluded to the saint's oration over the dead body of Caesar. Positive
fact. I'll tell you how I often keep the run of things: I say of a
certain event, 'That happened during the century that I was bilious,'
or, 'It occurred in the century when I had rheumatism.' That's the way
I fix the time. I did commence to keep a diary back in 134, but I ran
up a stack of manuscript three or four hundred feet high, and then I
gave it up. Couldn't lug it round with me, you know."
"I suppose you have known a great many celebrated people?"
"Plenty of 'em--plenty of 'em, sir. By the way, did anybody ever tell
you that you looked like Mohammed? Well, sir, you do. Astonishing
likeness! Now, _there_ was an old scalawag for you. A perfect fraud! I
lent that man a pair of boots in 598, and he never returned them; said
I'd get my reward hereafter. I've regretted those boots for nearly
thirteen hundred years."
"Did it ever occur to you to lecture?"
"Oh yes; I've turned it over in my mind. But I guess I won't. You see,
my son, I'm so crammed full of information that if I began a discourse
I could hardly stop under a couple of years; and that's too long for a
lecture, you know. Then they might _encore_ it; and so I hardly think
I'd better go in. No, I'll just trudge along in the old fashion."
"Have you any views about the questions of the day? Are you in favor
of soft money or hard?"
"Young man, the advice to you of a man who has studied the world for
nearly two thousand years is to take any kind you can get. That's
Then, as the old man babbled on, he descended from the fence,
shouldered his umbrella, and together the two started for the ferry.
He said he wanted to buy a new suit of clothes. That he had on he had
bought in 1807 in Germany, and it was beginning to get threadbare. So
the reporter led him over the river, put him in a horse-car, asked him
to send his address to the office, and the aged pilgrim nudged up into
a corner seat, put his valise on the floor and sailed serenely out of
sight amid the reverberation of the oaths hurled by the driver at an
Irish drayman who occupied the track in front of the car.
_THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF DR. PERKINS_.
It might be hardly fair to say that Doctor Perkins, a former resident
of the village, was a quack; he may be described in milder phrase
as an irregular practitioner. He belonged to none of the accepted
schools, but treated his patients in accordance with certain theories
of his own. The doctor had a habit of relating remarkable stories of
his own achievements, and the most wonderful of these was his account
of an attempt that he once made to cure a man named Simpson of
consumption by the process of transfusion of blood. The doctor,
according to his own story, determined to inject healthy blood into
As no human being was willing to shed his blood for Simpson, the
doctor bled Simpson's goat; and opening a vein in Simpson's arm, he
injected about two quarts of the blood into the patient's system.
Simpson immediately began to revive, but, singular to relate, no
sooner had his strength returned than he jumped out of bed; and
twitching his head about after the fashion of a goat, he made a savage
attempt to butt the doctor. That medical gentleman, after having
Simpson's head plunged against his stomach three or four times, took
refuge in the closet; whereupon Simpson banged his head against the
panel of the door a couple of times, and would probably have broken
it to splinters had not his mother-in-law entered at that moment and
diverted his attention. One well-directed blow from Simpson floored
her, and then, while she screamed for help, Simpson frolicked around
over the floor, making assiduous efforts to nibble the green flowers
in the ingrain carpet. When they called the hired man in and tied him
down on the bed, an effort was made to interview him, but the only
answer he could give to such questions as how he felt and when he
wanted his medicine was a "ba-a" precisely like that of a goat, and
then he would strain himself in an effort to butt a hole in the
headboard. The condition of the patient was so alarming, and Mrs.
Simpson was so indignant, that Dr. Perkins determined to undo the evil
if possible. So he first bled Simpson freely, and then, by heavily
bribing Simpson's Irishman, he procured fresh blood from him, and
injected Simpson the second time. Simpson recovered, but he shocked
his old Republican friends by displaying an irresistible tendency to
vote the Democratic ticket, and made his mother-in-law mad by speaking
with a strong brogue. He gradually gave up butting, and never indulged
in it in a serious manner but once, and that was on a certain Sunday,
when, one of the remaining corpuscles of goat's blood getting into his
brain just as he was going into church, he butted the sexton halfway
up the aisle, and only recovered himself sufficiently to apologize
just as the enraged official was about to floor him with a hymn-book.
[Illustration: SIMPSON'S CASE]
But the doctor did not succeed with private practice in Millburg,
and so one day he made up his mind to try to get out of poverty by
inventing a patent medicine. After some reflection he concluded that
the two most frequent and most unpopular forms of infirmity were
baldness of head and torpidity of the liver, and he selected compounds
recommended by the pharmacopoeia as the remedies which he would sell
to the public. One he called "Perkins' Hair Vigor," and the other
"Perkins' Liver Regulator." Procuring a large number of fancy bottles
and gaudy labels, he bottled the medicines and advertised them
extensively, with certificates of imaginary cures, which were written
out for him by a friend whose liver was active and whose hair was
It is not at all unlikely that Perkins would have achieved success
with his enterprise but for one unfortunate circumstance: he was
totally unfamiliar with the preparations, excepting in so far as
the pharmacopoeia instructed him; and as ill-luck would have it, in
putting them up he got the labels of the liver regulator on the hair
vigor bottles, and the labels of the latter on the bottles containing
the former. Of course the results were appalling; and as Doctor
Perkins had requested the afflicted to inform him of the benefits
derived from applying the remedies, he had not sold more than a few
hundred bottles before he began to hear from the purchasers.
One day, as he was coming out of his office, he observed a man sitting
on the fire-plug with a shotgun in his hand and thunder upon his
brow. The man was bare-headed, and his scalp was covered with a shiny
substance of some kind. When he saw Perkins, he emptied one load of
bird-shot into the inventor's legs, and he was about to give him the
contents of the other barrel, when Perkins hobbled into the office and
shut the door. The man pursued him and tried to break in the door with
the butt of the gun. He failed, and Perkins asked him what he meant by
such murderous conduct.
"You come out here, and I'll show you what I mean, you scoundrel!"
said the man. "You step out here for a minute, and I'll blow the head
off of you for selling me hair vigor that has gummed my head up so
that I can't wear a hat and can't sleep without sticking to the
pillow-case. Turned my scalp all green and pink, too. You put your
head out of that door, and I'll give you more vigor than you want, you
idiot! I expect that stuff'll soak in and kill me."
Then the man took his seat again on the fire-plug, and after reloading
the barrel of his gun put on a fresh cap and waited. Perkins remained
inside and sent a boy out the back way for the mail. The first letter
he opened was from a woman, who wrote:
"My husband took one dose of your liver regulator and immediately went
into spasms. He has had fits every hour for four days. As soon as he
dies I am coming on to kill the fiend who poisoned him."
A clergyman in Delaware wrote to ask what were the ingredients of the
liver regulator. He feared something was wrong, because his aunt had
taken the medicine only twice, when she began to roll over on the
floor and howl in the most alarming manner, and she had been in a
comatose condition for fifteen hours.
A man named Johnson dropped a line to say that after applying the hair
vigor to his scalp he had leaned his head against the back of a chair,
and it had now been in that position two days. He feared he would
never be released unless he cut up the chair and wore the piece
permanently on his head. He was coming to see Perkins in reference to
the matter when he got loose, and he was going to bring his dog with
A Mr. Wilson said that his boy had put some of the vigor on his face
in order to induce the growth of a moustache, and that at the present
moment the boy's upper lip was glued fast to the tip of his nose and
his countenance looked as if it had been coated with green varnish.
There were about forty other letters, giving the details of sundry
other cases of awful suffering and breathing threatenings and
slaughter against Mr. Perkins. Just as Mr. Perkins was finishing
these epistles a friend of his came rushing in through the back door
breathless, and exclaimed,
"By George, Aleck, you better get over the fence and leave town as
quick as you can. There's thunder to pay about those patent medicines
of yours. Old Mrs. Gridley's just gone up on that liver regulator,
after being in convulsions for a week. Thompson's hired girl is lying
at the last gasp, four of the Browns have got the awfulest-looking
heads you ever saw from the hair vigor, and about a dozen other people
are up at the sheriff's office taking out warrants for your arrest.
The people are talking of mobbing you, and the crowd out here on the
pavement are cheering a green-headed man with a gun who says he's
going to bang the head off of you. Now, you take my advice and skip.
It'll be sudden death to stay here. Leave! that's your only chance."
Then Doctor Perkins got over the fence and ran for the early train,
and an hour later the mob gutted his office and smashed the entire
stock of remedies. Perkins is in Canada now, working in a saw-mill.
He is convinced that there is no money for him in the business of
relieving human suffering.
_GENERAL TRUMPS OF THE MILITIA_.
The principal warrior in our community is General Trumps, the
commander of the militia of the district. The general has seen service
in the South and West, and is a pretty good soldier. In these happy
days of peace, however, he does not often have an opportunity to
display his fighting qualities, but sometimes even now, when he is
provoked to wrath, he becomes bloodthirsty and ferocious. Last summer
the general went to Cape May. Previous to his arrival two young men,
whom I will call Brown and Jones, occupied adjoining rooms at a
certain hotel. One day Brown fixed a string to the covers on Jones'
bed and ran the cord through the door into his own room. His purpose
was to pull the covers off as soon as Jones got comfortably fixed for
the night. But that afternoon General Trumps came down; and as the
hotel was crowded, the landlord put Jones in the room with Brown and
gave Jones' apartment to the general. Brown forgot about the string,
and he and Jones went to bed. About midnight Jones' dog, while
prowling around the room, got the string tangled about his leg, and in
struggling to reach the window he slowly dragged the bed-clothes off
of the soldier, next door. That gentleman awoke, and after scolding
his wife for removing the blankets went to sleep again. Presently
Jones' dog saw a rat and darted after it. Off came the covers again.
Then the man of war was angry. He roused his wife and scolded her
vigorously. She protested her innocence, and while she was speaking
Jones' dog heard another dog outside, and hurried to the window to
bark. The covers were again removed. Then the general fumbled about
until he found the cord. Then he loaded up his revolver, drew his
sword and dared Jones and Brown to open their door and come out into
the entry. They peeped at him over the transom, observed his warlike
preparations, glanced at the string and the dog, packed their
carpet-bags, slid down the water-spout outside, and went home in the
five-o'clock train. The manner in which that battle-scarred veteran
roared around the hotel during the day was said to have been
frightful; and when rumors came that Brown and Jones had gone to
another place in the neighborhood, he spent the day hunting for them
with a purpose to commit violence. He gradually became calmer, and as
his anger subsided the humorous aspect of the matter appeared, and he
felt rather glad that he had not encountered the two young men.
[Illustration: THE GENERAL IN A RAGE]
Several years ago the general was out upon the plains fighting the
Indians. One of the men who accompanied his command was a Major
Bing. It happened that the major was captured by the savages, and it
devolved upon the general to bear the melancholy tidings to Mrs. Bing.
It appears that while the general was on his way home Mrs. Bing
moved into another house; and when the general returned with the sad
intelligence, he did not know of the fact, but went to the old house,
which was now occupied by Mrs. Wood. He told the servant-girl to tell
her mistress to come into the parlor, and then he took a seat on the
sofa and thought how he could break the news of the major's death to
her so as not to give her too violent a shock. When Mrs. Wood entered,
the general greeted her mournfully; and when they had taken seats, the
following conversation ensued:
"Madam, I have been the major's friend ever since our childhood. I
played with him when we were boys together. I grew up to manhood with
him; I watched with pride his noble and successful career; I rejoiced
when he married the lovely woman before me; and I went to the West
with him. Need I tell you that I loved him? I loved him only less than
"I don't understand you, sir," said Mrs. Wood. "Whom are you referring
"Why, to the major. I say that your love for him alone was greater
than mine; and I am--"
"Your remarks are a mystery to me. I have no attachment of that kind."
"Call it what you will, madam. I know how strong the tie was between
you--how deep the devotion which kept two loving souls in perfect
unison. And knowing this, of course I feel deeply that to wound either
heart by telling of misfortune to the other is a task from which a man
like me might very properly shrink. But I have a duty to perform--a
solemn duty. What would you say, my dear madam, if I should tell you
that the major had lost a leg? What would you say to that?"
"I don't know. If I knew a major who had lost a leg, I should probably
advise him to buy a wooden one."
"Light-hearted as ever," said the general. "Just as he told me you
were. Poor woman! you will need your buoyant spirits yet. But, dear
madam, suppose the major had lost not only one leg, but two; both
gone; no legs at all; not a pin to stand on; now, how would that
"Really, sir, this is getting to be absurd. I don't care whether your
major has as many legs as a centipede or none at all. If you have any
business with me, please transact it as quickly as possible."
"Madam, this is too serious a subject for jest The major has lost not
only his legs, but his arms. He is absolutely without limbs of any
kind at this moment. That's as true as I'm sitting here. Now, don't
"I haven't the slightest idea of screaming."
"Well, you take it mighty cool, I must say. But that's not the worst
of it. All his ribs are gone, his nose has departed, and he only has
one eye and a part of one shoulder-blade. I pledge you my word that's
the truth. I hardly think he will recover."
"I shouldn't think he would, in that condition; but, upon my life, I
cannot see that the fact interests me at all."
"Not interest you! Well, that is amazing! Not int--Why, my goodness,
woman, that's not half of it. The major's scalp's all gone; he hasn't
enough fuzz on his head to make a camel's-hair pencil; he has a stake
through his body, and he's been burnt until he is all doubled up in a
hard knot; and, in my private opinion, it's mighty unlikely he'll ever
be untied and straightened out again. If that doesn't fetch you, you
must have a heart of stone."
"I don't care anything about it, sir. It's none of my business."
"Well, then, as long as you're so indifferent, let me tell you, plump
and plain, that the major's dead as Julius Caesar! The Indians killed
him, burnt him and minced him up! Now, that's the solemn truth, and
his last words to me were, 'Break the news gently to Maria.' You see
the man loved you. He cared more for you than you seemed to do for
him. He would have welcomed death if he had known you had ceased to
"What did you say his last words were?"
"Why, just before his soul took its eternal flight he whispered
something in my ear. Then I made a sudden dash and escaped from the
savages, to bring his message back to you. That message was: 'Break
the news gently to Maria.' That's what the major said with his dying
"Well, then, why don't you break the news to Maria?"
"Madam, such levity is untimely. I have broken it--broken it gently.
You have heard it all."
"Do you suppose I am Major Bing's wife?"
"Well, she moved around into Market street last December. Maybe you'd
better hunt her up."
The general looked at Mrs. Wood solemnly for a minute, and then he
said he would. Then he bade Mrs. Wood good-morning, bowed himself out
and walked around to look for the widow. When the real widow heard the
news, she was deeply affected, and she sobbed in a most distressing
manner. Subsequently she went into mourning. The life insurance
company paid her the money due upon the major's policy. The major's
lodge passed resolutions of regret, his family divided up his
property, and the community settled down comfortably in the conviction
that the major was finally and hopelessly dead.
About a year afterward, however, Major Bing suddenly arrived in town
without announcing his coming. He had been held as a prisoner by the
Indians, and had escaped. As he stepped from the cars a policeman
looked at him a minute, then seized him by the collar and hurried
him around to the coroner's office. Before he could recover from
his amazement the coroner empaneled a jury, put the action of the
insurance company in evidence and promptly got from the jury a verdict
that "the said Bing came to his death at the hands of the Indians."
Then the major went to his house and found his widow sitting on the
front porch talking to Myers, the man to whom she was engaged to be
married. As he entered the gate his widow gave one little start of
surprise, and then, regaining her composure, she said to Myers,
"Isn't this a new kind of an idea--dead people coming around when
common decency requires them to keep quiet?"
"It's altogether wrong," said Myers. "If I was dead, I'd lie still and
quit wandering about over the face of the earth."
"Maria, don't you know me?" asked the major, indignantly.
"I used to know you when you were alive; but now that you're gone, I
don't expect to recognize you until we meet in a better world."
"But, Maria, I am not dead. You certainly see that I am alive."
"Not dead! Didn't you send word to me that you were? Am I to refuse
to believe my own husband? The life insurance company says you are
deceased; the lodge says so; the coroner officially asserts the fact.
What am I to do? The evidence is all one way."
"But you _shall_ accept me as alive!" shouted the major, in a rage.
"Mr. Myers," said the widow, calmly, "hadn't we better send for the
undertaker to come and bury these remains?"
"Look here!" said Myers. "I'm the last man to do a dead friend an
injury, but I ain't going to have any departed spirit coming in here
and giving this lady hysterics. You pack up and go back, and stay
there, or I'll have you hustled into a tomb quicker'n lightning. Hurry
up now; don't stop to think about it!"
"This beats the very old Harry!" said the major, in astonishment.
"No answering back, now," said Myers. "When I want communications
from the other world, I'll hunt up a spiritualist medium and get my
information out of knocks on a table. All you've got to do is to creep
off into the tomb somewhere and behave."
Back to Full Books