Nonsense Novels
Stephen Leacock

Part 2 out of 3

in the court."

Carefully dressed and shaved, Hezekiah descended. He was
introduced to the leading officials of the force, and spent a
pleasant hour of chat over a cigar, discussing the incidents of
the night before.

In the course of the morning a number of persons called to meet
and congratulate Hezekiah.

"I want to tell you, sir," said the editor of a great American
daily, "that your work of last night will be known and commented
on all over the States. Your shooting of the footman was a
splendid piece of nerve, sir, and will do much in defence of the
unwritten law."

"Mr. Hayloft," said another caller, "I am sorry not to have met
you sooner. Our friends here tell me that you have been in New
York for some months. I regret, sir, that we did not know you.
This is the name of my firm, Mr. Hayloft. We are leading lawyers
here, and we want the honour of defending you. We may! Thank
you, sir. And now, as we have still an hour or two before the
court, I want to run you up to my house in my motor. My wife is
very anxious to have a little luncheon with you."

The court met that afternoon. There was a cheer as Hezekiah

"Mr. Hayloft," said the judge, "I am adjourning this court for
a few days. From what I hear the nerve strain that you have
undergone must have been most severe. Your friends tell me that
you can hardly be in a state to take a proper interest in the
case till you have had a thorough rest."

As Hayloft left the court a cheer went up from the crowd, in
which the judge joined.

The next few days were busy days for Hezekiah. Filled with
receptions, civic committees, and the preparation of the brief,
in which Hezekiah's native intelligence excited the admiration
of the lawyers.

Newspaper men sought for interviews. Business promoters called
upon Hezekiah. His name was put down as a director of several
leading companies, and it was rumoured that in the event of his
acquittal he would undertake a merger of all the great burglar
protection corporations of the United States.

The trial opened a week later, and lasted two months. Hezekiah
was indicted on five charges--arson, for having burned the
steel cage of the elevator; misdemeanour, for shooting the
footman; the theft of the money, petty larceny; the killing of
the philanthropist, infanticide; and the shooting at the police
without hitting them, aggravated felony.

The proceedings were very complicated--expert evidence was
taken from all over the United States. An analytical
examination was made of the brain of the philanthropist.
Nothing was found.

The entire jury were dismissed three times on the grounds of
prejudice, twice on the ground of ignorance, and finally
disbanded on the ground of insanity.

The proceedings dragged on.

Meanwhile Hezekiah's business interests accumulated.

At length, at Hezekiah's own suggestion, it was necessary
to abandon the case.

"Gentlemen," he said, in his final speech to the court, "I
feel that I owe an apology for not being able to attend these
proceedings any further. At any time, when I can snatch an
hour or two from my business, you may always count on my
attendance. In the meantime, rest assured that I shall
follow your proceedings with the greatest interest."

He left the room amid three cheers and the singing of "Auld
Lang Syne."

After that the case dragged hopeless on from stage to stage.

The charge of arson was met by a _nolle prosequi_. The
accusation of theft was stopped by a _ne plus ultra_. The
killing of the footman was pronounced justifiable insanity.

The accusation of murder for the death of the philanthropist
was withdrawn by common consent. Damages in error were
awarded to Hayloft for the loss of his revolver and
cartridges. The main body of the case was carried on a
writ of _certiorari_ to the Federal Courts and appealed to
the Supreme Court of the United States.

It is there still.

Meantime, Hezekiah, as managing director of the Burglars'
Security Corporation, remains one of the rising generation
of financiers in New York, with every prospect of election
to the State Senate.

_VI. -- Sorrows of a Super Soul: or, The Memoirs of Marie Mushenough_
_(Translated, by Machinery, out of the Original Russian.)_

DO you ever look at your face in the glass?

I do.

Sometimes I stand for hours and peer at my face and wonder at it.
At times I turn it upside down and gaze intently at it. I try to
think what it means. It seems to look back at me with its great
brown eyes as if it knew me and wanted to speak to me.

Why was I born?

I do not know.

I ask my face a thousand times a day and find no answer.

At times when people pass my room--my maid Nitnitzka, or Jakub,
the serving-man--and see me talking to my face, they think I am

But I am not.

At times I cast myself on the sofa and bury my head in the cushions.
Even then I cannot find out why I was born.

I am seventeen.

Shall I ever be seventy-seven? Ah!

Shall I ever be even sixty-seven, or sixty-seven even? Oh!

And if I am both of these, shall I ever be eighty-seven?

I cannot tell.

Often I start up in the night with wild eyes and wonder if I shall
be eighty-seven.

* * *

Next Day.

I passed a flower in my walk to-day. It grew in the meadow beside
the river bank.

It stood dreaming on a long stem.

I knew its name. It was a Tchupvskja. I love beautiful names.

I leaned over and spoke to it. I asked it if my heart would ever
know love. It said it thought so.

On the way home I passed an onion.

It lay upon the road.

Someone had stepped upon its stem and crushed it. How it must have
suffered. I placed it in my bosom. All night it lay beside my pillow.

* * *

Another Day.

My heart is yearning for love! How is it that I can love no one?

I have tried and I cannot. My father--Ivan Ivanovitch--he is so
big and so kind, and yet I cannot love him; and my mother, Katoosha
Katooshavitch, she is just as big, and yet I cannot love her. And my
brother, Dimitri Dimitrivitch, I cannot love him.

And Alexis Alexovitch!

I cannot love him. And yet I am to marry him. They have set the day.
It is a month from to-day. One month. Thirty days. Why cannot I
love Alexis? He is tall and strong. He is a soldier. He is in the
Guard of the Czar, Nicholas Romanoff, and yet I cannot love him.

* * *

Next Day but one.

How they cramp and confine me here--Ivan Ivanovitch my father,
and my mother (I forget her name for the minute), and all the rest.

I cannot breathe.

They will not let me.

Every time I try to commit suicide they hinder me.

Last night I tried again.

I placed a phial of sulphuric acid on the table beside my bed.

In the morning it was still there.

It had not killed me.

They have forbidden me to drown myself.


I do not know why? In vain I ask the air and the trees why I
should not drown myself? They do not see any reason why.

And yet I long to be free, free as the young birds, as the very
youngest of them.

I watch the leaves blowing in the wind and I want to be a leaf.

Yet here they want to make me eat!

Yesterday I ate a banana! Ugh!

* * *

Next Day.

To-day in my walk I found a cabbage.

It lay in a corner of the hedge. Cruel boys had chased it
there with stones.

It was dead when I lifted it up.

Beside it was an egg.

It too was dead. Ah, how I wept--

* * *

This Morning.

How my heart beats. To-day A MAN passed. He passed:
actually passed.

From my window I saw him go by the garden gate and out
into the meadow beside the river where my Tchupvskja
flower is growing!

How beautiful he looked! Not tall like Alexis Alexovitch,
ah, no! but so short and wide and round--shaped like the
beautiful cabbage that died last week.

He wore a velvet jacket and he carried a camp stool and an
easel on his back, and in his face was a curved pipe with
a long stem, and his face was not red and rough like the
face of Alexis, but mild and beautiful and with a smile
that played on it like moonlight over putty.

Do I love him? I cannot tell. Not yet. Love is a gentle
plant. You cannot force its growth.

As he passed I leaned from the window and threw a rosebud
at him.

But he did not see it.

Then I threw a cake of soap and a toothbrush at him. But
I missed him, and he passed on.

* * *

Another Day.

Love has come into my life. It fills it. I have seen
HIM again. I have spoken with him. He sat beside the
river on his camp stool. How beautiful he looked, sitting
on it: how strong he seemed and how frail the little stool
on which he sat.

Before him was the easel and he was painting. I spoke to him.

I know his name now.

His name--. How my heart beats as I write it--no, I cannot
write it, I will whisper it--it is Otto Dinkelspiel.

Is it not a beautiful name? Ah!

He was painting on a canvas--beautiful colours, red and gold
and white, in glorious opalescent streaks in all directions.

I looked at it in wonder.

Instinctively I spoke to him. "What are you painting?" I said.
"Is it the Heavenly Child?"

"No," he said, "it is a cow!"

Then I looked again and I could see that it was a cow.

I looked straight into his eyes.

"It shall be our secret," I said; "no one else shall know."

And I knew that I loved him.

* * *

A Week Later.

Each morning I go to see Otto beside the river in the meadow.

He sits and paints, and I sit with my hands clasped about my
knees and talk to him. I tell him all that I think, all that
I read, all that I know, all that I feel, all that I do not

He listens to me with that far-away look that I have learned
to love and that means that he is thinking deeply; at times he
almost seems not to hear.

The intercourse of our minds is wonderful.

We stimulate one another's thought.

Otto is my master. I am his disciple!

Yesterday I asked him if Hegel or Schlegel or Whegel gives the
truest view of life.

He said he didn't know! My Otto!

* * *


Otto touched me! He touched me!

How the recollection of it thrills me!

I stood beside him on the river bank, and as we talked the
handle of my parasol touched the bottom button of his waistcoat.

It seemed to burn me like fire!

To-morrow I am to bring Otto to see my father.

But to-night I can think of nothing else but that Otto has
touched me.

* * *

Next Day.

Otto has touched father! He touched him for ten roubles.
My father is furious. I cannot tell what it means.

I brought Otto to our home. He spoke with my father, Ivan
Ivanovitch. They sat together in the evening. And now my
father is angry. He says that Otto wanted to touch him.

Why should he be angry?

But Otto is forbidden the house, and I can see him only in
the meadow.

* * *

Two Days Later.

To-day Otto asked me for a keepsake.

I offered him one of my hatpins. But he said no. He has
taken instead the diamond buckle from my belt.

I read his meaning.

He means that I am to him as a diamond is to lesser natures.

* * *

This Morning.

Yesterday Otto asked me for another keepsake. I took a gold
rouble from my bag and said that he should break it in half
and that each should keep one of the halves.

But Otto said no. I divined his thought. It would violate our
love to break the coin.

He is to keep it for both of us, and it is to remain unbroken
like our love.

Is it not a sweet thought?

Otto is so thoughtful. He thinks of everything.

To-day he asked me if I had another gold rouble.

* * *

Next Day.

To-day I brought Otto another gold rouble.

His eyes shone with love when he saw it.

He has given me for it a bronze kopek. Our love is to be as
pure as gold and as strong as bronze.

Is it not beautiful?

* * *


I am so fearful that Alexis Alexovitch may return.

I fear that if he comes Otto might kill him. Otto is so calm,
I dread to think of what would happen if he were aroused.

* * *

Next Day.

I have told Otto about Alexis. I have told him that Alexis is
a soldier, that he is in the Guards of the Czar, and that I am
betrothed to him. At first Otto would not listen to me. He
feared that his anger might overmaster him. He began folding up
his camp-stool.

Then I told him that Alexis would not come for some time yet,
and he grew calmer.

I have begged him for my sake not to kill Alexis. He has given
me his promise.

* * *

Another Day.

Ivan Ivanovitch, my father, has heard from Alexis. He will
return in fourteen days. The day after his return I am to
marry him.

And meantime I have still fourteen days to love Otto.

My love is perfect. It makes me want to die. Last night I
tried again to commit suicide. Why should I live now that I
have known a perfect love? I placed a box of cartridges beside
my bed. I awoke unharmed. They did not kill me. But I know
what it means. It means that Otto and I are to die together.
I must tell Otto.

* * *


To-day I told Otto that we must kill ourselves, that our love
is so perfect that we have no right to live.

At first he looked so strange.

He suggested that I should kill myself first and that he should
starve himself beside my grave.

But I could not accept the sacrifice.

I offered instead to help him to hang himself beside the river.

He is to think it over. If he does not hang himself, he is to
shoot himself. I have lent him my father's revolver. How grateful
he looked when he took it.

* * *

Next Day.

Why does Otto seem to avoid me? Has he some secret sorrow that
I cannot share? To-day he moved his camp-stool to the other side
of the meadow. He was in the long grass behind an elderberry
bush. At first I did not see him. I thought that he had hanged
himself. But he said no. He had forgotten to get a rope. He
had tried, he said, to shoot himself. But he had missed himself.

* * *

Five Days Later.

Otto and I are not to die. We are to live; to live and love one
another for ever! We are going away, out into the world together!
How happy I am!

Otto and I are to flee together.

When Alexis comes we shall be gone; we shall be far away.

I have said to Otto that I will fly with him, and he has said yes.

I told him that we would go out into the world together; empty-handed
we would fare forth together and defy the world. I said that he
should be my knight-errant, my paladin!

Otto said he would be it.

He has consented. But he says we must not fare forth empty-handed.
I do not know why he thinks this, but he is firm, and I yield to my
lord. He is making all our preparations.

Each morning I bring to the meadow a little bundle of my things and
give them to my knight-errant and he takes them to the inn where he
is staying.

Last week I brought my jewel-case, and yesterday, at his request, I
took my money from the bank and brought it to my paladin. It will
be so safe with him.

To-day he said that I shall need some little things to remember my
father and mother by when we are gone. So I am to take my father's
gold watch while he is asleep. My hero! How thoughtful he is of
my happiness.

* * *

Next Day.

All is ready. To-morrow I am to meet Otto at the meadow with the
watch and the rest of the things.

To-morrow night we are to flee together. I am to go down to the
little gate at the foot of the garden, and Otto will be there.

To-day I have wandered about the house and garden and have said
good-bye. I have said good-bye to my Tchupvskja flower, and to
the birds and the bees.

To-morrow it will be all over.

* * *

Next Evening.

How can I write what has happened! My soul is shattered to its

All that I dreaded most has happened. How can I live!

Alexis has come back. He and Otto have fought.

Ah God! it has been terrible.

I stood with Otto in the meadow. I had brought him the watch,
and I gave it to him, and all my love and my life with it.

Then, as we stood, I turned and saw Alexis Alexovitch striding
towards us through the grass.

How tall and soldierly he looked! And the thought flashed
through my mind that if Otto killed him he would be lying there
a dead, inanimate thing.

"Go, Otto," I cried, "go, if you stay you will kill him."

Otto looked and saw Alexis coming. He turned one glance at me:
his face was full of infinite meaning.

Then, for my sake, he ran. How noble he looked as he ran.
Brave heart! he dared not stay and risk the outburst of his

But Alexis overtook him.

Then beside the river-bank they fought. Ah! but it was terrible
to see them fight. Is it not awful when men fight together?

I could only stand and wring my hands and look on in agony!

First, Alexis seized Otto by the waistband of his trousers and
swung him round and round in the air. I could see Otto's face
as he went round: the same mute courage was written on it as
when he turned to run. Alexis swung Otto round and round until
his waistband broke, and he was thrown into the grass.

That was the first part of the fight.

Then Alexis stood beside Otto and kicked him from behind as he
lay in the grass, and they fought like that for some time. That
was the second part of the fight. Then came the third and last
part. Alexis picked up the easel and smashed the picture over
Otto's head. It fastened itself like a collar about his neck.
Then Alexis picked Otto up with the picture round his neck and
threw him into the stream.

He floated!

My paladin!

He floated!

I could see his upturned face as he floated onwards down the
stream, through the meadow! It was full of deep resignation.

Then Alexis Alexovitch came to me and gathered me up in his arms
and carried me thus across the meadow--he is so tall and strong--
and whispered that he loved me, and that to-morrow he would shield
me from the world. He carried me thus to the house in his arms
among the grass and flowers; and there was my father, Ivan
Ivanovitch, and my mother, Katoosha Katooshavitch. And to-morrow
I am to marry Alexis. He had brought back from the inn my jewels
and my money, and he gave me again the diamond clasp that Otto had
taken from my waist.

How can I bear it? Alexis is to take me to Petersburg, and he has
bought a beautiful house in the Prospekt, and I am to live in it
with him, and we are to be rich, and I am to be presented at the
Court of Nicholas Romanoff and his wife. Ah! Is it not dreadful?

And I can only think of Otto floating down the stream with the
easel about his neck. From the little river he will float into
the Dnieper, and from the Dnieper into the Bug, and from the Bug
he will float down the Volga, and from the Volga into the Caspian
Sea. And from the Caspian Sea there is no outlet, and Otto will
float round and round it for ever.

Is it not dreadful?

_VII. -- Hannah of the Highlands: or, The Laird of Loch Aucherlocherty_

"Sair maun ye greet, but hoot awa!
There's muckle yet, love isna' a'--
Nae more ye'll see, howe'er ye whine
The bonnie breeks of Auld Lang Syne!"

THE simple words rang out fresh and sweet upon the morning air.

It was Hannah of the Highlands. She was gathering lobsters in
the burn that ran through the glen.

The scene about her was typically Highland. Wild hills rose on
both sides of the burn to a height of seventy-five feet, covered
with a dense Highland forest that stretched a hundred yards in
either direction. At the foot of the burn a beautiful Scotch
loch lay in the hollow of the hills. Beyond it again, through
the gap of the hills, was the sea. Through the Glen, and close
beside the burn where Hannah stood, wound the road that rose again
to follow the cliffs along the shore.

The tourists in the Highlands will find no more beautiful spot
than the Glen of Aucherlocherty.

Nor is there any spot which can more justly claim to be historic

It was here in the glen that Bonnie Prince Charlie had lain and
hidden after the defeat of Culloden. Almost in the same spot the
great boulder still stands behind which the Bruce had laid hidden
after Bannockburn; while behind a number of lesser stones the
Covenanters had concealed themselves during the height of the
Stuart persecution.

Through the Glen Montrose had passed on his fateful ride to
Killiecrankie; while at the lower end of it the rock was still
pointed out behind which William Wallace had paused to change
his breeches while flying from the wrath of Rob Roy.

Grim memories such as these gave character to the spot.

Indeed, most of the great events of Scotch history had taken
place in the Glen, while the little loch had been the scene of
some of the most stirring naval combats in the history of the
Grampian Hills.

But there was little in the scene which lay so peaceful on this
April morning to recall the sanguinary history of the Glen. Its
sides at present were covered with a thick growth of gorse,
elderberry, egg-plants, and ghillie flower, while the woods about
it were loud with the voice of the throstle, the linnet, the
magpie, the jackdaw, and other song-birds of the Highlands.

It was a gloriously beautiful Scotch morning. The rain fell
softly and quietly, bringing dampness and moisture, and almost a
sense of wetness to the soft moss underfoot. Grey mists flew
hither and thither, carrying with them an invigorating rawness
that had almost a feeling of dampness.

It is the memory of such a morning that draws a tear from the eye
of Scotchmen after years of exile. The Scotch heart, reader, can
be moved to its depths by the sight of a raindrop or the sound of
a wet rag.

And meantime Hannah, the beautiful Highland girl, was singing.
The fresh young voice rose high above the rain. Even the birds
seemed to pause to listen, and as they listened to the simple
words of the Gaelic folk-song, fell off the bough with a thud
on the grass.

The Highland girl made a beautiful picture as she stood.

Her bare feet were in the burn, the rippling water of which laved
her ankles. The lobsters played about her feet, or clung
affectionately to her toes, as if loath to leave the water and be
gathered in the folds of her blue apron.

It was a scene to charm the heart of a Burne-Jones, or an Alma
Tadema, or of anybody fond of lobsters.

The girl's golden hair flowed widely behind her, gathered in a
single braid with a piece of stovepipe wire.

"Will you sell me one of your lobsters?"

Hannah looked up. There, standing in the burn a few yards above
her, was the vision of a young man.

The beautiful Highland girl gazed at him fascinated.

He seemed a higher order of being.

He carried a fishing-rod and basket in his hand. He was dressed
in a salmon-fishing costume of an English gentleman. Salmon-fishing
boots reached to his thighs, while above them he wore a
fishing-jacket fastened loosely with a fishing-belt about his waist.
He wore a small fishing-cap on his head.

There were no fish in his basket.

He drew near to the Highland girl.

Hannah knew as she looked at him that it must be Ian McWhinus, the
new laird.

At sight she loved him.

"Ye're sair welcome," she said, as she handed to the young man the
finest of her lobsters.

He put it in his basket.

Then he felt in the pocket of his jacket and brought out a

"You must let me pay for it," he said.

Hannah took the sixpence and held it a moment, flushing with true
Highland pride.

"I'll no be selling the fush for money," she said.

Something in the girl's speech went straight to the young man's
heart. He handed her half a crown. Whistling lightly, he strode
off up the side of the burn. Hannah stood gazing after him
spell-bound. She was aroused from her reverie by an angry voice
calling her name.

"Hannah, Hannah," cried the voice, "come away ben; are ye daft,
lass, that ye stand there keeking at a McWhinus?"

Then Hannah realised what she had done.

She had spoken with a McWhinus, a thing that no McShamus had done
for a hundred and fifty years. For nearly two centuries the
McShamuses and the McWhinuses, albeit both dwellers in the Glen,
had been torn asunder by one of those painful divisions by which
the life of the Scotch people is broken into fragments.

It had arisen out of a point of spiritual belief.

It had been six generations agone at a Highland banquet, in the
days when the unrestrained temper of the time gave way to wild
orgies, during which theological discussions raged with unrestrained
fury. Shamus McShamus, an embittered Calvinist, half crazed perhaps
with liquor, had maintained that damnation could be achieved only by
faith. Whimper McWhinus had held that damnation could be achieved
also by good works. Inflamed with drink, McShamus had struck
McWhinus across the temple with an oatcake and killed him. McShamus
had been brought to trial. Although defended by some of the most
skilled lawyers of Aucherlocherty, he had been acquitted. On the
very night of his acquittal, Whangus McWhinus, the son of the
murdered man, had lain in wait for Shamus McShamus, in the hollow of
the Glen road where it rises to the cliff, and had shot him through
the bagpipes. Since then the feud had raged with unquenched
bitterness for a century and a half.

With each generation the difference between the two families became
more acute. They differed on every possible point. They wore
different tartans, sat under different ministers, drank different
brands of whisky, and upheld different doctrines in regard to
eternal punishment.

To add to the feud the McWhinuses had grown rich, while the
McShamuses had become poor.

At least once in every generation a McWhinus or a McShamus had been
shot, and always at the turn of the Glen road where it rose to the
edge of the cliff. Finally, two generations gone, the McWhinuses
had been raised to sudden wealth by the discovery of a coal mine on
their land. To show their contempt for the McShamuses they had left
the Glen to live in America. The McShamuses, to show their contempt
for the McWhinuses, had remained in the Glen. The feud was kept
alive in their memory.

And now the descendant of the McWhinuses had come back, and bought
out the property of the Laird of Aucherlocherty beside the Glen.
Ian McWhinus knew nothing of the feud. Reared in another atmosphere,
the traditions of Scotland had no meaning for him. He had entirely
degenerated. To him the tartan had become only a piece of coloured
cloth. He wore a kilt as a masquerade costume for a Hallowe'en
dance, and when it rained he put on a raincoat. He was no longer
Scotch. More than that, he had married a beautiful American wife,
a talcum-powder blonde with a dough face and the exquisite rotundity
of the packing-house district of the Middle-West. Ian McWhinus was
her slave. For her sake he had bought the lobster from Hannah.
For her sake, too, he had scrutinised closely the beautiful Highland
girl, for his wife was anxious to bring back a Scotch housemaid with
her to Chicago.

And meantime Hannah, with the rapture of a new love in her heart,
followed her father, Oyster McOyster McShamus, to the cottage. Oyster
McOyster, even in advancing age, was a fine specimen of Scotch manhood.
Ninety-seven years of age, he was approaching the time when many of his
countrymen begin to show the ravages of time. But he bore himself
straight as a lath, while his tall stature and his native Highland
costume accentuated the fine outline of his form. This costume
consisted of a black velvet beetle-shell jacket, which extended from
the shoulder half-way down the back, and was continued in a short kilt
of the tartan of the McShamuses, which extended from the waist half-way
to the thigh. The costume reappeared again after an interval in the
form of rolled golf stockings, which extended half-way up to the knee,
while on his feet a pair of half shoes were buckled half-way up with a
Highland clasp. On his head half-way between the ear and the upper
superficies of the skull he wore half a Scotch cap, from which a tall
rhinoceros feather extended half-way into the air.

A pair of bagpipes were beneath his arm, from which, as he walked, he
blew those deep and plaintive sounds which have done much to imprint
upon the characters of those who hear them a melancholy and resigned

At the door of the cottage he turned and faced his daughter.

"What said Ian McWhinus to you i' the burnside?" he said fiercely.

"'Twas nae muckle," said Hannah, and she added, for the truth was
ever more to her than her father's wrath, "he gi'ed me saxpence for
a fush."

"Siller!" shrieked the Highlander. "Siller from a McWhinus!"

Hannah handed him the sixpence. Oyster McOyster dashed it fiercely
on the ground, then picking it up he dashed it with full force
against the wall of the cottage. Then, seizing it again he dashed
it angrily into the pocket of his kilt.

They entered the cottage.

Hannah had never seen her father's face so dour as it looked that

Their home seemed changed.

Hannah and her mother and father sat down that night in silence to
their simple meal of oatmeal porridge and Scotch whisky. In the
evening the mother sat to her spinning. Busily she plied her work,
for it was a task of love. Her eldest born, Jamie, was away at
college at Edinburgh, preparing for the ministry. His graduation day
was approaching, and Jamie's mother was spinning him a pair of
breeches against the day. The breeches were to be a surprise.
Already they were shaping that way. Oyster McShamus sat reading the
Old Testament in silence, while Hannah looked into the peat fire and
thought of the beautiful young Laird. Only once the Highlander spoke.

"The McWhinus is back," he said, and his glance turned towards the old
flint-lock musket on the wall. That night Hannah dreamed of the feud,
of the Glen and the burn, of love, of lobsters, and of the Laird of
Loch Aucherlocherty. And when she rose in the morning there was a
wistful look in her eyes, and there came no song from her throat.

The days passed.

Each day the beautiful Highland girl saw the young Laird, though her
father knew it not.

In the mornings she would see him as he came fishing to the burn. At
times he wore his fishing-suit, at other times he had on a
knickerbocker suit of shepherd's plaid with a domino pattern
_neglige_ shirt. For his sake the beautiful Highland girl made
herself more beautiful still. Each morning she would twine a Scotch
thistle in her hair, and pin a spray of burdock at her heart.

And at times he spoke to her. How Hannah treasured his words. Once,
catching sight of her father in the distance, he had asked her who
was the old sardine in the petticoats, and the girl had answered
gladly that it was her father, for, as a fisherman's daughter, she
was proud to have her father mistaken for a sardine.

At another time he had asked her if she was handy about the work of
the house. How Hannah's heart had beat at the question. She made up
her mind to spin him a pair of breeches like the ones now finishing
for her brother Jamie.

And every evening as the sun set Hannah would watch in secret from
the window of the cottage waiting for the young Laird to come past in
his motor-car, down the Glen road to the sea. Always he would
slacken the car at the sharp turn at the top of the cliff. For six
generations no McWhinus had passed that spot after nightfall with his
life. But Ian McWhinus knew nothing of the feud.

At times Oyster McOyster would see him pass, and standing at the
roadside would call down Gaelic curses on his head.

Once, when her father was from home, Hannah had stood on the
roadside, and Ian had stopped the machine and had taken her with him
in the car for a ride. Hannah, her heart beating with delight, had
listened to him as he explained how the car was worked. Had her
father know that she had sat thus beside a McWhinus, he would have
slain her where she sat.

The tragedy of Hannah's love ran swiftly to its close.

Each day she met the young Laird at the burn.

Each day she gave him the finest of her lobsters. She wore a new
thistle every day.

And every night, in secret as her mother slept, she span a new
concentric section of his breeches.

And the young Laird, when he went home, said to the talcum blonde,
that the Highland fisher-girl was not half such a damn fool as she

Then came the fateful afternoon.

He stood beside her at the burn.

"Hannah," he said, as he bent towards her, "I want to take you to

Hannah had fallen fainting in his arms.

Ian propped her against a tree, and went home.

An hour later, when Hannah entered her home, her father was standing
behind the fireplace. He was staring fixedly into the fire, with the
flint-lock musket in his hands. There was the old dour look of the
feud upon his face, and there were muttered curses on his lips. His
wife Ellen clung to his arm and vainly sought to quiet him.

"Curse him," he muttered, "I'll e'en kill him the night as he passes
in his deil machine."

Then Hannah knew that Oyster McShamus had seen her with Ian beside
the burn. She turned and fled from the house. Straight up the road
she ran across towards the manor-house of Aucherlocherty to warn
Ian. To save him from her father's wrath, that was her one thought.
Night gathered about the Highland girl as she ran. The rain clouds
and the gathering storm hung low with fitful lightning overhead.
She still ran on. About her was the rolling of the thunder and the
angry roaring of the swollen burn. Then the storm broke upon the
darkness with all the fury of the Highland gale. They sky was rent
with the fierce play of the elements. Yet on Hannah ran. Again and
again the lightning hit her, but she ran on still. She fell over
the stones, tripped and stumbled in the ruts, butted into the
hedges, cannoned off against the stone walls. But she never
stopped. She went quicker and quicker. The storm was awful.
Lightning, fire, flame, and thunder were all about her. Trees were
falling, hurdles were flying, birds were being struck by lightning.
Dogs, sheep and even cattle were hurled through the air.

She reached the manor-house, and stood a moment at the door. The
storm had lulled, the rain ceased, and for a brief moment there was
quiet. The light was streaming from the windows of the house.
Hannah paused. Suddenly her heart misgave her. Her quick ear had
caught the sound of a woman's voice within. She approached the
window and looked in. Then, as if rooted to the spot, the Highland
girl gazed and listened at the pane.

Ian lay upon a sofa. The _neglige_ dressing-gown that he wore
enhanced the pallid beauty of his face. Beside him sat the
talcum-powder blonde. She was feeding him with chocolates. Hannah
understood. Ian had trifled with her love. He had bought her
lobsters to win her heart, only to cast it aside.

Hannah turned from the window. She plucked the thistle from her
throat and flung it on the ground. Then, as she turned her eye,
she caught sight of the motor standing in the shed.

"The deil machine!" she muttered, while the wild light of Highland
frenzy gathered in her eye; then, as she rushed to it and tore the
tarpaulin from off it, "Ye'll no be wanting of a mark the night,
Oyster McShamus," she cried.

A moment later, the motor, with Hannah at the wheel, was
thundering down the road to the Glen. The power was on to the
full, and the demented girl clung tight to the steering-gear as
the machine rocked and thundered down the descent. The storm was
raging again, and the thunder mingled with the roar of the machine
as it coursed madly towards the sea. The great eye of the motor
blazed in front. The lurid light of it flashed a second on the
trees and the burn as it passed, and flashed blinding on the eyes
of Oyster as he stood erect on the cliff-side below, musket in
hand, and faced the blazing apparition that charged upon him with
the old Highland blood surging in his veins.

It was all over in a moment--a blinding flash of lightning, the
report of a musket, a great peal of thunder, and the motor bearing
the devoted girl hurled headlong over the cliff.

They found her there in the morning. She lay on her side
motionless, half buried in the sand, upturned towards the blue
Highland sky, serene now after the passing of the storm. Quiet
and still she lay. The sea-birds seemed to pause in their flight
to look down on her. The little group of Scotch people that had
gathered stood and gazed at her with reverential awe. They made
no attempt to put her together. It would have been useless. Her
gasoline tubes were twisted and bent, her tank burst, her
sprockets broken from their sides, and her steering-gear an utter
wreck. The motor would never run again.

After a time they roused themselves from their grief and looked
about for Hannah. They found her. She lay among the sand and
seaweed, her fair hair soaked in gasoline. Then they looked
about for Oyster McShamus. Him, too, they found, lying half
buried in the grass and soaked in whisky. Then they looked about
for Ellen. They found her lying across the door of the cottage
half buried in Jamie's breeches.

Then they gathered them up. Life was not extinct. They chafed
their hands. They rubbed their feet. They put hot bricks upon
their stomachs. They poured hot whisky down their throats. That
brought them to.

Of course.

It always does.

They all lived.

But the feud was done for. That was the end of it. Hannah had
put it to the bad.

_VIII. -- Soaked in Seaweed: or, Upset in the Ocean_
_(An Old-fashioned Sea Story.)_

IT was in August in 1867 that I stepped on board the deck of the
_Saucy Sally_, lying in dock at Gravesend, to fill the berth of
second mate.

Let me first say a word about myself.

I was a tall, handsome young fellow, squarely and powerfully built,
bronzed by the sun and the moon (and even copper-coloured in spots
from the effect of the stars), and with a face in which honesty,
intelligence, and exceptional brain power were combined with
Christianity, simplicity, and modesty.

As I stepped on the deck I could not help a slight feeling of triumph,
as I caught sight of my sailor-like features reflected in a tar-barrel
that stood beside the mast, while a little later I could scarcely
repress a sense of gratification as I noticed them reflected again in
a bucket of bilge water.

"Welcome on board, Mr. Blowhard," called out Captain Bilge, stepping
out of the binnacle and shaking hands across the taffrail.

I saw before me a fine sailor-like man of from thirty to sixty,
clean-shaven, except for an enormous pair of whiskers, a heavy beard,
and a thick moustache, powerful in build, and carrying his beam well
aft, in a pair of broad duck trousers across the back of which there
would have been room to write a history of the British Navy.

Beside him were the first and third mates, both of them being quiet
men of poor stature, who looked at Captain Bilge with what seemed to
me an apprehensive expression in their eyes.

The vessel was on the eve of departure. Her deck presented that scene
of bustle and alacrity dear to the sailor's heart. Men were busy
nailing up the masts, hanging the bowsprit over the side, varnishing
the lee-scuppers and pouring hot tar down the companion-way.

Captain Bilge, with a megaphone to his lips, kept calling out to the
men in his rough sailor fashion:

"Now, then, don't over-exert yourselves, gentlemen. Remember, please,
that we have plenty of time. Keep out of the sun as much as you can.
Step carefully in the rigging there, Jones; I fear it's just a little
high for you. Tut, tut, Williams, don't get yourself so dirty with
that tar, you won't look fit to be seen."

I stood leaning over the gaff of the mainsail and thinking--yes,
thinking, dear reader, of my mother. I hope that you will think none
the less of me for that. Whenever things look dark, I lean up against
something and think of mother. If they get positively black, I stand
on one leg and think of father. After that I can face anything.

Did I think, too, of another, younger than mother and fairer than
father? Yes, I did. "Bear up, darling," I had whispered as she
nestled her head beneath my oilskins and kicked out backward with
one heel in the agony of her girlish grief, "in five years the voyage
will be over, and after three more like it, I shall come back with
money enough to buy a second-hand fishing-net and settle down on

Meantime the ship's preparations were complete. The masts were all
in position, the sails nailed up, and men with axes were busily
chopping away the gangway.

"All ready?" called the Captain.

"Aye, aye, sir."

"Then hoist the anchor in board and send a man down with the key to
open the bar."

Opening the bar! the last sad rite of departure. How often in my
voyages have I seen it; the little group of men soon to be exiled
from their home, standing about with saddened faces, waiting to see
the man with the key open the bar--held there by some strange

* * * * *

Next morning with a fair wind astern we had buzzed around the corner
of England and were running down the Channel.

I know no finer sight, for those who have never seen it, than the
English Channel. It is the highway of the world. Ships of all
nations are passing up and down, Dutch, Scotch, Venezuelan, and
even American.

Chinese junks rush to and fro. Warships, motor yachts, icebergs,
and lumber rafts are everywhere. If I add to this fact that so
thick a fog hangs over it that it is entirely hidden from sight,
my readers can form some idea of the majesty of the scene.

* * * * *

We had now been three days at sea. My first sea-sickness was
wearing off, and I thought less of father.

On the third morning Captain Bilge descended to my cabin.

"Mr. Blowhard," he said, "I must ask you to stand double watches."

"What is the matter?" I inquired.

"The two other mates have fallen overboard," he said uneasily, and
avoiding my eye.

I contented myself with saying "Very good, sir," but I could not help
thinking it a trifle odd that both the mates should have fallen
overboard in the same night.

Surely there was some mystery in this.

Two mornings later the Captain appeared at the breakfast-table with
the same shifting and uneasy look in his eye.

"Anything wrong, sir?" I asked.

"Yes," he answered, trying to appear at ease and twisting a fried
egg to and fro between his fingers with such nervous force as almost
to break it in two--"I regret to say that we have lost the bosun."

"The bosun!" I cried.

"Yes," said Captain Bilge more quietly, "he is overboard. I blame
myself for it, partly. It was early this morning. I was holding him
up in my arms to look at an iceberg and, quite accidentally I assure
you--I dropped him overboard."

"Captain Bilge," I asked, "have you taken any steps to recover him?"

"Not as yet," he replied uneasily.

I looked at him fixedly, but said nothing.

Ten days passed.

The mystery thickened. On Thursday two men of the starboard watch
were reported missing. On Friday the carpenter's assistant
disappeared. On the night of Saturday a circumstance occurred which,
slight as it was, gave me some clue as to what was happening.

As I stood at the wheel about midnight, I saw the Captain approach in
the darkness carrying the cabin-boy by the hind leg. The lad was a
bright little fellow, whose merry disposition had already endeared
him to me, and I watched with some interest to see what the Captain
would do to him. Arrived at the stern of the vessel, Captain Bilge
looked cautiously around a moment and then dropped the boy into the
sea. For a brief instant the lad's head appeared in the phosphorus
of the waves. The Captain threw a boot at him, sighed deeply, and
went below.

Here then was the key to the mystery! The Captain was throwing the
crew overboard. Next morning we met at breakfast as usual.

"Poor little Williams has fallen overboard," said the Captain,
seizing a strip of ship's bacon and tearing at it with his teeth as
if he almost meant to eat it.

"Captain," I said, greatly excited, stabbing at a ship's loaf in my
agitation with such ferocity as almost to drive my knife into it--
"You threw that boy overboard!"

"I did," said Captain Bilge, grown suddenly quiet, "I threw them all
over and intend to throw the rest. Listen, Blowhard, you are young,
ambitious, and trustworthy. I will confide in you."

Perfectly calm now, he stepped to a locker, rummaged in it a moment,
and drew out a faded piece of yellow parchment, which he spread on
the table. It was a map or chart. In the centre of it was a circle.
In the middle of the circle was a small dot and a letter T, while at
one side of the map was a letter N, and against it on the other side
a letter S.

"What is this?" I asked.

"Can you not guess?" queried Captain Bilge. "It is a desert island."

"Ah!" I rejoined with a sudden flash of intuition, "and N is for
North and S is for South."

"Blowhard," said the Captain, striking the table with such force as
to cause a loaf of ship's bread to bounce up and down three or four
times, "you've struck it. That part of it had not yet occurred
to me."

"And the letter T?" I asked.

"The treasure, the buried treasure," said the Captain, and turning
the map over he read from the back of it--"The point T indicates
the spot where the treasure is buried under the sand; it consists of
half a million Spanish dollars, and is buried in a brown leather
dress-suit case."

"And where is the island?" I inquired, mad with excitement.

"That I do not know," said the Captain. "I intend to sail up and
down the parallels of latitude until I find it."

"And meantime?"

"Meantime, the first thing to do is to reduce the number of the crew
so as to have fewer hands to divide among. Come, come," he added in
a burst of frankness which made me love the man in spite of his
shortcomings, "will you join me in this? We'll throw them all over,
keeping the cook to the last, dig up the treasure, and be rich for
the rest of our lives."

Reader, do you blame me if I said yes? I was young, ardent,
ambitious, full of bright hopes and boyish enthusiasm.

"Captain Bilge," I said, putting my hand in his, "I am yours."

"Good," he said, "now go forward to the forecastle and get an idea
what the men are thinking."

I went forward to the men's quarters--a plain room in the front of
the ship, with only a rough carpet on the floor, a few simple
arm-chairs, writing-desks, spittoons of a plain pattern, and small
brass beds with blue-and-green screens. It was Sunday morning, and
the men were mostly sitting about in their dressing-gowns.

They rose as I entered and curtseyed.

"Sir," said Tompkins, the bosun's mate, "I think it my duty to tell
you that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction among the men."

Several of the men nodded.

"They don't like the way the men keep going overboard," he continued,
his voice rising to a tone of uncontrolled passion. "It is
positively absurd, sir, and if you will allow me to say so, the men
are far from pleased."

"Tompkins," I said sternly, "you must understand that my position
will not allow me to listen to mutinous language of this sort."

I returned to the Captain. "I think the men mean mutiny," I said.

"Good," said Captain Bilge, rubbing his hands, "that will get rid of
a lot of them, and of course," he added musingly, looking out of the
broad old-fashioned port-hole at the stern of the cabin, at the
heaving waves of the South Atlantic, "I am expecting pirates at any
time, and that will take out quite a few of them. However"--and here
he pressed the bell for a cabin-boy--"kindly ask Mr. Tompkins to step
this way."

"Tompkins," said the Captain as the bosun's mate entered, "be good
enough to stand on the locker and stick your head through the stern
port-hole, and tell me what you think of the weather."

"Aye, aye, sir," replied the tar with a simplicity which caused us
to exchange a quiet smile.

Tompkins stood on the locker and put his head and shoulders out of
the port.

Taking a leg each we pushed him through. We heard him plump into
the sea.

"Tompkins was easy," said Captain Bilge. "Excuse me as I enter his
death in the log."

"Yes," he continued presently, "it will be a great help if they
mutiny. I suppose they will, sooner or later. It's customary to
do so. But I shall take no step to precipitate it until we have
first fallen in with pirates. I am expecting them in these latitudes
at any time. Meantime, Mr. Blowhard," he said, rising, "if you can
continue to drop overboard one or two more each week, I shall feel
extremely grateful."

Three days later we rounded the Cape of Good Hope and entered upon the
inky waters of the Indian Ocean. Our course lay now in zigzags and,
the weather being favourable, we sailed up and down at a furious rate
over a sea as calm as glass.

On the fourth day a pirate ship appeared. Reader, I do not know if
you have ever seen a pirate ship. The sight was one to appal the
stoutest heart. The entire ship was painted black, a black flag hung
at the masthead, the sails were black, and on the deck people dressed
all in black walked up and down arm-in-arm. The words "Pirate Ship"
were painted in white letters on the bow. At the sight of it our crew
were visibly cowed. It was a spectacle that would have cowed a dog.

The two ships were brought side by side. They were then lashed
tightly together with bag string and binder twine, and a gang plank
laid between them. In a moment the pirates swarmed upon our deck,
rolling their eyes, gnashing their teeth and filing their nails.

Then the fight began. It lasted two hours--with fifteen minutes off
for lunch. It was awful. The men grappled with one another, kicked
one another from behind, slapped one another across the face, and in
many cases completely lost their temper and tried to bite one another.
I noticed one gigantic fellow brandishing a knotted towel, and
striking right and left among our men, until Captain Bilge rushed at
him and struck him flat across the mouth with a banana skin.

At the end of two hours, by mutual consent, the fight was declared a
draw. The points standing at sixty-one and a half against sixty-two.

The ships were unlashed, and with three cheers from each crew, were
headed on their way.

"Now, then," said the Captain to me aside, "let us see how many of
the crew are sufficiently exhausted to be thrown overboard."

He went below. In a few minutes he re-appeared, his face deadly pale.
"Blowhard," he said, "the ship is sinking. One of the pirates (sheer
accident, of course, I blame no one) has kicked a hole in the side.
Let us sound the well."

We put our ear to the ship's well. It sounded like water.

The men were put to the pumps and worked with the frenzied effort
which only those who have been drowned in a sinking ship can

At six p.m. the well marked one half an inch of water, at nightfall
three-quarters of an inch, and at daybreak, after a night of
unremitting toil, seven-eighths of an inch.

By noon of the next day the water had risen to fifteen-sixteenths
of an inch, and on the next night the sounding showed thirty-one
thirty-seconds of an inch of water in the hold. The situation was
desperate. At this rate of increase few, if any, could tell where
it would rise to in a few days.

That night the Captain called me to his cabin. He had a book of
mathematical tables in front of him, and great sheets of vulgar
fractions littered the floor on all sides.

"The ship is bound to sink," he said, "in fact, Blowhard, she is
sinking. I can prove it. It may be six months or it may take
years, but if she goes on like this, sink she must. There is
nothing for it but to abandon her."

That night, in the dead of darkness, while the crew were busy at the
pumps, the Captain and I built a raft.

Unobserved we cut down the masts, chopped them into suitable lengths,
laid them crosswise in a pile and lashed them tightly together with

Hastily we threw on board a couple of boxes of food and bottles of
drinking fluid, a sextant, a cronometer, a gas-meter, a bicycle pump
and a few other scientific instruments. Then taking advantage of a
roll in the motion of the ship, we launched the raft, lowered
ourselves upon a line, and under cover of the heavy dark of a
tropical night, we paddled away from the doomed vessel.

The break of day found us a tiny speck on the Indian Ocean. We
looked about as big as this (.).

In the morning, after dressing, and shaving as best we could, we
opened our box of food and drink.

Then came the awful horror of our situation.

One by one the Captain took from the box the square blue tins of
canned beef which it contained. We counted fifty-two in all.
Anxiously and with drawn faces we watched until the last can was
lifted from the box. A single thought was in our minds. When the
end came the Captain stood up on the raft with wild eyes staring
at the sky.

"The can-opener!" he shrieked, "just Heaven, the can-opener." He
fell prostrate.

Meantime, with trembling hands, I opened the box of bottles. It
contained lager beer bottles, each with a patent tin top. One by
one I took them out. There were fifty-two in all. As I withdrew
the last one and saw the empty box before me, I shroke out--"The
thing! the thing! oh, merciful Heaven! The thing you open them

I fell prostrate upon the Captain.

We awoke to find ourselves still a mere speck upon the ocean.
We felt even smaller than before.

Over us was the burnished copper sky of the tropics. The heavy,
leaden sea lapped the sides of the raft. All about us was a
litter of corn beef cans and lager beer bottles. Our sufferings
in the ensuing days were indescribable. We beat and thumped at
the cans with our fists. Even at the risk of spoiling the tins
for ever we hammered them fiercely against the raft. We stamped
on them, bit at them and swore at them. We pulled and clawed at
the bottles with our hands, and chipped and knocked them against
the cans, regardless even of breaking the glass and ruining the

It was futile.

Then day after day we sat in moody silence, gnawed with hunger, with
nothing to read, nothing to smoke, and practically nothing to talk

On the tenth day the Captain broke silence.

"Get ready the lots, Blowhard," he said. "It's got to come to that."

"Yes," I answered drearily, "we're getting thinner every day."

Then, with the awful prospect of cannibalism before us, we drew lots.

I prepared the lots and held them to the Captain. He drew the longer

"Which does that mean," he asked, trembling between hope and despair.
"Do I win?"

"No, Bilge," I said sadly, "you lose."

* * * * *

But I mustn't dwell on the days that followed--the long quiet days of
lazy dreaming on the raft, during which I slowly built up my strength,
which had been shattered by privation. They were days, dear reader,
of deep and quiet peace, and yet I cannot recall them without shedding
a tear for the brave man who made them what they were.

It was on the fifth day after that I was awakened from a sound sleep
by the bumping of the raft against the shore. I had eaten perhaps
overheartily, and had not observed the vicinity of land.

Before me was an island, the circular shape of which, with its low,
sandy shore, recalled at once its identity.

"The treasure island," I cried, "at last I am rewarded for all my

In a fever of haste I rushed to the centre of the island. What was
the sight that confronted me? A great hollow scooped in the sand, an
empty dress-suit case lying beside it, and on a ship's plank driven
deep into the sand, the legend, "_Saucy Sally_, October, 1867." So!
the miscreants had made good the vessel, headed it for the island of
whose existence they must have learned from the chart we so
carelessly left upon the cabin table, and had plundered poor Bilge
and me of our well-earned treasure!

Sick with the sense of human ingratitude I sank upon the sand.

The island became my home.

There I eked out a miserable existence, feeding on sand and gravel
and dressing myself in cactus plants. Years passed. Eating sand and
mud slowly undermined my robust constitution. I fell ill. I died.
I buried myself.

Would that others who write sea stories would do as much.

_IX. -- Caroline's Christmas: or, The Inexplicable Infant_

IT was Xmas--Xmas with its mantle of white snow, scintillating from
a thousand diamond points, Xmas with its good cheer, its peace on
earth--Xmas with its feasting and merriment, Xmas with its--well,
anyway, it was Xmas.

Or no, that's a slight slip; it wasn't exactly Xmas, it was
Xmas Eve, Xmas Eve with its mantle of white snow lying beneath
the calm moonlight--and, in fact, with practically the above list
of accompanying circumstances with a few obvious emendations.

Yes, it was Xmas Eve.

And more than that!

Listen to _where_ it was Xmas.

It was Xmas Eve on the Old Homestead. Reader, do you know, by sight,
the Old Homestead? In the pauses of your work at your city desk,
where you have grown rich and avaricious, does it never rise before
your mind's eye, the quiet old homestead that knew you as a boy
before your greed of gold tore you away from it? The Old Homestead
that stands beside the road just on the rise of the hill, with its
dark spruce trees wrapped in snow, the snug barns and the straw
stacks behind it; while from its windows there streams a shaft of
light from a coal-oil lamp, about as thick as a slate pencil that
you can see four miles away, from the other side of the cedar swamp
in the hollow. Don't talk to me of your modern searchlights and
your incandescent arcs, beside that gleam of light from the coal-oil
lamp in the farmhouse window. It will shine clear to the heart
across thirty years of distance. Do you not turn, I say, sometimes,
reader, from the roar and hustle of the city with its ill-gotten
wealth and its godless creed of mammon, to think of the quiet
homestead under the brow of the hill? You don't! Well, you skunk!

It was Xmas Eve.

The light shone from the windows of the homestead farm. The light
of the log fire rose and flickered and mingled its red glare on the
windows with the calm yellow of the lamplight.

John Enderby and his wife sat in the kitchen room of the farmstead.
Do you know it, reader, the room called the kitchen?--with the open
fire on its old brick hearth, and the cook stove in the corner. It
is the room of the farm where people cook and eat and live. It is
the living-room. The only other room beside the bedroom is the small
room in front, chill-cold in winter, with an organ in it for playing
"Rock of Ages" on, when company came. But this room is only used for
music and funerals. The real room of the old farm is the kitchen.
Does it not rise up before you, reader? It doesn't? Well, you darn

At any rate there sat old John Enderby beside the plain deal table,
his head bowed upon his hands, his grizzled face with its unshorn
stubble stricken down with the lines of devastating trouble. From
time to time he rose and cast a fresh stick of tamarack into the fire
with a savage thud that sent a shower of sparks up the chimney.
Across the fireplace sat his wife Anna on a straight-backed chair,
looking into the fire with the mute resignation of her sex.

What was wrong with them anyway? Ah, reader, can you ask? Do you
know or remember so little of the life of the old homestead? When
I have said that it is the Old Homestead and Xmas Eve, and that the
farmer is in great trouble and throwing tamarack at the fire, surely
you ought to guess!

The Old Homestead was mortgaged! Ten years ago, reckless with debt,
crazed with remorse, mad with despair and persecuted with rheumatism,
John Enderby had mortgaged his farmstead for twenty-four dollars and
thirty cents.

To-night the mortgage fell due, to-night at midnight, Xmas night.
Such is the way in which mortgages of this kind are always drawn.
Yes, sir, it was drawn with such diabolical skill that on this night
of all nights the mortgage would be foreclosed. At midnight the men
would come with hammer and nails and foreclose it, nail it up tight.

So the afflicted couple sat.

Anna, with the patient resignation of her sex, sat silent or at times
endeavoured to read. She had taken down from the little wall-shelf
Bunyan's _Holy Living and Holy Dying_. She tried to read it. She
could not. Then she had taken Dante's _Inferno_. She could not read
it. Then she had selected Kant's _Critique of Pure Reason_. But she
could not read it either. Lastly, she had taken the Farmer's Almanac
for 1911. The books lay littered about her as she sat in patient despair.

John Enderby showed all the passion of an uncontrolled nature. At times
he would reach out for the crock of buttermilk that stood beside him and
drained a draught of the maddening liquid, till his brain glowed like
the coals of the tamarack fire before him.

"John," pleaded Anna, "leave alone the buttermilk. It only maddens you.
No good ever came of that."

"Aye, lass," said the farmer, with a bitter laugh, as he buried his head
again in the crock, "what care I if it maddens me."

"Ah, John, you'd better be employed in reading the Good Book than in
your wild courses. Here take it, father, and read it"--and she handed
to him the well-worn black volume from the shelf. Enderby paused a
moment and held the volume in his hand. He and his wife had known
nothing of religious teaching in the public schools of their day, but
the first-class non-sectarian education that the farmer had received
had stood him in good stead.

"Take the book," she said. "Read, John, in this hour of affliction;
it brings comfort."

The farmer took from her hand the well-worn copy of Euclid's
_Elements_, and laying aside his hat with reverence, he read aloud:
"The angles at the base of an isoceles triangle are equal, and
whosoever shall produce the sides, lo, the same also shall be equal
each unto each."

The farmer put the book aside.

"It's no use, Anna. I can't read the good words to-night."

He rose, staggered to the crock of buttermilk, and before his
wife could stay his hand, drained it to the last drop.

Then he sank heavily to his chair.

"Let them foreclose it, if they will," he said; "I am past caring."

The woman looked sadly into the fire.

Ah, if only her son Henry had been here. Henry, who had left them
three years agone, and whose bright letters still brought from time
to time the gleam of hope to the stricken farmhouse.

Henry was in Sing Sing. His letters brought news to his mother of
his steady success; first in the baseball nine of the prison, a
favourite with his wardens and the chaplain, the best bridge player
of the corridor. Henry was pushing his way to the front with the
old-time spirit of the Enderbys.

His mother had hoped that he might have been with her at Xmas,
but Henry had written that it was practically impossible for him
to leave Sing Sing. He could not see his way out. The authorities
were arranging a dance and sleighing party for the Xmas celebration.
He had some hope, he said, of slipping away unnoticed, but his doing
so might excite attention.

Of the trouble at home Anna had told her son nothing.

No, Henry could not come. There was no help there. And William,
the other son, ten years older than Henry. Alas, William had gone
forth from the homestead to fight his way in the great city!
"Mother," he had said, "when I make a million dollars I'll come
home. Till then good-bye," and he had gone.

How Anna's heart had beat for him. Would he make that million
dollars? Would she ever live to see it? And as the years passed
she and John had often sat in the evenings picturing William at
home again, bringing with him a million dollars, or picturing the
million dollars sent by express with love. But the years had
passed. William came not. He did not come. The great city had
swallowed him up as it has many another lad from the old homestead.

Anna started from her musing--

What was that at the door? The sound of a soft and timid rapping,
and through the glass of the door-pane, a face, a woman's face
looking into the fire-lit room with pleading eyes. What was it
she bore in her arms, the little bundle that she held tight to her
breast to shield it from the falling snow? Can you guess, reader?
Try three guesses and see. Right you are. That's what it was.

The farmer's wife went hastily to the door.

"Lord's mercy!" she cried, "what are you doing out on such a night?
Come in, child, to the fire!"

The woman entered, carrying the little bundle with her, and looking
with wide eyes (they were at least an inch and a half across) at
Enderby and his wife. Anna could see that there was no wedding-ring
on her hand.

"Your name?" said the farmer's wife.

"My name is Caroline," the girl whispered. The rest was lost in
the low tones of her voice. "I want shelter," she paused, "I want
you to take the child."

Anna took the baby and laid it carefully on the top shelf of the
cupboard, then she hastened to bring a glass of water and a
dough-nut, and set it before the half-frozen girl.

"Eat," she said, "and warm yourself."

John rose from his seat.

"I'll have no child of that sort here," he said.

"John, John," pleaded Anna, "remember what the Good Book says:
'Things which are equal to the same thing are equal to one another!'"

John sank back in his chair.

And why had Caroline no wedding-ring? Ah, reader, can you not
guess. Well, you can't. It wasn't what you think at all; so there.
Caroline had no wedding-ring because she had thrown it away in
bitterness, as she tramped the streets of the great city. "Why,"
she cried, "should the wife of a man in the penitentiary wear a ring."

Then she had gone forth with the child from what had been her home.

It was the old sad story.

She had taken the baby and laid it tenderly, gently on a seat in the
park. Then she walked rapidly away. A few minutes after a man had
chased after Caroline with the little bundle in his arms. "I beg
your pardon," he said, panting, "I think you left your baby in the
park." Caroline thanked him.

Next she took the baby to the Grand Central Waiting-room, kissed it
tenderly, and laid it on a shelf behind the lunch-counter.

A few minutes an official, beaming with satisfaction, had brought
it back to her.

"Yours, I think, madame," he said, as he handed it to her. Caroline
thanked him.

Then she had left it at the desk of the Waldorf Astoria, and at the
ticket-office of the subway.

It always came back.

Once or twice she took it to the Brooklyn Bridge and threw it into
the river, but perhaps something in the way it fell through the air
touched the mother's heart and smote her, and she had descended to
the river and fished it out.

Then Caroline had taken the child to the country. At first she
thought to leave it on the wayside and she had put it down in the
snow, and standing a little distance off had thrown mullein stalks
at it, but something in the way the little bundle lay covered in
the snow appealed to the mother's heart.

She picked it up and went on. "Somewhere," she murmured, "I shall
find a door of kindness open to it." Soon after she had staggered
into the homestead.

Anna, with true woman's kindness, asked no questions. She put the
baby carefully away in a trunk, saw Caroline safely to bed in the
best room, and returned to her seat by the fire.

The old clock struck twenty minutes past eight.

Again a knock sounded at the door.

There entered the familiar figure of the village lawyer. His
astrachan coat of yellow dogskin, his celluloid collar, and boots
which reached no higher than the ankle, contrasted with the rude
surroundings of the little room.

"Enderby," he said, "can you pay?"

"Lawyer Perkins," said the farmer, "give me time and I will; so help
me, give me five years more and I'll clear this debt to the last cent."

"John," said the lawyer, touched in spite of his rough (dogskin)
exterior, "I couldn't, if I would. These things are not what they
were. It's a big New York corporation, Pinchem & Company, that makes
these loans now, and they take their money on the day, or they sell you
up. I can't help it. So there's your notice, John, and I am sorry!
No, I'll take no buttermilk, I must keep a clear head to work," and
with that he hurried out into the snow again.

John sat brooding in his chair.

The fire flickered down.

The old clock struck half-past eight, then it half struck a quarter to
nine, then slowly it struck striking.

Presently Enderby rose, picked a lantern from its hook, "Mortgage or
no mortgage," he said, "I must see to the stock."

He passed out of the house, and standing in the yard, looked over the
snow to the cedar swamp beyond with the snow winding through it, far
in the distance the lights of the village far away.

He thought of the forty years he had spent here on the homestead--the
rude, pioneer days--the house he had built for himself, with its
plain furniture, the old-fashioned spinning-wheel on which Anna had
spun his trousers, the wooden telephone and the rude skidway on which
he ate his meals.

He looked out over the swamp and sighed.

Down in the swamp, two miles away, could he have but seen it, there
moved a sleigh, and in it a man dressed in a sealskin coat and silk
hat, whose face beamed in the moonlight as he turned to and fro and
stared at each object by the roadside as at an old familiar scene.
Round his waist was a belt containing a million dollars in gold coin,
and as he halted his horse in an opening of the road he unstrapped
the belt and counted the coins.

Beside him there crouched in the bushes at the dark edge of the swamp
road, with eyes that watched every glitter of the coins, and a hand
that grasped a heavy cudgel of blackthorn, a man whose close-cropped
hair and hard lined face belonged nowhere but within the walls of
Sing Sing.

When the sleigh started again the man in the bushes followed doggedly
in its track.

Meanwhile John Enderby had made the rounds of his outbuildings. He
bedded the fat cattle that blinked in the flashing light of the
lantern. He stood a moment among his hogs, and, farmer as he was,
forgot his troubles a moment to speak to each, calling them by name.
It smote him to think how at times he had been tempted to sell one of
the hogs, or even to sell the cattle to clear the mortgage off the
place. Thank God, however, he had put that temptation behind him.

As he reached the house a sleigh was standing on the roadway. Anna
met him at the door. "John," she said, "there was a stranger came
while you were in the barn, and wanted a lodging for the night; a
city man, I reckon, by his clothes. I hated to refuse him, and I
put him in Willie's room. We'll never want it again, and he's gone
to sleep."

"Ay, we can't refuse."

John Enderby took out the horse to the barn, and then returned to
his vigil with Anna beside the fire.

The fumes of the buttermilk had died out of his brain. He was
thinking, as he sat there, of midnight and what it would bring.

In the room above, the man in the sealskin coat had thrown himself
down, clothes and all, upon the bed, tired with his drive.

"How it all comes back to me," he muttered as he fell asleep, "the
same old room, nothing changed--except them--how worn they look,"
and a tear started to his eyes. He thought of his leaving his home
fifteen years ago, of his struggle in the great city, of the great
idea he had conceived of making money, and of the Farm Investment
Company he had instituted--the simple system of applying the
crushing power of capital to exact the uttermost penny from the
farm loans. And now here he was back again, true to his word, with
a million dollars in his belt. "To-morrow," he had murmured, "I
will tell them. It will be Xmas." Then William--yes, reader, it
was William (see line 503 above) had fallen asleep.

The hours passed, and kept passing.

It was 11.30.

Then suddenly Anna started from her place.

"Henry!" she cried as the door opened and a man entered. He
advanced gladly to meet her, and in a moment mother and son were
folded in a close embrace. It was Henry, the man from Sing Sing.
True to his word, he had slipped away unostentatiously at the
height of the festivities.

"Alas, Henry," said the mother after the warmth of the first
greetings had passed, "you come at an unlucky hour." They told
him of the mortgage on the farm and the ruin of his home.

"Yes," said Anna, "not even a bed to offer you," and she spoke of
the strangers who had arrived; of the stricken woman and the child,
and the rich man in the sealskin coat who had asked for a night's

Henry listened intently while they told him of the man, and a
sudden light of intelligence flashed into his eye.

"By Heaven, father, I have it!" he cried. Then, dropping his
voice, he said, "Speak low, father. This man upstairs, he had a
sealskin coat and silk hat?"

"Yes," said the father.

"Father," said Henry, "I saw a man sitting in a sleigh in the
cedar swamp. He had money in his hand, and he counted it, and
chuckled,--five dollar gold pieces--in all, 1,125,465 dollars
and a quarter."

The father and son looked at one another.

"I see your idea," said Enderby sternly.

"We'll choke him," said Henry.

"Or club him," said the farmer, "and pay the mortgage."

Anna looked from one to the other, joy and hope struggling with
the sorrow in her face. "Henry, my Henry," she said proudly,
"I knew he would find a way."

"Come on," said Henry; "bring the lamp, mother, take the club,
father," and gaily, but with hushed voices, the three stole up
the stairs.

The stranger lay sunk in sleep. The back of his head was turned
to them as they came in.

"Now, mother," said the farmer firmly, "hold the lamp a little
nearer; just behind the ear, I think, Henry."

"No," said Henry, rolling back his sleeve and speaking with the
quick authority that sat well upon him, "across the jaw, father,
it's quicker and neater."

"Well, well," said the farmer, smiling proudly, "have your own
way, lad, you know best."

Henry raised the club.

But as he did so--stay, what was that? Far away behind the
cedar swamp the deep booming of the bell of the village church
began to strike out midnight. One, two, three, its tones came
clear across the crisp air. Almost at the same moment the clock
below began with deep strokes to mark the midnight hour; from
the farmyard chicken coop a rooster began to crow twelve times,
while the loud lowing of the cattle and the soft cooing of the
hogs seemed to usher in the morning of Christmas with its
message of peace and goodwill.

The club fell from Henry's hand and rattled on the floor.

The sleeper woke, and sat up.

"Father! Mother!" he cried.

"My son, my son," sobbed the father, "we had guessed it was you.
We had come to wake you."

"Yes, it is I," said William, smiling to his parents, "and I
have brought the million dollars. Here it is," and with that he
unstrapped the belt from his waist and laid a million dollars on
the table.

"Thank Heaven!" cried Anna, "our troubles are at an end. This
money will help clear the mortgage--and the greed of Pinchem &
Co. cannot harm us now."

"The farm was mortgaged!" said William, aghast.

"Ay," said the farmer, "mortgaged to men who have no conscience,
whose greedy hand has nearly brought us to the grave. See how
she has aged, my boy," and he pointed to Anna.

"Father," said William, in deep tones of contrition, "I am
Pinchem & Co. Heaven help me! I see it now. I see at what
expense of suffering my fortune was made. I will restore it all,
these million dollars, to those I have wronged."

"No," said his mother softly. "You repent, dear son, with true
Christian repentance. That is enough. You may keep the money.
We will look upon it as a trust, a sacred trust, and every time
we spend a dollar of it on ourselves we will think of it as a

"Yes," said the farmer softly, "your mother is right, the money
is a trust, and we will restock the farm with it, buy out the
Jones's property, and regard the whole thing as a trust."

At this moment the door of the room opened. A woman's form
appeared. It was Caroline, robed in one of Anna's directoire

"I heard your voices," she said, and then, as she caught sight
of Henry, she gave a great cry.

"My husband!"

"My wife," said Henry, and folded her to his heart.

"You have left Sing Sing?" cried Caroline with joy.

"Yes, Caroline," said Henry. "I shall never go back."

Gaily the reunited family descended. Anna carried the lamp,
Henry carried the club. William carried the million dollars.

The tamarack fire roared again upon the hearth. The buttermilk
circulated from hand to hand. William and Henry told and retold
the story of their adventures. The first streak of the
Christmas morn fell through the door-pane.

"Ah, my sons," said John Enderby, "henceforth let us stick to
the narrow path. What is it that the Good Book says: 'A
straight line is that which lies evenly between its extreme

_X. -- The Man in Asbestos: An Allegory of the Future_


Back to Full Books