Stories by American Authors, Volume 1
Part 2 out of 3
what you said that night _when we sang Annie Laurie
together_ the last time.
Your sincere friend,
DOCUMENTS NOS. 31 AND 32.
_Items from San Francisco "Figaro" of December 29th, 1878:_
Nina Saville Co. disbanded New Centreville. 26th. No particulars
Winston & Mack's Comb. takes the road December 31st, opening at Tuolumne
Hollow. Manager Winston announces the engagement of Anna Laurie, the
Protean change artiste, with songs, "Don't Get Weary," "Bobbin' Around,"
"I Yoost Landet."
DOCUMENT NO. 33.
_Telegram from Zeke Kilburn, New Centreville, to Winston and Mack,
Emerson's Opera House, San Francisco, Cal.:_
NEW CENTREVILLE, Dec. 28, 1878.
Have you vacancy for active and energetic advance
(9 words 30 paid.)
DOCUMENT NO. 34.
_Telegram from Winston and Mack, San Francisco, to Zeke Kilburn, New
SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 28, 1878
WINSTON & MACK.
(Collect 30 cents.)
DOCUMENT NO. 35.
_Bill sent to William Beauvoir, United States Hotel, Tuolumne Hollow,
_Tuolumne Hollow, Cal., Dec. 29, 1878._
_Wm. Beauvoir, Esq._
Bought of HIMMEL & HATCH,
Opera House Block,
JEWELLERS & DIAMOND MERCHANTS,
Dealers in all kinds of Fancy Goods, Stationery and Umbrellas, Watches,
Clocks and Barometers.
TERMS CASH. MUSICAL BOXES REPAIRED.
_Dec. 29, One diamond and enamelled locket._........ $75.00
_One gold chain_........................................... 48.00
_Himmel & Hatch,
DOCUMENT NO. 36.
_Letter from Cable J. Dexter, Esq., to Messrs: Pixley and Sutton, San
NEW CENTREVILLE, CAL., March 3, 1879.
Messrs. PIXLEY & SUTTON:
GENTS: I am happy to report that I have at last
reached the bottom level in the case of William
Beaver, _alias_ Beaver Bill, deceased through Indians
In accordance with your instructions and check,
I proceeded, on the 10th ult., to Shawgum Creek,
when I interviewed Blue Horse, chief of the Comanches,
who tomahawked subject of your inquiries
in the year above mentioned. Found the Horse
in the penitentiary, serving out a drunk and disorderly.
Though belligerent at date aforesaid,
Horse is now tame, though intemperate. Appeared
unwilling to converse, and required stimulants
to awaken his memory. Please find enclosed
memo. of account for whiskey, covering extra
demijohn to corrupt jailer. Horse finally stated
that he personally let daylight through deceased,
and is willing to guarantee thoroughness of decease.
Stated further that aforesaid Beaver's
family consisted of squaw and kid. Is willing to
swear that squaw was killed, the tribe having no
use for her. Killing done by Mule-Who-Goes-Crooked,
personal friend of Horse's. The minor
child was taken into camp and kept until December
of 1863, when tribe dropped to howling cold
winter and went on government reservation. Infant
(female) was then turned over to U.S. Government
at Fort Kearney.
I posted to last named locality on the 18th ult.
and found by the quartermaster's books that, no
one appearing to claim the kid, she had been duly
indentured, together with six Indians, to a man
by the name of Guardine or Sardine (probably the
latter), in the show business. The Indians were
invoiced as Sage Brush Jimmy, Boiling Hurricane,
Mule-Who-Goes-Crooked, Joe, Hairy Grasshopper
and Dead Polecat. Child known as White Kitten.
Receipt for Indians was signed by Mr. Hi.
Samuels, who is still in the circus business, and
whom I happen to be selling out at this moment,
at suit of McCullum & Montmorency, former partners.
Samuels positively identified kid with variety
specialist by name of Nina Saville, who has
been showing all through this region for a year
I shall soon have the pleasure of laying before
you documents to establish the complete chain of
evidence, from knifing of original subject of your
inquiries right up to date.
I have to-day returned from New Centreville,
whither I went after Miss Saville. Found she had
just skipped the town with a young Englishman
by the name of Bovoir, who had been paying her
polite attentions for some time, having bowied or
otherwise squelched a man for her within a week
or two. It appears the young woman had refused
to have anything to do with him for a long
period; but he seems to have struck pay gravel
about two days before my arrival. At present,
therefore, the trail is temporarily lost; but I expect
to fetch the couple if they are anywhere this side
of the Rockies.
Awaiting your further instructions, and cash
backing thereto, I am, gents, very resp'y yours,
CABLE J. DEXTER.
DOCUMENT NO. 37
_Envelope of letter from Sir Oliver Beauvoir, Bart., to his son, William
_Sent to Dead Letter Office._
_Mr. William Beauvoir_
_Sherman House Hotel_
_United States of America_
_try Brevoort House_
DOCUMENT NO. 38.
_Letter contained in the envelope above_:
CHELSWORTH COTTAGE, March 30, 1879.
MY DEAR BOY: In the sudden blow which has
come upon us all I cannot find words to write.
You do not know what you have done. Your
uncle William, after whom you were named, died
in America. He left but one child, a daughter,
the only grandchild of my father except you.
And this daughter is the Miss Nina Saville with
whom you have formed so unhappy a connection.
She is your own cousin. She is a Beauvoir. She
is of our blood, as good as any in England.
My feelings are overpowering. I am choked by
the suddenness of this great grief. I cannot write
to you as I would. But I can say this: Do not
let me see you or hear from until this stain be
taken from our name.
DOCUMENT NO. 39.
_Cable dispatch of William Beauvoir, Windsor Hotel, New York, to Sir
Oliver Beauvoir, Bart., Chelsworth Cottage, Suffolk, England_:
NEW YORK, May 1, 1879.
Have posted you Herald.
DOCUMENT NO. 40.
_Advertisement under head of "Marriages," from the New York "Herald,"
April 30th, 1879:_
BEAUVOIR--BEAUVOIR.--On Wednesday, Jan. 1st, 1879, at Steal Valley,
California, by the Rev. Mr. Twells, William Beauvoir, only son of Sir
Oliver Beauvoir, of Chelsworth Cottage, Surrey, England, to Nina, only
child of the late William Beauvoir, of New Centreville, Cal.
DOCUMENT NO. 41.
_Extract from the New York "Herald" of May 29th, 1879:_
Among the passengers on the outgoing Cunard steamer _Gallia_, which left
New York on Wednesday, was the Honorable William Beauvoir, only son of
Sir Oliver Beauvoir, Bart., of England. Mr. Beauvoir has been passing
his honeymoon in this city, and, with his charming bride, a famous
California belle, has been the recipient of many cordial courtesies from
members of our best society. Mr. William Beauvoir is a young man of
great promise and brilliant attainments, and is a highly desirable
addition to the large and constantly increasing number of aristocratic
Britons who seek for wives among the lovely daughters of Columbia. We
understand that the bridal pair will take up their residence with the
groom's father, at his stately country-seat, Chelsworth Manor, Suffolk.
ONE OF THE THIRTY PIECES.
BY WILLIAM HENRY BISHOP.
In the spring of the year 1870 the premium on gold had fallen so low
that it began to be thought by sanguine people that specie payments
would be resumed at once. Silver in considerable quantities actually
came into circulation. Restaurants, cigar-stands, and establishments
dealing in the lighter articles of merchandise paid it out in change, by
way of an extra inducement to customers.
On one of these days Henry Barwood, a treasury clerk, and Megilp, the
rather well-known picture restorer, met by accident at the door of
Gruyere's restaurant. Gruyere's place, although in the business
quarter, is not supported to any great extent by the hurrying throng of
bankers', brokers', merchants', and lawyers' clerks who overrun the
vicinity every day at lunch-time. It is a rather leisurely resort,
frequented by well-to-do importers, musicians, and artists, people who
have travelled, and whose affairs admit of considerable deliberation and
repose. Barwood in former times had been in the habit of going there
occasionally to air his amateur French, burn a spoonful of brandy in his
coffee, and enjoy an economical foretaste of Paris. Returned to New York
after a considerable absence, to spend his vacation at home, he was
inclined to renew this with other old associations.
Megilp, sprung from a race which has supplied the world with a large
share of its versatility of talent and its adventurous proclivities, was
familiarly known at Gruyere's as "Mac." He was removed above want by the
possession of an income sufficient, with some ingenuity of management,
to provide him with the bare necessaries of life.
He found leisure to come every day to retail the gossip of the studios,
and fortify himself for the desultory labors in which he was engaged. He
liked the society of young men for several reasons. For one thing, they
were more free with their purses than his older cronies. The
association, he also thought, threw a sort of glamour of youth about his
own person. Finally, they listened to the disquisitions and artistic
rhapsodies in which he was fond of indulging, with an attention by no
means accorded by his compeers.
Barwood was of a speculative turn of mind, and had also by nature a
strong leaning towards whatever was curious and out of the common. These
proclivities Megilp's conversation, pursuits, and studio full of
trumpery were calculated to gratify. A moderate sort of friendship had
in consequence sprung up between them.
They made mutual protestations of pleasure at this meeting. Barwood
considered it an occasion worthy of a bottle of Dry Verzenay, which was
not demurred to by Megilp.
The payment of specie was so entire a novelty that, when the inquiries
and explanations natural after a long separation were concluded, it was
among the first topics touched upon.
"Sure it's the first hard money I've seen these ten years, so it is,"
"That is my case also," said Barwood. "I took as little interest in the
matter as any boy of fourteen might be expected to; but I remember very
well how rapidly specie disappeared at the beginning of the war."
"And where has it been?" said Megilp. "There's many fine points of
interest about it, do you see. Consider the receptacles in which it has
been hoarded--the secret places in chimneys, under floors and under
ground, the vaults, old stockings, cabinets, and caskets that have
teemed and glittered with it. Then there's the characters again, of all
its various owners: the timid doubters about the government, the
speculators, the curiosity hunters, the misers"--
"Yes," said Barwood, "the history of a single one of these pieces for
the period would probably make a story full of interest." It did not
detract from the value of Megilp's conversation, in Barwood's view, that
the worthy artist said "foine" and "hoorded" instead of adopting the
more conventional pronunciation.
"But what I'm after telling you isn't the singular part of it at all,"
resumed Megilp, taking some silver from his pocket and evidently
settling down to the subject. "What is ten years to it? According to the
mint reports a coin of the precious metals loses by wear and tear but
one twenty-four hundredth of its bulk in a year. These pieces I hold in
my hand, coined forty years ago, are scarcely defaced. In another forty
they will be hardly more so. What, for instance, has been the career of
this Mexican dollar? Perhaps it was struck from bullion fresh from a
Mexican mine. In that case I have nothing to say. But just as likely it
was struck from old Spanish plate or from former coin, and then it takes
us back to the earliest times, and its origin is lost in obscurity. The
same metal is time after time re-melted, re-cast, re-stamped, and thus
maintained in perpetual youth. This gold piece upon my watch-chain was
perchance coined from the sands of the Pactolus, and once bore
Chaldaean characters. And to what uses has it come?
'Imperial Caesar, dead and turned to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away;'
and so the pieces paid for the ransom of the Inca of Peru or Richard the
Lion-hearted, the material of the spurs of Agincourt, the rings of
Cleopatra and Zenobia, the golden targets of Solomon, fashioned from the
treasures of Ophir, may purchase soap and candles and mutton-chops for
John Smith. And yet why not? We ourselves have come down to commonplace
usages; why should not the works of our hands? You with your
conventional hat and English walking-coat, I with my spectacles and
Irish brogue, have had ancestors that wore coats of mail in the first
crusade, or twanged cross-bows with Robin Hood, sailed in the ships of
Tarshish, and traded to Tyre and Sidon."
"You think, then," said Barwood, "that some part of the coinage of
antiquity is still in circulation."
"To be sure I do, don't I tell you? I say the precious metals are
indestructible. All the coins that have figured prominently in history
are in some shape or other among us still. Twenty-four hundred years of
active use are needed to wear out a coin completely. How long will it
last with moderate use, and with intervals of lying buried for hundreds
of years, as much of the coinage of antiquity now extant in its
original condition has done? We have among us the rings, bolts, chains
bracelets, drinking-vessels, and vases that glitter in the narratives of
all the chroniclers, and embody the pomp and luxury of all the ages.
"My silver dollar here, which I ring upon Gruyere's table, and with
which, had it not been for your amiable politeness, I should have paid
for my frugal lunch, has haply been moulded in Cellini's dagger-hilts or
crucifixes, or formed part of a pirate's booty from a scuttled galleon
on the Spanish Main. For aught I know, it was current money in Nineveh
and Babylon. Perhaps it is one of the pieces paid by Abraham to the
children of Heth for the double cave that looked towards Mamre."
"Or one of the pieces for which Judas betrayed the Master," suggested
Megilp looked startled, and involuntarily pushed the money away from
him. "That is a singular fancy of yours."
"It came to me quite spontaneously this moment," said Barwood. "I don't
know but it is, and yet it was a very natural sequence from what
Both were abstracted for some moments, and contemplated in silence the
bubbles twisting up the stems of the delicate wine-glasses.
"Do you suppose," finally said Barwood, "that those coins, if extant,
carry with them an enduring curse?"
"There's no good in them, you may depend," said the other. By this time
both bottle and plates were empty. The train of thought they had been
pursuing seemed to have found its climax in the turn given it by
Barwood. Over their coffee and dessert they discussed more cheerful
"Come around to my place before you leave town," said Megilp, as they
shook hands at parting. "I have a one-legged bronze Hercules from
Pompeii. I think ye'll enjoy it."
As he hobbled away he muttered to himself more than once, "It's the
divil's own fancy, so it is."
* * * * *
The business of the Bureau of Ethereal Claims at Washington was
conducted by a moderate force of clerks, under the direction of General
Bellwether. The general had been a little of everything in his time. At
the outbreak of the war he abandoned an unprofitable insurance agency to
raise a company. He displayed considerable courage and strategic talent
in his campaigning, came out a brevet brigadier, and had been making a
good thing of it ever since in the government service. The office
bristled with military titles. Everybody except Barwood and Judge
Montane was either colonel, major, or captain. As to the judge, a
middle-aged, uncommunicative man who was known to be supporting a large
family, he confessed one day over a bottle, ordered in by the bureau
during the general's absence, that his title was chiefly honorary.
"What court did you used to be judge of, Montane?" inquired young Mars
"I'll tell you, boys," replied the judge, yielding to the genial
influences of the occasion; "I'm just no judge at all, do you see,
except may be as I'd be a good judge of whiskey or the like."
It was doubtful whether the claims of some others of the number could
have been much better established.
Mars Brown, son of the senator of that name,--a man whose influence few
generals or bureaus of claims could afford to disregard,--was naturally
the most privileged character in the office. He chatted familiarly with
the general when that irregular chief was present, absented himself for
several days at a time with perfect unconcern, came late in the morning,
and went early, as he explained, to make up for it. He was a handsome
fellow, thoroughly confident of himself, and companionable. He
displayed, among other accomplishments, an acquaintance with the manners
and customs of horses and dogs, and a facility in the management of
boats, guns, and fishing tackle that made him an indisputable authority
on all matters of the sort. His stock of stories was immense, his wit
always ready and very comical. He could convulse a dinner-party when
everything else failed, by making ridiculous faces. Among ladies of all
ages he was a sort of conquering hero. He was consequently in general
social demand as the life of the company.
Such was Mars Brown, whom Barwood, shortly after his return to
Washington, began to regard with distrust and dislike, as a possible
rival in the quarter where his affections were chiefly centred.
It might have been expected, from the general's excessive preoccupation
with lobbyists and politicians, that the business of the bureau should
languish, and so it did. The brunt of it was borne by a few clerks--of
whom Barwood was not one--whose tenure of office depended upon efficient
work rather than upon influential backing. Government work must be
performed by somebody, and it happens that, in spite of the great
principle of rotation, the heads of men of undeniable usefulness rest
firm upon their shoulders while hundreds are toppling all about them.
The bureau was not without spasmodic attempts at discipline. The general
spent an occasional forenoon in lying in wait for delinquents, whose
shortcomings he made the text for some very forcible remarks. The
business of the office, he would state warmly, should be attended to, or
he would make unpleasant theological arrangements for himself if he
didn't know the reason why. With Brown he never went much further than
to request, as a personal favor, that he would try to be on hand a
little oftener and rather earlier, to which Brown always acceded quite
Admirable punctuality of attendance and of office hours was almost
always observed for a couple of days after these formalities, and then
things resumed the even tenor of their way.
Whatever might be the effect of this state of affairs upon the other
employes of the office and upon the general public, it was certainly
disastrous to the private interests of Henry Barwood. Naturally of an
unpractical, somewhat morbid disposition, he needed the stimulus of a
business life in which the necessity for action and its results when
performed were constantly apparent. If engaged in his own ventures,
taking risks and devising plans, he might have abandoned his
speculations and fancies, and become a man of affairs. As it was, he
found too much opportunity for their indulgence.
Every day from nine to three he assorted, copied, and made abstracts of
applications and reports, the objects of which were remote, their
expediency questionable, and their ultimate fate problematical. Without
interest in the work and without any particular pressure for its
performance, he dreamed over it, and often awoke from his reveries to
find his figures inaccurate and his sentences meaningless.
Morbid people are probably as incomprehensible to themselves as to
others. The world is viewed by each through the medium of his own
ill-adjusted temperament. Objects are seen in a strangely tinted light,
which is more than suspected to be delusive, yet cannot be decolorized.
Barwood's vision was affected by such a distorting influence. He
discovered subtle meanings in ordinary things or circumstances, in the
manner of a nod from an acquaintance or the tone of a remark, and
brooded over them. He continually scrutinized and questioned his own
motives and those of others.
The mind of every human being is a puzzle to every other. With what is
it occupied when left to its own devices? There is, in Barwood's
handwriting, proof that his brain was filled with a procession of
changing activities and impressions which were for the most part
melancholy,--aspirations for fame, distrust in his own powers,
forecasting of probabilities, repining for past sins and follies, rage
and epithets for imaginary meetings with enemies. In the midst of all
there were moments of perfect peace made up of reminiscences of a
high-porticoed house, the grass-grown wheel-tracks and the sandy beach
of the village on the Connecticut coast where his early home had been.
His fancies were rich and full, but slightly chaotic. So also his will
was strong and imperious at times, but vacillating.
It could not be said that he was not ambitious He would have desired
success in order to secure a kindly recognition and to obviate the jars
and harshness of life. But no one prevailing impulse had ever enlisted
his full powers. He saved money, with a general indefinite notion of
some day becoming a capitalist, and also gave much time to studies of
various sorts. He learned music among the rest, after coming of age, and
composed music of his own, using as an inspiration a favorite poem,
picture, or character. These compositions were marked by a quaintness
like that--if a comparison may be made to something tangible--, of a
Chinese vase or a broken bronze figure. His family, the Barwoods, had
been from the earliest times a race of shrewd and driving New England
storekeepers, the very antipodes of sentiment and dilettanteism. Such
incongruities are among the compensations of nature. The Holbrook farm
was the one locality, and Nina Holbrook the one figure, in the generally
sombre prospect which Barwood saw about him, that gleamed in sunshine.
By the interposition of Mars Brown these also were presently shadowed.
[Footnote 1: From entries in a carefully kept diary.]
* * * * *
It would have been strange, with Barwood's habits of retrospection and
continual casting about for the rare and curious, if the subject matter
of his conversation with the old painter at Gruyere's had not taken some
hold upon his imagination. But to explain the rapidity with which the
notion there suggested grew, and the absorbing interest with which it
finally held him, would be difficult. The influence of the mind upon the
body is known. By persistent direction of thought one can both create
and cure a pain in any specific spot of his organism. The mind has a
similar power over itself. By intense concentration upon one subject it
may suspend and finally destroy its faculty of interest in any and all
The idea that the price of the treason of Judas is still extant and
current in these every-day, commonplace times is at first sight utterly
incongruous and incredible, perhaps a little sacrilegious. Yet it is
evidently plausible. "The precious metals are indeed indestructible, as
Megilp has said," soliloquized Barwood. "They do not oxidize. The most
violent excesses of the elements have no effect upon them. If not still
extant, where then are the treasures of the ages?
"Buried under ground or in the ocean.
"What proportion of the whole has been thus disposed of?
"In the absence of statistics a definite amount cannot be stated, but
from the nature of the case it cannot be large. This form of wealth has
been too highly esteemed, too jealously guarded, and too rigorously
sought for when lost. In the wars and convulsions of society it has
changed hands but it could not be destroyed. Alexander and Tamerlane and
Timour the Tartar and Mahomet might overrun the world, burning and
destroying, and melting its more fragile riches like frost-work. But the
money of the vanquished was useful to the victor for his own purposes.
Rome took from Alexander, the barbarians from Rome, and modern
civilization from the barbarians. The waves of time roll over and engulf
all the monuments of men, all that gold and silver buy and sell, and, as
it were, create; but these irrepressible tokens themselves float and
glitter in the foam-crests upon those very billows. It cannot, then, be
doubted that the instruments and accompaniments of most of the pomp and
luxury, the war, treasons, and varied mercenary crimes of the world, are
still acting their part in it.
"And why not with the rest the fatal money which Judas cast down before
the chief priests in his remorse, going out to destroy himself?"
These were the reflections that recurred again and again to Barwood, and
possessed him with a strange fascination. All coins acquired a new and
intense interest. He saw in each the exponent of centuries of human
passions and activities. It is true that in a country like our own a
large part of the coinage is fresh from the mine. Yet his occasional
encounters with foreign, especially Mexican and Canadian pieces, and a
consideration of the immense sums received at the great ports of entry,
were, in his regard, sufficient to leaven the whole.
Is there anywhere in literature an account of the subsequent career of
the thirty pieces?
The Capitol library, one of the most complete collections in the world,
offers unlimited facilities for research. There Barwood was to be found
some part of every day for months.
The writer has seen a list of the works consulted by him in his singular
investigation. It numbers some hundreds, and includes commentaries of
all sorts upon the Gospels, lives of the apostles, collections of
apocryphal Gospels and Scriptural traditions, the works of the early
fathers, chronicles of the Middle Ages, treatises upon Oriental life and
customs, histories of symbolism and Christian art, a great number of
works upon numismatics, and, finally, accounts of great crimes and
calamities. For Barwood took a new view of history: he looked to find
that the great treasons, briberies, betrayals of trust, murders from
mercenary motives, and perhaps financial troubles, had been set in
motion by this fatal money, made the instrument of divine vengeance.
"It has mown a swath through history," he said, "like a discharge of
He believed it would appear, if the truth were known, in the bank
accounts of Manuel Comnenus, of Egmont, Benedict Arnold, and the
His progress was by no means rapid. Much of the literature among which
he delved, musty with age, written in mediaeval Latin and in obsolete
characters, gave up its secrets with reluctance. Nevertheless he found
definite replies to the questions which he propounded to himself. A
collection of apocryphal Gospels "printed," according to the quaint
title-page, "for Richard Royston at the Angle in Amen Corner, MDCLXX,"
relates particulars about Judas, among the rest, which do not appear in
the Scriptures. He was when young, it was said, a playmate of the boy
Jesus, who delivered him from a devil by which he was even then
possessed. The chief value of this book to Barwood was in a reference it
contained to a fuller Gospel of Judas Iscariot, not now extant with the
exception of some passages quoted in the writings of Irenaeus. But these
passages were upon the very subject of which he was in search. In a
treatise of Irenaeus's, therefore, of about the second century, Barwood
found the first definite mention of the coins.
The main part of the story is that of the authorized version, but after
the account of the relinquishment of the coins by Judas, saying that he
had betrayed innocent blood, and of their use in the purchase of the
potter's field, occurs a passage translated by Barwood as follows:--
"Now the shekels were of the coinage of Simon, the high priest, which
Antiochus authorized him to issue. They bore the pot of manna and the
flowering rod of Aaron, the high priest. But he to whom they were given
knew that they were the price of blood, and was afraid. And _he stamped
them with a mark in shape like a cross_. And great tribulations came
upon him, and tribulation came upon all that bought and sold with the
money of Judas." Later on, Leontinus, a Byzantine writer of the sixth
century, in a treatise devoted to showing the efficacy of certain forms
and processes in imparting virtue to inanimate matter, instances as well
known the malevolence inherent in the thirty pieces of silver of Judas,
which carry ruin wherever they go. From this time the legend is traced
down through successive periods. The Middle Ages, which so delighted in
the romantic, the mysterious, the portentous, received it implicitly.
Eginhard, abbot of Seligenstadt under Charlemagne, William of
Malmesbury, the English chronicler of the twelfth century, Roger Bacon
of the thirteenth, Malespini, the Italian chronicler of the same period,
and many others of equal note mention as fully established that the
coins of Judas were in circulation, and were inflicting serious injury
upon those into whose possession they came. It was said to be
impossible to amalgamate them with any other silver. They either would
not melt or in melting remained distinct. This, however, was a disputed
point. Some of the alchemists in their writings seem disposed to
attribute the ill success of their efforts at transmutation to the
presence of some taint of these pieces in the silver upon which they
Matthew Paris, who first popularized the legend of the Wandering Jew, as
now received, strangely enough makes no mention of them.
The conclusions arrived at by Barwood were these:--
1. There was for hundreds of years a general belief in the existence and
active circulation of the thirty pieces paid to Judas.
2. They were supposed to be sent as a divine judgment, and to leave ruin
in their track.
3. The tradition gradually disappeared and cannot be traced in the
literature of modern times.
Here was a valuable pursuit for a young American treasury clerk of the
nineteenth century! It would have been interesting to have got the
general's opinion upon it, if it could have been sought in some hurried
interval of his confidential transactions with Richard Roe, claim agent
and brother-in-law, or his attention to addition and division with
Barwood did not stop here. Now that his belief was put into tangible
shape, he felt impelled onward to its realization. He examined minutely
every coin collection in Washington. Then, as he could, he made journeys
to several of the great cities. Very seldom did he find a specimen of
Jewish money of any kind. Jewish coins are rare. "It is known that the
Jews had no coinage of their own until the time of Maccabeus. Simon
Maccabeus, by virtue of a decree of Antiochus (1 Macc. xv. 6) issued a
shekel and also a half-shekel. These with the exception of some brass
coins of the Herods, Archelaus, and Agrippa, and a doubtful piece
attributed to Bar Cochba, the leader in the last rising against the
Romans, are the only coins of Judea extant."
Barwood began to be affected by a nervous dread brought on by his too
close study and constant preoccupation with this subject. As he alone
had felt this interest and prosecuted this strange inquiry, might it not
be that he was being drawn in some mysterious way within the influence
of the fatal money? Perhaps he himself was to be involved in its
relentless course. He shuddered at the thought, and yet was borne
irresistibly on, as he believed, in his pursuit. He imagined at times
that he felt a peculiar influence from the touch of certain pieces. This
he held to be a clairvoyant sense that they had figured in crimes.
Perhaps contact with a hand affected by powerful passion had imparted to
them subtle properties capable of being detected by a sensitive
In such study and speculation Barwood passed the spring and summer of
1870. Towards the middle of August occurred the well-remembered flurry
in Wall Street consequent upon the breaking out of the French and
Prussian War. Gold jumped up to one hundred and twenty-three. Money was
loaned at ruinous rates. The whole financial system was disturbed.
Silver, then withdrawn from circulation, has not reappeared to this day.
The effect of these events upon Barwood although not immediately
apparent, was highly important. With the disappearance of specie, the
daily sight and handling of which had given his conception a tangible
support, its strength declined. It was not forgotten at once, nor indeed
at all. But time drew it away by little and little. It threw mists of
distance and hues of strangeness about it, until at length Barwood
looked back upon it, far remote, as a vague object of wonderment.
[Footnote 2: Diary, June, 1870.]
* * * * *
THE HOLBROOK FARM.
The day had been sultry. Even after sunset the atmosphere was
oppressive, and pavements and railings in the city were warm to the
touch from the steady blaze to which they had been subjected. At the
Holbrook farm, however, occasional puffs of air stirred the silver
poplars skirting the road, and waved the brown timothy grass that grew
knee-deep up to the veranda.
Porto Rico and Carter's boy turning somersaults in the grass--entirely
without the knowledge of the discreet Carter himself, it may be
assumed--suddenly relinquished this fascinating sport to rush for the
privilege of holding Barwood's horse, Porto Rico's longer legs and
general force of character gave him the preference. He jumped into the
saddle as soon as Barwood was out of it, and trotted off to the stable
with Carter's boy whooping and bobbing his woolly head in the rear.
"Never you mine," said Carter's boy, "I'll have the other gen'l'm'n."
"No other gen'l'm'n a'n't comin'," said Porto Rico. "Don't I done tole
you dey don't bofe come de same day?"
The Holbrook house, three miles from the Capitol, of the dome of which
it commands a pretty glimpse across an expanse of foliage, is one of the
old residences remaining from the days of the slave-holders. Like many
such places it has been much altered and improved. It seems to have been
originally a one and-a-half-story stone dwelling, to which some later
proprietor has added a high-peaked roof, dormer windows, and ample
piazzas. It stands half-way up a slope, near the top of which is a
grove. A brook runs down through the woods on the other side of the
road, and beyond that rises a steep little bluff crowned with scrub-oaks
The attraction that drew people to Holbrook farm was not the proprietor
himself, nor very much his maiden sister, the housekeeper, nor yet
Carter, the farmer and manager who came with them from Richmond. It was
rather the engaging manners and amiable beauty of Nina Holbrook, the
daughter of the house. The old gentleman was a partial paralytic,
whimsical, and not especially sociable. He was known to have lived in
princely style at Richmond, formerly. He was said to have met for some
years past with continual reverses, in the loss of property, in
sickness, and in the death of friends. The farm was bought with almost
the last remnants of a great fortune.
As Barwood strode down the piazza, a young lady rose from her reading to
give him her hand.
Blonde beauty is slightly indefinite. The edges are, as it were, too
much softened off into the background. The figure before Barwood was
fresh, distinct, clear-cut,--pre-Raphaelitish, to take a word from
painting. In all the details, from the ribbon in her feathery brown hair
to the pretty buttoned boot, there was the ineffable aroma of a pure,
To a man of Barwood's temperament falling in love was difficult. He
analyzed too closely. To ask the tender passion too many questions is to
repel its advances.
Nevertheless, after two years of intimate association, in which he had
discovered in Nina Holbrook a frankness and loveliness of character
commensurate with her personal graces, he had arrived at this
condition. First, He believed that her permanent influence upon his
character could cure his moodiness and his unpractical tendencies, and
enable him to exert his fullest powers. Second, By making the
supposition that anything should intervene to limit or break off their
intercourse, he found that she had become indispensable to him.
Their acquaintance had begun in some one of the ordinary ways in which
people meet. It might have been at a tea-party, or a secretary's
reception, or a boat excursion up the Potomac. They discovered that they
had mutual acquaintances to talk about. His evening rides began to be
directed through the pretty lanes that led to Holbrook. She loaned him a
book; he brought her confectionery; they played some piano duets
On her side the sentiment was different. She respected Barwood for fine
traits and was grateful for his many kindnesses to her. But certain
peculiar moods of his made her uncomfortable. His interest also was too
much occupied with books, speculations about the anomalies and problems
of life, and similar serious matters. She found it wearisome and often
difficult to follow him. She admired such things, but had not as much
head for them as he gave her credit for. Her taste was more practical,
commonplace, and cheerful. She was satisfied with people and things in
their ordinary aspects.
She got on much better with Mars Brown, exchanging comments with him
upon the affairs of her friends and his, discussing the last party and
the next wedding, or laughing at his drollery. She confessed her
stupidity and frivolity with charming frankness.
Barwood was conscious that he did not always interest her, although she
never showed anything but the most ladylike attention. He often went
away lamenting the destiny that had fashioned his nature to run in so
small and rigid a groove. His happiness, therefore, did not consist in
being with her, for then he was oppressed by a consciousness of not
entirely pleasing her. It was rather in retrospect, in his memory of her
sweet and earnest face, the tones of her voice, the shine of her hair.
He gave her such small gifts as he might within the restraints of social
propriety. It would have consisted with his notion of the fitness of
things to give her everything he had and leave himself a beggar.
Barwood rode to Holbrook to-day with a definite purpose. He was aware,
although, as Porto Rico said, both gentlemen did not come on the same
day, that Mars Brown was devoting more attention in this direction of
late than the exigencies of his boat and ball clubs, his shooting and
fishing, and the claims of the social world in town would seem to
warrant. He did not yet really fear him as a rival. His presence was
only a suggestion of possibilities. There might at some time be rivals.
He had determined to forestall possibilities, and tell her of his
affection at once.
Mars Brown was, however, a dangerous rival, although himself perhaps as
little aware of it as Barwood. He also had met Nina and been impressed
by her animated beauty. Accustomed to success, he had ridden out to
Holbrook to add one more to his list of flirtations and conquests. The
results had by no means answered his expectations. When he approached
sentiment Nina laughed at him. By degrees he had been piqued into
earnestness, and had for the first time in his life approximated to a
serious esteem and attachment.
Although Nina laughed at first, later on she sometimes blushed at his
voice or his step, or when she put her hand into his. If his customary
shrewd vision had not been disturbed by some unusual influences at work
within himself, he would have seen it.
He had the audacity that charms women, and with it a frank, open face, a
hearty laugh, an entirely healthy, cheerful disposition, and an air of
strength under all his frivolity.
It has been said that Barwood had come to the farm to-day with a
definite purpose. He drew up one of the comfortable chairs at hand, and
sat down near to Nina. They talked at first of ordinary things, the
unusual heat, the news of the day, and what each had been doing since
their last meeting.
The secluded prospect before them was very peaceful. Barwood felt its
soothing influence acting upon the perturbation of his spirit.
"I am improving my mind, you see," said Nina, holding up to him one of
Motley's histories, which she had apparently been reading. "I do not
believe even you can find fault with this."
"Am I in the habit of finding fault with anybody, Miss Nina?"
"Oh no, I don't mean that exactly, but you know so much, you know, that
you frighten one."
"Thank you," said Barwood with a grave smile, "you flatter me."
"Why were you not at the Hoyts' last Tuesday?" said she.
"I was not invited, and, strange to state, I am a little diffident about
going under such circumstances."
"Ah, you are! how singular! But I wish you had been there, if it was
only to see Betty Goodwin. You used to know her. It is such a short time
ago that she was a little girl. Now she is out of school and as
important as anybody. You should have seen the attention she had, and
her perfect self-possession. It makes me feel extremely antiquated. Am I
very much wrinkled?"
Barwood gazed with admiration at her animated face. She was to him the
personification of youth and beauty. The notion of age and wrinkles in
her regard was inconceivable.
"Why, of course," said he; "Methuselah wasn't a circumstance."
She dismissed the subject with a little pout.
"I am so glad you have come early," she resumed. "I wish the others
would imitate your example."
"The others? What others?"
"Mr. Hyson, the Hoyt boys, Mr. Brown, Fanny Davis, and the rest. You did
not suppose you were to do them alone, I hope."
"Do what alone? I don't understand."
"Why, the tableaux--Evangeline. Did you not get my message yesterday?"
"I got no message. Am I to be implicated in tableaux?"
"Why, certainly. You are to be Evangeline's father. They are for the
benefit of the French wounded. I sent Carter to tell you yesterday. We
are to arrange the preliminaries this evening."
Barwood saw that if he would not postpone his purpose no time was to be
lost. The visitors might arrive at any moment.
Literature is full of the embarrassments of the marriage proposal. To
all who are not borne along by an impetuous impulse it is a trying
ordeal. Barwood was too self-conscious ever to be transported out of
"I have something to say to you, Miss Nina," he began, "which I have
come from town expressly to say. It is of the greatest moment to me."
She continued to look straight before her at the glowing evening sky,
and so did he. The crickets and katydids had commenced their chorus and
the tree-toads their long rhythm. Fire-flies flitted in the uncertain
light. There came from the woods the call of the owl and the
"We have sometimes laughed together at sentiment," he continued, "and
voted it an invention of the story-books; but there are times--there is
a sentiment--which--in short, dear Nina, I have come to ask you to be my
little wife. I have loved you almost since our first meeting."
"Oh, Mr. Barwood," said she, looking hastily towards him, with
heightened color and a tone of regret, "you must not say so. I cannot
let you go on."
"I must go on," said he. "I have never felt so strongly upon any subject
as this. I know I am not worthy of such happiness, yet I cannot bear the
thought of losing it. Consider our long friendship. You will be mine?
Oh, say so, Nina!" In the terrible dread that his petition was already
refused, he became a little incoherent.
Nina, a tender-hearted young lady, was by this time in tears. His
evident distress, and her recognition of the great compliment he had
paid her, would have commanded almost any return save the one he asked.
But the sacrifice was too great. She had not thought it would ever be
necessary to change their relation of friendship.
"I am very sorry to have to say what is painful to you," said she, with
a sob only half repressed. "I want you to be always my friend. I shall
be very unhappy if our friendship is to be broken, but _I_ cannot--you
will find some other"--
"Do not speak further," he interrupted, impetuously. "You have not yet
said no. Reserve your answer; take time to consider. Let me still hope."
"No," she began, "I ought"--but wheels and merry voices were heard at
the gate. "Oh! I cannot let them see me now," she said, and hurried
away. In a moment more the Robinsons' carriage was at the steps. When
Nina came down with a sweet, subdued manner, there was a jolly party of
ten or twelve in the drawing-room. Mars Brown was already amusing
everybody with his absurd posturing.
"I want to be Evangeline," said he, wrapping a lady's shawl about him
and sitting on the arm of a chair in a collapsed attitude. "No, on
second thought, I want to be Basil the blacksmith." He made imitations
of tremendous muscular power with a tack-hammer that happened in his way
for a sledge. Everybody on such occasions has his own notions of the
picturesque. A deal of talking was required in arranging the various
scenes. Evangeline must manifest a "celestial brightness," according to
the lines. "I don't think you do it quite right," said Julia Robinson.
"You should smile a little."
"Oh no, not at all; she should have an earnest, far off look," said
"Of course she should," said Mars Brown, rumpling his hair and
contorting his features into an expression of idiotic vacancy;
"something this way."
"We ought to have a real artist to arrange them," said Nina; "what
would I give if old Mr. Megilp were here."
"Did you know Megilp?" exclaimed Barwood.
"Why, of course I did. He was my drawing teacher at Richmond for years."
"What a small world it is, to be sure," said Barwood, giving vent to a
favorite reflection. The mention of Megilp brought back for a moment a
remembrance of their last meeting and conversation, and the strange
pursuit into which it had led him.
The signing of the marriage contract was selected by the amateurs as an
appropriate subject for illustration.
"We must have a table," said Miss Travers. "At one side sits the notary,
lifting his pen from the document which he has just signed, and at the
other her father, pushing toward the notary a roll of money in payment."
"Here you are," said George Wigwag, taking his place and assuming the
appropriate gesture; "here's your notary; bring on your old gentleman
and his money."
"A roll of old copper cents would be just the thing," said Miss Travers.
"They look antique enough."
"Will some gentleman deposit with the treasurer a roll of antique copper
cents?" said Brown, passing a hat. "No gentleman deposits a roll of
copper cents. Very well, then the wedding can't go on."
"Do you think I'll sign marriage contracts for copper?" said Wigwag.
"No indeed; I'm not that kind of a notary."
"I will bring down some of papa's curiosity coins from his cabinet,"
said Nina. "I don't believe he will scold me, just for once."
She returned in a moment with a dozen or more silver pieces, and placed
them on the table by Barwood. He began to examine them carelessly.
"I did not know your father was a numismatist," said he.
"Oh yes," said Nina, "he always had a great taste in that way. His
collection now is nothing. When we broke up in Richmond most of it was
sold off. He retained only a few of the most valuable pieces, which he
keeps in a case in his room. I don't know much about such things, for my
part. Here is one that is considered curious. It was taken out of a
wreck on the California coast, I believe, and was the last papa bought
before his failure. I think it is Russian, perhaps, or Arabic--no, let
Barwood, with an abstracted air, took it to examine. Suddenly he uttered
a strange exclamation and fell back in his chair, pale, trembling,
_The coin was a Jewish shekel, with a cross cut through at one side._
He pleaded sudden illness, and rode hastily homeward in a state of
* * * * *
Barwood's strange and almost forgotten conception was thus at length
realized, and the interest with which it had inspired him intensely
revived. One of the fatal pieces was found. He would now fain have
overthrown the structure of probabilities which he had labored so
painfully to elaborate. He reviewed step by step all the details of his
former study; but no argument availed in the face of the extraordinary
corroboration now offered. The piece was "stamped with a mark in shape
like a cross," and the account of Irenaeus was verified.
That this fatal piece should appear in the hands of the people whom of
all others he most esteemed and with whom his own fortunes were most
intimately bound up, was a terrible shock. This, then, was the clew to
the catalogue of Holbrook's misfortunes. What surpassing crime could the
old man have committed to be so signally marked out for vengeance? But
the question of most vital interest was what could be done to save the
family so dear to him from their impending fate.
With the recovery of some calmness, he felt that his first duty was to
remove the coin from their possession. But how was it to be done? He
could not disclose his knowledge of its baleful properties. It would be
set down as the vagary of a disordered brain; nobody would entertain it
for an instant. His object must be accomplished, if at all, by artifice.
When he next rode to the farm, nearly a week had elapsed since the
evening into which so many distracting emotions had been crowded. He
exerted himself to display unusual cheerfulness, with the double object
of removing any disagreeable impression which might have been the result
of his sudden departure on that occasion, and also of finding means to
forward his purpose. The subject uppermost in the thoughts of both was
at first carefully avoided, and they talked much in their usual fashion.
"Those coins, Miss Nina, which were used the other evening in the
tableau," said he, with a careless air, "can I see them again? I found
them interesting, but owing to my sudden illness, as you know, had
scarcely time to examine them."
"My father was displeased at me for taking them," said she, "and has
forbidden me to do so again. I think he would show them to you himself
with pleasure, if he were here, but he went North yesterday on business
which will detain him a week. He took the key of his cabinet with him."
Disappointed in this, there seemed to be for the present no resource. He
recurred again to his love. If she would consent to be his, he thought,
he might disclose the danger, and they could plan together to avert it.
He told her with what anxiety he had been awaiting her decision, and
then once more made his appeal with all the ardor at his command. As he
finished, standing close beside her, he took her hand.
She did not withdraw it, but still went on to tell him with great
calmness and dignity that what he desired could never be. She hoped
their friendship might always continue, but as for a closer relation, it
would be unjust to him as well as herself to enter into it without the
affection which she could not give.
He went away apparently very much broken down, saying that his life was
a burden to him, and that he had no use for it. The next day he came
again and acted so strangely, mingling appeals to her with talk about
her father's coins, that she was a little frightened.
The few days that succeeded made a striking change in the appearance of
Barwood. He became pale and haggard, and seemed to have lost his
capacity for business and fixed attention. He sat staring helplessly at
his papers for an hour at a time. The general, who with all his
iniquities was a good-hearted chief, thought he was sick, and told him
to stay at home and take care of himself. His reflections at this time
were tormenting. He saw that he had indeed been drawn within the
influence of the fatal coin. It was at him that its malignity was
directed, and he believed that his doom was approaching, as indeed it
was. Sometimes he gazed at his altered face in the glass, while tears
streamed down his cheeks. He said aloud, in a piteous tone, "Poor Henry
The sympathy of the world is generally upon the side of the unsuccessful
lover. He is considered to have been defrauded of happiness which should
by right have been his. But is it fair? Because her face is sweet, her
manners are amiable, her form is slender and graceful, and her hair has
a golden shine, and Barwood or Brown or Travers, as the case may be, in
common with all the world, recognizes it, does that establish a claim
upon her? Just as likely as not he has a snub nose and only fifteen
hundred a year, and cannot dance the Boston. No! sympathy is well
enough, but let not the blame be cast upon Chloe every time that Daphnis
goes off in despair to the Sandwich Islands, or the war in Cuba, or
turns out a good-for-nothing sot. Let it rather be set down as one of
the ill-adjustments of which there are so many in life, and the
endurance of which is no doubt of service in some direction not yet
In about a week there came from Holbrook Farm a message which was not
needed to complete the measure of Barwood's unhappiness.
"My father," wrote Nina, "has just returned. He has decided that we are
to remove permanently to Connecticut, where my aunt has fallen heir to
the Holbrook homestead. We shall leave next Monday. Will you let us see
you before we go?"
He mounted his horse and started at once. He did not know exactly what
he should do or say. His ideas were in a state of confusion, and there
was a numbness over all his sensations. He gave himself up blindly to
He saw Nina sitting in the shade of an apple-tree, half-way down the
lawn, near a little plateau which served for a croquet ground. He tied
his horse to the fence outside, much to the disappointment of the
rollicking negro boys, and walked up. Nina held in her lap a tray of
coins which she was engaged in brightening. She assumed a sprightliness
not quite natural, and evidently designed to obviate the awkwardness of
their peculiar relation.
"We have had an accident," said she. "One of our chimneys fell through
the roof during the storm last night. It shook down the plaster upon
papa's cabinet. The glass was broken and the rain came in so that this
morning it was in a sorry condition. I am repairing damages, you see. If
I were superstitious," she continued, "I should fear that something was
going to happen. I meet with so many omens lately. I spill salt, cross
funerals, and make one of thirteen at dinner parties."
Barwood replied as best he could; he did not know exactly what. He was
in no mood for flippancy. He assumed a dozen different positions in a
short space: first sitting on a camp-chair beside her, then hurried
walking up and down, then careless prostration upon the grass. The old,
useless argument was gone through with again. She told him at last that
it annoyed her, that he was very inconsiderate. Then again he paced up
and down the little croquet ground. She saw him twisting and clutching
his hands together behind him. At the fifth or sixth turn as he came by
she had the marked shekel in her hand. He took it from her and looked at
"Yes, it is indeed," said he in an unnatural voice, "fatal money, and I
am its latest victim!"
He threw it towards the woods with great force.
It rose high in the air, skimmed the trees, and they saw it twinkle into
It was a very little incident. No magic hand arose from the water. The
beauty of the August day was not marred. The rain of the past night had
swollen the brook, which ran hurriedly on to the Potomac, making little
of this trivial addition to its burdens.
Nina did not reproach him. She felt that her father would consider the
loss irreparable, yet she had no words for this extraordinary rudeness.
After two or three turns more in his walk he stopped close beside her.
"For the last time," said he, "have I urged everything, and is it of no
She made no answer.
"You have said so?" he persisted.
"Yes, I have said so," she replied, with a touch of impatience, and
without raising her eyes. "I am engaged to Mars Brown."
He went forward several steps and stood still. Glancing up she saw him
hold a little revolver to his temple. It was one she had known him to
carry for protection when riding late in the evening. He seemed to
deliberate one terrible moment while she sat spell-bound as if by
nightmare, and then he fired and fell.
She tried to reach his body, but fainted on the way. Mars Brown, riding
to Holbrook for a half-holiday, was almost within sight.
Upon the closing scene of Hamlet, where the characters, after a period
of stormy conflict and exquisite anguish, lie strewn by violent death,
arrives young Fortinbras at the head of his marching army. Tall, sturdy,
elastic, dressed in chain-mail, victorious, careless, the impersonation
of ruddy life, the young Norway conqueror leans upon his sword above the
So this brilliant young man, elegant in figure, well dressed, joyous,
cynical, came whistling up the path. He cut off the clover tops with his
walking-stick. The butterflies, the pleasant aromas, and all the
manifestations of rural beauty pleased him.
"Egad," said he, "this isn't so bad, you know."
In a moment he stood by the apple-tree, and the whole sad spectacle was
* * * * *
The telegraphic column of a New York newspaper gave the story next
morning, in the conventional manner, as follows:
"Henry Barwood, a treasury clerk, was killed
yesterday at the Holbrook estate near Washington,
by the discharge of a pistol in his own hands. The
shooting is thought to have been accidental,
although he had been ill and depressed for some
days, and is said to have shown symptoms of insanity
on former occasions."
BY REBECCA HARDING DAVIS.
"There's a man, now, that has been famous in his time," said Davidge, as
we passed the mill, glancing in at the sunny gap in the side of the
I paused incredulously: Phil's lion so often turned out to be Snug the
joiner. Phil was my chum at college, and in inviting me home to spend
the vacation with him I thought he had fancied the resources of his
village larger than they proved. In the two days since we came we had
examined the old doctor's cabinet, listened superciliously to a debate
in the literary club upon the Evils of the Stage, and passed two solid
afternoons in the circle about the stove in the drug-shop, where the
squire and the Methodist parson, and even the mild, white-cravated young
rector of St. Mark's, were wont to sharpen their wits by friction. What
more was left? I was positive that I knew the mental gauge of every man
in the village.
A little earlier or later in life a gun or fishing-rod would have
satisfied me. The sleepy, sunny little market-town was shut in by the
bronzed autumn meadows, that sent their long groping fingers of grass or
parti-colored weeds drowsily up into the very streets: there were ranges
of hills and heavy stretches of oak and beech woods, too, through which
crept glittering creeks full of trout. But I was just at that age when
the soul disdains all aimless pleasures: my game was Man. I was busy in
philosophically testing, weighing, labelling human nature.
"Famous, eh?" I said, looking after the pursy figure of the miller in
his floury canvas round-about and corduroy trowsers, trotting up and
down among the bags.
"That is one of the Balacchi Brothers," Phil answered as we walked on.
"You've heard of them when you were a boy?"
I had heard of them. The great acrobats were as noted in their line of
art as Ellsler and Jenny Lind in theirs. But acrobats and danseuses had
been alike brilliant, wicked impossibilities to my youth, for I had been
reared a Covenanter of the Covenanters. In spite of the doubting
philosophies with which I had clothed myself at college, that old
Presbyterian training clung to me in everyday life close as my skin.
After that day I loitered about the mill, watching this man, whose life
had been spent in one godless theatre after another, very much as the
Florentine peasants looked after Dante when they knew he had come back
from hell. I was on the lookout for the taint, the abnormal signs, of
vice. It was about that time that I was fevered with the missionary
enthusiasm, and in Polynesia, where I meant to go (but where I never did
go), I declared to Phil daily that I should find in every cannibal the
half-effaced image of God, only waiting to be quickened into grace and
virtue. That was quite conceivable. But that a flashy, God-defying actor
could be the same man at heart as this fat, good-tempered, gossiping
miller, who jogged to the butcher's every morning for his wife, a basket
on one arm and a baby on the other, was not conceivable. He was a close
dealer at the butcher's, too, though dribbling gossip there as
everywhere; a regular attendant at St. Mark's, with his sandy-headed
flock about him, among whom he slept comfortably enough, it is true, but
with as pious dispositions as the rest of us.
I remember how I watched this man, week in and week out. It was a
trivial matter, but it irritated me unendurably to find that this
circus-rider had human blood precisely like my own it outraged my early
We talk a great deal of the rose-colored illusions in which youth wraps
the world, and the agony it suffers as they are stripped from its bare,
hard face. But the fact is, that youth (aside from its narrow-passionate
friendships) is usually apt to be acrid and watery and sour in its
judgment and creeds--it has the quality of any other unripe fruit: it is
middle age that is just and tolerant, that has found room enough in the
world for itself and all human flies to buzz out their lives
good-humoredly together. It is youth who can see a tangible devil at
work in every party or sect opposed to its own, whose enemy is always a
villain, and who finds treachery and falsehood in the friend who is
occasionally bored or indifferent: it is middle age that has discovered
the reasonable sweet _juste milieu_ of human nature--who knows few
saints perhaps, but is apt to find its friend and grocer and shoemaker
agreeable and honest fellows. It is these vehement illusions, these
inherited bigotries and prejudices, that tear and cripple a young man as
they are taken from him one by one. He creeps out of them as a crab from
the shell that has grown too small for him, but he thinks he has left
his identity behind him.
It was such a reason as this that made me follow the miller assiduously,
and cultivate a quasi intimacy with him, in the course of which I picked
the following story from him. It was told at divers times, and with many
interruptions and questions from me. But for obvious reasons I have made
it continuous. It had its meaning to me, coarse and common though it
was--the same which Christ taught in the divine beauty of His parables.
Whether that meaning might not be found in the history of every human
life, if we had eyes to read it, is matter for question.
Balacchi Brothers? And you've heard of them, eh? Well, well! (with a
pleased nod, rubbing his hands on his knees). Yes, sir. Fifteen years
ago they were known as The Admirable Crichtons of the Ring. It was
George who got up that name: I did not see the force of it. But no name
could claim too much for us. Why, I could show you notices in the
newspapers that--I used to clip them out and stuff my pocket-book with
them as we went along, but after I quit the business I pasted them in an
old ledger, and I often now read them of nights. No doubt I lost a good
Yes, sir: I was one of Balacchi Brothers. My name _is_ Zack Loper. And
it was then, of course.
You think we would have plenty of adventures? Well, no--not a great
many. There's a good deal of monotony in the business. Towns seem always
pretty much alike to me. And there was such a deal of rehearsing to be
done by day and at night. I looked at nothing but the rope and George:
the audience was nothing but a packed flat surface of upturned, staring
eyes and half-open mouths. It was an odd sight, yes, when you come to
think of it. I never was one for adventures. I was mostly set upon
shaving close through the week, so that when Saturday night came I'd
have something to lay by: I had this mill in my mind, you see. I was
married, and had my wife and a baby that I'd never seen waiting for me
at home. I was brought up to milling, but the trapeze paid better. I
took to it naturally, as one might say.
But George!--he had adventures every week. And as for acquaintances!
Why, before we'd be in a town two days he'd be hail-fellow-well-met with
half the people in it. That fellow could scent a dance or a joke half a
mile off. You never see such wide-awake men nowadays. People seem to me
half dead or asleep when I think of him.
Oh, I thought you knew. My partner Balacchi. It was Balacchi on the
bill: the actors called him Signor, and people like the manager, South,
and we, who knew him well, George. I asked him his real name once or
twice, but he joked it off. "How many names must a man be saddled with?"
he said. I don't know it to this day, nor who he had been. They hinted
there was something queer about his story, but I'll go my bail it was a
clean one, whatever it was.
You never heard how "Balacchi Brothers" broke up? That was as near to an
adventure as I ever had. Come over to this bench and I'll tell it to
you. You don't dislike the dust of the mill? The sun's pleasanter on
It was early in August of '56 when George and I came to an old town on
the Ohio, half city, half village, to play an engagement. We were under
contract with South then, who provided the rest of the troupe, three or
four posture-girls, Stradi the pianist, and a Madame Somebody, who gave
readings and sang. "Concert" was the heading in large caps on the
bills, "Balacchi Brothers will give their aesthetic _tableaux vivants_
in the interludes," in agate below.
"I've got to cover you fellows over with respectability here," South
said. "Rope-dancing won't go down with these aristocratic church-goers."
I remember how George was irritated. "When I was my own agent," he said,
"I only went to the cities. Educated people can appreciate what we do,
but in these country towns we rank with circus-riders."
George had some queer notions about his business. He followed it for
sheer love of it, as I did for money. I've seen all the great athletes
since, but I never saw one with his wonderful skill and strength, and
with the grace of a woman too, or a deer. Now that takes hard, steady
work, but he never flinched from it, as I did; and when night came, and
the people and lights, and I thought of nothing but to get through, I
used to think he had the pride of a thousand women in every one of his
muscles and nerves: a little applause would fill him with a mad kind of
fury of delight and triumph. South had a story that George belonged to
some old Knickerbocker family, and had run off from home years ago. I
don't know. There was that wild restless blood in him that no home could
have kept him.
We were to stay so long in this town that I found rooms for us with an
old couple named Peters, who had but lately moved in from the country,
and had half a dozen carpenters and masons boarding with them. It was
cheaper than the hotel, and George preferred that kind of people to
educated men, which made me doubt that story of his having been a
gentleman. The old woman Peters was uneasy about taking us, and spoke
out quite freely about it when we called, not knowing that George and I
were Balacchi Brothers ourselves.
"The house has been respectable so far, gentlemen," she said. "I don't
know what about taking in them half-naked, drunken play-actors. What do
you say, Susy?" to her granddaughter.
"Wait till you see them, grandmother," the girl said gently. "I should
think that men whose lives depended every night on their steady eyes and
nerves would not dare to touch liquor."
"You are quite right--nor even tobacco," said George. It was such a
prompt, sensible thing for the little girl to say that he looked at her
attentively a minute, and then went up to the old lady smiling: "We
don't look like drinking men, do we, madam?"
"No, no, sir. I did not know that you were the I-talians." She was quite
flustered and frightened, and said cordially enough how glad she was to
have us both. But it was George she shook hands with. There was
something clean and strong and inspiring about that man that made most
women friendly to him on sight.
Why, in two days you'd have thought he'd never had another home than the
Peters's. He helped the old man milk, and had tinkered up the broken
kitchen-table, and put in half a dozen window-panes, and was intimate
with all the boarders; could give the masons the prices of job-work at
the East, and put Stoll the carpenter on the idea of contract houses,
out of which he afterward made a fortune. It was nothing but jokes and
fun and shouts of laughter when he was in the house: even the old man
brightened up and told some capital stories. But from the first I
noticed that George's eye followed Susy watchfully wherever she went,
though he was as distant and respectful with her as he was with most
women. He had a curious kind of respect for women, George had. Even the
Slingsbys, that all the men in the theatre joked with, he used to pass
by as though they were logs leaning against the wall. They were the
posture-girls, and anything worse besides the name _I_ never saw.
There was a thing happened once on that point which I often thought
might have given me a clew to his history if I'd followed it up. We were
playing in one of the best theatres in New York (they brought us into
some opera), and the boxes were filled with fine ladies beautifully
dressed, or, I might say, half dressed.
George was in one of the wings. "It's a pretty sight," I said to him.
"It's a shameful sight," he said with an oath. "The Slingsbys do it for
their living, but these women--"
I said they were ladies, and ought to be treated with respect. I was
amazed at the heat he was in.
"I had a sister, Zack, and there's where I learned what a woman should
"I never heard of your sister, George," said I. I knew he would not have
spoken of her but for the heat he was in.
"No. I'm as dead to her, being what I am, as if I were six feet under
I turned and looked at him, and when I saw his face I said no more, and
I never spoke of it again. It was something neither I nor any other man
had any business with.
So, when I saw how he was touched by Susy and drawn toward her, it
raised her in my opinion, though I'd seen myself how pretty and sensible
a little body she was. But I was sorry, for I knew twan't no use. The
Peterses were Methodists, and Susy more strict than any of them; and I
saw she looked on the theatre as the gate of hell, and George and me
swinging over it.
I don't think, though, that George saw how strong her feeling about it
was, for after we'd been there a week or two he began to ask her to go
and see us perform, if only for once. I believe he thought the girl
would come to love him if she saw him at his best. I don't wonder at it,
sir. I've seen those pictures and statues they've made of the old gods,
and I reckon they put in them the best they thought a man could be; but
I never knew what real manhood was until I saw my partner when he stood
quiet on the stage waiting the signal to begin the light full on his
keen blue eyes, the gold-worked velvet tunic, and his perfect figure.
He looked more like other men in his ordinary clothing. George liked a
bit of flash, too, in his dress--a red necktie or gold chain stretched
over his waistcoat.
Susy refused at first, steadily. At last, however, came our final night,
when George was to produce his great leaping feat, never yet performed
in public. We had been practising it for months, and South judged it
best to try it first before a small, quiet audience, for the risk was
horrible. Whether, because it was to be the last night, and her kind
heart disliked to hurt him by refusal, or whether she loved him better
than either she or he knew, I could not tell, but I saw she was strongly
tempted to go. She was an innocent little thing, and not used to hide
what she felt. Her eyes were red that morning, as though she had been
crying all the night. Perhaps, because I was a married man, and quieter
than George, she acted more freely with me than him.
"I wish I knew what to do," she said, looking up to me with her eyes
full of tears. There was nobody in the room but her grandmother.
"I couldn't advise you, Miss Susy," says I. "Your church discipline goes
against our trade, I know."
"I know what's right myself: I don't need church discipline to teach
me," she said sharply.
"I think I'd go, Susy," said her grandmother. "It is a concert, after
all: it's not a play."
"The name doesn't alter it."
Seeing the temper she was in, I thought it best to say no more, but the
old lady added, "It's Mr. George's last night. Dear, dear! how I'll miss
Susy turned quickly to the window. "Why does he follow such godless ways
then?" she cried. She stood still a good while, and when she turned
about her pale little face made my heart ache. "I'll take home Mrs.
Tyson's dress now, grandmother," she said, and went out of the room. I
forgot to tell you Susy was a seamstress. Well, the bundle was large,
and I offered to carry it for her, as the time for rehearsal did not
come till noon. She crept alongside of me without a word, looking weak
and done-out: she was always so busy and bright, it was the more
noticeable. The house where the dress was to go was one of the largest
in the town. The servant showed us into a back parlor, and took the
dress up to her mistress. I looked around me a great deal, for I'd never
been in such a house before; but very soon I caught sight of a lady who
made me forget carpets and pictures. I only saw her in the mirror, for
she was standing by the fireplace in the front room. The door was open
between. It wasn't that she was especially pretty, but in her white
morning-dress, with lace about her throat and her fair hair drawn back
from her face, I thought she was the delicatest, softest, finest thing
of man- or woman-kind I ever say.
"Look there, Susy! look there!" I whispered.
"It is a Mrs. Lloyd from New York. She is here on a visit. That is her
husband;" and then she went down into her own gloomy thoughts again.
The husband was a grave, middle-aged man. He had had his paper up before
his face, so that I had not seen him before.
"You will go for the tickets, then, Edward?" she said.
"If you make a point of it, yes," in an annoyed tone. "But I don't know
why you make a point of it. The musical part of the performance is
beneath contempt, I understand, and the real attraction is the
exhibition of these mountebanks of trapezists, which will be simply
disgusting to you. You would not encourage such people at home: why
would you do it here?"
"They are not necessarily wicked." I noticed there was a curious
unsteadiness in her voice, as though she was hurt and agitated. I
thought perhaps she knew I was there.
"There is very little hope of any redeeming qualities in men who make a
trade of twisting their bodies like apes," he said. "Contortionists and
ballet-dancers and clowns and harlequins--" he rattled all the names
over with a good deal of uncalled-for sharpness, I thought, calling them
"dissolute and degraded, the very offal of humanity." I could not
understand his heat until he added, "I never could comprehend your
interest and sympathy for that especial class, Ellinor."
"No, you could not, Edward," she said quietly.
"But I have it. I never have seen an exhibition of the kind. But I want
to see this to-night, if you will gratify me. I have no reason." she
added when he looked at her curiously. "The desire is unaccountable to
The straightforward look of her blue eyes as she met his seemed
strangely familiar and friendly to me.
At that moment Susy stood up to go. Her cheeks were burning and her eyes
sparkling. "Dissolute and degraded!" she said again and again when we
were outside. But I took no notice.
As we reached the house she stopped me when I turned off to go to
rehearsal. "You'll get seats for grandmother and me, Mr. Balacchi?" she
"You're going, then, Susy?"
"Yes, I'm going."
* * * * *
Now the house in which we performed was a queer structure. A stock
company, thinking there was a field for a theatre in the town, had taken
a four-story building, gutted the interior, and fitted it up with tiers
of seats and scenery. The stock company was starved out, however, and
left the town, and the theatre was used as a gymnasium, a concert-room,
or a church by turns. Its peculiarity was, that it was both exceedingly
lofty and narrow, which suited our purpose exactly.
It was packed that night from dome to pit. George and I had rehearsed
our new act both morning and afternoon, South watching us without
intermission. South was terribly nervous and anxious, half disposed, at
the last minute, to forbid it, although it had been announced on the
bills for a week. But a feat which is successful in an empty house, with
but one spectator, when your nerves are quiet and blood cool, is a
different thing before an excited, terrified, noisy audience, your whole
body at fever heat. However, George was cool as a cucumber, indeed
almost indifferent about the act, but in a mad, boyish glee all day
about everything else. I suppose the reason was that Susy was going.
South had lighted the house brilliantly and brought in a band. And all
classes of people poured into the theatre until it could hold no more. I
saw Mrs. Peters in one of the side-seats, with Susy's blushing,
frightened little face beside her. George, standing back among the
scenes, saw her too: I think, indeed, it was all he did see.
There were the usual readings from Shakespeare at first.
While Madame was on, South came to us. "Boys," said he, "let this matter
go over a few weeks. A little more practice will do you no harm. You can
substitute some other trick, and these people will be none the wiser."
George shrugged his shoulders impatiently: "Nonsense! When did you grow
so chicken-hearted, South? It is I who have to run the risk, I fancy."
I suppose South's uneasiness had infected me.
"I am quite willing to put it off," I said. I had felt gloomy and
superstitious all day. But I never ventured to oppose George more
decidedly than that.
He only laughed by way of reply, and went off to dress. South looked
after him, I remember, saying what a magnificently-built fellow he was.
If we could only have seen the end of that night's work!
As I went to my dressing-room I saw Mrs. Lloyd and her husband in one of
the stage-boxes, with one or two other ladies and gentlemen. She was
plainly and darkly dressed, but to my mind she looked like a princess
among them all. I could not but wonder what interest she could have in
such a rough set as we, although her husband, I confess, did judge us
After the readings came the concert part of the performance, and then
what South chose to call the Moving Tableaux, which was really nothing
in the world but ballet-dancing. George and I were left to crown the
whole. I had some ordinary trapeze-work to do at first, but George
was reserved for the new feat, in order that his nerves might be
perfectly unshaken. When I went out alone and bowed to the audience, I
observed that Mrs. Lloyd was leaning eagerly forward, but at the first
glance at my face she sank back with a look of relief, and turned away,
that she might not see my exploits. It nettled me a little, I think, yet
they were worth watching.
Well, I finished, and then there was a song to give me time to cool. I
went to the side-scenes where I could be alone, for that five minutes. I
had no risk to run in the grand feat, you see, but I had George's life
in my hands. I haven't told you yet--have I?--what it was he proposed to
A rope was suspended from the centre of the dome, the lower end of which
I held, standing in the highest gallery opposite the stage. Above the
stage hung the trapeze on which George and the two posture-girls were to
be. At a certain signal I was to let the rope go, and George, springing
from the trapeze across the full width of the dome, was to catch it in
mid-air, a hundred feet above the heads of the people. You understand?
The mistake of an instant of time on either his part or mine, and death
was almost certain. The plan we had thought surest was for South to give
the word, and then that both should count--One, Two, Three! At Three the
rope fell, and he leaped. We had practised so often that we thought we
counted as one man.
When the song was over the men hung the rope and the trapeze. Jenny and
Lou Slingsby swung themselves up to it, turned a few somersaults and
then were quiet. They were only meant to give effect to the scene in
their gauzy dresses and spangles. Then South came forward and told the
audience what we meant to do. It was a feat, he said, which had never
been produced before in any theatre, and in which failure was death. No
one but that most daring of all acrobats, Balacchi, would attempt it.
Now I knew South so well that I saw under all his confident, bragging
tone he was more anxious and doubtful than he had ever been. He
hesitated a moment, and then requested that after we took our places the
audience should preserve absolute silence, and refrain from even the
slightest movement until the feat was over. The merest trifle might
distract the attention of the performers and render their eyes and hold
unsteady, he said. He left the stage, and the music began.
I went round to take my place in the gallery. George had not yet left
his room. As I passed I tapped at the door and called, "Good luck, old
"That's certain now, Zack," he answered, with a joyous laugh. He was so
exultant, you see, that Susy had come.
But the shadow of death seemed to have crept over me. When I took my
stand in the lofty gallery, and looked down at the brilliant lights and
the great mass of people, who followed my every motion as one man, and
the two glittering, half-naked girls swinging in the distance, and heard
the music rolling up thunders of sound, it was all ghastly and horrible
to me, sir. Some men have such presentiments, they say: I never had
before or since. South remained on the stage perfectly motionless, in
order, I think, to maintain his control over the audience.
The trumpets sounded a call, and in the middle of a burst of triumphant
music George came on the stage. There was a deafening outbreak of
applause and then a dead silence, but I think every man and woman felt a
thrill of admiration of the noble figure Poor George! the new,
tight-fitting dress of purple velvet that he had bought for this night
set off his white skin, and his fine head was bare, with no covering but
the short curls that Susy liked.
It was for Susy! He gave one quick glance up at her, and a bright,
boyish smile, as if telling her not to be afraid, which all the audience
understood, and answered by an involuntary, long-drawn breath. I looked
at Susy. The girl's colorless face was turned to George, and her hands
were clasped as though she saw him already dead before her; but she
could be trusted, I saw. _She_ would utter no sound. I had only time to
glance at her, and then turned to my work. George and I dared not take
our eyes from each other.
There was a single bugle note, and then George swung himself up to the
trapeze. The silence was like death as he steadied himself and slowly
turned so as to front me. As he turned he faced the stage-box for the
first time. He had reached the level of the posture-girls, who fluttered
on either side, and stood on the swaying rod poised on one foot, his
arms folded, when in the breathless stillness there came a sudden cry
and the words, "Oh, Charley! Charley!"
Even at the distance where I stood I saw George start and a shiver pass
over his body. He looked wildly about him.
"To me! to me!" I shouted.
He fixed his eye on mine and steadied himself. There was a terrible
silent excitement in the people, in the very air.
There was the mistake. We should have stopped then, shaken as he was,
but South, bewildered and terrified, lost control of himself: he gave
I held the rope loose--held George with my eyes--One!
I saw his lips move: he was counting with me.
His eye wandered, turned to the stage-box.
Like a flash, I saw the white upturned faces below me, the
posture-girls' gestures of horror, the dark springing figure through the
air, that wavered--and fell a shapeless mass on the floor.
There was a moment of deathlike silence, and then a wild outcry--women
fainting, men cursing and crying out in that senseless, helpless way
they have when there is sudden danger. By the time I had reached the
floor they had straightened out his shattered limbs, and two or three
doctors were fighting their way through the great crowd that was surging
Well, sir, at that minute what did I hear but George's voice above all
the rest, choked and hollow as it was, like a man calling out of the
grave: "The women! Good God! don't you see the women?" he gasped.
Looking up then, I saw those miserable Slingsbys hanging on to the
trapeze for life. What with the scare and shock, they'd lost what little
sense they had, and there they hung helpless as limp rags high over our
"Damn the Slingsbys!" said I. God forgive me! But I saw this battered
wreck at my feet that had been George. Nobody seemed to have any mind
left. Even South stared stupidly up at them and then back at George. The
doctors were making ready to lift him, and half of the crowd were gaping
in horror, and the rest yelling for ladders or ropes, and scrambling
over each other, and there hung the poor flimsy wretches, their eyes
starting out of their heads from horror, and their lean fingers loosing
their hold every minute. But, sir--I couldn't help it--I turned from
them to watch George as the doctors lifted him.
"It's hardly worth while," whispered one.
But they raised him and, sir--the body went one way and the legs
I thought he was dead. I couldn't see that he breathed, when he opened
his eyes and looked up for the Slingsbys. "Put me down," he said, and
the doctors obeyed him. There was that in his voice that they had to
obey him, though it wasn't but a whisper.
"Ladders are of no use," he said. "Loper!"
"You can swing yourself up. Do it."
I went. I remember the queer stunned feeling I had: my joints moved like
When I had reached the trapeze, he said, as cool as if he were calling
the figures for a Virginia reel, "Support them, you--Loper. Now, lower
the trapeze, men--carefully!"
It was the only way their lives could be saved, and he was the only man
to see it. He watched us until the girls touched the floor more dead
than alive, and then his head fell back and the life seemed to go
suddenly out of him like the flame out of a candle, leaving only the
As they were carrying him out I noticed for the first time that a woman
was holding his hand. It was that frail little wisp of a Susy, that used
to blush and tremble if you spoke to her suddenly, and here she was
quite quiet and steady in the midst of this great crowd.
"His sister, I suppose" one of the doctors said to her.
"No, sir. If he lives I will be his wife." The old gentleman was very
respectful to her after that, I noticed.
Now, the rest of my story is very muddled, you'll say, and confused. But
the truth is, I don't understand it myself. I ran on ahead to Mrs.
Peters's to prepare his bed for him, but they did not bring him to
Peters's. After I waited an hour or two I found George had been taken to
the principal hotel in the place, and a bedroom and every comfort that
money could buy were there for him. Susy came home sobbing late in the
night, but she told me nothing, except that those who had a right to
have charge of him had taken him. I found afterward the poor girl was
driven from the door of his room, where she was waiting like a faithful
dog. I went myself, but I fared no better. What with surgeons and
professional nurses, and the gentlemen that crowded about with their
solemn looks of authority, I dared not ask to see him. Yet I believe
still George would rather have had old Loper by him in his extremity
than any of them. Once, when the door was opened, I thought I saw Mrs.
Lloyd stooping over the bed between the lace curtains, and just then her
husband came out talking to one of the surgeons.
He said: "It is certain there were here the finest elements of manhood.
And I will do my part to rescue him from the abyss into which he has
"Will you tell me how George is, sir?" I asked, pushing up. "Balacchi?
Mr. Lloyd turned away directly, but the surgeon told me civilly enough
that if George's life could be saved, it must be with the loss of one or
perhaps both of his legs.
"He'll never mount a trapeze again, then," I said, and I suppose I
groaned; for to think of George helpless--
"God forbid!" cried Mr. Lloyd, sharply. "Now look here, my good man: you
can be of no possible use to Mr.--Balacchi as you call him. He is in the
hands of his own people, and he will feel, as they do, that the kindest
thing you can do is to let him alone."
There was nothing to be done after that but to touch my hat and go out,
but as I went I heard him talking of "inexplicable madness and years of
Well, sir, I never went again: the words hurt like the cut of a whip,
though 'twan't George that spoke them. But I quit business, and hung
around the town till I heard he was going to live, and I broke up my
contract with South. I never went on a trapeze again. I felt as if the
infernal thing was always dripping with his blood after that day.
Anyhow, all the heart went out of the business for me with George. So I
came back here and settled down to the milling, and by degrees I learned
to think of George as a rich and fortunate man.
I've nearly done now--only a word or two more. About six years afterward
there was a circus came to town, and I took the wife and children and
went. I always did when I had the chance. It was the old Adam in me yet,
Well, sir, among the attractions of the circus was the great and
unrivalled Hercules, who could play with cannon-balls as other men would
with dice. I don't know what made me restless and excited when I read
about this man. It seemed as though the old spirit was coming back to me
again. I could hardly keep still when the time drew near for him to
appear. I don't know what I expected, but when he came out from behind
the curtain I shouted out like a madman, "Balacchi! George! George!"
He stopped short, looked about, and catching sight of me tossed up his
cap with his old boyish shout; then he remembered himself and went on
with his performance.
He was lame--yes, in one leg. The other was gone altogether. He walked
on crutches. Whether the strength had gone into his chest and arms, I
don't know; but there he stood tossing about the cannon-balls as I might
marbles. So full of hearty good-humor too, joking with his audience, and
so delighted when they gave him a round of applause.
After the performance I hurried around the tent, and you may be sure
there was rejoicing that made the manager and other fellows laugh.
George haled me off with him down the street. He cleared the ground with
that crutch and wooden leg like a steam-engine. "Come! come along!" he
cried; "I've something to show you, Loper."
He took me to a quiet boarding-house, and there, in a cosey room, was
Susy with a four-year-old girl.
"We were married as soon as I could hobble about," he said, "and she
goes with me and makes a home wherever I am."
Susy nodded and blushed and laughed. "Baby and I," she said. "Do you see
Baby? She has her father's eyes, do you see?"
"She _is_ her mother, Loper," said George--"just as innocent and pure
and foolish--just as sure of the Father in heaven taking care of her.
They've made a different man of me in some ways--a different man,"
bending his head reverently.
After a while I began, "You did not stay with--?" But Balacchi
frowned. "I knew where _I_ belonged," he said.
Well, he's young yet. He's the best Hercules in the profession, and has
laid up a snug sum. Why doesn't he invest it and retire? I doubt if
he'll ever do that, sir. He may do it, but I doubt it. He can't change
his blood, and there's that in Balacchi that makes me suspect he will
die with the velvet and gilt on, and in the height of good-humor and fun
with his audience.
AN OPERATION IN MONEY.
BY ALBERT WEBSTER.
In an elegant and lofty bank-parlor there sat in council, on an autumn
morning, fourteen millionaires. They reposed in deep arm-chairs, and
their venerable faces were filled with profound gravity. Before them,
upon a broad mahogany table, were piles of books, sheaves of paper in
rubber bands, bundles of quill pens, quires of waste paper for
calculations, and a number of huge red-covered folios, containing the
tell-tale reports of the mercantile agencies. They had just completed
the selections from the list of applicants for discount, and were now in
that state of lethargy that commonly follows a great and important act.
The president, with his hands pressed together before him, was looking
at the fresco of Commerce upon the ceiling; his ponderous right-hand
neighbor was stumbling feebly over an addition that one of the
bookkeepers had made upon one of the papers--he hoped to find it wrong;
his left-hand neighbor was doubling his under-lip with his stout
fingers; an octogenarian beyond had buried his chin in his immense neck,
and was going to sleep; another was stupidly blinking at the nearest
coal-fire; two more were exchanging gasping whispers; another was wiping
his gold spectacles with a white handkerchief, now and then stopping to
hold them unsteadily up to the light; and another was fingering the
polished lapel of his old black coat, and saying, with asthmatic
hoarseness to all who would look at him, "F-o-u-r-teen years!
A tall regulator-clock, with its mercury pendulum, ticked upon the wall;
the noise of the heavy rumbling in the streets was softened into a low
monotone, and now and then a bit of coal rattled upon the fender.
The oil-portraits of four former presidents looked thoughtfully down on
the scene of their former labors; the polished wainscots reflected
ragged pictures of the silent fourteen, and all was perfectly in order
and perfectly secure.
Presently, however, there was an end to the stagnation; the white heads
began to move and to look around.
The president's eyes came gradually down from the Commerce, and, after
travelling over the countenances of his stirring _confreres,_ they
settled by accident upon the table before him. There they encountered a
white envelope, inscribed "to the President and Honorable Board of
"Oh gentlemen! gentlemen!" cried the president, seizing the letter, "one
moment more, I beg of you. Here's a--a--note--a communication--a--I
don't know what it is myself, I'm sure, but"--the thirteen sank back
again, feeling somewhat touched that they should be so restrained. The
president ran his eye over the missive. He smiled as one does sometimes
at the precocity of an infant. "The letter, gentlemen," said he,
slipping the paper through his fingers, "is from the paying teller. It
is a request for"--here the president delayed as if about making a
humorous point--"for a larger salary." Then he dropped his eyes and
lowered his head, as he might have done had he confessed that somebody
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