The American Claimant
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Part 1 out of 4
Produced by David Widger. Additional proofing was done by Trevor Carlson
THE AMERICAN CLAIMANT
by Mark Twain
The Colonel Mulberry Sellers here re-introduced to the public is the same
person who appeared as Eschol Sellers in the first edition of the tale
entitled "The Gilded Age," years ago, and as Beriah Sellers in the
subsequent editions of the same book, and finally as Mulberry Sellers in
the drama played afterward by John T. Raymond.
The name was changed from Eschol to Beriah to accommodate an Eschol
Sellers who rose up out of the vasty deeps of uncharted space and
preferred his request--backed by threat of a libel suit--then went his
way appeased, and came no more. In the play Beriah had to be dropped to
satisfy another member of the race, and Mulberry was substituted in the
hope that the objectors would be tired by that time and let it pass
unchallenged. So far it has occupied the field in peace; therefore we
chance it again, feeling reasonably safe, this time, under shelter of the
statute of limitations.
THE WEATHER IN THIS BOOK.
No weather will be found in this book. This is an attempt to pull a book
through without weather. It being the first attempt of the kind in
fictitious literature, it may prove a failure, but it seemed worth the
while of some dare-devil person to try it, and the author was in just the
Many a reader who wanted to read a tale through was not able to do it
because of delays on account of the weather. Nothing breaks up an
author's progress like having to stop every few pages to fuss-up the
weather. Thus it is plain that persistent intrusions of weather are bad
for both reader and author.
Of course weather is necessary to a narrative of human experience.
That is conceded. But it ought to be put where it will not be in the
way; where it will not interrupt the flow of the narrative. And it ought
to be the ablest weather that can be had, not ignorant, poor-quality,
amateur weather. Weather is a literary specialty, and no untrained hand
can turn out a good article of it. The present author can do only a few
trifling ordinary kinds of weather, and he cannot do those very good.
So it has seemed wisest to borrow such weather as is necessary for the
book from qualified and recognized experts--giving credit, of course.
This weather will be found over in the back part of the book, out of the
way. See Appendix. The reader is requested to turn over and help
himself from time to time as he goes along.
It is a matchless morning in rural England. On a fair hill we see a
majestic pile, the ivied walls and towers of Cholmondeley Castle, huge
relic and witness of the baronial grandeurs of the Middle Ages. This is
one of the seats of the Earl of Rossmore, K. G. G. C. B. K. C. M. G.,
etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., who possesses twenty-two thousand acres of
English land, owns a parish in London with two thousand houses on its
lease-roll, and struggles comfortably along on an income of two hundred
thousand pounds a year. The father and founder of this proud old line
was William the Conqueror his very self; the mother of it was not
inventoried in history by name, she being merely a random episode and
inconsequential, like the tanner's daughter of Falaise.
In a breakfast room of the castle on this breezy fine morning there are
two persons and the cooling remains of a deserted meal. One of these
persons is the old lord, tall, erect, square-shouldered, white-haired,
stern-browed, a man who shows character in every feature, attitude, and
movement, and carries his seventy years as easily as most men carry
fifty. The other person is his only son and heir, a dreamy-eyed young
fellow, who looks about twenty-six but is nearer thirty. Candor,
kindliness, honesty, sincerity, simplicity, modesty--it is easy to see
that these are cardinal traits of his character; and so when you have
clothed him in the formidable components of his name, you somehow seem
to be contemplating a lamb in armor: his name and style being the
Honourable Kirkcudbright Llanover Marjorihanks Sellers Viscount-Berkeley,
of Cholmondeley Castle, Warwickshire. (Pronounced K'koobry Thlanover
Marshbanks Sellers Vycount Barkly, of Chumly Castle, Warrikshr.) He is
standing by a great window, in an attitude suggestive of respectful
attention to what his father is saying and equally respectful dissent
from the positions and arguments offered. The father walks the floor as
he talks, and his talk shows that his temper is away up toward summer
"Soft-spirited as you are, Berkeley, I am quite aware that when you have
once made up your mind to do a thing which your ideas of honor and
justice require you to do, argument and reason are (for the time being,)
wasted upon you--yes, and ridicule; persuasion, supplication, and command
as well. To my mind--"
"Father, if you will look at it without prejudice, without passion, you
must concede that I am not doing a rash thing, a thoughtless, wilful
thing, with nothing substantial behind it to justify it. I did not
create the American claimant to the earldom of Rossmore; I did not hunt
for him, did not find him, did not obtrude him upon your notice.
He found himself, he injected himself into our lives--"
"And has made mine a purgatory for ten years with his tiresome letters,
his wordy reasonings, his acres of tedious evidence,--"
"Which you would never read, would never consent to read. Yet in common
fairness he was entitled to a hearing. That hearing would either prove
he was the rightful earl--in which case our course would be plain--or it
would prove that he wasn't--in which case our course would be equally
plain. I have read his evidences, my lord. I have conned them well,
studied them patiently and thoroughly. The chain seems to be complete,
no important link wanting. I believe he is the rightful earl."
"And I a usurper--a--nameless pauper, a tramp! Consider what you are
"Father, if he is the rightful earl, would you, could you--that fact
being established--consent to keep his titles and his properties from him
a day, an hour, a minute?"
"You are talking nonsense--nonsense--lurid idiotcy! Now, listen to me.
I will make a confession--if you wish to call it by that name. I did not
read those evidences because I had no occasion to--I was made familiar
with them in the time of this claimant's father and of my own father
forty years ago. This fellow's predecessors have kept mine more or less
familiar with them for close upon a hundred and fifty years. The truth
is, the rightful heir did go to America, with the Fairfax heir or about
the same time--but disappeared--somewhere in the wilds of Virginia, got
married, end began to breed savages for the Claimant market; wrote no
letters home; was supposed to be dead; his younger brother softly took
possession; presently the American did die, and straightway his eldest
product put in his claim--by letter--letter still in existence--and died
before the uncle in-possession found time--or maybe inclination--to
--answer. The infant son of that eldest product grew up--long interval,
you see--and he took to writing letters and furnishing evidences. Well,
successor after successor has done the same, down to the present idiot.
It was a succession of paupers; not one of them was ever able to pay his
passage to England or institute suit. The Fairfaxes kept their lordship
alive, and so they have never lost it to this day, although they live in
Maryland; their friend lost his by his own neglect. You perceive now,
that the facts in this case bring us to precisely this result: morally
the American tramp is rightful earl of Rossmore; legally he has no more
right than his dog. There now--are you satisfied?"
There was a pause, then the son glanced at the crest carved in the great
oaken mantel and said, with a regretful note in his voice:
"Since the introduction of heraldic symbols,--the motto of this house has
been 'Suum cuique'--to every man his own. By your own intrepidly frank
confession, my lord, it is become a sarcasm: If Simon Lathers--"
Keep that exasperating name to yourself! For ten years it has pestered
my eye--and tortured my ear; till at last my very footfalls time
themselves to the brain-racking rhythm of Simon Lathers!--Simon Lathers!
--Simon Lathers! And now, to make its presence in my soul eternal,
immortal, imperishable, you have resolved to--to--what is it you have
resolved to do?"
"To go to Simon Lathers, in America, and change places with him."
"What? Deliver the reversion of the earldom into his hands?"
"That is my purpose."
"Make this tremendous surrender without even trying the fantastic case in
"Ye--s--" with hesitation and some embarrassment.
"By all that is amazing, I believe you are insane, my son. See here
--have you been training with that ass again--that radical, if you prefer
the term, though the words are synonymous--Lord Tanzy, of Tollmache?"
The son did not reply, and the old lord continued:
"Yes, you confess. That puppy, that shame to his birth and caste, who
holds all hereditary lordships and privilege to be usurpation, all
nobility a tinsel sham, all aristocratic institutions a fraud, all
inequalities in rank a legalized crime and an infamy, and no bread honest
bread that a man doesn't earn by his own work--work, pah!"--and the old
patrician brushed imaginary labor-dirt from his white hands. "You have
come to hold just those opinions yourself, suppose,"--he added with a
A faint flush in the younger man's cheek told that the shot had hit and
hurt; but he answered with dignity:
"I have. I say it without shame--I feel none. And now my reason for
resolving to renounce my heirship without resistance is explained.
I wish to retire from what to me is a false existence, a false position,
and begin my life over again--begin it right--begin it on the level of
mere manhood, unassisted by factitious aids, and succeed or fail by pure
merit or the want of it. I will go to America, where all men are equal
and all have an equal chance; I will live or die, sink or swim, win or
lose as just a man--that alone, and not a single helping gaud or fiction
back of it."
"Hear, hear!" The two men looked each other steadily in the eye a moment
or two, then the elder one added, musingly, "Ab-so-lutely
cra-zy-ab-solutely!" After another silence, he said, as one who, long
troubled by clouds, detects a ray of sunshine, "Well, there will be one
satisfaction--Simon Lathets will come here to enter into his own, and I
will drown him in the horsepond. That poor devil--always so humble in
his letters, so pitiful, so deferential; so steeped in reverence for our
great line and lofty-station; so anxious to placate us, so prayerful for
recognition as a relative, a bearer in his veins of our sacred blood
--and withal so poor, so needy, so threadbare and pauper-shod as to
raiment, so despised, so laughed at for his silly claimantship by the
lewd American scum around him--ah, the vulgar, crawling, insufferable
tramp! To read one of his cringing, nauseating letters--well?"
This to a splendid flunkey, all in inflamed plush and buttons and
knee-breeches as to his trunk, and a glinting white frost-work of
ground-glass paste as to his head, who stood with his heels together and
the upper half of him bent forward, a salver in his hands:
"The letters, my lord."
My lord took them, and the servant disappeared.
"Among the rest, an American letter. From the tramp, of course. Jove,
but here's a change! No brown paper envelope this time, filched from a
shop, and carrying the shop's advertisement in the corner. Oh, no, a
proper enough envelope--with a most ostentatiously broad mourning
border--for his cat, perhaps, since he was a bachelor--and fastened with
red wax--a batch of it as big as a half-crown--and--and--our crest for a
seal!--motto and all. And the ignorant, sprawling hand is gone; he
sports a secretary, evidently--a secretary with a most confident swing
and flourish to his pen. Oh indeed, our fortunes are improving over
there--our meek tramp has undergone a metamorphosis."
"Read it, my lord, please."
"Yes, this time I will. For the sake of the cat:
14,042 SIXTEENTH. STREET,
WASHINGTON, May 2.
It is my painful duty to announce to you that the head of our illustrious
house is no more--The Right Honourable, The Most Noble, The Most Puissant
Simon Lathers Lord Rossmore having departed this life ("Gone at last
--this is unspeakably precious news, my son,") at his seat in the environs
of the hamlet of Duffy's Corners in the grand old State of Arkansas,
--and his twin brother with him, both being crushed by a log at a
smoke-house-raising, owing to carelessness on the part of all present,
referable to over-confidence and gaiety induced by overplus of
sour-mash--("Extolled be sour-mash, whatever that may be, eh Berkeley?")
five days ago, with no scion of our ancient race present to close his
eyes and inter him with the honors due his historic name and lofty
rank--in fact, he is on the ice yet, him and his brother--friends took a
collection for it. But I shall take immediate occasion to have their
noble remains shipped to you ("Great heavens!") for interment, with due
ceremonies and solemnities, in the family vault or mausoleum of our
house. Meantime I shall put up a pair of hatchments on my house-front,
and you will of course do the same at your several seats.
I have also to remind you that by this sad disaster I as sole heir,
inherit and become seized of all the titles, honors, lands, and goods of
our lamented relative, and must of necessity, painful as the duty is,
shortly require at the bar of the Lords restitution of these dignities
and properties, now illegally enjoyed by your titular lordship.
With assurance of my distinguished consideration and warm cousinly
regard, I remain
Your titular lordship's
Most obedient servant,
Mulberry Sellers Earl Rossmore.
"Im-mense! Come, this one's interesting. Why, Berkeley, his breezy
impudence is--is--why, it's colossal, it's sublime."
"No, this one doesn't seem to cringe much."
"Cringe--why, he doesn't know the meaning of the word. Hatchments! To
commemorate that sniveling tramp and his, fraternal duplicate. And he is
going to send me the remains. The late Claimant was a fool, but plainly
this new one's a maniac. What a name! Mulberry Sellers--there's music
for you, Simon Lathers--Mulberry Sellers--Mulberry Sellers--Simon
Lathers. Sounds like machinery working and churning. Simon Lathers,
Mulberry Sel--Are you going?"
"If I have your leave, father."
The old gentleman stood musing some time, after his son was gone. This
was his thought:
"He is a good boy, and lovable. Let him take his own course--as it would
profit nothing to oppose him--make things worse, in fact. My arguments
and his aunt's persuasions have failed; let us see what America can do
for us. Let us see what equality and hard-times can effect for the
mental health of a brain-sick young British lord. Going to renounce his
lordship and be a man! Yas!"
COLONEL MULBERRY SELLERS--this was some days before he wrote his letter
to Lord Rossmore--was seated in his "library," which was also his
"drawing-room" and was also his "picture gallery" and likewise his
"work-shop." Sometimes he called it by one of these names, sometimes by
another, according to occasion and circumstance. He was constructing
what seemed to be some kind of a frail mechanical toy; and was apparently
very much interested in his work. He was a white-headed man, now, but
otherwise he was as young, alert, buoyant, visionary and enterprising as
ever. His loving old wife sat near by, contentedly knitting and
thinking, with a cat asleep in her lap. The room was large, light, and
had a comfortable look, in fact a home-like look, though the furniture
was of a humble sort and not over abundant, and the knickknacks and
things that go to adorn a living-room not plenty and not costly. But
there were natural flowers, and there was an abstract and unclassifiable
something about the place which betrayed the presence in the house of
somebody with a happy taste and an effective touch.
Even the deadly chromos on the walls were somehow without offence;
in fact they seemed to belong there and to add an attraction to the room
--a fascination, anyway; for whoever got his eye on one of them was like
to gaze and suffer till he died--you have seen that kind of pictures.
Some of these terrors were landscapes, some libeled the sea, some were
ostensible portraits, all were crimes. All the portraits were
recognizable as dead Americans of distinction, and yet, through labeling
added, by a daring hand, they were all doing duty here as "Earls of
Rossmore." The newest one had left the works as Andrew Jackson, but was
doing its best now, as "Simon Lathers Lord Rossmore, Present Earl."
On one wall was a cheap old railroad map of Warwickshire. This had been
newly labeled "The Rossmore Estates." On the opposite wall was another
map, and this was the most imposing decoration of the establishment and
the first to catch a stranger's attention, because of its great size.
It had once borne simply the title SIBERIA; but now the word "FUTURE" had
been written in front of that word. There were other additions, in red
ink--many cities, with great populations set down, scattered over the
vast-country at points where neither cities nor populations exist to-day.
One of these cities, with population placed at 1,500,000, bore the name
"Libertyorloffskoizalinski," and there was a still more populous one,
centrally located and marked "Capital," which bore the name
The "mansion"--the Colonel's usual name for the house--was a rickety old
two-story frame of considerable size, which had been painted, some time
or other, but had nearly forgotten it. It was away out in the ragged
edge of Washington and had once been somebody's country place. It had a
neglected yard around it, with a paling fence that needed straightening
up, in places, and a gate that would stay shut. By the door-post were
several modest tin signs. "Col. Mulberry Sellers, Attorney at Law and
Claim Agent," was the principal one. One learned from the others that
the Colonel was a Materializer, a Hypnotizer, a Mind-Cure dabbler; and so
on. For he was a man who could always find things to do.
A white-headed negro man, with spectacles and damaged white cotton gloves
appeared in the presence, made a stately obeisance and announced:
"Marse Washington Hawkins, suh."
"Great Scott! Show him in, Dan'l, show him in."
The Colonel and his wife were on their feet in a moment, and
the next moment were joyfully wringing the hands of a stoutish,
discouraged-looking man whose general aspect suggested that he was
fifty years old, but whose hair swore to a hundred.
"Well, well, well, Washington, my boy, it is good to look at you again.
Sit down, sit down, and make yourself at home. There, now--why, you look
perfectly natural; aging a little, just a little, but you'd have known
him anywhere, wouldn't you, Polly?"
"Oh, yes, Berry, he's just like his pa would have looked if he'd lived.
Dear, dear, where have you dropped from? Let me see, how long is it
I should say it's all of fifteen` years, Mrs. Sellers."
"Well, well, how time does get away with us. Yes, and oh, the changes
There was a sudden catch of her voice and a trembling of the lip, the men
waiting reverently for her to get command of herself and go on; but
after a little struggle she turned away, with her apron to her eyes, and
"Seeing you made her think of the children, poor thing--dear, dear,
they're all dead but the youngest.
"But banish care, it's no time for it now--on with the dance, let joy be
unconfined is my motto, whether there's any dance to dance; or any joy to
unconfine--you'll be the healthier for it every time,--every time,
Washington--it's my experience, and I've seen a good deal of this world.
Come--where have you disappeared to all these years, and are you from
there, now, or where are you from?"
"I don't quite think you would ever guess, Colonel. Cherokee Strip."
"Sure as you live."
"You can't mean it. Actually living out there?"
"Well, yes, if a body may call it that; though it's a pretty strong term
for 'dobies and jackass rabbits, boiled beans and slap-jacks, depression,
withered hopes, poverty in all its varieties--"
"Louise out there?"
"Yes, and the children."
"Out there now?"
"Yes, I couldn't afford to bring them with me."
"Oh, I see,--you had to come--claim against the government. Make
yourself perfectly easy--I'll take care of that."
"But it isn't a claim against the government."
"No? Want to be postmaster? That's all right. Leave it to me. I'll
"But it isn't postmaster--you're all astray yet."
"Well, good gracious, Washington, why don't you come out and tell me what
it is? What, do you want to be so reserved and distrustful with an old
friend like me, for? Don't you reckon I can keep a se--"
"There's no secret about it--you merely don't give me a chance to--"
"Now look here, old friend, I know the human race; and I know that when a
man comes to Washington, I don't care if it's from heaven, let alone
Cherokee-Strip, it's because he wants something. And I know that as a
rule he's not going to get it; that he'll stay and try--for another thing
and won't get that; the same luck with the next and the next and the
next; and keeps on till he strikes bottom, and is too poor and ashamed to
go back, even to Cherokee Strip; and at last his heart breaks--and they
take up a collection and bury him. There--don't interrupt me, I know
what I'm talking about. Happy and prosperous in the Far West wasn't I?
You know that. Principal citizen of Hawkeye, looked up to by everybody,
kind of an autocrat, actually a kind of an autocrat, Washington. Well,
nothing would do but I must go Minister to St. James, the Governor and
everybody insisting, you know, and so at last I consented--no getting out
of it, had to do it, so here I came. A day too late, Washington. Think
of that--what little things change the world's history--yes, sir, the
place had been filled. Well, there I was, you see. I offered to
compromise and go to Paris. The President was very sorry and all that,
but that place, you see, didn't belong to the West, so there I was again.
There was no help for it, so I had to stoop a little--we all reach the
day some time or other when we've got to do that, Washington, and it's
not a bad thing for us, either, take it by and large and all around
--I had to stoop a little and offer to take Constantinople. Washington,
consider this--for it's perfectly true--within a month I asked for China;
within another month I begged for Japan; one year later I was away down,
down, down, supplicating with tears and anguish for the bottom office in
the gift of the government of the United States--Flint-Picker in the
cellars of the War Department. And by George I didn't get it."
"Yes. Office established in the time of the Revolution, last century.
The musket-flints for the military posts were supplied from the capitol.
They do it yet; for although the flint-arm has gone out and the forts
have tumbled down, the decree hasn't been repealed--been overlooked and
forgotten, you see--and so the vacancies where old Ticonderoga and others
used to stand, still get their six quarts of gun-flints a year just the
Washington said musingly after a pause:
"How strange it seems--to start for Minister to England at twenty
thousand a year and fail for flintpicker at--"
"Three dollars a week. It's human life, Washington--just an epitome of
human ambition, and struggle, and the outcome: you aim for the palace and
get drowned in the sewer."
There was another meditative silence. Then Washington said, with earnest
compassion in his voice--
"And so, after coming here, against your inclination, to satisfy your
sense of patriotic duty and appease a selfish public clamor, you get
absolutely nothing for it."
"Nothing?" The Colonel had to get up and stand, to get room for his
amazement to expand. "Nothing, Washington? I ask you this: to be a
perpetual Member and the only Perpetual Member of a Diplomatic Body
accredited to the greatest country on earth do you call that nothing?"
It was Washington's turn to be amazed. He was stricken dumb; but the
wide-eyed wonder, the reverent admiration expressed in his face were more
eloquent than any words could have been. The Colonel's wounded spirit
was healed and he resumed his seat pleased and content. He leaned
forward and said impressively:
"What was due to a man who had become forever conspicuous by an
experience without precedent in the history of the world?--a man made
permanently and diplomatically sacred, so to speak, by having been
connected, temporarily, through solicitation, with every single
diplomatic post in the roster of this government, from Envoy
Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of St. James all
the way down to Consul to a guano rock in the Straits of Sunda--salary
payable in guano--which disappeared by volcanic convulsion the day before
they got down to my name in the list of applicants. Certainly something
august enough to be answerable to the size of this unique and memorable
experience was my due, and I got it. By the common voice of this
community, by acclamation of the people, that mighty utterance which
brushes aside laws and legislation, and from whose decrees there is no
appeal, I was named Perpetual Member of the Diplomatic Body representing
the multifarious sovereignties and civilizations of the globe near the
republican court of the United States of America. And they brought me
home with a torchlight procession."
"It is wonderful, Colonel, simply wonderful."
"It's the loftiest official position in the whole earth."
"I should think so--and the most commanding."
"You have named the word. Think of it. I frown, and there is war; I
smile, and contending nations lay down their arms."
"It is awful. The responsibility, I mean."
"It is nothing. Responsibility is no burden to me; I am used to it; have
always been used to it."
"And the work--the work! Do you have to attend all the sittings?"
"Who, I? Does the Emperor of Russia attend the conclaves of the
governors of the provinces? He sits at home, and indicates his
Washington was silent a moment, then a deep sigh escaped him.
"How proud I was an hour ago; how paltry seems my little promotion now!
Colonel, the reason I came to Washington is,--I am Congressional Delegate
from Cherokee Strip!"
The Colonel sprang to his feet and broke out with prodigious enthusiasm:
"Give me your hand, my boy--this is immense news! I congratulate you
with all my heart. My prophecies stand confirmed. I always said it was
in you. I always said you were born for high distinction and would
achieve it. You ask Polly if I didn't."
Washington was dazed by this most unexpected demonstration.
"Why, Colonel, there's nothing to it. That little narrow, desolate,
unpeopled, oblong streak of grass and gravel, lost in the remote wastes
of the vast continent--why, it's like representing a billiard table--a
"Tut-tut, it's a great, it's a staving preferment, and just opulent with
"Shucks, Colonel, I haven't even a vote."
"That's nothing; you can make speeches."
"No, I can't. The population's only two hundred--"
"That's all right, that's all right--"
"And they hadn't any right to elect me; we're not even a territory,
there's no Organic Act, the government hasn't any official knowledge of
"Never mind about that; I'll fix that. I'll rush the thing through, I'll
get you organized in no time."
"Will you, Colonel?--it's too good of you; but it's just your old
sterling self, the same old ever-faithful friend," and the grateful tears
welled up in Washington's eyes.
"It's just as good as done, my boy, just as good as done. Shake hands.
We'll hitch teams together, you and I, and we'll make things hum!"
Mrs. Sellers returned, now, with her composure restored, and began to ask
after Hawkins's wife, and about his children, and the number of them, and
so on, and her examination of the witness resulted in a circumstantial
history of the family's ups and downs and driftings to and fro in the far
West during the previous fifteen years. There was a message, now, from
out back, and Colonel Sellers went out there in answer to it. Hawkins
took this opportunity to ask how the world had been using the Colonel
during the past half-generation.
"Oh, it's been using him just the same; it couldn't change its way of
using him if it wanted to, for he wouldn't let it."
"I can easily believe that, Mrs. Sellers."
"Yes, you see, he doesn't change, himself--not the least little bit in
the world--he's always Mulberry Sellers."
"I can see that plain enough."
"Just the same old scheming, generous, good-hearted, moonshiny, hopeful,
no-account failure he always was, and still everybody likes him just as
well as if he was the shiningest success."
"They always did: and it was natural, because he was so obliging and
accommodating, and had something about him that made it kind of easy to
ask help of him, or favors--you didn't feel shy, you know, or have that
wish--you--didn't--have--to--try feeling that you have with other
"It's just so, yet; and a body wonders at it, too, because he's been
shamefully treated, many times, by people that had used him for a ladder
to climb up by, and then kicked him down when they didn't need him any
more. For a time you can see he's hurt, his pride's wounded, because he
shrinks away from that thing and don't want to talk about it--and so I
used to think now he's learned something and he'll be more careful
hereafter--but laws! in a couple of weeks he's forgotten all about it,
and any selfish tramp out of nobody knows where can come and put up a
poor mouth and walk right into his heart with his boots on."
"It must try your patience pretty sharply sometimes."
"Oh, no, I'm used to it; and I'd rather have him so than the other way.
When I call him a failure, I mean to the world he's a failure; he isn't
to me. I don't know as I want him different much different, anyway.
I have to scold him some, snarl at him, you might even call it, but I
reckon I'd do that just the same, if he was different--it's my make.
But I'm a good deal less snarly and more contented when he's a failure
than I am when he isn't."
"Then he isn't always a failure," said Hawking, brightening.
"Him? Oh, bless you, no. He makes a strike, as he calls it, from time
to time. Then's my time to fret and fuss. For the money just flies
--first come first served. Straight off, he loads up the house with
cripples and idiots and stray cats and all the different kinds of poor
wrecks that other people don't want and he does, and then when the
poverty comes again I've got to clear the most of them out or we'd
starve; and that distresses him, and me the same, of course.
"Here's old Dan'l and old Jinny, that the sheriff sold south one of the
times that we got bankrupted before the war--they came wandering back
after the peace, worn out and used up on the cotton plantations,
helpless, and not another lick of work left in their old hides for the
rest of this earthly pilgrimage--and we so pinched, oh so pinched for the
very crumbs to keep life in us, and he just flung the door wide, and the
way he received them you'd have thought they had come straight down from
heaven in answer to prayer. I took him one side and said, 'Mulberry we
can't have them--we've nothing for ourselves--we can't feed them.'
He looked at me kind of hurt, and said, 'Turn them out?--and they've come
to me just as confident and trusting as--as--why Polly, I must have
bought that confidence sometime or other a long time ago, and given my
note, so to speak--you don't get such things as a gift--and how am I
going to go back on a debt like that? And you see, they're so poor,
and old, and friendless, and--' But I was ashamed by that time, and shut
him off, and somehow felt a new courage in me, and so I said, softly,
'We'll keep them--the Lord will provide.' He was glad, and started to
blurt out one of those over-confident speeches of his, but checked
himself in time, and said humbly, 'I will, anyway.' It was years and
years and years ago. Well, you see those old wrecks are here yet."
"But don't they do your housework?"
"Laws! The idea. They would if they could, poor old things, and perhaps
they think they do do some of it. But it's a superstition. Dan'l waits
on the front door, and sometimes goes on an errand; and sometimes you'll
see one or both of them letting on to dust around in here--but that's
because there's something they want to hear about and mix their gabble
into. And they're always around at meals, for the same reason. But the
fact is, we have to keep a young negro girl just to take care of them,
and a negro woman to do the housework and help take care of them."
"Well, they ought to be tolerably happy, I should think."
"It's no name for it. They quarrel together pretty much all the time
--most always about religion, because Dan'l's a Dunker Baptist and Jinny's
a shouting Methodist, and Jinny believes in special Providences and Dan'l
don't, because he thinks he's a kind of a free-thinker--and they play and
sing plantation hymns together, and talk and chatter just eternally and
forever, and are sincerely fond of each other and think the world of
Mulberry, and he puts up patiently with all their spoiled ways and
foolishness, and so--ah, well, they're happy enough if it comes to that.
And I don't mind--I've got used to it. I can get used to anything, with
Mulberry to help; and the fact is, I don't much care what happens, so
long as he's spared to me."
"Well, here's to him, and hoping he'll make another strike soon."
"And rake in the lame, the halt and the blind, and turn the house into a
hospital again? It's what he would do. I've seen aplenty of that and
more. No, Washington, I want his strikes to be mighty moderate ones the
rest of the way down the vale."
"Well, then, big strike or little strike, or no strike at all, here's
hoping he'll never lack for friends--and I don't reckon he ever will
while there's people around who know enough to--"
"Him lack for friends!" and she tilted her head up with a frank pride--
"why, Washington, you can't name a man that's anybody that isn't fond of
him. I'll tell you privately, that I've had Satan's own time to keep
them from appointing him to some office or other. They knew he'd no
business with an office, just as well as I did, but he's the hardest man
to refuse anything to, a body ever saw. Mulberry Sellers with an office!
laws goodness, you know what that would be like. Why, they'd come from
the ends of the earth to see a circus like that. I'd just as lieves be
married to Niagara Falls, and done with it." After a reflective pause
she added--having wandered back, in the interval, to the remark that had
been her text: "Friends?--oh, indeed, no man ever had more; and such
friends: Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Johnston, Longstreet, Lee--many's the
time they've sat in that chair you're sitting in--" Hawkins was out of it
instantly, and contemplating it with a reverential surprise, and with the
awed sense of having trodden shod upon holy ground--
"They!" he said.
"Oh, indeed, yes, a many and a many a time."
He continued to gaze at the chair fascinated, magnetized; and for once in
his life that continental stretch of dry prairie which stood for his
imagination was afire, and across it was marching a slanting flamefront
that joined its wide horizons together and smothered the skies with
smoke. He was experiencing what one or another drowsing, geographically
ignorant alien experiences every day in the year when he turns a dull and
indifferent eye out of the car window and it falls upon a certain
station-sign which reads "Stratford-on-Avon!" Mrs. Sellers went
gossiping comfortably along:
"Oh, they like to hear him talk, especially if their load is getting
rather heavy on one shoulder and they want to shift it. He's all air,
you know,--breeze, you may say--and he freshens them up; it's a trip to
the country, they say. Many a time he's made General Grant laugh--and
that's a tidy job, I can tell you, and as for Sheridan, his eye lights up
and he listens to Mulberry Sellers the same as if he was artillery.
You see, the charm about Mulberry is, he is so catholic and unprejudiced
that he fits in anywhere and everywhere. It makes him powerful good
company, and as popular as scandal. You go to the White House when the
President's holding a general reception--sometime when Mulberry's there.
Why, dear me, you can't tell which of them it is that's holding that
"Well, he certainly is a remarkable man--and he always was. Is he
"Clear to his marrow--does more thinking and reading on that subject than
any other except Russia and Siberia: thrashes around over the whole
field, too; nothing bigoted about him."
"What is his religion?"
"He--" She stopped, and was lost for a moment or two in thinking, then
she said, with simplicity, "I think he was a Mohammedan or something last
Washington started down town, now, to bring his trunk, for the hospitable
Sellerses would listen to no excuses; their house must be his home during
the session. The Colonel returned presently and resumed work upon his
plaything. It was finished when Washington got back.
"There it is," said the Colonel, "all finished."
"What is it for, Colonel?"
"Oh, it's just a trifle. Toy to amuse the children."
Washington examined it.
"It seems to be a puzzle."
"Yes, that's what it is. I call it Pigs in the Clover. Put them in--see
if you can put them in the pen."
After many failures Washington succeeded, and was as pleased as a child.
"It's wonderfully ingenious, Colonel, it's ever so clever and
interesting--why, I could play with it all day. What are you going to do
"Oh, nothing. Patent it and throw it aside."
"Don't you do anything of the kind. There's money in that thing."
A compassionate look traveled over the Colonel's countenance, and he
"Money--yes; pin money: a couple of hundred thousand, perhaps. Not
Washington's eyes blazed.
"A couple of hundred thousand dollars! do you call that pin money?"
The colonel rose and tip-toed his way across the room, closed a door that
was slightly ajar, tip-toed his way to his seat again, and said, under
"You can keep a secret?"
Washington nodded his affirmative, he was too awed to speak.
"You have heard of materialization--materialization of departed spirits?"
Washington had heard of it.
"And probably didn't believe in it; and quite right, too. The thing as
practised by ignorant charlatans is unworthy of attention or respect--
where there's a dim light and a dark cabinet, and a parcel of sentimental
gulls gathered together, with their faith and their shudders and their
tears all ready, and one and the same fatty degeneration of protoplasm
and humbug comes out and materializes himself into anybody you want,
grandmother, grandchild, brother-in-law, Witch of Endor, John Milton,
Siamese twins, Peter the Great, and all such frantic nonsense--no, that
is all foolish and pitiful. But when a man that is competent brings the
vast powers of science to bear, it's a different matter, a totally
different matter, you see. The spectre that answers that call has come
to stay. Do you note the commercial value of that detail?"
"Well, I--the--the truth is, that I don't quite know that I do. Do you
mean that such, being permanent, not transitory, would give more general
satisfaction, and so enhance the price--of tickets to the show--"
"Show? Folly--listen to me; and get a good grip on your breath, for you
are going to need it. Within three days I shall have completed my
method, and then--let the world stand aghast, for it shall see marvels.
Washington, within three days--ten at the outside--you shall see me call
the dead of any century, and they will arise and walk. Walk?--they shall
walk forever, and never die again. Walk with all the muscle and spring
of their pristine vigor."
"Colonel! Indeed it does take one's breath away."
"Now do you see the money that's in it?"
"I'm--well, I'm--not really sure that I do."
Great Scott, look here. I shall have a monopoly; they'll all belong to
me, won't they? Two thousand policemen in the city of New York. Wages,
four dollars a day. I'll replace them with dead ones at half the money.
"Oh, prodigious! I never thought of that. F-o-u-r thousand dollars a
day. Now I do begin to see! But will dead policemen answer?"
"Haven't they--up to this time?"
"Well, if you put it that way--"
"Put it any way you want to. Modify it to suit yourself, and my lads
shall still be superior. They won't eat, they won't drink--don't need
those things; they won't wink for cash at gambling dens and unlicensed
rum-holes, they won't spark the scullery maids; and moreover the bands of
toughs that ambuscade them on lonely beats, and cowardly shoot and knife
them will only damage the uniforms and not live long enough to get more
than a momentary satisfaction out of that."
"Why, Colonel, if you can furnish policemen, then of course--"
"Certainly--I can furnish any line of goods that's wanted. Take the
army, for instance--now twenty-five thousand men; expense, twenty-two
millions a year. I will dig up the Romans, I will resurrect the Greeks,
I will furnish the government, for ten millions a year, ten thousand
veterans drawn from the victorious legions of all the ages--soldiers that
will chase Indians year in and year out on materialized horses, and cost
never a cent for rations or repairs. The armies of Europe cost two
billions a year now--I will replace them all for a billion. I will dig
up the trained statesmen of all ages and all climes, and furnish this
country with a Congress that knows enough to come in out of the rain--
a thing that's never happened yet, since the Declaration of Independence,
and never will happen till these practically dead people are replaced
with the genuine article. I will restock the thrones of Europe with the
best brains and the best morals that all the royal sepulchres of all the
centuries can furnish--which isn't promising very much--and I'll divide
the wages and the civil list, fair and square, merely taking my half
"Colonel, if the half of this is true, there's millions in it--millions."
"Billions in it--billions; that's what you mean. Why, look here; the
thing is so close at hand, so imminent, so absolutely immediate, that if
a man were to come to me now and say, Colonel, I am a little short, and
if you could lend me a couple of billion dollars for--come in!"
This in answer to a knock. An energetic looking man bustled in with a
big pocket-book in his hand, took a paper from it and presented it, with
the curt remark:
"Seventeenth and last call--you want to out with that three dollars and
forty cents this time without fail, Colonel Mulberry Sellers."
The Colonel began to slap this pocket and that one, and feel here and
there and everywhere, muttering:
"What have I done with that wallet?--let me see--um--not here, not there
--Oh, I must have left it in the kitchen; I'll just run and--"
"No you won't--you'll stay right where you are. And you're going to
disgorge, too--this time."
Washington innocently offered to go and look. When he was gone the
"The fact is, I've got to throw myself on your indulgence just this once
more, Suggs; you see the remittances I was expecting--"
"Hang the remittances--it's too stale--it won't answer. Come!"
The Colonel glanced about him in despair. Then his face lighted; he ran
to the wall and began to dust off a peculiarly atrocious chromo with his
handkerchief. Then he brought it reverently, offered it to the
collector, averted his face and said:
"Take it, but don't let me see it go. It's the sole remaining Rembrandt
"Rembrandt be damned, it's a chromo."
"Oh, don't speak of it so, I beg you. It's the only really great
original, the only supreme example of that mighty school of art which--"
"Art! It's the sickest looking thing I--"
The colonel was already bringing another horror and tenderly dusting it.
"Take this one too--the gem of my collection--the only genuine Fra
"Illuminated liver-pad, that's what it is. Give it here--good day--
people will think I've robbed a' nigger barber-shop."
As he slammed the door behind him the Colonel shouted with an anguished
"Do please cover them up--don't let the damp get at them. The delicate
tints in the Angelico--"
But the man was gone.
Washington re-appeared and said he had looked everywhere, and so had Mrs.
Sellers and the servants, but in vain; and went on to say he wished he
could get his eye on a certain man about this time--no need to hunt up
that pocket-book then. The Colonel's interest was awake at once.
"One-armed Pete they call him out there--out in the Cherokee country I
mean. Robbed the bank in Tahlequah."
"Do they have banks in Tahlequah?"
"Yes--a bank, anyway. He was suspected of robbing it. Whoever did it
got away with more than twenty thousand dollars. They offered a reward
of five thousand. I believe I saw that very man, on my way east."
"No--is that so?
"I certainly saw a man on the train, the first day I struck the railroad,
that answered the description pretty exactly--at least as to clothes and
a lacking arm."
"Why don't you get him arrested and claim the reward?"
"I couldn't. I had to get a requisition, of course. But I meant to stay
by him till I got my chance."
"Well, he left the train during the night some time."
"Oh, hang it, that's too bad."
"Not so very bad, either."
"Because he came down to Baltimore in the very train I was in, though I
didn't know it in time. As we moved out of the station I saw him going
toward the iron gate with a satchel in his hand."
"Good; we'll catch him. Let's lay a plan."
"Send description to the Baltimore police?"
"Why, what are you talking about? No. Do you want them to get the
"What shall we do, then?"
The Colonel reflected.
"I'll tell you. Put a personal in the Baltimore Sun. Word it like this:
"A. DROP ME A LINE, PETE."
"Hold on. Which arm has he lost?"
"Good. Now then--
"A. DROP ME A LINE, PETE, EVEN IF YOU HAVE to write with your left hand.
Address X. Y. Z., General Postoffice, Washington. From YOU KNOW WHO."
"There--that'll fetch him."
"But he won't know who--will he?"
"No, but he'll want to know, won't he?"
"Why, certainly--I didn't think of that. What made you think of it?"
"Knowledge of human curiosity. Strong trait, very strong trait."
"Now I'll go to my room and write it out and enclose a dollar and tell
them to print it to the worth of that."
The day wore itself out. After dinner the two friends put in a long and
harassing evening trying to decide what to do with the five thousand
dollars reward which they were going to get when they should find One-
Armed Pete, and catch him, and prove him to be the right person, and
extradite him, and ship him to Tahlequah in the Indian Territory. But
there were so many dazzling openings for ready cash that they found it
impossible to make up their minds and keep them made up. Finally, Mrs.
Sellers grew very weary of it all, and said:
"What is the sense in cooking a rabbit before it's caught?"
Then the matter was dropped, for the time being, and all went to bed.
Next morning, being persuaded by Hawkins, the colonel made drawings and
specifications and went down and applied for a patent for his toy puzzle,
and Hawkins took the toy itself and started out to see what chance there
might be to do something with it commercially. He did not have to go
far. In a small old wooden shanty which had once been occupied as a
dwelling by some humble negro family he found a keen-eyed Yankee engaged
in repairing cheap chairs and other second-hand furniture. This man
examined the toy indifferently; attempted to do the puzzle; found it not
so easy as he had expected; grew more interested, and finally
emphatically so; achieved a success at last, and asked:
"Is it patented?"
"Patent applied for."
"That will answer. What do you want for it?"
"What will it retail for?"
"Well, twenty-five cents, I should think."
"What will you give for the exclusive right?"
"I couldn't give twenty dollars, if I had to pay cash down; but I'll tell
you what I'll do. I'll make it and market it, and pay you five cents
royalty on each one."
Washington sighed. Another dream disappeared; no money in the thing.
So he said:
"All right, take it at that. Draw me a paper." He went his way with the
paper, and dropped the matter out of his mind dropped it out to make room
for further attempts to think out the most promising way to invest his
half of the reward, in case a partnership investment satisfactory to both
beneficiaries could not be hit upon.
He had not been very long at home when Sellers arrived sodden with grief
and booming with glad excitement--working both these emotions
successfully, sometimes separately, sometimes together. He fell on
Hawkins's neck sobbing, and said:
"Oh, mourn with me my friend, mourn for my desolate house: death has
smitten my last kinsman and I am Earl of Rossmore--congratulate me!"
He turned to his wife, who had entered while this was going on, put his
arms about her and said--"You will bear up, for my sake, my lady--it had
to happen, it was decreed."
She bore up very well, and said:
"It's no great loss. Simon Lathers was a poor well-meaning useless thing
and no account, and his brother never was worth shucks."
The rightful earl continued:
"I am too much prostrated by these conflicting griefs and joys to be able
to concentrate my mind upon affairs; I will ask our good friend here to
break the news by wire or post to the Lady Gwendolen and instruct her
"What Lady Gwendolen?"
"Our poor daughter, who, alas!--"
"Sally Sellers? Mulberry Sellers, are you losing your mind?"
"There--please do not forget who you are, and who I am; remember your own
dignity, be considerate also of mine. It were best to cease from using
my family name, now, Lady Rossmore."
"Goodness gracious, well, I never! What am I to call you then?"
"In private, the ordinary terms of endearment will still be admissible,
to some degree; but in public it will be more becoming if your ladyship
will speak to me as my lord, or your lordship, and of me as Rossmore, or
the Earl, or his Lordship, and--"
"Oh, scat! I can't ever do it, Berry."
"But indeed you must, my love--we must live up to our altered position
and submit with what grace we may to its requirements."
"Well, all right, have it your own way; I've never set my wishes against
your commands yet, Mul--my lord, and it's late to begin now, though to my
mind it's the rottenest foolishness that ever was."
"Spoken like my own true wife! There, kiss and be friends again."
"But--Gwendolen! I don't know how I am ever going to stand that name.
Why, a body wouldn't know Sally Sellers in it. It's too large for her;
kind of like a cherub in an ulster, and it's a most outlandish sort of a
name, anyway, to my mind."
"You'll not hear her find fault with it, my lady."
"That's a true word. She takes to any kind of romantic rubbish like she
was born to it. She never got it from me, that's sure. And sending her
to that silly college hasn't helped the matter any--just the other way."
"Now hear her, Hawkins! Rowena-Ivanhoe College is the selectest and most
aristocratic seat of learning for young ladies in our country. Under no
circumstances can a girl get in there unless she is either very rich and
fashionable or can prove four generations of what may be called American
nobility. Castellated college-buildings--towers and turrets and an
imitation moat--and everything about the place named out of Sir Walter
Scott's books and redolent of royalty and state and style; and all the
richest girls keep phaetons, and coachmen in livery, and riding-horses,
with English grooms in plug hats and tight-buttoned coats, and top-boots,
and a whip-handle without any whip to it, to ride sixty-three feet behind
"And they don't learn a blessed thing, Washington Hawkins, not a single
blessed thing but showy rubbish and un-american pretentiousness. But
send for the Lady Gwendolen--do; for I reckon the peerage regulations
require that she must come home and let on to go into seclusion and mourn
for those Arkansas blatherskites she's lost."
"My darling! Blatherskites? Remember--noblesse oblige."
"There, there--talk to me in your own tongue, Ross--you don't know any
other, and you only botch it when you try. Oh, don't stare--it was a
slip, and no crime; customs of a life-time can't be dropped in a second.
Rossmore--there, now, be appeased, and go along with you and attend to
Gwendolen. Are you going to write, Washington?--or telegraph?"
"He will telegraph, dear."
"I thought as much," my lady muttered, as she left the room. "Wants it
so the address will have to appear on the envelop. It will just make a
fool of that child. She'll get it, of course, for if there are any other
Sellerses there they'll not be able to claim it. And just leave her
alone to show it around and make the most of it. Well, maybe she's
forgivable for that. She's so poor and they're so rich, of course she's
had her share of snubs from the livery-flunkey sort, and I reckon it's
only human to want to get even."
Uncle Dan'l was sent with the telegram; for although a conspicuous object
in a corner of the drawing-room was a telephone hanging on a transmitter,
Washington found all attempts to raise the central office vain. The
Colonel grumbled something about its being "always out of order when
you've got particular and especial use for it," but he didn't explain
that one of the reasons for this was that the thing was only a dummy and
hadn't any wire attached to it. And yet the Colonel often used it--when
visitors were present--and seemed to get messages through it. Mourning
paper and a seal were ordered, then the friends took a rest.
Next afternoon, while Hawkins, by request, draped Andrew Jackson's
portrait with crape, the rightful earl, wrote off the family bereavement
to the usurper in England--a letter which we have already read. He also,
by letter to the village authorities at Duffy's Corners, Arkansas, gave
order that the remains of the late twins be embalmed by some St. Louis
expert and shipped at once to the usurper--with bill. Then he drafted
out the Rossmore arms and motto on a great sheet of brown paper, and he
and Hawkins took it to Hawkins's Yankee furniture-mender and at the end
of an hour came back with a couple of stunning hatchments, which they
nailed up on the front of the house--attractions calculated to draw, and
they did; for it was mainly an idle and shiftless negro neighborhood,
with plenty of ragged children and indolent dogs to spare for a point of
interest like that, and keep on sparing them for it, days and days
The new earl found--without surprise--this society item in the evening
paper, and cut it out and scrapbooked it:
By a recent bereavement our esteemed fellow citizen, Colonel
Mulberry Sellers, Perpetual Member-at-large of the Diplomatic Body,
succeeds, as rightful lord, to the great earldom of Rossmore, third
by order of precedence in the earldoms of Great Britain, and will
take early measures, by suit in the House of Lords, to wrest the
title and estates from the present usurping holder of them. Until
the season of mourning is past, the usual Thursday evening
receptions at Rossmore Towers will be discontinued.
Lady Rossmore's comment-to herself:
"Receptions! People who don't rightly know him may think he is
commonplace, but to my mind he is one of the most unusual men I ever saw.
As for suddenness and capacity in imagining things, his beat don't exist,
I reckon. As like as not it wouldn't have occurred to anybody else to
name this poor old rat-trap Rossmore Towers, but it just comes natural to
him. Well, no doubt it's a blessed thing to have an imagination that can
always make you satisfied, no matter how you are fixed. Uncle Dave
Hopkins used to always say, 'Turn me into John Calvin, and I want to know
which place I'm going to; turn me into Mulberry Sellers and I don't
The rightful earl's comment-to himself:
"It's a beautiful name, beautiful. Pity I didn't think of it before I
wrote the usurper. But I'll be ready for him when he answers."
No answer to that telegram; no arriving daughter. Yet nobody showed any
uneasiness or seemed surprised; that is, nobody but Washington. After
three days of waiting, he asked Lady Rossmore what she supposed the
trouble was. She answered, tranquilly:
"Oh, it's some notion of hers, you never can tell. She's a Sellers, all
through--at least in some of her ways; and a Sellers can't tell you
beforehand what he's going to do, because he don't know himself till he's
done it. She's all right; no occasion to worry about her. When she's
ready she'll come or she'll write, and you can't tell which, till it's
It turned out to be a letter. It was handed in at that moment, and was
received by the mother without trembling hands or feverish eagerness,
or any other of the manifestations common in the case of long delayed
answers to imperative telegrams. She polished her glasses with
tranquility and thoroughness, pleasantly gossiping along, the while,
then opened the letter and began to read aloud:
KENILWORTH KEEP, REDGAUNTLET HALL,
ROWENA-IVANHOE COLLEGE, THURSDAY.
DEAR PRECIOUS MAMMA ROSSMORE:
Oh, the joy of it!--you can't think. They had always turned up
their noses at our pretentions, you know; and I had fought back as
well as I could by turning up mine at theirs. They always said it
might be something great and fine to be rightful Shadow of an
earldom, but to merely be shadow of a shadow, and two or three times
removed at that--pooh-pooh! And I always retorted that not to be
able to show four generations of American-Colonial-Dutch Peddler-
and-Salt-Cod-McAllister-Nobility might be endurable, but to have to
confess such an origin--pfew-few! Well, the telegram, it was just a
cyclone! The messenger came right into the great Rob Roy Hall of
Audience, as excited as he could be, singing out, "Dispatch for Lady
Gwendolen Sellers!" and you ought to have seen that simpering
chattering assemblage of pinchbeck aristocrats, turn to stone!
I was off in the corner, of course, by myself--it's where Cinderella
belongs. I took the telegram and read it, and tried to faint--and I
could have done it if I had had any preparation, but it was all so
sudden, you know--but no matter, I did the next best thing: I put my
handkerchief to my eyes and fled sobbing to my room, dropping the
telegram as I started. I released one corner of my eye a moment--
just enough to see the herd swarm for the telegram--and then
continued my broken-hearted flight just as happy as a bird.
Then the visits of condolence began, and I had to accept the loan of
Miss Augusta-Templeton-Ashmore Hamilton's quarters because the press
was so great and there isn't room for three and a cat in mine. And
I've been holding a Lodge of Sorrow ever since and defending myself
against people's attempts to claim kin. And do you know, the very
first girl to fetch her tears and sympathy to my market was that
foolish Skimperton girl who has always snubbed me so shamefully and
claimed lordship and precedence of the whole college because some
ancestor of hers, some time or other, was a McAllister. Why it was
like the bottom bird in the menagerie putting on airs because its
head ancestor was a pterodactyl.
But the ger-reatest triumph of all was--guess. But you'll never.
This is it. That little fool and two others have always been
fussing and fretting over which was entitled to precedence--by rank,
you know. They've nearly starved themselves at it; for each claimed
the right to take precedence of all the college in leaving the
table, and so neither of them ever finished her dinner, but broke
off in the middle and tried to get out ahead of the others. Well,
after my first day's grief and seclusion--I was fixing up a mourning
dress you see--I appeared at the public table again, and then--what
do you think? Those three fluffy goslings sat there contentedly,
and squared up the long famine--lapped and lapped, munched and
munched, ate and ate, till the gravy appeared in their eyes--humbly
waiting for the Lady Gwendolen to take precedence and move out
first, you see!
Oh, yes, I've been having a darling good time. And do you know, not
one of these collegians has had the cruelty to ask me how I came by
my new name. With some, this is due to charity, but with the others
it isn't. They refrain, not from native kindness but from educated
discretion. I educated them.
Well, as soon as I shall have settled up what's left of the old
scores and snuffed up a few more of those pleasantly intoxicating
clouds of incense, I shall pack and depart homeward. Tell papa I
am as fond of him as I am of my new name. I couldn't put it
stronger than that. What an inspiration it was! But inspirations
come easy to him.
These, from your loving daughter,
Hawkins reached for the letter and glanced over it.
"Good hand," he said, "and full of confidence and animation, and goes
racing right along. She's bright--that's plain."
"Oh, they're all bright--the Sellerses. Anyway, they would be, if there
were any. Even those poor Latherses would have been bright if they had
been Sellerses; I mean full blood. Of course they had a Sellers strain
in them--a big strain of it, too--but being a Bland dollar don't make it
a dollar just the same."
The seventh day after the date of the telegram Washington came dreaming
down to breakfast and was set wide awake by an electrical spasm of
Here was the most beautiful young creature he had ever seen in his life.
It was Sally Sellers Lady Gwendolen; she had come in the night. And it
seemed to him that her clothes were the prettiest and the daintiest he
had ever looked upon, and the most exquisitely contrived and fashioned
and combined, as to decorative trimmings, and fixings, and melting
harmonies of color. It was only a morning dress, and inexpensive, but he
confessed to himself, in the English common to Cherokee Strip, that it
was a "corker." And now, as he perceived, the reason why the Sellers
household poverties and sterilities had been made to blossom like the
rose, and charm the eye and satisfy the spirit, stood explained; here was
the magician; here in the midst of her works, and furnishing in her own
person the proper accent and climaxing finish of the whole.
"My daughter, Major Hawkins--come home to mourn; flown home at the call
of affliction to help the authors of her being bear the burden of
bereavement. She was very fond of the late earl--idolized him, sir,
"Why, father, I've never seen him."
"True--she's right, I was thinking of another--er--of her mother--"
"I idolized that smoked haddock?--that sentimental, spiritless--"
"I was thinking of myself! Poor noble fellow, we were inseparable com--"
"Hear the man! Mulberry Sel--Mul--Rossmore--hang the troublesome name I
can never--if I've heard you say once, I've heard you say a thousand
times that if that poor sheep--"
"I was thinking of--of--I don't know who I was thinking of, and it
doesn't make any difference anyway; somebody idolized him, I recollect it
as if it were yesterday; and--"
"Father, I am going to shake hands with Major Hawkins, and let the
introduction work along and catch up at its leisure. I remember you very
well in deed, Major Hawkins, although I was a little child when I saw you
last; and I am very, very glad indeed to see you again and have you in
our house as one of us;" and beaming in his face she finished her cordial
shake with the hope that he had not forgotten her.
He was prodigiously pleased by her outspoken heartiness, and wanted to
repay her by assuring her that he remembered her, and not only that but
better even than he remembered his own children, but the facts would not
quite warrant this; still, he stumbled through a tangled sentence which
answered just as well, since the purport of it was an awkward and
unintentional confession that her extraordinary beauty had so stupefied
him that he hadn't got back to his bearings, yet, and therefore couldn't
be certain as to whether he remembered her at all or not. The speech
made him her friend; it couldn't well help it.
In truth the beauty of this fair creature was of a rare type, and may
well excuse a moment of our time spent in its consideration. It did not
consist in the fact that she had eyes, nose, mouth, chin, hair, ears, it
consisted in their arrangement. In true beauty, more depends upon right
location and judicious distribution of feature than upon multiplicity of
them. So also as regards color. The very combination of colors which in
a volcanic irruption would add beauty to a landscape might detach it from
a girl. Such was Gwendolen Sellers.
The family circle being completed by Gwendolen's arrival, it was decreed
that the official mourning should now begin; that it should begin at six
o'clock every evening, (the dinner hour,) and end with the dinner.
"It's a grand old line, major, a sublime old line, and deserves to be
mourned for, almost royally; almost imperially, I may say. Er--Lady
Gwendolen--but she's gone; never mind; I wanted my Peerage; I'll fetch it
myself, presently, and show you a thing or two that will give you a
realizing idea of what our house is. I've been glancing through Burke,
and I find that of William the Conqueror's sixty-four natural ah--
my dear, would you mind getting me that book? It's on the escritoire in
our boudoir. Yes, as I was saying, there's only St. Albans, Buccleugh
and Grafton ahead of us on the list--all the rest of the British nobility
are in procession behind us. Ah, thanks, my lady. Now then, we turn to
William, and we find--letter for XYZ? Oh, splendid--when'd you get it?"
"Last night; but I was asleep before you came, you were out so late; and
when I came to breakfast Miss Gwendolen--well, she knocked everything out
of me, you know--"
"Wonderful girl, wonderful; her great origin is detectable in her step,
her carriage, her features--but what does he say? Come, this is
"I haven't read it--er--Rossm--Mr. Rossm--er--"
"M'lord! Just cut it short like that. It's the English way. I'll open
it. Ah, now let's see."
A. TO YOU KNOW WHO. Think I know you. Wait ten days. Coming to
The excitement died out of both men's faces. There was a brooding
silence for a while, then the younger one said with a sigh:
"Why, we can't wait ten days for the money."
"No--the man's unreasonable; we are down to the bed rock, financially
"If we could explain to him in some way, that we are so situated that
time is of the utmost importance to us--"
"Yes--yes, that's it--and so if it would be as convenient for him to come
at once it would be a great accommodation to us, and one which we--which
we--which we--wh--well, which we should sincerely appreciate--"
"That's it--and most gladly reciprocate--"
"Certainly--that'll fetch him. Worded right, if he's a man--got any of
the feelings of a man, sympathies and all that, he'll be here inside of
twenty-four hours. Pen and paper--come, we'll get right at it."
Between them they framed twenty-two different advertisements, but none
was satisfactory. A main fault in all of them was urgency. That feature
was very troublesome: if made prominent, it was calculated to excite
Pete's suspicion; if modified below the suspicion-point it was flat and
meaningless. Finally the Colonel resigned, and said:
"I have noticed, in such literary experiences as I have had, that one of
the most taking things to do is to conceal your meaning when you are
trying to conceal it. Whereas, if you go at literature with a free
conscience and nothing to conceal, you can turn out a book, every time,
that the very elect can't understand. They all do."
Then Hawkins resigned also, and the two agreed that they must manage to
wait the ten days some how or other. Next, they caught a ray of cheer:
since they had something definite to go upon, now, they could probably
borrow money on the reward--enough, at any rate, to tide them over till
they got it; and meantime the materializing recipe would be perfected,
and then good bye to trouble for good and all.
The next day, May the tenth, a couple of things happened--among others.
The remains of the noble Arkansas twins left our shores for England,
consigned to Lord Rossmore, and Lord Rossmore's son, Kirkcudbright
Llanover Marjoribanks Sellers Viscount Berkeley, sailed from Liverpool
for America to place the reversion of the earldom in the hands of the
rightful peer, Mulberry Sellers, of Rossmore Towers in the District of
Columbia, U. S. A.
These two impressive shipments would meet and part in mid-Atlantic, five
days later, and give no sign.
In the course of time the twins arrived and were delivered to their great
kinsman. To try to describe the rage of that old man would profit
nothing, the attempt would fall so far short of the purpose. However
when he had worn himself out and got quiet again, he looked the matter
over and decided that the twins had some moral rights, although they had
no legal ones; they were of his blood, and it could not be decorous to
treat them as common clay. So he laid them with their majestic kin in
the Cholmondeley church, with imposing state and ceremony, and added the
supreme touch by officiating as chief mourner himself. But he drew the
line at hatchments.
Our friends in Washington watched the weary days go by, while they waited
for Pete and covered his name with reproaches because of his calamitous
procrastinations. Meantime, Sally Sellers, who was as practical and
democratic as the Lady Gwendolen Sellers was romantic and aristocratic,
was leading a life of intense interest and activity and getting the most
she could out of her double personality. All day long in the privacy of
her work-room, Sally Sellers earned bread for the Sellers family; and all
the evening Lady Gwendolen Sellers supported the Rossmore dignity. All
day she was American, practically, and proud of the work of her head and
hands and its commercial result; all the evening she took holiday and
dwelt in a rich shadow-land peopled with titled and coroneted fictions.
By day, to her, the place was a plain, unaffected, ramshackle old trap
just that, and nothing more; by night it was Rossmore Towers. At college
she had learned a trade without knowing it. The girls had found out that
she was the designer of her own gowns. She had no idle moments after
that, and wanted none; for the exercise of an extraordinary gift is the
supremest pleasure in life, and it was manifest that Sally Sellers
possessed a gift of that sort in the matter of costume-designing. Within
three days after reaching home she had hunted up some work; before Pete
was yet due in Washington, and before the twins were fairly asleep in
English soil, she was already nearly swamped with work, and the
sacrificing of the family chromos for debt had got an effective check.
"She's a brick," said Rossmore to the Major; "just her father all over:
prompt to labor with head or hands, and not ashamed of it; capable,
always capable, let the enterprise be what it may; successful by nature--
don't know what defeat is; thus, intensely and practically American by
inhaled nationalism, and at the same time intensely and aristocratically
European by inherited nobility of blood. Just me, exactly: Mulberry
Sellers in matter of finance and invention; after office hours, what do
you find? The same clothes, yes, but what's in them? Rossmore of the
The two friends had haunted the general post-office daily. At last they
had their reward. Toward evening the 20th of May, they got a letter for
XYZ. It bore the Washington postmark; the note itself was not dated. It
"Ash barrel back of lamp post Black horse Alley. If you are playing
square go and set on it to-morrow morning 21st 10.22 not sooner not
later wait till I come."
The friends cogitated over the note profoundly. Presently the earl said:
"Don't you reckon he's afraid we are a sheriff with a requisition?"
"Because that's no place for a seance. Nothing friendly, nothing
sociable about it. And at the same time, a body that wanted to know who
was roosting on that ash-barrel without exposing himself by going near
it, or seeming to be interested in it, could just stand on the street
corner and take a glance down the alley and satisfy himself, don't you
"Yes, his idea is plain, now. He seems to be a man that can't be candid
and straightforward. He acts as if he thought we--shucks, I wish he had
come out like a man and told us what hotel he--"
"Now you've struck it! you've struck it sure, Washington; he has told
"Yes, he has; but he didn't mean to. That alley is a lonesome little
pocket that runs along one side of the New Gadsby. That's his hotel."
"What makes' you think that?"
"Why, I just know it. He's got a room that's just across from that lamp
post. He's going to sit there perfectly comfortable behind his shutters
at 10.22 to-morrow, and when he sees us sitting on the ash-barrel, he'll
say to himself, 'I saw one of those fellows on the train'--and then he'll
pack his satchel in half a minute and ship for the ends of the earth."
Hawkins turned sick with disappointment:
"Oh, dear, it's all up, Colonel--it's exactly what he'll do."
"Indeed he won't!"
"Won't he? Why?"
"Because you won't be holding the ash barrel down, it'll be me. You'll
be coming in with an officer and a requisition in plain clothes--the
officer, I mean--the minute you see him arrive and open up a talk with
"Well, what a head you have got, Colonel Sellers! I never should have
thought of that in the world."
"Neither would any earl of Rossmore, betwixt William's contribution and
Mulberry--as earl; but it's office hours, now, you see, and the earl in
me sleeps. Come--I'll show you his very room."
They reached the neighborhood of the New Gadsby about nine in the
evening, and passed down the alley to the lamp post.
"There you are," said the colonel, triumphantly, with a wave of his hand
which took in the whole side of the hotel. "There it is--what did I tell
"Well, but--why, Colonel, it's six stories high. I don't quite make out
which window you--"
"All the windows, all of them. Let him have his choice--I'm indifferent,
now that I have located him. You go and stand on the corner and wait;
I'll prospect the hotel."
The earl drifted here and there through the swarming lobby, and finally
took a waiting position in the neighborhood of the elevator. During an
hour crowds went up and crowds came down; and all complete as to limbs;
but at last the watcher got a glimpse of a figure that was satisfactory--
got a glimpse of the back of it, though he had missed his chance at the
face through waning alertness. The glimpse revealed a cowboy hat, and
below it a plaided sack of rather loud pattern, and an empty sleeve
pinned up to the shoulder. Then the elevator snatched the vision aloft
and the watcher fled away in joyful excitement, and rejoined the
"We've got him, Major--got him sure! I've seen him--seen him good; and I
don't care where or when that man approaches me backwards, I'll recognize
him every time. We're all right. Now for the requisition."
They got it, after the delays usual in such cases. By half past eleven
they were at home and happy, and went to bed full of dreams of the
morrow's great promise.
Among the elevator load which had the suspect for fellow-passenger was a
young kinsman of Mulberry Sellers, but Mulberry was not aware of it and
didn't see him. It was Viscount Berkeley.
Arrived in his room Lord Berkeley made preparations for that first and
last and all-the-time duty of the visiting Englishman--the jotting down
in his diary of his "impressions" to date. His preparations consisted in
ransacking his "box" for a pen. There was a plenty of steel pens on his
table with the ink bottle, but he was English. The English people
manufacture steel pens for nineteen-twentieths of the globe, but they
never use any themselves. They use exclusively the pre-historic quill.
My lord not only found a quill pen, but the best one he had seen in
several years--and after writing diligently for some time, closed with
the following entry:
BUT IN ONE THING I HAVE MADE AN IMMENSE MISTAKE, I OUGHT TO
HAVE SHUCKED MY TITLE AND CHANGED MY NAME BEFORE I STARTED.
He sat admiring that pen a while, and then went on:
"All attempts to mingle with the common people and became permanently one
of them are going to fail, unless I can get rid of it, disappear from it,
and re-appear with the solid protection of a new name. I am astonished
and pained to see how eager the most of these Americans are to get
acquainted with a lord, and how diligent they are in pushing attentions
upon him. They lack English servility, it is true--but they could
acquire it, with practice. My quality travels ahead of me in the most
mysterious way. I write my family name without additions, on the
register of this hotel, and imagine that I am going to pass for an
obscure and unknown wanderer, but the clerk promptly calls out, 'Front!
show his lordship to four-eighty-two!' and before I can get to the lift
there is a reporter trying to interview me as they call it. This sort of
thing shall cease at once. I will hunt up the American Claimant the
first thing in the morning, accomplish my mission, then change my lodging
and vanish from scrutiny under a fictitious name."
He left his diary on the table, where it would be handy in case any new
"impressions" should wake him up in the night, then he went to bed and
presently fell asleep. An hour or two passed, and then he came slowly to
consciousness with a confusion of mysterious and augmenting sounds
hammering at the gates of his brain for admission; the next moment he was
sharply awake, and those sounds burst with the rush and roar and boom of
an undammed freshet into his ears. Banging and slamming of shutters;
smashing of windows and the ringing clash of falling glass; clatter of
flying feet along the halls; shrieks, supplications, dumb moanings of
despair, within, hoarse shouts of command outside; cracklings and
mappings, and the windy roar of victorious flames!
Bang, bang, bang! on the door, and a cry:
"Turn out--the house is on fire!"
The cry passed on, and the banging. Lord Berkeley sprang out of bed and
moved with all possible speed toward the clothes-press in the darkness
and the gathering smoke, but fell over a chair and lost his bearings.
He groped desperately about on his hands, and presently struck his head
against the table and was deeply grateful, for it gave him his bearings
again, since it stood close by the door. He seized his most precious
possession; his journaled Impressions of America, and darted from the
He ran down the deserted hall toward the red lamp which he knew indicated
the place of a fire-escape. The door of the room beside it was open.
In the room the gas was burning full head; on a chair was a pile of
clothing. He ran to the window, could not get it up, but smashed it with
a chair, and stepped out on the landing of the fire-escape; below him was
a crowd of men, with a sprinkling of women and youth, massed in a ruddy
light. Must he go down in his spectral night dress? No--this side of
the house was not yet on fire except at the further end; he would snatch
on those clothes. Which he did. They fitted well enough, though a
trifle loosely, and they were just a shade loud as to pattern. Also as
to hat--which was of a new breed to him, Buffalo Bill not having been to
England yet. One side of the coat went on, but the other side refused;
one of its sleeves was turned up and stitched to the shoulder. He
started down without waiting to get it loose, made the trip successfully,
and was promptly hustled outside the limit-rope by the police.
The cowboy hat and the coat but half on made him too much of a centre of
attraction for comfort, although nothing could be more profoundly
respectful, not to say deferential, than was the manner of the crowd
toward him. In his mind he framed a discouraged remark for early entry
in his diary: "It is of no use; they know a lord through any disguise,
and show awe of him--even something very like fear, indeed."
Presently one of the gaping and adoring half-circle of boys ventured a
timid question. My lord answered it. The boys glanced wonderingly at
each other and from somewhere fell the comment:
"English cowboy! Well, if that ain't curious."
Another mental note to be preserved for the diary: "Cowboy. Now what
might a cowboy be? Perhaps--" But the viscount perceived that some more
questions were about to be asked; so he worked his way out of the crowd,
released the sleeve, put on the coat and wandered away to seek a humble
and obscure lodging. He found it and went to bed and was soon asleep.
In the morning, he examined his clothes. They were rather assertive, it
seemed to him, but they were new and clean, at any rate. There was
considerable property in the pockets. Item, five one-hundred dollar
bills. Item, near fifty dollars in small bills and silver. Plug of
tobacco. Hymn-book, which refuses to open; found to contain whiskey.
Memorandum book bearing no name. Scattering entries in it, recording in
a sprawling, ignorant hand, appointments, bets, horse-trades, and so on,
with people of strange, hyphenated name--Six-Fingered Jake, Young-Man-
afraid-of his-Shadow, and the like. No letters, no documents.
The young man muses--maps out his course. His letter of credit is burned;
he will borrow the small bills and the silver in these pockets, apply
part of it to advertising for the owner, and use the rest for sustenance
while he seeks work. He sends out for the morning paper, next, and
proceeds to read about the fire. The biggest line in the display-head
announces his own death! The body of the account furnishes all the
particulars; and tells how, with the inherited heroism of his caste, he
went on saving women and children until escape for himself was
impossible; then with the eyes of weeping multitudes upon him, he stood
with folded arms and sternly awaited the approach of the devouring fiend;
"and so standing, amid a tossing sea of flame and on-rushing billows of
smoke, the noble young heir of the great house of Rossmore was caught up
in a whirlwind of fiery glory, and disappeared forever from the vision of
The thing was so fine and generous and knightly that it brought the
moisture to his eyes. Presently he said to himself: "What to do is as
plain as day, now. My Lord Berkeley is dead--let him stay so. Died
creditably, too; that will make the calamity the easier for my father.
And I don't have to report to the American Claimant, now. Yes, nothing
could be better than the way matters have turned out. I have only to
furnish myself with a new name, and take my new start in life totally
untrammeled. Now I breathe my first breath of real freedom; and how
fresh and breezy and inspiring it is! At last I am a man! a man on equal
terms with my neighbor; and by my manhood; and by it alone, I shall rise
and be seen of the world, or I shall sink from sight and deserve it.
This is the gladdest day, and the proudest, that ever poured it's sun
upon my head!"
"GOD bless my soul, Hawkins!"
The morning paper dropped from the Colonel's nerveless-grasp.
"What is it?"
"He's gone!--the bright, the young, the gifted, the noblest of his
illustrious race--gone! gone up in flames and unimaginable glory!"
"My precious, precious young kinsman--Kirkcudbright Llanover Marjoribanks
Sellers Viscount Berkeley, son and heir of usurping Rossmore."
"It's true--too true."
"Right here in Washington; where he arrived from England last night, the
"You don't say!"
"Hotel burned down."
"The New Gadsby!"
"Oh, my goodness! And have we lost both of them?"
"Oh, great guns, I forgot all about him. Oh, I hope not."
"Hope! Well, I should say! Oh, we can't spare him! We can better
afford to lose a million viscounts than our only support and stay."
They searched the paper diligently, and were appalled to find that a
one-armed man had been seen flying along one of the halls of the hotel
in his underclothing and apparently out of his head with fright, and as
he would listen to no one and persisted in making for a stairway which
would carry him to certain death, his case was given over as a hopeless
"Poor fellow," sighed Hawkins; "and he had friends so near. I wish we
hadn't come away from there--maybe we could have saved him."
The earl looked up and said calmly:
"His being dead doesn't matter. He was uncertain before. We've got him
sure, this time."
"Got him? How?"
"I will materialize him."
"Rossmore, don't--don't trifle with me. Do you mean that? Can you do
"I can do it, just as sure as you are sitting there. And I will."
"Give me your hand, and let me have the comfort of shaking it. I was
perishing, and you have put new life into me. Get at it, oh, get at it
"It will take a little time, Hawkins, but there's no hurry, none in the
world--in the circumstances. And of course certain duties have devolved
upon me now, which necessarily claim my first attention. This poor young
"Why, yes, I am sorry for my heartlessness, and you smitten with this new
family affliction. Of course you must materialize him first--I quite
"I--I--well, I wasn't meaning just that, but,--why, what am I thinking
of! Of course I must materialize him. Oh, Hawkins, selfishness is the
bottom trait in human nature; I was only thinking that now, with the
usurper's heir out of the way. But you'll forgive that momentary weakness,
and forget it. Don't ever remember it against me that Mulberry Sellers
was once mean enough to think the thought that I was thinking. I'll
materialise him--I will, on my honor--and I'd do it were he a thousand
heirs jammed into one and stretching in a solid rank from here to the
stolen estates of Rossmore, and barring the road forever to the rightful
"There spoke the real Sellers--the other had a false ring, old friend."
"Hawkins, my boy, it just occurs to me--a thing I keep forgetting to
mention--a matter that we've got to be mighty careful about."
"What is that?"
"We must keep absolutely still about these materializations. Mind, not a
hint of them must escape--not a hint. To say nothing of how my wife and
daughter--high-strung, sensitive organizations--might feel about them,
the negroes wouldn't stay on the place a minute."
"That's true, they wouldn't. It's well you spoke, for I'm not naturally
discreet with my tongue when I'm not warned."
Sellers reached out and touched a bell-button in the wall; set his eye
upon the rear door and waited; touched it again and waited; and just as
Hawkins was remarking admiringly that the Colonel was the most
progressive and most alert man he had ever seen, in the matter of
impressing into his service every modern convenience the moment it was
invented, and always keeping breast to breast with the drum major in the
great work of material civilization, he forsook the button (which hadn't
any wire attached to it,) rang a vast dinner bell which stood on the
table, and remarked that he had tried that new-fangled dry battery, now,
to his entire satisfaction, and had got enough of it; and added:
"Nothing would do Graham Bell but I must try it; said the mere fact of my
trying it would secure public confidence, and get it a chance to show
what it could do. I told him that in theory a dry battery was just a
curled darling and no mistake, but when it come to practice, sho!--and
here's the result. Was I right? What should you say, Washington
Hawkins? You've seen me try that button twice. Was I right?--that's the
idea. Did I know what I was talking about, or didn't I?"
"Well, you know how I feel about you, Colonel Sellers, and always have
felt. It seems to me that you always know everything about everything.
If that man had known you as I know you he would have taken your judgment
at the start, and dropped his dry battery where it was."
"Did you ring, Marse Sellers?"
"No, Marse Sellers didn't."
"Den it was you, Marse Washington. I's heah, suh."
"No, it wasn't Marse Washington, either."
"De good lan'! who did ring her, den?"
"Lord Rossmore rang it!"
The old negro flung up his hands and exclaimed:
"Blame my skin if I hain't gone en forgit dat name agin! Come heah,
Jinny--run heah, honey."
"You take dish-yer order de lord gwine to give you I's gwine down suller
and study dat name tell I git it."
"I take de order! Who's yo' nigger las' year? De bell rung for you."
"Dat don't make no diffunce. When a bell ring for anybody, en old
marster tell me to--"
"Clear out, and settle it in the kitchen!"
The noise of the quarreling presently sank to a murmur in the distance,
and the earl added: "That's a trouble with old house servants that were
your slaves once and have been your personal friends always."
"Yes, and members of the family."
"Members of the family is just what they become--THE members of the
family, in fact. And sometimes master and mistress of the household.
These two are mighty good and loving and faithful and honest, but hang
it, they do just about as they please, they chip into a conversation
whenever they want to, and the plain fact is, they ought to be killed."
It was a random remark, but it gave him an idea--however, nothing could
happen without that result.
"What I wanted, Hawkins, was to send for the family and break the news to
"O, never mind bothering with the servants, then. I will go and bring
While he was gone, the earl worked his idea.
"Yes," he said to himself, "when I've got the materializing down to a
certainty, I will get Hawkins to kill them, and after that they will be
under better control. Without doubt a materialized negro could easily be
hypnotized into a state resembling silence. And this could be made
permanent--yes, and also modifiable, at will--sometimes very silent,
sometimes turn on more talk, more action, more emotion, according to what
you want. It's a prime good idea. Make it adjustable--with a screw or
The two ladies entered, now, with Hawkins, and the two negroes followed,
uninvited, and fell to brushing and dusting around, for they perceived
that there was matter of interest to the fore, and were willing to find
out what it was.
Sellers broke the news with stateliness and ceremony, first warning the
ladies, with gentle art, that a pang of peculiar sharpness was about to
be inflicted upon their hearts--hearts still sore from a like hurt, still
lamenting a like loss--then he took the paper, and with trembling lips
and with tears in his voice he gave them that heroic death-picture.
The result was a very genuine outbreak of sorrow and sympathy from all
the hearers. The elder lady cried, thinking how proud that great-hearted
young hero's mother would be, if she were living, and how unappeasable
her grief; and the two old servants cried with her, and spoke out their
applauses and their pitying lamentations with the eloquent sincerity and
simplicity native to their race. Gwendolen was touched, and the romantic
side of her nature was strongly wrought upon. She said that such a
nature as that young man's was rarely and truly noble, and nearly
perfect; and that with nobility of birth added it was entirely perfect.
For such a man she could endure all things, suffer all things, even to
the sacrificing of her life. She wished she could have seen him; the
slightest, the most momentary, contact with such a spirit would have
ennobled her own character and made ignoble thoughts and ignoble acts
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