Mr. Tolman by Frank Stockton
Mr. Tolman was a gentleman whose apparent age was of a varying
character. At times, when deep in thought on business matters or other
affairs, one might have thought him fifty-five or fifty-seven, or even
sixty. Ordinarily, however, when things were running along in a
satisfactory and commonplace way, he appeared to be about fifty years
old, while upon some extraordinary occasions, when the world assumed an
unusually attractive aspect, his age seemed to run down to forty-five
He was the head of a business firm. In fact, he was the only member of
it. The firm was known as Pusey and Co. But Pusey had long been dead
and the "Co.," of which Mr. Tolman had been a member, was dissolved.
Our elderly hero, having bought out the business, firm-name and all,
for many years had carried it on with success and profit. His
counting-house was a small and quiet place, but a great deal of money
had been made in it. Mr. Tolman was rich—very rich indeed.
And yet, as he sat in his counting-room one winter evening, he looked
his oldest. He had on his hat and his overcoat, his gloves and his fur
collar. Every one else in the establishment had gone home, and he,
with the keys in his hand, was ready to lock up and leave also. He
often stayed later than any one else, and left the keys with Mr.
Canterfield, the head clerk, as he passed his house on his way home.
Mr. Tolman seemed in no hurry to go. He simply sat and thought, and
increased his apparent age. The truth was, he did not want to go home.
He was tired of going home. This was not because his home was not a
pleasant one. No single gentleman in the city had a handsomer or more
comfortable suite of rooms. It was not because he felt lonely, or
regretted that a wife and children did not brighten and enliven his
home. He was perfectly satisfied to be a bachelor. The conditions
suited him exactly. But, in spite of all this, he was tired of going
"I wish," said Mr. Tolman to himself, "that I could feel some interest
in going home." Then he rose and took a turn or two up and down the
room. But as that did not seem to give him any more interest in the
matter, he sat down again. "I wish it were necessary for me to go
home," said he, "but it isn't." So then he fell again to thinking.
"What I need," he said, after a while, "is to depend more upon
myself—to feel that I am necessary to myself. Just now I'm not. I'll
stop going home—at least, in this way. Where's the sense in envying
other men, when I can have all that they have just as well as not? And
I'll have it, too," said Mr. Tolman, as he went out and locked the
doors. Once in the streets, and walking rapidly, his ideas shaped
themselves easily and readily into a plan which, by the time he reached
the house of his head clerk, was quite matured. Mr. Canterfield was
just going down to dinner as his employer rang the bell, so he opened
the door himself. "I will detain you but a minute or two," said Mr.
Tolman, handing the keys to Mr. Canterfield. "Shall we step into the
When his employer had gone, and Mr. Canterfield had joined his family
at the dinner-table, his wife immediately asked him what Mr. Tolman
"Only to say that he is going away to-morrow, and that I am to attend
to the business, and send his personal letters to ——," naming a city
not a hundred miles away.
"How long is he going to stay?"
"He didn't say," answered Mr. Canterfield.
"I'll tell you what he ought to do," said the lady. "He ought to make
you a partner in the firm, and then he could go away and stay as long
as he pleased."
"He can do that now," returned her husband. "He has made a good many
trips since I have been with him, and things have gone on very much in
the same way as when he is here. He knows that."
"But still you'd like to be a partner?"
"Oh, yes," said Mr. Canterfield.
"And common gratitude ought to prompt him to make you one," said his
Mr. Tolman went home and wrote a will. He left all his property, with
the exception of a few legacies, to the richest and most powerful
charitable organization in the country.
"People will think I am crazy," said he to himself, "and if I should
die while I am carrying out my plan, I will leave the task of defending
my sanity to people who are able to make a good fight for me." And
before he went to bed his will was signed and witnessed.
The next day he packed a trunk and left for the neighboring city. His
apartments were to be kept in readiness for his return at any time. If
you had seen him walking over to the railroad depot, you would have
taken him for a man of forty-five.
When he arrived at his destination, Mr. Tolman established himself
temporarily at a hotel, and spent the next three or four days in
walking about the city looking for what he wanted. What he wanted was
rather difficult to define, but the way in which he put the matter to
himself was something like this:
"I would like to find a snug little place where, I can live, and carry
on some business which I can attend to myself, and which will bring me
into contact with people of all sorts—people who will interest me. It
must be a small business, because I don't want to have to work very
hard, and it must be snug and comfortable, because I want to enjoy it.
I would like a shop of some sort, because that brings a man face to
face with his fellow-creatures."
The city in which he was walking about was one of the best places in
the country in which to find the place of business he desired. It was
full of independent little shops. But Mr. Tolman could not readily
find one which resembled his ideal. A small dry-goods establishment
seemed to presuppose a female proprietor. A grocery store would give
him many interesting customers; but he did not know much about
groceries, and the business did not appear to him to possess any
He was much pleased by a small shop belonging to a taxidermist. It was
exceedingly cosey, and the business was probably not so great as to
overwork any one. He might send the birds and beasts which were
brought to be stuffed to some practical operator, and have him put them
in proper condition for the customers. He might— But no. It would
be very unsatisfactory to engage in a business of which he knew
absolutely nothing. A taxidermist ought not to blush with ignorance
when asked some simple question about a little dead bird or a defunct
fish. And so he tore himself from the window of this fascinating
place, where, he fancied, had his education been differently managed,
he could in time have shown the world the spectacle of a cheerful and
unblighted Mr. Venus.
The shop which at last appeared to suit him best was one which he had
passed and looked at several times before it struck him favorably. It
was in a small brick house in a side street, but not far from one of
the main business avenues of the city. The shop seemed devoted to
articles of stationery and small notions of various kinds not easy to
be classified. He had stopped to look at three penknives fastened to a
card, which was propped up in the little show-window, supported on one
side by a chess-board with "History of Asia" in gilt letters on the
back, and on the other by a small violin labelled "1 dollar." And as
he gazed past these articles into the interior of the shop, which was
now lighted up, it gradually dawned upon him that it was something like
his ideal of an attractive and interesting business place. At any
rate, he would go in and look at it. He did not care for a violin,
even at the low price marked on the one in the window, but a new
pocket-knife might be useful. So he walked in and asked to look at
The shop was in charge of a very pleasant old lady of about sixty, who
sat sewing behind the little counter. While she went to the window and
very carefully reached over the articles displayed therein to get the
card of penknives, Mr. Tolman looked about him. The shop was quite
small, but there seemed to be a good deal in it. There were shelves
behind the counter, and there were shelves on the opposite wall, and
they all seemed well filled with something or other. In the corner
near the old lady's chair was a little coal stove with a bright fire in
it, and at the back of the shop, at the top of two steps, was a glass
door partly open, through which he saw a small room, with a red carpet
on the floor, and a little table apparently set for a meal.
Mr. Tolman looked at the knives when the old lady showed them to him,
and after a good deal of consideration he selected one which he thought
would be a good knife to give to a boy. Then he looked over some
things in the way of paper-cutters, whist-markers, and such small
matters, which were in a glass case on the counter. And while he
looked at them he talked to the old lady.
She was a friendly, sociable body, very glad to have any one to talk
to, and so it was not at all difficult for Mr. Tolman, by some general
remarks, to draw from her a great many points about herself and her
shop. She was a widow, with a son who, from her remarks, must have
been forty years old. He was connected with a mercantile
establishment, and they had lived here for a long time. While her son
was a salesman, and came home every evening, this was very pleasant.
But after he became a commercial traveller, and was away from the city
for months at a time, she did not like it at all. It was very lonely
Mr. Tolman's heart rose within him, but he did not interrupt her.
"If I could do it," said she, "I would give up this place, and go and
live with my sister in the country. It would be better for both of us,
and Henry could come there just as well as here when he gets back from
"Why don't you sell out?" asked Mr. Tolman, a little fearfully, for he
began to think that all this was too easy sailing to be entirely safe.
"That would not be easy," said she, with a smile. "It might be a long
time before we could find any one who would want to take the place. We
have a fair trade in the store, but it isn't what it used to be when
times were better. And the library is falling off, too. Most of the
books are getting pretty old, and it don't pay to spend much money for
new ones now."
"The library!" said Mr. Tolman. "Have you a library?"
"Oh, yes," replied the old lady. "I've had a circulating library here
for nearly fifteen years. There it is on those two upper shelves
Mr. Tolman turned, and beheld two long rows of books in brown-paper
covers, with a short step-ladder, standing near the door of the inner
room, by which these shelves might be reached. This pleased him
greatly. He had had no idea that there was a library here.
"I declare!" said he. "It must be very pleasant to manage a
circulating library—a small one like this, I mean. I shouldn't mind
going into a business of the kind myself."
The old lady looked up, surprised. Did he wish to go into business?
She had not supposed that, just from looking at him.
Mr. Tolman explained his views to her. He did not tell what he had
been doing in the way of business, or what Mr. Canterfield was doing
for him now. He merely stated his present wishes, and acknowledged to
her that it was the attractiveness of her establishment that had led
him to come in.
"Then you do not want the penknife?" she said quickly.
"Oh, yes, I do," said he. "And I really believe, if we can come to
terms, that I would like the two other knives, together with the rest
of your stock in trade."
The old lady laughed a little nervously. She hoped very much indeed
that they could come to terms. She brought a chair from the back room,
and Mr. Tolman sat down with her by the stove to talk it over. Few
customers came in to interrupt them, and they talked the matter over
very thoroughly. They both came to the conclusion that there would be
no difficulty about terms, nor about Mr. Tolman's ability to carry on
the business after a very little instruction from the present
proprietress. When Mr. Tolman left, it was with the understanding that
he was to call again in a couple of days, when the son Henry would be
at home, and matters could be definitely arranged.
When the three met, the bargain was soon struck. As each party was so
desirous of making it, few difficulties were interposed. The old lady,
indeed, was in favor of some delay in the transfer of the
establishment, as she would like to clean and dust every shelf and
corner and every article in the place. But Mr. Tolman was in a hurry
to take possession; and as the son Henry would have to start off on
another trip in a short time, he wanted to see his mother moved and
settled before he left. There was not much to move but trunks and
bandboxes, and some antiquated pieces of furniture of special value to
the old lady, for Mr. Tolman insisted on buying everything in the
house, just as it stood. The whole thing did not cost him, he said to
himself, as much as some of his acquaintances would pay for a horse.
The methodical son Henry took an account of stock, and Mr. Tolman took
several lessons from the old lady, in which she explained to him how to
find out the selling prices of the various articles from the marks on
the little tags attached to them. And she particularly instructed him
in the management of the circulating library. She informed him of the
character of the books, and, as far as possible, of the character of
the regular patrons. She told him whom he might trust to take out a
book without paying for the one brought in, if they didn't happen to
have the change with them, and she indicated with little crosses
opposite their names those persons who should be required to pay cash
down for what they had had, before receiving further benefits.
It was astonishing to see what interest Mr. Tolman took in all this.
He was really anxious to meet some of the people about whom the old
lady discoursed. He tried, too, to remember a few of the many things
she told him of her methods of buying and selling, and the general
management of her shop; and he probably did not forget more than three
fourths of what she told him.
Finally everything was settled to the satisfaction of the two male
parties to the bargain,—although the old lady thought of a hundred
things she would yet like to do,—and one fine frosty afternoon a
cart-load of furniture and baggage left the door, the old lady and her
son took leave of the old place, and Mr. Tolman was left sitting behind
the little counter, the sole manager and proprietor of a circulating
library and a stationery and notion shop. He laughed when he thought
of it, but he rubbed his hands and felt very well satisfied.
"There is nothing really crazy about it," he said to himself. "If
there is a thing that I think I would like, and I can afford to have
it, and there's no harm in it, why not have it?"
There was nobody there to say anything against this, so Mr. Tolman
rubbed his hands again before the fire, and rose to walk up and down
his shop, and wonder who would be his first customer.
In the course of twenty minutes a little boy opened the door and came
in. Mr. Tolman hastened behind the counter to receive his commands.
The little boy wanted two sheets of note-paper and an envelope.
"Any particular kind!" asked Mr. Tolman.
The boy didn't know of any particular variety being desired. He
thought the same kind she always got would do. And he looked very hard
at Mr. Tolman, evidently wondering at the change in the shopkeeper, but
asking no questions.
"You are a regular customer, I suppose," said Mr. Tolman, opening
several boxes of paper which he had taken down from the shelves. "I
have just begun business here, and don't know what kind of paper you
have been in the habit of buying. But I suppose this will do." And he
took out a couple of sheets of the best, with an envelope to match.
These he carefully tied up in a piece of thin brown paper, and gave to
the boy, who handed him three cents. Mr. Tolman took them, smiled, and
then, having made a rapid calculation, he called to the boy, who was
just opening the door, and gave him back one cent.
"You have paid me too much," he said.
The boy took the cent, looked at Mr. Tolman, and then got out of the
store as quickly as he could.
"Such profits as that are enormous," said Mr. Tolman, "but I suppose
the small sales balance them." This Mr. Tolman subsequently found to
be the case.
One or two other customers came in in the course of the afternoon, and
about dark the people who took out books began to arrive. These kept
Mr. Tolman very busy. He not only had to do a good deal of entering
and cancelling, but he had to answer a great many questions about the
change in proprietorship, and the probability of his getting in some
new books, with suggestions as to the quantity and character of these,
mingled with a few dissatisfied remarks in regard to the volumes
already on hand.
Every one seemed sorry that the old lady had gone away. But Mr. Tolman
was so pleasant and anxious to please, and took such an interest in
their selection of books, that only one of the subscribers appeared to
take the change very much to heart. This was a young man who was
forty-three cents in arrears. He was a long time selecting a book, and
when at last he brought it to Mr. Tolman to be entered, he told him in
a low voice that he hoped there would be no objection to letting his
account run on for a little while longer. On the first of the month he
would settle it, and then he hoped to be able to pay cash whenever he
brought in a book.
Mr. Tolman looked for his name on the old lady's list, and, finding no
cross against it, told him that it was all right, and that the first of
the month would do very well. The young man went away perfectly
satisfied with the new librarian. Thus did Mr. Tolman begin to build
up his popularity. As the evening grew on he found himself becoming
very hungry. But he did not like to shut up the shop, for every now
and then some one dropped in, sometimes to ask what time it was, and
sometimes to make a little purchase, while there were still some
library patrons coming in at intervals.
However, taking courage during a short rest from customers, he put up
the shutters, locked the door, and hurried off to a hotel, where he
partook of a meal such as few keepers of little shops ever think of
The next morning Mr. Tolman got his own breakfast. This was
delightful. He had seen how cosily the old lady had spread her table
in the little back room, where there was a stove suitable for any
cooking he might wish to indulge in, and he longed for such a cosey
meal. There were plenty of stock provisions in the house, which he had
purchased with the rest of the goods, and he went out and bought
himself a fresh loaf of bread. Then he broiled a piece of ham, made
some good strong tea, boiled some eggs, and had a breakfast on the
little round table which, though plain enough, he enjoyed more than any
breakfast at his club which he could remember. He had opened the shop,
and sat facing the glass door, hoping, almost, that there would be some
interruption to his meal. It would seem so much more proper in that
sort of business if he had to get up and go attend to a customer.
Before the evening of that day Mr. Tolman became convinced that he
would soon be obliged to employ a boy or some one to attend to the
establishment during his absence. After breakfast, a woman recommended
by the old lady came to make his bed and clean up generally, but when
she had gone he was left alone with his shop. He determined not to
allow this responsibility to injure his health, and so at one o'clock
boldly locked the shop door and went out to his lunch. He hoped that
no one would call during his absence, but when he returned he found a
little girl with a pitcher standing at the door. She came to borrow
half a pint of milk.
"Milk!" exclaimed Mr. Tolman, in surprise. "Why, my child, I have no
milk. I don't even use it in my tea."
The little girl looked very much disappointed. "Is Mrs. Walker gone
away for good?" said she.
"Yes," replied Mr. Tolman. "But I would be just as willing to lend you
the milk as she would be, if I had any. Is there any place near here
where you can buy milk?"
"Oh, yes," said the girl. "You can get it round in the market-house."
"How much would half a pint cost?" he asked.
"Three cents," replied the girl.
"Well, then," said Mr. Tolman, "here are three cents. You can go and
buy the milk for me, and then you can borrow it. Will that suit?"
The girl thought it would suit very well, and away she went.
Even this little incident pleased Mr. Tolman. It was so very novel.
When he came back from his dinner in the evening, he found two
circulating library subscribers stamping their feet on the door-step,
and he afterwards heard that several others had called and gone away.
It would certainly injure the library if he suspended business at
meal-times. He could easily have his choice of a hundred boys if he
chose to advertise for one, but he shrank from having a youngster in
the place. It would interfere greatly with his cosiness and his
experiences. He might possibly find a boy who went to school, and who
would be willing to come at noon and in the evening if he were paid
enough. But it would have to be a very steady and responsible boy. He
would think it over before taking any steps.
He thought it over for a day or two, but he did not spend his whole
time in doing so. When he had no customers, he sauntered about in the
little parlor over the shop, with its odd old furniture, its quaint
prints on the walls, and its absurd ornaments on the mantelpiece. The
other little rooms seemed almost as funny to him, and he was sorry when
the bell on the shop door called him down from their contemplation. It
was pleasant to him to think that he owned all these odd things. The
ownership of the varied goods in the shop also gave him an agreeable
feeling which none of his other possessions had ever afforded him. It
was all so odd and novel.
He liked much to look over the books in the library. Many of them were
old novels, the names of which were familiar enough to him, but which
he had never read. He determined to read some of them as soon as he
felt fixed and settled.
In looking over the book in which the names and accounts of the
subscribers were entered, he amused himself by wondering what sort of
persons they were who had out certain books. Who, for instance, wanted
to read "The Book of Cats," and who could possibly care for "The
Mysteries of Udolpho"? But the unknown person in regard to whom Mr.
Tolman felt the greatest curiosity was the subscriber who now had in
his possession a volume entitled "Dormstock's Logarithms of the
"How on earth," exclaimed Mr. Tolman, "did such a book get into this
library? And where on earth did the person spring from who would want
to take it out? And not only want to take it," he continued, as he
examined the entry regarding the volume, "but come and have it renewed
one, two, three, four—nine times! He has had that book for eighteen
Without exactly making up his mind to do so, Mr. Tolman deferred taking
steps toward getting an assistant until P. Glascow, the person in
question, should make an appearance, and it was nearly time for the
book to be brought in again.
"If I get a boy now," thought Mr. Tolman, "Glascow will be sure to come
and bring the book while I am out."
In almost exactly two weeks from the date of the last renewal of the
book, P. Glascow came in. It was the middle of the afternoon, and Mr.
Tolman was alone. This investigator of musical philosophy was a quiet
young man of about thirty, wearing a light-brown cloak, and carrying
under one arm a large book.
P. Glascow was surprised when he heard of the change in the
proprietorship of the library. Still, he hoped that there would be no
objection to his renewing the book which he had with him, and which he
had taken out some time ago.
"Oh, no," said Mr. Tolman, "none in the world. In fact, I don't
suppose there are any other subscribers who would want it. I have had
the curiosity to look to see if it had ever been taken out before, and
I find it has not."
The young man smiled quietly. "No," said he, "I suppose not. It is
not every one who would care to study the higher mathematics of music,
especially when treated as Dormstock treats the subject."
"He seems to go into it pretty deeply," remarked Mr. Tolman, who had
taken up the book. "At least, I should think so, judging from all
these calculations, and problems, and squares, and cubes."
"Indeed he does," said Glascow. "And although I have had the book some
months, and have more reading time at my disposal than most persons, I
have only reached the fifty-sixth page, and doubt if I shall not have
to review some of that before I can feel that I thoroughly understand
"And there are three hundred and forty pages in all!" said Mr. Tolman,
"Yes," replied the other. "But I am quite sure that the matter will
grow easier as I proceed. I have found that out from what I have
"You say you have a good deal of leisure?" remarked Mr. Tolman. "Is
the musical business dull at present?"
"Oh, I'm not in the musical business," said Glascow. "I have a great
love for music, and wish to thoroughly understand it. But my business
is quite different. I am a night druggist, and that is the reason I
have so much leisure for reading."
"A night druggist?" repeated Mr. Tolman, inquiringly.
"Yes, sir," said the other. "I am in a large downtown drug store which
is kept open all night, and I go on duty after the day clerks leave."
"And does that give you more leisure?" asked Mr. Tolman.
"It seems to," answered Glascow. "I sleep until about noon, and then I
have the rest of the day, until seven o'clock, to myself. I think that
people who work at night can make a more satisfactory use of their own
time than those who work in the daytime. In the summer I can take a
trip on the river, or go somewhere out of town, every day, if I like."
"Daylight is more available for many things, that is true," said Mr.
Tolman. "But is it not dreadfully lonely sitting in a drug store all
night? There can't be many people to come to buy medicine at night. I
thought there was generally a night-bell to drug stores, by which a
clerk could be awakened if anybody wanted anything."
"It's not very lonely in our store at night," said Glascow. "In fact,
it's often more lively then than in the daytime. You see, we are right
down among the newspaper offices, and there's always somebody coming in
for soda-water, or cigars, or something or other. The store is a
bright, warm place for the night editors and reporters to meet together
and talk and drink hot soda, and there's always a knot of 'em around
the stove about the time the papers begin to go to press. And they're
a lively set, I can tell you, sir. I've heard some of the best stories
I ever heard in my life told in our place after three o'clock in the
"A strange life!" said Mr. Tolman. "Do you know, I never thought that
people amused themselves in that way—and night after night, I suppose."
"Yes, sir, night after night, Sundays and all."
The night druggist now took up his book.
"Going home to read?" asked Mr. Tolman.
"Well, no," said the other. "It's rather cold this afternoon to read.
I think I'll take a brisk walk."
"Can't you leave your book until you return!" asked Mr. Tolman. "That
is, if you will come back this way. It's an awkward book to carry
"Thank you, I will," said Glascow. "I shall come back this way."
When he had gone, Mr. Tolman took up the book, and began to look over
it more carefully than he had done before. But his examination did not
"How anybody of common sense can take any interest in this stuff is
beyond my comprehension," said Mr. Tolman, as he closed the book and
put it on a little shelf behind the counter.
When Glascow came back, Mr. Tolman asked him to stay and warm himself.
And then, after they had talked for a short time, Mr. Tolman began to
feel hungry. He had his winter appetite, and had lunched early. So
said he to the night druggist, who had opened his "Dormstock," "How
would you like to sit here and read awhile, while I go and get my
dinner? I will light the gas, and you can be very comfortable here, if
you are not in a hurry."
P. Glascow was in no hurry at all, and was very glad to have some quiet
reading by a warm fire; and so Mr. Tolman left him, feeling perfectly
confident that a man who had been allowed by the old lady to renew a
book nine times must be perfectly trustworthy.
When Mr. Tolman returned, the two had some further conversation in the
corner by the little stove.
"It must be rather annoying," said the night druggist, "not to be able
to go out to your meals without shutting up your shop. If you like,"
said he, rather hesitatingly, "I will stop in about this time in the
afternoon, and stay here while you go to dinner. I'll be glad to do
this until you get an assistant. I can easily attend to most people
who come in, and others can wait."
Mr. Tolman jumped at this proposition. It was exactly what he wanted.
So P. Glascow came every afternoon and read "Dormstock" while Mr.
Tolman went to dinner; and before long he came at lunch-time also. It
was just as convenient as not, he said. He had finished his breakfast,
and would like to read awhile. Mr. Tolman fancied that the night
druggist's lodgings were, perhaps, not very well warmed, which idea
explained the desire to walk rather than read on a cold afternoon.
Glascow's name was entered on the free list, and he always took away
the "Dormstock" at night, because he might have a chance of looking
into it at the store, when custom began to grow slack in the latter
part of the early morning.
One afternoon there came into the shop a young lady, who brought back
two books which she had had for more than a month. She made no excuses
for keeping the books longer than the prescribed time, but simply
handed them in and paid her fine. Mr. Tolman did not like to take this
money, for it was the first of the kind he had received; but the young
lady looked as if she were well able to afford the luxury of keeping
books over their time, and business was business. So he gravely gave
her her change. Then she said she would like to take out "Dormstock's
Logarithms of the Diapason."
Mr. Tolman stared at her. She was a bright, handsome young lady, and
looked as if she had very good sense. He could not understand it. But
he told her the book was out.
"Out!" she said. "Why, it's always out. It seems strange to me that
there should be such a demand for that book. I have been trying to get
it for ever so long."
"It IS strange," said Mr. Tolman, "but it is certainly in demand. Did
Mrs. Walker ever make you any promises about it?"
"No," said she, "but I thought my turn would come around some time.
And I particularly want the book just now."
Mr. Tolman felt somewhat troubled. He knew that the night druggist
ought not to monopolize the volume, and yet he did not wish to
disoblige one who was so useful to him, and who took such an earnest
interest in the book. And he could not temporize with the young lady,
and say that he thought the book would soon be in. He knew it would
not. There were three hundred and forty pages of it. So he merely
remarked that he was sorry.
"So am I," said the young lady, "very sorry. It so happens that just
now I have a peculiar opportunity for studying that book which may not
There was something in Mr. Tolman's sympathetic face which seemed to
invite her confidence, and she continued.
"I am a teacher," she said, "and on account of certain circumstances I
have a holiday for a month, which I intended to give up almost entirely
to the study of music, and I particularly wanted "Dormstock." Do you
think there is any chance of its early return, and will you reserve it
"Reserve it!" said Mr. Tolman. "Most certainly I will." And then he
reflected a second or two. "If you will come here the day after
to-morrow, I will be able to tell you something definite."
She said she would come.
Mr. Tolman was out a long time at lunch-time the next day. He went to
all the leading book-stores to see if he could buy a copy of
Dormstock's great work. But he was unsuccessful. The booksellers told
him that there was no probability that he could get a copy in the
country, unless, indeed, he found it in the stock of some second-hand
dealer, and that even if he sent to England for it, where it was
published, it was not likely he could get it, for it had been long out
of print. There was no demand at all for it. The next day he went to
several second-hand stores, but no "Dormstock" could he find.
When he came back he spoke to Glascow on the subject. He was sorry to
do so, but thought that simple justice compelled him to mention the
matter. The night druggist was thrown into a perturbed state of mind
by the information that some one wanted his beloved book.
"A woman!" he exclaimed. "Why, she would not understand two pages out
of the whole of it. It is too bad. I didn't suppose any one would
want this book."
"Do not disturb yourself too much," said Mr. Tolman. "I am not sure
that you ought to give it up."
"I am very glad to hear you say so," said Glascow. "I have no doubt it
is only a passing fancy with her. I dare say she would really rather
have a good new novel." And then, having heard that the lady was
expected that afternoon, he went out to walk, with the "Dormstock"
under his arm.
When the young lady arrived, an hour or so later, she was not at all
satisfied to take out a new novel, and was very sorry indeed not to
find the "Logarithms of the Diapason" waiting for her. Mr. Tolman told
her that he had tried to buy another copy of the work, and for this she
expressed herself gratefully. He also found himself compelled to say
that the book was in the possession of a gentleman who had had it for
some time—all the time it had been out, in fact—and had not yet
At this the young lady seemed somewhat nettled.
"Is it not against the rules for any person to keep one book out so
long?" she asked.
"No," said Mr. Tolman. "I have looked into that. Our rules are very
simple, and merely say that a book may be renewed by the payment of a
"Then I am never to have it?" remarked the young lady.
"Oh, I wouldn't despair about it," said Mr. Tolman. "He has not had
time to reflect upon the matter. He is a reasonable young man, and I
believe that he will be willing to give up his study of the book for a
time and let you take it."
"No," said she, "I don't wish that. If he is studying, as you say he
is, day and night, I do not wish to interrupt him. I should want the
book at least a month, and that, I suppose, would upset his course of
study entirely. But I do not think any one should begin in a
circulating library to study a book that will take him a year to
finish; for, from what you say, it will take this gentleman at least
that time to finish Dormstock's book." So she went her way.
When P. Glascow heard all this in the evening, he was very grave. He
had evidently been reflecting.
"It is not fair," said he. "I ought not to keep the book so long. I
now give it up for a while. You may let her have it when she comes."
And he put the "Dormstock" on the counter, and went and sat down by the
Mr. Tolman was grieved. He knew the night druggist had done right, but
still he was sorry for him. "What will you do?" he asked. "Will you
stop your studies?"
"Oh, no," said Glascow, gazing solemnly into the stove. "I will take
up some other books on the diapason which I have, and so will keep my
ideas fresh on the subject until this lady is done with the book. I do
not really believe she will study it very long." Then he added: "If
it is all the same to you, I will come around here and read, as I have
been doing, until you shall get a regular assistant."
Mr. Tolman would be delighted to have him come, he said. He had
entirely given up the idea of getting an assistant, but this he did not
It was some time before the lady came back, and Mr. Tolman was afraid
she was not coming at all. But she did come, and asked for Mrs.
Burney's "Evelina." She smiled when she named the book, and said that
she believed she would have to take a novel, after all, and she had
always wanted to read that one.
"I wouldn't take a novel if I were you," said Mr. Tolman; and he
triumphantly took down the "Dormstock" and laid it before her.
She was evidently much pleased, but when he told her of Mr. Glascow's
gentlemanly conduct in the matter, her countenance instantly changed.
"Not at all," said she, laying down the book. "I will not break up his
study. I will take the `Evelina' if you please."
And as no persuasion from Mr. Tolman had any effect upon her, she went
away with Mrs. Burney's novel in her muff.
"Now, then," said Mr. Tolman to Glascow, in the evening, "you may as
well take the book along with you. She won't have it."
But Glascow would do nothing of the kind. "No," he remarked, as he sat
looking into the stove. "When I said I would let her have it, I meant
it. She'll take it when she sees that it continues to remain in the
Glascow was mistaken: she did not take it, having the idea that he
would soon conclude that it would be wiser for him to read it than to
let it stand idly on the shelf.
"It would serve them both right," said Mr. Tolman to himself, "if
somebody else should come and take it." But there was no one else
among his subscribers who would even think of such a thing.
One day, however, the young lady came in and asked to look at the book.
"Don't think that I am going to take it out," she said, noticing Mr.
Tolman's look of pleasure as he handed her the volume. "I only wish to
see what he says on a certain subject which I am studying now." And so
she sat down by the stove on the chair which Mr. Tolman placed for her,
and opened "Dormstock."
She sat earnestly poring over the book for half an hour or more, and
then she looked up and said: "I really cannot make out what this part
means. Excuse my troubling you, but I would be very glad if you would
explain the latter part of this passage."
"Me!" exclaimed Mr. Tolman. "Why, my good madam,—miss, I mean,—I
couldn't explain it to you if it were to save my life. But what page
is it?" said he, looking at his watch.
"Page twenty-four," answered the young lady.
"Oh, well, then," said he, "if you can wait ten or fifteen minutes, the
gentleman who has had the book will be here, and I think he can explain
anything in the first part of the work."
The young lady seemed to hesitate whether to wait or not; but as she
had a certain curiosity to see what sort of a person he was who had
been so absorbed in the book, she concluded to sit a little longer and
look into some other parts of the volume.
The night druggist soon came in, and when Mr. Tolman introduced him to
the lady, he readily agreed to explain the passage to her if he could.
So Mr. Tolman got him a chair from the inner room, and he also sat down
by the stove.
The explanation was difficult, but it was achieved at last, and then
the young lady broached the subject of leaving the book unused. This
was discussed for some time, but came to nothing, although Mr. Tolman
put down his afternoon paper and joined in the argument, urging, among
other points, that as the matter now stood he was deprived by the
dead-lock of all income from the book. But even this strong argument
proved of no avail.
"Then I will tell you what I wish you would do," said Mr. Tolman, as
the young lady rose to go: "come here and look at the book whenever you
wish to do so. I would like to make this more of a reading-room,
anyway. It would give me more company."
After this the young lady looked into "Dormstock" when she came in; and
as her holidays had been extended by the continued absence of the
family in which she taught, she had plenty of time for study, and came
quite frequently. She often met Glascow in the shop, and on such
occasions they generally consulted "Dormstock," and sometimes had quite
lengthy talks on musical matters. One afternoon they came in together,
having met on their way to the library, and entered into a conversation
on diapasonic logarithms, which continued during the lady's stay in the
"The proper thing," thought Mr. Tolman, "would be for these two people
to get married. Then they could take the book and study it to their
heart's content. And they would certainly suit each other, for they
are both greatly attached to musical mathematics and philosophy, and
neither of them either plays or sings, as they have told me. It would
be an admirable match."
Mr. Tolman thought over this matter a good deal, and at last determined
to mention it to Glascow. When he did so, the young man colored, and
expressed the opinion that it would be of no use to think of such a
thing. But it was evident from his manner and subsequent discourse
that he had thought of it.
Mr. Tolman gradually became quite anxious on the subject, especially as
the night druggist did not seem inclined to take any steps in the
matter. The weather was now beginning to be warmer, and Mr. Tolman
reflected that the little house and the little shop were probably much
more cosey and comfortable in winter than in summer. There were higher
buildings all about the house, and even now he began to feel that the
circulation of air would be quite as agreeable as the circulation of
books. He thought a good deal about his airy rooms in the neighboring
"Mr. Glascow," said he, one afternoon, "I have made up my mind to sell
out this business shortly."
"What!" exclaimed the other. "Do you mean you will give it up and go
away—leave the place altogether?"
"Yes," replied Mr. Tolman, "I shall give up the place entirely, and
leave the city."
The night druggist was shocked. He had spent many happy hours in that
shop, and his hours there were now becoming pleasanter than ever. If
Mr. Tolman went away, all this must end. Nothing of the kind could be
expected of any new proprietor.
"And considering this," continued Mr. Tolman, "I think it would be well
for you to bring your love matters to a conclusion while I am here to
"My love matters!" exclaimed Mr. Glascow, with a flush.
"Yes, certainly," said Mr. Tolman. "I have eyes, and I know all about
it. Now let me tell you what I think. When a thing is to be done, it
ought to be done the first time there is a good chance. That's the way
I do business. Now you might as well come around here to-morrow
afternoon prepared to propose to Miss Edwards. She is due to-morrow,
for she has been two days away. If she doesn't come, we will postpone
the matter until the next day. But you should be ready to-morrow. I
don't believe you can see her much when you don't meet her here, for
that family is expected back very soon, and from what I infer from her
account of her employers, you won't care to visit her at their house."
The night druggist wanted to think about it.
"There is nothing to think," said Mr. Tolman. "We know all about the
lady." (He spoke truly, for he had informed himself about both parties
to the affair.) "Take my advice, and be here to-morrow afternoon—and
come rather early."
The next morning Mr. Tolman went up to his parlor on the second floor,
and brought down two blue stuffed chairs, the best he had, and put them
in the little room back of the shop. He also brought down one or two
knickknacks and put them on the mantelpiece, and he dusted and
brightened up the room as well as he could. He even covered the table
with a red cloth from the parlor.
When the young lady arrived, he invited her to walk into the back room
to look over some new books he had just got in. If she had known he
proposed to give up the business, she would have thought it rather
strange that he should be buying new books. But she knew nothing of
his intentions. When she was seated at the table whereon the new books
were spread, Mr. Tolman stepped outside of the shop door to watch for
Glascow's approach. He soon appeared.
"Walk right in," said Mr. Tolman. "She's in the back room looking over
books. I'll wait here, and keep out customers as far as possible.
It's pleasant, and I want a little fresh air. I'll give you twenty
Glascow was pale, but he went in without a word, and Mr. Tolman, with
his hands under his coat-tail, and his feet rather far apart,
established a blockade on the doorstep. He stood there for some time,
looking at the people outside, and wondering what the people inside
were doing. The little girl who had borrowed the milk of him, and who
had never returned it, was about to pass the door; but seeing him
standing there, she crossed over to the other side of the street. But
he did not notice her. He was wondering if it was time to go in. A
boy came up to the door, and wanted to know if he kept Easter eggs.
Mr. Tolman was happy to say he did not. When he had allowed the night
druggist a very liberal twenty minutes, he went in. As he entered the
shop door, giving the bell a very decided ring as he did so, P. Glascow
came down the two steps that led from the inner room. His face showed
that it was all right with him.
A few days after this Mr. Tolman sold out his stock, good will, and
fixtures, together with the furniture and lease of the house. And who
should he sell out to but to Mr. Glascow! This piece of business was
one of the happiest points in the whole affair. There was no reason
why the happy couple should not be married very soon, and the young
lady was charmed to give up her position as teacher and governess in a
family, and come and take charge of that delightful little store and
that cunning little house, with almost everything in it that they
One thing in the establishment Mr. Tolman refused to sell. That was
Dormstock's great work. He made the couple a present of the volume,
and between two of the earlier pages he placed a bank-note which in
value was very much more than that of the ordinary wedding gift.
"What are YOU going to do?" they asked of him, when all these things
were settled. And then he told them how he was going back to his
business in the neighboring city, and he told them what it was, and how
he had come to manage a circulating library. They did not think him
crazy. People who studied the logarithms of the diapason would not be
apt to think a man crazy for such a little thing as that.
When Mr. Tolman returned to the establishment of Pusey & Co., he found
everything going on very satisfactorily.
"You look ten years younger, sir," said Mr. Canterfield. "You must
have had a very pleasant time. I did not think there was enough to
interest you in —— for so long a time."
"Interest me!" exclaimed Mr. Tolman. "Why, objects of interest crowded
on me. I never had a more enjoyable holiday in my life."
When he went home that evening (and he found himself quite willing to
go), he tore up the will he had made. He now felt that there was no
necessity for proving his sanity.