BY STEPHEN LEACOCK
THE author of this book offers it to the public without
apology. The reviewers of his previous work of this
character have presumed, on inductive grounds, that he
must be a young man from the most westerly part of the
Western States, to whom many things might be pardoned as
due to the exuberant animal spirits of youth. They were
good enough to express the thought that when the author
grew up and became educated there might be hope for his
intellect. This expectation is of no avail. All that
education could do in this case has been tried and has
failed. As a Professor of Political Economy in a great
university, the author admits that he ought to know better.
But he will feel amply repaid for his humiliation if there
are any to whom this little book may bring some passing
amusement in hours of idleness, or some brief respite
when the sadness of the heart or the sufferings of the
body forbid the perusal of worthier things.
I. Maddened by Mystery: or, The Defective Detective
II. "Q." A Psychic Pstory of the Psupernatural
III. Guido the Gimlet of Ghent: A Romance of Chivalry
IV. Gertrude the Governess: or, Simple Seventeen
V. A Hero in Homespun: or, The Life Struggle of Hezekiah Hayloft
VI. Sorrows of a Super Soul: or, The Memoirs of Marie Mushenough
VII. Hannah of the Highlands: or, The Laird of Loch Aucherlocherty
VIII. Soaked in Seaweed: or, Upset in the Ocean
IX. Caroline's Christmas: or, The Inexplicable Infant
X. The Man in Asbestos: an Allegory of the Future
I. — Maddened by Mystery: or, The Defective Detective
THE great detective sat in his office. He wore a long green
gown and half a dozen secret badges pinned to the outside of it.
Three or four pairs of false whiskers hung on a whisker-stand
Goggles, blue spectacles and motor glasses lay within easy reach.
He could completely disguise himself at a second's notice.
Half a bucket of cocaine and a dipper stood on a chair at his elbow.
His face was absolutely impenetrable.
A pile of cryptograms lay on the desk. The Great Detective hastily
tore them open one after the other, solved them, and threw them down
the cryptogram-shute at his side.
There was a rap at the door.
The Great Detective hurriedly wrapped himself in a pink domino,
adjusted a pair of false black whiskers and cried,
His secretary entered. "Ha," said the detective, "it is you!"
He laid aside his disguise.
"Sir," said the young man in intense excitement, "a mystery has been
"Ha!" said the Great Detective, his eye kindling, "is it such as to
completely baffle the police of the entire continent?"
"They are so completely baffled with it," said the secretary, "that they
are lying collapsed in heaps; many of them have committed suicide."
"So," said the detective, "and is the mystery one that is absolutely
unparalleled in the whole recorded annals of the London police?"
"And I suppose," said the detective, "that it involves names which you
would scarcely dare to breathe, at least without first using some kind
of atomiser or throat-gargle."
"And it is connected, I presume, with the highest diplomatic
consequences, so that if we fail to solve it England will be at war with
the whole world in sixteen minutes?"
His secretary, still quivering with excitement, again answered yes.
"And finally," said the Great Detective, "I presume that it was
committed in broad daylight, in some such place as the entrance of the
Bank of England, or in the cloak-room of the House of Commons, and under
the very eyes of the police?"
"Those," said the secretary, "are the very conditions of the mystery."
"Good," said the Great Detective, "now wrap yourself in this disguise,
put on these brown whiskers and tell me what it is."
The secretary wrapped himself in a blue domino with lace insertions,
then, bending over, he whispered in the ear of the Great Detective:
"The Prince of Wurttemberg has been kidnapped."
The Great Detective bounded from his chair as if he had been kicked
A prince stolen! Evidently a Bourbon! The scion of one of the oldest
families in Europe kidnapped. Here was a mystery indeed worthy of his
His mind began to move like lightning.
"Stop!" he said, "how do you know this?"
The secretary handed him a telegram. It was from the Prefect of Police
of Paris. It read: "The Prince of Wurttemberg stolen. Probably
forwarded to London. Must have him here for the opening day of
Exhibition. 1,000 pounds reward."
So! The Prince had been kidnapped out of Paris at the very time when
his appearance at the International Exposition would have been a
political event of the first magnitude.
With the Great Detective to think was to act, and to act was to think.
Frequently he could do both together.
"Wire to Paris for a description of the Prince."
The secretary bowed and left.
At the same moment there was slight scratching at the door.
A visitor entered. He crawled stealthily on his hands and knees. A
hearthrug thrown over his head and shoulders disguised his identity.
He crawled to the middle of the room.
Then he rose.
It was the Prime Minister of England.
"You!" said the detective.
"Me," said the Prime Minister.
"You have come in regard the kidnapping of the Prince of Wurttemberg?"
The Prime Minister started.
"How do you know?" he said.
The Great Detective smiled his inscrutable smile.
"Yes," said the Prime Minister. "I will use no concealment. I am
interested, deeply interested. Find the Prince of Wurttemberg, get
him safe back to Paris and I will add 500 pounds to the reward already
offered. But listen," he said impressively as he left the room, "see
to it that no attempt is made to alter the marking of the prince, or
to clip his tail."
So! To clip the Prince's tail! The brain of the Great Detective
reeled. So! a gang of miscreants had conspired to—but no! the thing
was not possible.
There was another rap at the door.
A second visitor was seen. He wormed his way in, lying almost prone
upon his stomach, and wriggling across the floor. He was enveloped
in a long purple cloak. He stood up and peeped over the top of it.
It was the Archbishop of Canterbury!
"Your Grace!" exclaimed the detective in amazement—"pray do not
stand, I beg you. Sit down, lie down, anything rather than stand."
The Archbishop took off his mitre and laid it wearily on the
"You are here in regard to the Prince of Wurttemberg."
The Archbishop started and crossed himself. Was the man a magician?
"Yes," he said, "much depends on getting him back. But I have only
come to say this: my sister is desirous of seeing you. She is
coming here. She has been extremely indiscreet and her fortune
hangs upon the Prince. Get him back to Paris or I fear she will be
The Archbishop regained his mitre, uncrossed himself, wrapped his
cloak about him, and crawled stealthily out on his hands and knees,
purring like a cat.
The face of the Great Detective showed the most profound sympathy.
It ran up and down in furrows. "So," he muttered, "the sister of
the Archbishop, the Countess of Dashleigh!" Accustomed as he was to
the life of the aristocracy, even the Great Detective felt that
there was here intrigue of more than customary complexity.
There was a loud rapping at the door.
There entered the Countess of Dashleigh. She was all in furs.
She was the most beautiful woman in England. She strode imperiously
into the room. She seized a chair imperiously and seated herself on
it, imperial side up.
She took off her tiara of diamonds and put it on the tiara-holder
beside her and uncoiled her boa of pearls and put it on the
"You have come," said the Great Detective, "about the Prince of
"Wretched little pup!" said the Countess of Dashleigh in disgust.
So! A further complication! Far from being in love with the
Prince, the Countess denounced the young Bourbon as a pup!
"You are interested in him, I believe."
"Interested!" said the Countess. "I should rather say so. Why,
I bred him!"
"You which?" gasped the Great Detective, his usually impassive
features suffused with a carmine blush.
"I bred him," said the Countess, "and I've got 10,000 pounds
upon his chances, so no wonder I want him back in Paris. Only
listen," she said, "if they've got hold of the Prince and cut
his tail or spoiled the markings of his stomach it would be far
better to have him quietly put out of the way here."
The Great Detective reeled and leaned up against the side of the
room. So! The cold-blooded admission of the beautiful woman for
the moment took away his breath! Herself the mother of the young
Bourbon, misallied with one of the greatest families of Europe,
staking her fortune on a Royalist plot, and yet with so instinctive
a knowledge of European politics as to know that any removal of the
hereditary birth-marks of the Prince would forfeit for him the
sympathy of the French populace.
The Countess resumed her tiara.
The secretary re-entered.
"I have three telegrams from Paris," he said, "they are completely
He handed over the first telegram.
"The Prince of Wurttemberg has a long, wet snout, broad ears, very
long body, and short hind legs."
The Great Detective looked puzzled.
He read the second telegram.
"The Prince of Wurttemberg is easily recognised by his deep bark."
And then the third.
"The Prince of Wurttemberg can be recognised by a patch of white
hair across the centre of his back."
The two men looked at one another. The mystery was maddening,
The Great Detective spoke.
"Give me my domino," he said. "These clues must be followed up,"
then pausing, while his quick brain analysed and summed up the
evidence before him—"a young man," he muttered, "evidently young
since described as a 'pup,' with a long, wet snout (ha! addicted
obviously to drinking), a streak of white hair across his back (a
first sign of the results of his abandoned life)—yes, yes," he
continued, "with this clue I shall find him easily."
The Great Detective rose.
He wrapped himself in a long black cloak with white whiskers and
blue spectacles attached.
Completely disguised, he issued forth.
He began the search.
For four days he visited every corner of London.
He entered every saloon in the city. In each of them he drank a
glass of rum. In some of them he assumed the disguise of a sailor.
In others he entered as a solider. Into others he penetrated as a
clergyman. His disguise was perfect. Nobody paid any attention to
him as long as he had the price of a drink.
The search proved fruitless.
Two young men were arrested under suspicion of being the Prince,
only to be released.
The identification was incomplete in each case.
One had a long wet snout but no hair on his back.
The other had hair on his back but couldn't bark.
Neither of them was the young Bourbon.
The Great Detective continued his search.
He stopped at nothing.
Secretly, after nightfall, he visited the home of the Prime
Minister. He examined it from top to bottom. He measured all
the doors and windows. He took up the flooring. He inspected
the plumbing. He examined the furniture. He found nothing.
With equal secrecy he penetrated into the palace of the Archbishop.
He examined it from top to bottom. Disguised as a choir-boy he took
part in the offices of the church. He found nothing.
Still undismayed, the Great Detective made his way into the home of
the Countess of Dashleigh. Disguised as a housemaid, he entered the
service of the Countess.
Then at last a clue came which gave him a solution of the mystery.
On the wall of the Countess's boudoir was a large framed engraving.
It was a portrait.
Under it was a printed legend:
THE PRINCE OF WURTTEMBERG
The portrait was that of a Dachshund.
The long body, the broad ears, the unclipped tail, the short hind
legs—all was there.
In a fraction of a second the lightning mind of the Great Detective
had penetrated the whole mystery.
THE PRINCE WAS A DOG!!!!
Hastily throwing a domino over his housemaid's dress, he rushed to
the street. He summoned a passing hansom, and in a few moments was
at his house.
"I have it," he gasped to his secretary. "The mystery is solved.
I have pieced it together. By sheer analysis I have reasoned it out.
Listen—hind legs, hair on back, wet snout, pup—eh, what? does that
suggest nothing to you?"
"Nothing," said the secretary; "it seems perfectly hopeless."
The Great Detective, now recovered from his excitement, smiled faintly.
"It means simply this, my dear fellow. The Prince of Wurttemberg is a
dog, a prize Dachshund. The Countess of Dashleigh bred him, and he is
worth some 25,000 pounds in addition to the prize of 10,000 pounds
offered at the Paris dog show. Can you wonder that——"
At that moment the Great Detective was interrupted by the scream of a
The Countess of Dashleigh dashed into the room.
Her face was wild.
Her tiara was in disorder.
Her pearls were dripping all over the place.
She wrung her hands and moaned.
"They have cut his tail," she gasped, "and taken all the hair off his
back. What can I do? I am undone!!"
"Madame," said the Great Detective, calm as bronze, "do yourself up.
I can save you yet."
"Listen. This is how. The Prince was to have been shown at Paris."
The Countess nodded.
"Your fortune was staked on him?"
The Countess nodded again.
"The dog was stolen, carried to London, his tail cut and his marks
Amazed at the quiet penetration of the Great Detective, the Countess
kept on nodding and nodding.
"And you are ruined?"
"I am," she gasped, and sank to the floor in a heap of pearls.
"Madame," said the Great Detective, "all is not lost."
He straightened himself up to his full height. A look of
inflinchable unflexibility flickered over his features.
The honour of England, the fortune of the most beautiful woman in
England was at stake.
"I will do it," he murmured.
"Rise dear lady," he continued. "Fear nothing. I WILL IMPERSONATE
That night the Great Detective might have been seen on the deck of
the Calais packet boat with his secretary. He was on his hands and
knees in a long black cloak, and his secretary had him on a short
He barked at the waves exultingly and licked the secretary's hand.
"What a beautiful dog," said the passengers.
The disguise was absolutely complete.
The Great Detective had been coated over with mucilage to which dog
hairs had been applied. The markings on his back were perfect.
His tail, adjusted with an automatic coupler, moved up and down
responsive to every thought. His deep eyes were full of
Next day he was exhibited in the Dachshund class at the
He won all hearts.
"Quel beau chien!" cried the French people.
"Ach! was ein Dog!" cried the Spanish.
The Great Detective took the first prize!
The fortune of the Countess was saved.
Unfortunately as the Great Detective had neglected to pay the dog
tax, he was caught and destroyed by the dog-catchers. But that is,
of course, quite outside of the present narrative, and is only
mentioned as an odd fact in conclusion.
II. — "Q." A Psychic Pstory of the Psupernatural
I CANNOT expect that any of my readers will believe the story which
I am about to narrate. Looking back upon it, I scarcely believe it
myself. Yet my narrative is so extraordinary and throws such light
upon the nature of our communications with beings of another world,
that I feel I am not entitled to withhold it from the public.
I had gone over to visit Annerly at his rooms. It was Saturday,
October 31. I remember the date so precisely because it was my pay
day, and I had received six sovereigns and ten shillings. I
remembered the sum so exactly because I had put the money into my
pocket, and I remember into which pocket I had put it because I had
no money in any other pocket. My mind is perfectly clear on all
Annerly and I sat smoking for some time.
Then quite suddenly—
"Do you believe in the supernatural?" he asked.
I started as if I had been struck.
At the moment when Annerly spoke of the supernatural I had been
thinking of something entirely different. The fact that he should
speak of it at the very instant when I was thinking of something
else, struck me as at least a very singular coincidence.
For a moment I could only stare.
"What I mean is," said Annerly, "do you believe in phantasms of the
"Phantasms?" I repeated.
"Yes, phantasms, or if you prefer the word, phanograms, or say if
you will phanogrammatical manifestations, or more simply
I looked at Annerly with a keener sense of interest than I had ever
felt in him before. I felt that he was about to deal with events and
experiences of which in the two or three months that I had known him
he had never seen fit to speak.
I wondered now that it had never occurred to me that a man whose hair
at fifty-five was already streaked with grey, must have passed
through some terrible ordeal.
Presently Annerly spoke again.
"Last night I saw Q," he said.
"Good heavens!" I ejaculated. I did not in the least know who Q was,
but it struck me with a thrill of indescribable terror that Annerly
had seen Q. In my own quiet and measured existence such a thing had
"Yes," said Annerly, "I saw Q as plainly as if he were standing here.
But perhaps I had better tell you something of my past relationship
with Q, and you will understand exactly what the present situation is."
Annerly seated himself in a chair on the other side of the fire from
me, lighted a pipe and continued.
"When first I knew Q he lived not very far from a small town in the
south of England, which I will call X, and was betrothed to a beautiful
and accomplished girl whom I will name M."
Annerly had hardly begun to speak before I found myself listening with
riveted attention. I realised that it was no ordinary experience that
he was about to narrate. I more than suspected that Q and M were not
the real names of his unfortunate acquaintances, but were in reality
two letters of the alphabet selected almost at random to disguise the
names of his friends. I was still pondering over the ingenuity of the
thing when Annerly went on:
"When Q and I first became friends, he had a favourite dog, which, if
necessary, I might name Z, and which followed him in and out of X on
his daily walk."
"In and out of X," I repeated in astonishment.
"Yes," said Annerly, "in and out."
My senses were now fully alert. That Z should have followed Q out
of X, I could readily understand, but that he should first have
followed him in seemed to pass the bounds of comprehension.
"Well," said Annerly, "Q and Miss M were to be married. Everything
was arranged. The wedding was to take place on the last day of the
year. Exactly six months and four days before the appointed day (I
remember the date because the coincidence struck me as peculiar at
the time) Q came to me late in the evening in great distress. He
had just had, he said, a premonition of his own death. That evening,
while sitting with Miss M on the verandah of her house, he had
distinctly seen a projection of the dog R pass along the road."
"Stop a moment," I said. "Did you not say that the dog's name
Annerly frowned slightly.
"Quite so," he replied. "Z, or more correctly Z R, since Q was in
the habit, perhaps from motives of affection, of calling him R as
well as Z. Well, then, the projection, or phanogram, of the dog
passed in front of them so plainly that Miss M swore that she could
have believed that it was the dog himself. Opposite the house the
phantasm stopped for a moment and wagged its tail. Then it passed
on, and quite suddenly disappeared around the corner of a stone
wall, as if hidden by the bricks. What made the thing still more
mysterious was that Miss M's mother, who is partially blind, had
only partially seen the dog."
Annerly paused a moment. Then he went on:
"This singular occurrence was interpreted by Q, no doubt correctly,
to indicate his own approaching death. I did what I could to
remove this feeling, but it was impossible to do so, and he
presently wrung my hand and left me, firmly convinced that he would
not live till morning."
"Good heavens!" I exclaimed, "and he died that night?"
"No, he did not," said Annerly quietly, "that is the inexplicable
part of it."
"Tell me about it," I said.
"He rose that morning as usual, dressed himself with his customary
care, omitting none of his clothes, and walked down to his office
at the usual hour. He told me afterwards that he remembered the
circumstances so clearly from the fact that he had gone to the
office by the usual route instead of taking any other direction."
"Stop a moment," I said. "Did anything unusual happen to mark
that particular day?"
"I anticipated that you would ask that question," said Annerly,
"but as far as I can gather, absolutely nothing happened. Q
returned from his work, and ate his dinner apparently much as
usual, and presently went to bed complaining of a slight feeling
of drowsiness, but nothing more. His stepmother, with whom he
lived, said afterwards that she could hear the sound of his
breathing quite distinctly during the night."
"And did he die that night?" I asked, breathless with excitement.
"No," said Annerly, "he did not. He rose next morning feeling
about as before except that the sense of drowsiness had apparently
passed, and that the sound of his breathing was no longer audible."
Annerly again fell into silence. Anxious as I was to hear the rest
of his astounding narrative, I did not like to press him with
questions. The fact that our relations had hitherto been only of a
formal character, and that this was the first occasion on which he
had invited me to visit him at his rooms, prevented me from
assuming too great an intimacy.
"Well," he continued, "Q went to his office each day after that
with absolute regularity. As far as I can gather there was nothing
either in his surroundings or his conduct to indicate that any
peculiar fate was impending over him. He saw Miss M regularly, and
the time fixed for their marriage drew nearer each day."
"Each day?" I repeated in astonishment.
"Yes," said Annerly, "every day. For some time before his marriage
I saw but little of him. But two weeks before that event was due
to happen, I passed Q one day in the street. He seemed for a
moment about to stop, then he raised his hat, smiled and passed on."
"One moment," I said, "if you will allow me a question that seems of
importance—did he pass on and then smile and raise his hat, or did
he smile into his hat, raise it, and then pass on afterwards?"
"Your question is quite justified," said Annerly, "though I think I
can answer with perfect accuracy that he first smiled, then stopped
smiling and raised his hat, and then stopped raising his hat and
"However," he continued, "the essential fact is this: on the day
appointed for the wedding, Q and Miss M were duly married."
"Impossible!" I gasped; "duly married, both of them?"
"Yes," said Annerly, "both at the same time. After the wedding Mr.
and Mrs. Q—-"
"Mr. and Mrs. Q," I repeated in perplexity.
"Yes," he answered, "Mr. and Mrs. Q—- for after the wedding Miss M.
took the name of Q—- left England and went out to Australia, where
they were to reside."
"Stop one moment," I said, "and let me be quite clear—in going out
to settle in Australia it was their intention to reside there?"
"Yes," said Annerly, "that at any rate was generally understood. I
myself saw them off on the steamer, and shook hands with Q, standing
at the same time quite close to him."
"Well," I said, "and since the two Q's, as I suppose one might almost
call them, went to Australia, have you heard anything from them?"
"That," replied Annerly, "is a matter that has shown the same
singularity as the rest of my experience. It is now four years since
Q and his wife went to Australia. At first I heard from him quite
regularly, and received two letters each month. Presently I only
received one letter every two months, and later two letters every six
months, and then only one letter every twelve months. Then until
last night I heard nothing whatever of Q for a year and a half."
I was now on the tiptoe of expectancy.
"Last night," said Annerly very quietly, "Q appeared in this room, or
rather, a phantasm or psychic manifestation of him. He seemed in
great distress, made gestures which I could not understand, and kept
turning his trouser pockets inside out. I was too spellbound to
question him, and tried in vain to divine his meaning. Presently the
phantasm seized a pencil from the table, and wrote the words, 'Two
sovereigns, to-morrow night, urgent.'"
Annerly was again silent. I sat in deep thought. "How do you
interpret the meaning which Q's phanogram meant to convey?"
"I think," he announced, "it means this. Q, who is evidently dead,
meant to visualise that fact, meant, so to speak, to deatomise the
idea that he was demonetised, and that he wanted two sovereigns
"And how," I asked, amazed at Annerly's instinctive penetration into
the mysteries of the psychic world, "how do you intend to get it to
"I intend," he announced, "to try a bold, a daring experiment,
which, if it succeeds, will bring us into immediate connection with
the world of spirits. My plan is to leave two sovereigns here upon
the edge of the table during the night. If they are gone in the
morning, I shall know that Q has contrived to de-astralise himself,
and has taken the sovereigns. The only question is, do you happen
to have two sovereigns? I myself, unfortunately, have nothing but
small change about me."
Here was a piece of rare good fortune, the coincidence of which
seemed to add another link to the chain of circumstance. As it
happened I had with me the six sovereigns which I had just drawn as
my week's pay.
"Luckily," I said, "I am able to arrange that. I happen to have
money with me." And I took two sovereigns from my pocket.
Annerly was delighted at our good luck. Our preparations for the
experiment were soon made.
We placed the table in the middle of the room in such a way that
there could be no fear of contact or collision with any of the
furniture. The chairs were carefully set against the wall, and so
placed that no two of them occupied the same place as any other
two, while the pictures and ornaments about the room were left
entirely undisturbed. We were careful not to remove any of the
wall-paper from the wall, nor to detach any of the window-panes
from the window. When all was ready the two sovereigns were laid
side by side upon the table, with the heads up in such a way that
the lower sides or tails were supported by only the table itself.
We then extinguished the light. I said "Good night" to Annerly,
and groped my way out into the dark, feverish with excitement.
My readers may well imagine my state of eagerness to know the
result of the experiment. I could scarcely sleep for anxiety to
know the issue. I had, of course, every faith in the completeness
of our preparations, but was not without misgivings that the
experiment might fail, as my own mental temperament and
disposition might not be of the precise kind needed for the
success of these experiments.
On this score, however, I need have had no alarm. The event
showed that my mind was a media, or if the word is better, a
transparency, of the very first order for psychic work of this
In the morning Annerly came rushing over to my lodgings, his face
beaming with excitement.
"Glorious, glorious," he almost shouted, "we have succeeded! The
sovereigns are gone. We are in direct monetary communication
I need not dwell on the exquisite thrill of happiness which went
through me. All that day and all the following day, the sense
that I was in communication with Q was ever present with me.
My only hope was that an opportunity might offer for the renewal
of our inter-communication with the spirit world.
The following night my wishes were gratified. Late in the evening
Annerly called me up on the telephone.
"Come over at once to my lodgings," he said. "Q's phanogram is
communicating with us."
I hastened over, and arrived almost breathless. "Q has been here
again," said Annerly, "and appeared in the same distress as before.
A projection of him stood in the room, and kept writing with its
finger on the table. I could distinguish the word 'sovereigns,'
but nothing more."
"Do you not suppose," I said, "that Q for some reason which we
cannot fathom, wishes us to again leave two sovereigns for him?"
"By Jove!" said Annerly enthusiastically, "I believe you've hit it.
At any rate, let us try; we can but fail."
That night we placed again two of my sovereigns on the table, and
arranged the furniture with the same scrupulous care as before.
Still somewhat doubtful of my own psychic fitness for the work in
which I was engaged, I endeavoured to keep my mind so poised as to
readily offer a mark for any astral disturbance that might be about.
The result showed that it had offered just such a mark. Our
experiment succeeded completely. The two coins had vanished in the
For nearly two months we continued our experiments on these lines.
At times Annerly himself, so he told me, would leave money, often
considerable sums, within reach of the phantasm, which never failed
to remove them during the night. But Annerly, being a man of strict
honour, never carried on these experiments alone except when it
proved impossible to communicate with me in time for me to come.
At other times he would call me up with the simple message, "Q is
here," or would send me a telegram, or a written note saying, "Q
needs money; bring any that you have, but no more."
On my own part, I was extremely anxious to bring our experiments
prominently before the public, or to interest the Society for Psychic
Research, and similar bodies, in the daring transit which we had
effected between the world of sentience and the psycho-astric, or
pseudo-ethereal existence. It seemed to me that we alone had
succeeded in thus conveying money directly and without mediation,
from one world to another. Others, indeed, had done so by the
interposition of a medium, or by subscription to an occult magazine,
but we had performed the feat with such simplicity that I was
anxious to make our experience public, for the benefit of others
Annerly, however, was averse from this course, being fearful that it
might break off our relations with Q.
It was some three months after our first inter-astral psycho-monetary
experiment, that there came the culmination of my experiences—so
mysterious as to leave me still lost in perplexity.
Annerly had come in to see me one afternoon. He looked nervous and
"I have just had a psychic communication from Q," he said in answer
to my inquiries, "which I can hardly fathom. As far as I can judge,
Q has formed some plan for interesting other phantasms in the kind
of work that we are doing. He proposes to form, on his side of the
gulf, an association that is to work in harmony with us, for
monetary dealings on a large scale, between the two worlds."
My reader may well imagine that my eyes almost blazed with excitement
at the magnitude of the prospect opened up.
"Q wishes us to gather together all the capital that we can, and to
send it across to him, in order that he may be able to organise with
him a corporate association of phanograms, or perhaps in this case,
one would more correctly call them phantoids."
I had no sooner grasped Annerly's meaning than I became enthusiastic
We decided to try the great experiment that night.
My own worldly capital was, unfortunately, no great amount. I had,
however, some 500 pounds in bank stock left to me at my father's
decease, which I could, of course, realise within a few hours.
I was fearful, however, lest it might prove too small to enable Q
to organise his fellow phantoids with it.
I carried the money in notes and sovereigns to Annerly's room,
where it was laid on the table. Annerly was fortunately able to
contribute a larger sum, which, however, he was not to place beside
mine until after I had withdrawn, in order that conjunction of our
monetary personalities might not dematerialise the astral phenomenon.
We made our preparations this time with exceptional care, Annerly
quietly confident, I, it must be confessed, extremely nervous and
fearful of failure. We removed our boots, and walked about on our
stockinged feet, and at Annerly's suggestion, not only placed the
furniture as before, but turned the coal-scuttle upside down, and
laid a wet towel over the top of the wastepaper basket.
All complete, I wrung Annerly's hand, and went out into the darkness.
I waited next morning in vain. Nine o'clock came, ten o'clock, and
finally eleven, and still no word of him. Then feverish with
anxiety, I sought his lodgings.
Judge of my utter consternation to find that Annerly had disappeared.
He had vanished as if off the face of the earth. By what awful error
in our preparations, by what neglect of some necessary psychic
precautions, he had met his fate, I cannot tell. But the evidence
was only too clear, that Annerly had been engulfed into the astral
world, carrying with him the money for the transfer of which he had
risked his mundane existence.
The proof of his disappearance was easy to find. As soon as I dared
do so with discretion I ventured upon a few inquiries. The fact that
he had been engulfed while still owing four months' rent for his
rooms, and that he had vanished without even having time to pay such
bills as he had outstanding with local tradesmen, showed that he must
have been devisualised at a moment's notice.
The awful fear that I might be held accountable for his death,
prevented me from making the affair public.
Till that moment I had not realised the risks that he had incurred
in our reckless dealing with the world of spirits. Annerly fell a
victim to the great cause of psychic science, and the record of our
experiments remains in the face of prejudice as a witness to its
III. — Guido the Gimlet of Ghent: A Romance of Chivalry
IT was in the flood-tide of chivalry. Knighthood was in the pod.
The sun was slowly setting in the east, rising and falling
occasionally as it subsided, and illuminating with its dying beams
the towers of the grim castle of Buggensberg.
Isolde the Slender stood upon an embattled turret of the castle.
Her arms were outstretched to the empty air, and her face, upturned
as if in colloquy with heaven, was distraught with yearning.
Anon she murmured, "Guido"—and bewhiles a deep sigh rent her breast.
Sylph-like and ethereal in her beauty, she scarcely seemed to breathe.
In fact she hardly did.
Willowy and slender in form, she was as graceful as a meridian of
longitude. Her body seemed almost too frail for motion, while her
features were of a mould so delicate as to preclude all thought of
She was begirt with a flowing kirtle of deep blue, bebound with a belt
bebuckled with a silvern clasp, while about her waist a stomacher of
point lace ended in the ruffled farthingale at her throat. On her head
she bore a sugar-loaf hat shaped like an extinguisher and pointing
backward at an angle of 45 degrees.
"Guido," she murmured, "Guido."
And erstwhile she would wring her hands as one distraught and mutter,
"He cometh not."
The sun sank and night fell, enwrapping in shadow the frowning castle
of Buggensberg, and the ancient city of Ghent at its foot. And as the
darkness gathered, the windows of the castle shone out with fiery red,
for it was Yuletide, and it was wassail all in the Great Hall of the
castle, and this night the Margrave of Buggensberg made him a feast,
and celebrated the betrothal of Isolde, his daughter, with Tancred the
And to the feast he had bidden all his liege lords and vassals—
Hubert the Husky, Edward the Earwig, Rollo the Rumbottle, and many
In the meantime the Lady Isolde stood upon the battlements and mourned
for the absent Guido.
The love of Guido and Isolde was of that pure and almost divine type,
found only in the middle ages.
They had never seen one another. Guido had never seen Isolde, Isolde
had never seen Guido. They had never heard one another speak. They
had never been together. They did not know one another.
Yet they loved.
Their love had sprung into being suddenly and romantically, with all
the mystic charm which is love's greatest happiness.
Years before, Guido had seen the name of Isolde the Slender painted on
He had turned pale, fallen into a swoon and started at once for
On the very same day Isolde in passing through the streets of Ghent
had seen the coat of arms of Guido hanging on a clothes line.
She had fallen back into the arms of her tire-women more dead than
Since that day they had loved.
Isolde would wander forth from the castle at earliest morn, with the
name of Guido on her lips. She told his name to the trees. She
whispered it to the flowers. She breathed it to the birds. Quite a
lot of them knew it. At times she would ride her palfrey along the
sands of the sea and call "Guido" to the waves! At other times she
would tell it to the grass or even to a stick of cordwood or a ton
Guido and Isolde, though they had never met, cherished each the
features of the other. Beneath his coat of mail Guido carried a
miniature of Isolde, carven on ivory. He had found it at the bottom
of the castle crag, between the castle and the old town of Ghent at
How did he know that it was Isolde?
There was no need for him to ask.
His heart had spoken.
The eye of love cannot be deceived.
And Isolde? She, too, cherished beneath her stomacher a miniature
of Guido the Gimlet. She had it of a travelling chapman in whose
pack she had discovered it, and had paid its price in pearls. How
had she known that he it was, that is, that it was he? Because of
the Coat of Arms emblazoned beneath the miniature. The same heraldic
design that had first shaken her to the heart. Sleeping or waking it
was ever before her eyes: A lion, proper, quartered in a field of
gules, and a dog, improper, three-quarters in a field of buckwheat.
And if the love of Isolde burned thus purely for Guido, the love of
Guido burned for Isolde with a flame no less pure.
No sooner had love entered Guido's heart than he had determined to do
some great feat of emprise or adventure, some high achievement of
deringdo which should make him worthy to woo her.
He placed himself under a vow that he would eat nothing, save only
food, and drink nothing, save only liquor, till such season as he
should have performed his feat.
For this cause he had at once set out for Jerusalem to kill a Saracen
for her. He killed one, quite a large one. Still under his vow, he
set out again at once to the very confines of Pannonia determined to
kill a Turk for her. From Pannonia he passed into the Highlands of
Britain, where he killed her a Caledonian.
Every year and every month Guido performed for Isolde some new
achievement of emprise.
And in the meantime Isolde waited.
It was not that suitors were lacking. Isolde the Slender had suitors
in plenty ready to do her lightest hest.
Feats of arms were done daily for her sake. To win her love suitors
were willing to vow themselves to perdition. For Isolde's sake, Otto
the Otter had cast himself into the sea. Conrad the Cocoanut had
hurled himself from the highest battlement of the castle head first
into the mud. Hugo the Hopeless had hanged himself by the waistband
to a hickory tree and had refused all efforts to dislodge him. For her
sake Sickfried the Susceptible had swallowed sulphuric acid.
But Isolde the Slender was heedless of the court thus paid to her.
In vain her stepmother, Agatha the Angular, urged her to marry. In
vain her father, the Margrave of Buggensberg, commanded her to choose
the one or the other of the suitors.
Her heart remained unswervingly true to the Gimlet.
From time to time love tokens passed between the lovers. From
Jerusalem Guido had sent to her a stick with a notch in it to signify
his undying constancy. From Pannonia he sent a piece of board, and
from Venetia about two feet of scantling. All these Isolde treasured.
At night they lay beneath her pillow.
Then, after years of wandering, Guido had determined to crown his love
with a final achievement for Isolde's sake.
It was his design to return to Ghent, to scale by night the castle
cliff and to prove his love for Isolde by killing her father for her,
casting her stepmother from the battlements, burning the castle, and
carrying her away.
This design he was now hastening to put into execution. Attended by
fifty trusty followers under the lead of Carlo the Corkscrew and
Beowulf the Bradawl, he had made his way to Ghent. Under cover of
night they had reached the foot of the castle cliff; and now, on their
hands and knees in single file, they were crawling round and round the
spiral path that led up to the gate of the fortress. At six of the
clock they had spiralled once. At seven of the clock they had
reappeared at the second round, and as the feast in the hall reached
its height, they reappeared on the fourth lap.
Guido the Gimlet was in the lead. His coat of mail was hidden beneath
a parti-coloured cloak and he bore in his hand a horn.
By arrangement he was to penetrate into the castle by the postern gate
in disguise, steal from the Margrave by artifice the key of the great
door, and then by a blast of his horn summon his followers to the
assault. Alas! there was need for haste, for at this very Yuletide,
on this very night, the Margrave, wearied of Isolde's resistance,
had determined to bestow her hand upon Tancred the Tenspot.
It was wassail all in the great hall. The huge Margrave, seated at
the head of the board, drained flagon after flagon of wine, and
pledged deep the health of Tancred the Tenspot, who sat plumed and
armoured beside him.
Great was the merriment of the Margrave, for beside him, crouched upon
the floor, was a new jester, whom the seneschal had just admitted by
the postern gate, and the novelty of whose jests made the huge sides
of the Margrave shake and shake again.
"Odds Bodikins!" he roared, "but the tale is as rare as it is new! and
so the wagoner said to the Pilgrim that sith he had asked him to put
him off the wagon at that town, put him off he must, albeit it was but
the small of the night—by St. Pancras! whence hath the fellow so
novel a tale?—nay, tell it me but once more, haply I may remember
it"—and the Baron fell back in a perfect paroxysm of merriment.
As he fell back, Guido—for the disguised jester was none other than
he, that is, than him—sprang forward and seized from the girdle of
the Margrave the key of the great door that dangled at his waist.
Then, casting aside the jester's cloak and cap, he rose to his full
height, standing in his coat of mail.
In one hand he brandished the double-headed mace of the Crusader, and
in the other a horn.
The guests sprang to their feet, their hands upon their daggers.
"Guido the Gimlet!" they cried.
"Hold," said Guido, "I have you in my power!!"
Then placing the horn to his lips and drawing a deep breath, he blew
with his utmost force.
And then again he blew—blew like anything.
Not a sound came.
The horn wouldn't blow!
"Seize him!" cried the Baron.
"Stop," said Guido, "I claim the laws of chivalry. I am here to seek
the Lady Isolde, betrothed by you to Tancred. Let me fight Tancred in
single combat, man to man."
A shout of approbation gave consent.
The combat that followed was terrific.
First Guido, raising his mace high in the air with both hands, brought
it down with terrible force on Tancred's mailed head. Then Guido
stood still, and Tancred raising his mace in the air brought it
down upon Guido's head. Then Tancred stood still and turned his back,
and Guido, swinging his mace sideways, gave him a terrific blow from
behind, midway, right centre. Tancred returned the blow. Then
Tancred knelt down on his hands and knees and Guido brought the mace
down on his back. It was a sheer contest of skill and agility. For a
time the issue was doubtful. Then Tancred's armour began to bend, his
blows weakened, he fell prone. Guido pressed his advantage and
hammered him out as flat as a sardine can. Then placing his foot on
Tancred's chest, he lowered his vizor and looked around about him.
At this second there was a resounding shriek.
Isolde the Slender, alarmed by the sound of the blows, precipitated
herself into the room.
For a moment the lovers looked into each other's faces.
Then with their countenances distraught with agony they fell swooning
in different directions.
There had been a mistake!
Guido was not Guido, and Isolde was not Isolde. They were wrong
about the miniatures. Each of them was a picture of somebody else.
Torrents of remorse flooded over the lovers' hearts.
Isolde thought of the unhappy Tancred, hammered out as flat as a
picture-card and hopelessly spoilt; of Conrad the Cocoanut head first
in the mud, and Sickfried the Susceptible coiled up with agonies of
Guido thought of the dead Saracens and the slaughtered Turks.
And all for nothing!
The guerdon of their love had proved vain. Each of them was not what
the other had thought. So it is ever with the loves of this world,
and herein is the medieval allegory of this tale.
The hearts of the two lovers broke together.
Meantime Carlo the Corkscrew and Beowulf the Bradawl, and their forty
followers, were hustling down the spirals as fast as they could
crawl, hind end uppermost.
IV. — Gertrude the Governess: or, Simple Seventeen
Synopsis of Previous Chapters:
There are no Previous Chapters.
IT was a wild and stormy night on the West Coast of
Scotland. This, however, is immaterial to the present
story, as the scene is not laid in the West of Scotland.
For the matter of that the weather was just as bad on the
East Coast of Ireland.
But the scene of this narrative is laid in the South of
England and takes place in and around Knotacentinum Towers
(pronounced as if written Nosham Taws), the seat of Lord
Knotacent (pronounced as if written Nosh).
But it is not necessary to pronounce either of these names
in reading them.
Nosham Taws was a typical English home. The main part of
the house was an Elizabethan structure of warm red brick,
while the elder portion, of which the Earl was inordinately
proud, still showed the outlines of a Norman Keep, to which
had been added a Lancastrian Jail and a Plantagenet Orphan
Asylum. From the house in all directions stretched
magnificent woodland and park with oaks and elms of
immemorial antiquity, while nearer the house stood raspberry
bushes and geranium plants which had been set out by the
About the grand old mansion the air was loud with the
chirping of thrushes, the cawing of partridges and the
clear sweet note of the rook, while deer, antelope and
other quadrupeds strutted about the lawn so tame as to eat
off the sun-dial. In fact, the place was a regular menagerie.
From the house downwards through the park stretched a
beautiful broad avenue laid out by Henry VII.
Lord Nosh stood upon the hearthrug of the library.
Trained diplomat and statesman as he was, his stern
aristocratic face was upside down with fury.
"Boy," he said, "you shall marry this girl or I disinherit
you. You are no son of mine."
Young Lord Ronald, erect before him, flung back a glance
as defiant as his own.
"I defy you," he said. "Henceforth you are no father of
mine. I will get another. I will marry none but a woman
I can love. This girl that we have never seen——"
"Fool," said the Earl, "would you throw aside our estate
and name of a thousand years? The girl, I am told, is
beautiful; her aunt is willing; they are French; pah! they
understand such things in France."
"But your reason——"
"I give no reason," said the Earl. "Listen, Ronald, I
give one month. For that time you remain here. If at the
end of it you refuse me, I cut you off with a shilling."
Lord Ronald said nothing; he flung himself from the room,
flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all
As the door of the library closed upon Ronald the Earl sank
into a chair. His face changed. It was no longer that of
the haughty nobleman, but of the hunted criminal. "He must
marry the girl," he muttered. "Soon she will know all.
Tutchemoff has escaped from Siberia. He knows and will tell.
The whole of the mines pass to her, this property with it,
and I—but enough." He rose, walked to the sideboard,
drained a dipper full of gin and bitters, and became again
a high-bred English gentleman.
It was at this moment that a high dogcart, driven by a groom
in the livery of Earl Nosh, might have been seen entering the
avenue of Nosham Taws. Beside him sat a young girl, scarce
more than a child, in fact not nearly so big as the groom.
The apple-pie hat which she wore, surmounted with black
willow plumes, concealed from view a face so face-like in
its appearance as to be positively facial.
It was—need we say it—Gertrude the Governess, who was
this day to enter upon her duties at Nosham Taws.
At the same time that the dogcart entered the avenue at one
end there might have been seen riding down it from the other
a tall young man, whose long, aristocratic face proclaimed
his birth and who was mounted upon a horse with a face even
longer than his own.
And who is this tall young man who draws nearer to Gertrude
with every revolution of the horse? Ah, who, indeed? Ah,
who, who? I wonder if any of my readers could guess that
this was none other than Lord Ronald.
The two were destined to meet. Nearer and nearer they came.
And then still nearer. Then for one brief moment they met.
As they passed Gertrude raised her head and directed towards
the young nobleman two eyes so eye-like in their expression
as to be absolutely circular, while Lord Ronald directed
towards the occupant of the dogcart a gaze so gaze-like that
nothing but a gazelle, or a gas-pipe, could have emulated
Was this the dawn of love? Wait and see. Do not spoil
Let us speak of Gertrude. Gertrude DeMongmorenci McFiggin
had known neither father nor mother. They had both died
years before she was born. Of her mother she knew nothing,
save that she was French, was extremely beautiful, and that
all her ancestors and even her business acquaintances had
perished in the Revolution.
Yet Gertrude cherished the memory of her parents. On her
breast the girl wore a locket in which was enshrined a
miniature of her mother, while down her neck inside at the
back hung a daguerreotype of her father. She carried a
portrait of her grandmother up her sleeve and had pictures
of her cousins tucked inside her boot, while beneath her—
but enough, quite enough.
Of her father Gertrude knew even less. That he was a
high-born English gentleman who had lived as a wanderer in
many lands, this was all she knew. His only legacy to Gertrude
had been a Russian grammar, a Roumanian phrase-book, a
theodolite, and a work on mining engineering.
From her earliest infancy Gertrude had been brought up by
her aunt. Her aunt had carefully instructed her in Christian
principles. She had also taught her Mohammedanism to make
When Gertrude was seventeen her aunt had died of hydrophobia.
The circumstances were mysterious. There had called upon her
that day a strange bearded man in the costume of the Russians.
After he had left, Gertrude had found her aunt in a syncope
from which she passed into an apostrophe and never recovered.
To avoid scandal it was called hydrophobia. Gertrude was thus
thrown upon the world. What to do? That was the problem that
It was while musing one day upon her fate that Gertrude's eye
was struck with an advertisement.
"Wanted a governess; must possess a knowledge of French,
Italian, Russian, and Roumanian, Music, and Mining Engineering.
Salary 1 pound, 4 shillings and 4 pence halfpenny per annum.
Apply between half-past eleven and twenty-five minutes to
twelve at No. 41 A Decimal Six, Belgravia Terrace. The
Countess of Nosh."
Gertrude was a girl of great natural quickness of apprehension,
and she had not pondered over this announcement more than half
an hour before she was struck with the extraordinary coincidence
between the list of items desired and the things that she
She duly presented herself at Belgravia Terrace before the
Countess, who advanced to meet her with a charm which at once
placed the girl at her ease.
"You are proficient in French," she asked.
"Oh, oui," said Gertrude modestly.
"And Italian," continued the Countess.
"Oh, si," said Gertrude.
"And German," said the Countess in delight.
"Ah, ja," said Gertrude.
Amazed at the girl's extraordinary proficiency in modern
languages, the Countess looked at her narrowly. Where had
she seen those lineaments before? She passed her hand over
her brow in thought, and spit upon the floor, but no, the
face baffled her.
"Enough," she said, "I engage you on the spot; to-morrow you
go down to Nosham Taws and begin teaching the children. I
must add that in addition you will be expected to aid the
Earl with his Russian correspondence. He has large mining
interests at Tschminsk."
Tschminsk! why did the simple word reverberate upon Gertrude's
ears? Why? Because it was the name written in her father's
hand on the title page of his book on mining. What mystery
It was on the following day that Gertrude had driven up
She descended from the dogcart, passed through a phalanx of
liveried servants drawn up seven-deep, to each of whom she
gave a sovereign as she passed and entered Nosham Taws.
"Welcome," said the Countess, as she aided Gertrude to carry
her trunk upstairs.
The girl presently descended and was ushered into the library,
where she was presented to the Earl. As soon as the Earl's
eye fell upon the face of the new governess he started visibly.
Where had he seen those lineaments? Where was it? At the races,
or the theatre—on a bus—no. Some subtler thread of memory
was stirring in his mind. He strode hastily to the sideboard,
drained a dipper and a half of brandy, and became again the
perfect English gentleman.
While Gertrude has gone to the nursery to make the acquaintance
of the two tiny golden-haired children who are to be her charges,
let us say something here of the Earl and his son.
Lord Nosh was the perfect type of the English nobleman and
statesman. The years that he had spent in the diplomatic service
at Constantinople, St. Petersburg, and Salt Lake City had given
to him a peculiar finesse and noblesse, while his long residence
at St. Helena, Pitcairn Island, and Hamilton, Ontario, had
rendered him impervious to external impressions. As
deputy-paymaster of the militia of the county he had seen
something of the sterner side of military life, while his
hereditary office of Groom of the Sunday Breeches had brought
him into direct contact with Royalty itself.
His passion for outdoor sports endeared him to his tenants.
A keen sportsman, he excelled in fox-hunting, dog-hunting,
pig-killing, bat-catching and the pastimes of his class.
In this latter respect Lord Ronald took after his father. From
the start the lad had shown the greatest promise. At Eton he had
made a splendid showing at battledore and shuttlecock, and at
Cambridge had been first in his class at needlework. Already his
name was whispered in connection with the All-England ping-pong
championship, a triumph which would undoubtedly carry with it
a seat in Parliament.
Thus was Gertrude the Governess installed at Nosham Taws.
The days and the weeks sped past.
The simple charm of the beautiful orphan girl attracted all
hearts. Her two little pupils became her slaves. "Me loves oo,"
the little Rasehellfrida would say, leaning her golden head in
Gertrude's lap. Even the servants loved her. The head gardener
would bring a bouquet of beautiful roses to her room before she
was up, the second gardener a bunch of early cauliflowers, the
third a spray of late asparagus, and even the tenth and eleventh
a sprig of mangel-wurzel of an armful of hay. Her room was full
of gardeners all the time, while at evening the aged butler,
touched at the friendless girl's loneliness, would tap softly at
her door to bring her a rye whiskey and seltzer or a box of
Pittsburg Stogies. Even the dumb creatures seemed to admire her
in their own dumb way. The dumb rooks settled on her shoulder
and every dumb dog around the place followed her.
And Ronald! ah, Ronald! Yes, indeed! They had met. They had
"What a dull morning," Gertrude had said. "Quelle triste matin!
Was fur ein allerverdamnter Tag!"
"Beastly," Ronald had answered.
"Beastly!!" The word rang in Gertrude's ears all day.
After that they were constantly together. They played tennis
and ping-pong in the day, and in the evening, in accordance with
the stiff routine of the place, they sat down with the Earl and
Countess to twenty-five-cent poker, and later still they sat
together on the verandah and watched the moon sweeping in great
circles around the horizon.
It was not long before Gertrude realised that Lord Ronald felt
towards her a warmer feeling than that of mere ping-pong. At
times in her presence he would fall, especially after dinner,
into a fit of profound subtraction.
Once at night, when Gertrude withdrew to her chamber and before
seeking her pillow, prepared to retire as a preliminary to
disrobing—in other words, before going to bed, she flung wide
the casement (opened the window) and perceived (saw) the face of
Lord Ronald. He was sitting on a thorn bush beneath her, and
his upturned face wore an expression of agonised pallor.
Meanwhile the days passed. Life at the Taws moved in the
ordinary routine of a great English household. At 7 a gong
sounded for rising, at 8 a horn blew for breakfast, at 8.30
a whistle sounded for prayers, at 1 a flag was run up at
half-mast for lunch, at 4 a gun was fired for afternoon tea,
at 9 a first bell sounded for dressing, at 9.15 a second bell
for going on dressing, while at 9.30 a rocket was sent up to
indicate that dinner was ready. At midnight dinner was over,
and at 1 a.m. the tolling of a bell summoned the domestics to
Meanwhile the month allotted by the Earl to Lord Ronald was
passing away. It was already July 15, then within a day or
two it was July 17, and, almost immediately afterwards, July 18.
At times the Earl, in passing Ronald in the hall, would say
sternly, "Remember, boy, your consent, or I disinherit you."
And what were the Earl's thoughts of Gertrude? Here was the
one drop of bitterness in the girl's cup of happiness. For
some reason that she could not divine the Earl showed signs
of marked antipathy.
Once as she passed the door of the library he threw a bootjack
at her. On another occasion at lunch alone with her he struck
her savagely across the face with a sausage.
It was her duty to translate to the Earl his Russian
correspondence. She sought in it in vain for the mystery.
One day a Russian telegram was handed to the Earl. Gertrude
translated it to him aloud.
"Tutchemoff went to the woman. She is dead."
On hearing this the Earl became livid with fury, in fact this
was the day that he struck her with the sausage.
Then one day while the Earl was absent on a bat hunt,
Gertrude, who was turning over his correspondence, with that
sweet feminine instinct of interest that rose superior to
ill-treatment, suddenly found the key to the mystery.
Lord Nosh was not the rightful owner of the Taws. His distant
cousin of the older line, the true heir, had died in a Russian
prison to which the machinations of the Earl, while Ambassador
at Tschminsk, had consigned him. The daughter of this cousin
was the true owner of Nosham Taws.
The family story, save only that the documents before her withheld
the name of the rightful heir, lay bare to Gertrude's eye.
Strange is the heart of woman. Did Gertrude turn from the Earl
with spurning? No. Her own sad fate had taught her sympathy.
Yet still the mystery remained! Why did the Earl start
perceptibly each time that he looked into her face? Sometimes
he started as much as four centimetres, so that one could
distinctly see him do it. On such occasions he would hastily
drain a dipper of rum and vichy water and become again the
correct English gentleman.
The denouement came swiftly. Gertrude never forgot it.
It was the night of the great ball at Nosham Taws. The whole
neighbourhood was invited. How Gertrude's heart had beat with
anticipation, and with what trepidation she had overhauled her
scant wardrobe in order to appear not unworthy in Lord Ronald's
eyes. Her resources were poor indeed, yet the inborn genius for
dress that she inherited from her French mother stood her in
good stead. She twined a single rose in her hair and contrived
herself a dress out of a few old newspapers and the inside of
an umbrella that would have graced a court. Round her waist she
bound a single braid of bagstring, while a piece of old lace that
had been her mother's was suspended to her ear by a thread.
Gertrude was the cynosure of all eyes. Floating to the strains
of the music she presented a picture of bright girlish innocence
that no one could see undisenraptured.
The ball was at its height. It was away up!
Ronald stood with Gertrude in the shrubbery. They looked into
one another's eyes.
"Gertrude," he said, "I love you."
Simple words, and yet they thrilled every fibre in the girl's
"Ronald!" she said, and cast herself about his neck.
At this moment the Earl appeared standing beside them in the
moonlight. His stern face was distorted with indignation.
"So!" he said, turning to Ronald, "it appears that you have
"I have," said Ronald with hauteur.
"You prefer to marry this penniless girl rather than the
heiress I have selected for you."
Gertrude looked from father to son in amazement.
"Yes," said Ronald.
"Be it so," said the Earl, draining a dipper of gin which he
carried, and resuming his calm. "Then I disinherit you.
Leave this place, and never return to it."
"Come, Gertrude," said Ronald tenderly, "let us flee together."
Gertrude stood before them. The rose had fallen from her head.
The lace had fallen from her ear and the bagstring had come
undone from her waist. Her newspapers were crumpled beyond
recognition. But dishevelled and illegible as she was, she was
still mistress of herself.
"Never," she said firmly. "Ronald, you shall never make this
sacrifice for me." Then to the Earl, in tones of ice, "There is
a pride, sir, as great even as yours. The daughter of
Metschnikoff McFiggin need crave a boon from no one."
With that she hauled from her bosom the daguerreotype of her
father and pressed it to her lips.
The earl started as if shot. "That name!" he cried, "that face!
that photograph! stop!"
There! There is no need to finish; my readers have long since
divined it. Gertrude was the heiress.
The lovers fell into one another's arms. The Earl's proud face
relaxed. "God bless you," he said. The Countess and the guests
came pouring out upon the lawn. The breaking day illuminated a
scene of gay congratulations.
Gertrude and Ronald were wed. Their happiness was complete.
Need we say more? Yes, only this. The Earl was killed in the
hunting-field a few days after. The Countess was struck by
lightning. The two children fell down a well. Thus the
happiness of Gertrude and Ronald was complete.
V. — A Hero in Homespun: or, The Life Struggle of Hezekiah Hayloft
"CAN you give me a job?"
The foreman of the bricklayers looked down from the scaffold to
the speaker below. Something in the lad's upturned face appealed
to the man. He threw a brick at him.
It was Hezekiah Hayloft. He was all in homespun. He carried a
carpet-bag in each hand. He had come to New York, the cruel city,
looking for work.
Hezekiah moved on. Presently he stopped in front of a policeman.
"Sir," he said, "can you tell me the way to——"
The policeman struck him savagely across the side of the head.
"I'll learn you," he said, "to ask damn fool questions——"
Again Hezekiah moved on. In a few moments he met a man whose tall
black hat, black waistcoat and white tie proclaimed him a clergyman.
"Good sir," said Hezekiah, "can you tell me——"
The clergyman pounced upon him with a growl of a hyena, and bit a
piece out of his ear. Yes, he did, reader. Just imagine a
clergyman biting a boy in open daylight! Yet that happens in
New York every minute.
Such is the great cruel city, and imagine looking for work in it.
You and I who spend our time in trying to avoid work can hardly
realise what it must mean. Think how it must feel to be alone
in New York, without a friend or a relation at hand, with no one
to know or care what you do. It must be great!
For a few moments Hezekiah stood irresolute. He looked about him.
He looked up at the top of the Metropolitan Tower. He saw no work
there. He looked across at the skyscrapers on Madison Square, but
his eye detected no work in any of them. He stood on his head and
looked up at the flat-iron building. Still no work in sight.
All that day and the next Hezekiah looked for work.
A Wall Street firm had advertised for a stenographer.
"Can you write shorthand?" they said.
"No," said the boy in homespun, "but I can try."
They threw him down the elevator.
Hezekiah was not discouraged. That day he applied for fourteen
The Waldorf Astoria was in need of a chef. Hezekiah applied for
"Can you cook?" they said.
"No," said Hezekiah, "but oh, sir, give me a trial, give me an
egg and let me try—I will try so hard." Great tears rolled
down the boy's face.
They rolled him out into the corridor.
Next he applied for a job as a telegrapher. His mere ignorance
of telegraphy was made the ground of refusal.
At nightfall Hezekiah Hayloft grew hungry. He entered again
the portico of the Waldorf Astoria. Within it stood a tall man
"Boss," said the boy hero, "will you trust me for the price of
a square meal?"
They set the dog on him.
Such, reader, is the hardness and bitterness of the Great City.
For fourteen weeks Hezekiah Hayloft looked for work. Once or
twice he obtained temporary employment only to lose it again.
For a few days he was made accountant in a trust company. He
was discharged because he would not tell a lie. For about a
week he held a position as cashier in a bank. They discharged
the lad because he refused to forge a cheque. For three days
he held a conductorship on a Broadway surface car. He was
dismissed from this business for refusing to steal a nickel.
Such, reader, is the horrid degradation of business life in
Meantime the days passed and still Hayloft found no work.
His stock of money was exhausted. He had not had any money
anyway. For food he ate grass in Central Park and drank the
water from the Cruelty to Animals horse-trough.
Gradually a change came over the lad; his face grew hard and
stern, the great city was setting its mark upon him.
One night Hezekiah stood upon the sidewalk. It was late,
long after ten o'clock. Only a few chance pedestrians passed.
"By Heaven!" said Hezekiah, shaking his fist at the lights of
the cruel city, "I have exhausted fair means, I will try foul.
I will beg. No Hayloft has been a beggar yet," he added with
a bitter laugh, "but I will begin."
A well-dressed man passed along.
Hezekiah seized him by the throat.
"What do you want?" cried the man in sudden terror. "Don't
ask me for work. I tell you I have no work to give."
"I don't want work," said Hezekiah grimly. "I am a beggar."
"Oh! is that all," said the man, relieved. "Here, take this
ten dollars and go and buy a drink with it."
Money! money! and with it a new sense of power that rushed
like an intoxicant to Hezekiah's brain.
"Drink," he muttered hoarsely, "yes, drink."
The lights of a soda-water fountain struck his eye.
"Give me an egg phosphate," he said as he dashed his money
on the counter. He drank phosphate after phosphate till his
brain reeled. Mad with the liquor, he staggered to and fro
in the shop, weighed himself recklessly on the slot machine
three or four times, tore out chewing gum and matches from
the automatic nickel boxes, and finally staggered on to the
street, reeling from the effects of thirteen phosphates and
a sarsaparilla soda.
"Crime," he hissed. "Crime, crime, that's what I want."
He noticed that the passers-by made way for him now with
respect. On the corner of the street a policeman was standing.
Hezekiah picked up a cobblestone, threw it, and struck the
man full on the ear.
The policeman smiled at him roguishly, and then gently wagged
his finger in reproof. It was the same policeman who had
struck him fourteen weeks before for asking the way.
Hezekiah moved on, still full of his new idea of crime. Down
the street was a novelty shop, the window decked with New
"Sell me a revolver," he said.
"Yes, sir," said the salesman. "Would you like something for
evening wear, or a plain kind for home use. Here is a very
good family revolver, or would you like a roof garden size?"
Hezekiah selected a revolver and went out.
"Now, then," he muttered, "I will burglarise a house and get
Walking across to Fifth Avenue he selected one of the finest
residences and rang the bell.
A man in livery appeared in the brightly lighted hall.
"Where is your master?" Hezekiah asked, showing his revolver.
"He is upstairs, sir, counting his money," the man answered,
"but he dislikes being disturbed."
"Show me to him," said Hezekiah, "I wish to shoot him and take
"Very good, sir," said the man deferentially. "You will find
him on the first floor."
Hezekiah turned and shot the footman twice through the livery
and went upstairs.
In an upper room was a man sitting at a desk under a
reading-lamp. In front of him was a pile of gold.
"What are you doing?" said Hezekiah.
"I am counting my money," said the man.
"What are you?" asked Hezekiah sternly.
"I am a philanthropist," said the man. "I give my money to
deserving objects. I establish medals for heroes. I give
prizes for ship captains who jump into the sea, and for firemen
who throw people from the windows of upper stories at the risk
of their own; I send American missionaries to China, Chinese
missionaries to India, and Indian missionaries to Chicago. I
set aside money to keep college professors from starving to
death when they deserve it."
"Stop!" said Hezekiah, "you deserve to die. Stand up. Open
your mouth and shut your eyes."
The old man stood up.
There was a loud report. The philanthropist fell. He was shot
through the waistcoat and his suspenders were cut to ribbons.
Hezekiah, his eyes glittering with the mania of crime, crammed
his pockets with gold pieces.
There was a roar and hubbub in the street below.
"The police!" Hezekiah muttered. "I must set fire to the house
and escape in the confusion."
He struck a safety match and held it to the leg of the table.
It was a fireproof table and refused to burn. He held it to the
door. The door was fireproof. He applied it to the bookcase.
He ran the match along the books. They were all fireproof.
Everything was fireproof.
Frenzied with rage, he tore off his celluloid collar and set
fire to it. He waved it above his head. Great tongues of flame
swept from the windows.
"Fire! Fire!" was the cry.
Hezekiah rushed to the door and threw the blazing collar down
the elevator shaft. In a moment the iron elevator, with its
steel ropes, burst into a mass of flame; then the brass fittings
of the door took fire, and in a moment the cement floor of the
elevator was one roaring mass of flame. Great columns of smoke
burst from the building.
"Fire! Fire!" shouted the crowd.
Reader, have you ever seen a fire in a great city? The sight
is a wondrous one. One realises that, vast and horrible as the
city is, it nevertheless shows its human organisation in its
most perfect form.
Scarcely had the fire broken out before resolute efforts were
made to stay its progress. Long lines of men passed buckets of
water from hand to hand.
The water was dashed on the fronts of the neighbouring houses,
thrown all over the street, splashed against the telegraph
poles, and poured in torrents over the excited crowd. Every
place in the neighbourhood of the fire was literally soaked.
The man worked with a will. A derrick rapidly erected in the
street reared itself to the height of sixteen or seventeen
feet. A daring man mounted on the top of it, hauled bucket
after bucket of water on the pulley. Balancing himself with
the cool daring of the trained fireman, he threw the water in
all directions over the crowd.
The fire raged for an hour. Hezekiah, standing at an empty
window amid the flames, rapidly filled his revolver and
emptied it into the crowd.
From one hundred revolvers in the street a fusillade was
kept up in return.
This lasted for an hour. Several persons were almost hit by
the rain of bullets, which would have proved fatal had they
Meantime, as the flames died down, a squad of policemen
rushed into the doomed building.
Hezekiah threw aside his revolver and received them with
"Hayloft," said the chief of police, "I arrest you for
murder, burglary, arson, and conspiracy. You put up a
splendid fight, old man, and I am only sorry that it is
our painful duty to arrest you."
As Hayloft appeared below a great cheer went up from the
crowd. True courage always appeals to the heart of the
Hayloft was put in a motor and whirled rapidly to the police
On the way the chief handed him a flask and a cigar.
They chatted over the events of the evening.
Hayloft realised that a new life had opened for him. He
was no longer a despised outcast. He had entered the American
At the police station the chief showed Hezekiah to his room.
"I hope you will like this room," he said a little anxiously.
"It is the best that I can give you to-night. To-morrow I can
give you a room with a bath, but at such short notice I am sure
you will not mind putting up with this."
He said good night and shut the door. In a moment he reappeared.
"About breakfast?" he said. "Would you rather have it in your
room, or will you join us at our table d'hote? The force are
most anxious to meet you."
Next morning, before Hezekiah was up, the chief brought to his
room a new outfit of clothes—a silk hat, frock-coat,
shepherd's-plaid trousers and varnished boots with spats.
"You won't mind accepting these things, Mr. Hayloft. Our force
would like very much to enable you to make a suitable appearance
in the court."
Carefully dressed and shaved, Hezekiah descended. He was
introduced to the leading officials of the force, and spent a
pleasant hour of chat over a cigar, discussing the incidents of
the night before.
In the course of the morning a number of persons called to meet
and congratulate Hezekiah.
"I want to tell you, sir," said the editor of a great American
daily, "that your work of last night will be known and commented
on all over the States. Your shooting of the footman was a
splendid piece of nerve, sir, and will do much in defence of the
"Mr. Hayloft," said another caller, "I am sorry not to have met
you sooner. Our friends here tell me that you have been in New
York for some months. I regret, sir, that we did not know you.
This is the name of my firm, Mr. Hayloft. We are leading lawyers
here, and we want the honour of defending you. We may! Thank
you, sir. And now, as we have still an hour or two before the
court, I want to run you up to my house in my motor. My wife is
very anxious to have a little luncheon with you."
The court met that afternoon. There was a cheer as Hezekiah
"Mr. Hayloft," said the judge, "I am adjourning this court for
a few days. From what I hear the nerve strain that you have
undergone must have been most severe. Your friends tell me that
you can hardly be in a state to take a proper interest in the
case till you have had a thorough rest."
As Hayloft left the court a cheer went up from the crowd, in
which the judge joined.
The next few days were busy days for Hezekiah. Filled with
receptions, civic committees, and the preparation of the brief,
in which Hezekiah's native intelligence excited the admiration
of the lawyers.
Newspaper men sought for interviews. Business promoters called
upon Hezekiah. His name was put down as a director of several
leading companies, and it was rumoured that in the event of his
acquittal he would undertake a merger of all the great burglar
protection corporations of the United States.
The trial opened a week later, and lasted two months. Hezekiah
was indicted on five charges—arson, for having burned the
steel cage of the elevator; misdemeanour, for shooting the
footman; the theft of the money, petty larceny; the killing of
the philanthropist, infanticide; and the shooting at the police
without hitting them, aggravated felony.
The proceedings were very complicated—expert evidence was
taken from all over the United States. An analytical
examination was made of the brain of the philanthropist.
Nothing was found.
The entire jury were dismissed three times on the grounds of
prejudice, twice on the ground of ignorance, and finally
disbanded on the ground of insanity.
The proceedings dragged on.
Meanwhile Hezekiah's business interests accumulated.
At length, at Hezekiah's own suggestion, it was necessary
to abandon the case.
"Gentlemen," he said, in his final speech to the court, "I
feel that I owe an apology for not being able to attend these
proceedings any further. At any time, when I can snatch an
hour or two from my business, you may always count on my
attendance. In the meantime, rest assured that I shall
follow your proceedings with the greatest interest."
He left the room amid three cheers and the singing of "Auld
After that the case dragged hopeless on from stage to stage.
The charge of arson was met by a nolle prosequi. The
accusation of theft was stopped by a ne plus ultra. The
killing of the footman was pronounced justifiable insanity.
The accusation of murder for the death of the philanthropist
was withdrawn by common consent. Damages in error were
awarded to Hayloft for the loss of his revolver and
cartridges. The main body of the case was carried on a
writ of certiorari to the Federal Courts and appealed to
the Supreme Court of the United States.
It is there still.
Meantime, Hezekiah, as managing director of the Burglars'
Security Corporation, remains one of the rising generation
of financiers in New York, with every prospect of election
to the State Senate.
VI. — Sorrows of a Super Soul: or, The Memoirs of Marie Mushenough
(Translated, by Machinery, out of the Original Russian.)
DO you ever look at your face in the glass?
Sometimes I stand for hours and peer at my face and wonder at it.
At times I turn it upside down and gaze intently at it. I try to
think what it means. It seems to look back at me with its great
brown eyes as if it knew me and wanted to speak to me.
Why was I born?
I do not know.
I ask my face a thousand times a day and find no answer.
At times when people pass my room—my maid Nitnitzka, or Jakub,
the serving-man—and see me talking to my face, they think I am
But I am not.
At times I cast myself on the sofa and bury my head in the cushions.
Even then I cannot find out why I was born.
I am seventeen.
Shall I ever be seventy-seven? Ah!
Shall I ever be even sixty-seven, or sixty-seven even? Oh!
And if I am both of these, shall I ever be eighty-seven?
I cannot tell.
Often I start up in the night with wild eyes and wonder if I shall
* * *
I passed a flower in my walk to-day. It grew in the meadow beside
the river bank.
It stood dreaming on a long stem.
I knew its name. It was a Tchupvskja. I love beautiful names.
I leaned over and spoke to it. I asked it if my heart would ever
know love. It said it thought so.
On the way home I passed an onion.
It lay upon the road.
Someone had stepped upon its stem and crushed it. How it must have
suffered. I placed it in my bosom. All night it lay beside my pillow.
* * *
My heart is yearning for love! How is it that I can love no one?
I have tried and I cannot. My father—Ivan Ivanovitch—he is so
big and so kind, and yet I cannot love him; and my mother, Katoosha
Katooshavitch, she is just as big, and yet I cannot love her. And my
brother, Dimitri Dimitrivitch, I cannot love him.
And Alexis Alexovitch!
I cannot love him. And yet I am to marry him. They have set the day.
It is a month from to-day. One month. Thirty days. Why cannot I
love Alexis? He is tall and strong. He is a soldier. He is in the
Guard of the Czar, Nicholas Romanoff, and yet I cannot love him.
* * *
Next Day but one.
How they cramp and confine me here—Ivan Ivanovitch my father,
and my mother (I forget her name for the minute), and all the rest.
I cannot breathe.
They will not let me.
Every time I try to commit suicide they hinder me.
Last night I tried again.
I placed a phial of sulphuric acid on the table beside my bed.
In the morning it was still there.
It had not killed me.
They have forbidden me to drown myself.
I do not know why? In vain I ask the air and the trees why I
should not drown myself? They do not see any reason why.
And yet I long to be free, free as the young birds, as the very
youngest of them.
I watch the leaves blowing in the wind and I want to be a leaf.
Yet here they want to make me eat!
Yesterday I ate a banana! Ugh!
* * *
To-day in my walk I found a cabbage.
It lay in a corner of the hedge. Cruel boys had chased it
there with stones.
It was dead when I lifted it up.
Beside it was an egg.
It too was dead. Ah, how I wept—
* * *
How my heart beats. To-day A MAN passed. He passed:
From my window I saw him go by the garden gate and out
into the meadow beside the river where my Tchupvskja
flower is growing!
How beautiful he looked! Not tall like Alexis Alexovitch,
ah, no! but so short and wide and round—shaped like the
beautiful cabbage that died last week.
He wore a velvet jacket and he carried a camp stool and an
easel on his back, and in his face was a curved pipe with
a long stem, and his face was not red and rough like the
face of Alexis, but mild and beautiful and with a smile
that played on it like moonlight over putty.
Do I love him? I cannot tell. Not yet. Love is a gentle
plant. You cannot force its growth.
As he passed I leaned from the window and threw a rosebud
But he did not see it.
Then I threw a cake of soap and a toothbrush at him. But
I missed him, and he passed on.
* * *
Love has come into my life. It fills it. I have seen
HIM again. I have spoken with him. He sat beside the
river on his camp stool. How beautiful he looked, sitting
on it: how strong he seemed and how frail the little stool
on which he sat.
Before him was the easel and he was painting. I spoke to him.
I know his name now.
His name—. How my heart beats as I write it—no, I cannot
write it, I will whisper it—it is Otto Dinkelspiel.
Is it not a beautiful name? Ah!
He was painting on a canvas—beautiful colours, red and gold
and white, in glorious opalescent streaks in all directions.
I looked at it in wonder.
Instinctively I spoke to him. "What are you painting?" I said.
"Is it the Heavenly Child?"
"No," he said, "it is a cow!"
Then I looked again and I could see that it was a cow.
I looked straight into his eyes.
"It shall be our secret," I said; "no one else shall know."
And I knew that I loved him.
* * *
A Week Later.
Each morning I go to see Otto beside the river in the meadow.
He sits and paints, and I sit with my hands clasped about my
knees and talk to him. I tell him all that I think, all that
I read, all that I know, all that I feel, all that I do not
He listens to me with that far-away look that I have learned
to love and that means that he is thinking deeply; at times he
almost seems not to hear.
The intercourse of our minds is wonderful.
We stimulate one another's thought.
Otto is my master. I am his disciple!
Yesterday I asked him if Hegel or Schlegel or Whegel gives the
truest view of life.
He said he didn't know! My Otto!
* * *
Otto touched me! He touched me!
How the recollection of it thrills me!
I stood beside him on the river bank, and as we talked the
handle of my parasol touched the bottom button of his waistcoat.
It seemed to burn me like fire!
To-morrow I am to bring Otto to see my father.
But to-night I can think of nothing else but that Otto has
* * *
Otto has touched father! He touched him for ten roubles.
My father is furious. I cannot tell what it means.
I brought Otto to our home. He spoke with my father, Ivan
Ivanovitch. They sat together in the evening. And now my
father is angry. He says that Otto wanted to touch him.
Why should he be angry?
But Otto is forbidden the house, and I can see him only in
* * *
Two Days Later.
To-day Otto asked me for a keepsake.
I offered him one of my hatpins. But he said no. He has
taken instead the diamond buckle from my belt.
I read his meaning.
He means that I am to him as a diamond is to lesser natures.
* * *
Yesterday Otto asked me for another keepsake. I took a gold
rouble from my bag and said that he should break it in half
and that each should keep one of the halves.
But Otto said no. I divined his thought. It would violate our
love to break the coin.
He is to keep it for both of us, and it is to remain unbroken
like our love.
Is it not a sweet thought?
Otto is so thoughtful. He thinks of everything.
To-day he asked me if I had another gold rouble.
* * *
To-day I brought Otto another gold rouble.
His eyes shone with love when he saw it.
He has given me for it a bronze kopek. Our love is to be as
pure as gold and as strong as bronze.
Is it not beautiful?
* * *
I am so fearful that Alexis Alexovitch may return.
I fear that if he comes Otto might kill him. Otto is so calm,
I dread to think of what would happen if he were aroused.
* * *
I have told Otto about Alexis. I have told him that Alexis is
a soldier, that he is in the Guards of the Czar, and that I am
betrothed to him. At first Otto would not listen to me. He
feared that his anger might overmaster him. He began folding up
Then I told him that Alexis would not come for some time yet,
and he grew calmer.
I have begged him for my sake not to kill Alexis. He has given
me his promise.
* * *
Ivan Ivanovitch, my father, has heard from Alexis. He will
return in fourteen days. The day after his return I am to
And meantime I have still fourteen days to love Otto.
My love is perfect. It makes me want to die. Last night I
tried again to commit suicide. Why should I live now that I
have known a perfect love? I placed a box of cartridges beside
my bed. I awoke unharmed. They did not kill me. But I know
what it means. It means that Otto and I are to die together.
I must tell Otto.
* * *
To-day I told Otto that we must kill ourselves, that our love
is so perfect that we have no right to live.
At first he looked so strange.
He suggested that I should kill myself first and that he should
starve himself beside my grave.
But I could not accept the sacrifice.
I offered instead to help him to hang himself beside the river.
He is to think it over. If he does not hang himself, he is to
shoot himself. I have lent him my father's revolver. How grateful
he looked when he took it.
* * *
Why does Otto seem to avoid me? Has he some secret sorrow that
I cannot share? To-day he moved his camp-stool to the other side
of the meadow. He was in the long grass behind an elderberry
bush. At first I did not see him. I thought that he had hanged
himself. But he said no. He had forgotten to get a rope. He
had tried, he said, to shoot himself. But he had missed himself.
* * *
Five Days Later.
Otto and I are not to die. We are to live; to live and love one
another for ever! We are going away, out into the world together!
How happy I am!
Otto and I are to flee together.
When Alexis comes we shall be gone; we shall be far away.
I have said to Otto that I will fly with him, and he has said yes.
I told him that we would go out into the world together; empty-handed
we would fare forth together and defy the world. I said that he
should be my knight-errant, my paladin!
Otto said he would be it.
He has consented. But he says we must not fare forth empty-handed.
I do not know why he thinks this, but he is firm, and I yield to my
lord. He is making all our preparations.
Each morning I bring to the meadow a little bundle of my things and
give them to my knight-errant and he takes them to the inn where he
Last week I brought my jewel-case, and yesterday, at his request, I
took my money from the bank and brought it to my paladin. It will
be so safe with him.
To-day he said that I shall need some little things to remember my
father and mother by when we are gone. So I am to take my father's
gold watch while he is asleep. My hero! How thoughtful he is of
* * *
All is ready. To-morrow I am to meet Otto at the meadow with the
watch and the rest of the things.
To-morrow night we are to flee together. I am to go down to the
little gate at the foot of the garden, and Otto will be there.
To-day I have wandered about the house and garden and have said
good-bye. I have said good-bye to my Tchupvskja flower, and to
the birds and the bees.
To-morrow it will be all over.
* * *
How can I write what has happened! My soul is shattered to its
All that I dreaded most has happened. How can I live!
Alexis has come back. He and Otto have fought.
Ah God! it has been terrible.
I stood with Otto in the meadow. I had brought him the watch,
and I gave it to him, and all my love and my life with it.
Then, as we stood, I turned and saw Alexis Alexovitch striding
towards us through the grass.
How tall and soldierly he looked! And the thought flashed
through my mind that if Otto killed him he would be lying there
a dead, inanimate thing.
"Go, Otto," I cried, "go, if you stay you will kill him."
Otto looked and saw Alexis coming. He turned one glance at me:
his face was full of infinite meaning.
Then, for my sake, he ran. How noble he looked as he ran.
Brave heart! he dared not stay and risk the outburst of his
But Alexis overtook him.
Then beside the river-bank they fought. Ah! but it was terrible
to see them fight. Is it not awful when men fight together?
I could only stand and wring my hands and look on in agony!
First, Alexis seized Otto by the waistband of his trousers and
swung him round and round in the air. I could see Otto's face
as he went round: the same mute courage was written on it as
when he turned to run. Alexis swung Otto round and round until
his waistband broke, and he was thrown into the grass.
That was the first part of the fight.
Then Alexis stood beside Otto and kicked him from behind as he
lay in the grass, and they fought like that for some time. That
was the second part of the fight. Then came the third and last
part. Alexis picked up the easel and smashed the picture over
Otto's head. It fastened itself like a collar about his neck.
Then Alexis picked Otto up with the picture round his neck and
threw him into the stream.
I could see his upturned face as he floated onwards down the
stream, through the meadow! It was full of deep resignation.
Then Alexis Alexovitch came to me and gathered me up in his arms
and carried me thus across the meadow—he is so tall and strong—
and whispered that he loved me, and that to-morrow he would shield
me from the world. He carried me thus to the house in his arms
among the grass and flowers; and there was my father, Ivan
Ivanovitch, and my mother, Katoosha Katooshavitch. And to-morrow
I am to marry Alexis. He had brought back from the inn my jewels
and my money, and he gave me again the diamond clasp that Otto had
taken from my waist.
How can I bear it? Alexis is to take me to Petersburg, and he has
bought a beautiful house in the Prospekt, and I am to live in it
with him, and we are to be rich, and I am to be presented at the
Court of Nicholas Romanoff and his wife. Ah! Is it not dreadful?
And I can only think of Otto floating down the stream with the
easel about his neck. From the little river he will float into
the Dnieper, and from the Dnieper into the Bug, and from the Bug
he will float down the Volga, and from the Volga into the Caspian
Sea. And from the Caspian Sea there is no outlet, and Otto will
float round and round it for ever.
Is it not dreadful?
VII. — Hannah of the Highlands: or, The Laird of Loch Aucherlocherty
"Sair maun ye greet, but hoot awa!
There's muckle yet, love isna' a'—
Nae more ye'll see, howe'er ye whine
The bonnie breeks of Auld Lang Syne!"
THE simple words rang out fresh and sweet upon the morning air.
It was Hannah of the Highlands. She was gathering lobsters in
the burn that ran through the glen.
The scene about her was typically Highland. Wild hills rose on
both sides of the burn to a height of seventy-five feet, covered
with a dense Highland forest that stretched a hundred yards in
either direction. At the foot of the burn a beautiful Scotch
loch lay in the hollow of the hills. Beyond it again, through
the gap of the hills, was the sea. Through the Glen, and close
beside the burn where Hannah stood, wound the road that rose again
to follow the cliffs along the shore.
The tourists in the Highlands will find no more beautiful spot
than the Glen of Aucherlocherty.
Nor is there any spot which can more justly claim to be historic
It was here in the glen that Bonnie Prince Charlie had lain and
hidden after the defeat of Culloden. Almost in the same spot the
great boulder still stands behind which the Bruce had laid hidden
after Bannockburn; while behind a number of lesser stones the
Covenanters had concealed themselves during the height of the
Through the Glen Montrose had passed on his fateful ride to
Killiecrankie; while at the lower end of it the rock was still
pointed out behind which William Wallace had paused to change
his breeches while flying from the wrath of Rob Roy.
Grim memories such as these gave character to the spot.
Indeed, most of the great events of Scotch history had taken
place in the Glen, while the little loch had been the scene of
some of the most stirring naval combats in the history of the
But there was little in the scene which lay so peaceful on this
April morning to recall the sanguinary history of the Glen. Its
sides at present were covered with a thick growth of gorse,
elderberry, egg-plants, and ghillie flower, while the woods about
it were loud with the voice of the throstle, the linnet, the
magpie, the jackdaw, and other song-birds of the Highlands.
It was a gloriously beautiful Scotch morning. The rain fell
softly and quietly, bringing dampness and moisture, and almost a
sense of wetness to the soft moss underfoot. Grey mists flew
hither and thither, carrying with them an invigorating rawness
that had almost a feeling of dampness.
It is the memory of such a morning that draws a tear from the eye
of Scotchmen after years of exile. The Scotch heart, reader, can
be moved to its depths by the sight of a raindrop or the sound of
a wet rag.
And meantime Hannah, the beautiful Highland girl, was singing.
The fresh young voice rose high above the rain. Even the birds
seemed to pause to listen, and as they listened to the simple
words of the Gaelic folk-song, fell off the bough with a thud
on the grass.
The Highland girl made a beautiful picture as she stood.
Her bare feet were in the burn, the rippling water of which laved
her ankles. The lobsters played about her feet, or clung
affectionately to her toes, as if loath to leave the water and be
gathered in the folds of her blue apron.
It was a scene to charm the heart of a Burne-Jones, or an Alma
Tadema, or of anybody fond of lobsters.
The girl's golden hair flowed widely behind her, gathered in a
single braid with a piece of stovepipe wire.
"Will you sell me one of your lobsters?"
Hannah looked up. There, standing in the burn a few yards above
her, was the vision of a young man.
The beautiful Highland girl gazed at him fascinated.
He seemed a higher order of being.
He carried a fishing-rod and basket in his hand. He was dressed
in a salmon-fishing costume of an English gentleman. Salmon-fishing
boots reached to his thighs, while above them he wore a
fishing-jacket fastened loosely with a fishing-belt about his waist.
He wore a small fishing-cap on his head.
There were no fish in his basket.
He drew near to the Highland girl.
Hannah knew as she looked at him that it must be Ian McWhinus, the
At sight she loved him.
"Ye're sair welcome," she said, as she handed to the young man the
finest of her lobsters.
He put it in his basket.
Then he felt in the pocket of his jacket and brought out a
"You must let me pay for it," he said.
Hannah took the sixpence and held it a moment, flushing with true
"I'll no be selling the fush for money," she said.
Something in the girl's speech went straight to the young man's
heart. He handed her half a crown. Whistling lightly, he strode
off up the side of the burn. Hannah stood gazing after him
spell-bound. She was aroused from her reverie by an angry voice
calling her name.
"Hannah, Hannah," cried the voice, "come away ben; are ye daft,
lass, that ye stand there keeking at a McWhinus?"
Then Hannah realised what she had done.
She had spoken with a McWhinus, a thing that no McShamus had done
for a hundred and fifty years. For nearly two centuries the
McShamuses and the McWhinuses, albeit both dwellers in the Glen,
had been torn asunder by one of those painful divisions by which
the life of the Scotch people is broken into fragments.
It had arisen out of a point of spiritual belief.
It had been six generations agone at a Highland banquet, in the
days when the unrestrained temper of the time gave way to wild
orgies, during which theological discussions raged with unrestrained
fury. Shamus McShamus, an embittered Calvinist, half crazed perhaps
with liquor, had maintained that damnation could be achieved only by
faith. Whimper McWhinus had held that damnation could be achieved
also by good works. Inflamed with drink, McShamus had struck
McWhinus across the temple with an oatcake and killed him. McShamus
had been brought to trial. Although defended by some of the most
skilled lawyers of Aucherlocherty, he had been acquitted. On the
very night of his acquittal, Whangus McWhinus, the son of the
murdered man, had lain in wait for Shamus McShamus, in the hollow of
the Glen road where it rises to the cliff, and had shot him through
the bagpipes. Since then the feud had raged with unquenched
bitterness for a century and a half.
With each generation the difference between the two families became
more acute. They differed on every possible point. They wore
different tartans, sat under different ministers, drank different
brands of whisky, and upheld different doctrines in regard to
To add to the feud the McWhinuses had grown rich, while the
McShamuses had become poor.
At least once in every generation a McWhinus or a McShamus had been
shot, and always at the turn of the Glen road where it rose to the
edge of the cliff. Finally, two generations gone, the McWhinuses
had been raised to sudden wealth by the discovery of a coal mine on
their land. To show their contempt for the McShamuses they had left
the Glen to live in America. The McShamuses, to show their contempt
for the McWhinuses, had remained in the Glen. The feud was kept
alive in their memory.
And now the descendant of the McWhinuses had come back, and bought
out the property of the Laird of Aucherlocherty beside the Glen.
Ian McWhinus knew nothing of the feud. Reared in another atmosphere,
the traditions of Scotland had no meaning for him. He had entirely
degenerated. To him the tartan had become only a piece of coloured
cloth. He wore a kilt as a masquerade costume for a Hallowe'en
dance, and when it rained he put on a raincoat. He was no longer
Scotch. More than that, he had married a beautiful American wife,
a talcum-powder blonde with a dough face and the exquisite rotundity
of the packing-house district of the Middle-West. Ian McWhinus was
her slave. For her sake he had bought the lobster from Hannah.
For her sake, too, he had scrutinised closely the beautiful Highland
girl, for his wife was anxious to bring back a Scotch housemaid with
her to Chicago.
And meantime Hannah, with the rapture of a new love in her heart,
followed her father, Oyster McOyster McShamus, to the cottage. Oyster
McOyster, even in advancing age, was a fine specimen of Scotch manhood.
Ninety-seven years of age, he was approaching the time when many of his
countrymen begin to show the ravages of time. But he bore himself
straight as a lath, while his tall stature and his native Highland
costume accentuated the fine outline of his form. This costume
consisted of a black velvet beetle-shell jacket, which extended from
the shoulder half-way down the back, and was continued in a short kilt
of the tartan of the McShamuses, which extended from the waist half-way
to the thigh. The costume reappeared again after an interval in the
form of rolled golf stockings, which extended half-way up to the knee,
while on his feet a pair of half shoes were buckled half-way up with a
Highland clasp. On his head half-way between the ear and the upper
superficies of the skull he wore half a Scotch cap, from which a tall
rhinoceros feather extended half-way into the air.
A pair of bagpipes were beneath his arm, from which, as he walked, he
blew those deep and plaintive sounds which have done much to imprint
upon the characters of those who hear them a melancholy and resigned
At the door of the cottage he turned and faced his daughter.
"What said Ian McWhinus to you i' the burnside?" he said fiercely.
"'Twas nae muckle," said Hannah, and she added, for the truth was
ever more to her than her father's wrath, "he gi'ed me saxpence for
"Siller!" shrieked the Highlander. "Siller from a McWhinus!"
Hannah handed him the sixpence. Oyster McOyster dashed it fiercely
on the ground, then picking it up he dashed it with full force
against the wall of the cottage. Then, seizing it again he dashed
it angrily into the pocket of his kilt.
They entered the cottage.
Hannah had never seen her father's face so dour as it looked that
Their home seemed changed.
Hannah and her mother and father sat down that night in silence to
their simple meal of oatmeal porridge and Scotch whisky. In the
evening the mother sat to her spinning. Busily she plied her work,
for it was a task of love. Her eldest born, Jamie, was away at
college at Edinburgh, preparing for the ministry. His graduation day
was approaching, and Jamie's mother was spinning him a pair of
breeches against the day. The breeches were to be a surprise.
Already they were shaping that way. Oyster McShamus sat reading the
Old Testament in silence, while Hannah looked into the peat fire and
thought of the beautiful young Laird. Only once the Highlander spoke.
"The McWhinus is back," he said, and his glance turned towards the old
flint-lock musket on the wall. That night Hannah dreamed of the feud,
of the Glen and the burn, of love, of lobsters, and of the Laird of
Loch Aucherlocherty. And when she rose in the morning there was a
wistful look in her eyes, and there came no song from her throat.
The days passed.
Each day the beautiful Highland girl saw the young Laird, though her
father knew it not.
In the mornings she would see him as he came fishing to the burn. At
times he wore his fishing-suit, at other times he had on a
knickerbocker suit of shepherd's plaid with a domino pattern
neglige shirt. For his sake the beautiful Highland girl made
herself more beautiful still. Each morning she would twine a Scotch
thistle in her hair, and pin a spray of burdock at her heart.
And at times he spoke to her. How Hannah treasured his words. Once,
catching sight of her father in the distance, he had asked her who
was the old sardine in the petticoats, and the girl had answered
gladly that it was her father, for, as a fisherman's daughter, she
was proud to have her father mistaken for a sardine.
At another time he had asked her if she was handy about the work of
the house. How Hannah's heart had beat at the question. She made up
her mind to spin him a pair of breeches like the ones now finishing
for her brother Jamie.
And every evening as the sun set Hannah would watch in secret from
the window of the cottage waiting for the young Laird to come past in
his motor-car, down the Glen road to the sea. Always he would
slacken the car at the sharp turn at the top of the cliff. For six
generations no McWhinus had passed that spot after nightfall with his
life. But Ian McWhinus knew nothing of the feud.
At times Oyster McOyster would see him pass, and standing at the
roadside would call down Gaelic curses on his head.
Once, when her father was from home, Hannah had stood on the
roadside, and Ian had stopped the machine and had taken her with him
in the car for a ride. Hannah, her heart beating with delight, had
listened to him as he explained how the car was worked. Had her
father know that she had sat thus beside a McWhinus, he would have
slain her where she sat.
The tragedy of Hannah's love ran swiftly to its close.
Each day she met the young Laird at the burn.
Each day she gave him the finest of her lobsters. She wore a new
thistle every day.
And every night, in secret as her mother slept, she span a new
concentric section of his breeches.
And the young Laird, when he went home, said to the talcum blonde,
that the Highland fisher-girl was not half such a damn fool as she
Then came the fateful afternoon.
He stood beside her at the burn.
"Hannah," he said, as he bent towards her, "I want to take you to
Hannah had fallen fainting in his arms.
Ian propped her against a tree, and went home.
An hour later, when Hannah entered her home, her father was standing
behind the fireplace. He was staring fixedly into the fire, with the
flint-lock musket in his hands. There was the old dour look of the
feud upon his face, and there were muttered curses on his lips. His
wife Ellen clung to his arm and vainly sought to quiet him.
"Curse him," he muttered, "I'll e'en kill him the night as he passes
in his deil machine."
Then Hannah knew that Oyster McShamus had seen her with Ian beside
the burn. She turned and fled from the house. Straight up the road
she ran across towards the manor-house of Aucherlocherty to warn
Ian. To save him from her father's wrath, that was her one thought.
Night gathered about the Highland girl as she ran. The rain clouds
and the gathering storm hung low with fitful lightning overhead.
She still ran on. About her was the rolling of the thunder and the
angry roaring of the swollen burn. Then the storm broke upon the
darkness with all the fury of the Highland gale. They sky was rent
with the fierce play of the elements. Yet on Hannah ran. Again and
again the lightning hit her, but she ran on still. She fell over
the stones, tripped and stumbled in the ruts, butted into the
hedges, cannoned off against the stone walls. But she never
stopped. She went quicker and quicker. The storm was awful.
Lightning, fire, flame, and thunder were all about her. Trees were
falling, hurdles were flying, birds were being struck by lightning.
Dogs, sheep and even cattle were hurled through the air.
She reached the manor-house, and stood a moment at the door. The
storm had lulled, the rain ceased, and for a brief moment there was
quiet. The light was streaming from the windows of the house.
Hannah paused. Suddenly her heart misgave her. Her quick ear had
caught the sound of a woman's voice within. She approached the
window and looked in. Then, as if rooted to the spot, the Highland
girl gazed and listened at the pane.
Ian lay upon a sofa. The neglige dressing-gown that he wore
enhanced the pallid beauty of his face. Beside him sat the
talcum-powder blonde. She was feeding him with chocolates. Hannah
understood. Ian had trifled with her love. He had bought her
lobsters to win her heart, only to cast it aside.
Hannah turned from the window. She plucked the thistle from her
throat and flung it on the ground. Then, as she turned her eye,
she caught sight of the motor standing in the shed.
"The deil machine!" she muttered, while the wild light of Highland
frenzy gathered in her eye; then, as she rushed to it and tore the
tarpaulin from off it, "Ye'll no be wanting of a mark the night,
Oyster McShamus," she cried.
A moment later, the motor, with Hannah at the wheel, was
thundering down the road to the Glen. The power was on to the
full, and the demented girl clung tight to the steering-gear as
the machine rocked and thundered down the descent. The storm was
raging again, and the thunder mingled with the roar of the machine
as it coursed madly towards the sea. The great eye of the motor
blazed in front. The lurid light of it flashed a second on the
trees and the burn as it passed, and flashed blinding on the eyes
of Oyster as he stood erect on the cliff-side below, musket in
hand, and faced the blazing apparition that charged upon him with
the old Highland blood surging in his veins.
It was all over in a moment—a blinding flash of lightning, the
report of a musket, a great peal of thunder, and the motor bearing
the devoted girl hurled headlong over the cliff.
They found her there in the morning. She lay on her side
motionless, half buried in the sand, upturned towards the blue
Highland sky, serene now after the passing of the storm. Quiet
and still she lay. The sea-birds seemed to pause in their flight
to look down on her. The little group of Scotch people that had
gathered stood and gazed at her with reverential awe. They made
no attempt to put her together. It would have been useless. Her
gasoline tubes were twisted and bent, her tank burst, her
sprockets broken from their sides, and her steering-gear an utter
wreck. The motor would never run again.
After a time they roused themselves from their grief and looked
about for Hannah. They found her. She lay among the sand and
seaweed, her fair hair soaked in gasoline. Then they looked
about for Oyster McShamus. Him, too, they found, lying half
buried in the grass and soaked in whisky. Then they looked about
for Ellen. They found her lying across the door of the cottage
half buried in Jamie's breeches.
Then they gathered them up. Life was not extinct. They chafed
their hands. They rubbed their feet. They put hot bricks upon
their stomachs. They poured hot whisky down their throats. That
brought them to.
It always does.
They all lived.
But the feud was done for. That was the end of it. Hannah had
put it to the bad.
VIII. — Soaked in Seaweed: or, Upset in the Ocean
(An Old-fashioned Sea Story.)
IT was in August in 1867 that I stepped on board the deck of the
Saucy Sally, lying in dock at Gravesend, to fill the berth of
Let me first say a word about myself.
I was a tall, handsome young fellow, squarely and powerfully built,
bronzed by the sun and the moon (and even copper-coloured in spots
from the effect of the stars), and with a face in which honesty,
intelligence, and exceptional brain power were combined with
Christianity, simplicity, and modesty.
As I stepped on the deck I could not help a slight feeling of triumph,
as I caught sight of my sailor-like features reflected in a tar-barrel
that stood beside the mast, while a little later I could scarcely
repress a sense of gratification as I noticed them reflected again in
a bucket of bilge water.
"Welcome on board, Mr. Blowhard," called out Captain Bilge, stepping
out of the binnacle and shaking hands across the taffrail.
I saw before me a fine sailor-like man of from thirty to sixty,
clean-shaven, except for an enormous pair of whiskers, a heavy beard,
and a thick moustache, powerful in build, and carrying his beam well
aft, in a pair of broad duck trousers across the back of which there
would have been room to write a history of the British Navy.
Beside him were the first and third mates, both of them being quiet
men of poor stature, who looked at Captain Bilge with what seemed to
me an apprehensive expression in their eyes.
The vessel was on the eve of departure. Her deck presented that scene
of bustle and alacrity dear to the sailor's heart. Men were busy
nailing up the masts, hanging the bowsprit over the side, varnishing
the lee-scuppers and pouring hot tar down the companion-way.
Captain Bilge, with a megaphone to his lips, kept calling out to the
men in his rough sailor fashion:
"Now, then, don't over-exert yourselves, gentlemen. Remember, please,
that we have plenty of time. Keep out of the sun as much as you can.
Step carefully in the rigging there, Jones; I fear it's just a little
high for you. Tut, tut, Williams, don't get yourself so dirty with
that tar, you won't look fit to be seen."
I stood leaning over the gaff of the mainsail and thinking—yes,
thinking, dear reader, of my mother. I hope that you will think none
the less of me for that. Whenever things look dark, I lean up against
something and think of mother. If they get positively black, I stand
on one leg and think of father. After that I can face anything.
Did I think, too, of another, younger than mother and fairer than
father? Yes, I did. "Bear up, darling," I had whispered as she
nestled her head beneath my oilskins and kicked out backward with
one heel in the agony of her girlish grief, "in five years the voyage
will be over, and after three more like it, I shall come back with
money enough to buy a second-hand fishing-net and settle down on
Meantime the ship's preparations were complete. The masts were all
in position, the sails nailed up, and men with axes were busily
chopping away the gangway.
"All ready?" called the Captain.
"Aye, aye, sir."
"Then hoist the anchor in board and send a man down with the key to
open the bar."
Opening the bar! the last sad rite of departure. How often in my
voyages have I seen it; the little group of men soon to be exiled
from their home, standing about with saddened faces, waiting to see
the man with the key open the bar—held there by some strange
* * * * *
Next morning with a fair wind astern we had buzzed around the corner
of England and were running down the Channel.
I know no finer sight, for those who have never seen it, than the
English Channel. It is the highway of the world. Ships of all
nations are passing up and down, Dutch, Scotch, Venezuelan, and
Chinese junks rush to and fro. Warships, motor yachts, icebergs,
and lumber rafts are everywhere. If I add to this fact that so
thick a fog hangs over it that it is entirely hidden from sight,
my readers can form some idea of the majesty of the scene.
* * * * *
We had now been three days at sea. My first sea-sickness was
wearing off, and I thought less of father.
On the third morning Captain Bilge descended to my cabin.
"Mr. Blowhard," he said, "I must ask you to stand double watches."
"What is the matter?" I inquired.
"The two other mates have fallen overboard," he said uneasily, and
avoiding my eye.
I contented myself with saying "Very good, sir," but I could not help
thinking it a trifle odd that both the mates should have fallen
overboard in the same night.
Surely there was some mystery in this.
Two mornings later the Captain appeared at the breakfast-table with
the same shifting and uneasy look in his eye.
"Anything wrong, sir?" I asked.
"Yes," he answered, trying to appear at ease and twisting a fried
egg to and fro between his fingers with such nervous force as almost
to break it in two—"I regret to say that we have lost the bosun."
"The bosun!" I cried.
"Yes," said Captain Bilge more quietly, "he is overboard. I blame
myself for it, partly. It was early this morning. I was holding him
up in my arms to look at an iceberg and, quite accidentally I assure
you—I dropped him overboard."
"Captain Bilge," I asked, "have you taken any steps to recover him?"
"Not as yet," he replied uneasily.
I looked at him fixedly, but said nothing.
Ten days passed.
The mystery thickened. On Thursday two men of the starboard watch
were reported missing. On Friday the carpenter's assistant
disappeared. On the night of Saturday a circumstance occurred which,
slight as it was, gave me some clue as to what was happening.
As I stood at the wheel about midnight, I saw the Captain approach in
the darkness carrying the cabin-boy by the hind leg. The lad was a
bright little fellow, whose merry disposition had already endeared
him to me, and I watched with some interest to see what the Captain
would do to him. Arrived at the stern of the vessel, Captain Bilge
looked cautiously around a moment and then dropped the boy into the
sea. For a brief instant the lad's head appeared in the phosphorus
of the waves. The Captain threw a boot at him, sighed deeply, and
Here then was the key to the mystery! The Captain was throwing the
crew overboard. Next morning we met at breakfast as usual.
"Poor little Williams has fallen overboard," said the Captain,
seizing a strip of ship's bacon and tearing at it with his teeth as
if he almost meant to eat it.
"Captain," I said, greatly excited, stabbing at a ship's loaf in my
agitation with such ferocity as almost to drive my knife into it—
"You threw that boy overboard!"
"I did," said Captain Bilge, grown suddenly quiet, "I threw them all
over and intend to throw the rest. Listen, Blowhard, you are young,
ambitious, and trustworthy. I will confide in you."
Perfectly calm now, he stepped to a locker, rummaged in it a moment,
and drew out a faded piece of yellow parchment, which he spread on
the table. It was a map or chart. In the centre of it was a circle.
In the middle of the circle was a small dot and a letter T, while at
one side of the map was a letter N, and against it on the other side
a letter S.
"What is this?" I asked.
"Can you not guess?" queried Captain Bilge. "It is a desert island."
"Ah!" I rejoined with a sudden flash of intuition, "and N is for
North and S is for South."
"Blowhard," said the Captain, striking the table with such force as
to cause a loaf of ship's bread to bounce up and down three or four
times, "you've struck it. That part of it had not yet occurred
"And the letter T?" I asked.
"The treasure, the buried treasure," said the Captain, and turning
the map over he read from the back of it—"The point T indicates
the spot where the treasure is buried under the sand; it consists of
half a million Spanish dollars, and is buried in a brown leather
"And where is the island?" I inquired, mad with excitement.
"That I do not know," said the Captain. "I intend to sail up and
down the parallels of latitude until I find it."
"Meantime, the first thing to do is to reduce the number of the crew
so as to have fewer hands to divide among. Come, come," he added in
a burst of frankness which made me love the man in spite of his
shortcomings, "will you join me in this? We'll throw them all over,
keeping the cook to the last, dig up the treasure, and be rich for
the rest of our lives."
Reader, do you blame me if I said yes? I was young, ardent,
ambitious, full of bright hopes and boyish enthusiasm.
"Captain Bilge," I said, putting my hand in his, "I am yours."
"Good," he said, "now go forward to the forecastle and get an idea
what the men are thinking."
I went forward to the men's quarters—a plain room in the front of
the ship, with only a rough carpet on the floor, a few simple
arm-chairs, writing-desks, spittoons of a plain pattern, and small
brass beds with blue-and-green screens. It was Sunday morning, and
the men were mostly sitting about in their dressing-gowns.
They rose as I entered and curtseyed.
"Sir," said Tompkins, the bosun's mate, "I think it my duty to tell
you that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction among the men."
Several of the men nodded.
"They don't like the way the men keep going overboard," he continued,
his voice rising to a tone of uncontrolled passion. "It is
positively absurd, sir, and if you will allow me to say so, the men
are far from pleased."
"Tompkins," I said sternly, "you must understand that my position
will not allow me to listen to mutinous language of this sort."
I returned to the Captain. "I think the men mean mutiny," I said.
"Good," said Captain Bilge, rubbing his hands, "that will get rid of
a lot of them, and of course," he added musingly, looking out of the
broad old-fashioned port-hole at the stern of the cabin, at the
heaving waves of the South Atlantic, "I am expecting pirates at any
time, and that will take out quite a few of them. However"—and here
he pressed the bell for a cabin-boy—"kindly ask Mr. Tompkins to step
"Tompkins," said the Captain as the bosun's mate entered, "be good
enough to stand on the locker and stick your head through the stern
port-hole, and tell me what you think of the weather."
"Aye, aye, sir," replied the tar with a simplicity which caused us
to exchange a quiet smile.
Tompkins stood on the locker and put his head and shoulders out of
Taking a leg each we pushed him through. We heard him plump into
"Tompkins was easy," said Captain Bilge. "Excuse me as I enter his
death in the log."
"Yes," he continued presently, "it will be a great help if they
mutiny. I suppose they will, sooner or later. It's customary to
do so. But I shall take no step to precipitate it until we have
first fallen in with pirates. I am expecting them in these latitudes
at any time. Meantime, Mr. Blowhard," he said, rising, "if you can
continue to drop overboard one or two more each week, I shall feel
Three days later we rounded the Cape of Good Hope and entered upon the
inky waters of the Indian Ocean. Our course lay now in zigzags and,
the weather being favourable, we sailed up and down at a furious rate
over a sea as calm as glass.
On the fourth day a pirate ship appeared. Reader, I do not know if
you have ever seen a pirate ship. The sight was one to appal the
stoutest heart. The entire ship was painted black, a black flag hung
at the masthead, the sails were black, and on the deck people dressed
all in black walked up and down arm-in-arm. The words "Pirate Ship"
were painted in white letters on the bow. At the sight of it our crew
were visibly cowed. It was a spectacle that would have cowed a dog.
The two ships were brought side by side. They were then lashed
tightly together with bag string and binder twine, and a gang plank
laid between them. In a moment the pirates swarmed upon our deck,
rolling their eyes, gnashing their teeth and filing their nails.
Then the fight began. It lasted two hours—with fifteen minutes off
for lunch. It was awful. The men grappled with one another, kicked
one another from behind, slapped one another across the face, and in
many cases completely lost their temper and tried to bite one another.
I noticed one gigantic fellow brandishing a knotted towel, and
striking right and left among our men, until Captain Bilge rushed at
him and struck him flat across the mouth with a banana skin.
At the end of two hours, by mutual consent, the fight was declared a
draw. The points standing at sixty-one and a half against sixty-two.
The ships were unlashed, and with three cheers from each crew, were
headed on their way.
"Now, then," said the Captain to me aside, "let us see how many of
the crew are sufficiently exhausted to be thrown overboard."
He went below. In a few minutes he re-appeared, his face deadly pale.
"Blowhard," he said, "the ship is sinking. One of the pirates (sheer
accident, of course, I blame no one) has kicked a hole in the side.
Let us sound the well."
We put our ear to the ship's well. It sounded like water.
The men were put to the pumps and worked with the frenzied effort
which only those who have been drowned in a sinking ship can
At six p.m. the well marked one half an inch of water, at nightfall
three-quarters of an inch, and at daybreak, after a night of
unremitting toil, seven-eighths of an inch.
By noon of the next day the water had risen to fifteen-sixteenths
of an inch, and on the next night the sounding showed thirty-one
thirty-seconds of an inch of water in the hold. The situation was
desperate. At this rate of increase few, if any, could tell where
it would rise to in a few days.
That night the Captain called me to his cabin. He had a book of
mathematical tables in front of him, and great sheets of vulgar
fractions littered the floor on all sides.
"The ship is bound to sink," he said, "in fact, Blowhard, she is
sinking. I can prove it. It may be six months or it may take
years, but if she goes on like this, sink she must. There is
nothing for it but to abandon her."
That night, in the dead of darkness, while the crew were busy at the
pumps, the Captain and I built a raft.
Unobserved we cut down the masts, chopped them into suitable lengths,
laid them crosswise in a pile and lashed them tightly together with
Hastily we threw on board a couple of boxes of food and bottles of
drinking fluid, a sextant, a cronometer, a gas-meter, a bicycle pump
and a few other scientific instruments. Then taking advantage of a
roll in the motion of the ship, we launched the raft, lowered
ourselves upon a line, and under cover of the heavy dark of a
tropical night, we paddled away from the doomed vessel.
The break of day found us a tiny speck on the Indian Ocean. We
looked about as big as this (.).
In the morning, after dressing, and shaving as best we could, we
opened our box of food and drink.
Then came the awful horror of our situation.
One by one the Captain took from the box the square blue tins of
canned beef which it contained. We counted fifty-two in all.
Anxiously and with drawn faces we watched until the last can was
lifted from the box. A single thought was in our minds. When the
end came the Captain stood up on the raft with wild eyes staring
at the sky.
"The can-opener!" he shrieked, "just Heaven, the can-opener." He
Meantime, with trembling hands, I opened the box of bottles. It
contained lager beer bottles, each with a patent tin top. One by
one I took them out. There were fifty-two in all. As I withdrew
the last one and saw the empty box before me, I shroke out—"The
thing! the thing! oh, merciful Heaven! The thing you open them
I fell prostrate upon the Captain.
We awoke to find ourselves still a mere speck upon the ocean.
We felt even smaller than before.
Over us was the burnished copper sky of the tropics. The heavy,
leaden sea lapped the sides of the raft. All about us was a
litter of corn beef cans and lager beer bottles. Our sufferings
in the ensuing days were indescribable. We beat and thumped at
the cans with our fists. Even at the risk of spoiling the tins
for ever we hammered them fiercely against the raft. We stamped
on them, bit at them and swore at them. We pulled and clawed at
the bottles with our hands, and chipped and knocked them against
the cans, regardless even of breaking the glass and ruining the
It was futile.
Then day after day we sat in moody silence, gnawed with hunger, with
nothing to read, nothing to smoke, and practically nothing to talk
On the tenth day the Captain broke silence.
"Get ready the lots, Blowhard," he said. "It's got to come to that."
"Yes," I answered drearily, "we're getting thinner every day."
Then, with the awful prospect of cannibalism before us, we drew lots.
I prepared the lots and held them to the Captain. He drew the longer
"Which does that mean," he asked, trembling between hope and despair.
"Do I win?"
"No, Bilge," I said sadly, "you lose."
* * * * *
But I mustn't dwell on the days that followed—the long quiet days of
lazy dreaming on the raft, during which I slowly built up my strength,
which had been shattered by privation. They were days, dear reader,
of deep and quiet peace, and yet I cannot recall them without shedding
a tear for the brave man who made them what they were.
It was on the fifth day after that I was awakened from a sound sleep
by the bumping of the raft against the shore. I had eaten perhaps
overheartily, and had not observed the vicinity of land.
Before me was an island, the circular shape of which, with its low,
sandy shore, recalled at once its identity.
"The treasure island," I cried, "at last I am rewarded for all my
In a fever of haste I rushed to the centre of the island. What was
the sight that confronted me? A great hollow scooped in the sand, an
empty dress-suit case lying beside it, and on a ship's plank driven
deep into the sand, the legend, "Saucy Sally, October, 1867." So!
the miscreants had made good the vessel, headed it for the island of
whose existence they must have learned from the chart we so
carelessly left upon the cabin table, and had plundered poor Bilge
and me of our well-earned treasure!
Sick with the sense of human ingratitude I sank upon the sand.
The island became my home.
There I eked out a miserable existence, feeding on sand and gravel
and dressing myself in cactus plants. Years passed. Eating sand and
mud slowly undermined my robust constitution. I fell ill. I died.
I buried myself.
Would that others who write sea stories would do as much.
IX. — Caroline's Christmas: or, The Inexplicable Infant
IT was Xmas—Xmas with its mantle of white snow, scintillating from
a thousand diamond points, Xmas with its good cheer, its peace on
earth—Xmas with its feasting and merriment, Xmas with its—well,
anyway, it was Xmas.
Or no, that's a slight slip; it wasn't exactly Xmas, it was
Xmas Eve, Xmas Eve with its mantle of white snow lying beneath
the calm moonlight—and, in fact, with practically the above list
of accompanying circumstances with a few obvious emendations.
Yes, it was Xmas Eve.
And more than that!
Listen to where it was Xmas.
It was Xmas Eve on the Old Homestead. Reader, do you know, by sight,
the Old Homestead? In the pauses of your work at your city desk,
where you have grown rich and avaricious, does it never rise before
your mind's eye, the quiet old homestead that knew you as a boy
before your greed of gold tore you away from it? The Old Homestead
that stands beside the road just on the rise of the hill, with its
dark spruce trees wrapped in snow, the snug barns and the straw
stacks behind it; while from its windows there streams a shaft of
light from a coal-oil lamp, about as thick as a slate pencil that
you can see four miles away, from the other side of the cedar swamp
in the hollow. Don't talk to me of your modern searchlights and
your incandescent arcs, beside that gleam of light from the coal-oil
lamp in the farmhouse window. It will shine clear to the heart
across thirty years of distance. Do you not turn, I say, sometimes,
reader, from the roar and hustle of the city with its ill-gotten
wealth and its godless creed of mammon, to think of the quiet
homestead under the brow of the hill? You don't! Well, you skunk!
It was Xmas Eve.
The light shone from the windows of the homestead farm. The light
of the log fire rose and flickered and mingled its red glare on the
windows with the calm yellow of the lamplight.
John Enderby and his wife sat in the kitchen room of the farmstead.
Do you know it, reader, the room called the kitchen?—with the open
fire on its old brick hearth, and the cook stove in the corner. It
is the room of the farm where people cook and eat and live. It is
the living-room. The only other room beside the bedroom is the small
room in front, chill-cold in winter, with an organ in it for playing
"Rock of Ages" on, when company came. But this room is only used for
music and funerals. The real room of the old farm is the kitchen.
Does it not rise up before you, reader? It doesn't? Well, you darn
At any rate there sat old John Enderby beside the plain deal table,
his head bowed upon his hands, his grizzled face with its unshorn
stubble stricken down with the lines of devastating trouble. From
time to time he rose and cast a fresh stick of tamarack into the fire
with a savage thud that sent a shower of sparks up the chimney.
Across the fireplace sat his wife Anna on a straight-backed chair,
looking into the fire with the mute resignation of her sex.
What was wrong with them anyway? Ah, reader, can you ask? Do you
know or remember so little of the life of the old homestead? When
I have said that it is the Old Homestead and Xmas Eve, and that the
farmer is in great trouble and throwing tamarack at the fire, surely
you ought to guess!
The Old Homestead was mortgaged! Ten years ago, reckless with debt,
crazed with remorse, mad with despair and persecuted with rheumatism,
John Enderby had mortgaged his farmstead for twenty-four dollars and
To-night the mortgage fell due, to-night at midnight, Xmas night.
Such is the way in which mortgages of this kind are always drawn.
Yes, sir, it was drawn with such diabolical skill that on this night
of all nights the mortgage would be foreclosed. At midnight the men
would come with hammer and nails and foreclose it, nail it up tight.
So the afflicted couple sat.
Anna, with the patient resignation of her sex, sat silent or at times
endeavoured to read. She had taken down from the little wall-shelf
Bunyan's Holy Living and Holy Dying. She tried to read it. She
could not. Then she had taken Dante's Inferno. She could not read
it. Then she had selected Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. But she
could not read it either. Lastly, she had taken the Farmer's Almanac
for 1911. The books lay littered about her as she sat in patient despair.
John Enderby showed all the passion of an uncontrolled nature. At times
he would reach out for the crock of buttermilk that stood beside him and
drained a draught of the maddening liquid, till his brain glowed like
the coals of the tamarack fire before him.
"John," pleaded Anna, "leave alone the buttermilk. It only maddens you.
No good ever came of that."
"Aye, lass," said the farmer, with a bitter laugh, as he buried his head
again in the crock, "what care I if it maddens me."
"Ah, John, you'd better be employed in reading the Good Book than in
your wild courses. Here take it, father, and read it"—and she handed
to him the well-worn black volume from the shelf. Enderby paused a
moment and held the volume in his hand. He and his wife had known
nothing of religious teaching in the public schools of their day, but
the first-class non-sectarian education that the farmer had received
had stood him in good stead.
"Take the book," she said. "Read, John, in this hour of affliction;
it brings comfort."
The farmer took from her hand the well-worn copy of Euclid's
Elements, and laying aside his hat with reverence, he read aloud:
"The angles at the base of an isoceles triangle are equal, and
whosoever shall produce the sides, lo, the same also shall be equal
each unto each."
The farmer put the book aside.
"It's no use, Anna. I can't read the good words to-night."
He rose, staggered to the crock of buttermilk, and before his
wife could stay his hand, drained it to the last drop.
Then he sank heavily to his chair.
"Let them foreclose it, if they will," he said; "I am past caring."
The woman looked sadly into the fire.
Ah, if only her son Henry had been here. Henry, who had left them
three years agone, and whose bright letters still brought from time
to time the gleam of hope to the stricken farmhouse.
Henry was in Sing Sing. His letters brought news to his mother of
his steady success; first in the baseball nine of the prison, a
favourite with his wardens and the chaplain, the best bridge player
of the corridor. Henry was pushing his way to the front with the
old-time spirit of the Enderbys.
His mother had hoped that he might have been with her at Xmas,
but Henry had written that it was practically impossible for him
to leave Sing Sing. He could not see his way out. The authorities
were arranging a dance and sleighing party for the Xmas celebration.
He had some hope, he said, of slipping away unnoticed, but his doing
so might excite attention.
Of the trouble at home Anna had told her son nothing.
No, Henry could not come. There was no help there. And William,
the other son, ten years older than Henry. Alas, William had gone
forth from the homestead to fight his way in the great city!
"Mother," he had said, "when I make a million dollars I'll come
home. Till then good-bye," and he had gone.
How Anna's heart had beat for him. Would he make that million
dollars? Would she ever live to see it? And as the years passed
she and John had often sat in the evenings picturing William at
home again, bringing with him a million dollars, or picturing the
million dollars sent by express with love. But the years had
passed. William came not. He did not come. The great city had
swallowed him up as it has many another lad from the old homestead.
Anna started from her musing—
What was that at the door? The sound of a soft and timid rapping,
and through the glass of the door-pane, a face, a woman's face
looking into the fire-lit room with pleading eyes. What was it
she bore in her arms, the little bundle that she held tight to her
breast to shield it from the falling snow? Can you guess, reader?
Try three guesses and see. Right you are. That's what it was.
The farmer's wife went hastily to the door.
"Lord's mercy!" she cried, "what are you doing out on such a night?
Come in, child, to the fire!"
The woman entered, carrying the little bundle with her, and looking
with wide eyes (they were at least an inch and a half across) at
Enderby and his wife. Anna could see that there was no wedding-ring
on her hand.
"Your name?" said the farmer's wife.
"My name is Caroline," the girl whispered. The rest was lost in
the low tones of her voice. "I want shelter," she paused, "I want
you to take the child."
Anna took the baby and laid it carefully on the top shelf of the
cupboard, then she hastened to bring a glass of water and a
dough-nut, and set it before the half-frozen girl.
"Eat," she said, "and warm yourself."
John rose from his seat.
"I'll have no child of that sort here," he said.
"John, John," pleaded Anna, "remember what the Good Book says:
'Things which are equal to the same thing are equal to one another!'"
John sank back in his chair.
And why had Caroline no wedding-ring? Ah, reader, can you not
guess. Well, you can't. It wasn't what you think at all; so there.
Caroline had no wedding-ring because she had thrown it away in
bitterness, as she tramped the streets of the great city. "Why,"
she cried, "should the wife of a man in the penitentiary wear a ring."
Then she had gone forth with the child from what had been her home.
It was the old sad story.
She had taken the baby and laid it tenderly, gently on a seat in the
park. Then she walked rapidly away. A few minutes after a man had
chased after Caroline with the little bundle in his arms. "I beg
your pardon," he said, panting, "I think you left your baby in the
park." Caroline thanked him.
Next she took the baby to the Grand Central Waiting-room, kissed it
tenderly, and laid it on a shelf behind the lunch-counter.
A few minutes an official, beaming with satisfaction, had brought
it back to her.
"Yours, I think, madame," he said, as he handed it to her. Caroline
Then she had left it at the desk of the Waldorf Astoria, and at the
ticket-office of the subway.
It always came back.
Once or twice she took it to the Brooklyn Bridge and threw it into
the river, but perhaps something in the way it fell through the air
touched the mother's heart and smote her, and she had descended to
the river and fished it out.
Then Caroline had taken the child to the country. At first she
thought to leave it on the wayside and she had put it down in the
snow, and standing a little distance off had thrown mullein stalks
at it, but something in the way the little bundle lay covered in
the snow appealed to the mother's heart.
She picked it up and went on. "Somewhere," she murmured, "I shall
find a door of kindness open to it." Soon after she had staggered
into the homestead.
Anna, with true woman's kindness, asked no questions. She put the
baby carefully away in a trunk, saw Caroline safely to bed in the
best room, and returned to her seat by the fire.
The old clock struck twenty minutes past eight.
Again a knock sounded at the door.
There entered the familiar figure of the village lawyer. His
astrachan coat of yellow dogskin, his celluloid collar, and boots
which reached no higher than the ankle, contrasted with the rude
surroundings of the little room.
"Enderby," he said, "can you pay?"
"Lawyer Perkins," said the farmer, "give me time and I will; so help
me, give me five years more and I'll clear this debt to the last cent."
"John," said the lawyer, touched in spite of his rough (dogskin)
exterior, "I couldn't, if I would. These things are not what they
were. It's a big New York corporation, Pinchem & Company, that makes
these loans now, and they take their money on the day, or they sell you
up. I can't help it. So there's your notice, John, and I am sorry!
No, I'll take no buttermilk, I must keep a clear head to work," and
with that he hurried out into the snow again.
John sat brooding in his chair.
The fire flickered down.
The old clock struck half-past eight, then it half struck a quarter to
nine, then slowly it struck striking.
Presently Enderby rose, picked a lantern from its hook, "Mortgage or
no mortgage," he said, "I must see to the stock."
He passed out of the house, and standing in the yard, looked over the
snow to the cedar swamp beyond with the snow winding through it, far
in the distance the lights of the village far away.
He thought of the forty years he had spent here on the homestead—the
rude, pioneer days—the house he had built for himself, with its
plain furniture, the old-fashioned spinning-wheel on which Anna had
spun his trousers, the wooden telephone and the rude skidway on which
he ate his meals.
He looked out over the swamp and sighed.
Down in the swamp, two miles away, could he have but seen it, there
moved a sleigh, and in it a man dressed in a sealskin coat and silk
hat, whose face beamed in the moonlight as he turned to and fro and
stared at each object by the roadside as at an old familiar scene.
Round his waist was a belt containing a million dollars in gold coin,
and as he halted his horse in an opening of the road he unstrapped
the belt and counted the coins.
Beside him there crouched in the bushes at the dark edge of the swamp
road, with eyes that watched every glitter of the coins, and a hand
that grasped a heavy cudgel of blackthorn, a man whose close-cropped
hair and hard lined face belonged nowhere but within the walls of
When the sleigh started again the man in the bushes followed doggedly
in its track.
Meanwhile John Enderby had made the rounds of his outbuildings. He
bedded the fat cattle that blinked in the flashing light of the
lantern. He stood a moment among his hogs, and, farmer as he was,
forgot his troubles a moment to speak to each, calling them by name.
It smote him to think how at times he had been tempted to sell one of
the hogs, or even to sell the cattle to clear the mortgage off the
place. Thank God, however, he had put that temptation behind him.
As he reached the house a sleigh was standing on the roadway. Anna
met him at the door. "John," she said, "there was a stranger came
while you were in the barn, and wanted a lodging for the night; a
city man, I reckon, by his clothes. I hated to refuse him, and I
put him in Willie's room. We'll never want it again, and he's gone
"Ay, we can't refuse."
John Enderby took out the horse to the barn, and then returned to
his vigil with Anna beside the fire.
The fumes of the buttermilk had died out of his brain. He was
thinking, as he sat there, of midnight and what it would bring.
In the room above, the man in the sealskin coat had thrown himself
down, clothes and all, upon the bed, tired with his drive.
"How it all comes back to me," he muttered as he fell asleep, "the
same old room, nothing changed—except them—how worn they look,"
and a tear started to his eyes. He thought of his leaving his home
fifteen years ago, of his struggle in the great city, of the great
idea he had conceived of making money, and of the Farm Investment
Company he had instituted—the simple system of applying the
crushing power of capital to exact the uttermost penny from the
farm loans. And now here he was back again, true to his word, with
a million dollars in his belt. "To-morrow," he had murmured, "I
will tell them. It will be Xmas." Then William—yes, reader, it
was William (see line 503 above) had fallen asleep.
The hours passed, and kept passing.
It was 11.30.
Then suddenly Anna started from her place.
"Henry!" she cried as the door opened and a man entered. He
advanced gladly to meet her, and in a moment mother and son were
folded in a close embrace. It was Henry, the man from Sing Sing.
True to his word, he had slipped away unostentatiously at the
height of the festivities.
"Alas, Henry," said the mother after the warmth of the first
greetings had passed, "you come at an unlucky hour." They told
him of the mortgage on the farm and the ruin of his home.
"Yes," said Anna, "not even a bed to offer you," and she spoke of
the strangers who had arrived; of the stricken woman and the child,
and the rich man in the sealskin coat who had asked for a night's
Henry listened intently while they told him of the man, and a
sudden light of intelligence flashed into his eye.
"By Heaven, father, I have it!" he cried. Then, dropping his
voice, he said, "Speak low, father. This man upstairs, he had a
sealskin coat and silk hat?"
"Yes," said the father.
"Father," said Henry, "I saw a man sitting in a sleigh in the
cedar swamp. He had money in his hand, and he counted it, and
chuckled,—five dollar gold pieces—in all, 1,125,465 dollars
and a quarter."
The father and son looked at one another.
"I see your idea," said Enderby sternly.
"We'll choke him," said Henry.
"Or club him," said the farmer, "and pay the mortgage."
Anna looked from one to the other, joy and hope struggling with
the sorrow in her face. "Henry, my Henry," she said proudly,
"I knew he would find a way."
"Come on," said Henry; "bring the lamp, mother, take the club,
father," and gaily, but with hushed voices, the three stole up
The stranger lay sunk in sleep. The back of his head was turned
to them as they came in.
"Now, mother," said the farmer firmly, "hold the lamp a little
nearer; just behind the ear, I think, Henry."
"No," said Henry, rolling back his sleeve and speaking with the
quick authority that sat well upon him, "across the jaw, father,
it's quicker and neater."
"Well, well," said the farmer, smiling proudly, "have your own
way, lad, you know best."
Henry raised the club.
But as he did so—stay, what was that? Far away behind the
cedar swamp the deep booming of the bell of the village church
began to strike out midnight. One, two, three, its tones came
clear across the crisp air. Almost at the same moment the clock
below began with deep strokes to mark the midnight hour; from
the farmyard chicken coop a rooster began to crow twelve times,
while the loud lowing of the cattle and the soft cooing of the
hogs seemed to usher in the morning of Christmas with its
message of peace and goodwill.
The club fell from Henry's hand and rattled on the floor.
The sleeper woke, and sat up.
"Father! Mother!" he cried.
"My son, my son," sobbed the father, "we had guessed it was you.
We had come to wake you."
"Yes, it is I," said William, smiling to his parents, "and I
have brought the million dollars. Here it is," and with that he
unstrapped the belt from his waist and laid a million dollars on
"Thank Heaven!" cried Anna, "our troubles are at an end. This
money will help clear the mortgage—and the greed of Pinchem &
Co. cannot harm us now."
"The farm was mortgaged!" said William, aghast.
"Ay," said the farmer, "mortgaged to men who have no conscience,
whose greedy hand has nearly brought us to the grave. See how
she has aged, my boy," and he pointed to Anna.
"Father," said William, in deep tones of contrition, "I am
Pinchem & Co. Heaven help me! I see it now. I see at what
expense of suffering my fortune was made. I will restore it all,
these million dollars, to those I have wronged."
"No," said his mother softly. "You repent, dear son, with true
Christian repentance. That is enough. You may keep the money.
We will look upon it as a trust, a sacred trust, and every time
we spend a dollar of it on ourselves we will think of it as a
"Yes," said the farmer softly, "your mother is right, the money
is a trust, and we will restock the farm with it, buy out the
Jones's property, and regard the whole thing as a trust."
At this moment the door of the room opened. A woman's form
appeared. It was Caroline, robed in one of Anna's directoire
"I heard your voices," she said, and then, as she caught sight
of Henry, she gave a great cry.
"My wife," said Henry, and folded her to his heart.
"You have left Sing Sing?" cried Caroline with joy.
"Yes, Caroline," said Henry. "I shall never go back."
Gaily the reunited family descended. Anna carried the lamp,
Henry carried the club. William carried the million dollars.
The tamarack fire roared again upon the hearth. The buttermilk
circulated from hand to hand. William and Henry told and retold
the story of their adventures. The first streak of the
Christmas morn fell through the door-pane.
"Ah, my sons," said John Enderby, "henceforth let us stick to
the narrow path. What is it that the Good Book says: 'A
straight line is that which lies evenly between its extreme
X. — The Man in Asbestos: An Allegory of the Future
TO begin with let me admit that I did it on purpose. Perhaps it was
partly from jealousy.
It seemed unfair that other writers should be able at will to drop into
a sleep of four or five hundred years, and to plunge head-first into a
distant future and be a witness of its marvels.
I wanted to do that too.
I always had been, I still am, a passionate student of social problems.
The world of to-day with its roaring machinery, the unceasing toil of
its working classes, its strife, its poverty, its war, its cruelty,
appals me as I look at it. I love to think of the time that must come
some day when man will have conquered nature, and the toil-worn human
race enter upon an era of peace.
I loved to think of it, and I longed to see it.
So I set about the thing deliberately.
What I wanted to do was to fall asleep after the customary fashion, for
two or three hundred years at least, and wake and find myself in the
marvel world of the future.
I made my preparations for the sleep.
I bought all the comic papers that I could find, even the illustrated
ones. I carried them up to my room in my hotel: with them I brought up
a pork pie and dozens and dozens of doughnuts. I ate the pie and the
doughnuts, then sat back in the bed and read the comic papers one after
the other. Finally, as I felt the awful lethargy stealing upon me, I
reached out my hand for the London Weekly Times, and held up the
editorial page before my eye.
It was, in a way, clear, straight suicide, but I did it.
I could feel my senses leaving me. In the room across the hall there
was a man singing. His voice, that had been loud, came fainter and
fainter through the transom. I fell into a sleep, the deep
immeasurable sleep in which the very existence of the outer world was
hushed. Dimly I could feel the days go past, then the years, and then
the long passage of the centuries.
Then, not as it were gradually, but quite suddenly, I woke up, sat up,
and looked about me.
Where was I?
Well might I ask myself.
I found myself lying, or rather sitting up, on a broad couch. I was
in a great room, dim, gloomy, and dilapidated in its general
appearance, and apparently, from its glass cases and the stuffed
figures that they contained, some kind of museum.
Beside me sat a man. His face was hairless, but neither old nor
young. He wore clothes that looked like the grey ashes of paper that
had burned and kept its shape. He was looking at me quietly, but
with no particular surprise or interest.
"Quick," I said, eager to begin; "where am I? Who are you? What
year is this; is it the year 3000, or what is it?"
He drew in his breath with a look of annoyance on his face.
"What a queer, excited way you have of speaking," he said.
"Tell me," I said again, "is this the year 3000?"
"I think I know what you mean," he said; "but really I haven't the
faintest idea. I should think it must be at least that, within a
hundred years or so; but nobody has kept track of them for so long,
it's hard to say."
"Don't you keep track of them any more?" I gasped.
"We used to," said the man. "I myself can remember that a century
or two ago there were still a number of people who used to try to
keep track of the year, but it died out along with so many other
faddish things of that kind. Why," he continued, showing for the
first time a sort of animation in his talk, "what was the use of it?
You see, after we eliminated death——"
"Eliminated death!" I cried, sitting upright. "Good God!"
"What was that expression you used?" queried the man.
"Good God!" I repeated.
"Ah," he said, "never heard it before. But I was saying that after
we had eliminated Death, and Food, and Change, we had practically
got rid of Events, and——"
"Stop!" I said, my brain reeling. "Tell me one thing at a time."
"Humph!" he ejaculated. "I see, you must have been asleep a long time.
Go on then and ask questions. Only, if you don't mind, just as few as
possible, and please don't get interested or excited."
Oddly enough the first question that sprang to my lips was—
"What are those clothes made of?"
"Asbestos," answered the man. "They last hundreds of years. We have
one suit each, and there are billions of them piled up, if anybody
wants a new one."
"Thank you," I answered. "Now tell me where I am?"
"You are in a museum. The figures in the cases are specimens like
yourself. But here," he said, "if you want really to find out about
what is evidently a new epoch to you, get off your platform and come
out on Broadway and sit on a bench."
I got down.
As we passed through the dim and dust-covered buildings I looked
curiously at the figures in the cases.
"By Jove!'' I said looking at one figure in blue clothes with a belt
and baton, "that's a policeman!"
"Really," said my new acquaintance, "is that what a policeman
was? I've often wondered. What used they to be used for?"
"Used for?" I repeated in perplexity. "Why, they stood at the
corner of the street."
"Ah, yes, I see," he said, "so as to shoot at the people. You must
excuse my ignorance," he continued, "as to some of your social
customs in the past. When I took my education I was operated upon
for social history, but the stuff they used was very inferior."
I didn't in the least understand what the man meant, but had no time
to question him, for at that moment we came out upon the street, and
I stood riveted in astonishment.
Broadway! Was it possible? The change was absolutely appalling!
In place of the roaring thoroughfare that I had known, this silent,
moss-grown desolation. Great buildings fallen into ruin through
the sheer stress of centuries of wind and weather, the sides of
them coated over with a growth of fungus and moss! The place was
soundless. Not a vehicle moved. There were no wires overhead—no
sound of life or movement except, here and there, there passed
slowly to and fro human figures dressed in the same asbestos
clothes as my acquaintance, with the same hairless faces, and the
same look of infinite age upon them.
Good heavens! And was this the era of the Conquest that I had hoped
to see! I had always taken for granted, I do not know why, that
humanity was destined to move forward. This picture of what seemed
desolation on the ruins of our civilisation rendered me almost
There were little benches placed here and there on the street. We
"Improved, isn't it," said man in asbestos, "since the days when
you remember it?"
He seemed to speak quite proudly.
I gasped out a question.
"Where are the street cars and the motors?"
"Oh, done away with long ago," he said; "how awful they must have been.
The noise of them!" and his asbestos clothes rustled with a shudder.
"But how do you get about?"
"We don't," he answered. "Why should we? It's just the same being
here as being anywhere else." He looked at me with an infinity of
dreariness in his face.
A thousand questions surged into my mind at once. I asked one of the
"But how do you get back and forwards to your work?"
"Work!" he said. "There isn't any work. It's finished. The last of
it was all done centuries ago."
I looked at him a moment open-mouthed. Then I turned and looked
again at the grey desolation of the street with the asbestos figures
moving here and there.
I tried to pull my senses together. I realised that if I was to
unravel this new and undreamed-of future, I must go at it
systematically and step by step.
"I see," I said after a pause, "that momentous things have happened
since my time. I wish you would let me ask you about it all
systematically, and would explain it to me bit by bit. First, what
do you mean by saying that there is no work?"
"Why," answered my strange acquaintance, "it died out of itself.
Machinery killed it. If I remember rightly, you had a certain amount
of machinery even in your time. You had done very well with steam,
made a good beginning with electricity, though I think radial energy
had hardly as yet been put to use."
I nodded assent.
"But you found it did you no good. The better your machines, the
harder you worked. The more things you had the more you wanted. The
pace of life grew swifter and swifter. You cried out, but it would
not stop. You were all caught in the cogs of your own machine. None
of you could see the end."
"That is quite true," I said. "How do you know it all?"
"Oh," answered the Man in Asbestos, "that part of my education was
very well operated—I see you do not know what I mean. Never mind,
I can tell you that later. Well, then, there came, probably almost
two hundred years after your time, the Era of the Great Conquest of
Nature, the final victory of Man and Machinery."
"They did conquer it?" I asked quickly, with a thrill of the old
hope in my veins again.
"Conquered it," he said, "beat it out! Fought it to a standstill!
Things came one by one, then faster and faster, in a hundred years
it was all done. In fact, just as soon as mankind turned its energy
to decreasing its needs instead of increasing its desires, the whole
thing was easy. Chemical Food came first. Heavens! the simplicity
of it. And in your time thousands of millions of people tilled and
grubbed at the soil from morning till night. I've seen specimens of
them—farmers, they called them. There's one in the museum. After
the invention of Chemical Food we piled up enough in the emporiums
in a year to last for centuries. Agriculture went overboard. Eating
and all that goes with it, domestic labour, housework—all ended.
Nowadays one takes a concentrated pill every year or so, that's all.
The whole digestive apparatus, as you knew it, was a clumsy thing
that had been bloated up like a set of bagpipes through the
evolution of its use!"
I could not forbear to interrupt. "Have you and these people," I
said, "no stomachs—no apparatus?"
"Of course we have," he answered, "but we use it to some purpose.
Mine is largely filled with my education—but there! I am
anticipating again. Better let me go on as I was. Chemical Food came
first: that cut off almost one-third of the work, and then came
Asbestos Clothes. That was wonderful! In one year humanity made
enough suits to last for ever and ever. That, of course, could never
have been if it hadn't been connected with the revolt of women and the
fall of Fashion."
"Have the Fashions gone," I asked, "that insane, extravagant idea
of——" I was about to launch into one of my old-time harangues about
the sheer vanity of decorative dress, when my eye rested on the moving
figures in asbestos, and I stopped.
"All gone," said the Man in Asbestos. "Then next to that we killed,
or practically killed, the changes of climate. I don't think that in
your day you properly understood how much of your work was due to the
shifts of what you called the weather. It meant the need of all
kinds of special clothes and houses and shelters, a wilderness of
work. How dreadful it must have been in your day—wind and storms,
great wet masses—what did you call them?—clouds—flying through
the air, the ocean full of salt, was it not?—tossed and torn by the
wind, snow thrown all over everything, hail, rain—how awful!"
"Sometimes," I said, "it was very beautiful. But how did you alter
"Killed the weather!" answered the Man in Asbestos. "Simple as
anything—turned its forces loose one against the other, altered
the composition of the sea so that the top became all more or less
gelatinous. I really can't explain it, as it is an operation that I
never took at school, but it made the sky grey, as you see it, and
the sea gum-coloured, the weather all the same. It cut out fuel
and houses and an infinity of work with them!"
He paused a moment. I began to realise something of the course of
evolution that had happened.
"So," I said, "the conquest of nature meant that presently there was
no more work to do?"
"Exactly," he said, "nothing left."
"Food enough for all?"
"Too much," he answered.
"Houses and clothes?"
"All you like," said the Man in Asbestos, waving his hand. "There
they are. Go out and take them. Of course, they're falling down—
slowly, very slowly. But they'll last for centuries yet, nobody
Then I realised, I think for the first time, just what work had meant
in the old life, and how much of the texture of life itself had been
bound up in the keen effort of it.
Presently my eyes looked upward: dangling at the top of a moss-grown
building I saw what seemed to be the remains of telephone wires.
"What became of all that," I said, "the telegraph and the telephone
and all the system of communication?"
"Ah," said the Man in Asbestos, "that was what a telephone meant,
was it? I knew that it had been suppressed centuries ago. Just what
was it for?"
"Why," I said with enthusiasm, "by means of the telephone we could
talk to anybody, call up anybody, and talk at any distance."
"And anybody could call you up at any time and talk?" said the Man in
Asbestos, with something like horror. "How awful! What a dreadful
age yours was, to be sure. No, the telephone and all the rest of it,
all the transportation and intercommunication was cut out and
forbidden. There was no sense in it. You see," he added, "what you
don't realise is that people after your day became gradually more and
more reasonable. Take the railroad, what good was that? It brought
into every town a lot of people from every other town. Who wanted
them? Nobody. When work stopped and commerce ended, and food was
needless, and the weather killed, it was foolish to move about. So
it was all terminated. Anyway," he said, with a quick look of
apprehension and a change in his voice, "it was dangerous!"
"So!" I said. "Dangerous! You still have danger?"
"Why, yes," he said, "there's always the danger of getting broken."
"What do you mean," I asked.
"Why," said the Man in Asbestos, "I suppose it's what you would call
being dead. Of course, in one sense there's been no death for
centuries past; we cut that out. Disease and death were simply a
matter of germs. We found them one by one. I think that even in
your day you had found one or two of the easier, the bigger ones?"
"Yes, you had found diphtheria and typhoid and, if I am right, there
were some outstanding, like scarlet fever and smallpox, that you
called ultra-microscopic, and which you were still hunting for, and
others that you didn't even suspect. Well, we hunted them down one
by one and destroyed them. Strange that it never occurred to any of
you that Old Age was only a germ! It turned out to be quite a simple
one, but it was so distributed in its action that you never even
thought of it."
"And you mean to say," I ejaculated in amazement, looking at the Man
in Asbestos, "that nowadays you live for ever?"
"I wish," he said, "that you hadn't that peculiar, excitable way of
talking; you speak as if everything mattered so tremendously.
Yes," he continued, "we live for ever, unless, of course, we get
broken. That happens sometimes. I mean that we may fall over a
high place or bump on something, and snap ourselves. You see,
we're just a little brittle still—some remnant, I suppose, of the
Old Age germ—and we have to be careful. In fact," he continued,
"I don't mind saying that accidents of this sort were the most
distressing feature of our civilisation till we took steps to cut
out all accidents. We forbid all street cars, street traffic,
aeroplanes, and so on. The risks of your time," he said, with a
shiver of his asbestos clothes, "must have been awful."
"They were," I answered, with a new kind of pride in my generation
that I had never felt before, "but we thought it part of the duty
of brave people to——"
"Yes, yes," said the Man in Asbestos impatiently, "please don't get
excited. I know what you mean. It was quite irrational."
We sat silent for a long time. I looked about me at the crumbling
buildings, the monotone, unchanging sky, and the dreary, empty street.
Here, then, was the fruit of the Conquest, here was the elimination of
work, the end of hunger and of cold, the cessation of the hard struggle,
the downfall of change and death—nay, the very millennium of
happiness. And yet, somehow, there seemed something wrong with it all.
I pondered, then I put two or three rapid questions, hardly waiting to
reflect upon the answers.
"Is there any war now?"
"Done with centuries ago. They took to settling international disputes
with a slot machine. After that all foreign dealings were given up.
Why have them? Everybody thinks foreigners awful."
"Are there any newspapers now?"
"Newspapers! What on earth would we want them for? If we should need
them at any time there are thousands of old ones piled up. But what is
in them, anyway; only things that happen, wars and accidents and work
and death. When these went newspapers went too. Listen," continued
the Man in Asbestos, "you seem to have been something of a social
reformer, and yet you don't understand the new life at all. You don't
understand how completely all our burdens have disappeared. Look at it
this way. How used your people to spend all the early part of their
"Why," I said, "our first fifteen years or so were spent in getting
"Exactly," he answered; "now notice how we improved on all that.
Education in our day is done by surgery. Strange that in your time
nobody realised that education was simply a surgical operation. You
hadn't the sense to see that what you really did was to slowly
remodel, curve and convolute the inside of the brain by a long and
painful mental operation. Everything learned was reproduced in a
physical difference to the brain. You knew that, but you didn't see
the full consequences. Then came the invention of surgical
education—the simple system of opening the side of the skull and
engrafting into it a piece of prepared brain. At first, of course,
they had to use, I suppose, the brains of dead people, and that was
ghastly"—here the Man in Asbestos shuddered like a leaf—"but very
soon they found how to make moulds that did just as well. After that
it was a mere nothing; an operation of a few minutes would suffice to
let in poetry or foreign languages or history or anything else that
one cared to have. Here, for instance," he added, pushing back the
hair at the side of his head and showing a scar beneath it, "is the
mark where I had my spherical trigonometry let in. That was, I
admit, rather painful, but other things, such as English poetry or
history, can be inserted absolutely without the least suffering.
When I think of your painful, barbarous methods of education through
the ear, I shudder at it. Oddly enough, we have found lately that
for a great many things there is no need to use the head. We lodge
them—things like philosophy and metaphysics, and so on—in what
used to be the digestive apparatus. They fill it admirably."
He paused a moment. Then went on:
"Well, then, to continue, what used to occupy your time and effort
after your education?"
"Why," I said, "one had, of course, to work, and then, to tell the
truth, a great part of one's time and feeling was devoted toward the
other sex, towards falling in love and finding some woman to share
"Ah," said the Man in Asbestos, with real interest. "I've heard about
your arrangements with the women, but never quite understood them.
Tell me; you say you selected some woman?"
"And she became what you called your wife?"
"Yes, of course."
"And you worked for her?" asked the Man in Asbestos in astonishment.
"And she did not work?"
"No," I answered, "of course not."
"And half of what you had was hers?"
"And she had the right to live in your house and use your things?"
"Of course," I answered.
"How dreadful!" said the Man in Asbestos. "I hadn't realised the
horrors of your age till now."
He sat shivering slightly, with the same timid look in his face as
Then it suddenly struck me that of the figures on the street, all had
"Tell me," I said, "are there no women now? Are they gone too?"
"Oh, no," answered the Man in Asbestos, "they're here just the same.
Some of those are women. Only, you see, everything has been changed
now. It all came as part of their great revolt, their desire to be
like the men. Had that begun in your time?"
"Only a little." I answered; "they were beginning to ask for votes
"That's it," said my acquaintance, "I couldn't think of the word.
Your women, I believe, were something awful, were they not? Covered
with feathers and skins and dazzling colours made of dead things all
over them? And they laughed, did they not, and had foolish teeth, and
at any moment they could inveigle you into one of those contracts!
"Asbestos," I said (I knew no other name to call him), as I turned on
him in wrath, "Asbestos, do you think that those jelly-bag Equalities
out on the street there, with their ash-barrel suits, can be compared
for one moment with our unredeemed, unreformed, heaven-created,
hobble-skirted women of the twentieth century?"
Then, suddenly, another thought flashed into my mind—
"The children," I said, "where are the children? Are there any?"
"Children," he said, "no! I have never heard of there being any such
things for at least a century. Horrible little hobgoblins they must
have been! Great big faces, and cried constantly! And grew, did
they not? Like funguses! I believe they were longer each year than
they had been the last, and——"
"Asbestos!" I said, "this, then, is your coming Civilisation, your
millennium. This dull, dead thing, with the work and the burden gone
out of life, and with them all the joy and sweetness of it. For the
old struggle—mere stagnation, and in place of danger and death, the
dull monotony of security and the horror of an unending decay! Give
me back," I cried, and I flung wide my arms to the dull air, "the old
life of danger and stress, with its hard toil and its bitter chances,
and its heartbreaks. I see its value! I know its worth! Give me no
rest," I cried aloud——
* * * * *
"Yes, but give a rest to the rest of the corridor!" cried an angered
voice that broke in upon my exultation.
Suddenly my sleep had gone.
I was back again in the room of my hotel, with the hum of the wicked,
busy old world all about me, and loud in my ears the voice of the
indignant man across the corridor.
"Quit your blatting, you infernal blatherskite," he was calling.
"Come down to earth."