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A Strange Discovery by Charles Romyn Dake

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A Strange DISCOVERY

By

Charles Romyn Dake

(1889)

HOW WE FOUND DIRK PETERS

The FIRST Chapter

It was once my good fortune to assist in a discovery of some importance
to lovers of literature, and to searchers after the new and wonderful.
As nearly a quarter of a century has since elapsed, and as two others
shared in the discovery, it may seem to the reader strange that the
general public has been kept in ignorance of an event apparently so full
of interest. Yet this silence is quite explicable; for of the three
participants none has heretofore written for publication; and of my two
associates, one is a quiet, retiring man, the other is erratic and
forgetful.

It is also possible that the discovery did not at the time impress
either my companions or myself as having that importance and widespread
interest which I have at last come to believe it really possesses. In
any view of the case, there are reasons, personal to myself, why it was
less my duty than that of either of the others to place on record the
facts of the discovery. Had either of them, in all these years, in ever
so brief a manner, done so, I should have remained forever silent.

The narrative which it is my purpose now to put in written form, I have
at various times briefly or in part related to one and another of my
intimate friends; but they all mistook my facts for fancies, and
good-naturedly complimented me on my story-telling powers--which was
certainty not flattering to my qualifications as an historian.

With this explanation, and this extenuation of what some persons may
think an inexcusable and almost criminal delay, I shall proceed.

In the year 1877 I was compelled by circumstances to visit the States.
At that time, as at the present, my home was near Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
My father, then recently deceased, had left, in course of settlement in
America, business interests involving a considerable pecuniary
investment, of which I hoped a large part might be recovered. My lawyer,
for reasons which seemed to me sufficient, advised that the act of
settlement should not be delegated; and I decided to leave at once for
the United States. Ten days later I reached New York, where I remained
for a day or two and then proceeded westward. In St. Louis I met some of
the persons interested in my business. There the whole transaction took
such form that a final settlement depended wholly upon the agreement
between a certain man and myself; but, fortunately for the fate of this
narrative, the man was not in St. Louis. He was one of those wealthy
so-called "kings" which abound in America--in this case a "coal king." I
was told that he possessed a really palatial residence in St.
Louis--where he _did not_ dwell; and a less pretentious dwelling
directly in the coal-fields, where, for the most of his time, he _did_
reside. I crossed the Mississippi River into Southern Illinois, and very
soon found him. He was a plain, honest business man; we did not split
hairs, and within a week I had in my pocket London exchange for
something like L20,000, he had in his pocket a transfer of my interest
in certain coal-fields and a certain railroad, and we were both
satisfied.

And now, having explained how I came to be in surroundings to me so
strange, any further mention of business, or of money interests, shall
not, in the course of this narrative, again appear.

I had arrived at the town of Bellevue, in Southern Illinois, on a bright
June morning, and housed myself in an old-fashioned, four-story brick
hotel, the Loomis House, in which the proprietor, a portly, ruddy-faced,
trumpet-voiced man, assigned to me an apartment--a spacious corner
room, with three windows looking upon the main thoroughfare and two upon
a side street, and a smaller room adjoining.

[Illustration: _The_ LOOMIS HOUSE.]

Here, even before the time came when I might have returned to England
had I so desired, I acquired quite a home-like feeling. The first two
days of my stay, as I had travelled rapidly and was somewhat wearied, I
allotted to rest, and left my room for little else than the customary
tri-daily visits to the _table d'hote_.

During these first two days I made many observations from my windows,
and asked numberless questions of the bell-boy. I learned that a certain
old, rambling, two-story building directly across the side street was
the hotel mentioned by Dickens in his "American Notes," and in the lower
passage-way of which he met the Scotch phrenologist, "Doctor Crocus."
The bell-boy whom I have mentioned was the factotum of the Loomis House,
being, in an emergency, hack-driver, porter, runner--all by turns, and
nothing long at a time. He was a quaint genius, named Arthur; and his
position, on the whole, was somewhat more elevated than that of our
English "Boots." During these two days I became quite an expert in the
invention of immediate personal wants; for, as I continued my studies of
local life from the windows of my apartment, I frequently desired
information, and would then ring my bell, hoping that Arthur would be
the person to respond, as he usually was. He was an extremely profane
youth, but profane in a quiet, drawling, matter-of-fact manner. He was
frequently semi-intoxicated by noon, and sometimes quite inarticulate by
9 P.M.; but I never saw him with his bodily equilibrium seriously
impaired--in plainer words, I never saw him stagger. He openly confessed
to a weakness for an occasional glass, but would have repelled with
scorn, perhaps with blows, an insinuation attributing to him excess in
that direction. True, he referred to times in his life when he had been
"caught"--meaning that the circumstances were on those occasions such as
to preclude any successful denial of intoxication; but these occasions,
it was implied, dated back to the period of his giddy youth.

With little to occupy my mind (I had the St. Louis dailies, one of which
was the best newspaper--excepting, of course, our _Times_--that I have
ever read; but my trunks did not arrive until a day or two later, and I
was without my favorite books), I became really interested in studying
the persons whom I saw passing and repassing the hotel, or stopping to
converse on the opposite street-corners; and after forming surmises
concerning those of them who most interested me, I would ask Arthur who
they were, and then compare with my own opinions the truth as furnished
by him.

There was a quiet, well-dressed young man, who three or four times each
day passed along the side street. Regarding him, I had formed and
altered my opinion several times; but I finally determined that he was a
clergyman in recent orders and just come to town. When I asked Arthur
whether I was correct in my surmise, he answered:

"Wrong again--that is, on the fellow's business"--I had not before made
an erroneous surmise; but on the contrary, had shown great penetration
in determining, at a single glance for each of them, two lawyers and a
banker--"Yes, sir, wrong again; and right again, too. His name's Doctor
Bainbridge, and he's fool enough to come here with the town just alive
with other sawbones. He's some kind of a 'pathy doctor, come here to
learn us how to get well on sugar and wind--or pretty near that bad. He
don't give no medicine worth mentionin', he keeps his hoss so fat he
can't trot, and he ain't got no wife to mend his clothes. They say he's
gettin' along, though; and old farmer Vagary's boy that had 'em, told me
he was good on fits--but I don't believe _that_, for the boy had the
worst fit in his life after he told me. The doctor said--so they
tell--as that was jest what he expected, and that he was glad the fit
came so hard, for it show'd the medicine was workin'."

My attention was particularly attracted to a man who daily, in fact
almost hourly, stood at an opposite corner, and who frequently arrived,
or drove away, in a buggy drawn by two rather small, black, spirited
horses. He was a tall, lithe, dark-complexioned man, with black eyes,
rather long black hair, and a full beard; extremely restless, and
constantly moving back and forth. He addressed many passers-by, a fair
proportion of whom stopped to exchange a word with him. In the latter
instance, however, the exchange was scarcely equitable, as he did the
talking, and his remarks, judging by his gestures of head and hand, were
generally emphatic.

One of the apparently favorite positions which he assumed was to throw
an arm around the corner gas-post, and swing his body back and forth,
occasionally, when alone, taking a swing entirely around the post.
Another favorite position was to stand with his fists each boring into
the hollow of his back over the corresponding hip, with his chest and
shoulders thrown well back, and his head erect, looking steadily off
into the distance. With regard to this man's station in life, I took
little credit to myself for a correct guess; for, in addition to other
aids to correct guessing, the store-room on that corner was occupied by
an apothecary. When I asked Arthur whether the man was not a physician,
"Yes, sir," he replied; "physician, surgeon, and obstetrician; George F.
Castleton, A.M., M.D. _He_ ought to get a dry-goods box and a
torch-light, and sell 'Hindoo Bitters' in the Public-square. If you
jest want to die quick, you know where to go to get it. That fellow
salivated me till my teeth can't keep quiet. Oh, he knows it all!
Medicine ain't enough to fill his intellecty. _He_ runs the Government
and declares war to suit himself. 'Moves around a great deal,' you say?
Well, I believe you; but when you see his idees move around you'll quit
sighing about his body. Why, sir, that man in a campaign changes his
politics every day; nobody ever yet caught up with his religion; and
besides, he's a prophet. You jest get back home without touchin' _him_,
if you love me, now, please do."

All of this was said in a quiet, instructive tone, without much show of
feeling even when the teeth were mentioned, and only such emphasis as
has been indicated by my italics. Arthur's advice for me to get home
without "touching" the doctor, I had no intention of following. My
curiosity regarding the man was aroused, and I had determined, if
possible, to know him. So far as one could be influenced from a
third-story window, I was favorably impressed with him. I judged him to
be superlatively erratic, but without an atom of real evil in his being.
I had observed from my window an incident that gave me a glance into the
man's heart. A poor, dilapidated, distressed negro, evidently seeking
help, had come running up to him as he stood near his buggy, at the
corner; and the manner in which he pushed the negro into the buggy,
himself followed, and then started off at a break-neck speed, left no
doubt in my mind that the doctor had a heart as large as the whole
world. Once or twice during the long, warm afternoons, his words came to
me through the open windows. I was aware that his almost preternaturally
bright, quick eyes flashed a glance or two at me as I once or twice
stepped rather close to an open window looking out over the lower
roof-tops beyond; and I felt that he had given me a niche in his mind,
as I had him in mine. I wondered if he had formed mental estimates of my
status, and if so whether he had attempted to corroborate them as did I
mine, through Arthur. Once I heard him say to a small, craven-looking
man, apparently feeble in mind and in body, with red, contracted,
watering eyes, "Yes, sir, if I had been Sam Tilden, the blood in these
streets would have touched your stirrups"--the little man had no
stirrups--"This country is trembling over an abyss deeper'n the infernal
regions. Ha, ha! What a ghastly burlesque on human freedom! Now, hark
you, Pickles"--the small man was not only listening, but, I could
imagine, trembling. He would now and then look furtively around, as if
fearing that somebody else might hear the doctor, and that war would
begin--"listen to me: 'Hell has no fury like a nation scorned.'" Here
Doctor Castleton shot a glance at the little man, to see whether or not
so fine a stroke was appreciated, and whether his quotation was or was
not passing as original. "I repeat, 'Hell has no fury like a nation
scorned'--_Nation_, you hear, Pickles--_nation_, not woman. There is
just one thing to save this crumbling Republic; give us more paper
money--greenbacks on greenbacks, mountain high. Let the Government rent
by the month or lease by the year every printing-press in the
country--let the machinery sweetly hum as the sheets of treasury-notes
fall in cascades to the floor, to be cut apart, packed in bundles, and
sent to any citizen who wants them on his own unendorsed
note--_un_endorsed, Pickles, and at two per cent.! Ever study logic,
Pickles? No! Well, no matter; my brain's full enough of the stuff for
both of us. If the American citizen is honest--which I opine that he
is--the scheme will work like a charm; if he is _dis_honest--which God
forbid, and let no man assert--then let the country sink--and the sooner
the better. I pity the imbecile that can't see this point. The
people--and _is_ this country for the _people_, or is it not?--follow
me, Pickles: the people obtain plenty of money, the stores get it, the
factories and importers get it, and commerce hums." Here the doctor was
for a moment diverted by some objective impression; and without a word
of excuse to the little man, he swung himself into his buggy, which
stood waiting, and drove rapidly away; whilst the diminutive man, after
a moment of weak indecision, shuffled off down the street. I later
learned that these talks of Doctor Castleton's were, as regards the
element of verity, thrown off as writers of fiction throw off fancies.
Sometimes he defended opinions that were in fierce conflict with the
ideas of his auditors; but he generally talked to please them,
frequently assuming as his own, and in exaggerated form, the hobbies,
notions, or desires of his auditors. In the incident just recorded, the
doctor probably had not, as a matter of fact, been stating his real
opinions, though for the moment he may have imagined that he was an
uncompromising "Paper-money man" or "Greenbacker," as a member of one of
the minor political parties of the day was termed: the little man was
poor, and Doctor Castleton had simply been drawing for him a picture of
delights--at least, so I conjectured. This propensity of the doctor
sometimes led to startling surprises and results, and, once at least, to
a discovery of weighty consequence--as we shall soon perceive.

It was novelty for me, and under the circumstances often quite
refreshing, to witness the manner in which Americans treated the mighty
subjects of life, and spoke of the great and powerful persons of the
earth. It was an abundant source of entertainment for me to ask almost
anybody with whom I happened to be conversing, for his opinion on some
great subject or of some noted personage; for the reply was always to me
unique, sometimes very amusing, and not infrequently instructive. On the
way for the second time from our evening meal to my room, I stopped for
a moment in the "Gentlemen's sitting-room," where I in part overheard a
conversation between an elderly and a middle-aged man. I afterward
learned that the younger man was a lawyer, by name Lill; that he was
well known throughout the State, a man of cultivation, very conventional
in his private life, but an unequivocal dissenter on almost every great
social question; a man of high honor, and unquestionable personal
habits, for whom exalted public office had often waited if only he could
have modified his expressed opinions to less inharmony with those of men
who held the reins of power. It seemed that these two men had not met
for a year or more; and as I entered the room they were comparing
experiences, in a leisurely, confidential, sympathetic way. As I came
within hearing, the lawyer had just started in afresh, after a laugh and
a pause. Settling-down his features, and assuming a more-news-to-
be-told manner, with a pinch of fine-cut tobacco between finger and
thumb ready to go into his mouth, and leaning slightly forward to keep
the tobacco-dust from his shirt-front, he said, "Well, David, I read the
Bible through again last winter, and I must continue to think it a very
immoral book. Its teaching is really bad. Why, sir, what would you think
of such d---d outrageous teaching if anybody were at this time to
promulgate it with an implication of any practical relation to present
events?" And so he continued, somewhat, though not greatly, to the
horror of his companion, who seemed to be a Christian--at least by
descent. On another day, after the mid-day meal, as I again entered this
room, I observed a new-comer in conversation with what I took to be a
small delegation of Bellevue business men. I was afterward presented to
this new arrival, when I learned that his name was Rowell--General
Rowell; a name which I thought I had seen in the newspapers at home. He
was a large man of prepossessing appearance, and gave me the impression
of considerable mental force and activity. I heard him say to his
visitors--the words apparently closing a conference: "Yes, gentlemen, if
I come to Bellevue, and we build a nail mill in your city, I ask only
five years time in which to make our mill the largest nail-works in the
world." For a moment, as I heard this remark, it passed through my mind
that I was in the presence of an excellent example of an amusing type of
American life; but the momentary thought was erroneous. This man was one
of a type of American--well, of American promoters, I will say--the
business plans of whom, though mammoth and audacious, rarely fail--the
genuine article of which the Colonel Sellerses are but pitiful
imitators. In this instance, the promise was fulfilled, with a year or
two to spare. The right to express personal opinion was looked upon as
one of the fruits of '76, and the value of such opinion seemed to be
measured almost wholly on its merits--even to a laughable extent. For
instance, this lawyer, or Doctor Castleton, or any other American whom I
met, whatever he might privately have thought on the subject, would not
for a moment have claimed that his opinion was innately superior to that
of, for instance, the factotum, Arthur. A man seemed to have, also, an
inalienable right to be a snob; but I saw in America only one man who
utilized that privilege. I heard an Ex-Governor of the State express
himself on this subject by the concise remark, "We have no law _here_
against a man making a d----d fool of himself." Its "Abe" for the
President of the Republic, "Dick" for the Governor of the State, and so
on, all the way through. But no one should imagine that admiration as
well as respect for the truly great of the land is less than it is where
a man with four names and two inherited titles receives greater homage
than does one with only three names and one title. Customs differ in
different lands--a trite remark; but it is about all that can be said on
the subject: after all, human feeling is not extremely different in
different lands, when we once get back of mere form.

I might illustrate a part of my statement by relating an incident which
occurred on my third day in the hotel, and just prior to my emergence
from seclusion into the midst of the busy little city. I was in my
sitting-room, and Arthur had brought in a pitcher of ice-water, placing
it on a table. Then he paused and looked toward me, as if expecting the
usual question on some subject connected with my surroundings. But at
the time I had nothing to ask. After a moment of quiet, Arthur spoke:

"Did you see the Prince lately?" he inquired. I had by this time grown
so accustomed to Arthur's mode of thought and lingual expression, that
even this question did not greatly surprise me. I supposed that the
query was made on the first suggestion of an alert mind desirous of
starting a little agreeable conversation, and wishing to be sociable
with a "two-room" guest. He immediately continued:

"I hope he's well. I met him, you know, when he was over here, sev'ral
years ago, gettin' idees for his kingdom."

I began to feel amused. Arthur was not a liar, and anything but a bore:
he struck me as being truthful on all subjects except that of his
bibulous weakness--a subject on which he was, perhaps naturally, not
able to form accurate notions.

"Where did you meet His Highness, Arthur?" I asked.

"Oh, in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. I was only eight then. They wouldn't
let boys in the hotel to see him, and there was so many big-wigs around
the young man, I couldn't get to see him at first. But after a while
they all got out in front of the hotel, to get into their carriages.
They had to wait a few minutes, but I couldn't get in front to see him.
The hotel hall was empty by that time, and everybody was looking at the
Prince; so I hurried through the barber-shop into the side hall; slipped
along into the main hall, to the main entrance. I was not more than ten
or twelve feet from the Prince, but I was at the back of the crowd; so I
jest got down on all-fours, and crawled in between their legs. I got
clear up to the Prince, but a big man stood on each side of him, right
close up. For a minute I thought I was worse off than ever. Then I
noticed that the Prince had his legs a little separate--his knees were
maybe six inches apart, with one leg standin' ahead of the other. I was
a little fellow, even for eight; and I saw my chance. I ran my head in
between his knees and twisted my body and neck so as to look right up
into his face, as he looked down to see what rubbed against him. He
looked kind of funny when he saw my face down there, but not a bit mad;
and he could easy have hurt me, but he didn't. I drew back my head so
quick that nobody else saw me. I often wonder if the Prince remembers
me; and I wish you'd ask him when you go home. Since I grew up, I've
often felt ashamed to think I did it. If you think of it, and it ain't
too much trouble, please tell him that we know better in the United
States than to do such things, but that I was little then, and I must
have been ignorant of ettiket, my father bein' dead, and I havin' to
stay out of school to help make money. If you will, say I hope there's
no feelin'; and when you think of it, drop me a line, please."

The SECOND Chapter

A week had elapsed since my arrival in Bellevue. I had been introduced
to Doctor Castleton, and had exchanged a few words with him. I had also
listened to several of his street-corner talks, and my interest in him
from day to day had increased. This interest must have been reciprocal,
for he seemed to look for my coming; but then, in whom was he not
interested? I liked him for his real goodness, was entertained by his
erratic ways, and admired his intellectual brightness. Never before had
I come in contact with a mind at once so spontaneous and so versatile.
It was perhaps his most striking peculiarity, that he seemed always to
be looking for something startling to occur; and in a dearth of the new
and sensational from without, he produced excitement for the community
from within. The weather, for instance, was growing warmer, and the
summer was apparently to be a sultry one: hence, before the season was
ended we were to look for the most sweeping epidemics of disease; a
comet had been sighted by one of our comet-hunters, and we were all to
say later whether or not it would have been better if we'd never been
born, and so on, and so on. His mind teemed with a prescience of the
plans and plots of statesmen, of bureaucrats, and of "plutocrats":
Germany was going to overshadow Europe, and "grind all beneath it like a
glacier"; "France was about to strike back at Prussia, and the blow
would be felt in the trembling of the earth from Pole to Pole." Yet
this, I thought, was to the man himself all fiction--the froth on the
limpid and sparkling depths beneath--the overflow of a bright,
undisciplined mind amid the stagnation of a country town. This strange
man would not intentionally have brought actual injury upon even an
enemy--if he ever had a real enemy; he was at heart, and generally in
practice, as kind as a gentle woman. But he seemed unable to exist
without mental super-activity; and the sympathy of his fellows in his
mental gyrations was to him a constant necessity. Few of the persons
whom he habitually met and who had leisure were able to discuss with him
the books he read, and not many of them cared even to hear him talk of
his fresh literary accessions. He had, long ago, and many times,
described for the benefit of the habitues of the corners, the career of
Alexander and of Napoleon, explaining what they had done, and how they
had done it, and _why_; with instances in which the execution of their
plans had met with failure, the reasons for that failure, and the
methods by which, if _he_ had been them, success might easily have been
attained. An ancient-looking apothecary, with an old "Rebel bushwhacker"
and a painter out of work who "loafed" of evenings in, or in front of,
the corner apothecary shop, had stood gap-mouthed at these recitations
until the mine of wonders had been to the last grain exhausted. Still,
excitement must be procured for them. The doctor could better have
dispensed for a day with food for the body, than to have foregone
excitement for the mind; and if a majority of his auditors were also to
be gratified, the subject-matter must be strong and novel, must be
boldly produced, and, by preference, should be of local interest. As the
doctor himself delighted in surprises of a terrifying or horrifying
nature, it was unlikely that his inventions in that direction would be
characterized by tameness. He would not, when hard pressed on a dull
day, allow a fastidious care of even his own reputation to impede the
development of one of his surprises. If the town of Bellevue was to
stagnate mentally, it would not be the fault of George F. Castleton,
A.M., M.D.

It was on the eighth day of my stay in Bellevue, that, on starting forth
from the hotel one morning, I saw Doctor Castleton standing before the
Loomis House, in one of his favorite attitudes--that is, with his head
and shoulders thrown back and his hands upon his hips--looking intently
at a young man who stood speaking with an aged farmer across the way,
near the street curbing--a harmless-looking youth, with dark blue eyes,
and straight, very dark hair--in fact, the clerical-looking young man
whom I had seen from my windows. Something in the man's make-up--perhaps
something in his attire--suggested the stranger in town. Doctor
Castleton's large black eyes flashed irefully, and he was evidently
gratified at my approach. A complete stranger in my place might have
thought his arrival opportune, and have looked upon himself as a
diverting instrument in higher hands employed to prevent bloodshed. As I
stopped by the doctor's side, he said, with ill-suppressed agitation,

"That d----d villain over there has got to leave town. He calls himself
a doctor, but I have set in motion the wheels of the law of this great
State of Illinois, and I'll expose the infernal rascal." Then, with a
dark, knowing look at me, he hissed (though none of his preceding words
had been audible across the street), "An 'Irregular,' sir--cursed
sugar-and-water quack--a figure 9 with the tail rubbed off. Why, sir"
(in a more conversational but still emphatic tone), "_I_ have given
sixty grains of calomel at a dose, and I have given a tenth of a grain
of calomel at a dose; I would give a man a hundred grains of quinine,
and I have done it; I have" (and here he took from his pocket a small
round lozenge or button of bone) "--I have bored into the brains of
man--into the Corinthian Capital of Mortality, so to speak. When that
man" (pointing with his right forefinger to the circle of bone in his
left palm) "was kicked in the head by his mule, three of my colleagues
were on the scene before me--standing around like old women, doing
nothing. _I_ have elaborate instruments, sir--I don't read any more
books--the world's literature is here" (tapping his forehead). "I've
thought too much to care for other men's ideas. Like old women, I was
saying, sir. 'Give me a poker,' I yelled--' give me anything.' I sent
for my trephine. Great God, how the blood flew, and the bone creaked! I
raised the depressed bone. The man lives. I've done everything, in my
life. And now a cursed quack comes to town--. Where's his wife? I
say--where's his suffering children?--Don't tell me, anybody, that the
man's not married, and run away from his suffering wife. Take his trail;
glide like the wily savage back over his course, and mark me, sir,
you'll trace the pathway of a besom of destruction: weeping mothers,
broken-hearted fathers, daughters bowed in the dust. What's he here for?
Why didn't he stay where he was? But I'll drive him out of town--you
will see--bag and baggage: the wires are set--the avalanche
approaches--he is doomed."

Two days later, at the same spot, I came upon Doctor Castleton in
conversation with the harmless-looking young man, to whom the doctor
formally presented me. The name of the young man, as stated by
Castleton, and as I already knew, was "Doctor Bainbridge." We exchanged
a few words, he extended to me an invitation to call upon him, and he
accepted an urgent request from me to visit me at the hotel. As my stay
in America would probably last but a few days longer, I proposed that
the evening of that same day be selected as the time for his visit, and
to this proposal he readily assented. Then, with a quiet smile, he bowed
and left us. As he walked away Doctor Castleton remarked,

"That young man is a genius, sir. Belongs to the Corinthian Capital of
Mortality. Trust me, sir, he's the coming man in this town. He will be a
power here, in the years to come. I read a man, sir, as you would read a
book."

I then invited Doctor Castleton to come to my rooms that evening, even
if he could spare no more than a few moments; and he promised to come,
"Though," he said, "I may not be able more than to run in, and run out
again." Bainbridge, the new Bellevue candidate for medical practice,
could devote his hours as he should elect; but Castleton, "for twenty
years the guardian of the lives of thousands," must abstract, as best he
might, a few minutes from the onerous duties entailed by the exacting
wishes of his many invalid patrons.

Later in the day, I made arrangements for a little luncheon to be served
that evening in my rooms. There was something about this Bainbridge that
impelled me to know him better. I had already made up my mind that I
should like him: his were those clear blue eyes that calmly seemed to
understand the world around--truth-loving eyes. He had to my mind the
appearance of a person with large capacity for physical pleasure, yet
that of one who possessed complete control over every like and dislike
of his being. I at first took him to be extremely reticent; but later I
learned, that, when the proper chord of sympathy was touched, he
responded in perfect torrents of spoken confidence. So I that evening
sat in the larger of my rooms--my "sitting-room"--in momentary
expectation of the arrival of one or both of my invited guests.

The THIRD Chapter

The hour was about eight. I had written a letter or two after our six
o'clock supper, and was now idle. By my side, in the centre of the room,
stood a table on which lay several periodicals--monthly and weekly,
English and American--a newspaper or two, and a few books. A rap came at
my door, and on opening it I found Doctor Bainbridge standing in the
hallway. He wore a black "Prince Albert" coat, a high silk hat, and, the
evening having blown-up chilly, a summer overcoat. I received him
perhaps a little more warmly than was in the best of taste, considering
that we had not before exchanged more than a dozen words. But I had, as
I have said, frequently seen him from my window; he was almost as much
of a stranger in the town as was I, and I received him cordially because
my feelings were really cordial. I assisted him to remove his coat, and
in other ways did all in my power to make him comfortable. He was of
slightly more than medium height, of rather delicate build, with a fair,
almost colorless complexion. His movements, his language, his attire,
indicated the gentleman--this I should have conceded him in my club at
home, or in my own drawing-room, quite as readily as here, alone, in an
obscure hotel in the State of Illinois. As we sat conversing, I was much
surprised to find in him a considerable degree of culture. He seemed to
possess that particular air which we are accustomed to think, and
generally with reason, is not to be found apart from a familiarity with
metropolitan life on its highest plane. I did not on that evening, nor
did I later, think him thoroughly schooled, except in his profession. He
was, however, fairly well educated, and his opinions seemed to me from
my own stand-point to be sound. I had observed, in a history of the
county just from the press, which lay on a table in the office of the
hotel, that in 1869 he had been graduated from an educational
institution somewhere in Pennsylvania; and, in 1873, from the Medical
Department of Columbia University. Later, I learned from himself, that,
from the age of seven to the age of eleven, he had been instructed at
home by a sister who was some nine or ten years his senior.

I seated him with the large centre-table between us, and immediately
opened the conversation on some topic of local interest. It is probable
that of the many persons whom I know and continue to like, that I liked
nine out of ten of them from our first meeting. Doctor Bainbridge had
not been long in my presence before I knew that my first impressions of
him were not deceptive; and I felt that his impression of myself was
certainly not unfavorable.

It appeared to me as we talked through the evening, that he had read
about all that I had read, and much besides. He talked of English and
French history with minute familiarity. Not only had he read English,
French, and German literature, with such Spanish, Russian, and Italian
works as had been translated into English; but he shamed me with the
thoroughness of his knowledge of Scott, Dickens, Bulwer, Thackeray, and
others of our best writers of fiction. Goethe he particularly admired.
Of Cervantes he thought with the rest of us: He had read "Don Quixote,"
for the first time, when he was eighteen, and during a severe illness
accompanied with intense melancholia; and he had laughed himself out of
bed, and out of his melancholy. "Don Quixote" was, he said, the only
book which he had ever read in solitude--that is, read to himself--which
had compelled him to laugh aloud. Works of science, particularly
scientific works in the domain of physics, he delighted in. His
imagination was of a most charming character. It was at that time in my
life almost a passion with me to analyze human nature--to theorize over
the motives and the results of human action; over the probable causes of
known or assumed effects, and the reverse--in short, I thought myself a
philosopher. I have never met another person whom it so much interested
me to study as it did this young American. But after ample opportunity
to know him, even now as I sit writing more than twenty years later, and
I think of the pleasure of that temporary friendship in far-away
Illinois, I am puzzled about many things concerning Doctor Bainbridge.
He certainly possessed a scientific mind. He himself said that he had no
very great love for written poetry: had he a poetic mind? He loved the
beautiful in life: he loved symmetry in form, he loved harmony in color,
he loved good music. And yet, though he had read the English-writing
poets, he seemed to care less for their work than for anything else in
literature. The thought of this inconsistency has perplexed me whenever
I have thought of it through all these years. As I have intimated, he
was charmed by the beautiful, and by every known expression of beauty;
but for the strictly metrical in language-expression, he evinced almost
a distaste. I have often thought that he had, through some peculiar
circumstance in his earlier life, acquired a suggestive dislike to the
very form of verse. To this peculiarity there was, however, exception,
to which I am about to allude.

By the time we had smoked out a cigar apiece, we were exchanging views
and comments on such writers, English and American, as came to mind. One
of the books that lay on my table was a copy of Byron; though most of
the others were the works of American authors--Hawthorne, Irving,
Longfellow, Poe, and one or two others. He had picked up my Byron, and
glancing at it had remarked that if all the poets were like Byron he
would devote more time than he did to the reading of verse. I recall a
remark that, with Byron's personality in mind, he made as he returned
the book to the table. "Poor fellow!" he said. "But what are we to
expect of a man who had a volcano for a mother, and an iceberg for a
wife? A woman's character is largely formed by the quality of men that
enter into her life; a man's, even more so by the quality of women that
enter into his. I wonder if Byron ever intimately knew a true woman?--a
woman at once intellectually and morally normal, in a good wholesome
way--a woman with a good brain and a warm heart? No man, in my opinion,
is a really good man save through the influence of good women."

It is impossible for me to recall much of what he said of the American
authors of whom we talked, with the exception of Poe; and there are
reasons why I should clearly remember in substance, and almost in words,
everything that was said of him. Of all writers, with one exception, Poe
interests me the most; and I judge that in interest, both as a
personality and as a literary artist, Doctor Bainbridge placed Edgar
Allan Poe first and uppermost among those who have left to the world a
legacy of English verse or prose. And this feeling was, I truly believe,
in no measure influenced by Poe's nationality. If Bainbridge possessed
any narrow national prejudices I never learned of them.

He spoke rapturously of Poe as a poet--"The Raven," as a matter of
course, receiving high praise: Of that unique and really grand poem, he
said that he thought it the best in the English language.

It was at this point in our conversation that he told me he rarely read
verse; that he had, with certain exceptions, never done so with much
pleasure, but that in some way he had managed to read nearly all the
noted poetry published in our language. Still, he said, there were poems
which absorbed and almost fascinated him. Of the English poets of the
present century, Byron alone had written enough poetry to prove himself
a poet; and he explained that in his opinion the writing of an
occasional or chance poem, though the poem were true poetry, did not
make of the author a poet. Then he mentioned a poem which for more than
a century has been by the critical world accepted as of the highest
order of true poetry. Gradually warming to the subject, he said:

"A poem like this is not to my mind poetry. Byron wrote true poetry, and
sufficient of it in his short life to prove himself ten times over a
poet. To compare this poem with Byron's poetry--say with parts of
'Childe Harold,' or 'The Prisoner of Chillon,' or with some of his
shorter poems--would be like comparing the most perfect mechanical
device with a graceful animal--say the mechanical imitation of a tiger
or a gazelle with the living original; the first a wonderfully moving
piece of machinery, illustrating the limit of human constructive power;
perfectly under control, the movements smooth, unvarying, rhythmical,
charming, excelling in agility and power its living prototype--but
still, scientific--to the discerning eye, artful. The other, something
more than rhythmical, more than smooth, beyond the control of human
agency, beyond the power of man to analyze as to synthetize--more than
science can explain, more than even art dare claim. The one explicable,
the other inexplicable; the one from the hand of patient skill--of
talent; the other a result of force mysterious, divine. The lions of
Alexius Comnenus, it is said, could roar louder than the lions of the
desert."

"But what of Poe, and 'The Raven?'" I asked.

"The surprising thing about 'The Raven' is," he said, "and I assert only
what I believe to be from internal evidence demonstrable--first, that
the poem arose out of a true poetic impulse of the soul; and, second,
that it discloses the very highest art possible to a writer. Now I truly
believe that the first writing of 'The Raven'--and, too, the stanzas
were probably not first written in their present published
order--conveyed Poe's poetic sense just as completely as the published
poem now does. But this was not sufficient for Edgar Allan Poe--for the
scientific man, the artful man, the poetic genius with a genius for
concentrated mental toil in the effort to attain literary perfection.
This makes 'The Raven' a curiosity in true poetic expression."

"Then you believe," I said, "that both the state of feeling from which
true poetry arises, and the particular words by which the feeling is
conveyed, are inspired."

"I do. But Poe was able actually to improve the language of inspiration,
whilst transmitting uninjured the poetic conception. Those stanzas in
Grey's 'Elegy' which convey from him to us the psychic wave of poetic
impulse, may have been hundreds of times altered in their wording,
through seven years of tentative effort; and it is possible that he
succeeded in retaining the original feeling--the poem is certainly
artistic. But the feeling conveyed by Grey is commonplace enough,
anyway; whilst that transmitted by Poe is wholly unique, and intensely
absorbing--indeed, a startling revelation. I have always felt that
Byron, Milton, Shakespeare, found within their souls their poetry, and
that the linguistic expression of it came to them as naturally as did
the feeling."

"Such minds," I said, "will always be a mystery to common mortals."

"I take it," replied Bainbridge, "that waves and wavelets of poetic
feeling are common enough among men--quite as common as mental pictures
of beautiful material images; but the rarity is in the word-conception,
which I hold must as a rule be spontaneous if it is to convey
unblemished the original feeling. The musical genius is able to convey
his psychic impression in harmonious sounds; the true poet, in words. To
the rest of us the process is, as you say, a mystery--we call it
inspiration.

"Take an isolated poem, such as under, say patriotic feeling, springs
from the mind of one who never again writes poetry; does this not help
to prove my theory that all true poetry is a result of inspiration--is
in its inception and in its word-expression quite extraneous to its
apparent author?

"To both my intellect and my feeling, 'The Raven' stands a beautiful
masterpiece, which, because it is both the product of a strange psychic
state and the work of intellect will probably be the last poem, of those
now extant, to be admired by the human race when intellectual
development and growth shall finally have driven from the lives and the
minds of men all romance, all sentiment, all poetry, leaving to the race
only intellect and will."

After some further talk, and in reply to a statement of my own,
Bainbridge said,

"Of course I can speak only for myself; and for me there is music in the
poetry of Byron and of Poe, and there is the psychic effect of color.
The rhythm in certain of their poems, with the arrangement of
word-sound, produces the saddest music possible, I think, to the soul of
man--a prevailing monotone so measured as to result in an effect
decidedly strange and quite indescribable. But the real peculiarity of
their poetry--and in this Poe excels Byron--is a psychic effect the same
as that which remains after viewing certain pictures in black and white,
the shade gradations of which are so artistic as to create an illusion
of color--sombre, highly shaded, yet color. This color effect of Poe's
poetry I have felt very slightly, if at all, immediately on a first
reading, as I feel the music of his verse--a rereading, or the lapse of
time, being required for its full development. I have not read a line of
Poe in the last two or three years, and at the present moment I feel
_Ulalume_ as I would some weird scene or picture viewed long ago."

I asked him what particular color effects Poe's poetry produced in his
mind, and he replied,

"The impression of red I do not at all retain. That of black, more or
less intense, is predominant; but the color effects of almost any
variegated landscape--red being excluded, and the scene having been
viewed by moonlight, or in the dusk of evening, or possibly on a densely
clouded day--is at this moment alive within me. And yet, with a single
exception, I have never received from musical or other sounds a psychic
color effect--the exception being that certain tones of a violin leave
the same mental impression as does the sight of purple. As I am not
acquainted with the technical language of either painter or musician, I
can attempt to describe these effects only in common language. I speak
for myself only, and am anything but dogmatic on the subject of poetry.
The symbolism of Poe's verse we must solve, each for himself. To me, for
myself, the solution seems not difficult--and so no doubt says another;
but on comparison these solutions would no doubt be very different."

But highly as Bainbridge estimated Poe's verse, he placed Poe even
higher among writers of prose fiction than among poets. As I have said,
I am myself an admirer of Poe. His prose I have always thought the work
of a true genius--something, as Doctor Bainbridge said, "more than art,
aided by the most perfect art." But when we came to speak of his prose
writings, Bainbridge was able to express in language all that I had felt
of Poe, and to disclose and explain components of his genius that I had
never before fully recognized.

I then asked Bainbridge what it was in Poe's prose that he so much
admired.

"Poe's strong element of power as a writer of short stories," said
Bainbridge, "is, I think, his scientific imagination--the same capacity,
strange as the statement may appear, that, when directed into another
channel, makes a great physicist. It strikes me as inaccurate to say
that Newton discovered the law of gravitation. Newton imagined the fact
of a law of physical gravitation; and then he proceeded to prove _the_
law of gravitation, accomplishing the discovery by means of a second
attribute of genius--viz., tireless mental energy--the possession of a
talent for rigorous mental application and severe nervous strain. In the
sense that Columbus discovered America--in that sense, Newton discovered
the law of gravitation: Columbus imagined an America, and then proceeded
to make a physical demonstration of his belief by discovering the
Bahamas. The same faculty--scientific imagination--in Poe gave us 'A
Descent into the Maelstrom, The Murders in the Rue Morgue,' and other of
his tales. And not alone in physics, but in metaphysics, did his
imagination open up to him just conceptions; so that in the field of
both healthy and morbid mental action his 'intuitive' knowledge was
unerring. 'The Fall of the House of Usher' is so true to the real in
conception, and so consummate in portrayal, that the more one knows
about the mind, the more he inclines to wonder whether these
compositions might not have been aided by actual personal experience.
Yet these delineations are purely imaginative. Take 'The Imp of the
Perverse, The Tell-Tale Heart,' and similar of his stories, not all of
which could in reason have come within the experience of one man, and
which are undoubtedly grounded upon intuitive suggestion."

I asked him which of Poe's tales he thought the best.

"That would indeed be difficult to determine," he replied. "If the
criterion is to be my own intellectual enjoyment, I should mention one;
if my feelings, then another. It is possible that I might select one in
which my intellectual enjoyment, and my feelings pure and simple, were
about equally engaged. We shall probably agree that the most important
object of fiction is to produce in the reader a state of feeling, just
as musical composition is intended to produce a state of feeling--the
short story being comparable with a brief musical production intended to
produce a single variety of emotion; the novel, to the music of an opera
with its many parts, intended each to excite a particular state of
feeling. Naturally prose fiction may, and almost necessarily does, have
other objects. Now the reading of 'The Fall of the House of Usher'
produces a certain state of emotion, and that wholly apart from any
appeal to intellect; no endeavor to do more than produce that state of
feeling is made, nothing more than that is effected, and that much is
attained in a manner which no pen that has traced short-story fiction,
save that of Poe, has ever accomplished. Hence, if the production of
feeling--an appeal to the purely moral side of the triangle of mind--be
the paramount essential in fiction, 'The Fall of the House of Usher' is
the best short story in the English language."

Here Doctor Bainbridge rose from his chair, and taking a turn or two
across the floor, continued, in tones indicating vexation,

"Why has not somebody with a ray of the imagination necessary to a
comprehension of Poe's genius given us at least a decent sketch of his
brief life! Was Poe in a state of mental aberration when he made
Griswold his literary executor? Is the world forever to hear of him only
from those who see the dark side of his life and know nothing of his
life's work?--from those who look at his life and his life's work
through the smoked glass of their dull provincial minds? Let us hope for
an assay of what is left to us of Poe--an assay which, not wholly
ignoring the little dross, will still lose no grain of the pure, virgin
gold, and give to the world something approaching what is due to the
genius himself, and what, with such a subject, is due to the world."

"Let me alter my question--or, I should say, ask a different one," I
said, when he had again seated himself: "Which of Poe's stories most
interested you? From which did you receive the most satisfaction?"

"I have been more occupied and interested by 'The Narrative of A. Gordon
Pym' than by any two or three of his other stories."

I expressed surprise at this avowal; and my comments on what appeared to
me to show a peculiar taste implied a desire for explanation. He
continued:

"Although 'The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym' has served as a suggestion,
or even a pattern, for some of our best recent stories of adventure, and
although it has many points of excellence in itself, it is not the story
alone, but the opportunity which the story affords of an analysis of
Poe's mind, that creates the greater interest for me. I have always been
puzzled to find a reasonably adequate cause for the incomplete state of
that narrative. The supposition that Poe had not at his disposal, at the
moment he required it, the necessary time for its completion is an
hypothesis which I only mention to dispose of. At its close he wrote and
added to the narrative a 'Note' of nearly a thousand words; and in the
time required for the penning of that addition, he could have brought
the story to--perhaps an abrupt, but still, an artistic close. No. Then
did Poe not complete 'The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym' because his
imagination failed him--failed to supply material of such a quality as
his refined and faultless taste demanded? If so, then why did he begin
it? Why write more than sixty thousand words in his usual careful and
precise style, on a subject to him little known, in to him a new field
of literary effort? He could in the time required to write 'The
Narrative of A. Gordon Pym' have written from five to ten short stories
along familiar lines. No: none of these hypotheses explains the
unfinished state of that narrative. My explanation is that the story has
a foundation in fact, and that Poe himself never learned more than a
foundation for the portion which he wrote. Its leading character next to
Pym is one Dirk Peters, a sailor, mutineer, etc. It is my theory that
Pym and Peters existed in fact, but that Poe never met either of them,
though he did meet sailors who had known Dirk Peters, and that he heard
from them the first part of the story, in the form in which it grew to
be repeated by seafaring men along the New England coast in the '30s and
'40s. Having heard what he supposed to be sufficient, with the aid of
his own imagination, to make an interesting story for publication, Poe
began and continued to write. Then, as he progressed, he found that his
imagination was embarrassed--frustrated by the known facts already
employed--whilst it was not assisted by new facts which he was positive
existed, but which he could not procure. As he attempted to close the
narrative, the cold, written page was a very different thing from what
he had conceived it would be as he sat in the tap-room of some New
England old 'Sailor's Home,' with a couple of glasses of Burton ale on
the table, listening through the drowsy afternoon to the fact and
fiction of some old 'tar,' as the two looked across the white-sanded
floor at the old moss-grown dock without, and listened to the salt
wavelets splashing against its rotting timbers, and watched the far-
distant sails on the outer sea. It is not very difficult to picture to
one's self Poe searching among these sailors' lodging-houses for Dirk
Peters; nor is it unreasonable to assume that he did so search for him.
If Dirk Peters was twenty-seven years old in 1827, when the mutiny
occurred, he was only forty-nine at the time of Poe's death--in fact,
would be only seventy-seven if now alive. Poe says in his 'Note,' that
'Peters, from whom some information might be expected, is still alive,
and a resident of Illinois, but cannot be met with at present. He may
hereafter be found, and will, no doubt, afford material for a conclusion
of Mr. Pym's account.' I have no doubt that Poe eventually learned
exactly where Peters resided; but no matter how much Poe may have
desired to meet with Peters, he could not have done so. In the '40s it
was a long, tedious, expensive journey from New York to Illinois. Still,
Poe hoped some day to meet Peters, and did not care to say to the public
exactly where he could be met with. Then came Poe's unutterably sad
death, leaving the narrative incomplete."

As Bainbridge neared the close of his remarks, we heard a heavy and
rapid step approach along the hall. It stopped before my door; and just
as Bainbridge ceased to speak, a loud rap, evidently made with the head
of a heavy cane, sounded on the panel. The door flew open, and Doctor
Castleton rushed into the middle of the room--or, rather, bounded across
the room. Bainbridge and I instantly arose, and I stepped forward to
take Doctor Castleton's hand in mine, and to care for his hat and cane;
but he waved me off. "No, no: no time--not a minute to spare--three
patients waiting"--here he glanced at Bainbridge, as if to observe the
effect of his speech on a beginner, who was fortunate if he yet
possessed a single patient--"like to keep my word--fine evening." He
seated himself on the edge of a chair, and projected his glance around
the room. No better subject immediately presenting itself to mind, I
remarked that we had just been talking of Edgar Allan Poe, and his
unfinished story, "The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym"; and I spoke of Dirk
Peters.

"I know old man Peters--know him well, sir," said Doctor Castleton,
without a moment's hesitation; "short old fellow--seafaring man--about
four feet six, or seven--must have been a devil in his day--old man,
now--seventy or eighty; no hair, no beard; farms a few acres on the
Bluff; very sick man, right now."

Bainbridge and I had cast at each other a glance, which plainly said,
"Isn't that Castleton for you?" But as he continued, and we had time to
consider, the probability that Dirk Peters was alive, and the bare
possibility that he was in the neighborhood, and that, if he did reside
near Bellevue, Doctor Castleton would be very likely to have met him,
gradually dawned on our minds. Quick as was the glance we exchanged,
Castleton saw it--yes, and understood it.

"Gentlemen," he continued, "I know whereof I speak. It is true, I never
before thought of Peters in this connection. In the cases of my library,
the books stand two rows deep. Thousands of books have been carried into
my attic, to make room for newer books--I never need to glance twice at
a book. Of course I have Poe's works, and bound in morocco, too--the
grandest genius ever bestowed upon humanity by the prolific and liberal
hand of our Creator. Still, I never happened to read the grand and
mighty effort of that colossal intellect to which you refer--'The
Narrative of a Snorting Thing,' though I recall' The Literary Life of
Thingum Bob.' But I am certain--certain as the unerring fiat of
Omnipotent Power--that this man Peters is within ten miles of us, and is
at this moment a mighty ill man--almost ready, in fact, to visit a land
from which he will be little likely to return. I refer to 'The
undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns.' By
superhuman efforts I have kept this man Peters alive now long past the
time-limit set by his Creator for him to go--I mean, three score and ten
years; but even I and science have our limitations, and the beginning of
the end is at hand."

By this time Doctor Castleton was pacing up and down the room, stopping
now and then to look at an engraving on the wall, taking up and
replacing books, seeing everything. I could not but feel that already
the curiosity which had impelled him to "run in" was satisfied, and that
he would soon be going. A minute after his last recorded words, Dirk
Peters seemed to have dropped completely from his mind. I was wholly
absorbed with the thought that Dirk Peters might be within our reach;
and that if he really was, it was possible that we might learn whether
Pym and he had reached the South Pole, and if so, what they had there
discovered. It was plainly evident that the mind of Doctor Bainbridge
was deeply engaged with the same subject. I was anxious to know what he
thought of Castleton's statement; for the more I discussed the matter
within myself, the more I felt inclined to believe that Castleton was
not making a mistake. But Castleton was certainly now not thinking of
Peters. I could, amid my thoughts, hear him declaiming,

"Yes, sir; England is a mighty power. Her navy, sir, can--and mark me,
it will--sweep France and Russia and Prussia and Austria and Italy from
the ocean as--as a shar--a wha--a huge and voracious swordfish sweeps
before its imperious onslaught, with unerring certainty and cyclonic
power, a whole school of sneaking mackerel or codfish from the pathway
fixed for it by Eternal Destiny."

His prognostication was intended to be a graceful compliment paid to the
country of a visiting stranger, and, in the absence of other foreigners,
not discourteous to anybody. I never before or since knew his natural
flow of eloquence to waver as in this instance--a rarity that of itself
makes the remark worthy of record. Doctor Castleton soon, against all
protests, bounded out of the door, as he had bounded in; and then
Bainbridge and I discussed the astonishing possibilities should it prove
true that Dirk Peters was within our reach. We concluded that
Castleton's statement was one of great importance, and we agreed upon a
course of procedure. We spent the remainder of the evening in a manner
very enjoyable to myself, and evidently gratifying to Doctor Bainbridge;
and it was past midnight when we separated.

The following morning I looked up Doctor Castleton; and he, ever
courteous and obliging, did more than consent to permit me to drive out
to the home of his patient, Peters. He proposed that I wait a day, as he
knew that Peters would within that time, and might any hour, send for
him; and as soon as he was summoned he would notify me, and together we
would drive out to the old sailor's residence--which, the doctor said,
was a small, two-roomed log structure, where the old man dwelt entirely
alone.

The FOURTH Chapter

The summons from Doctor Castleton to accompany him came sooner than he
had led me to expect; and at a little past noon of the same day on which
he had made his promise to take me with him to see Dirk Peters, I
received a message, saying that if agreeable to me he would at two
o'clock be in front of my hotel, prepared to start for the home of the
old sailor.

At a minute or two before the time fixed, I was standing at the main
entrance to the Loomis House, and at precisely two o'clock Doctor
Castleton drove up in a two-horse, four-wheeled, top-buggy. He made room
for me on his left, and off we started.

We drove in a westerly direction for a full mile along the main street
before leaving the town behind us. Then we struck a level turf road; and
away trotted the superb team of rather small, wiry, black horses. Doctor
Castleton said that we should reach our destination--which was rather
more than ten miles from the city limits--within forty minutes; and we
did. Over a part of the level turf road I should estimate that we drove
at about a three-minute gait; but after traversing some four or five
miles, we turned south into a narrow road, which soon became hilly and
tortuous; yet even here it was only on particularly rough or uneven
portions of the way that the doctor moderated our speed to less than a
four-minute gait.

As we rode along at this exhilarating pace, the buggy whirling around
acute curves among the mighty oaks and maples, now and then dashing down
a forty-five-degree descent of fifty or sixty feet, again thundering
over a dilapidated bridge of resonant planks, the doctor remarked to me
that Peters was certain to die, it being only a question of days, or
perhaps of hours. "Old Peters," he said, "has been without visible means
of support for the past two or three years. The Lord only knows how he
has lived since the period when he became unable to work. Even his small
farm is mortgaged for all it is worth." I expressed to the doctor some
surprise that he should be making twenty-mile drives to see a lonely old
man whose illness he was unable to relieve, and from whom he could
expect no fee. I had grown to take an interest in hearing Castleton
express his opinions. Many of his conceptions of life were so unique;
his mental vision, always intensely acute, was often so oblique; his
station of mental observation so alterable, and so quickly altered; his
sentiments often so earthy, again so exalted--that I believe the man
would have interested me even under circumstances less quiet and
monotonous than were those of my stay, up to this time, in Bellevue. To
my expression of mild wonderment that he should tax his time and
energies to such an extent without pecuniary gain, he replied:

"My dear sir, you are a traveller. You have sailed the seas and crossed
the mighty main; you have dashed over mountains, and sweltered 'mid
tropical suns on sandy desert-wastes. To you our Rockies are
mole-hills--our great lakes mere ponds. You are not a child to cry out
in the darkness. Granted. Yet, sir, let us by a stretch of fancy imagine
ourselves in the place of Columbus, on the third day of August, 1492. We
are about to leave the Known, in search of the Unknown--about to
penetrate for the first time that vast expanse of water which for
uncounted ages has stretched away before the wondering vision and
baffled research of Europe. We are not leaving the world--we are not
alone. Yet is it not a solace that a few friends gather on the shore to
say good-by? The sympathy of the kind, the well-wishes of the brave--are
they not always a comfort? This poor fellow Peters, whose lowly home we
are now approaching, is alone--he is about to start on his last journey,
alone. The land to which he perhaps this day begins that journey is not
only unknown, but unknowable to us in our present state. And therefore
is it, sir, that the learned professions live. Even the worldly man,
when he comes to start upon this last journey, does not disdain the
sympathy and kindness of the loving, and the expressions of hopefulness
that come from the good and pure. True, you may say that the learned
professions are for the man who is about to die but frail supports on
which to lean. The wise man as well as the ignorant man, when he fears
that death is near, reaches out for help or at least some knowledge of
his future. He sends for his physician, who cannot promise him
anything--cannot number the days or hours of his remaining life; for his
lawyer, who cannot assure him beyond all doubt that his will can be made
to endure for a single day beyond his death. At last, he sends for a
minister of God--and what says the spiritual expert? Perhaps he
represents that old, old organization, whose history stretches back for
centuries through the dark ages to the borders of the brilliancy beyond;
that old hierarchy that claims to hold all spiritual power to which man
may appeal with reasonable hope. What says to the dying man this
representative and heir of the accumulated spiritual research and
culture of the past? He may with honesty say, 'Hope;' but if he says
more than Hope, he does it as the blind might sit and guide by signs
through unknown labyrinths the blind. All this is true; but the fact
that the learned professions have come into existence, and continue to
live and draw from the masses their material support--a tax greater in
amount than the income of the nations--shows that they meet, and
genuinely meet, a demand. I say genuinely, for 'You cannot fool all the
people all the time.' And so, my young friend, this poor man Peters
wants me. Later, if there is time, he will want the representative of
the religion which he professes, or which he remembers that his mother
or his father professed. I shall stand by his side and place my hand
upon his throbbing brow--and he will hope, and not despair. Who knows
whether or not our hope and our faith have power in some strange way to
link the present to the future, carrying forward the spirit-seed to
soil in which it blooms in splendor through eternity? As Byron says,

'How little do we know that which we are,
How less what we may be.'

But here we are; and I know by the face of that old neighbor-woman
looking from the doorway there that our man still lives."

We drew up in front of a small building some sixteen feet square, the
walls of which consisted of huge logs piled one upon another and
mortised at the corners. The doctor entered, leaving me seated in the
buggy. But soon he came to the door, and signalled for me. As I entered
the house I heard a voice say, "Yes, doctor, the old hulk's still
afloat--water-logged, but still afloat." Looking in the direction of the
voice, I saw on a bed in one corner of the room an old beardless man. I
had not a second's doubt that Dirk Peters of the 'Grampus,' sailor,
mutineer, explorer of the Antarctic Sea, patron and friend of A. Gordon
Pym, was before me. His body up to the waist was covered with an old
blanket; but I felt certain that he was less than five feet in height,
and felt quite positive that he would not then measure more than four
and a half feet. His height in 1827 was, Poe states, four feet and eight
inches. One of the old man's arms lay exposed by his side, and the
finger-ends reached below the knee; while his hand, spread out on the
blanket, would have covered the area of a small ham. His shoulders and
neck, and the one bare arm visible, were indicative of vast muscular
strength. There was the enormous head mentioned by Poe; and there was
the completely bald scalp, exposed, as by a semi-automatic movement of
respect he raised his hand to his head and removed a section of woolly
sheepskin; and there, too, was the indenture in the crown; there the
enormous mouth, spreading from ear to ear, with the lips which, as he
gave a chuckle, and the wrinkles about his eyes evinced a passing facial
contortion, I saw to be wholly wanting in pliancy. There was the
expression, fixed at least as far as the mouth and lower face was
concerned, the protruding teeth, and the grotesque appearance of a smile
such as a demon might have smiled over ruined innocence. Oh, there was
no possibility of a mistake. Doctor Castleton glanced at me
questioningly, but confidently; and I lowered my head in assent. But if
I expected to have an opportunity of learning much of anything from
Peters, I was mistaken. Doctor Castleton was almost ready to depart
before I had finished my visual examination of the old man. I heard the
aged neighbor-woman, a coal miner's wife, who had as an act of kindness
come in to assist the invalid, say, looking at the poor old fellow:

"My mon stayed wi' he the night, dochter. The poor mon, he had delerion
bad. He thot hesel' on a mountain o' ice, wi' tha mountain o' ice on
other like mountain o' salt, a lookin' at devils i' hell. But sin' tha
light o' day. Tha good mon's hesel' agin."

Doctor Castleton had produced from the recesses of a large medicine case
certain pills and powders, had given his directions, and was actually
about to leave without giving me an opportunity, or seeming to think
that I desired an opportunity, of speaking with Peters. I then appealed
for a moment more of time, and for consent to ask the patient a question
or two; and my appeal was granted. I stepped close to the bedside, and
looking down into the eyes that looked up into mine, asked the old man
if his name was Dirk Peters; to which he answered affirmatively. I then
asked him if he had in the year 1827 sailed from the port of Nantucket,
on the brig 'Grampus,' under Captain Bernard, in company, among others,
with a youth named A. Gordon Pym? And a moment later I wished that I had
been less abrupt in my questioning. Peters did manage quite coolly and
rationally to answer "Yes" to all my questions. But at the words "Pym,"
"Bernard," "Grampus," his eyes began, in appearance, to start from their
sockets; those awful teeth gleamed from that cavernous mouth, as he
uttered demoniac yell on yell, and raised himself to a sitting posture
in the bed. I thought his eyeballs must certainly burst, as he looked
off into nothingness wildly, as if a troop of fiends were rushing upon
him.

"Great God!" he screamed, "there, there--she's gone. Ah," quieting a
little; "ah; the old man with the eyes of a god, and the cubes of
crystal with the limpid liquid of heaven. Oh," his voice again raised to
piercing screams, "Oh, she's gone, and he loves her--and I love him. Now
man, they called you the human baboon--be more than man!--I loved the
boy--I tell you, I loved him from the first. I saved him once--aye, a
dozen times--but not like this--not from hell. Scale the chasms of salt,
and climb the lava cliffs, and--but the lake of fire at the bottom--the
old man--and the abyss, my God, the abyss! The snow-drift beard--the
godlike eyes"--his voice then quieting for a few words. "Ah, mother,
mother, mother." Then in a deep, earnest tone, "I'll be a human baboon,
and I'll do what man never yet did, nor beast--yes, and what never in
time will man do again."

Then he completely lost control of himself. He jumped from the bed.
Doctor Castleton stood near the doorway, and I quickly moved to his
side. The old woman had vanished. Peters poured forth yell on yell, such
as I had never conceived it possible for a human throat to utter. He
grasped a strong oak-pole, and broke it as I might have broken a dry
twig. I afterward placed the longer fragment of this pole with each of
its extremities on a large stone, the two about four feet apart; and
lifting into the air a rock weighing a hundred or more pounds, dropped
it on the middle of the fragment; and it did not even bend what this man
of awful strength had severed with his two hands as one would break a
wooden toothpick between the fingers. Then Peters picked up a stove
which stood, fireless, in the room; and he cast it through an open
window, seven or eight feet away, into the yard beyond, where it fell,
breaking into a hundred pieces. I need scarcely say that Doctor
Castleton and myself had left the room with decided alacrity. Well, to
terminate a description none too agreeable, Peters' wild delirium
continued until, out in the door-yard, forty or fifty feet from the
house, he fell, exhausted. Then we carried him back to his bed. Doctor
Castleton gave some directions to the old woman, and soon we left for
town, Peters being asleep.

"Strange," said Doctor Castleton, after we had driven for perhaps a
mile, "strange that a thought can do such things! A word is said, the
thread of memory is touched by suggestion, and it vibrates back through
half a century to some scene of terror stamped ineradicably upon the
brain--or if not upon the brain, then where?--and, lo! the reflexes
spring into action, and a maniac with Samson's strength takes the place
of a docile invalid. Ah, who can answer the mystery of mysteries, and
tell us what this consciousness is! Behind that gift of God rests the
secret of life, and of death, and probably of Eternity itself."

We rode along, returning a little more leisurely than we had come. I sat
wondering how we were to learn from such a man as Peters his secrets--if
secrets he possessed. Even if his past held only important facts not of
secret import, I had received striking evidence that the subject of that
wonderful sea-voyage was not to be carelessly broached to Dirk Peters. I
concluded to say nothing more of the matter until I should meet
Bainbridge, whom I knew would be anxiously awaiting my return, hardly
daring to hope that Poe's Dirk Peters was really in existence and
discovered.

As we neared town, my mind turned to the strange being at my side. Here
was a man who could think, and think both learnedly and poetically of
the wonders of heaven and earth; and yet who could talk of driving from
town a business competitor! Surely that part of his talk which seemed so
laughable was in spirit wholly dramatic--intended rather to fill the
assumed expectations of his hearers, than truly representing the
speaker's feeling. Then my thoughts reverted to the talk I had
overheard, when "Pickles" was made to see veritable showers of
"greenbacks" raining into his vacuous pocket. I smiled to myself; and
then a spirit of audacity coming over me, I determined to ascertain what
Castleton would say to me on the currency question. I concluded to admit
that I had overheard through my open window the conversation on monetary
matters alluded to. There would then be no opportunity for him to evade
the responsibility of assuming as his own the peculiar opinions
expressed by him on that occasion. Now, when he could not consistently
deny the advocacy of views to me so apparently untenable, and could not
seriously adopt them without lowering himself intellectually in the
estimation of a stranger--and I did not for an instant think that he
believed the nonsense which he had so glowingly represented and
demonstrated to poor old "Pickles"--then by what possible means would he
extricate himself from the dilemma?

When I broached the money question, he seemed to warm to the subject at
once; but as I led around to the fact of my overhearing the "Pickles"
incident, he seemed slightly disconcerted--but only momentarily. He was
himself again so quickly that I should not have noticed his
embarrassment had I not been closely observing him for that very
purpose.

"Well, now," he said, blithely, "as you are a stranger, a man of high
and irreproachable honor, _sans peur et sans reproche_--and one, I know,
who will not place me in an equivocal position here in my home by
divulging my true position--I don't mind telling you, in all confidence,
the truth. I am not, my dear sir, an ass. (What I say, remember, goes no
farther.) I am, sir, a theoretical and practical politician of great--I
only repeat what many of my friends (men of supreme mental attainments,
and the best of judges) herald forth as undeniable truth--a politician,
sir, of great depth and exceeding cunning--a rare combination,
philosophers tell us. What a humbug this whole greenback question is!
Why, sir, it is to that very element of scarcity over which they howl,
that money, or anything else, owes its commercial value. Diminish the
general scarcity of anything on earth to the point of a full supply for
everybody and the commercial value at once becomes _nil_. There is
nothing of more real value than atmospheric air; yet the supply is so
great that all demands are filled, leaving an enormous surplus; and
hence atmospheric air has no commercial value. There is nothing on earth
of much less service to humanity than are diamonds; yet the possession
of a pound of fair-sized diamonds would make a Croesus of a beggar. The
dreams of the Greenbacker are but new phases of our childhood fancies of
finding a mountain of pure gold, with which we are to make the whole
world happy; it is conceivable to find the mountain of gold--but, alas!
what will be its value when we have found it? Take actual money, for
instance. Any metal might be used as money which the world should agree
to call money, provided only that the metal is not so plentiful as to
make it impossible to handle because of bulk, or so scarce as to make
the unit of value impalpable. The standard may even from time to time be
changed, if we do not object to the enormous trouble of making the
change----"

"And," I remarked, as he paused for a moment, "if we do not object to
the robbery of either the debtor or the creditor, one or the other."

"Not at all," he replied. "I assume that the change shall be fairly
made. I have said that it would be a very great inconvenience to the
world, and without any benefit; it would in fact be so great a task to
make the change in our money standard that it would be practically
impossible to make it. But we are off the track--we were not to talk of
primary money; it was of currency, or greenbacks, that you spoke. Now it
puzzles you as a man of sense to conceive by what process of thought
another man of sense can bring himself to advocate unlimited inflation
of our currency; and yet there is a very good reason why the most
sensible man may do that very thing. Of course, my dear sir, I am aware
that the only honest way for a government to issue unlimited currency is
to give the stuff away, and later to repudiate it. Now, sir, I need not
tell one like yourself, who has studied the lives of such English
statesmen as the puissant Burke, the sagacious Pitt, the astute
Palmerston, that ninety per cent, of the people--and it is so even in
this glorious land of free schools and liberty--are relatively to the
remaining ten per cent, either poor and dishonest, or poor and ignorant;
and that none of the hundred per cent, goes into sackcloth and ashes
when he gets something for nothing. I, sir, am--or I was until
recently--a Jeffersonian Democrat. But our party made a great mistake a
few years ago by sticking to the slave interest too long. I finally
became hopeless of success at the polls. Now, when I whisper in your
all-comprehending ear that the leaders of this Greenback Party are
anything but Republicans, you will grasp the point. I repeat, sir, I am
not an ass--if I do bray sometimes. All's fair in love and politics. But
let me say to you, that the printing presses of the United States will
never be leased by the United States Treasury, whatever party wins at
the polls."

As he closed, we entered the town. It may not be wholly lacking in
interest to the reader when I say that, some years later, as I one
morning sat in my library looking through the window at the far-distant
smoke of Newcastle, I had just laid aside a copy of the _Times_, in
which paper I had read of the results of a political contest in the
State of Illinois. The Republicans had won. The Greenbackers and the
Democrats had lost. Then my eye caught the name of Castleton! The doctor
had made the race for Governor--not on the Greenback ticket, however;
not on the Democratic ticket; but--of all things!--on the _anti-liquor
or Prohibition ticket!_

As we drew up in front of the Loomis House, Doctor Bainbridge stood on
the sidewalk as if awaiting our return. I smiled, then nodded an
affirmative to the question in his eyes; and stepping out of the buggy,
I linked his arm within my own, and, thanking Doctor Castleton for his
kindness, piloted the way to my room.

The FIFTH Chapter

On opening the door of my sitting-room, I found Arthur, the factotum,
sitting in my large easy-chair, with one of my volumes of Poe in his
hand. He had overheard part of the conversation of the preceding
evening, and was evidently interested in "The Narrative of A. Gordon
Pym." I observed also that a bottle of cognac which sat upon my table,
and which I could have sworn was not more than one-fourth emptied when I
left the hotel directly after dinner, was now quite empty. The
atmosphere of the room was pervaded with the odor of "dead" brandy; and
Arthur's eyes were unusually glassy and staring--for so early an hour as
5 P.M. Then he settled the matter, beyond the shadow of a doubt, with a
hiccough.

"Well, Arthur," I said, pleasantly, as he clumsily rose in part from his
seat--into which he dropped back, however, as he heard my kindly tone of
address, and knew there was to be no severity of reckoning--"well, my
boy; been enjoying yourself?"

"Yes, sir," he replied, in a fairly steady voice--the words that
followed, however, being rhythmically interrupted by an aldermanic and
most vociferous hiccough, which shall be omitted from this record--"been
reading about Pym and Barnard. Wasn't that awful when they saw the
shipful of dead corpses? Just think of that ship, full of dead men--not
one of them alive, and all dead--and the sails set, and the old ship
wabbling around the ocean just as things might please to happen! When
the ship got close up to their brig, and that scream came from among the
corpses, I just jumped, myself! But wasn't it terrible when that gull
pulled its bloody old beak out of the dead man's back, and then flew
over the brig and dropped the piece of human flesh at poor hungry
Parker's feet? Gee-whillikens, now! Why, it just made my blood sink in
my heart and lungs."

"Yes," I thought, "and it just made my brandy sink pretty fast in my
bottle and down your throat." I was amused at his comments, and at
another time might have listened longer to his talk; but now I must be
making some arrangement with Doctor Bainbridge regarding a possible
interview with Peters; so I said to Arthur that he might take the volume
of Poe and keep it for two or three days, which offer he gladly
accepted; and with an involuntary wandering of the eye toward the brandy
bottle, he left the room.

Then Bainbridge and I seated ourselves, and I described the late scene
in Dirk Peters' room, repeating almost word for word all that had been
said. He pondered for a few minutes, during which I could see that his
versatile imagination was in active play. Then he said,

"Well, we have him! My, my, what a discovery! This will be like reaching
across the decrees of death and taking by the hand dear Poe himself! But
you were hasty--as I myself might have been. Well, we must see
Castleton--that is, you must--and get his consent for us to go right out
and stay with Peters, if necessary for a night and a day, or even
longer. We can take care of the poor old fellow, and watch our
opportunity to glean from him the facts of that strange voyage, onward
from the moment when, borne on that swift ocean current, he and Pym were
rushed into the mystery that opened to receive them, as the
white-shrouded figure arose in their pathway. 'Fire'--'salt'--'ice,'
said he? I begin almost--almost to understand! Did you ever, in England,
hear of the Peruvian tradition of an antarctic country, warm and
delightful, peopled by a civilized--or rather by a highly enlightened
and very mysterious race of whites? Such a tradition exists. Now, one
day in New York, about three years ago, I allowed myself a holiday, as
was my custom from time to time after a period of severe study. On the
day I speak of I entered the Astor Library, and was permitted to wander
at my pleasure among the books. I carried in my hand one of the small
camp-stools which stood around the room, and whenever I found a book
that particularly interested me, I would sit down and look it over. You
understand, I was dissipating in this great treasure-house of books.
About the middle of the afternoon I found myself in one of the most
unfrequented of the library alcoves. There, on a shelf so high that I
could just see over its edge as I stood on one of the library
step-ladders, I found a strange little book, purporting to have been
written in 1594. It had fallen down behind the other books. It had a
leather back, well-worn; I saw that it was a 1728 Leipsic publication;
and possibly came to the Astor Library by presentation from its wise and
liberal founder's private library--though this is pure surmise. The book
read much like other tales of the time, so far as its form went. I sat
down to look at it--and I did not arise until I had read it to its end,
some three hours later. I had not read two pages before I became
satisfied that the book had more truth than fiction in it. To have
assumed it wholly the work of imagination, I should have had to admit
that the author was an artist of artists, exceeding, through his
artfulness, in naturalness, all other fiction-writers. No; there was
truth behind the statements in the little book--truth at second or third
hand, but truth. Now this little book pretended to tell, and I believe
did tell, the story of a sailor under Sir Francis Drake, who accompanied
this English navigator on his 1577-1580 voyage. You will recall, as a
matter of history, that, in the voyage mentioned, Sir Francis crossed
the Atlantic, passed the Strait of Magellan, crossed the Pacific, and
returned to England by way of the Cape of Good Hope. Now during this
three-year voyage, the story is that he once lost his 'bearings' for a
month; in fact, it is intimated that a hiatus of two months in his 'log'
really did exist. This hiatus, however, could easily have been covered
in the ship's log-book. We may conceive of reasons for which he might
have preferred to keep a temporary silence concerning the discovery of a
strange people, in those early, savage times. The little book said,
that, when in the Pacific, after passing the strait, Sir Francis was for
two weeks driven in a southerly course--a severe, and in every way most
unusual storm prevailing. When the winds and the waves subsided, he was
surprised to find himself looking into the mouth of a harbor, on the
shores of which stood a city, by no means so large as London or even as
Paris; but exceeding in grandeur the London or the Paris of that day, as
the Paris of to-day exceeds in elegance the comparative squalor of the
Paris of three centuries ago. According to the leather-covered little
German book, the city was beautiful beyond comparison with any of the
European cities of that period. I should suppose that the author thought
of it as we do of Athens in the days of Pericles. Not much is said of
the inhabitants, who were probably infinitely superior, socially, to the
rough voyagers of that date. And for once the 'natives' were neither
bullied nor 'converted,' Sir Francis departing no richer than he
arrived, save for a few commercially valueless gifts. One thing the
natives, it seems, insisted on: Sir Francis arrived in the city without
knowing his longitude; and they compelled him on leaving to accept
conditions that prevented him from finding his bearings till he was more
than a thousand miles away. What the nature of the climate was in this
strange city may be judged by the expressions employed in the little
book, which, translated, were equivalent to 'perfect,' 'Eden-like,'
'balmy,' 'delicious.' Once the author compares this antarctic city to
Venice--admittedly to the Venice of his imagination. No; Sir Francis had
nothing to brag of in this adventure; and in those days when to be
physically subdued, or in a contest to fail to subdue others, was a
humiliation or even a disgrace, he would have kept very quiet about the
whole affair; particularly as a future navigator could not have found
the city, even had Sir Francis told all that he knew. Now I mention
these reports only to show you that others have thought of warm
antarctic lands; and I could refer you to many other old stories and
traditions, highly suggestive of inhabited lands in the Antarctic Ocean,
on which lands a refined people dwell. I certainly expect to learn from
Peters facts of some importance to the world, if only he does not die,
or is not so delirious as to throw a shadow on the verity of his story,
even if he does disclose the wonders which I most assuredly believe that
he will if he lives but another day. Really, I am, for the first time in
years, excited. How Castleton keeps so cool and so apparently
indifferent over this matter, when he is always excited over what seem
to me to be comparative nothings, I cannot comprehend. Now, sir, you
hunt him up again--he will no doubt be in his office across the street.
Get his consent, as I before suggested--Castleton is always obliging
when you appeal to him directly; then take your supper, and be ready. I
will be here at eight o'clock with my horse and a piano-box buggy. It
will be a beautiful moonlight night, and let us not risk waiting until
to-morrow. We will take with us some ice; also wine, beef extract, and a
few other things intended to sustain the poor old fellow's vitality--at
least till his story is told. We must go prepared to remain for
twenty-four hours, or even for thirty-six hours if necessary; so have
your overcoat ready, and I will find a couple of blankets in case we
have to lie down. Good-by till eight."

And off he went, as excited as a schoolboy at the beginning of an
adventure. I began to think he was allowing his imaginations to pray him
tricks--purposely allowing himself to be deceived, as a child that is
nearing the age of reason still delights in the old fairy tales and the
Santa Claus myth, long after its mind has penetrated the deception.
Still, in the end it proved we were very far--very far indeed from being
upon an idle quest.

By eight o'clock I had obtained Doctor Castleton's consent that
Bainbridge and I might visit Peters, and remain as long as we should
desire.

"I will run out myself, early in the morning," said Castleton, "and do
what I can to keep life in the old man. Don't let Bainbridge get into
the old fellow any of his newfangled, highfalutin remedies--if you do, I
will not answer for the consequences. I don't say that Bainbridge will
not in time--in time, mark you--be a dazzling therapeutist; but not
until experience has modified his views, and shown him that Rome was not
built in a day, nor with a toothpick, either. Don't tell him what I say,
please--I wouldn't like to hurt his young feelings, you know."

When Doctor Bainbridge drove up in front of the hotel, I was waiting for
him; and we were soon on our way toward the Peters domicile.

The SIXTH Chapter

The time required by Doctor Castleton to reach the home of Dirk Peters
had been about forty minutes; the time required by Doctor Bainbridge was
two and one-half times forty minutes, or only twenty minutes short of
two hours. Bainbridge drove a single horse, a beautiful, large, dappled
bay--an excellent animal, which, as most horses do, had learned those of
his master's ways that bore relation to his own interests. Bainbridge
was a lover of animals, as Castleton was not; Castleton was an admirer
of horses for their action, whilst with Bainbridge the welfare of his
horse was everything, and he never drove rapidly without a particular
and pressing necessity.

So we drove along in a leisurely way, conversing of Dirk Peters and the
Pym story, until we had arranged a plan of action for drawing out of the
old man an account of that voyage, the mere thought of which, coming
suddenly upon him, had affected him in the terrible manner which I had
that afternoon witnessed. Doctor Bainbridge explained to me that the
wild demonstrations made by Peters and described by me were a result,
not so much of any thought of those adventures on which he must have
pondered thousands of times in the forty-eight or forty-nine intervening
years, as it was of the manner in which the thoughts or mental pictures
had been brought to his mind.

"I need only remind you," he said, "of a single mental characteristic
within the experience of almost every person, to make this matter clear,
and to indicate what our course with the old man must be, and why I said
to you to come prepared for a long stay. Suppose, for instance, a woman
to have lost her husband through some extremely painful accident, his
death being not only sudden but of a horrifying nature, and that several
years have elapsed since she was widowed. Now, she has thought the
matter over ten thousand times, as the suggestion to do so entered her
mind by a hundred different routes, as, for instance, by the seeing of
something that her husband in life possessed, or by the drift of her own
thought bringing her to the subject by association or by indirect paths
of suggestion. Every day her mind has many times pictured the horrible
scene of death, until she is dry-eyed and passive amid a storm of sad
ideas. But now, after all these years, bring to her mind, suddenly and
by a strange route of suggestion, the same old horror--let a voice, and
particularly the voice of a stranger, remind her of the terrible
scene--and immediately the demonstration follows: the sobs of anguish,
the tears, all, as on the day of the accident. It is the method of
approach--the mode of suggestion when the fact is known but latent in
consciousness, that is responsible for the nervous demonstration. In
another instance, visual suggestion might have a similar result and
audible suggestion be harmless. I anticipate no serious obstruction in
the path to Peters' confidence. Patience, care, deliberate action--the
fact ever in mind that 'The more haste the less speed,' and we shall win
the prize for which we strive."

As we drove along in the bright moonlight, after we had determined on
our "method of approach" to Peters' mind, I felt confident that with the
knowledge and tact of Bainbridge we should certainly succeed in our
efforts; and I began to think along other lines. The friendly manner in
which I had been treated by all whom I had met in America, from the
millionaire coal operator down to the bell-boy, came into my thoughts. I
had not been treated as a foreigner, except to my own advantage, the
older residents of the town seeming to look upon me more as they might
look upon a man from another State of the Union. In America, even the
inland towns are cosmopolitan, while in England only the larger cities
and seaport towns have that characteristic. I was therefore able to
judge of certain questions not only from hearsay, but from actual
observation. I noticed, for example, that among the American
working-classes there existed a feeling of repugnance for the Chinaman.
Of the lower-class Italian, everybody thought enough to keep out of his
reach after dark. Germans and Irishmen were numerous, and each
individual was taken on his own merits. The English were universally
liked, wherever I went. True, there was a little tendency to allude to
the glories of Bunker Hill and the like; but this tendency was evinced
in a manner rather amusing than objectionable to an Englishman. If there
exists in the American heart a drop of bitterness for the English, I
never discovered it. I am writing now of the American-born American. I
gathered the idea that Frenchmen, as seen in America, were scarcely
taken seriously; though all Americans have been systematically educated
to respect and admire the French Nation. Of Spaniards, the prevalent
idea seemed to be that they were better at arm's length. (Anglo-Saxon
literature has been very unkind to the Spaniard.) I did not meet an
American that seemed to hate anybody--I do not conceive it possible for
an American to harbor the feeling of hatred.

As we jogged along, the idea entered my mind that I would, when I
returned home, write a treatise on "American Manners and Customs." "No
doubt," I said to myself, "I can in the next few minutes procure from
Bainbridge enough facts to make quite a book." I afterward abandoned the
intention; but at that moment my mind was filled with it. So I decided
to ask my companion a few leading questions, noting well his replies.
"And I will first," I determined within myself, "inquire into the mooted
point concerning the existence of an aristocratic feeling in the United
States. Some of our English writers on 'American Manners and Customs,'
and our most acute analysts of American character, say that the
Americans are great snobs, and are only too glad to claim the possession
of even the most distant aristocratic connection;" so I broached the
subject to Bainbridge.

"It interests me to convince you," he began, in reply, "that in the
United States there is scarcely a vestige of aristocratic feeling. In
fact as in theory, there is in this country but one class of people.
Such supposed barriers as wealth and political position are only
partitions of paper--relative nothings. I do not mention heredity,
because in the United States all attempts to establish a family line
result in the family rotting before it gets ripe. The only pretence to
hereditary pride which we have here, exists in two States; in one of
them some four or five hundred persons cannot forget that their
forefathers got to shore before somebody else; and in the other a few
families still dispute over the threadbare question of whose
great-great-grandmother cost the most pounds of tobacco. Now,
candidly--is this sufficient to justify a reproach from Europe that we
are striving to claim or to create an aristocracy?

"And then there is that other reproach--we're such outrageous
tuft-hunters. I shall not deny having seen an American run himself out
of breath to get a peep at a duke, but I never knew an American spend
money to see one, unless the American was too beastly rich to care for
money at all. And then, hereditary nobles do not wear well here. Let a
visiting duke be followed within a year by anything less than a king,
and the visitor will fail to excite anybody out of a walk. You must not
in England judge of this subject from the effect on our people of a
certain not remote visit; for the people of the United States have a
feeling of respect and affection for the present royal family of Great
Britain which no other royal family or individual, past or present, has
ever produced. Hum, hum! Our people mean well; but curiosity and
imitation will not die out of the human race till an inch or two more of
the spinal column drops off."

Still with a view to the gathering of facts for my intended treatise, I
asked Bainbridge to explain in what distinctive manner the people of the
United States were benefited by a republican form of government. He
replied that he knew nothing worth mentioning of the science of
government, and had never been outside of the United States.

"But," he continued, "I can tell you something of what the whole people
of this country enjoy. And to begin with, there is, as I have intimated,
in the United States but one class of people, aside from the criminal
class common to all lands, and that vicious but not relatively numerous
element which lives on the borderland between respectability and actual
crime. This truth seems sometimes to be questioned in Europe--why, I can
but guess. Who would attempt to enter the nurseries and schoolrooms of
our land today, and, by inquiring as to the parentage of the children,
select from among them any approximation to those from whom are to come,
in twenty or thirty years, the men that shall then govern our States,
sit in our National Congress, direct our army and navy, and control our
commerce? I have heard that in Europe it is rather the exception for a
son to reach exalted position when the father has earned a living by
manual labor. In the United States this is not the exception, but the
rule. At this moment the positions alluded to are here filled by the
sons of poor fathers. With us, inherited wealth appears to be rather a
detriment than an aid to political advancement of more than a petty
kind. 'And yet,' you may say, 'your people are not always satisfied.' No
advancing, upward-looking people is ever satisfied. With such a people,
too, the demagogue is a natural product; and the demagogue period of
this country is at hand. But there will never be a tom-fool revolution
in this fair land. The people here know that when they have universal
suffrage and majority rule they've pulled the last hair out of the end
of the cat's tail for them."

I made a remark, to which Bainbridge replied:

"Yes, we managed to finish up a pretty fair revolution here some twelve
years ago; but that revolution was caused by a disagreement about the R.
of B. Now----"

"Pardon me," I said "but what was the 'R. of B?'"

"Oh, excuse me," he answered. "The R. of B. was the Relic of Barbarism,
human slavery--the only relic the United States has ever had, too."

I prided myself that the material for my book was piling up at a great
rate; and I determined to persevere.

"How about the feeling of dislike of Americans for the English, of which
we have heard so much in England?" I asked. "Not that I have had any
evidence of such a feeling."

"That is a plant which has finally withered away in spite of some
careful artificial cultivation. The politician who shall attempt to
build on any such feeling against England (a statesman will never desire
to make the attempt) will soon learn his mistake. Oh, I suppose it
pleases some Americans to think we got the best of our mother in
1783--such a big, strong, wealthy mother, too. A little bit of talk
doesn't hurt her any, and it does some of us a heap of good. When a boy
runs away from home, half the glory and fun is in being missed; and if
the folks at home won't say they miss him, why, he must say all the
louder that they are mourning over the loss. But I will say to you--and
I say it with the fullest conviction of its truth--that the people of
the United States could not in any way be induced to take up arms
against Great Britain, save in their own undivided interest.
Individually, as you already know, I love England--not England's fops,
but her people; I love the literature of England, I love her memories, I
esteem and admire her well-executed laws. The literature of England has
been my mental food from boyhood--aye, almost from infancy; and her
memories, her memories! I think of London as Macaulay must have thought
of Athens. Decent Americans--that is, a majority--don't listen to jingo
politicians; and new arrivals with a grievance against England are left
to the _vis medicatrix naturae_. There'll never be another war between
England and the United States. Our Anglo-Saxon element think normally;
and the vast majority of our German citizens have always been on the
sensible and morally right side of national questions--there's nothing
long-haired or cranky about them. I like the Germans because they don't
hanker after the unknown. I believe that most reading Americans--that is
to say three-fourths of all--feel toward England as Irving and Hawthorne
did.--But, from your description, that must be the home of Peters, just
ahead of us."

He was right; and we stopped in front of the old sailor's house. An aged
man, apparently a coal miner, came to the door as our buggy stopped. We
called him to us and inquired concerning Peters, who he told us was
quietly sleeping. Then we asked with regard to stabling accommodations,
and learned that Peters had an old unused stable, the last old horse
that he had owned having preceded its master into the beyond. The old
miner offered to care for our horse; so we gathered up our supplies, and
entered the little log house that contained so much of interest for us.
We found Peters asleep.

Making ourselves as comfortable as circumstances would permit, we
awaited developments. At about midnight Peters awoke. He asked for a
drink of water, which was given to him. His voice was feeble, and I saw
that Bainbridge felt doubtful as to the length of time that Peters might
remain alive and be able to talk intelligently. But after we had given
him a little diluted port, and followed it with a cup of prepared beef
extract, his actions betokened less weakness, his voice in particular
gaining in strength. The poor old fellow had been of necessity much
neglected, and our efforts to arouse him met with decidedly good
results. All through the night we gratified every want which he
expressed, and attended to every need of his that our own minds could
suggest. No attempt was made to draw from him any information concerning
his strange voyage; but, on the advice of Bainbridge, we occasionally
spoke aloud to each other, and now and then to Peters himself--always on
indifferent topics. This was done to familiarize the old sailor with our
voices; and as far as we could do so without any possible injury to him,
we kept a light in the room, that he should become accustomed to our
appearance. From time to time Bainbridge would step to the bedside, and
place his hand on the old man's forehead; and later he would every now
and then put an arm about the invalid's body, and raise him up to take a
swallow of nourishment or wine.

Before morning, Bainbridge had reached a stage of familiarity that
permitted him to sit on the edge of Peters' bed and talk to the old
fellow briefly and quietly about his farm, and of Doctor Castleton's
goodness and ability, and on other subjects presumably interesting to
the invalid. Bainbridge would gently pat the poor old man on a shoulder,
and smooth his head--somewhat as one does in making the acquaintance of
a big dog. By morning Peters was thoroughly accustomed to our presence;
and he seemed to take our watchfulness as a matter of course, and even
to look for our attentions as a kind of right. He had slept several
hours through the night, and at five o'clock was awake and seemingly
much improved. Not the slightest delirium, even of the passive form--in
fact, nothing of a nature that could alarm or disconcert us, had
occurred. Bainbridge had mentioned eight o'clock as about the time he
would broach the subject of subjects to Peters, intending, as a matter
of course, to lead up to it by very tactful gradations, passing from
journeys in the abstract to the journeys in the concrete, thence to sea
voyages, and thence, perhaps, to some mention of recent arctic (not
antarctic) explorations; and then, asking no questions yet, to proceed
to a mention of Nantucket, from which vantage ground the propriety of
risking a mention of the name Barnard would be considered. If up to this
point all went well, a more pointed question or allusion might well be
risked--the brig Grampus, for instance, might be named; and then,
without more delay than should be necessary for Peters' rest, we might
hope to elicit the whole story of that wonderful voyage of discovery,
the evidence of the completion of which certainly appeared to be before
our eyes in the form of Dirk Peters, the returned voyager to the South
Pole, in person.

At six o'clock we prepared our own breakfast, and enjoyed it, sweetened
as it was by a night in the pure country air, and seasoned with the
anticipation of marvellous discoveries, involving the mysteries of a
strange land, no doubt teeming with amazing surprises, and, as we felt
that we had reason to believe, peopled by a race of beings with customs
and attributes extremely wonderful.

We had just arisen from our breakfast when a buggy drove rapidly up to
the house, and stopped; and we heard the voice of Doctor Castleton,
shouting something to the old miner, who had gone forth a moment before
to care for Bainbridge's horse.

The SEVENTH Chapter

Doctor Castleton entered the sick-room with his usual impetuosity,
saluting us jointly in an off-hand but courteous manner as he crossed
the floor to the bedside of Peters, and took one of the invalid's wrists
in his hand.

"Ah," he said; "better! The quinine of yesterday has done its work; the
bed-time dose of calomel has gone through the liver and stirred up that
enemy of human health and happiness, the bile; and the morning dose of
salts will, beyond a peradventure, soon be heard from. Now we will throw
the whiskey toddy into him, and plenty of it, too; and--yes, we'll go on
with the quinine, repeat the calomel to-night, and have him ready for
something else by to-morrow."

Now I never like to mention doubtful incidents in such a manner as to
suggest my own belief in them; but I then suspected, and I am now
morally certain, that Doctor Bainbridge had, in assuming the care of
Peters, failed to execute medical orders, and had administered only
remedies or pretended remedies of his own, so as to prevent Peters,
myself, and the attending physician from detecting any omissions. This,
I am aware, is a terrible charge to make--still, I make it: Peters did
not get a fourth, if any, of the medicines left for him by Doctor
Castleton during the time that Bainbridge cared for the old man.

But if Bainbridge had, with the intention of prolonging the life of
Peters, and with greater confidence in his own professional judgment
than in that of Castleton, omitted the remedies prescribed, it was soon
apparent that the deception might prove in vain. I have already
intimated that the older physician's perceptions and intuitions were so
quick as sometimes to appear almost uncanny; and after asking a question
or two, he began to pour upon a square of white paper, from a small vial
which he took from one of his vest pockets, a very heavy white powder;
and we soon perceived that the powder was to be poured from the paper to
the invalid's tongue. Bainbridge was interested in Peters--not only
selfishly and with a motive to learn the facts of the old sailor's
strange voyage; but he was also interested in the poor old wreck for the
sake of the man himself. I saw that in the opinion of Bainbridge, if
that white powder were administered to the invalid it would injure
him--probably weaken him, and cause a relapse, and perhaps even an
earlier death than otherwise might occur; and I saw that Bainbridge was
really apprehensive and annoyed. At last he suggested to Castleton to
delay the administration of the intended remedy, if only for a few
hours. And when Castleton called attention to his own view of the
necessity for quick action, involving the instant administration of the
dose, it would obviously have been so unwise to contradict him, that
Bainbridge did not risk such a course. But, over-anxious to gain his
point, he did something still more impolitic. He suggested a remedy of
his own by which, he said, Peters would speedily be relieved--a new
drug, I believe, or at least a remedy not known to Castleton. For a
moment I looked for an explosion of offended dignity; but Castleton
controlled his first impulse, and, not looking at Bainbridge, he centred
his apparent attention wholly upon myself, and with exceedingly grave
vigor, said,

"I, sir, am a member of the Clare County Medical Society--I was once
President of that learned body, and have since then for seven
consecutive years been its Secretary--my penmanship being illegible to
the other members, and often to myself, preventing many disagreements,
by precluding a successful reference to the minutes of past meetings.
Now, sir, tell me, as man to man, can I consult with, or listen to
suggestions--even to suggestions, though worthy of a gigantic
intellect--can I listen to suggestions coming from the mentality of a
non-member of our learned body? Before replying, let me say that our
society is known throughout all of Egypt--that is, you know, Egypt,
Illinois. When a medical savant in Paris, or Leipsig, or London, alleges
a discovery, we determine the questions of its originality and its
value--the chief purpose of our meeting, however, being to present our
own discoveries. Now, sir, I appeal to you whether our rules should or
should not be strictly obeyed--and the second clause of section three of
those rules and regulations--an ethical necessity, and found in the
ethical codes of all well-regulated medical societies the world
over--says that a member shall not meet in consultation a non-member,
even to save a human life--a decidedly remote possibility."

He paused. Neither Bainbridge nor I spoke. In fact, an expression of our
thoughts would have been wholly unnecessary, as Castleton appeared to
comprehend what was in our minds, as shown by his continued remarks.

"'Liberality,'" you may say: "True, there should be liberality in this
eternal world. Individually we _are_ liberal--we _are_ gentlemen; but it
is different with us when you take us as a body. I am for harmony. I
admit that at our meetings we do sometimes fight like very devils--life
is a conflict, anyway. Sir, the country is full of cursed heresies and
growing schisms.--But let me ask--not the doctor here, whom I respect
for his immense learning and Cyclopsian (I mean large--not single-eyed)
wisdom--what _his_ remedy would be? I ask you, sir, not him."

Here Doctor Castleton stepped close to my side, and speaking into my ear
in a ghastly whisper, said, "The ass isn't Regular!" He then drew back,
and looked at me as if expecting astonishment on my part.

I then exchanged a few words with Bainbridge, and informed Castleton of
the result. "Ah, ha--ah, ha--indeed," he said, with as near an approach
to sarcasm as was possible with him. "So my learned young friend thinks
that an organ--the liver--weighing nearly four pounds is to be moved
with a hundredth of a drop of--of--anything! Damn it, sir, am I awake?"

"Ask Doctor Castleton, sir, what portion of a grain of small-pox virus
it would require to disseminate over a whole county, if not checked, a
dread disease? Ask him from what an oak-tree grows?"

"Ask him," said Castleton, "how long it takes an acorn to act. In this
case we require celerity of action--force and penetration."

"Ask him," said Bainbridge, "if the solar rays have celerity, and force,
and penetration; and how much they weigh. It requires fine shot to bring
down the essence of a disease----"

"Tell him," shouted Castleton, "that the liver is a mammoth that
requires a twenty-four-pounder to penetrate its hide. We don't hunt the
rhinoceros with bird-shot."

"Say to the gentleman," said Bainbridge, slightly flushed, but still
with dignity, "that in this case the animal is not to be slaughtered,
but to be cured."

"Damme," said Castleton, "who says slaughtered?--Have I, a surgeon of
renown, a gentleman and a scholar, a member of the County Society, sunk
so low that I can be called a murderer? Stop--stop where you are--stop
in time. Say to the Gentleman that he has gone too far--say that an
apology is in order--say that he treads the edge of a living crater. I
am dangerous--so my friends say--devilish dangerous"--a smile crossed
the face of Bainbridge; and even so slight and transient an appearance
as a passing smile was not lost on Castleton, though he seemed to be
looking another way--"I mean dangerous on the field of honor. Quackery,
sir, is my abhorrence----"

"Come, come, gentlemen," I said, "you are allowing your professional
_amour propre_ to mislead you. Now," I continued, assuming an air of
_bonhomie_, "it seems to me, an outsider, that this whole difference
might easily be adjusted. Doctor Castleton here advocates firing
twenty-four-pound balls into the patient, and Doctor Bainbridge suggests
peppering the invalid with bird-shot. There is certainly room between
the bowlders for the bird-shot to slip, and the one will not interfere
with the other--I say, give both. Doctor Castleton advises that the dose
be immediately given, whilst Doctor Bainbridge appears to think four or
five hours hence the better time. I suggest a compromise: let them be
given an hour or two hence. There seems to be also some obstacle in the
way of one of you giving the other's medicine--so let me administer
both the remedies. Now what possible objection can be advanced to this?"

They both laughed; and as Castleton would be on his way home in a few
moments, Bainbridge was thoroughly pleased with my proposal. Castleton
tacitly consented, and in half a minute seemed to have forgotten the
episode--or, at most, gave indication of remembrance only by an apparent
desire to be over-agreeable to Bainbridge. A moment later he said to me,

"My dear sir, I hastened my visit here this morning out of consideration
for yourself. Last evening after you had departed, Mr. ---- called at
the Loomis House to see you. I happened to meet him as, in some
disappointment at having missed you, he was leaving the hotel, where he
had learned that you might be gone for two days. I then offered to
deliver any message that he should send to you, this morning. When he
was informed that you were but ten miles away, in the country, he said
that his business with you was pressing; and he asked if it would be
possible for you to return to town for a few hours this morning. Then I
said that I would convey to you his wishes, and that if you so desired
you could be at your hotel before nine o'clock--at which hour he said he
would call at the Loomis House, with the hope of meeting you."

I thanked the doctor; and after consulting Bainbridge, said I would
avail myself of the offer to return at once to Bellevue. I appreciated
that it would be Bainbridge and not I who would have to manage Peters.
It was a disappointment to think of missing Peters' story at first-hand;
but I hoped to return by the middle of the afternoon, and I knew that
Bainbridge could repeat with accuracy all that the old sailor should
say. I doubted whether Bainbridge could extract very much from the old
man's senile intellect before my return, as the aged voyager was, both
in mind and body, quite feeble, and of little endurance. Besides, when
once started and warmed to his subject--and very little information
could be gained till he was so started--he would no doubt be garrulous.

Doctor Castleton and I started for town at a brisk trot, the doctor
having parted from Bainbridge in the best of humors. His last words,
shouted back as we drove off, were, "Don't forget the calomel at
nine-thirty, doctor; and add to the treatment whatever you may think
best. I trust you implicitly. Send me word if you need help."

Strange man! So pleasant, and so harsh; so grand, and so ignoble; so
great, and so small; so broad, and so narrow; so kind, and so unkind. As
my mind ran along in this channel, I wondered how one and the same man
could express the views that he had proclaimed in connection with his
medical association, and yet speak of life and death as he had spoken to
me on the day preceding. What did he really believe? Could the
actor-temperament, displaying itself on most occasions, in connection
with a display at times of his natural self, as we say, account for all
his eccentricities?

As we fairly flew along the forest road, nearing our destination by a
mile in each three minutes, we came to the only hill on the entire route
which was considerable, both in extent and in degree of gradient. Doctor
Castleton allowed the gait of his horses to slacken into a slow walk;
and--ever nervous, ever active--he reached into the side pocket of his
linen duster, and drew forth a small book, apparently fresh from the
publisher.

"'The Mistakes of the Gods, and Other Lectures,'" he said, looking at
the back of the volume, and reading its title. "Ah, 'The Gods.' The
title, sir, almost tells the whole story; and so far as you and I are
concerned, it is almost a waste of time for us to open the book--and a
crime against themselves for ignorant men to do so."

"The author must be one of your 'holy terrors' that I hear mentioned," I
said. "A Western 'bad man' no doubt. Sad! sad! is it not?"

"Oh, no, no; the author is not a cowboy--he's a perfect gentleman--as
polished as I am; and there's nothing very sad in the book. It contains
several lectures in the line of agnostic agitation, which were from time
to time delivered by a very talented, but, as I think, mistaken man.

Book of the day: