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Elbow-Room by Charles Heber Clark (AKA Max Adeler)

Part 5 out of 5

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"You're perfectly certain I'm dead, are you?" said the major, getting

"Why, of course."

"Can a dead man violate the laws?"

"Certainly not."

"Well, then, I'm going to hammer you with this club, and I reckon
you'll find me the most energetic corpse in the county."

They say that the fight was terrific. First the major was on top, then
Myers; and as they rolled over and over in the porch the widow sat by
and surveyed the scene. Finally, Myers explained that upon the whole
he believed he had enough; and when the major had given him a few
supplementary thumps, he got up, and gazing at the prostrate Myers and
at the widow, he said,

"Take her; take her, young man. You're welcome to her. I wouldn't have
her if she was the only woman in the temperate zone. But let me tell
you, before you get her, that when you are married to her you'll wish
something'd happen to send you down to the bottom of the ocean and
anchor you there."

[Illustration: "TAKE HER, YOUNG MAN!"]

Then the major slammed the gate and left; and he started life afresh
in New York. Myers has written to him since to say that the only
grudge that he has against him is that he didn't kill him in that
fight in the porch, for the widow has made death seem blissful to him;
and the major's answer was that the reason why he spared his life was
that he wanted to make his revenge fiendish.

Of course I do not vouch for this part of the story which tells of the
major's return. General Trumps is responsible for that; and I know
that sometimes, when his imagination is unduly warmed, he is prone
to exaggeration. The general's own domestic matters are in the most
charming condition. According to his own story, he never had any
unpleasant feeling in his family but once. Several years ago he was in
Williamsport attending to his business. While there he had a strong
premonition that something was the matter at home; so, in order to
satisfy himself, he determined to run down to Philadelphia in the next
train. In the mean time, his mother-in-law sent him a despatch to this
effect: "Another daughter has just arrived. Hannah is poorly; come
home at once." The lines were down, however, and the despatch was held
over; and meanwhile the general reached home, and found his wife doing
pretty well and the nurse walking around with an infant a day old.
After staying twenty-four hours, and finding that everybody was
tolerably comfortable, he returned to Williamsport without anything
having been said about the despatch, his mother-in-law supposing of
course that he had received it. The day after his arrival the lines
were fixed, and that night he received a despatch from the telegraph
office dated that very day, and conveying the following intelligence:

"Another daughter has just arrived. Hannah is poorly; come home at

The general was amazed and bewildered. He couldn't understand it. He
walked the floor of his room all night trying to get the hang of the
thing; and the more he considered the subject, the more he became
alarmed at the extraordinary occurrence. He took the early train
for the city, and during the journey was in a condition of frantic
bewilderment. When he arrived, he jumped in a cab, drove furiously to
the house, and scared his mother-in-law into convulsions by rushing in
in a frenzy and demanding what on earth had happened. He was greatly
relieved to find that there was but one infant in the nursery, and to
learn how the mistake occurred. But he felt as if he would like to
see the telegraph operator who changed the date of that despatch. He
wanted to remonstrate with him.



Mr. Bradley, our inventor, has had some experiences in addition to
those already recorded which may perhaps be entertaining to the
reader. One of the peculiarities of Bradley's contrivances is that
when they are designed to do a specified work, that is conspicuously
the work they cannot possibly be induced to do. There, for instance,
was Bradley's famous steam-pump.

Some years ago Bradley invented a steam-pump for use on shipboard. He
claimed for it that it would pump about three times as many gallons in
a minute as any other pump, and he got some of his political friends
in Congress to use their influence with the Navy Department to have it
tried on one of the navy vessels. Finally he succeeded in having it
introduced upon a small steamer, which we will call the Water Witch;
and when everything was ready, the ship started upon a trial trip.
Soon after she got to sea, Bradley, who was aboard, said he would like
to try the pump upon the bilge-water to see how she worked.

The captain ordered the engineer to turn it on, and the machine
operated apparently in the most beautiful manner. In about an hour one
of the officers reported that the water was gaining rapidly in the
hold, and the captain sent some men down to discover where the leak
was. They came back and reported that they couldn't find the hole, but
that the water was pouring in somewhere in frightful quantities.

Then some of the officers went down and spent half an hour in water
up to their waists feeling around after that awful hole, but they
couldn't ascertain where it was. The only thing that they were certain
of was that the water was steadily gaining on them, and the ship was
certain to sink unless something was done. All this time Mr. Bradley's
pump was working away, and the captain continually enjoined the
engineer to give it greater speed.

Then the captain himself went down and made an examination; and
although he failed to find the leak, he was alarmed to discover a
quantity of codfish and porpoises swimming about in the hold, because
he knew that the hole in the hull must be very large indeed to admit
the fish. And still the water rose steadily all the time, although
Bradley's pump was jerking away at it in a terrific manner and all the
other pumps were running at full speed.

At last the captain made up his mind that he should have to desert the
ship, as she was certain to sink; and so the boats were made ready and
packed with provisions and water and a few little comforts, and by
this time the water in the bilge was nearly up to the furnace fires.

Just then Bradley's pump suddenly stopped; and then the captain turned
pale as death and demanded to know who stopped that pump, while
Bradley buckled a life-preserver around him, corked up a note to his
wife in a bottle, and said that now that the pump had ceased he would
give that steamer just four minutes to reach bottom.

While he was speaking the engineer came up and said,

"Mr. Bradley, what did you say was the capacity of your pump?"

"Six hundred gallons a minute."

"Six hundred. Well, Mr. Bradley, how many gallons do you estimate that
there are in the Atlantic Ocean?"

"Blessed if I know. How in the mischief can I tell that?"

"Oh, it don't make any particular difference, only I thought you might
have some kind of an indistinct idea how long it would take you to run
the ocean through your pump."

"I dunno, I'm sure," said Bradley.

"Well, I merely wanted to say that, whatever your calculations
respecting the number of gallons in the Atlantic, it is perfectly
useless for you to try to load up that ocean in this vessel. She won't
hold more'n half of it."

"What do you mean, sir?" demanded Bradley.

"Why, I mean that that diabolical pump of yours, instead of taking out
the bilge, has been spurting water into this vessel for the past four
hours, and that if you have a theory that you can strike dry land by
that process it is ingenious, but it won't work, for it's going to
sink this ship."

Then the captain swore till the air was blue. Then he put Bradley in
irons, and ripped out his pump, and unpacked the boats, and pumped out
the water, and picked up the codfish and porpoises, and set sail for
home for the purpose of making a report on the subject of the new
invention. The Bradley Improved Marine Steam-pump went right out of
use at the end of the voyage.

Another invention of Bradley's was a scientific system of foretelling
the weather. He had a lot of barometers, hygrometers and such things
in his house, and he claimed that by reading these intelligently
and watching the clouds, in accordance with his theory, a man could
prophesy what kind of weather there would be three days ahead. They
were getting up a Sunday-school picnic in town in May; and as Bradley
ascertained that there would be no rain on a certain Thursday, they
selected that day for the purpose. The sky looked gloomy when they
started; but as Bradley declared that it absolutely _couldn't_ rain on
Thursday, everybody felt that it was safe to go. About two hours after
the party reached the grounds, however, a shower came up, and it
rained so hard that it ruined all the provisions, wet everybody to
the skin and washed the cake into dough. On the following Monday the
agricultural exhibition was to be held; but as Mr. Bradley foresaw
that there would be a terrible north-east storm on that day, he
suggested to the president of the society that it had better be
postponed. So they put it off; and that was the only clear Monday we
had during May. About the first of June, Mr. Bradley announced that
there would not be any rain until the 15th; and consequently we had
showers everyday right along up to that time, with the exception of
the 10th when there was a slight spit of snow. So on the 15th, Bradley
foresaw that the rest of the month would be wet; and by an odd
coincidence a drought set in and it only rained once during the two
weeks, and that was the day on which Bradley informed the base-ball
club that it could play a match, because it would be clear.

On toward the first of July he began to have some doubts if his
improved weather-system was correct; he was convinced that it must
work by contraries. So when Professor Jones asked him if it would be
safe to attempt to have a display of fireworks on the night of the
5th, Bradley brought the improved system into play, and discovered
that it promised rainy weather on that night. So then he was certain
it would be clear; and he told Professor Jones to go ahead.

On the night of the 5th, just as the professor got his
Catherine-wheels and sky-rockets all in position, it began to rain;
and that was the most awful storm we had that year: it raised the
river nearly three feet. As soon as it began Bradley got the axe and
went up stairs and smashed his hydrometers, hygrometers, barometers
and thermometers. Then he cut down the pole that upheld the
weathercock and burned the manuscript of the book which he was writing
in explanation of his system. He leans on "Old Probs" now when he
wants to ascertain the probable state of the weather.

* * * * *

When his first baby was born, Bradley invented a self-rocking cradle
for it. He constructed the motive-power of the machine from some old
clockwork which was operated by a huge steel ribbon spring strong
enough to move a horse-car and long enough to run for a week without
rewinding. When the cradle was completed, he put the baby in it upon
a pillow and started the machinery. It worked beautifully, and after
watching it for a while Bradley went to bed in a peaceful and happy
frame of mind. Toward midnight he heard something go r-r-r-rip!
Buzz-z-z-z! Crash! Bang! Then a pin or something of the kind in the
clockwork gave way, and before Bradley could get out of bed the cradle
containing the baby was making ninety revolutions a minute, and
hopping around the room and slamming up against the furniture in a
manner that was simply awful to look at.

[Illustration: BRADLEY'S CRADLE]

How to get the child out was now the only consideration which
presented itself to the mind of the inventor. A happy thought struck
him. He took a slat out of the bedstead and held it under the cradle.
On the next down-stroke it stopped with a jerk, and the baby was
thrown, like a stone out of a catapult, against the washstand,
fortunately with the pillow to break its fall. But the machine kept
whizzing round and round the room as soon as the slat was withdrawn,
and Bradley, in an ecstasy of rage, flung it out the back window into
the yard. It continued to make such a clatter there that he had to go
down and pile up barrels and slop-buckets and bricks and clothes-props
and part of the grape-arbor on it, so that all it could do was to lie
there all night buzzing with a kind of smothered hum and keeping the
next-door neighbors awake, so that they pelted it with bootjacks,
under the impression that it was cats.

Mrs. Bradley expressed such decided views respecting cradles of that
pattern that Mr. Bradley turned his attention to other matters
than those of a domestic character. He resolved to revolutionize
navigation. It occurred to him that some kind of an apparatus might be
devised by which a man could walk upon the surface of the water, and
he went to work at it. The result was that in a few weeks he produced
and patented Bradley's Water Perambulator. It consisted of a couple of
shallow scows, each about four feet long. These were to be fastened to
the feet; and Bradley informed his friends that with a little practice
a man could glide over the bosom of a river with the ease and velocity
with which a good skater skims over the ice.

It looked like a splendid thing. Bradley said that it would certainly
produce a revolution in navigation, and make men wholly independent of
steamers and other vessels when they desired to travel upon water with
rapidity. Bradley intimated that the day would come when a man would
mount a water perambulator and go drifting off to India, sliding over
the bounding billows of the dark blue sea as serenely as if he were
walking along a turnpike.

And one day Bradley asked a select party to come down to the river
to see him make a trial-trip. At the appointed time he appeared with
something that looked like a small frigate under each arm; and when he
had fastened them securely upon his feet, he prepared to lower himself
over the edge of the wharf. He asked the spectators to designate a
point upon the thither shore at which they wished him to land. It was
immaterial to him, he said, whether he went one mile or ten, up stream
or down, because he should glide around upon the surface of the stream
with the ease and grace of a swallow. Then they fixed a point for him;
and when he had dropped into the water, he steadied himself for a
moment by holding to the pier while he fastened his eye upon his
destination and prepared to start.

At last he said the experiment would begin; and he struck out with his
left foot. As he did so the front end of that particular scow scuttled
under water, and as he tried to save himself by bringing forward his
right foot, that section of Bradley's Water Perambulator also dipped
under, and Bradley fell.

[Illustration: THE NEW MOTOR]

A moment later he was hanging head downward in the river, with nothing
visible to the anxious spectators but the bottoms of two four-foot
frigates. The perambulator simply kept the body of Bradley under the
water. Then a man went out in a skiff and pulled the inventor in with
a boat-hook. When he came ashore, they unbuckled his scows, took off
his clothing and rolled him upon an oil-barrel. In half an hour he
revived, and with a deep groan he said,

"Where am I?"

His friends explained his situation to him, and then he asked,

"What drowned me?"

They told him sadly that he was injured during an attempt to
revolutionize navigation and to prepare the way for a walk to India.

"How did I try to do it?" he inquired.

They wept as they reminded him that he had started to skim over the
river like a swallow, with a scow upon each foot, and then he faintly

"Where in thunder are those machines?"

His friends produced, the new motor with which Bradley intended to
break up the steamship lines; and when he had looked at them for a
moment, he fell back and whispered,

"It's no use. I can't do 'em justice. Eight men couldn't cuss 'em to
satisfy me. But split 'em up! Have 'em mashed into kin'lin-wood before
I get well, or the sight of 'em'll set me crazy."

Then he was carried home, and after being in bed about a fortnight he
came out with a pallid cheek, a sorrowful heart and ideas for six or
seven new machines.



Mr. Keyser mentioned recently that he had employed a new hired girl,
and that soon after her arrival Mrs. Keyser, before starting to spend
the day with a friend, instructed the girl to whitewash the kitchen
during her absence. Upon returning, Mrs. Keyser found the job
completed in a very satisfactory manner. On Wednesday, Mrs. Keyser
always churns, and on the following Wednesday, when she was ready, she
went out; and finding that Mr. Keyser had already put the milk into
the churn, she began to turn, the handle. This was at eight o'clock
in the morning, and she turned until ten without any signs of butter
appearing. Then she called in the hired man, and he turned until
dinner-time, when he knocked off with some very offensive language,
addressed to the butter, which had not yet come. After dinner the
hired girl took hold of the crank and turned it energetically until
two o'clock, when she let go with a remark which conveyed the
impression that she believed the churn to be haunted. Then Mr. Keyser
came out and said he wanted to know what was the matter with that
churn. It was a good enough churn if people only knew enough to use
it. Mr. Keyser then worked the crank until half-past three, when, as
the butter had not come, he surrendered it again to the hired man
because he had an engagement in the village. The man ground the
machine to an accompaniment of frightful imprecations. Then the Keyser
children each took a turn for half an hour, then Mrs. Keyser tried her
hand; and when she was exhausted, she again enlisted the hired girl,
who said her prayers while she turned. But the butter didn't come.

When Keyser came home and found the churn still in action, he felt
angry; and seizing the handle, he said he'd make the butter come if he
stirred up an earthquake in doing it. Mr. Keyser effected about two
hundred revolutions of the crank a minute--enough to have made
any ordinary butter come from the ends of the earth; and when the
perspiration began to stream from him, and still the butter didn't
come, he uttered one wild yell of rage and disappointment and kicked
the churn over the fence. When Mrs. Keyser went to pick it up, she
put her nose down close to the buttermilk and took a sniff. Then she
understood how it was. The girl had mixed the whitewash in the churn
and left it there. A good, honest and intelligent servant who knows
how to churn could have found a situation at Keyser's the next day.
There was a vacancy.

Mr. Keyser during the summer made a very narrow escape from a
melancholy ending. He dreamed one night that he would die on the 14th
of September. So strongly was he assured of the fact that the vision
would prove true that he began at once to make preparations for his
departure. He got measured for a burial-suit, he drew up his will, he
picked out a nice lot in the cemetery and had it fenced in, he joined
the church and selected six of the deacons as his pall-bearers; he
also requested the choir to sing at the funeral, and he got them to
run over a favorite hymn of his to see how it would sound. Then he
got Toombs, the undertaker, to knock together a burial-casket with
silver-plated handles, and cushions inside, and he instructed the
undertaker to use his best hearse, and to buy sixty pairs of black
gloves, to be distributed among the mourners. He had some trouble
deciding upon a tombstone. The man at the marble-yard, however, at
last sold him a beautiful one with an angel weeping over a kind of a
flower-pot, with the legend, "Not lost, but gone before."

Then he got the village newspaper to put a good obituary notice of him
in type, and he told his wife that he would be gratified if she would
come out in the spring and plant violets upon his grave. He said it
was hard to leave her and the children, but she must try and bear up
under it. These afflictions are for our good, and when he was an angel
he would come and watch over her and keep his eye on her. He said she
might marry again if she wanted to; for although the mere thought of
it nearly broke his heart, he wished her, above all, to be happy, and
to have some one to love her and protect her from the storms of the
rude world. Then he and Mrs. Keyser and the children cried, and
Keyser, as a closing word of counsel, advised her not to plough for
corn earlier than the middle of March.

On the night of the 13th of September there was a flood in the creek,
and Keyser got up at four o'clock in the morning of the 14th and
worked until night, trying to save his buildings and his woodpile. He
was so busy that he forgot all about its being the day of his death;
and as he was very tired, he went to bed early and slept soundly all

About six o'clock on the morning of the 15th there was a ring at the
door-bell. Keyser jumped out of bed, threw up the front window and

"Who's there?"

"It's me--Toombs," said the undertaker.

"What do you want at this time of the morning?" demanded Keyser.

"Want?" said Toombs, not recognizing Keyser. "Why, I've brought around
the ice to pack Keyser in, so's he'll keep until the funeral. The
corpse'd spoil this kind of weather if we didn't."

Then Keyser remembered, and it made him feel angry when he thought how
the day had passed and left him still alive, and how he had made a
fool of himself. So he said,

"Well, you can just skeet around home agin with that ice; the corpse
is not yet dead. You're a little too anxious, it strikes me. You're
not goin' to inter me yet, if you have got everything ready. So you
can haul off and unload."

About half-past ten that morning the deacons came around, with crape
on their hats and gloom in their faces, to carry the body to the
grave; and while they were on the front steps the marble-yard man
drove up with the flower-pot tombstone and a shovel, and stepped in to
ask the widow how deep she wanted the grave dug. Just then the choir
arrived with the minister, and the company was assembled in the
parlor, when Keyser came in from the stable, where he had been dosing
a horse with patent medicine and warm "mash" for the glanders. He was
surprised, but he proceeded to explain that there had been a little
mistake, somehow. He was also pained to find that everybody seemed to
be a good deal disappointed, particularly the tombstone-man, who went
away mad, declaring that such an old fraud ought to be buried, anyhow,
dead or alive. Just as the deacons left in a huff the tailor's boy
arrived with the burial-suit, and before Keyser could kick him off the
steps the paper-carrier flung into the door the _Patriot_, in which
that obituary notice occupied a prominent place.

Anybody who wants a good reliable tombstone that has a flower-pot and
an angel on it, with an affecting inscription, can buy one of that
kind, at a sacrifice for cash, from Keyser. He thinks the bad dream
must have been caused by eating too much at supper.

After he felt assured that he should have to remain a little longer
in this troublous world, Mr. Keyser determined to effect some
improvements of his farm that he had thought of. He greatly needed a
constant supply of water, and he resolved to bore an artesian well in
the barn-yard. The boring was done with a two-inch auger fixed in the
end of an iron rod, which was twisted around by a wheel worked by two
men. One day, after they had gone down a good many feet, they tried to
pull the rod out, but it would not come. They were afraid to use much
force lest the auger should come off and stay in the hole, and so, as
the boring went along well enough, they concluded to keep on turning,
and to trust to the force of the water, when they struck it, to drive
the loose dirt up from the hole. When they had gone down about three
hundred and fifty feet, they began to think it queer that there were
no signs of water, but they bored a hundred feet farther; and one
day, just as they were beginning on another hundred, something odd

On the day in question Keyser's boy came running into the house and
told him to come into the garden quick, for there was some kind of an
extraordinary animal with a sharp nose burrowing out of the ground.
Keyser concluded that it must be either a potato-bug or a grasshopper
that had been hatched in the spring, and he took out a bottle of
poison to drop on it when it came up. When Keyser reached the spot, a
couple of hundred yards from where they were boring the well, there
certainly was some kind of a creature slowly pushing its way up
through the sod. Its nose seemed to resemble a sharp point like steel.
Keyser dropped some poison on it; but it didn't appear to mind the
stuff, but kept slowly creeping up from the ground. Then Keyser felt
it, and was astonished to find that it felt exactly like the end of a
fork-prong. He sent the boy over to call Perkins and the rest of the
neighbors. Pretty soon a large crowd collected, and by this time the
animal had emerged to the extent of a couple of inches.

[Illustration: A QUEER PLANT]

Everybody was amazed to see that it looked exactly like the end of a
large auger; and two or three timid men were so scared at the idea of
such a thing actually growing out of the earth that they suddenly
got over the fence and left. Perkins couldn't account for it; but he
suggested that maybe somebody might have planted a gimlet there, and
it had taken root and blossomed out into an auger; but he admitted
that he had never heard of such a thing before.

The excitement increased so that the men who were boring the artesian
well knocked off and came over to see the phenomenon. It was noticed
that as soon as they stopped work the auger ceased to grow; and when
they arrived, they looked at it for a minute, and one of them said,

"Bill, do you recognize that auger?"

"I think I do," said Bill.

"Well, Bill, you go and unhitch that wheel from the other end of the

Bill did so; and then the other man asked the crowd to take hold of
the auger and pull. They did; and out came four hundred and fifty feet
of iron rod. The auger had slid off to the side, turned upward and
come to the surface in Keyser's garden. Then the artesian well was
abandoned, and Keyser bought a steam-pump and began to get water from
the river.

Another remarkable boring experience that occurred in our neighborhood
deserves to be related here. When Butterwick bought his present place,
the former owner offered, as one of the inducements to purchase, the
fact that there was a superb sugar-maple tree in the garden. It was a
noble tree, and Butterwick made up his mind that he would tap it some
day and manufacture some sugar. However, he never did so until last
year. Then he concluded to draw the sap and to have "a sugar-boiling."

Mr. Butterwick's wife's uncle was staying with him, and after inviting
some friends to come and eat the sugar they got to work. They took a
huge wash-kettle down into the yard and piled some wood beneath it,
and then they brought out a couple of buckets to catch the sap, and
the auger with which to bore a hole in the tree.

Butterwick's wife's uncle said that the bucket ought to be set about
three feet from the tree, as the sap would spurt right out with a good
deal of force, and it would be a pity to waste any of it.

Then he lighted the fire, while Butterwick bored the hole about four
inches deep. When he took the auger out, the sap did not follow, but
Butterwick's wife's uncle said what it wanted was a little time, and
so, while the folks waited, he put a fresh armful of wood on the fire.
They waited half an hour; and as the sap didn't come, Butterwick
concluded that the hole was not deep enough, so he began boring again,
but he bored too far, for the auger went clear through the tree and
penetrated the back of his wife's uncle, who was leaning up against
the trunk trying to light his pipe. He jumped nearly forty feet, and
they had to mend him up with court-plaster.

[Illustration: TOO MUCH OF A BORE.]

Then he said he thought the reason the sap didn't come was that there
ought to be a kind of spigot in the hole, so as to let it run off
easily. They got the wooden spigot from the vinegar-barrel in the
cellar and inserted it. Then, as the sap did not come, Butterwick's
wife's uncle said he thought the spigot must be jammed in so tight
that it choked the flow; and while Butterwick tried to push it out,
his wife's uncle fed the fire with some kindling-wood. As the spigot
could not be budged with a hammer, Butterwick concluded to bore it out
with the auger; and meanwhile his wife's uncle stirred the fire. Then,
the auger broke off short in the hole, and Butterwick had to go half a
mile to the hardware-store to get another one.

Then Butterwick bored a fresh hole; and although the sap would not
come, the company did; and they examined with much interest the
kettle, which was now red-hot, and which Butterwick's wife's uncle
was trying to lift off the fire with the hay-fork. As the sap still
refused to come, Butterwick went over for Keyser to ask him how to
make the exasperating tree disgorge. When he arrived, he looked at the
hole, then at the spigot, then at the kettle and then at the tree.
Then, turning to Butterwick with a mournful face, he said,

"Butterwick, you have had a good deal of trouble in your life, an'
it's done you good; it's made a man of you. This world is full of
sorrow, but we must bear it without grumbling. You know that, of
course. Consequently, now that I've some bad news to break to you, I
feel 'sif the shock won't knock you endways, but'll be received with
patient resignation. I say I hope you won't break down an' give away
to your feelin's when I tell you that there tree is no sugar-maple
at all. Grashus! why, that's a black hickory. It is, indeed; and you
might as well bore for maple-sugar in the side of a telegraph-pole."

Then the company went home, and Butterwick's wife's uncle said he had
an engagement with a man in Hatboro' which he must keep right off.
Butterwick took the kettle up to the house; but as it was burned out,
he sold it next day for fifteen cents for old iron and bought a new
one for twelve dollars. He thinks now maybe it's better to buy your
maple sugar.



There are two families of Bangers in our neighborhood, the heads of
which have the same name--Henry Banger. The Henry who married the
widow, heretofore mentioned, is a lawyer in the village, while the
other, having no relationship to the former, is a "professor," and he
lives on the opposite side of the river, in a hamlet that has grown up
there. One day Henry Banger, the lawyer, received a telegram saying
that his aunt had died suddenly in Elmira, New York, and that the body
would be sent on at once by express. Mr. Banger made preparations for
the funeral, and upon the day that the remains were due he went down
to the express office to receive them.

They did not come, however; and when the agent telegraphed to ask
about them, he ascertained that Mr. Banger's aunt had been carried
through to Baltimore by mistake. Orders were sent at once to reship
the body with all possible speed; and accordingly, it was placed upon
the cars of the Northern Central Railroad. As the train was proceeding
north a collision occurred. The train was wrecked, and Mr. Banger's
aunt was tossed rudely out upon the roadside.

The people who were attending to things supposed that she was one of
the victims of the accident, and so the coroner held an inquest;
and as nobody knew who she was, she was sent back to Baltimore and
interred by the authorities. As she did not reach Mr. Banger, he
induced the express company to hunt her up; and when her resting-place
was discovered, they took her up, placed her in a casket and shipped
her again.

During that trip some thieves got into the express car and threw out
the iron money-chest and Mr. Banger's aunt, supposing that the casket
contained treasure. On the following morning a farmer discovered Mr.
Banger's aunt in the casket leaning up against a tree in the woods.
He sent for the coroner; and when another inquest had been held, they
were about to bury the remains, and would have done so had not a
telegram come from the express company instructing the authorities to
ship Mr. Banger's aunt back to Baltimore.

Mr. Banger, meantime, endured the most agonizing suspense, and began
to talk about suing the express company for damages. At last, however,
he received information that the departed one had been sent on upon
the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad. So she had. But
as the train was crossing Gunpowder River the express car gave a
lurch, and the next moment Mr. Banger's aunt shot through the door
into the water. She sailed around in the bay for several days,
apparently uncertain whether to seek the ocean and move straight
across for Europe, or to go up into the interior. She chose the
latter course, and a week afterward she drifted ashore in the Lower

As soon as she was discovered the coroner held an inquest, and then
put her on the cars again. This time she came directly to Millburg,
and Mr. Banger was at the depot waiting for her with the funeral. By
some mistake, however, she was carried past and put out at the next
town above, and the agent said that the best thing he could do would
be to have her brought down in the morning. In the morning she came,
and Mr. Banger was there with the friends of the family to receive

When they reached the cemetery, Rev. Dr. Dox delivered a most
affecting discourse; and when all was over, and Mr. and Mrs. Banger
had wiped away their tears, they went slowly home, sorrowful, of
course, but somewhat glad that the long suspense was ended.

As Mr. Banger entered his sitting-room he saw a lady reposing in front
of the fire, with her back toward him, toasting her toes. Before he
had time to speak she looked around, and he was amazed to perceive
that it was his dead-and-buried aunt. He was a little frightened at
first, but in a moment he summoned up courage enough to ask,

"Why, how did you get here?"

"I came on the train, of course."

"Yes, I know; but how did you get out of the cemetery?"

"Cemetery? What cemetery? I haven't been in any cemetery!"

"Not been in the cemetery! Why, either I buried you an hour ago, or I
am the worst mistaken man on earth."

"Mr. Banger, what do you mean? This is a curious sort of a jest."

Then Banger explained the situation to her; and as she solemnly
protested that she had not been in Elmira, Banger was about to
conclude that he had been the victim of a joke, when it suddenly
occurred to him that maybe it was the aunt of Professor Banger. He
sent out to investigate the matter, and found that the conjecture was
correct. And when Professor Banger heard about it, he became very
angry, and he entered suit against the lawyer Banger for embezzling
his aunt. Then Lawyer Banger sued the professor for the express
charges and the funeral expenses, and for a time it looked as if that
eccentric and roving old lady would be the cause of infinite trouble;
but the difficulty was finally compromised by the lawyer Banger
accepting half the amount of his expenses.

* * * * *

Professor Banger was originally a telegraph-operator, but some years
ago he saved up a small sum of money, with which he constructed a
balloon. Then he tacked "professor" to his name, and began to devote
himself to science and the show business. His account of one of his
recent excursions is not only entertaining, but it proves that he is
an ardent student of natural phenomena. He said to me,

"We went up at Easton, Pennsylvania; Conly, Jones and myself, and
it was the finest trip I ever took. Perfectly splendid! We got the
balloon full about twelve o'clock, and the crowd held her down until
we were ready. Then I gave the word and they let go, and we went
a-humming into the air. One man got caught in a twist of the rope as
she gave her first spurt upward, and it slammed him up against a fence
as if he'd been shot out of a gun. Smashed in three or four of his
ribs, I believe, and cracked his leg.

"But we went up beautifully about fifteen hundred feet, and while we
were looking at the charming scenery we ran into a cloud, and I told
Conly to throw out some ballast. He heaved over a couple of sand-bags,
and one of them accidentally fell on Major Wiggins' hired girl, who
was hanging clothes in the garden, and the other went into his chimney
and choked it up. He was mad as fury about it when we came down. No
enthusiasm for science. Some men don't care a cent whether the world
progresses or not.

[Illustration: BALLAST]

"Well, sir, we shot up about a thousand feet more, and then Jones
dropped the lunch-basket overboard by accident, and we went up nearly
four miles Conly got blue in the face, Jones fainted, and I came near
going under myself. A minute more we'd all've been dead men; but I
gave the valve a jerk, and we came down like a rocket-stick. When the
boys came to, Jones said he wanted to get out; and as we were only a
little distance from the ground, I threw out the grapnel.

"That minute a breeze struck her, and she went along at about ninety
miles an hour over some man's garden, and the grapnel caught his
grape-arbor snatched it up, and pretty soon got it tangled with the
weathercock on the Presbyterian church-steeple. I cut the rope and
left it there, and I understand that the deacons sued the owner
because he wouldn't take it down. Raised an awful fuss and sent the
sheriff after me. Trying to make scientific investigation seem like a
crime, and I working all the time like a horse to unfold the phenomena
of nature! If they had loved knowledge, they wouldn't've cared if
I'd've ripped off their old steeple and dropped it down like an
extinguisher on top of some factory chimney.

"So, when we left the grape-arbor, we went up again, and Jones got
sicker and said he must get out. So I rigged up another grapnel and
threw it over. We were just passing a farm near the river; and as the
wind was high, the grapnel tore through two fences and pulled the roof
off of a smoke-house, and then, as nothing would hold her, we swooped
into the woods, when we ran against a tree. The branches skinned
Conly's face and nearly put out my right eye, and knocked four teeth
out of Jones' mouth. It was the most exciting and interesting voyage
I ever made in my life; and I was just beginning to get some
satisfaction from it--just getting warmed up and preparing to take
some meteorological observations--when Jones became so very anxious to
quit that I didn't like to refuse, although it went fearfully against
the grain for the reason that I hated to give up and abandon my
scientific investigations.

"So I threw out my coat and boots, and made the other fellows do the
same, and we rose above the trees and sailed along splendidly until we
struck the river. Then she suddenly dodged down, and the edge of the
car caught in the water; so the wind took her, and we went scudding
along like lightning, nearly drowned. Conly was washed overboard, and
that lightened her, so she went up again. I was for staying up, but
Jones said he'd die if he didn't get out soon; and besides, he thought
we ought to look after Conly. But I said Conly was probably drowned,
anyhow, so it was hardly worth while to sacrifice our experiments on
that account; and I told Jones that a man of his intelligence ought to
be willing to endure something for the sake of scientific truth. And
Jones said, 'Hang scientific truth!'--actually made that remark; and
he said that if I didn't let him out he'd jump out. He was sick, you
know. The man was not himself, or he would never have talked in that
way about a voyage that was so full of interest and so likely to
reveal important secrets of nature.

"But to oblige him I at last got her down on the other side of the
river, and a farmer ran out and seized the rope. While we were talking
to him I was just telling him that, as the gas was running out of the
neck of the balloon, maybe he'd better put out his cigar, when all of
a sudden there was a terrific bang. The gas exploded and wrapped us in
a sheet of flame, and the next minute some of the neighbors picked up
me and Jones. Jones was roasted nearly to a crisp. Exciting, wasn't

"And they took him over to the farmhouse, where we found that they had
fished out Conly and were bringing him to. When he revived, they sent
the invalid corps back to town in a wagon, Jones groaning all the way
and I arguing with him to show that science requires her votaries to
give up a little of their personal comfort for the benefit it does the
human race, and Conly saying he wished he was well enough to go out
and bang the inventor of balloons with a gun.

"As soon as we got back to Easton a constable arrested me for chucking
that ignorant opponent of scientific inquiry up against the fence
and wrecking him. When I was let off on bail, I began to build a new
balloon. She's nearly done now, and I'm going to make an ascension
early next month in search of the ozone belt. Won't you go up with me?
The day is going to come when everybody will travel that way. It's the
most exhilarating motion in the world. Come on up and help me make
scientific observations on the ozone belt."

But the invitation was declined. The _Patriot_, however, will have a
good obituary notice of the professor all ready, in type.



It is a notorious fact that itinerant circus companies pay very
poorly, and that the man who does not get his money from them in
advance is not very likely to get it at all. Major Slott of _The
Patriot_ has suffered a good deal from these concerns; and when "The
Great European Circus and Metropolitan Caravan" tried to slip off the
other day without settling its advertising bill, he called upon the
sheriff and got him to attach the Bengal tiger for the debt. The tiger
was brought in its cage and placed in the composing-room, where it
consumed fifteen dollars' worth of meat in two days--the major's bill
was only twelve dollars--and scratched one trouser leg off of the
reporter, who was standing in front of the cage stirring up the animal
with a broom. On the third day the bottom fell out of the cage; and as
the tiger seemed to want to roam around and inquire into things, the
whole force of compositors all at once felt as if they ought to
go suddenly down stairs and give the animal a chance. With that
mysterious instinct which distinguishes dumb animals, and which goes
far to prove that they have souls, the tiger went at once for the
door of the major's sanctum, and it broke in just as Slott was in the
middle of a tearing editorial upon "Our Tendencies toward Caesarism."
The major, however, did not hesitate to knock off. He stopped at once,
and emerged with a fine, airy grace through the window, bringing the
sash with him; and then he climbed up the water-spout to the roof,
where he sat until a hook-and-ladder company came and took him off.
_The Patriot_ did not issue for a week; for although the major
bombarded the tiger with shot-guns pointed through the windows, and
although the fire-engine squirted hot water at him, the brute got
along very comfortably until Saturday night, when he tried to swallow
a composing-stick and choked to death. When they entered the room,
they found that the animal had upset all the type and had soaked
himself in ink and then rolled over nearly every square inch of the
floor, while the major's leader on "Caesarism" was saturated with water
and perforated with shot-holes. After this circus advertisements in
_The Patriot_ will be paid for in advance.

[Illustration: MAJOR SLOTT'S TIGER]

In one of the issues of his paper, just after the trouble with the
tiger, the major offered some reflections upon the general subject
of "Tigers," in which he gave evidence that he had recovered his
good-humor to some extent. He said,

"We have read with very deep interest a description of how Van Amburgh
used to obtain control over tigers and other wild beasts. All he did
was to mesmerize them two or three times, and they soon recognized his
power and obeyed him. The thing seems simple and easy enough, now that
we understand it, and we have a mysterious impression that we could
walk out into a jungle and subdue the first tiger we met by making
a few passes at him with our hands. But we are not anxious to do
this--for one reason, because the Indian jungles are so far away, and
for another, because we do not want to hurt an innocent tiger. If we
have to meddle with such animals, we always prefer to operate with
those that are stuffed. Show us a tiger with sawdust bowels, and
we will stand in front of him and make mesmeric motions for a week
without the quiver of a nerve. Not that we are timid when the tiger
is alive, but simply because a fur-store is more convenient than a
jungle, and there is less danger of wetting our feet. If we happened
to be in India and we wanted a tiger, we should unhesitatingly go out
and stand boldly in front of the very first one we saw--tied to a
tree--and we should bring him home instantly if we could find a man
willing to lead him with a string. But this kind of courage is born
in some men. It cannot be acquired; and timid persons who intend to
practice Van Amburgh's method will find it more judicious to begin the
mesmerizing operation by soothing the animal with a howitzer."

[Illustration: FACING THE TIGER]

* * * * *

The lightning-rod man haunts our county as he does the rest of the
civilized portion of the country; and although occasionally he secures
a victim, sometimes it happens that he gets worsted in his attempts to
beguile his fellow-men. Such was his fate upon a recent occasion in
our village.

The other day a lightning-rod man drove up in front of a handsome
edifice standing in the midst of trees and shrubs in Millburg, and
spoke to Mr. Potts, who was sitting on the steps in front. He accosted
Potts as the owner of the residence, and said,

"I see you have no lightning-rods on this house."

"No," said Potts.

"Are you going to put any on?"

"Well, I hadn't thought of it," replied Potts.

"You ought to. A tall building like this is very much exposed. I'd
like to run you up one of my rods; twisted steel, glass fenders,
nickel-plated tips--everything complete. May I put one up to show you?
I'll do the job cheap."

"Certainly you may, if you want to. I haven't the slightest
objection," said Potts.

During the next half hour the man had his ladders up and his
assistants at work, and at the end of that time the job was done. He
called Potts out into the yard to admire it. He said to Potts,

"Now, that is all well enough; but if it was _my_ house, I'd have
another rod put on the other side. There's nothing like being
protected thoroughly."

"That's true," said Potts; "it would be better."

"I'll put up another, shall I?" asked the man.

"Why, of course, if you think it's best," said Potts.

Accordingly, the man went to work again, and soon had the rod in its

"That's a first-rate job," he said to Potts as they both stood eyeing
it. "I like such a man as you are. Big-hearted, liberal, not afraid to
put a dollar down for a good thing. There's some pleasure in dealin'
with you. I like you so much that I'd put a couple more rods on that
house, one on the north end and one on the south, for almost nothin'."

"It would make things safer, I suppose," said Potts.

"Certainly it would. I'd better do it, hadn't I, hey?"

"Just as you think proper," said Potts.

So the man ran up two more rods, and then he came down and said to
Potts, "There! that's done. Now let's settle up."

"Do what?"

"Why, the job's finished, and now I'll take my money."

"You don't expect me to pay you, I hope?"

"Of course I do. Didn't you tell me to put those rods on your house?"

"My house!" shouted Potts. "Thunder and lightning! I never ordered you
to put those rods up. It would have been ridiculous. Why, man, this is
the court-house, and I'm here waiting for the court to assemble. I'm
on the jury. You seemed to be anxious to rush out your rods; and as
it was none of my business, I let you go on. Pay for it! Come, now,
that's pretty good."

The people who were present say that the manner in which that
lightning-rod man tore around and swore was fearful. But when he got
his rods off of the court-house, he left permanently. He don't fancy
the place.

Keyser had lightning-rods placed upon his barn three or four years
ago; but during last summer the building was struck by lightning and
burned. When he got the new barn done, a man came around with a
red wagon and wanted to sell him a set of Bolt & Burnam's patent

"I believe not," said Keyser; "I had rods on the barn at the time of

"I know," exclaimed the agent--"I know you had; and very likely that's
the reason you were struck. Nothin's more likely to attract lightnin'
than worthless rods."

"How do you know they were worthless?"

"Why, I was drivin' by yer in the spring, and I seen them rods, and I
says to myself, 'That barn'll be struck some time, but there's no use
in tryin' to convince Mr. Keyser;' so I didn't call. I knowed it,
because they had iron tips. A rod with iron tips is no better'n a
clothes-prop to ward off lightnin'."

"The man who sold them to me said they had platinum tips," remarked

"Ah! this is a wicked world, Mr. Keyser. You can't be too cautious.
Some of these yer agents lie like a gas-meter. It's awful, sir. They
are wholly untrustworthy. Them rods was the most ridicklus sham I ever
see--a regular gouge. They wa'n't worth the labor it took to put 'em
up. They wa'n't, now. That's the honest truth."

"What kind do you offer?"

"Well, sir, I've got the only genuine lightnin'-rod that's made. It's
constructed on scientific principles. Professor Henry says it's sure
to run off the electric fluid every time--twisted charcoal iron, glass
insulators, eight points on each rod, warranted solid platinum. We
give a written guarantee with each rod. Never had a house struck
since we began to offer this rod to the public. Positive fact. The
lightnin'll play all around a house with one of 'em and never touch
it. A thunder-storm that'd tear the bowels out of the American
continent would leave your house as safe as a polar bear in the middle
of an iceberg. Shall I run you one up?"

"I don't know," said Keyser, musingly.

"I'll put you up one cheap, and then you'll have somethin'
reliable--somethin' there's no discount on."

"You say the old rod was a fraud?"

"The deadliest fraud you ever heard of. It hadn't an ounce of platinum
within a mile of it. The man that sold it ought to be prosecuted, and
the fellow that put it up without insulators should be shot. It's too
bad the farmers should be gouged in this sort of way."

"And Bolt & Burnam's rod is not a fraud?"

"A fraud? Why, really, my dear sir, just cast your eye over Professor
Henry's letter and these certificates, and remember that we give a
_written guarantee_--a positive protection, of course."

"Just cast _your_ eye over that," said Keyser, handing him a piece of

"Well, upon my word! This is indeed somewhat--that is to say it is,
as it were--it looks--it looks a little like one of our own

"Just so," said Keyser. "That old rod was one of Bolt & Burnam's. You
sold it to my son-in-law; you gave this certificate; you swore the
points were platinum, and your man put it up."

"Then I suppose we can't trade?"

"Well, I should think not," said Keyser. Whereupon the man mounted the
red wagon and moved on.

* * * * *

When Benjamin P. Gunn, the life insurance agent, called upon Mr.
Butterwick, the following conversation ensued:

_Gunn_. "Mr. Butterwick, you have no insurance on your life, I
believe? I dropped in to see if I can't get you to go into our
company. We offer unparalleled inducements, and--"

_Butterwick_. "I don't want to insure."

_Gunn_. "The cost is just nothing worth speaking of; a mere trifle.
And then we pay enormous dividends, so that you have so much security
at such a little outlay that you can be perfectly comfortable and

_Butterwick_. "But I don't want to be comfortable and happy. I'm
trying to be miserable."

_Gunn_. "Now, look at this thing in a practical light. You've got to
die some time or other. That is a dreadful certainty to which we must
all look forward. It is fearful enough in any event, but how much more
so when a man knows that he leaves nothing behind him! We all shrink
from death, we all hate to think of it; the contemplation of it fills
us with awful dread; but reflect, what must be the feelings of the
man who enters the dark valley with the assurance that in a pecuniary
sense his life has been an utter failure? Think how--"

_Butterwick_. "Don't scare me a bit. I want to die; been wanting to
die for years. Rather die than live any time."

_Gunn_. "I say, think how wretched will be the condition of those dear
ones whom you leave behind you! Will not the tears of your heartbroken
widow be made more bitter by the poverty in which she is suddenly
plunged, and by the reflection that she is left to the charity of a
cold and heartless world. Will not--"

_Butterwick_. "I wouldn't leave her a cent if I had millions. It'll
do the old woman good to skirmish around for her living. Then she'll
appreciate me."

_Gunn_. "Your poor little children, too. Fatherless, orphaned, they
will have no one to fill their famished mouths with bread, no one to
protect them from harm. You die uninsured, and they enter a life of
suffering from the keen pangs of poverty. You insure in our company,
and they begin life with enough to feed and clothe them, and to raise
them above the reach of want."

_Butterwick_. "I don't want to raise them above the reach of want. I
want them to want. Best thing they can do is to tucker down to work as
I did"

_Gunn_. "Oh, Mr. Butterwick, try to take a higher view of the matter.
When you are an angel and you come back to revisit the scenes of
earth, will it not fill you with sadness to see your dear ones exposed
to the storm and the blast, to hunger and cold?"

_Butterwick_. "I'm not going to be an angel; and if I was, I wouldn't
come back."

_Gunn_. "You are a poor man now. How do you know that your family will
have enough when you are gone to pay your funeral expenses, to bury
you decently?"

_Butterwick_. "I don't want to be buried."

_Gunn_. "Perhaps Mrs. Butterwick will be so indignant at your neglect
that she will not mourn for you, that she will not shed a tear over
your bier."

_Butterwick_. "I don't want a bier, and I'd rather she wouldn't cry

_Gunn_. "Well, then, s'posin' you go in on the endowment plan and take
a policy for five thousand dollars, to be paid you when you reach the
age of fifty?"

_Butterwick_. "I don't want five thousand dollars when I'm fifty. I
wouldn't take it if you were to fling it at me and pay me to take it."

_Gunn_. "I'm afraid, then, I'll have to say good-morning."

_Butterwick_. "I don't want you to say good-morning; you can go
without saying it."

_Gunn_. "I'll quit."

_Butterwick_. "Aha! now you've hit it! I _do_ want you to quit, and as
suddenly as you can."

Then Mr. Gunn left. He thinks he will hardly insure Butterwick.

[Illustration: FINIS]

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