Part 2 out of 5
in, made a gigantic O. K., fifteen yards from top to
bottom, and in marks that were fifteen feet through.
I had telegraphed my great news to Haliburton on
Monday night. Tuesday night he was at Skowhegan.
Thursday night he was at No. 9. Friday he and Rob.
stretched their cambric. Meanwhile, every day I slept.
Every night I was glued to the eye-piece. Fifteen
minutes before the eclipse every night this weird dance
of leaps two hundred feet high, followed by hops of
twenty feet high, mingled always in the steady order I
have described, spelt out the ghastly message: "Show `I
understand' on the Saw-Mill Flat."
And every morning, as the eclipse ended, I saw the
column creep along to the horizon, and again, as the duty
of opening day, spell out the same:--
"Show `I understand' on the Saw-Mill Flat."
They had done this twice in every twenty-four hours
for nearly two years. For three nights steadily I read
these signals twice each night; only these, and nothing
But Friday night all was changed. After "Attention,"
that dreadful "Show" did not come, but this cheerful
"Hurrah. All well. Air, food, and friends! what
more can man require? Hurrah."
How like George! How like Ben Brannan! How like
George's wife! How like them all! And they were all
well! Yet poor _I_ could not answer. Nay, I could
only guess what Haliburton had done. But I have never,
I believe, been so grateful since I was born.
After a pause, the united line of leapers resumed
their jumps and hops. Long and short spelled out:--
"Your O. K. is twice as large as it need be."
Of the meaning of this, lonely _I_ had, of course,
"I have a power of seven hundred," continued George.
How did he get that? He has never told us. But this I
can see, that all our analogies deceive us,--of views of
the sea from Mt. Washington, or of the Boston State House
from Wachusett. For in these views we look through forty
or eighty miles of dense terrestrial atmosphere. But
Orcutt was looking nearly vertically through an
atmosphere which was, most of it, rare indeed, and pure
indeed, compared with its lowest stratum.
In the record-book of my observations these
despatches are entered as 12 and 13. Of course it was
impossible for me to reply. All I could do was to
telegraph these in the morning to Skowhegan, sending them
to the care of the Moores, that they might forward them.
But the next night showed that this had not been
Friday night George and the others went on for a
quarter of an hour. Then they would rest, saying, "two,"
"three," or whatever their next signal time would be.
Before morning I had these despatches:--
14. "Write to all hands that we are doing well.
Langdon's baby is named Io, and Leonard's is named
How queer that was! What a coincidence! And they
had some humor there.
15 was: "Our atmosphere stuck to us. It weighs
three tenths of an inch--our weight."
16. "Our rain-fall is regular as the clock. We have
made a cistern of Kilpatrick."
This meant the spherical chamber of that name.
17. "Write to Darwin that he is all right. We began
with lichens and have come as far as palms and hemlocks."
These were the first night's messages. I had
scarcely covered the eye-glasses and adjusted the
equatorial for the day, when the bell announced the
carriage in which Polly and the children came from the
station to relieve me in my solitary service as janitor.
I had the joy of showing her the good news. This night's
work seemed to fill our cup. For all the day before,
when I was awake, I had been haunted by the fear of
famine for them. True, I knew that they had stored away
in chambers H, I, and J the pork and flour which we had
sent up for the workmen through the summer, and the corn
and oats for the horses. But this could not last
Now, however, that it proved that in a tropical
climate they were forming their own soil, developing
their own palms, and eventually even their bread-fruit
and bananas, planting their own oats and maize, and
developing rice, wheat, and all other cereals, harvesting
these six, eight, or ten times--for aught I could see--in
one of our years,--why, then, there was no danger of
famine for them. If, as I thought, they carried up with
them heavy drifts of ice and snow in the two chambers
which were not covered in when they started, why, they
had waters in their firmament quite sufficient for all
purposes of thirst and of ablution. And what I had seen
of their exercise showed that they were in strength
sufficient for the proper development of their little
Polly had the messages by heart before an hour was
over, and the little girls, of course, knew them sooner
Haliburton, meanwhile, had brought out the Shubael
refractor (Alvan Clark), and by night of Friday was in
readiness to see what he could see. Shubael of course
gave him no such luxury of detail as did my fifteen-inch
equatorial. But still he had no difficulty in making out
groves of hemlock, and the circular openings. And
although he could not make out my thirty-seven flies,
still when 10.15 came he saw distinctly the black square
crossing from hole Mary to the edge, and beginning its
Dervish dances. They were on his edge more precisely
than on mine. For Orcutt knew nothing of Tamworth, and
had thought his best chance was to display for No. 9. So
was it that, at the same moment with me, Haliburton also
was spelling out Orcutt & Co.'s joyous "Hurrah!"
"Thtephen," lisps Celia, "promith that you will look
at yon moon [old Thombush] at the inthtant I do." So was
it with me and Haliburton.
He was of course informed long before the Moores'
messenger came, that, in Orcutt's judgment, twenty feet
of length were sufficient for his signals. Orcutt's
atmosphere, of course, must be exquisitely clear.
So, on Saturday, Rob. and Haliburton pulled up all
their cambric and arranged it on the Flat again, in
letters of twenty feet, in this legend:--
RAH. AL WEL.
Haliburton said he could not waste flat or cambric on
He had had all night since half-past ten to consider
what next was most important for them to know; and a very
difficult question it was, you will observe. They had
been gone nearly two years, and much had happened. Which
thing was, on the whole, the most interesting and
important? He had said we were all well. What then?
Did you never find yourself in the same difficulty?
When your husband had come home from sea, and kissed you
and the children, and wondered at their size, did you
never sit silent and have to think what you should say?
Were you never fairly relieved when little Phil said,
blustering, "I got three eggs to-day." The truth is,
that silence is very satisfactory intercourse, if we only
know all is well. When De Sauty got his original cable
going, he had not much to tell after all; only that
consols were a quarter per cent higher than they were
the day before. "Send me news," lisped he--poor lonely
myth!--from Bull's Bay to Valentia,--"send me news; they
are mad for news." But how if there be no news worth
sending? What do I read in my cable despatch to-day?
Only that the Harvard crew pulled at Putney yesterday,
which I knew before I opened the paper, and that there
had been a riot in Spain, which I also knew. Here is a
letter just brought me by the mail from Moreau, Tazewell
County, Iowa. It is written by Follansbee, in a good
cheerful hand. How glad I am to hear from Follansbee!
Yes; but do I care one straw whether Follansbee planted
spring wheat or winter wheat? Not I. All I care for is
Follansbee's way of telling it. All these are the
remarks by which Haliburton explains the character of the
messages he sent in reply to George Orcutt's autographs,
which were so thoroughly satisfactory.
Should he say Mr. Borie had left the Navy Department
and Mr. Robeson come in? Should he say the Lords had
backed down on the Disendowment Bill? Should he say the
telegraph had been landed at Duxbury? Should he say
Ingham had removed to Tamworth? What did they care for
this? What does anybody ever care for facts? Should he
say that the State Constable was enforcing the liquor law
on whiskey, but was winking at lager? All this would
take him a week, in the most severe condensation,--
and for what good? as Haliburton asked. Yet these were
the things that the newspapers told, and they told
nothing else. There was a nice little poem of Jean
Ingelow's in a Transcript Haliburton had with him. He
said he was really tempted to spell that out. It was
better worth it than all the rest of the newspaper stuff,
and would be remembered a thousand years after that was
forgotten. "What they wanted," says Haliburton, "was
sentiment. That is all that survives and is eternal."
So he and Rob. laid out their cambric thus:--
RAW. AL WEL. SO GLAD.
Haliburton hesitated whether he would not add, "Power
5000," to indicate the full power I was using at
Tamworth. But he determined not to, and, I think,
wisely. The convenience was so great, of receiving the
signal at the spot where it could be answered, that for
the present he thought it best that they should go on
as they did. That night, however, to his dismay,
clouds gathered and a grim snow-storm began. He got no
observations; and the next day it stormed so heavily
that he could not lay his signals out. For me at
Tamworth, I had a heavy storm all day, but at midnight
it was clear; and as soon as the regular eclipse was
past, George began with what we saw was an account of
the great anaclysm which sent them there. You observe
that Orcutt had far greater power of communicating with
us than we had with him. He knew this. And it was
fortunate he had. For he had, on his little world,
much more of interest to tell than we had on our large
18. "It stormed hard. We were all asleep, and knew
nothing till morning; the hammocks turned so slowly."
Here was another revelation and relief. I had always
supposed that if they knew anything before they were
roasted to death, they had had one wild moment of horror.
Instead of this, the gentle slide of the MOON had not
wakened them, the flight upward had been as easy as it
was rapid, the change from one centre of gravity to
another had of course been slow,--and they had actually
slept through the whole. After the dancers had rested
once, Orcutt continued:--
19. "We cleared E. A. in two seconds, I think. Our
outer surface fused and cracked somewhat. So much the
better for us."
They moved so fast that the heat of their friction
through the air could not propagate itself through the
whole brick surface. Indeed, there could have been but
little friction after the first five or ten miles. By E.
A. he means earth's atmosphere.
His 20th despatch is: "I have no observations of
ascent. But by theory our positive ascent ceased in two
minutes five seconds, when we fell into our proper orbit,
which, as I calculate, is 5,109 miles from your mean
In all this, observe, George dropped no word of
regret through these five thousand miles.
His 21st despatch is: "Our rotation on our axis is
made once in seven hours, our axis being exactly vertical
to the plane of our own orbit. But in each of your daily
rotations we get sunned all round."
Of course, they never had lost their identity with
us, so far as our rotation and revolution went: our
inertia was theirs; all the fatal, Fly-Wheels had given
them was an additional motion in space of their own.
This was the last despatch before daylight of Sunday
morning; and the terrible snow-storm of March, sweeping
our hemisphere, cut off our communication with them, both
at Tamworth and No. 9, for several days.
But here was ample food for reflection. Our friends
were in a world of their own, all thirty-seven of them
well, and it seemed they had two more little girls added
to their number since they started. They had plenty of
vegetables to eat, with prospect of new tropical
varieties according to Dr. Darwin. Rob. Shea was sure
that they carried up hens; he said he knew Mrs. Whitman
had several Middlesexes and Mrs. Leonard two or three
Black Spanish fowls, which had been given her by some
friends in Foxcroft. Even if they had not yet had time
enough for these to develop into Alderneys and venison,
they would not be without animal food.
When at last it cleared off, Haliburton had to
telegraph: "Repeat from 21"; and this took all his
cambric, though he had doubled his stock. Orcutt replied
the next night:
22. "I can see your storms. We have none. When we
want to change climate we can walk in less than a minute
from midsummer to the depth of winter. But in the inside
we have eleven different temperatures, which do not
On the whole there is a certain convenience in such
an arrangement. With No. 23 he went back to his story:--
It took us many days, one or two of our months, to
adjust ourselves to our new condition. Our greatest
grief is that we are not on the meridian. Do you know
Loyal George! He was willing to exile himself and
his race from the most of mankind, if only the great
purpose of his life could be fulfilled. But his great
regret was that it was not fulfilled. He was not on the
meridian. I did not know why. But Haliburton, with
infinite labor, spelt out on the Flat,
CYC. PROJECT. AD FIN.,
by which he meant, "See article Projectiles in the
Cyclopaedia at the end"; and there indeed is the only
explanation to be given. When you fire a shot, why
does it ever go to the right or left of the plane in
which it is projected? Dr. Hutton ascribes it to a
whirling motion acquired by the bullet by friction
with the gun. Euler thinks it due chiefly to the
irregularity of the shape of the ball. In our case the
B. M. was regular enough. But on one side, being
wholly unprepared for flight, she was heavily stored
with pork and corn, while her other chambers had in
some of them heavy drifts of snow, and some only a few
men and women and hens.
Before Orcutt saw Haliburton's advice, he had sent us
24 and 25.
24. "We have established a Sandemanian church, and
Brannan preaches. My son Edward and Alice Whitman are to
be married this evening."
This despatch unfortunately did not reach Haliburton,
though I got it. So, all the happy pair received for our
wedding-present was the advice to look in the Cyclopaedia
at article Projectiles near the end.
"We shall act `As You Like It' after the wedding.
Dead-head tickets for all of the old set who will come."
Actually, in one week's reunion we had come to
The next night we got 26:
"Alice says she will not read the Cyclopaedia in the
honeymoon, but is much obliged to Mr. Haliburton for his
"How did she ever know it was I?" wrote the matter-
of-fact Haliburton to me.
27. "Alice wants to know if Mr. Haliburton will not
send here for some rags; says we have plenty, with little
need for clothes."
And then despatches began to be more serious again.
Brannan and Orcutt had failed in the great scheme for the
longitude, to which they had sacrificed their lives,--if,
indeed, it were a sacrifice to retire with those they
love best to a world of their own. But none the less did
they devote themselves, with the rare power of
observation they had, to the benefit of our world. Thus,
"Your North Pole is an open ocean. It was black,
which we think means water, from August 1st to September
29th. Your South Pole is on an island bigger than New
Holland. Your Antarctic Continent is a great cluster of
29. "Your Nyanzas are only two of a large group of
African lakes. The green of Africa, where there is no
water, is wonderful at our distance."
30. "We have not the last numbers of `Foul Play.'
Tell us, in a word or two, how they got home. We can see
what we suppose their island was."
31. "We should like to know who proved Right in `He
Knew He was Right.'"
This was a good night's work, as they were then
telegraphing. As soon as it cleared, Haliburton
BEST HOPES. CARRIER DUCKS.
This was Haliburton's masterpiece. He had no room
for more, however, and was obliged to reserve for the
next day his answer to No. 31, which was simply,
A real equinoctial now parted us for nearly a week,
and at the end of that time they were so low in our
northern horizon that we could not make out their
signals; we and they were obliged to wait till they had
passed through two-thirds of their month before we could
communicate again. I used the time in speeding to No. 9.
We got a few carpenters together, and arranged on the
Flat two long movable black platforms, which ran in and
out on railroad-wheels on tracks, from under green
platforms; so that we could display one or both as we
chose, and then withdraw them. With this apparatus we
could give forty-five signals in a minute, corresponding
to the line and dot of the telegraph; and thus could
compass some twenty letters in that time, and make out
perhaps two hundred and fifty words in an hour.
Haliburton thought that, with some improvements, he could
send one of Mr. Buchanan's messages up in thirty-seven
I own to a certain mortification in confessing that
after this interregnum, forced upon us by so long a
period of non-intercourse, we never resumed precisely
the same constancy of communication as that which I
have tried to describe at the beginning. The apology
for this benumbment, if I may so call it, will suggest
itself to the thoughtful reader.
It is indeed astonishing to think that we so readily
accept a position when we once understand it. You buy a
new house. You are fool enough to take out a staircase
that you may put in a bathing-room. This will be done in
a fortnight, everybody tells you, and then everybody
begins. Plumbers, masons, carpenters, plasterers,
skimmers, bell-hangers, speaking-tube men, men who make
furnace-pipe, paper-hangers, men who scrape off the old
paper, and other men who take off the old paint with
alkali, gas men, city-water men, and painters begin. To
them are joined a considerable number of furnace-men's
assistants, stovepipe-men's assistants, mason's
assistants, and hodmen who assist the assistants of the
masons, the furnace-men, and the pipe-men. For a day or
two these all take possession of the house and reduce it
to chaos. In the language of Scripture, they enter
in and dwell there. Compare, for the details, Matt. xii.
45. Then you revisit it at the end of the fortnight, and
find it in chaos, with the woman whom you employed to
wash the attics the only person on the scene. You ask
her where the paper-hanger is; and she says he can do
nothing because the plaster is not dry. You ask why the
plaster is not dry, and are told it is because the
furnace-man has not come. You send for him, and he says
he did come, but the stove-pipe man was away. You send
for him, and he says he lost a day in coming, but that
the mason had not cut the right hole in the chimney. You
go and find the mason, and he says they are all fools,
and that there is nothing in the house that need take two
days to finish.
Then you curse, not the day in which you were born,
but the day in which bath-rooms were invented. You say,
truly, that your father and mother, from whom you inherit
every moral and physical faculty you prize, never had a
bath-room till they were past sixty, yet they thrived,
and their children. You sneak through back streets,
fearful lest your friends shall ask you when your house
will be finished. You are sunk in wretchedness, unable
even to read your proofs accurately, far less able to
attend the primary meetings of the party with which you
vote, or to discharge any of the duties of a good
citizen. Life is wholly embittered to you.
Yet, six weeks after, you sit before a soft-coal fire
in your new house, with the feeling that you have always
lived there. You are not even grateful that you are
there. You have forgotten the plumber's name; and if you
met in the street that nice carpenter that drove things
through, you would just nod to him, and would not think
of kissing him or embracing him.
Thus completely have you accepted the situation.
Let me confess that the same experience is that with
which, at this writing, I regard the BRICK MOON. It is
there in ether. I cannot keep it. I cannot get it down.
I cannot well go to it,--though possibly that might be
done, as you will see. They are all very happy there,--
much happier, as far as I can see, than if they lived in
sixth floors in Paris, in lodgings in London, or even in
tenement-houses in Phoenix Place, Boston. There are
disadvantages attached to their position; but there are
also advantages. And what most of all tends to our
accepting the situation is, that there is "nothing that
we can do about it," as Q. says, but to keep up our
correspondence with them, and to express our sympathies.
For them, their responsibilities are reduced in
somewhat the same proportion as the gravitation which
binds them down,--I had almost said to earth,--which
binds them down to brick, I mean. This decrease of
responsibility must make them as light-hearted as the
loss of gravitation makes them light-bodied.
On which point I ask for a moment's attention. And
as these sheets leave my hand, an illustration turns up
which well serves me. It is the 23d of October.
Yesterday morning all wakeful women in New England were
sure there was some one under the bed. This is a certain
sign of an earthquake. And when we read the evening
newspapers, we were made sure there had been an
earthquake. What blessings the newspapers are,--and how
much information they give us! Well, they said it was
not very severe, here, but perhaps it was more severe
elsewhere; hopes really arising in the editorial mind
that in some Caraccas or Lisbon all churches and the
cathedral might have fallen. I did not hope for that.
But I did have just the faintest feeling that IF--if
if--it should prove that the world had blown up into six
or eight pieces, and they had gone off into separate
orbits, life would be vastly easier for all of us, on
whichever bit we happened to be.
That thing has happened, they say, once. Whenever
the big planet between Mars and Jupiter blew up, and
divided himself into one hundred and two or more
asteroids, the people on each one only knew there had
been an earthquake when and after they read their morning
journals. And then, all that they knew at first was that
telegraphic communication had ceased beyond--say two
hundred miles. Gradually people and despatches came in,
who said that they had parted company with some of the
other islands and continents. But, as I say, on each
piece the people not only weighed much less, but were
much lighter-hearted, had less responsibility.
Now will you imagine the enthusiasm here, at Miss
Hale's school, when it should be announced that
geography, in future, would be confined to the study of
the region east of the Mississippi and west of the
Atlantic,--the earth having parted at the seams so named.
No more study of Italian, German, French, or Sclavonic,--
the people speaking those languages being now in
different orbits or other worlds. Imagine also the
superior ease of the office-work of the A. B. C. F. M.
and kindred societies, the duties of instruction and
civilizing, of evangelizing in general, being reduced
within so much narrower bounds. For you and me also, who
cannot decide what Mr. Gladstone ought to do with the
land tenure in Ireland, and who distress ourselves so
much about it in conversation, what a satisfaction to
know that Great Britain is flung off with one rate of
movement, Ireland with another, and the Isle of Man with
another, into space, with no more chance of meeting again
than there is that you shall have the same hand at whist
to-night that you had last night! Even Victoria would
sleep easier, and I am sure Mr. Gladstone would.
Thus, I say, were Orcutt's and Brannan's
responsibilities so diminished, that after the first I
began to see that their contracted position had its
decided compensating ameliorations.
In these views, I need not say, the women of our
little circle never shared. After we got the new
telegraph arrangement in good running-order, I observed
that Polly and Annie Haliburton had many private
conversations, and the secret came out one morning, when,
rising early in the cabins, we men found they had
deserted us; and then, going in search of them, found
them running the signal boards in and out as rapidly as
they could, to tell Mrs. Brannan and the bride, Alice
Orcutt, that flounces were worn an inch and a half
deeper, and that people trimmed now with harmonizing
colors and not with contrasts. I did not say that I
believed they wore fig-leaves in B. M., but that was my
After all, it was hard to laugh at the girls, as
these ladies will be called, should they live to be as
old as Helen was when she charmed the Trojan senate (that
was ninety-three, if Heyne be right in his calculations).
It was hard to laugh at them because this was simple
benevolence, and the same benevolence led to a much more
practical suggestion when Polly came to me and told me
she had been putting up some baby things for little Io
and Phoebe, and some playthings for the older children,
and she thought we might "send up a bundle."
Of course we could. There were the Flies still
moving! or we might go ourselves!
[And here the reader must indulge me in a long
parenthesis. I beg him to bear me witness that I never
made one before. This parenthesis is on the tense that
I am obliged to use in sending to the press these
minutes. The reader observes that the last transactions
mentioned happen in April and May, 1871. Those to be
narrated are the sequence of those already told.
Speaking of them in 1870 with the coarse tenses of the
English language is very difficult. One needs, for
accuracy, a sure future, a second future, a paulo-post
future, and a paulum-ante future, none of which does this
language have. Failing this, one would be glad of an a-
orist,--tense without time,--if the grammarians will not
swoon at hearing such language. But the English tongue
hath not that, either. Doth the learned reader remember
that the Hebrew--language of history and prophecy--hath
only a past and a future tense, but hath no present? Yet
that language succeeded tolerably in expressing the
present griefs or joys of David and of Solomon. Bear
with me, then, O critic! if even in 1870 I use the so-
called past tenses in narrating what remaineth of this
history up to the summer of 1872. End of the
On careful consideration, however, no one volunteers
to go. To go, if you observe, would require that a man
envelop himself thickly in asbestos or some similar non-
conducting substance, leap boldly on the rapid Flies, and
so be shot through the earth's atmosphere in two seconds
and a fraction, carrying with him all the time in a non-
conducting receiver the condensed air he needed, and
landing quietly on B. M. by a precalculated orbit. At
the bottom of our hearts I think we were all afraid.
Some of us confessed to fear; others said, and said
truly, that the population of the Moon was already dense,
and that it did not seem reasonable or worth while, on
any account, to make it denser. Nor has any movement
been renewed for going. But the plan of the bundle of
"things" seemed more feasible, as the things would not
require oxygen. The only precaution seemed to be that
which was necessary for protecting the parcel against
combustion as it shot through the earth's atmosphere. We
had not asbestos enough. It was at first proposed to
pack them all in one of Professor Horsford's safes. But
when I telegraphed this plan to Orcutt, he demurred.
Their atmosphere was but shallow, and with a little too
much force the corner of the safe might knock a very bad
hole in the surface of his world. He said if we would
send up first a collection of things of no great weight,
but of considerable bulk, he would risk that, but he
would rather have no compact metals.
I satisfied myself, therefore, with a plan which I
still think good. Making the parcel up in heavy old
woollen carpets, and cording it with worsted cords, we
would case it in a carpet-bag larger than itself and fill
in the interstice with dry sand, as our best non-
conductor; cording this tightly again, we would renew the
same casing with more sand; and so continually offer
surfaces of sand and woollen, till we had five separate
layers between the parcel and the air. Our calculation
was that a perceptible time would be necessary for
the burning and disintegrating of each sand-bag. If each
one, on the average, would stand two-fifths of a second,
the inner parcel would get through the earth's atmosphere
unconsumed. If, on the other hand, they lasted a little
longer, the bag, as it fell on B. M., would not be unduly
heavy. Of course we could take their night for the
experiment, so that we might be sure they should all be
in bed and out of the way.
We had very funny and very merry times in selecting
things important enough and at the same time bulky and
light enough to be safe. Alice and Bertha at once
insisted that there must be room for the children's
playthings. They wanted to send the most approved of the
old ones, and to add some new presents. There was a
woolly sheep in particular, and a watering-pot that Rose
had given Fanny, about which there was some sentiment;
boxes of dominos, packs of cards, magnetic fishes, bows
and arrows, checker-boards and croquet sets. Polly and
Annie were more considerate. Down to Coleman and Company
they sent an order for pins, needles, hooks and eyes,
buttons, tapes, and I know not what essentials. India-
rubber shoes for the children Mrs. Haliburton insisted on
sending. Haliburton himself bought open-eye-shut-eye
dolls, though I felt that wax had been, since Icarus's
days, the worst article in such an adventure. For the
babies he had india-rubber rings: he had tin cows and
carved wooden lions for the bigger children, drawing-
tools for those older yet, and a box of crochet tools for
the ladies. For my part I piled in literature,--a set of
my own works, the Legislative Reports of the State of
Maine, Jean Ingelow, as I said or intimated, and both
volumes of the "Earthly Paradise." All these were packed
in sand, bagged and corded,--bagged, sanded and corded
again,--yet again and again,--five times. Then the whole
awaited Orcutt's orders and our calculations.
At last the moment came. We had, at Orcutt's order,
reduced the revolutions of the Flies to 7230, which was,
as nearly as he knew, the speed on the fatal night. We
had soaked the bag for near twelve hours, and, at the
moment agreed upon, rolled it on the Flies and saw it
shot into the air. It was so small that it went out of
sight too soon for us to see it take fire.
Of course we watched eagerly for signal time. They
were all in bed on B. M. when we let fly. But the
despatch was a sad disappointment.
107. "Nothing has come through but two croquet balls
and a china horse. But we shall send the boys hunting in
the bushes, and we may find more."
108. "Two Harpers and an Atlantic, badly singed. But
we can read all but the parts which were most dry."
109. "We see many small articles revolving round us
which may perhaps fall in."
They never did fall in, however. The truth was that
all the bags had burned through. The sand, I suppose,
went to its place, wherever that was. And all the other
things in our bundle became little asteroids or aerolites
in orbits of their own, except a well-disposed score or
two, which persevered far enough to get within the
attraction of Brick Moon and to take to revolving there,
not having hit quite square, as the croquet balls did.
They had five volumes of the "Congressional Globe"
whirling round like bats within a hundred feet of their
heads. Another body, which I am afraid was "The Ingham
Papers," flew a little higher, not quite so heavy. Then
there was an absurd procession of the woolly sheep, a
china cow, a pair of india-rubbers, a lobster Haliburton
had chosen to send, a wooden lion, the wax doll, a
Salter's balance, the "New York Observer," the bow and
arrows, a Nuremberg nanny-goat, Rose's watering-pot, and
the magnetic fishes, which gravely circled round and
round them slowly and made the petty zodiac of their
We have never sent another parcel since, but we
probably shall at Christmas, gauging the Flies perhaps to
one revolution more. The truth is, that although we have
never stated to each other in words our difference of
opinion or feeling, there is a difference of habit of
thought in our little circle as to the position which the
B. M. holds. Somewhat similar is the difference of
habit of thought in which different statesmen of
England regard their colonies.
Is B. M. a part of our world, or is it not? Should
its inhabitants be encouraged to maintain their
connections with us, or is it better for them to "accept
the situation" and gradually wean themselves from us and
from our affairs? It would be idle to determine this
question in the abstract: it is perhaps idle to decide
any question of casuistry in the abstract. But, in
practice, there are constantly arising questions which
really require some decision of this abstract problem for
For instance, when that terrible breach occurred in
the Sandemanian church, which parted it into the Old
School and New School parties, Haliburton thought it very
important that Brannan and Orcutt and the church in B. M.
under Brannan's ministry should give in their adhesion to
our side. Their church would count one more in our
registry, and the weight of its influence would not be
lost. He therefore spent eight or nine days in
telegraphing, from the early proofs, a copy of the
address of the Chautauqua Synod to Brannan, and asked
Brannan if he were not willing to have his name signed to
it when it was printed. And the only thing which
Haliburton takes sorely in the whole experience of the
Brick Moon, from the beginning, is that neither Orcutt
nor Brannan has ever sent one word of acknowledgment of
the despatch. Once, when Haliburton was very low-
spirited, I heard him even say that he believed they had
never read a word of it, and that he thought he and Rob.
Shea had had their labor for their pains in running the
signals out and in.
Then he felt quite sure that they would have to
establish civil government there. So he made up an
excellent collection of books,--De Lolme on the British
Constitution; Montesquieu on Laws; Story, Kent, John
Adams, and all the authorities here; with ten copies of
his own address delivered before the Young Men's Mutual
Improvement Society of Podunk, on the "Abnormal Truths of
Social Order." He telegraphed to know what night he
should send them, and Orcutt replied:--
129. "Go to thunder with your old law-books. We have
not had a primary meeting nor a justice court since we
have been here, and, D. V., we never will have."
Haliburton says this is as bad as the state of things
in Kansas, when, because Frank Pierce would not give them
any judges or laws to their mind, they lived a year or so
without any. Orcutt added in his next despatch:--
130. "Have not you any new novels? Send up Scribe
and the `Arabian Nights' and `Robinson Crusoe' and the
`Three Guardsmen,' and Mrs. Whitney's books. We have
Thackeray and Miss Austen."
When he read this, Haliburton felt as if they
were not only light-footed but light-headed. And he
consulted me quite seriously as to telegraphing to them
"Pycroft's Course of Reading." I coaxed him out of that,
and he satisfied himself with a serious expostulation
with George as to the way in which their young folks
would grow up. George replied by telegraphing Brannan's
last sermon, I Thessalonians iv. II. The sermon had
four heads, must have occupied an hour and a half in
delivery, and took five nights to telegraph. I had
another engagement, so that Haliburton had to sit it all
out with his eye to Shubael, and he has never entered on
that line of discussion again. It was as well, perhaps,
that he got enough of it.
The women have never had any misunderstandings. When
we had received two or three hundred despatches from B.
M., Annie Haliburton came to me and said, in that pretty
way of hers, that she thought they had a right to their
turn again. She said this lore about the Albert Nyanza
and the North Pole was all very well, but, for her part,
she wanted to know how they lived, what they did, and
what they talked about, whether they took summer
journeys, and how and what was the form of society where
thirty-seven people lived in such close quarters. This
about "the form of society" was merely wool pulled over
my eyes. So she said she thought her husband and I had
better go off to the Biennial Convention at Assampink, as
she knew we wanted to do, and she and Bridget and
Polly and Cordelia would watch for the signals, and would
make the replies. She thought they would get on better
if we were out of the way.
So we went to the convention, as she called it, which
was really not properly a convention, but the Forty-fifth
Biennial General Synod, and we left the girls to their
own sweet way.
Shall I confess that they kept no record of their own
signals, and did not remember very accurately what they
were? "I was not going to keep a string of `says I's'
and `says she's,'" said Polly, boldly. "it shall not be
written on my tomb that I have left more annals for
people to file or study or bind or dust or catalogue."
But they told us that they had begun by asking the
"bricks" if they remembered what Maria Theresa said to
her ladies-in-waiting. Quicker than any signal had
ever been answered, George Orcutt's party replied from
the Moon, "We hear, and we obey." Then the women-kind
had it all to themselves. The brick-women explained at
once to our girls that they had sent their men round to
the other side to cut ice, and that they were manning the
telescope, and running the signals for themselves, and
that they could have a nice talk without any bother about
the law-books or the magnetic pole. As I say, I do
not know what questions Polly and Annie put; but--to give
them their due--they had put on paper a coherent record
of the results arrived at in the answers; though, what
were the numbers of the despatches, or in what order they
came, I do not know; for the session of the synod kept us
at Assampink for two or three weeks
 Maria Theresa's husband, Francis, Duke of
Tuscany, was hanging about loose one day, and the
Empress, who had got a little tired, said to the maids of
honor, "Girls, whenever you marry, take care and choose
a husband who has something to do outside of the house."
Mrs. Brannan was the spokesman. "We tried a good
many experiments about day and night. It was very funny
at first not to know when it would be light and when
dark, for really the names day and night do not express
a great deal for us. Of course the pendulum clocks all
went wrong till the men got them overhauled, and I think
watches and clocks both will soon go out of fashion. But
we have settled down on much the old hours, getting up,
without reference to daylight, by our great gong, at your
eight o'clock. But when the eclipse season comes, we
vary from that for signalling.
"We still make separate families, and Alice's is the
seventh. We tried hotel life and we liked it, for there
has never been the first quarrel here. You can't quarrel
here, where you are never sick, never tired, and need not
be ever hungry. But we were satisfied that it was nicer
for the children and for all round to live separately and
come together at parties, to church, at signal time, and
so on. We had something to say then, something to teach,
and something to learn.
"Since the carices developed so nicely into flax, we
have had one great comfort, which we had lost before, in
being able to make and use paper. We have had great fun,
and we think the children have made great improvement in
writing novels for the Union. The Union is the old Union
for Christian work that we had in dear old No. 9. We
have two serial novels going on, one called `Diana of
Carrotook,' and the other called `Ups and Downs'; the
first by Levi Ross, and the other by my Blanche. They
are really very good, and I wish we could send them to
you. But they would not be worth despatching.
"We get up at eight; dress, and fix up at home; a
sniff of air, as people choose; breakfast; and then we
meet for prayers outside. Where we meet depends on the
temperature; for we can choose any temperature we want,
from boiling water down, which is convenient. After
prayers an hour's talk, lounging, walking, and so on; no
flirting, but a favorite time with the young folks.
"Then comes work. Three hours' head-work is the
maximum in that line. Of women's work, as in all worlds,
there are twenty-four in one of your days, but for my
part I like it. Farmers and carpenters have their own
laws, as the light serves and the seasons. Dinner is
seven hours after breakfast began; always an hour long,
as breakfast was. Then every human being sleeps for an
hour. Big gong again, and we ride, walk, swim,
telegraph, or what not, as the case may be. We have
no horses yet, but the Shanghaes are coming up into very
good dodos and ostriches, quite big enough for a trot for
"Only two persons of a family take tea at home. The
rest always go out to tea without invitation. At 8 P. M.
big gong again, and we meet in `Grace,' which is the
prettiest hall, church, concert-room, that you ever saw.
We have singing, lectures, theatre, dancing, talk, or
what the mistress of the night determines, till the
curfew sounds at ten, and then we all go home. Evening
prayers are in the separate households, and every one is
in bed by midnight. The only law on the statute-book is
that every one shall sleep nine hours out of every
"Only one thing interrupts this general order. Three
taps on the gong means `telegraph,' and then, I tell you,
we are all on hand.
"You cannot think how quickly the days and years go
Of course, however, as I said, this could not last.
We could not subdue our world and be spending all our
time in telegraphing our dear B. M. Could it be
possible--perhaps it was possible--that they there had
something else to think of and to do besides attending to
our affairs? Certainly their indifference to Grant's
fourth Proclamation, and to Mr. Fish's celebrated
protocol in the Tahiti business, looked that way. Could
it be that that little witch of a Belle Brannan really
cared more for their performance of "Midsummer
Night's Dream," or her father's birthday, than she cared
for that pleasant little account I telegraphed up to all
the children, of the way we went to muster when we were
boys together? Ah well! I ought not to have supposed
that all worlds were like this old world. Indeed, I
often say this is the queerest world I ever knew.
Perhaps theirs is not so queer, and it is I who am the
Of course it could not last. We just arranged
correspondence days, when we would send to them, and they
to us. I was meanwhile turned out from my place at
Tamworth Observatory. Not but I did my work well, and
Polly hers. The observer's room was a miracle of
neatness. The children were kept in the basement.
Visitors were received with great courtesy; and all the
fees were sent to the treasurer; he got three dollars and
eleven cents one summer,--that was the year General Grant
came there; and that was the largest amount that they
ever received from any source but begging. I was not
unfaithful to my trust. Nor was it for such infidelity
that I was removed. No! But it was discovered that I
was a Sandemanian; a Glassite, as in derision I was
called. The annual meeting of the trustees came round.
There was a large Mechanics' Fair in Tamworth at the
time, and an Agricultural Convention. There was no
horse-race at the convention, but there were two
competitive examinations in which running horses
competed with each other, and trotting horses
competed with each other, and five thousand dollars was
given to the best runner and the best trotter. These
causes drew all the trustees together. The Rev. Cephas
Philpotts presided. His doctrines with regard to free
agency were considered much more sound than mine. He
took the chair,--in that pretty observatory parlor, which
Polly had made so bright with smilax and ivy. Of course
I took no chair; I waited, as a janitor should, at the
door. Then a brief address. Dr. Philpotts trusted that
the observatory might always be administered in the
interests of science, of true science; of that science
which rightly distinguishes between unlicensed liberty
and true freedom; between the unrestrained volition and
the freedom of the will. He became eloquent, he became
noisy. He sat down. Then three other men spoke, on
similar subjects. Then the executive committee which had
appointed me was dismissed with thanks. Then a new
executive committee was chosen, with Dr. Philpotts at the
head. The next day I was discharged. And the next week
the Philpotts family moved into the observatory, and
their second girl now takes care of the instruments.
I returned to the cure of souls and to healing the
hurt of my people. On observation days somebody runs
down to No. 9, and by means of Shubael communicates with
B. M. We love them, and they love us all the same.
Nor do we grieve for them as we did. Coming home
from Pigeon Cove in October with those nice Wadsworth
people, we fell to talking as to the why and wherefore of
the summer life we had led. How was it that it was so
charming? And why were we a little loath to come back to
more comfortable surroundings? "I hate the school," said
George Wadsworth. "I hate the making calls," said his
mother. "I hate the office hour," said her poor husband;
"if there were only a dozen I would not mind, but
seventeen hundred thousand in sixty minutes is too many."
So that led to asking how many of us there had been at
Pigeon Cove. The children counted up all the six
families,--the Haliburtons, the Wadsworths, the
Pontefracts, the Midges, the Hayeses, and the Inghams,
and the two good-natured girls, thirty-seven in all,--and
the two babies born this summer. "Really," said Mrs.
Wadsworth, "I have not spoken to a human being besides
these since June; and what is more, Mrs. Ingham, I have
not wanted to. We have really lived in a little world of
"World of our own!" Polly fairly jumped from her
seat, to Mrs. Wadsworth's wonder. So we had--lived in a
world of our own. Polly reads no newspaper since the
"Sandemanian" was merged. She has a letter or two tumble
in sometimes, but not many; and the truth was that she
had been more secluded from General Grant and Mr.
Gladstone and the Khedive, and the rest of the
important people, than had Brannan or Ross or any of
And it had been the happiest summer she had ever
Can it be possible that all human sympathies can
thrive, and all human powers be exercised, and all human
joys increase, if we live with all our might with the
thirty or forty people next to us, telegraphing kindly to
all other people, to be sure? Can it be possible that
our passion for large cities, and large parties, and
large theatres, and large churches, develops no faith nor
hope nor love which would not find aliment and exercise
in a little "world of our own"?
CRUSOE IN NEW YORK
I was born in the year 1842, in the city of New York,
of a good family, though not of that country, my father
being a foreigner of Bremen, who settled first in
England. He got a good estate by merchandise, and
afterward lived at New York. But first he had married
my mother, whose relations were named Robinson, a very
good family in her country--and from them I was named.
My father died before I can remember--at least, I
believe so. For, although I sometimes figure to myself
a grave, elderly man, thickset and wearing a broad-
brimmed hat, holding me between his knees and advising me
seriously, I cannot say really whether this were my
father or no; or, rather, whether this is really some one
I remember or no. For my mother, with whom I have lived
alone much of my life, as the reader will see, has talked
to me of my father so much, and has described him to me
so faithfully, that I cannot tell but it is her
description of him that I recollect so easily. And
so, as I say, I cannot tell whether I remember him or no.
He never lost his German notions, and perhaps they
gained in England some new force as to the way in which
boys should be bred. At least, for myself, I know that
he left to my mother strict charge that I should be bound
'prentice to a carpenter as soon as I was turned of
fourteen. I have often heard her say that this was the
last thing he spoke to her of when he was dying; and with
the tears in her eyes, she promised him it should be so.
And though it cost her a world of trouble--so changed
were times and customs--to find an old-fashioned master
who would take me for an apprentice, she was as good as
I should like to tell the story of my apprenticeship,
if I supposed the reader cared as much about it as I do;
but I must rather come to that part of my life which is
remarkable, than hold to that which is more like the life
of many other boys. My father's property was lost or was
wasted, I know not how, so that my poor mother had but a
hard time of it; and when I was just turned of twenty-one
and was free of my apprenticeship, she had but little to
live upon but what I could bring home, and what she could
earn by her needle. This was no grief to me, for I was
fond of my trade, and I had learned it well. My old
master was fond of me, and would trust me with work of a
good deal of responsibility. I neither drank nor
smoked, nor was I over-fond of the amusements which took
up a good deal of the time of my fellow-workmen. I was
most pleased when, on pay-day, I could carry home to my
mother ten, fifteen, or even twenty dollars--could throw
it into her lap, and kiss her and make her kiss me.
"Here is the oil for the lamp, my darling," I would
say; or, "Here is the grease for the wheels"; or, "Now
you must give me white sugar twice a day." She was a
good manager, and she made both ends meet very well.
I had no thought of leaving my master when my
apprenticeship was over, nor had he any thought of
letting me go. We understood each other well, he liked
me and I liked him. He knew that he had in me one man
who was not afraid of work, as he would say, and who
would not shirk it. And so, indeed, he would often put
me in charge of parties of workmen who were much older
than I was.
So it was that it happened, perhaps some months after
I had become a journeyman, that he told me to take a gang
of men, whom he named, and to go quite up-town in the
city, to put a close wooden fence around a vacant lot of
land there. One of his regular employers had come to
him, to say that this lot of land was to be enclosed, and
the work was to be done by him. He had sent round the
lumber, and he told me that I would find it on the
ground. He gave me, in writing, the general
directions by which the fence was ordered, and told me to
use my best judgment in carrying them out. "Only take
care," said he, "that you do it as well as if I was there
myself. Do not be in a hurry, and be sure your work
I was well pleased to be left thus to my own
judgment. I had no fear of failing to do the job well,
or of displeasing my old master or his employer. If I
had any doubts, they were about the men who were to work
under my lead, whom I did not rate at all equally; and,
if I could have had my pick, I should have thrown out
some of the more sulky and lazy of them, and should have
chosen from the other hands. But youngsters must not be
choosers when they are on their first commissions.
I had my party well at work, with some laborers whom
we had hired to dig our post-holes, when a white-haired
old man, with gold spectacles and a broad-brimmed hat,
alighted from a cab upon the sidewalk, watched the men
for a minute at their work, and then accosted me. I knew
him perfectly, though of course he did not remember me.
He was, in fact, my employer in this very job, for he was
old Mark Henry, a Quaker gentleman of Philadelphia, who
was guardian of the infant heirs who owned this block of
land which we were enclosing. My master did all the
carpenter's work in the New York houses which Mark Henry
or any of his wards owned, and I had often seen him
at the shop in consultation. I turned to him and
explained to him the plans for the work. We had already
some of the joists cut, which were to make the posts to
our fence. The old man measured them with his cane, and
said he thought they would not be long enough.
I explained to him that the fence was to be eight
feet high, and that these were quite long enough for
"I know," he said, "I know, my young friend, that my
order was for a fence eight feet high, but I do not think
that will do."
With some surprise I showed him, by a "ten-foot
pole," how high the fence would come.
"Yes, my young friend, I see, I see. But I tell
thee, every beggar's brat in the ward will be over thy
fence before it has been built a week, and there will be
I know not what devices of Satan carried on in the
inside. All the junk from the North River will be hidden
there, and I shall be in luck if some stolen trunk, nay,
some dead man's body, is not stowed away there. Ah, my
young friend, if thee is ever unhappy enough to own a
vacant lot in the city, thee will know much that thee
does not know now of the exceeding sinfulness of sin.
Thee will know of trials of the spirit and of the temper
that thee has never yet experienced."
I said I thought this was probable, but I thought
inwardly that I would gladly be tried that way. The old
man went on:--
"I said eight feet to friend Silas, but thee may say
to him that I have thought better of it, and that I have
ordered thee to make the fence ten feet high. Thee may
say that I am now going to Philadelphia, but that I will
write to him my order when I arrive. Meanwhile thee will
go on with the fence as I bid thee."
And so the old man entered his cab again and rode
I amused myself at his notion, for I knew very well
that the street-boys and other loafers would storm his
ten-foot wall as readily as they would have stormed the
Malakoff or the Redan, had they supposed there was
anything to gain by doing it. I had, of course, to
condemn some of my posts, which were already cut, or to
work them in to other parts of the fence. My order for
spruce boards was to be enlarged by twenty per cent by
the old man's direction, and this, as it happened, led to
a new arrangement of my piles of lumber on my vacant
And all this it was which set me to thinking that
night, as I looked on the work, that I might attempt
another enterprise, which, as it proved, lasted me for
years, and which I am now going to describe.
I had worked diligently with the men to set up some
fifty feet of the fence where it parted us from an alley-
way, for I wanted a chance to dry some of the boards,
which had just been hauled from a raft in the North
River. The truckmen had delivered them helter-
skelter, and they lay, still soaking, above each other on
our vacant lot.
We turned all our force on this first piece of fence,
and had so much of it done that, by calling off the men
just before sundown, I was able to set up all the wet
boards, each with one end resting on the fence and the
other on the ground, so that they took the air on both
sides, and would dry more quickly. Of course this left
a long, dark tunnel underneath.
As the other hands gathered up their tools and made
ready to go, a fellow named McLoughlin, who had gone out
with one of the three months' regiments not long before,
"I would not be sorry to sleep there. I have slept
in many a worse place than that in Dixie"; and on that he
went away, leaving me to make some measurements which I
needed the next day. But what he said rested in my mind,
and, as it happened, directed the next twelve years of my
Why should not I live here? How often my mother had
said that if she had only a house of her own she should
be perfectly happy! Why should not we have a house of
our own here, just as comfortable as if we had gone a
thousand miles out on the prairie to build it, and a
great deal nearer to the book-stores, to the good music,
to her old friends, and to my good wages? We had talked
a thousand times of moving together to Kansas, where I
was to build a little hut for her, and we were to be
very happy together. But why not do as the minister had
bidden us only the last Sunday--seize on to-day, and take
what Providence offered now?
I must acknowledge that the thought of paying any
ground rent to old Mr. Henry did not occur to me then--
no, nor for years afterward. On the other hand, all that
I thought of was this,--that here was as good a chance as
there was in Kansas to live without rent, and that rent
had been, was still, and was likely to be my bugbear,
unless I hit on some such scheme as this for abating it.
The plan, to be short, filled my mind. There was
nothing in the way of house-building which I shrank from
now, for, in learning my trade, I had won my Aladdin's
lamp, and I could build my mother a palace, if she had
needed one. Pleased with my fancy, before it was dark I
had explored my principality from every corner, and
learned all its capabilities.
The lot was an oblong, nearly three times as long as
it was wide. On the west side, which was one of the
short sides, it faced what I will call the Ninety-ninth
Avenue, and on the south side, what I will call Fernando
Street, though really it was one of the cross-streets
with numbers. Running to the east it came to a narrow
passage-way which had been reserved for the accommodation
of the rear of a church which fronted on the street just
north of us. Our back line was also the back line of the
yards of the houses on the same street, but on our
northeast corner the church ran back as far as the back
line of both houses and yards, and its high brick wall--
nearly fifty feet high--took the place there of the ten-
foot brick wall, surmounted by bottle-glass, which made
their rear defence.
The moment my mind was turned to the matter, I saw
that in the rear of the church there was a corner which
lay warmly and pleasantly to the southern and western
sun, which was still out of eye-shot from the street,
pleasantly removed from the avenue passing, and only
liable to inspection, indeed, from the dwelling-houses on
the opposite side of our street,--houses which, at this
moment, were not quite finished, though they would be
If, therefore, I could hit on some way of screening
my mother's castle from them--for a castle I called it
from the first moment, though it was to be much more like
a cottage--I need fear no observation from other
quarters; for the avenue was broad, and on the other side
from us there was a range of low, rambling buildings--an
engine-house and a long liquor-saloon were two--which had
but one story. Most of them bad been built, I suppose,
only to earn something for the land while it was growing
valuable. The church had no windows in the rear, and
that protected my castle--which was, indeed, still in the
air--from all observation on that side.
I told my mother nothing of all this when I went
home. But I did tell her that I had some calculations to
make for my work, and that was enough. She went on,
sweet soul! without speaking a word, with her knitting
and her sewing at her end of the table, only getting up
to throw a cloth over her parrot's cage when he was
noisy; and I sat at my end of the table, at work over my
figures, as silent as if I had been on a desert island.
Before bedtime I had quite satisfied myself with the
plan of a very pretty little house which would come quite
within our space, our means, and our shelter. There was
a little passage which ran quite across from east to
west. On the church side of this there was my mother's
kitchen, which was to be what I fondly marked the
"common-room." This was quite long from east to west,
and not more than half as long the other way. But on the
east side, where I could have no windows, I cut off, on
its whole width, a deep closet; and this proved a very
fortunate thing afterward, as you shall see. On the west
side I made one large square window, and there was, of
course, a door into the passage.
On the south side of the passage I made three rooms,
each narrow and long. The two outside rooms I meant to
light from the top. Whether I would put any skylight
into the room between them, I was not quite so certain;
I did not expect visitors in my new house, so I did not
mark it a "guest-room " in the plan. But I thought
of it as a store-room, and as such, indeed, for many
years we used it; though at last I found it more
convenient to cut a sky-light in the roof there also.
But I am getting before my story.
Before I had gone to bed that night I had made a
careful estimate as to how much lumber I should need, of
different kinds, for my little house; for I had, of
course, no right to use my master's lumber nor Mr.
Henry's; nor had I any thought of doing so. I made out
an estimate that would be quite full, for shingles, for
clapboards, white pine for my floors and finish,--for I
meant to make a good job of it if I made any,--and for
laths for the inside work. I made another list of the
locks, hinges, window furniture and other hardware I
should need; but for this I cared less, as I need not
order them so soon. I could scarcely refrain from
showing my plan to my mother, so snug and comfortable did
it look already; but I had already determined that the
"city house" should be a present to her on her next
birthday, and that till then I would keep it a secret
from her, as from all the world; so I refrained.
The next morning I told my master what the old Quaker
had directed about the fence, and I took his order for
the new lumber we should need to raise the height as was
proposed. At the same time I told him that we were all
annoyed at the need of carrying our tools back and forth,
and because we could only take the nails for one
day's use; and that, if he were willing, I had a mind to
risk an old chest I had with the nails in it and a few
tools, which I thought I could so hide that the wharf-
rats and other loafers should not discover it. He told
me to do as I pleased, that he would risk the nails if I
would risk my tools; and so, by borrowing what we call a
hand-cart for a few days, I was able to take up my own
little things to the lot without his asking any other
questions, or without exciting the curiosity of
McLoughlin or any other of the men. Of course, he would
have sent up in the shop-wagon anything we needed; but it
was far out of the way, and nobody wanted to drive the
team back at night if we could do without. And so, as
night came on, I left the men at their work, and having
loaded my hand-cart with a small chest I had, I took that
into the alley-way of which I told you before, carried my
box of tools into the corner between the church and our
fence, under the boards which we had set up that day, and
covered it heavily, with McLoughlin's help, with joists
and boards, so that no light work would remove them, if,
indeed, any wanderer of the night suspected that the box
was there. I took the hand-cart out into the alley-way
and chained it, first by the wheel and then by the
handle, in two staples which I drove there. I had
another purpose in this, as you shall see; but most of
all, I wanted to test both the police and the
knavishness of the neighborhood by seeing if the
hand-cart were there in the morning.
To my great joy it was, and to my greater joy it
remained there unmolested all the rest of the week in
which we worked there. For my master, who never came
near us himself, increased our force for us on the third
day, so that at the end of the week, or Saturday night,
the job was nearly done, and well done, too.
On the third day I had taken the precaution to throw
out in the inside of our enclosure a sort of open fence,
on which I could put the wet boards to dry, which at
first I had placed on our side fence. I told McLoughlin,
what was true enough, that the south sun was better for
them than the sun from the west. So I ran out what I may
call a screen thirty-five feet from the church, and
parallel with it, on which I set up these boards to dry,
and to my great joy I saw that they would wholly protect
the roof of my little house from any observation from the
houses the other side of the way while the workmen were
at work, or even after they were inhabited.
There was not one of the workmen with me who had
forethought enough or care for our master's interest to
ask whose boards those were which we left there, or why
we left them there. Indeed, they knew the next Monday
that I went up with the Swede, to bring back such lumber
was we did not use, and none of them knew or cared how
much we left there.
For me, I was only eager to get to work, and that day
seemed very long to me. But that Monday afternoon I
asked my master if I might have the team again for my own
use for an hour or so, to move some stuff of mine and my
mother's, and he gave it to me readily.
I had then only to drive up-town to a friendly
lumberman's, where my own stuff was already lying waiting
for me to load up, with the assistance of the workmen
there, and to drive as quickly as I could into the church
alley. Here I looked around, and seeing a German who
looked as if he were only a day from Bremen, I made signs
to him that if he would help me I would give him a piece
of scrip which I showed him. The man had been long
enough in the country to know that the scrip was good for
lager. He took hold manfully with me, and carried my
timbers and boards into the enclosure through a gap I
made in the fence for the purpose. I gave him his money
and he went away. As he went to Minnesota the next day,
he never mentioned to anybody the business he had been
Meanwhile, I had bought my hand-cart of the man who
owned it. I left a little pile of heavy cedar logs on
the outside, spiking them to each other indeed, that they
should not be easily moved. And to them and to my posts
I padlocked the hand-cart; nor was it ever disturbed
during my reign in those regions. So I had easy method
enough when I wanted a bundle or two of laths, or a
bunch of shingles, or anything else for my castle, to
bring them up in the cool of the evening, and to
discharge my load without special observation. My pile
of logs, indeed, grew eventually into a blind or screen,
which quite protected that corner of the church alley
from the view of any passer-by in Fernando Street.
Of that whole summer, happy and bright as it all was,
I look back most often on the first morning when I got
fairly to work on my new home. I told my mother that for
some weeks I should have to start early, and that she
must not think of getting up for my breakfast. I told
her that there was extra work on a job up-town, and that
I had promised to be there at five every day while the
summer lasted. She left for me a pot of coffee, which I
promised her I would warm when the time for breakfast and
dinner came; and for the rest, she always had my dinner
ready in my tin dinner-pail. Little did she know then,
sweet saint! that I was often at Fernando Street by half-
past three in the first sweet gray of those summer days.
On that particular day, it was really scarcely light
enough for me to find the nail I drew from the plank
which I left for my entrance. When I was fairly within
and the plank was replaced, I felt that I was indeed
"monarch of all I surveyed." What did I survey? The
church wall on the north; on the south, my own screen of
spruce boards, now well dry; on the east and west, the
ten-foot fences which I had built myself; and over
that on the west, God's deep, transparent sky, in which
I could still see a planet whose name I did not know. It
was a heaven, indeed, which He had said was as much mine
The first thing, of course, was to get out my frame.
This was a work of weeks. The next thing was to raise
it. And here the first step was the only hard one, nor
was this so hard as it would seem. The highest wall of
my house was no higher than the ten-foot fence we had
already built on the church alley. The western wall, if,
indeed, a frame house has any walls, was only eight feet
high. For foundations and sills, I dug deep post-holes,
in which I set substantial cedar posts which I knew would
outlast my day, and I framed my sills into these. I made
the frame of the western wall lie out upon the ground in
one piece; and I only needed a purchase high enough, and
a block with repeating pulleys strong enough, to be able
to haul up the whole frame by my own strength,
unassisted. The high purchase I got readily enough by
making what we called a "three-leg," near twenty feet
high, just where my castle was to stand. I had no
difficulty in hauling this into its place by a solid
staple and ring, which for this purpose I drove high in
the church wall. My multiplying pulley did the rest; and
after it was done, I took out the staple and mended the
hole it had made, so the wall was as good as ever.
You see it was nobody's business what shanty or what
tower old Mark Henry or the Fordyce heirs might or might
not put on the vacant corner lot. The Fordyce heirs were
all in nurseries and kindergartens in Geneva, and indeed
would have known nothing of corner lots had they been
living in their palace in Fourteenth Street. As for Mark
Henry, that one great achievement by which he rode up to
Fernando Street was one of the rare victories of his
life, of which ninety-nine hundredths were spent in
counting-houses. Indeed, if he had gone there, all he
would have seen was his ten-foot fence, and he would have
taken pride to himself that he had it built so high.
When the day of the first raising came, and the frame
slipped into the mortises so nicely, as I had
foreordained that it should do, I was so happy that I
could scarcely keep my secret from my mother. Indeed,
that day I did run back to dinner. And when she asked me
what pleased me so, I longed to let her know; but I only
smoothed her cheeks with my hands and kissed her on both
of them, and told her it was because she was so handsome
that I was so pleased. She said she knew I had a secret
from her, and I owned that I had, but she said she would
not try to guess, but would wait for the time for me to
And so the summer sped by. Of course I saw my
sweetheart, as I then called my mother, less and
less. For I worked till it was pitch-dark at the castle;
and after it was closed in, so I could work inside, I
often worked till ten o'clock by candlelight. I do not
know how I lived with so little sleep; I am afraid I
slept pretty late on Sundays. But the castle grew and
grew, and the common-room, which I was most eager to
finish wholly before cold weather, was in complete order
three full weeks before my mother's birthday came.
Then came the joy of furnishing it. To this I had
looked forward all the summer, and I had measured with my
eye many a bit of furniture, and priced, in an unaffected
way, many an impossible second-hand finery, so that I
knew just what I could do and what I could not do.
My mother had always wanted a Banner stove. I knew
this, and it was a great grief to me that she had none,
though she would never say anything about it.
To my great joy, I found a second-hand Banner stove,
No. 2, at a sort of old junk-shop, which was, in fact, an
old curiosity shop not three blocks away from Ninety-
ninth Avenue. Some one had sold this to them while it
was really as good as new, and yet the keeper offered it
to me at half-price.
I hung round the place a good deal, and when the man
found I really had money and meant something, he took me
into all sorts of alleys and hiding-places, where he
stored his old things away. I made fabulous
bargains there, for either the old Jew liked me
particularly, or I liked things that nobody else wanted.
In the days when his principal customers were wharf-rats,
and his principal business the traffic in old cordage and
copper, he had hung out as a sign an old tavern-sign of
a ship that had come to him. His place still went by the
name of "The Ship," though it was really, as I say, a
mere wreck, a rambling, third-rate old furniture shop of
the old-curiosity kind.
But after I had safely carried the Banner to my new
house, and was sure the funnel drew well, and that the
escape of smoke and sparks was carefully guarded, many a
visit did I make to The Ship at early morning or late in
the evening, to bring away one or another treasure which
I had discovered there.
Under the pretence of new-varnishing some of my
mother's most precious tables and her bureau, I got them
away from her also. I knocked up, with my own hatchet
and saw, a sitting-table which I meant to have permanent
in the middle of the room, which was much more convenient
than anything I could buy or carry.
And so, on the 12th of October, the eve of my
mother's birthday, the common-room was all ready for her.
In her own room I had a new carpet and a new set of
painted chamber furniture, which I had bought at the
maker's, and brought up piece by piece. It cost me
nineteen dollars and a half, for which I paid him in
cash, which indeed he wanted sadly.
So, on the morning of the 13th of October, I kissed
my mother forty times, because that day she was forty
years old. I told her that before midnight she should
know what the great surprise was, and I asked her if she
could hold out till then.
She let me poke as much fun at her as I chose,
because she said she was so glad to have me at breakfast;
and I stayed long after breakfast, for I had told my
mother that it was her birthday, and that I should be
late. And such a thing as my asking for an hour or two
was so rare that I took it quite of course when I did
ask. I came home early at night, too. Then I said,--
"Now, sweetheart, the surprise requires that you
spend the night away from home with me. Perhaps, if you
like the place, we will spend tomorrow there. So I will
take Poll in her cage, and you must put up your night-
things and take them in your hand."
She was surprised now, for such a thing as an outing
over night had never been spoken of before by either of
"Why, Rob," she said, "you are taking too much pains
for your old sweetheart, and spending too much money for
her birthday. Now, don't you think that you should
really have as good a time, say, if we went visiting
together, and then came back here?"
For, you see, she never thought of herself at all; it
was only what I should like most.
"No, sweetheart dear," said I. "It is not for me,
this 13th of October, it is all for you. And to-night's
outing is not for me, it is for you; and I think you will
like it and I think Poll will like it, and I have leave
for to-morrow, and we will stay away all to-morrow."
As for Tom-puss, I said, we would leave some milk
where he could find it, and I would leave a bone or two
for him. But I whistled Rip, my dog, after me. I took
Poll's cage, my mother took her bag, and locked and left
her door, unconscious that she was never to enter it
A Ninety-ninth Avenue car took us up to Fernando
Street. It was just the close of twilight when we came
there. I took my mother to Church Alley, muttered
something about some friends, which she did not
understand more than I did, and led her up the alley in
her confused surprise. Then I pushed aside my movable
board, and, while she was still surprised, led her in
after me and slid it back again.
"What is it, dear Rob? Tell me--tell me!"
"This way, sweetheart, this way!" This was all I
I drew her after me through the long passage, led her
into the common-room, which was just lighted up by the
late evening twilight coming in between the curtains of
the great square window. Then I fairly pushed her to the
great, roomy easy-chair which I had brought from The
Ship, and placed it where she could look out on the
evening glow, and I said,--
"Mother, dear, this is the surprise; this is your new
home; and, mother dear, your own boy has made it with his
own hands, all for you."
"But, Rob, I do not understand--I do not understand
at all. I am so stupid. I know I am awake. But it is
as sudden as a dream!"
So I had to begin and to explain it all,--how here
was a vacant lot that Mark Henry had the care of, and how
I had built this house for her upon it. And long before
I had explained it all, it was quite dark. And I lighted
up the pretty student's-lamp, and I made the fire in the
new Banner with my own hands.
And that night I would not let her lift a kettle, nor
so much as cut a loaf of bread. It was my feast, I said,
and I had everything ready, round to a loaf of birthday-
cake, which I had ordered at Taylor's, which I had myself
frosted and dressed, and decorated with the initials of
my mother's name.
And when the feast was over, I had the best surprise
of all. Unknown to my mother, I had begged from my Aunt
Betsy my own father's portrait, and I had hung that
opposite the window, and now I drew the curtain that hid
it, and told my sweetheart that this and the house were
her birthday presents for this year!
. . . . . . . .
And this was the beginning of a happy life, which
lasted nearly twelve years. I could make a long story of
it, for there was an adventure in everything,--in the way
we bought our milk, and the way we took in our coals.
But there is no room for me to tell all that, and it
might not interest other people as it does me. I am sure
my mother was never sorry for the bold step she took when
we moved there from our tenement. True, she saw little
or no society, but she had not seen much before. The
conditions of our life were such that she did not like to
be seen coming out of Church Alley, lest people should
ask how she got in, and excepting in the evening, I did
not care to have her go. In the evening I could go with
her. She did not make many calls, because she could not
ask people to return them. But she would go with me to
concerts, and to the church parlor meetings, and
sometimes to exhibitions; and at such places, and on
Sundays, she would meet, perhaps, one or another of the
few friends she had in New York. But we cared for them
less and less, I will own, and we cared more and more for
As soon as the first spring came, I made an immense
effort, and spaded over nearly half of the lot. It was
ninety feet wide and over two hundred and sixty long--more
than half an acre. So I knew we could have our own fresh
vegetables, even if we never went to market. My mother
was a good gardener, and she was not afraid even to
hoe the corn when I was out of the way. I dare say that
the people whom the summer left in the street above us
often saw her from their back windows, but they did not
know--as how should they?--who had the charge of this
lot, and there was no reason why they should be surprised
to see a cornfield there. We only raised green corn. I
am fond of Indian cake, but I did not care to grind my
own corn, and I could buy sweet meal without trouble. I
settled the milk question, after the first winter, by
keeping our own goats. I fenced in, with a wire fence,
the northwest corner of our little empire, and put there
a milch goat and her two kids. The kids were pretty
little things, and would come and feed from my mother's
hand. We soon weaned them, so that we could milk their
mother; and after that our flock grew and multiplied, and
we were never again troubled for such little milk as we
Some old proprietor, in the old Dutch days, must have
had an orchard in these parts. There were still left two
venerable wrecks of ancient pear-trees; and although they
bore little fruit, and what they bore was good for
nothing, they still gave a compact and grateful shade.
I sodded the ground around them and made a seat beneath,
where my mother would sit with her knitting all the
afternoon. Indeed, after the sods grew firm, I planted
hoops there, and many a good game of croquet have she and
I had together there, playing so late that we longed
for the chance they have in Sybaris, where, in the
evening, they use balls of colored glass, with fireflies
shut up inside.
On the 11th of February, in the year 1867, my old
master died, to my great regret, and I truly believe to
that of his widow and her children. His death broke up
the establishment, and I, who was always more of a
cabinet-maker or joiner than carpenter or builder, opened
a little shop of my own, where I took orders for
cupboards, drawers, stairs, and other finishing work, and
where I employed two or three German journeymen, and was
thus much more master of my own time. In particular, I
had two faithful fellows, natives of my own father's town
of Bremen. While they were with me I could leave them a
whole afternoon at a time, while I took any little job
there might be, and worked at it at my own house at home.
Where my house was, except that it was far uptown, they
never asked, nor ever, so far as I know, cared. This
gave me the chance for many a pleasant afternoon with my
mother, such as we had dreamed of in the old days when we
talked of Kansas. I would work at the lathe or the bench
and she would read to me. Or we would put off the bench
till the evening, and we would both go out into the
And so we lived year after year. I am afraid that we
worshipped each other too much. We were in the
heart of a crowded city, but there was that in our lives
which tended a little to habits of loneliness, and I
suppose a moralist would say that our dangers lay in that
On the other hand, I am almost ashamed to say that,
as I sat in a seat I had made for myself in old Van der
Tromp's pear-tree, I would look upon my corn and peas and
squashes and tomatoes with a satisfaction which I believe
many a nobleman in England does not enjoy.
Till the youngest of the Fordyce heirs was of age,
and that would not be till 1880, this was all my own. I
was, by right of possession and my own labors, lord of
all this region. How else did the writers on political
economy teach me that any property existed!
I surveyed it with a secret kind of pleasure. I had
not abundance of pears; what I had were poor and few.
But I had abundance of sweet corn, of tomatoes, of peas,
and of beans. The tomatoes were as wholesome as they
were plentiful, and as I sat I could see the long shelves
of them which my mother had spread in the sun to ripen,
that we might have enough of them canned when winter
should close in upon us. I knew I should have potatoes
enough of my own raising also to begin the winter with.
I should have been glad of more. But as by any good
day's work I could buy two barrels of potatoes, I did not
fret myself that my stock was but small.
Meanwhile my stock in bank grew fast. Neither my
mother nor I had much occasion to buy new clothes. We
were at no charge for house-rent, insurance, or taxes.
I remember that a Spanish gentleman, who was fond of me,
for whom I had made a cabinet with secret drawers, paid
me in moidores and pieces-of-eight, which in those times
of paper were a sight to behold.
I carried home the little bag and told my mother that
this was a birthday present for her; indeed, that she was
to put it all in her bed that night, that she might say
she had rolled in gold and silver. She played with the
pieces, and we used them to count with as we played our
game of cribbage.
"But really, Robin, boy," said she, "it is as the
dirt under our feet. I would give it all for three or
four pairs of shoes and stockings, such as we used to buy
in York, but such as these Lynn-built shoes and steam-
knit stockings have driven out of the market."
Indeed, we wanted very little in our desert home.
And so for many years we led a happy life, and we
found more in life than would have been possible had we
been all tangled up with the cords of artificial society.
I say "we," for I am sure I did, and I think my dear
But it was in the seventh year of our residence in
the hut that of a sudden I had a terrible shock or
fright, and this I must now describe to you. It
comes in about the middle of this history, and it may end
It was one Sunday afternoon, when I had taken the
fancy, as I often did of Sundays, to inspect my empire.
Of course, in a certain way, I did this every time I
climbed old Van der Tromp's pear-tree, and sat in my
hawk's-nest there. But a tour of inspection was a
different thing. I walked close round the path which I
had made next the fence of the enclosure. I went in
among my goats,--even entered the goat-house and played
with my kids. I tried the boards of the fence and the
timber-stays, to be sure they all were sound. I had
paths enough between the rows of corn and potatoes to
make a journey of three miles and half a furlong, with
two rods more, if I went through the whole of them. So
at half-past four on this fatal afternoon I bade my
mother good-by, and kissed her. I told her I should not
be back for two hours, because I was going to inspect my
empire, and I set out happily.
But in less than an hour--I can see the face of the
clock now: it was twenty-two minutes after five--I flung
myself in my chair, panting for breath, and, as my mother
said, as pale as if I had seen a ghost. But I told her
it was worse than that.
I had come out from between two high rows of corn,
which wholly covered me, upon a little patch which lay
warm to the south and west, where I had some melons
a-ripening, and was just lifting one of the melons, to be
sure that the under surface did not rot, when close
behind it I saw the print of a man's foot, which was very
plain to be seen in the soft soil.
I stood like one thunderstruck, or as if I had seen
an apparition. I listened; I looked round me. I could
hear nothing but the roar of the omnibuses, nor could I
see anything. I went up and down the path, but it was
all one. I could see no other impression but that one.
I went to it again, to see if there were any more, and to
observe if it might not be my fancy. But there was no
room for that, for there was exactly the print of an
Englishman's hobnailed shoe,--the heavy heel, the prints
of the heads of the nails. There was even a piece of
patch which had been put on it, though it had never been
How it came there I knew not; neither could I in the
least imagine. But, as I say, like a man perfectly
confused and out of myself, I rushed home into my hut,
not feeling the ground I went upon. I fled into it like
one pursued, and, as my mother said, when I fell into my
chair, panting, I looked as if I had seen a ghost.
It was worse than that, as I said to her.
I cannot well tell you how much dismay this sight of a
footprint in the ground gave me, nor how many sleepless
nights it cost me. All the time I was trying to make
my mother think that there was no ground for anxiety,
and yet all the time I was showing her that I was very
anxious. The more I pretended that I was not troubled,
the more absent-minded, and so the more troubled, I
appeared to her. And yet, if I made no pretence, and
told her what I really feared, I should have driven her
almost wild by the story of my terrors. To have our
pretty home broken up, perhaps to be put in the
newspapers--which was a lot that, so far, we had always
escaped in our quiet and modest life--all this was more
than she or I could bear to think of.
In the midst of these cogitations, apprehensions, and
reflections, it came into my thoughts one day, as I was
working at my shop down-town with my men, that all this
might be a chimera of my own, and that the foot might be
the print of my own boot as I had left it in the soil
some days before when I was looking at my melons. This
cheered me up a little, too. I considered that I could
by no means tell for certain where I had trod and where
I had not, and that if at last this was the print of my
own boot, I had played the part of those fools who strive
to make stories of spectres, and then are themselves
frightened at them more than anybody else.
So I returned home that day in very good spirits. I
carried to my mother a copy of Frank Leslie's Illustrated
Newspaper, which had in it some pictures that I knew
would please her, and I talked with her in as light-
hearted a way as I could, to try to make her think that
I had forgotten my alarm. And afterward we played two or
three games of Egyptian solitaire at the table, and I
went to bed unusually early. But, at the first break of
day, when I fancied or hoped that she was still asleep,
I rose quickly, and half-dressing myself, crept out to
the melon-patch to examine again the imprint of the foot
and to make sure that it was mine.
Alas! it was no more mine than it was Queen
Victoria's. If it had only been cloven, I could easily
have persuaded myself whose it was, so much grief and
trouble had it cost me. When I came to measure the mark
with my own boot, I found, just as I had seen before,
that mine was not nearly so large as this mark was.
Also, this was, as I have said, the mark of a heavy
brogan--such as I never wore--and there was the mark of
a strange patch near the toe, such as I had never seen,
nor, indeed, have seen since, from that hour to this
hour. All these things renewed my terrors. I went home
like a whipped dog, wholly certain now that some one had
found the secret of our home: we might be surprised in it
before I was aware; and what course to take for my
security I knew not.
As we breakfasted, I opened my whole heart to my
mother. If she said so, I would carry all our little
property, piece by piece, back to old Thunberg, the junk-
dealer, and with her parrot and my umbrella we would go
out to Kansas, as we used to propose. We would give up
the game. Or, if she thought best, we would stand on the
defensive. I would put bottle-glass on the upper edges
of the fences all the way round.
There were four or five odd revolvers at The Ship,
and I would buy them all, with powder and buck-shot
enough for a long siege. I would teach her how to load,
and while she loaded I would fire, till they had quite
enough of attacking us in our home. Now it has all gone
by, I should be ashamed to set down in writing the
frightful contrivances I hatched for destroying these
"creatures," as I called them, or, at least, frightening
them, so as to prevent their coming thither any more.