Part 1 out of 2
The Enchanted Typewriter
by John Kendrick Bangs
It is a strange fact, for which I do not expect ever
satisfactorily to account, and which will receive little
credence even among those who know that I am not given to
romancing--it is a strange fact, I say, that the substance of
the following pages has evolved itself during a period of six
months, more or less, between the hours of midnight and four
o'clock in the morning, proceeding directly from a type-writing
machine standing in the corner of my library, manipulated by
unseen hands. The machine is not of recent make. It is, in fact,
a relic of the early seventies, which I discovered one morning
when, suffering from a slight attack of the grip, I had remained
at home and devoted my time to pottering about in the attic,
unearthing old books, bringing to the light long-forgotten
correspondences, my boyhood collections of "stuff," and other
memory-inducing things. Whence the machine came originally I do
not recall. My impression is that it belonged to a stenographer
once in the employ of my father, who used frequently to come
to our house to take down dictations. However this may be, the
machine had lain hidden by dust and the flotsam and jetsam of
the house for twenty years, when, as I have said, I came upon
it unexpectedly. Old man as I am--I shall soon be thirty--the
fascination of a machine has lost none of its potency. I am as
pleased to-day watching the wheels of my watch "go round" as
ever I was, and to "monkey" with a type-writing apparatus has
always brought great joy into my heart-- though for composing
give me the pen. Perhaps I should apologize for the use here
of the verb monkey, which savors of what a friend of mine
calls the "English slanguage," to differentiate it from what
he also calls the "Andrew Language." But I shall not do so,
because, to whatever branch of our tongue the word may belong,
it is exactly descriptive, and descriptive as no other word
can be, of what a boy does with things that click and "go,"
and is therefore not at all out of place in a tale which I
trust will be regarded as a polite one.
The discovery of the machine put an end to my attic
potterings. I cared little for finding old bill-files and
collections of Atlantic cable-ends when, with a whole morning,
a type-writing machine, and a screw-driver before me I could
penetrate the mysteries of that useful mechanism. I shall
not endeavor to describe the delightful sensations of that
hour of screwing and unscrewing; they surpass the powers of
my pen. Suffice it to say that I took the whole apparatus
apart, cleaned it well, oiled every joint, and then put it
together again. I do not suppose a seven-year-old boy could have
derived more satisfaction from taking a piano to pieces. It was
exhilarating, and I resolved that as a reward for the pleasure
it had given me the machine should have a brand-new ribbon and
as much ink as it could consume. And that, in brief, is how it
came to be that this machine of antiquated pattern was added to
the library bric-a-brac. To say the truth, it was of no more
practical use than Barye's dancing bear, a plaster cast of
which adorns my mantel-shelf, so that when I classify it with
the bric-a-brac I do so advisedly. I frequently tried to write
a jest or two upon it, but the results were extraordinarily
like Sir Arthur Sullivan's experience with the organ into
whose depths the lost chord sank, never to return. I dashed
off the jests well enough, but somewhere between the keys
and the types they were lost, and the results, when I came to
scan the paper, were depressing. And once I tried a sonnet on
the keys. Exactly how to classify the jumble that came out of
it I do not know, but it was curious enough to have appealed
strongly to D'Israeli or any other collector of the literary
oddity. More singular than the sonnet, though, was the fact
that when I tried to write my name upon this strange machine,
instead of finding it in all its glorious length written upon
the paper, I did find "William Shakespeare" printed there in
its stead. Of course you will say that in putting the machine
together I mixed up the keys and the letters. I have no doubt
that I did, but when I tell you that there have been times
when, looking at myself in the glass, I have fancied that
I saw in my mirrored face the lineaments of the great bard;
that the contour of my head is precisely the same as was his;
that when visiting Stratford for the first time every foot
of it was pregnant with clearly defined recollections to me,
you will perhaps more easily picture to yourself my sensations
at the moment.
However, enough of describing the machine in its relation
to myself. I have said sufficient, I think, to convince you
that whatever its make, its age, and its limitations, it was
an extraordinary affair; and, once convinced of that, you may
the more readily believe me when I tell you that it has gone
into business apparently for itself --and incidentally for me.
It was on the morning of the 26th of March last that I
discovered the curious condition of affairs concerning which
I have essayed to write. My family do not agree with me as to
the date. They say that it was on the evening of the 25th of
March that the episode had its beginning; but they are not
aware, for I have not told them, that it was not evening,
but morning, when I reached home after the dinner at the
Aldus Club. It was at a quarter of three A.M. precisely that
I entered my house and proceeded to remove my hat and coat,
in which operation I was interrupted, and in a startling
manner, by a click from the dark recesses of the library. A
man does not like to hear a click which he cannot comprehend,
even before he has dined. After he has dined, however, and
feels a satisfaction with life which cannot come to him before
dinner, to hear a mysterious click, and from a dark corner,
at an hour when the world is at rest, is not pleasing. To say
that my heart jumped into my mouth is mild. I believe it jumped
out of my mouth and rebounded against the wall opposite back
though my system into my boots. All the sins of my past life,
and they are many--I once stepped upon a caterpillar, and I have
coveted my neighbor both his man-servant and his maid-servant,
though not his wife nor his ass, because I don't like his wife
and he keeps no live-stock--all my sins, I say, rose up before
me, for I expected every moment that a bullet would penetrate
my brain, or my heart if perchance the burglar whom I suspected
of levelling a clicking revolver at me aimed at my feet.
"Who is there?" I cried, making a vocal display of bravery I
did not feel, hiding behind our hair sofa.
The only answer was another click.
"This is serious," I whispered softly to myself. "There are
two of 'em; I am in the light, unarmed. They are concealed by
the darkness and have revolvers. There is only one way out of
this, and that is by strategy. I'll pretend I think I've made
a mistake." So I addressed myself aloud.
"What an idiot you are," I said, so that my words could be
heard by the burglars. "If this is the effect of Aldus Club
dinners you'd better give them up. That click wasn't a click
at all, but the ticking of our new eight-day clock."
I paused, and from the corner there came a dozen more clicks
in quick succession, like the cocking of as many revolvers.
"Great Heavens!" I murmured, under my breath. "It must be Ali
Baba with his forty thieves."
As I spoke, the mystery cleared itself, for following close
upon a thirteenth click came the gentle ringing of a bell, and
I knew then that the type-writing machine was in action; but
this was by no means a reassuring discovery. Who or what could
it be that was engaged upon the type-writer at that unholy hour,
3 A.M.? If a mortal being, why was my coming no interruption? If
a supernatural being, what infernal complication might not
the immediate future have in store for me?
My first impulse was to flee the house, to go out into the night
and pace the fields--possibly to rush out to the golf links and
play a few holes in the dark in order to cool my brow, which
was rapidly becoming fevered. Fortunately, however, I am not
a man of impulse. I never yield to a mere nerve suggestion,
and so, instead of going out into the storm and certainly
contracting pneumonia, I walked boldly into the library to
investigate the causes of the very extraordinary incident. You
may rest well assured, however, that I took care to go armed,
fortifying myself with a stout stick, with a long, ugly steel
blade concealed within it--a cowardly weapon, by-the-way, which
I permit to rest in my house merely because it forms a part
of a collection of weapons acquired through the failure of a
comic paper to which I had contributed several articles. The
editor, when the crash came, sent me the collection as part
payment of what was owed me, which I think was very good of
him, because a great many people said that it was my stuff
that killed the paper. But to return to the story. Fortifying
myself with the sword-cane, I walked boldly into the library,
and, touching the electric button, soon had every gas-jet in
the room giving forth a brilliant flame; but these, brilliant
as they were, disclosed nothing in the chair before the machine.
The latter, apparently oblivious of my presence, went clicking
merrily and as rapidly along as though some expert young
woman were in charge. Imagine the situation if you can. A
type-writing machine of ancient make, its letters clear, but
out of accord with the keys, confronted by an empty chair,
three hours after midnight, rattling off page after page of
something which might or might not be readable, I could not
at the moment determine. For two or three minutes I gazed in
open-mouthed wonder. I was not frightened, but I did experience
a sensation which comes from contact with the uncanny. As I
gradually grasped the situation and became used, somewhat,
to what was going on, I ventured a remark.
"This beats the deuce!" I observed.
The machine stopped for an instant. The sheet of paper upon
which the impressions of letters were being made flew out
from under the cylinder, a pure white sheet was as quickly
substituted, and the keys clicked off the line:
I presumed the line was in response to my assertion, so
"You do. What uncanny freak has taken possession of you to-night
that you start in to write on your own hook, having resolutely
declined to do any writing for me ever since I rescued you
from the dust and dirt and cobwebs of the attic?"
"You never rescued me from any attic," the machine
replied. "You'd better go to bed; you've dined too well,
I imagine. When did you rescue me from the dust and dirt and
the cobwebs of any attic?"
"What an ungrateful machine you are!" I cried. "If you have
sense enough to go into writing on your own account, you ought
to have mind enough to remember the years you spent up-stairs
under the roof neglected, and covered with hammocks, awnings,
family portraits, and receipted bills."
"Really, my dear fellow," the machine tapped back, "I must
repeat it. Bed is the place for you. You're not coherent. I'm
not a machine, and upon my honor, I've never seen your darned
"Not a machine!" I cried. "Then what in Heaven's name are you?--
"Don't be sarcastic, my dear fellow," replied the machine. "Of
course I'm not a machine; I'm Jim--Jim Boswell."
"What?" I roared. "You? A thing with keys and type and a bell--"
"I haven't got any keys or any type or a bell. What on earth
are you talking about?" replied the machine. "What have you
"What's that?" I asked, putting my hand on the keys.
"That's keys," was the answer.
"And these, and that?" I added, indicating the type and
"Type and bell," replied the machine.
"And yet you say you haven't got them," I persisted.
"No, I haven't. The machine has got them, not I," was the
response. "I'm not the machine. I'm the man that's using
it--Jim--Jim Boswell. What good would a bell do me? I'm not a
cow or a bicycle. I'm the editor of the Stygian Gazette, and
I've come here to copy off my notes of what I see and hear,
and besides all this I do type-writing for various people in
Hades, and as this machine of yours seemed to be of no use to
you I thought I'd try it. But if you object, Ill go."
As I read these lines upon the paper I stood amazed and
"Go!" I cried, as the full value of his patronage of my machine
dawned upon me, for I could sell his copy and he would be none
the worse off, for, as I understand the copyright laws, they
are not designed to benefit authors, but for the protection
of type-setters. "Why, my dear fellow, it would break my
heart if, having found my machine to your taste, you should
ever think of using another. I'll lend you my bicycle, too,
if you'd like it--in fact, anything I have is at your command."
"Thank you very much," returned Boswell through the medium of
the keys, as usual. "I shall not need your bicycle, but this
machine is of great value to me. It has several very remarkable
qualities which I have never found in any other machine. For
instance, singular to relate, Mendelssohn and I were fooling
about here the other night, and when he saw this machine he
thought it was a spinet of some new pattern; so what does he do
but sit down and play me one of his songs without words on it,
and, by jove! when he got through, there was the theme of the
whole thing printed on a sheet of paper before him."
"You don't really mean to say--" I began.
"I'm telling you precisely what happened," said
Boswell. "Mendelssohn was tickled to death with it, and he
played every song without words that he ever wrote, and every
one of 'em was fitted with words which he said absolutely
conveyed the ideas he meant to bring out with the music. Then
I tried the machine, and discovered another curious thing about
it. It's intensely American. I had a story of Alexander Dumas'
about his Musketeers that he wanted translated from French into
American, which is the language we speak below, in preference
to German, French, Volapuk, or English. I thought I'd copy
off a few lines of the French original, and as true as I'm
sitting here before your eyes, where you can't see me, the
copy I got was a good, though rather free, translation. Think
of it! That's an advanced machine for you!"
I looked at the machine wistfully. "I wish I could make it
work," I said; and I tried as before to tap off my name, and
got instead only a confused jumble of letters. It wouldn't
even pay me the compliment of transforming my name into that
of Shakespeare, as it had previously done.
It was thus that the magic qualities of the machine were made
known to me, and out of it the following papers have grown. I
have set them down without much editing or alteration, and now
submit them to your inspection, hoping that in perusing them
you will derive as much satisfaction and delight as I have in
being the possessor of so wonderful a machine, manipulated by
so interesting a person as "Jim--Jim Boswell"--as he always
calls himself--and others, who, as you will note, if perchance
you have the patience to read further, have upon occasions
honored my machine by using it.
I must add in behalf of my own reputation for honesty that
Mr. Boswell has given me all right, title, and interest in
these papers in this world as a return for my permission to
him to use my machine.
"What if they make a hit and bring in barrels of gold in
royalties," he said. "I can't take it back with me where I live,
so keep it yourself."
MR. BOSWELL IMPARTS SOME LATE NEWS OF HADES
Boswell was a little late in arriving the next night. He had
agreed to be on hand exactly at midnight, but it was after
one o'clock before the machine began to click and the bell
to ring. I had fallen asleep in the soft upholstered depths
of my armchair, feeling pretty thoroughly worn out by the
experiences of the night before, which, in spite of their
pleasant issue, were nevertheless somewhat disturbing to a
nervous organization like mine. Suddenly I waked, and with the
awakening there entered into my mind the notion that the whole
thing was merely a dream, and that in the end it would be the
better for me if I were to give up Aldus and other club dinners
with nightmare inducing menus. But I was soon convinced that the
real state of affairs was quite otherwise, and that everything
really had happened as I have already related it to you, for
I had hardly gotten my eyes free from what my poetic son calls
"the seeds of sleep" when I heard the type-writer tap forth:
"Hello, old man!"
Incidentally let me say that this had become another interesting
feature of the machine. Since my first interview with Boswell
the taps seemed to speak, and if some one were sitting before
it and writing a line the mere differentiation of sounds of the
various keys would convey to the mind the ideas conveyed to it
by the printed words. So, as I say, my ears were greeted with
a clicking "Hello, old man!" followed immediately by the bell.
"You are late," said I, looking at my watch.
"I know it," was the response. "But I can't help it. During the
campaign I am kept so infernally busy I hardly know where I am."
"Campaign, eh?" I put in. "Do you have campaigns in Hades?"
"Yes," replied Boswell, "and we are having a--well, to be
polite, a regular Gehenna of a time. Things have changed
much in Hades latterly. There has been a great growth in the
democratic spirit below, and his Majesty is having a deuce
of a time running his kingdom. Washington and Cromwell and
Caesar have had the nerve to demand a constitution from the
"From whom?" I queried, perplexed somewhat, for I was not yet
"Old Nick," replied Boswell; "and I can tell you there's a
pretty fight on between the supporters of the administration
and the opposition. Secure in his power, the Grand Master of
Hades has been somewhat arbitrary, and he has made the mistake
of doing some of his subjects a little too brown. Take the
case of Bonaparte, for instance: the government has ruled
that he was personally responsible for all the wars of Europe
from 1800 up to Waterloo, and it was proposed to hang him
once for every man killed on either side throughout that
period. Bonaparte naturally resisted. He said he had a good
neck, which he did not object to have broken three or four
times, because he admitted he deserved it; but when it came to
hanging him five or six million times, once a month, for, say,
five million months, or twelve times a year for 415,000 years,
he didn't like it, and wouldn't stand it, and wanted to submit
the question to arbitration.
"Nicholas observed that the word arbitration was not in his
especially expurgated dictionary, whereupon Bonaparte remarked
that he wasn't responsible for that; that he thought it a
good word and worthy of incorporation in any dictionary and
in all vocabularies.
"'I don't care what you think,' retorted his Majesty. 'It's
what I don't think that goes;' and he commanded his imps
to prepare the gallows on the third Thursday of each month
for Bonaparte's expiation; ordered his secretary to send
Bonaparte a type-written notice that his presence on each
occasion was expected, and gave orders to the police to see
that he was there willy-nilly. Naturally Bonaparte resisted,
and appealed to the courts. Blackstone sustained his appeal,
and Nicholas overruled him. The first Thursday came, and the
police went for the Emperor, but he was surrounded by a good
half of the men who had fought under him, and the minions
of the law could do nothing against them. In consequence,
Bonaparte's brother, Joseph, a quiet, inoffensive citizen,
was dragged from his home and hanged in his place, Nicholas
contending that when a soldier could not, or would not, serve,
the government had a right to expect a substitute. Well,"
said Boswell, at this point, "that set all Hades on fire. We
were divided as to Bonaparte's deserts, but the hanging of
other people as substitutes was too much. We didn't know who'd
be substituted next. The English backed up Blackstone, of
course. The French army backed up Bonaparte. The inoffensive
citizens were aroused in behalf of Joseph, for they saw at
once whither they were drifting if the substitute idea was
carried out to its logical conclusion; and in half an hour
the administration was on the defensive, which, as you know,
is a very, very, very bad thing for an administration."
"It is, if it desires to be returned to office," said I.
"It is anyhow," replied Boswell through the medium of the keys.
"It's in exactly the same position as that of a humorist who
has to print explanatory diagrams with all of his jokes. The
administration papers were hot over the situation. The king
can do no wrong idea was worked for all it was worth, but
beyond this they drew pathetic pictures of the result of all
these deplorable tendencies. What was Hades for, they asked,
if a man, after leading a life of crime in the other world,
was not to receive his punishment there? The attitude of
the opposition was a radical and vicious blow at the vital
principles of the sphere itself. The opposition papers coolly
and calmly took the position that the vital principles of Hades
were all right; that it was the extreme view as to the power
of the Emperor taken by that person himself that wouldn't go in
these democratic days. Punishment for Bonaparte was the correct
thing, and Bonaparte expected some, but was not grasping enough
to want it all. They added that recent fully settled ideas as
to a humane application of the laws required the bunching of
the indictments or the selection of one and a fair trial based
upon that, and that anyhow, under no circumstances, should
a wholly innocent person be made to suffer for the crimes of
another. These journals were suppressed, but the next day a
set of new papers were started to promulgate the same theories
as to individual rights. The province of Cimmeria declared
itself independent of the throne, and set up in the business
of government for itself. Gehenna declared for the Emperor,
but insisted upon home rule for cities of its own class,
and finally, as I informed you at the beginning, Washington,
Cromwell, and Caesar went in person to Apollyon and demanded
a constitution. That was the day before yesterday, and just
what will come of it we don't as yet know, because Washington
and Cromwell and Caesar have not been seen since, but we have
great fears for them, because seventeen car-loads of vitriol
and a thousand extra tons of coal were ordered by the Lord
High Steward of the palace to be delivered to the Minister of
Justice last night."
"Quite a complication," said I. "The Americanization of Hades
has begun at last. How does society regard the affair?"
"Variously," observed Boswell. "Society hates the government as
much as anybody, and really believes in curtailing the Emperor's
powers, but, on the other hand, it desires to maintain all of
its own aristocratic privileges. The main trouble in Hades at
present is the gradual disintegration of society; that is to
say, its former component parts are beginning to differentiate
themselves the one from the other."
"Like capital and labor here?" I queried.
"In a sense, yes--possibly more like your Colonial Dames, and
Daughters of the Revolution. For instance, great organizations
are in process of formation--people are beginning to flock
together for purposes of protection. Charles the First and
Henry the Eighth and Louis the Fourteenth have established Ye
Ancient and Honorable Order of Kings, to which only those who
have actually worn crowns shall be eligible. The painters have
gotten together with a Society of Fine Arts, the sculptors have
formed a Society of Chisellers, and all the authors from Homer
down to myself have got up an Authors' Club where we have a
lovely time talking about ourselves, no man to be eligible
who hasn't written something that has lasted a hundred
years. Perhaps, if you are thinking of coming over soon,
you'll let me put you on our waiting-list?"
I smiled at his seeming inconsistency and let myself into
"I haven't written anything that has lasted a hundred years
yet," said I.
"Oh, yes, I think you have," replied Boswell, and the machine
seemed to laugh as he wrote out his answer. "I saw a joke of
yours the other day that's two hundred centuries old. Diogenes
showed it to me and said that it was a great favorite with
his grandfather, who had inherited it from one of his remote
A hot retort was on my lips, but I had no wish to offend my
guest, so I smiled and observed that I had frequently indulged
in unconscious plagiarism of that sort.
"I should imagine," I hastened to add, "that to men like Charles
the First this uncertainty as to the safety of Cromwell would
be great joy."
"I hardly know," returned Boswell. "That very question has been
discussed among us. Charles made a great outward show of grief
when he heard of the coal being delivered at the office of the
Minister of Justice, and we all thought him quite magnanimous,
but it leaked out, just before I left to come here, that he
sent his private secretary to the palace with a Panama hat and
a palm-leaf fan for Cromwell, with his congratulations. That
seems to savor somewhat of sarcasm."
"Oh, ultimately Hades is bound to be a republic," replied
Boswell. "There are too many clever and ambitious politicians
among us for the place to go along as a despotism much
longer. If the place were filled up with poets and society
people, and things like that, it might go on as an autocracy
forever, but you see it isn't. To men of the caliber of
Alexander the Great and Bonaparte and Caesar, and a thousand
other warriors who never were used to taking orders from
anybody, but were themselves headquarters, the despotic sway
of Apollyon is intolerable, and he hasn't made any effort
to conciliate any of them. If he had appointed Bonaparte
commander-in-chief of his army and made a friend of him, instead
of ordering him to be hanged every month for 415,000 years,
or put Caesar in as Secretary of State, instead of having him
roasted three times a month for seventy or eighty centuries, he
would have strengthened his hold. As it is, he has ignored all
these people officially, treats them like criminals personally;
makes friends with Mazarin and Powhatan, awards the office of
Tax Assessor to Dick Turpin, and makes old Falstaff commander of
his Imperial Guard. And just because poor Ben Jonson scribbled
off a rhyme for my paper, The Gazette--a rhyme running:
Mazarin And Powhatan,
Turpin and Falstaff,
Form, you bet, A cabinet
To make a donkey laugh.
Mazarin And Powhatan
Run Apollyon's state.
The Dick and Jacks Collect the tax--
The people pay the freight.
--just because Jonson wrote that and I published it, my paper
was confiscated, Jonson was boiled in oil for ten weeks, and I
was seized and thrown into a dungeon where a lot of savages from
the South Sea Islands tattooed the darned old jingle between
my shoulder blades in green letters, and not satisfied with
this barbaric act, right under the jingle they added the line,
in red letters, 'This edition strictly limited to one copy, for
private circulation only,' and they every one of 'em, Apollyon,
Mazarin, and the rest, signed the guarantee personally with
red-hot pens dipped in sulphuric acid. It makes a valuable
collection of autographs, no doubt, but I prefer my back as
nature made it. Talk about enlightened government under a man
who'll permit things like that to be done!"
I ought not to have done it, but I couldn't help smiling.
"I must say," I observed, apologetically, "that the treatment
was barbarous, but really I do think it showed a sense of
humor on the part of the government."
"No doubt," replied Boswell, with a sigh; "but when the
joke is on me I don't enjoy it very much. I'm only human,
and should prefer to observe that the government had some
sense of justice."
The apparently empty chair before the machine gave a slight
hitch forward, and the type-writer began to tap again.
"You'll have to excuse me now," observed Boswell through the
usual medium. "I have work to do, and if you'll go to bed like
a good fellow, while I copy off the minutes of the last meeting
of the Authors' Club, I'll see that you don't lose anything by
it. After I get the minutes done I have an interesting story for
my Sunday paper from the advance sheets of Munchausen's Further
Recollections, which I shall take great pleasure in leaving for
you when I depart. If you will take the bundle of manuscript
I leave with you and boil it in alcohol for ten minutes, you
will be able to read it, and, no doubt, if you copy it off,
sell it for a goodly sum. It is guaranteed absolutely genuine."
"Very well," said I, rising, "I'll go; but I should think you
would put in most of your time whacking at the government
editorially, instead of going in for minutes and abstract
stories of adventure."
"You do, eh?" said Boswell. "Well, if you were in my place you'd
change your mind. After my unexpected endorsement by the Emperor
and his cabinet, I've decided to keep out of politics for a
little while. I can stand having a poem tattooed on my back,
but if it came to having a three-column editorial expressing my
emotions etched alongside of my spine, I'm afraid I'd disappear
into thin air."
So I left him at work and retired. The next morning I found
the promised bundle of manuscripts, and, after boiling the
pages as instructed, discovered the following tale.
FROM ADVANCE SHEETS OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN'S FURTHER RECOLLECTIONS
It is with some very considerable hesitation that I come to this
portion of my personal recollections, and yet I feel that I owe
it to my fellow-citizens in this delightful Stygian country,
where we are all enjoying our well-earned rest, to lay before
them the exact truth concerning certain incidents which have now
passed into history, and for participation in which a number
of familiar figures are improperly gaining all the credit, or
discredit, as the case may be. It is not a pleasant task to
expose an impostor; much less is it agreeable to expose four
impostors; but to one who from the earliest times--and when I
say earliest times I speak advisedly, as you will see as you
read on--to one, I say, who from the earliest times has been
actuated by no other motive than the promulgation of truth, the
task of exposing fraud becomes a duty which cannot be ignored.
Therefore, with regret I set down this chapter of my memoirs,
regardless of its consequences to certain figures which have
been of no inconsiderable importance in our community for many
years--figures which in my own favorite club, the Associated
Shades, have been most welcome, but which, as I and they alone
know, have been nothing more than impostures.
In previous volumes I have confined my attention to my memoirs
as Baron Munchausen--but, dear reader, there are others. I WAS
NOT ALWAYS BARON MUNCHAUSEN; I HAVE BEEN OTHERS! I am not aware
that it has fallen to the lot of any but myself in the whole
span of universal existence to live more than one life upon
that curious, compact little ball of land and water called the
Earth, but, in any event, to me has fallen that privilege or
distinction, or whatever it may be, and upon the record made by
me in four separate existences, placed centuries apart, four
residents of this sphere are basing their claims to notice,
securing election to our clubs, and even venturing so far at
times as to make themselves personally obnoxious to me, who
with a word could expose their wicked deceit in all its naked
villainy to an astounded community. And in taking this course
they have gone too far. There is a limit beyond which no man
shall dare go with me. Satisfied with the ultimate embodiment
of my virtues in the Baron Munchausen, I have been disposed to
allow the impostors to pursue their deception in peace so long
as they otherwise behave themselves, but when Adam chooses
to allude to my writings as frothy lies, when Jonah attacks
my right as a literary person to tell tales of leviathans,
when Noah states that my ignorance in yachting matters is
colossal, and when William Shakespeare publicly brands me as
a person unworthy of belief who should be expelled from the
Associated Shades, then do I consider it time to speak out
and expose four of the greatest frauds that have ever been
inflicted upon a long-suffering public.
To begin at the beginning then, let me state that my first
recollection dates back to a beautiful summer morning, when
in a lovely garden I opened my eyes and became conscious of
two very material facts: first, a charming woman arranging
her hair in the mirror-like waters of a silver lake directly
before me; and, second, a poignant pain in my side, as
though I had been operated upon for appendicitis, but which
in reality resulted from the loss of a rib which had in turn
evoluted into the charming and very human being I now saw
before me. That woman was Eve; that mirror-like lake was set
in the midst of the Garden of Eden; I was Adam, and not this
watery-eyed antediluvian calling himself by my name, who is a
familiar figure in the Anthropological Society, an authority
on evolution, and a blot upon civilization.
I have little to say about this first existence of mine. It
was full of delights. Speech not having been invented, Eve
was an attractive companion to a man burdened as I was with
responsibilities, and until our children were born we went
our way in happiness and silence. It is not in the nature of
things, however, that children should not wish to talk, and
it was through the irrepressible efforts of Cain and Abel to
be heard as well as seen that first called the attention of
Eve and myself to the desirability of expressing our thoughts
in words rather than by masonic signs.
I shall not burden my readers with further recollections of
this period. It was excessively primitive, of necessity,
but before leaving it I must ask the reader to put one or two
questions to himself in this matter.
1st. How is it that this bearded patriarch, who now poses as
the only original Adam, has never been able, with any degree
of positiveness, to answer the question as to whether or not
he was provided with a caudal appendage--a question which I am
prepared to answer definitely, at any moment, if called upon
by the proper authorities, and, if need be, to produce not
only the tail itself, but the fierce and untamed pterodactyl
that bit it off upon that unfortunate autumn afternoon when
he and I had our first and last conflict.
2d. Why is it that when describing a period concerning which
he is supposed to know all, he seems to have given voice to
sentiments in phrases which would have delighted Sheridan and
shed added glory upon the eloquence of Webster, AT A TIME WHEN,
AS I HAVE ALREADY SHOWN, THERE WAS NO SUCH THING AS SPEECH?
Upon these two points alone I rest my case against Adam: the
first is the reticence of guilt--he doesn't know, and he knows
he doesn't know; the second is a deliberate and offensive
prevarication, which shows again that he doesn't know, and
assumes that we are all equally ignorant.
So much for Adam. Now for the cheap and year-ridden person
who has taken unto himself my second personality, Noah; and
that other strange combination of woe and wickedness, Jonah,
who has chosen to pre-empt my third. I shall deal with both
at one and the same time, for, taken separately, they are not
worthy of notice.
Noah asserts that I know nothing of yachting. I will accept
the charge with the qualification that I know a great sight
more about Arking than he does; and as for Jonah, I can give
Jonah points on whaling, and I hereby challenge them both to a
Memoir Match for $2000 a side, in gold, to see which can give
to the world the most interesting reminiscences concerning the
cruises of the two craft in question, the Ark and the Whale,
upon neither of which did either of these two anachronisms
ever set foot, and of both of which I, in my two respective
existences, was commander-in-chief. The fact is that, as in
the case of the fictitious Adam, these two impersonators are
frauds. The man now masquerading as Noah was my hired man in
the latter part of the antediluvian period; was discharged
three years before the flood; was left on shore at the hour of
departure, and when last seen by me was sitting on the top of
an apple-tree, begging to do two men's work for nothing if we'd
only let him out of the wet. If he will at any time submit to
a cross-examination at my hands as to the principal events of
that memorable voyage, I will show to any fair-minded judge
how impossible is his claim that he was in command, or even
afloat, after the first week. I have hitherto kept silent in
this matter, in spite of many and repeated outrageous flings,
for the sake of his--or rather my--family, who have been
deceived, as have all the rest of us, barring, of course,
myself. References to portraits of leading citizens of that
period will easily show how this can be. We were all alike as
two peas in the olden days, and at a time when men reached to
an advanced age which is not known now, it frequently became
almost impossible to distinguish one old man from another.
I will say, finally, in regard to this person Noah that if
he can give to the public a statement telling the essential
differences between a pterodactyl and a double spondee that
will not prove utterly absurd to an educated person, I will
withdraw my accusation and resign from the club. BUT I KNOW
WELL HE CANNOT DO IT, and he does too, and that is about the
extent of his knowledge.
Now as to Jonah. I really dislike very much to tread upon this
worthy's toes, and I should not do it had he not chosen to clap
an injunction upon a volume of Tales of the Whales, which I
wrote for children last summer, claiming that I was infringing
upon his copyright, and feeling that I as a self-respecting
man would never claim the discredit of having myself been
the person he claims to have been. I will candidly confess
that I am not proud of my achievements as Jonah. I was a very
oily person even before I embarked upon the seas as Lord High
Admiral of H.M.S. Leviathan. I was not a pleasant person to
know. If I spent the night with a friend, his roof would fall
in or his house would burn down. If I bet on a horse, he would
lead up to the home-stretch and fall down dead an inch from the
finish. If I went into a stock speculation, I was invariably
caught on a rising or a falling market. In my youth I spoiled
every yachting-party I went on by attracting a gale. When I
came out the moon went behind a cloud, and people who began
by endorsing my paper ended up in the poor-house. Commerce
wouldn't have me. Boards of Trade everywhere repudiated me,
and I gradually sank into that state of despair which finds no
solace anywhere but on the sea or in politics, and as politics
was then unknown I went to sea. The result is known to the
world. I was cast overboard, ingulfed by a whale, which,
in his defence let me be generous enough to say, swallowed
me inadvertently and with the usual result. I came back, and
life went on. Finally I came here, and when it got to the ears
of the authorities that I was in Hades, they sent me back for
the fourth time to earth in the person of William Shakespeare.
That is the whole of the Jonah story. It is a sad story, and I
regret it; and I am sorry for the impostor when I reflect that
the character he has assumed possesses attractions for him. His
real life must have been a fearful thing if he is happy in his
impersonation, and for his punishment let us leave him where he
is. Having told the truth, I have done my duty. I cheerfully
resign my claim to the personality he claims --I relinquish
from this time on all right, title, and interest in the name;
but if he ever dares to interfere with me again in the use of
my personal recollections concerning the inside of whales I
shall hale him before the authorities.
And now, finally, I come to Shakespeare, whom I have kept
for the last, not because he was the last chronologically,
but because I like to work up to a climax.
Previous to my existence as Baron Munchausen I lived for a term
of years on earth as William Shakespeare, and what I have to
say now is more in the line of confession than otherwise.
In my boyhood I was wild and I poached. If I were not afraid
of having it set down as a joke, I should say that I poached
everything from eggs to deer. I was not a great joy to my
parents. There was no deviltry in Stratford in which I did not
take a leading part, and finally, for the good of Warwickshire,
I was sent to London, where a person of my talents was more
likely to find congenial and appreciative surroundings. A glance
at such of my autographs as are now extant will demonstrate
the fact that I never learned to write; a glance at the first
folios of the plays attributed to me will likewise show that
I never learned to spell; and yet I walked into London with
one of the most exquisite poems in the English language in my
pocket. I am still filled with merriment over it. How was it,
the critics of the years since have asked--how was it that
this untutored little savage from leafy Warwickshire, with no
training and little education, came into London with "Venus
and Adonis" in manuscript in his pocket? It is quite evident
that the critic fraternity have no Sherlock Holmes in their
midst. It would not take much of an eye, a true detective's eye,
to see the milk in that cocoanut, for it is but a simple tale
after all. The way of it was this: On my way from Stratford to
London I walked through Coventry, and I remained in Coventry
overnight. I was ill-clad and hungry, and, having no money
with which to pay for my supper, I went to the Royal Arms Hotel
and offered my services as porter for the night, having noted
that a rich cavalcade from London, en route to Kenilworth, had
arrived unexpectedly at the Royal Arms. Taken by surprise,
and, therefore, unprepared to accommodate so many guests,
the landlord was glad to avail himself of my services, and
I was assigned to the position of boots. Among others whom I
served was Walter Raleigh, who, noting my ragged condition and
hearing what a roisterer and roustabout I had been, immediately
took pity upon me, and gave me a plum-colored court-suit with
which he was through, and which I accepted, put upon my back,
and next day wore off to London. It was in the pocket of this
that I found the poem of "Venus and Adonis." That poem, to keep
myself from starving, I published when I reached London, sending
a complimentary copy of course to my benefactor. When Raleigh
saw it he was naturally surprised but gratified, and on his
return to London he sought me out, and suggested the publication
of his sonnets. I was the first man he'd met, he said, who
was willing to publish his stuff on his own responsibility. I
immediately put out some of the sonnets, and in time was making
a comfortable living, publishing the anonymous works of most of
the young bucks about town, who paid well for my imprint. That
the public chose to think the works were mine was none of my
fault. I never claimed them, and the line on the title-page,
"By William Shakespeare," had reference to the publisher only,
and not, as many have chosen to believe, to the author. Thus
were published Lord Bacon's "Hamlet," Raleigh's poems, several
plays of Messrs. Beaumont and Fletcher--who were themselves
among the cleverest adapters of the times--and the rest of
that glorious monument to human credulity and memorial to
an impossible, wholly apocryphal genius, known as the works
of William Shakespeare. The extent of my writing during this
incarnation was ten autographs for collectors, and one attempt
at a comic opera called "A Midsummer's Nightmare," which was
never produced, because no one would write the music for it,
and which was ultimately destroyed with three of my quatrains
and all of Bacon's evidence against my authorship of "Hamlet,"
in the fire at the Globe Theatre in the year 1613.
These, then, dear reader, are the revelations which I have
to make. In my next incarnation I was the man I am now known
to be, Baron Munchausen. As I have said, I make the exposure
with regret, but the arrogance of these impudent impersonators
of my various personalities has grown too great to be longer
borne. I lay the simple story of their villany before you for
what it is worth. I have done my duty. If after this exposure
the public of Hades choose to receive them in their homes and
at their clubs, and as guests at their functions, they will
do it with a full knowledge of their duplicity.
In conclusion, fearing lest there be some doubters among the
readers of this paper, I have allowed my friend, the editor
of this esteemed journal, which is to publish this story
exclusively on Sunday next, free access to my archives, and
he has selected as exhibits of evidence, to which I earnestly
call your attention, the originals of the cuts which illustrate
I. A full-length portrait of Eve as she appeared at our first
II. Portraits of Cain and Abel at the ages of two, five,
III. The original plans and specifications of the Ark.
IV. Facsimile of her commission.
V. Portrait-sketch of myself and the false Noah, made at the
time, and showing how difficult it would have been for any
member of my family, save myself, to tell us apart.
VI. A cathode-ray photograph of the whale, showing myself,
the original Jonah, seated inside.
VII. Facsimiles of the Shakespeare autographs, proving that
he knew neither how to write nor to spell, and so of course
proving effectually that I was not the author of his works.
It must be confessed that I read this article of Munchausen's
with amazement, and I awaited with much excited curiosity
the coming again of the manipulator of my type-writing
machine. Surely a revelation of this nature should create
a sensation in Hades, and I was anxious to learn how it was
received. Boswell did not materialize, however, and for five
nights I fairly raged with the fever of curiosity, but on
the sixth night the familiar tinkle of the bell announced an
arrival, and I flew to the machine and breathlessly cried:
"Hullo, old chap, how did it come out?"
The reply was as great a surprise as I have yet had, for it
was not Boswell, Jim Boswell, who answered my question.
A CHAT WITH XANTHIPPE
The machine stopped its clicking the moment I spoke, and the
words, "Hullo, old chap!" were no sooner uttered than my face
grew red as a carnation pink. I felt as if I had committed
some dreadful faux-pas, and instead of gazing steadfastly into
the vacant chair, as I had been wont to do in my conversation
with Boswell, my eyes fell, as though the invisible occupant
of the chair were regarding me with a look of indignant scorn.
"I beg your pardon," I said.
"I should think you might," returned the types. "Hullo, old
chap!" is no way to address a woman you've never had the honor
of meeting, even if she is of the most advanced sort. No amount
of newness in a woman gives a man the right to be disrespectful
"I didn't know," I explained. "Really, miss, I--"
"Madame," interrupted the machine, "not miss. I am
a married woman, sir, which makes of your rudeness an
even more reprehensible act. It is well enough to affect a
good-fellowship with young unmarried females, but when you
attempt to be flippant with a married woman--"
"But I didn't know, I tell you," I appealed. "How should I? I
supposed it was Boswell I was talking to, and he and I have
become very good friends."
"Humph!" said the machine. "You're a chum of Boswell's, eh?"
"Well, not exactly a chum, but--" I began.
"But you go with him?" interrupted the lady.
"To an extent, yes," I confessed.
"And does he GO with you?" was the query. "If he does, permit
me to depart at once. I should not feel quite in my element
in a house where the editor of a Sunday newspaper was an
attractive guest. If you like that sort of thing, your tastes--"
"I do not, madame," I replied, quickly. "I prefer the opium
habit to the Sunday-newspaper habit, and if I thought Boswell
was merely a purveyor of what is known as Sunday literature,
which depends on the goodness of the day to offset its
shortcomings, I should forbid him the house."
A distinct sigh of relief emanated from the chair.
"Then I may remain," was the remark rapidly clicked off on
"I am glad," said I. "And may I ask whom I have the honor
"Certainly," was the immediate response. "My name is Socrates,
I instinctively cowered. Candidly, I was afraid. Never in my
life before had I met a woman whom I feared. Never in my life
have I wavered in the presence of the sex which cheers, but I
have always felt that while I could hold my own with Elizabeth,
withstand the wiles of Cleopatra, and manage the recalcitrant
Katherine even as did Petruchio, Xanthippe was another story
altogether, and I wished I had gone to the club. My first
impulse was to call up-stairs to my wife and have her come
down. She knows how to handle the new woman far better than I
do. She has never wanted to vote, and my collars are safe in
her hands. She has frequently observed that while she had many
things to be thankful for, her greatest blessing was that she
was born a woman and not a man, and the new women of her native
town never leave her presence without wondering in their own
minds whether or not they are mere humorous contributions of
the Almighty to a too serious world. I pulled myself together
as best I could, and feeling that my better-half would perhaps
decline the proffered invitation to meet with one of the most
illustrious of her sex, I decided to fight my own battle. So
I merely said:
"Really? How delightful! I have always felt that I should like
to meet you, and here is one of my devoutest wishes gratified."
I felt cheap after the remark, for Mrs. Socrates, nee Xanthippe,
covered five sheets of paper with laughter, with an occasional
bracketing of the word "derisively," such as we find in the
daily newspapers interspersed throughout the after-dinner
speeches of a candidate of another party. Finally, to my
relief, the oft-repeated "Ha-ha-ha!" ceased, and the line,
"I never should have guessed it," closed her immediate
contribution to our interchange of ideas.
"May I ask why you laugh?" I observed, when she had at length
"Certainly," she replied. "Far be it from me to dispute the
right of a man to ask any question he sees fit to ask. Is he
not the lord of creation? Is not woman his abject slave? I
not the whole difference between them purely economic? Is it
not the law of supply and demand that rules them both, he by
nature demanding and she supplying?"
Dear reader, did you ever encounter a machine, man-made,
merely a mechanism of ivory, iron, and ink, that could sniff
contemptuously? I never did before this encounter, but the
infernal power of either this type-writer or this woman who
manipulated its keys imparted to the atmosphere I was breathing
a sniffing contemptuousness which I have never experienced
anywhere outside of a London hotel, and then only when I
ventured, as few Americans have dared, to complain of the ducal
personage who presided over the dining-room, but who, I must
confess, was conquered subsequently by a tip of ten shillings.
At any rate, there was a sniff of contempt imparted, as I have
said, to the atmosphere I was breathing as Xanthippe answered
my question, and the sniff saved me, just as it did in the
London hotel, when I complained of the lordly lack of manners
on the part of the head waiter. I asserted my independence.
"Don't trouble yourself," I put in. "Of course I shall
be interested in anything you may choose to say, but as a
gentleman I do not care to put a woman to any inconvenience
and I do not press the question."
And then I tried to crush her by adding, "What a lovely day we
have had," as if any subject other than the most commonplace
was not demanded by the situation.
"If you contemplate discussing the weather," was the
retort, "I wish you would kindly seek out some one else
with whom to do it. I am not one of your latter-day
sit-out-on-the-stairs-while-the-others-dance girls. I am,
as I have always been, an ardent admirer of principles, of
great problems. For small talk I have no use."
"Very well, madame--" I began.
"You asked me a moment ago why I laughed," clicked the machine.
"I know it," said I. "But I withdraw the question. There is no
great principle involved in a woman's laughter. I have known
women who have laughed at a broken heart, as well as at jokes,
which shows that there is no principle involved there; and as
a problem, I have never cared enough about why women laugh
to inquire deeply into it. If she'll just consent to laugh,
I'm satisfied without inquiring into the causes thereof. Let
us get down to an agreeable basis for yourself. What problem do
you wish to discuss? Servants, baby-food, floor-polish, or the
number of godets proper to the skirt of a well-dressed woman?"
I was regaining confidence in myself, and as I talked I ceased
to fear her. Thought I to myself, "This attitude of supreme
patronage is man's safest weapon against a woman. Keep cool,
assume that there is no doubt of your superiority, and that she
knows it. Appear to patronize her, and her own indignation will
defeat her ends." It is a good principle generally. Among mortal
women I have never known it to fail, and when I find myself
worsted in an argument with one of man's greatest blessings,
I always fall back upon it and am saved the ignominy of
defeat. But this time I counted without my antagonist.
"Will you repeat that list of problems?" she asked, coldly.
"Servants, baby-food, floor-polish, and godets," I repeated,
somewhat sheepishly, she took it so coolly.
"Very well," said Xanthippe, with a note of amusement in her
manipulation of the keys. "If those are your subjects, let us
discuss them. I am surprised to find an able-bodied man like
yourself bothering with such problems, but I'll help you out
of your difficulties if I can. No needy man shall ever say
that I ignored his cry for help. What do you want to know
This turning of the tables nonplussed me, and I didn't really
know what to say, and so wisely said nothing, and the machine
grew sharp in its clicking.
"You men!" it cried. "You don't know how fearfully shallow
you are. I can see through you in a minute."
"Well," I said, modestly, "I suppose you can." Then calling
my feeble wit to my rescue, I added, "It's only natural,
since I've made a spectacle of myself."
"Not you!" cried Xanthippe. "You haven't even made a monocle
And here we both laughed, and the ice was broken.
"What has become of Boswell?" I asked.
"He's been sent to the ovens for ten days for libelling
Shakespeare and Adam and Noah and old Jonah," replied
Xanthippe. "He printed an article alleged to have been written
by Baron Munchausen, in which those four gentlemen were held
up to ridicule and libelled grossly."
"And Munchausen?" I cried.
"Oh, the Baron got out of it by confessing that he wrote the
article," replied the lady. "And as he swore to his confession
the jury were convinced he was telling another one of his
lies and acquitted him, so Boswell was sent up alone. That's
why I am here. There isn't a man in all Hades that dared take
charge of Boswell's paper--they're all so deadly afraid of
the government, so I stepped in, and while Boswell is baking
I'm attending to his editorial duties."
"But you spoke contemptuously of the Sunday newspapers awhile
ago, Mrs. Socrates," said I.
"I know that," said Xanthippe, "but I've fixed that. I get
out the Sunday edition on Saturdays."
"Oh--I see. And you like it?" I queried.
"First rate," she replied. "I'm in love with the work. I
almost wish poor old Bos had been sentenced for ten years. I
have enough of the woman in me to love minding other people's
business, and, as far as I can find out, that's about all
journalism amounts to. Sewing societies aren't to be mentioned
in the same day with a newspaper for scandal and gossip, and,
besides, I'm an ardent advocate of men's rights-- have been for
centuries--and I've got my first chance now to promulgate a few
of my ideas. I'm really a man in all my views of life--that's
the inevitable end of an advanced woman who persists in
following her 'newness' to its logical conclusion. Her habits
of thought gradually come to be those of a man. Even I have a
great deal more sympathy with Socrates than I used to have. I
used to think I was the one that should be emancipated, but
I'm really reaching that stage in my manhood where I begin to
believe that he needs emancipation."
"Then you admit, do you," I cried, with great glee, "that this
new-woman business is all Tommy-rot?"
"Not by a great deal," snapped the machine. "Far from it. It's
the salvation of the happy life. It is perfectly logical to
say that the more manny a woman becomes, the more she is likely
to sympathize with the troubles and trials which beset men."
I scratched my head and pulled the lobe of my ear in the
hope of loosening an argument to confront her with, not that I
disagreed with her entirely, but because I instinctively desired
to oppose her as pleasantly disagreeably as I could. But the
result was nil.
"I'm afraid you are right," I said.
"You're a truthful man," clicked the machine, laughingly. "You
are afraid I'm right. And why are you afraid? Because you are
one of those men who take a cynical view of woman. You want
woman to be a mere lump of sugar, content to be left in a bowl
until it pleases you in your high-and-mightiness to take her
in the tongs and drop her into the coffee of your existence,
to sweeten what would otherwise not please your taste--and
like most men you prefer two or three lumps to one."
I could only cough. The lady was more or less right. I am very
fond of sugar, though one lump is my allowance, and I never
exceed it, whatever the temptation. Xanthippe continued.
"You criticise her because she doesn't understand you and your
needs, forgetting that out of twenty-four hours of your daily
existence your wife enjoys personally about twelve hours of your
society, during eight of which you are lying flat on your back,
snoring as though your life depended on it; but when she asks
to be allowed to share your responsibilities as well as what,
in her poor little soul, she thinks are your joys, you flare
up and call her 'new' and 'advanced,' as if advancement were
a crime. You ride off on your wheel for forty miles on your
days of rest, and she is glad to have you do it, but when she
wants a bicycle to ride, you think it's all wrong, immoral,
and conducive to a weak heart. Bah!"
"I--ah--" I began.
"Yes you do," she interrupted. "You ah and you hem and you haw,
but in the end you're a poor miserable social mugwump, conscious
of your own magnificence and virtue, but nobody else ever can
attain to your lofty plane. Now what I want to see among women
is more good fellows. Suppose you regarded your wife as good
a fellow as you think your friend Jones. Do you think you'd
be running off to the club every night to play billiards with
Jones, leaving your wife to enjoy her own society?"
"Perhaps not," I replied, "but that's just the point. My wife
isn't a good fellow."
"Exactly, and for that reason you seek out Jones. You have
a right to the companionship of the good fellow--that's what
I'm going to advocate. I've advanced far enough to see that on
the average in the present state of woman she is not a suitable
companion for man--she has none of the qualities of a chum to
which he is entitled. I'm not so blind but that I can see the
faults of my own sex, particularly now that I have become so
very masculine myself. Both sexes should have their rights,
and that is the great policy I'm going to hammer at as long
as I have Boswell's paper in charge. I wish you might see my
editorial page for to-morrow; it is simply fine. I urge upon
woman the necessity of joining in with her husband in all
his pleasures whether she enjoys them or not. When he lights
a cigar, let her do the same; when he calls for a cocktail,
let her call for another. In time she will begin to understand
him. He understands her pleasures, and often he joins in with
them--opera, dances, lectures; she ought to do the same,
and join in with him in his pleasures, and after a while
they'll get upon a common basis, have their clubs together,
and when that happy time comes, when either one goes out the
other will also go, and their companionship will be perfect."
"But you objected to my calling you old chap when we first met,"
said I. "Is that quite consistent?"
"Of course," retorted the lady. "We had never met before, and,
besides, doctors do not always take their own medicine."
"But that women ought to become good fellows is what you're
going to advocate, eh?" said I.
"Yes," replied Xanthippe. "It's excellent, don't you think?"
"Superb," I answered, "for Hades. It's just my idea of how
things ought to be in Hades. I think, however, that we mortals
will stick to the old plan for a little while yet; most of us
prefer to marry wives rather than old chaps."
The remark seemed so to affect my visitor that I suddenly
became conscious of a sense of loneliness.
"I don't wish to offend you," I said, "but I rather like to
keep the two separate. Aren't you man enough yet to see the
value of variety?"
But there was no answer. The lady had gone. It was evident
that she considered me unworthy of further attention.
THE EDITING OF XANTHIPPE
After my interview with Xanthippe, I hesitated to approach the
type-writer for a week or two. It did a great deal of clicking
after the midnight hour had struck, and I was consumed with
curiosity to know what was going on, but I did not wish to meet
Mrs. Socrates again, so I held aloof until Boswell should have
served his sentence. I was no longer afraid of the woman, but I
do fear the good fellow of the weaker sex, and I deemed it just
as well to keep out of any and all disputes that might arise
from a casual conversation with a creature of that sort. An
agreement with a real good fellow, even when it ends in a row,
is more or less diverting; but a disputation with a female
good fellow places a man at a disadvantage. The argumentum ad
hominem is not an easy thing with men, but with women it is
impossible. Hence, I let the type-writer click and ring for
Finally, to my relief, I recognized Boswell's touch upon the
keys and sauntered up to the side of the machine.
"Is this Boswell--Jim Boswell?" I inquired.
"All that's left of him," was the answer. "How have you been?"
"Very well," said I. And then it seemed to me that tact
required that I should not seem to know that he had been in
the superheated jail of the Stygian country. So I observed,
"You've been off on a vacation, eh?"
"How do you know that?" was the immediate response.
"Well," I put in, "you've been absent for a fortnight, and
you look more or less--ah--burned."
"Yes, I am," replied the deceitful editor. "Very much burned,
in fact. I've been--er--I've been playing golf with a friend
down in Cimmeria."
"I envy you," I observed, with an inward chuckle.
"You wouldn't if you knew the links," replied Boswell,
sadly. "They're awfully hard. I don't know any harder course
than the Cimmerian."
And then I became conscious of a mistrustful gaze fastened
"See here," clicked the machine. "I thought I was invisible
to you? If so, how do you know I look burned?"
I was cornered, and there was only one way out of it, and that
was by telling the truth. "Well, you are invisible, old chap,"
I said. "The fact is, I've been told of your trouble, and I
know what you have undergone."
"And who told you?" queried Boswell.
"Your successor on the Gazette, Madame Socrates, nee Xanthippe,"
"Oh, that woman--that woman!" moaned Boswell, through the
medium of the keys. "Has she been here, using this machine
too? Why didn't you stop her before she ruined me completely?"
"Ruined you?" I cried.
"Well, next thing to it," replied Boswell. "She's run my paper
so far into the ground that it will take an almighty powerful
grip to pull it out again. Why, my dear boy, when I went to--to
the ovens, I had a circulation of a million, and when I came
back that woman had brought it down to eight copies, seven of
which have already been returned. All in ten days, too."
"How do you account for it?" I asked.
"'Side Talks with Men' helped, and 'The Man's Corner' did
a little, but the editorial page did the most of it. It was
given over wholly to the advancement of certain Xanthippian
ideas, which were very offensive to my women readers, and
which found no favor among the men. She wants to change the
whole social structure. She thinks men and women are the same
kind of animal, and that both need to be educated on precisely
the same lines--the girls to be taught business, the boys
to go through a course of domestic training. She called for
subscriptions for a cooking-school for boys, and demanded the
endowment of a commercial college for girls, and wound up by
insisting upon a uniform dress for both sexes. I tell you,
if you'd worked for years to establish a dignified newspaper
the way I have, it would have broken your heart to see the
suggested fashion-plates that woman printed. The uniform dress
was a holy terror. It was a combination of all the worst
features of modern garb. Trousers were to be universal and
compulsory; sensible masculine coats were discarded entirely,
and puffed-sleeved dress-coats were substituted. Stiff collars
were abolished in favor of ribbons, and rosettes cropped up
everywhere. Imagine it if you can--and everybody in all Hades
was to be forced into garments of that sort!"
"I should enjoy seeing it," I said.
"Possibly--but you wouldn't enjoy wearing it," retorted
the machine. "And then that woman's funny column--it was
frightful. You never saw such jokes in your life; every one
of them contained a covert attack upon man. There was only
one good thing in it, and that was a bit of verse called
'Fair Play for the Little Girls.' It went like this:
"'If little boys, when they are young,
Can go about in skirts,
And wear upon their little backs
Small broidered girlish shirts,
Pray why cannot the little girls,
When infants, have a chance
To toddle on their little ways
In little pairs of pants?'"
"That isn't at all bad," said I, smiling in spite of poor
Boswell's woe. "If the rest of the paper was on a par with
that I don't see why the circulation fell off."
"Well, she took liberties, that's all," said Boswell. "For
instance, in her 'Side Talks with Men' she had something
like this: 'Napoleon-- It is rather difficult to say just
what you can do with your last season's cocked-hat. If you
were to purchase five yards of one-inch blue ribbon, cut it
into three strips of equal length, and fasten one end to each
of the three corners of the hat, tying the other ends into a
choux, it would make a very acceptable work-basket to send to
your grandmother at Christmas.' Now Napoleon never asked that
woman for advice on the subject. Then there was an answer to
a purely fictitious inquiry from Solomon which read: 'It all
depends on local custom. In Salt Lake City, and in London at
the time of Henry the Eighth, it was not considered necessary
to be off with the old love before being on with the new, but
latterly the growth of monopolistic ideas tends towards the
uniform rate of one at a time.' A purely gratuitous fling, that
was, at one of my most eminent patrons, or rather two of them,
for latterly both Solomon and Henry the Eighth have yielded to
the tendency of the times and gone into business, which they
have paid me well to advertise. Solomon has established an
'Information Bureau,' where advice can always be had from the
'Wise-man,' as he calls himself, on payment of a small fee;
while Henry, taking advantage of his superior equipment over
any English king that ever lived, has founded and liberally
advertised his 'Chaperon Company (Limited).' It's a great
thing even in Hades for young people to be chaperoned by an
English queen, and Henry has been smart enough to see it, and
having seven or eight queens, all in good standing, he has been
doing a great business. Just look at it from a business point
of view. There are seven nights in every week, and something
going on somewhere all the time, and queens in demand. With a
queen quoted so low as $100 a night, Henry can make nearly $5000
a week, or $260,000 a year, out of evening chaperonage alone;
and when, in addition to this, yachting-parties up the Styx and
slumming-parties throughout the country are being constantly
given, the man's opportunity to make half a million a year is
in plain sight. I'm told that he netted over $500,000 last
year; and of course he had to advertise to get it, and this
Xanthippe woman goes out of her way to get in a nasty little
fling at one of my mainstays for his matrimonial propensities."
"Failing utterly to see," said I, "that, in marrying so many
times, Henry really paid a compliment to her sex which is
without parallel in royal circles."
"Well, nearly so," said Boswell. "There have been other kings
who were quite as complimentary to the ladies, but Henry was
the only man among them who insisted on marrying them all."
"True," said I. "Henry was eminently proper--but then he had
"Yes," said Boswell, with a meditative tap on the letter
Y. "Yes-- he had to be. He was the head of the Church,
"I know it," I put in. "I've always had a great deal of sympathy
for Henry. He has been very much misjudged by posterity. He
was the father of the really first new woman, Elizabeth,
and his other daughter, Mary, was such a vindictive person."
"You are a very fair man, for an American," said Boswell. "Not
only fair, but rare. You think about things."
"I try to," said I, modestly. "And I've really thought a great
deal about Henry, and I've truly seen a valid reason for his
continuous matrimonial performances. He set himself up against
the Pope, and he had to be consistent in his antagonism."
"He did, indeed," said Boswell. "A religious discussion is a
"And Henry was consistent in his opposition," said I. "He
didn't yield a jot on any point, and while a great many
people criticise him on the score of his wives--particularly
on their number--I feel that I have in very truth discovered
"Which was?" queried Boswell.
"That the Pope was wrong in all things," said I.
"So he said," commented Boswell.
"And being wrong in all things, celibacy was wrong," said I.
"Exactly," ejaculated Boswell.
"Well, then," said I, "if celibacy is wrong, the surest way
to protest against it is to marry as many times as you can."
"By Jove!" said Boswell, tapping the keys yearningly, as
though he wished he might spare his hand to shake mine,
"you are a man after my own heart."
"Thanks, old chap," said I, reaching out my hand and shaking
it in the air with my visionary friend--"thanks. I've studied
these things with some care, and I've tried to find a reason for
everything in life as I know it. I have always regarded Henry as
a moral man--as is natural, since in spite of all you can say
he is the real head of the English Church. He wasn't willing
to be married a second or a seventh time unless he was really
a widower. He wasn't as long in taking notice again as some
modern widowers that I have met, but I do not criticise him on
that score. I merely attribute his record to his kingly nature,
which involves necessarily a quickness of decision and a decided
perception of the necessities which is sadly lacking in people
who are born to a lesser station in life. England demanded a
queen, and he invariably met the demand, which shows that he
knew something of political economy as well as of matrimony; and
as I see it, being an American, a man needs to know something of
political economy to be a good ruler. So many of our statesmen
have acquired a merely kindergarten knowledge of the science,
that we have had many object-lessons of the disadvantages of
a merely elementary knowledge of the subject. To come right
down to it, I am a great admirer of Henry. At any rate, he
had the courage of his heart-convictions."
"You really surprise me," tapped Boswell. "I never expected
to find an American so thoroughly in sympathy with kings and
"Oh, as for that," said I, "in America we are all kings and we
are not without our needs, matrimonial and otherwise, only our
courts are not quite so expeditious as Henry's little axe. But
what was Henry's attitude towards this extraordinary flight
"Wrath," said Boswell. "He was very much enraged, and withdrew
his advertisements, declined to give our society reporters
the usual accounts of the functions his wives chaperoned,
and, worst of all, has withdrawn himself and induced others
to withdraw from the symposium I was preparing for my special
Summer Girls' issue, which is to appear in August, on 'How
Men Propose.' He and Brigham Young and Solomon and Bonaparte
had agreed to dictate graphic accounts of how they had done
it on various occasions, and Queen Elizabeth, who probably
had more proposals to the square minute that any other woman
on record, was to write the introduction. This little plan,
which was really the idea of genius, is entirely shattered by
Mrs. Socrates's infernal interference."
"Nonsense," said I. "Don't despair. Why don't you come out
with a plain statement of the facts? Apologize."
"You forget, my dear sir," interposed Boswell, "that one of
the fundamental principles of Hades as an institution is that
excuses don't count. It isn't a place for repentance so much
as for expiation, and I might apologize nine times a minute
for forty years and would still have to suffer the penalty
of the offence. No, there is nothing to be done but to begin
my newspaper work again, build up again the institution that
Xanthippe has destroyed, and bear my misfortunes like a true
"Spoken like a philosopher!" I cried. "And if I can help you,
my dear Boswell, count upon me. In anything you may do, whether
you start a monthly magazine, a sporting weekly, or a purely
American Sunday newspaper, you are welcome to anything I can
do for you."
"You are very kind," returned Boswell, appreciatively, "and if I
need your services I shall be glad to avail myself of them. Just
at present, however, my plans are so fully prepared that I do
not think I shall have to call upon you. With Sherlock Holmes
engaged to write twelve new detective stories; Poe to look
after my tales of horror; D'Artagnan dictating his personal
memoirs; Lucretia Borgia running my Girls' Department; and
others too numerous to mention, I have a sufficient supply of
stuff to fill up; but if you feel like writing a few poems for
me I may be able to use them as fillers, and they may help to
make your name so well known in Hades that next year I shall
be able to print a Worldly Letter from you every week with a
good chance of its proving popular."
And with this promise Boswell left me to get out the first
number of The Cimmerian: a Sunday Magazine for all. Taking
him at his word, I sent him the following poem a few days later:
Whither do we drift,
Insensate souls, whose every breath
Foretells the doom of nothingness?
Yet onward, upward let it be
Through all the myriad circles
Of the ensuing years--
And then, pray what?
Alas! 'tis all, and never shall be stated.
Atoms, yet atomless we drift,
I had intended this for one of our leading magazines, but it
seemed so to lack the mystical quality, which is essential
to a successful magazine poem in our sphere, that I deemed it
best to try it on Boswell.
THE BOSWELL TOURS: PERSONALLY CONDUCTED
It was and will no doubt be considered, even by those who
are not too friendly towards myself, a daring idea, and it
was all my own. One night, several weeks after the interview
with Boswell just narrated, the idea came to me simultaneously
with the first tapping of the keys for the evening upon the
Enchanted Type-Writer. It was Boswell's touch that summoned
me from my divan. My family were on the eve of departure for
a month's rest from care and play in the mountains, and I was
looking forward to a period of very great loneliness. But as
Boswell materialized and began his work upon the machine, the
great idea flashed across my mind, and I resolved to "play it"
for all it was worth.
"Jim," said I, as I approached the vacant chair in which he
sat-- for by this time the great biographer and I had got upon
terms of familiarity--"Jim," said I, "I've got a very gloomy
prospect ahead of me."
"Well, why not?" he tapped off. "Where do you expect to have
your gloomy prospects? They can't very well be behind you."
"Humph!" said I. "You are facetious this evening."
"Not at all," he replied. "I have been spending the day with
my old-time boss, Samuel Johnson, and I am so saturated with
purism that I hardly know where I am. From the Johnsonian
point of view you have expressed yourself ill--"
"Well, I am ill," I retorted. "I don't know how far you are
acquainted with home life, but I do know that there is no
greater homesickness in the world than that of the man who is
sick of home."
"I am not an imitator," said Boswell, "but I must imitate you
to the extent of saying humph! I quote you, and, doing so,
I honor you. But really, I never thought you could be sick
of home, as you put it--you who are so happy at home and who
so wildly hate being away from home."
"I'm not surprised at that, my dear Boswell," said I. "But
you are, of course, familiar with the phrase 'Stone walls do
not a prison make?'"
"I've heard it," said Boswell.
"Well, there's another equally valid phrase which I have not
yet heard expressed by another, and it is this: 'Stone walls
do not a home make.'"
"It isn't very musical, is it?" said he.
"Not very," I answered, "but we don't all live magazine lives,
do we? We have occasionally a sentiment, a feeling, out of
which we do not try 'to make copy.' It is undoubtedly a truth
which I have not yet seen voiced by any modern poet of my
acquaintance, not even by the dead-baby poets, that home is
not always preferable to some other things. At any rate, it is
my feeling, and is shortly to represent my condition. My home,
you know. It has its walls and its pictures, and its thousand
and one comforts, and its associations, but when my wife and
my children are away, and the four walls do not re-echo the
voices of the children, and my library lacks the presence of
madame, it ceases truly to be home, and if I've got to stay
here during the month of August alone I must have diversion,
else I shall find myself as badly off as the butterfly man,
to whom a vaudeville exhibition is the greatest joy in life."
"I think you are queer," said Boswell.
"Well, I am not," said I. "However low we may set the standard
of man, Mr. B."--and I called him Mr. B. instead of Jim, because
I wished to be severe and yet retain the basis of familiarity--
"however low we may set the standard of man, I think man as a
rule prefers his home to the most seductive roof-garden life
"Wherefore?" said he, coldly.
"Wherefore my home about to become unattractive through
the absence of my boys and their mother, I shall need some
extraordinary diversion to accomplish my happiness. Now if you
can come here, why can't others? Suppose to-night you dash off
on the machine a lot of invitations to the pleasantest people
in Hades to come up here with you and have an evening on earth,
which isn't all bad."
"It's a scheme and a half," said Boswell, with more enthusiasm
than I had expected. "I'll do it, only instead of trying to
get these people to make a pilgrimage to your shrine, which
I think they would decline to do--Shakespeare, for instance,
wouldn't give a tuppence to inspect your birthplace as you have
inspected his--I'll institute a series of 'Boswell's Personally
Conducted Pleasure Parties,' and make you my agent here. That,
you see, will naturally make your home our headquarters, and
I think the scheme would work a charm, because there are a
great many well-known Stygians who are curious to revisit the
scenes of their earlier state, but who are timid about coming
on their own responsibility."
"I see," said I. "Immortals are but mortal after all, with
all the timidity and weaknesses of mortality. But I agree to
the proposition, and if you wish it I'll prepare to give them
a rousing old time."
"And be sure to show them something characteristic," said
"I will," I replied; "I may even get up a trolley-party
"I don't know what a trolley-party is, but it sounds well," said
Boswell, "and I'll advertise the enterprise at once. 'Boswell's
Personally Conducted Pleasure Parties. First Series, No. 1.
Trolleying Through Hoboken. For the Round Trip, Four Dollars.
Supper and All Expenses Included. No Tips. Extra Lady's Ticket,
"Hold on!" I cried. "That can't be. These affairs will really
have to be stag-parties--with my wife away, you know."
"Not if we secure a suitable chaperon," said Boswell.
"Anyhow!" said I, with great positiveness. "You don't suppose
that in the absence of my family I'm going to have my neighbors
see me cavorting about the country on a trolley-car full of
queens and duchesses and other females of all ages? Not a bit
of it, my dear James. I'm not a strictly conventional person,
but there are some points between which I draw lines. I've
got to live on this earth for a little while yet, and until
I leave it I must be guided more or less in what I do by what
the world approves or disapproves."
"Very well," Boswell answered. "I suppose you are right,
but in the autumn, when your family has returned--"
"We can discuss the matter again," said I, resolved to put
off the question for as long a time as I could, for I candidly
confess that I had no wish to make myself responsible for the
welfare of such Stygian ladies as might avail themselves of
the opportunity to go off on one of Boswell's tours. "Show
the value and beauties of your plan to the influential men
of Hades first, my dear Boswell," I added, "and then if they
choose they can come again and bring their wives with them on
their own responsibility."
"I fancy that is the best plan, but we ought to have some
variety in these tours," he replied. "A trolley-party, however
successful, would not make a great season for an entertainment
bureau, would it?"
"No, indeed," said I. "You are perfectly right about that. What
you want is one function a week during the summer season. Open
with the trolley-party as No. 1 of your first series. Follow
this with 'An Evening of Vaudeville: The Grand Tour of the
Roof Gardens.' After that have a 'Sunday at the Sea-side--Surf
Bathing, Summer Girls and Sand.' That would make a mighty
attractive line for your advertisement."
"Magnificent. I don't see why you don't give up poetry and
magazine work and get a position as poster-writer for a circus.
You are only a mediocre magazinist, but in the poster business
you'd be a genius."
This was tapped off with such manifest sincerity that I could
not take offence, so I thanked him and resumed.
"The grand finale of your first series might be 'A Tandem
Scorch: A Century Run on a Bicycle Built for Two Hundred!'"
"Magnificent!" cried Boswell, with such enthusiasm that
I feared he would smash the machine. "I'll devote a whole
page of my Sunday issue to the prospectus--but, to return
to the woman question, we ought really to have something to
announce for them. Hades hath no fury like a woman scorned,
and I can't afford to scorn the sex. You needn't have anything
to do with them if you don't want to--only tell me something
I can announce, and I'll make Henry the Eighth solid again by
putting that branch of the enterprise in his wives' hands. In
that way I'll kill two birds with one stone."
"That's all very well, Boswell, but I'm afraid I can't,"
said I. "It's hard enough to know how to please a mortal
woman without attempting to get up a series of picnics for the
rather miscellaneous assortment of ladies who form your social
structure below. All men are alike, and man's pleasures in all
times have been generally the same, but every woman is unique. I
never knew two who were alike, and if it's all the same to you
I'd rather you left me out of your ladies' tours altogether. Of
course I know that even the Queen of Sheba would enjoy a visit
to a Monday sale at one of our big department stores, and I
am quite as well aware that nine out of ten women in Hades or
out of it would enjoy the millinery exhibition at the opera
matinee--and if these two ideas impress you at all you are
welcome to them-- but beyond this I have nothing to suggest."
"Well, I'm sure those two ideas are worth a great deal,"
returned Boswell, making a note of them; "I shall announce
four trips to Monday sales--"
"Call 'em 'To Bargaindale and Back: The Great Marked-down Tour,'
and be sure you add, 'For Able-bodied Women Only. No Tickets
Issued Except on Recommendation of your Family Physician.' This
is especially important, for next to a war or a football match
there's nothing that I know of that is quite so dangerous to
the participants as a bargain day."
"I'll bear what you say in mind," quoth Boswell, and he made
a note of my injunction. "And immediately upon my return to
Hades I will request an audience with Henry's queens, and
ask them to devise a number of other tours likely to prove
profitable and popular."
Shortly after my visitor departed and I retired. The next day my
family deserted me and went to the mountains, and all my fears
as to the inordinate sense of loneliness which was to be my lot
were realized. Even Boswell neglected me apparently for a week.
I went to my desk daily and returned at night hoping that
my type-writer would bring forth something of an interesting
nature, but naught other than disappointment awaited me. For
a whole blessed week I was thrown back upon the society of my
neighbors for diversion. The type-writer gave no sign of being.
Little did I guess that Boswell was busy working up my scheme
in his Stygian home!
But it came to pass finally that I was roused up. Walking
one morning to my desk to find a bit of memoranda I needed, I
discovered a type-written slip marked, "No time for small talk.
Boswell's tours grand success. Trolley-party to-night. Ten
cars wanted. Jim."
It was a large order for a town like mine, where forty
thousand people have to get along with five cars--two open
ones for winter and two closed for summer, and one, which we
have never seen, which is kept for use in the repair-shop. I
was in despair. Ten car-loads of immortals coming to my house
for a trolley-party under such conditions! It was frightful! I
did the best I could, however.
I ordered one trolley-car to be ready at eight, and a large
variety of good things edible and drinkable, the latter to be
held subject to the demand-notes of our guests.
As may be imagined, I did little real work that day, and when
I returned home at night I was on tenter-hooks lest something
should go wrong; but fortunately Boswell himself came early
and relieved me of my worry--in fact, he was at the machine
when I entered the house.
"Well," he said, "have you the ten cars?"
"What do you take me for," said I, "a trolley-car trust? Of
course I haven't. There are only five cars in town, one of
which is kept in the repair-shop for effect. I've hired one."
"Humph!" he cried. "What will the kings do?"
"Kings!" I cried. "What kings?"
"I have nine kings and one car-load of common souls besides
for this affair," he explained. "Each king wants a special car."
"Kings be jiggered!" said I. "A trolley-party, my much beloved
James, is an essentially democratic institution, and private
cars are not de rigueur. If your kings choose to come, let
'em hang on by the straps."
"But I've charged 'em extra!" cried Boswell.
"That's all right," said I, "they receive extra. They have the
ride plus the straps, with the privilege of standing out on
the platform and ringing the gong if they want to. The great
thing about the trolley-party is that there's no private car
business about it."
"Well, I don't know," Boswell murmured, reflectively. "If
Charles the First and Louis Fourteenth don't kick about
being crowded in with all the rest, I can stand anything that
Frederick the Great or Nero might say; but those two fellows
are great sticklers for the royal prerogative."
"There isn't any such thing as royal prerogative on a
trolley-car," I retorted, "and if they don't like what they
get they can sit down in the waiting-room and wait until we
But Boswell's fears were not realized. Charles and Louis were
perfectly delighted with the trolley-party, and long before
we reached home the former had rung up the fare-register to
its full capacity, while the latter, a half-a-dozen times,
delightedly occupied himself in mastering the intricacies of the
overhead wire. The trolley-party was an undoubted success. The
same remains to be said of the vaudeville expedition of the
following week. The same guests and potentates attended this,
to the number of twenty, and the Boswell tours were accounted
a great enterprise, and bade fair to redeem the losses of the
eminent journalist incurred during Xanthippe's administration
of his affairs; but after the bicycle night I had to withdraw
from the combination to save my reputation. The fact upon
which I had not counted was that my neighbors began to think
me insane. I had failed to remember that none of these visiting
spirits was visible to us in this material world, and while my
fellow-townsmen were disposed to lay up my hiring of a special
trolley-car for my own private and particular use against
the eccentricity of genius, they marvelled greatly that I
should purchase twenty of the best seats at a vaudeville show
seemingly for my own exclusive use. When, besides this, they saw
me start off apparently alone on one tandem bicycle, followed
by twenty-eight other empty wheels, which they could not know
were manipulated by some of the most famous legs in the history
of the world, from Noah's down to those of Henry Fielding the
novelist, they began to regard me as something uncanny.
Nor can I blame them. It seems to me that if I saw one man
scorching along a road alone on a tandem bicycle chatting to an
empty front-seat, I should think him queer, but if following in
his wake I perceived twenty-eight other wheels, scorching up
hill and down dale without any visible motive power, I should
regard him as one who was in league with the devil himself.
Nevertheless, I judge from what Boswell has told me that I am
regarded in Hades as a great benefactor of the people there,
for having established a series of excursions from that world
into this, a service which has done much to convince the
Stygians that after all, if only by contrast, the life below
has its redeeming features.
AN IMPORTANT DECISION
For some time after the organization of the Pleasure Tours,
the Enchanted Type-Writer appeared to be deserted. Night after
night I watched over it with great care lest I should lose
any item of interest that might come to me from below, but,
much to my sorrow, things in Hades appeared to be dull--so
dull that the machine was not called into requisition at all. I
little guessed what important matters were transpiring in that
wonderful country. Had I done so, I doubt I should have waited
so patiently, although my only method of getting there was
suicide, for which diversion I have very little liking. On the
twenty-fourth night of waiting, however, the welcome sound of
the bell dragged me forth from my comfortable couch, whither,
expecting nothing, I had retired early.
"Glad to hear your pleasant tinkle again," I said. "I've
"I'm glad to get back," returned Boswell, for it was he who was
manipulating the keys. "I've been so infernally busy, however,
over the court news, that I haven't had a minute to spare."
"Court news, eh?" I said. "You are going to open up a society
column, are you?"
"Not I," he replied. "It's the other kind of a court. We've
been having some pretty hot litigation down in Hades since I
was here last. The city of Cimmeria has been suing the State
of Hades for ten years back dog-taxes."
"For what?" I cried.
"Unpaid dog-taxes for ten years," Boswell explained. "We have
just as much government below in our cities as you have, and
I will say for Hades that our cities are better run than yours."