Part 3 out of 5
to take it along, no matter where he was goin'. Now you get it,
"My notion is," said he, when I returned from the kitchen
with the case, "that you mix somethin' that might soothe her a
little, if she has got anything the matter with her brain, and
which won't hurt her if she hasn't. And then, when I take it up
to her, you tell me what symptoms to look for. I can do it--I
have spent nights lookin' for symptoms. Then, when I come down
and report, you might send her up somethin' that would keep her
from gettin' any wuss till the doctor can come in the mornin',
for he ain't comin' here to-night."
"A very good plan," said I. "Now, what can I give her? What
is the patient's age?"
"Oh, her age don't matter much," said Uncle Beamish,
impatiently. "She may be twenty, more or less, and any mild
stuff will do to begin with."
"I will give her some sweet spirits of nitre," said I, taking
out a little vial. "Will you ask the servant for a glass of
water and a teaspoon?"
"Now," said I, when I had quickly prepared the mixture, "she
can have a teaspoonful of this, and another in ten minutes, and
then we will see whether we will go on with it or not."
"And what am I to look for?" said he.
"In the first place," said I, producing a clinical thermometer,
"you must take her temperature. You know how to do that?"
"Oh, yes," said he. "I have done it hundreds of times. She
must hold it in her mouth five minutes."
"Yes, and while you are waiting," I continued, "you must try
to find out, in the first place, if there are, or have been, any
signs of delirium. You might ask the old lady, and besides, you
may be able to judge for yourself."
"I can do that," said he. "I have seen lots of it."
"Then, again," said I, "you must observe whether or not her
pupils are dilated. You might also inquire whether there had
been any partial paralysis or numbness in any part of the body.
These things must be looked for in brain trouble. Then you can
come down, ostensibly to prepare another prescription, and when
you have reported, I have no doubt I can give you something which
will modify, or I should say--"
"Hold her where she is till mornin'," said Uncle Beamish. "That's
what you mean. Be quick. Give me that thermometer and the
tumbler, and when I come down again, I reckon you can fit her
out with a prescription just as good as anybody."
He hurried away, and I sat down to consider. I was full of
ambition, full of enthusiasm for the practice of my profession.
I would have been willing to pay largely for the privilege
of undertaking an important case by myself, in which it would
depend upon me whether or not I should call in a consulting
brother. So far, in the cases I had undertaken, a consulting
brother had always called himself in--that is, I had practised in
hospitals or with my uncle. Perhaps it might be found necessary,
notwithstanding all that had been said against me, that I should
go up to take charge of this case. I wished I had not forgotten
to ask the old man how he had found the tongue and pulse.
In less than a quarter of an hour Uncle Beamish returned.
"Well," said I, quickly, "what are the symptoms?"
"I'll give them to you," said he, taking his seat. "I'm not
in such a hurry now, because I told the old woman I would like to
wait a little and see how that fust medicine acted. The patient
spoke to me this time. When I took the thermometer out of her
mouth she says, `You are comin' up ag'in, doctor?' speakin' low
and quickish, as if she wanted nobody but me to hear."
"But how about the symptoms?" said I, impatiently.
"Well," he answered, "in the fust place her temperature is
ninety-eight and a half, and that's about nat'ral, I take it."
"Yes," I said, "but you didn't tell me about her tongue and
"There wasn't nothin' remarkable about them," said he.
"All of which means," I remarked, "that there is no
fever. But that is not at all a necessary accompaniment of brain
derangements. How about the dilatation of her pupils?"
"There isn't none," said Uncle Beamish; "they are ruther
squinched up, if anything. And as to delirium, I couldn't see no
signs of it, and when I asked the old lady about the numbness,
she said she didn't believe there had been any."
"No tendency to shiver, no disposition to stretch?"
"No," said the old man, "no chance for quinine."
"The trouble is," said I, standing before the stove and
fixing my mind upon the case with earnest intensity, "that there
are so few symptoms in brain derangement. If I could only get
hold of something tangible--"
"If I was you," interrupted Uncle Beamish, "I wouldn't try to
get hold of nothin'. I would just give her somethin' to keep her
where she is till mornin'. If you can do that, I'll guarantee
that any good doctor can take her up and go on with her to-
Without noticing the implication contained in these remarks, I
continued my consideration of the case.
"If I could get a drop of her blood," said I.
"No, no!" exclaimed Uncle Beamish, "I'm not goin' to do
anything of that sort. What in the name of common sense would
you do with her blood?"
"I would examine it microscopically," I said. "I might find
out all I want to know."
Uncle Beamish did not sympathize with this method of diagnosis.
"If you did find out there was the wrong kind of germs, you
couldn't do anything with them to-night, and it would just worry
you," said the old man. "I believe that nature will get
along fust-rate without any help, at least till mornin'. But
you've got to give her some medicine--not so much for her good as
for our good. If she's not treated we're bounced. Can't you
give her somethin' that would do anybody good, no matter what's
the matter with 'em? If it was the spring of the year I would
say sarsaparilla. If you could mix her up somethin' and put into
it some of them benevolent microbes the doctors talk about, it
would be a good deed to do to anybody."
"The benign bacilli," said I. "Unfortunately I haven't any
of them with me."
"And if you had," he remarked, "I'd be in favor of givin' 'em
to the old woman. I take it they would do, her more good than
anybody else. Come along now, doctor; it is about time for me to
go up-stairs and see how the other stuff acted--not on the
patient, I don't mean, but on the old woman. The fact is, you
know, it's her we're dosin'."
"Not at all," said I, speaking a little severely. "I am
trying to do my very best for the patient, but I fear I cannot do
it without seeing her. Don't you think that if you told the old
lady how absolutely necessary--"
"Don't say anything more about that!" exclaimed Uncle Beamish.
"I hoped I wouldn't have to mention it, but she told me ag'in
that she would never have one of those unfledged medical
students, just out of the egg-shell, experimentin' on any of her
family, and from what she said about you in particular, I should
say she considered you as a medical chick without even down on
"What can she know of me?" I asked indignantly.
"Give it up," said he. "Can't guess it. But that ain't the
p'int. The p'int is, what are you goin' to give her? When I was
young the doctors used to say, When you are in doubt, give
calomel--as if you were playin' trumps."
"Nonsense, nonsense," said I, my eyes earnestly fixed upon my
open medical case.
"I suppose a mustard-plaster on the back of her neck--"
"Wouldn't do at all," I interrupted. "Wait a minute, now--
yes--I know what I will do: I will give her sodium bromide--ten
"`Which will hit if it's a deer and miss if it's a calf' as
the hunter said?" inquired Uncle Beamish.
"It will certainly not injure her," said I, "and I am quite
sure it will be a positive advantage. If there has been cerebral
disturbance, which has subsided temporarily, it will assist her
to tide over the interim before its recurrence."
"All right," said Uncle Beamish, "give it to me, and I'll be
off. It's time I showed up ag'in."
He did not stay up-stairs very long this time.
"No symptoms yit, but the patient looked at me as if she
wanted to say somethin'; but she didn't git no chance, for the
old lady set herself down as if she was planted in a garden-bed
and intended to stay there. But the patient took the medicine as
mild as a lamb."
"That is very good," said I. "It may be that she appreciates
the seriousness of her ewe better than we do."
"I should say she wants to git well," he replied. "She looks
like that sort of a person to me. The old woman said she thought
we would have to stay awhile till the storm slackened, and I
said, yes, indeed, and there wasn't any chance of its slackenin'
to-night; besides, I wanted to see the patient before bedtime."
At this moment the door opened and the servant-woman came in.
"She says you are to have supper, and it will be ready in
about half an hour. One of you had better go out and attend to
your horse, for the man is not coming back to-night."
"I will go to the barn," said I, rising. Uncle Beamish also
rose and said he would go with me.
"I guess you can find some hay and oats," said the woman, as
we were putting on our coats and overshoes in the kitchen, "and
here's a lantern. We don't keep no horse now, but there's feed
As we pushed through the deep snow into the barn, Uncle
"I've been tryin' my best to think where we are without
askin' any questions, and I'm dead beat. I don't remember no
such house as this on the road."
"Perhaps we got off the road," said I.
"That may be," said he, as we entered the barn. "It's a straight
road from Warburton to the pike near my sister's house, but
there's two other roads that branch off to the right and strike
the pike further off to the east. Perhaps we got on one of them
in all that darkness and perplexin' whiteness, when it wasn't
easy to see whether we were keepin' a straight road or not."
The horse neighed as we approached with a light.
"I would not be at all surprised," said I, "if this horse had
once belonged here and that was the reason why, as soon as
he got a chance, he turned and made straight for his old home."
"That isn't unlikely," said Uncle Beamish, "and that's the
reason we did not pass Crocker's. But here we are, wherever it
is, and here we've got to stay till mornin'."
We found hay and oats and a pump in the corner of the wagon-
house, and having put the horse in the stall and made him as
comfortable as possible with some old blankets, we returned to
the house, bringing our valises with us.
Our supper was served in the sitting-room because there was a
good fire there, and the servant told us we would have to eat by
ourselves, as "she" was not coming down.
"We'll excuse her," said Uncle Beamish, with an alacrity of
expression that might have caused suspicion.
We had a good supper, and were then shown a room on the first
floor on the other side of the hall, where the servant said we
were to sleep.
We sat by the stove awhile, waiting for developments, but as
Uncle Beamish's bedtime was rapidly approaching, he sent word to
the sick-chamber that he was coming up for his final visit.
This time he stayed up-stairs but a few minutes.
"She's fast asleep," said he, "and the old woman says she'll
call me if I'm needed in the night, and you'll have to jump up
sharp and overhaul that medicine-case if that happens."
The next morning, and very early in the morning, I was awaked
by Uncle Beamish, who stood at my side.
"Look here," said he, "I've been outside. It's stopped snowin'
and it's clearin' off. I've been to the barn and I've fed the
horse, and I tell you what I'm in favor of doin'. There's nobody
up yit, and I don't want to stay here and make no explanations to
that old woman. I don't fancy gittin' into rows on Christmas
mornin'. We've done all the good we can here, and the best thing
we can do now is to git away before anybody is up, and leave a
note sayin' that we've got to go on without losin' time, and that
we will send another doctor as soon as possible. My sister's
doctor don't live fur away from her, and I know she will be
willin' to send for him. Then our duty will be done, and what
the old woman thinks of us won't make no, difference to nobody."
"That plan suits me," said I, rising. "I don't want to stay
here, and as I am not to be allowed to see the patient, there is
no reason why I should stay. What we have done will more than
pay for our supper and lodgings, so that our consciences are
"But you must write a note," said Uncle Beamish. "Got any
I tore a leaf from my note-book, and went to the window,
where it was barely light enough for me to see how to write.
"Make it short," said the old man. "I'm awful fidgety to git
I made it very short, and then, valises in hand, we quietly
took our way to the kitchen.
"How this floor does creak!" said Uncle Beamish. "Git on
your overcoat and shoes as quick as you can, and we'll leave the
note on this table."
I had just shaken myself into my overcoat when Uncle Beamish gave
a subdued exclamation, and quickly turning, I saw entering the
kitchen a female figure in winter wraps and carrying a hand-bag.
"By George!" whispered the old man, "it's the patient!"
The figure advanced directly toward me.
"Oh, Dr. Glover!" she whispered, "I am so glad to get down
before you went away!"
I stared in amazement at the speaker, but even in the dim light I
recognized her. This was the human being whose expected presence
at the Collingwood mansion was taking me there to spend
"Kitty!" I exclaimed--"Miss Burroughs, I mean,--what is the
meaning of this?"
"Don't ask me for any meanings now," she said. "I want you
and your uncle to take me to the Collingwoods'. I suppose you
are on your way there, for they wrote you were coming. And oh!
let us be quick, for I'm afraid Jane will come down, and she will
be sure to wake up aunty. I saw one of you go out to the barn,
and knew you intended to leave, so I got ready just as fast as I
could. But I must leave some word for aunty."
"I have written a note," said I. "But are you well enough to
"Just let me add a line to it," said she. "I am as well as I
I gave her a pencil, and she hurriedly wrote something on the
paper which I had left on the kitchen table. Then, quickly
glancing around, she picked up a large carving-fork, and sticking
it through the paper into the soft wood of the table, she left it
"Now it won't blow away when we open the door," she
whispered. "Come on."
"You cannot go out to the barn," I said; "we will bring up
"Oh, no, no, no," she answered, "I must not wait here. If I
once get out of the house I shall feel safe. Of course I shall
go anyway, but I don't want any quarrelling on this Christmas
"I'm with you there," said Uncle Beamish, approvingly. "Doctor,
we can take her to the barn without her touching the snow. Let
her sit in this arm-chair, and we can carry her between us.
She's no weight."
In half a minute the kitchen door was softly closed behind
us, and we were carrying Miss Burroughs to the barn. My soul was
in a wild tumult. Dozens of questions were on my tongue, but I
had no chance to ask any of them.
Uncle Beamish and I returned to the porch for the valises,
and then, closing the back door, we rapidly began to make
preparations for leaving.
"I suppose," said Uncle Beamish, as we went into the stable,
leaving Miss Burroughs in the wagon-house, "that this business is
all right? You seem to know the young woman, and she is of age
to act for herself."
"Whatever she wants to do," I answered, "is perfectly right.
You may trust to that. I do not understand the matter any more
than you do, but I know she is expected at the Collingwoods', and
wants to go there."
"Very good," said Uncle Beamish. "We'll git away fust and
ask explanations afterwards."
"Dr. Glover," said Miss Burroughs, as we led the horse into the
wagon-house, "don't put the bells on him. Stuff them gently
under the seat--as softly as you can. But how are we all to go
away? I have been looking at that sleigh, and it is intended
only for two."
"It's rather late to think of that, miss," said Uncle Beamish,
"but there's one thing that's certain. We're both very polite to
ladies, but neither of us is willin' to be left behind on this
trip. But it's a good-sized sleigh, and we'll all pack in, well
enough. You and me can sit on the seat, and the doctor can stand
up in front of us and drive. In old times it was considered the
right thing for the driver of the sleigh to stand up and do his
The baggage was carefully stowed away, and, after a look around
the dimly lighted wagon-house, Miss Burroughs and Uncle Beamish
got into the sleigh, and I tucked the big fur robe around them.
"I hate to make a journey before breakfast," said Uncle
Beamish, as I was doing this, "especially on Christmas mornin',
but somehow or other there seems to be somethin' jolly about this
business, and we won't have to wait so long for breakfast,
nuther. It can't be far from my sister's, and we'll all stop
there and have breakfast. Then you two can leave me and go on.
She'll be as glad to see any friends of mine as if they were her
own. And she'll be pretty sure, on a mornin' like this, to have
buckwheat cakes and sausages."
Miss Burroughs looked at the old man with a puzzled air, but
she asked him no questions.
"How are you going to keep yourself warm, Dr. Glover?" she
"Oh, this long ulster will be enough for me," I replied, "and
as I shall stand up, I could not use a robe, if we had another."
In fact, the thought of being with Miss Burroughs and the
anticipation of a sleigh-ride alone with her after we had
left Uncle Beamish with his sister, had put me into such a glow
that I scarcely knew it was cold weather.
"You'd better be keerful, doctor," said Uncle Beamish. "You
don't want to git rheumatism in your j'ints on this Christmas
mornin'. Here's this horse-blanket that we are settin' on. We
don't need it, and you'd better wrap it round you, after you git
in, to keep your legs warm."
"Oh, do! " said Miss Burroughs. "It may look funny, but we
will not meet anybody so early as this."
"All right!" said I, "and now we are ready to start."
I slid back the barn door and then led the horse outside.
Closing the door, and making as little noise as possible in doing
it, I got into the sleigh, finding plenty of room to stand up in
front of my companions. Now I wrapped the horse-blanket about
the lower part of my body, and as I had no belt with which to
secure it, Miss Burroughs kindly offered to fasten it round my
waist by means of a long pin which she took from her hat. It is
impossible to describe the exhilaration that pervaded me as she
performed this kindly office. After thanking her warmly, I took
the reins and we started.
"It is so lucky," whispered Miss Burroughs, "that I happened
to think about the bells. We don't make any noise at all."
This was true. The slowly uplifted hoofs of the horse
descended quietly into the soft snow, and the sleigh-runners
slipped along without a sound.
"Drive straight for the gate, doctor," whispered Uncle
Beamish. "It don't matter nothin' about goin' over flower-beds
and grass-plats in such weather."
I followed his advice, for no roadway could be seen. But we
had gone but a short distance when the horse suddenly stopped.
"What's the matter?" asked Miss Burroughs, in a low voice.
"Is it too deep for him?"
"We're in a drift," said Uncle Beamish. "But it's not too
deep. Make him go ahead, doctor."
I clicked gently and tapped the horse with the whip, but he
did not move.
"What a dreadful thing," whispered Miss Burroughs, leaning
forward, "for him to stop so near the house! Dr. Glover, what
does this mean?" And, as she spoke, she half rose behind me.
"Where did Sir Rohan come from?"
"Who's he?" asked Uncle Beamish, quickly.
"That horse," she answered. "That's my aunt's horse. She
sold him a few days ago."
"By George! " ejaculated Uncle Beamish, unconsciously raising
his voice a little. "Wilson bought him, and his bringin' us here
is as plain as A B C. And now he don't want to leave home."
"But he has got to do it," said I, jerking the horse's head
to one side and giving him a cut with the whip.
"Don't whip him," whispered Miss Burroughs; "it always makes
him more stubborn. How glad I am I thought of the bells! The
only way to get him to go is to mollify him."
"But how is that to be done?" I asked anxiously.
"You must give him sugar and pat his neck. If I had some sugar
and could get out--"
"But you haven't it, and you can't git out," said Uncle
Beamish. "Try him again doctor!"
I jerked the reins impatiently. "Go along!" said I. But he
did not go along.
"Haven't you got somethin' in your medicine-case you could
mollify him with?" said Uncle Beamish. "Somethin' sweet
that he might like?"
For an instant I caught at this absurd suggestion, and my
mind ran over the contents of my little bottles. If I had known
his character, some sodium bromide in his morning feed might, by
this time, have mollified his obstinacy.
"If I could be free of this blanket," said I, fumbling at the
pin behind me, "I would get out and lead him into the road."
"You could not do it," said Miss Burroughs. "You might pull
his head off, but he wouldn't move. I have seen him tried."
At this moment a window-sash in the second story of the house
was raised, and there, not thirty feet from us, stood an elderly
female, wrapped in a gray shawl, with piercing eyes shining
through great spectacles.
"You seem to be stuck," said she, sarcastically. "You are
worse stuck than the fork was in my kitchen table."
We made no answer. I do not know how Miss Burroughs looked
or felt, or what was the appearance of Uncle Beamish, but I know
I must have been very red in the face. I gave the horse a
powerful crack and shouted to him to go on. There was no need
for low speaking now.
"You needn't be cruel to dumb animals," said the old lady,
"and you can't budge him. He never did like snow,
especially in going away from home. You cut a powerful queer
figure, young man, with that horse-blanket around you. You don't
look much like a practising physician."
"Miss Burroughs," I exclaimed, "please take that pin out of
this blanket. If I can get at his head I know I can pull him
around and make him go."
But she did not seem to hear me. "Aunty," she cried, "it's a
shame to stand there and make fun of us. We have got a perfect
right to go away if we want to, and we ought not to be laughed
The old lady paid no attention to this remark.
"And there's that false doctor," she said. "I wonder how he
feels just now."
"False doctor!" exclaimed Miss Burroughs. "I don't understand."
"Young lady," said Uncle Beamish, "I'm no false doctor. I
intended to tell you all about it as soon as I got a chance, but
I haven't had one. And, old lady, I'd like you to know that I
don't say I'm a doctor, but I do say I'm a nuss, and a good nuss,
and you can't deny it."
To this challenge the figure at the window made no answer.
"Catherine," said she, "I can't stand here and take cold, but
I just want to know one thing: Have you positively made up your
mind to marry that young doctor in the horse-blanket?"
This question fell like a bomb-shell into the middle of the
I had never asked Kitty to marry me. I loved her with all my
heart and soul, and I hoped, almost believed, that she loved me.
It had been my intention, when we should be left together in
the sleigh this morning, after dropping Uncle Beamish at his
sister's house, to ask her to marry me.
The old woman's question pierced me as if it had been a flash
of lightning coming through the frosty air of a winter morning.
I dropped the useless reins and turned. Kitty's face was ablaze.
She made a movement as if she was about to jump out of the sleigh
"Oh, Kitty!" said I, bending down toward her, "tell her yes!
I beg I entreat, I implore you to tell her yes! Oh, Kitty! if
you don't say yes I shall never know another happy day."
For one moment Kitty looked up into my face, and then said she:
"It is my positive intention to marry him!"
With the agility of a youth, Uncle Beamish threw the robe
from him and sprang out into the deep snow. Then, turning toward
us, he took off his hat.
"By George!" said he, "you're a pair of trumps. I never did
see any human bein's step up to the mark more prompt. Madam," he
cried, addressing the old lady, "you ought to be the proudest
woman in this county at seein' such a thing as this happen under
your window of a Christmas mornin'. And now the best thing that
you can do is to invite us all in to have breakfast."
"You'll have to come in," said she, "or else stay out there
and freeze to death, for that horse isn't going to take you away.
And if my niece really intends to marry the young man, and has
gone so far as to start to run away with him,--and with a false
doctor,--of course I've got no more to say about it, and you
can come in and have breakfast." And with that she shut down
"That's talkin'," said Uncle Beamish. "Sit still, doctor,
and I'll lead him around to the back door. I guess he'll move
quick enough when you want him to turn back."
Without the slightest objection Sir Rohan permitted himself
to be turned back and led up to the kitchen porch.
"Now you two sparklin' angels get out," said Uncle Beamish,
"and go in. I'll attend to the horse."
Jane, with a broad grin on her face, opened the kitchen door.
"Merry Christmas to you both!" said she.
"Merry Christmas!" we cried, and each of us shook her by the
"Go in the sitting-room and get warm," said Jane. "She'll be
down pretty soon."
I do not know how long we were together in that sitting-room. We
had thousands of things to say, and we said most of them.
Among other things, we managed to get in some explanations of the
occurrences of the previous night. Kitty told her tale briefly.
She and her aunt, to whom she was making a visit, and who wanted
her to make her house her home, had had a quarrel two days
before. Kitty was wild to go to the Collingwoods', and the old
lady, who, for some reason, hated the family, was determined she
should not go. But Kitty was immovable, and never gave up until
she found that her aunt had gone so far as to dispose of her
horse, thus making it impossible to travel in such weather, there
being no public conveyances passing the house. Kitty was an
orphan, and had a guardian who would have come to her aid, but
she could not write to him in time, and, in utter despair, she
went to bed. She would not eat or drink, she would not speak,
and she covered up her head.
"After a day and a night," said Kitty, "aunty got dreadfully
frightened and thought something was the matter with my brain.
Her family are awfully anxious about their brains. I knew she
had sent for the doctor and I was glad of it, for I thought he
would help me. I must say I was surprised when I first saw that
Mr. Beamish, for I thought he was Dr. Morris. Now tell me about
your coming here."
"And so," she said, when I had finished, "you had no idea
that you were prescribing for me! Please do tell me what were
those medicines you sent up to me and which I took like a truly
"I didn't know it at the time," said I, "but I sent you sixty
drops of the deepest, strongest love in a glass of water, and ten
grains of perfect adoration."
"Nonsense!" said Kitty, with a blush, and at that moment
Uncle Beamish knocked at the door.
"I thought I'd just step in and tell you," said he, "that
breakfast will be comin' along in a minute. I found they were
goin' to have buckwheat cakes, anyway, and I prevailed on Jane to
put sausages in the bill of fare. Merry Christmas to you both!
I would like to say more, but here comes the old lady and Jane."
The breakfast was a strange meal, but a very happy one. The
old lady was very dignified. She made no allusion to Christmas
or to what had happened, but talked to Uncle Beamish about
people in Warburton.
I have a practical mind, and, in spite of the present joy, I
could not help feeling a little anxiety about what was to be done
when breakfast was over. But just as we were about to rise from
the table we were all startled by a great jingle of sleigh-bells
outside. The old lady arose and stopped to the window.
"There!" said she, turning toward us. "Here's a pretty
kettle of fish! There's a two-horse sleigh outside, with a man
driving, and a gentleman in the back seat who I am sure is Dr.
Morris, and he has come all the way on this bitter cold morning
to see the patient I sent for him to come to. Now, who is going
to tell him he has come on a fool's errand?"
"Fool's errand!" I cried. "Every one of you wait in here and
I'll go out and tell him."
When I dashed out of doors and stood by the side of my
uncle's sleigh, he was truly an amazed man.
"I will get in, uncle," said I, "and if you will let John
drive the horses slowly around the yard, I will tell you how I
happen to be here."
The story was a much longer one than I expected it to be, and
John must have driven those horses backward and forward for half
"Well," said my uncle, at last, "I never saw your Kitty, but
I knew her father and her mother, and I will go in and take a
look at her. If I like her, I will take you all on to the
Collingwoods', and drop Uncle Beamish at his sister's house."
"I'll tell you what it is, young doctor," said Uncle Beamish, at
parting, "you ought to buy that big roan horse. He has been
a regular guardian angel to us this Christmas."
"Oh, that would never do at all," cried Kitty. "His patients
would all die before he got there."
"That is, if they had anything the matter with them," added
A PIECE OF RED CALICO
Before beginning the relation of the following incidents, I wish
to state that I am a young married man, doing business in a large
city, in the suburbs of which I live.
I was going into town the other morning, when my wife handed
me a little piece of red calico, and asked me if I would have
time, during the day, to buy her two yards and a half of calico
like it. I assured her that it would be no trouble at all, and
putting the piece of calico in my pocket, I took the train for
At lunch-time I stopped in at a large dry-goods store to
attend to my wife's commission. I saw a well-dressed man walking
the floor between the counters, where long lines of girls were
waiting on much longer lines of customers, and asked him where I
could see some red calico.
"This way, sir," and he led me up the store. "Miss Stone,"
said he to a young lady, "show this gentleman some red calico."
"What shade do you want!" asked Miss Stone.
I showed her the little piece of calico that my wife had
given me. She looked at it and handed it back to me. Then
she took down a great roll of red calico and spread it out on the
"Why, that isn't the shade!" said I.
"No, not exactly," said she. "But it is prettier than your
"That may be," said I. "But, you see, I want to match this
piece. There is something already in my house, made of this kind
of calico, which needs to be made larger, or mended, or
something. I want some calico of the same shade."
The girl made no answer, but took down another roll.
"That's the shade," said she.
"Yes," I replied, "but it's striped."
"Stripes are more worn than anything else in calicoes," said
"Yes. But this isn't to be worn. It's for furniture, I
think. At any rate, I want perfectly plain stuff, to match
something already in use."
"Well, I don't think you can find it perfectly plain, unless
you get Turkey red."
"What is Turkey red?" I asked.
"Turkey red is perfectly plain in calicoes," she answered.
"Well, let me see some."
"We haven't any Turkey red calico left," she said, "but we
have some very nice plain calicoes in other colors."
"I don't want any other color. I want stuff to match this."
"It's hard to match cheap calico like that," she said, and so
I left her.
I next went into a store a few doors farther up Broadway. When I
entered I approached the "floorwalker," and handing him my
"Have you any calico like this?"
"Yes, sir," said he. "Third counter to the right." I went
to the third counter to the right, and showed my sample to the
salesman in attendance there. He looked at it on both sides.
Then he said:
"We haven't any of this."
"The floorwalker said you had," said I.
"We had it, but we're out of it now. You'll get that
goods at an upholsterers."
I went across the street to an upholsterer's.
"Have you any stuff like this?" I asked.
"No," said the salesman, "we haven't. Is it for furniture?"
"Yes," I replied.
"Then Turkey red is what you want."
"Is Turkey red just like this?" I asked.
"No," said he, "but it's much better."
"That makes no difference to me," I replied. "I want
something just like this."
"But they don't use that for furniture," he said.
"I should think people could use anything they wanted for
furniture," I remarked, somewhat sharply.
"They can, but they don't," he said quite calmly. "They
don't use red like that. They use Turkey red."
I said no more, but left. The next place I visited was a
very large dry-goods store. Of the first salesman I saw I
inquired if they kept red calico like my sample.
"You'll find that on the second story," said he.
I went up-stairs. There I asked a man:
"Where shall I find red calico?"
"In the far room to the left," and he pointed to a distant
I walked through the crowds of purchasers and salespeople,
around the counters and tables filled with goods, to the far room
to the left. When I got there I asked for red calico.
"The second counter down this side," said the man. I went
there and produced my sample. "Calicoes down-stairs," said the
"They told me they were up here," I said.
"Not these plain goods. You'll find them downstairs at the
back of the store, over on that side."
I went down-stairs to the back of the store.
"Where can I find red calico like this?" I asked.
"Next counter but one, " said the man addressed, walking with
me in the direction pointed out. "Dunn, show red calicoes."
Mr. Dunn took my sample and looked at it. "We haven't this shade
in that quality of goods," he said.
"Well, have you it in any quality of goods?" I asked.
"Yes. We've got it finer." He took down a piece of calico,
and unrolled a yard or two of it.
"That's not this shade," I said.
"No," said he. "The goods is finer and the color's better."
"I want it to match this," I said.
"I thought you weren't particular about the match," said the
salesman. "You said you didn't care for the quality of the
goods, and you know you can't match without you take into
consideration quality and color both. If you want that
quality of goods in red, you ought to get Turkey red."
I did not think it necessary to answer this remark, but said:
"Then you've got nothing to match this?"
"No, sir. But perhaps they may have it in the upholstery
department, in the sixth story."
I got into the elevator and went up to the top of the house.
"Have you any red stuff like this?" I said to a young man.
"Red stuff? Upholstery department--other end of this floor."
I went to the other end of the floor.
"I want some red calico," I said to a man.
"Furniture goods?" he asked.
"Yes," said I.
"Fourth counter to the left."
I went to the fourth counter to the left, and showed my
sample to a salesman. He looked at it, and said: "You'll get
this down on the first floor--calico department."
I turned on my heel, descended in the elevator, and went out
on Broadway. I was thoroughly sick of red calico. But I
determined to make one more trial. My wife had bought her red
calico not long before, and there must be some to be had
somewhere. I ought to have asked her where she bought it, but I
thought a simple little thing like that could be procured
I went into another large dry-goods store. As I entered the
door a sudden tremor seized me. I could not bear to take out
that piece of red calico. If I had had any other kind of a
rag about me--a pen-wiper or anything of the sort--I think I
would have asked them if they could match that.
But I stepped up to a young woman and presented my sample,
with the usual question.
"Back room, counter on the left," she said.
I went there.
"Have you any red calico like this?" I asked of the lady
behind the counter.
"No, sir," she said, "but we have it in Turkey red."
Turkey red again! I surrendered.
"All right," I said. "Give me Turkey red."
"How much, sir?" she asked.
"I don't know--say five yards."
The lady looked at me rather strangely, but measured off five
yards of Turkey red calico. Then she rapped on the counter and
called out, "Cash!" A little girl, with yellow hair in two long
plaits, came slowly up. The lady wrote the number of yards; the
name of the goods; her own number; the price; the amount of the
bank-note I handed her; and some other matters--probably the
color of my eyes and the direction and velocity of the wind--on a
slip of paper. She then copied all this in a little book which
she kept by her. Then she handed the slip of paper, the money,
and the Turkey red to the yellow-haired girl. This young girl
copied the slip in a little book she carried, and then she went
away with the calico, the paper slip, and the money.
After a very long time--during which the little girl probably
took the goods, the money, and the slip to some central desk,
where the note was received, its amount and number entered in a
book; change given to the girl; a copy of the slip made and
entered; girl's entry examined and approved; goods wrapped up;
girl registered; plaits counted and entered on a slip of paper
and copied by the girl in her book; girl taken to a hydrant and
washed; number of towel entered on a paper slip and copied by the
girl in her book; value of my note and amount of change branded
somewhere on the child, and said process noted on a slip of paper
and copied in her book--the girl came to me, bringing my change
and the package of Turkey red calico.
I had time for but very little work at the office that
afternoon, and when I reached home I handed the package of calico
to my wife. She unrolled it and exclaimed:
"Why, this doesn't match the piece I gave you!"
"Match it!" I cried. "Oh no! it doesn't match it. You
didn't want that matched. You were mistaken. What you wanted
was Turkey red--third counter to the left. I mean, Turkey red is
what they use!"
My wife looked at me in amazement, and then I detailed to her
"Well," said she, "this Turkey red is a great deal prettier
than what I had, and you've bought so much of it that I needn't
use the other at all. I wish I had thought of Turkey red
"I wish from my heart you had!" said I.
THE CHRISTMAS WRECK
"Well, sir," said old Silas, as he gave a preliminary puff to the
pipe he had just lighted, and so satisfied himself that the
draught was all right, "the wind's a-comin', an' so's Christmas.
But it's no use bein' in a hurry fur either of 'em, fur sometimes
they come afore you want 'em, anyway."
Silas was sitting in the stern of a small sailing-boat which
he owned, and in which he sometimes took the Sandport visitors
out for a sail, and at other times applied to its more legitimate
but less profitable use, that of fishing. That afternoon he had
taken young Mr. Nugent for a brief excursion on that portion of
the Atlantic Ocean which sends its breakers up on the beach of
Sandport. But he had found it difficult, nay, impossible, just
now, to bring him back, for the wind had gradually died away
until there was not a breath of it left. Mr. Nugent, to whom
nautical experiences were as new as the very nautical suit of
blue flannel which he wore, rather liked the calm. It was such a
relief to the monotony of rolling waves. He took out a cigar and
lighted it, and then he remarked:
"I can easily imagine how a wind might come before you sailors
might want it, but I don't see how Christmas could come too
"It come wunst on me when things couldn't `a' looked more
onready fur it," said Silas.
"How was that?" asked Mr. Nugent, settling himself a little
more comfortably on the hard thwart. "If it's a story, let's
have it. This is a good time to spin a yarn."
"Very well," said old Silas. "I'll spin her."
The bare-legged boy whose duty it was to stay forward and
mind the jib came aft as soon as he smelt a story, and took a
nautical position, which was duly studied by Mr. Nugent, on a bag
of ballast in the bottom of the boat.
"It's nigh on to fifteen year ago," said Silas, "that I was
on the bark Mary Auguster, bound for Sydney, New South Wales,
with a cargo of canned goods. We was somewhere about longitood a
hundred an' seventy, latitood nothin', an' it was the twenty-
second o' December, when we was ketched by a reg'lar typhoon
which blew straight along, end on, fur a day an' a half. It blew
away the storm-sails. It blew away every yard, spar, shroud, an'
every strand o' riggin', an' snapped the masts off close to the
deck. It blew away all the boats. It blew away the cook's
caboose, an' everythin' else on deck. It blew off the hatches,
an' sent 'em spinnin' in the air about a mile to leeward. An'
afore it got through, it washed away the cap'n an' all the crew
'cept me an' two others. These was Tom Simmons, the second mate,
an' Andy Boyle, a chap from the Adirondack Mount'ins, who'd never
been to sea afore. As he was a landsman, he ought, by rights, to
'a' been swep' off by the wind an' water, consid'rin' that the
cap'n an' sixteen good seamen had gone a'ready. But he had hands
eleven inches long, an' that give him a grip which no
typhoon could git the better of. Andy had let out that his
father was a miller up there in York State, an' a story had got
round among the crew that his granfather an' great-gran'father
was millers, too; an' the way the fam'ly got such big hands come
from their habit of scoopin' up a extry quart or two of meal or
flour fur themselves when they was levellin' off their customers'
measures. He was a good-natered feller, though, an' never got
riled when I'd tell him to clap his flour-scoops onter a halyard.
"We was all soaked, an' washed, an' beat, an' battered. We
held on some way or other till the wind blowed itself out, an'
then we got on our legs an' began to look about us to see how
things stood. The sea had washed into the open hatches till the
vessel was more'n half full of water, an' that had sunk her, so
deep that she must 'a' looked like a canal-boat loaded with
gravel. We hadn't had a thing to eat or drink durin' that whole
blow, an' we was pretty ravenous. We found a keg of water which
was all right, and a box of biscuit which was what you might call
softtack, fur they was soaked through an' through with sea-water.
We eat a lot of them so, fur we couldn't wait, an' the rest we
spread on the deck to dry, fur the sun was now shinin' hot enough
to bake bread. We couldn't go below much, fur there was a pretty
good swell on the sea, an' things was floatin' about so's to make
it dangerous. But we fished out a piece of canvas, which we
rigged up ag'in' the stump of the mainmast so that we could have
somethin' that we could sit down an' grumble under. What struck
us all the hardest was that the bark was loaded with a whole
cargo of jolly things to eat, which was just as good as ever they
was, fur the water couldn't git through the tin cans in which
they was all put up, an' here we was with nothin' to live on but
them salted biscuit. There wasn't no way of gittin' at any of
the ship's stores, or any of the fancy prog, fur everythin' was
stowed away tight under six or seven feet of water, an' pretty
nigh all the room that was left between decks was filled up with
extry spars, lumber, boxes, an' other floatin' stuff. All was
shiftin', an' bumpin', an' bangin' every time the vessel rolled.
"As I said afore, Tom was second mate, an' I was bo's'n.
Says I to Tom, `The thing we've got to do is to put up some kind
of a spar with a rag on it fur a distress flag, so that we'll
lose no time bein' took off.' `There's no use a-slavin' at
anythin' like that,' says Tom, `fur we've been blowed off the
track of traders, an' the more we work the hungrier we'll git,
an' the sooner will them biscuit be gone.'
"Now when I heared Tom say this I sot still an' began to
consider. Bein' second mate, Tom was, by rights, in command of
this craft. But it was easy enough to see that if he commanded
there'd never be nothin' fur Andy an' me to do. All the grit he
had in him he'd used up in holdin' on durin' that typhoon. What
he wanted to do now was to make himself comfortable till the time
come for him to go to Davy Jones's locker--an' thinkin', most
likely, that Davy couldn't make it any hotter fur him than it was
on that deck, still in latitood nothin' at all, fur we'd been
blowed along the line pretty nigh due west. So I calls to Andy,
who was busy turnin' over the biscuits on the deck. `Andy,' says
I, when he had got under the canvas, `we's goin' to have a
'lection fur skipper. Tom, here, is about played out. He's one
candydate, an' I'm another. Now, who do you vote fur? An' mind
yer eye, youngster, that you don't make no mistake.' `I vote fur
you' says Andy. `Carried unanermous!' says I. `An' I want you
to take notice that I'm cap'n of what's left of the Mary
Auguster, an' you two has got to keep your minds on that, an'
obey orders.' If Davy Jones was to do all that Tom Simmons said
when he heared this, the old chap would be kept busier than he
ever was yit. But I let him growl his growl out, knowin' he'd
come round all right, fur there wasn't no help fur it,
consid'rin' Andy an' me was two to his one. Pretty soon we all
went to work, an' got up a spar from below, which we rigged to
the stump of the foremast, with Andy's shirt atop of it.
"Them sea-soaked, sun-dried biscuit was pretty mean prog, as
you might think, but we eat so many of 'em that afternoon, an'
'cordingly drank so much water, that I was obliged to put us all
on short rations the next day. `This is the day afore
Christmas,' says Andy Boyle, `an' to-night will be Christmas eve,
an' it's pretty tough fur us to be sittin' here with not even so
much hardtack as we want, an' all the time thinkin' that the hold
of this ship is packed full of the gayest kind of good things to
eat.' `Shut up about Christmas!' says Tom Simmons. `Them two
youngsters of mine, up in Bangor, is havin' their toes and noses
pretty nigh froze, I 'spect, but they'll hang up their stockin's
all the same to-night, never thinkin' that their dad's bein'
cooked alive on a empty stomach.' `Of course they wouldn't hang
'em up,' says I, if they knowed what a fix you was in, but
they don't know it, an' what's the use of grumblin' at 'em fur
bein' a little jolly?' `Well,' says Andy `they couldn't be more
jollier than I'd be if I could git at some of them fancy fixin's
down in the hold. I worked well on to a week at 'Frisco puttin'
in them boxes, an' the names of the things was on the outside of
most of 'em; an' I tell you what it is, mates, it made my mouth
water, even then, to read 'em, an' I wasn't hungry, nuther,
havin' plenty to eat three times a day. There was roast beef,
an' roast mutton, an' duck, an' chicken, an' soup, an' peas, an'
beans, an' termaters, an' plum-puddin',an' mince-pie--' `Shut up
with your mince-pie!' sung out Tom Simmons. `Isn't it enough to
have to gnaw on these salt chips, without hearin' about mince-
pie?' `An' more'n that' says Andy, `there was canned peaches,
an' pears, an' plums, an' cherries.'
"Now these things did sound so cool an' good to me on that
br'ilin' deck that I couldn't stand it, an' I leans over to Andy,
an' I says: `Now look-a here; if you don't shut up talkin' about
them things what's stowed below, an' what we can't git at nohow,
overboard you go!' `That would make you short-handed,' says
Andy, with a grin. `Which is more'n you could say,' says I, `if
you'd chuck Tom an, me over'--alludin' to his eleven-inch grip.
Andy didn't say no more then, but after a while he comes to me,
as I was lookin' round to see if anything was in sight, an' says
he, `I spose you ain't got nothin' to say ag'in' my divin' into
the hold just aft of the foremast, where there seems to be a bit
of pretty clear water, an' see if I can't git up somethin'?'
`You kin do it, if you like,' says I, `but it's at your own risk.
You can't take out no insurance at this office.' `All
right, then,' says Andy; `an' if I git stove in by floatin'
boxes, you an' Tom'll have to eat the rest of them salt
crackers.' `Now, boy,' says I,--an' he wasn't much more, bein'
only nineteen year old,--`you'd better keep out o' that hold.
You'll just git yourself smashed. An' as to movin' any of them
there heavy boxes, which must be swelled up as tight as if they
was part of the ship, you might as well try to pull out one of
the Mary Auguster's ribs.' `I'll try it,' says Andy, `fur
to-morrer is Christmas, an' if I kin help it I ain't goin' to be
floatin' atop of a Christmas dinner without eatin' any on it.' I
let him go, fur he was a good swimmer an' diver, an' I did hope
he might root out somethin' or other, fur Christmas is about the
worst day in the year fur men to be starvin' on, an' that's what
we was a-comin' to.
"Well, fur about two hours Andy swum, an' dove, an' come up
blubberin', an' dodged all sorts of floatin' an' pitchin' stuff,
fur the swell was still on. But he couldn't even be so much as
sartin that he'd found the canned vittles. To dive down through
hatchways, an' among broken bulkheads, to hunt fur any partiklar
kind o' boxes under seven foot of sea-water, ain't no easy job.
An' though Andy said he got hold of the end of a box that felt to
him like the big uns he'd noticed as havin' the meat-pies in, he
couldn't move it no more'n if it had been the stump of the
foremast. If we could have pumped the water out of the hold we
could have got at any part of the cargo we wanted, but as it was,
we couldn't even reach the ship's stores, which, of course, must
have been mostly sp'iled anyway, whereas the canned vittles was
just as good as new. The pumps was all smashed or stopped
up, for we tried 'em, but if they hadn't 'a' been we three
couldn't never have pumped out that ship on three biscuit a day,
an' only about two days' rations at that.
"So Andy he come up, so fagged out that it was as much as he
could do to get his clothes on, though they wasn't much, an' then
he stretched himself out under the canvas an' went to sleep, an'
it wasn't long afore he was talkin' about roast turkey an'
cranberry sass, an' punkin-pie, an' sech stuff, most of which we
knowed was under our feet that present minnit. Tom Simmons he
just b'iled over, an' sung out: `Roll him out in the sun an' let
him cook! I can't stand no more of this!' But I wasn't goin' to
have Andy treated no sech way as that, fur if it hadn't been fur
Tom Simmons' wife an' young uns, Andy'd been worth two of him to
anybody who was consid'rin' savin' life. But I give the boy a
good punch in the ribs to stop his dreamin', fur I was as hungry
as Tom was, an' couldn't stand no nonsense about Christmas
"It was a little arter noon when Andy woke up, an' he went
outside to stretch himself. In about a minute he give a yell
that made Tom an' me jump. `A sail!' he hollered. `A sail!' An'
you may bet your life, young man, that 'twasn't more'n half a
second afore us two had scuffled out from under that canvas, an'
was standin' by Andy. `There she is!' he shouted, `not a mile to
win'ard.' I give one look, an' then I sings out: `'Tain't a
sail! It's a flag of distress! Can't you see, you land-lubber,
that that's the Stars and Stripes upside down?' `Why, so it is,'
says Andy, with a couple of reefs in the joyfulness of his
voice. An' Tom he began to growl as if somebody had cheated
him out of half a year's wages.
"The flag that we saw was on the hull of a steamer that had
been driftin' down on us while we was sittin' under our canvas.
It was plain to see she'd been caught in the typhoon, too, fur
there wasn't a mast or a smoke-stack on her. But her hull was
high enough out of the water to catch what wind there was, while
we was so low sunk that we didn't make no way at all. There was
people aboard, and they saw us, an' waved their hats an' arms,
an' Andy an' me waved ours; but all we could do was to wait till
they drifted nearer, fur we hadn't no boats to go to 'em if we'd
"`I'd like to know what good that old hulk is to us,' says
Tom Simmons. `She can't take us off.' It did look to me
somethin' like the blind leadin' the blind. But Andy he sings
out: `We'd be better off aboard of her, fur she ain't water-
logged, an', more'n that, I don't s'pose her stores are all
soaked up in salt water.' There was some sense in that, an' when
the steamer had got to within half a mile of us, we was glad to
see a boat put out from her with three men in it. It was a queer
boat, very low an' flat, an' not like any ship's boat I ever see.
But the two fellers at the oars pulled stiddy, an' pretty soon
the boat was 'longside of us, an' the three men on our deck. One
of 'em was the first mate of the other wreck, an' when he found
out what was the matter with us, he spun his yarn, which was a
longer one than ours. His vessel was the Water Crescent,
nine hundred tons, from 'Frisco to Melbourne, an' they had sailed
about six weeks afore we did. They was about two weeks out
when some of their machinery broke down, an' when they got it
patched up it broke ag'in, worse than afore, so that they
couldn't do nothin' with it. They kep' along under sail for
about a month, makin' mighty poor headway till the typhoon struck
'em, an' that cleaned their decks off about as slick as it did
ours, but their hatches wasn't blowed off, an' they didn't ship
no water wuth mentionin', an' the crew havin' kep' below, none of
'em was lost. But now they was clean out of provisions an'
water, havin' been short when the breakdown happened, fur they
had sold all the stores they could spare to a French brig in
distress that they overhauled when about a week out. When they
sighted us they felt pretty sure they'd git some provisions out
of us. But when I told the mate what a fix we was in his jaw
dropped till his face was as long as one of Andy's hands.
Howsomdever, he said he'd send the boat back fur as many men as
it could bring over, an' see if they couldn't git up some of our
stores. Even if they was soaked with salt water, they'd be
better than nothin'. Part of the cargo of the Water Crescent
was tools an, things fur some railway contractors out in
Australier, an' the mate told the men to bring over some of them
irons that might be used to fish out the stores. All their
ship's boats had been blowed away, an' the one they had was a
kind of shore boat for fresh water, that had been shipped as part
of the cargo, an' stowed below. It couldn't stand no kind of a
sea, but there wasn't nothin' but a swell on, an' when it come
back it had the cap'n in it, an' five men, besides a lot of
chains an' tools.
"Them fellers an' us worked pretty nigh the rest of the
day, an' we got out a couple of bar'ls of water, which was all
right, havin' been tight bunged, an' a lot of sea-biscuit, all
soaked an sloppy, but we only got a half-bar'l of meat, though
three or four of the men stripped an' dove fur more'n an hour.
We cut up some of the meat an' eat it raw, an' the cap'n sent
some over to the other wreck, which had drifted past us to
leeward, an' would have gone clean away from us if the cap'n
hadn't had a line got out an' made us fast to it while we was a-
workin' at the stores.
"That night the cap'n took us three, as well as the
provisions we'd got out, on board his hull, where the
'commodations was consid'able better than they was on the half-
sunk Mary Auguster. An' afore we turned in he took me aft
an' had a talk with me as commandin' off'cer of my vessel. `That
wreck o' yourn,' says he, `has got a vallyble cargo in it, which
isn't sp'iled by bein' under water. Now, if you could get that
cargo into port it would put a lot of money in your pocket, fur
the owners couldn't git out of payin' you fur takin' charge of it
an' havin' it brung in. Now I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll
lie by you, an' I've got carpenters aboard that'll put your pumps
in order, an' I'll set my men to work to pump out your vessel.
An' then, when she's afloat all right, I'll go to work ag'in at
my vessel--which I didn't s'pose there was any use o' doin', but
whilst I was huntin' round amongst our cargo to-day I found that
some of the machinery we carried might be worked up so's to take
the place of what is broke in our engine. We've got a forge
aboard, an' I believe we can make these pieces of machinery fit,
an' git goin' ag'in. Then I'll tow you into Sydney, an' we'll
divide the salvage money. I won't git nothin' fur savin' my
vessel, coz that's my business, but you wasn't cap'n o' yourn,
an' took charge of her a-purpose to save her, which is another
"I wasn't at all sure that I didn't take charge of the
Mary Auguster to save myself an' not the vessel, but I didn't
mention that, an' asked the cap'n how he expected to live all
"`Oh, we kin git at your stores easy enough,' says he, when
the water's pumped out.' `They'll be mostly sp'iled,' says I.
`That don't matter' says he. `Men'll eat anything when they
can't git nothin' else.' An' with that he left me to think it
"I must say, young man, an' you kin b'lieve me if you know
anything about sech things, that the idee of a pile of money was
mighty temptin' to a feller like me, who had a girl at home ready
to marry him, and who would like nothin' better'n to have a
little house of his own, an' a little vessel of his own, an' give
up the other side of the world altogether. But while I was goin'
over all this in my mind, an' wonderin' if the cap'n ever could
git us into port, along comes Andy Boyle, an' sits down beside
me. `It drives me pretty nigh crazy,' says he, `to think that
to-morrer's Christmas, an' we've got to feed on that sloppy stuff
we fished out of our stores, an' not much of it, nuther, while
there's all that roast turkey an' plum-puddin' an' mince-pie a-
floatin' out there just afore our eyes, an' we can't have none of
it.' `You hadn't oughter think so much about eatin', Andy,' says
I,`but if I was talkin' about them things I wouldn't leave out
canned peaches. By George! On a hot Christmas like this is
goin' to be, I'd be the jolliest Jack on the ocean if I could git
at that canned fruit.' `Well, there's a way,' says Andy,
`that we might git some of 'em. A part of the cargo of this ship
is stuff far blastin' rocks--ca'tridges, 'lectric bat'ries, an'
that sort of thing; an' there's a man aboard who's goin' out to
take charge of 'em. I've been talkin' to this bat'ry man, an'
I've made up my mind it'll be easy enough to lower a little
ca'tridge down among our cargo an' blow out a part of it.' `What
'u'd be the good of it,' says I, `blowed into chips?' `It might
smash some,' says he, `but others would be only loosened, an'
they'd float up to the top, where we could git 'em, specially
them as was packed with pies, which must be pretty light.' `Git
out, Andy,' says I, `with all that stuff!' An' he got out.
"But the idees he'd put into my head didn't git out, an' as I
laid on my back on the deck, lookin' up at the stars, they
sometimes seemed to put themselves into the shape of a little
house, with a little woman cookin' at the kitchin fire, an' a
little schooner layin' at anchor just off shore. An' then ag'in
they'd hump themselves up till they looked like a lot of new tin
cans with their tops off, an' all kinds of good things to eat
inside, specially canned peaches--the big white kind, soft an'
cool, each one split in half, with a holler in the middle filled
with juice. By George, sir! the very thought of a tin can like
that made me beat my heels ag'in the deck. I'd been mighty
hungry, an' had eat a lot of salt pork, wet an' raw, an' now the
very idee of it, even cooked, turned my stomach. I looked up to
the stars ag'in, an' the little house an' the little schooner was
clean gone, an' the whole sky was filled with nothin' but bright
new tin cans.
"In the mornin' Andy he come to me ag'in. `Have you made up
your mind,' says he, `about gittin' some of them good things
fur Christmas dinner?' `Confound you!' says I, `you talk as if
all we had to do was to go an' git 'em.' `An' that's what I
b'lieve we kin do,' says he, `with the help of that bat'ry man.'
`Yes,' says I, `an' blow a lot of the cargo into flinders, an'
damage the Mary Auguster so's she couldn't never be took into
port.' An' then I told him what the cap'n had said to me, an'
what I was goin' to do with the money. `A little ca'tridge,'
says Andy, `would do all we want, an' wouldn't hurt the vessel,
nuther. Besides that, I don't b'lieve what this cap'n says about
tinkerin' up his engine. 'Tain't likely he'll ever git her
runnin' ag'in, nor pump out the Mary Auguster, nuther. If I
was you I'd a durned sight ruther have a Christmas dinner in hand
than a house an' wife in the bush.' `I ain't thinkin' o'
marryin' a girl in Australier,' says I. An' Andy he grinned, an'
said I wouldn't marry nobody if I had to live on sp'iled vittles
till I got her.
"A little arter that I went to the cap'n an' I told him about
Andy's idee, but he was down on it. `It's your vessel, an' not
mine,' says he, `an' if you want to try to git a dinner out of
her I'll not stand in your way. But it's my 'pinion you'll just
damage the ship, an' do nothin'.' Howsomdever, I talked to the
bat'ry man about it, an' he thought it could be done, an' not
hurt the ship, nuther. The men was all in favor of it, fur none
of 'em had forgot it was Christmas day. But Tom Simmons he was
ag'in' it strong, fur he was thinkin' he'd git some of the money
if we got the Mary Auguster into port. He was a selfish-
minded man, was Tom, but it was his nater, an' I s'pose he
couldn't help it.
"Well, it wasn't long afore I began to feel pretty empty an'
mean, an' if I'd wanted any of the prog we got out the day afore,
I couldn't have found much, fur the men had eat it up nearly all
in the night. An' so I just made up my mind without any more
foolin', an' me an' Andy Boyle an' the bat'ry man, with some
ca'tridges an' a coil of wire, got into the little shore boat,
an' pulled over to the Mary Auguster. There we lowered a
small ca'tridge down the main hatchway, an' let it rest down
among the cargo. Then we rowed back to the steamer, uncoilin'
the wire as. we went. The bat'ry man clumb up on deck, an' fixed
his wire to a 'lectric machine, which he'd got all ready afore we
started. Andy an' me didn't git out of the boat. We had too
much sense fur that, with all them hungry fellers waitin' to jump
in her. But we just pushed a little off, an' sot waitin', with
our mouths awaterin', fur him to touch her off. He seemed to be
a long time about it, but at last he did it, an' that instant
there was a bang on board the Mary Auguster that made my
heart jump. Andy an' me pulled fur her like mad, the others a-
hollerin' arter us, an' we was on deck in no time. The deck was
all covered with the water that had been throwed up. But I tell
you, sir, that we poked an' fished about, an' Andy stripped an'
went down an' swum all round, an' we couldn't find one floatin'
box of canned goods. There was a lot of splinters, but where
they come from we didn't know. By this time my dander was up,
an' I just pitched around savage. That little ca'tridge wasn't
no good, an' I didn't intend to stand any more foolin'. We just
rowed back to the other wreck, an' I called to the ba'try man to
come down, an' bring some bigger ca'tridges with him, fur if
we was goin' to do anything we might as well do it right. So he
got down with a package of bigger ones, an' jumped into the boat.
The cap'n he called out to us to be keerful, an' Tom Simmons
leaned over the rail an' swored; but I didn't pay no 'tention to
nuther of 'em, an' we pulled away.
"When I got aboard the Mary Auguster, I says to the
bat'ry man: `We don't want no nonsense this time, an' I want you
to put in enough ca'tridges to heave up somethin' that'll do fur
a Christmas dinner. I don't know how the cargo is stored, but
you kin put one big ca'tridge 'midship, another for'ard, an'
another aft, an' one or nuther of 'em oughter fetch up
somethin'.' Well, we got the three ca'tridges into place. They
was a good deal bigger than the one we fust used, an' we j'ined
'em all to one wire, an' then we rowed back, carryin' the long
wire with us. When we reached the steamer, me an' Andy was a-
goin' to stay in the boat as we did afore, but the cap'n sung out
that he wouldn't allow the bat'ry to be touched off till we come
aboard. `Ther's got to be fair play,' says he. `It's your
vittles, but it's my side that's doin' the work. After we've
blasted her this time you two can go in the boat an' see what
there is to git hold of, but two of my men must go along.' So me
an' Andy had to go on deck, an' two big fellers was detailed to
go with us in the little boat when the time come, an' then the
bat'ry man he teched her off.
"Well, sir, the pop that followed that tech was somethin' to
remember. It shuck the water, it shuck the air, an' it shuck the
hull we was on. A reg'lar cloud of smoke an' flyin' bits of
things rose up out of the Mary Auguster; an' when that smoke
cleared away, an' the water was all b'ilin' with the splash
of various-sized hunks that come rainin' down from the sky, what
was left of the Mary Auguster was sprinkled over the sea like
a wooden carpet fur water-birds to walk on.
"Some of the men sung out one thing, an' some another, an' I
could hear Tom Simmons swear; but Andy an' me said never a word,
but scuttled down into the boat, follered close by the two men
who was to go with us. Then we rowed like devils fur the lot of
stuff that was bobbin' about on the water, out where the Mary
Auguster had been. In we went among the floatin' spars and
ship's timbers, I keepin' the things off with an oar, the two men
rowin', an' Andy in the bow.
"Suddenly Andy give a yell, an' then he reached himself
for'ard with sech a bounce that I thought he'd go overboard. But
up he come in a minnit, his two 'leven-inch hands gripped round a
box. He sot down in the bottom of the boat with the box on his
lap an' his eyes screwed on some letters that was stamped on one
end. `Pidjin-pies!' he sings out. "Tain't turkeys, nor 'tain't
cranberries but, by the Lord Harry, it's Christmas pies all the
same!' After that Andy didn't do no more work, but sot holdin'
that box as if it had been his fust baby. But we kep' pushin' on
to see what else there was. It's my 'pinion that the biggest
part of that bark's cargo was blowed into mince-meat, an' the
most of the rest of it was so heavy that it sunk. But it wasn't
all busted up, an' it didn't all sink. There was a big piece of
wreck with a lot of boxes stove into the timbers, and some of
these had in 'em beef ready b'iled an' packed into cans, an'
there was other kinds of meat, an' dif'rent sorts of
vegetables, an' one box of turtle soup. I looked at every one of
'em as we took 'em in, an' when we got the little boat pretty
well loaded I wanted to still keep on searchin'; but the men they
said that shore boat 'u'd sink if we took in any more cargo, an'
so we put back, I feelin' glummer'n I oughter felt, fur I had
begun to be afeared that canned fruit, sech as peaches, was
heavy, an' li'ble to sink.
"As soon as we had got our boxes aboard, four fresh men put
out in the boat, an' after a while they come back with another
load. An' I was mighty keerful to read the names on all the
boxes. Some was meat-pies, an' some was salmon, an' some was
potted herrin's, an' some was lobsters. But nary a thing could I
see that ever had growed on a tree.
"Well, sir, there was three loads brought in altogether, an'
the Christmas dinner we had on the for'ard deck of that steamer's
hull was about the jolliest one that was ever seen of a hot day
aboard of a wreck in the Pacific Ocean. The cap'n kept good
order, an' when all was ready the tops was jerked off the boxes,
and each man grabbed a can an' opened it with his knife. When he
had cleaned it out, he tuk another without doin' much questionin'
as to the bill of fare. Whether anybody got pidjin-pie 'cept
Andy, I can't say, but the way we piled in Delmoniker prog would
'a' made people open their eyes as was eatin' their Christmas
dinners on shore that day. Some of the things would 'a' been
better cooked a little more, or het up, but we was too fearful
hungry to wait fur that, an' they was tiptop as they was.
"The cap'n went out afterwards, an' towed in a couple of
bar'ls of flour that was only part soaked through, an' he got
some other plain prog that would do fur future use. But none of
us give our minds to stuff like this arter the glorious Christmas
dinner that we'd quarried out of the Mary Auguster. Every
man that wasn't on duty went below and turned in fur a snooze--
all 'cept me, an' I didn't feel just altogether satisfied. To be
sure, I'd had an A1 dinner, an', though a little mixed, I'd never
eat a jollier one on any Christmas that I kin look back at. But,
fur all that, there was a hanker inside o' me. I hadn't got all
I'd laid out to git when we teched off the Mary Auguster.
The day was blazin' hot, an' a lot of the things I'd eat was
pretty peppery. `Now,' thinks I, `if there had been just one can
o' peaches sech as I seen shinin' in the stars last night!' An'
just then, as I was walkin' aft, all by myself, I seed lodged on
the stump of the mizzenmast a box with one corner druv down among
the splinters. It was half split open, an' I could see the tin
cans shinin' through the crack. I give one jump at it, an'
wrenched the side off. On the top of the first can I seed was a
picture of a big white peach with green leaves. That box had
been blowed up so high that if it had come down anywhere 'cept
among them splinters it would 'a' smashed itself to flinders, or
killed somebody. So fur as I know, it was the only thing that
fell nigh us, an' by George, sir, I got it! When I had finished
a can of 'em I hunted up Andy, an' then we went aft an' eat some
more. `Well,' says Andy, as we was a-eatin', `how d'ye feel now
about blowin' up your wife, an' your house, an' that little
schooner you was goin' to own?'
"`Andy,' says I, `this is the joyfulest Christmas I've
had yit, an' if I was to live till twenty hundred I don't b'lieve
I'd have no joyfuler, with things comin' in so pat; so don't you
throw no shadders.'
"`Shadders!' says Andy. `That ain't me. I leave that sort
of thing fur Tom Simmons.'
"`Shadders is cool,' says I, `an' I kin go to sleep under all
"Well, sir," continued old Silas, putting his hand on the
tiller and turning his face seaward, "if Tom Simmons had kept
command of that wreck, we all would 'a' laid there an' waited an'
waited till some of us was starved, an' the others got nothin'
fur it, fur the cap'n never mended his engine, an' it wasn't
more'n a week afore we was took off, an' then it was by a sailin'
vessel, which left the hull of the Water Crescent behind her,
just as she would 'a' had to leave the Mary Auguster if that
jolly old Christmas wreck had been there.
"An' now, sir," said Silas, "d'ye see that stretch o' little
ripples over yander, lookin' as if it was a lot o' herrin'
turnin' over to dry their sides? Do you know what that is?
That's the supper wind. That means coffee, an' hot cakes, an' a
bit of br'iled fish, an' pertaters, an' p'r'aps, if the old woman
feels in a partiklar good humor, some canned peaches--big white
uns, cut in half, with a holler place in the middle filled with
cool, sweet juice."
MY WELL AND WHAT CAME
OUT OF IT
Early in my married life I bought a small country estate which my
wife and I looked upon as a paradise. After enjoying its delight
for a little more than a year our souls were saddened by the
discovery that our Eden contained a serpent. This was an
It had been a rainy season when we first went there, and for
a long time our cisterns gave us full aqueous satisfaction, but
early this year a drought had set in, and we were obliged to be
exceedingly careful of our water.
It was quite natural that the scarcity of water for domestic
purposes should affect my wife much more than it did me, and
perceiving the discontent which was growing in her mind, I
determined to dig a well. The very next day I began to look for
a well-digger. Such an individual was not easy to find, for in
the region in which I lived wells had become unfashionable; but I
determined to persevere in my search, and in about a week I found
He was a man of somewhat rough exterior, but of an
ingratiating turn of mind. It was easy to see that it was his
earnest desire to serve me.
"And now, then," said he, when we had had a little
conversation about terms, "the first thing to do is to find out
where there is water. Have you a peach-tree on the place?" We
walked to such a tree, and he cut therefrom a forked twig.
"I thought," said I, "that divining-rods were always of hazel
"A peach twig will do quite as well," said he, and I have
since found that he was right. Divining-rods of peach will turn
and find water quite as well as those of hazel or any other kind
He took an end of the twig in each hand, and, with the point
projecting in front of him, he slowly walked along over the grass
in my little orchard. Presently the point of the twig seemed to
bend itself downward toward the ground.
"There," said he, stopping, "you will find water here."
"I do not want a well here," said I. "This is at the bottom
of a hill, and my barn-yard is at the top. Besides, it is too
far from the house."
"Very good," said he. "We will try somewhere else."
His rod turned at several other places, but I had objections
to all of them. A sanitary engineer had once visited me, and he
had given me a great deal of advice about drainage, and I knew
what to avoid.
We crossed the ridge of the hill into the low ground on the
other side. Here were no buildings, nothing which would
interfere with the purity of a well. My well-digger walked
slowly over the ground with his divining-rod. Very soon he
exclaimed: "Here is water!" And picking up a stick, he
sharpened one end of it and drove it into the ground. Then
he took a string from his pocket, and making a loop in one end,
he put it over the stick.
"What are you going to do?" I asked.
"I am going to make a circle four feet in diameter," he said.
"We have to dig the well as wide as that, you know."
"But I do not want a well here," said I. "It's too close to
the wall. I could not build a house over it. It would not do at
He stood up and looked at me. "Well, sir," said he, "will
you tell me where you would like to have a well?"
"Yes," said I. "I would like to have it over there in the
corner of the hedge. It would be near enough to the house; it
would have a warm exposure, which will be desirable in winter;
and the little house which I intend to build over it would look
better there than anywhere else."
He took his divining-rod and went to the spot I had
indicated. "Is this the place?" he asked wishing to be sure he
had understood me.
"Yes," I replied.
He put his twig in position, and in a few seconds it turned
in the direction of the ground. Then he drove down a stick,
marked out a circle, and the next day he came with two men and a
derrick, and began to dig my well.
When they had gone down twenty-five feet they found water,
and when they had progressed a few feet deeper they began to be
afraid of drowning. I thought they ought to go deeper, but the
well-digger said that they could not dig without first taking
out the water, and that the water came in as fast as they
bailed it out, and he asked me to put it to myself and tell him
how they could dig it deeper. I put the question to myself, but
could find no answer. I also laid the matter before some
specialists, and it was generally agreed that if water came in as
fast as it was taken out, nothing more could be desired. The
well was, therefore, pronounced deep enough. It was lined with
great tiles, nearly a yard in diameter, and my well-digger, after
congratulating me on finding water so easily, bade me good-by and
departed with his men and his derrick.
On the other side of the wall which bounded my grounds, and
near which my well had been dug, there ran a country lane,
leading nowhere in particular, which seemed to be there for the
purpose of allowing people to pass my house, who might otherwise
be obliged to stop.
Along this lane my neighbors would pass, and often strangers
drove by, and as my well could easily be seen over the low stone
wall, its construction had excited a great deal of interest.
Some of the people who drove by were summer folks from the city,
and I am sure, from remarks I overheard, that it was thought a
very queer thing to dig for water. Of course they must have
known that people used to do this in the olden times, even as far
back as the time of Jacob and Rebecca, but the expressions of
some of their faces indicated that they remembered that this was
the nineteenth century.
My neighbors, however, were all rural people, and much more
intelligent in regard to water-supplies. One of them, Phineas
Colwell by name, took a more lively interest in my
operations than did any one else. He was a man of about fifty
years of age, who had been a soldier. This fact was kept alive
in the minds of his associates by his dress, a part of which was
always military. If he did not wear an old fatigue-jacket with
brass buttons, he wore his blue trousers, or, perhaps, a
waistcoat that belonged to his uniform, and if he wore none of
these, his military hat would appear upon his head. I think he
must also have been a sailor, judging from the little gold rings
in his ears. But when I first knew him he was a carpenter, who
did mason-work whenever any of the neighbors had any jobs of the
sort. He also worked in gardens by the day, and had told me that
he understood the care of horses and was a very good driver. He
sometimes worked on farms, especially at harvest-time, and I know
he could paint, for he once showed me a fence which he said he
had painted. I frequently saw him, because he always seemed to
be either going to his work or coming from it. In fact, he
appeared to consider actual labor in the light of a bad habit
which he wished to conceal, and which he was continually
endeavoring to reform.
Phineas walked along our lane at least once a day, and
whenever he saw me he told me something about the well. He did
not approve of the place I had selected for it. If he had been
digging a well he would have put it in a very different place.
When I had talked with him for some time and explained why I had
chosen this spot, he would say that perhaps I was right, and
begin to talk of something else. But the next time I saw him he
would again assert that if he had been digging that well he would
not have put it there.
About a quarter of a mile from my house, at a turn of the
lane, lived Mrs. Betty Perch. She was a widow with about twelve
children. A few of these were her own, and the others she had
inherited from two sisters who had married and died, and whose
husbands, having proved their disloyalty by marrying again, were
not allowed by the indignant Mrs. Perch to resume possession of
their offspring. The casual observer might have supposed the
number of these children to be very great,--fifteen or perhaps
even twenty,--for if he happened to see a group of them on the
door-step, he would see a lot more if he looked into the little
garden; and under some cedar-trees at the back of the house there
were always some of them on fine days. But perhaps they sought
to increase their apparent number, and ran from one place to
another to be ready to meet observation, like the famous clown
Grimaldi, who used to go through his performances at one London
theatre, and then dash off in his paint and motley to another, so
that perambulating theatre-going men might imagine that there
were two greatest clowns in the world.
When Mrs. Perch had time she sewed for the neighbors, and,
whether she had time or not, she was always ready to supply them
with news. From the moment she heard I was going to dig a well
she took a vital interest in it. Her own water-supply was
unsatisfactory, as she depended upon a little spring which
sometimes dried up in summer, and should my well turn out to be a
good one, she knew I would not object to her sending the children
for pails of water on occasions.
"It will be fun for them," she said, "and if your water
really is good it will often come in very well for me. Mr.
Colwell tells me," she continued, "that you put your well in the
wrong place. He is a practical man and knows all about wells,
and I do hope that for your sake he may be wrong."
My neighbors were generally pessimists. Country people are
proverbially prudent, and pessimism is prudence. We feel safe
when we doubt the success of another, because if he should
succeed we can say we were glad we were mistaken, and so step
from a position of good judgment to one of generous disposition
without feeling that we have changed our plane of merit. But the
optimist often gets himself into terrible scrapes, for if he is
wrong he cannot say he is glad of it.
But, whatever else he may be, a pessimist is depressing, and
it was, therefore, a great pleasure to me to have a friend who
was an out-and-out optimist. In fact, he might be called a
working optimist. He lived about six miles from my house, and
had a hobby, which was natural phenomena. He was always on the
lookout for that sort of thing, and when he found it he would
study its nature and effect. He was a man in the maturity of
youth, and if the estate on which he lived had not belonged to
his mother, he would have spent much time and money in
investigating its natural phenomena. He often drove over to see
me, and always told me how glad he would be if he had an
opportunity of digging a well.
"I have the wildest desire," he said, "to know what is in the
earth under our place, and if it should so happen in the course
of time that the limits of earthly existence should be reached
by--I mean if the estate should come into my hands--I would
go down, down, down, until I had found out all that could be
discovered. To own a plug of earth four thousand miles long and
only to know what is on the surface of the upper end of it is
unmanly. We might as well be grazing beasts."
He was sorry that I was digging only for water, because water
is a very commonplace thing, but he was quite sure I would get
it, and when my well was finished he was one of the first to
"But if I had been in your place," said he, "with full right
to do as I pleased, I would not have let those men go away. I
would have set them to work in some place where there would be no
danger of getting water,--at least, for a long time,--and then
you would have found out what are the deeper treasures of your
Having finished my well, I now set about getting the water
into my residence near by. I built a house over the well and put
in it a little engine, and by means of a system of pipes, like
the arteries and veins of the human body, I proposed to
distribute the water to the various desirable points in my house.
The engine was the heart, which should start the circulation,
which should keep it going, and which should send throbbing
through every pipe the water which, if it were not our life, was
very necessary to it.
When all was ready we started the engine, and in a very short
time we discovered that something was wrong. For fifteen or
twenty minutes water flowed into the tank at the top of the
house, with a sound that was grander in the ears of my wife and
myself than the roar of Niagara, and then it stopped.
Investigation proved that the flow had stopped because there
was no more water in the well.
It is needless to detail the examinations, investigations,
and the multitude of counsels and opinions with which our minds
were filled for the next few days. It was plain to see that
although this well was fully able to meet the demands of a hand-
pump or of bailing buckets, the water did not flow into it as
fast as it could be pumped out by an engine. Therefore, for the
purposes of supplying the circulation of my domestic water
system, the well was declared a failure.
My non-success was much talked about in the neighborhood, and
we received a great deal of sympathy and condolence. Phineas
Colwell was not surprised at the outcome of the affair. He had
said that the well had been put in the wrong place. Mrs. Betty
was not only surprised, but disgusted.
"It is all very well for you," she said, "who could afford to
buy water if it was necessary, but it is very different with the
widow and the orphan. If I had not supposed you were going to
have a real well, I would have had my spring cleaned out and
deepened. I could have had it done in the early summer, but it
is of no use now. The spring has dried up."
She told a neighbor that she believed the digging of my well
had dried up her spring, and that that was the way of this world,
where the widow and the orphan were sure to come out at the
Of course I did not submit to defeat--at least, not without a
struggle. I had a well, and if anything could be done to make
that well supply me with water, I was going to do it. I
consulted specialists, and, after careful consideration of the
matter, they agreed that it would be unadvisable for me to
attempt to deepen my present well, as there was reason to suppose
there was very little water in the place where I had dug it, and
that the very best thing I could do would be to try a driven
well. As I had already excavated about thirty feet, that was so
much gain to me, and if I should have a six-inch pipe put into my
present well and then driven down and down until it came to a
place where there was plenty of water, I would have all I wanted.
How far down the pipe would have to be driven, of course they did
not know, but they all agreed that if I drove deep enough I would
get all the water I wanted. This was the only kind of a well,
they said, which one could sink as deep as he pleased without
being interfered with by the water at the bottom. My wife and I
then considered the matter, and ultimately decided that it would
be a waste of the money which we had already spent upon the
engine, the pipes, and the little house, and, as there was
nothing else to be done but to drive a well, we would have a well
Of course we were both very sorry that the work must be begun
again, but I was especially dissatisfied, for the weather was
getting cold, there was already snow upon the ground, and I was
told that work could not be carried on in winter weather. I lost
no time, however, in making a contract with a well-driver, who
assured me that as soon as the working season should open, which
probably would be very early in the spring, he would come to my
place and begin to drive my well.
The season did open, and so did the pea-blossoms, and the
pods actually began to fill before I saw that well-driver
again. I had had a good deal of correspondence with him in the
meantime, urging him to prompt action, but he always had some
good reason for delay. (I found out afterwards that he was busy
fulfilling a contract made before mine, in which he promised to
drive a well as soon as the season should open.)
At last--it was early in the summer--he came with his derricks, a
steam-engine, a trip-hammer, and a lot of men. They took off the
roof of my house, removed the engine, and set to work.
For many a long day, and I am sorry to say for many a longer
night, that trip-hammer hammered and banged. On the next day
after the night-work began, one of my neighbors came to me to
know what they did that for. I told him they were anxious to get
"Get through what?" said he. "The earth? If they do that,
and your six-inch pipe comes out in a Chinaman's back yard, he
will sue you for damages."
When the pipe had been driven through the soft stratum under
the old well, and began to reach firmer ground, the pounding and
shaking of the earth became worse and worse. My wife was obliged
to leave home with our child.
"If he is to do without both water and sleep," said she, "he
cannot long survive." And I agreed with her.
She departed for a pleasant summer resort where her married
sister with her child was staying, and from week to week I
received very pleasant letters from her, telling me of the charms
of the place, and dwelling particularly upon the abundance of
cool spring water with which the house was supplied.
While this terrible pounding was going on I heard various
reports of its effect upon my neighbors. One of them, an
agriculturist, with whom I had always been on the best of terms,
came with a clouded brow.
"When I first felt those shakes," he said, "I thought they
were the effects of seismic disturbances, and I did not mind, but
when I found it was your well I thought I ought to come over to
speak about it. I do not object to the shaking of my barn,
because my man tells me the continual jolting is thrashing out
the oats and wheat, but I do not like to have all my apples and
pears shaken off my trees. And then," said he, "I have a late
brood of chickens, and they cannot walk, because every time they
try to make a step they are jolted into the air about a foot.
And again, we have had to give up having soup. We like soup, but
we do not care to have it spout up like a fountain whenever that
hammer comes down."
I was grieved to trouble this friend, and I asked him what I
should do. "Do you want me to stop the work on the well?" said I.
"Oh, no," said he, heartily. "Go on with the work. You must
have water, and we will try to stand the bumping. I dare say it
is good for dyspepsia, and the cows are getting used to having
the grass jammed up against their noses. Go ahead; we can stand
it in the daytime, but if you could stop the night-work we would
be very glad. Some people may think it a well-spring of pleasure
to be bounced out of bed, but I don't."
Mrs. Perch came to me with a face like a squeezed lemon, and
asked me if I could lend her five nails.
"What sort? " said I.
"The kind you nail clapboards on with," said she. "There is
one of them been shook entirely off my house by your well. I am
in hopes that before the rest are all shook off I shall get in
some money that is owing me and can afford to buy nails for
I stopped the night-work, but this was all I could do for
My optimist friend was delighted when he heard of my driven
well. He lived so far away that he and his mother were not
disturbed by the jarring of the ground. Now he was sure that
some of the internal secrets of the earth would be laid bare, and
he rode or drove over every day to see what we were getting out
of the well. I know that he was afraid we would soon get water,
but was too kind-hearted to say so.
One day the pipe refused to go deeper. No matter how hard it
was struck, it bounced up again. When some of the substance it
had struck was brought up it looked like French chalk, and my