Part 3 out of 4
dimensions, was the work chiefly of Jack, but he had been assisted in
the labor by Billy Coburg, his chosen friend and ally in all
emergencies. Billy was as good as gold, a fat fellow with yellow hair
and a red face, full of ingenious devices, stanch in his friendship, and
as fond of fun as of eating, in which last field he was eminently great.
In the possession of some one of the boys was a thick, old-fashioned
novel of the yellow-covered type, entitled, "Rinard, the Red Revenger,"
and Billy had followed the record of the murderous pirate chieftain with
the greatest gusto, and had insisted upon bestowing his title upon the
jumper. So it came that the Red Revenger was the pride and comfort of
the school, and Jack Burrows, as he looked up from his algebra and out
the window at it in the frost-fringed morning hour, rather congratulated
himself upon its general style. They'd had a lot of fun with it. His
eyes wandered to the ice-covered flats and the narrow roadway stretching
white across them. What a time they had yesterday keeping the jumper on
the track, and what a shrewd device they had for steering! A hole had
been bored down through the heel of each thick runner, and on each aft
corner of the jumper had a boy been stationed armed with a sharpened
hickory stick. To swerve the jumper to the left, the boy on the right
but pressed his stick down through the hole beneath him, and the sharp
point scraping along the ice-covered ground, must slow the jumper as
desired. And so, on the other side, when the jumper threatened to go
off the roadway to the left, the boy on that side acted. It was a great
invention and a necessary one. What would happen if that jumper, loaded
with boys and girls, should leave the track just now? Jack chuckled as
he thought of it. With its broad, sustaining runners, and with impetus
once gained by its sheer descent, for what a distance must it speed upon
that India-rubber ice before it finally broke through! What a happening
then! The moderately bad boy's countenance was radiant as the
contemplation of this catastrophe came upon him with its rounded force.
He turned his face, and his gaze fell upon the trim figure of Jennie
Orton on the other side of the room. How things go. There was an instant
association of ideas between girl and jumper. The young fellow's face
became first bright, and then most shrewdly thoughtful. School was
dismissed for the noon hour. And then, after the lunches had been eaten,
Jack Burrows went outside with Billy Coburg.
"Hi-yah! Jack and Billy are just going to start down hill on the jumper!
Look at 'em show off their steering!" yelled a small boy, and the pupils
rushed to the windows and out at the door. The jumper had just started.
One at each rear corner of the big sled sat Jack and Billy, each with a
sharpened stick in hand, and thrust down strongly through the bored hole
in the runner. The jumper started slowly, then, gaining speed, rushed
down the hill like a thunderbolt, the hardened snow screaming beneath in
its grating passage. The road below was entered fairly, and deftly
steered, the Red Revenger skimmed away and away into the far distance.
It was an exhilarating sight. Then, a little later, pulling the jumper
easily behind them and up the hill again, came Jack and Billy, and
shouted out loudly and enthusiastically the proposition that everybody
should come out and go down the hill with the biggest load the jumper
had ever carried.
The pupils, big and little, swarmed out in a crowd, all inclined, if not
to ride, at least to see the sweeping descent under circumstances so
favorable. Some of the larger girls hesitated, but Billy especially was
earnest in his pleading that the trip should be the big one of the
winter, and that they must see how many the Red Revenger could carry at
one swoop. And finally all consented. A look of relief and satisfaction
flashed across the face of Jack as Jennie got on with the rest, though
there was nothing strange in that, joining as she always did with the
other pupils in their various sports. The laden jumper was a sight for a
mountain packer or a steerage passenger agent or a street car magnate to
see and enjoy most mightily. It was loaded and overloaded. The larger
girls, as became their dignity, were seated in the middle, and close
behind them were the smaller children. In front was a mass of boys of
varying ages. "On account of there isn't much room," said Billy,
"you'll have to cord up," and so three boys lay down on the huge sled
crosswise, three lay in the other direction across them, and three again
across these latter. It was a little hard on those underneath, but they
didn't mind it. Behind were Jack and Billy as steerers, and three or
four more stood up on the sides and hung on to the others. There were
twenty-three in all, every pupil attending the school that day.
All was ready. "On account of the road's so smooth, she'll be a hummer,"
"Let her go," ordered Jack. A kick and the jumper was off.
Slowly, almost imperceptibly at first, moved the big sled, borne hard to
the ground by such a burden. No one was alarmed. But as it slid
downward, the jumper gathered way, and faster and faster it went, and
the sound from beneath changed from a shrill grating to a menacing roar,
and the thing seemed like a big something launched downward from a huge
catapult at the narrow strip of road across the ice. With set teeth sat
Jack and Billy at their stakes, each steering carefully and well. There
was no swerve. The road was entered upon deftly with a rush, and out
upon it sped the monster. Then Jack said quietly, "Look out, Billy!"
Billy looked across at him and grinned, but uttered never a word nor
made a move as they tore along. But there was a sudden movement on
Jack's part, and his stake bore down hardly through the hole in the
runner. The flying jumper trembled and swayed, and then like a flash
left the roadway and darted down upon and away across the ice.
There was one shriek from the girls, and then all was quiet. "Whish!"
That was all as the jumper shot out over the glass-like surface. The ice
bent into a valley, but the Red Revenger was away before the break came.
It seemed as if the wild, fierce flight would never cease. But there is
an end to all things, and at last came a diminution of the jumper's
speed. Slower and slower moved the thing, then came a pause and sudden
quivering, and then a crash beneath and all about, and the jumper, with
its living load, dropped to the bottom! There was no tragedy complete.
The water came up just to the side rails and no further.
For fifteen or twenty feet on every side the ice bobbed up and down in
floating fragments, and beyond that, where it still remained intact, it
would support no one stepping out upon it from the water. It was
"India-rubber ice" no longer; it was cracked and brittle to the very
shore. That the jumper had careered out so far into the flats was
because of its velocity alone. There it stood, an island in a sea of ice
water; not a desert island, exactly, either. It was populated--very
densely populated. It was populated several deep, and now from its
inhabitants went up a dreadful howl.
There was no visible means of escape from the surface of the Red
Revenger. The boys who had been "corded" managed to change their
positions somehow, and stood where they had got upon their feet, holding
themselves together, and the girls and younger children sat stupefied in
the positions they had held when coming down the hill, from the throats
of the latter going up the lively wail referred to. Billy looked across
at Jack and grinned again, this time with great solemnity, and Jack
himself looked just a trifle grave.
"Bang! rat-tat-tat! whack!" sounded from the schoolhouse, and the faces
of the younger children paled. The noon hour had reached its end, and
the schoolmaster was sounding his usual call. No bells summoned the
pupils at this rural place of learning, but instead, at recess and at
noon time the pedagogue came to the door and hammered loudly with his
ruler upon the clapboards there beside him. Very grim was this same
schoolmaster, and unfortunate was the pupil who came into the room a
laggard after that harsh summons had rung out across the fields and
flats. There stood the schoolmaster--he could be seen from the Red
Revenger--and it was not difficult even at that distance to imagine the
ominous look upon his face. Again and again came forth the wooden call,
and then the schoolmaster stepped out into the roadway. He looked about
inquiringly. He came to the top of the hill, from whence, off in the
flats, the jumper and its load were plainly seen, and then he paused.
It was clear that he was puzzled and was meditating. He called out
"What do you mean? What are you doing? Come in, and come now!"
There was no mistaking the quality of that sharp summons. It meant
business, and in all probability it meant trouble, too, for somebody;
trouble of strictly personal, as well as of a physical character. There
was no reply for a moment, and then Billy, the reprobate, grinning again
at Jack, and giving to his voice a tone intended to be a compound of
profound respect and something like unlimited despair, bawled out:
The teacher descended the hill with all firmness and sedateness; he
looked like a ramrod, or a poker, or anything stiff and straight, and
suggestive of unpleasantness. He followed the roadway until just
opposite the jumper, and then surveying the scene with an angry eye,
commanded all to return to the schoolhouse on the moment. Here the
situation became acute. It was Jack's turn now to make things clear.
That villain rose to the occasion gallantly. He shouted out an
explanation of how the jumper had happened, by the merest accident in
the world, to leave the roadway, and had gone out so far upon the
India-rubber ice; how the final catastrophe had taken place, and how
helpless they all were in their present condition. The road could be
reached only by a wade of a hundred yards through two feet deep of ice
water--more in places--breaking the ice as an advance was made. It
would be an awful undertaking, the death almost of the little children,
and dangerous to all. What should they do? And the rascal's voice grew
full of trouble and apprehension. Fortunately for him, the teacher was
too far off to note the expression on his face.
The czar of winter did not wait long. He started off, and was over the
hill again and out of sight within the next three minutes, and it was
clear that he was going somewhere for assistance. Then some of the other
boys wanted to know what was to be done, and Billy looked at Jack
"Well, on account of the fix we're in, what's going to happen next!"
Jack, somehow, did not seem undetermined. He answered promptly: "What is
going to happen is this: The teacher has gone over to Mapleson's for
help. He might as well have stayed in the schoolhouse. They can't drive
a wagon in here, and the ice is so thin, and is cracked so, they can't
even put planks out upon it. They can't help us in any way. What shall
we do? Why, we can't stay here all night and freeze. Somebody's got to
break a path to the shore, that's all, and then we've got to wade out,
and the sooner we do it the better."
The smaller children began to cry; the older boys growled; the big
girls shuddered; Billy grinned.
"There's no reason why everybody should get wet," broke out Jack,
suddenly. "Here! I'll break a way to the road myself, and carry one of
the youngsters. We'll see how it goes."
He caught up one of the little children and stepped off into the
ice-packed water. Ugh! but it was cold, and he set his teeth hard. He
floundered over to where the unbroken ice began, and then raising his
feet alternately above its edge, he crushed it downward. It was not
physically a great task for this strong fellow, but it was not a swift
one, and the water was deadly cold. His blood was chilling, but the
roadway was reached at last. He set the child down quickly, told it to
run to the schoolhouse and stand beside the stove, and then himself
began running up and down the road to get his blood in fuller
circulation. Into the water he plunged again and reached the Red
Revenger. "Here," he said, "each one of you big fellows carry some one
ashore. Jump in, quick!"
The boys hesitated, and went into the water in a gingerly way, but did
very well, the plunge once taken, and Jack apportioned to each of them
his burden. The procession waded off boisterously but shudderingly. As
for Jack himself, he got one youngster clinging about his neck and
another perched upon each hip, and then waded off with the rest. There
were left on the jumper but two more of the small children, and Jennie.
That was Jack's shrewdness. He was well spent and shaky when he reached
the shore this time.
He put the children down and turned to Billy. "B-b-illy," he chattered,
"will you go back with me, and will you bring ashore those two kids?"
Billy looked a trifle dismal. He had just set down upon the roadway the
girl he liked best, and he wanted to go to the schoolhouse with her.
Added to this he was awfully cold. But he was faithful.
"On account of you've done more than your share I'll go you," he
They went out again, out through that dreadful hundred yards of icy
flood, and Billy marched off with the children, and then Jack reached
out his hands, though hesitatingly. He was bashful still, despite the
emergency his villainy had made. As for Jennie, she did not hesitate.
She stepped up close to him, was taken in his arms like a baby, and the
journey began. What a trip it was for Jack! There she was, clinging fast
to him, and he with his arms close about her! Who said that the water
was cold? It was just right--never was more delightful water! And she
didn't seem to dislike the journey, either. She even seemed to cuddle a
little. He wished it were a mile to land. Hooray!
And the road was reached at last, and the blushing and beaming young
lady set down upon her feet. She didn't say anything but reached out
her hand to Jack, and led him on a run to the schoolhouse. The fire had
been kindled into roaring strength by those first to reach the place,
and all the soaked ones gathered about the stove and steamed there into
relative degrees of dryness. Jack steamed with the rest, but he was in a
dream--one of the blissful type.
In time the teacher returned, and with him a farmer and his hired man,
and a team and a wagon-load of plank, too late for aid, even had aid
been practicable. There was no school that afternoon. The teacher could
not accuse any one of fault, nor blame the pupils that they had
hesitated when he called them; while, on the other hand, he was deterred
from saying anything commendatory of the waders. He suspected something,
he couldn't tell exactly what, and he didn't propose to commit himself.
The most he could do was to recognize the fact that the big boys should
get to their homes as soon as possible and dry their boots and
stockings. He dismissed the pupils, and so that eventful day was ended.
Jack's boots were full of dampness still, and his feet were chilly, but
as he walked home he walked on air.
The succeeding night was one of bitter cold, and the morning saw the ice
upon the flats no longer yielding, but so thick and solid that wagons
might be driven upon it anywhere without a risk. Even the lately opened
space about the partly submerged jumper was frozen over, and the top of
the Red Revenger showed where that interesting but ill-fated craft was
fixed for some time to come. "On account of she's frozen in so deep,
we'd better let 'er stay there," commented Billy; and so coasting, save
upon ordinary sleds, was discontinued for the season. It was pretty near
The frost-decorated windows of the schoolhouse blazed in the morning
sun, and was a glory on the heads of the girls. But no head was so
bright, in the opinion of Jack Burrows, as that of Jennie Orton. Her
brown hair gleamed like gold, and as for the rest of her--well he
thought as he looked across the room, there was nothing to improve. It
seemed hardly possible that only the afternoon before he had held that
creature in his arms and carried her so three hundred feet or more. It
was all true, though, and Jennie had smiled across at him just now. He
was more deeply in love than ever, but his timidity had somehow much
abated. She was as beautiful as ever, but she seemed more human. He felt
that he could speak to her, make love to her, as he might to another
girl. Of course he couldn't do it very confidently, but he could
venture, and he resolved to ask leave to bring her to the spelling
school that very evening. He did so, pluckily, at recess, and she
As they were walking home that night, they fell naturally to talking of
the grewsome adventure of the day before; and Jennie asked Jack,
innocently, to explain to her the method by which he and Billy were
accustomed to steer the Red Revenger. He explained fluently and with
some pride, and she listened with close attention. When he had done she
remained silent for a few moments, and then said quietly:
"You did it on purpose."
The young man was dazed. He could say nothing at first, but managed
finally to blunder out:
"How did you know that?"
"I saw you and Billy look at each other, and saw you push down hard on
the stake. Why did you do it?"
Jack was truthful at least, and, furthermore, he had perception keen
enough to see that in his present strait was afforded opportunity for
speaking to the point on a subject he had feared to venture. He was
"I wanted to carry you ashore in my arms," he said.
There was, as any thoughtful girl would admit, really nothing in all
this for Jennie to get very angry over, and, to do her credit, it must
be added that she showed no anger at all. Of the details of what more
was said, information is unfortunately and absolutely lacking, but
certain it is that before Jennie's home was reached Jack's arm had found
a place not very far from that which it had occupied the afternoon
They marry young in the country, but seventeen and eighteen are ages,
which, even on the farm, are not considered sufficiently advanced for
such grave venture, and so, though Jack's wooing prospered famously,
there was no wedding in the spring. There was the most trustful and
delightful of understandings, though, and three years later Jennie came
from the town to live permanently on the farm, and her name was changed
"On account of the Red Revenger was a pirate craft, and took to the
water naturally, Jack got braced up to begin his courting, and so got
married," said Billy, in explanation of the event.
A MURDERER'S ACCOMPLICE
It is part of my good fortune in life to know a beautiful and lovable
woman. She is as sweet, it seems to me, as any woman can be who has come
into this world. She is good. She is not very rich, but she helps the
needy as far as she can from her moderate purse. I have known her to
attend at the bedside of a poor dying person when the doctor had told
her that the trouble might be smallpox. I should say, at a venture, that
this woman will go to heaven when she dies. But she will not go to
heaven unless ignorance is an excuse for wickedness. If she does go
there, it must be as the savage goes who knows no better than to do
things which thoughtful people, to whom what is good has been taught,
count as cruel and merciless. As the savage is a murderer, so is she the
accomplice of a murderer, although it is possible that by the Great
Judge neither may be so classified at the end, because of their lack of
I met this lovable woman on the street the other day, and we walked and
talked together. She had only good in her heart in all she was planning
to do. She had taste for outlines and color, and she was very fair to
look upon. Her dress--"tailor-made," I think the women call it--set off
her perfect figure to advantage, and her hat was a symmetrical
completion of the whole effect. It was a neat, well-proportioned whole,
the woman and her toilet, which I, being a man, of course, cannot
describe. One of her adornments was the head, breast, and wing of a
Baltimore oriole, worn in her hat.
I met this same woman again a day or two ago in another garb not less
charming and artistic. We ate luncheon together, and it made life worth
living to be with a creature so fair and good. In her hat this time was
a touch of the sky when it lies over a great lake. It was the wing of a
I know--or knew--four birds, and to know a fair bird well is almost
equal to knowing a fair woman well, though they have different ways. Two
of these birds that I knew were orioles and two were bluebirds. The two
orioles and the two bluebirds were husbands and wives. I stumbled upon
them all last year. The bluebirds had a nest in a hole in a hard maple
stump in a clearing in St. Clair County, Michigan. The orioles' nest was
well woven in pear shape, dangling from close-swinging twigs at the end
of an elm limb which hung over a creek in Orange County, Indiana. The
male oriole attended faithfully to the wants of his soberer-hued wife
sitting upon the four eggs in their nest. He was gorgeous all over, in
his orange and black, and as faithfully and gallantly as the male
bluebird did he regard his mate, and he was, if possible, even more
jealous and watchful in his unwearied care of her.
They made two very happy and earnest families. Each male, in addition to
caring for his mate, did good in the world for men and women. Each
killed noxious worms and insects for food, and each, in the very
exuberance of the flush year, and of living, gave forth at times such
music that all men, women, and children who listened, though they might
be dull and ignorant, somehow felt better, and were better as well as
happier human beings. But there was death in the air. The male oriole
and the male bluebird had each a brilliant coat!
Young were hatched in each of these two nests--vigorous, clamoring
young, coming from the eggs of the beautiful bird couples. The father
and mother oriole and the father and mother bluebird, each pair vain and
prettily jubilant over what had happened, worked very hard to bring food
to the open mouths of their offspring. The young ones were growing and
flourishing, and they were all happy.
One day, in St. Clair County, Michigan, a man armed with a shotgun went
out into a clearing. The shot in the gun was of the kind known as
"mustard-seed." It is so fine that it will not mar the feathers of the
bird it kills. On the same day, possibly, or at least very nearly at the
same time, a man similarly armed strolled down beside a creek in Orange
County, Indiana. The man in Michigan wanted to kill the beautiful male
bluebird who was bringing food to his young ones. The man in Indiana
wanted to kill the magnificent male oriole who was feeding his young
birds in the nest. It was not difficult for either of these two brutes
to kill the two happy bird fathers. They were business-like butchers,
just of the type of man who make the dog-catchers in cities--and they
had no nerves and shot well. One of them took home a beautiful dead
oriole, and the other took not one but two beautiful bluebirds, for as
the male bluebird came back to the nest with food for the younglings, it
so chanced that the female came also, and the same charge of shot killed
"She isn't quite as purty as the he-bird," said the man, as he picked up
the two, "but maybe I can get a little something for her."
The man who shot the oriole would have gladly committed and profited by
a similar double murder had the mother bird happened upon the scene when
he shot her orange-and-black mate.
These two slayers, who carried shotguns loaded with "mustard-seed" shot,
went out after the beautiful birds, because from Chicago and New York
had come into their country certain men who represented great millinery
furnishing houses, and these men had left word with local dealers in the
country towns that they would pay money for the beautiful feathers of
bluebirds and orioles and other birds. The little local dealers were
promised a profit on all such spoils sent by them to the great city
dealers, and they had set the men with the shotguns at work. Mating time
and nesting time are the times for murdering birds, because at that
season not only is their plumage finest, but the birds are more easily
to be found and killed. It is then that they sing their clearest and
strongest notes of joy; then, that they hover constantly near their
nests; and it is very easy to stop their music.
So there remained in the nest in the maple stump four little helpless
orphan bluebirds, and in the swaying nest in the elm-tree over the brook
were four young orioles with only the mother bird to care for them. The
widowed oriole fluttered about and beat her wings against the bushes in
vain search for her lost love--for birds love as madly, and, I have
sometimes thought, more faithfully than do human beings. But her
children clamored, and the oriole had the mother instinct as well as the
faithful love in her, and so she went to work for them. She didn't know
how to get food for them very well at first, for bird wives and husbands
have in some ways the same relations that we human beings have when we
are wives and husbands. The male oriole, who had been learning where the
insects and worms are, where whatever is good for little birds is, all
through the time while the female bird is sitting on the nest, must
necessarily know much more than his wife as to where things to eat for
the children may be found nearest and most easily and swiftly. That is
the great lesson the male bird learns while the female is sitting on the
eggs and maturing into life the new creatures whose birth and being
shall make this little loving couple happy in the way the good God has
designated one form of happiness shall come to His creatures, be they
with or without feathers.
The forlorn mother did as best she could. She fluttered through brakes
and bushes seeking food for her young, but her children did not thrive
very well. She worked so hard for them--human mothers and bird mothers
are very much alike in this way--that she became thin and weak, and with
each day that passed she brought less food to the little ones in the
wonderfully constructed nest which she and her husband had made in the
spring, when the smell of the liverworts was in the air, and muskrats
swam together and made love to each other in the creek below. She
sometimes, in the midst of her trouble (the trouble which came because
my sweet woman, must have a bird's feather in her hat) would think of
that springtime homemaking, and then this poor little widow would give a
little bird gasp. That was all. One day she had searched hard for food
for her young, for as they grew bigger they demanded more and were more
arrogantly hungry. As she perched to rest a moment upon a twig, beneath
which in the grass were a few late dandelions, she felt coming over her
a weakness she could not resist. As a matter of fact, the bird mother
had been overworked and so killed. Birds, overpressed, die as human
beings do. So the mother bird, after a few moments, fell off the twig
upon which she had paused for rest, and lay, a pretty little dead thing
down in the grass among the dandelions. Then, of course, her children
gasped and writhed and clamored in the nest, and at last, almost
together, died of starvation.
Days and days before this the history of the bluebird family had ended.
The four little bluebirds, being merely helpless young birds, lone and
hungry, did nothing for a few hours after their bereavement but call for
food, as was a habit of theirs. But nothing came to them--neither their
father nor their mother came. They didn't know much except to be hungry,
these little bluebirds. They couldn't know much, of course, as young as
they were, and being but bird things with stomachs, they just wanted
something to eat. They did not even know that if they did not get the
food they wanted so much the ants would come and the other creatures of
nature, and eat them. But they cried aloud, and more and more faintly,
and at last were still. And the ants came. They found four little things
with blue feathers just sprouting upon them, particularly upon the
wings, where the growth seemed strongest and bluest, but the four
little things were dead. It was all delightful for the ants and the
other small things; all good in their way, who came seeking food. The
very young birds, which had died gasping, that a woman might wear bright
feathers in her hat, were fine eating for the ants.
Of course, one cannot tell very well in detail how a starving young bird
dies. It is but a little creature with great possibilities of song and
beauty and happiness; but if something big and strong kills its father
and mother, then there is nothing for it but to lie back in the nest and
open its mouth in vain for food, and then it must finally, a
preposterously awfully suffering little lump of flesh and starting
feathers, look up at the sky and die in hungry agony. Then the ants
The story I have told of the two bird families and how they died is
true. Worst of all it is that theirs is a tragedy repeated in reality
thousands and thousands of times every year; yet the beautiful woman I
tried to describe at the beginning of this account wears birds and their
wings on her hat. It is because she and other women wear birds' feathers
that these tragic things take place in the woods and clearings and open
spaces of God's beautiful world. I say to any woman in all the world
that she is wicked if she wears the feather of any of the birds which
make the world happier and better for being in it. If women must wear
feathers, there are enough for their adornment from birds used for
food, and from the ostrich, which is not injured when its plumes are
So long as my beautiful woman wears the feathers of the bluebird, the
oriole, or any other of the singing creatures of God, I call her the
accomplice of a murderer. I have talked to her, but somehow I cannot
make her listen to the story of what lies back of the feathers on her
hat. She is more accustomed to praise than blame. When this is printed I
shall send it to her, and it may be that she will read it and grow
earnest over it, and that her heart will be touched, and that she will
never again deserve the name she merits now.
* * * * *
There are, it is said, certain savages--just barely human beings--called
Dyaks. They have become famous to the world as "head-hunters." These
Dyaks creep through miles of forest paths and kill as many as they can
of another lot of people, and then cut off the heads of the slain and
dry them, and hang them up, arranged on lines more or less artistically
festooned about the place in which they live. This exhibition of dried
and dead human heads seems to make these swart and murderous savages
vain and glad. These people are, as we understand, or think we
understand, but undeveloped, cruel, bloody-minded human creatures. They
prefer dried human heads to delicate ferns showing wonderful outlines,
or to brilliant leaves and fragrant flowers. They have their own ideas
Upon a dozen or two of the islands in the Southern Pacific, where the
waves lap the sloping sands lazily, and life should be calm and
peaceful, there are, or were until lately, certain people who
occasionally killed certain other people for reasons sufficiently good,
no doubt, to them; and who thus coming into possession of a group of
dead creatures with fingers, conceived the idea that the fingers of
these dead, when dried, would make most artistic, not to say suggestive,
necklaces. So they strung these dried fingers upon something strong and
pliant, and wore them with much pride.
When I see the bright feathers of birds, slain that hats may be
garnished for the thoughtless females of a higher grade of beings, I am
reminded somehow of the Dyaks and of the wearers of the necklaces made
A MID-PACIFIC FOURTH
The sun shone very fairly on a green hillside, from which could be seen
the town of Honolulu, the capital of Hawaii. The sun makes some very
fair efforts at shining upon and around those islands lying thousands of
miles out in the Pacific Ocean. He was doing his best on this particular
morning, and under his influence, so brightening everything, two little
boys and a little jackass were having a good time near a long, low,
rakish, but far from piratical-looking house upon the hillside already
mentioned. One of the boys was white, one of the boys was brown, and the
little jackass was gray. The name of the white boy was William Harrison,
though he was always called Billy, and his father, an American merchant
in Honolulu, owned the house near which the boys were playing. The name
of the brown boy was Manua Loa, or something like that, but he was
always called Cocoanut, the nickname agreeing perfectly with his general
solid, nubbinish appearance. The name of the jackass was Julius Caesar,
but he wore almost no facial resemblance to his namesake. The date of
the day on which the little boys and the little jackass were out there
together was July 3, 1897.
As far as the three playmates were concerned, there was a practical
equality in their relations between Billy and Cocoanut and Julius
Caesar. Billy's father was a rich white man, but Cocoanut's father was a
native and of some importance, too; and as for Julius Caesar he was
quite capable at times of asserting his own standing among the trio. He
could be, on occasions, one of the most animated kicking little
jackasses living upon this globe, upon which the moon doesn't shine
quite as well as the sun does. On the occasion here referred to the
little jackass stood apart with head hanging down toward the ground,
silent and unmoving, and apparently revolving in his own mind something
concerning the geology of the Dog Star. He could be a most reflective
little beast upon occasion. The boys sat together on a knoll, their
heads close together, engaged in earnest and animated and sometimes
loud-voiced conversation. There was occasion for their lively interest.
They were discussing the Fourth of July. They were about equally ardent,
but if there were any difference it was in favor of Cocoanut, who,
within the year, had become probably the most earnest American citizen
upon the face of the civilized globe. His information regarding the
United States and American citizenship had, of course, been derived from
Billy, who had derived it from his father; and Billy's father had told
Billy, who in turn had told Cocoanut, that by the next Fourth of July
the Stars and Stripes would be flying from the flagstaffs of Hawaii,
and that then, on the Fourth, small boys could celebrate just as small
boys did in the United States. Thenceforth Billy and Cocoanut observed
the flags above Honolulu closely, but neither of them had ever seen the
Stars and Stripes lying flattened out aloft by the sea breeze. They had
faith, though, and their faith had been justified by their works. They
had between them, as the result of much begging from parents and doing a
little work occasionally, gathered together probably the most
astonishing supply of firecrackers ever possessed by two boys of their
size and degree of understanding. There were package upon package of the
small, ordinary Chinese firecrackers, and there were a dozen or two of
the big "cannon" firecrackers which have come into vogue of late years,
and the first manufacturer of whom should be taken out somewhere and
hanged with all earnestness. They were now consulting regarding the
morrow. Would the flag fly over Honolulu and could they celebrate? They
didn't know, but they had a degree of faith. Then they wandered off
somewhere with Julius Caesar and had a good time all day, but ever the
morrow was in their mind.
It was early the next morning when the two boys and Julius Caesar were
again on the point of hill overlooking Honolulu. It was so early that
the flags had not yet been hoisted over the public buildings. Each boy
carried a package, and these they unrolled and laid out together. The
display was something worth looking at. Any boy who could see that
layout of firecrackers and not feel a kind of a tingling run over him
resembling that which comes when he takes hold of the two handles of an
electrical machine wouldn't be a boy worth speaking of. He wouldn't be
the sort of a boy who had it in him to ever become President of the
United States, or captain of a baseball nine, or anything of that sort.
But these two boys quivered. Cocoanut quivered more than Billy did.
Silently the two boys and Julius Caesar awaited the raising of the flags
over Honolulu. Could they or could they not let off their firecrackers?
They might as well, said Cocoanut, be getting ready, anyhow, and so he
began tying strings of firecrackers together, adjusting cannon crackers
at intervals between the smaller ones, and adding Billy's string of
crackers to his own. When completed there were just thirty-seven and
one-half feet of firecrackers of variegated quality. Billy looked on
listlessly, and Cocoanut himself hardly knew why he was making this
arrangement. The sun bounced up out of the ocean, a great red ball
behind the thin fog, and bunting climbed the flagstaffs of Honolulu.
With eager eyes the boys gazed cityward until the moment when the breeze
had straightened out the flags and the device upon them could be seen.
Then they looked upon each other blankly. It was not the Stars and
Stripes, but the Hawaiian flag which floated there below them!
They didn't know what to do, these poor boys who wanted to be patriots
that morning and couldn't. They sat down disconsolately near to the
heels of Julius Caesar, who was whisking his stubby tail about
occasionally in vengeful search of an occasional fly. It chanced that in
the midst of this he slapped Cocoanut across the face, and that Cocoanut
incontinently grabbed the tail, to keep it from further demonstration of
the sort. Julius Caesar did not kick at this, because it was too
trifling a matter. Far better would it have been for Julius Caesar had
he kicked then and there, but the relation of why comes later on. Lost
in their sorrows, Cocoanut and Billy communed together, and Cocoanut, in
the forgetfulness of deep reflection began plaiting together the end of
the string of firecrackers and the hairs in the tail of Julius Caesar.
He was a good plaiter, was Cocoanut--they do such work with grasses and
things in and about Honolulu, and lots of little Hawaiians are good
plaiters--and it may be said of the job that when completed, although
done almost unconsciously, it was a good one. That string of
thirty-seven and one-half feet of firecrackers was not going to leave
the tail of that little jackass except under most extraordinary
A fly of exceptional vigor assaulted Julius Caesar upon the flank, and
his tail not whisking as well as usual, because of the incumbrance, he
missed the enemy at the first swish and moved uneasily forward for
several feet. As it chanced, this movement left the other string of
firecrackers fairly in the lap of Cocoanut. The boys were still
discussing the situation.
"It's too bad; it's too bad," said Billy. "What'll we do?"
"I don't know," said Cocoanut.
"Do you think we dare let 'em off even if the flag didn't fly?" said
"I don't know," said Cocoanut.
"I believe I'll get on Julius Caesar and ride a little," said Billy,
"and you throw stones at him and hit him if you can. It's pretty hard to
make him run, you know."
"All right," said Cocoanut.
Billy rose and wandered over and mounted Julius Caesar, Cocoanut barely
turning his head and watching the white boy lazily as Billy gathered up
the bridle, which was the only equipment Julius Caesar had. It was then,
just as Billy had fairly settled himself down, that an inspiration came
"Lemme let off just one little cracker," he said. "Mebbe it'll start
Julius Caesar a-going," and Billy joyously assented.
Now Cocoanut had never seen the effect which a whole string of
firecrackers can produce. He had assisted in firing one or two little
ones, and that was all he knew about it. Billy didn't know that the
string of firecrackers was attached to the tail of Julius Caesar, and
Cocoanut himself had absolutely forgotten it. Cocoanut produced a match
and lit it and carefully ignited the thin, papery end of the ultimate
little cracker on the string, and it smoked away and nickered and
sputtered toward its object.
There have been various exciting occasions upon the island whereon is
Honolulu. There have been some great volcanic explosions there, and
earthquakes and tidal waves. It is to be doubted, however, if upon that
charming island ever occurred anything more complete and alarming and
generally spectacular, in a small way, than followed the moment when the
first cracker exploded of that string of thirty-seven and one-half feet
attached to the tail of Julius Caesar. Cocoanut had expected one cracker
to go off, but had anticipated nothing further. He was correct in his
view, only as regarded the mere going-off of the cracker. What followed
was a surprise to him and to all the adjacent world. There was a rattle
and roar; the first two or three feet of small crackers went off; and
then, as the first cannon cracker was reached with a thunder and blast
of smoke, Cocoanut went over backward and away off into the grass, while
Julius Caesar simply launched himself into space. It was all down-hill
before him. He started for Australia. Anybody could see that. You
couldn't tell whether he was going for Sydney or Melbourne, but you
knew he was going for Australia in a general way. His leaps, assisted
by the down-hill course, were something to witness. Cocoanut has since
estimated them at forty feet a jump, while Billy says sixty--for both
boys, it is good to say, are still alive--but then Billy was on the
jackass and may have been excited; probably somewhere, say about fifty
feet, would be the correct estimate. Talk about your horrifying comets
with their tails of fire! They were but slight affairs, locally
considered, for terrific explosions accompanied every jump of Julius
Caesar, and comets don't make any noise. It was all swift, but the noise
and awful appearance of Billy and Julius Caesar sufficed in a minute to
startle such of the populace of Honolulu who were already awake, and
there was a wild rush of scores of people in the wake of where Billy and
Julius Caesar went downward to the sea. The extent of the leap of Julius
Caesar when he finally reached the shore has never been fully decided
upon, but it was a great leap. Billy, jackass, and fireworks went down
like a plummet, and very soon thereafter Billy and jackass, but no
fireworks, came to the surface again, and then swam vigorously toward
the shore, for everybody and everything in Hawaii can swim like a duck.
They were received by a brown and wildly applauding crowd of natives,
and a minute or two later by Cocoanut, who had run like a deer to see
the end of the vast performance he had inaugurated.
An hour or two later two boys and a little jackass were all together
upon the hill again, the boys excited and jubilant and saying that
they'd had a Fourth of July, anyhow, and the jackass in a doubtful and
The boys have grown amazingly since. The jackass seems to be about the
same. But about the Fourth of July next at hand the boys won't have the
same trouble they had in 1897.
LOVE AND A LATCH-KEY
This is the story of the circumstances surrounding the invention of
Simpson's Electric Latch-Key, an invention with which everybody is now
familiar, but regarding the origin of which the public has never been
informed. There were reasons, grave ones for a time, why the story
should not be told--in short, there was a love affair mixed with it--but
those reasons no longer exist, and it seems a good thing to relate the
facts in the case. They may interest a great number of people,
particularly middle-aged gentlemen in the large cities. I know that for
me, at least, they have possessed no little attraction.
Love proverbially laughs at locksmiths, but it is safe to say that
before Simpson's Electric Latch-Key was known even that cheerful god
would not have dared to smile in the presence of some of the problems
connected with locks and keys. Now all is changed. The general use of
the latch-key mentioned has increased the gayety of nations since the
recent time in which this story is laid. Otherwise there would be no
story to tell, as this is but the plain narration of the love and
ambition which inspired, perfected, and triumphantly demonstrated the
usefulness of the invention.
The North Side in the city of Chicago may put on airs as a residence
district, and the South Side may put on airs as containing the heart of
the vast business district of Chicago, but the West Side is as big as
the two of them, and its population contains a large number of
exceedingly rich men, who, like the rich men of the other sides, are as
content with themselves for being "self-made," are just as grumpy, and
with as many weaknesses. Some of these West Side rich men live on
Ashland Avenue. There certainly lived and lives Mr. Jason B. Grampus, a
great speculator, whose home has its palatial aspects.
West Side millionaires, like those on the other sides, are not
infrequently the fathers of fair daughters. Sometimes they have only one
daughter, and no sons at all, and in such cases the daughter becomes a
very desirable acquisition for a young man of tact and enterprise. There
is no law of nature which makes a millionaire's daughter less really
lovable than other young women, and there is no law of nature which
makes a young man who may fall in love with her, even though he be poor,
a fortune-hunter and a blackguard. The young man who has a social
position without money is in a perilous way. He may fall in love with a
young woman with money, and then his motives will be impugned,
especially by the parents. It depends altogether on the young man how
he accepts the more or less anomalous position described. If he be
strong, he adapts himself in one way; if he be weak, he does it in
Ned Simpson was not of the weaker sort, and he was desperately in love
with the daughter of "old man Grampus." The fact that she would
eventually be worth more than a million did not affect his love to its
injury. He said frankly to himself that she was none the worse for that,
but it must be asserted to his credit that he thought of her prospective
money very little. He stood ready to take her penniless, on the instant.
Unfortunately, he could not take her on any conditions. Mr. Grampus and
Mrs. Grampus stood like mountains in his way.
Not that Simpson lacked social equality with the Grampus family. He was
a young stockbroker, with expectations as yet unrealized, it is true,
but with a good ancestry and with business popularity. By day he met old
Grampus upon terms of equality. Old Grampus liked him, after a fashion.
He had visited the Grampus house, had dined there often, had met the old
lady with the purring ways, had met, also, the radiant daughter, Sylvia,
and had fallen in love with the latter, deeply and irrevocably. He had
made love cleverly and earnestly, as a fine man should, and had
Sylvia was as deeply in love with him as he was with her. They had
solemnly and in all honesty entered into an agreement that they would
remain true, each to the other, no matter what might come. Then he had
approached the father, manfully explained the situation, and had
encountered a reception which was a sight to see and an amazing thing to
hear. The old man was striking when at his worst, and Simpson almost
admired him for his command of explosive expletives. One likes to see
almost anything done well. Simpson was ordered never to enter the house
again. He contained himself pretty well; he made no promises, but he met
that young woman almost every evening. Meanwhile, the young man and the
old man met daily in a business way.
As a rule, the relations between a lover who has been figuratively
kicked out of a house and the man who has figuratively kicked him out
are somewhat strained. Still, young Simpson and old Grampus met down
town in a business way, and it is only putting it fairly concerning
Simpson to say that he showed a forgiving spirit--almost an impudently
forgiving spirit, one might say. Light-hearted and careless as he seemed
to be among his business associates, Simpson possessed a resolute
character, and when he decided upon a course, adhered to it
determinedly. He was not going to be desperate; he was not going
overseas to "wed some savage woman, who should rear his dusky race"; but
he was going to eventually have Miss Grampus, or know the reason why. He
did not want to elope with the young woman; in fact, he felt that she
wouldn't elope if he asked her, for she was fond of her father, and he
knew that his end must be attained by vast diplomacy. Just how, he had
not decided upon. But he felt his way vaguely.
"One thing is certain," he said to himself, "I must keep my temper and
cultivate the old man."
He did cultivate Mr. Grampus, and did it so well that after a season the
two would even lunch together. It was an anomalous happening, this
lunching together, of a poor young man with a rich old one, who had
refused a daughter's hand; but such things occur in the grotesque, huge
Western money-mart. In Chicago there is a great gulf fixed between
business and family relations. Grampus began to consider Simpson an
excellent fellow--that is, as one to meet at luncheon, not as a
son-in-law. A son-in-law should have money.
There was a skeleton in the Grampus closet, but it was not scandalous,
and was never mentioned. Still, to old Mr. Grampus, the guilty one, the
skeleton was real and terrible. He, the gruff, overbearing, successful
man of business, the one beneath whose gaze clerks shuddered and
stenographers turned pale, was afraid to go home at least four nights of
the seven nights in the week. He was afraid to meet his wife.
A great club man was Mr. Grampus. He delighted in each evening spent
with his old cronies, in the whist-playing, the reminiscences, the
storytelling, the arguments, and the moderate smoking and drinking.
Unfortunately, he could not endure well the taking into his system of
anything alcoholic. He always became perfectly sober within three hours,
but a punch or two would give a certain flaccidity to his legs, and when
he reached his home the broad steps leading up to the vestibule seemed
Alpine-like and perilous. He would almost say to himself, "Beware the
pine-tree's withered branch, beware the awful avalanche." But after all
it was not the danger of the ascent which really troubled him; it was
what would assuredly happen after he had reached the summit. The
disaster always came upon the plateau.
The man could fumble in his pockets with much discretion, and could
always find his latch-key, for its shape was odd, but with that
latch-key he could not find the keyhole in the door. There came a clamor
always at the end. When finally he entered, Mrs. Grampus was as alive
and alert as any tarantula of an Arizona plain aroused by a noise upon
the trap-door of its retreat. And Mrs. Grampus was a wonderful woman.
Talk about death's-head! Jason B. Grampus would have welcomed one in
place of that pallid creature in a night-dress, who met him when he came
Mrs. Grampus, who was known to her husband's inner consciousness as
Sophia, was a slender, blue-eyed woman, soft of voice and by day gentle
of manner. Her health was not perfect. She knew this, and so did every
one she met. While not an invalid, she in her imagination trembled on
the edge of invalidism, and upon this subject she was almost loquacious.
She was domestic in her tastes, and ambitious and devoted to her home
She was a model wife and mother, and this, too, she knew; so did her
family and friends, for this subject was second in her topics of
conversation only to the state of her health; and, furthermore, she was
peculiar and almost original in the perfection to which she had brought
the fine art of nagging.
Let it not be imagined that she scolded, or said small, mean things, or
used any of the processes of the ordinary nagger. Her methods were
refined, studied, calculated, and correct. Her style of day-nagging was,
to be explicit, to maintain perfect silence as to the grievance under
which she suffered--indeed, this was often a profound secret from the
first to the last; to adopt the look and bearing of a Christian martyr
on the way to the stake, and to keep this demonstration up for days
without a gleam of interruption. She shed no tears, made no reproaches;
she just looked her agony, sitting, walking, doing anything. This was by
day. But at night! How is it that women so have the gift of speech at
night? Mrs. Grampus had it in a marvelous degree, and it was the speech
which is a thing to dread, penetrating and long-continued. The nerves of
Jason B. Grampus were gradually giving way. Some of the finest old
gentlemen in every large city in the country know that one's physical
condition differs with moods and seasons, and that what may be endured
at one time cannot be at another. This lesson was brought forcibly to
Jason B. Grampus one morning. He had passed his usual evening at the
club, had gone home at the usual hour, and had encountered even more
difficulty than usual in discovering the keyhole. He made more than the
ordinary degree of noise, and had encountered even more than the usual
hour or two of purgatory, subsequently. He came down town in the morning
heavy-eyed, with a headache, and with spirits undeniably depressed. He
sought what relief he could. He first visited the barber, and that deft
personage, accustomed, as a result of years of carefully performed duty
to the ways and desires of his customer, shaved him with unusual
delicacy, keeping cool cloths upon his head during the whole ceremony,
and terminating the exercise with a shampoo of the most refreshing
character. An extra twenty-five cents was the reward of his devotion.
Mr. Grampus went to his business somewhat improved in physical
condition, and by noon was almost himself again. Still, he had a
yearning for human sympathy; he could not help it. He saw young Simpson
at a table, the only acquaintance who happened to be in the dining-room
when he entered, and, led by a sudden impulse, walked over, sat down
opposite the young man whose aspirations he had discouraged, and entered
into affable conversation with him. From affability the conversation
drifted into absolute confidence. Jason B. Grampus could no more have
helped being confidential that day to some one than he could help
breathing. He told Simpson of his trouble of the night before, and
concluded his account with the earnest and almost pitiful exclamation:
"I'd give fifty thousand dollars for a keyhole one could not miss."
Simpson did not reply for a moment. He thought, thought--thought
deeply--and then came to him the inspiration of his life. He looked at
Grampus half quizzically, but in a manner not to offend, and as if it
were merely a jest over a matter already settled, said:
"Would you give your daughter?"
Grampus looked at him puzzled, and then, responding to the joke which
seemed but one of hopelessness, he said:
"Well--if I wouldn't!"
He was startled the next second by the uprising of Simpson, who grasped
him heartily by the hand, and said:
"I've got the thing! It's a new invention! There is nothing like it in
the world! It is going to revolutionize the social relations and make
home happy. Write me a note, giving me permission to operate upon your
The old man sat dazed. It slowly dawned upon his mind that Simpson had
caught him in a trap; but the word of Jason B. Grampus had never yet
been violated. He thought rapidly himself now. Of course, the young
lunatic could not do what he promised! That was impossible. No man could
invent a keyhole which a man could not miss at night. There might be
some annoyance to it all, but the young fellow could do as he pleased,
only to be rebuffed again, this time with no allowance of a subsequent
familiarity. And so they parted, the old man wearing a look somewhat
perplexed, and the younger one, despite his assumed jaunty air,
exhibiting a little of the same quality of expression.
As a matter of fact, Simpson had not the slightest idea of how such a
keyhole and latch-key as he had promised could be made, save that on one
occasion he had been the author of a practical little invention utilized
in a box-factory, and felt that he had a touch of the inventive genius
in his nature. But there was his friend Hastings. It was the thought of
Hastings which gave him the inspiration when he spoke to Grampus.
Hastings was one of the cleverest inventors and one of the most
prominent among the younger electricians of the city. They were devoted
friends, and they would invent the greatest latch-key in the world, or
burn half the midnight oil upon the market. This he was resolved upon.
He sought Hastings.
To Hastings Simpson unfolded his tale carefully, leaf by leaf, and
interested amazingly that eminent young electrician. Hastings, though
now married, the possessor of a baby with the reddest face in all
Chicago, and perfectly happy, had himself undergone somewhat of an
experience in obtaining the mother of that baby, and so sympathized with
"We'll invent that keyhole or latch-key, or break something," was all he
said. There were thenceforth meetings every evening between the
two--meetings which were sometimes far extended into the night; and the
outcome of it all was that one morning, just as the sunbeams came
thrusting the white fog over blue Lake Michigan, Simpson sought his own
room somewhat weary-eyed, but with a countenance which was simply
beatific in expression. The invention had been perfected! What that
invention was may as well be described here and now. The first object to
be sought was, naturally, a keyhole which could not easily be missed. Of
course, this is a non-scientific description of it, but it may convey a
fair idea to the average reader. First, instead of the ordinary keyhole
there was something exactly resembling the customary mouthpiece through
which we whistle upstairs from the ground floor of a flat seeking to
attract the people who rarely answer. The only difference between it and
the ordinary mouthpiece was that it was set in so that it was even with
the woodwork of the door, and did not project at all. This mouthpiece
tapered all around inside, and terminated in a keyhole which was
rubber-lined. On the other side of this keyhole was a hard surface,
padded with rubber, but having just opposite the mouth of the keyhole a
small orifice extending through to a metal surface. That metal surface
was a section of one of the most powerful horseshoe magnets ever
invented in the United States, and was to be imbedded in the woodwork of
It was a huge thing, reaching nearly across the door, and warranted to
pull toward it anything magnetic of reasonable dimensions. The keyhole
was all the design of Simpson, the electric part of the affair all the
invention of Hastings. Combined, they made something beautiful and
A key was made and magnetized so thoroughly that never before was a
piece of iron so yearningly full of the electric fluid. The whole thing
was adjusted against the wall of the room, and then the men brought in
the magnetized key to ascertain if their invention would work in
practice. Simpson was carrying the key. No sooner had he entered the
door than something began to pull him toward the magnet. He walked
sideways, like a crab, resistingly, and could not help himself; and
then, just as he had nearly reached the bell-shaped keyhole, he was
whirled around, as is the end child in a school playground when they are
playing "crack-the-whip," fairly in front of the keyhole, and literally
hurled toward it, while the key shot fiercely into the lock. But there
was not a sound; the rubber cushion had obviated that.
Well, to say that those two young men were delighted would be to use but
one of the commonplace, everyday, decent conversational expressions of
the English language. They were simply wild.
Since their latest conversation Jason B. Grampus had engaged in no
further communication with Simpson. He thought it best to avoid all
relations with the young man who could jest on serious occasions; and
yet underlying his upper strata of thought was a dim and undefined
impression that he would hear from that young man again. He did.
The morning after the perfection of the invention Simpson called upon
Mr. Grampus and calmly, coldly, and dignifiedly announced that his lock
was complete, and that he was now about to install it in the Grampus
front door. He suggested to Mr. Grampus that to avoid any encounters
which might be embarrassing, the latter should suddenly discover some
fault in his own front door--in the stained glass, or something of that
sort--and have it taken off bodily and sent away to be remodeled; while
a temporary door should be put in its place. The old gentleman listened
amazed, and thought it all a farce; but then the word of Jason B.
Grampus had gone out, and he must keep his word. "All right," he said.
So the front door was sent down town and another one put in its place,
and in that front door down town Simpson and Hastings established and
firmly secured the marvelous electric lock and keyhole. Then the door
was sent back and put in its place. The same day Simpson called at the
office of Mr. Grampus and handed him a key, the ring of which was big
enough to hold at least two fingers. Mr. Grampus grinned sardonically
over this continuation of the jest.
"That's a big ring," he said.
"I am confident you'll not find it any too large," was Simpson's
The old man grunted. "Will it unlock the door, and how? That is all I
want to know."
"It will," said Simpson; and so they parted.
That evening Mr. Grampus spent a late evening at the club, and went home
in apprehension. As he neared his residence the apprehension grew. He
was wobbly, and he knew it. He ascended the steps with some difficulty,
and began fumbling for his latch-key. He had forgotten all about the
fact that he had a new one. The remembrance came to him only when he
thrust his hand into his pocket, felt the huge key, and drew it forth.
That instant he felt himself leaning forward. Then something happened.
He was literally "yanked" toward that sunken keyhole. His hat smashed
against the door (fortunately it was a soft one), and he found himself a
minute later leaning against the entrance to his own house, grasping
the handle of a latch-key which was in place and which would afford him
admission without the slightest sound.
Never was a man who could walk in such condition, who, once inside a
door, could not conduct himself with the utmost quietness. Grampus was
no exception to the rule. He removed the key with a tug, closed the door
softly and stepped into the drawing-room, where for three hours he
slept, as sleeps a babe, upon the sofa. It has already been told that
only three hours were required to enable Mr. Grampus to recover from
three hours' indulgence at the club. He awoke refreshed and clear-headed
as a man may be. He straightened out his hat, opened the front door
quickly, pulled it to with a bang, as if he had just come in, and
stalked upstairs in dignity. Never has a man more conscious and
oppressive rectitude than one who has barely escaped a dreadful plight.
No word came from the just-awakened terror in a night-dress. He had been
saved--saved by Simpson.
The word of Jason B. Grampus had never been violated, and never could
be. His first duty when he reached his office in the morning was to send
"The key worked," he said, "and you may have my daughter."
Simpson has her now and is his father-in-law's partner in business.
Sometimes, looking at the color of his wife's eyes, and the graceful
but somewhat square conformation of her jaws, he wonders a little what
experiences time may bring him. But she is different from her mother in
many ways, and Simpson is a more adaptative and inventive man than his
father-in-law ever was. He is not much worried.
CHRISTMAS 200,000 B.C.
It was Christmas in the year 200,000 B.C. It is true that it was not
called Christmas then--our ancestors at that date were not much given
to the celebration of religious festivals--but, taking the Gregorian
calendar and counting backward just 200,000 plus 1887 years this
particular day would be located. There was no formal celebration, but,
nevertheless, a good deal was going on in the neighborhood of the home
of Fangs. Names were not common at the time mentioned, but the more
advanced of the cave-dwellers had them. Man had so far advanced that
only traces of his ape origin remained, and he had begun to have a
language. It was a queer "clucking" sort of language, something like
that of the Bushmen, the low type of man yet to be found in Africa, and
it was not very useful in the expression of ideas, but then primitive
man didn't have many ideas to express. Names, so far as used, were at
this time derived merely from some personal quality or peculiarity.
Fangs was so called because of his huge teeth. His mate was called She
Fox; his daughter, not Nellie, nor Jennie, nor Mamie--young ladies did
not affect the "ie" then--but Red Lips. She was, for the age,
remarkably pretty and refined. She could cast eyes which told a story at
a suitor, and there were several kinds of snake she would not eat. She
was a merry, energetic girl, and was the most useful member of the
family in tree-climbing. She was an only child and rather petted. Her
father or mother rarely knocked her down with a very heavy club when
angry, and after her fourteenth year rarely assaulted her at all. So far
as She Fox was concerned, this kindness largely resulted from
discretion, the daughter having in the last encounter so belabored the
mother that she was laid up for a week. The father abstained chiefly
because the daughter had become useful. Red Lips was now eighteen.
Fangs was a cave-dweller. His home was sumptuously furnished. The floor
of the cave was strewn with dry grass, something that in most other
caves was lacking. Fangs was a prominent citizen. He was one of the
strongest men in the valley. He had killed Red Beard, another prominent
citizen, in a little dispute over priority of right to possession of a
dead mastodon discovered in a swamp, and had for years been the terror
of every cave man in the region who possessed anything worth taking.
On this particular morning, which would have been Christmas morning had
it not come too early in the world's history, Fangs left the cave after
eating the whole of a water-fowl he had killed with a stone the night
before and some half dozen field mice which his wife had brought in. She
Fox and Red Lips had for breakfast only the bones of the duck and some
roots dug in the forest. Fangs carried with him a huge club, and in a
rough pouch made of the skin of some small wild animal a collection of
stones of convenient size for throwing. This was before man had invented
the bow or even the crude stone ax. He came back in a surly mood because
he had found nothing and killed nothing, but he brought a companion with
him. This companion, whom he had met in the woods, was known as Wolf,
because his countenance reminded one of a wolf. He could hardly be
called a gentleman, even as times and terms went then. He was evidently
not of an old family, for he possessed something more than a rudimentary
tail, and, had his face looked less like that of a wolf, it would have
been that of a baboon. He was hairy, and his speech of rough gutturals
was imperfect. He could pronounce but few words. He was, however, very
strong, and Fangs rather liked him.
What Fangs did when he came in was to propose a matrimonial alliance.
That is, he grasped his daughter by the arm and led her up to Wolf, and
then pointing to an abandoned cave in the hillside not far distant,
pushed them toward it. They did not have marriage ceremonies 200,000
B.C. Wolf, who had evidently been informed of Fangs's desire and who was
himself in favor of the alliance, seized the girl and began dragging
her off to the new home and the honeymoon. She resisted, and shrieked,
and clawed like a wild-cat. Her mother, She Fox, came running out, club
in hand, but was promptly knocked down by Fangs, who then dragged her
into the cave again. Meanwhile the bridegroom was hauling the bride away
through furze and bushes at a rapid rate. Red Lips had ceased to
struggle, and was thinking. Her thoughts were not very well defined nor
clear, but one thing she knew well--she did not want to live in a cave
with Wolf. She had a fancy that she would prefer to live instead with
Yellow Hair, a young cave man who had not yet selected a mate, and who
was remarkably fleet of foot. They were now very near the cave, and she
knew that unless she exerted herself housekeeping would begin within a
very few moments. Wolf was strong, but slow of movement. Red Lips was
only less swift than Yellow Hair. An idea occurred to her. She bent her
head and buried her strong teeth deep in the wrist of the man who was
half-carrying, half-dragging her through the underwood.
With a howl which justified his name, Wolf for an instant released his
hold. That instant allowed the girl's escape. She leaped away like a
deer and darted into the forest. Yelling with pain and rage, Wolf
pursued her. She gained on him steadily as she ran, but there was a
light snow upon the ground, and she could be followed by the trail
which her pursuer took up doggedly and determinedly. He knew that he
could tire her out and catch her in time. He solaced himself for her
temporary escape by thinking, as he ran, how fiercely he would beat his
bride before starting for the cave again, and as he thought his teeth
showed like those of a dog of to-day.
The chase lasted for hours, and Red Lips had gained perhaps a mile upon
her pursuer when her strength began to flag. The pace was telling upon
her. She had run many miles. She was almost hopeless of escape when she
emerged into a little glade, where sat a man gnawing contentedly at a
raw rabbit. He leaped to his feet as the girl appeared, but a moment
later recognized her and smiled. The man was Yellow Hair. He reached out
part of the rabbit he was devouring, and Red Lips, whose breakfast had,
as already mentioned, been a light one, tore at it and consumed it in a
moment. Then she told of what had happened.
"We will kill Wolf, and you shall live with me," said Yellow Hair.
Red Lips assented eagerly, and the two consulted together. Near them was
a hill, one side of which was a precipice. At the base of the precipice
ran a path. The result of the consultation was that Yellow Hair left the
girl, and making a swift circuit, came upon the precipice from the
farther side, and crouched low upon its summit. The girl ran along the
path at the bottom of the declivity for some distance, then, entering a
defile which crossed it at right angles, herself made a turn, climbed
the hill and joined Yellow Hair. From where they were lying they could
see the glade they had just left.
Wolf entered the glade, and noted where the footsteps of the girl and
those of a man came together. For a moment or two he appeared troubled
and suspicious; then his face cleared. He saw that the tracks had
diverged again. He had recognized the man's tracks as those of Yellow
"Yellow Hair is afraid of my strong arm," he thought. "He dare not stay
with Red Lips. I shall catch her soon and beat her and take her with
The two crouching upon the precipice watched his every movement. They
had rolled to the edge of the declivity a rock as huge as they could
control, and now together held it poised over the pathway. Wolf came
hurrying along, his head bent down like that of a hound on the scent of
game. He reached a spot just beneath the two, and then with a sudden
united effort they shoved over the rock. It thundered down upon the
unfortunate Wolf with an accuracy which spoke well for the eyes and
hands of the lovers. The man was crushed horribly. The two above
scrambled down, laughing, and Yellow Hair took from the dead Wolf a
necklace of claws and fastened it proudly upon his own person.
"Now we will go to my cave," said he.
"No," said Red Lips; "my father will look for Wolf to-morrow, and will
find him. Then he will come and kill us. We must go and kill him
"Yes," said Yellow Hair.
Hand in hand the two started for the cave of Fangs. The side hill in
which it was situated was very steep, and the lovers thought they could
duplicate the affair with Wolf. "We must cripple him, anyway," said
Yellow Hair, "for I am not strong enough to fight him alone. His club is
They reached the vicinity of the cave and crept above it. Having, with
great difficulty, secured a rock in position to be rolled down, they
waited for Fangs to appear. He came out about dusk, and stretched out
his arms lazily, when the two above released the rock. It rolled down
swiftly and with great force, but there was no such sheer drop afforded
as when Wolf was killed, and Fangs heard the stone coming and almost
eluded it. It caught one of his legs, as he tried to leap aside, and
broke it. Fangs fell to the ground.
With a yell of triumph Yellow Hair bounded to where the crippled man lay
and began pounding him upon the head with his club. Fangs had a very
thick head. He struggled vigorously, and succeeded in catching Yellow
Hair by the wrist. Then he drew the younger man to him and began to
throttle him. The case of Yellow Hair was desperate. Fangs's great
strength was too much for him. His stifled yells told of his agony.
It was at this juncture that Red Lips demonstrated her quality as a girl
of decision and of action. A sharp fragment of slate, several pounds in
weight, lay at her feet. She seized it and bounded forward to where the
struggle was going on. The back of Fangs's head was fairly exposed. The
girl brought down the sharp stone upon it just where the head and spinal
column joined, and the crashing thud told of the force of the blow.
Delivered with such strength upon such a spot there could be but one
result. The man could not have been killed more quickly. Yellow Hair
released himself from the dead giant's embrace and rose to his feet.
Then, after a short breathing time, to make assurance sure, he picked up
his club and battered the head of Fangs until there could be no chance
of his resuscitation. The performance was unnecessary, but neither
Yellow Hair nor Red Lips was aware of the fact. Their knowledge of
anatomy was limited. Neither knew the effect of such a blow delivered
properly at the base of the brain.
Yellow Hair finally ceased his exercise and rested on his club. "Shall
we go to my cave now?" said he.
"Why should we?" said Red Lips. "Let us take this cave. There is dry
grass on the floor."
They entered the cave. She Fox, who had witnessed what had occurred,
sat in one corner, and looked up doubtfully as they entered. "I am
tired," said Yellow Hair, and he laid himself down and went to sleep.
She Fox looked at her daughter. "I killed three hedgehogs to-day," she
The new mistress of the cave looked at her kindly. "Go out and dig some
roots," she said, "and come back with them, and then with them and the
hedgehogs we will have a feast."
She Fox went out and returned in an hour with roots and nuts. Red Lips
awakened Yellow Hair, and all three fed ravenously and merrily. It was a
great occasion in the cave of the late Fangs. There was no such
Christmas feast, at the same time a wedding feast, in any other cave in
all the region. And the sequel to the events of the day was as happy as
the day itself. Yellow Hair and Red Lips somehow avoided being killed,
and grew old together, and left a numerous progeny.
There was a man who was called upon to write a Christmas article for a
great newspaper. He had been a newspaper man himself at one time and it
occurred to him, in all reverence, that if some modern daily publication
could, nearly 1900 years ago, have reported faithfully all it could
learn regarding the Birth in Bethlehem, there might now be fewer
doubters in the world. He imagined what a conscientious representative
of the Daily Augustinian, had such newspaper existed in Jerusalem, might
have written concerning what was the greatest happening in the story of
all mankind since the days of Moses and the Shepherd Kings.
Rarely has man worked harder than did this person, who, for a month or
so--he had studied it all years before--sought the certain details of
the historical story of the Christ. He re-read his Josephus; he sought
new sources of information, and called to his aid men who knew most
along the lines of the outstanding spokes of the main question. Then he
lost himself as a reporter of the Daily Augustinian, and this--headlines
and all--is what he wrote:
THE BIRTH OF THE CHILD
IS THEIR MESSIAH COME?
OLD JEWISH PROPHECY DECLARED FULFILLED IN THE BIRTH OF A GREAT
THE STRANGENESS OF THE STORY.
A CHILD BORN IN A STABLE IN BETHLEHEM ASSERTED TO BE THE CHRIST.
A strange story comes to the Daily Augustinian from the suburb of
Bethlehem, the result of which has been to create deep feeling among the
Jewish residents. It is asserted that the Messiah prophesied in their
books of worship has come, and that there will be a revolution in the
religious world. This belief seems to be spreading among the poor, but
is not concurred in by the more wealthy nor by the rabbis who officiate
in the temple, though one of them, named Zacharias, is a believer. Upon
the first knowledge gained of this reported marvel every effort was made
by the Augustinian to learn all possible concerning it. The account was
that the Messiah had come in the form of a babe, born in the stable of
an inn at Bethlehem, and a trustworthy member of the Augustinian's staff
was sent to the place at once. Here is his account:
It was learned before Bethlehem was reached by the reporter that the
story of the Child had first been circulated by those in charge of the
flocks kept for sacrifice in the Jewish temple. These are shepherds of
an intelligent class who associate with the priests, and whose pastures
are very near the city on the Bethlehem road. It was thought best to
interview these men before seeking the Child. They were found without
difficulty, and told their story simply, a story so remarkable that it
is impossible to determine what comment should be made upon it.
The head shepherd, an intelligent and evidently thoroughly honest man of
about forty years of age, spoke for all present. "We were watching our
flocks as usual on the night concerning the occurrences of which you
ask," he said, "when all at once the sky became full of a great light.
It was wonderful. We looked up, and there in the midst of the light
appeared a form which I cannot describe, it was so bright and dazzling.
It spoke to us; spoke in a voice like nothing that can be conceived of
for its sweetness, saying that the Savior we have so long awaited had
been born to us, and that we might know Him because we should find Him
in Bethlehem wrapped in His swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. The
wonderful figure had but ceased speaking when the whole world above
seemed filled with similar forms, and there came from the heavens such
music, such sounds of praising, as I cannot convey an idea of to you
more than I can of the figure. We were awestricken at first, and then
with one accord we started for Bethlehem. Then another strange thing
happened. A great light seemed to float above and ahead of us until we
reached Bethlehem, when it hung suspended over the inn. And there we
found the Child."
"Is the Child the Messiah of your race? Do you believe it?"
"I _know_!" was the answer. "It is the Messiah!" And that all the
shepherds believe was apparent. They appear intelligent and honest and
straightforward of speech. It is incomprehensible. The next step was to
There is but one inn in Bethlehem; there was but one place in which to
seek the Child. Thither went the seeker after facts. The inn is a plain
structure of the usual stone-work of the hillside towns, and the stable,
extending backward from the house proper, is largely an excavation in
the rock. There is a narrow entrance at the side as well as one through
the house. About the gates of the inn stood a number of people, the look
upon their faces indicating that they were aware of the great news to
their race, but all silent in their joy or disbelief or whatever
sentiment affected them. The visitor was shown through the inn into the
stable. There were the man, the woman, and the Child. They chanced to be
alone at the time.
Of the Child it may be said that it is a beautiful male infant, nothing
more, to the ordinary eye, and conducting itself not differently from
any babe of its age. It clings to its mother's bosom, knowing nothing of
the world, and as yet, caring nothing. The man is a sober-faced Jew,
apparently about thirty years of age. The woman would attract attention
anywhere, for she is one of the fair women of Nazareth, and even among
those so noted for their beauty she must have ranked foremost, so sweet
of face is she. She is seemingly not yet twenty years of age, with the
dark hair, Oriental features, and wonderful eyes of the women of her
class and town, but with an added expression which makes one think of
the angels of which the Jewish writers tell. That she herself believes
she is the mother of the Messiah, that the Child she has borne is the
Christ, does not admit of doubt. Even as she clasped Him to her breast
there was awe mingled with the affection in her look, a devotion beyond
even that of motherhood. The man, it was apparent, shared with her in
the faith. He was asked to tell the story of the miraculous birth, and
stepping aside a little from the woman and the Child, he talked gravely
and earnestly, answering all questions, since, as he said, it was his
duty to tell the great thing to all the world, to Jew and pagan alike.
He was betrothed to the young woman Mary, he said, months ago, in the
town of Nazareth, in Galilee, where he is a carpenter. They were to have
been wedded, but during the interval between the betrothal and the
marriage there came to her a figure, which was that of an angel of the
Lord, saying to her that a son would be born to her the paternity of
which would be supernatural, and that this son would be the Messiah told
of in Jewish prophecy. She informed her betrothed of this, and that she
had evidence that what had been told her would occur. At first Joseph
was greatly troubled and resolved that the marriage should not take
place lest a great disgrace should come upon him. He loved the young
woman, and did not want to harm her in the eyes of the world, yet there
seemed no alternative but to refuse a consummation of the betrothal. It
was at this time that there came to him, as there had come to her, an
angelic visitation, in which was confirmed what she had told him, and in
which he was commanded to marry her. He was told this in a dream, and
believed, and did as he was commanded, though as yet he has been the
husband of Mary but in name.
After their marriage came the recent order from Rome for the census of
all the Jews, and as it was accompanied by the direction that all should
be enumerated, not where they might be living, but where they were
registered at birth, Joseph, who was originally from Bethlehem, was
compelled to make the journey. He was accompanied by his young wife, who
rode upon a donkey, her husband walking all the way from Nazareth beside
her. Upon their arrival in Bethlehem they found the place so full of
those called in by the census that there was no place for them to lodge.
The owner of the inn, though, who knew of Joseph's family, did all he
could to relieve them, and they were so given lodging in the stable.
There to the patient Mary came a woman's great trial, and the Child was
born. Then came the shepherds, with their wonderful tale of what they
had seen, followed, as related, by their adoration.
It was learned by inquiry in Bethlehem that Joseph, the carpenter,
though a poor man, is a direct descendant of David, the famous Jewish
king, and, strangely enough, too, that the beautiful Mary belongs to the
same princely family. The Hebrew records of this great race are most
complete, and there is no doubt as to the blood of the man and woman.
Mary, so it is said, is the daughter of a gentlewoman named Anna and of
a Hebrew who was held in great respect. There is another most singular
fact to be related in this connection. It will be remembered that some
months ago, when it came the turn of the venerable priest Zacharias to
offer the sacrifice in the Jewish temple--a privilege which comes to a
priest but once in his lifetime--he returned before the people from the
inner sanctuary stricken dumb, and manifesting by signs that he had seen
a vision, the event creating great excitement among the members of his
faith. Later he made it known that in the sanctuary he had a vision of
an angel, who declared to him that his wife, who was childless, should
have a son in her old age who should be a great prophet and preacher,
proclaiming the Messiah. Since that time, the aged couple, who live
south of Jerusalem, have indeed been blessed with a child, the father's
dumbness disappearing with its birth and the priest again praising the
Lord of his people. To this child has been given the name of John.
What is most remarkable and unexplainable of all is something confirmed
by Joseph and Mary, as well as by Zacharias and his wife. The wife of
Zacharias, who is named Elizabeth, is a cousin of Mary, and some impulse
moved the latter, after she had explained her condition to Joseph, to
visit her aged kinswoman. She did so, and no sooner had she reached the
home of Zacharias and entered the door than Elizabeth, who had not known
of her coming, broke forth into praise of Mary as to be the mother of
her Lord. The unborn babe, it is declared, recognized the presence of
the Messiah, and so Elizabeth was led to adore and prophesy.
Many Nazarenes who are now in Jerusalem were seen, and all confirmed the
story, so far as they could know of the relations of Joseph and Mary,
while many people of the hill town where Zacharias and Elizabeth live
confirm all that is related of the extraordinary occurrence in their
household, of the husband's recovery from dumbness when his child was
born, and of his apparent inspiration at the time. There is a strong
feeling among the Jews, and the belief in the real appearance of the
Messiah is spreading, though, as intimated, the priests of the temple,
with the exception already alluded to, seem disposed to discredit the
revelation. They declare that the Messiah would scarcely come in such
humble way; that the Prince of the House of David who shall renew the
glory of their race will come in great magnificence and that all will
recognize Him at once.
What has been related is what was learned some days ago from the
interviews given and from inquiries in all quarters where it seemed
likely that they would throw any light on what has really occurred.
Since then something as inexplicable has happened as anything heretofore
reported, something from many points of view more startling and
unexplainable. There came into Jerusalem recently three Persians of the
sort called magi, or wise men, the students of the great race who have
been to an extent friendly with the Jews since the time when Babylon was
at its greatest. These three men, who had made a journey which must have
occupied them nearly two years, seemed hurriedly intent on some great
mission, and presented themselves at once before the Tetrarch, Herod,
asking for information. They wanted to know where the Child was to be
found who was born King of the Jews, seeming to think that the Tetrarch
must know and would direct them willingly. They said they had seen the
Child's star in the far east and had come to do Him homage. This was
astonishing information to the Tetrarch. As is well known, there are
many political intrigues in progress now, and Herod has adopted a
severe policy. As between the Romans and the Jews he has been
considerate in the endeavor to preserve pleasant relations with both
parties, but he is most alert. His reply to the magi was that he did not
know where the Child was, but he hoped they would succeed in their
mission. He requested, furthermore, that when they had found the King
they should inform him, that he also might visit Him. The magi departed,
and shrewd officers were at once sent to follow them, but, as
subsequently appeared, with slight success. The magi eluded the officers
and found the Child. Joseph and Mary had moved from the stable into a
house in Bethlehem, and there the three Persians bowed down before the
Babe and, after the style of adoration in their country, presented
gifts--gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
These last related facts were learned, as were those first given, in
Bethlehem. The next step in the inquiry was naturally to seek an
interview with the magi, the three travelers from Persia who so oddly
showed their belief in the supernatural nature of what has occurred, but
they were found with difficulty. After visiting the Infant they had
returned at once to town, and it proved a hard task to discover their
whereabouts. It was ascertained, after much inquiry, that three Persians
of the better class had been stopping at a small hotel near the southern
gate, and a visit to the place revealed the fact that they were still
there, though about to leave. They had, after their visit to Bethlehem,
remained close indoors, and, the keeper of the hotel said, seemed
apprehensive of a visit from the authorities. The reporter was presented
to three fine-looking Chaldeans, evidently men of some importance at
home, who received him with reserve, but who, after learning his
occupation and object, became a little more communicative. The eldest of
the three, a man past middle-age, with full beard and remarkably keen
eyes, acted as spokesman for all. He was asked what he thought of the
Child at Bethlehem.
"It is the Messiah of the Jews," was his prompt reply.
"How do you know that?"
"We know it by His star--the star that was prophesied as heralding His
coming. That the Jewish Messiah was to come was foretold by their own
prophets and by our own Zoroaster. We are astronomers, and know the
mystery of the heavens and the nativities. In what is called Mount
Victory in our country is a cave, from the mouth of which the heavens
are studied by wise men. About two years ago appeared the star of the
Messiah. Then we began our journey to the city of the Jews to pay homage
to the Great Ruler born."
"But why do you, who are not Jews, come on such an expedition?"
"Our belief is broad. We care very little for any old teachings which
are not verified by celestial phenomena. We saw the prophecy fulfilled.
That was enough."
"What about the star? Is it something which will not last?"
"No. It is a star which will last as long as any, but one which is
visible on earth only at intervals of long ages. Then it foretells a
great event. It appeared last just before the birth of Moses."
"What is it like?"
"It is a bright, almost red, star, visible in the sign Pisces of the
zodiac only when Jupiter and Saturn are in conjunction. It is the star
of the Messiah."
His companions assented to all the elder man said, but he declined to
talk further on the subject. The name of the speaker was given as
Melchoir; the names of his two friends were Caspar and Balthasar. The
first was the one who made a gift of gold for the child, while the
second contributed frankincense, and the third myrrh. The reporter
returned to the hotel later in the day to ask certain additional
questions, but the visitors had left hurriedly. The landlord said they
had gone none too soon, as agents of the authorities visited the place
soon after their disappearance. It is said that they were warned in a
dream that they must escape. They were all three well mounted, and are
now, no doubt, some distance from Jerusalem.
Such are the facts. Such is the story as learned of the Messiah of the
Jews. Were their prophets right? Has the great Prince come? Is the glory
of Rome to pass away before the glory of the Hebrew Christ?
Will the Tetrarch remain undisturbed?
THE BABY AND THE BEAR
This is a true story of the woods:
It was afternoon on the day before a holiday, and a boy of nine and a
fat-legged baby of three years were frolicking in front of a rough log
house beside a stream in a forest of northern Michigan. The house was
miles from the nearest settlement, yet the boy and baby were the only
ones about the place. The explanation of this circumstance was simple.
It was proposed to build a sawmill in the forest, and ship the lumber
downstream to the great lake. The river was deep enough to allow the
passage up to the sawmill site of a small barge, and a preliminary of
the work was to build a rude dock. A pile-driver was towed up the river,
but as this particular pile-driver had not the usual stationary
steam-engine accompanying it, the great iron weight which was dropped
upon the piles to drive them into the river bed was elevated by means of
a windlass and mule power. The weight, once lifted, was released by
means of a trigger connected by a cord with a post, where a man driving
the mule around could pull it. The arrangement was primitive but
A Mr. Hart, the man in charge of the four or five workmen engaged,
lived with his wife and two children, Johnny and the baby, in the log
house referred to. The men had leave of absence, and had left early in
the morning to spend the day in the settlement, about ten miles off.
Later in the day Mr. Hart and his wife had driven there also to obtain
certain things for making the holiday dinner a little out of the common,
and to secure certain small gifts for Johnny and the baby. So it came
that Johnny, a sturdy and pretty reliable youth of his years, was left
in charge of things, with strict injunctions to take good care of the
baby. A luncheon neatly arranged in a basket was likewise left to be
consumed whenever he and his more youthful charge should become hungry.
The pair had been having a good time all by themselves on the day
referred to. Breakfast had been eaten very late that morning, but Johnny
was a boy and growing. It was about one o'clock when he proposed to the
baby that they eat dinner. That corpulent young gentleman assented with
great promptness. Johnny went into the house and got the lunch. The
broad platform of the pile-driver, tied firmly beside the river's bank,
attracted Johnny's attention as he emerged, and he conceived the idea
that there would be a good place for enjoyment of the feast. He helped
the baby to get on board. The great mass of iron used in the work
chanced to be raised to the top of the framework, and in the space
underneath, between the timbers was a cozy niche in which to sit and
eat. The boy and baby sat down there and proceeded to business.
It occurred to the boy that he had done a tolerably good thing. He
didn't analyze the situation particularly, but he had an idea that
eating on the barge was fun. The platform rocked gently, the air was
crisp and keen, a smell of the pine woods came over the river, and
Johnny felt pretty well. He thought this having charge of things all by
himself was by no means bad.
Born in the backwoods though he had been, Johnny did not at first
recognize that sound--half grunt, half snort, and full of a terrible
meaning. He sprang to his feet and looked up the bank. There, gazing
down upon the pair on the platform, was a big black bear!
The beast looked fierce and hungry. The weather had been cold, and bears
which had not gone into winter quarters were all savage. A yearling
steer had been killed by one in the woods a few days before. The
attention of the brute upon the bank seemed fixed upon the baby. There
was something in its fierce eyes indicating that it had found just what
it needed. If there was anything that would make a meal just to its
taste that day it was baby--fat baby, about two years old. It gave
another "whoosh!" and came lumbering down the bank.
For a moment Johnny stood panic-stricken; then instinctively he
clutched the baby--that individual kicking and protesting wildly at
being dragged away from luncheon--and stumbled toward the other end of
the barge. As Johnny and the baby reached one end, the bear came down
upon the other, and shuffled rapidly toward them. There was slight hope
for the fleeing couple, at least for the baby. That personage seemed
destined for a bear's dinner that day. Suddenly the bear hesitated. He
had reached the remains of the dinner.
Part of what Johnny's mother had provided for the midday repast was
bread and butter, plentifully besmeared with honey. If a bear, big or
little, has one weakness in this world it is just honey. He will do for
honey what a miser will do for gain, what a politician will do for
office, what a lover will do for his sweetheart, what some women will do
for dress. For that bear to pass that bread and honey was simply an
impossibility. He would stop and devour it. It would take but a moment
or two, and the baby could come afterward.
The boy gave a frightened glance behind him as he jumped off the
platform and scrambled up the bank with the baby in his arms. He saw
that the bear had paused, and a gleam of hope came to him. He put the
baby down on its feet and started to run with it. But the baby was
heavy; its legs besides being, as already remarked, very fat, were very
short, and progress was not rapid. The bear, the boy knew, would not be
occupied with the luncheon long. He reached the windlass where the mule
had worked, and leaned pantingly against the post holding the cord by
pulling which the weight was released from the top of the timbers on the
barge. A wild idea of trying to climb the post with the baby came into
his head. He looked up and noticed the cord.
Like a flash came to the terrified boy a great thought. If he dared only
stop a moment! If he dared try to pull the cord as he had seen his
father do and release the trigger which sustained the great weight!
There was the bear right under it!
Even as this thought came to Johnny the bear looked up and growled.
Johnny grabbed at the baby and started to run again, but the baby
stumbled and rolled over into a little hollow with its fat legs sticking
upward. In desperation Johnny jumped back and caught at the cord. He
pulled with all his might, but the trigger at the top of the pile-driver
sustained a great burden and the thing required more than Johnny's
strength. "Come, baby, quick!" he cried. "Put your arm about me and lean
back!" The young gentleman addressed had regained his feet again and was
placid. He waddled up, put his arm about Johnny, and leaned back
sturdily. The bear looked up again and growled, this time more
earnestly. The luncheon was about finished. Johnny set his teeth and
pulled again. The baby added, say, thirty pounds to the pull. It was
just what was needed. There was a creak at the top of the pile-driver,
Six hundred pounds of iron dropped from a height of twenty-five feet on
the small of the back of an elephant would finish him. It is more than
enough for a bear. Over the river and through the forest went out one
awful roar of brute agony, then all was still. A bear with its backbone
broken and crushed down into its stomach is just as dead as a chipmunk
would be under the same circumstances. For a moment the silence
prevailed, to be followed by the yell of a healthy youngster in great
distress. As the trigger yielded, Johnny and the baby had keeled heels
over head backward into the soft moss, and Johnny had fallen on the
The boy arose a little dazed, lifted the howling infant to its feet, and
then looked toward the boat. The bear was there--crushed beneath the
iron. From one side of the mass projected the animal's hind-quarters,
from the other its front, and there were the glaring eyes and savage
open jaws. It was enough. Johnny grabbed the baby and started for the
Johnny was perfectly convinced that the bear was dead, very dead, but he
didn't propose to take any chances. He liked adventure, but he was
satisfied with the quantity for one afternoon. He was young, but he knew
when he had enough. He dragged the baby inside, bolted the door, and
waited. At about six o'clock in the evening his father and mother
returned. Johnny didn't have much to say when he opened the door and
came out with the baby to meet them, but for a man of his size his chest
protruded somewhat phenomenally. He told his story. His mother caught up
the fat baby and kissed it. His father took him by the hand, and they
went down and looked at the bear. Tears came in the man's eyes as he
laid his hand on Johnny's head.
Along in January or February it was worth one's while to be up in
Michigan where they were building a sawmill. It was worth one's while to
note the appearance of a young man, nine years of age or thereabouts,
who would saunter out of the log house along in the afternoon, advance
toward the river, and then, with his legs spread wide apart, his hands
in his pockets, and his hat stuck on the back of his head, stand on a
small knoll and look down upon the spot where _he_ killed a bear the day
before Christmas. It was worth one's while to note the expression upon
his countenance as he stood there and as he finally stalked away,
whistling Yankee Doodle, with perhaps, a slight lack of precision, but
with tremendous spirit and significance.
AT THE GREEN TREE CLUB
Tom Oldfield sat comfortably over his newspaper in his big chair at the
Green Tree Club. He gave a good-natured swing of his shoulders, but
heaved a sigh when he was told that two ladies desired to see him
immediately on important business. The well-trained club servant, a
colored man, gave the message with a knowing look, subdued by respectful
Now, Tom Oldfield was well known for his gallantry, and no one had ever
accused him of being disturbed over a call from ladies, under any
circumstances, but all had not yet learned what was the sad, sincere
truth, that Mr. Oldfield decidedly objected to any interruption when he
was smoking his after-breakfast cigar and glancing over the news of the
day. While engaged in this business Mr. Oldfield insisted upon a measure
of quiet and self-concentration. When it was over he was ready to meet
the rest of the world--and not before.
And so he sighed and made his moan to himself as he took his eyes from
the column of The Daily Warwhoop, and bade Joseph show the ladies to the
club library, his pet loafing place, not only despite of, but because of
the fact that it was open to visitors and much frequented by club
members at all hours. Tom Oldfield was a genial and companionable soul.
His welcoming smile faded as his kindly eyes took in the advancing
group. Led by Joseph in a most deferential, not to say deprecating,
manner, the two ladies slowly crossed the big room, and came around the
great table to the chair set for them near Mr. Oldfield's accepted
harbor in the club rooms.
One of the visitors was a middle-aged woman of much elegance of figure,
and with a face the outlines of which were beautiful, while its
expression of discontent, accentuated by lines of worry, made its owner
distinctly unattractive. She was clothed in all the glory of richly
exaggerated plainness and in the latest fashion for morning walking
dress. Her daughter, simply the beautiful mother over again without the
disagreeable expression, though her young face was clouded by grief and
concern, was the other caller. Joseph announced the names of the fair
interlopers, and Oldfield groaned inwardly as he heard them.
"Mrs. and Miss Chester, Mr. Oldfield," said Joseph, with a low and
sweeping Ethiopian bow, and after the ladies were seated he withdrew,
not before casting upon Oldfield, however, a significant glance.
Oldfield was slow to seat himself again, after his greeting to his
guests. Manifestly, he thought, his easy chair would not do for him
during the coming interview. He selected a high-backed cane-seat chair
from those around the writing table, and as he had already twice said,
"Good morning, Mrs. Chester," and "I am very glad to meet you"--the
last being a wicked perversion of his real emotions--he waited for the
party of the second part to open the business of the meeting.
"We have come to you--and hope you will pardon us for troubling you, Mr.
The club man saw that Mrs. Chester was not going to cry, and took
"We need your help," the lady continued, "and we are sure you will give
it to us."
"I shall be very glad if I can in any way assist or oblige you, Mrs.
Chester," Oldfield assured the elder lady, while he looked determinedly
away from the younger one, who, he was positive, was getting ready to
cry. "What do you want me to do? Ned isn't in any trouble is he?" This
was going straight to the point, as Mr. Oldfield knew full well.
Of course, Ned Chester was at the bottom of this spectacular disturbance
of his morning. It might as well be out and over the sooner.
"Oh! Mr. Oldfield," cried the daughter, "have you seen papa?"
She was bound to cry, if she hadn't already begun. Oldfield was sure of
"Catherine!" expostulated the girl's mother, and Oldfield noticed the
sharp acrimony of voice and gesture. "Mr. Oldfield," she softened as
she addressed him, but there was a hardness about her every feature and
expression, "my husband has not been seen nor heard from since last
Sunday, when he left home, and I am almost distracted."
"And we have waited until we can bear it no longer. This is Friday--it
is almost a week," broke in the girl, ignoring her mother's protesting
wave of the hand and angry glance.
"Oh, he's all right," asserted Oldfield. "Don't worry. We will find him
at once; I'm sure some one in the club will know all about him. You
have, of course, inquired at his office?"
"Yes, and no one there knows anything about him. His letters lie
unopened on his desk; he has not been there since Saturday."
There was no occasion for all this fencing. The heaven's truth, known to
all three, was that Ned Chester was away on a symmetrical and gigantic
spree, according to his custom once or twice a year.
Oldfield, looking straight at Mrs. Chester's slightly bent brow, said,
quietly, "I have known Ned Chester for twenty years; it is no new thing
for him to be away for a day or a night occasionally, is it?"
"No," replied the poor wife, "but he has never stayed so long before,
and I know something has happened--he has been hurt, may be killed. We
must find him!"
"You say he left home Sunday?"
"Yes, Sunday evening. He left in a fit of anger over some little thing,
She was dangerously near breaking down, and Oldfield could plainly hear
smothered sobs beside him on the side of his chair toward which he chose
not to look.
"I will inquire," he said, hopefully, "and I know I can find him almost
immediately. Nothing has happened to hurt him. Sit here a moment and
wait for me."
Just outside the door Oldfield met Joseph. "Well, where is he?" he
"Mr. Oldfield, I tell you Mr. Chester has on a most awful jag, and he
fell and almost split open his skull Tuesday morning, and I've had him
over at the Barrett House ever since. The doctor has patched him up, but
he ain't fit to be seen, not by ladies."
"Pretty nervous, is he?"
"Nervous! Why, he's just missed snakes this time, that's all!"
"Oh, nonsense! He's not so bad as that; but I must go and see him. When
did you see him last?"
"Stayed all night with him, sir, and left him quite easy this morning.
Don't let the ladies see him, Mr. Oldfield; it would break him up."
"Break him up! What do you think about their own feelings!"
"Well, you see, he is dreading to go home, and to see her walk right in
on him would break him all up. It would so! He would have 'em sure
"Joseph, you've got sense. Take this for any little thing you may need,"
said Oldfield, as he put a green colored piece of paper in Joseph's
hand, and turned back into the library where the waiting women sat.
"Your father is safe, Miss Chester," he said, softly to the pale,
anxious daughter, who ran to meet him; "you shall see him soon. I will
tell your mother all about it."
Miss Chester, expressing great relief, and, giving Oldfield her hand,
sat obediently down to the illustrated books and magazines he handed
her. She was quite out of earshot of the place where her mother sat
impatiently waiting for news.
"Your husband is all right, Mrs. Chester. He has met with a slight
accident, but is under a doctor's care at the Barrett House. I will go
to see him. Without doubt he will be able to go home in a day or two."
The wife nearly lost self-control, but as Oldfield talked on, reassuring
her of her husband's safety, she gradually became calm, and then the
look of settled hardness came back into her face.
"What shall I do?" she burst out. "How can I go on in such shame and
agony year after year? You're an old friend of Ned's, Mr.
Oldfield--excuse me--perhaps you can advise me."
"I want to," answered Oldfield, promptly. "But will you hear me without
"Certainly! I will be thankful for your advice, Mr. Oldfield."
The man had a certain hardness in his own look now.
"Let us sit down by this window. There, you look comfortable. Now, let's
see--oh, yes, I remember where I wanted to begin. Ned is one of those
fellows who find Sunday a bad day--and holidays. I've heard him say
often how he hated holidays; and it's then, or on a Sunday, that he goes
off on these drinking bouts, isn't it?"
"Yes," gasped the astonished woman. This cool, practical way of looking
at the trial of her life was strange to her; she found it hard to adjust
herself to the situation.
"He's a hard-working man, is Ned, a regular toiler and moiler. When he
is at work he is all right, or when he is at play, so far as that goes.
He is never so happy and so entirely himself as when he is among
congenial friends, unless it is when over a good book, or off hunting or
fishing. These crazy drinking spells come on at Christmas or
Thanksgiving time, or on some Sunday, when he is at home with his
Mrs. Chester's face had flushed painfully. Not seeming to notice her
agitation, Oldfield continued: "You remarked, did you not, that Ned left
home in anger Sunday evening. Pardon me, since I have said so much
already, was there some argument or contention in the house--between you
and Ned, for instance?"
"It was a little quarrel, nothing serious," faltered Mrs. Chester.
"I don't want to hear about it," said Oldfield, hurriedly, himself much
embarrassed, and inwardly fuming over himself as a colossal idiot for
entering upon such a conversation. "I only want you to think for a
minute about the last hour or two Sunday evening before Ned left home.
No doubt he was to blame for whatever that was unpleasant, not a doubt;
but since you ask me for advice, can't you think of some way to make
Sundays and holidays endurable to Ned, bless his big heart! Be a little
easy on him, a little careless about his ways. Ned is such a simple
fellow! Hard words, irony and sarcasm, complainings and scoldings cut