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Cobwebs From an Empty Skull by Ambrose Bierce (AKA: Dod Grile)

Part 4 out of 4

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education of a large family. We have not a single asset, and our
liabilities amount to fourteen widows, and more than thirty children
of strong and increasing appetite.

"_Car-r-rajo!"_ hissed the other through his beard; "we will slaughter
the lot of them!"

At this cold-blooded proposition his merciful companion recoiled

"_Diablo_!" he shrieked. "Tempt me no farther. What! immolate a whole
hecatomb of guiltless women and children? Consider the funeral

There is really no moving the law-abiding soul to crime of doubtful
profit. But Don Hemstitch was not at ease; he could not say how soon
it might transpire that he had nor chick nor child. Should Don
Symposio pass that way and communicate this information--and he was in
a position to know--the moral scruples of the conscientious plotter
would vanish like the baseless fabric of a beaten cur. Moreover, it is
always unpleasant to be included in a conspiracy in which one is not a
conspirator. Don Hemstitch resolved to sell his life at the highest
market price.

Hastily descending his tree, he wrapped his cloak about him and
stood for some time, wishing he had a poniard. Trying the temper of
this upon his thumbnail, he found it much more amiable than his own.
It was a keen Toledo blade--keen enough to sever a hare. To nerve
himself for the deadly work before him, he began thinking of a lady
whom he had once met--the lovely Donna Lavaca, beloved of El
Toro-blanco. Having thus wrought up his Castilian soul to a high pitch
of jealously, he felt quite irresistible, and advanced towards the two
ruffians with his poniard deftly latent in his flowing sleeve. His
mien was hostile, his stride puissant, his nose tip-tilted--not to put
too fine a point upon it, petallic. Don Hemstitch was upon the
war-path with all his might. The forest trembled as he trode, the
earth bent like thin ice beneath his heel. Birds, beasts, serpents,
and poachers fled affrighted to the right and left of his course. He
came down upon the unsuspecting assassins like a mild Spanish


"_Senores!_" he thundered, with a frightful scowl and a faint aroma of
garlic, "patter your _pater-nosters_ as fast as you conveniently may.
You have but ten minutes to exist. Has either of you a watch?"

Then might you have seen a guilty dismay over-spreading the faces of
two sinners, like a sudden snow paling twin mountain peaks. In the
presence of Death, Crime shuddered and sank into his boots. Conscience
stood appalled in the sight of Retribution. In vain the villains
essayed speech; each palsied tongue beat out upon the yielding air
some weak words of supplication, then clave to its proper concave. Two
pairs of brawny knees unsettled their knitted braces, and bent limply
beneath their loads of incarnate wickedness swaying unsteadily above.
With clenched hands and streaming eyes these wretched men prayed
silently. At this supreme moment an American gentleman sitting by,
with his heels upon a rotted oaken stump, tilted back his chair, laid
down his newspaper, and began operating upon a half-eaten apple-pie.
One glance at the title of that print--one look at that calm angular
face clasped in its crescent of crisp crust--and Don Hemstitch Blodoza
reeled, staggered like an exhausted spinning-top. He spread his
baffled hand upon his eyes, and sank heavily to earth!

"Saved! saved!" shrieked the penitent conspirators, springing to their
feet. The far deeps of the forest whispered in consultation, and a
distant hillside echoed back the words. "Saved!" sang the
rocks--"Saved!" the glad birds twittered from the leaves above. The
hare that Don Hemstitch Blodoza's poniard would have severed limped
awkwardly but confidently about, saying, "Saved!" as well as he knew

Explanation is needless. The American gentleman was the Special
Correspondent of the "New York Herald." It is tolerably well known
that except beneath his searching eye no considerable event can
occur--and his whole attention was focused upon that apple-pie!

That is how Spanish vengeance was balked of its issue.

* * * * *


While I was employed in the Bank of Loan and Discount (said Mr.
Applegarth, smiling the smile with which he always prefaced a nice old
story), there was another clerk there, named Dennison--a quiet,
reticent fellow, the very soul of truth, and a great favourite with
us all. He always wore crape on his hat, and once when asked for whom
he was in mourning he replied his wife, and seemed much affected. We
all expressed our sympathy as delicately as possible, and no more was
said upon the subject. Some weeks after this he seemed to have arrived
at that stage of tempered grief at which it becomes a relief to give
sorrow words--to speak of the departed one to sympathizing friends;
for one day he voluntarily began talking of his bereavement, and of
the terrible calamity by which his wife had been deprived of her head!

This sharpened our curiosity to the keenest edge; but of course we
controlled it, hoping he would volunteer some further information with
regard to so singular a misfortune; but when day after day went by and
he did not allude to the matter, we got worked up into a fever of
excitement about it. One evening after Dennison had gone, we held a
kind of political meeting about it, at which all possible and
impossible methods of decapitation were suggested as the ones to which
Mrs. D. probably owed her extraordinary demise. I am sorry to add that
we so far forgot the grave character of the event as to lay small
wagers that it was done this way or that way; that it was accidental
or premeditated; that she had had a hand in it herself or that it was
wrought by circumstances beyond her control. All was mere conjecture,
however; but from that time Dennison, as the custodian of a secret
upon which we had staked our cash, was an object of more than usual
interest. It wasn't entirely that, either; aside from our paltry
wagers, we felt a consuming curiosity to know the truth for its own
sake. Each set himself to work to elicit the dread secret in some way;
and the misdirected ingenuity we developed was wonderful. All sorts
of pious devices were resorted to to entice poor Dennison into
clearing up the mystery. By a thousand indirect methods we sought to
entrap him into divulging all. History, fiction, poesy--all were laid
under contribution, and from Goliah down, through Charles I., to Sam
Spigger, a local celebrity who got his head entangled in mill
machinery, every one who had ever mourned the loss of a head received
his due share of attention during office hours. The regularity with
which we introduced, and the pertinacity with which we stuck to, this
one topic came near getting us all discharged; for one day the cashier
came out of his private office and intimated that if we valued our
situations the subject of hanging would afford us the means of
retaining them. He added that he always selected his subordinates with
an eye to their conversational abilities, but variety of subject was
as desirable, at times, as exhaustive treatment.

During all this discussion Dennison, albeit he had evinced from the
first a singular interest in the theme, and shirked not his fair share
of the conversation, never once seemed to understand that it had any
reference to himself. His frank truthful nature was quite unable to
detect the personal significance of the subject. It was plain that
nothing short of a definite inquiry would elicit the information we
were dying to obtain; and at a "caucus," one evening, we drew lots to
determine who should openly propound it. The choice fell upon me.

Next morning we were at the bank somewhat earlier than usual, waiting
impatiently for Dennison and the time to open the doors: they always
arrived together. When Dennison stepped into the room, bowing in his
engaging manner to each clerk as he passed to his own desk, I
confronted him, shaking him warmly by the hand. At that moment all
the others fell to writing and figuring with unusual avidity, as if
thinking of anything under the sun except Dennison's wife's head.

"Oh, Dennison," I began, as carelessly as I could manage it; "speaking
of decapitation reminds me of something I would like to ask you. I
have intended asking it several times, but it has always slipped my
memory. Of course you will pardon me if it is not a fair question."

As if by magic, the scratching of pens died away, leaving a dead
silence which quite disconcerted me; but I blundered on:

"I heard the other day--that is, you said--or it was in the
newspapers--- or somewhere--something about your poor wife, you
understand--about her losing her head. Would you mind telling me how
such a distressing accident--if it was an accident--occurred?"

When I had finished, Dennison walked straight past me as if he didn't
see me, went round the counter to his stool, and perched himself
gravely on the top of it, facing the other clerks. Then he began
speaking, calmly, and without apparent emotion:

"Gentlemen, I have long desired to speak of this thing, but you gave
me no encouragement, and I naturally supposed you were indifferent. I
now thank you all for the friendly interest you take in my affairs. I
will satisfy your curiosity upon this point at once, if you will
promise never hereafter to allude to the matter, and to ask not a
single question now."

We all promised upon our sacred honour, and collected about him with
the utmost eagerness. He bent his head a moment, then raised it,
quietly saying:

"My poor wife's head was bitten off!"

"By what?" we all exclaimed eagerly, with suspended breath.

He gave us a look full of reproach, turned to his desk, and went at
his work.

We went at ours.

* * * * *


Frau Gaubenslosher was strongly suspected of witchcraft. I don't think
she was a witch, but would not like to swear she was not, in a court
of law, unless a good deal depended upon my testimony, and I had been
properly suborned beforehand. A great many persons accused of
witchcraft have themselves stoutly disbelieved the charge, until, when
subjected to shooting with a silver bullet or boiling in oil, they
have found themselves unable to endure the test. And it must be
confessed appearances were against the Frau. In the first place, she
lived quite alone in a forest, and had no visiting list. This was
suspicious. Secondly--and it was thus, mainly, that she had acquired
her evil repute--all the barn-yard fowls in the vicinity seemed to
bear her the most uncompromising ill-will. Whenever she passed a flock
of hens, or ducks, or turkeys, or geese, one of them, with dropped
wings, extended neck, and open bill, would start in hot pursuit.
Sometimes the whole flock would join in for a few moments with shrill
clamour; but there would always be one fleeter and more determined
than the rest, and that one would keep up the chase with unflagging
zeal clean out of sight.

Upon these occasions the dame's fright was painful to behold. She
would not scream--her organs of screech seemed to have lost their
power--nor, as a rule, would she curse; she would just address herself
to silent prayerful speed, with every symptom of abject terror!

The Frau's explanation of this unnatural persecution was singularly
weak. Upon a certain night long ago, said she, a poor bedraggled and
attenuated gander had applied at her door for relief. He stated in
piteous accents that he had eaten nothing for months but tin-tacks and
an occasional beer-bottle; and he had not roosted under cover for so
long a time he did not know what it was like. Would she give him a
place on her fender, and fetch out six or eight cold pies to amuse him
while she was preparing his supper? To this plea she turned a deaf
ear, and he went away. He came again the next night, however, bringing
a written certificate from a clergyman that his case was a deserving
one. She would not aid him, and he departed. The night after he
presented himself again, with a paper signed by the relieving officer
of the parish, stating that the necessity for help was most urgent.

By this time the Frau's good-nature was quite exhausted: she slew him,
dressed him, put him in a pot, and boiled him. She kept him boiling
for three or four days, but she did not eat him because her teeth were
just like anybody's teeth--no weaker, perhaps, but certainly no
stronger nor sharper. So she fed him to a threshing machine of her
acquaintance, which managed to masticate some of the more modern
portions, but was hopelessly wrecked upon the neck. From that time the
poor beldame had lived under the ban of a great curse. Hens took
after her as naturally as after the soaring beetle; geese pursued her
as if she were a fleeting tadpole; ducks, turkeys, and guinea fowl
camped upon her trail with tireless pertinacity.

Now there was a leaven of improbability in this tale, and it leavened
the whole lump. Ganders do not roost; there is not one in a hundred of
them that could sit on a fender long enough to say Jack Robinson. So,
as the Frau lived a thousand years before the birth of common
sense--say about a half century ago--when everything uncommon had a
smell of the supernatural, there was nothing for it but to consider
her a witch. Had she been very feeble and withered, the people would
have burned her, out of hand; but they did not like to proceed to
extremes without perfectly legal evidence. They were cautious, for
they had made several mistakes recently. They had sentenced two or
three females to the stake, and upon being stripped the limbs and
bodies of these had not redeemed the hideous promise of their
shrivelled faces and hands. Justice was ashamed of having toasted
comparatively plump and presumably innocent women; and the punishment
of this one was wisely postponed until the proof should be all in.

But in the meantime a graceless youth, named Hans Blisselwartle, made
the startling discovery that none of the fowls that pursued the Frau
ever came back to boast of it. A brief martial career seemed to have
weaned them from the arts of peace and the love of their kindred. Full
of unutterable suspicion, Hans one day followed in the rear of an
exciting race between the timorous dame and an avenging pullet. They
were too rapid for him; but bursting suddenly in at the lady's door
some fifteen minutes afterward, he found her in the act of placing
the plucked and eviscerated Nemesis upon her cooking range. The Frau
betrayed considerable confusion; and although the accusing
Blisselwartle could not but recognize in her act a certain poetic
justice, he could not conceal from himself that there was something
grossly selfish and sordid in it. He thought it was a good deal like
bottling an annoying ghost and selling him for clarified moonlight; or
like haltering a nightmare and putting her to the cart.

When it transpired that the Frau ate her feathered persecutors, the
patience of the villagers refused to honour the new demand upon it:
she was at once arrested, and charged with prostituting a noble
superstition to a base selfish end. We will pass over the trial;
suffice it she was convicted. But even then they had not the heart to
burn a middle-aged woman, with full rounded outlines, as a witch, so
they broke her upon the wheel as a thief.


The reckless antipathy of the domestic fowls to this inoffensive lady
remains to be explained. Having rejected her theory, I am bound in
honour to set up one of my own. Happily an inventory of her effects,
now before me, furnishes a tolerably safe basis. Amongst the articles
of personal property I note "One long, thin, silken fishing line, and
hook." Now if I were a barn-yard fowl--say a goose--and a lady not a
friend of mine were to pass me, munching sweetmeats, and were to drop
a nice fat worm, passing on apparently unconscious of her loss, I
think I should try to get away with that worm. And if after swallowing
it I felt drawn towards that lady by a strong personal attachment, I
suppose that I should yield if I could not help it. And then if the
lady chose to run and I chose to follow, making a good deal of noise,
I suppose it would look as if I were engaged in a very reprehensible
pursuit, would it not? With the light I have, that is the way in
which the case presents itself to my intelligence; though, of course,
I may be wrong.

* * * * *


Colonel Bulper was of a slumberous turn. Most people are not: they
work all day and sleep all night--are always in one or the other
condition of unrest, and never slumber. Such persons, the Colonel used
to remark, are fit only for sentry duty; they are good to watch our
property while we take our rest--and they take the property. But this
tale is not of them; it is of Colonel Bulper.

There was a fellow named Halsey, a practical joker, and one of the
most disagreeable of his class. He would remain broad awake for a year
at a time, for no other purpose than to break other people of their
natural rest. And I must admit that from the wreck of his faculties
upon the rock of _insomnia_ he had somehow rescued a marvellous
ingenuity and fertility of expedient. But this tale is not so much of
him as of Colonel Bulper.

At the time of which I write, the Colonel was the Collector of Customs
at a sea-port town in Florida, United States. The climate there is
perpetual summer; it never rains, nor anything; and there was no good
reason why the Colonel should not have enjoyed it to the top of his
bent, as there was enough for all. In point of fact, the Collectorship
had been given him solely that he might repair his wasted vitality by
a short season of unbroken repose; for during the Presidential canvass
immediately preceding his appointment he had been kept awake a long
time by means of strong tea, in order to deliver an able and
exhaustive political argument prepared by the candidate, who was
ultimately successful in spite of it. Halsey, who had favoured the
other aspirant, was a merchant, and had nothing in the world to do but
annoy the collector. If the latter could have kept away from him, the
dignity of the office might have been preserved, and the object of the
incumbent's appointment to it attained; but sneak away whithersoever
he might--into the heart of the dismal swamp, or anywhere in the
Everglades--some vagrom Indian or casual negro was sure to stumble
over him before long, and go and tell Halsey, securing a plug of
tobacco for reward. Or if he was not found in this way, some company
was tolerably certain, in the course of time, to survey a line of
railway athwart his leafy couch, and laying his prostrate trunk aside
out of the way, send word to his persecutor; who, as soon as the line
was as nearly completed as it ever would be, would come down on
horseback with some diabolical device for waking the slumberer. I will
confess there is a subtle seeming of unlikelihood about all this; but
in the land where Ponce de Leon searched for the Fountain of Youth
there is an air of unreality in everything. I can only say I have had
the story by me a long time, and it seems to me just as true as it was
the day I wrote it.

Sometimes the Colonel would seek out a hillside with a southern
exposure; but no sooner would he compose his members for a bit of
slumber, than Halsey would set about making inquiries for him, under
pretence that a ship was _en route_ from Liverpool, and the
collector's signature might be required for her anchoring papers.
Having traced him--which, owing to the meddlesome treachery of the
venal natives, he was always able to do--Halsey would set off to Texas
for a seed of the prickly pear, which he would plant exactly beneath
the slumberer's body. This he called a triumph of modern engineering!
As soon as the young vegetable had pushed its spines above the soil,
of course the Colonel would have to get up and seek another spot--and
this nearly always waked him.

Upon one occasion the Colonel existed five consecutive days without
slumber--travelling all day and sleeping in the weeds at night--to
find an almost inaccessible crag, on the summit of which he hoped to
be undisturbed until the action of the dew should wear away the rock
all round his body, when he expected and was willing to roll off and
wake. But even there Halsey found him out, and put eagles' eggs in his
southern pockets to hatch. When the young birds were well grown, they
pecked so sharply at the Colonel's legs that he had to get up and
wring their necks. The malevolence of people who scorn slumber seems
to be practically unlimited.

At last the Colonel resolved upon revenge, and having dreamed out a
feasible plan, proceeded to put it into execution. He had in the
warehouse some Government powder, and causing a keg of this to be
conveyed into his private office, he knocked out the head. He next
penned a note to Halsey, asking him to step down to the office "upon
important business;" adding in a postscript, "As I am liable to be
called out for a few moments at any time, in case you do not find me
in, please sit down and amuse yourself with the newspaper until I
return." He knew Halsey was at his counting-house, and would certainly
come if only to learn what signification a Government official
attached to the word "business." Then the Colonel procured a brief
candle and set it into the powder. His plan was to light the candle,
dispatch a porter with the message, and bolt for home. Having
completed his preparations, he leaned back in his easy chair and
smiled. He smiled a long time, and even achieved a chuckle. For the
first time in his life, he felt a serene sense of happiness in being
particularly wide awake. Then, without moving from his chair, he
ignited the taper, and put out his hand toward the bell-cord, to
summon the porter. At this stage of his vengeance the Colonel fell
into a tranquil and refreshing slumber.

* * * * *

There is nothing omitted here; that is merely the Colonel's present

* * * * *


Pollimariar was the daughter of a Mussulman--she was, in fact, a
Mussulgirl. She lived at Stamboul, the name of which is an admirable
rhyme to what Pollimariar was profanely asserted to be by her two
sisters, Djainan and Djulya. These were very much older than
Pollimariar, and proportionately wicked. In wickedness they could
discount her, giving her the first innings.

The relations between Pollimariar and her sisters were in all respects
similar to those that existed between Cinderella and _her_ sisters.
Indeed, these big girls seldom read anything but the story of
Cinderella; and that work, no doubt, had its influence in forming
their character. They were always apparelling themselves in gaudy
dresses from Paris, and going away to balls, leaving their meritorious
little sister weeping at home in their every-day finery. Their father
was a commercial traveller, absent with his samples in Damascus most
of the time; and the poor girl had no one to protect her from the
outrage of exclusion from the parties to which she was not invited.
She fretted and chafed very much at first, but after forbearance
ceased to be a virtue it came rather natural to her to exercise a
patient endurance. But perceiving this was agreeable to her sisters
she abandoned it, devising a rare scheme of vengeance. She sent to the
"Levant Herald" the following "personal" advertisement:

"G.V.--Regent's Canal 10.30 p.m., Q.K.X. is O.K.! With coals at
48 sh-ll-ngs I cannot endure existence without you! Ask for
G-field St-ch. J.G. + pro rata. B-tty's N-bob P-ckles.
Oz-k-r-t! Meet me at the 'Turban and Scimitar,' Bebeck Road,
Thursday morning at three o'clock; blue cotton umbrella, wooden
shoes, and Ulster overskirt Polonaise all round the bottom.

One Who Wants to Know Yer."

The latter half of this contained the gist of the whole matter; the
other things were put in just to prevent the notice from being
conspicuously sensible. Next morning, when the Grand Vizier took up
his newspaper, he could not help knowing he was the person addressed;
and at the appointed hour he kept the tryst. What passed between them
the sequel will disclose, if I can think it out to suit me.

Soon afterwards Djainan and Djulya received cards of invitation to a
grand ball at the Sultan's palace, given to celebrate the arrival of a
choice lot of Circassian beauties in the market. The first thing the
wicked sisters did was to flourish these invitations triumphantly
before the eyes of Pollimariar, who declared she did not believe a
word of it; indeed, she professed such aggressive incredulity that she
had to be severely beaten. But she denied the invitations to the last.
She thought it was best to deny them.

The invitations stated that at the proper hour the old original
Sultana would call personally, and conduct the young ladies to the
palace; and she did so. They thought, at the time, she bore a striking
resemblance to a Grand Vizier with his beard shaven off, and this led
them into some desultory reflections upon the sin of nepotism and
family favour at Court; but, like all moral reflections, these came to
nothing. The old original Sultana's attire, also, was, with the
exception of a reticule and fan, conspicuously epicene; but, in a
country where popular notions of sex are somewhat confused, this
excited no surprise.

As the three marched off in stately array, poor little deserted
Pollimariar stood cowering at one side, with her fingers spread
loosely upon her eyes, weeping like--a crocodile. The Sultana said it
was late; they would have to make haste. She had not fetched a cab,
however, and a recent inundation of dogs very much impeded their
progress. By-and-by the dogs became shallower, but it was near eleven
o'clock before they arrived at the Sublime Porte--very old and fruity.
A janizary standing here split his visage to grin, but it was
surprising how quickly the Sultana had his head off.

Pretty soon afterwards they came to a low door, where the Sultana
whistled three times and kicked at the panels. It soon yielded,
disclosing two gigantic Nubian eunuchs, black as the ace of clubs,
who stared at first, but when shown a very cleverly-executed
signet-ring of paste, knocked their heads against the ground with
respectful violence. Then one of them consulted a thick book, and took
from a secret drawer two metal badges numbered 7,394 and 7,395, which
he fastened about the necks of the now frightened girls, who had just
observed that the Sultana had vanished. The numbers on the badges
showed that this would be a very crowded ball.

The other black now advanced with a measuring tape, and began gravely
measuring Djainan from head to heel. She ventured to ask the sable
guardian with what article of dress she was to be fitted.

"Bedad, thin, av ye must know," said he, grinning, "it is to be a

"What! a _sacque_ for a ball?"

"Indade, it's right ye are, mavourneen; it is fer a ball--fer a
cannon-ball--as will make yer purty body swim to the bothom nately as
ony shtone."

And the eunuch toyed lovingly with his measuring-tape, which the
wretched girls now observed was singularly like a bow-string.

"O, sister," shrieked Djainan, "this is--"

"O, sister," shrieked Djulya, "this is--"

"That horrid--"

"That horrid--"


It was even so. A minute later the betrayed maidens were carried,
feet-foremost-and-fainting, through a particularly dirty portal, over
which gleamed the infernal legend: "Who enters here leaves soap
behind!" I wash my hands of them.


Next morning the following "personal" appeared in the "Levant Herald:"

"P-ll-m-r-r.--All is over. The S-lt-n cleared his shelves of the old
stock at midnight. If you purchased the Circ-n B-ties with the money
I advanced, be sure you don't keep them too long on hand. Prices are
sure to fall when I have done buying for the H-r-m. Meet me at time
and place agreed upon, and divide profits. G--d V--r."

* * * * *



At the quiet little village of Smithcester (the ancient London) will
be celebrated to-day the twentieth, centennial anniversary of this
remarkable man, the foremost figure of antiquity. The recurrence of
what, no longer than six centuries ago, was a popular _fete_ day, and
which even now is seldom allowed to pass without some recognition by
those to whom the word liberty means something more precious than
gold, is provocative of peculiar emotion. It matters little whether or
no tradition has correctly fixed the date of Smith's birth; that he
_was_ born--that being born he wrought nobly at the work his hand
found to do--that by the mere force of his intellect he established
our present perfect form of government, under which civilization has
attained its highest and ripest development--these are facts beside
which a mere question of chronology sinks into insignificance.

That this extraordinary man originated the Smitharchic system of
government is, perhaps, open to honest doubt; very possibly it had a
_de facto_ existence in various debased and uncertain shapes as early
as the sixteenth century. But that he cleared it of its overlying
errors and superstitions, gave it a definite form, and shaped it into
an intelligible scheme, there is the strongest evidence in the
fragments of twentieth-century literature that have descended to us,
disfigured though they are with amazingly contradictory statements of
his birth, parentage, and manner of life before he strode upon the
political stage as the liberator of mankind. It is stated that
Snakeshear--one of his contemporaries, a poet whose works had in their
day some reputation (though it is difficult to say why)--alludes to
him as "the noblest Roman of them all;" our ancestors at the time
being called Englishmen or Romans, indifferently. In the only fragment
of Snakeshear extant, however, we have been unable to find this

Smith's military power is amply attested in an ancient manuscript of
undoubted authenticity, which has just been translated from the
Japanese. It is an account of the water-battle of Loo, by an
eyewitness whose name, unfortunately, has not reached us. In this
battle it is stated that Smith overthrew the great Neapolitan general,
whom he captured and conveyed in chains to the island of Chickenhurst.

In his Political History of the Twentieth Century, the late
Mimble--or, as he would have been called in the time of which he
writes, _Mister_ Mimble--has this luminous sentence: "With the single
exception of Coblentz, there was no European government the Liberator
did not upset, and which he did not erect into a pure Smitharchy; and
though some of them afterward relapsed temporarily into the crude
forms of antiquity, and others fell into fanciful systems begotten of
the intellectual activity he had stirred up, yet so firmly did he
establish the principle, that in the Thirty-second Century the
enlightened world was, what it has since remained, practically

It may be noted here as a curious coincidence, that the same year
which saw the birth of him who established rational government
witnessed the death of him who perfected literature. In 1873, Martin
Farquhar Tupper--next to Smith the most notable name in history--died
of starvation in the streets of London. Like that of Smith, his origin
is wrapped in profoundest obscurity. No less than seven British cities
claimed the honour of his birth. Meagre indeed is our knowledge of
this only bard whose works have descended to us through the changes of
twenty centuries entire. All that is positively established is that
during his life he was editor of "The Times 'magazine,'" a word of
disputed meaning--and, as quaint old Dumbleshaw says, "an accomplished
Greek and Latin scholar," whatever "Greek" and "Latin" may have been.
Had Smith and Tupper been contemporaries, the iron deeds of the former
would doubtless have been immortalized in the golden pages of the
latter. Upon such chances does History depend for her materials!

Strangely unimpressible indeed must be the mind which, looking
backward through the vista of twenty centuries upon the singular race
from whom we are supposed to be descended, can repress a feeling of
emotional interest. The names of John Smith and Martin Farquhar
Tupper, blazoned upon the page of the dim past, and surrounded by the
lesser names of Snakeshear, the first Neapolitan, Oliver Cornwell,
Close, "Queen" Elizabeth, or Lambeth, the Dutch Bismarch, Julia Caesar,
and a host of contemporary notables are singularly suggestive. They
call to mind the odd old custom of covering the body with "clothes;"
the curious error of Copernicus and other wide guesses of antique
"science;" the lost arts of telegramy, steam locomotion, and printing
with movable types; and the exploded theory of gunpowder. They set us
thinking upon the zealous idolatry which led men to make pious
pilgrimages to the then accessible regions about the North Pole and
into the interior of Africa, which at that time was but little better
than a wilderness. They conjure up visions of bloodthirsty "Emperors,"
tyrannical "Kings," vampire "Presidents," and useless
"Parliaments"--strangely horrible shapes contrasted with the serene
and benevolent aspect of our modern Smithocracy!

Let us to-day rejoice that the old order of things has for ever passed
away; let us be thankful that our lot has been cast in more wholesome
days than those in which John Smith chalked out the better destinies
of a savage race, and Tupper sang divine philosophy to inattentive
ears. And yet let us keep green the memory of whatever there was of
good--if any--in the dark pre-Smithian ages, when men cherished quaint
superstitions and rode on the backs of "horses"--when they passed
_over_ the seas instead of under them--when science had not yet dawned
to chase away the shadows of imagination--and when the cabalistic
letters A.D., which from habit we still affix to the numerals
designating the age of the world, had perhaps a known signification.

* * * * *


Deidrick Schwackenheimer was a lusty young goatherd. He stood six feet
two in his _sabots_, and there was not an ounce of superfluous bone or
brain in his composition. If he had a fault, it was a tendency to
sleep more than was strictly necessary. The nature of his calling
fostered this weakness: after being turned into some neighbour's
pasture, his animals would not require looking after until the owner
of the soil turned them out again. Their guardian naturally devoted
the interval to slumber. Nor was there danger of oversleeping: the
pitchfork of the irate husbandman always roused him at the proper

At nightfall Deidrick would marshal his flock and drive it homeward to
the milking-yard. Here he was met by the fair young Katrina
Buttersprecht, the daughter of his employer, who relieved the tense
udders of their daily secretion. One evening after the milking,
Deidrick, who had for years been nourishing a secret passion for
Katrina, was smitten with an idea. Why should she not be his wife? He
went and fetched a stool into the yard, led her tenderly to it, seated
her, and _asked_ her why. The girl thought a moment, and then was at
some pains to explain. She was too young. Her old father required all
her care. Her little brother would cry. She was engaged to Max
Manglewurzzle. She amplified considerably, but these were the
essential points of objection. She set them before him _seriatim_ with
perfect frankness, and without mental reservation. When she had done,
her lover, with that instinctive sense of honour characteristic of the
true goatherd, made no attempt to alter her decision. Indeed, he had
nodded a heart-broken assent to each separate proposition, and at the
conclusion of the last was fast asleep. The next morning he jocundly
drove his goats afield and appeared the same as usual, except that he
slept a good deal more, and thought of Katrina a good deal less.


That evening when he returned with his spraddling milch-nannies, he
found a second stool placed alongside the first. It was a happy
augury; his attentions, then, were not altogether distasteful. He
seated himself gravely upon the stool, and when Katrina had done
milking, she came and occupied the other. He mechanically renewed his
proposal. Then the artless maid proceeded to recapitulate the
obstacles to the union. She was too young. Her old father required all
her care. Her little brother would cry. She was engaged to Max
Manglewurzzle. As each objection was stated and told off on the
_frauelein's_ fingers, Deidrick nodded a resigned acquiescence, and at
the finish was fast asleep. Every evening after that Deidrick proposed
in perfect good faith, the girl repeated her objections with equal
candour, and they were received with somnolent approval. Love-making
is very agreeable, and by the usuage of long years it becomes a
confirmed habit. In less than a decade it became impossible for
Katrina to enjoy her supper without the regular proposal, and Deidrick
could not sleep of a night without the preliminary nap in the
goat-yard to taper off his wakefulness. Both would have been wretched
had they retired to bed with a shade of misunderstanding between them.

And so the seasons went by. The earth grayed and greened herself anew;
the planets sailed their appointed courses; the old goats died, and
their virtues were perpetuated in their offspring. Max Manglewurzzle
married the miller's daughter; Katrina's little brother, who would
have cried at her wedding, did not cry any at his own; the aged
Buttersprecht was long gathered to his fathers; and Katrina was
herself well stricken in years. And still at fall of night she defined
her position to the sleeping lover who had sought her hand--defined it
in the self-same terms as upon that eventful eve. The gossiping
_frauen_ began to whisper it would be a match; but it did not look
like it as yet. Slanderous tongues even asserted that it ought to have
been a match long ago, but I don't see how it could have been, without
the girl's consent. The parish clerk began to hanker after his fee;
but, lacking patience, he was unreasonable.

The whole countryside was now taking a deep interest in the affair.
The aged did not wish to die without beholding the consummation of the
love they had seen bud in their youth; and the young did not wish to
die at all. But no one liked to interfere; it was feared that counsel
to the woman would be rejected, and a thrashing to the man would be
misunderstood. At last the parson took heart of grace to make or mar
the match. Like a reckless gambler he staked his fee upon the cast of
a die. He went one day and removed the two stools--now worn extremely
thin--to another corner of the milking-yard.

That evening, when the distended udders had been duly despoiled, the
lovers repaired to their trysting-place. They opened their eyes a bit
to find the stools removed. They were tormented with a vague
presentiment of evil, and stood for some minutes irresolute; then,
assisted to a decision by their weakening knees, they seated
themselves flat upon the ground. Deidrick stammered a weak proposal,
and Katrina essayed an incoherent objection. But she trembled and
became unintelligible; and when he attempted to throw in a few nods of
generous approval they came in at the wrong places. With one accord
they arose and sought their stools. Katrina tried it again. She
succeeded in saying her father was over-young to marry, and Max
Manglewurzzle would cry if she took care of him. Deidrick executed a
reckless nod that made his neck snap, and was broad awake in a minute.
A second time they arose. They conveyed the stools back to their
primitive position, and began again. She remarked that her little
brother was too old to require all her care, and Max would cry to
marry her father. Deidrick addressed himself to sleep, but a horrid
nightmare galloped rough-shod into his repose and set him off with a
strangled snort. The good understanding between those two hearts was
for ever dissipated; neither one knew if the other were afoot or on
horseback. Like the sailor's thirtieth stroke with the rope's-end, it
was perfectly disgusting! Their meetings after this were so
embarrassing that they soon ceased meeting altogether. Katrina died
soon after, a miserable broken-spirited maiden of sixty; and Deidrick
drags out a wretched existence in a remote town, upon an income of
eight _silbergroschen_ a week.

Oh, friends and brethren, if you did but know how slight an act may
sunder for ever the bonds of love--how easily one may wreck the peace
of two faithful hearts--how almost without an effort the waters of
affection may be changed to gall and bitterness--I suspect you would
make even more more mischief than you do now.

* * * * *


Bladud was the eldest son of a British King (whose name I perfectly
remember, but do not choose to write) _temp_. Solomon--who does not
appear to have known Bladud, however. Bladud was, therefore, Prince of
Wales. He was more than that: he was a leper--had it very bad, and the
Court physician, Sir William Gull, frequently remarked that the
Prince's death was merely a question of time. When a man gets to that
stage of leprosy he does not care much for society, particularly if no
one will have anything to do with him. So Bladud bade a final adieu to
the world, and settled in Liverpool. But not agreeing with the
climate, he folded his tent into the shape of an Arab, as Longfellow
says, and silently stole away to the southward, bringing up in

Here Bladud hired himself out to a farmer named Smith, as a
swineherd. But Fate, as he expressed it in the vernacular, was
"ferninst him." Leprosy is a contagious disease, within certain
degrees of consanguinity, and by riding his pigs afield he
communicated it to them; so that in a few weeks, barring the fact that
they were hogs, they were no better off than he. Mr. Smith was an
irritable old gentleman, so choleric he made his bondsmen
tremble--though he was now abroad upon his own recognizances. Dreading
his wrath, Bladud quitted his employ, without giving the usual week's
notice, but so far conforming to custom in other respects as to take
his master's pigs along with him.

We find him next at a place called Swainswick--or Swineswig--a mile or
two to the north-east of Bath, which, as yet, had no existence, its
site being occupied by a smooth level reach of white sand, or a stormy
pool of black water, travellers of the time disagree which. At
Swainswick Bladud found his level; throwing aside all such nonsense
as kingly ambition, and the amenities of civilized society--utterly
ignoring the deceitful pleasures of common sense--he contented his
simple soul with composing _bouts rimes_ for Lady Miller, at
Batheaston Villa; that one upon a buttered muffin, falsely ascribed by
Walpole to the Duchess of Northumberland, was really constructed by

A brief glance at the local history of the period cannot but prove
instructive. Ralph Allen was then residing at Sham Castle, where Pope
accused him of doing good like a thief in the night and blushing to
find it unpopular. Fielding was painfully evolving "Tom Jones" from an
inner consciousness that might have been improved by soap and any
water but that of Bath. Bishop Warburton had just shot the Count Du
Barre in a duel with Lord Chesterfield; and Beau Nash was disputing
with Dr. Johnson, at the Pelican Inn, Walcot, upon a question of
lexicographical etiquette. It is necessary to learn these things in
order the better to appreciate the interest of what follows.

During all this time Bladud never permitted his mind to permanently
desert his calling; he found family matters a congenial study, and he
thought of his swine a good deal, off and on. One day while baiting
them amongst the hills, he observed a cloud of steam ascending from
the valley below. Having always believed steam a modern invention,
this ancient was surprised, and when his measly charge set up a wild
squeal, rushing down a steep place into the aspiring vapour, his
astonishment ripened into dismay. As soon as he conveniently could
Bladud followed, and there he heard the saw--I mean he saw the herd
wallowing and floundering multitudinously in a hot spring, and
punctuating the silence of nature with grunts of quiet satisfaction,
as the leprosy left them and clave to the waters--to which it cleaves
yet. It is not probable the pigs went in there for a medicinal
purpose; how could they know? Any butcher will tell you that a pig,
after being assassinated, is invariably boiled to loosen the hair. By
long usage the custom of getting into hot water has become a habit
which the living pig inherits from the dead pork. (See Herbert Spencer
on "Heredity.")

Now Bladud (who is said to have studied at Athens, as most Britons of
his time did) was a rigid disciple of Bishop Butler; and Butler's line
of argument is this: Because a rose-bush blossoms this year, a
lamppost will blossom next year. By this ingenious logic he proves the
immortality of the human soul, which is good of him; but in so doing
he proves, also, the immortality of the souls of snakes, mosquitos,
and everything else, which is less commendable. Reasoning by analogy,
Bladud was convinced that if these waters would cure a pig, they would
cure a prince: and without waiting to see _how_ they had cured the
bacon, he waded in.

When asked the next day by Sir William Waller if he intended trying
the waters again, and if he retained his fondness for that style of
bathing, he replied, "Not any, thank you; I am quite cured!" Sir
William at once noised abroad the story of the wonderful healing, and
when it reached the king's ears, that potentate sent for Bladud to
"come home at once and succeed to the throne, just the same as if he
had a skin"--which Bladud did. Some time afterwards he thought to
outdo Daedalus and Icarus, by flying from the top of St. Paul's
Cathedral. He outdid them handsomely; he fell a good deal harder than
they did, and broke his precious neck.

Previously to his melancholy end he built the City of Bath, to
commemorate his remarkable cure. He endowed the Corporation with ten
millions sterling, every penny of the interest of which is annually
devoted to the publication of guide-books to Bath, to lure the unwary
invalid to his doom. From motives of mercy the Corporation have now
set up a contrivance for secretly extracting the mineral properties of
the fluid before it is ladled out, but formerly a great number of
strangers found a watery grave.

If King Bladud was generous to Bath, Bath has been grateful in return.
One statue of him adorns the principal street, and another graces the
swimming pond, both speaking likenesses. The one represents him as he
was before he divided his leprosy with the pigs; the other shows him
as he appeared after breaking his neck.

Writing in 1631, Dr. Jordan says: "The baths are bear-gardens, where
both sexes bathe promiscuously, while the passers-by pelt them with
dead dogs, cats, and pigs; and even human creatures are hurled over
the rails into the water." It is not so bad as that now, but lodgings
are still held at rates which might be advantageously tempered to the

I append the result of a chemical analysis I caused to be made of
these incomparable Waters, that the fame of their virtues may no
longer rest upon the inadequate basis of their observed effects.

One hundred parts of the water contain:

Brandate of Sodium 9.50 parts.
Sulphuretted Hydrogen 3.50 "
Citrate of Magnesia 15.00 "
Calves'-foot Jelly 10.00 "
Protocarbonate of Brass 11.00 "
Nitric Acid 7.50 "
Devonshire Cream 6.00 "
Treaclate of Soap 2.00 "
Robur 3.50 "
Superheated Mustard 11.50 "
Frogs 20.45 "
Traces of Guano, Leprosy, Picallilly,
and Scotch Whiskey .05 "

Temperature of the four baths, 117 degrees each--or 468 altogether.

* * * * *


Dad Petto, as everybody called him, had a dog, upon whom he lavished
an amount of affection which, had it been disbursed in a proper
quarter, would have been adequate to the sentimental needs of a dozen
brace of lovers. The name of this dog was Jerusalem, but it might more
properly have been Dan-to-Beersheba. He was not a fascinating dog to
look at; you can buy a handsomer dog in any shop than this one. He had
neither a graceful exterior nor an engaging address. On the contrary,
his exceptional plainness had passed into a local proverb; and such
was the inbred coarseness of his demeanour, that in the dark you might
have thought him a politician.

If you will take two very bandy-legged curs, cut one off just abaft
the shoulders, and the other immediately forward of the haunches,
rejecting the fore-part of the first and the rear portion of the
second, you will have the raw material for constructing a dog
something like Dad Petto's. You have only to effect a junction between
the accepted sections, and make the thing eat.

Had he been favoured with as many pairs of legs as a centipede,
Jerusalem would not have differed materially from either of his race;
but it was odd to see such a wealth of dog wedded to such a poverty of
leg. He was so long that the most precocious pupil of the public
schools could not have committed him to memory in a week.

It was beautiful to see Jerusalem rounding the angle of a wall, and
turning his head about to observe how the remainder of the procession
was coming on. He was once circumnavigating a small out-house, when,
catching sight of his own hinder-quarters, he flew into a terrible
rage. The sight of another dog always had this effect upon Jerusalem,
and more especially when, as in this case, he thought he could grasp
an unfair advantage. So Jerusalem took after that retreating foe as
hard as ever he could hook it. Round and round he flew, but the faster
he went, the more his centrifugal force widened his circle, until he
presently lost sight of his enemy altogether. Then he slowed down,
determined to accomplish his end by strategy. Sneaking closely up to
the wall, he moved cautiously forward, and when he had made the full
circuit, he came smack up against his own tail. Making a sudden
spring, which must have stretched him like a bit of India-rubber, he
fastened his teeth into his ham, hanging on like a country visitor. He
felt sure he had nailed the other dog, but he was equally confident
the other dog had nailed him; so the problem was simplified to a mere
question of endurance--and Jerusalem was an animal of pluck. The grim
conflict was maintained all one day--maintained with deathless
perseverance, until Dad Petto discovered the belligerent and uncoupled
him. Then Jerusalem looked up at his master with a shake of the head,
as much as to say: "It's a precious opportune arrival for the other
pup; but who took _him_ off _me_?"

I don't think I can better illustrate the preposterous longitude of
this pet, than by relating an incident that fell under my own
observation. I was one day walking along the highway with a friend who
was a stranger in the neighbourhood, when a rabbit flashed past us,
going our way, but evidently upon urgent business. Immediately upon
his heels followed the first instalment of Dad Petto's mongrel,
enveloped in dust, his jaws distended, the lower one shaving the
ground to scoop up the rabbit. He was going at a rather lively gait,
but was some time in passing. My friend stood a few moments looking
on; then rubbed his eyes, looked again, and finally turned to me, just
as the brute's tail flitted by, saying, with a broad stare of

"Did you ever see a pack of hounds run so perfectly in line? It beats
anything! And the speed, too--they seem fairly blended! If a fellow
didn't know better, he would swear there was but a single dog!"

I suppose it was this peculiarity of Jerusalem that had won old
Petto's regard. He liked as much of anything as he could have for his
money; and the expense of this creature, generally speaking, was no
greater than that of a brief succinct bull pup. But there were times
when he was costly. All dogs are sometimes "off their feed"--will eat
nothing for a whole day but a few ox-tails, a pudding or two, and such
towelling as they can pick up in the scullery. When Jerusalem got that
way, which, to do him justice, was singularly seldom, it made things
awkward in the near future. For in a few days after recovering his
passion for food, the effect of his former abstemiousness would begin
to reach his stomach; but of course all he could _then_ devour would
work no immediate relief. This he would naturally attribute to the
quality of his fare, and would change his diet a dozen times a day,
his _menu_ in the twelve working hours comprising an astonishing range
of articles, from a wood-saw to a kettle of soft soap--edibles as
widely dissimilar as the zenith and the nadir, which, also, he would
eat. So catholic an appetite was, of course, exceptional: ordinarily
Jerusalem was as narrow and illiberal as the best of us. Give him
plenty of raw beef, and he would not unsettle his gastric faith by
outside speculation or tentative systems.

I could relate things of this dog by the hour. Such, for example, as
his clever device for crossing a railway. He never attempted to do
this endwise, like other animals, for the obvious reason that, like
every one else, he was unable to make any sense of the time-tables;
and unless he should by good luck begin the manoeuvre when a train was
said to be due, it was likely he would be abbreviated; for of course
no one is idiot enough to cross a railway track when the time-table
says it is all clear--at least no one as long as Jerusalem. So he
would advance his head to the rails, calling in his outlying
convolutions, and straightening them alongside the track, parallel
with it; and then at a signal previously agreed upon--a short wild
bark--this sagacious dog would make the transit unanimously, as it
were. By this method he commonly avoided a quarrel with the engine.

Altogether he was a very interesting beast, and his master was fond of
him no end. And with the exception of compelling Mr. Petto to remove
to the centre of the State to avoid double taxation upon him, he was
not wholly unprofitable; for he was the best sheep-dog in the country:
he always kept the flock well together by the simple device of
surrounding them. Having done so, he would lie down, and eat, and eat,
and eat, till there wasn't a sheep left, except a few old rancid ones;
and even those he would tear into small spring lambs.

Dad Petto never went anywhere without the superior portion of
Jerusalem at his side; and he always alluded to him as "the following
dorg." But the beast finally became a great nuisance in Illinois. His
body obstructed the roads in all directions; and the Representative of
that district in the National Congress was instructed by his
constituents to bring in a bill taxing dogs by the linear yard,
instead of by the head, as the law then stood. Dad Petto proceeded at
once to Washington to "lobby" against the measure. He knew the wife of
a clerk in the Bureau of Statistics; armed with this influence he felt
confident of success. I was myself in Washington, at the time, trying
to secure the removal of a postmaster who was personally obnoxious to
me, inasmuch as I had been strongly recommended for the position by
some leading citizens, who to their high political characters
superadded the more substantial merit of being my relations.

Dad and I were standing, one morning, in front of Willard's Hotel,
when he stooped over and began patting Jerusalem on the head. All of a
sudden the smiling brute sprang open his mouth and bade farewell to a
succession of yells which speedily collected ten thousand miserable
office-seekers, and an equal quantity of brigadier-generals, who, all
in a breath, inquired who had been stabbed, and what was the name of
the lady.

Meantime nothing would pacify the pup; he howled most dismally,
punctuating his wails with quick sharp shrieks of mortal agony. More
than an hour--more than two hours--we strove to discover and allay the
canine grievance, but to no purpose.

Presently one of the hotel pages stepped up to Mr. Petto, handing him
a telegraphic dispatch just received. It was dated at his home in
Cowville, Illinois, and making allowance for the difference in time,
something more than two hours previously. It read as follows:

"A pot of boiling glue has just been upset upon Jerusalem's
hind-quarters. Shall I try rhubarb, or let it get cold and chisel it

"P.S. He did it himself, wagging his tail in the kitchen. Some
Democrat has been bribing that dog with cold victuals.--PENELOPE

Then we knew what ailed "the following dorg."

I should like to go on giving the reader a short account of this
animal's more striking personal peculiarities, but the subject seems
to grow under my hand. The longer I write, the longer he becomes, and
the more there is to tell; and after all, I shall not get a copper
more for pourtraying all this length of dog than I would for depicting
an orbicular pig.


Very talkative people always seemed to me to be divided into two
classes--those who lie for a purpose and those who lie for the love of
lying; and Sam Baxter belonged, with broad impartiality, to both. With
him falsehood was not more frequently a means than an end; for he
would not only lie without a purpose but at a sacrifice. I heard him
once reading a newspaper to a blind aunt, and deliberately falsifying
the market reports. The good old lady took it all in with a trustful
faith, until he quoted dried apples at fifty cents a yard for unbolted
sides; then she arose and disinherited him. Sam seemed to regard the
fountain of truth as a stagnant pool, and himself an angel whose
business it was to stand by and trouble the waters.

"You know Ben Dean," said Sam to me one day; "I'm down on that fellow,
and I'll tell you why. In the winter of '68 he and I were snaking
together in the mountains north of the Big Sandy."

"What do you mean by snaking, Sam?"

"Well, _I_ like _that_! Why, gathering snakes, to be
sure--rattlesnakes for zoological gardens, museums, and side-shows to
circuses. This is how it is done: a party of snakers go up to the
mountains in the early autumn, with provisions for all winter, and
putting up a snakery at some central point, get to work as soon as the
torpid season sets in, and before there is much snow. I presume you
know that when the nights begin to get cold, the snakes go in under
big flat stones, snuggle together, and lie there frozen stiff until
the warm days of spring limber them up for business.

"We go about, raise up the rocks, tie the worms into convenient
bundles and carry them to the snakery, where, during the snow season,
they are assorted, labelled according to quality, and packed away for
transportation. Sometimes a single showman will have as many as a
dozen snakers in the mountains all winter.

"Ben and I were out, one day, and had gathered a few sheaves of prime
ones, when we discovered a broad stone that showed good indications,
but we couldn't raise it. The whole upper part of the mountain seemed
to be built mostly upon this one stone. There was nothing to be done
but mole it--dig under, you know; so taking the spade I soon widened
the hole the creatures had got in at, until it would admit my body.
Crawling in, I found a kind of cell in the solid rock, stowed nearly
full of beautiful serpents, some of them as long as a man. You would
have revelled in those worms! They were neatly disposed about the
sides of the cave, an even dozen in each berth, and some odd ones
swinging from the ceiling in hammocks, like sailors. By the time I had
counted them roughly, as they lay, it was dark, and snowing like the
mischief. There was no getting back to head-quarters that night, and
there was room for but one of us inside."

"Inside what, Sam?"

"See here! have you been listening to what I'm telling you, or not?
There is no use telling _you_ anything. Perhaps you won't mind waiting
till I get done, and then you can tell something of your own. We drew
straws to decide who should sleep inside, and it fell to me. Such luck
as that fellow Ben always had drawing straws when I held them! It was
sinful! But even inside it was coldish, and I was more than an hour
getting asleep. Toward morning, though, I woke, feeling very warm and
peaceful. The moon was at full, just rising in the valley below, and,
shining in at the hole I'd entered at, it made everything light as

"But, Sam, according to _my_ astronomy a full moon never rises towards

"Now, who said anything about your astronomy? I'd like to know who is
telling this--you or I? Always think you know more than I do--and
always swearing it isn't so--and always taking the words out of my
mouth, and--but what's the use of arguing with _you_? As I was saying,
the snakes began waking about the same time I did; I could hear them
turn over on their other sides and sigh. Presently one raised himself
up and yawned. He meant well, but it was not the regular thing for an
ophidian to do at that season. By-and-by they began to poke their
heads up all round, nodding good morning to one another across the
room; and pretty soon one saw me lying there and called attention to
the fact. Then they all began to crowd to the front and hang out over
the sides of the beds in a fringe, to study my habits. I can't
describe the strange spectacle: you would have supposed it was the
middle of March and a forward season! There were more worms than I had
counted, and they were larger ones than I had thought. And the more
they got awake the wider they yawned, and the longer they stretched.
The fat fellows in the hammocks above me were in danger of toppling
out and breaking their necks every minute.

"Then it went through my mind like a flash what was the matter.
Finding it cold outside, Ben had made a roaring fire on the top of the
rock, and the heat had deceived the worms into the belief that it was
late spring. As I lay there and thought of a full-grown man who hadn't
any better sense than to do such a thing as _that_, I was mad enough
to kill him. I lost confidence in mankind. If I had not stopped up the
entrance before lying down, with a big round stone which the heat had
swollen so that a hydraulic ram couldn't have butted it loose, I
should have put on my clothes and gone straight home."

"But, Sam, you said the entrance was open, and the moon shining in."

"There you go again! Always contradicting--and insinuating that the
moon must remain for hours in one position--and saying you've heard it
told better by some one else--and wanting to fight! I've told this
story to your brother over at Milk River more than a hundred million
times, and he never said a word against it."

"I believe you, Samuel; for he is deaf as a tombstone."

"Tell you what to do for him! I know a fellow in Smith's Valley will
cure him in a minute. That fellow has cleaned the deafness all out of
Washington County a dozen times. I never knew a case of it that could
stand up against him ten seconds. Take three parts of snake-root to a
gallon of waggon-grease, and--I'll go and see if I can find the

And Sam was off like a rocket.

* * * * *


That is she in the old black silk--the one with the gimlet curls and
the accelerated lap-cat. Doesn't she average about as I set her forth?

"Never told you anything about her?" Well, I will.

Twenty years ago, many a young man, of otherwise good character,
would have ameliorated his condition for that girl; and would have
thought himself overpaid if she had restored a fosy on his sepulchre.
Maud would have been of the same opinion--and wouldn't have construed
the fosy. And she was the most sagacious girl I ever experienced! As
you shall hear.

I was her lover, and she was mine. We loved ourselves to detraction.
Maud lived a mile from any other house--except one brick barn. Not
even a watch-dog about the place--except her father. This pompous old
weakling hated me boisterously; he said I was dedicated to hard drink,
and when in that condition was perfectly incompatible. I did not like
him, too.

One evening I called on Maud, and was surprised to meet her at the
gate, with a shawl drawn over her head, and apparently in great
combustion. She told me, hastily, the old man was ill of a fever, and
had nearly derided her by going crazy.

This was all a lie; something had gone wrong with the old party's
eyes--amanuensis of the equinox, or something; he couldn't see well,
but he was no more crazy than I was sober.

"I was sitting quietly by him," said Maud, "when he sat up in bed and
be-_gan!_ You never in all your born life! I'm so glad you've come;
you can take care of him while I fetch the doctor. He's quiet enough
now, but you just wait till he gets another paralogism. When _they_'re
on--oh my! You mustn't let him talk, nor get out of bed; doctor says
it would prolong the diagnosis. Go right in, now. Oh dear! whatever
shall I ought to do?"

And, blowing her eyes on the corner of her shawl, Maud shot away like
a comic.

I walked hurriedly into the house, and entered the old man's
dromedary, without knocking.

The playful girl had left that room a moment before, with every
appearance of being frightened. She had told the old one there was a
robber in the house, and the venerable invalid was a howling coward--I
tell you this because I scorn to deceive you.

I found the old gentleman with his head under the blankets, very quiet
and speaceful: but the moment he heard me he got up, and yelled like a
heliotrope. Then he fixed on me a wild spiercing look from his
bloodshot eyes, and for the first time in my life I believed Maud had
told me the truth for the first time in hers. Then he reached out for
a heavy cane. But I was too punctual for him, and, clapping my hand on
his breast, I crowded him down, holding him tight. He curvetted some;
then lay still, and swore weak oaths that wouldn't have hurt a sick
chicken! All this time I was firm as a rock of amaranth. Presently,
moreover, he spoke very low and resigned like--except his teeth

"Desperate man, there is no need; you will find it to the north-west
corner of my upper secretary drawer. I spromise not to appear."

"All right, my lobster-snouted bulbul," said I, delighted with the
importunity of abusing him; "that is the dryest place you could keep
it in, old spoolcotton! Be sure you don't let the light get to it,
angleworm! Meantime, therefore, you must take this draught."

"Draught!" he shrieked, meandering from the subject. "O my poor
child!"--and he sprang up again, screaming a multiple of things.

I had him by the shoulders in a minute, and crushed him back--except
his legs kept agitating.

"Keep still, will you?" said I, "you sugarcoated old mandible, or
I'll conciliate your exegesis with a proletarian!"

I never had such a flow of language in my life; I could say anything I
wanted to.

He quailed at that threat, for, deleterious as I thought him, he saw I
meant it; but he affected to prefer it that way to taking it out of
the bottle.

"Better," he moaned, "better even that than the poison. Spare me the
poisoned chalice, and you may do it in the way you mention."

The "draught," it may be sproper to explain, was comprised in a large
bottle sitting on the table. I thought it was medicine--except it was
black--and although Maud (sweet screature!) had not told me to give
him anything, I felt sure this was nasty enough for him, or anybody.
And it was; it was ink. So I treated his proposed compromise with
silent contempt, merely remarking, as I uncorked the bottle:
"Medicine's medicine, my fine friend; and it is for the sick." Then,
spinioning his arms with one of mine, I concerted the neck of the
bottle between his teeth.

"Now, you lacustrine old cylinder-escapement," I exclaimed, with some
warmth, "hand up your stomach for this healing precoction, or I'm
blest if I won't controvert your _raison d'etre!_"

He struggled hard, but, owing to my habit of finishing what I
undertake, without any success. In ten minutes it was all down--except
that some of it was spouted about rather circumstantially over the
bedding, and walls, and me. There was more of the draught than I had
thought. As he had been two days ill, I had supposed the bottle must
be nearly empty; but, of course, when you think of it, a man doesn't
abrogate much ink in an ordinary attack--except editors.

Just as I got my knees off the spatient's breast, Maud peeped in at
the door. She had remained in the lane till she thought the charm had
had time to hibernate, then came in to have her laugh. She began
having it, gently; but seeing me with the empty bottle in my sable
hand, and the murky inspiration rolling off my face in gasconades, she
got graver, and came in very soberly.

Wherewith, the draught had done its duty, and the old gentleman was
enjoying the first rest he had known since I came to heal him. He is
enjoying it yet, for he was as dead as a monogram.

As there was a good deal of scandal about my killing a sprospective
father-in-law, I had to live it down by not marrying Maud--who has
lived single, as a rule, ever since. All this epigastric tercentenary
might have been avoided if she had only allowed a good deal of margin
for my probable condition when she splanned her little practicable

"Why didn't they hang me?"--- Waiter, bring me a brandy spunch.--Well,
that is the most didactic question! But if you must know--they did.

* * * * *


Not long after _that_ (said old Jim Beckwourth, beginning a new story)
there was a party of about a dozen of us down in the Powder River
country, after buffalo. It was the _worst_ place! Just think of the
most barren and sterile spot you ever saw, or ever will see. Now take
that spot and double it: that is where _we_ were. One day, about noon,
we halted near a sickly little _arroyo_, that was just damp enough to
have deluded some feeble bunches of bonnet-wire into setting up as
grass along its banks. After picketing the horses and pack-mules we
took luncheon, and then, while the others smoked and played cards for
half-dollars, I took my rifle and strolled off into the hills to see
if I could find a blind rabbit, or a lame antelope, that had been
unable to leave the country. As I went on I heard, at intervals of
about a quarter of an hour, a strange throbbing sound, as of smothered
thunder, which grew more distinct as I advanced. Presently I came upon
a lake of near a mile in diameter, and almost circular. It was as calm
and even as a mirror, but I could see by a light steamy haze above it
that the water was nearly at boiling heat--a not very uncommon
circumstance in that region. While I looked, big bubbles began to rise
to the surface, chase one another about, and burst; and suddenly,
without any other preliminary movement, there occurred the most awful
and astounding event that (with a single exception) it has ever been
my lot to witness! I stood rooted to the spot with horror, and when it
was all over, and again the lake lay smiling placidly before me, I
silently thanked Heaven I had been standing at some distance from the
deceitful pool. In a quarter of an hour the frightful scene was
repeated, preceded as before by the rising and bursting of bubbles,
and producing in me the utmost terror; but after seeing it three or
four times I became calm. Then I went back to camp, and told the boys
there was a tolerably interesting pond near by, if they cared for such

At first they did not, but when I had thrown in a few lies about the
brilliant hues of the water, and the great number of swans, they laid
down their cards, left Lame Dave to look after the horses, and
followed me back to see. Just before we crossed the last range of
hills we heard a thundering sound ahead, which somewhat astonished the
boys, but I said nothing till we stood on a low knoll overlooking the
lake. There it lay, as peaceful as a dead Indian, of a dull grey
colour, and as innocent of water-fowl as a new-born babe.

"There!" said I, triumphantly, pointing to it.

"Well," said Bill Buckster, leaning on his rifle and surveying it
critically, "what's the matter with the pond? I don't see nothin' in
_that_ puddle."

"Whar's yer swans?" asked Gus Jamison.

"And yer prismatic warter?" added Stumpy Jack.

"Well, I like _this!_" drawled Frenchwoman Pete. "What 'n thunder d'
ye mean, you derned saddle-coloured fraud?"

I was a little nettled at all this, particularly as the lake seemed to
have buried the hatchet for that day; but I thought I would "cheek it

"Just you wait!" I replied, significantly.

"O yes!" exclaimed Stumpy, derisively; "'course, boys, you mus'
_wait_. 'Tain't no use a-hurryin' up the cattle; yer mustn't rush the
buck. Jest wait till some feller comes along with a melted rainbow,
and lays on the war-paint! and another feller fetches the swans' eggs,
and sets on 'em, and hatches 'em out!--and me a-holding both bowers
an' the ace!" he added, regretfully, thinking of the certainty he had
left, to follow a delusive hope.

Then I pointed out to them a wide margin of wet and steaming clay
surrounding the water on all sides, asking them if _that_ wasn't worth
coming to see.

"_That_!" exclaimed Gus. "I've seen the same thing a thousand million
times! It's the reg'lar thing in Idaho. Clay soaks up the water and
sweats it out."

To verify his theory he started away, down to the shore. I was
concerned for Gus, but I did not dare call him back for fear of
betraying my secret in some way. Besides, I knew he would not come;
and he ought not to have been so sceptical, anyhow.

Just then two or three big bubbles rose to the surface, and silently
exploded. Quick as lightning I dropped on my knees and raised my arms.

"Now may Heaven grant my prayer," I began with awful solemnity, "and
send the great Ranunculus to loose the binding chain of concupiscence,
heaving the multitudinous aquacity upon the heads of this wicked and
sententious generation, whelming these diametrical scoffers in a
supercilious Constantinople!"

I knew the long words would impress their simple souls with a belief
that I was actually praying; and I was right, for every man of them
pulled his hat off, and stood staring at me with a mixed look of
reverence, incredulity, and astonishment--but not for long. For before
I could say amen, yours truly, or anything, that entire body of water
shot upward five hundred feet into the air, as smooth as a column of
crystal, curled over in broad green cataracts, falling outward with a
jar and thunder like the explosion of a thousand subterranean cannon,
then surging and swirling back to the centre, one steaming, writhing
mass of snowy foam!

As I rose to my feet to put my hand in my pocket for a chew of
tobacco, I looked complacently about upon my comrades. Stumpy Jack
stood paralysed, his head thrown back at an alarming angle, precisely
as he had tilted it to watch the ascending column, and his neck
somehow out of joint, holding it there. All the others were down upon
their marrow-bones, white with terror, praying with extraordinary
fervency, each trying his best to master the ridiculous jargon they
had heard me use, but employing it with an even greater disregard of
sense and fitness than I did. Away over on the next range of hills,
toward camp, was something that looked like a giant spider, scrambling
up the steep side of the sand-hill, and sliding down a trifle faster
than it got up. It was Lame Dave, who had abandoned his equine trust,
to come up at the eleventh hour and see the swans. He had seen enough,
and was now trying, in his weak way, to get back to camp.

In a few minutes I had got Stumpy's head back into the position
assigned it by Nature, had crowded his eyes in, and was going about
with a reassuring smile, helping the pious upon their feet. Not a word
was spoken; I took the lead, and we strode solemnly to camp, picking
up Lame Dave at the foot of his acclivity, played a little game for
Gus Jamison's horse and "calamities," then mounted our steeds,
departing thence. Three or four days afterward I ventured cautiously
upon a covert allusion to peculiar lakes, but the simultaneous
clicking of ten revolvers convinced me that I need not trouble myself
to pursue the subject.

* * * * *


"I was looking for my horse one morning, up in the San Joaquin
Valley," said old Sandy Fowler, absently stirring the camp fire, "when
I saw a big bull grizzly lying in the sunshine, picking his teeth with
his claws, and smiling, as if he said, 'You need not mind the horse,
old fellow; he's been found.' I at once gave a loud whoop, which I
thought would be heard by the boys in the camp, and prepared to string
the brute."

"Oh, I know how it goes," interrupted Smarty Mellor, as we called him;
"seen it done heaps o' times! Six or eight o' ye rides up to the b'ar,
and s'rounds him, every son-of-a-gun with a _riata_ a mile long, and
worries him till he gits his mad up, and while he's a-chasin' one
feller the others is a-goin' aeter him, and a-floorin' of him by
loopin' his feet as they comes up behind, and when he turns onto them
fellers the other chappy turns onto him, and puts another loop onto
his feet as they comes up behind, and then--"

"I bound my _riata_ tightly about my wrist," resumed old Sandy,
composedly, "so that the beast should not jerk away when I had got
him. Then I advanced upon him--very slowly, so as not to frighten him
away. Seeing me coming, he rose upon his haunches, to have a look at
me. He was about the size of a house--say a small two-storey house,
with a Mansard roof. I paused a moment, to take another turn of the
thong about my wrist.

"Again I moved obliquely forward, trying to look as if I were thinking
about the new waterworks in San Francisco, or the next presidential
election, so as not to frighten him away. The brute now rose squarely
upon end, with his paws suspended before him, like a dog begging for a
biscuit, and I thought what a very large biscuit he must be begging
for! Halting a moment, to see if the _riata_ was likely to cut into my
wrist, I perceived the beast had an inkling of my design, and was
trying stupidly to stretch his head up out of reach.

"I now threw off all disguise, and whirled my cord with a wide
circular sweep, and in another moment it would have been very
unpleasant for Bruin, but somehow the line appeared to get foul. While
I was opening the noose, the animal settled upon his feet and came
toward me; but the moment he saw me begin to whirl again, he got
frightened, up-ended himself as before, and shut his eyes.

"Then I felt in my belt to see if my knife was there, when the bear
got down again and came forward, utterly regardless.

"Seeing he was frightened and trying to escape by coming so close I
could not have a fair fling at him, I dropped the noose on the ground
and walked away, trailing the line behind me. When it was all run out,
the rascal arrived at the loop. He first smelled it, then opened it
with his paws, and putting it about his neck, tilted up again, and
nodded significantly.

"I pulled out my knife, and severing the line at my wrist, walked
away, looking for some one to introduce me to Smarty Mellor."

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