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Title: Told by the Colonel

Author: William Livingston Alden

Illustrators: Richard Jack

Hal Hurst

Release Date: July 7, 2022 [eBook #68468]

Language: English

Produced by: Richard Hulse and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive/American Libraries.)


Transcriber’s Note: Readers may wish to be warned that the Colonel’s tales, and the accompanying illustrations, contain outdated racial stereotyping and language.



Author of “A Lost Soul,” “Adventures of Jimmy Brown,”
“Trying to Find Europe,” etc., etc.




Copyright, 1893, by



An Ornithological Romance, 1
Jewseppy, 12
That Little Frenchman, 26
Thompson’s Tombstone, 38
A Union Meeting, 52
A Clerical Romance, 63
A Mystery, 80
My Brother Elijah, 93
The St. Bernard Myth, 108
A Matrimonial Romance, 124
Hoskins’ Pets, 139
The Cat’s Revenge, 153
Silver-Plated, 168





Four Americans were sitting in the smoking-room of a Paris hotel. One of them was a grizzled, middle-aged man, who sat silent and apart from the others and consumed his heavy black cigar with a somewhat gloomy air. The other three were briskly talking. They had been three days in Paris, and had visited the Moulin Rouge, the tomb of Napoleon, and the sewers, and naturally felt that they were thoroughly acquainted with the French capital, the French government, and the French people. They were unanimously of the opinion that Paris was in all things fifty years behind the age, and at least sixty behind Chicago. There was nothing[2] fit to eat, drink, or smoke in Paris. The French railway carriages were wretched and afforded no facilities for burning travellers in case of an accident. The morals of French society—as studied at the Moulin Rouge—were utterly corrupt, owing possibly to that absence of free trade in wives and husbands which a liberal system of divorce permits. The French people did not understand English, which was alone sufficient to prove them unfit for self-government, and their preference for heavy five-franc pieces when they might have adopted soft and greasy dollar bills showed their incurable lack of cleanliness.

Suddenly the silent man touched the bell and summoned a waiter.

“Waiter,” he said, as that functionary entered the room, “bring me an owl.”

“If you please, sir?” suggested the waiter, timidly.

“I said, bring me an owl! If you pretend to talk English you ought to understand that.”

“Yes, sir. Certainly, sir. How would you please to have the nowl?”


“Never you mind. You go and bring me an owl, and don’t be too long about it.”

The waiter was gone some little time, and, then returning, said, “I am very sorry, sir, but we cannot give you a nowl to-night. The barkeeper is out of one of the materials for making nowls. But I can bring you a very nice cocktail.”

“Never mind,” replied the American. “That’ll do. You can go now.”

“I beg your pardon, sir,” said one of the three anatomizers of the French people, speaking with that air of addressing a vast popular assemblage which is so characteristic of dignified American conversationalists. “Would you do me the favor to tell me and these gentlemen why you ordered an owl?”

“I don’t mind telling you,” was the answer, “but I can’t very well do it without telling you a story first.”

“All right, Colonel. Give us the story, by all means.”

The elderly American leaned back in his chair searching for inspiration with his gaze[4] fixed on the chandelier. He rolled his cigar lightly from one corner of his mouth to the other and back again, and presently began:

“A parrot, gentlemen, is the meanest of all creation. People who are acquainted with parrots, and I don’t know that you are, generally admit that there is nothing that can make a parrot ashamed of himself. Now this is a mistake, for I’ve seen a parrot made ashamed of himself, and he was the most conceited parrot that was ever seen outside of Congress. It happened in this way.

“I came home one day and found a parrot in the house. My daughter Mamie had bought him from a sailor who was tramping through the town. Said he had been shipwrecked, and he and the parrot were the only persons saved. He had made up his mind never to part with that bird, but he was so anxious to get to the town where his mother lived that he would sell him for a dollar. So Mamie she buys him, and hangs him up in the parlor and waits for him to talk.




“It turned out that the parrot couldn’t talk anything but Spanish, and very little of that. And he wouldn’t learn a word of English, though my daughter worked over him as if he had been a whole Sunday-school. But one day he all at once began to teach himself English. Invented a sort of Ollendorff way of studying, perhaps because he had heard Mamie studying French that way. He’d begin by saying, ‘Does Polly want a cracker?’ and then he’d go on and ring the changes. For example, just to give you an idea of the system, he’d say, ‘Does Polly want the lead cracker of the plumber or the gold cracker of the candlestick maker?’ and then he’d answer, ‘No, Polly does not want the lead cracker of the plumber nor the gold cracker of the candlestick maker, but the large steel cracker of the blacksmith.’ He used to study in this way three hours every morning and three every afternoon, and never stop for Sundays, being, as I suppose, a Roman Catholic, and not a Sabbath-keeping bird. I never saw a bird so bent on learning a language as this one was, and he fetched it. In three months’ time that parrot could talk English as well as[7] you or I, and a blamed sight better than that waiter who pretends that he talks English. The trouble was the parrot would talk all the time when he was not asleep. My wife is no slouch at talking, but I’ve seen her burst into tears and say, ‘It’s no use, I can’t get in a word edgewise.’ And no more could she. That bird was just talking us deaf, dumb, and blind. The cat, he gave it up at an early stage of the proceedings. The parrot was so personal in his remarks—asking the cat if he had ever seen a mouse in his whole life, and wanting to know who it was that helped him to paint the back fence red the other night, till the cat, after cursing till all was blue, went out of the house and never showed up again. He hadn’t the slightest regard for anybody’s feelings, that bird hadn’t. No parrot ever has.

“He wasn’t content with talking three-fourths of the time, but he had a habit of thinking out loud which was far worse than his conversation. For instance, when young Jones called of an evening on my daughter, the parrot would say, ‘Well, I suppose that young idiot will stay till[8] midnight, and keep the whole house awake as usual.’ Or when the Unitarian minister came to see my wife the parrot would just as likely as not remark, ‘Why don’t he hire a hall if he must preach, instead of coming here and wearing out the furniture?’ Nobody would believe that the parrot made these remarks of his own accord, but insisted that we must have taught them to him. Naturally, folks didn’t like this sort of thing, and after a while hardly anybody came inside our front door.

“And then that bird developed a habit of bragging that was simply disgusting. He would sit up by the hour and brag about his superiority to other birds, and the beauty of his feathers, and his cage, and the gorgeousness of the parlor, and the general meanness of everything except himself and his possessions. He made me so tired that I sometimes wished I were deaf. You see, it was the infernal ignorance of the bird that aggravated me. He didn’t know a thing of the world outside of our parlor; and yet he’d brag and brag till you couldn’t rest.




“You may ask why didn’t we kill him, or sell him, or give him to the missionaries, or something of that sort. Well, Mamie, she said it would be the next thing to murder if we were to wring his neck; and that selling him would be about the same as the slave-trade. She wouldn’t let me take the first step toward getting rid of the parrot, and the prospect was that he’d drive us clean out of the house.

“One day a man who had had considerable experience of parrots happened to come in, and when I complained of the bird he said, ‘Why don’t you get an owl? You get an owl and hang him up close to that parrot’s cage, and in about two days you’ll find that your bird’s dead sick of unprofitable conversation.’

“Well, I got a small owl and put him in a cage close to the parrot’s cage. The parrot began by trying to dazzle the owl with his conversation, but it wouldn’t work. The owl sat and looked at the parrot just as solemn as a minister whose salary has been cut down, and after a while the parrot tried him with Spanish. It wasn’t of any use. Not a word would the[11] owl let on to understand. Then the parrot tried bragging, and laid himself out to make the owl believe that of all the parrots in existence he was the ablest. But he couldn’t turn a feather of the owl. That noble bird sat silent as the grave, and looked at the parrot as if to say, ‘This is indeed a melancholy exhibition of imbecility!’ Well, before night that parrot was so ashamed of himself that he closed for repairs, and from that day forth he never spoke an unnecessary word. Such, gentlemen, is the influence of example even on the worst of birds.”

The American lit a fresh cigar, and pulling his hat over his eyes, fell into profound meditation. His three auditors made no comment on his story, and did not repeat the inquiry why he had asked the waiter for an owl. They smoked in silence for some moments, and then one of them invited the other two to step over to Henry’s and take something—an invitation which they promptly accepted, and the smoking-room knew them no more that night.



“Yes, sir!” said the Colonel. “Being an American, I’m naturally in favor of elevating the oppressed and down-trodden, provided, of course, they live in other countries. All Americans are in favor of Home Rule for Ireland, because it would elevate the Irish masses and keep them at home; but if I were living in Ireland, perhaps I might prefer elevating Russian Jews or Bulgarian Christians. You see, the trouble with elevating the oppressed at home is that the moment you get them elevated they begin to oppress you. There is no better fellow in the world than the Irishman, so long as you govern him; but when he undertakes to govern you it’s time to look out for daybreak to westward. You see, we’ve been there and know all about it.

“Did I ever tell you about Jewseppy? He[13] was an organ-grinder, and, take him by and large, he was the best organ-grinder I ever met. He could throw an amount of expression into ‘Annie Rooney,’ or, it might be, ‘The Old Folks at Home,’ that would make the strongest men weep and heave anything at him that they could lay their hands to. He wasn’t a Jew, as you might suppose from his name, but only an Italian—‘Jewseppy’ being what the Italians would probably call a Christian name if they were Christians. I knew him when I lived in Oshkosh, some twenty years ago. My daughter, who had studied Italian, used to talk to him in his native language; that is, she would ask him if he was cold, or hungry, or ashamed, or sleepy, as the books direct, but as he never answered in the way laid down in the books, my daughter couldn’t understand a word he said, and so the conversation would begin to flag. I used to talk to him in English, which he could speak middling well, and I found him cranky, but intelligent.

“He was a little, wizened, half-starved-looking man, and if he had only worn shabby black[14] clothes, you would have taken him for a millionaire’s confidential clerk, he was so miserable in appearance. He had two crazes—one was for monkeys, who were, he said, precisely like men, only they had four hands and tails, which they could use as lassoes, all of which were in the nature of modern improvements, and showed that they were an advance on the original pattern of men. His other craze was his sympathy for the oppressed. He wanted to liberate everybody, including convicts, and have every one made rich by law and allowed to do anything he might want to do. He was what you would call an Anarchist to-day, only he didn’t believe in disseminating his views by dynamite.



“He had a monkey that died of consumption, and the way that Jewseppy grieved for the monkey would have touched the heart of an old-fashioned Calvinist, let alone a heart of ordinary stone. For nearly a month he wandered around without his organ, occasionally doing odd jobs of work, which made most people think that he was going out of his mind. But one[16] day a menagerie came to town, and in the menagerie was what the show-bill called a gorilla. It wasn’t a genuine gorilla, as Professor Amariah G. Twitchell, of our university, proved after the menagerie men had refused to give him and his family free tickets. However, it was an animal to that effect, and it would probably have made a great success, for our public, though critical, is quick to recognize real merit, if it wasn’t that the beast was very sick. This was Jewseppy’s chance, and he went for it as if he had been a born speculator. He offered to buy the gorilla for two dollars, and the menagerie men, thinking the animal was as good as dead, were glad to get rid of it, and calculated that Jewseppy would never get the worth of the smallest fraction of his two dollars. There is where they got left, for Jewseppy knew more about monkeys than any man living, and could cure any sick monkey that called him in, provided, of course, the disease was one which medical science could collar. In the course of a month he got the gorilla thoroughly repaired, and was giving him lessons[17] in the theory and practice of organ-grinding.

“The gorilla didn’t take to the work kindly, which, Jewseppy said, was only another proof of his grand intellect, but Jewseppy trained him so well that it was not long before he could take the animal with him when he went out with the organ, and have him pass the plate. The gorilla always had a line round his waist, and Jewseppy held the end of it, and sort of telegraphed to him through it when he wanted him to come back to the organ. Then, too, he had a big whip, and he had to use it on the gorilla pretty often. Occasionally he had to knock the animal over the head with the butt end of the whip-handle, especially when he was playing something on the organ that the gorilla didn’t like, such as ‘Marching through Georgia,’ for instance. The gorilla was a great success as a plate-passer, for all the men were anxious to see the animal, and all the women were afraid not to give something when the beast put the plate under their noses. You see, he was as strong as two or three men, and his[18] arms were as long as the whole of his body, not to mention that his face was a deep blue, all of which helped to make him the most persuasive beast that ever took up a collection.

“Jewseppy had so much to say to me about the gorilla’s wonderful intelligence that he made me tired, and one day I asked him if he thought it was consistent with his principles to keep the animal in slavery. ‘You say he is all the same as a man,’ said I. ‘Then why don’t you give him a show? You keep him oppressed and down-trodden the whole time. Why don’t you let him grind the organ for a while, and take up the collection yourself? Turn about is fair play, and I can’t see why the gorilla shouldn’t have his turn at the easy end of the business.’ The idea seemed to strike Jewseppy where he lived. He was a consistent idiot. I’ll give him credit for that. He wasn’t ready to throw over his theories every time he found they didn’t pay. Now that I had pointed out to him his duty toward the gorilla, he was disposed to do it.




“You see, he reasoned that while it would only be doing justice to the beast to change places with him, it would probably increase the receipts. When a man can do his duty and make money by it his path is middling plain; and after Jewseppy had thought it over he saw that he must do justice to the gorilla without delay.

“It didn’t take the beast long to learn the higher branches of hand-organing.

“He saw the advantages of putting the money in his own pocket instead of collecting it and handing it over to Jewseppy, and he grasped the idea that when he was pushing the little cart that carried the organ and turning the handle, he was holding a much better place in the community than when he was dancing and begging at the end of a rope. I thought, a day or two after I had talked to Jewseppy, that there was considerable uproar in town, but I didn’t investigate it until toward evening, when there seemed to be a sort of riot or temperance meeting, or something of the kind, in front of my house, and I went out to see about it. There were nearly two thousand people there watching Jewseppy and his gorilla, or rather the gorilla and his Jewseppy. The little man had been[21] elevating the oppressed with great success. A long rope was tied around his waist, and he was trotting around among the people, taking up the collection and dancing between times.

“The gorilla was wearing Jewseppy’s coat, and was grinding away at the organ with one hand and holding Jewseppy’s rope with the other. Every few minutes he would haul in the rope, hand over hand, empty all the money out of Jewseppy’s pocket, and start him out again. If the man stopped to speak to anybody for a moment the gorilla would haul him in and give him a taste of the whip, and if he didn’t collect enough money to suit the gorilla’s idea, the animal would hold him out at arm’s length with one hand and lay into him with the other till the crowd were driven wild with delight. Nothing could induce them to think that Jewseppy was in earnest when he begged them to protect him. They supposed it was all a part of the play, and the more he implored them to set him free, the more they laughed and said that ‘thish yer Eyetalian was a bang-up actor.’

“As soon as Jewseppy saw me he began to tell[22] me of his sufferings. His story lacked continuity, as you might say, for he would no sooner get started in his narrative than the gorilla would jerk the rope as a reminder to him to attend strictly to business if he wanted to succeed in his profession. Jewseppy said that as soon as he tied the rope around his waist and put the handle of the organ in the gorilla’s hand the beast saw his chance and proceeded to take advantage of it. He had already knocked the man down twice with the handle of the whip, and had lashed him till he was black and blue, besides keeping him at work since seven o’clock that morning without anything to eat or drink.



“At this point the gorilla hauled Jewseppy in and gave him a fairly good thrashing for wasting his time in conversation. When the man came around again with the plate I told him that he was taking in more money than he had ever taken in before, and that this ought to console him, even if the consciousness that he was doing justice to the oppressed had no charms for him. I’m sorry to say that Jewseppy used such bad language that I really couldn’t stay[24] and listen to him any longer. I understood him to say that the gorilla took possession of every penny that was collected, and would be sure to spend it on himself, but as this was only what Jewseppy had been accustomed to do it ought not to have irritated a man with a real sense of justice. Of course I was sorry that the little man was being ill treated, but he was tough, and I thought that it would not hurt him if the gorilla were to carry out his course of instruction in the duty of elevating the oppressed a little longer. I have always been sort of sorry that I did not interfere, for although Jewseppy was only a foreigner who couldn’t vote, and was besides altogether too set in his ideas, I didn’t want him to come to any real harm. After that day no man ever saw Jewseppy, dead or alive. He was seen about dusk two or three miles from town on the road to Sheboygan. He was still tied to the rope and was using a lot of bad language, while the gorilla was frequently reminding him with the whip of the real duties of his station and the folly of discontent and rebellion. That was the last anybody[25] ever saw of the Italian. The gorilla turned up the next day at a neighboring town with his organ, but without anybody to take up the collection for him, and as the menagerie happened to be there the menagerie men captured him and put him back in his old cage, after having confiscated the organ. No one thought of making any search for Jewseppy, for, as I have said, he had never been naturalized and had no vote, and there were not enough Italians in that part of the country to induce any one to take an interest in bringing them to the polls. It was generally believed that the gorilla had made away with Jewseppy, thinking that he could carry on the organ business to more advantage without him. It’s always been my impression that if Jewseppy had lived he would have been cured of the desire to elevate the down-trodden, except, of course, in foreign countries. He was an excellent little man—enthusiastic, warm-hearted, and really believing in his talk about the rights of monkeys and the duty of elevating everybody. But there isn’t the least doubt that he made a mistake when he tried to do justice to that gorilla.”



“Does anybody doubt my patriotism?” asked the Colonel. We all hastened to say that we should as soon doubt our own existence. Had he not made a speech no longer ago than last Fourth of July, showing that America was destined to have a population of 1,000,000,000 and that England was on the verge of extinction? Had he not perilled his life in the cause of freedom, and was he not tireless in insisting that every Chinaman should be driven out of the United States? If there ever was one American more patriotic than another it was the Colonel.

“Well, then,” continued the speaker, “you won’t misunderstand me when I say that the American railroad car is a hundred times more dangerous than these European compartment cars. In thirty years there have been just four[27] felonious assaults in English railroad cars. There have been a few more than that in France, but not a single one in Germany. Now, I admit that you are in no danger of being shot in an American car, unless, of course, two gentlemen happen to have a difficulty and shoot wild, or unless the train is held up by train robbers who are a little too free with their weapons. But I do say that the way in which we heat our cars with coal-stoves kills thousands of passengers with pneumonia and burns hundreds alive when the trains are wrecked.

“You see, I’ve looked into this thing and I’ve got the statistics down fine. I’m the only man I know who ever had any trouble with a passenger while travelling in Europe, and I don’t mind telling you about it, although it will be giving myself away. Kindly push me over those matches, will you? These French cigars take a lot of fuel, and you have to encourage them with a match every three minutes if you expect them to burn.

“When I was over here in Paris, ten years ago, there was a fellow here from Chicago who[28] was trying to introduce American cars, and he gave me a pamphlet he had got up showing the horrors of the compartment system. It told of half a dozen murders, fifteen assaults, eleven cases of blackmail, and four cases in which a solitary traveller was shut up in a compartment with a lunatic—all these incidents having occurred on European railways. I was on my way to Egypt, and when I had read the pamphlet I began to wonder if I should ever manage to live through the railroad journey without being killed, or blackmailed, or lunaticked, or something of the kind. You see, I believed the stories then, though I know now that about half of them were false.

“I took the express train—the Peninsular and Oriental they call it—from Paris about twelve o’clock one night. I went early to the train, and until just before we started I thought I was going to have the compartment to myself. All at once a man very much out of breath jumped in, the door was slammed, and we were off.




“I didn’t like the looks of the fellow. He was a Frenchman, though of course that wasn’t his fault. He was small but wiry-looking, and his sharp black eyes were not the style of eyes that inspires me with confidence. Then he had no baggage except a small paper parcel, which was queer, considering that the train was a long-distance one. I kept a close watch on him for a while, thinking that he might be one of the professional lunatics that, according to the Chicago chap’s pamphlet, are always travelling in order to frighten solitary passengers; but after a while I became so sleepy that I decided to lie down and take a nap and my chances of being killed at the same time. Just then the man gets up and begins to talk to me in French.

“Now, I needn’t say that I don’t speak French nor any of those fool languages. Good American is good enough for me. One reason why these Europeans have been enslaved for centuries is that they can’t make each other understand their views without shouting at the top of their lungs, and so bringing the police about their ears. But I did happen to know, or thought I did, the French word for going to sleep,[31] and so I thought I would just heave it at this chap so that he would understand that I didn’t require his conversation. I have always found that if you talk to a Frenchman in English very slowly and impressively he will get the hang of what you say. That is, if he isn’t a cabman. You can’t get an idea into a French cabman’s head unless you work it in with a club. So I said to the fellow in the train: ‘My friend! I haven’t any time to waste in general conversation. I’m going to sleep, and I advise you to do the same. You can tell me all about your institutions and your revolutions and things in the morning.’ And then I hove in the French word ‘cochon,’ which I supposed meant something like ‘Now I lay me down to sleep.’

“The fellow staggered back as if I had hit him, and then he began to sling the whole French language at me. I calculate that he could have given Bob Ingersoll fifty points in a hundred and beaten him, and, as you know, Bob is the ablest vituperator now in the business. The Frenchman kept on raving and getting madder and madder every minute, and I[32] saw that there wasn’t the least doubt that he was a dangerous lunatic.

“I stood up and let him talk for a while, occasionally saying ‘non comprenny’ and ‘cochon,’ just to soothe him, but presently he came close to me and shook his fist in my face. This was too much, so I took him by the shoulders and slammed him down in a corner seat, and said, ‘You sit there, sonny, and keep quiet, or you’ll end by getting me to argue with you.’ But the minute I let go of him he bounced up again as if he was made of India-rubber, and came at me just as a terrier will come at a horse, pretending that he is going to tear him into small pieces. So I slammed him down into his corner again, and said, ‘This foolishness has gone far enough, and we’ll have it stopped right here. Didn’t you hear me say cochon? I’m going to cochon, and you’d better cochon, too, or I’ll make you.’

“This time he jumped up as soon as I had let go of him and tried to hit me. Of course I didn’t want to hit so small a chap, letting alone that he knew no more about handling his fists[33] than the angel Gabriel, so I just took and twisted his arms behind his back and tied them with a shawl-strap. Then, seeing as he showed a reprehensible disposition to kick, I put another strap around his legs and stretched him on the seat with his bundle under his head. But kindness was thrown away on that Frenchman. He tried to bite me, and not content with spitting like a cat, he set up a yell that was the next thing to the locomotive whistle, and rolling off the seat tried to kick at me with both legs.

“I let him exercise himself for a few minutes, while I got my hair-brush and some twine out of my bag. Then I put him back on the seat, gagged him with the handle of the hair-brush, and lashed him to the arm of the seat so that he couldn’t roll off. Then I offered him a drink, but he shook his head, not having any manners, in spite of what people say about the politeness of Frenchmen. Having secured my own safety and made the lunatic reasonably comfortable, I turned in and went to sleep. I must have slept very sound, for although the train stopped two or three times during the night, I never woke up[34] until we pulled up for breakfast about eight o’clock the next morning. I sat up and looked at my lunatic, who was wide awake and glaring at me. I wished him good-morning, for I couldn’t bear any grudge against a crazy man; but he only rolled his eyes and seemed madder than ever, so I let him lie and got out of the train.

“Two policemen were walking up and down the platform, and I took one of them by the arm and led him to the car, explaining what had happened. I don’t know whether he understood or not, but he pretended that he didn’t.

“As soon as he saw the lunatic there was a pretty row. He called two more policemen, and after they had ungagged the fellow they hauled us both before a magistrate who had his office in the railroad station. At least he acted like a magistrate, although he wore the same uniform as the policemen. Here the fellow I had travelled with was allowed to speak first, and he charged me, as I afterward found, with having first insulted and then assaulted him. He said he rather thought I was a lunatic, but at any rate he must have my blood. Then an interpreter was sent for, and I told my story, but I could see that nobody believed me.




“‘Accused,’ said the magistrate very sternly, ‘you called this gentleman a pig. What was your motive?’

“Of course I swore that I had never called him a pig, that I hardly knew half a dozen words of his infamous language, and that I had used only one of those. Being asked what it was, I said ‘cochon.’ And then that idiot ordered me to be locked up.

“By rare good luck there happened to be an American secretary of legation on the train. You know him. It was Hiram G. Trask, of West Centreopolis. He recognized me, and it didn’t take him very long to explain the whole affair. It seems that the Frenchman had asked me if I objected to smoking, and when I tried to tell him that we ought to go to sleep, I said ‘cochon,’ which means pig, instead of ‘couchons,’ which was the word I ought to have used. He was no more of a lunatic than a Frenchman naturally is, but he was disgusted at being carried two hundred miles beyond his destination,[37] which was the first stopping-place beyond Paris, and I don’t know that I blame him very much. And then, too, he seemed to feel that his dignity had been some ruffled by being gagged and bound. However, both he and the policemen listened to reason, and the man agreed to compromise on my paying him damages and withdrawing the assertion that he was morally or physically a pig. The affair cost considerable, but it taught me a lesson, and I have quit believing that you can’t travel in a European railroad car without being locked up with a lunatic or a murderer. I admit that the whole trouble was due to my foolishness. When the Frenchman began to make a row, I ought to have killed him and dropped the body out of the door, instead of fooling with him half the night and trying to make him comfortable. But we can’t always command presence of mind or see just where our duty lies at all times.”



We had just dined in the little Parisian restaurant where Americans are in the habit of going in order to obtain those truly French delicacies, pork and beans, buckwheat cakes, corned beef, apple pie, and overgrown oysters. I knew a man from Chicago who dined at this restaurant every day during the entire month spent by him in Paris, and who, at the end of that time, said that he was heartily sick of French cookery. Thus does the profound study of the manners and customs of foreign nations enlighten the mind and ripen the judgment.

The Colonel had finished his twelfth buckwheat cake and had lighted his cigar, when he casually and reprovingly remarked to young Lathrop, who, on principle, was disputing the bill with the waiter, that “he was making more trouble than Thompson’s tombstone.” Being[39] called upon to explain this dark saying, he stretched his legs to their limit, tipped back his chair, knocked the ashes of his cigar among the remnants of his pork and beans, and launched into his story.

“In the town where I was raised—and I’m not going to give away the name of it at present—there were two brothers, James and John Thompson. They were twins and about forty years old, as I should judge. James was a bachelor and John he was a widower, and they were both pretty well to do in the world, for those times at least. John was a farmer and James was a wagon maker and owned the village hearse besides, which he let out for funerals, generally driving it himself, so that any profit that was to be made out of a melancholy occasion he could make without sharing it with anybody. Both the men were close-fisted, and would look at a dollar until their eyesight began to fail before they could bring themselves to spend it. It was this miserly spirit that brought about the trouble that I’m going to tell you of.

“After John Thompson had been a widower[40] so long that the unmarried women had given up calling on him to ask his advice about the best way of raising money for the heathen, and had lost all expectation that any one of them would ever gather him in, he suddenly ups and marries Maria Slocum, who used to keep a candy store next door to the school-house and had been a confirmed old maid for twenty years. She had a little money, though, and folks did say that she could have married James Thompson if she had been willing to take the risk; but the fact that James always had the hearse standing in his carriage-house made him unpopular with the ladies. She took John because his views on infant baptism agreed with hers, and he took her because she had a good reputation for making pies and was economical and religious.

“The Thompson brothers owned burial lots in the new cemetery that were close together. James, of course, had, so far, no use for his lot, but John had begun to settle his by burying his first wife in about the middle of it. The lot was a good-sized one, with accommodation for a reasonably large family without crowding them,[41] and without, at the same time, scattering them in any unsocial way. I don’t know how it came about, but no sooner was John married than he took a notion to put up a tombstone over his first wife. He thought that as he was going to incur such an expense he would manage it so that he wouldn’t have to incur it again; and so he got up a design for a combination family tombstone, and had it made, and carved, and lettered, and set up in his burial lot.

“Near the top of the stone was John Thompson’s name, the date of his birth, and a blank space for the date of his death. Next came the name of ‘Sarah Jane, beloved wife of the above,’ and the date of her birth and death. Then came the name of ‘Maria, beloved and lamented wife of the above John Thompson,’ with the date of her birth and a space for the date of her death. You see, John worked in this little compliment about Maria being ‘lamented’ so as to reconcile her to having the date of her birth given away to the public. The lower half of the tombstone was left vacant so as to throw in a few children should any such[42] contingency arise, and the whole advertisement ended with a verse of a hymn setting forth that the entire Thompson family was united in a better land above.

“The cost of the affair was about the same as that of one ordinary tombstone, the maker agreeing to enter the dates of John’s death and of his wife’s death free of charge whenever the time for so doing might arrive; and also agreeing to enter the names of any children that might appear at a very low rate. The tombstone attracted a great deal of attention, and the summer visitors from the city never failed to go and see it. John was proud of his stroke of economy, and used to say that he wasn’t in danger of being bankrupted by any epidemic, as those people were who held that every person must have his separate tombstone. Everybody admitted that the Thompson tombstone gave more general amusement to the public than any other tombstone in the whole cemetery. Every summer night John used to walk over to his lot and smoke his pipe, leaning on the fence and reading over the inscriptions. And then he[43] would go and take a fresh look at the Rogers’ lot, where there were nine different tombstones, and chuckle to think how much they must have cost old man Rogers, who had never thought of a combination family tomb. In the course of about three years the inscriptions had grown, for there had been added the names of Charles Henry and William Everett Thompson, ‘children of the above John and Maria Thompson,’ and John calculated that with squeezing he could enter four more children on the same stone, though he didn’t really think that he would ever have any call so to do.

“Well, a little after the end of the third year John’s troubles began. He took up with Second Advent notions and believed that the end of the world would arrive, as per schedule, on the 21st of November, at 8:30 A.M. Maria said that this was not orthodox and that she wouldn’t allow any such talk around her house. Both of them were set in their ways, and what with John expressing his views with his whip-handle and Maria expressing hers with the rolling-pin, they didn’t seem to get on very well together,[44] and one day Maria left the house and took the train to Chicago, where she got a divorce and came back a free and independent woman. That wasn’t all: James Thompson now saw his chance. He offered to sell out the hearse business, and after waiting ten months, so as to give no opportunity for scandal, Maria married him.

“John didn’t seem to mind the loss of his wife very much until it happened to occur to him that his combination family tombstone would have to be altered, now that Maria was not his wife any longer. He was a truthful man, and he felt that he couldn’t sleep in peace under a tombstone that was constantly telling such a thumping lie as that Maria was resting in the same burying-lot and that she was his beloved wife, when, in point of fact, she was another man’s wife and would be, at the proper time, lying in that other man’s part of the cemetery. So he made up his mind to have the marble-cutter chisel out Maria’s name and the date of her birth. But before this was done he saw that it wouldn’t be the square thing so far as Charles Henry and William Everett[45] were concerned. It would be playing it low down on those helpless children to allow that tombstone to assert that they were the children of John Thompson and some unspecified woman[46] called Maria, who, whatever else she may have been, was certainly not John Thompson’s wife. Matters would not be improved if the name of Maria were to be cut out of the line which stated the parentage of the children, for in that case it would appear that they had been independently developed by John, without the intervention of any wife, which would be sure to give rise to gossip and all sorts of suspicions.


“Of course the difficulty could have been settled by erasing from the tombstone all reference to Maria and her two children, but in that case a separate stone for the children would some day become necessary, and, what was of more consequence, John’s grand idea of a combination tombstone would have to be completely abandoned. John was not a hasty man, and after thinking the matter over until the mental struggle turned his hair gray, he decided to compromise the matter by putting a sort of petticoat around the lower half of the tombstone, which would hide all reference to Maria and the children. This was easily done with the aid of an old pillow-case, and the tombstone[47] became more an object of interest to the public than ever, while John, so to speak, sat down to wait for better times.


“Now, James had been thinking over the tombstone problem, and fancied that he had found a solution of it that would put money in his own pocket and at the same time satisfy[48] his brother. He proposed to John that the inscription should be altered so as to read: ‘Maria, formerly wife of John and afterward of James Thompson,’ and that a hand should be carved on the stone with an index-finger pointing toward James’ lot, and a line in small type saying, ‘See small tombstone.’ James said that he would pay the cost of putting up a small uninscribed stone in his own lot over the remains of Maria—waiting, of course, until she should come to be remains—and that John could pay the cost of altering the inscriptions on the large stone. The two brothers discussed this scheme for months, each of them being secretly satisfied with it, but John maintaining that James should pay all the expenses.

“This James would not do, for he reasoned that unless John came to his terms the combination tombstone would be of no good to anybody, and that if he remained firm John would come round to his proposal in time.

“There isn’t the least doubt that this would have been the end of the affair, if it had not been that James chuckled over it so much that[49] one day he chuckled a fishbone into his throat and choked to death on the spot. He was buried in his own lot, with nothing but a wooden headboard to mark the spot. His widow said that if he had been anxious to have a swell marble monument he would have made provision for it in his lifetime, and as he had done nothing of the kind, she could not see that she had any call to waste her money on worldly vanities.

“How did this settle the affair of the combination tombstone? I’m just telling you. You see, by this time the world had not come to an end, and John, who always hated people who didn’t keep their engagements, seeing that the Second Adventists didn’t keep theirs, left them and returned to the regular Baptist fold. When his brother died he went to the funeral, and did what little he could, in an inexpensive way, to comfort the widow. The long and short of it was that they became as friendly as they ever had been, and John finally proposed that Maria should marry him again. ‘You know, Maria,’ he said, ‘that we never disagreed except about that Second Advent nonsense. You were right[50] about that and I was wrong, as the event has proved, and now that we’re agreed once more, I don’t see as there is anything to hinder our getting married again.’

“Maria said that she had a comfortable support, and she couldn’t feel that it was the will of Providence for her to be married so often, considering how many poor women there were who couldn’t get a single husband.

“‘Well,’ continued John, ‘there is that there tombstone. It always pleased you and I was always proud of it. If we don’t get married again that tombstone is as good as thrown away, and it seems unchristian to throw away a matter of seventy-five dollars when the whole thing could be arranged so easy.’

“The argument was one which Maria felt that she could not resist, and so, after she had mourned James Thompson for a fitting period, she married John a second time, and the tombstone’s reputation for veracity was restored. John and Maria often discussed the feasibility of selling James’ lot and burying him where the combination tombstone would take him in,[51] but there was no more room for fresh inscriptions, and besides, John didn’t see his way clear to stating in a short and impressive way the facts as to the relationship between James and Maria. So, on the whole, he judged it best to let James sleep in his own lot, and let the combination tombstone testify only to the virtues of John Thompson and his family. That’s the story of Thompson’s tombstone, and if you don’t believe it I can show you a photograph of the stone with all the inscriptions. I’ve got it in my trunk at this very moment, and when we go back to the hotel, if you remind me of it, I’ll get it out.”



“Well, sir,” said the Colonel, “since you ask me what struck me most forcibly during my tour of England, and supposing that you want a civil answer to a civil question, I will say that the thing that astonished me more than anything else was the lack of religious enterprise in England.


“I have visited nearly every section of your country, and what did I find? Why, sir, in every town there was a parish church of the regulation pattern and one other kind of church, which was generally some sort of Methodist in its persuasion. Now, in America there is hardly a village which hasn’t half a dozen different kinds of churches, and as a rule at least one of them belongs to some brand-new denomination, one that has just been patented and put on the market, as you might say. When I lived in[53] Middleopolis, Iowa, there were only fifteen hundred people in the place, but we had six kinds of churches. There was the Episcopalian, the Methodist, the Congregational, the Baptist, the Presbyterian, the Unitarian, and the Unleavened Disciples church, not to mention the colored Methodist church, which, of course, we didn’t count among respectable white denominations.[54] All these churches were lively and aggressive, and the Unleavened Disciples, that had just been brought out, was as vigorous as the oldest of them. All of them were furnishing good preaching and good music, and striving to outdo one another in spreading the Gospel and raising the price of pew-rents. I could go for two or three months to the Presbyterian church, and then I could take a hack at the Baptists and pass half a dozen Sundays with the Methodists, and all this variety would not cost me more than it would have cost to pay pew-rent all the year round in any one church. And then, besides the preaching, there were the entertainments that each church had to get up if it didn’t want to fall behind its rivals. We had courses of lectures, and returned missionaries, and ice-cream festivals till you couldn’t rest. Why, although I am an old theatrical manager, I should not like to undertake to run a first-class American church in opposition to one run by some young preacher who had been trained to the business and knew just what the popular religious taste demanded. I never was[55] mixed up in church business but once, and then I found that I wasn’t in my proper sphere.”

The Colonel chuckled slowly to himself, as his custom was when anything amused him, and I asked him to tell me his ecclesiastical experience.

“Well, this was the way of it,” he replied. “One winter the leading citizens of the place decided to get up a series of union meetings. Perhaps you don’t know what a union meeting is? I thought so. It bears out what I was saying about your want of religious enterprise. Well, it’s a sort of monster combination, as we would say in the profession. All the churches agree to hold meetings together, and all the preaching talent of the whole of them is collected in one pulpit, and each man preaches in turn. Of course every minister has his own backers, who are anxious to see him do himself and his denomination credit, and who turn out in full force so as to give him their support. The result is that a union meeting will always draw, even in a town where no single church can get a full house, no matter what attractions it may offer.


“Now, a fundamental rule of a union meeting is that no doctrines are to be preached to which any one could object. The Baptist preacher is forbidden to say anything about baptism, and the Methodist can’t allude to falling from grace in a union meeting. This is supposed to keep things peaceful and to avoid arguments and throwing of hymn-books and such-like proceedings, which would otherwise be inevitable.

“The union meetings had been in progress for three or four nights when I looked into the Presbyterian church, where they were held one evening, just to see how the thing was drawing. All the ministers in town, except the Episcopalian minister, were sitting on the platform waiting their cues. The Episcopalian minister had been asked to join in the services, but he had declined, saying that if it was all the same to his dissenting and partially Christian friends he would prefer to play a lone hand; and the colored minister was serving out his time in connection with some of his neighbors’ chickens that, he said, had flown into his kitchen and[57] committed suicide there, so he couldn’t have been asked, even if the white ministers had been willing to unite with him.

“The Presbyterian minister was finishing his sermon when I entered, and soon as he had retired the Baptist minister got up and gave out a hymn which was simply crowded with Baptist doctrine. I had often heard it, and I remember that first verse, which ran this way:

“‘I’d rather be a Baptist
And wear a smiling face,
Than for to be a Methodist
And always fall from grace.’

“The hymn was no sooner given out than the Methodist minister rose and claimed a foul, on the ground that Baptist doctrine had been introduced into a union meeting. There was no manner of doubt that he was right, but the Baptists in the congregation sang the hymn with such enthusiasm that they drowned the minister’s voice. But when the hymn was over there was just a heavenly row. One Presbyterian deacon actually went so far as to draw on a Baptist elder, and there would have been blood[58] shed if the elder had not knocked him down with a kerosene lamp, and convinced him that drawing pistols in church was not the spirit of the Gospel. Everybody was talking at once, and the women who were not scolding were crying. The meeting was beginning to look like an enthusiastic political meeting in Cork, when I rapped on the pulpit and called for order. Everybody knew me and wanted to hear what I had to say, so the meeting calmed down, except near the door, where the Methodists had got a large Baptist jammed into the wood-box, and in the vestibule, where the Unitarians had formed a ring to see the Unitarian minister argue with an Unleavened Disciple.

“I told the people that they were making a big mistake in trying to run that sort of an entertainment without an umpire. The idea pleased them, and before I knew what was going to be done they had passed a resolution making me umpire and calling on me to decide whether the Baptist hymn constituted a foul. I decided that it did not, on the ground that, according to the original agreement, no minister[59] was to preach any sectarian doctrines, but that nothing was said about the hymns that might be sung. Then I proposed that in order to prevent any future disputes and to promote brotherly feeling, a new system of singing hymns should be adopted. I said, as far as I can recollect, that singing hymns did not come under the head of incidental music, but was a sort of entr’acte music, intended to relax and divert the audience while bracing up to hear the next sermon. This being the case, it stood to reason that hymn-singing should be made a real pleasure, and not an occasion for hard feeling and the general heaving of books and foot-stools. ‘Now,’ said I, ‘that can be managed in this way. When you sing let everybody sing the same tune, but each denomination sing whatever words it prefers to sing. Everybody will sing his own doctrines, but nobody will have any call to feel offended.’

“The idea was received with general enthusiasm, especially among the young persons present, and the objections made by a few hard-headed old conservatives were overruled. The[60] next time singing was in order the Unitarian minister selected a familiar short-metre tune, and each minister told his private flock what hymn to sing to it. Everybody sang at the top of his or her lungs, and as nobody ever understands the words that anybody else is singing, there did not seem to be anything strange in the singing of six different hymns to the same tune. There was a moment when things were a little strained in consequence of the Presbyterians, who were a strong body, and had got their second wind, singing a verse about predestination with such vigor as partly to swamp their rivals, but I decided that there was no foul, and the audience, being rather tired with their exertions, settled down to listen to the next sermon.

“The next time it was the Methodist minister who gave out the tune, and he selected one that nobody who was not born and bred a Methodist had ever heard of. We used to sing something very much like it at the windlass when I was a sailor, and it had a regular hurricane chorus. When the Methodist contingent started in to[61] sing their hymn to this tune, not a note could any of the rival denominations raise. They stood it in silence until two verses had been sung, and then——

“Well, I won’t undertake to describe what followed. After about five minutes the Methodists didn’t feel like singing any more. In fact, most of them were outside the meeting-house limping their way home, and remarking that they had had enough of ‘thish yer fellowship with other churches’ to last them for the rest of their lives. Inside the meeting-house the triumphant majority were passing resolutions calling me a depraved worldling, who, at the instigation of the devil, had tried to convert a religious assemblage into an Orange riot. Even the Unitarians, who always maintained that they did not believe in the devil, voted for the resolutions, and three of them were appointed on the committee charged with putting me out. I didn’t stay to hear any more sermons, but I afterward understood that all the ministers preached at me, and that the amount of union displayed in putting the blame of everything on[62] my shoulders was so touching that men who had been enemies for years shook hands and called one another brothers.

“Yes! we are an enterprising people in ecclesiastical matters, and I calculate that it will be a long time before an English village will see a first-class union meeting.”



“If you want to know my opinion of women-preachers,” said the Colonel, “I can give it to you straight. They draw well at first, but you can’t depend upon them for a run. I have had considerable experience of them, and at one time I thought well of them, but a woman, I think, is out of place in the pulpit.

“Although I never was a full member of the New Berlinopolisville Methodist church, I was treated as a sort of honorary member, partly because I subscribed pretty largely to the pastor’s salary, the annual picnics, and that sort of thing, and partly because the deacons, knowing that I had some little reputation as a theatrical manager and was a man of from fair to middling judgment, used to consult me quietly about the management of the church. There was a large Baptist church in the same town,[64] and its opposition was a little too much for us. The Baptist house was crowded every Sunday, while ours was thin and discouraging. We had a good old gentleman for a minister, but he was over seventy, and a married man besides, which kept the women from taking much interest in him; while his old-fashioned notions didn’t suit the young men of the congregation. The Baptists, on the other hand, had a young unmarried preacher, with a voice that you could hear a quarter of a mile off, and a way of giving it to the Jews, and the Mormons, and other safe and distant sinners that filled his hearers with enthusiasm and offended nobody. It was growing more and more evident every day that our establishment was going behindhand, and that something must be done unless we were willing to close our doors and go into bankruptcy; so one day the whole board of trustees and all the deacons came round to talk the matter over with me.

“My mind was already made up, and I was only waiting to have my advice asked before giving it. ‘What we want,’ said I, ‘is a[65] woman-preacher. She’ll be a sensation that will take the wind out of that Baptist windmill, and if she is good-looking, which she has got to be, I will bet you—that is, I am prepared to say—that within a fortnight there will be standing-room only in the old Methodist church.’

“‘But what are we to do with Dr. Brewster?’ asked one of the deacons. ‘He has been preaching to us now for forty years, and it don’t seem quite the square thing to turn him adrift.’

“‘Oh! that’s all right,’ said I. ‘We’ll retire him on a pension, and he’ll be glad enough to take it. As for your woman-preacher, I’ve got just what you want. At least, I know where she is and how much we’ll have to pay to get her. She’ll come fast enough for the same salary that we are paying Dr. Brewster, and if she doesn’t double the value of your pew-rents in six months, I will make up the deficit myself.’

“The trustees were willing to take my advice, and in the course of a few days Dr. Brewster had been retired on half-pay, the church had extended a call to the Rev. Matilda Marsh, and[66] the reverend girl, finding that the salary was satisfactory, accepted it.

“She was only about twenty-five years old, and as pretty as a picture when she stood in the pulpit in her black silk dress with a narrow white collar, something like the sort of thing that your clergymen wear. I couldn’t help feeling sad, when I first saw her, to think that she did not go into the variety business or a circus, where she would have made her fortune and the fortune of any intelligent manager. As a dance-and-song artiste she would have been worth a good six hundred dollars a week. But women are always wasting their talents, when they have any, and doing exactly what Nature didn’t mean them to do.




“Miss Marsh was a success from the moment that she came among us. Being both unmarried and pretty, she naturally fetched the young men, and as she let it be understood that she believed in the celibacy of the clergy and never intended to marry under any circumstances, the greater part of the women were willing to forgive her good looks. Then she could preach a first-class sermon, and I call myself a judge of sermons, for at one time I managed an agency for supplying preachers with ready-made sermons, and I never put a single one on the market that I hadn’t read myself. I don’t mean to say that Miss Marsh was strong on doctrinal sermons, but every one knows that the public doesn’t want doctrinal sermons. What it wants is poetry and pathos, and Miss Marsh used to ladle them out as if she had been born and bred an undertaker’s poet.

“As I had prophesied, the Baptists couldn’t stand the competition when we opened with our woman-preacher. Their minister took to going to the gymnasium to expand his chest, and by that means increased his lung-power until he could be heard almost twice as far as formerly, but it didn’t do any good. His congregation thinned out week by week, and while our church was crowded, his pew-rents fell below what was necessary to pay his salary, not to speak of the other incidental expenses. A few of the young men continued to stick by him until our minister began her series of sermons ‘To Young Men[69] Only,’ and that brought them in. I had the sermons advertised with big colored posters, and they proved to be the most attractive thing ever offered to the religious public. The church was crammed with young men, while lots of men of from fifty to seventy years old joined the Young Men’s Christian Association as soon as they heard of the course of sermons, and by that means managed to get admission to hear them. Miss Marsh preached to young men on the vices of the day, such as drinking, and card-playing, and dancing, and going to the theatre, and she urged them to give up these dissipations and cultivate their minds. Some of them started a Browning Club that for a time was very popular. Every time the club met one of Browning’s poems would be selected by the president, and each member who put up a dollar was allowed to guess its meaning. The man who made the best guess took all the money, and sometimes there was as much as thirty dollars in the pool. The young men told Miss Marsh that they had given up poker and gone in for Browning, and of course she was greatly[70] pleased. Then some of the older men started a Milton Club, and used to cut for drinks by putting a knife-blade into ‘Paradise Lost’—the man who made it open at a page the first letter of which was nearer to the head of the alphabet than any letter cut by any other man winning the game. Under Miss Marsh’s influence a good many other schemes for mental cultivation were invented and put into operation, and everybody said that that noble young woman was doing an incalculable amount of good.

“As a matter of course, at least half the young men of the congregation fell in love with the girl-preacher. They found it very difficult to make any progress in courting her, for she wouldn’t listen to any conversation on the subject. When Christmas came, the question what to give her kept the young men awake night after night. The women had an easy job, for they could give the preacher clothes, and lace, and hairpins, and such, which the young men knew that they could not give without taking a liberty. If she had been a man, slippers would, of course, have been the correct thing, but the[71] young men felt that they couldn’t work slippers for a girl that always wore buttoned boots, and that if they did venture upon such a thing the chances were that she would feel herself insulted. One chap thought of working on the front of an underskirt—if that is the right name of it—I mean one of those petticoats that are built for show rather than use—the words, ‘Bless our Pastor,’ in yellow floss silk, but when he asked his sister to lend him one of her skirts as a model, she told him that he was the champion fool of the country. You may ask, why didn’t the preacher’s admirers give her jewelry? For the reason that she never wore anything of the kind except a pair of ear-rings that her mother had given her, and which she had promised always to wear. They represented chestnut-burs, and it is clear to my mind that her mother knew that no young man who had much regard for his eyesight would come very near a girl defended by that sort of ear-ring. Miss Marsh used to say that other people could wear what they thought right, but she felt it to be inconsistent with her holy calling to wear[72] any jewelry except the ear-rings that her sainted mother had given her.

“The best running was undoubtedly made by the cashier of the savings bank and a young lawyer. Not that either of them had any real encouragement from Miss Marsh, but she certainly preferred them to the rest of the field, and was on what was certainly entitled to be called friendly terms with both of them. Of the two the cashier was by far the most devoted. He was ready to do anything that might give him a chance of winning. He even wanted to take a class in the Sunday-school, but the bank directors forbade it. They said it would impair the confidence of the public in the bank, and would be pretty sure to bring about a run which the bank might not be able to stand. They consented, however, that he should become the president of the new temperance society which the Rev. Miss Marsh had started, as the president had the right to buy wines and liquors at wholesale in order to have them analyzed, and thus show how poisonous they were. As the cashier offered to stand in with the bank directors[73] and let them fill their cellars at wholesale rates, both he and the directors made a good thing of it.

“The other young man, the lawyer, was a different sort of chap. He was one of those fellows that begin to court a girl by knocking her down with a club. I don’t mean to say that he ever actually knocked a woman down, but his manner toward women was that of a superior being, instead of a slave, and I am bound to say that as a general thing the women seemed to like it. He wasn’t a handsome man, like the cashier, but he had a big yellow beard that any sensible girl would have held to be worth twice the smooth-shaved cheek of his rival. He never tried to join the Sunday-school or the temperance society, or do anything else of the kind to curry favor with the minister; but he used occasionally to give her good advice, and to tell her that this or that thing which she was doing was a mistake. Indeed, he didn’t hesitate to tell her that she had no business in the pulpit, and had better go out as a governess or a circus rider, and so conform to the dictates of Nature.



“I used to watch the game pretty closely, because I had staked my professional reputation on the financial success of the girl-preacher, and I didn’t want her to marry and so put an end to her attractiveness with the general public. I didn’t really think that there was much danger of any such thing, for Miss Marsh seemed to be[75] entirely absorbed in her work, and her salary was exceptionally large. Still, you can never tell when a woman will break the very best engagement, and that is one reason why they will never succeed as preachers. You pay a man a good salary, and he will never find that Providence calls him elsewhere, unless, of course, he has a very much better offer; but a woman-preacher is capable of throwing up a first-class salary because she don’t like the color of a deacon’s hair, or because the upholstery of the pulpit doesn’t match with her complexion.

“That winter we had a very heavy fall of snow, and after that the sleighing was magnificent for the next month or two. The cashier made the most of it by taking the minister out sleigh-riding two or three times a week. The lawyer did not seem to care anything about it, even when he saw the minister whirling along the road behind the best pair of horses in the town, with the cashier by her side and her lap full of caramels. But one Saturday afternoon, when he knew that the cashier would be detained at the bank until very late—the president[76] having just skipped to Canada, and it being necessary to ascertain the amount of the deficit without delay—the lawyer hired a sleigh and called for the minister. Although she was preparing her next day’s sermon by committing to memory a lot of Shelley’s poetry, she dropped Shelley and had on her best hat and was wrapped in the buffalo robe by the side of the lawyer in less than half an hour after she had told him that she positively wouldn’t keep him waiting three minutes.



“You remember what I said about the peculiar pattern of her ear-rings. It is through those ear-rings that the Methodist church lost its minister, and I became convinced that a female ministry is not a good thing to tie to. Miss Marsh and her admirer were driving quietly along and enjoying themselves in a perfectly respectable way, when one runner of the sleigh went over a good-sized log that had dropped from somebody’s load of wood and had been left in the road. The sleigh didn’t quite upset, but Miss Marsh was thrown against the lawyer with a shock for which she apologized, and he[78] thanked her. But it happened that one of her ear-rings caught in the lawyer’s beard, and was so twisted up with it that it was impossible to disentangle it. Unless Miss Marsh was ready to drag about half her companion’s heard out by the roots, there was nothing to be done except for her to sit with her cheek close against his until some third person could manage to disentangle the ear-ring. While she was in this painful position—at least she said at the time that it was painful—a sleigh containing two of her deacons and a prominent Baptist drove by. Miss Marsh saw them and saw the horrified expression on their faces. She knew quick enough that her usefulness as a minister in New Berlinopolisville was at an end and that there was going to be a terrible scandal. So, being a woman, she burst into tears and said that she wished she were dead.

“But the lawyer was equal to the occasion. He told her that there was nothing left to be done except for them to be married and disentangled at the next town. Then he would take her on a long wedding-trip, stopping at[79] Chicago to buy some clothes, and that if she so wished they would afterward settle in some other town, instead of coming back to New Berlinopolisville. Of course she said that the proposal was not to be thought of for a moment, and of course she accepted it within the next ten minutes. They drove to the house of the nearest minister, and the minister’s wife disentangled them, to save time, while the minister was engaged in marrying them.

“That was the end of the experiment of playing a woman-preacher on the boards of the First Methodist Church of Berlinopolisville. Everybody was content to call a man in the place of Miss Marsh, and everybody agreed to blame me for the failure of the experiment. I don’t know whether the lawyer ever had any reason to regret his marriage or not, but when I saw his wife at a fancy dress hall at Chicago, a year or two later, I could see that she was not sorry that she had given up the ministry. Ever since that time I have been opposed to women-preachers, and consider a woman in the pulpit as much out of place as a deacon in the ballet.”



“Do I believe in spiritualism?” repeated the Colonel. “Well, you wouldn’t ask me that question if you knew that I had been in the business myself. I once ran a ‘Grand Spiritual Combination Show.’ I had three first-class mediums, who did everything, from knocking on a table to materializing Napoleon, or Washington, or any of your dead friends. It was a good business while it lasted, but, unfortunately, we showed one night in a Texas town before a lot of cowboys. One of them brought his lasso under his coat, and when the ghost of William Penn appeared the cowboy lassoed him and hauled him in, hand over hand, for further investigation. The language William Penn used drove all the ladies out of the place, and his want of judgment in tackling the cowboy cost him all his front teeth. I and the other mediums[81] and the doorkeeper had to take a hand in the manifestation, and the result was that the whole Combination was locked up over-night, and the fines that we had to pay made me tired of spiritualism.

“No, sir! I don’t believe in spiritualism, but for all that there are curious things in the world. Why is it that if a man’s name is Charles G. Haseltine he will lose his right leg in a railway accident? The police some years ago wanted a Charles G. Haseltine with a wooden right leg in the State of Massachusetts, and they found no less than five Charles G. Haseltines, and every one of them had lost his right leg in a railway accident. What makes it all the more curious is that they were no relation to one another, and not one of them had ever heard of the existence of the others. Then, will someone tell me what is the connection between darkies and chickens? I say ‘darkies’ instead of ‘niggers’ because I had a colored regiment on my right flank at the battle of Corinth, and that night I swore I would never say ‘nigger’ again. However, that don’t concern[82] you. What I meant to say was that there is a connection between darkies and chickens which nobody has ever yet explained. Of course no darky can resist the temptation to steal a chicken. Everybody knows that. Why, I knew a colored minister who was as honest a man as the sun ever tried to tan—and failed—and I have known him to preach a sermon with a chicken that he had lifted on his way to meeting shoved up under his vest. He wouldn’t have stolen a dollar bill if he was starving, but he would steal every chicken that he could lay his hands on, no matter if his own chicken-house was crowded with chickens. It’s in the blood—or the skin—and no darky can help it.

“What was I going to say about the connection between darkies and chickens? I had very nearly forgotten it. This was what I was referring to. A chicken will draw a darky just as a dead sheep will draw vultures in Egypt, though there may have been no vultures within twenty miles when the sheep was killed. You may be living in a town where there isn’t a single darky within ten miles, but if you put[83] up a chicken-house and stock it there will be darkies in the town within twenty-four hours, and just so long as your chicken-house has a chicken in it fresh darkies will continue to arrive from all sections of the country. This beats any trick that I ever saw a spiritual medium perform, and I can’t see the explanation[84] of it. You may say that some one carries word to the darkies that there is a new chicken-house waiting to be visited, but the answer to this is that it isn’t true. My own idea is that it is a matter of instinct. When you carry a cat twenty miles away from home in a bag and let her out, we all know that her instinct will show her the way home again before you can get there yourself. Just in the same way instinct will draw a darky to a chicken-house he has never seen or heard of. You’ll say that to talk about instinct doesn’t explain the matter. That is true enough, but it makes you feel as if you had struck the trail, which is some satisfaction at any rate. So far as I can see, that is about all that scientific theories ever do.


“If you care to listen, I’ll tell you what happened within my knowledge in connection with darkies and chickens. I was located a little after the war in the town of South Constantinople, in the western part of Illinois, and my next-door neighbor was Colonel Ephraim J. Hickox, who commanded the 95th Rhode Island Regiment. The town was a growing place, and[85] it had the peculiarity that there wasn’t a darky in it. The nearest one lived over at West Damascus, seven miles away, and there was only two of him—he and his wife. Another curious thing about the place was the scarcity of labor. There weren’t above a dozen Irishmen in the place, and they wouldn’t touch a spade or a hoe under three dollars a day, and wouldn’t work more than four days in a week. You see, a certain amount of digging and gardening had to be done, and there wasn’t anybody to do it except these Irishmen, so they naturally made a good thing of it, working half the time and holding meetings for the redemption of Ireland the rest of the time in the bar-room of the International Hotel.

“One day Colonel Ephraim, as I always used to call him, wanted to drain his pasture lot, and he hired the Irishmen to dig a ditch about a quarter of a mile long. They would dig for a day, and then they would knock off and attend to suffering Ireland, till Ephraim, who was a quick-tempered man, was kept in a chronic state of rage. He had no notion of going into politics,[86] so he didn’t care a straw what the Irishmen thought of him, and used to talk to them as free as if they couldn’t vote. Why, he actually refused to subscribe to a dynamite fund and for a gold crown to be presented to Mr. Gladstone, and you can judge how popular he was in Irish circles. I used to go down to Ephraim’s pasture every once in a while to see how his ditch was getting along, and one afternoon I found the whole lot of Irishmen lying on the grass smoking instead of working, and Ephraim in the very act of discharging them.

“‘Perhaps it’s “nagurs” that you’d be preferring,’ said one of the men, as they picked themselves up and made ready to leave.

“‘You bet it is,’ said Ephraim, ‘and, what’s more, I’ll have that ditch finished by darkies before the week is out.’ This seemed to amuse the Irishmen, for they went away in good spirits, in spite of the language that had been hove at them, and it amused me too, for I knew that there were no darkies to be had, no matter what wages a man might be willing to pay. I said as much to Ephraim, who, instead of taking it[87] kindly, grew madder than ever, and said, ‘Colonel! I’ll bet you fifty dollars that I’ll have that ditch finished by darkies inside of four days, and that they’ll do all the digging without charging me a dollar.’

“‘If you’re going to send over into Kentucky and import negro labor,’ said I, ‘you can do it, and get your ditch dug, but you’ll have to pay either the darkies or the contractor who furnishes them.’

“‘I promise you not to pay a dollar to anybody, contractor or nigger. And I won’t ask anybody to send me a single man. What I’m betting on is that the darkies will come to my place of their own accord and work for nothing. Are you going to take the bet or ain’t you?’

“I didn’t hesitate any longer, but I took the bet, thinking that Ephraim’s mind was failing, and that it was a Christian duty in his friends to see that if he did fool away his money, it should go into their pockets instead of the pockets of outsiders. But, as you will see, Ephraim didn’t lose that fifty dollars.

“Early the next morning Ephraim had a[88] couple of masons employed in turning his brick smoke-house into a chicken-house, and he had two dozen chickens with their legs tied lying on the grass waiting for the chicken-house to be finished. The masons broke a hole through the side of the house and lined it with steel rods about four feet long, which Ephraim had bought to use in some experiments in gun-making that he was always working at. The rods were set in a circle which was about a foot and a half wide at one end and tapered to about four inches at the other end. The arrangement was just like the wire entrance to a mouse-trap, of the sort that is meant to catch mice alive and never does it. It was nothing less than a darky-trap, although Ephraim pretended that it was a combined ventilator and front door for the chickens. The masons, so far as I could judge, thought that Ephraim’s mind was going fast, and I made up my mind that it would be a sin to let the man bet with anybody who would be disposed to take advantage of his infirmity.


“The trap was finished before dark, and baited with two dozen young chickens. I came[89] by the place a second time about sunset, just as Ephraim was locking up his chicken-house, and I saw a small darky boy leaning on the fence. I asked him where he came from, but he only said ‘Dunno.’ I found out afterward that he came from a house at least ten miles away, and that those two dozen chickens had drawn him there wasn’t a shadow of doubt in my mind. At the time, however, I was a little afraid that Ephraim had begun to import colored labor, and that there was some trick about his bet that might prove that his mind was all right. Two days[90] afterward I went down to the pasture and found sixteen darkies digging away at that ditch and Ephraim superintending with a twenty-five-cent cigar in his mouth. ‘Come to pay that fifty dollars, I suppose!’ he said when he saw me. ‘You can wait till the ditch is finished, which will be some time to-day. You see I was as good as my word.’

“I asked him to explain how he had collected his darkies, and being in unusually good spirits he told me about it.

“He had made his trap just large enough to admit a good-sized darky, who could push the steel rods apart as he crawled in but who couldn’t crawl out again, no matter how hard he might try. The morning after he had set the trap Ephraim took his shot-gun and went down to his chicken-house. He found that the night’s catch had been larger than he had hoped. There were sixteen colored men of different sizes sitting on the ground or leaning up against the side of the house. There was a good deal of wool and cloth sticking to the ends of the steel rods, and some of the younger darkies[91] looked as if they had been fighting with wild-cats, but they didn’t try to explain things. Besides the darkies, there were two white tramps in the trap, but Ephraim just kicked them into the streets without even proposing work to them. Then he came back and told the darkies that the legislature had just passed a bill making it felony to break into a chicken-house, and that he was very much afraid that they would be hung and dissected, unless they could show him some reason for being merciful to them.

“The darkies were frightened, besides being hungry and cold, and when Ephraim said that he had a job of ditching to be done, and that if they would do it for him he would let them off scot-free, they were delighted, and the whole chicken-house was lit up with their teeth. They went into that ditch a happy and contented gang and finished it before night. Ephraim was a liberal man, and considering that he had won fifty dollars and had got his ditch finished for nothing, he was disposed to be generous. So he gave the darkies a lot of good advice and informed them that, with a view of removing[92] temptation from their way, he should sell his chickens and go out of the business. The darkies went away as happy as if they had been well paid, and the next morning there wasn’t a darky in the whole town. They had gone back to their homes, or else they had been drawn somewhere else by other chickens.

“Do I mean to say that Ephraim had not made arrangements with some one to send him those sixteen darkies? That is just what I do mean to say. When he fitted up his chicken-house he had no more idea where his darkies would come from than I had, but he knew that the chickens would draw darkies and that his trap would hold them, so he felt that he had a sure thing. I have no more doubt that those darkies were drawn to Ephraim’s place by those chickens than I have that a magnet will draw a needle. I can’t explain how it was done, but I believe it all the same. It is what is called a mystery, and the good book says that the less you try to explain mysteries the better.”



“I never told you about my brother, the inventor, did I?” asked the Colonel. “Speaking of flying-machines reminds me of him, for he invented seven of them, and one of the lot was a stunning success. Stunned one darky and came very near stunning a whole camp-meeting of darkies. My brother Lije—his name was Elijah—was what you might call a general inventor. He didn’t stick to any one line, such as electricity, for example, but he would invent anything, from a woman’s pocket to a new motive power. He invented a pocket for a woman’s skirt that was warranted never to be found by the most expert pickpocket, and he put the pocket in the skirt of his wife’s dress on trial. She searched for it for about a month—not all the time, you understand, but on an average three or four hours a day—and then[94] gave it up. She said she could always find her usual old-fashioned pocket in the course of a week or ten days, and that was as much time as she could afford to waste on the subject. As for Elijah’s perpetual-motion machines, he invented a new one at least every year, and the loft in our barn was always full of them. Of course they were failures, but that did not discourage Lije. You can’t discourage a born inventor—that is, unless he is in the chemical line and blows himself up with some new kind of dynamite. Lije’s inventions were, to my mind, as smart as those of Edison, but the trouble with them was that for the most part they wouldn’t work. However, they amused him and did no harm to anybody.


“My brother was not in the least like me in anything. He was short and stout and the best-tempered man in the State. Everybody liked him, especially the darkies, who said that there was no more harm in him than if he was a child. I’ve seen him when he had just accidentally chopped off a finger or had burnt all his hair off, and I never heard him use the[95] smallest swear-word. I never could see why he got married. A man with that sort of heavenly temper doesn’t need the discipline that other folks need, and he was too much absorbed in science to have any time to associate with a wife. He spent nearly all his time in his workshop[96] monkeying with his inventions, and his only companion was a darky boy, about twelve years old, named Aristophanes, who waited on him and was so fond of him that there is nothing that Lije told him to do that Aristophanes wouldn’t do. If Lije had invented a new guillotine and wanted to try it on Aristophanes’ neck, the boy would have consented to have his head chopped off, and would never have doubted that Massa Lije would put it on again without even leaving a scar.

“You were speaking of this new flying-machine that somebody had just invented and that acts on the principle of a kite. ‘Resistance of an inclined plane to the air’ is what you called it, but that means kite, and nothing else. Why, Elijah invented that machine forty years ago, and it was one of his greatest successes, the only one, in fact, that I ever remember his making. When I say that it was successful, I don’t mean to say that it was practicable. It would rise and it would carry a man with it, but it never came into general use, for it was about impossible to get the man down again[97] without killing him. Next to a Swiss excursion steamboat, it was the riskiest mode of locomotion ever invented.

“The way in which Lije’s machine was constructed was very simple. You must have seen what we boys used to call a spider-web kite. If you haven’t, I might as well tell you that it is made with three sticks that cross one another at the same point in about the middle of the kite, or rather a little above the middle, and gave the kite something the shape and look of a big spider-web. Lije was fond of kite-flying, and was always trying to make improvements in kite-building, which were naturally failures, for you can be sure that the millions of boys that have been making kites ever since boys were first invented know a great sight more about kites than any scientific man knows.

“Elijah’s flying-machine was nothing more or less than the biggest spider-web kite that was ever built. The sticks were ash poles an inch in diameter, and they were covered with silk instead of paper. I forget the exact dimensions of the kite, but according to Lije’s calculations[98] it would sustain a hundred and fifty pounds of human being, in addition to its own weight and the weight of its tail. The question of the exact amount of tail that the kite would require gave Lije a good deal of trouble, but he solved it like a man of science by sending up an ordinary kite and finding by experiment how much tail it needed, after which he calculated by the rule of three how much tail to give his flying-machine. In order to get the necessary weight without too great length, the tail of the flying-machine was made of light iron chain, and at the end of it there was an iron hook, so that a lantern could be attached to it at night. As for the string that was to hold the kite, it was about the size of a ship’s signal-halyards, and Lije calculated that it would bear twice the amount of any strain that could possibly be put on it.

“Aristophanes was to make the trial trip, and he was perfectly willing to go, never having the least doubt that Massa Lije would secure him a safe and pleasant trip to the moon or thereabouts. Lije fastened the boy in the centre of[99] the kite, in about the position of some celebrated Scotchman—St. Andrew, wasn’t it?—whose picture is in Fox’s ‘Book of Martyrs.’ Aristophanes’ arms and legs were lashed to the kite sticks, and he had a sort of rest for each foot, so as to take the strain from off the lashings. In order to make him comfortable, Lije fastened a pillow under the boy’s head, so that he could go to sleep in case he should feel sleepy, which he nearly always did. If Aristophanes could only have managed to take his dinner with him and eat it in the air, he would have been about as happy as a darky can be, and an average darky can hold more happiness to the square inch than any white man.

“The trial trip was made from the back yard of our house, and nobody was present except Lije and Aristophanes, for my brother was a little shy of exhibiting his inventions in public, owing to their habit of proving failures. The kite was laid on the ground, and Aristophanes was strapped to it and told that he must keep perfectly cool and remember everything that he might see in the clouds. When all was ready,[100] the kite was leaned up against the side of the barn, with the tail neatly coiled so that it would not foul anything, and then Elijah, taking a good run with the string over his shoulder, had the satisfaction of making the kite climb up as if it had been made by the best boy kite-builder in town.

“Holding the string was rather a tough job, for the kite pulled tremendously, and Lije was not a strong man. However, he paid out the line as fast as he could, and so managed to keep the kite steady. He was a little afraid that it would accidentally get away from him, so he tied the end of the string round his waist. There was where he made his great mistake.



“The kite attracted a good deal of attention in the town, and everybody agreed that the figure in the middle of the kite was a remarkably good representation of a darky, but nobody thought for a moment that it was a genuine darky. Lije had forgotten, in estimating the amount of tail that the kite required, the fact that the wind might rise while the kite was in the air, and that in such case the amount of tail[102] might not be enough to keep it from diving. That is just what happened. After the kite had run out all the string and was as high as the string would let it go, the wind increased and the kite began to dive. Now, everybody knows that diving is one of the most dangerous things a kite can do, and that unless it can be stopped it is sure to bring the kite down and smash it to pieces. Moreover, in this particular case there was Aristophanes, who was pretty sure to be frightened by the diving of the kite—that is, supposing that he was awake. When a kite dives the only remedy is to give it string. As Lije had no more string to let out he was obliged to do the next best thing, which was to slack the string by running with it toward the kite. That stopped the diving, but only for a moment. Every time that Lije tried to stop running and managed to hold back a little against the kite, it would begin to dive again, and about half the time was describing circles in the air and turning Aristophanes upside down. However, Lije knew that so long as he could keep the kite from dashing[103] itself to the ground the darky would come to no harm.

“The wind kept on increasing and the kite pulled harder than ever. Even if Lije had not wanted to run, the kite would have dragged him. He went through the town at about eight miles an hour, yelling to everybody he met, ‘Gimme some string!’ But nobody understood what he said, and they all thought that it was a good joke to see a fat little man careering over the country in tow of a big kite. Of course they supposed that Lije was acting of his own free will and accord. They knew that he was peculiar in his ways, and they fancied that he was taking a little holiday after his hard work. So beyond encouraging him to keep it up and remarking to one another that ‘Lije was the most amusing darned fool in the county,’ they paid no attention to his outcries.

“My brother was not used to active exercise and had next to no wind. The longer he ran with the kite, the more he felt convinced that a tragedy was about to happen. If he kept on running he believed he would drop dead with[104] stoppage of the heart, and if he stopped running he knew that the kite would dash Aristophanes to pieces; and though, of course, it was not as if Aristophanes had been a white boy, still there was the chance that his parents would be disagreeable if he were killed. They were ordinary ignorant darkies, with no sort of love for science. But Lije had grit in him, in spite of all the science that he had pumped into his head. He stuck to the kite-string, and ran his level best until the moment came when he was unable to catch another breath. Then he threw himself against a telegraph pole and clung to it with all his might. The kite couldn’t drag him away from it, and so it gave one tremendous dive, and Lije felt by the sudden slackening of the string that the kite had reached the ground.



“It came down in the middle of a negro camp-meeting that was in progress about a quarter of a mile away. The spot was a sandy one, and the kite, which naturally fell head downward, buried the ends of its upper sticks in the sand, and did no injury whatever to Aristophanes. The chain tail, however, damaged the eye of[106] the Rev. Hannibal Blue, and then hit the Rev. Julius Cæsar Washington on the side of the head and stunned him for half an hour. There was a good deal of excitement in the camp when Aristophanes descended. Most of the colored people were of the opinion that he was an angel who had come down to express his satisfaction with the services, though the Rev. Mr. Blue was strongly of the opinion that Aristophanes was the devil in person, who was seeking to buffet the faithful. In time, however, Aristophanes was recognized as the private servant of Massa Lije, and was released from the kite and allowed to return to Lije’s workshop to report the result of his voyage in the flying-machine.

“The flying-machine was never tried again. Lije had had enough of it, and besides, some of the Rev. Mr. Blue’s friends, who were not exactly what you would call law-abiding citizens, sent Lije word that they rather thought that if he quit inventing things he would live longer than he otherwise might. Aristophanes didn’t seem to think anything of his adventure, and said he was ready to go up again whenever[107] Massa Lije should want to send him. But Lije told him that he intended to make a little modification in his flying-machine before using it again. That was what he always said when he gave an invention up as a bad job, and accordingly nobody ever saw or heard of the flying-machine again. He was a remarkable man, was my brother, and the doctor of the asylum where he spent his declining years said that he was the most interesting lunatic that he had ever met.”



Some one had told a dog-story showing the miraculous intelligence and profound piety of a French poodle. The Colonel listened with an incredulous smile on his grim face. When the story was ended and we had all expressed our surprise and admiration, as is the custom when dog-stories are told, and had carefully suppressed our conviction that the man who told the story was as impudent as he was mendacious—as is also the custom on these occasions—I asked the Colonel to favor us with his views in regard to canine sagacity.

“There are dogs that show signs of good sense now and then,” he replied. “Even human beings do that occasionally. But as to these yarns about dogs who calculate eclipses and have conscientious objections to chasing cats on Sunday, I don’t believe a word of them. Talk[109] about fish-stories! Why, there isn’t a fish caught or uncaught that can begin to stimulate the imagination to the extent that a dog will stimulate it. I have known fishermen who could convert two minnows into a string of thirty trout, averaging two pounds each, and I have seen these men slink away crestfallen before a man who told stories of what his fox-terrier had done the day before. What I don’t understand is why people pretend to believe dog-stories. We all know that the dog is a well-meaning, stupid, parish-vestry sort of an animal, but we listen to the thumpers that some men tell about him without even a cough.


“Look at the lies that have been told for the last hundred years about the St. Bernard dogs! People really believe that when a snow-storm comes on the St. Bernard dog goes out with a blanket, a flask of whiskey, a spirit-lamp, a box of matches, some mustard plasters, and a foot-bath strapped on his back. When he meets a frozen traveller we are told that he sits down and lights his spirit-lamp, mixes some hot-whiskey and pours it down the traveller’s throat,[110] gives him a hot foot-bath, puts mustard plasters on the soles of his feet, rubs him down and wraps him up in the blanket, and then hoists him on his back and brings him to the convent, where the monks put him to bed and read prayers to him till he feels strong enough to put[111] some money in the contribution-box and to continue his journey. Now, I’ve been to the St. Bernard Convent. I went there just to meet one of these dogs and see for myself what he could do. There was a pack of about forty of them, but the only thing they did was to sit up all night and bark at the moon, while the monks shied prayer-books and wooden sandals at them out of the windows. I wanted to see a few travellers rescued from the snow, but the monks said the supply of travellers had been running low of late years; still, they added, if I’d go and sleep in a snow-bank a mile or two from the convent, they would see what could be done. I wasn’t going to risk the forfeiture of my life-insurance policy by any such foolishness as that, so I came away without seeing any dog performance. However, I saw enough, a little later on, to convince me that the St. Bernard dog is about the biggest kind of canine fool that ever imposed on credulous people.

“The monks had a whole penful of genuine St. Bernard puppies, and I bought one. I am ashamed to tell you how much I paid for it. I[112] could hire an army mule to kick me every time I think of the transaction. I took the puppy to the States with me—I was living at New Berlinopolisville, in the State of Iowa, at the time—and brought him up as carefully as if he had been my own son. He grew to be a big, rough-haired dog—one of the biggest I ever saw. And I can’t say that the monks cheated me in respect to his breed. Of course it was all a matter of luck that he didn’t turn out to be a poodle or a black and tan terrier. The fact is that no man or monk knows what one of those pure-blooded St. Bernard pups that are sold at the convent will turn out to be when he gets his growth. He is liable to be anything in the line of dog, from a yellow cur up to a Siberian bloodhound. I once knew a man who bought a St. Bernard pup from one of the very holiest of the entire gang of monks, and that puppy grew up to be a red fox. But you all know of the St. Bernard puppy lottery, and I won’t take up your time commenting on it.


“The monks told me that the puppy would not need the least training. His instinct was[113] so wonderful that the moment he should catch a glimpse of snow on the ground he would rush off to rescue travellers. ‘You just load him up with blankets and things,’ said the monk, ‘and send him out in the snow, and he’ll rescue travellers till you can’t rest.’ The dog was nearly a year old before I had a chance to try his powers, but one November we had a regular[114] blizzard, and when the snow quit falling it was at least two feet deep on a level, not to speak of the drifts.

“After breakfast I tied a whiskey-flask around the dog’s neck and put a blanket on his back, and told him to go out and begin his blessed work of mercy. I was alone in the house at the time, for my wife had gone on a visit to her mother and the cook had got herself arrested for being drunk and disorderly, so there was no one to make any objection to my use of one of my wife’s best blankets. The dog barked with delight when he saw the snow, and rolled in it for a few moments just so as to get the blanket good and wet, and then he started down the street at a gallop. I lived something more than a mile from the village, and there were no houses nearer than half a mile, and as the dog took the road leading away from the village, I did not think that he would stand much chance of picking up any travellers. He didn’t return until noon, and then he didn’t bring anybody home on his back. He did, however, bring six tramps with him, three of whom were pretty[115] drunk, they having drank all the whiskey in the flask. The other three said that the dog had promised them a drink if they would follow him, and they hoped that I would be as good as the dog’s word. As I wasn’t armed, and as the tramps carried big sticks and evidently meant business, I judged it best to sustain the dog’s character for veracity and get rid of them peaceably. They went away after wrestling with a pint of good whiskey, and all the time that idiotic dog was wagging his tail as if he deserved the Humane Society’s medal, instead of deserving a thrashing for trying to rescue tramps when Nature had taken the trouble to furnish a blizzard expressly to thin them out.

“I explained to the dog with my riding-whip the view that he must take of tramps in the future, and then I sent him out again, after filling up his whiskey-flask and giving him another blanket in the place of the one that the tramps had stolen. I told him that in future I should prefer to have him rescue women and children, especially the latter, and that if he found a frozen male traveller he had better confine[116] himself to giving information to the police, instead of lavishing whiskey on possibly undeserving people. He went off, somewhat humbled, but still in excellent spirits, and in a short time rushed up my front steps, dropped something on the door-mat, and rushed off again. At first I thought that the idiot had been rescuing somebody’s linen that had been hung out to dry, but when the linen began to make remarks in a loud voice, I found that it was a particularly lively baby.

“Of course I couldn’t let the little innocent lie and freeze on my doorstep, so I brought it into the house and did my best to quiet it. As I had never had much experience with babies, I found myself in a pretty tight place. I had no milk to give the baby, so I mixed a little flour and water till it looked like milk and got a little of it down the baby’s throat. Then I shook it on my knee till it dropped asleep. I put it in my bed, intending to go out and find some woman who would come and attend to it, when I heard the dog barking, and on opening the front door saw his tail disappearing down[117] the street, and saw that he had left another infant on the door-mat.

“The first baby was a saint in comparison with this one, which was a sort of infantile tramp in appearance and was as noisy as it was dirty. It would not have anything to do with the flour and water, and though I shook it on my knee till I must have loosened all its organs, it refused to go to sleep. So I finally gave it a rubber overshoe to bite on, and put it in a bureau drawer in the spare room and told it to howl its head off if it felt that such was its duty toward mankind. Then I started a second time to search for a woman, and I nearly fell over a third baby on the doorstep. That infernal dog had brought it while I was struggling with the infantile tramp, and he was now off searching for more infants. I wrapped this one up in a blanket and sat down on the doorstep with it, resolved to wait till that dog came back and to lock him up till I could get enough babies off my hands to give me a chance to kill him. I was bound not to miss him, for if I did he would probably keep on till he had brought[118] me all the babies in the county. This baby was the best of the lot, for it slept in my arms without saying a word or expressing the slightest desire to be shaken. In about twenty minutes the dog reappeared with another invoice of babies. This time he brought a brace of twins, as nearly as I could judge, but it was his last exploit that day. I got him by the collar before he could start out again and locked him up in the cellar. The babies I put in a heap in a big clothes-basket that they could not climb out of, and left them to have a crying-match for the championship till I could find a nurse.

“I didn’t have as much trouble in that matter as I had anticipated, for before I could get out of the house some one rang the front-door bell and pounded and yelled as if it was a matter of life and death that the door should be opened instantly. I opened it, and there was a woman who called me every name she could lay her tongue to, and wanted me to give her back her baby instantly. I showed her the babies and told her to take her choice. In fact, I begged her to take away the whole lot, but she said I[119] was worse than a murderer, and after selecting one of the least desirable of the babies, she rushed off with it, promising to send me a policeman immediately. I had never expressed the least desire to see a policeman, but such is female gratitude! I had offered that woman five babies, free, gratis, and for nothing, and instead of being grateful she wanted to get me into trouble.

“I had still four babies on my hands, and as they were now all awake and making all the noise they knew how to make, I put them all in the clothes-basket together, so they could enjoy one another’s society. It wasn’t a bad plan, and I recommend it to any mother with a noisy pair of twins, as it is certain to reduce the noise by one-half. Two of my babies were so occupied with putting their fingers in the other babies’ eyes and in investigating their hair that they had no time to cry. I admit that the two who were undergoing investigation did their best to make a riot, but even then there was only half as much noise as there would have been had the other two joined the concert.


“I thought it so probable that the mother who had visited me was only the first of a procession of mothers, that I gave up the idea of going out to look for a nurse, and stayed at home to receive the mothers politely. It was not long before one presented herself. She was an Irishwoman and the only sensible one of the lot. When she saw that her baby was safe and contented and had a good grip on the hair of a black-eyed baby, she sat down and laughed, and said that she never saw anything so sweet before. According to her account, she lived about a mile from my house, and she was standing at her front door looking at the landscape, when the dog bounded in, caught up the baby out of the cradle, and carried it off. At first she thought the dog was the devil, but presently she remembered that the devil’s time was too much occupied with Irish affairs to permit him to steal babies in Iowa, so she followed the dog as rapidly as she could make her way through the snow. She tracked him by the prints of his paws until she came to my door, and instead of calling me a kidnapper and talking[121] about the police, she was full of pity for me, and volunteered to stay and take care of the whole menagerie until the last of the babies should be called for and taken away.

“The remaining mothers arrived in the course of an hour. I locked myself in the top of the house and left the Irishwoman to explain things. As I afterward learned, the intelligent dog had knocked two women down in the street and stolen their babies out of their arms, and had also broken into two houses, in the last one of which he had bagged his brace of twins. All the mothers, except the Irishwoman, were as unreasonable as they could possibly be. They insisted that I deliberately trained dogs to steal babies, and they had no doubt that my object in stealing them was to vivisect them. As for the dog, they were convinced that he was mad and that their babies would be sure to die of hydrophobia. Two of the women brought their husbands with them, who asked to see me, explaining that they desired to blow my head off. The Irishwoman nobly lied to them, telling them that she had driven me out of the house[122] with a club, and that I was on my way to Chicago and far out of reach. The mothers and their husbands went away at last, and as soon as it was dark I stole out of the back door and took the first train for St. Paul. I didn’t show myself in New Berlinopolisville for the next year.

“What became of the dog? Oh! I forgot to say that the Irishwoman promised to take care of him and to cure him of his passion for babies. I am sorry to say that she did not succeed. She kept him tied up for six weeks, but one day he broke loose and captured a baby out of a baby-wagon in the park. But the baby’s father happened to be with it, and he was one of the best pistol-shots in town, having been a judge of the Montana Supreme Court. He got the drop on the dog before the beast had gone ten feet away with the baby, and though they afterward had to pry the dog’s jaws open in order to get the baby loose, no harm was done to the latter. I settled all the lawsuits without letting them go to trial, although it cost me considerable[123] and I finally judged it best to remove to another State.

“Now, I suppose that some one will be enough of an idiot to repeat this story with variations as a proof of the wonderful intelligence of the St. Bernard dog. If it is intelligence that leads a dog to steal other people’s babies and dump them on a respectable man, I’d like to see what idiocy would do for such a dog. No, sir! depend upon it, the stories about St. Bernard dogs are invented by the monks after stimulating their minds by reading the ‘Lives of the Saints’ and by going trout-fishing. Probably the monks have gradually brought themselves to believe most of the stories. They look like a credulous set of people, and I should rather like to try them with a good American political speech, full of campaign statistics, and see if they could believe it. I shouldn’t be in the least surprised if they could.”



“And by the way,” continued the Colonel, “a curious thing about this Josiah Wilson was that he was married for fifteen years and never had any wife whatever.”

The Colonel had begun a story concerning one Josiah Wilson which promised to be interesting, but his incidental allusion to Mr. Wilson’s matrimonial experience awakened our curiosity, and we begged him to interrupt his narrative long enough to tell us how it came to pass that Josiah was a married man who never had a wife.


“The marriage laws in the United States,” said the Colonel, giving his chair an increased tilt backward, which was his usual way of beginning a fresh anecdote, “are as peculiar in their way as are the divorce laws. You would think to look at them that they would permit anybody to marry anybody else in any way that[125] either of them might choose; but for all that they sometimes make it impossible for a man or a woman to get married. There was a couple who intended to be married in a balloon, which is a style of lunacy that is quite fashionable in some parts of the country, though I can’t see[126] why a man should want to risk his neck in a balloon on his wedding-day, unless it is that it takes so much courage to be married at all that a man forgets all about such minor dangers as are connected with ballooning. The bride, the minister, and two witnesses of assorted sexes went up in the balloon at the appointed time, and, naturally, the bridegroom intended to go with them, but he accidentally caught his foot in a neglected guy-rope and went up head downward about twenty feet below the car. The party in the balloon could not haul him up because they could not get hold of the rope, and the bride would not consent to give up the trip because the groom had always been a little shy, and she was afraid that if she let him go this time she might not be able to land him again. So the parson went on with the ceremony, and the groom made most of his responses in bad language, and howled for help when he wasn’t swearing. When the ceremony was over the aeronaut managed to land the balloon without seriously damaging the bridegroom, but when, a year or two afterward, the bride wanted to[127] get her divorce, the court held that there had never been any marriage, for the reason that both the groom and the bride had not appeared together in the presence of the officiating minister, and that, furthermore, there was no provision in the law which would permit a man to be married upside down.

“But to get back to Josiah Wilson. He lived in Indiana, close to the boundary line between that State and Illinois, and he courted Melinda Smith, a young woman who lived a little way up the mountain-side with her father and three brothers. The girl was anxious to be married, but her family were dead against it. You see, Josiah was a Republican and a Methodist, while the Smiths were Democrats and Baptists, and, naturally, they hated each other like poison; and one night as old man Smith and Josiah met on their way to rival prayer-meetings they exchanged revolver-shots, without, however, doing any harm. Then, once Josiah had most of the calf of his leg taken off by the Smiths’ bull-dog, and twice the Smith boys came into the sitting-room where Josiah was calling on Melinda, and[128] suggested to him with their shot-guns that he had better go home. Gradually Josiah and Melinda came to the conclusion that her family were resolved to discourage the match, so they determined to elope and be married without the knowledge or consent of anybody.

“One dark night Josiah carried a ladder and planted it under Melinda’s window. He had advised her to walk out of the front door, which was always left unlocked at night, but she refused, saying that if she was going to elope she should do it in the proper way, and that if Josiah had no respect for her she had some little respect for herself. She climbed down the ladder with a good deal of difficulty, because she insisted that Josiah should help her, and also that he should stand forty yards away, for reasons connected with her ankles, and he found it rather trying to follow out these contradictory orders. However, Melinda reached the ground at last, and the pair started in a carriage that had been waiting just around a bend in the road, in company with the Methodist minister. Their plan was to drive to the next town and[129] there to be married, but it happened that one of the Smith boys, being restless, got up in the night, and, looking out of the window, saw the ladder standing at Melinda’s window. In about twenty minutes after the young people had started, the whole Smith family and their shot-guns were following the runaways in a wagon and gaining on them fast.

“The Methodist minister, whose hearing was unusually good, heard the sound of hoofs before Josiah noticed it, and told the young people that there was not the least doubt that they were pursued, and would be overtaken in a very few minutes. ‘And then, you know,’ he added, ‘the chances are that, being Baptists, they will shoot first and ask for explanations afterward. The only thing for us to do is to get the marriage ceremony over before they come up. Then they will see that opposition is of no use and will listen to reason.’

“Josiah and Melinda at once consented, and the parson, noticing a little clearing in the woods on the left-hand side of the road and a flat sort of tombstone standing in the middle of[130] it, said that he would stand on that stone and marry his young friends so quick that it would make their hair curl. He was particularly glad to meet with a handy tombstone, for he said that a tombstone was the next thing to a church, and that to be married by the side of a tomb would be almost as solemn as to be married in a minister’s study. So the party hastily descended, the parson mounted the stone, Josiah and Melinda joined hands in front of him, and they were married and the parson had kissed the bride and pocketed his fee just as the Smiths’ wagon drove up and the Smith boys cocked their guns and covered the party. But the parson was wide awake. He had his revolver out and old man Smith covered before anybody had taken aim at him, but instead of shooting he remarked that he was a minister of the blessed gospel of peace, that there was no necessity for bloodshed, and that he would blow a hole through old Smith unless the Smith boys lowered their weapons and consented to argue the matter. ‘The fact is, Colonel Smith,’ said the parson, ‘you’re too late.[131] The young people are legally married, and the sooner you accept the situation the better. I married them not two minutes ago, standing on that identical tombstone.’


“Colonel Smith was a lawyer, and the sharpest[132] one in that part of the country. He saw the force of the minister’s remarks, so he told the boys to put up their guns and he shook hands with the minister. Then he inquired, in a careless sort of way, where Josiah and Melinda had stood while they were being married. The parson showed the footprints of the bride and groom, and then Colonel Smith turned to Melinda and said, ‘You’ll come straight home with me. There hasn’t been any marriage yet. That stone is the boundary mark between Indiana and Illinois, and you were standing in Indiana and that other idiot was standing in Illinois when the parson tried to marry you. Nobody can marry in two States at the same time, and I shan’t recognize the pretended marriage till a court of law compels me to do so, which will be never. I hope this will teach you the folly of fooling with Methodism. When you want to get married next time try a Baptist minister, who will know the difference between a tombstone and a boundary mark.’ There were too many Smiths and they were too well armed to be reasoned with successfully, so[133] the upshot was that Melinda went home with her family and Josiah and the parson went to see a lawyer.

“The next day Josiah brought a suit for divorce against Melinda. It was a friendly suit, you understand, and his only object was to test the question of the validity of his marriage, for, of course, no man can get a divorce unless he first proves that he is married. Old man Smith conducted the case on his side, and a lawyer named Starkweather, who is now a member of the Illinois Legislature, appeared for Josiah Wilson. Colonel Smith argued that while the parson who conducted the alleged marriage ceremony could undoubtedly have married a couple in the State of Indiana, he could not marry a woman in Indiana to a man in Illinois, for the reason that the man and the woman could not be in the same place while they were in two different commonwealths, and that hence Josiah and Melinda had not legally appeared together before the officiating minister. Furthermore, he argued that the minister at the time of the pretended marriage was standing[134] neither in Indiana nor in Illinois, but on the boundary line; that the statute defined the boundary line as ‘an imaginary line’ running from such and such a point to such and such a point, and that a minister who stands in a purely imaginary locality stands virtually nowhere, and hence cannot perform any function of his calling.

“On the other hand, Josiah’s lawyer claimed that the minister had married Melinda Smith in the State of Indiana; that consequently she must have been married to somebody, and that that somebody was unquestionably Josiah Wilson. As to the point that the minister stood in an imaginary locality because, as was alleged, he stood on the boundary line, the lawyer maintained that it was a physical impossibility that a minister weighing two hundred and fifty pounds could stand in a purely imaginative place. Moreover, he was prepared to prove that while performing the ceremony at least one of the minister’s feet was in the State of Indiana, which was sufficient to make him legally present in that State.


“The arguments lasted three days, and the court before which it was tried, consisting of three judges, took all the third day to deliver its verdict. It decided that Melinda Smith was legally married to some person unknown, though not to Josiah Wilson, and that Josiah Wilson was also married to some unknown woman, who was not Melinda Smith, whoever else she might be; that no marriage between the plaintiff and the defendant had ever taken place; and that no divorce could be granted, but that if either of them married any one else he or she would be guilty of bigamy.

“The Smiths, with the exception of Melinda, were delighted with the decision, for it made it reasonably certain that Josiah could never be recognized as her husband. She was a good deal cast down about it, for, like every other Indiana girl, she had looked forward to being married and divorced as the natural lot of woman. Now it appeared that she was married, but in such an unsatisfactory way that she could never have a husband and never be divorced from any one. As for Josiah, he was[136] furious, but there was no help for it; the law was against him, and, as a law-abiding man, he was obliged to respect it, especially as he could not hope to kill off all four of the Smiths if he decided to make a family feud of it; he himself having no family whatever, and no one to help him to keep up his end of the feud.

“For the next fifteen years Josiah lived a single man except in name, and Melinda mourned her hard fate and kept house for her father and brothers; but one day Josiah’s lawyer, who was by this time in the legislature, came to him and offered to have his marriage to Melinda made legal in all respects for five hundred dollars. The lawyer was so certain that he could do this that he was willing to wait for his pay until after he had gained a verdict, and Josiah, after a little bargaining such as every self-respecting man would have made in his place, consented to the lawyer’s terms. It seems that the lawyer had accidentally discovered that there had been a mistake in the survey of part of the boundary line between Indiana and Illinois, and at the very place where Josiah[137] and Melinda were married. A rectification of this mistake would move the line ten feet west, and so place the spot where the pair stood during their wedding entirely within the State of Indiana. The proper steps to obtain the rectification of the boundary were taken, and it was rectified. Then Melinda in her turn began a suit for divorce against Josiah, and had no difficulty in proving the marriage and in obtaining a decree. Josiah paid the lawyer his five hundred dollars and was overjoyed at being finally able to call his Melinda his own. But he met with a little disappointment. Now that Melinda had obtained her divorce, she thought she might as well live up to it and marry a fresh husband. So she married the Methodist minister, who had just lost his third wife, and lived happily ever afterward.

“It was just after this that Josiah, being perhaps made a little reckless by his disappointment, became involved in the affair that I was going to tell you about when you interrupted me and wanted to hear about his marriage. Matrimony is a mighty curious thing, and you[138] can never tell precisely how it is going to turn out. That is one reason why I was never married but once, though I spent ten years of my life in Chicago, and had friends at the bar who stood ready to obtain divorces for me at any moment and without a dollar of expense.”



“Yes!” said the Colonel reflectively, “I’ve been almost everywhere in my time except in jail, and I’ve been in a great deal worse places than a first-class American jail with all the modern improvements. The fact is that philanthropic people have gone so far in improving the condition of prisoners that most of our prisons are rather better than most of our hotels. At any rate, they are less expensive and the guests are treated with more respect.

“I never could understand a craze that some people have for prisoners. For instance, in New York and Chicago the young ladies have a society for giving flowers to murderers. Whenever a man is convicted of murder and sentenced to be hanged, the girls begin to heave flowers into his cell till he can’t turn round without upsetting a vase of roses or a big[140] basinful of pansies and getting his feet wet. I once knew a murderer who told me that if anything could reconcile him to being hung it would be in getting rid of the floral tributes that[141] the girls lavished on him. You see, he was one of the leading murderers in that section of country, and consequently he received about a cart-load of flowers every day.


“I had a neighbor when I lived in New Berlinopolisville who was President of the Society for Ameliorating the Condition of Prisoners, and he was the craziest man on the subject that I ever met. His name was Hoskins—Colonel Uriah Hoskins. He was the author of the Hoskins Bill that attracted so much attention when it was before the legislature, though it never became law. The hill provided that every prisoner should have a sitting-room as well as a sleeping-room, and that it should be furnished with a piano, a banjo, a library, a typewriter, a wine-cooler, and a whist-table; that the prisoner should be permitted to hold two weekly receptions, to which everybody should be allowed to come, and that he should be taught any branch of study that he might care to take up, books and masters being, of course, supplied free. Colonel Hoskins used to insist that the only thing that made[142] a man go wrong was the lack of kindness, and that the sure way to reform a criminal was to treat him with so much kindness that he would grow ashamed of being wicked, and would fall on everybody’s neck and devote the rest of his life to weeping tears of repentance and singing hymns of joy.

“While Colonel Hoskins was fond of all styles of criminals, burglars were his particular pets. According to him, a burglar was more deserving of kindness than any other man. ‘How would you like it,’ he used to say, ‘if you had to earn your living by breaking into houses in the middle of the night, instead of sleeping peacefully in your bed? Do you think you would be full of good thoughts after you had been bitten by the watch-dog and fired at by the man of the house, and earned nothing by your labor except a bad cold and the prospect of hydrophobia? There is nothing more brutal than the way in which society treats the burglar; and so long as society refuses to put him in the way of earning an easier and less dangerous living, he cannot be blamed[143] if he continues to practise his midnight profession.’

“I must say this for Colonel Hoskins. He did not confine himself to talk, like many other philanthropists, but was always trying to carry out his principles. He really meant what he said about burglars, and there isn’t the least doubt that he had more sympathy for them than he had for the honest men of his acquaintance.

“When people asked him what he would do if he woke up in the night and found a burglar in his house, and whether or not he would shoot at him, he said that he would as soon think of shooting at his own wife, and that he would undertake to reform that burglar, then and there, by kindness alone. Once somebody said to Hoskins that he ought really to let the burglars know his feelings toward them, and Hoskins said that he would do it without delay.

“That same day he drew up a beautiful ‘Notice to Burglars,’ and had it printed in big letters and framed and hung up in the dining-room of his house. It read in this way: ‘Burglars are respectfully informed that the silverware[144] is all plated, and that the proprietor of this house never keeps ready money on hand. Cake and wine will be found in the dining-room closet, and burglars are cordially invited to rest and refresh themselves. Please wipe your feet on the mat, and close the window when leaving the house.’

“Colonel Hoskins took a good deal of pride in that notice. He showed it to every one who called at the house, and said that if other people would follow his example and treat burglars like Christians and gentlemen, there would soon be an end of burglary, for the burglars would be so touched by the kindness of their treatment that they would abandon the business and become honored members of society—insurance presidents, or bank cashiers, or church treasurers. He didn’t say how the reformed burglars were to find employment in banks and insurance offices and such, but that was a matter of detail, and he always preferred to devise large and noble schemes, and leave the working details of them to other men.

“One morning Colonel Hoskins, who was an[145] early riser, went down to the dining-room before breakfast, and was surprised to find that he had had a midnight visit from burglars. Two empty wine-bottles stood on the table, and all the cake was eaten, which showed that the burglars had accepted the invitation to refresh themselves. But they did not seem to have accepted it in quite the right spirit. All Hoskins’ spoons and forks lay in a heap in the middle of the floor, and every one was twisted or broken so as to be good for nothing. The window had been left open and the rain had ruined the curtains, and on a dirty piece of paper the burglars had scrawled with a lead-pencil the opinion that ‘Old Hoskins is the biggest fule and the gol-darndest skinflint in the country. You set out whiskey next time, or we’ll serve you out.’

“Hoskins was not in the least cast down by the rudeness of the burglars. ‘Poor fellows,’ he said, ‘they have been so used to bad treatment that they don’t altogether appreciate kindness at first. But they will learn.’ So he laid in some new spoons and forks and added a bottle[146] of whiskey to the wine that he kept in the closet for the burglars, and was as confident as ever that the next gang that might break into his house would be melted into tears and repentance and would call him their best and dearest friend.

“A week or two later Mrs. Hoskins was awakened by a noise in the dining-room, and after waking up her husband told him that there were burglars in the house, and that he must get out of the back window and go for the police. He told her that he was sorry to see her manifest such an unchristian spirit, and he would show her how burglars ought to be treated. There was not the least doubt that there were burglars in the house, and they were making a good deal more noise than was strictly consistent with the prospect of rising in their profession, for no able burglar ever makes any unnecessary noise while engaged in business, unless, of course, he falls over a coal-scuttle, and then he naturally uses language. St. Paul himself would probably say something pretty strong in similar circumstances. Hoskins was[147] sincerely delighted to have the opportunity to meet his burglarious friends, and he lost no time in dressing and descending to the dining-room.

“He wore his slippers, and the burglars—there were two of them—did not hear him until he was fairly in the dining room. They were seated at the table, with their feet on the damask table-cloth, and the bottle of whiskey was nearly empty. The Colonel was much pleased to see that they had not damaged his silverware, and he was just about to thank them when they saw him. They started up, and one of them caught him by the throat, while the other held a pistol to his head and promised to blow out his brains if he made the slightest noise. Then they tied him hand and foot, gagged him, and laid him on the floor, and then sat down to finish the whiskey.

“Both the burglars were partly drunk, which accounted for the unprofessional noise they had been making. They talked in rather a low tone, but Hoskins could hear everything they said, and it was not particularly encouraging[148] to a gagged and bound philanthropist. They agreed that he was a fool, and a stingy fool, or else he would have kept money in the house, and would have set out lemons and sugar as well as plain whiskey. They said that any man who treated poor working-men in that way wasn’t fit to live, and that Hoskins would have to be killed, even if it was not necessary—as it plainly was in this case—to kill him in order to prevent him from appearing at any future time as a witness against them. They admitted that the whiskey was not bad of its kind, but they were of the opinion that Hoskins had left it in their way so that they might get drunk and be caught by the police.

“Colonel Hoskins listened to this conversation with horror, and the prospect that the drunken rascals would be as good as their word, and kill him before they left the house, was only a little more painful than the conviction that his method, appealing to the better nature of burglars, had failed for the second time. When the whiskey was exhausted the men rose up and looked at Hoskins, and a happy thought struck[149] one of them. ‘Thishyer idiot,’ he said, ‘may not have any money in the house, but he’s bound to have some in the bank, and he’s going to write us a check for a thousand dollars, provided we let him off and don’t kick his brains out this time.’ The other burglar, who was in that benevolent frame of mind that Irish whiskey and conscious virtue sometimes produce, agreed to the suggestion, and Hoskins was therefore unbound and seated at the table, and told to draw a check at once if he had the least regard for his life. As he was gagged he could not explain to the burglars the kind feelings that he still had toward them, and the fact that they could not draw the money on the check without being captured by the police. So he simply signed the check, and groaned to think that the poor burglars were so slow to be reformed in the way that he had hoped they would be.


“When this business was over, the burglars tied Hoskins’ wrists together again and then tied him in a chair. Then they set to work to do all the damage they could do without making[150] too much noise. They tore the curtains and hacked the piano with knives, and poured a jug of golden syrup over the carpet. Then they plastered Colonel Hoskins’ face with raspberry jam and emptied a sack of flour over his head, and went away, telling him that if he ever[151] again ventured to trifle with the feelings of poor but self-respecting men, they would put him to death by slow tortures.

“Hoskins sat in the chair for a couple of hours, till his wife timidly crept downstairs and released him. It took him a good hour to get the jam and the flour out of his hair and whiskers, and as Mrs. Hoskins said that he was in no state to enter a decent bedroom and made him wash at the pump in the back yard, he found it a rather cold operation. Perhaps it was the remarks that Mrs. Hoskins addressed to him during the operation that irritated him, for she intimated very plainly that he was no better than a professional idiot, and when a man’s hair is stuck together with jam, remarks of this sort from the wife of his bosom seem to be lacking in tenderness. However that may be, Colonel Hoskins had no sooner got himself into what his wife condescended to call a state of comparative decency, than he took down his ‘Notice to Burglars’ and tore it into a thousand pieces. That day he had an electric burglar-alarm put into his house, he bought the[152] savagest dog that he could find, and he stopped the payment of the check, which, however, was never presented. He continued to be the President of the Society for Ameliorating the Condition of Prisoners, but he steadily refused to ameliorate a single prisoner convicted of burglary, and while he was always a lunatic in regard to other criminals, he openly maintained that a burglar was the worst of men and that kindness was utterly thrown away upon him. He never had any more burglars in his house, though the dog now and then lunched off warm leg when some stranger to that part of the country ventured into the Hoskins premises at night. Hoskins was very fond of the animal, which was quite right, but his practice of leaving a bottle of whiskey, with an ounce of strychnine in it, on the dining-room table every night, in case a burglar should succeed in getting into the house, was, in my opinion, going a little too far. Antimonial wine would have been much more humane and sufficiently effective. But there is no man who is more severe than a philanthropist who has been turned sour.”



We had been discussing the Darwinian hypothesis, and the Colonel had maintained a profound silence, which was sufficient evidence that he did not believe in the development of man from the lower animals. Some one, however, asked him plumply his opinion of Darwinism, and he sententiously replied, “Darned nonsense!”

Feeling that this view of the matter possibly merited expansion, the Colonel caused his chair to assume its customary oratorical attitude on its two rear legs, and began to discourse.

“There are some things,” he remarked, “which do look as if there might be a grain of truth in this monkey theory. For instance, when I was in France I was pretty nearly convinced that the monkey is the connecting link between man and the Frenchmen, but after all[154] there is no proof of it. That’s what’s the matter with Darwinism. When you produce a man who can remember that his grandfather was a monkey, or when you show me a monkey that can produce papers to prove that he is my second cousin, I’ll believe all Darwin said on the subject; but as the thing stands I’ve nothing but Darwin’s word to prove that men and monkeys are near relations. So far as I can learn, Darwin didn’t know as much about animals as a man ought to know who undertakes to invent a theory about them. He never was intimate with dogs and he never drove an army mule. He had a sort of bowing acquaintance with monkeys and a few other animals of no particular standing in the community, but he couldn’t even understand a single animal language. Now, if he had gone to work and learned to read and write and speak the monkey language, as that American professor that you were just speaking of has done, he might have been able to give us some really valuable information.

“Do I believe that animals talk? I don’t[155] simply believe it, I know it. When I was a young man I had a good deal to do with animals, and I learned to understand the cat language just as well as I understood English. It’s an easy language when once you get the hang of it, and from what I hear of German the two are considerably alike. You look as if you didn’t altogether believe me, though why you should doubt that a man can learn cat language when the world is full of men that pretend to have learned German, and nobody calls their word in question, I don’t precisely see.

“Of course, I don’t pretend to understand all the cat dialects. For example, I don’t know a word of the Angora dialect and can only understand a sentence here and there of the tortoise-shell dialect; but so far as good, pure standard cat language goes, it’s as plain as print to me to-day, though I haven’t paid any attention to it for forty years. I don’t want you to understand that I ever spoke it. I always spoke English when I was talking with cats. They all understand English as well as[156] you do. They pick it up just as a child picks up a language from hearing it spoken.

“Forty years ago I was a young man, and, like most young men, I fancied that I was in love with a young woman of our town. There isn’t the least doubt in my mind that I should have married her if I had not known the cat language. She afterward married a man whom she took away to Africa with her as a missionary. I knew him well, and he didn’t want to go to Africa. Said he had no call to be a missionary, and that all he wanted was to live in a Christian country where he could go and talk with the boys in the bar-room evenings. But his wife carried him off, and it’s my belief that if I had married her she would have made me turn missionary, or pirate, or anything else that she thought best. I shall never cease to be grateful to Thomas Aquinas for saving me from that woman.


“This was the way of it. I was living in a little cottage that belonged to my uncle, and that he let me have rent free on condition that I should take care of it and keep the grounds in[157] an attractive state until he could sell it. I had an old negro housekeeper and two cats. One of them, Martha Washington by name, was young and handsome, and about as bright a cat as I[158] ever knew. She had a strong sense of humor, too, which is unusual with cats, and when something amused her she would throw back her head and open her mouth wide, and laugh a silent laugh that was as hearty and rollicking as a Methodist parson’s laugh when he hears a gray-haired joke at a negro minstrel show. Martha was perhaps the most popular cat in the town, and there was scarcely a minute in the day when there wasn’t some one of her admirers in the back yard. As for serenades, she had three or four every night that it didn’t rain. There was a quartette club formed by four first-class feline voices, and the club used to give Martha and me two or three hours of music three times a week. I used sometimes to find as many as six or seven old boots in the back yard of a morning that had been contributed by enthusiastic neighbors. As for society, Martha Washington was at the top of the heap. There wasn’t a more fashionable cat in the whole State of Ohio—I was living in Ohio at the time—and in spite of it all she was as simple and unaffected in her ways as if she[159] had been born and bred in a Quaker meeting-house.

“One afternoon Martha was giving a four-o’clock milk on the veranda next to my room. I always gave her permission to give that sort of entertainment whenever she wanted to, for the gossip of her friends used to be very amusing to me. Among the guests that afternoon was Susan’s Maltese cat. Susan was the young lady I wanted to marry. Now, this cat had always pretended to be very fond of me, and Susan often said that her cat never made a mistake in reading character, and that the cat’s approval of me was equivalent to a first-class Sunday-school certificate of moral character. I didn’t care anything about the cat myself, for somehow I didn’t place any confidence in her professions. There was an expression about her tail which, to my mind, meant that she was insincere and treacherous. The Maltese cat had finished her milk, when the conversation drifted around to the various mistresses of the cats, and presently some one spoke of Susan. Then the Maltese began to say things about Susan that[160] made my blood boil. It was not only what she said, but what she insinuated, and according to her Susan was one of the meanest and most contemptible women in the whole United States. I stood it as long as I could, and then I got up and said to Martha Washington, ‘I think your Maltese friend is needed at her home, and the sooner she goes the better if she doesn’t want to be helped home with a club.’ That was enough. The Maltese, who was doing up her back fur when I spoke, stopped, looked at me as if she could tear me into pieces, and then flounced out of the house without saying a word. I understood that there was an end to her pretence of friendship for me, and that henceforth I should have an enemy in Susan’s house who might, perhaps, be able to do me a good deal of harm.


“The next time I called to see Susan the Maltese was in the room, and she instantly put up her back and tail and swore at me as if I was a Chinaman on the lookout for material for a stolen dinner. ‘What can be the matter with poor pussy?’ said Susan. ‘She seems to be so[161] terribly afraid of you all of a sudden. I hope it doesn’t mean that you have been doing something that she doesn’t approve of.’ I didn’t make any reply to this insinuation, except to[162] say that the cat might perhaps be going mad, but this didn’t help me any with Susan, who was really angry at the idea that her cat could be capable of going mad.

“The same sort of thing happened every time I went to the house. The cat was always in the room, and always expressed, in the plainest way, the opinion that I was a thief and a murderer and an enemy of the temperance society. When I asked her what she meant to do, she would give me no reply except a fresh oath or other bad language. Threats had no effect on her, for she knew that I could not touch her in Susan’s house, and she didn’t intend that I should catch her outside of the house. Nothing was clearer than that the Maltese was bound to make a quarrel between me and Susan, in revenge for what I had said at Martha’s four-o’clock milk.

“Meanwhile Susan began to take the thing very seriously, and hinted that the cat’s opposition to me might be a providential warning against me. ‘I never knew her to take such a prejudice against any one before,’ she said,[163] ‘except against that converted Jew who afterward turned out to be a burglar, and nearly murdered poor dear Mr. Higby, the Baptist preacher, the night he broke into Mr. Higby’s house and stole all his hams.’ Once when I did manage to give the Maltese a surreptitious kick, and she yelled as if she was half-killed, Susan said, ‘I am really afraid I shall have to ask you to leave us now. Poor pussy’s nerves are so thoroughly upset that I must devote all my energies to soothing her. I do hope she is mistaken in her estimate of you.’ This was not very encouraging, and I saw clearly that if the Maltese kept up her opposition the chances that Susan would marry me were not worth a rush.

“Did I tell you that I had a large gray cat by the name of Thomas Aquinas? He was in some respects the most remarkable cat I ever met. Most people considered him rather a dull person, but among cats he was conceded to have a colossal mind. Cats would come from miles away to ask his advice about things. I don’t mean such trifling matters as his views on[164] mice-catching—which, by the way, is a thing that has very little interest for most cats—or his opinion of the best way in which to get a canary bird through the bars of a cage. They used to consult him on matters of the highest importance, and the opinions that he used to give would have laid over those of Benjamin Franklin himself. Why, Martha Washington told me that Thomas Aquinas knew more about bringing up kittens than the oldest and most experienced feline matron that she had ever known. As for common sense, Thomas Aquinas was just a solid chunk of it, as you might say, and I get into the habit of consulting him whenever I wanted a good, safe, cautious opinion. He would see at a glance where the trouble was, and would give me advice that no lawyer could have beaten, no matter how big a fee he might have charged.

“Well, I went home from Susan’s house, and I said to Thomas Aquinas, ‘Thomas’—for he was one of those cats that you would no more have called ‘Tom’ than you would call Mr. Gladstone ‘Bill’—‘Thomas,’ I said, ‘I want[165] you to come with me to Miss Susan’s and tell that Maltese beast that if she doesn’t quit her practice of swearing at me whenever I come into the room it will be the worse for her.’

“‘That’s easy enough,’ said Thomas. ‘I know one or two little things about that cat that would not do to be told, and she knows that I know them. Never you fear but that I can shut her up in a moment. I heard that she was going about bragging that she would get square with you for something you said to her one day, but I didn’t feel called upon to interfere without your express approval.’”

“The next day Thomas and I strolled over to Susan’s, and, as luck would have it, we were shown into her reception-room before she came downstairs. The Maltese cat was in the room, and began her usual game of being filled with horror at the sight of such a hardened wretch as myself. Of course, Thomas Aquinas took it up at once, and the two had a pretty hot argument. Now Thomas, in spite of his colossal mind, was a quick-tempered cat, and he was remarkably free-spoken when he was roused.[166] One word led to another, and presently the Maltese flew at Thomas, and for about two minutes that room was so thick with fur that you could hardly see the fight. Of course, there could have been only one end to the affair. My cat weighed twice what the Maltese weighed, and after a few rounds he had her by the neck, and never let go until he had killed her. I was just saying ‘Hooray! Thomas!’ when Susan came into the room.

“I pass over what she said. Its general sense was that a man who encouraged dumb animals to fight, and who brought a great savage brute into her house to kill her sweet little pussy in her own parlor, wasn’t fit to live. She would listen to no explanations, and when I said that Thomas had called at my request to reason with the Maltese about her unkind conduct toward me, Susan said that my attempt to turn an infamous outrage into a stupid joke made the matter all the worse, and that she must insist that I and my prize-fighting beast should leave her house at once and never enter it again.

“So you see that if it had not been that I[167] understood what the Maltese cat said at Martha Washington’s milk party, I should probably never have quarrelled with either Susan or her cat, and should now have been a missionary in Central Africa, if I hadn’t blown my brains out or taken to drink. I have often thought that the man Susan did marry might have been saved if he had known the cat language in time and had made the acquaintance of the Maltese.”

The Colonel paused, and presently I asked him if he really expected us to believe his story.

“Why not?” he replied. “It isn’t any stiffer than Darwin’s yarn about our being descended from monkeys. You believe that on the word of a man you never saw, and I expect you to believe my story that I understand the cat language on my unsupported word. Perhaps the story is a little tough, but if you are going in for science you shouldn’t let your credulity be backed down by any story.”



The Etruria was nearing New York, and the prospect of the inevitable interview with the custom-house officers had already cast a gloom over the passengers. For the most part they were silent, and their faces wore an anxious and solemn expression. The Rev. Mr. Waterman, of the Eighth Day Baptist Church, who had bought largely of ready-made clothing in London, even suggested that it might be well to hold a prayer-meeting in the saloon.

A group of half a dozen men were sitting in the lee of one of the deck-houses, smoking silently, when one of the number, a young and sanguine person, suddenly exclaimed:

“I don’t believe any honest man ever has any trouble with the custom-house. It’s the fellows who want to defraud the Government who make all the complaints.”


“What you say may be patriotism and it may be ignorance——”

“What’s the difference?” murmured a cynical interrupter.

“But,” continued the speaker, “it isn’t true. I never tried to defraud the Government, but for all that I’ve had more trouble with the custom-house than if I’d been an honest collector of the port trying not to mix up politics with the business of the office.”

“America expects every man to pay his duty, Colonel,” replied the sanguine young man, with a vague reminiscence of Nelson. “Tell us about your trouble, and I rather think you’ll have to admit that it was because you didn’t want to pay duty on something.”

The Colonel was generally understood by the rest of the passengers to be a sort of theatrical manager, a position which in the United States entitles a man to the relative rank of colonel in the militia and commodore in the canal-boat service. He had on several occasions shown a knowledge of music and of professional musicians which had won for him[170] some respect among those of his fellow-passengers who did not know the difference between a hurdy-gurdy and a hautboy, and were therefore fond of posing as musical critics. He was a shrewd, good-tempered colonel, and the barkeeper said that he was the most elegant, high-toned gentleman he had ever crossed with.

“Electricity, gentlemen,” resumed the Colonel, “is the biggest thing of the century, but it has its drawbacks. Did any of you ever happen to ride on that electric railroad in Berlin? Well, I have, and ’most anybody who goes to Berlin is liable to ride on it. It taught me, however, that a man ought to be pretty careful when he trusts himself in an electric car.

“It happened in this way. I was an agent in the general show business, and was collecting an opera company for a friend of mine who was going to open in Chicago. I had come across a first-class tenor—found him in a country church choir in Germany—and was bringing him home with me under a contract, when he and I took that ride on that Berlin electric road. He was a careless sort of chap, and he sat down in a[171] corner of the car where the electricity had been leaking and the seat was pretty wet.”

“I never knew before,” remarked the young man, “that electricity could make a seat wet.”

“Probably not,” retorted the Colonel. “I should judge that there might be a right smart lot of things that you mightn’t know. Most of these gentlemen here, however, have probably heard that nowadays electricity is put up for use in bottles and metallic cans. It stands to reason that anything capable of being put into a bottle is capable of leaking, and wetting whatever it leaks on. If there is anybody here who knows more about bottles than I do, I’m ready to let him tell this story.

“As I was saying, my man sat down in a sort of pool of electric fluid, and sat there for about half an hour. He was wearing in the fob-pocket of his trousers a cheap silver watch. I had given it to him so that he might get some exercise and prevent himself from getting too fat. He never suspected my motive, but he tired himself all out winding it up for two hours every night. Now you may not believe it, but[172] I give you my word that the electricity completely dissolved that watch-case and deposited the silver around the man’s waist. He didn’t find it out till night, and you never saw a man so scared as when he found that there was a band about four inches wide silver-plated all round his waist. The doctor told him that the only possible way of getting it off would be to dissolve it with acid, but that the acid would eat clean through to his spine and injure his voice. So my tenor had to let bad enough alone, and be satisfied with another ten-and-sixpenny gymnasium that I gave him to mollify his feelings.

“We came over on the Arizona, and it got around during the passage that my man was silver-plated. There was a custom-house spy on board, and it happened that after the tenor had sworn that he had nothing dutiable with him, the inspector ordered him to strip and be personally examined. Of course when this was done it was discovered that he was silver-plated, and he was held for duty under the general heading in the tariff of ‘all other articles,[173] silver-plated, or in whole, and not elsewhere enumerated,’ and taxed fifty per cent ad valorem and fined two hundred and fifty dollars for failing to declare that he was plated. He couldn’t pay and I wouldn’t pay, and so he was locked up in a bonded warehouse, and I went to consult my lawyer.

“I laid all the facts before him, and told him I would pay him handsomely if he could get my man out of the custom-house without paying either duty or fine. Now, the lawyer knew the tariff from beginning to end, and if any man could help me I knew he could. He didn’t promise anything at first, but he discussed the question by and large and in all its bearings.

“‘I’m afraid,’ said he, ‘that there is no hope of getting your friend out without paying duty, but we may succeed in having him classified so as to make the duty very low. For instance, you say the man is a professional singer. Now, we might have him classed as a musical instrument and taxed forty-five per cent ad valorem. By the bye, what did you agree to pay him?’


“‘I agreed to pay him,’ says I, ‘a hundred dollars per week.’

“‘That’s bad,’ says the lawyer. ‘A hundred dollars a week is fifty-two hundred per year, which is about the interest at six per cent on eighty-seven thousand dollars. You wouldn’t like to pay forty-three or four thousand dollars duty on him.’

“‘I’d see him sent to Congress first!’ says I.

“‘Very well,’ says the lawyer. ‘Then perhaps we could classify him as machinery or parts thereof. But you wouldn’t save much in that way. You’d have to pay forty per cent ad valorem, and very likely the appraisers would say that you had undervalued the man, and would value him at double what your contract seems to say he is worth. They’re bound to protect American machinery against the pauper labor of Europe every time.’

“‘How would it do to classify him as old family plate?’ said I.

“‘Worse and worse,’ said the lawyer. ‘He’d have to pay sixty per cent, and you’d have a good deal of difficulty in proving that he is old[175] family plate. Of course it could be done, but it would probably cost you more than the whole amount of the duty. They’re a perfectly honest set of men, the appraisers, and they naturally come high.’

“‘What will I do, then?’ said I; ‘let him die in the custom-house and then sue for damages?’

“‘There might be something worth while done in that way,’ says the lawyer, ‘but it would be middling hard on the man. But I’ll tell you what we can do. Didn’t you say that the man was singing in a church choir when you hired him?’

“‘I did so,’ says I.

“‘All right,’ says the lawyer. ‘We’ll classify him as an “article used in the service of religion,” and get him in free of any duty whatever. You go and get him an engagement in a church without an hour’s delay, and then come to me. We’ll beat the custom-house this time, sure enough.’

“I got the man an engagement to sing for a week in a Methodist meeting-house, and before the week was out he was decided to be an[176] article used in the service of religion, and was returned to me free of duty, and cursing the head off of every officer in the revenue service. The end of it was that my tenor claimed that I had broken my contract by setting him to sing in a church, and he sued me for damages, and got them too. So you see, my young friend, that a man may have trouble with the custom-house who does not want to defraud the Government out of anything, not even the duty on that sealskin sack that I hear you have taken apart and packed in a spare pair of boots.”


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