Infomotions, Inc.The Water Ghost and Others / Bangs, John Kendrick, 1862-1922



Author: Bangs, John Kendrick, 1862-1922
Title: The Water Ghost and Others
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): terwilliger; bangletop; bragdon; bangletop hall; thomas bragdon; ghost; miss hollister; harrowby hall; willis; earl; baron
Contributor(s): Blaydes, W. [Translator]
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 40,895 words (really short) Grade range: 10-12 (high school) Readability score: 60 (average)
Identifier: etext8377
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Title: The Water Ghost and Others

Author: John Kendrick Bangs

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[Illustration]


John Kendrick Bangs


THE WATER GHOST AND OTHERS



To Francis Sedgwick Bangs


CONTENTS

THE WATER GHOST OF HARROWBY HALL

THE SPECTRE COOK OF BANGLETOP

THE SPECK ON THE LENS

A MIDNIGHT VISITOR

A QUICKSILVER CASSANDRA

THE GHOST CLUB

A PSYCHICAL PRANK

THE LITERARY REMAINS OF THOMAS BRAGDON



ILLUSTRATIONS

"'WELCOME TO BANGLETOP'"
A DEPARTING COOK
THE BARON'S BREAKFAST WAS NOT PAY-DAY
TERWILLIGER TO THE RESCUE
"COOK!" HE WHISPERED
THE PRESENCE HAD ASSUMED SHAPE
"'NO TALKERS,' RETORTED THE GHOST"
THEY SHOOK HANDS AND PARTED
THE H'EARL, OF MUGLEY
"'TO ARIADNE, OF COURSE'"
"A DUKE IS A DUKE THE WORLD OVER"
BACK TO THE SPIRIT VALE
"MARTYRS' NIGHT"
"DO YOU HEAR THAT BOLT SLIDE?"
THE VISITOR ARRIVES
"I LOOKED UPON MY REFLECTION IN THE GLASS"
THE RED TIE
"NOT A CARD FELL"
"'GRAB HOLD OF ME, BOYS'"
"I MUST HAVE FAINTED"
THE MIND-READING FEATS ON THE CLUB'S BUTLER
"5010"
"PEGGING SHOES LIKE A GENTLEMAN"
5010 BECOMES EXCITED
"NO LESS A PERSON THAN HAWLEY HICKS"
"'JUST WATCH ME'"
NOAH AND DAVY CROCKETT
SOLOMON AND DOCTOR JOHNSON
MOZART TRIES HIS HAND AT THE BANJO
WAITING FOR THE CRITICS
NAPOLEON BONAPARTE AND THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON
THE GIFT OF THE SPOONS
"'LET ME SHAAK DTHOT HAND'"
"HE WAS IN AN UNUSUALLY EXUBERANT MOOD"
ON A SPIRIT SHIP
"MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN THE REALITY"
GIUSEPPE ZOCCO
"BUT FINALLY I OPENED THE BOX"
"GAZING INTO THE FIRE WAS TOM BRAGDON"
"'YOU GOIN' TO KEEP A DIARY?'"




THE WATER GHOST OF HARROWBY HALL

The trouble with Harrowby Hall was that it was haunted, and, what was
worse, the ghost did not content itself with merely appearing at the
bedside of the afflicted person who saw it, but persisted in remaining
there for one mortal hour before it would disappear.

It never appeared except on Christmas Eve, and then as the clock was
striking twelve, in which respect alone was it lacking in that originality
which in these days is a _sine qua non_ of success in spectral life. The
owners of Harrowby Hall had done their utmost to rid themselves of the
damp and dewy lady who rose up out of the best bedroom floor at midnight,
but without avail. They had tried stopping the clock, so that the ghost
would not know when it was midnight; but she made her appearance just the
same, with that fearful miasmatic personality of hers, and there she would
stand until everything about her was thoroughly saturated.

Then the owners of Harrowby Hall calked up every crack in the floor with
the very best quality of hemp, and over this was placed layers of tar and
canvas; the walls were made water-proof, and the doors and windows
likewise, the proprietors having conceived the notion that the unexorcised
lady would find it difficult to leak into the room after these precautions
had been taken; but even this did not suffice. The following Christmas Eve
she appeared as promptly as before, and frightened the occupant of the
room quite out of his senses by sitting down alongside of him and gazing
with her cavernous blue eyes into his; and he noticed, too, that in her
long, aqueously bony fingers bits of dripping sea-weed were entwined, the
ends hanging down, and these ends she drew across his forehead until he
became like one insane. And then he swooned away, and was found
unconscious in his bed the next morning by his host, simply saturated with
sea-water and fright, from the combined effects of which he never
recovered, dying four years later of pneumonia and nervous prostration at
the age of seventy-eight.

The next year the master of Harrowby Hall decided not to have the best
spare bedroom opened at all, thinking that perhaps the ghost's thirst for
making herself disagreeable would be satisfied by haunting the furniture,
but the plan was as unavailing as the many that had preceded it.

The ghost appeared as usual in the room--that is, it was supposed she did,
for the hangings were dripping wet the next morning, and in the parlor
below the haunted room a great damp spot appeared on the ceiling. Finding
no one there, she immediately set out to learn the reason why, and she
chose none other to haunt than the owner of the Harrowby himself. She
found him in his own cosey room drinking whiskey--whiskey undiluted--and
felicitating himself upon having foiled her ghostship, when all of a
sudden the curl went out of his hair, his whiskey bottle filled and
overflowed, and he was himself in a condition similar to that of a man who
has fallen into a water-butt. When he recovered from the shock, which was
a painful one, he saw before him the lady of the cavernous eyes and
sea-weed fingers. The sight was so unexpected and so terrifying that he
fainted, but immediately came to, because of the vast amount of water in
his hair, which, trickling down over his face, restored his consciousness.

Now it so happened that the master of Harrowby was a brave man, and while
he was not particularly fond of interviewing ghosts, especially such
quenching ghosts as the one before him, he was not to be daunted by an
apparition. He had paid the lady the compliment of fainting from the
effects of his first surprise, and now that he had come to he intended to
find out a few things he felt he had a right to know. He would have liked
to put on a dry suit of clothes first, but the apparition declined to
leave him for an instant until her hour was up, and he was forced to deny
himself that pleasure. Every time he would move she would follow him, with
the result that everything she came in contact with got a ducking. In an
effort to warm himself up he approached the fire, an unfortunate move as
it turned out, because it brought the ghost directly over the fire, which
immediately was extinguished. The whiskey became utterly valueless as a
comforter to his chilled system, because it was by this time diluted to a
proportion of ninety per cent of water. The only thing he could do to ward
off the evil effects of his encounter he did, and that was to swallow ten
two-grain quinine pills, which he managed to put into his mouth before the
ghost had time to interfere. Having done this, he turned with some
asperity to the ghost, and said:

"Far be it from me to be impolite to a woman, madam, but I'm hanged if it
wouldn't please me better if you'd stop these infernal visits of yours to
this house. Go sit out on the lake, if you like that sort of thing; soak
the water-butt, if you wish; but do not, I implore you, come into a
gentleman's house and saturate him and his possessions in this way. It is
damned disagreeable."

"Henry Hartwick Oglethorpe," said the ghost, in a gurgling voice, "you
don't know what you are talking about."

"Madam," returned the unhappy householder, "I wish that remark were
strictly truthful. I was talking about you. It would be shillings and
pence--nay, pounds, in my pocket, madam, if I did not know you."

"That is a bit of specious nonsense," returned the ghost, throwing a quart
of indignation into the face of the master of Harrowby. "It may rank high
as repartee, but as a comment upon my statement that you do not know what
you are talking about, it savors of irrelevant impertinence. You do not
know that I am compelled to haunt this place year after year by inexorable
fate. It is no pleasure to me to enter this house, and ruin and mildew
everything I touch. I never aspired to be a shower-bath, but it is my
doom. Do you know who I am?"

"No, I don't," returned the master of Harrowby. "I should say you were the
Lady of the Lake, or Little Sallie Waters."

"You are a witty man for your years," said the ghost.

"Well, my humor is drier than yours ever will be," returned the master.

"No doubt. I'm never dry. I am the Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall, and
dryness is a quality entirely beyond my wildest hope. I have been the
incumbent of this highly unpleasant office for two hundred years
to-night."

"How the deuce did you ever come to get elected?" asked the master.

"Through a suicide," replied the spectre. "I am the ghost of that fair
maiden whose picture hangs over the mantel-piece in the drawing-room. I
should have been your great-great-great-great-great-aunt if I had lived,
Henry Hartwick Oglethorpe, for I was the own sister of your
great-great-great-great-grandfather."

"But what induced you to get this house into such a predicament?"

"I was not to blame, sir," returned the lady. "It was my father's fault.
He it was who built Harrowby Hall, and the haunted chamber was to have
been mine. My father had it furnished in pink and yellow, knowing well
that blue and gray formed the only combination of color I could tolerate.
He did it merely to spite me, and, with what I deem a proper spirit, I
declined to live in the room; whereupon my father said I could live there
or on the lawn, he didn't care which. That night I ran from the house and
jumped over the cliff into the sea."

"That was rash," said the master of Harrowby.

"So I've heard," returned the ghost. "If I had known what the consequences
were to be I should not have jumped; but I really never realized what I
was doing until after I was drowned. I had been drowned a week when a
sea-nymph came to me and informed me that I was to be one of her followers
forever afterwards, adding that it should be my doom to haunt Harrowby
Hall for one hour every Christmas Eve throughout the rest of eternity. I
was to haunt that room on such Christmas Eves as I found it inhabited; and
if it should turn out not to be inhabited, I was and am to spend the
allotted hour with the head of the house."

"I'll sell the place."

"That you cannot do, for it is also required of me that I shall appear as
the deeds are to be delivered to any purchaser, and divulge to him the
awful secret of the house."

"Do you mean to tell me that on every Christmas Eve that I don't happen to
have somebody in that guest-chamber, you are going to haunt me wherever I
may be, ruining my whiskey, taking all the curl out of my hair,
extinguishing my fire, and soaking me through to the skin?" demanded the
master.

"You have stated the case, Oglethorpe. And what is more," said the water
ghost, "it doesn't make the slightest difference where you are, if I find
that room empty, wherever you may be I shall douse you with my spectral
pres--"

Here the clock struck one, and immediately the apparition faded away. It
was perhaps more of a trickle than a fade, but as a disappearance it was
complete.

"By St. George and his Dragon!" ejaculated the master of Harrowby,
wringing his hands. "It is guineas to hot-cross buns that next Christmas
there's an occupant of the spare room, or I spend the night in a
bath-tub."

But the master of Harrowby would have lost his wager had there been any
one there to take him up, for when Christmas Eve came again he was in his
grave, never having recovered from the cold contracted that awful night.
Harrowby Hall was closed, and the heir to the estate was in London, where
to him in his chambers came the same experience that his father had gone
through, saving only that, being younger and stronger, he survived the
shock. Everything in his rooms was ruined--his clocks were rusted in the
works; a fine collection of water-color drawings was entirely obliterated
by the onslaught of the water ghost; and what was worse, the apartments
below his were drenched with the water soaking through the floors, a
damage for which he was compelled to pay, and which resulted in his being
requested by his landlady to vacate the premises immediately.

The story of the visitation inflicted upon his family had gone abroad, and
no one could be got to invite him out to any function save afternoon teas
and receptions. Fathers of daughters declined to permit him to remain in
their houses later than eight o'clock at night, not knowing but that some
emergency might arise in the supernatural world which would require the
unexpected appearance of the water ghost in this on nights other than
Christmas Eve, and before the mystic hour when weary churchyards, ignoring
the rules which are supposed to govern polite society, begin to yawn. Nor
would the maids themselves have aught to do with him, fearing the
destruction by the sudden incursion of aqueous femininity of the costumes
which they held most dear.

So the heir of Harrowby Hall resolved, as his ancestors for several
generations before him had resolved, that something must be done. His
first thought was to make one of his servants occupy the haunted room at
the crucial moment; but in this he failed, because the servants themselves
knew the history of that room and rebelled. None of his friends would
consent to sacrifice their personal comfort to his, nor was there to be
found in all England a man so poor as to be willing to occupy the doomed
chamber on Christmas Eve for pay.

Then the thought came to the heir to have the fireplace in the room
enlarged, so that he might evaporate the ghost at its first appearance,
and he was felicitating himself upon the ingenuity of his plan, when he
remembered what his father had told him--how that no fire could withstand
the lady's extremely contagious dampness. And then he bethought him of
steam-pipes. These, he remembered, could lie hundreds of feet deep in
water, and still retain sufficient heat to drive the water away in vapor;
and as a result of this thought the haunted room was heated by steam to a
withering degree, and the heir for six months attended daily the Turkish
baths, so that when Christmas Eve came he could himself withstand the
awful temperature of the room.

The scheme was only partially successful. The water ghost appeared at the
specified time, and found the heir of Harrowby prepared; but hot as the
room was, it shortened her visit by no more than five minutes in the hour,
during which time the nervous system of the young master was wellnigh
shattered, and the room itself was cracked and warped to an extent which
required the outlay of a large sum of money to remedy. And worse than
this, as the last drop of the water ghost was slowly sizzling itself out
on the floor, she whispered to her would-be conqueror that his scheme
would avail him nothing, because there was still water in great plenty
where she came from, and that next year would find her rehabilitated and
as exasperatingly saturating as ever.

It was then that the natural action of the mind, in going from one extreme
to the other, suggested to the ingenious heir of Harrowby the means by
which the water ghost was ultimately conquered, and happiness once more
came within the grasp of the house of Oglethorpe.

The heir provided himself with a warm suit of fur under-clothing. Donning
this with the furry side in, he placed over it a rubber garment,
tightfitting, which he wore just as a woman wears a jersey. On top of this
he placed another set of under-clothing, this suit made of wool, and over
this was a second rubber garment like the first. Upon his head he placed a
light and comfortable diving helmet, and so clad, on the following
Christmas Eve he awaited the coming of his tormentor.

It was a bitterly cold night that brought to a close this twenty-fourth
day of December. The air outside was still, but the temperature was below
zero. Within all was quiet, the servants of Harrowby Hall awaiting with
beating hearts the outcome of their master's campaign against his
supernatural visitor.

The master himself was lying on the bed in the haunted room, clad as has
already been indicated, and then--

The clock clanged out the hour of twelve.

There was a sudden banging of doors, a blast of cold air swept through the
halls, the door leading into the haunted chamber flew open, a splash was
heard, and the water ghost was seen standing at the side of the heir of
Harrowby, from whose outer dress there streamed rivulets of water, but
whose own person deep down under the various garments he wore was as dry
and as warm as he could have wished.

"Ha!" said the young master of Harrowby. "I'm glad to see you."

"You are the most original man I've met, if that is true," returned the
ghost. "May I ask where did you get that hat?"

"Certainly, madam," returned the master, courteously. "It is a little
portable observatory I had made for just such emergencies as this. But,
tell me, is it true that you are doomed to follow me about for one mortal
hour--to stand where I stand, to sit where I sit?"

"That is my delectable fate," returned the lady.

"We'll go out on the lake," said the master, starting up.

"You can't get rid of me that way," returned the ghost. "The water won't
swallow me up; in fact, it will just add to my present bulk."

"Nevertheless," said the master, firmly, "we will go out on the lake."

"But, my dear sir," returned the ghost, with a pale reluctance, "it is
fearfully cold out there. You will be frozen hard before you've been out
ten minutes."

"Oh no, I'll not," replied the master. "I am very warmly dressed. Come!"
This last in a tone of command that made the ghost ripple.

And they started.

They had not gone far before the water ghost showed signs of distress.

"You walk too slowly," she said. "I am nearly frozen. My knees are so
stiff now I can hardly move. I beseech you to accelerate your step."

"I should like to oblige a lady," returned the master, courteously, "but
my clothes are rather heavy, and a hundred yards an hour is about my
speed. Indeed, I think we would better sit down here on this snowdrift,
and talk matters over."

"Do not! Do not do so, I beg!" cried the ghost. "Let me move on. I feel
myself growing rigid as it is. If we stop here, I shall be frozen stiff."

"That, madam," said the master slowly, and seating himself on an
ice-cake--"that is why I have brought you here. We have been on this spot
just ten minutes, we have fifty more. Take your time about it, madam, but
freeze, that is all I ask of you."

"I cannot move my right leg now," cried the ghost, in despair, "and my
overskirt is a solid sheet of ice. Oh, good, kind Mr. Oglethorpe, light a
fire, and let me go free from these icy fetters."

"Never, madam. It cannot be. I have you at last."

"Alas!" cried the ghost, a tear trickling down her frozen cheek. "Help me,
I beg. I congeal!"

"Congeal, madam, congeal!" returned Oglethorpe, coldly. "You have drenched
me and mine for two hundred and three years, madam. To-night you have had
your last drench."

"Ah, but I shall thaw out again, and then you'll see. Instead of the
comfortably tepid, genial ghost I have been in my past, sir, I shall be
iced-water," cried the lady, threateningly.

"No, you won't, either," returned Oglethorpe; "for when you are frozen
quite stiff, I shall send you to a cold-storage warehouse, and there shall
you remain an icy work of art forever more."

"But warehouses burn."

"So they do, but this warehouse cannot burn. It is made of asbestos and
surrounding it are fire-proof walls, and within those walls the
temperature is now and shall forever be 416 degrees below the zero point;
low enough to make an icicle of any flame in this world--or the next," the
master added, with an ill-suppressed chuckle.

"For the last time let me beseech you. I would go on my knees to you,
Oglethorpe, were they not already frozen. I beg of you do not doo--"

Here even the words froze on the water ghost's lips and the clock struck
one. There was a momentary tremor throughout the ice-bound form, and the
moon, coming out from behind a cloud, shone down on the rigid figure of a
beautiful woman sculptured in clear, transparent ice. There stood the
ghost of Harrowby Hall, conquered by the cold, a prisoner for all time.

The heir of Harrowby had won at last, and to-day in a large storage house
in London stands the frigid form of one who will never again flood the
house of Oglethorpe with woe and sea-water.

As for the heir of Harrowby, his success in coping with a ghost has made
him famous, a fame that still lingers about him, although his victory took
place some twenty years ago; and so far from being unpopular with the fair
sex, as he was when we first knew him, he has not only been married twice,
but is to lead a third bride to the altar before the year is out.




THE SPECTRE COOK OF BANGLETOP


I

For the purposes of this bit of history, Bangletop Hall stands upon a
grassy knoll on the left bank of the River Dee, about eighteen miles
from the quaint old city of Chester. It does not in reality stand there,
nor has it ever done so, but consideration for the interests of the
living compels me to conceal its exact location, and so to befog the
public as to its whereabouts that its identity may never be revealed to
its disadvantage. It is a rentable property, and were it known that it
has had a mystery connected with it of so deep, dark, and eerie a nature
as that about to be related, I fear that its usefulness, save as an
accessory to romance, would be seriously impaired, and that as an
investment it would become practically worthless.

The hall is a fair specimen of the architecture which prevailed at the
time of Edward the Confessor; that is to say, the main portion of the
structure, erected in Edward's time by the first Baron Bangletop, has
that square, substantial, stony aspect which to the eye versed in
architecture identifies it at once as a product of that enlightened era.
Later owners, the successive Barons Bangletop, have added to its original
dimensions, putting Queen Anne wings here, Elizabethan ells there, and an
Italian-Renaissance facade on the river front. A Wisconsin water tower,
connected with the main building by a low Gothic alleyway, stands to the
south; while toward the east is a Greek chapel, used by the present
occupant as a store-room for his wife's trunks, she having lately
returned from Paris with a wardrobe calculated to last through the first
half of the coming London season. Altogether Bangletop Hall is an
impressive structure, and at first sight gives rise to various emotions
in the aesthetic breast; some cavil, others admire. One leading architect
of Berlin travelled all the way from his German home to Bangletop Hall to
show that famous structure to his son, a student in the profession which
his father adorned; to whom he is said to have observed that,
architecturally, Bangletop Hall was "cosmopolitan and omniperiodic, and
therefore a liberal education to all who should come to study and master
its details." In short, Bangletop Hall was an object-lesson to young
architects, and showed them at a glance that which they should ever
strive to avoid.

Strange to say, for quite two centuries had Bangletop Hall remained
without a tenant, and for nearly seventy-five years it had been in the
market for rent, the barons, father and son, for many generations having
found it impossible to dwell within its walls, and for a very good reason:
no cook could ever be induced to live at Bangletop for a longer period
than two weeks. Why the queens of the kitchen invariably took what is
commonly known as French leave no occupant could ever learn, because, male
or female, the departed domestics never returned to tell, and even had
they done so, the pride of the Bangletops would not have permitted them to
listen to the explanation. The Bangletop escutcheon was clear of blots, no
suspicion even of a conversational blemish appearing thereon, and it was
always a matter of extreme satisfaction to the family that no one of its
scions since the title was created had ever been known to speak directly
to any one of lesser rank than himself, communication with inferiors being
always had through the medium of a private secretary, himself a baron, or
better, in reduced circumstances.

The first cook to leave Bangletop under circumstances of a Gallic
nature--that is, without known cause, wages, or luggage--had been employed
by Fitzherbert Alexander, seventeenth Baron of Bangletop, through Charles
Mortimor de Herbert, Baron Peddlington, formerly of Peddlington Manor at
Dunwoodie-on-the-Hike, his private secretary, a handsome old gentleman of
sixty-five, who had been deprived of his estates by the crown in 1629
because he was suspected of having inspired a comic broadside published in
those troublous days, and directed against Charles the First, which had
set all London in a roar.

This broadside, one of very few which are not preserved in the British
Museum--and a greater tribute to its rarity could not be devised--was
called, "A Good Suggestion as to ye Proper Use of ye Chinne Whisker," and
consisted of a few lines of doggerel printed beneath a caricature of the
king, with the crown hanging from his goatee, reading as follows:

"_Ye King doth sporte a gallous grey goatee
Uponne ye chinne, where every one may see.
And since ye Monarch's head's too small to holde
With comfort to himselfe ye crowne of gold,
Why not enwax and hooke ye goatee rare,
And lette ye British crown hang down from there?_"

[Illustration]

Whether or no the Baron of Peddlington was guilty of this traitorous
effusion no one, not even the king, could ever really make up his mind.
The charge was never fully proven, nor was De Herbert ever able to refute
it successfully, although he made frantic efforts to do so. The king,
eminently just in such matters, gave the baron the benefit of the doubt,
and inflicted only half the penalty prescribed, confiscating his estates,
and letting him keep his head and liberty. De Herbert's family begged the
crown to reverse the sentence, permitting them to keep the estates, the
king taking their uncle's head in lieu thereof, he being unmarried and
having no children who would mourn his loss. But Charles was poor rather
than vindictive at this period, and preferring to adopt the other course,
turned a deaf ear to the petitioners. This was probably one of the
earliest factors in the decadence of literature as a pastime for men of
high station.

De Herbert would have starved had it not been for his old friend Baron
Bangletop, who offered him the post of private secretary, lately made
vacant by the death of the Duke of Algeria, who had been the incumbent of
that office for ten years, and in a short time the Baron of Peddlington
was in full charge of the domestic arrangements of his friend. It was far
from easy, the work that devolved upon him. He was a proud, haughty man,
used to luxury of every sort, to whom contact with those who serve was
truly distasteful; to whom the necessity of himself serving was most
galling; but he had the manliness to face the hardships Fate had put upon
him, particularly when he realized that Baron Bangletop's attitude towards
servants was such that he could with impunity impose on the latter seven
indignities for every one that was imposed on him. Misery loves company,
particularly when she is herself the hostess, and can give generously of
her stores to others.

Desiring to retrieve his fallen fortunes, the Baron of Peddlington offered
large salaries to those whom he employed to serve in the Bangletop menage,
and on payday, through an ingenious system of fines, managed to retain
almost seventy-five per cent of the funds for his own use. Of this Baron
Bangletop, of course, could know nothing. He was aware that under De
Herbert the running expenses of his household were nearly twice what they
had been under the dusky Duke of Algeria; but he also observed that
repairs to the property, for which the late duke had annually paid out
several thousands of pounds sterling, with very little to show for it, now
cost him as many hundreds with no fewer tangible results. So he winked his
eye--the only unaristocratic habit he had, by-the-way--and said nothing.
The revenue was large enough, he had been known to say, to support himself
and all his relatives in state, with enough left over to satisfy even Ali
Baba and the forty thieves.

Had he foreseen the results of his complacency in financial matters, I
doubt if he would have persisted therein.

For some ten years under De Herbert's management everything went smoothly
and expensively for the Bangletop Hall people, and then there came a
change. The Baron Bangletop rang for his breakfast one morning, and his
breakfast was not. The cook had disappeared. Whither or why she had gone,
the private secretary professed to be unable to say. That she could easily
be replaced, he was certain. Equally certain was it that Baron Bangletop
stormed and raved for two hours, ate a cold breakfast--a thing he never
had been known to do before--and then departed for London to dine at the
club until Peddlington had secured a successor to the departed cook, which
the private secretary succeeded in doing within three days. The baron was
informed of his manager's success, and at the end of a week returned to
Bangletop Hall, arriving there late on a Saturday night, hungry as a bear,
and not too amiable, the king having negotiated a forcible loan with him
during his sojourn in the metropolis.

"Welcome to Bangletop, Baron," said De Herbert, uneasily, as his employer
alighted from his coach.

"Blast your welcome, and serve the dinner," returned the baron, with a
somewhat ill grace.

At this the private secretary seemed much embarrassed. "Ahem!" he said.
"I'll be very glad to have the dinner served, my dear Baron; but the fact
is I--er--I have been unable to provide anything but canned lobster and
apples."

[Illustration]

"What, in the name of Chaucer, does this mean?" roared Bangletop, who was
a great admirer of the father of English poetry; chiefly because, as he
was wont to say, Chaucer showed that a bad speller could be a great man,
which was a condition of affairs exactly suited to his mind, since in the
science of orthography he was weak, like most of the aristocrats of his
day. "I thought you sent me word you had a cook?"

"Yes, Baron, I did; but the fact of the matter is, sir, she left us last
night, or, rather, early this morning."

"Another one of your beautiful Parisian exits, I presume?" sneered the
baron, tapping the floor angrily with his toe.

"Well, yes, somewhat so; only she got her money first."

"Money!" shrieked the baron. "Money! Why in Liverpool did she get her
money? What did we owe her money for? Rent?"

"No, Baron; for services. She cooked three dinners."

"Well, you'll pay the bill out of your perquisites, that's all. She's done
no cooking for me, and she gets no pay from me. Why do you think she
left?"

"She said--"

"Never mind what she said, sir," cried Bangletop, cutting De Herbert
short. "When I am interested in the table-talk of cooks, I'll let you
know. What I wish to hear is what do _you_ think was the cause of her
leaving?"

"I have no opinion on the subject," replied the private secretary, with
becoming dignity. "I only know that at four o'clock this morning she
knocked at my door, and demanded her wages for four days, and vowed she'd
stay no longer in the house."

"And why, pray, did you not inform me of the fact, instead of having me
travel away down here from London?" queried Bangletop.

"You forget, Baron," replied De Herbert, with a deprecatory gesture--"you
forget that there is no system of telegraphy by which you could be
reached. I may be poor, sir, but I'm just as much of a baron as you are,
and I will take the liberty of saying right here, in what would be the
shadow of your beard, if you had one, sir, that a man who insists on
receiving cable messages when no such things exist is rather rushing
business."

"Pardon my haste, Peddlington, old chap," returned the baron, softening.
"You are quite right. My desire was unreasonable; but I swear to you, by
all my ancestral Bangletops, that I am hungry as a pit full of bears, and
if there's one thing I can't eat, it is lobster and apples. Can't you
scare up a snack of bread and cheese and a little cold larded fillet? If
you'll supply the fillet, I'll provide the cold."

At this sally the Baron of Peddlington laughed and the quarrel was over.
But none the less the master of Bangletop went to bed hungry; nor could he
do any better in the morning at breakfast-time. The butler had not been
trained to cook, and the coachman's art had once been tried on a boiled
egg, which no one had been able to open, much less eat, and as it was the
parlor-maid's Sunday off, there was absolutely no one in the house who
could prepare a meal. The Baron of Bangletop had a sort of sneaking notion
that if there were nobody around he could have managed the spit or
gridiron himself; but, of course, in view of his position, he could not
make the attempt. And so he once more returned to London, and vowed never
to set his foot within the walls of Bangletop Hall again until his
ancestral home was provided with a cook "copper-fastened and riveted to
her position."

And Bangletop Hall from that time was as a place deserted. The baron never
returned, because he could not return without violating his oath; for De
Herbert was not able to obtain a cook for the Bangletop cuisine who would
stay, nor was any one able to discover why. Cook after cook came, stayed a
day, a week, and one or two held on for two weeks, but never longer. Their
course was invariably the same--they would leave without notice; nor could
any inducement be offered which would persuade them to remain. The Baron
of Peddlington became, first round-shouldered, then deaf, and then insane
in his search for a permanent cook, landing finally in an asylum, where he
died, four years after the demise of his employer in London, of softening
of the brain. His last words were, "Why did you leave your last place?"

[Illustration]

And so time went on. Barons of Bangletop were born, educated, and died.
Dynasties rose and fell, but Bangletop Hall remained uninhabited, although
it was not until 1799 that the family gave up all hopes of being able to
use their ancestral home. Tremendous alterations, as I have already
hinted, were made. The drainage was carefully inspected, and a special
apartment connected with the kitchen, finished in hardwood, handsomely
decorated, and hung with rich tapestries, was provided for the cook, in
the vain hope that she might be induced permanently to occupy her
position. The Queen Anne wing and Elizabethan ell were constructed, the
latter to provide bowling-alleys and smoking-rooms for the probable
cousins of possible culinary queens, and many there were who accepted the
office with alacrity, throwing it up with still greater alacrity before
the usual fortnight passed. Then the Bangletops saw clearly that it was
impossible for them to live there, and moving away, the house was
announced to be "for rent, with all modern improvements, conveniently
located, spacious grounds, especially adapted to the use of those who do
their own cooking." The last clause of the announcement puzzled a great
many people, who went to see the mansion for no other reason than to
ascertain just what the announcement meant, and the line, which was
inserted in a pure spirit of facetious bravado, was probably the cause of
the mansion's quickly renting, as hardly a month had passed before it was
leased for one year by a retired London brewer, whose wife's curiosity had
been so excited by the strange wording of the advertisement that she
travelled out to Bangletop to gratify it, fell in love with the place, and
insisted upon her husband's taking it for a season. The luck of the brewer
and his wife was no better than that of the Bangletops. Their cooks--and
they had fourteen during their stay there--fled after an average service
of four days apiece, and later the tenants themselves were forced to give
up and return to London, where they told their friends that the "'all was
'aunted," which might have filled the Bangletops with concern had they
heard of it. They did not hear of it, however, for they and their friends
did not know the brewer and the brewer's friends, and as for complaining
to the Bangletop agent in the matter, the worthy beer-maker thought he
would better not do that, because he had hopes of being knighted some day,
and he did not wish to antagonize so illustrious a family as the
Bangletops by running down their famous hall--an antagonism which might
materially affect the chances of himself and his good wife when they came
to knock at the doors of London society. The lease was allowed to run its
course, the rent was paid when due, and at the end of the stipulated term
Bangletop Hall was once more on the lists as for rent.


II

For fourscore years and ten did the same hard fortune pursue the owners of
Bangletop. Additions to the property were made immediately upon request of
possible lessees. The Greek chapel was constructed in 1868 at the mere
suggestion of a Hellenic prince, who came to England to write a history of
the American rebellion, finding the information in back files of British
newspapers exactly suited to the purposes of picturesque narrative, and no
more misleading than most home-made history. Bangletop was retired, "far
from the gadding crowd," as the prince put it, and therefore just the
place in which a historian of the romantic school might produce his
_magnum opus_ without disturbance; the only objection being that there was
no place whither the eminently Christian sojourner could go to worship
according to his faith, he being a communicant in the Greek Church. This
defect Baron Bangletop immediately remedied by erecting and endowing the
chapel; and his youngest son, having been found too delicate morally for
the army, was appointed to the living and placed in charge of the chapel,
having first embraced with considerable ardor the faith upon which the
soul of the princely tenant was wont to feed. All of these
improvements--chapel, priest, the latter's change of faith, and all--the
Bangletop agent put at the exceedingly low sum of forty-two guineas per
annum and board for the priest; an offer which the prince at once
accepted, stipulating, however, that the lease should be terminable at any
time he or his landlord should see fit. Against this the agent fought
nobly, but without avail. The prince had heard rumors about the cooks of
Bangletop, and he was wary. Finally the stipulation was accepted by the
baron, with what result the reader need hardly be told. The prince stayed
two weeks, listened to one sermon in classic university Greek by the
youthful Bangletop, was deserted by his cook, and moved away.

After the departure of the prince the estate was neglected for nearly
twenty-two years, the owner having made up his mind that the case was
hopeless. At the end of that period there came from the United States a
wealthy shoemaker, Hankinson J. Terwilliger by name, chief owner of the
Terwilliger Three-dollar Shoe Company (Limited), of Soleton,
Massachusetts, and to him was leased Bangletop Hall, with all its rights
and appurtenances, for a term of five years. Mr. Terwilliger was the first
applicant for the hall as a dwelling to whom the agent, at the instance of
the baron, spoke in a spirit of absolute candor. The baron was well on in
years, and he did not feel like getting into trouble with a Yankee, so he
said, at his time of life. The hall had been a thorn in his flesh all his
days, and he didn't care if it was never occupied, and therefore he wished
nothing concealed from a prospective tenant. It was the agent's candor
more than anything else that induced Mr. Terwilliger to close with him for
the term of five years. He suspected that the Bangletops did not want him
for a tenant, and from the moment that notion entered his head, he was
resolved that he would be a tenant.

"I'm as good a man as any baron that ever lived," he said; "and if it
pleases Hankinson J. Terwilliger to live in a baronial hall, a baronial
hall is where Hankinson J. Terwilliger puts up."

"We certainly have none of the feeling which your words seem to attribute
to us, my dear sir," the agent had answered. "Baron Bangletop would feel
highly honored to have so distinguished a sojourner in England as yourself
occupy his estate, but he does not wish you to take it without fully
understanding the circumstances. Desirable as Bangletop Hall is, it seems
fated to be unoccupied because it is thought to be haunted, or something
of that sort, the effect of which is to drive away cooks, and without
cooks life is hardly an ideal."

Mr. Terwilliger laughed. "Ghosts and me are not afraid of each other," he
said. "'Let 'em haunt,' I say; and as for cooks, Mrs. H.J.T. hasn't had a
liberal education for nothing. We could live if all the cooks in creation
were to go off in a whiff. We have daughters too, we have. Good smart
American girls, who can adorn a palace or grace a hut on demand, not
afraid of poverty, and able to take care of good round dollars. They can
play the piano all the morning and cook dinner all the afternoon if
they're called on to do it; so your difficulties ain't my difficulties.
I'll take the hall at your figures; term, five years; and if the baron'll
come down and spend a month with us at any time, I don't care when, we'll
show him what a big lap Luxury can get up when she tries."

And so it happened the New York papers announced that Hankinson J.
Terwilliger, Mrs. Terwilliger, the Misses Terwilliger, and Master
Hankinson J. Terwilliger, Jun., of Soleton, Massachusetts, had plunged
into the dizzy whirl of English society, and that the sole of the
three-dollar shoe now trod the baronial halls of the Bangletops. Later it
was announced that the Misses Terwilliger, of Bangletop Hall, had been
presented to the queen; that the Terwilligers had entertained the Prince
of Wales at Bangletop; in fact, the Terwilligers became an important
factor in the letters of all foreign correspondents of American papers,
for the president of the Terwilliger Three-dollar Shoe Company, of
Soleton, Massachusetts (Limited), was now in full possession of the
historic mansion, and was living up to his surroundings.

For a time everything was plain sailing for the Americans at Bangletop.
The dire forebodings of the agent did not seem to be fulfilled, and Mr.
Terwilliger was beginning to feel aggrieved. He had hired a house with a
ghost, and he wanted the use of it; but when he reflected upon the
consequences below stairs, he held his peace. He was not so sure, after he
had stayed at Bangletop awhile, and had had his daughters presented to the
queen, that he could be so independent of cooks as he had at first
supposed. Several times he had hinted rather broadly that some of the old
New England homemade flap-jacks would be most pleasing to his palate; but
since the prince had spent an afternoon on the lawn of Bangletop, the
young ladies seemed deeply pained at the mere mention of their
accomplishments in the line of griddles and batter; nor could Mrs.
Terwilliger, after having tasted the joys of aristocratic life, bring
herself to don the apron which so became her portly person in the early
American days, and prepare for her lord and master one of those delicious
platters of poached eggs and breakfast bacon, the mere memory of which
made his mouth water. In short, palatial surroundings had too obviously
destroyed in his wife and daughters all that capacity for happiness in a
hovel of which Mr. Terwilliger had been so proud, and concerning which he
had so eloquently spoken to Baron Bangletop's agent, and he now found
himself in the position of Damocles. The hall was leased for a term,
entertainment had been provided for the county with lavish hand; but
success was dependent entirely upon his ability to keep a cook, his family
having departed from their republican principles, and the history of the
house was dead against a successful issue. So he decided that, after all,
it was better that the ghost should be allowed to remain quiescent, and he
uttered no word of complaint.

It was just as well, too, that Mr. Terwilliger held his peace, and
refrained from addressing a complaining missive to the agent of Bangletop
Hall; for before a message of that nature could have reached the person
addressed, its contents would have been misleading, for at a quarter after
midnight on the morning of the date set for the first of a series of grand
banquets to the county folk, there came from the kitchen of Bangletop Hall
a quick succession of shrieks that sent the three Misses Terwilliger into
hysterics, and caused Hankinson J. Terwilliger's sole remaining lock to
stand erect. Mrs. Terwilliger did not hear the shrieks, owing to a lately
acquired habit of hearing nothing that proceeded from below stairs.

The first impulse of Terwilliger _pere_ was to dive down under the
bedclothes, and endeavor to drown the fearful sound by his own labored
breathing, but he never yielded to first impulses. So he awaited the
second, which came simultaneously with a second series of shrieks and a
cry for help in the unmistakable voice of the cook; a lady, by-the-way,
who had followed the Terwilliger fortunes ever since the Terwilligers
began to have fortunes, and whose first capacity in the family had been
the dual one of mistress of the kitchen and confidante of madame. The
second impulse was to arise in his might, put on a stout pair of the
Terwilliger three-dollar brogans--the strongest shoe made, having been
especially devised for the British Infantry in the Soudan--and garments
suitable to the occasion, namely, a mackintosh and pair of broadcloth
trousers, and go to the rescue of the distressed domestic. This Hankinson
J. Terwilliger at once proceeded to do, arming himself with a pair of
horse-pistols, murmuring on the way below a soft prayer, the only one he
knew, and which, with singular inappropriateness on this occasion, began
with the words, "Now I lay me down to sleep."

"What's the matter, Judson?" queried Mrs. Terwilliger, drowsily, as she
opened her eyes and saw her husband preparing for the fray.

She no longer called him Hankinson, not because she did not think it a
good name, nor was it less euphonious to her ear than Judson, but Judson
was Mr. Terwilliger's middle name, and middle names were quite the thing,
she had observed, in the best circles. It was doubtless due to this
discovery that her visiting cards had been engraved to read "Mrs. H.
Judson-Terwilliger," the hyphen presumably being a typographical error,
for which the engraver was responsible.

[Illustration]

"Matter enough," growled Hankinson. "I have reason to believe that that
jackass of a ghost is on duty to-night."

At the word ghost a pseudo-aristocratic shriek pervaded the atmosphere,
and Mrs. Terwilliger, forgetting her social position for a moment, groaned
"Oh, Hank!" and swooned away. And then the president of the Terwilliger
Three-dollar Shoe Company of Soleton, Massachusetts (Limited), descended
to the kitchen.

Across the sill of the kitchen door lay the culinary treasure whose
lobster croquettes the Prince of Wales had likened unto a dream of
Lucullus. Within the kitchen were signs of disorder. Chairs were upset;
the table was lying flat on its back, with its four legs held rigidly up
in the air; the kitchen library, consisting of a copy of _Marie
Antoinette's Dream-Book_; a yellow-covered novel bearing the title _Little
Lucy; or, The Kitchen-maid who Became a Marchioness_; and _Sixty Soups, by
One who Knows_, lay strewn about the room, the _Dream-Book_ sadly torn,
and _Little Lucy_ disfigured forever with batter. Even to the unpractised
eye it was evident that something had happened, and Mr. Terwilliger felt a
cold chill mounting his spine three sections at a time. Whether it was the
chill or his concern for the prostrate cook that was responsible or not I
cannot say, but for some cause or other Mr. Terwilliger immediately got
down on his knees, in which position he gazed fearfully about him for a
few minutes, and then timidly remarked, "Cook!"

There was no answer.

"Mary, I say. Cook," he whispered, "what the deuce is the meaning of all
this?"

[Illustration]

A low moan was all that came from the cook, nor would Hankinson have
listened to more had there been more to hear, for simultaneously with the
moan he became uncomfortably conscious of a presence. In trying to
describe it afterwards, Hankinson said that at first he thought a cold
draught from a dank cavern filled with a million eels, and a rattlesnake
or two thrown in for luck, was blowing over him, and he avowed that it was
anything but pleasant; and then it seemed to change into a mist drawn
largely from a stagnant pool in a malarial country, floating through which
were great quantities of finely chopped sea-weed, wet hair, and an
indescribable atmosphere of something the chief quality of which was a
sort of stale clamminess that was awful in its intensity.

"I'm glad," Mr. Terwilliger murmured to himself, "that I ain't one of
those delicately reared nobles. If I had anything less than a right-down
regular republican constitution I'd die of fright."

And then his natural grit came to his rescue, and it was well it did, for
the presence had assumed shape, and now sat on the window-ledge in the
form of a hag, glaring at him from out of the depths of her unfathomable
eyes, in which, despite their deadly greenness, there lurked a tinge of
red caused by small specks of that hue semioccasionally seen floating
across her dilated pupils.

"You are the Bangletop ghost, I presume?" said Terwilliger, rising and
standing near the fire to thaw out his system.

The spectre made no reply, but pointed to the door.

"Yes," Terwilliger said, as if answering a question. "That's the way out,
madame. It's a beautiful exit, too. Just try it."

"H'I knows the wi out," returned the spectre, rising and approaching the
tenant of Bangletop, whose solitary lock also rose, being too polite to
remain seated while the ghost walked. "H'I also knows the wi in, 'Ankinson
Judson Terwilliger."

"That's very evident, madame, and between you and me I wish you didn't,"
returned Hankinson, somewhat relieved to hear the ghost talk, even if her
voice did sound like the roar of a conch-shell with a bad case of grip. "I
may say to you that, aside from a certain uncanny satisfaction which I
feel at being permitted for the first time in my life to gaze upon the
linaments of a real live misty musty spook, I regard your coming here as
an invasion of the sacred rights of privacy which is, as you might say,
'hinexcusable.'"

[Illustration]

"Hinvaision?" retorted the ghost, snapping her fingers in his face with
such effect that his chin dropped until Terwilliger began to fear it might
never resume its normal position. "Hinvaision? H'I'd like to know 'oo's
the hinvaider. H'I've occupied these 'ere 'alls for hover two 'undred
years."

"Then it's time you moved, unless perchance you are the ghost of a
mediaeval porker," Hankinson said, his calmness returning now that he had
succeeded in plastering his iron-gray lock across the top of his otherwise
bald head. "Of course, if you are a spook of that kind you want the earth,
and maybe you'll get it."

"H'I'm no porker," returned the spectre. "H'I'm simply the shide of a poor
abused cook which is hafter revenge."

"Ah!" ejaculated Terwilliger, raising his eyebrows, "this is getting
interesting. You're a spook with a grievance, eh? Against me? I've never
wronged a ghost that I know of."

"No, h'I've no 'ard feelinks against you, sir," answered the ghost. "Hin
fact h'I don't know nothink about you. My trouble's with them Baingletops,
and h'I'm a-pursuin' of 'em. H'I've cut 'em out of two 'undred years of
rent 'ere. They might better 'ave pide me me waiges hin full."

"Oho!" cried Terwilliger; "it's a question of wages, is it? The Bangletops
were hard up?"

"'Ard up? The Baingletops?" laughed the ghost. "When they gets 'ard up the
Baink o' Hengland will be in all the sixty soups mentioned in that there
book."

"You seem to be up in the vernacular," returned Terwilliger, with a smile.
"I'll bet you are an old fraud of a modern ghost."

Here he discharged all six chambers of his pistol into the body of the
spectre.

"No taikers," retorted the ghost, as the bullets whistled through her
chest, and struck deep into the wall on the other side of the kitchen.
"That's a noisy gun you've got, but you carn't ly a ghost with cold lead
hany more than you can ly a corner-stone with a chicken. H'I'm 'ere to sty
until I gets me waiges."

[Illustration]

"What was the amount of your wages due at the time of your discharge?"
asked Hankinson.

"H'I was gettin' ten pounds a month," returned the spectre.

"Geewhittaker!" cried Terwilliger, "you must have been an all-fired fine
cook."

"H'I was," assented the ghost, with a proud smile. "H'I cooked a boar's
'ead for 'is Royal 'Ighness King Charles when 'e visited Baingletop 'All
as which was the finest 'e hever taisted, so 'e said, hand 'e'd 'ave
knighted me hon the spot honly me sex wasn't suited to the title. 'You
carn't make a knight out of a woman,' says the king, 'but give 'er my
compliments, and tell 'er 'er monarch says as 'ow she's a cook as is too
good for 'er staition.'"

"That was very nice," said Terwilliger. "No one could have desired a
higher recommendation than that."

"My words hexackly when the baron's privit secretary told me two dys
laiter as 'ow the baron's heggs wasn't done proper," said the ghost. "H'I
says to 'im, says I: 'The baron's heggs be blowed. My monarch's hopinion
is worth two of any ten barons's livin', and Mister Baingletop,' (h'I
allus called 'im mister when 'e was ugly,) 'can get 'is heggs cooked
helsewhere if 'e don't like the wy h'I boils 'em.' Hand what do you
suppose the secretary said then?"

"I give it up," replied Terwilliger. "What?"

"'E said as 'ow h'I 'ad the big 'ead."

"How disgusting of him!" murmured Terwilliger. "That was simply low."

"Hand then 'e accuged me of bein' himpudent."

"No!"

"'E did, hindeed; hand then 'e discharged me without me waiges. Hof course
h'I wouldn't sty after that; but h'I says to 'im, 'Hif I don't get me py,
h'I'll 'aunt this place from the dy of me death;' hand 'e says, ''Aunt
awy.'"

"And you have kept your word."

"H'I 'ave that! H'I've made it 'ot for 'em, too."

"Well, now, look here," said Terwilliger, "I'll tell you what I'll do.
I'll pay you your wages if you'll go back to Spookland and mind your own
business. Ten pounds isn't much when three-dollar shoes cost fifteen cents
a pair and sell like hot waffles. Is it a bargain?"

"H'I was sent off with three months' money owin' me," said the ghost.

"Well, call it thirty pounds, then," replied Terwilliger.

"With hinterest--compound hinterest at six per cent.--for two 'undred and
thirty years," said the ghost.

"Phew!" whistled Terwilliger. "Have you any idea how much money that is?"

"Certingly," replied the ghost. "Hit's just 63,609,609 pounds 6 shillings
4-1/2 pence. When h'I gets that, h'I flies; huntil I gets it h'I stys 'ere
an' I 'aunts."

"Say," said Terwilliger, "haven't you been chumming with an Italian ghost
named Shylock over on the other shore?"

"Shylock!" said the ghost. "No, h'I've never 'eard the naime. Perhaps 'e's
stoppin' at the hother place."

"Very likely," said Terwilliger. "He is an eminent saint alongside of you.
But I say now, Mrs. Spook, or whatever your name is, this is rubbing it
in, to try to collect as much money as that, particularly from me, who
wasn't to blame in any way, and on whom you haven't the spook of a claim."

"H'I'm very sorry for you, Mr. Terwilliger," said the ghost. "But my vow
must be kept sacrid."

"But why don't you come down on the Bangletops up in London, and squeeze
it out of them?"

"H'I carn't. H'I'm bound to 'aunt this 'all, an' that's hall there is
about it. H'I carn't find a better wy to ly them Baingletops low than by
attachin' of their hincome, hand the rent of this 'all is the honly bit of
hincome within my reach."

"But I've leased the place for five years," said Terwilliger, in despair;
"and I've paid the rent in advance."

"Carn't 'elp it," returned the ghost. "Hif you did that, hit's your own
fault."

"I wouldn't have done it, except to advertise my shoe business," said
Terwilliger, ruefully. "The items in the papers at home that arise from my
occupancy of this house, together with the social cinch it gives me, are
worth the money; but I'm hanged if it's worth my while to pay back
salaries to every grasping apparition that chooses to rise up out of the
moat and dip his or her clammy hand into my surplus. The shoe trade is a
blooming big thing, but the profits aren't big enough to divide with tramp
ghosts."

"Your tone is very 'aughty, 'Ankinson J. Terwilliger, but it don't haffeck
me. H'I don't care 'oo pys the money, an' h'I 'aven't got you into this
scripe. You've done that yourself. Hon the other 'and, sir, h'I've showed
you 'ow to get out of it."

"Well, perhaps you're right," returned Hankinson. "I can't say I blame you
for not perjuring yourself, particularly since you've been dead long
enough to have discovered what the probable consequences would be. But I
do wish there was some other way out of it. _I_ couldn't pay you all that
money without losing a controlling interest in the shoe company, and
that's hardly worth my while, now is it?"

"No, Mr. Terwilliger; hit is not."

"I have a scheme," said Hankinson, after a moment or two of deep thought.
"Why don't you go back to the spirit world and expose the Bangletops
there? They have spooks, haven't they?"

"Yes," replied the ghost, sadly. "But the spirit world his as bad as this
'ere. The spook of a cook carn't reach the spook of a baron there hany
more than a scullery-maid can reach a markis 'ere. H'I tried that when the
baron died and came over to the hother world, but 'e 'ad 'is spook
flunkies on 'and to tell me 'e was hout drivin' with the ghost of William
the Conqueror and the shide of Solomon. H'I knew 'e wasn't, but what could
h'I do?"

"It was a mean game of bluff," said Terwilliger. "I suppose, though, if
you were the shade of a duchess, you could simply knock Bangletop silly?"

"Yes, and the Baron of Peddlington too. 'E was the private secretary as
said h'I 'ad the big 'ead."

"H'm!" said Terwilliger, meditatively. "Would you--er--would you consent
to retire from this haunting business of yours, and give me a receipt for
that bill for wages, interest and all, if I had you made over into the
spook of a duchess? Revenge is sweet, you know, and there are some
revenges that are simply a thousand times more balmy than riches."

"Would h'I?" ejaculated the ghost, rising and looking at the clock. "Would
h'I?" she repeated. "Well, rather. If h'I could enter spook society as a
duchess, you can wager a year's hincome them Bangletops wouldn't be hin
it."

"Good! I am glad to see that you are a spook of spirit. If you had veins,
I believe there'd be sporting blood in them."

"Thainks," said the ghost, dryly. "But 'ow can it hever be did?"

"Leave that to me," Terwilliger answered. "We'll call a truce for two
weeks, at the end of which time you must come back here, and we'll settle
on the final arrangements. Keep your own counsel in the matter, and don't
breathe a word about your intentions to anybody. Above all, keep sober."

"H'I'm no cannibal," retorted the ghost.

"Who said you were?" asked Terwilliger.

"You intimated as much," said the ghost, with a smile. "You said as 'ow I
must keep sober, and 'ow could I do hotherwise hunless I swallered some
spirits?"

Terwilliger laughed. He thought it was a pretty good joke for a
ghost--especially a cook's ghost--and then, having agreed on the hour of
midnight one fortnight thence for the next meeting, they shook hands and
parted.

"What was it, Hankinson?" asked Mrs. Terwilliger, as her husband crawled
back into bed. "Burglars?"

"Not a burglar," returned Hankinson. "Nothing but a ghost--a poor, old,
female ghost."

"Ghost!" cried Mrs. Terwilliger, trembling with fright. "In this house?"

"Yes, my dear. Haunted us by mistake, that's all. Belongs to another place
entirely; got a little befogged, and came here without intending to,
that's all. When she found out her mistake, she apologized, and left."

[Illustration]

"What did she have on?" asked Mrs. Terwilliger, with a sigh of relief.

But the president of the Three-dollar Shoe Company, of Soleton,
Massachusetts (Limited), said nothing. He had dropped off into a profound
slumber.


III

For the next two weeks Terwilliger lived in a state of preoccupation that
worried his wife and daughters to a very considerable extent. They were
afraid that something had happened, or was about to happen, in connection
with the shoe corporation; and this deprived them of sleep, particularly
the elder Miss Terwilliger, who had danced four times at a recent ball
with an impecunious young earl, whom she suspected of having intentions.
Ariadne was in a state of grave apprehension, because she knew that much
as the earl might love her, it would be difficult for them to marry on his
income, which was literally too small to keep the roof over his head in
decent repair.

But it was not business troubles that occupied every sleeping and waking
thought of Hankinson Judson Terwilliger. His mind was now set upon the
hardest problem it had ever had to cope with, that problem being how to so
ennoble the spectre cook of Bangletop that she might outrank the ancestors
of his landlord in the other world--the shady world, he called it. The
living cook had been induced to remain partly by threats and partly by
promises of increased pay; the threats consisting largely of expressions
of determination to leave her in England, thousands of miles from her home
in Massachusetts, deserted and forlorn, the poor woman being
insufficiently provided with funds to get back to America, and holding in
her veins a strain of Celtic blood quite large enough to make the idea of
remaining an outcast in England absolutely intolerable to her. At the end
of seven days Terwilliger was seemingly as far from the solution of his
problem as ever, and at the grand fete given by himself and wife on the
afternoon of the seventh day of his trial, to the Earl of Mugley, the one
in whom Ariadne was interested, he seemed almost rude to his guests, which
the latter overlooked, taking it for the American way of entertaining. It
is very hard for a shoemaker to entertain earls, dukes, and the plainest
kind of every-day lords under ordinary circumstances; but when, in
addition to the duties of host, the maker of soles has to think out a
recipe for the making of an aristocrat out of a deceased plebe, a polite
drawing-room manner is hardly to be expected. Mr. Terwilliger's manner
remained of the kind to be expected under the circumstances, neither
better nor worse, until the flunky at the door announced, in stentorian
tones, "The Hearl of Mugley."

The "Hearl" of Mugley seemed to be the open sesame to the door betwixt
Terwilliger and success. Simultaneously with the entrance of the earl
the solution of his problem flashed across the mind of the master of
Bangletop, and his affronting demeanor, his preoccupation and all
disappeared in an instant. Indeed, so elegantly enthusiastic was his
reception of the earl that Lady Maud Sniffles, on the other side of the
room, whispered in the ear of the Hon. Miss Pottleton that Mugley's
creditors were in luck; to which the Hon. Miss Pottleton, whose smiles
upon the nobleman had been returned unopened, curved her upper lip
spitefully, and replied that they were indeed, but she didn't envy
Ariadne that pompous little error of nature's, the earl.

"Howdy do, Earl?" said Terwilliger. "Glad to see you looking so well.
How's your mamma?"

"The countess is in her usual state of health, Mr. Terwilliger," returned
the earl.

"Ain't she coming this afternoon?"

"I really can't say," answered Mugley. "I asked her if she was coming, and
all she did was to call for her salts. She's a little given to
fainting-spells, and the slightest shock rather upsets her."

And then the earl turned on his heel and sought out the fair Ariadne,
while Terwilliger, excusing himself, left the assemblage, and went
directly to his private office in the crypt of the Greek chapel. Arrived
there, he seated himself at his desk and wrote the following formal card,
which he put in an envelope and addressed to the Earl of Mugley:

[Illustration]

"If the Earl of Mugley will call at the private office of Mr. H. Judson
Terwilliger at once, he will not only greatly oblige Mr. H. Judson
Terwilliger, but may also hear of something to his advantage."

The card written, Terwilliger summoned an attendant, ordered a quantity of
liqueurs, whiskey, sherry, port, and lemon squash for two to be brought to
the office, and then sent his communication to the earl.

Now the earl was a great stickler for etiquette, and he did not at all
like the idea of one in his position waiting upon one of Mr. Terwilliger's
rank, or lack of rank, and, at first thought, he was inclined to ignore
the request of his host, but a combination of circumstances served to
change his resolution. He so seldom heard anything to his advantage that,
for mere novelty's sake, he thought he would do as he was asked; but the
question of his dignity rose up again, and shoving the note into his
pocket he tried to forget it. After five minutes he found he could not
forget it, and putting his hand into the pocket for the missive, meaning
to give it a second reading, he drew out another paper by mistake, which
was, in brief, a reminder from a firm of London lawyers that he owed
certain clients of theirs a few thousands of pounds for the clothing that
had adorned his back for the last two years, and stating that proceedings
would be begun if at the expiration of three months the account was not
paid in full. The reminder settled it. The Earl of Mugley graciously
concluded to grant Mr. H. Judson Terwilliger an audience in the private
office under the Greek chapel.

"Sit down, Earl, and have a cream de mint with me," said Terwilliger, as
the earl, four minutes later, entered the apartment.

"Thanks," returned the earl. "Beautiful color that," he added, pleasantly,
smacking his lips with satisfaction as the soft green fluid disappeared
from the glass into his inner earl.

"Fine," said Terwilliger. "Little unripe, perhaps, but pleasant to the
eye. I prefer the hue of the Maraschino, myself. Just taste that
Maraschino, Earl. It's A1; thirty-six dollars a case."

"You wanted to see me about some matter of interest to both of us, I
believe, Mr. Terwilliger," said the earl, declining the proffered
Maraschino.

"Well, yes," returned Terwilliger. "More of interest to you, perhaps, than
to me. The fact is, Earl, I've taken quite a shine to you, so much of a
one in fact, that I've looked you up at a commercial agency, and H. J.
Terwilliger never does that unless he's mightily interested in a man."

"I--er--I hope you are not to be prejudiced against me," the earl said,
uneasily, "by--er--by what those cads of tradesmen say about me."

"Not a bit," returned Terwilliger--"not a bit. In fact, what I've
discovered has prejudiced me in your favor. You are just the man I've been
looking for for some days. I've wanted a man with three A blood and three
Z finances for 'most a week now, and from what I gather from Burke and
Bradstreet, you fill the bill. You owe pretty much everybody from your
tailor to the collector of pew rents at your church, eh?"

"I've been unfortunate in financial matters," returned the earl; "but I
have left the family name untarnished."

"So I believe, Earl. That's what I admire about you. Some men with your
debts would be driven to drink or other pastimes of a more or less
tarnishing nature, and I admire you for the admirable restraint you have
put upon yourself. You owe, I am told, about twenty-seven thousand
pounds."

"My secretary has the figures, I believe," said the earl, slightly bored.

"Well, we'll say thirty thousand in round figures. Now what hope have you
of ever paying that sum off?"

"None--unless I--er--well, unless I should be fortunate enough to secure a
rich wife."

"Precisely; that is exactly what I thought," rejoined Terwilliger.
"Marriage is your only asset, and as yet that is hardly negotiable. Now I
have called you here this afternoon to make a proposition to you. If you
will marry according to my wishes I will give you an income of five
thousand pounds a year for the next five years."

"I don't quite understand you," the earl replied, in a disappointed tone.
It was evident that five thousand pounds per annum was too small a figure
for his tastes.

"I think I was quite plain," said Terwilliger, and he repeated his offer.

"I certainly admire the lady very much," said the earl; "but the
settlement of income seems very small."

Terwilliger opened his eyes wide with astonishment. "Oh, you admire the
lady, eh?" he said. "Well, there is no accounting for tastes."

"You surprise me slightly," said the earl, in response to this remark.
"The lady is certainly worthy of any man's admiration. She is refined,
cultivated, beautiful, and----"

"Ahem!" said Terwilliger. "May I ask, my dear Earl, to whom you refer?"

"To Ariadne, of course. I thought your course somewhat unusual, but we do
not pretend to comprehend you Americans over here. Your proposition is
that I shall marry Ariadne?"

I hesitate to place on record what Terwilliger said in answer to this
statement. It was forcible rather than polite, and the earl from that
moment adopted a new simile for degrees of profanity, substituting "to
swear like an American" for the old forms having to do with pirates and
troopers. The string of expletives was about five minutes in length, at
the end of which time Terwilliger managed to say:

"No such d---- proposition ever entered my mind. I want you to marry a
cold, misty, musty spectre, nothing more or less, and I'll tell you why."

And then he proceeded to tell the Earl of Mugley all that he knew of the
history of Bangletop Hall, concluding with a narration of his experiences
with the ghost cook.

"My rent here," he said, in conclusion, "is five thousand pounds per
annum. The advertising I get out of the fact of my being here and swelling
it with you nabobs is worth twenty-five thousand pounds a year, and I'm
willing to pay, in good hard cash, twenty per cent of that amount rather
than be forced to give up. Now here's your chance to get an income without
an encumbrance and stave off your creditors. Marry the spook, so that she
can go back to the spirit land a countess and make it hot for the
Bangletops, and don't be so allfired proud. She'll be disappointed enough
I can tell you, when I inform her that an earl was the best I could do,
the promised duke not being within reach. If she says earls are drugs in
the market, I won't be able to deny it; and, after all, my lad, a good
cook is a greater blessing in this world than any earl that ever lived,
and a blamed sight rarer."

[Illustration]

"Your proposition is absolutely ridiculous, Mr. Terwilliger," replied the
earl. "I'd look well marrying a draught from a dark cavern, as you call
it, now wouldn't I? To say nothing of the impossibility of a Mugley
marrying a cook. I cannot entertain the proposition."

"You'll find you can't entertain anything if you don't watch out," fumed
Terwilliger, in return.

"I'm not so sure about that," replied the earl, haughtily, sipping his
lemon squash. "I fancy Miss Ariadne is not entirely indifferent to me."

"Well, you might just as well understand on this 18th day of July, 18--,
as any other time, that my daughter Ariadne never becomes the Earless of
Mugley," said Terwilliger, in a tone of exasperation.

"Not even when her father considers the commercial value of such an
alliance for his daughter?" retorted the earl, shaking his finger in
Terwilliger's face. "Not even when the President of the Three-dollar Shoe
Company, of Soleton, Massachusetts (Limited), considers the advertising
sure to result from a marriage between his house and that of Mugley, with
presents from her majesty the queen, the Duke of York acting as best man,
and telegrams of congratulation from the crowned heads of Europe pouring
in at the rate of two an hour for half as many hours as there are
thrones?"

Terwilliger turned pale.

The picture painted by the earl was terribly alluring.

He hesitated.

He was lost.

"Mugley," he whispered, hoarsely--"Mugley, I have wronged you. I thought
you were a fortune-hunter. I see you love her. Take her, my boy, and pass
me the brandy."

"Certainly, Mr. Terwilliger," replied the earl, affably. "And then, if
you've no objection, you may pass it back, and I'll join you in a
thimbleful myself."

And then the two men drank each other's health in silence, which was
prolonged for at least five minutes, during which time the earl and his
host both appeared to be immersed in deep thought.

"Come," said Terwilliger at last. "Let us go back to the drawing-room, or
they'll miss us, and, by-the-way, you might speak of that little matter to
Ariadne to-night. It'll help the fall trade to have the engagement
announced."

"I will, Mr. Terwilliger," returned the earl, as they started to leave the
room; "but I say, father-in-law elect," he whispered, catching
Terwilliger's coat sleeve and drawing him back into the office for an
instant, "you couldn't let me have five pounds on account this evening,
could you?"


Two minutes later Terwilliger and the earl appeared in the drawing-room,
the former looking haggard and worn, his eyes feverishly bright, and his
manner betraying the presence of disturbing elements in his nerve centres;
the latter smiling more affably than was consistent with his title, and
jingling a number of gold coins in his pocket, which his intimate friend
and old college chum, Lord Dufferton, on the other side of the room,
marvelled at greatly, for he knew well that upon the earl's arrival at
Bangletop Hall an hour before his pockets were as empty as a flunky's
head.


IV

Terwilliger's time was almost up. The hour for his interview with the
spectre cook of Bangletop was hardly forty-eight hours distant, and he
was wellnigh distracted. No solution of the problem seemed possible since
the earl had so peremptorily declined to fall in with his plan. He was
glad the earl had done so, for otherwise he would have been denied the
tremendous satisfaction which the consummation of an alliance between his
own and one of the oldest and noblest houses of England was about to give
him, not to mention the commercial phase of the situation, which had been
so potent a factor in bringing the engagement about; for Ariadne had said
yes to the earl that same night, and the betrothal was shortly to be
announced. It would have been announced at once, only the earl felt that
he should break the news himself first to his mother, the countess--an
operation which he dreaded, and for which he believed some eight or ten
weeks of time were necessary.

"What is the matter, Judson?" Mrs. Terwilliger asked finally, her husband
was growing so careworn of aspect.

"Nothing, my dear, nothing."

"But there is something, Judson, and as your wife I demand to know what it
is. Perhaps I can help you."

And then Mr. Terwilliger broke down, and told the whole story to Mrs.
Terwilliger, omitting no detail, stopping only to bring that worthy lady
to on the half-dozen or more occasions when her emotions were too strong
for her nerves, causing her to swoon. When he had quite done, she looked
him reproachfully in the eye, and said that if he had told her the truth
instead of deceiving her on the night of the spectral visitation, he might
have been spared all his trouble.

"For you know, Judson," she said, "I have made a study of the art of
acquiring titles. Since I read the story of the girl who started in life
as an innkeeper's daughter and died a duchess, by Elizabeth Harley Hicks,
of Salem, and realized how one might be lowly born and yet rise to lofty
heights, it has been my dearest wish that my girls might become
noblewomen, and at times, Judson, I have even hoped that you might yet
become a duke."

"Great Scott!" ejaculated Terwilliger. "That would be awful. Hankinson,
Duke of Terwilliger! Why, Molly, I'd never be able to hold up my head in
shoe circles with a name on me like that."

[Illustration]

"Is there nothing in the world but shoes, Judson?" asked his wife,
seriously.

"You'll find shoes are the foundation upon which society stands," chuckled
Terwilliger in return.

"You are never serious," returned Mrs. Terwilliger; "but now you must be.
You are coping with the supernatural. Now I have discovered," continued
the lady, "that there are three methods by which titles are
acquired--birth, marriage, and purchase."

"You forget the fourth--achievement," suggested Terwilliger.

"Not these days, Judson. It used to be so, but it is not so now. Now the
spectre hasn't birth, we can't get any living duke to marry her, dead
dukes are hard to find, so there's nothing to do but to buy her a title."

"But where?"

"In Italy. You can get 'em by the dozen. Every hand-organ grinder in
America grinds away in the hope of going back to Italy and purchasing a
title. Why can't you do the same?"

"Me? Me grind a hand-organ in America?" cried Hankinson.

"No, no; purchase a dukedom."

"I don't want a dukedom; I want a duchessdom."

"That's all right. Buy the title, give it to the cook, and let her marry
some spectre of her own rank; she can give him the title; and there you
are!"

"Good scheme!" cried Terwilliger. "But I say, Molly, don't you think it
would be better to get her to bring the spectre over here, and have me
give him the title, and then let him marry her here?"

"No, I don't. If you give it to him first, the chances are he would go
back on his bargain. He'd say that, being a duke, he couldn't marry a
cook."

"You have a large mind, Molly," said Terwilliger.

"I know men!" snapped Mrs. Terwilliger.

And so it happened. Hankinson Judson Terwilliger applied by wire to the
authorities in Rome for all right, title, and interest in one dukedom,
free from encumbrances, irrevocable, and duly witnessed by the proper
dignitaries of the Italian government, and at the second interview with
the spectre cook of Bangletop, he was able to show her a cablegram
received from the Eternal City stating that the papers would be sent upon
receipt of the applicant's check for one hundred lire.

"'Ow much his that?" asked the ghost.

"One hundred lire?" returned Terwilliger, repeating the sum to gain time
to think. He was himself surprised at the cheapness of the duchy, and he
was afraid that if the ghost knew its real value she would decline to take
it. "One hundred lire? Why, that's about 750,000 dollars--150,000 pounds.
They charge high for their titles," he added, blushing slightly.

"Pretty 'igh," returned the ghost. "But h'I carn't be a duke, ye know.
'Ow'll I manidge that?"

Hankinson explained his wife's scheme to the spectre.

"That's helegant," said she. "H'I've loved a butler o' the Bangletops for
nigh hon to two 'undred years, but, some'ow or hother, he's kep' shy o'
me. This'll fix 'im. But h'I say, Mr. Terwilliger, his one o' them
Heyetalian dukes as good as a Henglish one?"

"Every bit," said Terwilliger. "A duke's a duke the world over. Don't you
know the lines of Burns, 'A duke's a duke for a' that'?"

"Never 'eard of 'im," replied the ghost.

"Well, you look him up when you get settled down at home. He was a smart
man here, and, if his ghost does him justice, you'll be mighty glad to
know him," Terwilliger answered.

And thus was Bangletop Hall delivered of its uncanny visitor. The ducal
appointment, entitling its owner to call himself "Duke of Cavalcadi," was
received in due time, and handed over to the curse of the kitchen, who
immediately disappeared, and permanently, from the haunts that had known
her for so long and so disadvantageously. Bangletop Hall is now the home
of a happy family, to whom all are devoted, and from whose _menage_ no
cook has ever been known to depart, save for natural causes, despite all
that has gone before.

[Illustration]

Ariadne has become Countess of Mugley, and Mrs. Terwilliger is content
with her Judson, whom, however, she occasionally calls Duke of Cavalcadi,
claiming that he is the representative of that ancient and noble family on
earth. As for Judson, he always smiles when his wife calls him Duke, but
denies the titular impeachment, for he is on good terms with his landlord,
whose admiration for his tenant's wholly unexpected ability to retain his
cook causes him to regard him as a supernatural being, and therefore
worthy of a Bangletop's regard.

"All of which," Terwilliger says to Mrs. Terwilliger, "might not be so, my
dear, were I really the duke, for I honestly believe that if there is a
feud of long standing anywhere in the universe, it is between the noble
families of Bangletop and Cavalcadi over on the other shore."




THE SPECK ON THE LENS

"Talking about inventions," said the oculist, as he very dexterously
pocketed two of the pool balls, the handsome ringer, more familiarly known
as the fifteen ball, and the white ball itself, thereby adding somewhat to
the minus side of his string--"talking about inventions, I had a curious
experience last August. It was an experience which was not only
interesting from an inventive point of view, but it had likewise a moral,
which, will become more or less obvious as I unfold the story.

"You know I rented and occupied a place in Yonkers last summer. It was
situated on the high lands to the north of the city, a little this side of
Greystone, overlooking that magnificent stream, the Hudson, the
ever-varying beauties of which so few of the residents along its banks
really appreciate. It was a comfortable spot, with a few trees about it, a
decent-sized garden--large enough to raise a tomato or two for a
Sunday-night salad--and a lawn which was a cure for sore eyes, its soft,
sheeny surface affording a most restful object upon which to feast the
tired optic. I believe it was that lawn that first attracted me as I drove
by the place with a patient I had in tow. It was just after a heavy
shower, and the sun breaking through the clouds and lighting up the
rain-soaked grass gave to it a glistening golden greenness that to my eyes
was one of the most beautiful and soul-satisfying bits of color I had seen
in a long time. 'Oh, for a summer of that!' I said to myself, little
thinking that the beginning of a summer thereof _was_ to fall to my lot
before many days--for on May 1st I signed papers which made me to all
intents and purposes proprietor of the place for the ensuing six months.

"At one corner of the grounds stood, I should say, a dozen apple-trees,
the spreading branches of which seemed to form a roof for a sort of
enchanted bower, in which, you may be sure, I passed many of my leisure
hours, swinging idly in a hammock, the cool breezes from the Hudson,
concerning which so many people are sceptical, but which nevertheless
exist, bringing delight to the ear and nostril as well as to the 'fevered
brow,' which is so fashionable in the neighborhood of New York in the
summer, making the leaves rustle in a tuneful sort of fashion, and laden
heavily with the sweet odors of many a garden close over which they passed
before they got to me."

"Put that in rhyme, doctor, and there's your poem," said the lieutenant,
as he made a combination scratch involving every ball on the table.

"I'll do it," said the doctor; "and then I'll have it printed as Appendix
J to the third edition of my work on _Sixty Astigmatisms, and How to
Acquire Them_. But to get back to my story," he continued. "I was lying
there in my hammock one afternoon trying to take a census of the
butterflies in sight, when I thought I heard some one back of me call me
by name. Instantly the butterfly census was forgotten, and I was on the
alert; but--whether there was something the matter with my eyes or not, I
do not know--despite all my alertness, there wasn't a soul in sight that I
could see. Of course, I was slightly mystified at first, and then I
attributed the interruption either to imagination or to some passer-by,
whose voice, wafted on the breeze, might have reached my ears. I threw
myself back into the hammock once more, and was just about dozing off to
the lullaby sung by a bee to the accompaniment of the rustling leaves,
when I again heard my name distinctly spoken.

"This time there was no mistake about it, for as I sprang to my feet and
looked about, I saw coming towards me a man of unpleasantly cadaverous
aspect, whose years, I should judge, were at least eighty in number. His
beard was so long and scant that, to keep the breezes from blowing it
about to his discomfort, he had tucked the ends of it into his vest
pocket; his eyes, black as coals, were piercing as gimlets, their
sharpness equalled by nothing that I had ever seen, excepting perhaps the
point of this same person's nose, which was long and thin, suggesting a
razor with a bowie point; his slight body was clad in sombre garb, and at
first glance he appeared to me so disquietingly like a visitor from the
supernatural world that I shuddered; but when he spoke, his voice was all
gentleness, and whatever of fear I had experienced was in a moment
dissipated.

"'You are Doctor Carey?' he said, in a timid sort of fashion.

"'Yes,' I replied; 'I am. What can I do for you?'

"'The distinguished oculist?' he added, as if not hearing my question.

"'Well, I'm a sort of notorious eye-doctor,' I answered, my well-known
modesty preventing my entire acquiescence in his manner of putting it.

"He smiled pleasantly as I said this, and then drew out of his coat-tail
pocket a small tin box, which, until he opened it, I supposed contained a
drinking-cup--one of those folding tin cups.

"'Doctor Carey,' said he, sitting down in the hammock which I had vacated,
and toying with the tin box--a proceeding that was so extraordinarily cool
that it made me shiver--'I have been looking for you for just sixty-three
mortal years.'

"'Excuse me,' I returned, as nonchalantly as I could, considering the fact
that I was beginning to be annoyed--'excuse me, but that statement seems
to indicate that I was born famous, which I'm inclined to doubt. Inasmuch
as I am not yet fifty years old, I cannot understand how it has come to
pass that you have been looking for me for sixty-three years.'

"'Nevertheless, my statement was correct,' said he. 'I have been looking
for you for sixty-three years, but not for you as you.'

"This made me laugh, although it added slightly to my nervousness, which
was now beginning to return. To have a man with a tin box in his hand tell
me he had been looking for me for thirteen years longer than I had lived,
and then to have him add that it was not, however, me as myself that he
wanted, was amusing in a sense, and yet I could not help feeling that it
would be a relief to know that the tin box did hold a drinking-cup, and
not dynamite.

"'You seem to speak English,' I said, in answer to this remark, 'and I
have always thought I understood that language pretty well, but you'll
excuse me if I say that I don't see your point.'

"'Why is it that great men are so frequently obtuse?' he said, languidly,
giving the ground such a push with his toe that it set the hammock
swinging furiously. 'When I say that I have searched for you all these
years, but not for you as you, I mean not for you as Dr. Carey, not for
you as an individual, but for you as the possessor of a very rare eye.'

"'Go on,' I said, feebly, and rubbed my forehead, thinking perhaps my
brains had got into a tangle, and were responsible for this extraordinary
affair. 'What is the peculiar quality which makes my eye so rare?'

"'There is only one pair of eyes like them in the world, that I know of,'
said the stranger, 'and I have visited all lands in search of them and
experimented with all kinds of eyes.'

"'And I am the proud possessor of that pair?' I queried, becoming slightly
more interested.

"'Not you,' said he. 'You and I together possess that pair, however.'

"'You and I?' I cried.

"'Yes,' said he. 'Your left eye and my right have the honor of being the
only two unique eyes in the world.'

"'That's queer too,' I observed, a mixture of sarcasm and flippancy in my
tones, I fear. 'You mean twonique, don't you?'

"The old gentleman drew himself up with dignity, made a gesture of
impatience, and remarked that if I intended to be flippant he would leave
me. Of course I would not hear of this, now that my curiosity had been
aroused, and so I apologized.

"'Don't mention it,' he said. 'But, my dear doctor, you cannot imagine my
sensations when I found your eye yesterday.'

"'Oh! You found it yesterday, did you?' I put in.

"'Yes,' he said. 'On Forty-third Street.'

"'I was on Forty-third Street yesterday,' I replied, 'but really I was not
conscious of the loss of my eye.'

"'Nobody said you had lost it,' said my visitor. 'I only said I had found
it. I mean by that that I found it as Columbus found America. America was
not necessarily lost before it was found. I had the good fortune to be
passing through the street as you left your club. I glanced into your face
as I passed, caught sight of your eye, and my heart stood still. There at
last was that for which I had so long and so earnestly searched, and so
overcome was I with joy at my discovery that I seemed to lose all power of
speech, of locomotion, or of sane thought, and not until you had passed
entirely out of sight did I return really to my senses. Then I rushed
madly into the club-house I had seen you leave a few moments before,
described you to the man at the door, learned your name and address,
and--well, here I am.'

"'And what does all this extraordinary nonsense lead up to?' I asked.
'What do you intend to do about my eye? Do you wish to borrow it, buy it,
or steal it?'

"'Doctor Carey,' said my visitor, sadly, 'I shall not live very long. I
have reason to believe that another summer will find me in my grave, and I
do not want to die without imparting to the world the news of a marvellous
discovery I have made--the details of a wonderful invention that I have
not only conceived, but have actually put into working order. _I_, an
unknown man--too old to be able to refute the charge of senility were any
one disposed to question the value of my statements--could announce to the
world my great discovery a thousand times a day, and very properly the
world would decline to believe in me. The world would cry humbug, and I
should have been unable, had I failed to find you, to convince the world
that I was not a humbug. With the discovery of your eye, all that is
changed. I shall have an ally in you, and that is valuable for the reason
that your statements, whatever they may be, will always be entitled to and
will receive respectful attention. Here in this box is my invention. I
shall let you discover its marvellous power for yourself, hoping that when
you have discovered its power, you will tell the world of it, and of its
inventor.'

"With that," said the doctor, "the old fellow handed me the tin box, which
I opened with considerable misgivings as to possible results. There was no
explosion, however. The cover came off easily enough, and on the inside
was a curiously shaped telescope, not a drinking-cup, as I had at first
surmised.

"'Why, it's a telescope, isn't it?' I said.

"'Yes. What did you suppose it was?' he asked.

"'I hadn't an idea,' I replied, not exactly truthfully. 'But it can't be
good for much in this shape,' I added, for, as I pulled the parts out and
got it to its full length, I found that each section was curved, and that
the whole formed an arc, which, though scarcely perceptible, nevertheless
should, it seemed to me, have interfered with the utility of the
instrument.

"'That's the point I want you to establish one way or the other,' said my
visitor, getting up out of the hammock, and pacing nervously up and down
the lawn. 'To my eye that telescope is a marvel, and is the result of
years of experiment. It fulfils my expectations, and if your eye is what I
think it is, I shall at last have found another to whom it will appear the
treasure it appears to me to be. You have a tower on your house, I see.
Let us go up on the roof of the tower, and test the glass. Then we shall
see if I claim too much for it.'

"The earnestness of the old gentleman interested me hugely, and I led the
way through the garden to the house, up the tower stairs to the roof, and
then standing there, looking across the river at the Palisades looming up
like a huge fortress before me, I put the telescope to my eye.

"'I see absolutely nothing,' I said, after vainly trying to fathom the
depths of the instrument.

"'Alas!' began the old gentleman; and then he laughed, nervously. 'You are
using the wrong eye. Try the other one. It is your left eye that has the
power to show the virtues of this glass.'

"I obeyed his order, and then a most singular thing happened. Strange
sights met my gaze. At first I could see nothing but the Palisades
opposite me, but in an instant my horizon seemed to broaden, the vista
through the telescope deepened, and before I knew it my sight was
speeding, now through a beautiful country, over fields, hills, and
valleys; then on through great cities, out to and over a broad, gently
undulating stretch which I at once recognized as the prairie lands of the
west. In a minute more I began to catch the idea of this wonderful glass,
for I now saw rising up before me the wonderful beauties of the Yosemite,
and then, like a flash of the lightning, my vision passed over the Sierra
Nevada range, my eye swept down upon San Francisco, and was soon speeding
over the waters of the Pacific.

"Two minutes later I saw the strange pagodas of the Chinese rising before
me. Sweeping my glass to the north, bleak Siberia met my gaze; then to the
south I saw India, her jungles, her waste places. Not long after, a most
awful sight met my gaze. I saw a huge ship at the moment of foundering in
the Indian Ocean. Horrified, I turned my glass again to the north, and the
minarets of Stamboul rose up before me; then the dome of St. Peter's at
Rome; then Paris; then London; then the Atlantic Ocean. I levelled my
glass due west, and finally I could see nothing but one small, black
speck--as like to a fleck of dust as to anything else--on the lens at the
other end. With a movement of my hand, I tried to wipe it off, but it
still remained, and, in answer to a chuckle at my side, I put the glass
down.

"'It is the most extraordinary thing I ever saw,' I said.

"'Yes, it is,' said the other.

"'One can almost see around the world with it,' I cried, breathless nearly
with enthusiasm.

"'One can--quite,' said the inventor, calmly.

"'Nonsense!' I said. 'Don't claim too much, my friend.'

"'It is true,' said he. 'Did you notice a speck on the glass? I am sure
you did, for you tried to remove it.'

"'Yes,' said I, 'I did. But what of it? What does that signify?'

"'It proves what I said,' he answered. 'You did see all the way around the
world with that glass. The black spot on the lens that you thought was a
piece of dust was the back of your own head.'

"'Nonsense, my boy! The back of my head is bigger than that,' I said.

"'Certainly it is,' he responded; 'but you must make some allowance for
perspective. The back of your head is a trifle less than twenty-four
thousand miles from the end of your nose the way you were looking at it.'"

"You mean to say--" began the lieutenant, as the doctor paused to chalk
his cue.

"Never mind what I mean to say," said the doctor. "Reflect upon what I
have said."

"But the man and the telescope--what became of them?" asked the
lieutenant.

"I was about to tell you that. The old fellow who had made this marvellous
glass, which to two eyes that he knew of, and to only two, would work as
was desired, feeling that he was about to die, had come to me to offer the
glass for sale on two considerations. One was a consideration of $25. The
other was that I would leave no stone unturned to discover a possible
third person younger than myself with an eye similar to those we had, to
whom at my death the glass should be transmitted, exacting from him the
promise that he too would see that it was passed along in the same manner
into the hands of posterity. I was also to acquaint the world with the
story of the glass and the name of its inventor to the fullest extent
possible."

"And you, of course, accepted?"

"I did," said the doctor; "but having no money in my pocket, I went down
into the house to borrow it of my wife, and upon my return to the roof,
found no trace of the glass, the old man, or the roof either."

"What!" cried the lieutenant. "Are you crazy?"

"No," smiled the doctor. "Not at all. For the moment I reached the roof of
the house, I opened my eyes, and found myself still swinging in the
hammock under the trees."

"And the moral?" queried the lieutenant. "You promised a moral, or I
should not have listened."

"Always have money in your pocket," replied the doctor, pocketing the last
ball, and putting up his cue. "Then you are not apt to lose great bargains
such as I lost for the want of $25."

"It's a good idea," returned the lieutenant. "And you live up to it, I
suppose?"

"I do," returned the oculist, tapping his pocket significantly. "Always!"

"Then," said the lieutenant, earnestly, "I wish you'd lend me a tenner,
for really, doctor, I have gone clean broke."




A MIDNIGHT VISITOR

I do not assert that what I am about to relate is in all its particulars
absolutely true. Not, understand me, that it is not true, but I do not
feel that I care to make an assertion that is more than likely to be
received by a sceptical age with sneers of incredulity. I will content
myself with a simple narration of the events of that evening, the memory
of which is so indelibly impressed upon my mind, and which, were I able to
do so, I should forget without any sentiments of regret whatsoever.

The affair happened on the night before I fell ill of typhoid fever, and
is about the sole remaining remembrance of that immediate period left to
me. Briefly the story is as follows:

Notwithstanding the fact that I was overworked in the practice of my
profession--it was early in March, and I was preparing my contributions
for the coming Christmas issues of the periodicals for which I write--I
had accepted the highly honorable position of Entertainment Committeeman
at one of the small clubs to which I belonged. I accepted the office,
supposing that the duties connected with it were easy of performance, and
with absolutely no notion that the faith of my fellow-committeemen in my
judgment was so strong that they would ultimately manifest a desire to
leave the whole programme for the club's diversion in my hands. This,
however, they did; and when the month of March assumed command of the
calendar I found myself utterly fagged out and at my wits' end to know
what style of entertainment to provide for the club meeting to be held on
the evening of the 15th of that month. I had provided already an unusually
taking variety of evenings, of which one in particular, called the
"Martyrs' Night," in which living authors writhed through selections from
their own works, while an inhuman audience, every man of whom had suffered
even as the victims then suffered, sat on tenscore of camp-stools puffing
the smoke of twenty-five score of free cigars into their faces, and
gloating over their misery, was extremely successful, and had gained for
me among my professional brethren the enviable title of "Machiavelli
Junior." This performance, in fact, was the one now uppermost in the minds
of the club members, having been the most recent of the series; and it had
been prophesied by many men whose judgment was unassailable that no man,
not even I, could ever conceive of anything that could surpass it.
Disposed at first to question the accuracy of a prophecy to the effect
that I was, like most others of my kind, possessed of limitations, I came
finally to believe that perhaps, after all, these male Cassandras with
whom I was thrown were right. Indeed, the more I racked my brains to think
of something better than the "Martyrs' Night," the more I became convinced
that in that achievement I had reached the zenith of my powers. The thing
for me to do now was to hook myself securely on to the zenith and stay
there. But how to do it? That was the question which drove sleep from my
eyes, and deprived me for a period of six weeks of my reason, my hair
departing immediately upon the restoration thereof--a not uncommon
after-symptom of typhoid.

[Illustration]

It was a typical March night, this one upon which the extraordinary
incident about to be related took place. It was the kind of night that
novelists use when they are handling a mystery that in the abstract would
amount to nothing, but which in the concrete of a bit of wild, weird, and
windy nocturnalism sends the reader into hysterics. It may be--I shall not
attempt to deny it--that had it happened upon another kind of an
evening--a soft, mild, balmy June evening, for instance--my own experience
would have seemed less worthy of preservation in the amber of publicity,
but of that the reader must judge for himself. The fact alone remains that
upon the night when my uncanny visitor appeared, the weather department
was apparently engaged in getting rid of its remnants. There was a large
percentage of withering blast in the general make-up of the evening; there
were rain and snow, which alternated in pattering upon my window-pane and
whitening the apology for a wold that stands three blocks from my flat on
Madison Square; the wind whistled as it always does upon occasions of this
sort, and from all corners of my apartment, after the usual fashion, there
seemed to come sounds of a supernatural order, the effect of which was to
send cold chills off on their regular trips up and down the spine of their
victim--in this instance myself. I wish that at the time the hackneyed
quality of these sensations had appealed to me. That it did not do so was
shown by the highly nervous state in which I found myself as my clock
struck eleven. If I could only have realized at that hour that these
symptoms were the same old threadbare premonitions of the appearance of a
supernatural being, I should have left the house and gone to the club, and
so have avoided the visitation then imminent. Had I done this, I should
doubtless also have escaped the typhoid, since the doctors attributed that
misfortune to the shock of my experience, which, in my then wearied state,
I was unable to sustain--and what the escape of typhoid would have meant
to me only those who have seen the bills of my physician and druggist for
services rendered and prescriptions compounded are aware. That my mind
unconsciously took thought of spirits was shown by the fact that when the
first chill came upon me I arose and poured out for myself a stiff bumper
of old Reserve Rye, which I immediately swallowed; but beyond this I did
not go. I simply sat there before my fire and cudgelled my brains for an
idea whereby my fellow-members at the Gutenberg Club might be amused. How
long I sat there I do not know. It may have been ten minutes; it may have
been an hour--I was barely conscious of the passing of time--but I do know
that the clock in the Dutch Reformed Church steeple at Twenty-ninth Street
and Fifth Avenue was clanging out the first stroke of the hour of midnight
when my door-bell rang.

Theretofore--if I may be allowed the word--the tintinnabulation of my
door-bell had been invariably pleasing unto me. I am fond of company,
and company alone was betokened by its ringing, since my creditors
gratify their passion for interviews at my office, if perchance they
happen to find me there. But on this occasion--I could not at the moment
tell why--its clanging seemed the very essence of discord. It jangled
with my nervous system, and as it ceased I was conscious of a feeling of
irritability which is utterly at variance with my nature outside of
business hours. In the office, for the sake of discipline, I frequently
adopt a querulous manner, finding it necessary in dealing with
office-boys, but the moment I leave shop behind me I become a different
individual entirely, and have been called a moteless sunbeam by those
who have seen only that side of my character. This, by-the-way, must be
regarded as a confidential communication, since I am at present engaged
in preparing a vest-pocket edition of the philosophical works of
Schopenhauer in words of one syllable, and were it known that the
publisher had intrusted the magnificent pessimism of that illustrious
juggler of words and theories to a "moteless sunbeam" it might seriously
interfere with the sale of the work; and I may say, too, that this
request that my confidence be respected is entirely disinterested,
inasmuch as I declined to do the work on the royalty plan, insisting
upon the payment of a lump sum, considerably in advance.

But to return. I heard the bell ring with a sense of profound disgust. I
did not wish to see anybody. My whiskey was low, my quinine pills few in
number; my chills alone were present in a profusion bordering upon
ostentation.

"I'll pretend not to hear it," I said to myself, resuming my work of
gazing at the flickering light of my fire--which, by-the-way, was the only
light in the room.

"Ting-a-ling-a-ling" went the bell, as if in answer to my resolve.

"Confound the luck!" I cried, jumping from my chair and going to the door
with the intention of opening it, an intention however which was speedily
abandoned, for as I approached it a sickly fear came over me--a sensation
I had never before known seemed to take hold of my being, and instead of
opening the door, I pushed the bolt to make it the more secure.

[Illustration]

"There's a hint for you, whoever you are!" I cried. "Do you hear that bolt
slide, you?" I added, tremulously, for from the other side there came no
reply--only a more violent ringing of the bell.

"See here!" I called out, as loudly as I could, "who are you, anyhow. What
do you want?"

There was no answer, except from the bell, which began again.

"Bell-wire's too cheap to steal!" I called again. "If you want wire, go
buy it; don't try to pull mine out. It isn't mine, anyhow. It belongs to
the house."

Still there was no reply, only the clanging of the bell; and then my
curiosity overcame my fear, and with a quick movement I threw open the
door.

"Are you satisfied now?" I said, angrily. But I addressed an empty
vestibule. There was absolutely no one there, and then I sat down on the
mat and laughed. I never was so glad to see no one in my life. But my
laugh was short-lived.

"What made that bell ring?" I suddenly asked myself, and then the feeling
of fear came upon me again. I gathered my somewhat shattered self
together, sprang to my feet, slammed the door with such force that the
corridors echoed to the sound, slid the bolt once more, turned the key,
moved a heavy chair in front of it, and then fled like a frightened hare
to the sideboard in my dining-room. There I grasped the decanter holding
my whiskey, seized a glass from the shelf, and started to pour out the
usual dram, when the glass fell from my hand, and was shivered into a
thousand pieces on the hardwood floor; for, as I poured, I glanced through
the open door, and there in my sanctum the flicker of a random flame
divulged the form of a being, the eyes of whom seemed fixed on mine,
piercing me through and through. To say that I was petrified but dimly
expresses the situation. I was granitized, and so I remained, until by a
more luminous flicker from the burning wood I perceived that the being
wore a flaring red necktie.

"He is human," I thought; and with the thought the tension on my nervous
system relaxed, and I was able to feel a sufficiently well-developed sense
of indignation to demand an explanation. "This is a mighty cool proceeding
on your part," I said, leaving the sideboard and walking into the sanctum.

[Illustration]

"Yes," he replied, in a tone that made me jump, it was so extremely
sepulchral--a tone that seemed as if it might have been acquired in a damp
corner of some cave off the earth. "But it's a cool evening."

"I wonder that a man of your coolness doesn't hire himself out to some
refrigerating company," I remarked, with a sneer which would have
delighted the soul of Cassius himself.

"I have thought of it," returned the being, calmly. "But never went any
further. Summer-hotel proprietors have always outbid the refrigerating
people, and they in turn have been laid low by millionaires, who have
hired me on occasion to freeze out people they didn't like, but who have
persisted in calling. I must confess, though, my dear Hiram, that you are
not much warmer yourself--this greeting is hardly what I expected."

"Well, if you want to make me warmer," I retorted, hotly, "just keep on
calling me Hiram. How the deuce did you know of that blot on my
escutcheon, anyhow?" I added, for Hiram was one of the crimes of my family
that I had tried to conceal, my parents having fastened the name of Hiram
Spencer Carrington upon me at baptism for no reason other than that my
rich bachelor uncle, who subsequently failed and became a charge upon me,
was so named.

"I was standing at the door of the church when you were baptized,"
returned the visitor, "and as you were an interesting baby, I have kept an
eye on you ever since. Of course I knew that you discarded Hiram as soon
as you got old enough to put away childish things, and since the failure
of your uncle I have been aware that you desired to be known as Spencer
Carrington, but to me you are, always have been, and always will be,
Hiram."

"Well, don't give it away," I pleaded. "I hope to be famous some day, and
if the American newspaper paragrapher ever got hold of the fact that once
in my life I was Hiram, I'd have to Hiram to let me alone."

"That's a bad joke, Hiram," said the visitor, "and for that reason I like
it, though I don't laugh. There is no danger of your becoming famous if
you stick to humor of that sort."

"Well, I'd like to know," I put in, my anger returning--"I'd like to know
who in Brindisi you are, what in Cairo you want, and what in the name of
the seventeen hinges of the gates of Singapore you are doing here at this
time of night?"

"When you were a baby, Hiram, you had blue eyes," said my visitor. "Bonny
blue eyes, as the poet says."

"What of it?" I asked.

"This," replied my visitor. "If you have them now, you can very easily see
what I am doing here. _I am sitting down and talking to you._"

"Oh, are you?" I said, with fine scorn. "I had not observed that. The fact
is, my eyes were so weakened by the brilliance of that necktie of yours
that I doubt I could see anything--not even one of my own jokes. It's a
scorcher, that tie of yours. In fact, I never saw anything so red in my
life."

"I do not see why you complain of my tie," said the visitor. "Your own is
just as bad."

"Blue is never so withering as red," I retorted, at the same time
caressing the scarf I wore.

"Perhaps not--but--ah--if you will look in the glass, Hiram, you will
observe that your point is not well taken," said my vis-a-vis, calmly.

I acted upon the suggestion, and looked upon my reflection in the glass,
lighting a match to facilitate the operation. I was horrified to observe
that my beautiful blue tie, of which I was so proud, had in some manner
changed, and was now of the same aggressive hue as was that of my visitor,
red even as a brick is red. To grasp it firmly in my hands and tear it
from my neck was the work of a moment, and then in a spirit of rage I
turned upon my companion.

"See here," I cried, "I've had quite enough of you. I can't make you out,
and I can't say that I want to. You know where the door is--you will
oblige me by putting it to its proper use."

[Illustration]

"Sit down, Hiram," said he, "and don't be foolish and ungrateful. You are
behaving in a most extraordinary fashion, destroying your clothing and
acting like a madman generally. What was the use of ripping up a handsome
tie like that?"

"I despise loud hues. Red is a jockey's color," I answered.

"But you did not destroy the red tie," said he, with a smile. "You tore up
your blue one--look. There it is on the floor. The red one you still have
on."

Investigation showed the truth of my visitor's assertion. That flaunting
streamer of anarchy still made my neck infamous, and before me on the
floor, an almost unrecognizable mass of shreds, lay my cherished cerulean
tie. The revelation stunned me; tears came into my eyes, and trickling
down over my cheeks, fairly hissed with the feverish heat of my flesh. My
muscles relaxed, and I fell limp into my chair.

"You need stimulant," said my visitor, kindly. "Go take a drop of your Old
Reserve, and then come back here to me. I've something to say to you."

"Will you join me?" I asked, faintly.

"No," returned the visitor. "I am so fond of whiskey that I never molest
it. That act which is your stimulant is death to the rye. Never realized
that, did you?"

"No, I never did," I said, meekly.

"And yet you claim to love it. Bah!" he said.

And then I obeyed his command, drained my glass to the dregs, and
returned. "What is your mission?" I asked, when I had made myself as
comfortable as was possible under the circumstances.

"To relieve you of your woes," he said.

"You are a homoeopath, I observe," said I, with a sneer. "You are a
homoeopath in theory and an allopath in practice."

"I am not usually unintelligent," said he. "I fail to comprehend your
meaning. Perhaps you express yourself badly."

"I wish you'd express yourself for Zulu-land," I retorted, hotly. "What I
mean is, you believe in the _similia similibus_ business, but you
prescribe large doses. I don't believe troubles like mine can be cured on
your plan. A man can't get rid of his stock by adding to it."

[Illustration]

"Ah, I see. You think I have added to your troubles?"

"I don't think so," I answered, with a fond glance at my ruined tie. "I
know so."

"Well, wait until I have laid my plan before you, and see if you won't
change your mind," said my visitor, significantly.

"All right," I said. "Proceed. Only hurry. I go to bed early, as a rule,
and it's getting quite early now."

"It's only one o'clock," said the visitor, ignoring the sarcasm. "But I
will hasten, as I've several other calls to make before breakfast."

"Are you a milkman?" I asked.

"You are flippant," he replied. "But, Hiram," he added, "I have come here
to aid you in spite of your unworthiness. You want to know what to provide
for your club night on the 15th. You want something that will knock the
'Martyr's Night' silly."

"Not exactly that," I replied, "I don't want anything so abominably good
as to make all the other things I have done seem failures. That is not
good business."

"Would you like to be hailed as the discoverer of genius? Would you like
to be the responsible agent for the greatest exhibition of skill in a
certain direction ever seen? Would you like to become the most famous
_impresario_ the world has ever known?"

"Now," I said, forgetting my dignity under the enthusiasm with which I was
inspired by my visitor's words, and infected more or less with his
undoubtedly magnetite spirit--"now you're shouting."

"I thought so, Hiram. I thought so, and that's why I am here. I saw you on
Wall Street to-day, and read your difficulty at once in your eyes, and I
resolved to help you. I am a magician, and one or two little things have
happened of late to make me wish to prestidigitate in public. I knew you
were after a show of some kind, and I've come to offer you my services."

"Oh, pshaw!" I said. "The members of the Gutenberg Club are men of
brains--not children. Card tricks are hackneyed, and sleight-of-hand shows
pall."

[Illustration]

"Do they, indeed?" said the visitor. "Well, mine won't. If you don't
believe it, I'll prove to you what I can do."

"I have no paraphernalia," I said.

"Well, I have," said he, and as he spoke, a pack of cards seemed to grow
out of my hands. I must have turned pale at this unexpected happening, for
my visitor smiled, and said:

"Don't be frightened. That's only one of my tricks. Now choose a card," he
added, "and when you have done so, toss the pack in the air. Don't tell me
what the card is; it alone will fall to the floor."

"Nonsense!" said I. "It's impossible."

"Do as I tell you."

I did as he told me, to a degree only. I tossed the cards in the air
without choosing one, although I made a feint of doing so.

_Not a card fell back to the floor. They every one disappeared from view
in the ceiling._ If it had not been for the heavy chair I had rolled in
front of the door, I think I should have fled.

"How's that for a trick?" asked my visitor.

I said nothing, for the very good reason that my words stuck in my throat.

"Give me a little _creme de menthe_, will you, please?" said he, after a
moment's pause.

"I haven't a drop in the house," I said, relieved to think that this
wonderful being could come down to anything so earthly.

"Pshaw, Hiram!" he ejaculated, apparently in disgust. "Don't be mean, and,
above all, don't lie. Why, man, you've got a bottle full of it in your
hand! Do you want it all?"

He was right. Where it came from I do not know; but, beyond question, the
graceful, slim-necked bottle was in my right hand, and my left held a
liqueur-glass of exquisite form.

"Say," I gasped, as soon as I was able to collect my thoughts, "what are
your terms?"

"Wait a moment," he answered. "Let me do a little mind-reading before we
arrange preliminaries."

"I haven't much of a mind to read tonight," I answered, wildly.

[Illustration]

"You're right there," said he. "It's like a dime novel, that mind of yours
to-night. But I'll do the best I can with it. Suppose you think of your
favorite poem, and after turning it over in your mind carefully for a few
minutes, select two lines from it, concealing them, of course, from me,
and I will tell you what they are."

Now my favorite poem, I regret to say, is Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwock," a
fact I was ashamed to confess to an utter stranger, so I tried to deceive
him by thinking of some other lines. The effort was hardly successful, for
the only other lines I could call to mind at the moment were from Rudyard
Kipling's rhyme, "The Post that Fitted," and which ran,

  "Year by year, in pious patience, vengeful Mrs. Boffin sits
   Waiting for the Sleary babies to develop Sleary's fits."

"Humph!" ejaculated my visitor. "You're a great Hiram, you are."

And then rising from his chair and walking to my "poet's corner," the
magician selected two volumes.

"There," said he, handing me the _Departmental Ditties_. "You'll find the
lines you tried to fool me with at the foot of page thirteen. Look."

I looked, and there lay that vile Sleary sentiment, in all the majesty of
type, staring me in the eyes.

"And here," added my visitor, opening _Alice in the Looking-Glass_--"here
is the poem that to your mind holds all the philosophy of life:

  "'Come to my arms, my beamish boy,
    He chortled in his joy.'"

I blushed and trembled. Blushed that he should discover the weakness of my
taste, trembled at his power.

"I don't blame you for coloring," said the magician. "But I thought you
said the Gutenberg was made up of men of brains? Do you think you could
stay on the rolls a month if they were aware that your poetic ideals are
summed up in the 'Jabberwock' and 'Sleary's Fits'?"

"My taste might be far worse," I answered.

[Illustration]

"Yes, it might. You might have stooped to liking some of your own verses.
I ought really to congratulate you, I suppose," retorted the visitor, with
a sneering laugh.

This roused my ire again.

"Who are you, anyhow, that you come here and take me to task?" I demanded,
angrily. "I'll like anything I please, and without asking your permission.
If I cared more for the _Peterkin Papers_ than I do for Shakespeare, I
wouldn't be accountable to you, and that's all there is about it."

"Never mind who I am," said the visitor. "Suffice to say that I am myself.
You'll know my name soon enough. In fact, you will pronounce it
involuntarily the first thing when you wake in the morning, and then--"
Here he shook his head ominously, and I felt myself grow rigid with fright
in my chair. "Now for the final trick," he said, after a moment's pause.
"Think of where you would most like to be at this moment, and I'll exert
my power to put you there. Only close your eyes first."

I closed my eyes and wished. When I opened them I was in the billiard-room
of the Gutenberg Club with Perkins and Tompson.

"For Heaven's sake, Spencer," they said, in surprise, "where did you drop
in from? Why, man, you are as white as a sheet. And what a necktie! Take
it off!"

"Grab hold of me, boys, and hold me fast," I pleaded, falling on my knees
in terror. "If you don't, I believe I'll die."

The idea of returning to my sanctum was intolerably dreadful to me.

"Ha! ha!" laughed the magician, for even as I spoke to Perkins and Tompson
I found myself seated opposite my infernal visitor in my room once more.
"They couldn't keep you an instant with me summoning you back."

His laughter was terrible; his frown was pleasanter; and I felt myself
gradually losing control of my senses.

"Go," I cried. "Leave me, or you will have the crime of murder on your
conscience."

"I have no con--" he began; but I heard no more.

That is the last I remember of that fearful night. I must have fainted,
and then have fallen into a deep slumber.

[Illustration]

When I waked it was morning, and I was alone, but undressed and in bed,
unconscionably weak, and surrounded by medicine bottles of many kinds. The
clock on the mantle on the other side of the room indicated that it was
after ten o'clock.

"_Great Beelzebub!_" I cried, taking note of the hour. "I've an engagement
with Barlow at nine."

And then a sweet-faced woman, who, I afterwards learned, was a
professional nurse, entered the room, and within an hour I realized two
facts. One was that I had lain ill for many days, and that my engagement
with Barlow was now for six weeks unfulfilled; the other, that my midnight
visitor was none other than--

And yet I don't know. His tricks certainly were worthy of that individual;
but Perkins and Tompson assert that I never entered the club that night,
and surely if my visitor was Beelzebub himself he would not have omitted
so important a factor of success as my actual presence in the
billiard-room on that occasion would have been; and, besides, he was
altogether too cool to have come from his reputed residence.

Altogether I think the episode most unaccountable, particularly when I
reflect that while no trace of my visitor was discoverable in my room the
next morning, as my nurse tells me, my blue necktie was in reality found
upon the floor, crushed and torn into a shapeless bundle of frayed rags.

As for the club entertainment, I am told that, despite my absence, it was
a wonderful success, redeemed from failure, the treasurer of the club
said, by the voluntary services of a guest, who secured admittance on one
of my cards, and who executed some sleight-of-hand tricks that made the
members tremble, and whose mind-reading feats performed on the club's
butler not only made it necessary for him to resign his office, but
disclosed to the House Committee the whereabouts of several cases of rare
wines that had mysteriously disappeared.




A QUICKSILVER CASSANDRA

It was altogether queer, and Jingleberry to this day does not entirely
understand it. He had examined his heart as carefully as he knew how,
and had arrived at the entirely reasonable conclusion that he was in
love. He had every symptom of that malady. When Miss Marian Chapman was
within range of his vision there was room for no one else there. He
suffered from that peculiar optical condition which enabled him to see
but one thing at a time when she was present, and she was that one
thing, which was probably the reason why in his mind's eye she was the
only woman in the world, for Marian was ever present before
Jingleberry's mental optic. He had also examined as thoroughly as he
could in hypothesis the heart of this "only woman," and he had--or
thought he had, which amounts to the same thing--reason to believe that
she reciprocated his affection. She certainly seemed glad always when
he was about; she called him by his first name, and sometimes
quarrelled with him as she quarrelled with no one else, and if that
wasn't a sign of love in woman, then Jingleberry had studied the sex
all his years--and they were thirty-two--for nothing. In short, Marian
behaved so like a sister to him that Jingleberry, knowing how dreams
and women go by contraries, was absolutely sure that a sister was just
the reverse from that relationship which in her heart of hearts she was
willing to assume towards him, and he was happy in consequence.
Believing this, it was not at all strange that he should make up his
mind to propose marriage to her, though, like many other men, he was
somewhat chicken-hearted in coming to the point. Four times had he
called upon Marian for the sole purpose of asking her to become his
wife, and four times had he led up to the point and then talked about
something else. What quality it is in man that makes a coward of him in
the presence of one he considers his dearest friend is not within the
province of this narrative to determine, but Jingleberry had it in its
most virulent form. He had often got so far along in his proposal as
"Marian--er--will you--will you--," and there he had as often stopped,
contenting himself with such commonplace conclusions as "go to the
matinee with me to-morrow?" or "ask your father for me if he thinks the
stock market is likely to strengthen soon?" and other amazing
substitutes for the words he so ardently desired, yet feared, to utter.
But this afternoon--the one upon which the extraordinary events about
to be narrated took place--Jingleberry had called resolved not to be
balked in his determination to learn his fate. He had come to propose,
and propose he would, _ruat coelum_. His confidence in a successful
termination to his suit had been reinforced that very morning by the
receipt of a note from Miss Chapman asking him to dine with her parents
and herself that evening, and to accompany them after dinner to the
opera. Surely that meant a great deal, and Jingleberry conceived that
the time was ripe for a blushing "yes" to his long-deferred question.
So he was here in the Chapman parlor waiting for the young lady to come
down and become the recipient of the "interesting interrogatory," as it
is called in some sections of Massachusetts.

"I'll ask her the first thing," said Jingleberry, buttoning up his Prince
Albert, as though to impart a possibly needed stiffening to his backbone.
"She will say yes, and then I shall enjoy the dinner and the opera so much
the more. Ahem! I wonder if I am pale--I feel sort of--um--There's a
mirror. That will tell." Jingleberry walked to the mirror--an oval,
gilt-framed mirror, such as was very much the vogue fifty years ago, for
which reason alone, no doubt, it was now admitted to the gold-and-white
parlor of the house of Chapman.

"Blessed things these mirrors," said Jingleberry, gazing at the reflection
of his face. "So reassuring. I'm not at all pale. Quite the contrary. I'm
red as a sunset. Good omen that! The sun is setting on my bachelor
days--and my scarf is crooked. Ah!"

The ejaculation was one of pleasure, for pictured in the mirror
Jingleberry saw the form of Marian entering the room through the
portieres.

"How do you do, Marian? been admiring myself in the glass," he said,
turning to greet her. "I--er--"

Here he stopped, as well he might, for he addressed no one. Miss Chapman
was nowhere to be seen.

"Dear me!" said Jingleberry, rubbing his eyes in astonishment. "How
extraordinary! I surely thought I saw her--why, I did see her--that is, I
saw her reflection in the gla--Ha! ha! She caught me gazing at myself
there and has hidden."

He walked to the door and drew the portiere aside and looked into the
hall. There was no one there. He searched every corner of the hall and of
the dining-room at its end, and then returned to the parlor, but it was
still empty. And then occurred the most strangely unaccountable event in
his life.

As he looked about the parlor, he for the second time found himself before
the mirror, but the reflection therein, though it was of himself, was of
himself with his back turned to his real self, as he stood gazing amazedly
into the glass; and besides this, although Jingleberry was alone in the
real parlor, the reflection of the dainty room showed that there he was
not so, for seated in her accustomed graceful attitude in the reflected
arm-chair was nothing less than the counterfeit presentment of Marian
Chapman herself.

It was a wonder Jingleberry's eyes did not fall out of his head, he stared
so. What a situation it was, to be sure, to stand there and see in the
glass a scene which, as far as he could observe, had no basis in reality;
and how interesting it was for Jingleberry to watch himself going through
the form of chatting pleasantly there in the mirror's depths with the
woman he loved! It almost made him jealous, though, the reflected
Jingleberry was so entirely independent of the real Jingleberry. The
jealousy soon gave way to consternation, for, to the wondering suitor, the
independent reflection was beginning to do that for which he himself had
come. In other words, there was a proposal going on there in the glass,
and Jingleberry enjoyed the novel sensation of seeing how he himself would
look when passing through a similar ordeal. Altogether, however, it was
not as pleasing as most novelties are, for there were distinct signs in
the face of the mirrored Marian that the mirrored Jingleberry's words were
distasteful to her, and that the proposition he was making was not one she
could entertain under any circumstances. She kept shaking her head, and
the more she shook it, the more the glazed Jingleberry seemed to implore
her to be his. Finally, Jingleberry saw his quicksilver counterpart fall
upon his knees before Marian of the glass, and hold out his arms and hands
towards her in an attitude of prayerful despair, whereupon the girl sprang
to her feet, stamped her left foot furiously upon the floor, and pointed
the unwelcome lover to the door.

Jingleberry was fairly staggered. What could be the meaning of so
extraordinary a freak of nature? Surely it must be prophetic. Fate was
kind enough to warn him in advance, no doubt; otherwise it was a trick.
And why should she stoop to play so paltry a trick as that upon him?
Surely fate would not be so petty. No. It was a warning. The mirror had
been so affected by some supernatural agency that it divined and reflected
that which was to be instead of confining itself to what Jingleberry
called "simultaneity." It led instead of following or acting coincidently
with the reality, and it was the part of wisdom, he thought, for him to
yield to its suggestion and retreat; and as he thought this, he heard a
soft sweet voice behind him.

"I hope you haven't got tired of waiting, Tom," it said; and, turning,
Jingleberry saw the unquestionably real Marian standing in the doorway.

"No," he answered, shortly. "I--I have had a pleasant--very entertaining
ten minutes; but I--I must hurry along, Marian," he added. "I only came to
tell you that I have a frightful headache, and--er--I can't very well
manage to come to dinner or go to the opera with you to-night."

"Why, Tom," pouted Marian, "I am awfully disappointed! I had counted on
you, and now my whole evening will be spoiled. Don't you think you can
rest a little while, and then come?"

"Well, I--I want to, Marian," said Jingleberry; "but, to tell the truth,
I--I really am afraid I am going to be ill; I've had such a strange
experience this afternoon. I--"

"Tell me what it was," suggested Marian, sympathetically; and Jingleberry
did tell her what it was. He told her the whole story from beginning to
end--what he had come for, how he had happened to look in the mirror, and
what he saw there; and Marian listened attentively to every word he said.
She laughed once or twice, and when he had done she reminded him that
mirrors have a habit of reversing everything; and somehow or other
Jingleberry's headache went, and--and--well, everything went!




THE GHOST CLUB

AN UNFORTUNATE EPISODE IN THE LIFE OF NO. 5010


Number 5010 was at the time when I received the details of this story from
his lips a stalwart man of thirty-eight, swart of hue, of pleasing
address, and altogether the last person one would take for a convict
serving a term for sneak-thieving. The only outer symptoms of his actual
condition were the striped suit he wore, the style and cut of which are
still in vogue at Sing Sing prison, and the closely cropped hair, which
showed off the distinctly intellectual lines of his head to great
advantage. He was engaged in making shoes when I first saw him, and so
impressed was I with the contrast between his really refined features and
grace of manner and those of his brutish-looking companions, that I asked
my guide who he was, and what were the circumstances which had brought him
to Sing Sing.

[Illustration]

"He pegs shoes like a gentleman," I said.

"Yes," returned the keeper. "He's werry troublesome that way. He thinks
he's too good for his position. We can't never do nothing with the boots
he makes."

"Why do you keep him at work in the shoe department?" I queried.

"We haven't got no work to be done in his special line, so we have to put
him at whatever we can. He pegs shoes less badly than he does anything
else."

"What was his special line?"

"He was a gentleman of leisure travellin' for his health afore he got into
the toils o' the law. His real name is Marmaduke Fitztappington De Wolfe,
of Pelhamhurst-by-the-Sea, Warwickshire. He landed in this country of a
Tuesday, took to collectin' souvenir spoons of a Friday, was jugged the
same day, tried, convicted, and there he sets. In for two years more."

"How interesting!" I said. "Was the evidence against him conclusive?"

"Extremely. A half-dozen spoons was found on his person."

"He pleaded guilty, I suppose?"

"Not him. He claimed to be as innocent as a new-born babe. Told a
cock-and-bull story about havin' been deluded by spirits, but the judge
and jury wasn't to be fooled. They gave him every chance, too. He even
cabled himself, the judge did, to Pelhamhurst-by-the-Sea, Warwickshire, at
his own expense, to see if the man was an impostor, but he never got no
reply. There was them as said there wasn't no such place as
Pelhamhurst-by-the-Sea in Warwickshire, but they never proved it."

"I should like very much to interview him," said I.

"It can't be done, sir," said my guide. "The rules is very strict."

"You couldn't--er--arrange an interview for me," I asked, jingling a bunch
of keys in my pocket.

He must have recognized the sound, for he colored and gruffly replied, "I
has me orders, and I obeys 'em."

"Just--er--add this to the pension fund," I put in, handing him a
five-dollar bill. "An interview is impossible, eh?"

[Illustration]

"I didn't say impossible," he answered, with a grateful smile. "I said
against the rules, but we has been known to make exceptions. I think I can
fix you up."

Suffice it to say that he did "fix me up," and that two hours later 5010
and I sat down together in the cell of the former, a not too commodious
stall, and had a pleasant chat, in the course of which he told me the
story of his life, which, as I had surmised, was to me, at least,
exceedingly interesting, and easily worth twice the amount of my
contribution to the pension fund under the management of my guide of the
morning.

"My real name," said the unfortunate convict, "as you may already have
guessed, is not 5010. That is an alias forced upon me by the State
authorities. My name is really Austin Merton Surrennes."

"Ahem!" I said. "Then my guide erred this morning when he told me that in
reality you were Marmaduke Fitztappington De Wolfe, of Pelhamhurst-by-the-
Sea, Warwickshire?"

Number 5010 laughed long and loud. "Of course he erred. You don't suppose
that I would give the authorities my real name, do you? Why, man, I am a
nephew! I have an aged uncle--a rich millionaire uncle--whose heart and
will it would break were he to hear of my present plight. Both the heart
and will are in my favor, hence my tender solicitude for him. I am
innocent, of course--convicts always are, you know--but that wouldn't make
any difference. He'd die of mortification just the same. It's one of our
family traits, that. So I gave a false name to the authorities, and
secretly informed my uncle that I was about to set out for a walking trip
across the great American desert, requesting him not to worry if he did
not hear from me for a number of years, America being in a state of
semi-civilization, to which mails outside of certain districts are
entirely unknown. My uncle being an Englishman and a conservative
gentleman, addicted more to reading than to travel, accepts the
information as veracious and suspects nothing, and when I am liberated I
shall return to him, and at his death shall become a conservative man of
wealth myself. See?"

"But if you are innocent and he rich and influential, why did you not
appeal to him to save you?" I asked.

"Because I was afraid that he, like the rest of the world, would decline
to believe my defence," sighed 5010. "It was a good defence, if the judge
had only known it, and I'm proud of it."

"But ineffectual," I put in. "And so, not good."

"Alas, yes! This is an incredulous age. People, particularly judges, are
hard-headed practical men of affairs. My defence was suited more for an
age of mystical tendencies. Why, will you believe it, sir, my own lawyer,
the man to whom I paid eighteen dollars and seventy-five cents for
championing my cause, told me the defence was rubbish, devoid even of
literary merit. What chance could a man have if his lawyer even didn't
believe in him?"

"None," I answered, sadly. "And you had no chance at all, though
innocent?"

"Yes, I had one, and I chose not to take it. I might have proved myself
_non compos mentis_; but that involved my making a fool of myself in
public before a jury, and I have too much dignity for that, I can tell
you. I told my lawyer that I should prefer a felon's cell to the richly
furnished flat of a wealthy lunatic, to which he replied, 'Then all is
lost!' And so it was. I read my defence in court. The judge laughed, the
jury whispered, and I was convicted instanter of stealing spoons, when
murder itself was no further from my thoughts than theft."

"But they tell me you were caught red-handed," said I. "Were not a
half-dozen spoons found upon your person?"

"In my hand," returned the prisoner. "The spoons were in my hand when I
was arrested, and they were seen there by the owner, by the police, and by
the usual crowd of small boys that congregate at such embarrassing
moments, springing up out of sidewalks, dropping down from the heavens,
swarming in from everywhere. I had no idea there were so many small boys
in the world until I was arrested, and found myself the cynosure of a
million or more innocent blue eyes."

[Illustration]

"Were they all blue-eyed?" I queried, thinking the point interesting from
a scientific point of view, hoping to discover that curiosity of a morbid
character was always found in connection with eyes of a specified hue.

"Oh no; I fancy not," returned my host. "But to a man with a load of
another fellow's spoons in his possession, and a pair of handcuffs on his
wrists, everything looks blue."

"I don't doubt it," I replied. "But--er--just how, now, could you defend
yourself when every bit of evidence, and--you will excuse me for saying
so--conclusive evidence at that, pointed to your guilt?"

"The spoons were a gift," he answered.

"But the owner denied that."

"I know it; that's where the beastly part of it all came in. They were not
given to me by the owner, but by a lot of mean, low-down,
practical-joke-loving ghosts."

Number 5010's anger as he spoke these words was terrible to witness, and
as he strode up and down the floor of his cell and dashed his arms right
and left, I wished for a moment that I was elsewhere. I should not have
flown, however, even had the cell door been open and my way clear, for his
suggestion of a supernatural agency in connection with his crime whetted
my curiosity until it was more keen than ever, and I made up my mind to
hear the story to the end, if I had to commit a crime and get myself
sentenced to confinement in that prison for life to do so.

Fortunately, extreme measures of this nature were unnecessary, for after a
few moments Surrennes calmed down, and seating himself beside me on the
cot, drained his water-pitcher to the dregs, and began.

"Excuse me for not offering you a drink," he said, "but the wine they
serve here while moist is hardly what a connoisseur would choose except
for bathing purposes, and I compliment you by assuming that you do not
wish to taste it."

"Thank you," I said. "I do not like to take water straight, exactly. I
always dilute it, in fact, with a little of this."

Here I extracted a small flask from my pocket and handed it to him.

"Ah!" he said, smacking his lips as he took a long pull at its contents,
"that puts spirit into a man."

"Yes, it does," I replied, ruefully, as I noted that he had left me very
little but the flask; "but I don't think it was necessary for you to
deprive me of all mine."

"No; that is, you can't appreciate the necessity unless you--er--you have
suffered in your life as I am suffering. You were never sent up yourself?"

I gave him a glance which was all indignation. "I guess not," I said. "I
have led a life that is above reproach."

"Good!" he replied. "And what a satisfaction that is, eh? I don't believe
I'd be able to stand this jail life if it wasn't for my conscience, which
is as clear and clean as it would be if I'd never used it."

"Would you mind telling me what your defence was?" I asked.

"Certainly not," said he, cheerfully. "I'd be very glad to give it to you.
But you must remember one thing--it is copyrighted."

"Fire ahead!" I said, with a smile. "I'll respect your copyright. I'll
give you a royalty on what I get for the story."

"Very good," he answered. "It was like this. To begin, I must tell you
that when I was a boy preparing for college I had for a chum a brilliant
fun-loving fellow named Hawley Hicks, concerning whose future various
prophecies had been made. His mother often asserted that he would be a
great poet; his father thought he was born to be a great general; our
head-master at the Scarberry Institute for Young Gentlemen prophesied the
gallows. They were all wrong; though, for myself, I think that if he had
lived long enough almost any one of the prophecies might have come true.
The trouble was that Hawley died at the age of twenty-three. Fifteen years
elapsed. I was graduated with high honors at Brazenose, lived a life of
elegant leisure, and at the age of thirty-seven broke down in health. That
was about a year ago. My uncle, whose heir and constant companion I was,
gave me a liberal allowance, and sent me off to travel. I came to America,
landed in New York early in September, and set about winning back the
color which had departed from my cheeks by an assiduous devotion to such
pleasures as New York affords. Two days after my arrival, I set out for an
airing at Coney Island, leaving my hotel at four in the afternoon. On my
way down Broadway I was suddenly startled at hearing my name spoken from
behind me, and appalled, on turning, to see standing with outstretched
hands no less a person than my defunct chum, Hawley Hicks."

[Illustration]

"Impossible," said I.

"Exactly my remark," returned Number 5010. "To which I added, 'Hawley
Hicks, it can't be you!'

"'But it is me,' he replied.

"And then I was convinced, for Hawley never was good on his grammar. I
looked at him a minute, and then I said, 'But, Hawley, I thought you were
dead.'

"'I am,' he answered. 'But why should a little thing like that stand
between friends?'

"'It shouldn't, Hawley,' I answered, meekly; 'but it's condemnedly
unusual, you know, for a man to associate even with his best friends
fifteen years after they've died and been buried.'

"'Do you mean to say, Austin, that just because I was weak enough once to
succumb to a bad cold, you, the dearest friend of my youth, the closest
companion of my school-days, the partner of my childish joys, intend to go
back on me here in a strange city?'

"'Hawley,' I answered, huskily, 'not a bit of it. My letter of credit, my
room at the hotel, my dress suit, even my ticket to Coney Island, are at
your disposal; but I think the partner of your childish joys ought first
to be let in on the ground-floor of this enterprise, and informed how the
deuce you manage to turn up in New York fifteen years subsequent to your
obsequies. Is New York the hereafter for boys of your kind, or is this
some freak of my imagination?'"

"That was an eminently proper question," I put in, just to show that while
the story I was hearing terrified me, I was not altogether speechless.

"It was, indeed," said 5010; "and Hawley recognized it as such, for he
replied at once.

"'Neither,' said he. 'Your imagination is all right, and New York is
neither heaven nor the other place. The fact is, I'm spooking, and I can
tell you, Austin, it's just about the finest kind of work there is. If you
could manage to shuffle off your mortal coil and get in with a lot of
ghosts, the way I have, you'd be playing in great luck.'

"'Thanks for the hint, Hawley,' I said, with a grateful smile; 'but, to
tell you the truth, I do not find that life is entirely bad. I get my
three meals a day, keep my pocket full of coin, and sleep eight hours
every night on a couch that couldn't be more desirable if it were studded
with jewels and had mineral springs.'

"'That's your mortal ignorance, Austin,' he retorted. 'I lived long enough
to appreciate the necessity of being ignorant, but your style of existence
is really not to be mentioned in the same cycle with mine. You talk about
three meals a day, as if that were an ideal; you forget that with the
eating your labor is just begun; those meals have to be digested, every
one of 'em, and if you could only understand it, it would appall you to
see what a fearful wear and tear that act of digestion is. In my life you
are feasting all the time, but with no need for digestion. You speak of
money in your pockets; well, I have none, yet am I the richer of the two.
I don't need money. The world is mine. If I chose to I could pour the
contents of that jeweller's window into your lap in five seconds, but _cui
bono_? The gems delight my eye quite as well where they are; and as for
travel, Austin, of which you have always been fond, the spectral method
beats all. Just watch me!'

"I watched him as well as I could for a minute," said 5010; "and then he
disappeared. In another minute he was before me again.

"'Well,' I said, 'I suppose you've been around the block in that time,
eh?'

"He roared with laughter. 'Around the block?' he ejaculated. 'I have done
the Continent of Europe, taken a run through China, haunted the Emperor of
Japan, and sailed around the Horn since I left you a minute ago.'

[Illustration]

"He was a truthful boy in spite of his peculiarities, Hawley was," said
Surrennes, quietly, "so I had to believe what he said. He abhorred lies."

"That was pretty fast travelling, though," said I. "He'd make a fine
messenger-boy."

"That's so. I wish I'd suggested it to him," smiled my host. "But I can
tell you, sir, I was astonished. 'Hawley,' I said, 'you always were a fast
youth, but I never thought you would develop into this. I wonder you're
not out of breath after such a journey.'

"'Another point, my dear Austin, in favor of my mode of existence. We
spooks have no breath to begin with. Consequently, to get out of it is no
deprivation. But, I say,' he added, 'whither are you bound?'

"'To Coney Island to see the sights,' I replied. 'Won't you join me?'

"'Not I,' he replied. 'Coney Island is tame. When I first joined the
spectre band, it seemed to me that nothing could delight me more than an
eternal round of gayety like that; but, Austin, I have changed. I have
developed a good deal since you and I were parted at the grave.'

"'I should say you had,' I answered. 'I doubt if many of your old friends
would know you.'

"'You seem to have had difficulty in so doing yourself, Austin,' he
replied, regretfully; 'but see here, old chap, give up Coney Island, and
spend the evening with me at the club. You'll have a good time, I can
assure you.'

"'The club?' I said. 'You don't mean to say you visions have a club?'

"'I do indeed; the Ghost Club is the most flourishing association of
choice spirits in the world. We have rooms in every city in creation; and
the finest part of it is there are no dues to be paid. The membership list
holds some of the finest names in history--Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer,
Napoleon Bonaparte, Caesar, George Washington, Mozart, Frederick the
Great, Marc Antony--Cassius was black-balled on Caesar's account--Galileo,
Confucius.'

[Illustration]

"'You admit the Chinese, eh?' I queried.

"'Not always,' he replied. 'But Con was such a good fellow they hadn't the
heart to keep him out; but you see, Austin, what a lot of fine fellows
there are in it.'

"'Yes, it's a magnificent list, and I should say they made a pretty
interesting set of fellows to hear talk,' I put in.

"'Well, rather,' Hawley replied. 'I wish you could have heard a debate
between Shakespeare and Caesar on the resolution, "The Pen is mightier than
the Sword;" it was immense.'

"'I should think it might have been,' I said. 'Which won?'

"'The sword party. They were the best fighters; though on the merits of
the argument Shakespeare was 'way ahead.'

"'If I thought I'd stand a chance of seeing spooks like that, I think I'd
give up Coney Island and go with you,' I said.

"'Well,' replied Hawley, 'that's just the kind of a chance you do stand.
They'll all be there to-night, and as this is ladies' day, you might meet
Lucretia Borgia, Cleopatra, and a few other feminine apparitions of
considerable note.'

"'That settles it. I am yours for the rest of the day,' I said, and so we
adjourned to the rooms of the Ghost Club.

"These rooms were in a beautiful house on Fifth Avenue; the number of the
house you will find on consulting the court records. I have forgotten it.
It was a large, broad, brown-stone structure, and must have been over one
hundred and fifty feet in depth. Such fittings I never saw before;
everything was in the height of luxury, and I am quite certain that among
beings to whom money is a measure of possibility no such magnificence is
attainable. The paintings on the walls were by the most famous artists of
our own and other days. The rugs on the superbly polished floors were
worth fortunes, not only for their exquisite beauty, but also for their
extreme rarity. In keeping with these were the furniture and bric-a-brac.
In short, my dear sir, I had never dreamed of anything so dazzlingly, so
superbly magnificent as that apartment into which I was ushered by the
ghost of my quondam friend Hawley Hicks.

[Illustration]

"At first I was speechless with wonder, which seemed to amuse Hicks very
much.

"'Pretty fine, eh?' he said, with a short laugh.

"'Well,' I replied, in a moment, 'considering that you can get along
without money, and that all the resources of the world are at your
disposal, it is not more than half bad. Have you a library?'

"I was always fond of books," explained 5010 in parenthesis to me, "and so
was quite anxious to see what the club of ghosts could show in the way of
literary treasures. Imagine my surprise when Hawley informed me that the
club had no collection of the sort to appeal to the bibliophile.

"'No,' he answered, 'we have no library.'

"'Rather strange,' I said, 'that a club to which men like Shakespeare,
Milton, Edgar Allan Poe, and other deceased literati belong should be
deficient in that respect.'

"'Not at all,' said he. 'Why should we want books when we have the men
themselves to tell their tales to us? Would you give a rap to possess a
set of Shakespeare if William himself would sit down and rattle off the
whole business to you any time you chose to ask him to do it? Would you
follow Scott's printed narratives through their devious and tedious
periods if Sir Walter in spirit would come to you on demand, and tell you
all the old stories over again in a tenth part of the time it would take
you to read the introduction to one of them?'

"'I fancy not,' I said. 'Are you in such luck?'

"'I am,' said Hawley; 'only personally I never send for Scott or
Shakespeare. I prefer something lighter than either--Douglas Jerrold or
Marryat. But best of all, I like to sit down and hear Noah swap animal
stories with Davy Crockett. Noah's the brightest man of his age in the
club. Adam's kind of slow.'

"'How about Solomon?' I asked, more to be flippant than with any desire
for information. I was much amused to hear Hawley speak of these great
spirits as if he and they were chums of long standing.

[Illustration]

"'Solomon has resigned from the club,' he said, with a sad sigh. 'He was a
good fellow, Solomon was, but he thought he knew it all until old Doctor
Johnson got hold of him, and then he knuckled under. It's rather rough for
a man to get firmly established in his belief that he is the wisest
creature going, and then, after a couple of thousand years, have an
Englishman come along and tell him things he never knew before, especially
the way Sam Johnson delivers himself of his opinions. Johnson never cared
whom he hurt, you know, and when he got after Solomon, he did it with all
his might.'"

"I wonder if Boswell was there?" I ventured, interrupting 5010 in his
extraordinary narrative for an instant.

"Yes, he was there," returned the prisoner. "I met him later in the
evening; but he isn't the spook he might be. He never had much spirit
anyhow, and when he died he had to leave his nose behind him, and that
settled him."

"Of course," I answered. "Boswell with no nose to stick into other
people's affairs would have been like _Othello_ with Desdemona left out.
But go on. What did you do next?"

"Well," 5010 resumed, "after I'd looked about me, and drunk my fill of
the magnificence on every hand, Hawley took me into the music-room, and
introduced me to Mozart and Wagner and a few other great composers. In
response to my request, Wagner played an impromptu version of 'Daisy
Bell' on the organ. It was great; not much like 'Daisy Bell,' of course;
more like a collision between a cyclone and a simoom in a tin-plate
mining camp, in fact, but, nevertheless, marvellous. I tried to remember
it afterwards, and jotted down a few notes, but I found the first bar
took up seven sheets of fool's-cap, and so gave it up. Then Mozart tried
his hand on a banjo for my amusement, Mendelssohn sang a half-dozen of
his songs without words, and then Gottschalk played one of Poe's weird
stories on the piano.

"Then Carlyle came in, and Hawley introduced me to him. He was a gruff
old gentleman, and seemingly anxious to have Froude become an eligible,
and I judged from the rather fierce manner in which he handled a club he
had in his hand, that there were one or two other men of prominence still
living he was anxious to meet. Dickens, too, was desirous of a two-minute
interview with certain of his at present purely mortal critics; and,
between you and me, if the wink that Bacon gave Shakespeare when I spoke
of Ignatius Donnelly meant anything, the famous cryptogrammarian will do
well to drink a bottle of the elixir of life every morning before
breakfast, and stave off dissolution as long as he can. There's no
getting around the fact, sir," Surrennes added, with a significant shake
of the head, "that the present leaders of literary thought with critical
tendencies are going to have the hardest kind of a time when they cross
the river and apply for admission to the Ghost Club. _I_ don't ask for
any better fun than that of watching from a safe distance the initiation
ceremonies of the next dozen who go over. And as an Englishman, sir, who
thoroughly believes in and admires Lord Wolseley, if I were out of jail
and able to do it, I'd write him a letter, and warn him that he would
better revise his estimates of certain famous soldiers no longer living
if he desires to find rest in that mysterious other world whither he must
eventually betake himself. They've got their swords sharpened for him,
and he'll discover an instance when he gets over there in which the sword
is mightier than the pen.

[Illustration]

"After that, Hawley took me up-stairs and introduced me to the spirit of
Napoleon Bonaparte, with whom I passed about twenty-five minutes talking
over his victories and defeats. He told me he never could understand how a
man like Wellington came to defeat him at Waterloo, and added that he had
sounded the Iron Duke on the subject, and found him equally ignorant.

"So the afternoon and evening passed. I met quite a number of famous
ladies--Catherine, Marie Louise, Josephine, Queen Elizabeth, and others.
Talked architecture with Queen Anne, and was surprised to learn that she
never saw a Queen Anne cottage. I took Peg Woffington down to supper, and
altogether had a fine time of it."

[Illustration]

"But, my dear Surrennes," I put in at this point, "I fail to see what this
has to do with your defence in your trial for stealing spoons."

"I am coming to that," said 5010, sadly. "I dwell on the moments passed at
the club because they were the happiest of my life, and am loath to speak
of what followed, but I suppose I must. It was all due to Queen Isabella
that I got into trouble. Peg Woffington presented me to Queen Isabella in
the supper-room, and while her majesty and I were talking, I spoke of how
beautiful everything in the club was, and admired especially a half-dozen
old Spanish spoons upon the side-board. When I had done this, the Queen
called to Ferdinand, who was chatting with Columbus on the other side of
the room, to come to her, which he did with alacrity. I was presented to
the King, and then my troubles began.

"'Mr. Surrennes admires our spoons, Ferdinand,' said the Queen.

"The King smiled, and turning to me observed, 'Sir, they are yours.
Er--waiter, just do these spoons up and give them to Mr. Surrennes.'

"Of course," said 5010, "I protested against this; whereupon the King
looked displeased.

"'It is a rule of our club, sir, as well as an old Spanish custom, for us
to present to our guests anything that they may happen openly to admire.
You are surely sufficiently well acquainted with the etiquette of club
life to know that guests may not with propriety decline to be governed by
the regulations of the club whose hospitality they are enjoying.'

"'I certainly am aware of that, my dear King,' I replied, 'and of course I
accept the spoons with exceeding deep gratitude. My remonstrance was
prompted solely by my desire to explain to you that I was unaware of any
such regulation, and to assure you that when I ventured to inform your
good wife that the spoons had excited my sincerest admiration, I was not
hinting that it would please me greatly to be accounted their possessor.'

"'Your courtly speech, sir,' returned the King, with a low bow, 'is ample
assurance of your sincerity, and I beg that you will put the spoons in
your pocket and say no more. They are yours. _Verb. sap_.'

[Illustration]

"I thanked the great Spaniard and said no more, pocketing the spoons with
no little exultation, because, having always been a lover of the quaint
and beautiful, I was glad to possess such treasures, though I must confess
to some misgivings as to the possibility of their being unreal. Shortly
after this episode I looked at my watch and discovered that it was getting
well on towards eleven o'clock, and I sought out Hawley for the purpose of
thanking him for a delightful evening and of taking my leave. I met him in
the hall talking to Euripides on the subject of the amateur stage in the
United States. What they said I did not stop to hear, but offering my hand
to Hawley informed him of my intention to depart.

"'Well, old chap,' he said, affectionately, 'I'm glad you came. It's
always a pleasure to see you, and I hope we may meet again some time
soon.' And then, catching sight of my bundle, he asked, 'What have you
there?'

"I informed him of the episode in the supper-room, and fancied I perceived
a look of annoyance on his countenance.

"'I didn't want to take them, Hawley,' I said; 'but Ferdinand insisted.'

"'Oh, it's all right!' returned Hawley. 'Only I'm sorry! You'd better get
along home with them as quickly as you can and say nothing; and, above
all, don't try to sell them.'

"'But why?' I asked. 'I'd much prefer to leave them here if there is any
question of the propriety of my--'

"Here," continued 5010, "Hawley seemed to grow impatient, for he stamped
his foot angrily, and bade me go at once or there might be trouble. I
proceeded to obey him, and left the house instanter, slamming the door
somewhat angrily behind me. Hawley's unceremonious way of speeding his
parting guest did not seem to me to be exactly what I had a right to
expect at the time. I see now what his object was, and acquit him of any
intention to be rude, though I must say if I ever catch him again, I'll
wring an explanation from him for having introduced me into such bad
company.

"As I walked down the steps," said 5010, "the chimes of the neighboring
church were clanging out the hour of eleven. I stopped on the last step to
look for a possible hansom-cab, when a portly gentleman accompanied by a
lady started to mount the stoop. The man eyed me narrowly for a moment,
and then, sending the lady up the steps, he turned to me and said,

"'What are you doing here?'

"'I've just left the club,' I answered. 'It's all right. I was Hawley
Hicks's guest. Whose ghost are you?'

"'What the deuce are you talking about?' he asked, rather gruffly, much to
my surprise and discomfort.

"'I tried to give you a civil answer to your question,' I returned,
indignantly.

"'I guess you're crazy--or a thief,' he rejoined.

"'See here, friend,' I put in, rather impressively, 'just remember one
thing. You are talking to a gentleman, and I don't take remarks of that
sort from anybody, spook or otherwise. I don't care if you are the ghost
of the Emperor Nero, if you give me any more of your impudence I'll
dissipate you to the four quarters of the universe--see?'

"Then he grabbed me and shouted for the police, and I was painfully
surprised to find that instead of coping with a mysterious being from
another world, I had two hundred and ten pounds of flesh and blood to
handle. The populace began to gather. The million and a half of small
boys of whom I have already spoken--mostly street gamins, owing to the
lateness of the hour--sprang up from all about us. Hansom-cab drivers,
attracted by the noise of our altercation, drew up to the sidewalk to
watch developments, and then, after the usual fifteen or twenty minutes,
the blue-coat emissary of justice appeared.

"'Phat's dthis?' he asked.

"'I have detected this man leaving my house in a suspicious manner,' said
my adversary. 'I have reason to suspect him of thieving.'

"'_Your_ house!' I ejaculated, with fine scorn. 'I've got you there; this
is the house of the New York Branch of the Ghost Club. If you want it
proved,' I added, turning to the policeman, 'ring the bell, and ask.'

"'Oi t'ink dthat's a fair prophosition,' observed the policeman. 'Is the
motion siconded?'

"'Oh, come now!' cried my captor. 'Stop this nonsense, or I'll report you
to the department. This is my house, and has been for twenty years. I want
this man searched.'

"'Oi hov no warrant permithin' me to invistigate the contints ov dthe
gintlemon's clothes,' returned the intelligent member of the force. 'But
av yez 'll take yer solemn alibi dthat yez hov rayson t' belave the
gintlemon has worked ony habeas corpush business on yure propherty, oi'll
jug dthe blag-yard.'

"'I'll be responsible,' said the alleged owner of the house. 'Take him to
the station.'

"'I refuse to move,' I said.

"'Oi'll not carry yez,' said the policeman, 'and oi'd advoise ye to
furnish yure own locomotion. Av ye don't, oi'll use me club. Dthot's th'
ounly waa yez 'll git dthe ambulanch.'

"'Oh, well, if you insist,' I replied, 'of course I'll go. I have nothing
to fear.'

"You see," added 5010 to me, in parenthesis, "the thought suddenly flashed
across my mind that if all was as my captor said, if the house was really
his and not the Ghost Club's, and if the whole thing was only my fancy,
the spoons themselves would turn out to be entirely fanciful; so I was all
right--or at least I thought I was. So we trotted along to the police
station. On the way I told the policeman the whole story, which impressed
him so that he crossed himself a half-dozen times, and uttered numerous
ejaculatory prayers--'Maa dthe shaints presharve us,' and 'Hivin hov
mershy,' and others of a like import.

"'Waz dthe ghosht ov Dan O'Connell dthere?' he asked.

"Yes,' I replied. 'I shook hands with it.'

"'Let me shaak dthot hand,' he said, his voice trembling with emotion, and
then he whispered in my ear: 'Oi belave yez to be innoshunt; but av yez
ain't, for the love of Dan, oi'll let yez _esh_cape.'

[Illustration]

"'Thanks, old fellow,' I replied. 'But I am innocent of wrong-doing, as I
can prove.'

"Alas!" sighed the convict, "it was not to be so. When I arrived at the
station-house, I was dumfounded to learn that the spoons were all too
real. I told my story to the sergeant, and pointed to the monogram,
'G.C.,' on the spoons as evidence that my story was correct; but even
that told against me, for the alleged owner's initials were G.C.--his
name I withhold--and the monogram only served to substantiate his claim
to the spoons. Worst of all, he claimed that he had been robbed on several
occasions before this, and by midnight I found myself locked up in a dirty
cell to await trial.

"I got a lawyer, and, as I said before, even he declined to believe my
story, and suggested the insanity dodge. Of course I wouldn't agree to
that. I tried to get him to subpoena Ferdinand and Isabella and Euripides
and Hawley Hicks in my behalf, and all he'd do was to sit there and shake
his head at me. Then I suggested going up to the Metropolitan Opera-house
some fearful night as the clock struck twelve, and try to serve papers on
Wagner's spook--all of which he treated as unworthy of a moment's
consideration. Then I was tried, convicted, and sentenced to live in this
beastly hole; but I have one strong hope to buoy me up, and if that is
realized, I'll be free to-morrow morning."

"What is that?" I asked.

"Why," he answered, with a sigh, as the bell rang summoning him to his
supper--"why, the whole horrid business has been so weird and uncanny that
I'm beginning to believe it's all a dream. If it is, why, I'll wake up,
and find myself at home in bed; that's all. I've clung to that hope for
nearly a year now, but it's getting weaker every minute."

"Yes, 5010," I answered, rising and shaking him by the hand in parting;
"that's a mighty forlorn hope, because I'm pretty wide awake myself at
this moment, and can't be a part of your dream. The great pity is you
didn't try the insanity dodge."

"Tut!" he answered. "That is the last resource of a weak mind."




A PSYCHICAL PRANK


I

Willis had met Miss Hollister but once, and that, for a certain purpose,
was sufficient. He was smitten. She represented in every way his ideal,
although until he had met her his ideal had been something radically
different. She was not at all Junoesque, and the maiden of his dreams had
been decidedly so. She had auburn hair, which hitherto Willis had
detested. Indeed, if the same hirsute wealth had adorned some other
woman's head, Willis would have called it red. This shows how completely
he was smitten. She changed his point of view entirely. She shattered his
old ideal and set herself up in its stead, and she did most of it with a
smile.

There was something, however, about Miss Hollister's eyes that contributed
to the smiting of Willis's heart. They were great round lustrous orbs, and
deep. So deep were they and so penetrating that Willis's affections were
away beyond their own depth the moment Miss Hollister's eyes looked into
his, and at the same time he had a dim and slightly uncomfortable notion
that she could read every thought his mind held within its folds--or
rather, that she could see how utterly devoid of thought that mind was
upon this ecstatic occasion, for Willis's brain was set all agog by the
sensations of the moment.

"By Jove!" he said to himself afterwards--for Willis, wise man that he
could be on occasions, was his own confidant, to the exclusion of all
others--"by Jove! I believe she can peer into my very soul; and if she
can, my hopes are blasted, for she must be able to see that a soul like
mine is no more worthy to become the affinity of one like hers than a
mountain rill can hope to rival the Amazon."

Nevertheless, Willis did hope.

"Something may turn up, and perhaps--perhaps I can devise some scheme by
means of which my imperfections can be hidden from her. Maybe I can put
stained glass over the windows of my soul, and keep her from looking
through them at my shortcomings. Smoked glasses, perhaps--and why not? If
smoked glasses can be used by mortals gazing at the sun, why may they not
be used by me when gazing into those scarcely less glorious orbs of hers?"

Alas for Willis! The fates were against him. A far-off tribe of fates were
in league to blast his chances of success forever, and this was how it
happened:

Willis had occasion one afternoon to come up town early. At the corner of
Broadway and Astor Place he entered a Madison Avenue car, paid his fare,
and sat down in one of the corner seats at the rear end of the car. His
mind was, as usual, intent upon the glorious Miss Hollister. Surely no one
who had once met her could do otherwise than think of her constantly, he
reflected; and the reflection made him a bit jealous. What business had
others to think of her? Impertinent, grovelling mortals! No man was good
enough to do that--no, not even himself. But he could change. He could at
least try to be worthy of thinking about her, and he knew of no other man
who could. He'd like to catch any one else doing so little as mentioning
her name!

"Impertinent, grovelling mortals!" he repeated.

And then the car stopped at Seventeenth Street, and who should step on
board but Miss Hollister herself!

"The idea!" thought Willis. "By Jove! there she is--on a horse-car, too!
How atrocious! One might as well expect to see Minerva driving in a
grocer's wagon as Miss Hollister in a horse-car. Miserable, untactful
world to compel Minerva to ride in a horse-cart, or rather Miss Hollister
to ride in a grocer's car! Absurdest of absurdities!"

Here he raised his hat, for Miss Hollister had bowed sweetly to him as she
passed on to the far end of the car, where she stood hanging on to a
strap.

"I wonder why she doesn't sit down?" thought Willis; for as he looked
about the car he observed that with the exception of the one he occupied
all the seats were vacant. In fact, the only persons on board were Miss
Hollister, the driver, the conductor, and himself.

"I think I'll go speak to her," he thought. And then he thought again:
"No, I'd better not. She saw me when she entered, and if she had wished to
speak to me she would have sat down here beside me, or opposite me
perhaps. I shall show myself worthy of her by not thrusting my presence
upon her. But I wonder why she stands? She looks tired enough."

Here Miss Hollister indulged in a very singular performance. She bowed her
head slightly at some one, apparently on the sidewalk, Willis thought,
murmured something, the purport of which Willis could not catch, and sat
down in the middle of the seat on the other side of the car, looking very
much annoyed--in fact, almost unamiable.

Willis was more mystified than ever; but his mystification was as nothing
compared to his anxiety when, on reaching Forty-second Street, Miss
Hollister rose, and sweeping by him without a sign of recognition, left
the car.

"Cut, by thunder!" ejaculated Willis, in consternation. "And why, I
wonder? Most incomprehensible affair. Can she be a woman of whims--with
eyes like those? Never. Impossible. And yet what else can be the matter?"

Try as he might, Willis could not solve the problem. It was utterly past
solution as far as he was concerned.

"I'll find out, and I'll find out like a brave man," he said, after
racking his brains for an hour or two in a vain endeavor to get at the
cause of Miss Hollister's cut. "I'll call upon her to-night and ask her."

He was true to his first purpose, but not to his second. He called, but he
did not ask her, for Miss Hollister did not give him the chance to do so.
Upon receiving his card she sent down word that she was out. Two days
later, meeting him face to face upon the street, she gazed coldly at him,
and cut him once more. Six months later her engagement to a Boston man was
announced, and in the autumn following Miss Hollister of New York became
Mrs. Barrows of Boston. There were cards, but Willis did not receive one
of them. The cut was indeed complete and final. But why? That had now
become one of the great problems of Willis's life. What had he done to be
so badly treated?


II

A year passed by, and Willis recovered from the dreadful blow to his
hopes, but he often puzzled over Miss Hollister's singular behavior
towards him. He had placed the matter before several of his friends, and,
with the exception of one of them, none was more capable of solving his
problem than he. This one had heard from his wife, a school friend and
intimate acquaintance of Miss Hollister, now Mrs. Barrows, that Willis's
ideal had once expressed herself to the effect that she had admired Willis
very much until she had discovered that he was not always as courteous as
he should be.

"Courteous? Not as courteous as I should be?" retorted Willis. "When have
I ever been anything else? Why, my dear Bronson," he added, "you know what
my attitude towards womankind--as well as mankind--has always been. If
there is a creature in the world whose politeness is his weakness, I am
that creature. I'm the most courteous man living. When I play poker in my
own rooms I lose money, because I've made it a rule never to beat my
guests in cards or anything else."

"That isn't politeness," said Bronson. "That's idiocy."

"It proves my point," retorted Willis. "I'm polite to the verge of
insanity. Not as courteous as I should be! Great Scott! What did I ever do
or say to give her that idea?"

"I don't know," Bronson replied. "Better ask her. Maybe you overdid your
politeness. Overdone courtesy is often worse than boorishness. You may
have been so polite on some occasion that you made Miss Hollister think
you considered her an inferior person. You know what the poet insinuated.
Sorosis holds no fury like a woman condescended to by a man."

"I've half a mind to write to Mrs. Barrows and ask her what I did," said
Willis.

"That would be lovely," said Bronson. "Barrows would be pleased."

"True. I never thought of that," replied Willis.

"You are not a thoughtful thinker," said Bronson, dryly. "If I were you
I'd bide my time, and some day you may get an explanation. Stranger things
have happened; and my wife tells me that the Barrowses are to spend the
coming winter in New York. You'll meet them out somewhere, no doubt."

"No; I shall decline to go where they are. No woman shall cut me a second
time--not even Mrs. Barrows," said Willis, firmly.

"Good! Stand by your colors," said Bronson, with an amused smile.

A week or two later Willis received an invitation from Mr. and Mrs.
Bronson to dine with them informally. "I have some very clever friends I
want you to meet," she wrote. "So be sure to come."

Willis went. The clever friends were Mr. and Mrs. Barrows; and, to the
surprise of Willis, he was received most effusively by the quondam Miss
Hollister.

"Why, Mr. Willis," she said, extending her hand to him. "How delightful to
see you again!"

"Thank you," said Willis, in some confusion. "I--er--I am sure it is a
very pleasant surprise for me. I--er--had no idea--"

"Nor I," returned Mrs. Barrows. "And really I should have been a little
embarrassed, I think, had I known you were to be here. I--ha! ha!--it's so
very absurd that I almost hesitate to speak of it--but I feel I must. I've
treated you very badly."

"Indeed!" said Willis, with a smile. "How, pray?"

"Well, it wasn't my fault really," returned Mrs. Barrows; "but do you
remember, a little over a year ago, my riding up-town on a horse-car--a
Madison Avenue car--with you?"

"H'm!" said Willis, with an affectation of reflection. "Let me see;
ah--yes--I think I do. We were the only ones on board, I believe,
and--ah--"

Here Mrs. Barrows laughed outright. "You thought we were the only ones on
board, but--we weren't. The car was crowded," she said.

"Then I don't remember it," said Willis. "The only time I ever rode on a
horse-car with you to my knowledge was--"

"I know; this was the occasion," interrupted Mrs. Barrows. "You sat in a
corner at the rear end of the car when I entered, and I was very much put
out with you because it remained for a stranger, whom I had often seen and
to whom I had, for reasons unknown even to myself, taken a deep aversion,
to offer me his seat, and, what is more, compel me to take it."

"I don't understand," said Willis. "We were alone on the car."

"To your eyes we were, although at the time I did not know it. To my eyes
when I boarded it the car was occupied by enough people to fill all the
seats. You returned my bow as I entered, but did not offer me your seat.
The stranger did, and while I tried to decline it, I was unable to do so.
He was a man of about my own age, and he had a most remarkable pair of
eyes. There was no resisting them. His offer was a command; and as I rode
along and thought of your sitting motionless at the end of the car,
compelling me to stand, and being indirectly responsible for my acceptance
of courtesies from a total and disagreeable stranger, I became so very
indignant with you that I passed you without recognition as soon as I
could summon up courage to leave. I could not understand why you, who had
seemed to me to be the soul of politeness, should upon this occasion have
failed to do not what I should exact from any man, but what I had reason
to expect of you."

"But, Mrs. Barrows," remonstrated Willis, "why should I give up a seat to
a lady when there were twenty other seats unoccupied on the same car?"

"There is no reason in the world why you should," replied Mrs. Barrows.
"But it was not until last winter that I discovered the trick that had
been put upon us."

"Ah?" said Willis. "Trick?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Barrows. "It was a trick. The car was empty to your eyes,
but crowded to mine with the astral bodies of the members of the Boston
Theosophical Society."

"Wha-a-at?" roared Willis.

"It is just as I have said," replied Mrs. Barrows, with a silvery laugh.
"They are all great friends of my husband's, and one night last winter he
dined them at our house, and who do you suppose walked in first?"

"Madame Blavatsky's ghost?" suggested Willis, with a grin.

"Not quite," returned Mrs. Barrows. "But the horrible stranger of the
horse-car; and, do you know, he recalled the whole thing to my mind,
assuring me that he and the others had projected their astral bodies over
to New York for a week, and had a magnificent time unperceived by all save
myself, who was unconsciously psychic, and so able to perceive them in
their invisible forms."

"It was a mean trick on me, Mrs. Barrows," said Willis, ruefully, as soon
as he had recovered sufficiently from his surprise to speak.

"Oh no," she replied, with a repetition of her charming laugh, which
rearoused in Willis's breast all the regrets of a lost cause. "They didn't
intend it especially for you, anyhow."

"Well," said Willis, "I think they did. They were friends of your
husband's, and they wanted to ruin me."

"Ruin you? And why should the friends of Mr. Barrows have wished to do
that?" asked Mrs. Barrows, in astonishment.

"Because," began Willis, slowly and softly--"because they probably knew
that from the moment I met you, I--But that is a story with a
disagreeable climax, Mrs. Barrows, so I shall not tell it. How do you like
Boston?"




THE LITERARY REMAINS OF THOMAS BRAGDON

I was much pained one morning last winter on picking up a copy of the
_Times_ to note therein the announcement of the death of my friend Tom
Bragdon, from a sudden attack of la grippe. The news stunned me. It was
like a clap of thunder out of a clear sky, for I had not even heard that
Tom was ill; indeed, we had parted not more than four days previously
after a luncheon together, at which it was I who was the object of his
sympathy because a severe cold prevented my enjoyment of the whitebait,
the fillet, the cigar, and indeed of everything, not even excepting
Bragdon's conversation, which upon that occasion should have seemed more
than usually enlivening, since he was in one of his most exuberant moods.
His last words to me were, "Take care of yourself, Phil! I should hate to
have you die, for force of habit is so strong with me that I shall forever
continue to lunch with none but you, ordering two portions of everything,
which I am sure I could not eat, and how wasteful that would be!" And now
he had passed over the threshold into the valley, and I was left to mourn.

I had known Bragdon as a successful commission merchant for some ten or
fifteen years, during which period of time we had been more or less
intimate, particularly so in the last five years of his life, when we were
drawn more closely together; I, attracted by the absolute genuineness of
his character, his delightful fancy, and to my mind wonderful originality,
for I never knew another like him; he, possibly by the fact that I was one
of the very few who could entirely understand him, could sympathize with
his peculiarities, which were many, and was always ready to enter into any
one of his odd moods, and with quite as much spirit as he himself should
display. It was an ideal friendship.

[Illustration]

It had been our custom every summer to take what Bragdon called spirit
trips together--that is to say, generally in the early spring, Bragdon and
I would choose some out-of-the-way corner of the world for exploration; we
would each read all the literature that we could find concerning the
chosen locality, saturate our minds with the spirit, atmosphere, and
history of the place, and then in August, boarding a small schooner-rigged
boat belonging to Bragdon, we would cruise about the Long Island Sound or
sail up and down the Hudson River for a week, where, tabooing all other
subjects, we would tell each other all that we had been able to discover
concerning the place we had decided upon for our imaginary visit. In this
way we became tolerably familiar with several places of interest which
neither of us had ever visited, and which, in my case, financial
limitations, and in Bragdon's, lack of time, were likely always to prevent
our seeing. As I remember the matter, this plan was Bragdon's own, and its
first suggestion by him was received by me with a smile of derision; but
the quaintness of the idea in time won me over, and after the first trial,
when we made a spirit trip to Beloochistan, I was so fascinated by my
experience that I eagerly looked forward to a second in the series, and
was always thereafter only too glad to bear my share of the trouble and
expense of our annual journeyings. In this manner we had practically
circumnavigated this world and one or two of the planets; for, content as
we were to visit unseen countries in spirit only, we were never hampered
by the ordinary limitations of travel, and where books failed to supply us
with information the imagination was called into play. The universe was
open to us at the expense of a captain for our sharpie, canned provisions
for a week, and a moderate consumption of gray matter in the conjuring up
of scenes with which neither ourselves nor others were familiar. The trips
were refreshing always, and in the case of our spirit journey through
Italy, which at that time neither of us had visited, but which I have
since had the good-fortune to see in the fulness of her beauty, I found it
to be far more delightful than the reality.

[Illustration]

"We'll go in," said Bragdon, when he proposed the Italian tour, "by the
St. Gothard route, the description of which I will prepare in detail
myself. You can take the lakes, rounding up with Como. I will follow with
the trip from Como to Milan, and Milan shall be my care. You can do Verona
and Padua; I Venice. Then we can both try our hands at Rome and Naples; in
the latter place, to save time, I will take Pompeii, you Capri. Thence we
can hark back to Rome, thence to Pisa, Genoa, and Turin, giving a day to
Siena and some of the quaint Etruscan towns, passing out by the Mont Cenis
route from Turin to Geneva. If you choose you can take a run along the
Riviera and visit Monte Carlo. For my own part, though, I'd prefer not to
do that, because it brings a sensational element into the trip which I
don't particularly care for. You'd have to gamble, and if your imagination
is to have full play you ought to lose all your money, contemplate
suicide, and all that. I don't think the results would be worth the mental
strain you'd have to go through, and I certainly should not enjoy hearing
about it. The rest of the trip, though, we can do easily in five days,
which will leave us two for fishing, if we feel so disposed. They say the
blue-fish are biting like the devil this year."

I regret now that we did not include a stenographer among the necessaries
of our spirit trips, for, as I look back upon that Italian tour, it was
well worthy of preservation in book form, particularly Bragdon's
contributions, which were so delightfully imaginative that I cannot but
rejoice that he did not live to visit the scenes of which he so eloquently
spoke to me upon that occasion. The reality, I fear, would have been a
sore disappointment to him, particularly in relation to Venice, concerning
which his notions were vaguely suggestive of an earthly floating paradise.

[Illustration]

"Ah, Philip," he said, as we cast anchor one night in a little inlet near
Milford, Connecticut, "I shall never forget Venice. This," he added,
waving his hand over the silvery surface of the moonlit water--"this
reminds me of it. All is so still, so romantic, so beautiful. I arrived
late at night, and my first sensations were those of a man who has entered
a city of the dead. The bustle, the noise and clatter, of a great city
were absent; nothing was there but the massive buildings rising up out of
the still, peaceful waters like gigantic tombs, and as my gondolier guided
the sombre black craft to which I had confided my safety and that of my
valise, gliding in and out along those dark unlit streams, a great wave of
melancholy swept over me, and then, passing from the minor streets into
the Grand Canal, the melancholy was dispelled by the brilliant scene that
met my eyes--great floods of light coming from everywhere, the brilliance
of each ray re-enforced by its reflection in the silent river over which I
was speeding. It was like a glimpse of paradise, and when I reached my
palace I was loath to leave the gondola, for I really felt as though I
could glide along in that way through all eternity."

"You lived in a palace in Venice?" I asked, somewhat amused at the
magnificence of this imaginary tour.

"Certainly. Why not?" he replied. "I could not bring myself to staying in
a hotel, Phil, in Venice. Venice is of a past age, when hotels were not,
and to be thoroughly _en rapport_ with my surroundings, I took up my abode
in a palace, as I have said. It was on one of the side streets, to be
sure, but it was yet a palace, and a beautiful one. And that street! It
was a rivulet of beauty, in which could be seen myriads of golden-hued
fish at play, which as the gondola passed to and fro would flirt into
hiding until the intruder had passed out of sight in the Grand Canal,
after which they would come slowly back again to render the silver waters
almost golden with their brilliance."

"Weren't you rather extravagant, Tom?" I asked. "Palaces are costly, are
they not?"

"Oh no," he replied, with as much gravity as though he had really taken
the trip and was imparting information to a seeker after knowledge. "It
was not extravagant when you consider that anything in Venice in the way
of a habitable house is called a palace, and that there are no servants to
be tipped; that your lights, candles all, cost you first price only, and
not the profit of the landlord, plus that of the concierge, plus that of
the maid, plus several other small but aggravatingly augmentative sums
which make your hotel bills seem like highway robbery. No, living in a
palace, on the whole, is cheaper than living in a hotel; incidentals are
less numerous and not so costly; and then you are so independent. Mine was
a particularly handsome structure. I believe I have a picture of it here."

Here Bragdon fumbled in his satchel for a moment, and then dragged forth a
small unmounted photograph of a Venetian street scene, and, pointing out
an ornate structure at the left of the picture, assured me that that was
his palace, though he had forgotten the name of it.

"By-the-way," he said, "let me say parenthetically that I think our
foreign trips will have a far greater _vraisemblance_ if we heighten the
illusion with a few photographs, don't you? They cost about a quarter
apiece at Blank's, in Twenty-third Street."

"A good idea that," I answered, amused at the thoroughness with which
Bragdon was "doing" Venice. "We can remember what we haven't seen so very
much more easily."

"Yes," Bragdon said, "and besides, they'll keep us from exaggeration."

And then he went on to tell me of his month in Venice; how he chartered a
gondola for the whole of his stay there from a handsome romantic Venetian
youth, whose name was on a card Tom had had printed for the occasion,
reading:

GIUSEPPE ZOCCO
Gondolas at all Hours
Cor. Grand Canal and Garibaldi St.

"Giuseppe was a character," Bragdon said. "One of the remnants of a
by-gone age. He could sing like a bird, and at night he used to bring his
friends around to the front of my palace and hitch up to one of the piles
that were driven beside my doorstep, and there they'd sing their soft
Italian melodies for me by the hour. It was better than Italian opera, and
only cost me ten dollars for the whole season."

"And did this Giuseppe speak English, Tom?" I queried, "or did you speak
Italian? I am curious to know how you got on together in a conversational
sense."

[Illustration]

"That is a point, my dear Phil," Bragdon replied, "that I have never
decided. I have looked at it from every point of view, and it has baffled
me. I have asked myself the question, which would be the more likely, that
Giuseppe should speak English, or that I should speak Italian? It has
seemed to me that the latter would be the better way, for, all things
considered, an American produce-broker is more likely to be familiar with
the Italian tongue than a Venetian gondola-driver with the English. On the
other hand, we want our accounts of these trips to seem truthful, and you
_know_ that I am not familiar with Italian, and we do not either of us
know that a possible Zocco would not be a fluent speaker of English. To be
honest with you, I will say that I had hoped you would not ask the
question."

"Well," I answered, "I'll withdraw it. As this is only a spirit trip we
can each decide the point as it seems best to us."

"I think that is the proper plan," he said, and then, proceeding with his
story, he described to me the marvellous paintings that adorned the walls
of his palace; how he had tried to propel a gondola himself, and got a
fall into the "deliciously tepid waters of the canal," as he called them,
for his pains; and it seemed very real, so minute were the details into
which he entered.

But the height of Bragdon's realism in telling his story of Venice was
reached when, diving down into the innermost recesses of his vest pocket,
he brought forth a silver filigree effigy of a gondola, which he handed me
with the statement that it was for me.

"I got that in the plaza of St. Marc's. I had visited the cathedral,
inspected the mosaic flooring, taken a run to the top of the campanile,
fed the pigeons, and was just about returning to the palace, when I
thought of you, Phil, getting ready to do Rome with me, and I thought to
myself 'what a dear fellow he is!' and, as I thought that, it occurred to
me that I'd like you to know I had you in mind at the time, and so I
stopped in one of those brilliant little shops on the plaza, where they
keep everything they have in the windows, and bought that. It isn't much,
old fellow, but it's for remembrance' sake."

I took it from him and pressed his hand affectionately, and for a moment,
as the little sharpie rose and fell with the rising and falling of the
slight undulating waves made by the passing up to anchorage of a small
steam-tug, I almost believed that Tom had been to Venice. I still treasure
the little filigree gondola, nor did I, when some years later I visited
Venice, see there anything for which I would have exchanged that sweet
token of remembrance.

Bragdon, as will already have been surmised by you who read, was more of a
humorist than anything else, but the enthusiasm of his humor, its absolute
spontaneity and kindliness, gave it at times a semblance to what might
pass for true poetry. He was by disposition a thoroughly sweet spirit, and
when I realized that he had gone before, and that the trips he and I had
looked forward to with such almost boyish delight year by year were never
more to be had, my eyes grew wet, and for a time I was disconsolate; and
yet one week later I was laughing heartily at Bragdon.

He had appointed me, it was found when his will was read, his literary
executor. I fairly roared with mirth to think of Bragdon's having a
literary executor, for, imaginative and humorous as he undoubtedly was, he
had been so thoroughly identified in my mind with the produce business
that I could scarcely bring myself to think of him in the light of a
literary person. Indeed, he had always seemed to me to have an intolerance
of literature. I had taken but half of a spirit trip with him when I
discovered that he relied more upon his own imagination for facts of
interest than upon what could be derived from books. He showed this trait
no more strongly than when we came, upon this same Italian tour of which I
have already written at some length, to do Rome together, for I then
discovered how imaginary indeed the trips were from his point of view.
What seemed to him as proper to be was, and neither history nor
considerations of locality ever interfered with the things being as he
desired them to be. Had it been otherwise he never would have endeavored
to make me believe that he had stood upon the very spot in the Colosseum
where Caesar addressed the Roman mob in impassioned words, exhorting them
to resist the encroachment upon their liberties of the Pope!

At first it seemed to me that my late friend was indulging in a posthumous
joke, and I paid his memory the compliment of seeing the point. But when,
some days later, I received a note from his executors stating that they
had found in the store-room of Bragdon's house a large packing-box full of
papers and books, upon the cover of which was tacked a card bearing my
address, I began to wonder whether or not, after all, the imagination of
my dead friend had really led him to believe that he possessed literary
ability.

I immediately sent word to the executors to have the box forwarded to me
by express, and awaited its coming with no little interest, and, it must
be confessed, with some anxiety; for I am apt to be depressed by the
literary lucubrations of those of my friends who, devoid of the literary
quality, do yet persist in writing, and for as long a time as I had known
Bragdon I had never experienced through him any sensations save those of
exhilaration, and I greatly feared a posthumous breaking of the spell.
Poet in feeling as I thought him, I could hardly imagine a poem written by
my friend, and while I had little doubt that I could live through the
reading of a novel or short prose sketch from his pen, I was apprehensive
as to the effect of a possible bit of verse.

It seemed to me, in short, that a poem by Bragdon, while it might easily
show the poet's fancy, could not fail to show also the produce-broker's
clumsiness of touch. His charm was the spontaneity of his spoken words,
his enthusiastic personality disarming all criticism; what the labored
productions of his fancy might prove to be, I hardly dared think. It was
this dread that induced me, upon receipt of the box, appalling in its bulk
and unpleasantly suggestive of the departure to other worlds of the
original consignor, since it was long and deep like the outer oaken
covering of a casket, to delay opening it for some days; but finally I
nerved myself up to the duty that had devolved upon me, and opened the
box.

[Illustration]

It was full to overflowing with printed books in fine bindings, short
tales in Bragdon's familiar hand in copy-books, manuscripts almost without
number, three Russia-leather record-books containing, the title-page told
me, that which I most dreaded to find, _The Poems of Thomas Bragdon_, and
dedicated to "His Dearest Friend"--myself. I had no heart to read beyond
the dedication that night, but devoted all my time to getting the contents
of the box into my library, having done which I felt it absolutely
essential to my happiness to put on my coat, and, though the night was
stormy, to rush out into the air. I think I should have suffocated in an
open field with those literary remains of Thomas Bragdon heaped about me
that night.

On my return I went immediately to bed, feeling by no means in the mood to
read _The Poems of Thomas Bragdon_. I tossed about through the night,
sleeping little, and in the morning rose up unrefreshed, and set about the
examination of the papers and books intrusted to my care by my departed
friend. And oh, the stuff I found there! If I was depressed at starting
in, I was stupefied when it was all over, for the collection was
mystifying to the point that it stunned.

In the first place, on opening Volume I. of the _Poems of Thomas Bragdon_,
the first thing to greet my eyes were these lines:

  CONSTANCY

  Often have I heard it said
  That her lips are ruby-red:
  Little heed I what they say,
  I have seen as red as they.
  Ere she smiled on other men,
  Real rubies were they then.
  But now her lips are coy and cold;
    To mine they ne'er reply;
  And yet I cease not to behold
    The love-light in her eye:
  Her very frowns are fairer far
  Than smiles of other maidens are.

As I read I was conscious of having seen the lines somewhere before, and
yet I could not place them for the moment. They certainly possessed merit,
so much so, in fact, that I marvelled to think of their being Bragdon's. I
turned the leaves further and discovered this:

  DISAPPOINTMENT

  Come to me, O ye children,
    For I hear you at your play,
  And the questions that perplexed me
    Have vanished quite away.

  The Poem of the Universe
    Nor rhythm has nor rhyme;
  Some God recites the wondrous song,
    A stanza at a time.

  I dwell not now on what may be;
    Night shadows o'er the scene;
  But still my fancy wanders free
    Through that which might have been.

Two stanzas in the poem, the first and the last, reminded me, as did the
lines on "Constancy," of something I had read before. In a moment I had
placed the first as the opening lines of Longfellow's "Children," and a
search through my books showed that the concluding verse was taken bodily
from Peacock's exquisite little poem "Castles in the Air."

Despairing to solve the problem that now confronted me, which was, in
brief, what Bragdon meant by bodily lifting stanzas from the poets and
making them over into mosaics of his own, I turned from the poems and cast
my eyes over some of the bound volumes in the box.

The first of these to come to hand was a copy of _Hamlet_, bound in tree
calf, the sole lettering on the book being on the back, as follows:

HAMLET
Bragdon
New York

This I deemed a harmless bit of vanity, and not necessarily misleading,
since many collectors of books see fit to have their own names emblazoned
on the backs of their literary treasures; but pray imagine my horror upon
opening the volume to discover that the name of William Shakespeare had
been erased from the title-page, and that of Thomas Bragdon so carefully
inserted that except to a practised eye none would ever know that the page
was not as it had always been. I must confess to some mirth when I read
that title-page:

HAMLET, PRINCE OF DENMARK
A Tragedy
By
THOMAS BRAGDON, ESQUIRE

The conceit was well worthy of my late friend in one of his most fanciful
moods. In other volumes the same substitution had been made, so that to
one not versed in literature it would have seemed as though "Thomas
Bragdon, Esquire," had been the author not only of _Hamlet_, but also of
_Vanity Fair_, _David Copperfield_, _Rienzi_, and many other famous works,
and I am not sure but that the great problem concerning the "Junius Letters"
was here solved to the satisfaction of Bragdon, if not to my own. There
were but two exceptions in the box to the rule of substituting the name of
Bragdon for that of the actual author; one of these was an Old Testament,
on the fly-leaf of which Bragdon had written, "To my dear friend Bragdon,"
and signed "The Author." I think I should have laughed for hours over this
delightful reminder of my late friend's power of imagination had not the
second exception come almost immediately to hand--a copy of Milton, which
I recognized at once as one I had sent Tom at Christmas two years before
his death, and on the fly-leaf of which I had written, "To Thomas Bragdon,
with the love of, his faithfully, Philip Marsden." This was, indeed, a
commonplace enough inscription, but it gathered unexpected force when I
turned over a leaf and my eyes rested on the title, where Bragdon's love
of substitutes had led him to put my name where Milton's had been.

The discovery was too much for my equanimity. I was thoroughly
disconcerted, almost angry, and I felt, for the first time in my life,
that there had been vagaries in Bragdon's character with which I could not
entirely sympathize; but in justice to myself, it must be said, these
sentiments were induced by first thoughts only. Certainly there could be
but one way in which Bragdon's substitution of my name for Milton's could
prove injurious or offensive to me who was his friend, and that was by his
putting that copy out before the world to be circulated at random, which
avenue to my discomfiture he had effectually closed by leaving the book in
my hands, to do with it whatsoever I pleased. Second thoughts showed me
that it was only a fear of what the outsider might think that was
responsible for my temporary disloyalty to my departed comrade's memory,
and then when I remembered how thoroughly we twain had despised the
outsider, I was so ashamed of my aberration that I immediately renewed my
allegiance to the late King Tom; so heartily, in fact, that my emotions
wellnigh overcame me, and I found it best to seek distractions in the
outer world.

I put on my hat and took a long walk along the Riverside Drive, the crisp
air of the winter night proving a tonic to my disturbed system. It was
after midnight when I returned to my apartment in a tolerably comfortable
frame of mind, and yet as I opened the door to my study I was filled with
a vague apprehension--of what I could not determine, but which events soon
justified, for as I closed the door behind me, and turned up the light
over my table, I became conscious of a pair of eyes fixed upon me.
Nervously whirling about in my chair and glancing over towards my
fireplace, I was for a moment transfixed with terror, for there, leaning
against the mantel and gazing sadly into the fire, was Tom Bragdon
himself--the man whom but a short time before I had seen lowered into his
grave.

[Illustration]

"Tom," I cried, springing to my feet and rushing towards him--"Tom, what
does this mean? Why have you come back from the spirit world to--to haunt
me?"

As I spoke he raised his head slowly until his eyes rested full upon my
own, whereupon he vanished, all save those eyes, which remained fixed upon
mine, and filled with the soft, affectionate glow I had so often seen in
them in life.

"Tom," I cried again, holding out my hand towards him in a beseeching
fashion, "come back. Explain this dreadful mystery if you do not wish me
to lose my senses."

And then the eyes faded from my sight, and I was alone again. Horrified by
my experience, I rushed from the study into my bedroom, where I threw
myself, groaning, upon my couch. To collect my scattered senses was of
difficult performance, and when finally my agitated nerves did begin to
assume a moderately normal state, they were set adrift once more by Tom's
voice, which was unmistakably plain, bidding me to come back to him there
in the study. Fearful as I was of the results, I could not but obey, and I
rose tremblingly from my bed and tottered back to my desk, to see Bragdon
sitting opposite my usual place just as he had so often done when in the
flesh.

"Phil," he said in a moment, "don't be afraid. I couldn't hurt you if I
would, and you know--or if you don't know you ought to know--that to
promote your welfare has always been the supremest of my desires. I have
returned to you here to-night to explain my motive in making the
alterations in those books, and to account for the peculiarities of those
verses. We have known each other, my dear boy, how many years?"

"Fifteen, Tom," I said, my voice husky with emotion.

"Yes, fifteen years, and fifteen happy years, Phil. Happy years to me, to
whom the friendship of one who understood me was the dearest of many dear
possessions. From the moment I met you I felt I had at last a friend, one
to whom my very self might be confided, and who would through all time and
under all circumstances prove true to that trust. It seemed to me that you
were my soul's twin, Phil, and as the years passed on and we grew closer
to each other, when the rough corners of my nature adapted themselves to
the curves of yours, I almost began to think that we were but one soul
united in all things spiritual, two only in matters material. I never
spoke of it to you; I thought of it in communion with myself; I never
thought it necessary to speak of it to you, for I was satisfied that you
knew. I did not realize until--until that night a fortnight since, when
almost without warning I found myself on the threshold of the dark valley,
that perhaps I was mistaken. I missed you, and so sudden was the attack,
and so swiftly did the heralds of death intrude upon me, that I had no
time to summon you, as I wished; and as I lay there upon my bed, to the
watchers unconscious, it came to me, like a dash of cold water in my face,
that after all we were not one, but in reality two; for had we been one,
you would have known of the perilous estate of your other self, and would
have been with me at the last. And, Phil, the realization that chilled my
very soul, that showed me that what I most dearly loved to believe was
founded in unreality, reconciled me to the journey I was about to take
into other worlds, for I knew that should I recover, life could never seem
quite the same to me."

Here Bragdon, or his spirit, stopped speaking for a moment, and I tried to
say something, but could not.

"I know how you feel, Phil," said he, noticing my discomfiture, "for,
though you are not so much a part of me that you thoroughly comprehend me,
I have become so much a part of you that your innermost thoughts are as
plain to me as though they were mine. But let me finish. I realized when I
lay ill and about to die that I had permitted my theory of happiness to
obscure my perception of the actual. As you know, my whole life has been
given over to imagination--all save that portion of my existence, which I
shall not dignify by calling life, when I was forced by circumstances to
bring myself down to realities. I did not live whilst in commercial
pursuits. It was only when I could leave business behind and travel in
fancy wheresoever I wished that I was happy, and in those moments, Phil, I
was full of aspiration to do those things for which nature had not fitted
me, and to the extent that I recognized my inability to do those things I
failed to be content. I should have liked to be a great writer, a poet, a
great dramatist, a novelist--a little of everything in the literary world.
I should have liked to know Shakespeare, to have been the friend of
Milton; and when I came out of my dreams it made me unhappy to think that
such I never could be, until one day this idea came to me: all the
happiness of life is bound up in the 'let's pretend' games which we learn
in childhood, and no harm results to any one. If I can imagine myself off
with my friend Phil Marsden in the lakes of England and Scotland, in the
African jungle, in the moon, anywhere, and enter so far into the spirit of
the trips as to feel that they are real and not imagination, why may I not
in fancy be all these things that I so aspire to be? Why may not the plays
of Shakespeare become the plays of Thomas Bragdon? Why may not the poems
of Milton become the poems of my dearest, closest friend Phil Marsden?
What is to prevent my achieving the highest position in letters, art,
politics, science, anything, in imagination? I acted upon the thought, and
I found the plan worked admirably up to a certain point. It was easy to
fancy myself the author of _Hamlet_, until I took my copy of that work in
hand to read, and then it would shock and bring me back to earth again to
see the name of another on the title-page. My solution of this vexatious
complication was soon found. Surely, thought I, it can harm no one if I
choose in behalf of my own conceit to substitute my name for that of
Shakespeare, and I did so. The illusion was complete; indeed, it became no
illusion, for my eyes did not deceive me. I saw what existed: the
title-page of _Hamlet_ by Thomas Bragdon. I carried the plan further, and
where I found a piece of literature that I admired, there I made the
substitution of my name for that of the real author, and in the case of
that delightful copy of Milton you gave me, Phil, it pleased me to believe
that it was presented to me by the author, only the inscription on the
title-page made it necessary for me to foist upon you the burden or
distinction of authorship. Then, as I lived on in my imaginary paradise,
it struck me that for one who had done such great things in letters I was
doing precious little writing, and I bethought me of a plan which a
dreadful reality made all the more pleasing. I looked into literature to a
slight extent, and I perceived at once that originality is no longer
possible. The great thoughts have been thought; the great truths have been
grasped and made clear; the great poems have been written. I saw that the
literature of to-day is either an echo of the past or a combination of the
ideas of many in the productions of the individual, and upon that basis I
worked. My poems are combinations. I have taken a stanza from one poet,
and combining it with a stanza from another, have made the resulting poem
my own, and in so far as I have made no effort to profit thereby I have
been clear in my conscience. No one has been deceived but myself, though I
saw with some regret this evening when you read my lines that you were
puzzled by them. I had believed that you understood me sufficiently to
comprehend them."

Here my ghostly visitor paused a moment and sighed. I felt as though some
explanation of my lack of comprehension early in the evening was
necessary, and so I said:

"I should have understood you, Tom, and I do now, but I have not the
strength of imagination that you have."

"You are wrong there, Phil," said he. "You have every bit as strong an
imagination as I, but you do not keep it in form. You do not exercise it
enough. How have you developed your muscles? By constant exercise. The
imagination needs to be kept in play quite as much as the muscles, if we
do not wish it to become flabby as the muscles become when neglected. That
your imagination is a strong one is shown by my presence before you
to-night. In reality, Phil, I am lying out there in Greenwood, cold in my
grave. Your imagination places me here, and as applied to my books, the
play of _Hamlet_ by Thomas Bragdon, and my poems, they will also
demonstrate to you the strength of your fancy if you will show them, say,
to your janitor, to-morrow morning. Try it, Phil, and see; but this is
only a part, my boy, of what I have come here to say to you. I am here, in
the main, to show you that throughout all eternity happiness may be ours
if we but take advantage of our fancy. Do you take delight in my society?
Imagine me present, Phil, and I will be present. There need be no death
for us, there need be no separation throughout all the years to come, if
you but exercise your fancy in life, and when life on this earth ends,
then shall we be reunited according to nature's laws. Good-night, Phil. It
is late; and while I could sit here and talk forever without weariness,
you, who have yet to put off your mortal limitations, will be worn out if
I remain longer."

We shook hands affectionately, and Bragdon vanished as unceremoniously as
he had appeared. For an hour after his departure I sat reflecting over the
strange events of the evening, and finally, worn out in body and mind,
dropped off into sleep. When I awakened it was late in the forenoon, and I
was surprised when I recalled all that I had gone through to feel a sense
of exhilaration. I was certainly thoroughly rested, and cares which had
weighed rather heavily on me in the past now seemed light and
inconsiderable. My apartments never looked so attractive, and on my table,
to my utter surprise and delight, I saw several objects of art, notably a
Bary-- bronze, that it had been one of my most cherished hopes to possess.
Where they came from I singularly enough did not care to discover; suffice
it to say that they have remained there ever since, nor have I been at all
curious to know to whose generosity I owe them, though when that afternoon
I followed Bragdon's advice, and showed his book of poems and the volume
of _Hamlet_ to the janitor, a vague notion as to how matters really stood
entered my mind. The janitor cast his eye over the leather-covered book of
poems when I asked what he thought of it.

"Nothin' much," he said. "You goin' to keep a diary?"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

[Illustration]

"Why, when I sees people with handsome blank books like that I allus
supposes that's their object."

_Blank-book indeed!_ And yet, perhaps, he was not wrong. I did not
question it, but handed him the Bragdon _Hamlet_.

"Read that page aloud to me," I said, indicating the title-page and
turning my back upon him, almost dreading to hear him speak.

"Certainly, if you wish it; but aren't you feeling well this morning, Mr.
Marsden?"

"Very," I replied, shortly. "Go on and read."

"Hamlet, Prince of Denmark," he read, in a halting sort of fashion.

"Yes, yes; and what else?" I cried, impatiently.

"A Tragedy by William Shak--"

That was enough for me. I understood Tom, and at last I understood myself.
I grasped the book from the janitor's hands, rather roughly, I fear, and
bade him begone.


The happiest period of my life has elapsed since then. I understand that
some of my friends profess to believe me queer; but I do not care. I am
content.

The world is practically mine, and Bragdon and I are always together.


THE END





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