MISS MINNELY’S MANAGEMENT

George Renwick substituted “limb” for “leg,” “intoxicated” for “drunk,”
and “undergarment” for “shirt,” in “The Converted Ringmaster,” a
short-story-of-commerce, which he was editing for “The Family Blessing.”
When he should have eliminated all indecorum it would go to Miss
Minnely, who would “elevate the emotional interest.” She was sole owner
of “The Blessing,” active director of each of its multifarious
departments. Few starry names rivalled hers in the galaxy of American
character-builders.

Unaware of limitations to her versatility, Miss Minnely might have
dictated all the literary contents of the magazine, but for her acute
perception that other gifted pens should be enlisted. Hence many minor
celebrities worshipped her liberal cheques, whilst her more extravagant
ones induced British titled personages to assuage the yearning of the
American Plain People for some contact with rank.

Renwick wrought his changes sardonically, applying to each line a set of
touchstones—”Will it please Mothers?” “Lady school-teachers?”
“Ministers of the Gospel?” “Miss Minnely’s Taste?” He had not entirely
converted The Ringmaster when his door was gently opened by the Chief
Guide to the Family Blessing Building.

Mr. Durley had grown grey under solemn sense of responsibility for
impressions which visitors might receive. With him now appeared an
unusually numerous party of the usual mothers, spinsters, aged good men,
and anxious children who keep watch and ward over “The Blessing’s”
pages, in devotion to Miss Minnely’s standing editorial request that
“subscribers will faithfully assist the Editors with advice,
encouragement, or reproof.” The Mature, with true American gentleness,
let the Young assemble nearest the open door. All necks craned toward
Renwick. Because Mr. Durley’s discourse to so extensive a party was
unusually loud, Renwick heard, for the first time, what the Chief Guide
was accustomed to murmur at his threshold: “De-ar friends, the gentleman
we now have the satisfaction of beholding engaged in a sitting posture
at his editorial duties, is Mr. George Hamilton Renwick, an American in
every——.”

“He _looks_ like he might be English,” observed a matron.

Mr. Durley took a steady look at Renwick: “He _is_ some red complected,
Lady, but I guess it’s only he is used to out of doors.” He resumed his
customary drone:—”Mr. Renwick, besides he is American in every fibre of
his being, is a first rate general purpose editor, and also a noted
authority on yachting, boating, canoeing, rowing, swimming, and every
kind of water amusements of a kind calculated to build up character in
subscribers. Mr. George Hamilton Renwick’s engagement by ’The Family
Blessing’ exclusively is a recent instance of many evidences that Miss
Minnely, the Sole Proprietress, spares no expense in securing talented
men of genius who are likewise authorities on every kind of specialty
interesting, instructive, and improving to first-class respectable
American families. Ladies and gentlemen, and de-ar children, girls, and
youths, we will now pass on to Room Number Sixteen, and behold Mr.
Caliphas C. Cummins, the celebrated author and authority on Oriental and
Scriptural countries. Mr. Cummins is specially noted as the author of
’Bijah’s Bicycle in Babylonia,’ ’A Girl Genius at Galilee,’ and many
first-class serials published exclusively in ’The Family Blessing.’ He
may——”

Mr. Durley softly closed Renwick’s door.

The Improving Editor, now secluded, stared wrathfully for some moments.
Then he laughed, seized paper, and wrote in capitals:—

“When the editor in this compartment is to be exhibited, please notify
him by knocking on this door before opening it. He will then rise from
his sitting posture, come forward for inspection, and turn slowly round
three times, if a mother, a school teacher, or a minister of the Gospel
be among the visiting subscribers.”

Renwick strode to his door. While pinning the placard on its outside he
overheard the concluding remarks of Mr. Durley on Mr. Cummins, whose
room was next in the long corridor: “Likewise talented editor of the
Etiquette Department and the Puzzle Department. Mr. Cummins, Sir, seven
lady teachers from the State of Maine are now honouring us in this
party.”

Renwick stood charmed to listen. He heard the noted author clack
forward to shake hands all round meantime explaining in thin, high,
affable volubility: “My de-ar friends, you have the good fortune to
behold me in the very act of composing my new serial of ten Chapters,
for ’The Blessing’ exclusively, entitled ’Jehu and Jerusha in
Jerusalem,’ being the experiences of a strenuous New England brother and
sister in the Holy Land, where our Lord innogerated the Christian
religion, now, sad to say, under Mohammetan subjection. In this tale I
am incorporating largely truthful incidents of my own and blessed wife’s
last visit to the Holy Places where——”

Renwick slammed his door. He flung his pen in a transport of derision.
Rebounding from his desk, it flew through an open window, perhaps to
fall on some visitor to “The Blessing’s” lawn. He hastened to look
down. Nobody was on gravel path or bench within possible reach of the
missile. Renwick, relieved, mused anew on the singularities of the
scene.

The vast “Blessing” Building stands amid a city block devoted largely to
shaven turf, flower beds, grassed mounds, and gravel paths. It is
approached from the street by a broad walk which bifurcates at thirty
yards from the “Richardson” entrance, to surround a turfed truncated
cone, from which rises a gigantic, severely draped, female figure. It
is that bronze of Beneficence which, in the words of the famous New
England sculptress, Miss Angela C. Amory Pue, “closely features Miss
Martha Minnely in her grand early womanhood.” In the extensive arms of
the Beneficence a bronze volume so slants that spectators may read on
its back, in gilt letters, “THE FAMILY BLESSING.” Prettily pranked out
in dwarf marginal plants on the turfy cone these words are pyramided:
“LOVE. HEAVEN. BENEFICENCE. THE LATEST FASHIONS. MY COUNTRY, ’TIS OF
THEE.”

Not far from the statue slopes a great grassed mound which displays
still more conspicuously in “everlastings,” “THE FAMILY BLESSING.
CIRCULATION 1915, 1,976,709. MONTHLY. COME UNTO ME ALL YE WEARY AND
HEAVILY LADEN. TWO DOLLARS A YEAR.”

The scheme ever puzzled Renwick. Had some demure humour thus addressed
advertisements as if to the eternal stars? Or did they proceed from a
pure simplicity of commercial taste? From this perennial problem he was
diverted by sharp rapping at his door. Durley again? But the visitor
was Mr. Joram B. Buntstir, veteran among the numerous editors of “The
Blessing,” yet capable of jocularities. He appeared perturbed.

“Renwick, you are rather fresh here, and I feel so friendly to you that
I’d hate to see you get into trouble unwarned. Surely you can’t wish
Miss Minnely to see _that_.”

“What? Oh, the placard! That’s for Durley. He must stop exhibiting
me.”

“Mr. Durley won’t understand. Anyway, he couldn’t stop without
instructions from Miss Minnely. He will take the placard to her for
orders. You do not wish to hurt Miss Minnely’s feelings, I am sure.”
Mr. Buntstir closed the door behind him.

“Bah—Miss Minnely’s feelings can’t be so tender as all that!”

“No, eh? Do you know her so thoroughly?”

“I don’t know her at all. I’ve been here three months without once
seeing Miss Minnely. Is she real? Half the time I doubt her existence.”

“You get instructions from her regularly.”

“I get typewritten notes, usually voluminous, signed ’M. Minnely,’ twice
a week. But the Business Manager, or Miss Heartly, may dictate them,
for all I know.”

“Pshaw! Miss Minnely presides in seclusion. Her private office has a
street entrance. She seldom visits the Departments in office hours. Few
of her staff know her by sight. She saves time by avoiding personal
interviews. But she keeps posted on everybody’s work. I hope you may
not have to regret learning how very real Miss Minnely can be. She took
me in hand, once, eight years ago. I have been careful to incur no more
discipline since—kind as she was. If she sees your placard——”

“Well, what?”

“Well, she can be very impressive. I fear your offer to turn round
before visitors may bring you trouble.”

“I am looking for trouble. I’m sick and tired of this life of
intellectual shame.”

“Then quit!” snapped Buntstir, pierced. “Be consistent. Get out. Sell
your sneers at a great established publication to some pamphlet
periodical started by college boys for the regeneration of Literature.
Don’t jeer what you live by. That is where intellectual shame should
come in.”

“You are right. A man should not gibe his job. I must quit. The
’Blessing’ is all right for convinced devotees of the mawkish. But if a
man thinks sardonically of his daily work, that damns the soul.”

“It may be an effect of the soul trying to save itself,” said Buntstir,
mollified. “Anyway, Renwick, remember your trouble with ’The Reflex.’
Avoid the name of a confirmed quitter. Stay here till you can change to
your profit. Squealing won’t do us any good. A little grain of literary
conscience ought not to make you _talk_ sour. It’s cynical to satirize
our bread and butter—imprudent, too.”

“That’s right. I’ll swear off, or clear out. Lord, how I wish I could.
My brain must rot if I don’t. ’The Blessing’s’ ’emotional’! Oh,
Buntstir, the stream of drivel! And to live by concocting it for
trustful subscribers. Talk of the sin of paregoricking babies!”

“Babies take paregoric because they like it. Pshaw, Renwick, you’re
absurdly sensitive. Writing-men must live, somehow—usually by
wishy-washiness. Unpleasant work is the common lot of mankind. Where’s
_your_ title to exemption? Really, you’re lucky. Miss Minnely
perceives zest in your improvements of copy. She says you are naturally
gifted with ’The Blessing’s’ taste.”

“For Heaven’s sake, Buntstir!”

“She did—Miss Heartly told me so. And yet—if she sees that placard—no
one can ever guess what she may do in discipline. You can’t wish to be
bounced, dear boy, with your family to provide for. Come, you’ve blown
off steam. Take the placard off your door.”

“All right. I will. But Miss Minnely can’t bounce me without a year’s
notice. That’s how I engaged.”

“A year’s notice to quit a life of intellectual shame!”

“Well, it is one thing to jump out of the window, and another to be
bounced. I wouldn’t stand that.”

Buntstir laughed. “I fancy I see you, you sensitive Cuss, holding on,
or jumping off or doing anything contra to Miss Minnely’s intention.”
He went to the door. “Hello, where’s the placard?” he cried, opening
it.

“Gone!” Renwick sprang up.

“Gone, sure. No matter how. It is already in Miss Minnely’s hands.
Well, I told you to take it down twenty minutes ago.”

“Wait, Buntstir. What is best to be done?”

“Hang on for developments—and get to work.”

Buntstir vanished as one hastens to avoid infection.

*II*

Renwick resumed his editing of “The Converted Ringmaster” with resolve
to think on nothing else. But, between his eyes and the manuscript,
came the woeful aspect of two widows, his mother and his sister, as they
had looked six months earlier, when he threw up his political editorship
of “The Daily Reflex” in disgust at its General Manager’s sudden
reversal of policy. His sister’s baby toddled into the vision. He had
scarcely endured to watch the child’s uncertain steps during the weeks
while he wondered how to buy its next month’s modified milk. To “The
Reflex” he could not return, because he had publicly burned his boats,
with the desperate valour of virtue conscious that it may weaken if
strained by need for family food.

Out of that dangerous hole he had been lifted by the Sole Proprietress
of “The Family Blessing.” She praised his “public stand for principle”
in a note marked “strictly confidential,” which tendered him a
“position.” He had secretly laughed at the cautious, amiable offer,
even while her laudation gratified his self-importance. Could work on
“The Blessing” seem otherwise than ridiculous for one accustomed to
chide presidents, monarchs, bosses, bankers, railway magnates? But it
was well paid, and seemed only too easy. The young man did not foresee
for himself that benumbing of faculty which ever punishes the writer who
sells his facility to tasks below his ambition. At worst “The Blessing”
seemed harmless. Nor could his better nature deny a certain esteem to
that periodical which affectionate multitudes proclaimed to be justly
named.

Renwick, viewing himself once more as a recreant breadwinner, cursed his
impetuous humour. But again he took heart from remembrance of his
engagement by the year, little suspecting his impotency to hold on where
snubs must be the portion of the unwanted. Twelve months to turn round
in! But after? What if an editor, already reputed impractical by “The
Reflex” party, should be refused employment everywhere, after forsaking
“The Blessing” office, in which “positions” were notoriously sought or
coveted by hundreds of “literary” aspirants to “soft snaps”? So his
veering imagination whirled round that inferno into which wage earners
descend after hazarding their livelihood.

From this disquiet he sprang when his door was emphatically knocked. It
opened. Mr. Durley reappeared with a throng closely resembling the last,
except for one notable wide lady in street costume of Quakerish gray.
Her countenance seemed to Renwick vaguely familiar. The fabric and cut
of her plain garb betokened nothing of wealth to the masculine eye, but
were regarded with a degree of awe by the other ladies present. She
appeared utterly American, yet unworldly, in the sense of seeming
neither citified, suburbanish, nor rural. The experienced placidity of
her countenance reminded Renwick of a familiar composite photograph of
many matrons chosen from among “The Blessing’s” subscribers.

“Her peculiarity is that of the perfect type,” he pondered while
listening to Durley’s repetition of his previous remarks.

At their close, he briskly said: “Mr. Renwick, Sir, Miss Minnely wishes
you to know that your kind offer is approved. We are now favoured with
the presence of four mothers, six lady teachers, and a minister of the
Gospel.”

Renwick flushed. His placard approved! It promised that he would come
forward and turn round thrice for inspection. Durley had received
instructions to take him at his word! Suddenly the dilemma touched his
facile humour. Explanation before so many was impossible. Gravely he
approached the visitors, held out the skirts of his sack coat, turned
slowly thrice, and bowed low at the close.

The large lady nodded with some reserve. Other spectators clearly
regarded the solemnity as part of “The Blessing’s” routine. Mr. Durley
resumed his professional drone:—”We will now pass on to Room Number
Sixteen, and behold Mr. Caliphas C. Cummins in——” Renwick’s door
closed.

Then the large lady, ignoring the attractions of Mr. Cummins, went to
the waiting elevator, and said “down.”

Renwick, again at his desk, tried vainly to remember of what or whom the
placid lady had reminded him. A suspicion that she might be Miss
Minnely fled before recollection of her street costume. Still—she
_might_ be. If so—had his solemnly derisive posturing offended her?
She had given no sign. How could he explain his placard to her? Could
he not truly allege objections to delay of his work by Durley’s frequent
interruptions? He was whirling with conjecture and indecision when four
measured ticks from a lead pencil came on his outer door.

There stood Miss Heartly, Acting Manager of the Paper Patterns
Department. Her light blue eyes beamed the confidence of one born
trustful, and confirmed in the disposition by thirty-five years of
popularity at home, in church, in office. In stiff white collar, lilac
tie, trig grey gown, and faint, fading bloom of countenance, she well
represented a notable latter day American type, the Priestess of
Business, one born and bred as if to endow office existence with some
almost domestic touch of Puritan nicety. That no man might sanely hope
to disengage Miss Heartly from devotion to “The Family Blessing” was as
if revealed by her unswerving directness of gaze in speech.

“I have called, Mr. Renwick, by instruction of the Sole Proprietress.
Miss Minnely wishes me, first, to thank you for this.”

It was the placard!

Renwick stared, unable to credit the sincerity in her face and tone.
She must be making game of him while she spoke in measured links, as if
conscientiously repeating bits each separately memorized:

“Mr. Renwick—Miss Minnely desires you to know that she has been rarely
more gratified—than by this evidence—that your self-identification with
’The Blessing’—is cordial and complete. But—Miss Minnely is inclined to
hope—that your thoughtful and kind proposal—of turning round for
inspection—may be—modified—or improved. For instance—if you would
carefully prepare—of course for revision by her own taste—a short and
eloquent welcoming discourse—to visitors—that could be elevated to an
attraction—for subscribers—of that she is almost, though not yet quite,
fully assured. Miss Minnely presumes, Mr. Renwick, that you have had
the pleasure of—hearing Mr. Cummins welcome visitors. Of course, Mr.
Renwick, Miss Minnely would not have _asked_ you—but—as you have
volunteered—in your cordial willingness—_that_ affords her an
opportunity—for the suggestion. But, Mr. Renwick, if you do not _like_
the idea—then Miss Minnely would not wish—to pursue the suggestion
further.” A child glad to have repeated its lesson correctly could not
have looked more ingenuous.

In her fair countenance, open as a daybook, Renwick could detect no
guile. Her tone and figure suggested curiously some flatness, as of the
Paper Patterns of her Department. But through this mild deputy Miss
Minnely must, he conceived, be deriding him. With what subtlety the
messenger had been chosen! It seemed at once necessary and impossible
to explain his placard to one so guiltless of humour.

“I hoped it might be understood that I did not intend that placard to be
taken literally, Miss Heartly.”

“Not literally!” she seemed bewildered.

“To be pointed at as ’a first class general purpose editor’ is rather
too much, don’t you think?”

“I know, Mr. Renwick,” she spoke sympathetically. “It sort of got onto
your humility, I presume. But Miss Minnely thinks you _are_ first
class, or she would never have instructed Mr. Durley to _say_ first
class. That is cordial to you, and good business—to impress the
visitors, I mean.”

“Miss Minnely is very appreciative and kind. But the point is that I did
not engage to be exhibited to flocks of gobemouches.”

Miss Heartly pondered the term. “Please, Mr. Renwick, what are
gobemouches?”

“I should have said The Plain People.”

“Perhaps there have been rude ones—not subscribers,” she said anxiously.

“No, all have acted as if reared on ’The Blessing.’”

She sighed in relief—then exclaimed in consternation:—”Can Mr. Durley
have been—_rude_?” She hesitated to pronounce the dire word.

“Not at all, Miss Heartly. I do not blame Mr. Durley for exhibiting us
as gorillas.”

“But how _wrong_.” There was dismay in her tone. “Miss Minnely has
warned him against the least bit of deception.”

“Oh, please, Miss Heartly—I was speaking figuratively.”

Her fair brow slightly wrinkled, her fingers went nervously to her
anxious lips, she looked perplexed;—”Figuratively! If you would kindly
explain, Mr. Renwick. I am not very literary.”

“Do the ladies of the Paper Patterns Department _like_ to be exhibited?”
he ventured.

“Well, I could not exactly be warranted to say ’like’—Scripture has such
warnings against the sinfulness of vanity. But we are, of course,
cordially pleased to see visitors—it is so good for the Subscription
Department.”

“I see. And it is not hard on you individually. There you are, a great
roomful of beautiful, dutiful, cordial young ladies. You keep one
another in countenance. But what if you were shown each in a separate
cage?”

Her face brightened. “Oh, now I understand, Mr. Renwick! You mean it
would be nicer for the Editors, too, to be seen all together.”

Renwick sighed hopelessly. She spoke on decisively: “That may be a
valuable suggestion, Mr. Renwick.” On her pad she began pencilling
shorthand. “Of course I will credit you with it. Perhaps you do not
know that Miss Minnely always pays well for valuable suggestions.” She
wrote intently, murmuring: “But is it practicable? Let me think. Why,
surely practicable! But Miss Minnely will decide. All partitions on
the Editorial Flat could be removed! Make it cool as Prize Package or
Financial Department!” She looked up from her paper, glowing with
enterprise, and pointed her pencil straight at Renwick. “And so
impressive!” She swept the pencil in a broad half circle, seeing her
picture. “Thirty Editors visible at one comprehensive glance! All so
literary, and busy, and intelligent, and cordial! Fine! I take the
liberty, temporarily, of calling that a first-class suggestion, Mr.
Renwick. It may be worth hundreds to you, if Miss Minnely values it. It
may be forcibly felt in the Subscription List—if Miss Minnely approves.
It may help to hold many subscribers who try to get away after the first
year. I feel almost sure Miss Minnely will approve. I am so glad. I
thought something important was going to come when Miss Minnely
considered your placard so carefully.”

“But some of the other Editors may not wish to be exhibited with the
whole collection,” said Renwick gravely. “For instance, consider Mr.
Cummins’ literary rank. Would it gratify him to be shown as a mere unit
among Editors of lesser distinction?”

“You are most fore-thoughtful on every point, Mr. Renwick. That is so
_fine_. But Mr. Cummins is also most devoted. I feel sure he would
cordially yield, if Miss Minnely approved. I presume you will wish me
to tell her that you are grateful for her kind message?”

“Cordially grateful seems more fitting. Miss Heartly—and I
am—especially for her choice of a deputy.”

“Thank you, Mr. Renwick. I will tell her that, too. And may I say that
you will be pleased to adopt her suggestion that you discourse a little
to visitors, pending possible changes in this Flat, instead of just
coming forward and turning around. Literary men are so
clever—and—ready.” He fleetingly suspected her of derision.

“Please say that I will reflect on Miss Minnely’s suggestion with an
anxious wish to emulate, so far as my fallen nature will permit, Miss
Heartly’s beautiful devotion to ’The Blessing’s’ interests.”

“Oh, thank you again, so much, Mr. Renwick.” And the fair Priestess of
Business bowed graciously in good bye.

*III*

Renwick sat dazed. From his earliest acquaintance with “The Family
Blessing” he had thought of its famous Editress and Sole Proprietress as
one “working a graft” on the Plain People by consummate sense of the
commercial value of cordial cant. Now he had to conceive of her as
perfectly ingenuous. Had she really taken his placard as one written in
good faith? He remembered its sentences clearly:

“When the editor in this compartment is to be exhibited, please notify
him by knocking on this door before opening it. He will then rise from
his sitting posture, come forward for inspection, and turn slowly around
three times if a school teacher, a mother, or a minister of the Gospel
be among the visiting subscribers.”

Miss Minnely took that for sincere! Renwick began to regard “The
Blessing” as an emanation of a soul so simple as to be incapable of
recognizing the diabolic element, derision. He was conceiving a
tenderness for the honesty which could read his placard as one of
sincerity. How blessed must be hearts innocent of mockery! Why should
he not gratify them by discoursing to visiting subscribers? The idea
tickled his fancy. At least he might amuse himself by writing what
would edify Durley’s parties if delivered with gravity. He might make
material of some of Miss Minnely’s voluminous letters of instruction to
himself. From his pigeon-hole he drew that file, inspected it rapidly,
laughed, and culled as he wrote.

Twenty minutes later he was chuckling over the effusion, after having
once read its solemnities aloud to himself.

“Hang me if I don’t try it on Durley’s next party!” he was telling
himself, when pencil tickings, like small woodpecker tappings, came
again on his outer door. “Miss Heartly back! I will treat her to it!”
and he opened the door, discourse in hand.

There stood the wide, wise-eyed, placid, gray-clad lady!

“I am Miss Minnely, Mr. Renwick. Very pleased to introduce myself to a
gentleman whose suggestion has pleased me deeply.” Her wooly voice was
as if steeped in a syrup of cordial powers. Suddenly he knew she had
reminded him of Miss Pue’s gigantic bronze Beneficence.

“Thank you, Miss Minnely. I feel truly honoured.” Renwick, with some
concealed trepidation, bowed her to his revolving chair.

“Mr. Renwick.” She disposed her amplitude comfortably; then streamed on
genially and authoritatively, “You may be gratified to learn that I was
pleased—on the whole—by your cordial demeanour while—er—revolving—not
long ago—on the occasion of Mr. Durley’s last visiting party. Only—you
will permit me to say this in all kindness—I did not regard the—the
display of—er—form—as precisely _adapted_. Otherwise your appearance,
tone, and manner were eminently suitable—indeed such as mark you
strongly, Mr. Renwick, as conforming—almost—to my highest ideal for the
conduct of Editors of ’The Blessing.’ Consequently I deputed Miss
Heartly—with a suggestion. She has informed me of your cordial
willingness, Mr. Renwick—hence I am here to thank you again—and
instruct. Your short discourse to visitors will—let me explain—not only
edify, but have the effect of, as it were, obviating any necessity for
the—er—revolving—and the display of—er—form. Now, you are doubtless
aware that I invariably edit, so to speak, every single thing done on
behalf of our precious ’Family Blessing.’ For due performance of that
paramount duty I must give account hereafter. My peculiar gift is
Taste—you will understand that I mention this fact with no more personal
vanity that if I mentioned that I have a voice, hands, teeth, or any
other endowment from my Creator—_our_ Creator, in fact. Taste—true
sense of what our subscribers like on their _higher_ plane. My great
gift must be entitled to direct what we say to visitors, just as it
directs what ’The Blessing’ publishes on its story pages, its editorial
columns, its advertisements, letter heads, everything of every kind done
in ’The Blessing’s’ name. I am thorough. And so, Mr. Renwick, I desire
to hear your discourse beforehand. What? You have already prepared it?
Excellent! Promptitude—there are few greater business virtues! We will
immediately use your draft as a basis for further consultation.”

So imposing was her amiable demeanour that Renwick had no wish but to
comply. He glanced over what he had written, feeling now sure that its
mock gravity would seem nowise sardonic to Miss Minnely.

“In preparing these few words,” he remarked, “I have borrowed liberally
from your notes of instruction to me, Miss Minnely.”

“Very judicious. Pray give me the pleasure.”

He tendered the draft.

“But no, please _deliver_ it.” She put away the paper. “Suppose me to
be a party of our de-ar visiting subscribers. I will stand here, you
there. Now do not hesitate to be audible, Mr. Renwick.” She beamed as
a Brobdignagian child at a new game.

Renwick, quick to all humours, took position, and began with unction:
“Dear friends, dear visitors——”

She interrupted amiably:—”De-ar friends, de-ar visitors. Make two
syllables of the de-ar. The lingering is cordial in effect. I have
observed that carefully—de-ar softens hearts. Dwell on the
word—dee-ar—thus you will cause a sense of affectionate regard to cling
to visitors’ memories of ’The Blessing’s’ editorial staff. You
understand, Mr. Renwick?”

He began again: “De-ar friends, de-ar visitors, de-ar mothers, de-ar
teachers,” but again she gently expostulated, holding up a fat hand to
stop his voice.

“Please, Mr. Renwick—no, I think not—it might seem invidious to
discriminate by specifying some before others. All alike are our de-ar
friends and visitors.”

“De-ar friends, de-ar visitors,” Renwick corrected his paper, “I cannot
hope to express adequately to you my feelings of delight in being
introduced to your notice as a first class general purpose editor, and
eminent authority on——”

She graciously interposed:—”It might be well to pencil _this_ in, Mr.
Renwick, ’introduced to you by our de-ar colleague, Mr. Durley, the most
experienced of our guides to the “Family Blessing” Building, as general
purpose editor, etc.’ That would impress, as hinting at our corps of
guides, besides uplifting the rank of our valued colleague, Mr. Durley,
and by consequence ’The Blessing,’ through the respectful mention made
of one of our more humble employees. Elevate the lowly, and you elevate
all the superior classes—that is a sound American maxim. In business it
is by such fine attention to detail that hearts and therefore
subscribers are won. But, Mr. Renwick, _nothing_ could be better than
your ’I cannot hope to express adequately my feelings of delight,’
etc.—that signifies cordial emotion—it is very good business, indeed.”

Sincerity was unclouded in her gaze. He pencilled in her amendment, and
read on:—”and eminent authority on water amusements of a character to
build up character in first-class respectable American families.”

“Very good—I drilled Mr. Durley in that,” she put in complacently.

“Dear friends,” he resumed.

“De-ar,” she reminded him.

“De-ar friends, you may naturally desire to be informed of the nature of
the duties of a general purpose editor, therefore——”

“Let me suggest again, Mr. Renwick. Better say ’Dear friends, closely
associated with “The Family Blessing,” as all must feel who share the
privilege of maintaining it, you will naturally desire to be informed,’
etc. Don’t you agree, Mr. Renwick? It is well to neglect no
opportunity for deepening the sense of our de-ar subscribers that the
’Blessing’ is a privilege to their households. I do everything possible
to make our beloved ones feel that they own ’The Blessing,’ as in the
highest sense they do. They like that. It is remunerative, also.”

Renwick jotted in the improvement, and read on: “A general purpose
editor of ’The Blessing’ is simply one charged with promoting the
general purpose of ’The Blessing.’ To explain what that is I cannot do
better than employ the words of the Sole Proprietress, Miss Minnely
herself, and——.”

The lady suggested, “_I cannot do so well as to employ the words of_—it
is always effective to speak most respectfully of the absent
Proprietress—that touches their imagination favourably. It is good
business.”

“I appreciate it, Miss Minnely. And now I venture to adapt, _verbatim_,
parts of your notes to me.”

“It was forethoughtful to preserve them, Mr. Renwick. I am cordially
pleased.”

He read on more oratorically:—”De-ar friends, ’The Blessing’ has a
Mission, and to fulfil that Mission it must, first of all, entertain its
subscribers on their _higher plane_. This cannot be done by stimulating
in them any latent taste for coarse and inelegant laughter, but by
furnishing entertainingly the wholesome food from which mental pabulum
is absorbed and mental growth accomplished.”

“Excellent! My very own words.”

“The varieties of this entertaining pabulum must be _conscientiously_
prepared, and administered in small quantities so that each can be
assimilated unconsciously by Youth and Age without mental mastication.
Mind is not Character, and——”

“How true. Character-building publications must never be addressed to
mere _Mind_.”

“The uplifting of the Mind, or Intellect,” Renwick read on, “is not the
general purpose of ’The Family Blessing.’ It is by the Literature of
the Heart that Character is uplifted. Therefore a general purpose editor
of ’The Blessing’ must ever seek to maintain and to present the _truly
cordial_. That is what most widely attracts and pleases all these
sections of the great American people who are uncorrupted by worldly and
literary associations which tend to canker the Soul with cynicism.”

“I remember my glow of heart in writing those inspiring, blessed, and
inspired words!” she exclaimed. “Moreover, they are true. Now, I think
that is about enough, Mr. Renwick. Visitors should never be too long
detained by a single attraction. Let me advise you to memorize the
discourse carefully. It is cordial. It is impressive. It is
informative of ’The Blessing’s’ ideal. It utters my own thoughts in my
own language. It is admirably adapted to hold former subscribers, and
to confirm new. All is well.” She pondered silently a few moments.
“Now, Mr. Renwick, I would be strictly just. The fact that an editor,
and one of those not long gathered to our happy company, has suggested
and devoted himself to this novel attraction, will have noblest effect
in rousing our colleagues of every Department to emulative exertion.
Once more, I thank you cordially. But the Sole Proprietress of the
remunerative ’Blessing’ holds her place in trust for all colleagues, and
she is not disposed to retire with mere thanks to one who has identified
himself so effectually with her and its ideals. Mr. Renwick, your
honorarium—your weekly pay envelope,” again she paused reflectively, “it
will hereafter rank you with our very valued colleague, Mr. Caliphas C.
Cummins himself! No—no-no, Mr. Renwick—do not thank me—thank your happy
inspiration—thank your cordial devotion—thank your Taste—thank your
natural, innate identification, in high ideals, with me and ’The Family
Blessing.’ As for me—it is for me to thank you—and I do so, again,
cordially, cordially, cordially!” She beamed, the broad embodiment of
Beneficence, in going out of the room.

Renwick long stared, as one dazed, at the story of “The Converted
Ringmaster.” It related in minute detail the sudden reformation of that
sinful official. The account of his rapid change seemed no longer
improbable nor mawkish. Any revolution in any mind might occur, since
his own had been so swiftly hypnotized into sympathy with Miss Minnely
and her emanation “The Blessing.” How generous she was! Grateful mist
was in his eyes, emotion for the safety of the widows and the orphan
whose bread he must win.

Yet the derisive demon which sat always close to his too sophisticated
heart was already gibing him afresh:—”You stand engaged,” it sneered,
“as assistant ringmaster to Durley’s exhibition of yourself!”

New perception of Miss Minnely and Miss Heartly rose in his mind. Could
mortal women be really as simple as those two ladies had seemed? Might
it not be they had managed him with an irony as profound as the
ingenuousness they had appeared to evince?

Continue Reading

BOSS OF THE WORLD

About one-tenth of the people in Boston are British Canadians, mostly
from the Maritime Provinces, an acquisitive prudent folk who see naught
to be gained by correcting casual acquaintances who mistake them for
down-east Yankees. Often, indeed, they are descendants of Hezekiahs and
Priscillas who, having been Royalists during the War of Independence,
found subsequent emigration to a British country incumbent on their
Puritan consciences. These Americans, returned to the ancestral New
England after four or five generations of absence, commonly find Boston
ways surprisingly congenial, though they continue to cherish pride in
British origin, and a decent warmth of regard for fellow natives of the
Maritime Provinces. Hence a known Canadian is frequently addressed by
an unsuspected one with, “I am from Canada, too.” Having learned this
from ten years’ experience, I was little surprised when old Adam Bemis,
meeting me on the corner of Tremont and Boylston Streets, in May, 1915,
stopped and stealthily whispered, “I am from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.”

“Really! I have always taken you for one of the prevalent minority, a
man from the State of Maine.”

“Most folks do. It doesn’t vex me any more. But I’ve wanted to tell
you any time the last ten years.”

“Then, why didn’t you?”

“It’s not my way to hurry. You will understand that well when I
explain. I’m needing friendly advice.”

He had ever worn the air of preoccupation during our twelve years’
acquaintance, but that seemed proper to an inventor burdened with the
task of devising and selecting novelties for the Annual Announcement by
which Miss Minnely’s Prize Package Department furthers the popularity of
her famous Family Blessing. The happy possessor of five new subscription
certificates, on remitting them to Adam’s Department, receives by mail,
prepaid, Number 1 Prize Package. Number 2 falls to the collector of ten
such certificates; and so on, in gradations of Miss Minnely’s shrewd
beneficence. The magnifico of one thousand certificates obtains choice
between a gasoline auto-buggy and a New England farm. To be ever adding
to or choosing from the world’s changing assortment of moral mechanical
toys, celluloid table ornaments, reversible albums, watches warranted
gold filled, books combining thrill with edification, and more or less
similar “premiums” to no calculable end, might well account for Old
Adam’s aspect, at once solemn and unsettled.

“What is your trouble?” I enquired.

“The Odistor. My greatest discovery!” he whispered.

“Indeed! For your Department?”

“We will see about that. It is something mighty wonderful—I don’t know
but I should say almighty.”

“Goodness! What is its nature?”

“I won’t say—not here. You couldn’t believe me without seeing it work—I
wouldn’t have believed it myself on anybody’s word. I will bring it on
to your lodgings—that’s a good place for the exhibition. No—I won’t
even try to explain here—we might be overheard.” He glanced up and down
Tremont Street, then across—”Sh—there she is herself!” He dodged into a
drug store opposite the Touraine.

Miss Mehitable Minnely, sole proprietor of The Family Blessing, was
moving imposingly from the Boylston Street front of the hotel toward her
auto-brougham. At the top step she halted and turned her cordial,
broad, dominant countenance in both directions as if to beam on streets
crowded with potential prize-package takers. She then spoke the
permitting word to two uniformed deferential attendants, who proceeded
to stay her carefully by the elbows, in her descent of the stone steps.
Foot passengers massed quickly on both sides of her course, watching her
large, slow progress respectfully. When the porters had conveyed her
across the pavement, and with deferential, persistent boosting made of
her an ample lading for the “auto,” the chauffeur touched his
wide-peaked cap, and slowly rolled her away towards Brimstone Corner _en
route_ to the Blessing Building. Adam came out of the drug store
looking relieved.

“She doesn’t like to see any of us on the street, office hours,” he
explained with lips close to my ear. “Not that I ought to care one
mite.” He smiled somewhat defiantly and added, “To see me dodging the
old lady’s eye you’d never guess I’m _her_ boss. But I am.” He eyed my
wonder exultantly and repeated, “It’s so. She doesn’t know it. Nobody
knows, except me. But I _am_ her boss. Just whenever I please.”

On my continued aspect of perturbation he remarked, coolly:—”Naturally
you think my head is on wrong. But you will know better this evening.
I’m the World’s boss whenever I choose to take the responsibility. If I
don’t choose, _she_ goes on being my boss, and, of course, I’ll want to
hold down my job. Well, good-day for the present. Or, say—I
forgot—will it suit you if I come about half-past-five? I can’t get
there _much_ earlier. She’s not too well pleased if any of us leave
before Park Street clock strikes five.”

“Very well, Mr. Bemis—half past. I shall expect you.”

“Expect a surprise, too.”

He walked circumspectly across Boylston Street through the contrary
processions of vehicles, to the edging pavement of the Common, on his
way toward the new Old State House, and Miss Minnely’s no less immense
Family Blessing Building.

It was precisely twenty-six minutes past five when Adam entered my
private office in the rear room of the ground floor of a sky-scraper
which overlooks that reach of Charles River lying between the Union Boat
Club House and the long, puritanic, impressive simplicity of Harvard
Bridge. He did not greet me, being preoccupied with the brown
paper-covered package under his left arm. With a certain eagerness in
his manner, he placed this not heavy burden on the floor, so that it was
hidden by the broad table-desk at which I sat. He stooped. I could
hear him carefully untie the string and open the clattering paper.

He then placed on the green baize desk-cover a bulbous object of some
heavy metal resembling burnished steel. It was not unlike a large white
Bermuda onion with a protuberant stem or nozzle one inch long,
half-an-inch in diameter, and covered by a metal cap. Obviously; the
bulb was of two equal parts, screwed together on a plane at right angles
to the perpendicular nozzle. An inch of the upper edge of the lower or
basic part was graduated finely as a vernier scale. The whole lower
edge of the upper half was divided, apparently into three hundred and
sixty degrees, as is the horizontal circle of a theodolite. The parts
were fitted with a clamp and tangent screw, by which the vernier could
be moved with minutest precision along the graduated circle.

“I was four years experimenting before I found out how to confine it,”
said Adam.

“What? A high explosive!”

“No—nothing to be nervous about. But what it is I can’t exactly say.”

“A scientific mystery, eh?”

“It might be called so, seeing as I don’t myself know the real nature of
the force any more than electricians know what electricity is. They
understand how to generate and employ it, that’s all. Did you ever see
a whirlwind start?”

“No.”

“Think again. Not even a little one?”

“Of course I have often seen little whirlwinds on the street carrying up
dust and scraps of paper, sometimes dropping them instantly, sometimes
whirling them away.”

“On calm days?”

“Really I can’t remember. But I think not. It doesn’t stand to reason.”

“That’s where you are mistaken. It is in the strongest kind of sunshine
on dead calm days that those little whirlwinds do start. What do you
suppose starts them?”

“I never gave it a thought.”

“Few do. I’ve given it years of close thinking. You have read of ships
on tropic seas in dead calm having top-sails torn to rags by whirlwinds
starting ’way up there, deck and sea quiet as this room?”

“I’ve read of that. But I don’t believe all the wonderful items I read
in the papers.”

“There are more wonders than the papers print. I saw that happen twice
in the Indian Ocean, when I was a young man. I have been studying more
or less on it ever since. Now I will show you the remainder of my
Odistor. I call it that because folks when I was young used to talk of
a mysterious Odic force.”

To the desk he lifted a black leather grip-sack, as narrow, as low, and
about twice as long as one of those in which surgeons carry their
implements. From this he extracted a simple-seeming apparatus which I
still suppose to have been of the nature of an electric machine.
Externally it resembled a rectangular umbrella box of metal similar to
that of the bulb. It was about four feet in length and four inches in
height and in breadth. That end which he placed nearest the window was
grooved to receive one-half the bulb accurately. Clamped longitudinally
to the top of the box was a copper tube half-an-inch in exterior
diameter, and closed, except for a pinhole sight, at the end farthest
from the window. The other, or open end, was divided evenly by a
perpendicular filament apparently of platinum.

Adam placed this sighted box on the green baize, its longer axis
pointing across the Charles River to Cambridge, through the window. He
carefully propped up the wire-net sash. Stooping at the desk he looked
through the pin-hole sight and shifted the box to his satisfaction.

“Squint along the line of sight,” he said, giving place to me. I
stooped and complied.

“You see Memorial Hall tower right in the line?”

“Precisely.”

“But what is nearest on the Cambridge shore?”

“The stone revetment wall.”

“I mean next beyond that.”

“The long shed with the big sign ’Builders’ in black letters.”

“All right. Sit here and watch that shed. No matter if it blows away.
They were going to tear it down anyway.” He placed my chair directly
behind the sighted tube.

With an access of eagerness in his countenance, and something of tremor
apparent in his clutching fingers, he lifted the bulb, unscrewed its
metal cap and worked the tangent screw while watching the vernier
intently. He was evidently screwing the basal half closer to the
nozzle-bearing upper portion.

From a minute orifice in the nozzle or stem something exuded that
appeared first as a tiny, shimmering, sunbright, revolving globule. At
that instant he placed the bulb on its base in its niche or groove at
the outer or window end of the sighted box. Thus the strange revolving
globule was rising directly in the line of sight.

“Watch that shed,” Adam ordered hoarsely.

I could not wholly take my eyes off the singular sphere, which resembled
nothing that I have elsewhere seen so much as a focus of sun rays from a
burning glass. But this intensely bright spot or mass—for it appeared
to have substance even as the incandescent carbon of an Edison lamp
seems to possess substance exterior to the carbon—rose expanding in an
increasing spiral within an iridescent translucent film that clung by a
tough stem to the orifice of the nozzle, somewhat as a soap-bubble
clings to the pipe whence it is blown. Yet this brilliant, this
enlarging, this magic globule was plainly whirling on its perpendicular
axis as a waterspout does, and that with speed terrific. The mere
friction of its enclosing film on the air stirred such wind in the room
as might come from an eighteen-inch electric fan. In shape the infernal
thing rapidly became an inverted cone with spiral convolutions. It
hummed like a distant, idly-running circular saw, a great top, or the
far-off, mysterious forewarning of a typhoon.

“Now!” Adam touched a button on the top of the metal box.

The gleaming, whirling, humming, prismatic spiral was then about
eighteen inches high. It vanished without sound or spark, as if the
film had been totally destroyed and the contained incandescence quenched
on liberation. For one instant I experienced a sense of suffocation, as
if all the air had been drawn out of the room. The inner shutters
clashed, the holland sunshade clattered, the door behind me snicked
open, air from the corridor rushed in.

“See the river!” Adam was exultant, but not too excited to replace the
metal cap on the nozzle.

Certainly the Charles River was traversed by a gust that raised white
caps instantly. A bulk-headed sailing-dory, owned by a Union Boat
Clubman whom I knew, lay over so far that her sail was submerged, and
her centre-board came completely out of water. Only the head and
clutching forearms of the two men aboard her could be seen. Afterward
they told me they had been quite surprised by the squall. Beyond the
Cambridge revetment wall a wide cloud of dust sprang up, hiding the
“Builders” shed.

When this structure reappeared Adam gasped, then stood breathless, his
countenance expressive of surprise.

He looked down at the Odistor, pondering, left hand fingers pressing his
throbbing temple. Lifting the bulb he inspected the vernier, laid it
down again, put on his spectacles and once more peered intently at the
graduated scale.

“I see,” he said, “I was the least thing too much afraid of doing damage
in Cambridge back of the shed. But you saw the wind?”

“Certainly I saw wind.”

“You know how it started?”

“I don’t know what to think. It was very strange. What is the stuff?”

“Tell me what starts the whirlwind or the cyclone, and I can tell you
that. All I’m sure of is that I can originate the force, control it,
and release it in any strength I choose. Do you remember the chap
called Æolus we used to read about in the Latin book at school, he that
bagged up the winds long ago? I guess there was truth at the back of
that fable. He found out the secret before me, and he used it to some
extent. It died with him, and they made a god out of his memory—they
had some right to be grateful that he spared them. It must go to the
grave with me—so far as I’ve reasoned on the situation. But that’s all
right. What’s worrying me is the question—Shall I make any use of it?”

“I can see no use for it.”

“What! Think again. It is the Irresistible Force. There is no
withstanding it. I can start a stronger hurricane than ever yet blew.
You remember what happened to that Hawaiian Island in the tornado last
year? That was a trifle to what I can do. It is only a matter of
confining a larger quantity in a stronger receiver and giving it a
swifter send off with a more powerful battery. I can widen the track
and lengthen the course to any extent.”

“Suppose you can. Still it is only a destroyer. What’s the good of
it?”

“What’s the good of a Krupp gun. Or a shell. Or a bullet?”

“They are saleable.”

He looked keenly at me for some seconds. “Do you see that far, or do you
only not see how it could be used as a weapon? That’s it, eh! Well,
I’ll tell you. There’s England spending more’n ten million dollars a
day in the war. Suppose I go to Lord Kitchener. He’s a practical, quick
man—in half an hour he sees what I can do. ’What will you give,’ I ask
him, ’to have the Crown Prince and the rest of them Prussians blown
clear away?’ ’What is your price?’ he inquires. ’Ten million pounds
would be cheap,’ I reply. ’Take five,’ he says, ’we are not made of
money.’ ’Well, seeing it’s you,’ I tell him.”

“It is a considerable discount, Adam. But then you are a British
subject.”

“Yes—kind of. But the conversation was imaginary. Discount or no
discount, I feel no special call to blow away whole armies of Germans.
If I could set the Odistor on the Kaiser, and the Crown Prince, and a
dozen or so more of the Prussian gang, I’d do it, of course. But how
could I find just where they were? Blowing away whole armies of men
don’t seem right to me.”

“But you needn’t do that yourself. Sell your secret outright to the
British Government.”

Adam stared as one truly astonished.

“Now what you think you’re talking about?” he remonstrated. “Can’t you
see farther than that? Suppose I sell the secret to Kitchener. Suppose
he clears out all the Germans with it. What next? Why, Ireland!
Kitchener is a Jingo Imperialist, which I never was and never will be.
I’ve heard of Jingoes saying time and again that England’s interests
would be suited if Ireland was ten feet under water. Or suppose he only
blows the Irish out of Connaught, just to show the others they’d better
cut out the Sinn Finn. What then? First place, I like the Irish. My
wife’s Irish. Next, consider all the world. Suppose England has got
the irresistible weapon. There’s no opposing it. Suppose France was to
try, some time after this war is over. Away go her cities, farms,
vineyards, people, higher than Gilroy’s kite. What next? All the rest
of the world then know they must do what the English say—Germans,
Italians, Russians, Yankees, Canadians. Now I’m a cosmopolitan, I am.
All kind of folk look good to me.”

“But England ruling the world means universal peace,” I said
enthusiastically. “Free trade, equal rights, all the grand altruistic
English ideals established forever and ever! Adam, let England have it!
You’ll be remembered as the greatest benefactor of humanity. A Bemis
statue in Trafalgar Square, London! Sure! Think of that glory, Adam.”

“For putting the English on top,” he replied dryly. “I can’t seem to
want to. Not but what the English are all right. But my kind of
Maritime Province Canadians are considerably more American than English,
though they never rightly know it till they’ve lived here and in the old
country. We’re at home with Yankee ways and Yankee notions. In England
we’re only colonials. Not but what the war may change that a bit.”

“Take your secret to Washington then. President Wilson will see that you
get all that you can reasonably ask for it.”

“Sure—but while the pro-German microbe is active in Washington, I will
not offer the thing there. Yet my first notion was to let the United
States have it—on conditions.”

“What conditions?”

“Well, I’d bargain they must leave Canada alone. Woodrow would boss the
rest of the world, I was thinking, just the way I’ll do it myself if
ever I _do_ make up my mind. _No_ bossing—everybody free and equal and
industrious—no aristocracy, except just enough to laugh at—no
domineering. But I ain’t so pleased with Woodrow as I was when he
started presidenting. He ain’t set the Filipinos free yet. And he
knowing how bad they was treated by this Republic. Why, the worst grab
ever England made wasn’t a circumstance to Yankees allying with
Aguinaldo, and then seizing his country.”

“To what government will you sell?” I inquired patiently.

“Well, now, if I was going to sell to any government it would be Sir
Wilfrid Laurier’s. But he’s got no government, now. Ontario folks beat
him last election, for being too reasonable. If ever there was the
makings of a good benevolent Despot, Laurier’s the man. I used to be
saying to myself while I was perfecting the Odistor, says I inwardly,
’I’ll give it to Laurier.’ Of course, I was calculating he’d use it
first thing to annex the United States to Canada. That would be good
for both countries—if Laurier was on top. He’d give this Republic
Responsible Government, stop letting it be run by hole-and-corner
committees and trusts and billionaires, and, first of all, he’d
establish Free Trade all over the continent. That would be good for Nova
Scotia apple-growers, and, mind you, I’d like to do something for my
native Province before I die. Statue in Trafalgar Square, says you.
Think of a statue in Halifax—erected to me! ’ADAM BEMIS, BENEFACTOR OF
NOVA SCOTIA!’ And a big apple-tree kind of surrounding my figure with
blessings! Sounds kind of good, eh. Why don’t I give it to Laurier?
Well he’s getting old. He ain’t any too strong in health, either. He
mightn’t live long enough to get things running right. And he’d be sure
to tell his colleagues how the Odistor is worked—he’s such a strong
party man. That’s the only fault he’s got. Well, now, think what
happens after he drops out. Why, some ordinary cuss of his Party takes
over the Bossdom of the world. Now, all ordinary Canadian politicians
are hungry to be knighted, or baroneted. Laurier’s successor, likely
enough, would give away the Odistor to England, in return for a handle
to his name. And once England got the Odistor—why, you know what I told
you before.”

“Well, what Government will you sell to?”

“To none. Germany’s out of the question, of course. France, Russia,
Italy, Japan—they’re all unfitter than England, Canada or the States.
Once I planned to raise up the people that are down—the Poles, Irish,
Armenians, Filipinos, and so on. Then I got to fancying the Irish with
power to blow everything above rock in England out to sea. Would they
be satisfied with moving the Imperial Parliament to College Green,
giving England a Viceroy and local councils, putting a Catholic King in
George’s shoes and fixing the coronation oath to abjuring Protestant
errors? I can’t seem to think they’d be so mild. What would the Poles
do to the Prussians, Austrians, and Russians; or the Armenians to the
Turks, if I gave them the Odistor? No—I won’t take such risks. If I
gave the thing to one Nation the only fair deal would be to give it to
all, big and little alike, making the smallest as powerful as the
biggest, everyone with power to blow all the others off the footstool.
What then? Would mutual fear make them live peaceably? I’m feared not.
Probably every one would be so afraid of every other that each would be
for getting its Odistors to work first. There’d be cyclones jamming
into cyclones all over outdoors, a teetotal destruction of crops, and
everything and everybody blown clean away at once. Wonder where they’d
light?”

His query, did not divert me from the main matter. “If you won’t sell,
how can you get any money out of it?” I asked.

“No difficulty getting money out of it. Here I am able to blow
everything away—say Berlin and thereabouts for a starter, just to show
how the thing works. Then all hands would know I could blow away all
Europe—except maybe the Alps. I don’t know exactly how strong the
Odistor could blow. Wouldn’t all the Governments unite to pay me _not_
to do it. See? All the money John Rockefeller ever handled wouldn’t pay
five minutes’ interest on what I ought to get for just _not_ doing it.
No harm in not hurting anybody—see? And me working for Miss Minnely for
forty-five dollars a week!”

“Resign, Adam,” I said earnestly, for the financial prospect was
dazzling. “Take me in as junior partner. Let us get at this thing
together.”

“What? Blackmailing the nations! And you a professional Liberal like
myself! No! It wouldn’t be straight. I can’t have a partner—you’ll see
that before I get through. But now I suppose that you will admit that I
_could_ get any amount of money out of the thing?”

“You have thought it all out wonderfully, Adam.”

“Wish I could stop thinking about it. I’m only taking you gradually
over the field—not telling my conclusions yet—but only some of my
thoughts by the way. In fact it’s years since I gave up the notion of
opening the secret to any nation, or to all nations. For one thing I
couldn’t get into any nation’s possession if I wanted to. Suppose, for
instance, I offered it to the Washington Administration. Naturally the
President orders experts to report on it—say six army engineers. I show
them how. What happens? Why, those six men are bosses of the
Administration, the nation and all the world. They can’t but see that
right away if they’ve got any gumption. Will they abstain from using
the power? Scarcely. Will they stick together _and_ boss? They won’t,
because they can’t. It is not in human nature. Common sense, common
logic, would compel each one to try to get his private Odistor going
first, for fear each of the others might be for blowing him and the
other four away in order to boss alone. Fact is, the moment I showed
the process to any other man—and this is why I can’t take you in as
partner—I’d have to blow him straight away out beyond Cape Cod, for fear
he would send me flying soon as he saw universal Bossdom in his hands.”

“That seems inevitable,” I admitted.

“Certainly. I can’t risk the human race under any Boss except myself—or
somebody that I am sure means as well as I do.”

“Our political principles are in many respects the same,” I suggested,
hopefully.

“Will you—will any man except me—would even Laurier stay Liberal if he
had absolute power? What would _you_ do with the Odistor anyway?”

“Get a fortune out of it.”

“How?”

“Well, we might try this scheme—detain ocean liners in port until the
Companies agreed to pay what the traffic will bear.”

“Gosh—you think I’ve got the conscience of a Railway Corporation? No,
sir! But what use in prolonging this part of our talk? I have thought
of a thousand ways of using the thing on a large scale, but they are all
out of the question, for one good and sufficient reason—folks would lock
me up or kill me if I once convinced ’em of the power I possess. I
couldn’t blame them, they _must_ do it to feel safe themselves. The only
sure way for me to get big money out of it safely would be by retiring
to a lonely sea island and advertising what I intended to do on a
specified day—blow away some forest on the mainland, say, or send a
blast straight overland to the Rockies and clear them of snow in a path
fifty miles wide. Of course, folks would laugh at the advertisement—to
say nothing of the expense of inserting it—and to convince them I’d have
to _do_ it. After that I might call on the civilised governments to
send me all the gold, diamonds, and fine things I could think of. But
what good would fine things do me? I should be afraid to let any ship
land its cargo, or any other human being come on the island. I couldn’t
even have a cook, for fear she might be bribed to poison me or bust the
Odistor—and I’ve got no fancy to do my own cooking. What good to Boss
the World at that price? The Kaiser himself wouldn’t pay it.
Universally feared as he is already hated—but not bound to live alone.
For a while I was thinking to seclude myself that way in self-sacrifice
to the general good. I thought of issuing an order to all governments
to stop fighting, stop governing and just let real freedom be
established—the brotherhood of man, share and share alike, equal wages
all round, same kind of houses and grub and clothes, perfect democracy!
But suppose the Governments didn’t obey? Politicians are smart—they’d
soon see I dursn’t leave my island to go travelling and inspecting what
was going on all over. I couldn’t receive deputations coming to me for
redress of grievances, for fear they might be coming to rid the world of
its benevolent despot. Shrewd folks ashore would soon catch on to my
fix—me there all alone, busy keeping ten or a dozen Odistors blowing
gales off shore for fifty miles or so to keep people out of any kind of
striking distance, and everlastingly sending hurricanes upward to clear
the sky of Zeppelins and aeroplanes that might be sent to drop
nitro-glycerine on me. Next thing some speculator would be pretending
to be my sole agent, and ordering the world to fetch _him_ the wealth.
How could I know, any more than God seems to, what things were done in
my name?”

“Employ Marconi,” I suggested; “have him send you aerial news of what’s
going on everywhere. Then you could threaten wrong-doers everywhere with
the Odistor.

“Marconi is a good man, mebby, but think of the temptation to him. How
could I be sure he was giving me facts. He could stuff me with good
reports, and all the time be bossing the world himself, forcing the
nations to give up to him by the threat that I’d back him and blow the
disobedient to Kingdom Come. Besides, I don’t know how to operate
Marconi’s instruments, and, if I did, all my time would be taken up
receiving his reports. No, _sir_. There is no honest, safe,
comfortable way for me to get rich out of the Odistor. I have known
that for a considerable time.”

“Then, why did you wish to consult me?”

“Well, first place, I wanted some friend to know what kind of a
self-denying ordinance I’m living under. To be comprehended by at least
one person is a human need. Besides that, I want your opinion on a
point of conscience. Is the Odistor mine?”

“Yours? Isn’t it your exclusive discovery?”

“But isn’t it Miss Minnely’s property? I experimented in her time.”

“During office hours?”

“Mostly. And did all the construction in her workshop with her
materials. She supposed I was tinkering up a new attraction for the
Annual Announcement. Isn’t it hers by rights? She’s been paying me
forty-five dollars a week right along. When she hired me she told me
she expected exclusive devotion to the interests of the Family Blessing.
And I agreed. Seems I’m bound in honour to give it up to her.”

“For nothing?”

“Well, she’s dead set against raising wages. But I was thinking she
might boost me up to fifty a week.”

“That seems little for making her Boss of the World.”

“Oh, Miss Minnely wouldn’t go in for _that_. A man would. A woman is
too conservative. Miss Minnely’s one notion is the _Blessing_. It’s not
money she is after, but doing good. She’s sure the way to improve the
world is to get the Blessing regularly into every family. I don’t know
but she’s right too. It’s harmless, anyway.”

I could not but regard Adam’s conscience as too tender. Yet it was
pathetic to see this old man, potentially master of mankind (if he were
not mistaking the Odistor’s powers), feeling morally so bound by the
ethics of the trusty employee. I had perused thousands of editorials
designed to imbue the proletariat with precisely Adam’s idea of duty to
Capital. How to advise him was a serious problem.

“What would Miss Minnely do with it?” I inquired, to gain time.

“She would put it on the list of attractions in the Prize Package
Department.”

“Good heavens! And place absolute power in the hands of subscribers to
the Blessing! Anarchy would ensue! They would all set about bossing the
world.”

“Not they,” said Adam. “She would send out Odistors gauged to only
certain specified strengths. For five subscription certificates the
subscriber would get a breeze to dry clothes or ventilate cellars.
Prize Odistor number two might clear away snow; number three might run
the family windmill. Clubs of fifty new subscribers could win a machine
that would clear fog away from the bay or the river, mornings.
Different strengths for different premiums. See? It would prove a
first-class attraction for the Announcement.”

“Adam,” I remonstrated, for the financial prospect was too alluring,
“you are not required to give this thing to Miss Minnely. Resign. Remit
a million as conscience money to her. Let us go into the manufacture
together. You gauge the Odistors. I will run the business end of the
concern.”

“No! Miss Minnely has the first right. If anybody gets it she must.
What bothers me most is this—will she bounce me if I tell her?”

“Bounce you? Why?”

“Think me crazy. I tell you she is _conservative_. And she is ready to
throw me out—thinks I’m a back number. I can hardly blame her. Fact
is, I have given so much time and thought to the Odistor of late years
that I haven’t found or invented half enough attractions for the
Announcement. Last week she gave me an assistant—a Pusher. That means
she is intending him to supersede me about two years from now. Yet I
could invent a man with twice his brains in half the time. Sometimes I
am tempted to put the Odistor on the small job of blowing him out into
Massachusetts Bay. But he is not to blame for being as God made him.
Then, again, I think how I could down him by simply showing the thing to
Miss Minnely. But the cold fit comes again—what if she thinks me crazy?
I’d lose my forty-five dollars a week and might be driven to Bossing the
World. It’s hard for old men to get new jobs in Boston. They draw the
dead-line at fifty. Just when a man’s got some experience they put a
boy of twenty-six on top of him. On the other hand, suppose she _does_
consider it, and _does_ see the whole meaning of it. First thing she
might do with _her_ Odistor would be to put a cyclone whirling me.” He
sighed heavily. “Fact is I’ve got myself into a kind of hole. What do
you advise?”

“Bury the Odistor. Forget it, Adam. Then, with your mind free, you can
invent new things for the Announcement. I see no other escape from your
predicament.”

“I expected you to advise that in the end,” said Adam, and began
repacking his singular mechanism. “Bury it I will. But how can I
forget it? May be it has exhausted my inventive powers. What then?
I’m bounced. It’s tough to have to begin all over again at sixty-three,
and me Boss of the World if I could only bring myself _to_ boss. If I
do get bounced and do get vexed, maybe I’ll unbury it and show Miss
Minnely what it _can_ do. Well, good evening, and thank you for your
interest and advice.”

He departed with the old, solemn unsettled look on his honest Nova
Scotian countenance.

Since that day I have frequently seen Adam, but he gives me no
recognition. He goes about with eyes on the ground, probably studying
the complicated and frightful situation of a World Power animated by
liberalism and dominated by conscience. Some in the Blessing office
tell me that Miss Minnely’s disapproving eye is often on her old
employee. They say she will soon lift the Pusher over Adam’s white
head.

What will he do then? I remember with some trepidation the vague threat
with which he left me. At night, when a high gale happens to be
blowing, I listen in wild surmise that Adam was bounced yesterday, and
that the slates, bricks and beams of the Family Blessing Building are
hurtling about the suburbs as if in signal that he has liberated a large
specimen of the mysterious globule and embarked, of necessity, on the
woeful business of bossing the world.

Continue Reading

THE SWARTZ DIAMOND

The Boer puzzled us. It was not because he loomed so big in the haze
against the sunset; but he seemed at a mile’s distance to detect us. We
thought the cover perfect, for the hackthorn tops were higher than our
horses’ heads. If he from so far could see patches of khaki through
bushes, his eyes must be better than our fieldglasses. If he did not
see us, why did he wave his hat as in salutation?

“Maybe he only suspect one patrol at de ford. Vat you t’ink, Sergeant
McTavish?” said Lieutenant Deschamps to me.

“Perhaps he thinks some of his own kind may hold the ford,” I suggested.

The others said nothing. They were fifteen French Canadians, including
Corporal Jongers. We lay still behind our prone horses, and kept our
Krags on the Boer.

He seemed to diminish as he advanced slowly from the mirage, but still
he looked uncommonly big—and venerable, too. His hair and beard grew
long and white, though he sat up as alert as any young man. At ten
yards a pack-pony followed him. When half a mile away the burgher
raised both hands above his head.

“He come for surrender, you t’ink, sergeant?” Lieutenant Deschamps is a
gentleman. Because I was of another race he always treated me with more
than the consideration due to a good non-com. Or possibly it was
because he knew I had been advocate in Montreal before joining the
mounted Canadian contingent.

“Better keep down and keep him covered,” I replied. “That may be a
signal.” I stared about the horizon. The veldt was bare, except for
the straggle of hackthorns fringing the curve about the ford. There
could be no other Boer within three miles of us, unless hidden by the
meanderings of the Wolwe, which runs twelve feet below the plain. But
we had searched ten miles of its bed during the day. Westward lay the
kopjes from among which the old Boer had apparently ridden.

He came calmly down the breach of the opposite bank and as far as the
middle of the brawling shallow within fifty yards of us before Deschamps
cried “Halt!” At the word we sprang up, accoutrements rattling, horses
snorting. The old burgher looked up at us quizzically, passing his hand
down his beard and gathering its length above his mouth before he spoke.

“Take care some of those guns don’t go off,” he said, with no trace of
Dutch accent.

“You surrender?” Deschamps stepped forward.

“Sir, I am going to Swartzdorp. Did you not see me hold up my hands?”

“But for sure you could not see us here?”

He smiled and pointed up to the sky. In the blue a vulture swung wide
above us. “So I knew,” said the burgher, “Khakis were hiding. Boers
would have come out. They would have recognized me.”

“Your name?”

“Emanuel Swartz.”

“_Bon_! The great landowner! I have much pleasure to see you. Come
in, monsieur. Eef only you brought in your commando, how glad!”

“They may come yet,” he said. “It depends.” He shook his rein, and the
big bay brought him up the breach into the midst of us. The pack-pony,
which had imitated his halt, followed.

“You will not stop me. I have private business at Swartzdorp,” he said.

“Truly I regret,” said Deschamps. “But my orders! Here you must stay,
monsieur, this night. To-morrow General Pole. He will be most glad to
parole you, I have hope.”

“Oh, very well, lieutenant,” said Swartz, philosophically. “I dare say
he won’t send me to St. Helena.” He dismounted, leaving his Mauser
strapped to his saddle. Then he handed me his bandoleer. “I make you
welcome to my pack also,” he said hospitably. “There’s some biltong and
meal. Perhaps it will improve your fare.”

“It will be poor stuff if it doesn’t,” I told him.

“You give your parole, sir?” asked Deschamps.

“For the night, yes. I will not try to escape.”

His cordial, easy accents came with a certain surprising effect from one
who was so unkempt and, in spite of his years, so formidable. I had
never before seen one of the great Boer land-owners. In his manner one
could perceive, if not a certain condescension, at least the elevated
kindness of a patriarchal gentleman accustomed to warm by affability the
hearts of many descendants and dependents. About Swartzdorp we had
heard much of his English mother, his English wife, and his lifelong
friendship with English officers and gentlemen. It did not seem
surprising that he should have come in voluntarily now that Bloemfontein
and Pretoria were in Lord Roberts’s hands.

It was cold for us in khaki that evening by the Wolwe, though we did not
lack overcoats. The spruit tinkled icily along patches of gravel in the
blue clay, and late June’s high moon seemed pouring down a Canadian
wintriness. “No fire,” ordered Deschamps, lest far-sighted Boer parties,
skilled in surprises, might locate us. But the old burgher showed how
to make small glowing heaps of dry offal, which had been plentifully
left of old by troops of deer and antelope coming to drink at the
spruit. Over one of these tiny smokeless fires our lieutenant sat with
the prisoner. I think I see again the reflection of the little flame
flickering on the old giant’s enormous beard and shapely outspread
hands.

We had supped heavily on his meat and meal, but sleep in that nipping
air came by dozes only, and drowsiness departed when digestion had
relieved repletion. At midnight, when the vedettes were changed and the
moon sagged low, we all were more wakeful than early in the evening.
There had been little talk, and that in the low voices of endurance; but
now Deschamps and Swartz fell into discourse about the Kimberley mines.
This led to discussing the greater diamonds of South Africa, and so on
till the burgher began a story stranger than fiction:

“One of the biggest stones ever taken from blue clay is still uncut. It
has never been offered for sale. Near this very place it was found by
Vassell Swartz, my cousin. The man is not rich even for a Free State
burgher. He is fond of money. He believes his diamond to be worth
twelve thousand pounds. No man could wish harder to sell anything. And
yet he has not offered it. He has not even shown it. His wife has not
seen it. He has had it constantly near him for eleven years. He has
handled it frequently—in its setting. But he has not ventured to look
at it since the morning after he found it. You wonder at that. Is it
possible a rough diamond can shine so bright as dangerously to dazzle
the eyes? No; Vassell would be glad to stare at it all day. But its
setting prevents him. And yet he set it himself.”

The old burgher paused and looked about on our puzzled faces with some
air of satisfaction at their interest.

“It is quite a riddle,” said Deschamps.

“So it is. And I will make it harder. You have been told that we Boers
think nothing of killing Kaffirs? But all Swartzdorp could tell you
that my cousin Vassell could scarcely bear to let a Kaffir out of his
sight. That is mysterious? Well, I will not go on talking in parables.
I will tell you the thing just as I heard it from Vassell or know about
it myself.

“Eleven years ago, Vassell and his brother, my cousin Claas, went off as
usual to Makori’s country beyond the Limpopo, elephant-hunting. Ivory
was so plenty that they trekked back a month earlier than they had
expected. On the return Vassell’s riding-horse fell lame not long after
crossing this very Wolwe spruit by a higher ford. My cousin gave the
beast no rest till evening, and no attention until after they had made a
laager against lions and had eaten supper. Then he took a brand from
the fire and looked into the hoof. In it he found a whitish stone of
about the bigness of an elephant-bullet of six to the pound. It was of
the colour of alum, and in the torchlight it glistened as the scale of a
fish.

“Vassell had never seen a rough diamond. And he had heard of diamonds as
brighter than glittering glass. He thought only that the pebble was a
pretty stone. The man’s heart was soft with nearing his wife and
children, so he slipped the pebble into his empty elephant-bullet pouch,
thinking to give it for a toy to his little Anna. There it lay
forgotten until his fingers went groping for a bullet at the next
daybreak. Kaffirs were then trying to rush my cousins’ laager.

“Wild Kaffirs these were, driven from Kimberley for unruliness in drink.
They were going back to their tribe; they had come far without food, and
they smelled the meat and meal in the wagons—so Matakit afterward told.
But no hunger could have driven them against a Boer laager. They
mistook the wagons for the wagons of Englishmen.”

The French Canadians smiled unoffended, but my jaws snapped. Swartz
turned to me courteously:

“They mistook the wagons for those of English traders unskilled in arms
and trekking provisions to the mines. Though their first rush showed
them their mistake, they went mad over their losses and came on twice
more. Then they guessed, from the way my cousins reserved their fire,
that their ammunition was low. So Matakit howled them on for a fourth
rush.

“My cousins and their six Christian Kaffirs were now in alarm, for their
cartridges were nearly all gone. It was then that Vassell’s fingers
groped in his elephant-bullet pouch, where he felt something rounding
out the leather. That was the forgotten pebble. But its bigness was
too great for the muzzle-loading elephant-rifle. So my cousin rammed it
into the wide-mouthed, old-fashioned roer, a blunderbuss that our
fathers’ fathers praised because it frightened Kaffirs more than it hurt
them. In justice to the roer it should have been loaded with a handful
of slugs. But with only powder and the pebble it made such flash and
noise that all the living wild blacks, but one, ran away howling. The
one that fell before Vassell’s pebble was the biggest of all, and their
leader. There he lay kicking and bellowing like a buffalo bull, ten
yards from the wagons.

“’While he bawled we knelt in the laager,’ Vassell told me, ’and we
offered up thanks for this our deliverance, even like unto the
deliverance of David by the pebble of the brook.’

“Then they ate breakfast while their Kaffirs inspanned, and still the
wild one roared.

“’It would be merciful, brother Vassell,’ said Claas as they drank
coffee, ’to put the Lord’s creature out of his pain.’

“’Nay,’ said Vassell; ’my conscience will not consent to what Free State
law might call murder. And, moreover, the Kaffir’s pain is a plain
judgment of the Almighty.’ Vassell is a dopper, like Oom Paul, and a
dopper is quick to see the Almighty operating through himself. So they
left the black thief gnashing, with five more who lay still, meat for
vultures’ beaks or lions’ jaws.

“In four or five hours’ time my cousins were nigh to Truter’s drift on
the Modder. There they saw two Englishmen and one Israelite digging
into the blue-clay shoal.

“’Good day,’ shouts Claas. ’What are you digging for?’

“’Diamonds, Dutchman, d—n you,’ said the Englishmen, laughing.

“They came up out of the river-bed and showed my cousins four small
rough stones which they had found elsewhere.

“Vassell looked closely at the stones. Then he knew that his pebble had
been a great gem. He put innocent, simple dopper questions about the
value of diamonds. And the Israelite said that a first-rate stone of
the bigness of more than an elephant-bullet would be worth from twelve
to twenty thousand pounds. Vassell felt that Israelite’s eyes piercing
him, and so he gave no more sign of excitement than a skull. But he was
wondering if the grandfathers’ old roer had sent the pebble through the
Kaffir, which seemed unlikely.

“My cousins traded the flesh of a springbok for cartridges, and the
English went away up the spruit, while Claas got ready to cross at
Truter’s. But Vassell made delay; he said that hunger was rummaging his
inside.

“’And that was the truth, Emanuel,’ he told me later, ’for we had
trekked since dawn. But it is not always needful to tell all the truth.
Was I to arouse in Claas a greedy desire to share in the diamond?
True,’ said Vassell, ’we had agreed to share and share alike in the
hunt, but the stone was not ivory, skin, nor meat, and I alone found it.
We are commanded to agree with our adversary “in the way with him.” And
by halting in that place for the boiling of coffee there would be time
to pray for direction. If the Almighty would have us trek back to the
wounded Kaffir, it would be wise to turn before crossing at Truter’s.’

“Of course my cousin Claas, when he heard of Vassell’s hunger, felt
hungry too, and the Kaffirs were told to prepare the meal. Meantime
Vassell took his Bible from the wagon-box and fell on his knees. He
expected the Lord would order him back to the Wolwe, and so it happened.
But to induce Claas to obey the Lord’s direction without understanding
the whole thing was the trouble.

“Like an inspiration a familiar text came to Vassell’s mind. ’Blessed
are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.’ He showed this to Claas
as his reason for turning about. The text had a new meaning for
Vassell. I tell you again he felt that he had been inspired to remember
it. You have to bear that in mind, or you will not rightly understand
how his brain was afterward affected.

“’But it would be foolishness to apply the text to a wild Kaffir four
hours’ trek back,’ said Claas.

“’Nay, not if the Kaffir be subdued,’ said Vassell.

“’He is more than subdued; he is dead,’ said Claas.

“’Nay, he may not yet have perished,’ said Vassell. But he felt sure
the black was dead. And he felt equally sure he had been inspired to
understand that he himself should obtain mercy in the shape of the
diamond if he returned even as the good Samaritan to the Kaffir fallen
by the way. Still Claas was stiff-necked, until Vassell opened the Book
at Jeremiah iii. 12: ’Return, … for I am merciful, saith the Lord.’
He handed it to Claas without a word.

“Claas naturally supposed that Vassell had opened the Bible at random,
as the doppers often do when they are seeking direction. And hence
Claas saw in this text a clear leading back to the Wolwe. Yet he wished
to rest and smoke tobacco for a long hour after eating. But Vassell was
greatly inspired with texts that day. He pointed to I Samuel xx. 38:
’Jonathan cried after the lad, Make speed, haste, stay not.’ Then he
fell into such a groaning and sighing about it that Claas could not
smoke in peace.

“’Anything is better than your rumblings,’ said Claas, and so they
hastened on the backward course. ’For,’ as Vassell told me, ’I was in
deep tribulation of fear lest the vultures might gulp down the diamond,
or some beak strike it afar.’”

Here the huge old burgher sat up straighter and paused so unexpectedly
that his sudden silence was startling. I imagined he listened to
something far off in the stillness of the waning moon. Lieutenant
Deschamps and the French Canadians sat indifferent, but I sprang up and
put hands to my ears. Nothing could I hear but the occasional stamping
of our horses, the walking hoofs of our vedettes by the river’s bend,
and the clinking of swift water over gravel.

“Did you hear something strange?” the patriarch asked me.

“Did you?” I asked.

“Is it likely that a great-grandfather’s ears can hear better than a
young man’s?” he asked courteously.

“But you stopped to listen,” I replied.

Then he shamed me by saying gently: “An old voice may need a little
rest. But now I will go on:

“My cousins trekked back as fast as their oxen could walk. They found
the Kaffir still squirming, and covering his eyes from the vultures.
This went to Vassell’s heart. He could not cut the diamond out of the
living. And perhaps it was not in the man. Vassell drove away the
vultures and examined the wound. Then his heart was lifted up
exceedingly, for as he told me, ’fear had been heavy in me lest the
diamond had gone clear through the Kaffir and been lost on the veldt.
But now my fingers felt it under the flesh of his back. An inch more
had sent it through. And it seemed so sure the pagan must die before
morning that my conscience was clear against extracting the stone in
haste.’

“This Wolwe Veldt was then Lion Veldt, and Vassell thought it prudent to
carry the Kaffir into the night-laager, for lions bolt big chunks, and
the diamond might be in one of them. Claas consented, and so the tame
Kaffirs lugged the wild one into one of the ivory-wagons, and left him
to die at his leisure.

“Late in the night Vassell, wakened by Claas snoring, felt a strong
temptation. He might get up and knife out the stone unseen. ’But I put
the temptation away,’ he told me, ’for my movement might waken Claas, or
the Kaffir might kick or groan under the knife, and my brother might spy
on me. So I mercifully awaited the hour when the Lord would let the
diamond come into my hands without Claas suspecting anything. Besides,
it was against my conscience to cut the Kaffir up warm when it seemed so
sure he would be cold before morning.’

“But next morning the Kaffir was neither dead nor alive. And my cousins
were keen to see their wives and children. They must trek on. But
Vassell could not leave the diamond. ’And to end the Kaffir’s life was,’
he told me, ’more than ever against my conscience. That first text,
“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy,” kept coming
back into my mind. It scared me. It seemed to mean I should have the
diamond to myself only if I spared the Kaffir. If I killed him Claas
might see me extract the stone and claim half. Moreover, I felt sure
the jolting of the wagon would end the pagan soon.’

“So they trekked. When they outspanned at Swartzdorp, two days later,
the Kaffir was more alive than on the first day. No reward yet for
conscientious Vassell! He stayed only a day with his wife, and then
trekked for Bloemfontein with the Kaffir in his horse-wagon. Claas
stayed at Swartzdorp. And all at Swartzdorp thought Vassell had gone
crazy about the black.

“I was then, residing in Bloemfontein, attending a meeting of the Raad.
There I saw Vassell gaping at me in the market-place. Never before had I
seen trouble in the man’s face. When he told me he had brought a hurt
Kaffir all the miles from Swartzdorp I felt sure the man was mad.

“’It may be the Kaffir saved your life from lions?’ I asked him.

“’Nay; I saved his life,’ he groaned. ’For we are commanded to do good
unto our enemies. And, moreover, this is the Kaffir I fired it into.’

“’Fired what?’ I asked, not then knowing a word of it all.

“’Emanuel,’ he said, ’my soul is deep in trouble, and surely God has
sent you to counsel me. He commanded me to bring the Kaffir here. The
text he put into my mind will not go out of my mind. I dream of it each
night, and I dream of the Kaffir with it, so it must mean him. And to
be merciful that I may obtain the promised mercy I have brought him to
the hospital.’

“’What does this rant mean? Put it in plain Taal,’ I said.

“Vassell looked all about the market-place, tiptoed his lips to my ears,
and whispered, ’Come into my horse-wagon.’

“I climbed up in front under the cover, and then heard breathing behind
the seat. There lay the Kaffir. I turned on Vassell with ’You said you
brought him to the hospital.’

“’I am afraid to take him there.’

“’Afraid they will require you to pay?’

“’Nay, that is not the trouble. I will reveal all to you.’

“Then he whispered to me all that I have told you, my friends.

“’It was borne in on me,’ Vassell said, ’that the surgeons would cut out
the diamond to save the Kaffir’s life, and thus I should obtain the
mercy. But now I am in fear they will not let me be present at the
operation. They will keep the diamond if they get time to examine it.’

“’Drive to the hospital,’ I said. ’They will let you be present. I
will arrange that. Have you money?’

“Yes; he had sold his four best tusks for English gold. So he had
plenty to pay the doctors if a bribe should prove necessary.

“But it was not needed. The house-surgeon had the Kaffir carried in,
and they examined him in our presence. Then they told Vassell it was a
beautiful case involving the kidneys in some extraordinary way, and they
wished to watch what would happen if Matakit lived—that was the
outrageous Kaffir’s name. To cut the bullet out, they said—for you may
be sure Vassell never mentioned diamond to them—would kill the Kaffir.
And if they killed him quickly, medical science might forego valuable
knowledge which it might gain if they didn’t operate an hour before he
was quite out of danger by the wound.

“Think of my conscientious cousin’s sad situation!” The old giant gazed
about on us as if without guile. “Twelve thousand pounds! And the
surgeons would not let him take the Kaffir away. Nor would they let
Vassell stay in the ward with his diamond! And he dared not tell the
doctors why the operation would have comforted him, lest they should
secretly explore the Kaffir as diamondiferous clay!”

Here again the tale paused. A sardonic tone had for an instant been
steely in the genial voice. But the face of the old man was as in a
placid dream. We volunteers, trusting all to our vedettes, grinned,
thinking only of Vassell’s dilemma. The burgher seemed to ponder on it;
or maybe, I thought, he was resting his voice again. So ten seconds
passed. Then I heard the rush and grunt of a flac-flarc, the veldt pig.
It seemed to have been startled out of the spruit by a vedette, for we
faintly heard a horse snort and a man scold. The moon was now very low,
but all seemed unchanged except for an increasing restlessness of the
picketed horses. They had replied to the snort of the vedette’s beast.
In an interval of tense silence, the old Africander stared about on our
faces with a curious inspection that I now think of as having been one
of such pity as the deaf perceive in other men’s faces. But at the time
I supposed he but wished to assure himself that all were attentively
awaiting the rest of his story.

Yet when the old burgher spoke again he seemed to have forgotten the
great Swartz diamond.

“Such silence on this veldt!” he murmured. “I remember it alive with
great game. Not twenty miles from here I have lain often awake in the
night to a concert of lions and hyenas and jackals, with the stamping of
wildebeests, and the barking of quaggas, and the rushing away of
springbok and blesbok as the breeze gave them our scent. Now we hear
nothing, my friends—nothing whatever moving on the plain?”

“Only the horses and the pickets and the stream,” said Deschamps.

“But I,” said the old burgher, “hear more. I hear the sounds of ghosts
of troops of great game. And I hear with those sounds other sounds as
of the ghosts of a needless war.” He sighed heavily, and seemed to sink
into sad reverie.

Deschamps and his French volunteers would not interrupt him, but I was
impatient. “How did your cousin get at the diamond?” I asked.

“He did not get at it.” The whitebeard roused up amiably and resumed
his tale:

“And yet he did not part with it. For six weeks the Kaffir improved in
the Bloemfontein hospital. Then the day came when the surgeons told my
cousin they could learn nothing more of the lovely case from outside. I
do not know whether they really meant to vivisect the Kaffir, but
Vassell was sure of it, for he had that diamond on the brain. He longed
to have the Kaffir live out his allotted span—at Swartzdorp.

“’Surely I must be with Matakit at his ending,’ said Vassell to me.

“Now Matakit had been told how Vassell had mercifully saved him, and he
wished for nothing better than to be Vassell’s man. So, in the night,
after my cousin had whispered to the Kaffir that the surgeons meant to
cut him open, Matakit jumped out of the hospital window and hurried to
Vassell’s horse-wagon waiting on the Modder road.

“My friends, to tell you all the sad experience of my cousin with that
Kaffir I should need to be with you for a week. Our time for talk
together is too short—indeed, I seem to hear it going in the hackthorn
tops. But still I can give you a little more.

“Consider, then, that Vassell’s family already thought him demented for
bringing the wild black from the Wolwe. Trekking with him to
Bloemfontein was worse, and carrying him back appeared complete lunacy.
But Vassell was the head of a Boer family and must be obeyed by his
household, from Tante Anna, his wife, to the smallest Kaffir baby bred
on his farm.

“He told no one but me of the battle in his soul. It was this: the more
he longed to knife the diamond out, the more his conscience was warned
with that text the Lord had sent him. He had now a fixed idea that he
would somehow lose the diamond unless he was merciful to Matakit.

“Out of sight of the Kaffir my cousin could not be easy, he feared so
much the black would run away. To prevent that, Vassell at first
carried a loaded rifle all day long. At night he locked the Kaffir in
the room partitioned from his own. Its windows he barred with iron
bars. This was to save Matakit from the Christian Kaffirs on the farm.
At first they were likely to kill him in the dark, such was their
jealousy of the wild man honored by a bed in the house of the baas,
while their own Christian bones had to rest in the huts and the sheds.

“But their jealousy changed to deadly fear of Matakit. They imagined
that he had bewitched the baas. Matakit, being no fool, soon smelled
out that fear. As a witch doctor he lorded it over them. He began to
roll in fat, for they brought to his teeth the best of their food. As
for their women!

“At last Tante Anna looked into this thing. Then the blood of her mother
of the Great Trek ran hot in her. I happened to be visiting there at
the time. She herself went at the pagan with the sjambok. Vassell
turned his back, for he approved the lashing, but the Kaffir so groveled
and howled under the whip that my cousin’s conscience rose up untimely.
It told him that he would be guilty, for the diamond’s sake, of
complicity in the killing if he did not interfere. Whereupon he took
the sjambok from Tante Anna’s hands, and ordered her to deal kindly with
the Kaffir, as before.

“’Kindly! The black beast is destroying Christianity on our farm!’ she
wailed. ’I will slay him with my own hands. And I hope I have done it
already!!’

“’Alas! no, Anna,’ said Vassell. ’He will live. You have given him a
reason to run away.’

“’Run away? I wish to the Lord he would run away!’

“’No, no, my woman,’ Vassell whispered. ’You do not understand. Tell it
to nobody—but the Kaffir is worth twelve thousand English pounds to me!’

“She turned to me laughing. ’Twelve thousand pounds. My poor demented
man!’

“’When he dies I will prove it,’ said Vassell.

“’What! A dead Kaffir worth a fortune?’ She was all contempt for
Vassell’s folly.

“Of course he wished to explain to her. But he had an opinion that
Matakit’s days might be few if Tante Anna came to understand the meaning
of the lump on Matakit’s black back. Vassell’s uncontrollable conscience
required her to be no more unmerciful to Matakit. If Anna’s sjambok cut
out the stone, it might be lost in the litter of the yard.

“Well, my friends, the word went up and down the Orange Free State, and
far into the Colony, and away across the Vaal, that Burgher Vassell
Swartz was crazy with kindness for a wild Kaffir! Of course I denied
it, and that carried weight, but the mystery grew, for I could not
explain the case, so strong was Vassell in holding me to secrecy. To
get my cousin out of his trouble I advised him to lend Matakit to me,
but he would not agree. Possibly he suspected me of wishing to dig for
the diamond.

“Ten years this sorrow lasted, and all the time Matakit grew fatter,
till he could scarcely walk. He was the most overbearing black in all
South Africa. What he suspected I do not know, but when he became sure
Vassell would not let him be hurt much he wantonly abused the patience
of even his devoted baas. Poor Vassell! Sometimes, to ease his
sorrows, he used the sjambok on Matakit, but always too gently. Often
he raised his gun to end it all; indeed, he got into a way of thinking
that the devil was continually instigating him to kill the Kaffir. And
every dopper knows that to yield consciously to the devil is the
unforgivable sin.”

The ancient burgher paused once more. And again we, whose senses were
trained but to the narrow spaces between Canadian woodlands, heard
nothing but a sudden louder tumult of gathered horses, the hoofs of the
vedettes, and the tinkle of the spruit. I could not guess why old
Emanuel looked so well pleased. He loomed taller, it seemed, as he
squatted. It was as if with new vivacity that he spoke on:

“The strange things my poor cousin did! I will tell you of at least one
more. Five years of Matakit went by, and never again had Vassell gone
hunting afar, for he could not leave the fat Kaffir behind, and he
feared Matakit would run away if he got near the country of his tribe.
But in the sixth year a new inspiration came to Vassell. The Lord might
send a lion if he took Matakit where lions might be convenient for
sending. Doppers always regard lions as dispensations of Providence
when they kill pagan Kaffirs. So he brought Matakit afar to the Lion
Veldt. There Vassell would not let his men make a laager—he slept in a
wagon himself. And the Lord did send a lion in the night. The blacks
lay by the fire. And when it fell low that lion bore a man away out
into the darkness at two leaps.

“’Baas! baas!’ Vassell heard his Kaffirs shout. ’Baas! The lion has
taken Matakit!’ For they had been dozing, and now missed the fat black.

“The Lord had sent the lion, but the devil was carrying away the
diamond. Vassell must be in at the ending, as he had planned. So out
with his rifle he sprang, seized a brand, and ran, whirling it into
flame, on the dragged body’s spoor.

“’Come back! Oh, baas, come back! The veldt is full of lions!’ So the
Kaffirs shrieked. But twelve thousand pounds is not forsaken by a Boer
hunter for fear of lions. On Vassell ran. He would beat off the lion
with the torch. Happy would be his rich life without Matakit! Plainly
the Lord would be merciful to him because he had been merciful as
commanded by the text.

“But from the wagons came now a bawl: ’Baas! Baas! I am here, I,
Matakit! I was in a wagon.’ He had sneaked away from the fire. ’It is
but Impugan that the lion has taken.’

“Back went Vassell in rage. Now he would finish the Kaffir! For what
would his other Kaffirs, the Christians he had bred, his best hunters,
too—what would they think but that he valued the accursed pagan above
brave old Impugan and all the rest of them? Yet he only beat out his
torch on Matakit’s head before the diseased conscience stayed his hand
once more.”

Again the white-beard burgher paused. The picketed horses were now
still. The moon was gone, and the spruit chattered in starlit darkness.
There was no sound of the vedettes, but that was not strange. Yet
uneasiness came over me. My comrades shared it. We all stared at the
gigantic prisoner with some suspicion that I could not define. He
seemed uncanny. From an old man, and especially an old Boer, sneers
seemed unnatural. Some diabolical amusement seemed to animate him. As
he jeered his cousin he seemed to jeer us. At first I had liked his
genial tone. Now he gave me a sense of repulsion. For this I was
trying to account when the old burgher stooped and freshened the fire
with mealie cobs. The sparks flew high. In that momentary light he
resumed his story:

“My cousin Vassell was of my Swartzdorp commando when this war began,
but he is now a prisoner in St. Helena. Before he left home with his
boys he instructed his wife about Matakit.

“’Be as good to him as you can,’ Vassell ordered. ’But if he should
come to his end before I return,’ then be careful to bury him deeper
than jackals or hyenas dig. Bury him carefully by’—no matter where;
Vassell showed Tante Anna precisely the place.

“The woman wept and fell on her husband’s neck, and cried: ’Farewell,
and fight well; and God bring you and the boys back to me, Vassell, my
old heart. You need have no fear but I will carefully bury the Kaffir!’

“_Gentlemen!_” We all sprang up at the change in the old voice.
“_Gentlemen_—you are my prisoners.” The burgher rose up, very hard of
face.

Deschamps drew his pistol. I thrust mine almost into the burgher’s
face. But he spoke firmly:

“What! Shoot your prisoner, with his commando surrounding you. Fifty
Mausers are levelled on you. Pooh! No! It would be the end of you
all. Lieutenant, your horses are seized. Your vedettes are prisoners.
They were knocked off their saddles long ago, when you heard nothing but
the horses stamping. There was a Boer among them then. He provoked that
stamping. It was the signal to strike down your vedettes. Fifty
burghers are listening to my voice now. Here, men!” And at the word
the Boer surprise came on. “Oom Emanuel! Oh, Oom Emanuel!” was the
cry.

“I truly grieve for you, gentlemen,” said the old burgher ten minutes
later. “You were such good listeners—you had ears for nothing but my
story. And because of that I leave you food for a whole day. It will
be sufficient, if you march well on foot, to take you to my old friend
General Pole. I beg you to give him my compliments. But he will not be
in good humour to-morrow. Every one of his patrols within twenty miles
has been captured to-night, unless something has gone wrong with De Wet,
which is unlikely. Do not be cast down, lieutenant. You were not to
blame. Your ears were not trained to the veldt. Good-bye. I invite
you to visit me, lieutenant, after this war ends, at my Swartzdorp farm.
Then I will tell you the rest of the diamond story.”

“But that is not fair, sir,” said Deschamps, whimsically. “I have
interest in de story, and I want to know how she end.”

“It has no end yet.” The old burgher smiled broadly. “I was on my way
to end it when you stopped me. I hoped to get through more easily
without my burghers’ aid, but I told them to follow if they saw me
stopped. You missed us in searching the spruit this morning.

“I have really private business at Swartzdorp. Word was brought to me
three days ago that Tante Anna dutifully buried Matakit months ago.
Vassell was the Kaffir’s life; I will be his resurrection. A great
diamond of the first water is very salable, and the treasury of the
republic is running low.”

“But it may not be a diamond of the first water,” said I.

“It must be,” said the patriarch. “Anything less would be too shabby a
mercy to Vassell.”

Continue Reading

A TURKEY APIECE

Not long ago I was searching files of New York papers for 1864, when my
eye caught the headline, “Thanksgiving Dinner for the Army.” I had
shared that feast. The words brought me a vision of a cavalry brigade
in winter quarters before Petersburg; of the three-miles-distant and dim
steeples of the besieged city; of rows and rows of canvas-covered huts
sheltering the infantry corps that stretched interminably away toward
the Army of the James. I fancied I could hear again the great guns of
“Fort Hell” infrequently punctuating the far-away picket-firing.

Rain, rain, and rain! How it fell on red Virginia that November of ’64!
How it wore away alertness! The infantry-men—whom we used to call
“doughboys,” for there was always a pretended feud between the riders
and the trudgers—often seemed going to sleep in the night in their
rain-filled holes far beyond the breastworks, each with its little mound
of earth thrown up toward the beleaguered town. Their night-firing would
slacken almost to cessation for many minutes together. But after the
b-o-o-oom of a great gun it became brisker usually; often so much so as
to suggest that some of Lee’s ragged brigades, their march silenced by
the rain, had pierced our fore-front again, and were “gobbling up” our
boys on picket, and flinging up new rifle-pits on the acres reclaimed
for a night and a day for the tottering Confederacy.

Sometimes the _crack-a-rac-a-rack_ would die down to a slow fire of
dropping shots, and the forts seemed sleeping; and patter, patter,
patter on the veteran canvas we heard the rain, rain, rain, not unlike
the roll of steady musketry very far away.

I think I sit again beside Charley Wilson, my sick “buddy,” and hear his
uneven breathing through all the stamping of the rows of wet horses on
their corduroy floor roofed with leaky pine brush.

That _squ-ush, squ-ush_ is the sound of the stable-guard’s boots as he
paces slowly through the mud, to and fro, with the rain rattling on his
glazed poncho and streaming corded hat. Sometimes he stops to listen to
a frantic brawling of the wagon-train mules, sometimes to the reviving
picket-firing. It crackles up to animation for causes that we can but
guess; then dies down, never to silence, but warns, warns, as the
distant glow of the sky above a volcano warns of the huge waiting forces
that give it forth.

I think I hear Barney Donahoe pulling our latch-string that November
night when we first heard of the great Thanksgiving dinner that was
being collected in New York for the army.

“Byes, did yez hear phwat Sergeant Cunningham was tellin’ av the
Thanksgivin’ turkeys that’s comin’?”

“Come in out of the rain, Barney,” says Charley, feebly.

“Faith, I wish I dar’, but it’s meself is on shtable-guard. Bedad, it’s
a rale fire ye’ve got. Divil a better has ould Jimmy himself (our
colonel). Ye’ve heard tell of the turkeys, then, and the pois?”

“Yes. Bully for the folks at home!” says Charley. “The notion of
turkey next Thursday has done me good already. I was thinking I’d go to
hospital to-morrow, but now I guess I won’t.”

“Hoshpital! Kape clear av the hoshpital, Char-les, dear. Sure, they’d
cut a man’s leg off behind the ears av him for to cure him av
indigestion.”

“Is it going to rain all night, Barney?”

“It is, bad ’cess to it; and to-morrow and the day afther, I’m thinkin’.
The blackness av night is outside; be jabers! you could cut it like turf
with a shpade! If it wasn’t for the ould fort flamin’ out wanst in a
whoile, I’d be thinkin’ I’d never an oi in my head, barrin’ the fires in
the tints far an’ near gives a bit of dimness to the dark. Phwat time
is it?”

“Quarter to twelve, Barney.”

“Troth, then, the relief will be soon coming. I must be thramping the
mud av Virginia to save the Union. Good-night, byes. I come to give
yez the good word. Kape your heart light an’ aisy, Char-les, dear.
D’ye moind the turkeys and the pois? Faith, it’s meself that has the
taste for thim dainties!”

“I don’t believe I’ll be able to eat a mite of the Thanksgiving,” says
Charley, as we hear Barney _squ-ush_ away; “but just to see the brown on
a real old brown home turkey will do me a heap of good.”

“You’ll be all right by Thursday, Charley, I guess; won’t you? It’s
only Sunday night now.”

Of course I cannot remember the very words of that talk in the night, so
many years ago. But the coming of Barney I recollect well, and the
general drift of what was said.

Charley turned on his bed of hay-covered poles, and I put my hand under
his gray blanket to feel if his legs were well covered by the long
overcoat he lay in. Then I tucked the blanket well in about his feet
and shoulders, pulled his poncho again to its full length over him, and
sat on a cracker-box looking at our fire for a long time, while the rain
spattered through the canvas in spray.

My “buddy” Charley, the most popular boy of Company I, was of my own
age,—seventeen,—though the rolls gave us a year more each, by way of
compliance with the law of enlistment. From a Pennsylvania farm in the
hills he came forth to the field early in that black fall of ’64,
strong, tall, and merry, fit to ride for the nation’s life,—a mighty
wielder of an axe, “bold, cautious, true, and my loving comrade.”

We were “the kids” to Company I. To “buddy” with Charley I gave up my
share of the hut I had helped to build as old Bader’s “pard.” Then the
“kids” set about the construction of a new residence, which stood
farther from the parade ground than any hut in the row except the big
cabin of “old Brownie,” the “greasy cook,” who called us to “bean—oh!”
with so resonant a shout, and majestically served out our rations of
pork, “salt horse,” coffee long-boiled and sickeningly sweet, hardtack,
and the daily loaf of a singularly despondent-looking bread.

My “buddy” and I slept on opposite sides of our winter residence. The
bedsteads were made of poles laid lengthwise and lifted about two feet
from the ground. These were covered thinly with hay from the bales that
were regularly delivered for horse-fodder. There was a space of about
two feet between our bedsteads, and under them we kept our saddles and
saddle-cloths.

Our floor was of earth, with a few flour-barrel staves and cracker-box
sides laid down for rugs. We had each an easy-chair in the form of a
cracker-box, besides a stout soap-box for guests. Our carbines and
sabres hung crossed on pegs over the mantel-piece, above our Bibles and
the precious daguerreotypes of the dear folks at home. When we happened
to have enough wood for a bright fire, we felt much snugger than you
might suppose.

Before ever that dark November began, Charley had been suffering from
one of those wasting diseases that so often clung to and carried off the
strongest men of both armies. Sharing the soldiers’ inveterate prejudice
against hospitals attended by young doctors, who, the men believed, were
addicted to much surgery for the sake of practice, my poor “buddy”
strove to do his regular duties. He paraded with the sick before the
regimental doctor as seldom as possible. He was favored by the
sergeants and helped in every way by the men, and so continued to stay
with the company at that wet season when drill and parades were
impracticable.

The idea of a Thanksgiving dinner for half a million men by sea and land
fascinated Charley’s imagination, and cheered him mightily. But I could
not see that his strength increased, as he often alleged.

“Ned, you bet I’ll be on hand when them turkeys are served out,” he
would say. “You won’t need to carry my Thanksgiving dinner up from
Brownie’s. Say, ain’t it bully for the folks at home to be giving us a
Thanksgiving like this? Turkeys, sausages, mince-pies! They say there’s
going to be apples and celery for all hands!”

“S’pose you’ll be able to eat, Charley?”

“Able! Of course I’ll be able! I’ll be just as spry as you be on
Thanksgiving. See if I don’t carry my own turkey all right. Yes, by
gum, if it weighs twenty pounds!”

“There won’t be a turkey apiece.”

“No, eh? Well, that’s what I figure on. Half a turkey, anyhow. Got to
be; besides chickens, hams, sausages, and all that kind of fixin’s. You
heard what Bill Sylvester’s girl wrote from Philamadink-a-daisy-oh? No,
eh? Well, he come in a-purpose to read me the letter. Says there’s
going to be three or four hundred thousand turkeys, besides them
fixin’s! Sherman’s boys can’t get any; they’re marched too far away, out
of reach. The Shenandoah boys’ll get some, and Butler’s crowd, and us
chaps, and the blockading squadrons. Bill’s girl says so. We’ll get
the whole lot between us. Four hundred thousand turkeys! Of course
there’ll be a turkey apiece; there’s got to be, if there’s any sense in
arithmetic. Oh, I’ll be choosin’ between breast-meat and hind-legs on
Thanksgiving,—you bet your sweet life on that!”

This expectation that there would be a turkey apiece was not shared by
Company I; but no one denied it in Charley’s hearing. The boy held it
as sick people often do fantastic notions, and all fell into the humor
of strengthening the reasoning on which he went.

It was clear that no appetite for turkey moved my poor “buddy,” but that
his brain was busy with the “whole-turkey-a-piece” idea as one
significant of the immense liberality of the folks at home, and their
absorbing interest in the army.

“Where’s there any nation that ever was that would get to work and fix
up four hundred thousand turkeys for the boys?” he often remarked, with
ecstatic patriotism.

I have often wondered why “Bill Sylvester’s girl” gave that flourishing
account of the preparations for our Thanksgiving dinner. It was only on
searching the newspaper files recently that I surmised her sources of
information. Newspapers seldom reached our regiment until they were
several weeks old, and then they were not much read, at least by me.
Now I know how enthusiastic the papers of November, ’64, were on the
great feast for the army.

For instance, on the morning of that Thanksgiving day, the 24th of
November, the New York Tribune said editorially:—

“Forty thousand turkeys, eighty thousand turkeys, one hundred and sixty
thousand turkeys, nobody knows how many turkeys have been sent to our
soldiers. Such masses of breast-meat and such mountains of stuffing;
drumsticks enough to fit out three or four Grand Armies, a perfect
promontory of pope’s noses, a mighty aggregate of wings. The gifts of
their lordships to the supper which Grangousier spread to welcome
Gargantua were nothing to those which our good people at home send to
their friends in the field; and no doubt every soldier, if his dinner
does not set him thinking too intently of that home, will prove himself
a valiant trencherman.”

Across the vast encampment before Petersburg a biting wind blew that
Thanksgiving day. It came through every cranny of our hut; it bellied
the canvas on one side and tightened it on the other; it pressed flat
down the smoke from a hundred thousand mud chimneys, and swept away so
quickly the little coals which fell on the canvas that they had not time
to burn through.

When I went out towards noon, for perhaps the twentieth time that day,
to learn whether our commissary wagons had returned from City Point with
the turkeys, the muddy parade ground was dotted with groups of shivering
men, all looking anxiously for the feast’s arrival. Officers frequently
came out, to exchange a few cheery words with their men, from the tall,
close hedge of withering pines stuck on end that enclosed the officers’
quarters on the opposite side of the parade ground.

No turkeys at twelve o’clock! None at one! Two, three, four, five
o’clock passed by, and still nothing had been heard of our absent
wagons. Charley was too weak to get out that day, but he cheerfully
scouted the idea that a turkey for each man would not arrive sooner or
later.

The rest of us dined and supped on “commissary.” It was not good
commissary either, for Brownie, the “greasy cook,” had gone on leave to
visit a “doughboy” cousin of the Sixth Corps.

“You’ll have turkey for dinner, boys,” he had said, on serving out
breakfast. “If you’re wanting coffee, Tom can make it.” Thus we had to
dine and sup on the amateur productions of the cook’s mate.

A multitude of woful rumors concerning the absent turkeys flew round
that evening. The “Johnnies,” we heard, had raided round the army, and
captured the fowls! Butler’s colored troops had got all the turkeys,
and had been feeding on fowl for two days! The officers had “gobbled”
the whole consignment for their own use! The whole story of the
Thanksgiving dinner was a newspaper hoax! Nothing was too incredible for
men so bitterly disappointed.

Brownie returned before “lights out” sounded, and reported facetiously
that the “doughboys” he had visited were feeding full of turkey and all
manner of fixings. There were so many wagons waiting at City Point that
the roads round there were blocked for miles. We could not fail to get
our turkeys to-morrow. With this expectation we went, pretty happy, to
bed.

“There’ll be a turkey apiece, you’ll see, Ned,” said Charley, in a
confident, weak voice, as I turned in. “We’ll all have a bully
Thanksgiving to-morrow.”

The morrow broke as bleak as the preceding day, and without a sign of
turkey for our brigade. But about twelve o’clock a great shouting came
from the parade ground.

“The turkeys have come!” cried Charley, trying to rise. “Never mind
picking out a big one for me; any one will do. I don’t believe I can
eat a bite, but I want to see it. My ain’t it kind of the folks at
home!”

I ran out and found his surmise as to the return of the wagons correct.
They were filing into the enclosure around the quartermaster’s tent.
Nothing but an order that the men should keep to company quarters
prevented the whole regiment helping to unload the delicacies of the
season.

Soon foraging parties went from each company to the quartermaster’s
enclosure. Company I sent six men. They returned, grinning, in about
half an hour, with one box on one man’s shoulders.

It was carried to Sergeant Cunningham’s cabin, the nearest to the parade
ground, the most distant from that of “the kids,” in which Charley lay
waiting. We crowded round the hut with some sinking of enthusiasm.
There was no cover on the box except a bit of cotton in which some of
the consignment had probably been wrapped. Brownie whisked this off,
and those nearest Cunningham’s door saw disclosed—two small turkeys, a
chicken, four rather disorganized pies, two handsome bologna sausages,
and six very red apples.

We were nearly seventy men. The comical side of the case struck the
boys instantly. Their disappointment was so extreme as to be absurd.
There might be two ounces of feast to each, if the whole were equally
shared.

All hands laughed; not a man swore. The idea of an equal distribution
seemed to have no place in that company. One proposed that all should
toss up for the lot. Another suggested drawing lots; a third that we
should set the Thanksgiving dinner at one end of the parade ground and
run a race for it, “grab who can.”

At this Barney Donahue spoke up.

“Begorra, yez can race for wan turkey av yez loike. But the other wan
is goin’ to Char-les Wilson!”

There was not a dissenting voice. Charley was altogether the most
popular member of Company I, and every man knew how he had clung to the
turkey apiece idea.

“Never let on a word,” said Sergeant Cunningham. “He’ll think there’s a
turkey for every man!”

The biggest bird, the least demoralized pie, a bologna sausage, and the
whole six apples were placed in the cloth that had covered the box. I
was told to carry the display to my poor “buddy.”

As I marched down the row of tents a tremendous yelling arose from the
crowd round Cunningham’s tent. I turned to look behind. Some man with a
riotous impulse had seized the box and flung its contents in the air
over the thickest of the crowd. Next moment the turkey was seized by
half a dozen hands. As many more helped to tear it to pieces. Barney
Donahoe ran past me with a leg, and two laughing men after him. Those
who secured larger portions took a bite as quickly as possible, and
yielded the rest to clutching hands. The bologna sausage was shared in
like fashion, but I never heard of any one who got a taste of the pies.

“Here’s your turkey, Charley,” said I, entering with my burden.

“Where’s yours, Ned?”

“I’ve got my turkey all right enough at Cunningham’s tent.”

“Didn’t I tell you there’d be a turkey apiece?” he cried gleefully, as I
unrolled the lot. “And sausages, apples, a whole pie—oh, say, ain’t
they bully folks up home!”

“They are,” said I. “I believe we’d have had a bigger Thanksgiving yet
if it wasn’t such a trouble getting it distributed.”

“You’d better believe it! They’d do anything in the world for the
army,” he said, lying back.

“Can’t you eat a bite, buddy?”

“No; I’m not a mite hungry. But I’ll look at it. It won’t spoil before
to-morrow. Then you can share it all out among the boys.”

Looking at the turkey, the sick lad fell asleep. Barney Donahoe softly
opened our door, stooped his head under the lintel, and gazed a few
moments at the quiet face turned to the Thanksgiving turkey. Man after
man followed to gaze on the company’s favorite, and on the fowl which,
they knew, tangibly symbolized to him the immense love of the nation for
the flower of its manhood in the field. Indeed, the people had
forwarded an enormous Thanksgiving feast; but it was impossible to
distribute it evenly, and we were one of the regiments that came short.

Grotesque, that scene? Group after group of hungry, dirty soldiers,
gazing solemnly, lovingly, at a lone brown turkey and a pallid sleeping
boy! Very grotesque. But Charley had his Thanksgiving dinner, and the
men of Company I, perhaps, enjoyed a profounder satisfaction than if
they had feasted more materially.

I never saw Charley after that Thanksgiving day. Before the afternoon
was half gone the doctor sent an ambulance for him, and insisted that he
should go to City Point. By Christmas his wasted body had lain for
three weeks in the red Virginia soil.

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DRAFTED

Harry Wallbridge, awaking with a sense of some alarming sound, listened
intently in the darkness, seeing overhead the canvas roof faintly
outlined, the darker stretch of its ridge-pole, its two thin slanting
rafters, and the gable ends of the winter hut. He could not hear the
small, fine drizzle from an atmosphere surcharged with water, nor
anything but the drip from canvas to trench, the rustling of hay bunched
beneath his head, the regular breathing of his “buddy,” Corporal Bader,
and the stamping of horses in stables. But when a soldier in a
neighboring tent called indistinguishably in the accents of nightmare,
Bader’s breathing quieted, and in the lull Harry fancied the soaked air
weighted faintly with steady picket-firing. A month with the 53d
Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Cavalry had not quite disabused the young
recruit of his schoolboy belief that the men of the Army of the Potomac
must live constantly within sound of the out-posts.

Harry sat up to hearken better, and then concluded that he had mistaken
for musketry the crackle of haystalks under his poncho sheet. Beneath
him the round poles of his bed sagged as he drew up his knees and
gathered about his shoulders the gray blanket damp from the spray of
heavy rain against the canvas earlier in the night. Soon, with slow
dawn’s approach, he could make out the dull white of his carbine and
sabre against the mud-plastered chimney. In that drear dimness the boy
shivered, with a sense of misery rather than from cold, and yearned as
only sleepy youth can for the ease of a true bed and dry warm swooning
to slumber. He was sustained by no mature sense that this too would
pass; it was with a certain bodily despair that he felt chafed and
compressed by his rough garments, and pitied himself, thinking how his
mother would cry if she could see him couched so wretchedly that wet
March morning, pressed all the more into loneliness by the regular
breathing of veteran Bader in the indifference of deep sleep.

Harry’s vision of his mother coming into his room, shading her candle
with her hand, to see if he were asleep, passed away as a small gust
came, shaking the canvas, for he was instantly alert with a certainty
that the breeze had borne a strong rolling of musketry.

“Bader, Bader!” he said. “Bader!”

“Can’t you shut up, you Wallbridge?” came Orderly Sergeant Gravely’s
sharp tones from the next tent.

“What’s wrong with you, Harry, boy?” asked Bader, turning.

“I thought I heard heavy firing closer than the picket lines; twice now
I’ve thought I heard it.”

“Oh, I guess not, Harry. The Johnnies won’t come out no such night as
this. Keep quiet, or you’ll have the sergeant on top of you. Better
lie down and try to sleep, buddy; the bugles will call morning soon
now.”

Again Harry fell to his revery of home, and his vision became that of
the special evening on which his boyish wish to go to the war had, for
the family’s sake, become resolve. He saw his mother’s spectacled and
lamp-lit face as she, leaning to the table, read in the familiar Bible;
little Fred and Mary, also facing the table’s central lamp, bent sleepy
heads over their school-books; the father sat in the rocking-chair, with
his right hand on the paper he had laid down, and gazed gloomily at the
coals fallen below the front doors of the wood-burning stove. Harry
dreamed himself back in his own chair, looking askance, and feeling sure
his father was inwardly groaning over the absence of Jack, the eldest
son. Then nine o’clock struck, and Fred and Mary began to put their
books away in preparation for bed.

“Wait a little, children,” Mrs. Wallbridge said, serene in tone from her
devotional reading. “Father wants that I should tell you something.
You mustn’t feel bad about it. It’s that we may soon go out West. Your
Uncle Ezra is doing well in Minnesota. Aunt Elvira says so in her
letter that came to-day.”

“It’s this way, children,” said Mr. Wallbridge, ready to explain, now
that the subject was opened. “Since ever your brother Jack went away
South, the store expenses have been too heavy. It’s near five years now
he’s been gone. There’s a sheaf of notes coming due the third of next
month; twice they’ve been renewed, and the Philadelphia men say they’ll
close me up this time sure. If I had eight hundred dollars—but it’s no
use talking; we’ll just have to let them take what we’ve got. Times have
been bad right along around here, anyhow, with new competition, and so
many farmers gone to the war, and more gone West. If Jack had stopped to
home—but I’ve had to pay two clerks to do his work, and then they don’t
take any interest in the business. Mind, I’m not blaming Jack, poor
fellow,—he’d a right to go where he’d get more’n his keep, and be able
to lay up something for himself,—but what’s become of him, God knows;
and such a smart, good boy as he was! He’d got fond of New Orleans,—I
guess some nice girl there, maybe, was the reason; and there he’d stay
after the war began, and now it’s two years and more since we’ve heard
from him. Dead, maybe, or maybe they’d put him in jail, for he said he’d
never join the Confederates, nor fight against them either—he felt that
way—North and South was all the same to him. And so he’s gone; and I
don’t see my way now at all. Ma, if it wasn’t for my lame leg, I’d take
the bounty. It’d be something for you and the children after the
store’s gone.”

“Sho, pa! don’t talk that way! You’re too down-hearted. It’ll all come
right, with the Lord’s help,” said Harry’s mother. How clearly he, in
the damp cold tent, could see her kind looks as she pushed up her
spectacles and beamed on her husband; how distinctly, in the still dim
dawn, he heard her soothing tones!

It was that evening’s talk which had sent Harry, so young, to the front.
Three village boys, little older than he, had already contrived to
enlist. Every time he saw the Flag drooping, he thought shame of
himself to be absent from the ranks of its upholders; and now, just as
he was believing himself big and old enough to serve, he conceived that
duty to his parents distinctly enjoined him to go. So in the night,
without leave-taking or consent of his parents, he departed. The
combined Federal, State, and city bounties offered at Philadelphia
amounted to nine hundred dollars cash that dreadful winter before
Richmond fell, and Harry sent the money home triumphantly in time to pay
his father’s notes and save the store.

While the young soldier thought it all over, carbine and sabre came out
more and more distinctly outlined above the mud-plastered fireplace.
The drizzle had ceased, the drip into the trench was almost finished,
intense stillness ruled; Harry half expected to hear cocks crow from out
such silence.

Listening for them, his dreamy mind brooded over both hosts, in a vision
even as wide as the vast spread of the Republic in which they lay as two
huddles of miserable men. For what were they all about him this woful,
wet night? they all fain, as he, for home and industry and comfort.
What delusion held them? How could it be that they could not all march
away and separate, and the cruel war be over? Harry caught his breath
at the idea,—it seemed so natural, simple, easy, and good a solution.
Becoming absorbed in the fancy, tired of listening, and soothed by the
silence, he was falling asleep as he sat, when a heavy weight seemed to
fall, far away. Another—another—the fourth had the rumble of distant
thunder, and seemed followed by a concussion of the air.

“Hey—Big Guns! What’s up toward City Point?” cried Bader, sitting up.
“I tell you they’re at it. It can’t be so far away as Butler. What? On
the left too! That was toward Hatcher’s Run! Harry, the rebs are out
in earnest! I guess you did hear the pickets trying to stop ’em. What
a morning! Ha—Fort Hell! see that!”

The outside world was dimly lighted up for a moment. In the intensified
darkness that followed Bader’s voice was drowned by the crash of a great
gun from the neighboring fort. _Flash, crash—flash, crash—flash, crash_
succeeded rapidly. Then the intervals of Fort Hell’s fire lengthened to
the regular periods for loading, and between her roars were heard the
sullen boom of more distant guns, while through all the tumult ran a
fierce undertone,—the infernal hurrying of musketry along the immediate
front.

“The Johnnies must have got in close somehow,” cried Bader. “Hey,
Sergeant?”

“Yes,” shouted Gravely. “Scooped up the pickets and supports too in the
rain, I guess. Turn out, boys, turn out! there’ll be a wild day. Kid!
Where’s the Kid? Kid Sylvester!”

“Here! All right, Barney; I’ll be out in two shakes,” shouted the
bugler.

“Hurry, then! I can hear the Colonel shouting already. Man, listen to
that!”—as four of Fort Hell’s guns crashed almost simultaneously.
“Brownie! Greasy Cook! O Brownie!”

“Here!” shouted the cook.

“Get your fire started right away, and see what salt horse and biscuit
you can scare up. Maybe we’ll have time for a snack.”

“Turn out, Company K!” shouted Lieutenant Bradley, running down from the
officers’ quarters. “Where’s the commissary sergeant? There?—all
right—give out feed right away! Get your oats, men, and feed instantly!
We may have time. Hullo! here’s the General’s orderly.”

As the trooper galloped, in a mud-storm, across the parade ground, a
group of officers ran out behind the Colonel from the screen of pine
saplings about Regimental Headquarters. The orderly gave the Colonel
but a word, and, wheeling, was off again as “Boot and saddle” blared
from the buglers, who had now assembled on parade.

“But leave the bits out—let your horses feed!” cried the Lieutenant,
running down again. “We’re not to march till further orders.”

Beyond the screen of pines Harry could see the tall canvas ridges of the
officers’ cabins lighted up. Now all the tents of the regiment, row
behind row, were faintly luminous, and the renewed drizzle of the dawn
was a little lightened in every direction by the canvas-hidden candles
of infantry regiments, the glare of numerous fires already started, and
sparks showering up from the cook-houses of company after company.

Soon in the cloudy sky the cannonade rolled about in broad day, which
was still so gray that long wide flashes of flame could be seen to
spring far out before every report from the guns of Fort Hell, and in
the haze but few of the rebel shells shrieking along their high curve
could be clearly seen bursting over Hancock’s cheering men.
Indistinguishably blent were the sounds of hosts on the move, field-guns
pounding to the front, troops shouting, the clink and rattle of metal,
officers calling, bugles blaring, drums rolling, mules screaming,—all
heard as a running accompaniment to the cannon heavily punctuating the
multitudinous din.

“Fwat sinse in the ould man bodderin’ us?” grumbled Corporal Kennedy, a
tall Fenian dragoon from the British army. “Sure, ain’t it as plain as
the sun—and faith the same’s not plain this dirthy mornin’—that there’s
no work for cavalry the day, barrin’ it’s escortin’ the doughboys’
prisoners, if they take any?—bad ’cess to the job. Sure it’s an
infantry fight, and must be, wid the field-guns helpin’, and the siege
pieces boomin’ away over the throops in the mud betwigst our own
breastworks and the inner line of our forts.”

“Oh, by this and by that,” the corporal grumbled on, “ould Lee’s not the
gintleman I tuk him for at all, at all,—discomfortin’ us in the
rain,—and yesterday an illigant day for fightin’. Couldn’t he wait,
like the dacint ould boy he’s reported, for a dhry mornin’, instead av
turnin’ his byes out in the shlush and destroyin’ me chanst av
breakfast? It’s spring chickens I’d ordhered.”

“You may get up to spring-chicken country soon, now,” said Bader. “I’m
thinking this is near the end; it’s the last assault that Lee will ever
deliver.”

“Faith, I dunno,” said the corporal; “that’s what we’ve been saying
sinst last fall, but the shtay of them Johnnies bates Banagher and the
prophets. Hoo—ow! by the powers! did you hear them yell? Fwat? The
saints be wid us! who’d ’a’ thought it possible? Byes! Bader! Harry!
luk at the Johnnies swarmin’ up the face of Hell!”

Off there Harry could dimly see, rising over the near horizon made by
tents, a straggling rush of men up the steep slope, while the rebel yell
came shrill from a multitude behind on the level ground that was hidden
from the place occupied by the cavalry regiment. In the next moment the
force mounting Fort Hell’s slope fell away, some lying where shot down,
some rolling, some running and stumbling in heaps; then a tremendous
musketry and field-gun fire growled to and fro under the heavy smoke
round and about and out in front of the embrasures, which had never
ceased their regular discharge over the heads of the fort’s defenders
and immediate assailants.

Suddenly Harry noted a slackening of the battle; it gradually but soon
dropped away to nothing, and now no sound of small-arms in any direction
was heard in the lengthening intervals of reports from the siege pieces
far and near.

“And so that’s the end of it,” said Kennedy. “Sure it was hot work for a
while! Faix, I thought onct the doughboys was nappin’ too long, and
ould Hell would be bullyin’ away at ourselves. Now, thin, can we have a
bite in paice? I’ll shtart wid a few sausages, Brownie, and you may
send in the shpring chickens wid some oyshters the second coorse. No!
Oh, by the powers, ’t is too mane to lose a breakfast like that!” and
Corporal Kennedy shook his fist at the group of buglers calling the
regiment to parade.

In ten minutes the Fifty-third had formed in column of companies. “Old
Jimmy,” their Colonel, had galloped down at them and once along their
front; then the command, forming fours from the right front, moved off
at a trot through the mud in long procession.

“Didn’t I know it?” said Kennedy; “it’s escortin’ the doughboys’
prisoners, that’s all we’re good for this outrageous day. Oh, wirra,
wirrasthru! Police duty! and this calls itself a cavalry rigiment.
Mounted Police duty,—escortin’ doughboys’ prisoners! Faix, I might as
well be wid Her Majesty’s dhragoons, thramplin’ down the flesh and blood
of me in poor ould Oireland. Begor, Harry, me bhy, it’s a mane job to
be setting you at, and this the first day ye’re mounted to save the
Union!”

“Stop coddin’ the boy, Corporal,” said Bader, angrily. “You can’t think
how an American boy feels about this war.”

“An Amerikin!—an Amerikin, is it? Let me insthruct ye thin, Misther
Bader, that I’m as good an Amerikin as the next man. Och, be jabers, me
that’s been in the color you see ever since the Prisident first called
for men! It was for a three months’ dance he axed us first. Me, that’s
re-enlishted twice, don’t know the feelin’s of an Amerikin! What am I
here for? Not poverty! sure I’d enough of that before ever I seen
Ameriky! What am I wallopin’ through the mud for this mornin’?”

“It’s your trade, Kennedy,” said Bader, with disgust.

“Be damned to you, man!” said the corporal, sternly. “When I touched
fut in New York, didn’t I swear that I’d never dhraw swoord more,
barrin’ it was agin the ould red tyrant and oprissor of me counthry?
Wasn’t I glad to be dhrivin’ me own hack next year in Philamedink like a
gintleman? Oh, the paice and the indipindence of it! But what cud I do
when the counthry that tuk me and was good to me wanted an ould
dhragoon? An Amerikin, ye say! Faith, the heart of me is Amerikin, if
I’m a bog throtter by the tongue. Mind that now, me bould man!”

Harry heard without heeding as the horses spattered on. Still wavered
in his ears the sounds of the dawn; still he saw the ghostlike forms of
Americans in gray tumbling back from their rush against the sacred flag
that had drooped so sadly over the smoke; and still, far away beyond all
this puddled and cumbered ground the dreamy boy saw millions of white
American faces, all haggard for news of the armies—some looking South,
some North, yearning for the Peace that had so long ago been the boon of
the Nation.

Now the regiment was upon the red clay of the dead fight, and brought to
halt in open columns. After a little they moved off again in fours,
and, dropping into single file, surrounded some thousands of disarmed
men, the remnant of the desperate brigades that Lee had flung through
the night across three lines of breastworks at the great fort they had
so nearly stormed. Poor drenched, shivering Johnnies! there they stood,
not a few of them in blue overcoats, but mostly in butternut, generally
tattered; some barefoot, some with feet bound in ragged sections of
blanket, many with toes and skin showing through crazy boots lashed on
with strips of cotton or with cord; many stoutly on foot, streaming
blood from head wounds.

Some lay groaning in the mud, while their comrades helped Union surgeons
to bind or amputate. Here and there groups huddled together in earnest
talk, or listened to comrades gesticulating and storming as they
recounted incidents of the long charge. But far the greater number
faced outward, at gaze upon the cavalry guard, and, silently munching
thick flat cakes of corn-bread, stared into the faces of the horsemen.
Harry Wallbridge, brought to the halt, faced half round in the saddle,
and looked with quick beatings of pity far and wide over the disorderly
crowd of weather-worn men.

“It’s a Louisiana brigade,” said Bader.

“Fifty-three, P.V.V.C.,” spoke a prisoner, as if in reply, reading the
letters about the little crossed brass sabres on the Union hats. “Say,
you men from Pennsylvany?”

“Yes, Johnny; we come down to wake up Dixie.”

“I reckon we got the start at wakin’ you this mornin’,” drawled the
Southerner. “But say,—there’s one of our boys lyin’ dyin’ over yonder;
his folks lives in Pennsylvany. Mebbe some of you ’ud know ’em.”

“What’s his name?” asked Bader,

“Wallbridge—Johnny Wallbridge.”

“Why, Harry—hold on!—you ain’t the only Wallbridges there is. What’s
up?” cried Bader, as the boy half reeled, half clambered from his
saddle.

“Hold on, Harry!” cried Corporal Kennedy.

“Halt there, Wallbridge!” shouted Sergeant Gravely.

“Stop that man!” roared Lieutenant Bradley.

But, calling, “He’s my brother!” Harry, catching up his sabre as he ran,
followed the Southerner, who had instantly divined the situation. The
forlorn prisoners made ready way for them, and closing in behind,
stretched in solid array about the scene.

“It’s not Jack,” said the boy; but something in the look of the dying
man drew him on to kneel in the mud. “Is it _you_, Jack? Oh, now I
know you! Jack, I’m Harry! don’t you know me? I’m Harry—your brother
Harry.”

The Southern soldier stared rigidly at the boy, seeming to grow paler
with the recollections that he struggled for.

“_What’s_ your name?” he asked very faintly.

“Harry Wallbridge—I’m your brother.”

“Harry Wallbridge! Why, I’m _John_ Wallbridge. Did you say Harry?
_Not Harry!_” he shrieked hoarsely. “No; Harry’s only a little fellow!”
He paused, and looked meditatively into the boy’s eyes. “It’s nearly
five years I’ve been gone,—he was near twelve then. Boys,” lifting his
head painfully and casting his look slowly round upon his comrades, “I
know him by the eyes; yes, he’s my brother! Let me speak to him
alone—stand back a bit,” and at once the men pushed backward into the
form of a wide circle.

“Put down your head, Harry. Kiss me! Kiss me again!—how’s mother? Ah,
I was afraid she might be dead—don’t tell her I’m dead, Harry.” He
groaned with the pain of the groin wound. “Closer, Harry; I’ve got to
tell you this first—maybe it’s all I’ve time to tell. Say, Harry,”—he
began to gasp,—”they didn’t ought to have killed me, the Union soldiers
didn’t. I never fired—high enough—all these years. They drafted me,
Harry—tell mother that—down in New Orleans—and I—couldn’t get away.
Ai—ai! how it hurts! I must die soon’s I can tell you. I wanted to
come home—and help father—how’s poor father, Harry? Doing well now?
Oh, I’m glad of that—and the baby? there’s a new baby! Ah, yes, I’ll
never see it, Harry.”

His eyes closed, the pain seemed to leave him, and he lay almost smiling
happily as his brother’s tears fell on his muddy and blood-clotted face.
As if from a trance his eyes opened, and he spoke anxiously but calmly.

“You’ll be sure to tell them I was drafted—conscripted, you understand.
And I never fired at any of us—of you—tell all the boys _that_.” Again
the flame of life went down, and again flickered up in pain.

“Harry—you’ll stay by father—and help him, won’t you? This cruel war—is
almost over. Don’t cry. Kiss me. Say—do you remember—the old times we
had—fishing? Kiss me again, Harry—brother in blue—you’re on—my side. Oh
I wish—I had time—to tell you. Come close—put your arms around—my
neck—it’s old times—again.” And now the wound tortured him for a while
beyond speech. “You’re with me, aren’t you, Harry?

“Well, there’s this,” he gasped on, “about my chums—they’ve been as good
and kind—marching, us all wet and cold together—and it wasn’t their
fault. If they had known—how I wanted—to be shot—for the Union! It was
so hard—to be—on the wrong side! But—”

He lifted his head and stared wildly at his brother, screamed rapidly,
as if summoning all his life for the effort to explain, “Drafted,
_drafted, drafted_—Harry, tell mother and father that. I was _drafted_.
O God, O God, what suffering! Both sides—I was on both sides all the
time. I loved them all, North and South, all,—but the Union most. O
God, it was so hard!”

His head fell back, his eyes closed, and Harry thought it was the end.
But once more Jack opened his blue eyes, and slowly said in a steady,
clear, anxious voice, “Mind you tell them I never fired high enough!”
Then he lay still in Harry’s arms, breathing fainter and fainter till no
motion was on his lips, nor in his heart, nor any tremor in the hands
that lay in the hand of his brother in blue.

“Come, Harry,” said Bader, stooping tenderly to the boy, “the order is
to march. He’s past helping now. It’s no use; you must leave him here
to God. Come, boy, the head of the column is moving already.”

Mounting his horse, Harry looked across to Jack’s form. For the first
time in two years the famous Louisiana brigade trudged on without their
unwilling comrade. There he lay, alone, in the Union lines, under the
rain, his marching done, a figure of eternal peace; while Harry, looking
backward till he could no longer distinguish his brother from the clay
of the field, rode dumbly on and on beside the downcast procession of
men in gray.

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