Stories by American Authors, Volume 8
Author: Various
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He went back into the hut. Scip called, and he hurried in. The nurse and the plague, like two living combatants, met in the miserable place and battled for the negro.

The white Southern stars blazed out. How clean they looked! Zerviah could see them through the window, where the wooden shutter had flapped back. They looked well and wholesome—holy, he thought. He remembered to have heard some one say, at a Sunday meeting he happened into once, years ago, that the word holiness meant health. He wondered what it would be like, to be holy. He wondered what kinds of people would be holy people, say, after a man was dead. Women, he thought,—good women, and honest men who had never done a deadly deed.

He occupied his thoughts in this way. He looked often from the cold stars to the warm lights throbbing in the town. They were both company to him. He began to feel less alone. There was a special service called somewhere in the city that night, to read the prayers for the sick and dying. The wind rose feebly, and bore the sound of the church-bells to the hut. There was a great deal of company, too, in the bells. He remembered that it was Sunday night.

* * * * *

It was Monday, but no one came. It was Tuesday, but the nurse and the plague still battled alone together over the negro. Zerviah's stock of remedies was as ample as his skill. He had thought he should save Scip. He worked without sleep, and the food was not clean. He lavished himself like a lover over this black boatman; he leaned like a mother over this man who had betrayed him.

But on Tuesday night, a little before midnight, Scip rose, struggling on his wretched bed, and held up his hands and cried out:

"Mr. Hope! Mr. Hope! I never done mean to harm ye!"

"You have not harmed me," said Zerviah, solemnly. "Nobody ever harmed me but myself. Don't mind me, Scip."

Scip put up his feeble hand; Zerviah took it; Scip spoke no more. The nurse held the negro's hand a long time; the lamp went out; they sat on in the dark. Through the flapping wooden shutter the stars looked in.

Suddenly, Zerviah perceived that Scip's hand was quite cold.

* * * * *

He carried him out by starlight, and buried him under the palmetto. It was hard work digging alone. He could not make a very deep grave, and he had no coffin. When the earth was stamped down, he felt extremely weary and weak. He fell down beside his shovel and pick to rest, and lay there in the night till he felt stronger. It was damp and dark. Shadows like clouds hung over the distant outline of the swamp.

The Sunday bells in the town had ceased. There were no sounds but the cries of a few lonely birds and wild creatures of the night, whose names he did not know. This little fact added to his sense of solitude.

He thought at first he would get up and walk back to the city in the dark. An intense and passionate longing seized him to be among living men. He took a few steps down the road. The unwholesome dust blew up through the dark against his face. He found himself so tired that he concluded to go back to the hut. He would sleep, and start in the morning with the break of the dawn. He should be glad to see the faces of his kind again, even though the stir of welcome and the light of trust were gone out of them for him. They lived, they breathed, they spoke. He was tired of death and solitude.

He groped back into the hut. The oil was low, and he could not relight the lamp. He threw himself in the dark upon his bed.

He slept until late in the morning, heavily. When he waked, the birds were shrill in the hot air, and the sun glared in.

"I will go now," he said, aloud. "I am glad I can go," and crept to his feet.

He took two steps—staggered—and fell back. He lay for some moments, stricken more with astonishment than alarm. His first words were:

"Lord God! After all—after all I've gone through—Lord God Almighty, if You'll believe it—I've got it!"

This was on Wednesday morning. Night fell, but no one came. Thursday—but outside the hut no step stirred the parched, white dust. Friday—Saturday—no voice but his own moaning broke upon the sick man's straining ear.

His professional experience gave him an excruciating foresight of his symptoms, and their result presented itself to him with horrible distinctness. As one by one he passed through the familiar conditions whose phases he had watched in other men a hundred times, he would have given his life for a temporary ignorance. His trained imagination had little mercy on him. He weighed his chances, and watched his fate with the sad exactness of knowledge.

As the days passed, and no one came to him, he was aware of not being able to reason with himself clearly about his solitude. Growing weak, he remembered the averted faces of the people for whom he had labored, and whom he had loved. In the stress of his pain their estranged eyes gazed at him. He felt that he was deserted because he was distrusted. Patient as he was, this seemed hard.

"They did not care enough for me to miss me," he said, aloud, gently. "I suppose I was not worth it. I had been in prison. I was a wicked man. I must not blame them."

And again:

"They would have come if they had known. They would not have let me die alone. I don't think she would have done that. I wonder where she is? Nobody has missed me—that is all. I must not mind."

Growing weaker, he thought less and prayed more. He prayed, at last, almost all his time. When he did not pray, he slept. When he could not sleep, he prayed. He addressed God with that sublime familiarity of his, which fell from his lips with no more irreverence than the kiss of a child falling upon its mother's hand or neck.

The murderer, the felon, the outcast, talked with the Almighty Holiness, as a man talketh with his friends. The deserted, distrusted, dying creature believed himself to be trusted by the Being who had bestowed on him the awful gift of life.

"Lord," he said, softly, "I guess I can bear it. I'd like to see somebody—but I'll make out to get along.... Lord! I'm pretty weak. I know all about these spasms. You get delirious next thing, you know. Then you either get better or you never do. It'll be decided by Sunday night. Lord! Dear Lord!" he added, with a tender pause, "don't You forget me! I hope You'll miss me enough to hunt me up."

It grew dark early on Saturday night. The sun sank under a thin, deceptive web of cloud. The shadow beneath the palmetto grew long over Scip's fresh grave. The stars were dim and few. The wind rose, and the lights in the city, where watchers wept over their sick, trembled on the frail breeze, and seemed to be multiplied, like objects seen through tears.

Through the wooden shutter, Zerviah could see the lights, and the lonely palmetto, and the grave. He could see those few cold stars.

He thought, while his thoughts remained his own, most tenderly and longingly of those for whom he had given his life. He remembered how many keen cares of their own they had to carry, how many ghastly deeds and sights to do and bear. It was not strange that he should not be missed. Who was he?—a disgraced, unfamiliar man, among their kin and neighborhood. Why should they think of him? he said.

Yet he was glad that he could remember them. He wished his living or his dying could help them any. Things that his patients had said to him, looks that healing eyes had turned on him, little signs of human love and leaning, came back to him as he lay there, and stood around his bed, like people, in the dark hut.

"They loved me," he said: "Lord, as true as I'm alive, they did! I'm glad I lived long enough to save life, to save life! I'm much obliged to You for that! I wish there was something else I could do for them.... Lord! I'd be willing to die if it would help them any. If I thought I could do anything that way, toward sending them a frost—

"No," he added, "that ain't reasonable. A frost and a human life ain't convertible coin. He don't do unreasonable things. May be I've lost my head already. But I'd be glad to. That's all. I suppose I can ask You for a frost. That's reason.

"Lord God of earth and heaven! that made the South and North, the pestilence and destruction, the sick and well, the living and the dead, have mercy on us miserable sinners! Have mercy on the folks that pray to You, and on the folks that don't! Remember the old graves, and the new ones, and the graves that are to be opened if this hellish heat goes on, and send us a blessed frost, O Lord, as an act of humanity! And if that ain't the way to speak to You, remember I haven't been a praying man long enough to learn the language very well,—and that I'm pretty sick,—but that I would be glad to die—to give them—a great, white, holy frost. Lord, a frost! Lord, a cool, white, clean frost, for these poor devils that have borne so much!"

At midnight of that Saturday he dozed and dreamed. He dreamed of what he had thought while Scip was sick: of what it was like, to be holy; and, sadly waking, thought of holy people—good women and honest men, who had never done a deadly deed.

"I cannot be holy," thought Zerviah Hope; "but I can pray for frost." So he tried to pray for frost. But by that time he had grown confused, and his will wandered pitifully, and he saw strange sights in the little hut. It was as if he were not alone. Yet no one had come in. She could not come at midnight. Strange—how strange! Who was that who walked about the hut? Who stood and looked at him? Who leaned to him? Who brooded over him? Who put arms beneath him? Who looked at him, as those look who love the sick too much to shrink from them?

"I don't know You," said Zerviah, in a distinct voice. Presently he smiled. "Yes, I guess I do. I see now. I'm not used to You. I never saw You before. You are Him I've heered about—God's Son! God's Son, You've taken a great deal of trouble to come here after me. Nobody else came. You're the only one that has remembered me. You're very good to me.

"... Yes, I remember. They made a prisoner of You. Why, yes! They deserted You. They let You die by Yourself. What did You do it for? I don't know much about theology. I am not an educated man. I never prayed till I come South.... I forget—What did You do it for?"

A profound and solemn silence replied.

"Well," said the sick man, breaking it in a satisfied tone, as if he had been answered, "I wasn't worth it ... but I'm glad You came. I wish they had a frost, poor things! You won't go away? Well, I'm glad. Poor things! Poor things! I'll take Your hand, if You've no objections."

After a little time, he added, in a tone of unutterable tenderness and content:

"Dear Lord!" and said no more.

It was a quiet night. The stars rode on as if there were no task but the tasks of stars in all the universe, and no sorrow keener than their sorrow, and no care other than their motion and their shining. The web of cloud floated like exhaling breath between them and the earth. It grew cooler before the dawn. The leaves of the palmetto over Scip's grave seemed to uncurl, and grow lax, and soften. The dust still flew heavily, but the wind rose.

The Sunday-bells rang peacefully. The sick heard them, and the convalescent and the well. The dying listened to them before they left. On the faces of the dead, too, there came the look of those who hear.

The bells tolled, too, that Sunday. They tolled almost all the afternoon. The young Northerner, Dr. Remane, was gone,—a reticent, brave young man,—and the heroic telegraph operator. Saturday night they buried her. Sunday, "Bobby" took her place at the wires, and spelled out, with shaking fingers, the cries of Calhoun to the wide, well world.

By sunset, all the bells had done ringing and done tolling. There was a clear sky, with cool colors. It seemed almost cold about Scip's hut. The palmetto lifted its faint head. The dust slept. It was not yet dark when a little party from the city rode up, searching for the dreary place. They had ridden fast. Dr. Frank was with them, and the lady, Marian Dare. She rode at their head. She hurried nervously on. She was pale, and still weak. The chairman of the Relief Committee was with her, and the sub-committee and others.

Dr. Dare pushed on through the swinging door of the hut. She entered alone. They saw the backward motion of her gray-sleeved wrist, and came no farther, but removed their hats and stood. She knelt beside the bed, and put her hand upon his eyes. God is good, after all. Let us hope that they knew her before they closed.

She came out, and tried to tell about it, but broke down, and sobbed before them all.

"It's a martyr's death," said the chief, and added solemnly, "Let us pray."

He knelt, and the others with him, between the buried negro and the unburied nurse, and thanked God for the knowledge and the recollection of the holy life which this man had lived among them in their hour of need.

* * * * *

They buried him, as they must, and hurried homeward to their living, comforting one another for his memory as they could.

As for him, he rested, after her hand had fallen on his eyes. He who had known so deeply the starvation of sleeplessness, slept well that night.

In the morning, when they all awoke, these of the sorrowing city here, and those of the happy city yonder; when they took up life again with its returning sunrise,—the sick and the well, the free and the fettered, the living and the dead,—the frost lay, cool, white, blessed, on his grave.



Putnam's Magazine, August, 1870.

There was something about the wholesome sleepiness of Freiberg, in Saxony, that fitted well with the lazy nature of Ronald Wyde. So, having run down there to spend a day or two among the students and the mines, and taking a liking to the quaint, unmodernized town, he bodily changed his plans of autumn-travel, gave up a cherished scheme of Russian vagabondage, had his baggage sent from Dresden, and made ready to settle down and drowse away three or four months in idleness and not over-arduous study. And this move of his led to the happening of a very strange and seemingly unreal event in his life.

Ronald Wyde was then about twenty-five or six years old, rather above the medium height, with thick blue-black hair that he had an artist-trick of allowing to ripple down to his neck, dark hazel eyes that were almost too deeply recessed in their bony orbits, and a troublesome growth of beard that, close-shaven as he always was, showed in strong blue outline through the thin and rather sallow skin. His address was singularly pleasing, and his wide experience of life, taught him by years of varied travel, made him a good deal of a cosmopolitan in his views and ways, which caused him to be looked upon as a not over-safe companion for young men of his own age or under.

Having made up his mind to winter in Freiberg, his first step was to quit the little hotel, with its mouldy stone-vaulted entrance and its columned dining-room, under whose full-centered arches close beery and smoky fumes lingered persistently, and seek quieter student-lodgings in the heart of the town. His choice was mainly influenced by a thin-railed balcony, twined through and through by the shoots of a vigorous Virginia creeper, that flamed and flickered in the breezy October sunsets in strong relief against the curtains that drifted whitely out and in through the open window. So, with the steady-going and hale old Frau Spritzkrapfen he took up his quarters, fully persuading himself that he did so for the sake of the stray home-breaths that seemed to stir the scarlet vine-leaves more gently for him, and ignoring pretty Lottchen's great, earnest Saxon eyes as best he could.

A sunny morning followed his removal to Frau Spritzkrapfen's tidy home. There had been a slight rain in the early night, and the footways were yet bright and moist in patches that the slanting morning rays were slowly coaxing away. Ronald Wyde, having set his favorite books handily on the dimity-draped table, which comprised for him the process of getting to rights, and having given more than one glance of amused wonderment at the naive blue-and-white scriptural tiles that cased his cumbrous four-story earthenware stove, and smiled lazily at poor Adam's obvious and sudden indigestion, even while the uneaten half-apple remained in his guilty hand, he stepped out on his balcony, leaned his elbows among the crimson leaves, and took in the healthful morning air in great draughts. It was a Sunday; the bells of the gray minster hard by were iterating their clanging calls to the simple townsfolk to come and be droned to in sleepy German gutturals from the carved, pillar-hung pulpit inside. Looking down, he saw thick-ankled women cluttering past in loose wooden-soled shoes, and dumpy girls with tow-braids primly dangling to their hips, convoying sturdy Dutch-built luggers of younger brothers up the easy slope that led to the church and the bells. Presently Frau Spritzkrapfen and dainty Lottchen, rosy with soap and health, slipped through the doorway beneath him out into the little church-bound throng, and, as they disappeared, left the house and street somehow unaccountably alone. Feeling this, Ronald Wyde determined on a stroll.

Something in the Sabbath stillness around him led Ronald away from the swift clang and throbbing hum of the bells and in the direction of the old cemetery. Passing through the clumsy tower-gate that lifts its grimy bulk sullenly, like a huge head-stone over the grave of a dead time of feudalism, he reached the burial-ground and entered the quiet enclosure. The usual touching reverence of the Germans for their dead was strikingly manifest around him. The humbler mounds, walled up with rough stones a foot or two above the pathway level, carried on their crests little gardens of gay and inexpensive plants; while on the tall wooden crosses at their head hung yellow wreaths, half hiding the hopeful legend, "Wiedersehen." The more pretentious slabs bore vases filled with fresh flowers; while in the grate-barred vaults, that skirted the ground like the arches of a cloister, lay rusty heaps of long-since mouldered bloom, topped by newer wreaths tossed lovingly in to wilt and turn to dust in their turn, like those cast in before them in memory of that other dust asleep below.

Turning aside from the central walk that halved the cemetery, Ronald strolled along, his hands in his pockets, his eyes listlessly fixed on the orange-colored fumes and rolling smoke that welled out of tall chimneys in the hollow beyond, an idle student-tune humming on his lips, and his thoughts nowhere, and everywhere, at once. Happening to look away from the dun smoke-trail for an instant, he found something of greater interest close at hand. An old man stooped stiffly over a simple mound, busied among the flowers that hid it, and by his side crouched a young girl, perhaps fourteen years old, who peered up at Ronald with questioning, velvet-brown eyes. The old man heard the intruder's steps crunching in the damp gravel, and slowly looked up too.

"Good morning, mein Herr," said Ronald, pleasantly.

The old man remained for an instant blinking nervously, and shading his eyes from the full sunlight that fell on his face. A quiet face it was, and very old, seamed and creased by mazy wrinkles that played at aimless cross-purposes with each other, beginning and ending nowhere. His thick beard and thin, curved nose looked just a little Jewish, and seemed at variance with his pale blue eyes that were still bright in spite of age. And yet, bearded as he was, there was a lurking expression about his features that bordered upon effeminacy, and made the treble of his voice sound even more thin and womanish as he answered Wyde's greeting.

"Good morning, too, mein Herr. A stranger to our town, I see."

"Yes; but soon not to be called one, I hope. I am here for the winter."

"A cold season—a cold season; our northern winters are very chilling to an old man's blood." And slouching together into a tired stoop, he resumed his simple task of knotting a few flowers into a clumsy nosegay. Ronald stood and watched him with a vague interest. Presently, the flowers being clumped to his liking, the old man pried himself upright by getting a good purchase with his left hand in the small of his back, and so deliberately that Ronald almost fancied he heard him creak. The girl rose too, and drew her thin shawl over her shoulders.

"You Germans love longer than we," said Ronald, glancing at the flowers that trembled in the old man's bony fingers, and then downwards to the quiet grave; "a lifetime of easy-going love and a year or two of easier-forgetting are enough for us."

"Should I forget my own flesh and blood?" asked the old man, simply.

Ronald paused a moment, and, pointing downwards, said:

"Your daughter, then, I fancy?"


"Long dead?"

"Very long; more than fifty years."

Ronald stared, but said nothing audibly. Inwardly he whispered something about being devilish glad to make the wandering Jew's acquaintance, rattled the loose groeschen in his pocket, and turned to follow the tottering old man and firm-footed child down the walk. After a dozen paces they halted before a more ambitious tombstone, on which Ronald could make out the well-remembered name of Plattner. The child took the flowers and laid them reverently on the stone.

"It seems to me almost like arriving at the end of a pilgrimage," said Ronald, "when I stand by the grave of a man of science. Perhaps you knew him, mein Herr?"

"He was my pupil."

"Whew!" thought Ronald, "that makes my friend here a centenarian at least."

"My pupil and friend," the feeble voice went on; "and, more than that, my daughter's first lover, and only one."

"Ach so!" drawled Ronald.

"And now, on her death-day, I take these poor flowers from her to him, as I have done all these years."

Something in the pathetic earnestness of his companion touched Ronald Wyde, and he forthwith took his hands out of his pockets, and didn't try to whistle inaudibly—which was a great deal for him to do.

"I know Plattner well by his works," he said; "I once studied mineralogy for nearly a month."

"You love science, then?"

"Yes; like every thing else, for diversion."

"It was different with him," quavered the old man, pointing unsteadily to the head-stone. "Science grew to be his one passion, and many discoveries rewarded him for his devotion. He was groping on the track of a far greater achievement when he died."

"May I ask what it was?" said Ronald, now fairly interested.

"The creation and isolation of the principle of Life!"

This was too much for Ronald Wyde; down dived his restless hands into his trowsers' pockets again, and the groeschen rattled as merrily as before.

"I have made quite a study of biology, and all that sort of thing," said he; "and, although a good deal of a skeptic, and inclined to follow Huxley, I can't bring myself to conceive of life without organism. Such theorizing is, to my mind, on a par with the illogical search for the philosopher's stone and a perpetual motor."

The old man's eyes sparkled as he turned full upon Ronald.

"You dismiss the subject very airily, my young friend," he cried; "but let me tell you that I—I, whom you see here—have grappled with such problems through a weary century, and have conquered one of them."

"And that one is—"

"The one that conquered Plattner!"

"Do I understand you to claim that you have discovered the life-principle?"


"Will you permit an utter stranger to inquire what is its nature?"

"Certainly. It is twofold. The ultimate principle of life is carbon; the cause of its combination with water, or rather with the two gaseous elements of water, and the development of organized existence therefrom, is electricity."

Ronald Wyde shrugged his broad shoulders a little, and absently replied,

"All I can say, mein Herr, is, that you've got the bulge on me."

"I beg your pardon—"

"Excuse me; I unconsciously translated an Americanism. I mean that I don't quite understand you."

"Which means that you do not believe me. It is but natural at your age, when one doubts as if by instinct. Would you be convinced?"

"Nothing would please me better."

With the same painful effort as before, the old man straightened himself and made a piercing clairvoyant examination into and through Ronald Wyde's eyes, as if reading the brain beyond them.

"I think I can trust you," he mumbled at last. "Come with me."

Leaning on the young girl's arm, the old philosopher faltered through the cemetery and into the town, followed by Wyde, his hands again pocketed for safety. Groups of released church-goers, sermon-fed, met them, and once in a while some stout burgher would nod patronizingly to Ronald's guides, and get in response a shaky, sidelong roll of the old man's head, as if it were mounted on a weak spiral spring. Further on they intersected a knot of students, who eyed them askance and exchanged remarks in an undertone. Keeping on deeper into the foul heart of the town, they passed through swarms of idle children playing sportlessly, as poverty is apt to play, in the dank shadows of the narrow street. They seemed incited to mirth and ribaldry by the sight of Ronald's new friend, and one even ventured to hurl a clod at him; but this striking Ronald instead, and he facing promptly to the hostile quarter from whence it came, caused a sudden slinking of the crowd into unknown holes, like a horde of rats, and the street was for a time empty save for the little party that threaded it. Ronald began to think that the old man's sanity was gravely called in doubt by the townsfolk, and would readily have backed out of his adventure but for the curiosity that had now got the upper hand of him.

Presently the old man sidled into a dingy doorway, like a tired beast run to earth, and Ronald followed him, not without a wish that the architect had provided for a more efficient lighting of the sombre passage-way in which he found himself. A sharp turn to the right after a dozen groping-paces, a narrow stairway, a bump or two against unexpected saliences of rough mortared wall, two steps upward and one very surprising step downward through a cavernous doorway that took away Ronald's breath for a moment, and sent it back again with a hot, creeping wave of sudden perspiration all over him, as is the way with missteps, and two more sharp turns, brought the three into a black no-thoroughfare of a hall, whose further end was closed by a locked door. The girl here rubbed a brimstone abomination of a match into a mal-odorous green glow, and by its help the old man got a tortuous key into the snaky opening in the great lock, creakily shot back its bolt, swung open the door, and motioned Ronald to enter.

He found himself in a long and rather narrow room, with a high ceiling, duskily lighted by three wide windows that were thickly webbed and dusted, like ancestral bottles of fine crusty Port. A veritable den it was, filled with what seemed to be the wrecks of philosophical apparatus dating back two or three generations—ill-fated ventures on the treacherous main of science. Here a fat-bellied alembic lolled lazily over in a gleamy sand-bath, like a beach-lost galleon at ebb-tide; and there a heap of broken porcelain-tubing and shreds of crucibles lay like bleaching ship-ribs on a sullen shore. Beyond, by the middle window, stood a furnace, fireless, and clogged with gray ashes. Two or three solid old-time tables, built when joiners were more lavish of oaken timber than nowadays, stood hopelessly littered with retorts, filtering funnels, lamps, ringstands, and squat-beakers of delicate glass, caked with long-dried sediment, all alike dust-smirched. Ronald involuntarily sought for some huge Chaldaic tome, conveniently open at a favorite spell, or a handy crocodile or two dangling from the square beams overhead, but saw nothing more formidable than a stray volume of "Kant's Critique of Pure Reason." Taking this up and glancing at its fly-leaf, he saw a name written in spidery German script, almost illegible from its shakiness—"Max Lebensfunke."

"Your name?" he asked.

"Yes, mein Herr," answered the old man, taking the volume and caressing it like a live thing in his fumbling hands. "This book was given to me by the great Kant himself," he added.

Reverently replacing it, he advanced a few steps toward the middle of the room. Ronald followed, and, turning away from the windows, looked further around him. In striking contrast to the undisturbed disorder, so redolent of middle-age alchemy, was the big table that flanked the laboratory through its whole length. It began with a powerful galvanic battery, succeeded by a wiry labyrinth of coils and helices, with little keys in front of them like a telegraph-office retired from business; these gave place to many-necked jars wired together by twos and threes, like oath-bound patriots plotting treason; beyond them stood a great glass globe, connected with a sizable air-pump, and filled with a complexity of shiny wires and glassware; next loomed up a huge induction-magnet, carefully insulated on solid glass supports; and at the further extremity of the table lay—a corpse.

Ronald Wyde, in spite of his many-sided experience of dissection-rooms, and morgues, and other ghastlinesses to which he had long since accustomed himself from principle, drew back at the sight—perhaps because he had come to this strange place to clutch the world-old mystery of the life-essence, and found himself, instead, confronted on its threshold by the equal mystery of death.

Herr Lebensfunke smiled feebly at this movement.

"A subject received this morning from Berlin," he said, in answer to Wyde's look of inquiry. "A sad piece of extravagance, mein Herr—a luxury to which I can rarely afford to treat myself."

Ronald Wyde bent over the body and looked into its face. A rough, red face, that had seemingly seen forty years of low-lived dissipation. The blotched skin and bleary eyes told of debauchery and drunkenness, and a slight alcoholic foetidness was unpleasantly perceptible, as from the breath of one who sleeps away the effects of a carouse.

"I hope you don't think of restoring this soaked specimen to life?" said Ronald.

"That is still beyond me," answered the old man, mournfully. "As yet I have not created life of a higher grade than that of the lowest zoophytes."

"Do you claim to have done as much as that?"

"It is not an idle claim," said Herr Lebensfunke, solemnly. "Look at this, if you doubt."

"This" was the great crystal globe that rose from the middle of the long table, and dominated its lesser accessories, as some great dome swells above the clustered houses of a town. Tubes passing through its walls met in a smaller central globe half filled with a colorless liquid. Beneath this, and half encircling it, was an intricate maze of bright wire; and two other wires dipped into it, touching the surface of the liquid with their platinum tips. Within the liquid pulsed a shapeless mass of almost transparent spongy tissue.

"You see an aggregation of cells possessed of life—of a low order, it is true, but none the less life," said the philosopher, proudly. "These were created from water chemically pure, with the exception of a trace of ammonia, and impregnated with liquid carbon, by the combined action of heat and induced electricity, in vacuo. Look!"

He pressed one of the keys before him. Presently the wire began to glow with a faint light, which increased in intensity till the coil flamed into pure whiteness. Removing his finger, the current ceased to flow, and the wire grew rapidly cool.

"I passed the whole strength of sixty cups through it to show you its action. Ordinarily, with one or two carbon cells, and refining the current by triple induction, the temperature is barely blood-warm."

"Pardon an interruption," said Ronald. "You spoke of liquid carbon; does it exist?"

"Yes; here is some in this phial. See it—how pure, how transparent! how it loves and hoards the light!" The old man held the phial up as he spoke, and turned it round and round. "See how it flashes! No wonder, for it is the diamond, liquid and uncrystallized. Think how these fools of men have called diamonds precious above all gems through these many weary years, and showered them on their kings, or tossed them to their mistresses' feet, never dreaming that the silly stone they lauded was inert, crystallized life!"

"Can't you crystallize diamonds yourself?" asked Wyde, "and make Freiberg a Golconda and yourself a Croesus?"

"It could be done, after the lapse of thousands of years," replied Herr Lebensfunke. "Place undiluted liquid carbon in that inner globe, keep the coil at a white heat, and if Adam had started the process, his heir-at-law would have a koh-i-noor to-day, and a nice lawsuit for its possession."

Ronald Wyde bent toward the globe once more and examined the throbbing mass closely, whistling softly meanwhile.

"If you can create this cellular life, why not develop it still higher into an organism?"

"Because I can only create life—not soul. Years ago I was a freethinker, now my discoveries have made me a deist; for I found that my cells, living as they were, and possessing undoubted parietal circulation, were not germs; and though they might cluster into a bulk like this, as bubbles do to form froth, to evolve an animal or plant from them was far beyond me; that needs what we call soul. But, in searching blindly for this higher power, I grasped a greater discovery than any I had hoped for—the power to isolate life from its bodily organism."

"You have to keep the bottle carefully corked, I should imagine," laughed Ronald.

"Not quite," said Herr Lebensfunke, joining in the laugh. "Life is not glue. My grand discovery is the life-magnet."

"Which has the post of honor on your table here, has it not?" inquired Ronald, drawing his hand from his pocket and pointing to the insulated coil.

The old man glanced keenly at his hand as he did so; at which Ronald seemed confused, and pocketed it again abruptly.

"Yes, that is the life-magnet. You see this bent glass tube surrounded by the helix? That tube contains liquid carbon. I pass through the helix a current of induced electricity, generated by the action of these sixty Bunsen cups upon a succession of coils with carbon cores, and the magnet becomes charged with soulless life. I reverse the stream—what was positive now is negative, and the same magnet will absorb life from a living being to an extent only to be measured by thousands of millions."

"Then, what effect is produced on the body you pump the life from?"


"And what becomes of the soul?"

"I don't quite know. I fancy, however, that the magnet absorbs that too."

"Can it give it back?"

"Certainly; otherwise my life-magnet would belie its name, and be simply an ingenious and expensive instrument of death. By reversing the conditions, I can restore both soul and life to the body from which I drew them, or to another body, even after the lapse of several days."

"Have you ever done so?"

"I have."

Ronald looked reflectively downward to his boot-toe, but seemed to find nothing there—except a boot-toe.

"I say, my friend," he spoke at last, "haven't you got a pin you can stick in me? I'd like to know if I'm dreaming."

"I can convince you better than by pins," replied Herr Lebensfunke. "Let me see that hand you hide so carefully."

Ronald Wyde slowly drew it from his pocket, as reluctantly as though it were a grudged charity dole, and extended it to the old man. Its little finger was gone.

"A defect that I am foolishly sensitive about," said he. "A childish freak—playing with edged tools, you know. A boy-playmate chopped it off by accident: I cut his head open with his own hatchet, and made an idiot of him for life—that's all."

"I could do this," said Herr Lebensfunke, pausing on each word as if it were somewhat heavy, and had to be lifted out of his cramped chest by force; "I could draw your entity into that magnet, leaving you side by side with this corpse. I could dissect a finger from that same corpse, attach it to your own dead hand by a little of that palpitating life-mass you have seen, pass an electric stream through it, and a junction would be effected in three or four days. I could then restore you to existence, whole, and not maimed as now."

"I don't quite like the idea of dying, even for a day," answered Wyde. "Couldn't you contrive to lend me a body while you are mending my own?"

"You can take that one, if you like."

Ronald Wyde looked once more at the sodden features of the corpse, and smiled lugubriously.

"A mighty shabby old customer," he said, "and I doubt if I could feel at home in his skin; but I'm willing to risk it for the sake of the novelty of the thing."

The old philosopher's thin face lit up with pleasure.

"You consent, then?" he chuckled in his womanish treble.

"Of course I do. Begin at once, and have done with it."

"Not now, mein Herr; some modifications must be made in the connections—mere matters of detail. Come again to-night."

"At what hour?"

"At ten. Mein Voegelein, show the Herr the way out."

The girl, who had been moving restlessly about the room all this time, with her wild brown eyes fixed now on Ronald, now on the old man, and oftener in a shy, inquisitive stare on the corpse, lit a dusty chemical lamp and led the way down the awkward passages and stairs. Ronald tried to start a conversation with her as he followed.

"You are too young, my birdling, to be accustomed to such sights as this upstairs."

"Birdling is not too young, she's almost fourteen," said the girl, proudly. "And she likes it, too; it makes her think of mother. Mother went to sleep on that table, mein Herr."

"Poor thing! she's half-witted," thought Wyde as he passed into the street. "By-by, birdie."

Home he walked briskly, to be met under his flaming balcony by Lottchen's kindly afternoon greeting. How had mein Herr passed his Sabbath? she asked.

"Quietly enough, Lottchen. I met an old philosopher in the God's-Acre, and went home with him to his shop. Have you ever heard of Herr Doctor Lebensfunke?"

"Yes, mein Herr. Wrong here, they say;" and she tapped her wide, round German forehead, and lifted her eyes expressively heavenward.

"Sold himself to the devil, eh?" asked Wyde.

Lottchen was not quite sure on that point. Some said one thing, and some another. There was undoubtedly a devil, else how could good Doctor Luther have thrown his inkstand at him? But he had never been seen in Doctor Lebensfunke's neighborhood; and, on the whole, Lottchen was inclined to attribute the Herr Doctor's trouble to an indefinable something whose nature was broadly hinted at by more tapping of the forehead.

Ronald Wyde mounted the stairs, locked himself in his room, and wished himself out of the scrape he was getting into. But, being in for it now, he lit a cigar, and tried to fancy the processes he would have to go through, and how he, a natty and respectable young fellow, would look and feel in a drunkard's skin. His conjectures being too foggily outlined to please him, he put them aside, and waited impatiently enough for ten o'clock.

A moonlight walk through the low streets, transfigured by the silver gleam into fairy vistas—all but the odor—brought him to Herr Lebensfunke's house. Simple birdling, on the lookout for him, piloted him through the unsafe channel, and brought him to anchor in the dimly-lit room.

"All is ready," said the philosopher, as he trembled forward and shook Ronald's hand. "See here." Zig-zags of silk-bound wire squirmed hither and thither from the life-magnet. Two of them ended in carbon points. "And here, too, my young friend, is your new finger."

It lay, detached, in the central globe, and on its severed end atoms of protoplasm were already clustered. "Literally a second-hand article," thought Ronald; but, not venturing to translate the idiom, he only bowed and said, "Ach so!" which means any thing and every thing in German.

It was not without a very natural sinking of the heart that Ronald Wyde divested himself of his clothing, and took his position, by the old man's direction, on the stout table, side by side with the dead. A flat brass plate pressed between his shoulders, and one of the carbon points, clamped in a little insulated stand, rested on his bosom and quivered with the quickened motion of the heart beneath it. The other point touched the dead man's breast.

"Are you ready?"


The old man pressed a key, and as he did so a sharp sting, hardly worse than a leech's bite, pricked Ronald Wyde's breast. A sense of languor crept slowly upon him, his feet tingled, his breath came slowly, and waves of light and shade pulsed in indistinct alternation before his sight; but through them the old man's eyes peered into his, like a dream. Presently Ronald would have started if he could, for two old philosophers were craning over him instead of one. But as he looked more steadily, one face softly dimmed into nothing, and the other grew brighter and stronger in its lines, while the room flushed with an unaccountable light. The little key clicked once more; a vague sensation that the current had somehow ceased to flow, roused him, and he raised himself on his elbow and looked in blank bewilderment at his own dead self lying by his side in the daylight, while the sunrise tried to peer through the webbed panes.

"Is it over?" he asked, with a puzzled glance around him; and added, "Which am I?"

"Either, or both," answered Herr Lebensfunke. "Your identity will be something of a problem to you for a day or two."

Aided by the old man, Ronald awkwardly got into the sleazy clothes that went with the exchange—growing less and less at home each minute. He felt weak and sore; his head ached, and the wound left by the fresh amputation of his little finger throbbed angrily.

"I suppose I may as well go now," he said. "When can I get my own self there back again?"

"On Thursday night, if all works well," said the old man. "Till then, good-day."

Ronald Wyde's first impulse, as he shambled into the open air, was to go home; but he thought of the confusion his sadly-mixed identity would cause in Frau Spritzkrapfen's quiet household, and came to a dead stop to consider the matter. Then he decided to quit the town for the interminable four days—to go to Dresden, or anywhere. His next step was to slouch into the nearest beer-cellar and call for beer, pen, and paper. While waiting for these, he surveyed his own reflection in the dingy glass that hung above the table he sat by—a glass that gave his face a wavy look, as if seen through heated air. He felt an amused pride in his altered appearance, much as a masquerader might be pleased with a clever disguise, and caught himself wondering whether he were likely to be recognized in it. Apparently satisfied of his safety from detection, he turned to the table and wrote a beer-scented note to Frau Spritzkrapfen, explaining his sudden absence by some discreet fiction. He got along well enough till he reached the end, when, instead of his own flowing sign-manual, he tipsily scrawled the unfamiliar name of Hans Kraut. Tearing the sheet angrily across, he wrote another, and signed his name with an effort. He was about to seek a messenger to carry his note, when it occurred to him to leave it himself, which he did; and had thereby the keen satisfaction of hearing pretty Lottchen confess, with a blush on her fair German cheek, that they would all miss Herr Wyde very much, because they all loved him. Turning away with a sigh that was very like a hiccough, he trudged to the railway-station and took a ticket to Dresden, going third-class as best befitting his clothes and appearance.

He felt ashamed enough of himself as the train rumbled over the rolling land between Freiberg and the capital, and gave him time to think connectedly over what had happened, and what he now was. His fellow-passengers cast him sidelong looks, and gave him a wide berth. Even the quaint, flat-arched windows of one pane each, that winked out of the red-tiled roofs like sleepy eyes, seemed to leer drunkenly at him as they scudded by.

Ronald Wyde's account of those days in Dresden was vague and misty. He crept along the bustling streets of that sombre, gray city, that seemed to look more natural by cloud-light than in the full sunshine, feeling continually within him a struggle between the two incompatible natures now so strangely blended. Each day he kept up the contest manfully, passing by the countless beer-cellars and drinking-booths with an assumption of firmness and resolution that oozed slowly away toward nightfall, when the animal body of the late Hans Kraut would contrive to get the better of the animating principle of Ronald Wyde; the refined nature would yield to the toper's brute-craving, with an awful sense of its deep degradation in so succumbing, and, before midnight, Hans was gloriously drunk, to Ronald's intense grief.

Time passed somehow. He had memories of sunny lounges on the Bruhl'sche Terrace, looking on the turbid flow of the eddied Elbe, and watching the little steamboats that buzzed up and down the city's flanks, settling now and then, like gad-flies, to drain it of a few drops of its human life. Well-known friends, whose hands he had grasped not a week before, passed him unheedingly; all save one, who eyed him for a moment, said "Poor devil!" in an undertone, and dropped a silber-gro' into his maimed hand. He felt glad of even this lame sympathy in his lowness; but most of all he prized the moistened glance of pity that flashed upon him from the great dark eyes of a lovely girl who passed him now and then as he slouched along. Once, a being as degraded and scurvy as his own outward self, turned to him, called him "Dutzbruder," asked him how he left them all in Berlin, stared at Ronald's blank look of non-recognition, and passed on with a muttered curse on his own stupidity in mistaking a stranger, in broad daylight, for his crony Kraut.

Another memory was of the strange lassitude that seemed to almost paralyze him after even moderate exertion, and caused him to drop exhausted on a bench on the terrace when he had shuffled over less than half its length. More than once the suspicion crept upon him that only a portion of his vitality now remained to him, and that its greater part lay mysteriously coiled in Herr Lebensfunke's life-magnet. And this, in turn, broadened into a doubting distrust of the Herr himself—a dread lest the old man might in some way appropriate this stock of life to his own use, and so renew his fast-expiring lease for a score or two of years to come. At last this dread grew so painfully definite, that he hurried back to Freiberg a day before his appointed time, and once more found his twofold self wandering through its devious streets.

It was long after dark, and a thin rain slanted on the slippery stones, as he again made his way through the deserted and sleepy paths of the town to the old philosopher's house. He was wet, chilled, weary, and sick enough at heart as he leaned against the cold stone doorway and waited for an answer to his knock. The plash of the heavier rain-drops from the tiled leaves was the only sound he heard for many minutes, until, at last, pattering feet neared him on the inside, and a child's voice asked who was there. To his friendly response the door was opened half-wide, and Voegelein's blank, pretty face peeped through.

Was Herr Lebensfunke at home? No; he had said that he wasn't at home; but then, she thought he was in the long room where mamma went to sleep. Could he be seen? No, she thought not; he was very tired, and, in her own—Voegelein's—opinion, he was going to sleep too, just as mamma did. And the wizened little face, with its eldritch eyes and tangled hair, was withdrawn, and the door began to close. Ronald forced himself inside, and grasped the child's arm.

"Voegelein, don't you know me?"

The girl, in nowise startled, gravely set her flickering candle on the door-step, looked up at him wonderingly, as if he were an exhibition, and said she thought not, unless he had been asleep on the table.

"Good heavens!" cried Ronald, "can this child talk of nothing but people asleep on a table?"

But, as he spoke, a thought whirred through his brain. He drew the poor half-witted thing close to him and asked:

"Can Voegelein tell me something about mamma, and how she went to sleep?"

The child rambled on, pleased to find a listener to her foolish prattle. All he could connect into a narrative was, that the girl's mother, some seven or eight years before, had been drained of her life by the awful magnet, and that, as the child said, "the Herr Doctor ever since had talked just like mamma."

His dread was well founded, then. The old man's one dream and aim was to prolong his wretched life; could he doubt that he would not now make use of the means he had so unwisely thrown in his way? He turned about, half maddened.

"Girl!" he cried, "I must see the old man! Where is he?"

He couldn't see him, she whined. He was asleep up there, on the table. At one o'clock he had said he would wake up.

He pushed past her, mounted to the long room, pressed open the unfastened door, and entered.

The old man and the corpse of his former self lay together under the light of a lamp that swung from the beam overhead. An insulated carbon point was directed to each white, still breast. From the old man's hand a cord ran to a key beyond, arranged to make or break connection at a touch. By it stood a clock, with a simple mechanism attached that bore upon a second key like the first, evidently planned to press upon it when the hands should mark a given hour. The child had said that he would wake at one, and it was now past midnight.

Ronald Wyde comprehended it all now. The wily old man's feeble life had been withdrawn into the great magnet, and mixed therein with what remained of his own. In less than an hour the key would fall, and the double stream would flow into and animate his young body, which would then wake to renewed life; while the cast-off shell beside it, worn to utter uselessness by a toilsome century, would be left to moulder as a mothed garment.

Surely no time was to be lost; his life depended upon instant action. And yet, comprehending this, he went to work slowly, and as a somnambulist might, acting almost by instinct, and well knowing that a blunder now meant irrevocable death.

Carefully disengaging the cord from the old man's yet warm grasp, and setting the carbon point aside, he lifted the shrivelled corpse and bore it away, to cast it on the white rubbish-heap in one corner. Returning to his work, he stripped himself, and laid down in the old man's place. As he did so, the distant Minster bells rang the three-quarters.

Was there yet time?

He braced his shoulders firmly against the brass plate under them, and moved the carbon point steadily back to its place, with its tip resting on his breast; the silk-wrapped wire that dangled between it and the magnet quivering, as he did so, as with conscious life. Drawing a long breath, he tightened the cord, and heard a faint click as the key snapped down.

The same sharp sting as before instantly pricked his breast, tingling thrills pulsed over him, beats of light and shadow swept before his eyes, and he lost all consciousness. For how long he knew not. At last he felt, rather than saw, the lamp-rays flickering above him, and opened his eyes as though waking from a tired sleep. Sitting up, he gave a fearful look around him, as if dreading what he might see. The drunkard's body lay stretched and motionless beside him, and the clock marked three. He was saved!

Slipping down from his perilous bed, he resumed the old familiar garments that belonged to him as Ronald Wyde, shuddering with emotion as he did so. Only pausing to give one look at the pale heap in the shadowy corner, and at the other sleeper under the now dying lamp, he quitted the room and locked its heavy door upon the two silent guardians of its life-secrets. When he reached the street, he found the rain had ceased to drop, and that the cold stars blinked over the slumbrous town.

Before noon he had taken leave of Frau Spritzkrapfen, turned buxom Lottchen scarlet all over by a hearty, sudden, farewell-kiss, and was far on his way from Freiberg, with its red-vined balcony and its dark laboratory, never again to visit it or them. And as the busy engine toiled and shrieked, and with each beat of its mighty steam-heart carried him further away, his thoughts flew back and clustered around witless, brown-eyed birdling. Poor child, he never learned her fate.

* * * * *

I heard this strange story from its hero, one sunny summer morning as we swept over the meadowy reaches of the Erie Railway, or hung along the cliffside by the wooded windings of the Susquehanna. When he had ended it, he smiled languidly, and, showing me his still-mutilated hand, said that the old doctor's job had been a sad bungle, after all. In fact, the only physical proof that remained to verify his story, was a curved blue spot where the ingoing current from the magnet had carried particles from the carbon point and lodged them beneath the skin. Psychologically, he was sadly mixed up, he said; for, since that time, he had felt that four lives were joined in him—his own, the remnant of Herr Lebensfunke's miserable hoard merged in that of poor birdling's mother, and, last of all, Hans Kraut's.

He left the cars soon afterward at Binghamton, watchfully followed by a stout, shabby man with a three days' beard stubbling his chin, who had occupied the seat in front of us, and had turned now and then to listen for a moment to Ronald's rapid narration.

A week later, and I heard that he was dead—having committed suicide in a fit of delirium soon after his admission to the Binghamton Inebriate Asylum. The attendant who made him ready for burial noticed a singular blue mark on his left breast, that looked, he said, a little like a horseshoe magnet.



Harper's Magazine, June, 1863.

Osgood took a cane-bottomed chair whose edges had given way from the application of boot-soles, cane and umbrella ferules, and studied his predicament. He commenced this necessary study early in the morning in his room, which was in a boarding-house situated in this metropolis. The early carts were taking their way down town through a blue haze, which in the country prefigured a golden day. The milkman, the walk-sweeper, and the rag-picker, were the only creatures moving in Osgood's neighborhood. The time was propitious for meditation and resolve, but Osgood's head was not ready. The still Champagne that he had drank the night before buzzed in his brain. With a glass of it in his hand, under a side gas-light, in the drawing-room of his Aunt Formica, he had proposed marriage to a handsome dashing girl, and the handsome dashing girl had accepted him. They swallowed the bubbles on the "beaker's brim," thinking it was the Cup of Life they were drinking from. Neither supposed that the moment was one of exhilaration or enthusiasm. Osgood never felt so serious, or so determined to face the music, as he called it, which was the short for a philosophical design to march boldly through life, and shoulder its necessities with a brave spirit and a martial air.

Osgood was intelligent, agreeable, and handsome. He had advanced no further into life than to give this impression. He knew nothing more of himself than that he was intelligent, handsome, and "plucky." He had no father or mother, but he had an aunt who had married Mr. Formica; this pair, effete in themselves, belonged to that mysterious class who are always able to get their relatives places under Government. When Osgood was eighteen they obtained a place in the Sub-Treasury, which yielded him the income of fifteen hundred dollars. Aunt Formica expected a great deal from him in the way of deportment and dress. The exigencies of his position, she observed, compelled him to do as those around him did. Of course he never laid up any of his salary, but he kept out of debt, and in doing this he fulfilled the highest duty that came within his province. His associates were young men who had more money than he, and who expected him to spend as much as they spent. The houses he visited were inhabited by people who took it for granted that all who came in contact with them were as rich as themselves. The Formica interest was large. When he went to Washington with his aunt, he went the rounds of the senators' houses and hotels in the way of calls, dinners, and parties. When he went to Boston with her he began his visits at the right hand of Beacon Street, and branched into the streets behind it, where as good blood abides, though it has not the same advantage of the air of the Common. Wherever he went expense was involved, in the way of gloves, bouquets, cards, fees to errand boys, exchange of civilities in lunches, cigars, ale, brandy, sherry, stage, hack, and car fare, which he bore like a hero.

Lily Tree, the girl whom he proposed to marry, belonged to a family of the Formica species. It sailed through society all a-taut with convention, and was comme il faut from stem to stern. Lily and Osgood had always known each other. They passed through the season of hoop and ball, dancing-school, tableaux, and charades together; sympathized in each other's embryonic flirtations; and were such fast friends that no one ever dreamed of any danger to them from love. But as the wagon that goes from the powder-mill in safety innumerable times at last carries the keg which explodes it, so Osgood and Lily at last touched the divine spark which threw them out of their old world into one they had not anticipated.

This was part of Osgood's predicament.

What made him do as he had done?

Why had Lily accepted him?

She would never, he argued, consent to go out of the area which bounded her ideas, and which comprised a small portion of New York, Boston, Washington, and the tour of Europe, which meant a week in London, six months in Paris, and ten days in Rome. Unless he descended from the Sub-Treasury, and sought some business, such as making varnish, glue, buttons, soap, sarsaparilla, or sewing machines, could he marry? What shrewdness had he in the place of capital to bring to bear on the requirements of these Yankee callings? How he worried over the prospect which looked so pleasant the night before! Champagne, flowers, light, and perfume were gone from it. He pitied himself in his helplessness. The thought of Lily deprived of her delicate evening dresses, her diurnal bouquets, caramels, and her pecunious caprices, was not pleasant. He could not see her in any light that made her so agreeable as in the light that he must certainly cause her to lose.

Something practical must be done.

Naturally he looked into his pocket-book. There was eighteen dollars in it—all the money he had. It was the last day in the month, however, and he was entitled to draw one hundred and twenty-five dollars. He shut his pocket-book and looked into his closet. He found there several pairs of patent-leather boots and a brilliant dressing-gown. "Pooh!" he said, peevishly, and shut the door. He then examined his bureau: in its drawers were many socks, shirts, cravats, four sets of studs and sleeve-buttons, and five scarf-pins. He rattled the studs and buttons thoughtfully; but nothing came of it, and he closed the drawers. His eye then fell on a dress-coat which he had worn for the first time the evening before. He resolved to take the coat back to Wiedenfeldt, his tailor. This resolve was the nucleus probably of his future undertakings. He finished dressing and left the house. Before reaching Wiedenfeldt he purchased and drank a bottle of Congress Water. He also stopped at a favorite restaurant and made an excellent breakfast, and came away with a "Relampagos"—a small cigar of superior flavor—and three daily papers. His interview with Wiedenfeldt was satisfactory; the coat was taken back, and when he had settled the matter he felt as if a beginning had been made in a new and right direction.

That afternoon he drew his pay, and walked up town. The moment he entered his room his predicament fell upon him again, and his spirits sunk. He sat on the edge of his bed, so quiet in his misery that he began to hear the ticking of the watch in his pocket; it associated itself in his mind with the sound and motion of railroad-cars. He felt himself traveling hundreds of miles away, listening all the while to a rhythmic sound, which said, "Many a mile, many a mile." Why should he not go "many a mile, many a mile," in reality? He went out immediately and bought a valise. After that his demeanor was settled and tranquil. He then wrote three notes—to his chief, his Aunt Formica, and Lily. The first was a note of resignation; the second conveyed the information to his aunt that he was sick of his place, had thrown it up, and was going out of town for a change of air. He regretted, when he began his note to Lily, that he had not sent her some flowers. A momentary impulse to go and see her stayed his hand; but he remembered that she must be at Mrs. Perche's "sit-down supper" that evening, and resumed writing. He begged her to enjoy herself, and not miss him while he was away. He did not know what to write besides, but put in a few chaotic expressions which might or might not mean a great deal.

While he put a few necessary articles in the valise he wondered where he should go, never dropping the thought that he must go somewhere. The remainder of his wardrobe, including the brilliant dressing-gown, he packed in a trunk and locked it.

He rang the bell, and when the waiter came up asked for the landlady, Mrs. Semmes. The waiter thought that it was not too late to see her in her own parlor, and lingered, with his hand on his chin and his eyes on the valise.

"Jem," said Osgood, "I have left some boots in the closet, and some shirts in the drawers, which are at your service."

The alacrity with which Jem changed his attitude and expression struck Osgood with a sense of pain. "How horribly selfish servants are!" he thought, taking his way down stairs. Mrs. Semmes hoped there was no trouble, and asked him to be seated. He looked at her earnestly; she was the only one to say farewell to. Never had he looked Mrs. Semmes in the face before; he had only seen the hand into which he had placed the price of his board.

"I came to tell you, Mrs. Semmes, that I am about to leave town for the present. Will you allow my trunk to remain here? If I do not return in a year and a day, break it open."

Mrs. Semmes promised to keep the trunk; took some money due her; wondered at his going away at that time of year, and asked him his destination.

"I think I shall go to Canada," he answered, vaguely.

"There must be snow there, by the accounts."

"Where shall I go?" he was about to say, but checked himself.

"If you were going East," she continued, "you would find the ground bare enough, especially in the neighborhood of the sea: the sea-winds melt the snow almost as soon as it falls."

"I think I will go East," he said, musingly. He sat so long without saying any thing, staring straight before him, that Mrs. Semmes began to feel fidgety. She recalled him to the present by walking to the window. He started, bade her good-by, and retired.

He tossed about all night in a feverish sleep, tormented with dreams which transformed Lily into a small child which he was compelled to carry in his arms, or furnished his Aunt Formica with a long spear, with which she pursued him, and was forever on the point of overtaking him.

At 8 o'clock A.M. he might have been seen by a detective at the Twenty-seventh Street depot. A few minutes after he was going through the tunnel; and, emerging from that, he considered himself fairly divided from New York. At the first station beyond the State-line of Massachusetts he consulted a map, and concluded to stop at the junction of the Old Colony Railroad. There he changed the route, and in the evening reached a town which seemed waiting to go somewhere else, where he passed the night.

The next morning he started on his travels again toward Cape Cod. Five miles beyond a large village, in a flat, sterile, gloomy region, he alighted with his baggage, and said, "This is the place for me." The train went on, and the depot-master went into his little den without noticing Osgood. Several tall school-girls, who had come to watch for the train, strolled down a cross-road, and he was alone. He went to the end of the platform and surveyed the country. He stood on the edge of a wide plateau along which ran the railroad-track. Beyond that a road deviated through dismal fields, by unpainted houses, large barns, and straggling orchards. Below the plateau a wide marsh extended, intersected by crooked creeks, which gnawed into the black earth like worms. A rim of sea bordered the tongue of the marsh, but it was too far off to add life to the scene. The sedge, giving up all hope of being moistened by the salt waves, had died in great circles, which looked like mats of gray hair on some pre-Adamite monster's buried head.

Osgood determined to pursue the windings of the road. He plowed the sand for two miles, and at a sudden turn of the road came upon a house, with a number of barns and sheds attached to it. A dog with a stiff tail ran out from a shed and barked at him, and a pale-faced woman in a muslin cap appeared at a window of the house. He knocked at the door: she opened it.

"Will thee come in?" she asked.

He entered, following her as he would have followed a ghost. She moved a chair from the wall without the least noise, and he dropped upon it. As he looked at her his identity seemed slipping away—seemed to be slipping into an atmosphere connected with her and her surroundings. She brought him some water which she dipped from a pail near by, and held the cocoa-nut dipper which contained it to his lips.

"Thee has come to us from strange parts, I reckon, from thy looks."

"Yes," he answered, absently; "I needed change."

"There has been no change here since the Indians went away. If thee will look across the road thee can see the ground is strewed with the bits of shells from their feasts."

He went to the window, and again remarked to himself, "This is the place for me."

"Could you," he asked, going toward her, "let me stay with you a while?"

"Did thee come to the Marsh End station this morning?"

"Yes; my valise is there."

"Thy parents are rich?"

"I have none."

"Thee has been well cared for, though."

"I have not left home because of any—" Misfortune, he was about to say, but that did not seem to be the right word; so he tried to think of something else to say. She saw his embarrassment, and said, quickly,

"I never have harbored a stranger; but if Peter likes, he may take thee."

Osgood thanked her so pleasantly that she determined he should stay. She asked him his name, his age, his place of residence, his business, and his intentions. Except in regard to the latter, his answer proved satisfactory; and when Peter returned at noon from the distant shore with a load of sea-weed, she introduced Osgood as if he were an old acquaintance of whom Peter was in a state of lamentable ignorance. He pushed his hat on the back of his head, shook hands with Osgood, and said, "Maria, will thee give me my dinner?" taking no further notice of Osgood till she had placed it on the table. It consisted of stewed beans, boiled beef, apple-pie, and cheese. Osgood ate half a pie, and established himself in Peter's good graces.

"Thee will learn that Maria's pie-crust beats all," he said.

"Thee is ready to consent," said his wife, "to keep young Osgood a while?"

"I don't know yet," answered Peter.

But after dinner he harnessed his horse and went to the depot for Osgood's valise, which he carried upstairs and deposited in the spare room. He then invited Osgood to take a look at the premises. He wished to make his own investigations in regard to Osgood without Maria's intervention. They lingered by the pig-sty, and while Peter scratched the pigs with a cord-wood stick, exchanged views of men and things. Peter saw the capabilities of Osgood's character, and easily divined the manner of life he had led. He knew him to be selfish from ignorance, and because he had early formed the habits which impose self-indulgence. Something in the young man's bearing won his heart—a certain impetuous simplicity and frankness which made him long to be of service to a nature unlike his own. Osgood found Peter genial, shrewd, and sad. Such a man he had never met. It seemed to him that Peter could set him straight in his own estimation; there was no nonsense about the old man, and yet he could see deep feeling in his dark, cavernous eyes. The feeling which had oppressed him passed away, and another took its place which contained restoration, and faith in the future. He got into Peter's way by attempting to help fodder the cattle and "slick up" the barn. When the work was done, and while Peter fastened the barn-doors with an ox-bow, Osgood looked about him. It was a March afternoon; no wind blew, and no sun shone; but the gray round of the sky, which neither woods nor hills hid from his sight, rolled over him in soft commotion. The reddish, barren fields stretched in their flatness beyond his vision, and the narrow roads of yellow sand ran to nowhere. The world of God, he thought, he saw for the first time; and, away from the world of men, felt himself a man.

He looked so kindly upon Maria when he entered the house that she delayed the stream of the tea-kettle which she held over the teapot to admire him. The supper was the dinner—cold, with an addition of warm biscuits; and again Osgood ate himself into Peter's good graces.

The evening was passed in silence. Peter smoked, Maria mended, and Osgood reflected. A violent storm arose in the night, which lasted three days. They were improved by Maria and Peter in overhauling garden-seeds in the garret, and in setting up a leach-tub in the wood-house. Osgood assisted. When he was alone with Maria she talked to him of the boy who was lost at sea, and of the girl who died in childhood; with the hungry eyes of a bereaved mother she looked upon him, and his heart was touched with a new tenderness. When he was alone with Peter the old man sounded the depths of the young man's soul with wise, pathetic, quaint speech; he went over the ground of his own life, which had been passed on the spot where he now was, with the exception of several mackerel voyages, and one in a merchant vessel to some of the southern ports of Europe. But when together Peter and Maria never talked with Osgood on personal matters. Between them a marital silence was kept, which was more expressive than the conjugal volubility which ordinarily exists; it proved that they had passed through profounder experiences.

When the storm ceased Peter went to the station for his Boston newspaper, which he read to Maria, who took it afterward and read it over to herself. Brother Quakers, Peter's neighbors, who lived out of sight, dropped in from time to time to exchange a word with Maria, or hold talks outside with Peter, with one foot in the rut and the other on the wagon-step. The present subject of interest, Osgood discovered, was the approaching Quarterly Meeting, and the mackerel fishery. Peter asked him to accompany himself and Maria to the town where the meeting was to be. They breakfasted at sunrise, when the day arrived, in full dress—Peter in a snuff-colored suit, and Maria in a series of brown articles—dress, shawl, and bonnet. They started in good spirits in an open wagon, with an improvised seat for Peter in front. Beyond a belt of pine woods stood the meeting-house, and a mile beyond the meeting-house lay the town, before a vast bay. Osgood drove alone into the town, and spent several hours there. He visited the shops to find some trifle for Maria, and then went through the town down to the shore. How happy he grew in the pure wind and the gay morning light! The gulls rode over the foaming wave-crests and dipped into their green walls, and hawks swooped between the steadfast sky and heaving deep. The sea traveled round and round before his eyes with a mad joy, and tempted him to plunge into it. He wrote his name in the heavy sand with a broken shell, and the water filtered out the letters; then he paved it in pebbles with the word Strength.

Peter and Maria were waiting for him when he returned to the meeting-house with the wagon.

"Thee has been skylarking," she said.

"After something for you," he answered, putting in her hand a handsome work-basket.

"Has thee so much money that thee must waste it on me, Osgood?"

But she was pleased with the gift. They rode home amicably. Peter, as a favor, allowed Osgood to drive, while he imparted to Maria sundry bits of information gained at the meeting.

"Mackerel" went in and out at Osgood's ears without gaining his attention, till he caught at something Peter said about the Bonita. He listened. Three vessels were about to sail from the town on a mackerel voyage, and the Bonita was one of them. He comprehended that Peter owned half the Bonita, and a plan struck him. He inquired into the subject, and obtained its history. That evening he proposed going on a mackerel voyage, which proposal so fired Peter that he declared he had a mind to go too; but Maria quenched his enthusiasm by going over the programme of work that must be done at home. She made no opposition to Osgood's going, but set before him in plain terms the hardships of such a voyage. He was not to be deterred, and Peter gave his consent, promising him a small share of the profits.

Osgood wrote to his Aunt Formica that night, assuring her that he already felt much better, and that he was about to enter into a new business, of which she should hear more. He also wrote Lily Tree a minute, lengthy epistle. He described his situation with Peter and Maria; told her how much board he paid—two dollars and fifty cents a week—and how well he had learned to do chores. He fed the pigs every day; he wished that she could see how well they thrived on the diet lately introduced by Peter and himself—a dry mash of boiled potatoes and meal, with an occasional horseshoe thrown in as a relish. Would she, he wondered, have enjoyed the day that he, Maria, and Peter made soft soap? He mentioned his intended voyage, and asked her if she liked sailors. Could he have the hope, he continued, of her sympathy in his future enterprises, which perhaps would differ from those she had thought of for him? He avowed a change in himself. Would it affect her?

He sealed his letters, and began pacing his little room. Writing home had brought his old life near him again; the distance it had come to reach him seemed enormous.

"It was only a few days ago," he thought, "and yet I am so different!"

He rolled up his paper window-curtain and softly raised the window. The moon made the landscape look more vast and desolate than it was in the light of day. Under the horizon it revealed a strip of sea which shone as if it were the portal of another world whose light was reflected thereon. Osgood felt that he was an imprisoned soul this side of it. The light gave him an intimation of immortality. "Where is Lily's soul?" he asked. "Has she any dream beyond the life she is in?"

When Lily received Osgood's note she was angry; so was Mrs. Formica when she received hers. An intuition that Osgood repented his rashness touched Lily's pride, and preserved her silence. When the second letter came, she thought he had the intention of experimenting with her; a test, she concluded, was unendurable, not to be submitted to. Should she test him, and proclaim the engagement she meditated? it would be a relief to do something. She could not reach him with a letter, for he had gone on a mackerel voyage beyond the limits of the post-office. She decided differently according to the light she had. Unlike Osgood, she was chained to the place she was in. She was alone, too; her mother was occupied with neuralgia, and her father was out of town half his time, on mysterious agencies which referred to canals. The newspaper reporters at Albany were well acquainted with Mr. Tree's name while they were putting into short-hand the doings of the Legislature. Mrs. Formica had no suspicion that Lily was the cause of Osgood's disappearance; she would not have regretted his absence so much on these grounds, for a match with Lily was not desirable.

Within a month Lily's engagement to Mr. Barclay Dodge was announced. He was a young man of fortune, whose father owed his rise in the world to corn starch, and who had made himself known by spending large sums of money on pictures, landscapes mostly, which had been indorsed by the public in exhibitions.

Mr. Barclay Dodge was happy; he had for more than two years followed Lily through all vicissitudes attendant upon the career of a young girl in society. From an exhilaration the pursuit had become a desperation. He had never suspected any man of being his rival, and accounted for the acquaintance between Lily and Osgood by believing that Lily was related to the Formica family. How she managed so suddenly to convince Barclay Dodge that it was safe for him to propose is a mystery which none but a disappointed, contrary woman may reveal. He had the usual penetration of his sex in regard to such mysteries; he was a man of sense and experience, but he was in love, and when a man is in love he only analyzes himself, and all that he learns is, that his love must be gratified.

In the whirl of his attentions, and the congratulations of her friends, the time passed quickly; not so quickly, however, as to avert the plan by which the Fates were to bring her to a knowledge of herself.

Barclay proposed an immediate marriage. Lily declined the proposal with so much vehemence that he dared not insist. He pulled his mustache in rage after he left her, and wondered why he did not insist. By what means, he cogitated, could he make her yield her will to his? Her resistance he set down to coyness; all women had freaks; they were alike in such matters. He divined after a while that she would let go the lasso at any moment if he proved restive; so he played the submissive to perfection. If she ever saw his eyes flame, or any gesture which contained a threat, he never knew it; but every revelation from him was a revelation to her of herself, and this was to be her education and her punishment.

"Where is your friend Osgood?" he asked once.

"He has been away a long time," she answered, looking him full in the face, but with rather a stony expression in her eyes.

"He is your relative?"

"Oh no."

"No? I thought so, always seeing you in the same places."

"Our families have been acquainted always."

"Do you think he is handsome?"


"He is too short" (Barclay was tall), "and his eyes have a wandering, unsettled look."

"He is following his destiny by them," she answered, bitterly. "I wish that I could follow mine as a man can."

"Do you mean that you would like to follow Osgood's eyes?"

"By no means; I must see destiny by your eyes."

The words were pleasant, but the tone was malicious. It made his heart bound as if an invisible foe had come into his atmosphere to do battle with him, and he could do nothing.

* * * * *

"'With the vapors all around, and the breakers on our lee, Not a light is in the sky, not a light is on the sea.'—

barring the lantern abaft," roared Osgood, from the deck of the schooner Bonita, which was tossing outside Cape Malabar.

"You may sing t'other side of your mouth afore long," bawled back the skipper. "We ain't fur from the Cormorant Rocks; the wind p'r'aps will shove us on the ledge."

"What, when we are just going home with full barrels?"

"The mackerel may be briled in Tophet for all we know."

The skipper was at the helm; Osgood and he were in the radius of a lantern which revealed their faces to each other. Outside of that was pitch darkness; the rain drove in fierce slants against them, and the wind howled all round the sea.

The skipper did not look concerned, neither did Osgood; but they were both wondering which would first break over the Bonita, the light of morning or the sea.

"Them boys are asleep, I s'pose, wet to the bone?" the skipper yelled.


"Let 'em sleep; there ain't a lanyard loose."

"What time must it be?"

"Hard onto 'leven. My old woman's turned in long afore this, she has; allus goes to bed on the stroke o' nine."

"She has thought of you to-night?"

"She has give me a prayer or so; she's the strictest kind. Now I'll luff, there is a lull comin'; peskiest storms that have lulls in 'em. You don't hear a swashing to a distance now?"



A sound, not of wind nor sea, approached them—a rapid, rushing, cutting sound.

"Up with the helm!" shrieked the skipper to himself. "God Almighty, she is down on us!"

Osgood leaped up. The bowsprit of a large ship was over him; he threw up his arms instinctively and caught at something; he felt his feet drawing over the skipper's head, and that he thumped it with his boots. He knew no more. The great ship crushed and plowed the Bonita into the waves as easily as a plow buries in the sod the stubble of the corn-field. Nothing signaled her destruction except the exclamation of the skipper; nothing remained in the wide sea to show it. Her timbers and the sleeping crew went to the bottom together. Morning dawned on the wild scene, revealing no floating spar, no rib of boat, no stave of tub or barrel, no sailor's hat, no remnant of sail, no shred of clothing; the jaws of the sea had closed over all. The ship, a Liverpool liner, driven out of her course by the storm, cruised round the spot for a few hours, and then went on her way, taking Osgood with her. He had clung to the folds of the forward sail; and there he was found with his left wrist dislocated, his body strained and sore, and his mind wandering. He was no romantic sight with his red flannel shirt, fishy trowsers, cowhide boots, and hands pickled in brine. Still the ship's surgeon took to him, and found, when Osgood came to himself, that he had taken to a gentleman. He lent him a suit of customary black, and introduced him to his acquaintances. Osgood would have enjoyed the voyage across the Atlantic but for the horror which had fallen on his mind from the catastrophe of the Bonita.

"How old are you?" the surgeon asked him.

"About the first of March I was twenty-three; since then I have grown so old I have lost the reckoning."

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