Best American Humorous Short Stories HTML version

My Double; And How He Undid Me
By Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909)
[From The Atlantic Monthly, September, 1859. Republished in the volume, The Man
Without a Country, and Other Tales (1868), by Edward Everett Hale (Little, Brown &
It is not often that I trouble the readers of The Atlantic Monthly. I should not trouble
them now, but for the importunities of my wife, who "feels to insist" that a duty to
society is unfulfilled, till I have told why I had to have a double, and how he undid me.
She is sure, she says, that intelligent persons cannot understand that pressure upon public
servants which alone drives any man into the employment of a double. And while I fear
she thinks, at the bottom of her heart, that my fortunes will never be re-made, she has a
faint hope, that, as another Rasselas, I may teach a lesson to future publics, from which
they may profit, though we die. Owing to the behavior of my double, or, if you please, to
that public pressure which compelled me to employ him, I have plenty of leisure to write
this communication.
I am, or rather was, a minister, of the Sandemanian connection. I was settled in the active,
wide-awake town of Naguadavick, on one of the finest water-powers in Maine. We used
to call it a Western town in the heart of the civilization of New England. A charming
place it was and is. A spirited, brave young parish had I; and it seemed as if we might
have all "the joy of eventful living" to our hearts' content.
Alas! how little we knew on the day of my ordination, and in those halcyon moments of
our first housekeeping! To be the confidential friend in a hundred families in the town--
cutting the social trifle, as my friend Haliburton says, "from the top of the whipped-
syllabub to the bottom of the sponge-cake, which is the foundation"--to keep abreast of
the thought of the age in one's study, and to do one's best on Sunday to interweave that
thought with the active life of an active town, and to inspirit both and make both infinite
by glimpses of the Eternal Glory, seemed such an exquisite forelook into one's life!
Enough to do, and all so real and so grand! If this vision could only have lasted.
The truth is, that this vision was not in itself a delusion, nor, indeed, half bright enough. If
one could only have been left to do his own business, the vision would have
accomplished itself and brought out new paraheliacal visions, each as bright as the
original. The misery was and is, as we found out, I and Polly, before long, that, besides
the vision, and besides the usual human and finite failures in life (such as breaking the
old pitcher that came over in the Mayflower, and putting into the fire the alpenstock with
which her father climbed Mont Blanc)--besides, these, I say (imitating the style of
Robinson Crusoe), there were pitchforked in on us a great rowen-heap of humbugs,
handed down from some unknown seed-time, in which we were expected, and I chiefly,
to fulfil certain public functions before the community, of the character of those fulfilled
by the third row of supernumeraries who stand behind the Sepoys in the spectacle of the