Best American Humorous Short Stories HTML version
Cataract of the Ganges. They were the duties, in a word, which one performs as member
of one or another social class or subdivision, wholly distinct from what one does as A. by
himself A. What invisible power put these functions on me, it would be very hard to tell.
But such power there was and is. And I had not been at work a year before I found I was
living two lives, one real and one merely functional--for two sets of people, one my
parish, whom I loved, and the other a vague public, for whom I did not care two straws.
All this was in a vague notion, which everybody had and has, that this second life would
eventually bring out some great results, unknown at present, to somebody somewhere.
Crazed by this duality of life, I first read Dr. Wigan on the Duality of the Brain, hoping
that I could train one side of my head to do these outside jobs, and the other to do my
intimate and real duties. For Richard Greenough once told me that, in studying for the
statue of Franklin, he found that the left side of the great man's face was philosophic and
reflective, and the right side funny and smiling. If you will go and look at the bronze
statue, you will find he has repeated this observation there for posterity. The eastern
profile is the portrait of the statesman Franklin, the western of Poor Richard. But Dr.
Wigan does not go into these niceties of this subject, and I failed. It was then that, on my
wife's suggestion, I resolved to look out for a Double.
I was, at first, singularly successful. We happened to be recreating at Stafford Springs
that summer. We rode out one day, for one of the relaxations of that watering-place, to
the great Monsonpon House. We were passing through one of the large halls, when my
destiny was fulfilled! I saw my man!
He was not shaven. He had on no spectacles. He was dressed in a green baize roundabout
and faded blue overalls, worn sadly at the knee. But I saw at once that he was of my
height, five feet four and a half. He had black hair, worn off by his hat. So have and have
not I. He stooped in walking. So do I. His hands were large, and mine. And--choicest gift
of Fate in all--he had, not "a strawberry-mark on his left arm," but a cut from a juvenile
brickbat over his right eye, slightly affecting the play of that eyebrow. Reader, so have I!-
-My fate was sealed!
A word with Mr. Holley, one of the inspectors, settled the whole thing. It proved that this
Dennis Shea was a harmless, amiable fellow, of the class known as shiftless, who had
sealed his fate by marrying a dumb wife, who was at that moment ironing in the laundry.
Before I left Stafford, I had hired both for five years. We had applied to Judge Pynchon,
then the probate judge at Springfield, to change the name of Dennis Shea to Frederic
Ingham. We had explained to the Judge, what was the precise truth, that an eccentric
gentleman wished to adopt Dennis under this new name into his family. It never occurred
to him that Dennis might be more than fourteen years old. And thus, to shorten this
preface, when we returned at night to my parsonage at Naguadavick, there entered Mrs.
Ingham, her new dumb laundress, myself, who am Mr. Frederic Ingham, and my double,
who was Mr. Frederic Ingham by as good right as I.
Oh, the fun we had the next morning in shaving his beard to my pattern, cutting his hair
to match mine, and teaching him how to wear and how to take off gold-bowed spectacles!