The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg and Other Stories HTML version

The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg
It was many years ago. Hadleyburg was the most honest and upright town in all the
region round about. It had kept that reputation unsmirched during three generations, and
was prouder of it than of any other of its possessions. It was so proud of it, and so
anxious to insure its perpetuation, that it began to teach the principles of honest dealing to
its babies in the cradle, and made the like teachings the staple of their culture
thenceforward through all the years devoted to their education. Also, throughout the
formative years temptations were kept out of the way of the young people, so that their
honesty could have every chance to harden and solidify, and become a part of their very
bone. The neighbouring towns were jealous of this honourable supremacy, and affected
to sneer at Hadleyburg's pride in it and call it vanity; but all the same they were obliged
to acknowledge that Hadleyburg was in reality an incorruptible town; and if pressed they
would also acknowledge that the mere fact that a young man hailed from Hadleyburg was
all the recommendation he needed when he went forth from his natal town to seek for
responsible employment.
But at last, in the drift of time, Hadleyburg had the ill luck to offend a passing stranger--
possibly without knowing it, certainly without caring, for Hadleyburg was sufficient unto
itself, and cared not a rap for strangers or their opinions. Still, it would have been well to
make an exception in this one's case, for he was a bitter man, and revengeful. All through
his wanderings during a whole year he kept his injury in mind, and gave all his leisure
moments to trying to invent a compensating satisfaction for it. He contrived many plans,
and all of them were good, but none of them was quite sweeping enough: the poorest of
them would hurt a great many individuals, but what he wanted was a plan which would
comprehend the entire town, and not let so much as one person escape unhurt. At last he
had a fortunate idea, and when it fell into his brain it lit up his whole head with an evil
joy. He began to form a plan at once, saying to himself "That is the thing to do--I will
corrupt the town."
Six months later he went to Hadleyburg, and arrived in a buggy at the house of the old
cashier of the bank about ten at night. He got a sack out of the buggy, shouldered it, and
staggered with it through the cottage yard, and knocked at the door. A woman's voice
said "Come in," and he entered, and set his sack behind the stove in the parlour, saying
politely to the old lady who sat reading the "Missionary Herald" by the lamp:
"Pray keep your seat, madam, I will not disturb you. There--now it is pretty well
concealed; one would hardly know it was there. Can I see your husband a moment,
No, he was gone to Brixton, and might not return before morning.
"Very well, madam, it is no matter. I merely wanted to leave that sack in his care, to be
delivered to the rightful owner when he shall be found. I am a stranger; he does not know