The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg and Other Stories by Mark Twain - HTML preview
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Web-Books.ComThe Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg................................................................................. 3 My First Lie, And How I Got Out Of It............................................................................ 42 The Esquimaux Maiden's Romance.................................................................................. 48 Christian Science And The Book Of Mrs. Eddy............................................................... 61 Is He Living Or Is He Dead? ............................................................................................ 91 My Debut As A Literary Person ....................................................................................... 99 At The Appetite-Cure ..................................................................................................... 118 Concerning The Jews...................................................................................................... 128 From The 'London Times' Of 1904................................................................................. 141 About Play-Acting .......................................................................................................... 150 Travelling With A Reformer........................................................................................... 156 Diplomatic Pay And Clothes .......................................................................................... 169 Luck ................................................................................................................................ 176 The Captain's Story......................................................................................................... 179 Stirring Times In Austria ................................................................................................ 182 Meisterschaft................................................................................................................... 227 My Boyhood Dreams...................................................................................................... 250 To The Above Old People .............................................................................................. 252
In Memoriam Olivia Susan Clemens.............................................................................. 255
The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg and Other Stories
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, madam?"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 me; I am merely passing through the town to-night to discharge a matter which has been long in my mind. My errand is now completed, and I go pleased and a little proud, and you will never see me again. There is a paper attached to the sack which will explain everything. Good- night, madam."
The old lady was afraid of the mysterious big stranger, and was glad to see him go. But her curiosity was roused, and she went straight to the sack and brought away the paper. It began as follows:"TO BE PUBLISHED, or, the right man sought out by private inquiry-- either will answer. This sack contains gold coin weighing a hundred and sixty pounds four ounces--" "Mercy on us, and the door not locked!"
Mrs. Richards flew to it all in a tremble and locked it, then pulled down the windowshades and stood frightened, worried, and wondering if there was anything else she could do toward making herself and the money more safe. She listened awhile for burglars, then surrendered to curiosity, and went back to the lamp and finished reading the paper:
"I am a foreigner, and am presently going back to my own country, to remain there permanently. I am grateful to America for what I have received at her hands during my long stay under her flag; and to one of her citizens--a citizen of Hadleyburg--I am especially grateful for a great kindness done me a year or two ago. Two great kindnesses in fact. I will explain. I was a gambler. I say I WAS. I was a ruined gambler. I arrived in this village at night, hungry and without a penny. I asked for help--in the dark; I was ashamed to beg in the light. I begged of the right man. He gave me twenty dollars--that is to say, he gave me life, as I considered it. He also gave me fortune; for out of that money I have made myself rich at the gaming-table. And finally, a remark which he made to me has remained with me to this day, and has at last conquered me; and in conquering has saved the remnant of my morals: I shall gamble no more. Now I have no idea who that man was, but I want him found, and I want him to have this money, to give away, throw away, or keep, as he pleases. It is merely my way of testifying my gratitude to him. If I could stay, I would find him myself; but no matter, he will be found. This is an honest town, an incorruptible town, and I know I can trust it without fear. This man can be identified by the remark which he made to me; I feel persuaded that he will remember it.
"And now my plan is this: If you prefer to conduct the inquiry privately, do so. Tell the contents of this present writing to any one who is likely to be the right man. If he shall answer, 'I am the man; the remark I made was so-and-so,' apply the test--to wit: open the sack, and in it you will find a sealed envelope containing that remark. If the remark mentioned by the candidate tallies with it, give him the money, and ask no further questions, for he is certainly the right man.
"But if you shall prefer a public inquiry, then publish this present writing in the local paper--with these instructions added, to wit: Thirty days from now, let the candidate appear at the town-hall at eight in the evening (Friday), and hand his remark, in a sealed envelope, to the Rev. Mr. Burgess (if he will be kind enough to act); and let Mr. Burgess there and then destroy the seals of the sack, open it, and see if the remark is correct: if correct, let the money be delivered, with my sincere gratitude, to my benefactor thus identified."
Mrs. Richards sat down, gently quivering with excitement, and was soon lost in thinkings--after this pattern: "What a strange thing it is! . . . And what a fortune for that kind man who set his bread afloat upon the waters! . . . If it had only been my husband that did it!--for we are so poor, so old and poor! . . ." Then, with a sigh--"But it was not my Edward; no, it was not he that gave a stranger twenty dollars. It is a pity too; I see it now. . . " Then, with a shudder--"But it is GAMBLERS' money! the wages of sin; we couldn't take it; we couldn't touch it. I don't like to be near it; it seems a defilement." She moved to a farther chair. . . "I wish Edward would come, and take it to the bank; a burglar might come at any moment; it is dreadful to be here all alone with it."
At eleven Mr. Richards arrived, and while his wife was saying "I am SO glad you've come!" he was saying, "I am so tired--tired clear out; it is dreadful to be poor, and have to make these dismal journeys at my time of life. Always at the grind, grind, grind, on a salary--another man's slave, and he sitting at home in his slippers, rich and comfortable.""I am so sorry for you, Edward, you know that; but be comforted; we have our livelihood; we have our good name--"
"Yes, Mary, and that is everything. Don't mind my talk--it's just a moment's irritation and doesn't mean anything. Kiss me--there, it's all gone now, and I am not complaining any more. What have you been getting? What's in the sack?"Then his wife told him the great secret. It dazed him for a moment; then he said:
"It weighs a hundred and sixty pounds? Why, Mary, it's for-ty thou- sand dollars--think of it--a whole fortune! Not ten men in this village are worth that much. Give me the paper."He skimmed through it and said:
"Isn't it an adventure! Why, it's a romance; it's like the impossible things one reads about in books, and never sees in life." He was well stirred up now; cheerful, even gleeful. He tapped his old wife on the cheek, and said humorously, "Why, we're rich, Mary, rich; all we've got to do is to bury the money and burn the papers. If the gambler ever comes to inquire, we'll merely look coldly upon him and say: 'What is this nonsense you are talking? We have never heard of you and your sack of gold before;' and then he would look foolish, and--"
"And in the meantime, while you are running on with your jokes, the money is still here, and it is fast getting along toward burglar- time."
"True. Very well, what shall we do--make the inquiry private? No, not that; it would spoil the romance. The public method is better. Think what a noise it will make! And it will make all the other towns jealous; for no stranger would trust such a thing to any town but Hadleyburg, and they know it. It's a great card for us. I must get to the printing-office now, or I shall be too late."
But he was gone. For only a little while, however. Not far from his own house he met the editor--proprietor of the paper, and gave him the document, and said "Here is a good thing for you, Cox--put it in.""It may be too late, Mr. Richards, but I'll see."
At home again, he and his wife sat down to talk the charming mystery over; they were in no condition for sleep. The first question was, Who could the citizen have been who gave the stranger the twenty dollars? It seemed a simple one; both answered it in the same breath--"Barclay Goodson." "Yes," said Richards, "he could have done it, and it would have been like him, but there's not another in the town."
"Everybody will grant that, Edward--grant it privately, anyway. For six months, now, the village has been its own proper self once more- -honest, narrow, self-righteous, and stingy.""It is what he always called it, to the day of his death--said it right out publicly, too." "Yes, and he was hated for it." "Oh, of course; but he didn't care. I reckon he was the best-hated man among us, except the Reverend Burgess."
"Well, Burgess deserves it--he will never get another congregation here. Mean as the town is, it knows how to estimate HIM. Edward, doesn't it seem odd that the stranger should appoint Burgess to deliver the money?""Well, yes--it does. That is--that is--" "Why so much that-IS-ing? Would YOU select him?" "Mary, maybe the stranger knows him better than this village does."
"Much THAT would help Burgess!" The husband seemed perplexed for an answer; the wife kept a steady eye upon him, and waited. Finally Richards said, with the hesitancy of one who is making a statement which is likely to encounter doubt,"Mary, Burgess is not a bad man." His wife was certainly surprised. "Nonsense!" she exclaimed. "He is not a bad man. I know. The whole of his unpopularity had its foundation in that one thing--the thing that made so much noise." "That 'one thing,' indeed! As if that 'one thing' wasn't enough, all by itself." "Plenty. Plenty. Only he wasn't guilty of it." "How you talk! Not guilty of it! Everybody knows he WAS guilty." "Mary, I give you my word--he was innocent." "I can't believe it and I don't. How do you know?"
"It is a confession. I am ashamed, but I will make it. I was the only man who knew he was innocent. I could have saved him, and-- and--well, you know how the town was wrought up--I hadn't the pluck to do it. It would have turned everybody against me. I felt mean, ever so mean; ut I didn't dare; I hadn't the manliness to face that."Mary looked troubled, and for a while was silent. Then she said stammeringly:
"I--I don't think it would have done for you to--to--One mustn't-- er--public opinion--one has to be so careful --so--" It was a difficult road, and she got mired; but after a little she got started again. "It was a great pity, but-- Why, we couldn't afford it, Edward--we couldn't indeed. Oh, I wouldn't have had you do it for anything!""It would have lost us the good-will of so many people, Mary; and then--and then--" "What troubles me now is, what HE thinks of us, Edward." "He? HE doesn't suspect that I could have saved him."
"Oh," exclaimed the wife, in a tone of relief, "I am glad of that. As long as he doesn't know that you could have saved him, he--he-- well that makes it a great deal better. Why, I might have known he didn't know, because he is always trying to be friendly with us, as little encouragement as we give him. More than once people have twitted me with it. There's the Wilsons, and the Wilcoxes, and the Harknesses, they take a mean pleasure in saying 'YOUR FRIEND Burgess,' because they know it pesters me. I wish he wouldn't persist in liking us so; I can't think why he keeps it up."
"I can explain it. It's another confession. When the thing was new and hot, and the town made a plan to ride him on a rail, my conscience hurt me so that I couldn't stand it, and I went privately and gave him notice, and he got out of the town and stayed out till it was safe to come back.""Edward! If the town had found it out--"
"DON'T! It scares me yet, to think of it. I repented of it the minute it was done; and I was even afraid to tell you lest your face might betray it to somebody. I didn't sleep any that night, for worrying. But after a few days I saw that no one was going to suspect me, and after that I got to feeling glad I did it. And I feel glad yet, Mary--glad through and through."
"So do I, now, for it would have been a dreadful way to treat him. Yes, I'm glad; for really you did owe him that, you know. But, Edward, suppose it should come out yet, some day!""It won't." "Why?" "Because everybody thinks it was Goodson." "Of course they would!"
"Certainly. And of course HE didn't care. They persuaded poor old Sawlsberry to go and charge it on him, and he went blustering over there and did it. Goodson looked him over, like as if he was hunting for a place on him that he could despise the most; then he says, 'So you are the Committee of Inquiry, are you?' Sawlsberry said that was about what he was. 'H'm. Do they require particulars, or do you reckon a kind of a GENERAL answer will do?' 'If they require particulars, I will come back, Mr. Goodson; I will take the general answer first.' 'Very well, then, tell them to go to hell--I reckon that's general enough. And I'll give you some advice, Sawlsberry; when you come back for the particulars, fetch a basket to carry what is left of yourself home in.'""Just like Goodson; it's got all the marks. He had only one vanity; he thought he could give advice better than any other person." "It settled the business, and saved us, Mary. The subject was dropped."
"Bless you, I'm not doubting THAT." Then they took up the gold-sack mystery again, with strong interest. Soon the conversation began to suffer breaks--interruptions caused by absorbed thinkings. The breaks grew more and more frequent. At last Richards lost himself wholly in thought. He sat long, gazing vacantly at the floor, and by-and-by he began to punctuate his thoughts with little nervous movements of his hands that seemed to indicate vexation. Meantime his wife too had relapsed into a thoughtful silence, and her movements were beginning to show a troubled discomfort. Finally Richards got up and strode aimlessly about the room, ploughing his hands through his hair, much as a somnambulist might do who was having a bad dream. Then he seemed to arrive at a definite purpose; and without a word he put on his hat and passed quickly out of the house. His wife sat brooding, with a drawn face, and did not seem to be aware that she was alone. Now and then she murmured, "Lead us not into t . . . but--but--we are so poor, so poor! . . . Lead us not into . . . Ah, who would be hurt by it?--and no one would ever know . . . Lead us . . . " The voice died out in mumblings. After a little she glanced up and muttered in a half-frightened, half-glad way
"He is gone! But, oh dear, he may be too late--too late . . . Maybe not--maybe there is still time." She rose and stood thinking, nervously clasping and unclasping her hands. A slight shudder shook her frame, and she said, out of a dry throat, "God forgive me--it's awful to think such things--but . . . Lord, how we are made--how strangely we are made!"
She turned the light low, and slipped stealthily over and knelt down by the sack and felt of its ridgy sides with her hands, and fondled them lovingly; and there was a gloating light in her poor old eyes. She fell into fits of absence; and came half out of them at times to mutter "If we had only waited!--oh, if we had only waited a little, and not been in such a hurry!"
Meantime Cox had gone home from his office and told his wife all about the strange thing that had happened, and they had talked it over eagerly, and guessed that the late Goodson was the only man in the town who could have helped a suffering stranger with so noble a sum as twenty dollars. Then there was a pause, and the two became thoughtful and silent. And by-and-by nervous and fidgety. At last the wife said, as if to herself,"Nobody knows this secret but the Richardses . . . and us . . . nobody."
The husband came out of his thinkings with a slight start, and gazed wistfully at his wife, whose face was become very pale; then he hesitatingly rose, and glanced furtively at his hat, then at his wife--a sort of mute inquiry. Mrs. Cox swallowed once or twice, with her hand at her throat, then in place of speech she nodded her head. In a moment she was alone, and mumbling to herself.
And now Richards and Cox were hurrying through the deserted streets, from opposite directions. They met, panting, at the foot of the printing-office stairs; by the night-light there they read each other's face. Cox whispered:"Nobody knows about this but us?" The whispered answer was: "Not a soul--on honour, not a soul!" "If it isn't too late to--" The men were starting up-stairs; at this moment they were overtaken by a boy, and Cox asked, "Is that you, Johnny?" "Yes, sir." "You needn't ship the early mail--nor ANY mail; wait till I tell you." "It's already gone, sir." "GONE?" It had the sound of an unspeakable disappointment in it.
"Yes, sir. Time-table for Brixton and all the towns beyond changed to-day, sir--had to get the papers in twenty minutes earlier than common. I had to rush; if I had been two minutes later--"The men turned and walked slowly away, not waiting to hear the rest. Neither of them spoke during ten minutes; then Cox said, in a vexed tone, "What possessed you to be in such a hurry, I can't make out." The answer was humble enough: "I see it now, but somehow I never thought, you know, until it was too late. But the next time--" "Next time be hanged! It won't come in a thousand years."
Then the friends separated without a good-night, and dragged themselves home with the gait of mortally stricken men. At their homes their wives sprang up with an eager "Well?"--then saw the answer with their eyes and sank down sorrowing, without waiting for it to come in words. In both houses a discussion followed of a heated sort--a new thing; there had been discussions before, but not heated ones, not ungentle ones. The discussions to-night were a sort of seeming plagiarisms of each other. Mrs. Richards said:"If you had only waited, Edward--if you had only stopped to think; but no, you must run straight to the printing-office and spread it all over the world." "It SAID publish it." "That is nothing; it also said do it privately, if you liked. There, now--is that true, or not?" "Why, yes--yes, it is true; but when I thought what a stir it would make, and what a compliment it was to Hadleyburg that a stranger should trust it so--"
"Oh, certainly, I know all that; but if you had only stopped to think, you would have seen that you COULDN'T find the right man, because he is in his grave, and hasn't left chick nor child nor relation behind him; and as long as the money went to somebody that awfully needed it, and nobody would be hurt by it, and--and--"She broke down, crying. Her husband tried to think of some comforting thing to say, and presently came out with this: "But after all, Mary, it must be for the best--it must be; we know that. And we must remember that it was so ordered--"
"Ordered! Oh, everything's ORDERED, when a person has to find some way out when he has been stupid. Just the same, it was ORDERED that the money should come to us in this special way, and it was you that must take it on yourself to go meddling with the designs of Providence--and who gave you the right? It was wicked, that is what it was-just blasphemous presumption, and no more becoming to a meek and humble professor of--"
"But, Mary, you know how we have been trained all our lives long, like the whole village, till it is absolutely second nature to us to stop not a single moment to think when there's an honest thing to be done--"
"Oh, I know it, I know it--it's been one everlasting training and training and training in honesty--honesty shielded, from the very cradle, against every possible temptation, and so it's ARTIFICIAL honesty, and weak as water when temptation comes, as we have seen this night. God knows I never had shade nor shadow of a doubt of my petrified and indestructible honesty until now--and now, under the very first big and real temptation, I
-Edward, it is my belief that this town's honesty is as rotten as mine is; as rotten as yours. It is a mean town, a hard, stingy town, and hasn't a virtue in the world but this honesty it is so celebrated for and so conceited about; and so help me, I do believe that if ever the day comes that its honesty falls under great temptation, its grand reputation will go to ruin like a house of cards. There, now, I've made confession, and I feel better; I am a humbug, and I've been one all my life, without knowing it. Let no man call me honest again--I will not have it."
By this time the Coxes too had completed their spat and their reconciliation, and were turning in--to think, to think, and toss, and fret, and worry over what the remark could possibly have been which Goodson made to the stranded derelict; that golden remark; that remark worth forty thousand dollars, cash.
The reason that the village telegraph-office was open later than usual that night was this: The foreman of Cox's paper was the local representative of the Associated Press. One might say its honorary representative, for it wasn't four times a year that he could furnish thirty words that would be accepted. But this time it was different. His despatch stating what he had caught got an instant answer:"Send the whole thing--all the details--twelve hundred words."
A colossal order! The foreman filled the bill; and he was the proudest man in the State. By breakfast-time the next morning the name of Hadleyburg the Incorruptible was on every lip in America, from Montreal to the Gulf, from the glaciers of Alaska to the orange-groves of Florida; and millions and millions of people were discussing the stranger and his money-sack, and wondering if the right man would be found, and hoping some more news about the matter would come soon--right away.
Hadleyburg village woke up world-celebrated--astonished--happy-- vain. Vain beyond imagination. Its nineteen principal citizens and their wives went about shaking hands with each other, and beaming, and smiling, and congratulating, and saying THIS thing adds a new word to the dictionary--HADLEYBURG, synonym for INCORRUPTIBLE-- destined to live in dictionaries for ever! And the minor and unimportant citizens and their wives went around acting in much the same way. Everybody ran to the bank to see the gold-sack; and before noon grieved and envious crowds began to flock in from Brixton and all neighbouring towns; and that afternoon and next day reporters began to arrive from everywhere to verify the sack and its history and write the whole thing up anew, and make dashing free- hand pictures of the sack, and of Richards's house, and the bank, and the Presbyterian church, and the Baptist church, and the public square, and the town-hall where the test would be applied and the money delivered; and damnable portraits of the Richardses, and Pinkerton the banker, and Cox, and the foreman, and Reverend Burgess, and the postmaster--and even of Jack Halliday, who was the loafing, good-natured, noaccount, irreverent fisherman, hunter, boys' friend, stray-dogs' friend, typical "Sam Lawson" of the town. The little mean, smirking, oily Pinkerton showed the sack to all comers, and rubbed his sleek palms together pleasantly, and enlarged upon the town's fine old reputation for honesty and upon this wonderful endorsement of it, and hoped and believed that the example would now spread far and wide over the American world, and be epoch- making in the matter of moral regeneration. And so on, and so on.
By the end of a week things had quieted down again; the wild intoxication of pride and joy had sobered to a soft, sweet, silent delight--a sort of deep, nameless, unutterable content. All faces bore a look of peaceful, holy happiness.
Then a change came. It was a gradual change; so gradual that its beginnings were hardly noticed; maybe were not noticed at all, except by Jack Halliday, who always noticed everything; and always made fun of it, too, no matter what it was. He began to throw out chaffing remarks about people not looking quite so happy as they did a day or two ago; and next he claimed that the new aspect was deepening to positive sadness; next, that it was taking on a sick look; and finally he said that everybody was become so moody, thoughtful, and absent-minded that he could rob the meanest man in town of a cent out of the bottom of his breeches pocket and not disturb his reverie.At this stage--or at about this stage--a saying like this was dropped at bedtime--with a sigh, usually--by the head of each of the nineteen principal households: "Ah, what COULD have been the remark that Goodson made?" And straightway--with a shudder--came this, from the man's wife:
"Oh, DON'T! What horrible thing are you mulling in your mind? Put it away from you, for God's sake!"
But that question was wrung from those men again the next night--and got the same retort. But weaker.
And the third night the men uttered the question yet again--with anguish, and absently. This time--and the following night--the wives fidgeted feebly, and tried to say something. But didn't.And the night after that they found their tongues and responded-- longingly: "Oh, if we COULD only guess!"
Halliday's comments grew daily more and more sparklingly disagreeable and disparaging. He went diligently about, laughing at the town, individually and in mass. But his laugh was the only one left in the village: it fell upon a hollow and mournful vacancy and emptiness. Not even a smile was findable anywhere. Halliday carried a cigar-box around on a tripod, playing that it was a camera, and halted all passers and aimed the thing and said "Ready! --now look pleasant, please," but not even this capital joke could surprise the dreary faces into any softening.
So three weeks passed--one week was left. It was Saturday evening after supper. Instead of the aforetime Saturday-evening flutter and bustle and shopping and larking, the streets were empty and desolate. Richards and his old wife sat apart in their little parlour-miserable and thinking. This was become their evening habit now: the life-long habit which had preceded it, of reading, knitting, and contented chat, or receiving or paying neighbourly calls, was dead and gone and forgotten, ages ago--two or three weeks ago; nobody talked now, nobody read, nobody visited--the whole village sat at home, sighing, worrying, silent. Trying to guess out that remark.
The postman left a letter. Richards glanced listlessly at the superscription and the postmark--unfamiliar, both--and tossed the letter on the table and resumed his might-havebeens and his hopeless dull miseries where he had left them off. Two or three hours later his wife got wearily up and was going away to bed without a good-night--custom now-but she stopped near the letter and eyed it awhile with a dead interest, then broke it open, and began to skim it over. Richards, sitting there with his chair tilted back against the wall and his chin between his knees, heard something fall. It was his wife. He sprang to her side, but she cried out:"Leave me alone, I am too happy. Read the letter--read it!" He did. He devoured it, his brain reeling. The letter was from a distant State, and it said:
"I am a stranger to you, but no matter: I have something to tell. I have just arrived home from Mexico, and learned about that episode. Of course you do not know who made that remark, but I know, and I am the only person living who does know. It was GOODSON. I knew him well, many years ago. I passed through your village that very night, and was his guest till the midnight train came along. I overheard him make that remark to the stranger in the dark--it was in Hale Alley. He and I talked of it the rest of the way home, and while smoking in his house. He mentioned many of your villagers in the course of his talk--most of them in a very uncomplimentary way, but two or three favourably: among these latter yourself. I say 'favourably'--nothing stronger. I remember his saying he did not actually LIKE any person in the town--not one; but that you--I THINK he said you-am almost sure--had done him a very great service once, possibly without knowing the full value of it, and he wished he had a fortune, he would leave it to you when he died, and a curse apiece for the rest of the citizens. Now, then, if it was you that did him that service, you are his legitimate heir, and entitled to the sack of gold. I know that I can trust to your honour and honesty, for in a citizen of Hadleyburg these virtues are an unfailing inheritance, and so I am going to reveal to you the remark, well satisfied that if you are not the right man you will seek and find the right one and see that poor Goodson's debt of gratitude for the service referred to is paid. This is the remark 'YOU ARE FAR FROM BEING A BAD MAN: GO, AND REFORM.'"HOWARD L. STEPHENSON."
"Oh, Edward, the money is ours, and I am so grateful, OH, so grateful,--kiss me, dear, it's for ever since we kissed--and we needed it so--the money--and now you are free of Pinkerton and his bank, and nobody's slave any more; it seems to me I could fly for joy."
It was a happy half-hour that the couple spent there on the settee caressing each other; it was the old days come again--days that had begun with their courtship and lasted without a break till the stranger brought the deadly money. By-and-by the wife said:
"Oh, Edward, how lucky it was you did him that grand service, poor Goodson! I never liked him, but I love him now. And it was fine and beautiful of you never to mention it or brag about it." Then, with a touch of reproach, "But you ought to have told ME, Edward, you ought to have told your wife, you know.""Well, I--er--well, Mary, you see--"
"Now stop hemming and hawing, and tell me about it, Edward. I always loved you, and now I'm proud of you. Everybody believes there was only one good generous soul in this village, and now it turns out that you-- Edward, why don't you tell me?""Well--er--er--Why, Mary, I can't!" "You CAN'T? WHY can't you?" "You see, he--well, he--he made me promise I wouldn't." The wife looked him over, and said, very slowly: "Made--you--promise? Edward, what do you tell me that for?" "Mary, do you think I would lie?" She was troubled and silent for a moment, then she laid her hand within his and said:
"No . . . no. We have wandered far enough from our bearings--God spare us that! In all your life you have never uttered a lie. But now--now that the foundations of things seem to be crumbling from under us, we--we--" She lost her voice for a moment, then said, brokenly, "Lead us not into temptation. . . I think you made the promise, Edward. Let it rest so. Let us keep away from that ground. Now--that is all gone by; let us he happy again; it is no time for clouds."Edward found it something of an effort to comply, for his mind kept wandering--trying to remember what the service was that he had done Goodson.
The couple lay awake the most of the night, Mary happy and busy, Edward busy, but not so happy. Mary was planning what she would do with the money. Edward was trying to recall that service. At first his conscience was sore on account of the lie he had told Mary--if it was a lie. After much reflection--suppose it WAS a lie? What then? Was it such a great matter? Aren't we always ACTING lies? Then why not tell them? Look at Mary--look what she had done. While he was hurrying off on his honest errand, what was she doing? Lamenting because the papers hadn't been destroyed and the money kept. Is theft better than lying?
THAT point lost its sting--the lie dropped into the background and left comfort behind it. The next point came to the front: HAD he rendered that service? Well, here was Goodson's own evidence as reported in Stephenson's letter; there could be no better evidence than that--it was even PROOF that he had rendered it. Of course. So that point was settled. . . No, not quite. He recalled with a wince that this unknown Mr. Stephenson was just a trifle unsure as to whether the performer of it was Richards or some other--and, oh dear, he had put Richards on his honour! He must himself decide whither that money must go--and Mr. Stephenson was not doubting that if he was the wrong man he would go honourably and find the right one. Oh, it was odious to put a man in such a situation-ah, why couldn't Stephenson have left out that doubt? What did he want to intrude that for?
Further reflection. How did it happen that RICHARDS'S name remained in Stephenson's mind as indicating the right man, and not some other man's name? That looked good. Yes, that looked very good. In fact it went on looking better and better, straight along-until by-and- by it grew into positive PROOF. And then Richards put the matter at once out of his mind, for he had a private instinct that a proof once established is better left so.
He was feeling reasonably comfortable now, but there was still one other detail that kept pushing itself on his notice: of course he had done that service--that was settled; but what WAS that service? He must recall it--he would not go to sleep till he had recalled it; it would make his peace of mind perfect. And so he thought and thought. He thought of a dozen things--possible services, even probable services--but none of them seemed adequate, none of them seemed large enough, none of them seemed worth the money-worth the fortune Goodson had wished he could leave in his will. And besides, he couldn't remember having done them, anyway. Now, then--now, then--what KIND of a service would it be that would make a man so inordinately grateful? Ah--the saving of his soul! That must be it. Yes, he could remember, now, how he once set himself the task of converting Goodson, and laboured at it as much as--he was going to say three months; but upon closer examination it shrunk to a month, then to a week, then to a day, then to nothing. Yes, he remembered now, and with unwelcome vividness, that Goodson had told him to go to thunder and mind his own business--HE wasn't hankering to follow Hadleyburg to heaven!
So that solution was a failure--he hadn't saved Goodson's soul. Richards was discouraged. Then after a little came another idea: had he saved Goodson's property? No, that wouldn't do--he hadn't any. His life? That is it! Of course. Why, he might have thought of it before. This time he was on the right track, sure. His imagination-mill was hard at work in a minute, now.
Thereafter, during a stretch of two exhausting hours, he was busy saving Goodson's life. He saved it in all kinds of difficult and perilous ways. In every case he got it saved satisfactorily up to a certain point; then, just as he was beginning to get well persuaded that it had really happened, a troublesome detail would turn up which made the whole thing impossible. As in the matter of drowning, for instance. In that case he had swum out and tugged Goodson ashore in an unconscious state with a great crowd looking on and applauding, but when he had got it all thought out and was just beginning to remember all about it, a whole swarm of disqualifying details arrived on the ground: the town would have known of the circumstance, Mary would have known of it, it would glare like a limelight in his own memory instead of being an inconspicuous service which he had possibly rendered "without knowing its full value." And at this point he remembered that he couldn't swim anyway.
Ah--THERE was a point which he had been overlooking from the start: it had to be a service which he had rendered "possibly without knowing the full value of it." Why, really, that ought to be an easy hunt--much easier than those others. And sure enough, byand- by he found it. Goodson, years and years ago, came near marrying a very sweet and pretty girl, named Nancy Hewitt, but in some way or other the match had been broken off; the girl died, Goodson remained a bachelor, and by-and-by became a soured one and a frank despiser of the human species. Soon after the girl's death the village found out, or thought it had found out, that she carried a spoonful of negro blood in her veins. Richards worked at these details a good while, and in the end he thought he remembered things concerning them which must have gotten mislaid in his memory through long neglect. He seemed to dimly remember that it was HE that found out about the negro blood; that it was he that told the village; that the village told Goodson where they got it; that he thus saved Goodson from marrying the tainted girl; that he had done him this great service "without knowing the full value of it," in fact without knowing that he WAS doing it; but that Goodson knew the value of it, and what a narrow escape he had had, and so went to his grave grateful to his benefactor and wishing he had a fortune to leave him. It was all clear and simple, now, and the more he went over it the more luminous and certain it grew; and at last, when he nestled to sleep, satisfied and happy, he remembered the whole thing just as if it had been yesterday. In fact, he dimly remembered Goodson's TELLING him his gratitude once. Meantime Mary had spent six thousand dollars on a new house for herself and a pair of slippers for her pastor, and then had fallen peacefully to rest.
That same Saturday evening the postman had delivered a letter to each of the other principal citizens--nineteen letters in all. No two of the envelopes were alike, and no two of the superscriptions were in the same hand, but the letters inside were just like each other in every detail but one. They were exact copies of the letter received by Richards-handwriting and all--and were all signed by Stephenson, but in place of Richards's name each receiver's own name appeared.
All night long eighteen principal citizens did what their caste- brother Richards was doing at the same time--they put in their energies trying to remember what notable service it was that they had unconsciously done Barclay Goodson. In no case was it a holiday job; still they succeeded.
And while they were at this work, which was difficult, their wives put in the night spending the money, which was easy. During that one night the nineteen wives spent an average of seven thousand dollars each out of the forty thousand in the sack--a hundred and thirty-three thousand altogether.
Next day there was a surprise for Jack Halliday. He noticed that the faces of the nineteen chief citizens and their wives bore that expression of peaceful and holy happiness again. He could not understand it, neither was he able to invent any remarks about it that could damage it or disturb it. And so it was his turn to be dissatisfied with life. His private guesses at the reasons for the happiness failed in all instances, upon examination. When he met Mrs. Wilcox and noticed the placid ecstasy in her face, he said to himself, "Her cat has had kittens"--and went and asked the cook; it was not so, the cook had detected the happiness, but did not know the cause. When Halliday found the duplicate ecstasy in the face of "Shadbelly" Billson (village nickname), he was sure some neighbour of Billson's had broken his leg, but inquiry showed that this had not happened. The subdued ecstasy in Gregory Yates's face could mean but one thing--he was a mother-in-law short; it was another mistake. "And Pinkerton--Pinkerton--he has collected ten cents that he thought he was going to lose." And so on, and so on. In some cases the guesses had to remain in doubt, in the others they proved distinct errors. In the end Halliday said to himself, "Anyway it roots up that there's nineteen Hadleyburg families temporarily in heaven: I don't know how it happened; I only know Providence is off duty to-day."
An architect and builder from the next State had lately ventured to set up a small business in this unpromising village, and his sign had now been hanging out a week. Not a customer yet; he was a discouraged man, and sorry he had come. But his weather changed suddenly now. First one and then another chief citizen's wife said to him privately:
"Come to my house Monday week--but say nothing about it for the present. We think of building."
The Wilsons devised a grand new thing--a fancy-dress ball. They made no actual promises, but told all their acquaintanceship in confidence that they were thinking the matter over and thought they should give it--"and if we do, you will be invited, of course." People were surprised, and said, one to another, "Why, they are crazy, those poor Wilsons, they can't afford it." Several among the nineteen said privately to their husbands, "It is a good idea, we will keep still till their cheap thing is over, then WE will give one that will make it sick."
The days drifted along, and the bill of future squanderings rose higher and higher, wilder and wilder, more and more foolish and reckless. It began to look as if every member of the nineteen would not only spend his whole forty thousand dollars before receiving- day, but be actually in debt by the time he got the money. In some cases light-headed people did not stop with planning to spend, they really spent--on credit. They bought land, mortgages, farms, speculative stocks, fine clothes, horses, and various other things, paid down the bonus, and made themselves liable for the rest--at ten days. Presently the sober second thought came, and Halliday noticed that a ghastly anxiety was beginning to show up in a good many faces. Again he was puzzled, and didn't know what to make of it. "The Wilcox kittens aren't dead, for they weren't born; nobody's broken a leg; there's no shrinkage in mother-in-laws; NOTHING has happened--it is an insolvable mystery."
There was another puzzled man, too--the Rev. Mr. Burgess. For days, wherever he went, people seemed to follow him or to be watching out for him; and if he ever found himself in a retired spot, a member of the nineteen would be sure to appear, thrust an envelope privately into his hand, whisper "To be opened at the town-hall Friday evening," then vanish away like a guilty thing. He was expecting that there might be one claimant for the sack--doubtful, however, Goodson being dead--but it never occurred to him that all this crowd might be claimants. When the great Friday came at last, he found that he had nineteen envelopes.III
The town-hall had never looked finer. The platform at the end of it was backed by a showy draping of flags; at intervals along the walls were festoons of flags; the gallery fronts were clothed in flags; the supporting columns were swathed in flags; all this was to impress the stranger, for he would be there in considerable force, and in a large degree he would be connected with the press. The house was full. The 412 fixed seats were occupied; also the 68 extra chairs which had been packed into the aisles; the steps of the platform were occupied; some distinguished strangers were given seats on the platform; at the horseshoe of tables which fenced the front and sides of the platform sat a strong force of special correspondents who had come from everywhere. It was the best- dressed house the town had ever produced. There were some tolerably expensive toilets there, and in several cases the ladies who wore them had the look of being unfamiliar with that kind of clothes. At least the town thought they had that look, but the notion could have arisen from the town's knowledge of the fact that these ladies had never inhabited such clothes before.
The gold-sack stood on a little table at the front of the platform where all the house could see it. The bulk of the house gazed at it with a burning interest, a mouth-watering interest, a wistful and pathetic interest; a minority of nineteen couples gazed at it tenderly, lovingly, proprietarily, and the male half of this minority kept saying over to themselves the moving little impromptu speeches of thankfulness for the audience's applause and congratulations which they were presently going to get up and deliver. Every now and then one of these got a piece of paper out of his vest pocket and privately glanced at it to refresh his memory.
Of course there was a buzz of conversation going on--there always is; but at last, when the Rev. Mr. Burgess rose and laid his hand on the sack, he could hear his microbes gnaw, the place was so still. He related the curious history of the sack, then went on to speak in warm terms of Hadleyburg's old and well-earned reputation for spotless honesty, and of the town's just pride in this reputation. He said that this reputation was a treasure of priceless value; that under Providence its value had now become inestimably enhanced, for the recent episode had spread this fame far and wide, and thus had focussed the eyes of the American world upon this village, and made its name for all time, as he hoped and believed, a synonym for commercial incorruptibility. [Applause.] "And who is to be the guardian of this noble fame--the community as a whole? No! The responsibility is individual, not communal. From this day forth each and every one of you is in his own person its special guardian, and individually responsible that no harm shall come to it. Do you --does each of you--accept this great trust? [Tumultuous assent.] Then all is well. Transmit it to your children and to your children's children. To-day your purity is beyond reproach--see to it that it shall remain so. To-day there is not a person in your community who could be beguiled to touch a penny not his own--see to it that you abide in this grace. ["We will! we will!"] This is not the place to make comparisons between ourselves and other communities--some of them ungracious towards us; they have their ways, we have ours; let us be content. [Applause.] I am done. Under my hand, my friends, rests a stranger's eloquent recognition of what we are; through him the world will always henceforth know what we are. We do not know who he is, but in your name I utter your gratitude, and ask you to raise your voices in indorsement."
The house rose in a body and made the walls quake with the thunders of its thankfulness for the space of a long minute. Then it sat down, and Mr. Burgess took an envelope out of his pocket. The house held its breath while he slit the envelope open and took from it a slip of paper. He read its contents--slowly and impressively--the audience listening with tranced attention to this magic document, each of whose words stood for an ingot of gold: "'The remark which I made to the distressed stranger was this: "You are very far from being a bad man; go, and reform."'" Then he continued:- "We shall know in a moment now whether the remark here quoted corresponds with the one concealed in the sack; and if that shall prove to be so--and it undoubtedly will--this sack of gold belongs to a fellowcitizen who will henceforth stand before the nation as the symbol of the special virtue which has made our town famous throughout the land--Mr. Billson!"
The house had gotten itself all ready to burst into the proper tornado of applause; but instead of doing it, it seemed stricken with a paralysis; there was a deep hush for a moment or two, then a wave of whispered murmurs swept the place--of about this tenor: "BILLSON! oh, come, this is TOO thin! Twenty dollars to a stranger --or ANYBODY-BILLSON! Tell it to the marines!" And now at this point the house caught its breath all of a sudden in a new access of astonishment, for it discovered that whereas in one part of the hall Deacon Billson was standing up with his head weekly bowed, in another part of it Lawyer Wilson was doing the same. There was a wondering silence now for a while. Everybody was puzzled, and nineteen couples were surprised and indignant.Billson and Wilson turned and stared at each other. Billson asked, bitingly: "Why do YOU rise, Mr. Wilson?" "Because I have a right to. Perhaps you will be good enough to explain to the house why YOU rise." "With great pleasure. Because I wrote that paper." "It is an impudent falsity! I wrote it myself."
It was Burgess's turn to be paralysed. He stood looking vacantly at first one of the men and then the other, and did not seem to know what to do. The house was stupefied. Lawyer Wilson spoke up now, and said:"I ask the Chair to read the name signed to that paper." That brought the Chair to itself, and it read out the name: "John Wharton BILLSON."
"There!" shouted Billson, "what have you got to say for yourself now? And what kind of apology are you going to make to me and to this insulted house for the imposture which you have attempted to play here?"
"No apologies are due, sir; and as for the rest of it, I publicly charge you with pilfering my note from Mr. Burgess and substituting a copy of it signed with your own name. There is no other way by which you could have gotten hold of the test-remark; I alone, of living men, possessed the secret of its wording."
There was likely to be a scandalous state of things if this went on; everybody noticed with distress that the shorthand scribes were scribbling like mad; many people were crying "Chair, chair! Order! order!" Burgess rapped with his gavel, and said:
"Let us not forget the proprieties due. There has evidently been a mistake somewhere, but surely that is all. If Mr. Wilson gave me an envelope--and I remember now that he did--I still have it."
He took one out of his pocket, opened it, glanced at it, looked surprised and worried, and stood silent a few moments. Then he waved his hand in a wandering and mechanical way, and made an effort or two to say something, then gave it up, despondently. Several voices cried out:"Read it! read it! What is it?" So he began, in a dazed and sleep-walker fashion:
"'The remark which I made to the unhappy stranger was this: "You are far from being a bad man. [The house gazed at him marvelling.] Go, and reform."' [Murmurs: "Amazing! what can this mean?"] This one," said the Chair, "is signed Thurlow G. Wilson.""There!" cried Wilson, "I reckon that settles it! I knew perfectly well my note was purloined." "Purloined!" retorted Billson. "I'll let you know that neither you nor any man of your kidney must venture to--" The Chair: "Order, gentlemen, order! Take your seats, both of you, please."
They obeyed, shaking their heads and grumbling angrily. The house was profoundly puzzled; it did not know what to do with this curious emergency. Presently Thompson got up. Thompson was the hatter. He would have liked to be a Nineteener; but such was not for him; his stock of hats was not considerable enough for the position. He said:
"Mr. Chairman, if I may be permitted to make a suggestion, can both of these gentlemen be right? I put it to you, sir, can both have happened to say the very same words to the stranger? It seems to me--"
The tanner got up and interrupted him. The tanner was a disgruntled man; he believed himself entitled to be a Nineteener, but he couldn't get recognition. It made him a little unpleasant in his ways and speech. Said he:"Sho, THAT'S not the point! THAT could happen--twice in a hundred years--but not the other thing. NEITHER of them gave the twenty dollars!" [A ripple of applause.] Billson. "I did!" Wilson. "I did!" Then each accused the other of pilfering. The Chair. "Order! Sit down, if you please--both of you. Neither of the notes has been out of my possession at any moment." A Voice. "Good--that settles THAT!"
The Tanner. "Mr. Chairman, one thing is now plain: one of these men has been eavesdropping under the other one's bed, and filching family secrets. If it is not unparliamentary to suggest it, I will remark that both are equal to it. [The Chair. "Order! order!"] I withdraw the remark, sir, and will confine myself to suggesting that IF one of them has overheard the other reveal the test-remark to his wife, we shall catch him now."A Voice. "How?"
The Tanner. "Easily. The two have not quoted the remark in exactly the same words. You would have noticed that, if there hadn't been a considerable stretch of time and an exciting quarrel inserted between the two readings."A Voice. "Name the difference." The Tanner. "The word VERY is in Billson's note, and not in the other." Many Voices. "That's so--he's right!"
The Tanner. "And so, if the Chair will examine the test-remark in the sack, we shall know which of these two frauds--[The Chair. "Order!"]--which of these two adventurers--[The Chair. "Order! order!"]--which of these two gentlemen--[laughter and applause]--is entitled to wear the belt as being the first dishonest blatherskite ever bred in this town-which he has dishonoured, and which will be a sultry place for him from now out!" [Vigorous applause.]Many Voices. "Open it!--open the sack!" Mr. Burgess made a slit in the sack, slid his hand in, and brought out an envelope. In it were a couple of folded notes. He said:
"One of these is marked, 'Not to be examined until all written communications which have been addressed to the Chair--if any--shall have been read.' The other is marked 'THE TEST.' Allow me. It is worded--to wit:
"'I do not require that the first half of the remark which was made to me by my benefactor shall be quoted with exactness, for it was not striking, and could be forgotten; but its closing fifteen words are quite striking, and I think easily rememberable; unless THESE shall be accurately reproduced, let the applicant be regarded as an impostor. My benefactor began by saying he seldom gave advice to anyone, but that it always bore the hallmark of high value when he did give it. Then he said this--and it has never faded from my memory: 'YOU ARE FAR FROM BEING A BAD MAN--'"Fifty Voices. "That settles it--the money's Wilson's! Wilson! Wilson! Speech! Speech!" People jumped up and crowded around Wilson, wringing his hand and congratulating fervently--meantime the Chair was hammering with the gavel and shouting: "Order, gentlemen! Order! Order! Let me finish reading, please." When quiet was restored, the reading was resumed--as follows:
"'GO, AND REFORM--OR, MARK MY WORDS--SOME DAY, FOR YOUR SINS YOU WILL DIE AND GO TO HELL OR HADLEYBURG--TRY AND MAKE IT THE FORMER.'"
A ghastly silence followed. First an angry cloud began to settle darkly upon the faces of the citizenship; after a pause the cloud began to rise, and a tickled expression tried to take its place; tried so hard that it was only kept under with great and painful difficulty; the reporters, the Brixtonites, and other strangers bent their heads down and shielded their faces with their hands, and managed to hold in by main strength and heroic courtesy. At this most inopportune time burst upon the stillness the roar of a solitary voice--Jack Halliday's:"THAT'S got the hall-mark on it!"
Then the house let go, strangers and all. Even Mr. Burgess's gravity broke down presently, then the audience considered itself officially absolved from all restraint, and it made the most of its privilege. It was a good long laugh, and a tempestuously wholehearted one, but it ceased at last--long enough for Mr. Burgess to try to resume, and for the people to get their eyes partially wiped; then it broke out again, and afterward yet again; then at last Burgess was able to get out these serious words:
"It is useless to try to disguise the fact--we find ourselves in the presence of a matter of grave import. It involves the honour of your town--it strikes at the town's good name. The difference of a single word between the test-remarks offered by Mr. Wilson and Mr. Billson was itself a serious thing, since it indicated that one or the other of these gentlemen had committed a theft--"The two men were sitting limp, nerveless, crushed; but at these words both were electrified into movement, and started to get up.
"Sit down!" said the Chair, sharply, and they obeyed. "That, as I have said, was a serious thing. And it was--but for only one of them. But the matter has become graver; for the honour of BOTH is now in formidable peril. Shall I go even further, and say in inextricable peril? BOTH left out the crucial fifteen words." He paused. During several moments he allowed the pervading stillness to gather and deepen its impressive effects, then added: "There would seem to be but one way whereby this could happen. I ask these gentlemen--Was there COLLUSION?--AGREEMENT?"A low murmur sifted through the house; its import was, "He's got them both." Billson was not used to emergencies; he sat in a helpless collapse. But Wilson was a lawyer. He struggled to his feet, pale and worried, and said:
"I ask the indulgence of the house while I explain this most painful matter. I am sorry to say what I am about to say, since it must inflict irreparable injury upon Mr. Billson, whom I have always esteemed and respected until now, and in whose invulnerability to temptation I entirely believed--as did you all. But for the preservation of my own honour I must speak--and with frankness. I confess with shame--and I now beseech your pardon for it--that I said to the ruined stranger all of the words contained in the test- remark, including the disparaging fifteen. [Sensation.] When the late publication was made I recalled them, and I resolved to claim the sack of coin, for by every right I was entitled to it. Now I will ask you to consider this point, and weigh it well; that stranger's gratitude to me that night knew no bounds; he said himself that he could find no words for it that were adequate, and that if he should ever be able he would repay me a thousandfold. Now, then, I ask you this; could I expect--could I believe--could I even remotely imagine--that, feeling as he did, he would do so ungrateful a thing as to add those quite unnecessary fifteen words to his test?--set a trap for me?--expose me as a slanderer of my own town before my own people assembled in a public hall? It was preposterous; it was impossible. His test would contain only the kindly opening clause of my remark. Of that I had no shadow of doubt. You would have thought as I did. You would not have expected a base betrayal from one whom you had befriended and against whom you had committed no offence. And so with perfect confidence, perfect trust, I wrote on a piece of paper the opening words--ending with "Go, and reform," --and signed it. When I was about to put it in an envelope I was called into my back office, and without thinking I left the paper lying open on my desk." He stopped, turned his head slowly toward Billson, waited a moment, then added: "I ask you to note this; when I returned, a little latter, Mr. Billson was retiring by my street door." [Sensation.]In a moment Billson was on his feet and shouting: "It's a lie! It's an infamous lie!" The Chair. "Be seated, sir! Mr. Wilson has the floor." Billson's friends pulled him into his seat and quieted him, and Wilson went on:
"Those are the simple facts. My note was now lying in a different place on the table from where I had left it. I noticed that, but attached no importance to it, thinking a draught had blown it there. That Mr. Billson would read a private paper was a thing which could not occur to me; he was an honourable man, and he would be above that. If you will allow me to say it, I think his extra word 'VERY' stands explained: it is attributable to a defect of memory. I was the only man in the world who could furnish here any detail of the testmark--by HONOURABLE means. I have finished."
There is nothing in the world like a persuasive speech to fuddle the mental apparatus and upset the convictions and debauch the emotions of an audience not practised in the tricks and delusions of oratory. Wilson sat down victorious. The house submerged him in tides of approving applause; friends swarmed to him and shook him by the hand and congratulated him, and Billson was shouted down and not allowed to say a word. The Chair hammered and hammered with its gavel, and kept shouting:"But let us proceed, gentlemen, let us proceed!" At last there was a measurable degree of quiet, and the hatter said: "But what is there to proceed with, sir, but to deliver the money?" Voices. "That's it! That's it! Come forward, Wilson!" The Hatter. "I move three cheers for Mr. Wilson, Symbol of the special virtue which--"
The cheers burst forth before he could finish; and in the midst of them--and in the midst of the clamour of the gavel also--some enthusiasts mounted Wilson on a big friend's shoulder and were going to fetch him in triumph to the platform. The Chair's voice now rose above the noise:
"Order! To your places! You forget that there is still a document to be read." When quiet had been restored he took up the document, and was going to read it, but laid it down again saying "I forgot; this is not to be read until all written communications received by me have first been read." He took an envelope out of his pocket, removed its enclosure, glanced at it--seemed astonished--held it out and gazed at it--stared at it.Twenty or thirty voices cried out: "What is it? Read it! read it!" And he did--slowly, and wondering:
"'The remark which I made to the stranger--[Voices. "Hello! how's this?"]--was this: 'You are far from being a bad man. [Voices. "Great Scott!"] Go, and reform.'" [Voice. "Oh, saw my leg off!"] Signed by Mr. Pinkerton the banker."
The pandemonium of delight which turned itself loose now was of a sort to make the judicious weep. Those whose withers were unwrung laughed till the tears ran down; the reporters, in throes of laughter, set down disordered pot-hooks which would never in the world be decipherable; and a sleeping dog jumped up scared out of its wits, and barked itself crazy at the turmoil. All manner of cries were scattered through the din: "We're getting rich--TWO Symbols of Incorruptibility!--without counting Billson!" "THREE!-- count Shadbelly in--we can't have too many!" "All right--Billson's elected!" "Alas, poor Wilson! victim of TWO thieves!"A Powerful Voice. "Silence! The Chair's fished up something more out of its pocket." Voices. "Hurrah! Is it something fresh? Read it! read! read!" The Chair [reading]. "'The remark which I made,' etc. 'You are far from being a bad man. Go,' etc. Signed, 'Gregory Yates.'" Tornado of Voices. "Four Symbols!" "'Rah for Yates!" "Fish again!"
The house was in a roaring humour now, and ready to get all the fun out of the occasion that might be in it. Several Nineteeners, looking pale and distressed, got up and began to work their way towards the aisles, but a score of shouts went up:"The doors, the doors--close the doors; no Incorruptible shall leave this place! Sit down, everybody!" The mandate was obeyed. "Fish again! Read! read!" The Chair fished again, and once more the familiar words began to fall from its lips-"'You are far from being a bad man--'" "Name! name! What's his name?" "'L. Ingoldsby Sargent.'" "Five elected! Pile up the Symbols! Go on, go on!" "'You are far from being a bad--'" "Name! name!" "'Nicholas Whitworth.'" "Hooray! hooray! it's a symbolical day!"
Somebody wailed in, and began to sing this rhyme (leaving out "it's") to the lovely "Mikado" tune of "When a man's afraid of a beautiful maid;" the audience joined in, with joy; then, just in time, somebody contributed another line--"And don't you this forget--" The house roared it out. A third line was at once furnished-- "Corruptibles far from Hadleyburg are--" The house roared that one too. As the last note died, Jack Halliday's voice rose high and clear, freighted with a final line-- "But the Symbols are here, you bet!"
That was sung, with booming enthusiasm. Then the happy house started in at the beginning and sang the four lines through twice, with immense swing and dash, and finished up with a crashing three- times-three and a tiger for "Hadleyburg the Incorruptible and all Symbols of it which we shall find worthy to receive the hall-mark to-night."Then the shoutings at the Chair began again, all over the place: "Go on! go on! Read! read some more! Read all you've got!" "That's it--go on! We are winning eternal celebrity!"
A dozen men got up now and began to protest. They said that this farce was the work of some abandoned joker, and was an insult to the whole community. Without a doubt these signatures were all forgeries--"Sit down! sit down! Shut up! You are confessing. We'll find your names in the lot." "Mr. Chairman, how many of those envelopes have you got?" The Chair counted. "Together with those that have been already examined, there are nineteen." A storm of derisive applause broke out.
"Perhaps they all contain the secret. I move that you open them all and read every signature that is attached to a note of that sort-- and read also the first eight words of the note.""Second the motion!"
It was put and carried--uproariously. Then poor old Richards got up, and his wife rose and stood at his side. Her head was bent down, so that none might see that she was crying. Her husband gave her his arm, and so supporting her, he began to speak in a quavering voice:
"My friends, you have known us two--Mary and me--all our lives, and I think you have liked us and respected us--"
"Allow me. It is quite true--that which you are saying, Mr. Richards; this town DOES know you two; it DOES like you; it DOES respect you; more--it honours you and LOVES you--"Halliday's voice rang out: "That's the hall-marked truth, too! If the Chair is right, let the house speak up and say it. Rise! Now, then--hip! hip! hip!--all together!" The house rose in mass, faced toward the old couple eagerly, filled the air with a snowstorm of waving handkerchiefs, and delivered the cheers with all its affectionate heart. The Chair then continued:
"What I was going to say is this: We know your good heart, Mr. Richards, but this is not a time for the exercise of charity toward offenders. [Shouts of "Right! right!"] I see your generous purpose in your face, but I cannot allow you to plead for these men--""But I was going to--"
"Please take your seat, Mr. Richards. We must examine the rest of these notes--simple fairness to the men who have already been exposed requires this. As soon as that has been done--I give you my word for this--you shall he heard."Many voices. "Right!--the Chair is right--no interruption can be permitted at this stage! Go on!--the names! the names!--according to the terms of the motion!"
The old couple sat reluctantly down, and the husband whispered to the wife, "It is pitifully hard to have to wait; the shame will be greater than ever when they find we were only going to plead for OURSELVES."Straightway the jollity broke loose again with the reading of the names. "'You are far from being a bad man--' Signature, 'Robert J. Titmarsh.'" '"You are far from being a bad man--' Signature, 'Eliphalet Weeks.'" "'You are far from being a bad man--' Signature, 'Oscar B. Wilder.'"
At this point the house lit upon the idea of taking the eight words out of the Chairman's hands. He was not unthankful for that. Thenceforward he held up each note in its turn and waited. The house droned out the eight words in a massed and measured and musical deep volume of sound (with a daringly close resemblance to a well-known church chant)
-"You are f-a-r from being a b-a-a-a-d man." Then the Chair said, "Signature, 'Archibald Wilcox.'" And so on, and so on, name after name, and everybody had an increasingly and gloriously good time except the wretched Nineteen. Now and then, when a particularly shining name was called, the house made the Chair wait while it chanted the whole of the test-remark from the beginning to the closing words, "And go to hell or Hadleyburg-- try and make it the for-or-m-e-r!" and in these special cases they added a grand and agonised and imposing "A-a-a-a-MEN!"
The list dwindled, dwindled, dwindled, poor old Richards keeping tally of the count, wincing when a name resembling his own was pronounced, and waiting in miserable suspense for the time to come when it would be his humiliating privilege to rise with Mary and finish his plea, which he was intending to word thus: ". . . for until now we have never done any wrong thing, but have gone our humble way unreproached. We are very poor, we are old, and, have no chick nor child to help us; we were sorely tempted, and we fell. It was my purpose when I got up before to make confession and beg that my name might not be read out in this public place, for it seemed to us that we could not bear it; but I was prevented. It was just; it was our place to suffer with the rest. It has been hard for us. It is the first time we have ever heard our name fall from any one's lips-sullied. Be merciful--for the sake or the better days; make our shame as light to bear as in your charity you can." At this point in his reverie Mary nudged him, perceiving that his mind was absent. The house was chanting, "You are f-a-r," etc."Be ready," Mary whispered. "Your name comes now; he has read eighteen." The chant ended. "Next! next! next!" came volleying from all over the house. Burgess put his hand into his pocket. The old couple, trembling, began to rise. Burgess fumbled a moment, then said: "I find I have read them all." Faint with joy and surprise, the couple sank into their seats, and Mary whispered: "Oh, bless God, we are saved!--he has lost ours--I wouldn't give this for a hundred of those sacks!"
The house burst out with its "Mikado" travesty, and sang it three times with everincreasing enthusiasm, rising to its feet when it reached for the third time the closing line
"But the Symbols are here, you bet!" and finishing up with cheers and a tiger for "Hadleyburg purity and our eighteen immortal representatives of it."Then Wingate, the saddler, got up and proposed cheers "for the cleanest man in town, the one solitary important citizen in it who didn't try to steal that money--Edward Richards."
They were given with great and moving heartiness; then somebody proposed that "Richards be elected sole Guardian and Symbol of the now Sacred Hadleyburg Tradition, with power and right to stand up and look the whole sarcastic world in the face."Passed, by acclamation; then they sang the "Mikado" again, and ended it with-- "And there's ONE Symbol left, you bet!" There was a pause; then-- A Voice. "Now, then, who's to get the sack?"
The Tanner (with bitter sarcasm). "That's easy. The money has to be divided among the eighteen Incorruptibles. They gave the suffering stranger twenty dollars apiece--and that remark--each in his turn--it took twenty-two minutes for the procession to move past. Staked the stranger--total contribution, $360. All they want is just the loan back--and interest--forty thousand dollars altogether."Many Voices [derisively.] "That's it! Divvy! divvy! Be kind to the poor--don't keep them waiting!"
The Chair. "Order! I now offer the stranger's remaining document. It says: 'If no claimant shall appear [grand chorus of groans], I desire that you open the sack and count out the money to the principal citizens of your town, they to take it in trust [Cries of "Oh! Oh! Oh!"], and use it in such ways as to them shall seem best for the propagation and preservation of your community's noble reputation for incorruptible honesty [more cries]
-a reputation to which their names and their efforts will add a new and far-reaching lustre." [Enthusiastic outburst of sarcastic applause.] That seems to be all. No--here is a postscript:
"'P.S.--CITIZENS OF HADLEYBURG: There IS no test-remark--nobody made one. [Great sensation.] There wasn't any pauper stranger, nor any twenty-dollar contribution, nor any accompanying benediction and compliment--these are all inventions. [General buzz and hum of astonishment and delight.] Allow me to tell my story--it will take but a word or two. I passed through your town at a certain time, and received a deep offence which I had not earned. Any other man would have been content to kill one or two of you and call it square, but to me that would have been a trivial revenge, and inadequate; for the dead do not SUFFER. Besides I could not kill you all--and, anyway, made as I am, even that would not have satisfied me. I wanted to damage every man in the place, and every woman--and not in their bodies or in their estate, but in their vanity--the place where feeble and foolish people are most vulnerable. So I disguised myself and came back and studied you. You were easy game. You had an old and lofty reputation for honesty, and naturally you were proud of it--it was your treasure of treasures, the very apple of your eye. As soon as I found out that you carefully and vigilantly kept yourselves and your children OUT OF TEMPTATION, I knew how to proceed. Why, you simple creatures, the weakest of all weak things is a virtue which has not been tested in the fire. I laid a plan, and gathered a list of names. My project was to corrupt Hadleyburg the Incorruptible. My idea was to make liars and thieves of nearly half a hundred smirchless men and women who had never in their lives uttered a lie or stolen a penny. I was afraid of Goodson. He was neither born nor reared in Hadleyburg. I was afraid that if I started to operate my scheme by getting my letter laid before you, you would say to yourselves, 'Goodson is the only man among us who would give away twenty dollars to a poor devil'-- and then you might not bite at my bait. But heaven took Goodson; then I knew I was safe, and I set my trap and baited it. It may be that I shall not catch all the men to whom I mailed the pretended test-secret, but I shall catch the most of them, if I know Hadleyburg nature. [Voices. "Right--he got every last one of them."] I believe they will even steal ostensible GAMBLE-money, rather than miss, poor, tempted, and mistrained fellows. I am hoping to eternally and everlastingly squelch your vanity and give Hadleyburg a new renown--one that will STICK--and spread far. If I have succeeded, open the sack and summon the Committee on Propagation and Preservation of the Hadleyburg Reputation.'"A Cyclone of Voices. "Open it! Open it! The Eighteen to the front! Committee on Propagation of the Tradition! Forward--the Incorruptibles!" The Chair ripped the sack wide, and gathered up a handful of bright, broad, yellow coins, shook them together, then examined them. "Friends, they are only gilded disks of lead!" There was a crashing outbreak of delight over this news, and when the noise had subsided, the tanner called out:
"By right of apparent seniority in this business, Mr. Wilson is Chairman of the Committee on Propagation of the Tradition. I suggest that he step forward on behalf of his pals, and receive in trust the money."A Hundred Voices. "Wilson! Wilson! Wilson! Speech! Speech!" Wilson [in a voice trembling with anger]. "You will allow me to say, and without apologies for my language, DAMN the money!" A Voice. "Oh, and him a Baptist!" A Voice. "Seventeen Symbols left! Step up, gentlemen, and assume your trust!" There was a pause--no response.
The Saddler. "Mr. Chairman, we've got ONE clean man left, anyway, out of the late aristocracy; and he needs money, and deserves it. I move that you appoint Jack Halliday to get up there and auction off that sack of gilt twenty-dollar pieces, and give the result to the right man--the man whom Hadleyburg delights to honour--Edward Richards."
This was received with great enthusiasm, the dog taking a hand again; the saddler started the bids at a dollar, the Brixton folk and Barnum's representative fought hard for it, the people cheered every jump that the bids made, the excitement climbed moment by moment higher and higher, the bidders got on their mettle and grew steadily more and more daring, more and more determined, the jumps went from a dollar up to five, then to ten, then to twenty, then fifty, then to a hundred, then--
At the beginning of the auction Richards whispered in distress to his wife: "Oh, Mary, can we allow it? It--it --you see, it is an honour--reward, a testimonial to purity of character, and--and--can we allow it? Hadn't I better get up and--Oh, Mary, what ought we to do?--what do you think we--" [Halliday's voice. "Fifteen I'm bid!-- fifteen for the sack!--twenty!--ah, thanks!--thirty--thanks again! Thirty, thirty, thirty!--do I hear forty?-forty it is! Keep the ball rolling, gentlemen, keep it rolling!--fifty! --thanks, noble Roman!--going at fifty, fifty, fifty!--seventy! --ninety!-- splendid!--a hundred!--pile it up, pile it up!--hundred and twenty-- forty!--just in time!--hundred and fifty!--Two hundred!
-superb! Do I hear two h--thanks! --two hundred and fifty!--"]
"It is another temptation, Edward--I'm all in a tremble --but, oh, we've escaped one temptation, and that ought to warn us, to--["Six did I hear?--thanks!--six fifty, six f-SEVEN hundred!"] And yet, Edward, when you think--nobody susp--["Eight hundred dollars!-- hurrah!--make it nine!--Mr. Parsons, did I hear you say--thanks!-- nine!--this noble sack of virgin lead going at only nine hundred dollars, gilding and all-- come! do I hear--a thousand!--gratefully yours!--did some one say eleven?--a sack which is going to be the most celebrated in the whole Uni--"] "Oh, Edward" (beginning to sob), "we are so poor!--but--but--do as you think best--do as you think best."Edward fell--that is, he sat still; sat with a conscience which was not satisfied, but which was overpowered by circumstances.
Meantime a stranger, who looked like an amateur detective gotten up as an impossible English earl, had been watching the evening's proceedings with manifest interest, and with a contented expression in his face; and he had been privately commenting to himself. He was now soliloquising somewhat like this: 'None of the Eighteen are bidding; that is not satisfactory; I must change that--the dramatic unities require it; they must buy the sack they tried to steal; they must pay a heavy price, too--some of them are rich. And another thing, when I make a mistake in Hadleyburg nature the man that puts that error upon me is entitled to a high honorarium, and some one must pay. This poor old Richards has brought my judgment to shame; he is an honest man:--I don't understand it, but I acknowledge it. Yes, he saw my deuces--AND with a straight flush, and by rights the pot is his. And it shall be a jack-pot, too, if I can manage it. He disappointed me, but let that pass."
He was watching the bidding. At a thousand, the market broke: the prices tumbled swiftly. He waited--and still watched. One competitor dropped out; then another, and another. He put in a bid or two now. When the bids had sunk to ten dollars, he added a five; some one raised him a three; he waited a moment, then flung in a fifty-dollar jump, and the sack was his--at $1,282. The house broke out in cheers--then stopped; for he was on his feet, and had lifted his hand. He began to speak.
"I desire to say a word, and ask a favour. I am a speculator in rarities, and I have dealings with persons interested in numismatics all over the world. I can make a profit on this purchase, just as it stands; but there is a way, if I can get your approval, whereby I can make every one of these leaden twenty-dollar pieces worth its face in gold, and perhaps more. Grant me that approval, and I will give part of my gains to your Mr. Richards, whose invulnerable probity you have so justly and so cordially recognised tonight; his share shall be ten thousand dollars, and I will hand him the money to-morrow. [Great applause from the house. But the "invulnerable probity" made the Richardses blush prettily; however, it went for modesty, and did no harm.] If you will pass my proposition by a good majority--I would like a two-thirds vote--I will regard that as the town's consent, and that is all I ask. Rarities are always helped by any device which will rouse curiosity and compel remark. Now if I may have your permission to stamp upon the faces of each of these ostensible coins the names of the eighteen gentlemen who--"Nine-tenths of the audience were on their feet in a moment--dog and all--and the proposition was carried with a whirlwind of approving applause and laughter. They sat down, and all the Symbols except "Dr." Clay Harkness got up, violently protesting against the proposed outrage, and threatening to--
"I beg you not to threaten me," said the stranger calmly. "I know my legal rights, and am not accustomed to being frightened at bluster." [Applause.] He sat down. "Dr." Harkness saw an opportunity here. He was one of the two very rich men of the place, and Pinkerton was the other. Harkness was proprietor of a mint; that is to say, a popular patent medicine. He was running for the Legislature on one ticket, and Pinkerton on the other. It was a close race and a hot one, and getting hotter every day. Both had strong appetites for money; each had bought a great tract of land, with a purpose; there was going to be a new railway, and each wanted to be in the Legislature and help locate the route to his own advantage; a single vote might make the decision, and with it two or three fortunes. The stake was large, and Harkness was a daring speculator. He was sitting close to the stranger. He leaned over while one or another of the other Symbols was entertaining the house with protests and appeals, and asked, in a whisper,"What is your price for the sack?" "Forty thousand dollars." "I'll give you twenty." "No." "Twenty-five." "No." "Say thirty." "The price is forty thousand dollars; not a penny less." "All right, I'll give it. I will come to the hotel at ten in the morning. I don't want it known; will see you privately." "Very good." Then the stranger got up and said to the house:
"I find it late. The speeches of these gentlemen are not without merit, not without interest, not without grace; yet if I may he excused I will take my leave. I thank you for the great favour which you have shown me in granting my petition. I ask the Chair to keep the sack for me until to-morrow, and to hand these three five- hundred-dollar notes to Mr. Richards." They were passed up to the Chair."At nine I will call for the sack, and at eleven will deliver the rest of the ten thousand to Mr. Richards in person at his home. Good-night."
Then he slipped out, and left the audience making a vast noise, which was composed of a mixture of cheers, the "Mikado" song, dog- disapproval, and the chant, "You are f-a-r from being a b-a-a-d man- -a-a-a a-men!"IV
At home the Richardses had to endure congratulations and compliments until midnight. Then they were left to themselves. They looked a little sad, and they sat silent and thinking. Finally Mary sighed and said:
"Do you think we are to blame, Edward--MUCH to blame?" and her eyes wandered to the accusing triplet of big bank-notes lying on the table, where the congratulators had been gloating over them and reverently fingering them. Edward did not answer at once; then he brought out a sigh and said, hesitatingly:"We--we couldn't help it, Mary. It--well it was ordered. ALL things are."
Mary glanced up and looked at him steadily, but he didn't return the look. Presently she said:
"I thought congratulations and praises always tasted good. But--it seems to me, now-Edward?"
At nine in the morning the stranger called for the sack and took it to the hotel in a cab. At ten Harkness had a talk with him privately. The stranger asked for and got five cheques on a metropolitan bank--drawn to "Bearer,"--four for $1,500 each, and one for $34,000. He put one of the former in his pocket-book, and the remainder, representing $38,500, he put in an envelope, and with these he added a note which he wrote after Harkness was gone. At eleven he called at the Richards' house and knocked. Mrs. Richards peeped through the shutters, then went and received the envelope, and the stranger disappeared without a word. She came back flushed and a little unsteady on her legs, and gasped out:"I am sure I recognised him! Last night it seemed to me that maybe I had seen him somewhere before." "He is the man that brought the sack here?" "I am almost sure of it."
"Then he is the ostensible Stephenson too, and sold every important citizen in this town with his bogus secret. Now if he has sent cheques instead of money, we are sold too, after we thought we had escaped. I was beginning to feel fairly comfortable once more, after my night's rest, but the look of that envelope makes me sick. It isn't fat enough; $8,500 in even the largest bank-notes makes more bulk than that."
"Edward, why do you object to cheques?" "Cheques signed by Stephenson! I am resigned to take the $8,500 if it could come in bank-notes--for it does seem that it was so ordered, Mary--but I have never had much courage, and I have not the pluck to try to market a cheque signed with that disastrous name. It would be a trap. That man tried to catch me; we escaped somehow or other; and now he is trying a new way. If it is cheques--""Oh, Edward, it is TOO bad!" And she held up the cheques and began to cry.
"Put them in the fire! quick! we mustn't be tempted. It is a trick to make the world laugh at US, along with the rest, and-- Give them to ME, since you can't do it!" He snatched them and tried to hold his grip till he could get to the stove; but he was human, he was a cashier, and he stopped a moment to make sure of the signature. Then he came near to fainting."Fan me, Mary, fan me! They are the same as gold!" "Oh, how lovely, Edward! Why?" "Signed by Harkness. What can the mystery of that be, Mary?" "Edward, do you think--"
"Look here--look at this! Fifteen--fifteen--fifteen--thirty-four. Thirty-eight thousand five hundred! Mary, the sack isn't worth twelve dollars, and Harkness--apparently--has paid about par for it.""And does it all come to us, do you think--instead of the ten thousand?" "Why, it looks like it. And the cheques are made to 'Bearer,' too." "Is that good, Edward? What is it for?" "A hint to collect them at some distant bank, I reckon. Perhaps Harkness doesn't want the matter known. What is that--a note?" "Yes. It was with the cheques." It was in the "Stephenson" handwriting, but there was no signature. It said:
"I am a disappointed man. Your honesty is beyond the reach of temptation. I had a different idea about it, but I wronged you in that, and I beg pardon, and do it sincerely. I honour you--and that is sincere too. This town is not worthy to kiss the hem of your garment. Dear sir, I made a square bet with myself that there were nineteen debauchable men in your self-righteous community. I have lost. Take the whole pot, you are entitled to it."
Richards drew a deep sigh, and said:
"If those beautiful words were deserved, Mary--and God knows I believed I deserved them once--I think I could give the forty thousand dollars for them. And I would put that paper away, as representing more than gold and jewels, and keep it always. But now-- We could not live in the shadow of its accusing presence, Mary."He put it in the fire. A messenger arrived and delivered an envelope. Richards took from it a note and read it; it was from Burgess:
"You saved me, in a difficult time. I saved you last night. It was at cost of a lie, but I made the sacrifice freely, and out of a grateful heart. None in this village knows so well as I know how brave and good and noble you are. At bottom you cannot respect me, knowing as you do of that matter of which I am accused, and by the general voice condemned; but I beg that you will at least believe that I am a grateful man; it will help me to bear my burden. [Signed] 'BURGESS.'""Saved, once more. And on such terms!" He put the note in the lire. "I--I wish I were dead, Mary, I wish I were out of it all!" "Oh, these are bitter, bitter days, Edward. The stabs, through their very generosity, are so deep--and they come so fast!"
Three days before the election each of two thousand voters suddenly found himself in possession of a prized memento--one of the renowned bogus double-eagles. Around one of its faces was stamped these words: "THE REMARK I MADE TO THE POOR STRANGER WAS--" Around the other face was stamped these: "GO, AND REFORM. [SIGNED] PINKERTON." Thus the entire remaining refuse of the renowned joke was emptied upon a single head, and with calamitous effect. It revived the recent vast laugh and concentrated it upon Pinkerton; and Harkness's election was a walk-over.
Within twenty-four hours after the Richardses had received their cheques their consciences were quieting down, discouraged; the old couple were learning to reconcile themselves to the sin which they had committed. But they were to learn, now, that a sin takes on new and real terrors when there seems a chance that it is going to be found out. This gives it a fresh and most substantial and important aspect. At church the morning sermon was of the usual pattern; it was the same old things said in the same old way; they had heard them a thousand times and found them innocuous, next to meaningless, and easy to sleep under; but now it was different: the sermon seemed to bristle with accusations; it seemed aimed straight and specially at people who were concealing deadly sins. After church they got away from the mob of congratulators as soon as they could, and hurried homeward, chilled to the bone at they did not know what- -vague, shadowy, indefinite fears. And by chance they caught a glimpse of Mr. Burgess as he turned a corner. He paid no attention to their nod of recognition! He hadn't seen it; but they did not know that. What could his conduct mean? It might mean--it might-- mean--oh, a dozen dreadful things. Was it possible that he knew that Richards could have cleared him of guilt in that bygone time, and had been silently waiting for a chance to even up accounts? At home, in their distress they got to imagining that their servant might have been in the next room listening when Richards revealed the secret to his wife that he knew of Burgess's innocence; next Richards began to imagine that he had heard the swish of a gown in there at that time; next, he was sure he HAD heard it. They would call Sarah in, on a pretext, and watch her face; if she had been betraying them to Mr. Burgess, it would show in her manner. They asked her some questions--questions which were so random and incoherent and seemingly purposeless that the girl felt sure that the old people's minds had been affected by their sudden good fortune; the sharp and watchful gaze which they bent upon her frightened her, and that completed the business. She blushed, she became nervous and confused, and to the old people these were plain signs of guilt--guilt of some fearful sort or other--without doubt she was a spy and a traitor. When they were alone again they began to piece many unrelated things together and get horrible results out of the combination. When things had got about to the worst Richards was delivered of a sudden gasp and his wife asked:"Oh, what is it?--what is it?"
"The note--Burgess's note! Its language was sarcastic, I see it now." He quoted: "'At bottom you cannot respect me, KNOWING, as you do, of THAT MATTER OF which I am accused'--oh, it is perfectly plain, now, God help me! He knows that I know! You see the ingenuity of the phrasing. It was a trap--and like a fool, I walked into it. And Mary--!""Oh, it is dreadful--I know what you are going to say --he didn't return your transcript of the pretended test-remark."
"No--kept it to destroy us with. Mary, he has exposed us to some already. I know it--I know it well. I saw it in a dozen faces after church. Ah, he wouldn't answer our nod of recognition--he knew what he had been doing!"
In the night the doctor was called. The news went around in the morning that the old couple were rather seriously ill--prostrated by the exhausting excitement growing out of their great windfall, the congratulations, and the late hours, the doctor said. The town was sincerely distressed; for these old people were about all it had left to be proud of, now. Two days later the news was worse. The old couple were delirious, and were doing strange things. By witness of the nurses, Richards had exhibited cheques--for $8,500? No--for an amazing sum--$38,500! What could be the explanation of this gigantic piece of luck?
The following day the nurses had more news--and wonderful. They had concluded to hide the cheques, lest harm come to them; but when they searched they were gone from under the patient's pillow--vanished away. The patient said:"Let the pillow alone; what do you want?" "We thought it best that the cheques--"
"You will never see them again--they are destroyed. They came from Satan. I saw the hell-brand on them, and I knew they were sent to betray me to sin." Then he fell to gabbling strange and dreadful things which were not clearly understandable, and which the doctor admonished them to keep to themselves.Richards was right; the cheques were never seen again.
A nurse must have talked in her sleep, for within two days the forbidden gabblings were the property of the town; and they were of a surprising sort. They seemed to indicate that Richards had been a claimant for the sack himself, and that Burgess had concealed that fact and then maliciously betrayed it.
Burgess was taxed with this and stoutly denied it. And he said it was not fair to attach weight to the chatter of a sick old man who was out of his mind. Still, suspicion was in the air, and there was much talk.
After a day or two it was reported that Mrs. Richards's delirious deliveries were getting to be duplicates of her husband's. Suspicion flamed up into conviction, now, and the town's pride in the purity of its one undiscredited important citizen began to dim down and flicker toward extinction.Six days passed, then came more news. The old couple were dying. Richards's mind cleared in his latest hour, and he sent for Burgess. Burgess said: "Let the room be cleared. I think he wishes to say something in privacy."
"No!" said Richards; "I want witnesses. I want you all to hear my confession, so that I may die a man, and not a dog. I was clean-- artificially--like the rest; and like the rest I fell when temptation came. I signed a lie, and claimed the miserable sack. Mr. Burgess remembered that I had done him a service, and in gratitude (and ignorance) he suppressed my claim and saved me. You know the thing that was charged against Burgess years ago. My testimony, and mine alone, could have cleared him, and I was a coward and left him to suffer disgrace--"
"No--no--Mr. Richards, you--"
Burgess's impassioned protestations fell upon deaf ears; the dying man passed away without knowing that once more he had done poor Burgess a wrong. The old wife died that night.The last of the sacred Nineteen had fallen a prey to the fiendish sack; the town was stripped of the last rag of its ancient glory. Its mourning was not showy, but it was deep.
By act of the Legislature--upon prayer and petition--Hadleyburg was allowed to change its name to (never mind what--I will not give it away), and leave one word out of the motto that for many generations had graced the town's official seal.It is an honest town once more, and the man will have to rise early that catches it napping again.
My First Lie, And How I Got Out Of It
As I understand it, what you desire is information about 'my first lie, and how I got out of it.' I was born in 1835; I am well along, and my memory is not as good as it was. If you had asked about my first truth it would have been easier for me and kinder of you, for I remember that fairly well. I remember it as if it were last week. The family think it was week before, but that is flattery and probably has a selfish project back of it. When a person has become seasoned by experience and has reached the age of sixty-four, which is the age of discretion, he likes a family compliment as well as ever, but he does not lose his head over it as in the old innocent days.
I do not remember my first lie, it is too far back; but I remember my second one very well. I was nine days old at the time, and had noticed that if a pin was sticking in me and I advertised it in the usual fashion, I was lovingly petted and coddled and pitied in a most agreeable way and got a ration between meals besides.
It was human nature to want to get these riches, and I fell. I lied about the pin-advertising one when there wasn't any. You would have done it; George Washington did it, anybody would have done it. During the first half of my life I never knew a child that was able to rise about that temptation and keep from telling that lie. Up to 1867 all the civilised children that were ever born into the world were liars-- including George. Then the safety-pin came in and blocked the game. But is that reform worth anything? No; for it is reform by force and has no virtue in it; it merely stops that form of lying, it doesn't impair the disposition to lie, by a shade. It is the cradle application of conversion by fire and sword, or of the temperance principle through prohibition.
To return to that early lie. They found no pin and they realised that another liar had been added to the world's supply. For by grace of a rare inspiration a quite commonplace but seldom noticed fact was borne in upon their understandings--that almost all lies are acts, and speech has no part in them. Then, if they examined a little further they recognised that all people are liars from the cradle onwards, without exception, and that they begin to lie as soon as they wake in the morning, and keep it up without rest or refreshment until they go to sleep at night. If they arrived at that truth it probably grieved them--did, if they had been heedlessly and ignorantly educated by their books and teachers; for why should a person grieve over a thing which by the eternal law of his make he cannot help? He didn't invent the law; it is merely his business to obey it and keep still; join the universal conspiracy and keep so still that he shall deceive his fellow-conspirators into imagining that he doesn't know that the law exists. It is what we all do--we that know. I am speaking of the lie of silent assertion; we can tell it without saying a word, and we all do it--we that know. In the magnitude of its territorial spread it is one of the most majestic lies that the civilisations make it their sacred and anxious care to guard and watch and propagate.
For instance. It would not be possible for a humane and intelligent person to invent a rational excuse for slavery; yet you will remember that in the early days of the emancipation agitation in the North the agitators got but small help or countenance from any one. Argue and plead and pray as they might, they could not break the universal stillness that reigned, from pulpit and press all the way down to the bottom of society--the clammy stillness created and maintained by the lie of silent assertion--the silent assertion that there wasn't anything going on in which humane and intelligent people were interested.
From the beginning of the Dreyfus case to the end of it all France, except a couple of dozen moral paladins, lay under the smother of the silent-assertion lie that no wrong was being done to a persecuted and unoffending man. The like smother was over England lately, a good half of the population silently letting on that they were not aware that Mr. Chamberlain was trying to manufacture a war in South Africa and was willing to pay fancy prices for the materials.
Now there we have instances of three prominent ostensible civilisations working the silent-assertion lie. Could one find other instances in the three countries? I think so. Not so very many perhaps, but say a billion--just so as to keep within bounds. Are those countries working that kind of lie, day in and day out, in thousands and thousands of varieties, without ever resting? Yes, we know that to be true. The universal conspiracy of the silent-assertion lie is hard at work always and everywhere, and always in the interest of a stupidity or a sham, never in the interest of a thing fine or respectable. Is it the most timid and shabby of all lies? It seems to have the look of it. For ages and ages it has mutely laboured in the interest of despotisms and aristocracies and chattel slaveries, and military slaveries, and religious slaveries, and has kept them alive; keeps them alive yet, here and there and yonder, all about the globe; and will go on keeping them alive until the silent-assertion lie retires from business--the silent assertion that nothing is going on which fair and intelligent men are aware of and are engaged by their duty to try to stop.
What I am arriving at is this: When whole races and peoples conspire to propagate gigantic mute lies in the interest of tyrannies and shams, why should we care anything about the trifling lies told by individuals? Why should we try to make it appear that abstention from lying is a virtue? Why should we want to beguile ourselves in that way? Why should we without shame help the nation lie, and then be ashamed to do a little lying on our own account? Why shouldn't we be honest and honourable, and lie every time we get a chance? That is to say, why shouldn't we be consistent, and either lie all the time or not at all? Why should we help the nation lie the whole day long and then object to telling one little individual private lie in our own interest to go to bed on? Just for the refreshment of it, I mean, and to take the rancid taste out of our mouth.
Here in England they have the oddest ways. They won't tell a spoken lie --nothing can persuade them. Except in a large moral interest, like politics or religion, I mean. To tell a spoken lie to get even the poorest little personal advantage out of it is a thing which is impossible to them. They make me ashamed of myself sometimes, they are so bigoted. They will not even tell a lie for the fun of it; they will not tell it when it hasn't eve a suggestion of damage or advantage in it for any one. This has a restraining influence upon me in spite of reason, and I am always getting out of practice.
Of course, they tell all sorts of little unspoken lies, just like anybody; but they don't notice it until their attention is called to it. They have got me so that sometimes I never tell a verbal lie now except in a modified form; and even in the modified form they don't approve of it. Still, that is as far as I can go in the interest of the growing friendly relations between the two countries; I must keep some of my self-respect--and my health. I can live on a pretty low diet, but I can't get along on no sustenance at all.
Of course, there are times when these people have to come out with a spoken lie, for that is a thing which happens to everybody once in a while, and would happen to the angels if they came down here much. Particularly to the angels, in fact, for the lies I speak of are self- sacrificing ones told for a generous object, not a mean one; but even when these people tell a lie of that sort it seems to scare them and unsettle their minds. It is a wonderful thing to see, and shows that they are all insane. In fact, it is a country which is full of the most interesting superstitions.
I have an English friend of twenty-five years' standing, and yesterday when we were coming down-town on top of the 'bus I happened to tell him a lie--a modified one, of course; a half-breed, a mulatto; I can't seem to tell any other kind now, the market is so flat. I was explaining to him how I got out of an embarrassment in Austria last year. I do not know what might have become of me if I hadn't happened to remember to tell the police that I belonged to the same family as the Prince of Wales. That made everything pleasant and they let me go; and apologised, too, and were ever so kind and obliging and polite, and couldn't do too much for me, and explained how the mistake came to be made, and promised to hang the officer that did it, and hoped I would let bygones be bygones and not say anything about it; and I said they could depend on me. My friend said, austerely:'You call it a modified lie? Where is the modification?'
I explained that it lay in the form of my statement to the police. 'I didn't say I belonged to the Royal Family; I only said I belonged to the same family as the Prince--meaning the human family, of course; and if those people had had any penetration they would have known it. I can't go around furnishing brains to the police; it is not to be expected.''How did you feel after that performance?' 'Well, of course I was distressed to find that the police had misunderstood me, but as long as I had not told any lie I knew there was no occasion to sit up nights and worry about it.'
My friend struggled with the case several minutes, turning it over and examining it in his mind, then he said that so far as he could see the modification was itself a lie, it being a misleading reservation of an explanatory fact, and so I had told two lies instead of only one.
'I wouldn't have done it,' said he; 'I have never told a lie, and I should be very sorry to do such a thing.'
Just then he lifted his hat and smiled a basketful of surprised and delighted smiles down at a gentleman who was passing in a hansom.
'I know you didn't speak, still you said to him very plainly and enthusiastically in dumb show, "Hello! you in town? Awful glad to see you, old fellow; when did you get back?" Concealed in your actions was what you have called "a misleading reservation of an explanatory fact"-- the act that you had never seen him before. You expressed joy in encountering him--a lie; and you made that reservation--another lie. It was my pair over again. But don't be troubled--we all do it.'
Two hours later, at dinner, when quite other matters were being discussed, he told how he happened along once just in the nick of time to do a great service for a family who were old friends of his. The head of it had suddenly died in circumstances and surroundings of a ruinously disgraceful character. If know the facts would break the hearts of the innocent family and put upon them a load of unendurable shame. There was no help but in a giant lie, and he girded up his loins and told it.'The family never found out, G---?'
'Never. In all these years they have never suspected. They were proud of him and had always reason to be; they are proud of him yet, and to them his memory is sacred and stainless and beautiful.''They had a narrow escape, G---.' 'Indeed they had.'
'For the very next man that came along might have been one of these heartless and shameless truth-mongers. You have told the truth a million times in your life, G---, but that one golden lie atones for it all. Persevere.'
Some may think me not strict enough in my morals, but that position is hardly tenable. There are many kinds of lying which I do not approve. I do not like an injurious lie, except when it injures somebody else; and I do not like the lie of bravado, nor the lie of virtuous ecstasy; the latter was affected by Bryant, the former by Carlyle.
Mr. Bryant said, 'Truth crushed to earth will rise again.' I have taken medals at thirteen world's fairs, and may claim to be not without capacity, but I never told as big a one as that. Mr. Bryant was playing to the gallery; we all do it. Carlyle said, in substance, this--I do not remember the exact words: 'This gospel is eternal--that a lie shall not live.' I have a reverent affection for Carlyle's books, and have read his 'Revelation' eight times; and so I prefer to think he was not entirely at himself when he told that one. To me it is plain that he said it in a moment of excitement, when chasing Americans out of his back-yard with brickbats. They used to go there and worship. At bottom he was probably fond of it, but he was always able to conceal it. He kept bricks for them, but he was not a good shot, and it is matter of history that when he fired they dodged, and carried off the brick; for as a nation we like relics, and so long as we get them we do not much care what the reliquary thinks about it. I am quite sure that when he told that large one about a lie not being able to live he had just missed an American and was over excited. He told it above thirty years ago, but it is alive yet; alive, and very healthy and hearty, and likely to outlive any fact in history. Carlyle was truthful when calm, but give him Americans enough and bricks enough and he could have taken medals himself.
As regards that time that George Washington told the truth, a word must be said, of course. It is the principal jewel in the crown of America, and it is but natural that we should work it for all it is worth, as Milton says in his 'Lay of the Last Minstrel.' It was a timely and judicious truth, and I should have told it myself in the circumstances. But I should have stopped there. It was a stately truth, a lofty truth-- a Tower; and I think it was a mistake to go on and distract attention from its sublimity by building another Tower alongside of it fourteen times as high. I refer to his remark that he 'could not lie.' I should have fed that to the marines; or left it to Carlyle; it is just in his style. It would have taken a medal at any European fair, and would have got an honourable mention even at Chicago if it had been saved up. But let it pass; the Father of his Country was excited. I have been in those circumstances, and I recollect.
With the truth he told I have no objection to offer, as already indicated. I think it was not premeditated but an inspiration. With his fine military mind, he had probably arranged to let his brother Edward in for the cherry tree results, but by an inspiration he saw his opportunity in time and took advantage of it. By telling the truth he could astonish his father; his father would tell the neighbours; the neighbours would spread it; it would travel to all firesides; in the end it would make him President, and not only that, but First President. He was a far-seeing boy and would be likely to think of these things. Therefore, to my mind, he stands justified for what he did. But not for the other Tower; it was a mistake. Still, I don't know about that; upon reflection I think perhaps it wasn't. For indeed it is that Tower that makes the other one live. If he hadn't said 'I cannot tell a lie' there would have been no convulsion. That was the earthquake that rocked the planet. That is the kind of statement that lives for ever, and a fact barnacled to it has a good chance to share its immortality.
To sum up, on the whole I am satisfied with things the way they are. There is a prejudice against the spoken lie, but none against any other, and by examination and mathematical computation I find that the proportion of the spoken lie to the other varieties is as 1 to 22,894. Therefore the spoken lie is of no consequence, and it is not worth while to go around fussing about it and trying to make believe that it is an important matter. The silent colossal National Lie that is the support and confederate of all the tyrannies and shams and inequalities and unfairnesses that afflict the peoples--that is the one to throw bricks and sermons at. But let us be judicious and let somebody else begin.
And then--But I have wandered from my text. How did I get out of my second lie? I think I got out with honour, but I cannot be sure, for it was a long time ago and some of the details have faded out of my memory. I recollect that I was reversed and stretched across some one's knee, and that something happened, but I cannot now remember what it was. I think there was music; but it is all dim now and blurred by the lapse of time, and this may be only a senile fancy.
The Esquimaux Maiden's Romance
'Yes, I will tell you anything about my life that you would like to know, Mr. Twain,' she said, in her soft voice, and letting her honest eyes rest placidly upon my face, 'for it is kind and good of you to like me and care to know about me.'
She had been absently scraping blubber-grease from her cheeks with a small bone-knife and transferring it to her fur sleeve, while she watched the Aurora Borealis swing its flaming streamers out of the sky and wash the lonely snow plain and the templed icebergs with the rich hues of the prism, a spectacle of almost intolerable splendour and beauty; but now she shook off her reverie and prepared to give me the humble little history I had asked for. She settled herself comfortably on the block of ice which we were using as a sofa, and I made ready to listen.
She was a beautiful creature. I speak from the Esquimaux point of view. Others would have thought her a trifle over-plump. She was just twenty years old, and was held to be by far the most bewitching girl in her tribe. Even now, in the open air, with her cumbersome and shapeless fur coat and trousers and boots and vast hood, the beauty of her face was at least apparent; but her figure had to be taken on trust. Among all the guests who came and went, I had seen no girl at her father's hospitable trough who could be called her equal. Yet she was not spoiled. She was sweet and natural and sincere, and if she was aware that she was a belle, there was nothing about her ways to show that she possessed that knowledge.
She had been my daily comrade for a week now, and the better I knew her the better I liked her. She had been tenderly and carefully brought up, in an atmosphere of singularly rare refinement for the polar regions, for her father was the most important man of his tribe and ranked at the top of Esquimaux civilisation. I made long dog-sledge trips across the mighty ice floes with Lasca--that was her name--and found her company always pleasant and her conversation agreeable. I went fishing with her, but not in her perilous boat: I merely followed along on the ice and watched her strike her game with her fatally accurate spear. We went sealing together; several times I stood by while she and the family dug blubber from a stranded whale, and once I went part of the way when she was hunting a bear, but turned back before the finish, because at bottom I am afraid of bears.However, she was ready to begin her story, now, and this is what she said:
'Our tribe had always been used to wander about from place to place over the frozen seas, like the other tribes, but my father got tired of that, two years ago, and built this great mansion of frozen snow-blocks--look at it; it is seven feet high and three or four times as long as any of the others--and here we have stayed ever since. He was very proud of his house, and that was reasonable, for if you have examined it with care you must have noticed how much finer and completer it is than houses usually are. But if you have not, you must, for you will find it has luxurious appointments that are quite beyond the common. For instance, in that end of it which you have called the "parlour," the raised platform for the accommodation of guests and the family at meals is the largest you have ever seen in any house--is it not so?'
'Yes, you are quite right, Lasca; it is the largest; we have nothing resembling it in even the finest houses in the United States.' This admission made her eyes sparkle with pride and pleasure. I noted that, and took my cue.
'I thought it must have surprised you,' she said. 'And another thing; it is bedded far deeper in furs than is usual; all kinds of furs--seal, sea-otter, silver-grey fox, bear, marten, sable-every kind of fur in profusion; and the same with the ice-block sleeping-benches along the walls which you call "beds." Are your platforms and sleeping-benches better provided at home?'
'Indeed, they are not, Lasca--they do not begin to be.' That pleased her again. All she was thinking of was the number of furs her aesthetic father took the trouble to keep on hand, not their value. I could have told her that those masses of rich furs constituted wealth--or would in my country--but she would not have understood that; those were not the kind of things that ranked as riches with her people. I could have told her that the clothes she had on, or the every-day clothes of the commonest person about her, were worth twelve or fifteen hundred dollars, and that I was not acquainted with anybody at home who wore twelve-hundred dollar toilets to go fishing in; but she would not have understood it, so I said nothing. She resumed:'And then the slop-tubs. We have two in the parlour, and two in the rest of the house. It is very seldom that one has two in the parlour. Have you two in the parlour at home?' The memory of those tubs made me gasp, but I recovered myself before she noticed, and said with effusion:
'Why, Lasca, it is a shame of me to expose my country, and you must not let it go further, for I am speaking to you in confidence; but I give you my word of honour that not even the richest man in the city of New York has two slop-tubs in his drawing-room.'She clapped her fur-clad hands in innocent delight, and exclaimed: 'Oh, but you cannot mean it, you cannot mean it!'
'Indeed, I am in earnest, dear. There is Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt is almost the richest man in the whole world. Now, if I were on my dying bed, I could say to you that not even he has two in his drawing-room. Why, he hasn't even one--I wish I may die in my tracks if it isn't true.'Her lovely eyes stood wide with amazement, and she said, slowly, and with a sort of awe in her voice:
'How strange--how incredible--one is not able to realise it. Is he penurious?' 'No--it isn't that. It isn't the expense he minds, but--er--well, you know, it would look like showing off. Yes, that is it, that is the idea; he is a plain man in his way, and shrinks from display.''Why, that humility is right enough,' said Lasca, 'if one does not carry it too far--but what does the place look like?' 'Well, necessarily it looks pretty barren and unfinished, but--' 'I should think so! I never heard anything like it. Is it a fine house-- that is, otherwise?' 'Pretty fine, yes. It is very well thought of.'
The girl was silent awhile, and sat dreamily gnawing a candle-end, apparently trying to think the thing out. At last she gave her head a little toss and spoke out her opinion with decision:
'Well, to my mind there's a breed of humility which is itself a species of showing off when you get down to the marrow of it; and when a man is able to afford two slop-tubs in his parlour, and doesn't do it, it may be that he is truly humble-minded, but it's a hundred times more likely that he is just trying to strike the public eye. In my judgment, your Mr. Vanderbilt knows what he is about.'
I tried to modify this verdict, feeling that a double slop-tub standard was not a fair one to try everybody by, although a sound enough one in its own habitat; but the girl's head was set, and she was not to be persuaded. Presently she said:'Do the rich people, with you, have as good sleeping-benches as ours, and made out of as nice broad ice-blocks?' 'Well, they are pretty good--good enough--but they are not made of ice-blocks.' 'I want to know! Why aren't they made of ice-blocks?'
I explained the difficulties in the way, and the expensiveness of ice in a country where you have to keep a sharp eye on your ice-man or your ice-bill will weigh more than your ice. Then she cried out:'Dear me, do you buy your ice?' 'We most surely do, dear.'
She burst into a gale of guileless laughter, and said: 'Oh, I never heard of anything so silly! My! there's plenty of it--it isn't worth anything. Why, there is a hundred miles of it in sight, right now. I wouldn't give a fish-bladder for the whole of it.''Well, it's because you don't know how to value it, you little provincial muggings. If you had it in New York in midsummer, you could buy all the whales in the market with it.' She looked at me doubtfully, and said: 'Are you speaking true?' 'Absolutely. I take my oath to it.' This made her thoughtful. Presently she said, with a little sigh: 'I wish I could live there.'
I had merely meant to furnish her a standard of values which she could understand; but my purpose had miscarried. I had only given her the impression that whales were cheap and plenty in New York, and set her mouth to watering for them. It seemed best to try to mitigate the evil which I had done, so I said:'But you wouldn't care for whale-meat if you lived there. Nobody does.' 'What!' 'Indeed they don't.' 'Why don't they?'
'Wel-l-l, I hardly know. It's prejudice, I think. Yes, that is it--just prejudice. I reckon somebody that hadn't anything better to do started a prejudice against it, some time or other, and once you get a caprice like that fairly going, you know it will last no end of time.''That is true--perfectly true,' said the girl, reflectively. 'Like our prejudice against soap, here--our tribes had a prejudice against soap at first, you know.' I glanced at her to see if she was in earnest. Evidently she was. I hesitated, then said, cautiously: 'But pardon me. They had a prejudice against soap? Had?'--with falling inflection. 'Yes--but that was only at first; nobody would eat it.' 'Oh--I understand. I didn't get your idea before.' She resumed:
'It was just a prejudice. The first time soap came here from the foreigners, nobody liked it; but as soon as it got to be fashionable, everybody liked it, and now everybody has it that can afford it. Are you fond of it?''Yes, indeed; I should die if I couldn't have it--especially here. Do you like it?' 'I just adore it! Do you like candles?' 'I regard them as an absolute necessity. Are you fond of them?' Her eyes fairly danced, and she exclaimed: 'Oh! Don't mention it! Candles!--and soap!--' 'And fish-interiors!--' 'And train-oil--' 'And slush!--' 'And whale-blubber!--' 'And carrion! and sour-krout! and beeswax! and tar! and turpentine! and molasses! and--' 'Don't--oh, don't--I shall expire with ecstasy!--' 'And then serve it all up in a slush-bucket, and invite the neighbours and sail in!'
But this vision of an ideal feast was too much for her, and she swooned away, poor thing. I rubbed snow in her face and brought her to, and after a while got her excitement cooled down. By-and-by she drifted into her story again:
'So we began to live here in the fine house. But I was not happy. The reason was this: I was born for love: for me there could be no true happiness without it. I wanted to be loved for myself alone. I wanted an idol, and I wanted to be my idol's idol; nothing less than mutual idolatry would satisfy my fervent nature. I had suitors in plenty--in overplenty, indeed--but in each and every case they had a fatal defect: sooner or later I discovered that defect--not one of them failed to betray it--it was not me they wanted, but my wealth.''Your wealth?'
'Yes; for my father is much the richest man in this tribe--or in any tribe in these regions.' I wondered what her father's wealth consisted of. It couldn't be the house--anybody could build its mate. It couldn't be the furs--they were not valued. It couldn't be the sledge, the dogs, the harpoons, the boat, the bone fish-hooks and needles, and such things--no, these were not wealth. Then what could it be that made this man so rich and brought this swarm of sordid suitors to his house? It seemed to me, finally, that the best way to find out would be to ask. So I did it. The girl was so manifestly gratified by the question that I saw she had been aching to have me ask it. She was suffering fully as much to tell as I was to know. She snuggled confidentially up to me and said:'Guess how much he is worth--you never can!'
I pretended to consider the matter deeply, she watching my anxious and labouring countenance with a devouring and delighted interest; and when, at last, I gave it up and begged her to appease my longing by telling me herself how much this polar Vanderbilt was worth, she put her mouth close to my ear and whispered, impressively:'Twenty-two fish-hooks--not bone, but foreign--made out of real iron!' Then she sprang back dramatically, to observe the effect. I did my level best not to disappoint her. I turned pale and murmured: 'Great Scott!' 'It's as true as you live, Mr. Twain!' 'Lasca, you are deceiving me--you cannot mean it.' She was frightened and troubled. She exclaimed: 'Mr. Twain, every word of it is true--every word. You believe me--you do believe me, now don't you? Say you believe me--do say you believe me!' 'I--well, yes, I do--I am trying to. But it was all so sudden. So sudden and prostrating. You shouldn't do such a thing in that sudden way. It--' 'Oh, I'm so sorry! If I had only thought--' 'Well, it's all right, and I don't blame you any more, for you are young and thoughtless, and of course you couldn't foresee what an effect--' 'But oh, dear, I ought certainly to have known better. Why--' 'You see, Lasca, if you had said five or six hooks, to start with, and then gradually--'
'Oh, I see, I see--then gradually added one, and then two, and then--ah, why couldn't I have thought of that!'
'Never mind, child, it's all right--I am better now--I shall be over it in a little while. But-to spring the whole twenty-two on a person unprepared and not very strong anyway--'
After harvesting a good deal of very pleasant coaxing and petting and persuading, I forgave her and she was happy again, and by-and-by she got under way with her narrative once more. I presently discovered that the family treasury contained still another feature-a jewel of some sort, apparently--and that she was trying to get around speaking squarely about it, lest I get paralysed again. But I wanted to known about that thing, too, and urged her to tell me what it was. She was afraid. But I insisted, and said I would brace myself this time and be prepared, then the shock would not hurt me. She was full of misgivings, but the temptation to reveal that marvel to me and enjoy my astonishment and admiration was too strong for her, and she confessed that she had it on her person, and said that if I was sure I was prepared--and so on and so on--and with that she reached into her bosom and brought out a battered square of brass, watching my eye anxiously the while. I fell over against her in a quite well-acted faint, which delighted her heart and nearly frightened it out of her, too, at the same time. When I came to and got calm, she was eager to know what I thought of her jewel.'What do I think of it? I think it is the most exquisite thing I ever saw.' 'Do you really? How nice of you to say that! But it is a love, now isn't it?' 'Well, I should say so! I'd rather own it than the equator.'
'I thought you would admire it,' she said. 'I think it is so lovely. And there isn't another one in all these latitudes. People have come all the way from the open Polar Sea to look at it. Did you ever see one before?'
I said no, this was the first one I had ever seen. It cost me a pang to tell that generous lie, for I had seen a million of them in my time, this humble jewel of hers being nothing but a battered old New York Central baggage check.'Land!' said I, 'you don't go about with it on your person this way, alone and with no protection, not even a dog?' 'Ssh! not so loud,' she said. 'Nobody knows I carry it with me. They think it is in papa's treasury. That is where it generally is.' 'Where is the treasury?'
It was a blunt question, and for a moment she looked startled and a little suspicious, but I said:
'Oh, come, don't you be afraid about me. At home we have seventy millions of people, and although I say it myself that shouldn't, there is not one person among them all but would trust me with untold fish-hooks.'
This reassured her, and she told me where the hooks were hidden in the house. Then she wandered from her course to brag a little about the size of the sheets of transparent ice that formed the windows of the mansion, and asked me if I had ever seen their like at home, and I came right out frankly and confessed that I hadn't, which pleased her more than she could find words to dress her gratification in. It was so easy to please her, and such a pleasure to do it, that I went on and said--
'Ah, Lasca, you are a fortune girl!--this beautiful house, this dainty jewel, that rich treasure, all this elegant snow, and sumptuous icebergs and limitless sterility, and public bears and walruses, and noble freedom and largeness and everybody's admiring eyes upon you, and everybody's homage and respect at your command without the asking; young, rich, beautiful, sought, courted, envied, not a requirement unsatisfied, not a desire ungratified, nothing to wish for that you cannot have--it is immeasurable good-fortune! I have seen myriads of girls, but none of whom these extraordinary things could be truthfully said but you alone. And you are worthy--worthy of it all, Lasca--I believe it in my heart.'
It made her infinitely proud and happy to hear me say this, and she thanked me over and over again for that closing remark, and her voice and eyes showed that she was touched. Presently she said:
'Still, it is not all sunshine--there is a cloudy side. The burden of wealth is a heavy one to bear. Sometimes I have doubted if it were not better to be poor--at least not inordinately rich. It pains me to see neighbouring tribesmen stare as they pass by, and overhear them say, reverently, one to another, "There--that is she--the millionaire's daughter!" And sometimes they say sorrowfully, "She is rolling in fish-hooks, and I--I have nothing." It breaks my heart. When I was a child and we were poor, we slept with the door open, if we chose, but now--now we have to have a night-watchman. In those days my father was gentle and courteous to all; but now he is austere and haughty and cannot abide familiarity. Once his family were his sole thought, but now he goes about thinking of his fish-hooks all the time. And his wealth makes everybody cringing and obsequious to him. Formerly nobody laughed at his jokes, they being always stale and far-fetched and poor, and destitute of the one element that can really justify a joke--the element of humour; but now everybody laughs and cackles at these dismal things, and if any fails to do it my father is deeply displeased, and shows it. Formerly his opinion was not sought upon any matter and was not valuable when he volunteered it; it has that infirmity yet, but, nevertheless, it is sought by all and applauded by all--and he helps do the applauding himself, having no true delicacy and a plentiful want of tact. He has lowered the tone of all our tribe. Once they were a frank and manly race, now they are measly hypocrites, and sodden with servility. In my heart of hearts I hate all the ways of millionaires! Our tribe was once plain, simple folk, and content with the bone fish-hooks of their fathers; now they are eaten up with avarice and would sacrifice every sentiment of honour and honesty to possess themselves of the debasing iron fish-hooks of the foreigner. However, I must not dwell on these sad things. As I have said, it was my dream to be loved for myself alone.
'At last, this dream seemed about to be fulfilled. A stranger came by, one day, who said his name was Kalula. I told him my name, and he said he loved me. My heart gave a great bound of gratitude and pleasure, for I had loved him at sight, and now I said so. He took me to his breast and said he would not wish to be happier than he was now. We went strolling together far over the ice-floes, telling all about each other, and planning, oh, the loveliest future! When we were tired at last we sat down and ate, for he had soap and candles and I had brought along some blubber. We were hungry and nothing was ever so good.
'He belonged to a tribe whose haunts were far to the north, and I found that he had never heard of my father, which rejoiced me exceedingly. I mean he had heard of the millionaire, but had never heard his name--so, you see, he could not know that I was the heiress. You may be sure that I did not tell him. I was loved for myself at last, and was satisfied. I was so happy--oh, happier than you can think!'By-and-by it was towards supper time, and I led him home. As we approached our house he was amazed, and cried out: '"How splendid! Is that your father's?"
'It gave me a pang to hear that tone and see that admiring light in his eye, but the feeling quickly passed away, for I loved him so, and he looked so handsome and noble. All my family of aunts and uncles and cousins were pleased with him, and many guests were called in, and the house was shut up tight and the rag lamps lighted, and when everything was hot and comfortable and suffocating, we began a joyous feast in celebration of my betrothal.
'When the feast was over my father's vanity overcame him, and he could not resist the temptation to show off his riches and let Kalula see what grand good-fortune he had stumbled into--and mainly, of course, he wanted to enjoy the poor man's amazement. I could have cried--but it would have done no good to try to dissuade my father, so I said nothing, but merely sat there and suffered.
'My father went straight to the hiding-place in full sight of everybody, and got out the fish-hooks and brought them and flung them scatteringly over my head, so that they fell in glittering confusion on the platform at my lover's knee.
'Of course, the astounding spectacle took the poor lad's breath away. He could only stare in stupid astonishment, and wonder how a single individual could possess such incredible riches. Then presently he glanced brilliantly up and exclaimed:
'"Ah, it is you who are the renowned millionaire!" 'My father and all the rest burst into shouts of happy laughter, and when my father gathered the treasure carelessly up as if it might be mere rubbish and of no consequence, and carried it back to its place, poor Kulala's surprise was a study. He said:'"Is it possible that you put such things away without counting them?" 'My father delivered a vain-glorious horse-laugh, and said: '"Well, truly, a body may know you have never been rich, since a mere matter of a fishhook or two is such a mighty matter in your eyes." 'Kalula was confused, and hung his head, but said:
'"Ah, indeed, sir, I was never worth the value of the barb of one of those precious things, and I have never seen any man before who was so rich in them as to render the counting of his hoard worth while, since the wealthiest man I have ever known, till now, was possessed of but three."
'My foolish father roared again with jejune delight, and allowed the impression to remain that he was not accustomed to count his hooks and keep sharp watch over them. He was showing off, you see. Count them? Why, he counted them every day!
'I had met and got acquainted with my darling just at dawn; I had brought him home just at dark, three hours afterwards--for the days were shortening toward the six-months' night at that time. We kept up the festivities many hours; then, at last, the guests departed and the rest of us distributed ourselves along the walls on sleeping-benches, and soon all were steeped in dreams but me. I was too happy, too excited, to sleep. After I had lain quiet a long, long time, a dim form passed by me and was swallowed up in the gloom that pervaded the farther end of the house. I could not make out who it was, or whether it was man or woman. Presently that figure or another one passed me going the other way. I wondered what it all meant, but wondering did no good; and while I was still wondering I fell asleep.
'I do not know how long I slept, but at last I came suddenly broad awake and heard my father say in a terrible voice, "By the great Snow God, there's a fish-hook gone!" Something told me that that meant sorrow for me, and the blood in my veins turned cold. The presentiment was confirmed in the same instant: my father shouted, "Up, everybody, and seize the stranger!" Then there was an outburst of cries and curses from all sides, and a wild rush of dim forms through the obscurity. I flew to my beloved's help, but what could I do but wait and wring my hands?--he was already fenced away from me by a living wall, he was being bound hand and foot. Not until he was secured would they let me get to him. I flung myself upon his poor insulted form and cried my grief out upon his breast while my father and all my family scoffed at me and heaped threats and shameful epithets upon him. He bore his ill usage with a tranquil dignity which endeared him to me more than ever, and made me proud and happy to suffer with him and for him. I heard my father order that the elders of the tribe be called together to try my Kalula for his life. '"What!" I said, "before any search has been made for the lost hook?"
'"Lost hook!" they all shouted, in derision; and my father added, mockingly, "Stand back, everybody, and be properly serious--she is going to hunt up that lost hook: oh, without doubt she will find it!"--whereat they all laughed again.'I was not disturbed--I had no fears, no doubts. I said: '"It is for you to laugh now; it is your turn. But ours is coming; wait and see."
'I got a rag lamp. I thought I should find that miserable thing in one little moment; and I set about that matter with such confidence that those people grew grace, beginning to suspect that perhaps they had been too hasty. But alas and alas!--oh, the bitterness of that search! There was deep silence while one might count his fingers ten or twelve times, then my heart began to sink, and around me the mockings began again, and grew steadily louder and more assured, until at last, when I gave up, they burst into volley after volley of cruel laughter.
'None will ever know what I suffered then. But my love was my support and my strength, and I took my rightful place at my Kalula's side, and put my arm about his neck, and whispered in his ear, saying:'"You are innocent, my own--that I know; but say it to me yourself, for my comfort, then I can bear whatever is in store for us." 'He answered:
'"As surely as I stand upon the brink of death at this moment, I am innocent. Be comforted, then, O bruised heart; be at peace, O thou breath of my nostrils, life of my life!"
'"Now, then, let the elders come!"--and as I said the words there was a gathering sound of crunching snow outside, and then a vision of stooping forms filing in at the door--the elders.
'My father formally accused the prisoner, and detailed the happenings of the night. He said that the watchman was outside the door, and that in the house were none but the family and the stranger. "Would the family steal their own property?" He paused. The elders sat silent many minutes; at last, one after another said to his neighbour, "This looks bad for the stranger"--sorrowful words for me to hear. Then my father sat down. O miserable, miserable me! At that very moment I could have proved my darling innocent, but I did not know it!'The chief of the court asked: '"Is there any here to defend the prisoner?" 'I rose and said: '"Why should he steal that hook, or any or all of them? In another day he would have been heir to the whole!"
I stood waiting. There was a long silence, the steam from the many breaths rising about me like a fog. At last one elder after another nodded his head slowly several times, and muttered, "There is force in what the child has said." Oh, the heart-lift that was in those words!-- so transient, but, oh, so precious! I sat down.'"If any would say further, let him speak now, or after hold his peace," said the chief of the court. 'My father rose and said: '"In the night a form passed by me in the gloom, going toward the treasury and presently returned. I think, now, it was the stranger."
'Oh, I was like to swoon! I had supposed that that was my secret; not the grip of the great Ice God himself could have dragged it out of my heart. The chief of the court said sternly to my poor Kalula:'"Speak!" 'Kalula hesitated, then answered:
'"It was I. I could not sleep for thinking of the beautiful hooks. I went there and kissed them and fondled them, to appease my spirit and drown it in a harmless joy, then I put them back. I may have dropped one, but I stole none."
'Oh, a fatal admission to make in such a place! There was an awful hush. I knew he had pronounced his own doom, and that all was over. On every face you could see the words hieroglyphed: "It is a confession!--and paltry, lame, and thin."'I sat drawing in my breath in faint gasps--and waiting. Presently, I heard the solemn words I knew were coming; and each word, as it came, was a knife in my heart: '"It is the command of the court that the accused be subjected to the trial by water."
'Oh, curses be upon the head of him who brought "trial by water" to our land! It came, generations ago, from some far country that lies none knows where. Before that our fathers used augury and other unsure methods of trial, and doubtless some poor guilty creatures escaped with their lives sometimes; but it is not so with trial by water, which is an invention by wiser men than we poor ignorant savages are. By it the innocent are proved innocent, without doubt or question, for they drown; and the guilty are proven guilty with the same certainty, for they do not drown. My heart was breaking in my bosom, for I said, "He is innocent, and he will go down under the waves and I shall never see him more."
'I never left his side after that. I mourned in his arms all the precious hours, and he poured out the deep stream of his love upon me, and oh, I was so miserable and so happy! At last, they tore him from me, and I followed sobbing after them, and saw them fling him into the sea-- then I covered my face with my hands. Agony? Oh, I know the deepest deeps of that word!
'The next moment the people burst into a shout of malicious joy, and I took away my hands, startled. Oh, bitter sight--he was swimming! My heart turned instantly to stone, to ice. I said, "He was guilty, and he lied to me!" I turned my back in scorn and went my way homeward.'They took him far out to sea and set him on an iceberg that was drifting southward in the great waters. Then my family came home, and my father said to me:
'"Your thief sent his dying message to you, saying, 'Tell her I am innocent, and that all the days and all the hours and all the minutes while I starve and perish I shall love her and think of her and bless the day that gave me sight of her sweet face.'" Quite pretty, even poetical!'I said, "He is dirt--let me never hear mention of him again." And oh, to think--he was innocent all the time!
'Nine months--nine dull, sad months--went by, and at last came the day of the Great Annual Sacrifice, when all the maidens of the tribe wash their faces and comb their hair. With the first sweep of my comb out came the fatal fish-hook from where it had been all those months nestling, and I fell fainting into the arms of my remorseful father! Groaning, he said, "We murdered him, and I shall never smile again!" He has kept his word. Listen; from that day to this not a month goes by that I do not comb my hair. But oh, where is the good of it all now!'
So ended the poor maid's humble little tale--whereby we learn that since a hundred million dollars in New York and twenty-two fish-hooks on the border of the Arctic Circle represent the same financial supremacy, a man in straitened circumstances is a fool to stay in New York when he can buy ten cents' worth of fish-hooks and emigrate.
Christian Science And The Book Of Mrs. Eddy'It is the first time since the dawn-days of Creation that a Voice has gone crashing through space with such placid and complacent confidence and command.' I
This last summer, when I was on my way back to Vienna from the Appetite-Cure in the mountains, I fell over a cliff in the twilight and broke some arms and legs and one thing or another, and by good luck was found by some peasants who had lost an ass, and they carried me to the nearest habitation, which was one of those large, low, thatch-roofed farm-houses, with apartments in the garret for the family, and a cunning little porch under the deep gable decorated with boxes of bright-coloured flowers and cats; on the ground floor a large and light sitting-room, separated from the milch-cattle apartment by a partition; and in the front yard rose stately and fine the wealth and pride of the house, the manure-pile. That sentence is Germanic, and shows that I am acquiring that sort of mastery of the art and spirit of the language which enables a man to travel all day in one sentence without changing cars.
There was a village a mile away, and a horse-doctor lived there, but there was no surgeon. It seemed a bad outlook; mine was distinctly a surgery case. Then it was remembered that a lady from Boston was summering in that village, and she was a Christian Science doctor and could cure anything. So she was sent for. It was night by this time, and she could not conveniently come, but sent word that it was no matter, there was no hurry, she would give me 'absent treatment' now, and come in the morning; meantime she begged me to make myself tranquil and comfortable and remember that there was nothing the matter with me. I thought there must be some mistake.'Did you tell her I walked off a cliff seventy-five feet high?' 'Yes.' 'And struck a boulder at the bottom and bounced?' 'Yes.' 'And struck another one and bounced again?' 'Yes.' 'And struck another one and bounced yet again?' 'Yes.' 'And broke the boulders?' 'Yes.' 'That accounts for it; she is thinking of the boulders. Why didn't you tell her I got hurt, too?'
'I did. I told her what you told me to tell her: that you were now but an incoherent series of compound fractures extending from your scalp-lock to your heels, and that the comminuted projections caused you to look like a hat-rack.''And it was after this that she wished me to remember that there was nothing the matter with me?' 'Those were her words.'
'I do not understand it. I believe she has not diagnosed the case with sufficient care. Did she look like a person who was theorising, or did she look like one who has fallen off precipices herself and brings to the aid of abstract science the confirmation of personal experience?''Bitte?'
It was too large a contract for the Stubenmadchen's vocabulary; she couldn't call the hand. I allowed the subject to rest there, and asked for something to eat and smoke, and something hot to drink, and a basket to pile my legs in, and another capable person to come and help me curse the time away; but I could not have any of these things.'Why?' 'She said you would need nothing at all.' 'But I am hungry and thirsty, and in desperate pain.' 'She said you would have these delusions, but must pay no attention to them. She wants you to particularly remember that there are no such things as hunger and thirst and pain.' 'She does, does she?' 'It is what she said.' 'Does she seem o be in full and functional possession of her intellectual plant, such as it is?' 'Bitte?' 'Do they let her run at large, or do they tie her up?' 'Tie her up?' 'There, good-night, run along; you are a good girl, but your mental Geschirr is not arranged for light and airy conversation. Leave me to my delusions.' II
It was a night of anguish, of course--at least I supposed it was, for it had all the symptoms of it--but it passed at last, and the Christian Scientist came, and I was glad. She was middle-aged, and large and bony and erect, and had an austere face and a resolute jaw and a Roman beak and was a widow in the third degree, and her name was Fuller. I was eager to get to business and find relief, but she was distressingly deliberate. She unpinned and unhooked and uncoupled her upholsteries one by one, abolished the wrinkles with a flirt of her hand and hung the articles up; peeled off her gloves and disposed of them, got a book out of her hand-bag, then drew a chair to the bedside, descended into it without hurry, and I hung out my tongue. She said, with pity but without passion:'Return it to its receptacle. We deal with the mind only, not with its dumb servants.'
I could not offer my pulse, because the connection was broken; but she detected the apology before I could word it, and indicated by a negative tilt of her head that the pulse was another dumb servant that she had no use for. Then I thought I would tell her my symptoms and how I felt, so that she would understand the case; but that was another inconsequence, she did not need to know those things; moreover, my remark about how I felt was an abuse of language, a misapplication of terms--
'One does not feel,' she explained; 'there is no such thing as feeling: therefore, to speak of a non-existent thing as existent as a contradiction. Matter has no existence; nothing exists but mind; the mind cannot feel pain, it can only imagine it.''But if it hurts, just the same--' 'It doesn't. A thing which is unreal cannot exercise the functions of reality. Pain is unreal; hence pain cannot hurt.'
In making a sweeping gesture to indicate the act of shooing the illusion of pain out of the mind, she raked her hand on a pin in her dress, said 'Ouch!' and went tranquilly on with her talk. 'You should never allow yourself to speak of how you feel, nor permit others to ask you how you are feeling: you should never concede that you are ill, nor permit others to talk about disease or pain or death or similar non-existences in your preserve. Such talk only encourages the mind to continue its empty imaginings.' Just at that point the Stubenmadchen trod on the cat's tail, and the cat let fly a frenzy of cat-profanity. I asked with caution:
'Is a cat's opinion about pain valuable?' 'A cat has no opinion; opinions proceed from the mind only; the lower animals, being eternally perishable, have not been granted mind; without mind opinion is impossible.''She merely imagined she felt a pain--the cat?' 'She cannot imagine a pain, for imagination is an effect of mind; without mind, there is no imagination. A cat has no imagination.' 'Then she had a real pain?' 'I have already told you there is no such thing as real pain.'
'It is strange and interesting. I do wonder what was the matter with the cat. Because, there being no such thing as real pain, and she not being able to imagine an imaginary thing, it would seem that God in his Pity has compensated the cat with some kind of a mysterious emotion useable when her tail is trodden on which for the moment joins cat and Christian in one common brotherhood of--'She broke in with an irritated--
'Peace! The cat feels nothing, the Christian feels nothing. Your empty and foolish imaginings are profanation and blasphemy, and can do you an injury. It is wiser and better and holier to recognise and confess that there is no such thing as disease or pain or death.''I am full of imaginary tortures,' I said, 'but I do not think I could be any more uncomfortable if they were real ones. What must I do to get rid of them?' 'There is no occasion to get rid of them, since they do not exist. They are illusions propagated by matter, and matter has no existence; there is no such thing as matter.' 'It sounds right and clear, but yet it seems in a degree elusive; it seems to slip through, just when you think you are getting a grip on it.' 'Explain.' 'Well, for instance: if there is no such thing as matter, how can matter propagate things?' In her compassion she almost smiled. She would have smiled if there were any such thing as a smile.
'It is quite simple,' she said; 'the fundamental propositions of Christian Science explain it, and they are summarised in the four following self-evident propositions: 1. God is All in all. 2. God is good. Good is Mind. 3. God, Spirit, being all, nothing is matter. 4. Life, God, omnipotent Good, deny death, evil sin, disease. There-- now you see.' It seemed nebulous: it did not seem to say anything about the difficulty in hand--how non-existent matter can propagate illusions. I said, with some hesitancy:'Does--does it explain?' 'Doesn't it? Even if read backward it will do it.' With a budding hope, I asked her to do it backward.
'Very well. Disease sin evil death deny Good omnipotent God life matter is nothing all being Spirit God Mind is Good good is God all in All is God. There--do you understand now?'It--it--well, it is plainer than it was before; still--' 'Well?' 'Could you try it some more ways?'
'As many as you like: it always means the same. Interchanged in any way you please it cannot be made to mean anything different from what it means when put in any other way. Because it is perfect. You can jumble it all up, and it makes no difference: it always comes out the way it was before. It was a marvellous mind that produced it. As a mental tour de force it is without a mate, it defies alike the simple, the concrete, and the occult.''It seems to be a corker.' I blushed for the word, but it was out before I could stop it. 'A what?' 'A--wonderful structure--combination, so to speak, or profound thoughts-- unthinkable ones--un--' 'It is true. Read backwards, or forwards, or perpendicularly, or at any given angle, these four propositions will always be found to agree in statement and proof.' 'Ah--proof. Now we are coming at it. The statements agree; they agree with--with-anyway, they agree; I noticed that; but what is it they prove--I mean, in particular?' 'Why, nothing could be clearer. They prove: 1. GOD--Principle, Life, Truth, Love, Soul, Spirit, Mind. Do you get that?' 'I--well, I seem to. Go on, please. '2. MAN--God's universal idea, individual, perfect, eternal. Is it clear?' 'It--I think so. Continue.'
'3. IDEA--An image in Mind; the immediate object of understanding. There it is--the whole sublime Arcana of Christian Science in a nutshell. Do you find a weak place in it anywhere?''Well--no; it seems strong.'
'Very well. There is more. Those three constitute the Scientific Definition of Immortal Mind. Next, we have the Scientific Definition of Mortal Mind. Thus. FIRST DEGREE: Depravity. 1. Physical--Passions and appetites, fear, depraved will, pride, envy, deceit, hatred, revenge, sin, disease, death.''Phantasms, madam--unrealities, as I understand it.' 'Every one. SECOND DEGREE: Evil Disappearing. 1. Moral--Honesty, affection, compassion, hope, faith, meekness, temperance. Is it clear?' 'Crystal.'
'THIRD DEGREE: Spiritual Salvation. 1. Spiritual--Faith, wisdom, power, purity, understanding, health, love. You see how searchingly and co-ordinately interdependent and anthropomorphous it all is. In this Third Degree, as we know by the revelations of Christian Science, mortal mind disappears.''Not earlier?' 'No, not until the teaching and preparation for the Third Degree are completed.'
'It is not until then that one is enabled to take hold of Christian Science effectively, and with the right sense of sympathy and kinship, as I understand you. That is to say, it could not succeed during the process of the Second Degree, because there would still be remains of mind left; and therefore--but I interrupted you. You were about to further explain the good results proceeding from the erosions and disintegrations effected by the Third Degree. It is very interesting: go on, please.'
'Yes, as I was saying, in this Third Degree mortal mind disappears. Science so reverses the evidence before the corporeal human senses as to make this scriptural testimony true in our hearts, "the last shall be first and the first shall be last," that God and His idea may be to us-- what divinity really is, and must of necessity be--all-inclusive.'
'It is beautiful. And with that exhaustive exactness your choice and arrangement of words confirms and establishes what you have claimed for the powers and functions of the Third Degree. The Second could probably produce only temporary absence of mind, it is reserved to the Third to make it permanent. A sentence framed under the auspices of the Second could have a kind of meaning--a sort of deceptive semblance of it-- whereas it is only under the magic of the Third that that defect would disappear. Also, without doubt, it is the Third Degree that contributes another remarkable specialty to Christian Science: viz., ease and flow and lavishness of words, and rhythm and swing and smoothness. There must be a special reason for this?''Yes--God-all, all-God, good Good, non-Matter, Matteration, Spirit, Bones, Truth.' 'That explains it.'
'There is nothing in Christian Science that is not explicable; for God is one, Time is one, Individuality is one, and may be one of a series, one of many, as an individual man, individual horse; whereas God is one, not one of a series, but one alone and without an equal.''These are noble thoughts. They make one burn to know more. How does Christian Science explain the spiritual relation of systematic duality to incidental reflection?'
'Christian Science reverses the seeming relation of Soul and body--as astronomy reverses the human perception of the movement of the solar system--and makes body tributary to Mind. As it is the earth which is in motion, while the sun is at rest, though in viewing the sun rise one finds it impossible to believe the sun not to be really rising, so the body is but the humble servant of the restful Mind, though it seems otherwise to finite sense; but we shall never understand this while we admit that soul is in body, or mind in matter, and that man is included in non-intelligence. Soul is God, unchangeable and eternal; and man coexists with and reflects Soul, for the All-in-all is the Altogether, and the Altogether embraces the All-one, Soul-Mind, Mind-Soul, Love, Spirit, Bones, Liver, one of a series, alone and without an equal.'
(It is very curious, the effect which Christian Science has upon the verbal bowels. Particularly the Third Degree; it makes one think of a dictionary with the cholera. But I only thought this; I did not say it.)'What is the origin of Christian Science? Is it a gift of God, or did it just happen?' 'In a sense, it is a gift of God. That is to say, its powers are from Him, but the credit of the discovery of the powers and what they are for is due to an American lady.' 'Indeed? When did this occur?'
'In 1866. That is the immortal date when pain and disease and death disappeared from the earth to return no more for ever. That is, the fancies for which those terms stand, disappeared. The things themselves had never existed; therefore as soon as it was perceived that there were no such things, they were easily banished. The history and nature of the great discovery are set down in the book here, and--'
'Did the lady write the book?' 'Yes, she wrote it all, herself. The title is "Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures"--for she explains the Scriptures; they were not understood before. Not even by the twelve Disciples. She begins thus--I will read it to you.'But she had forgotten to bring her glasses.
'Well, it is no matter,' she said, 'I remember the words--indeed, all Christian Scientists know the book by heart; it is necessary in our practice. We should otherwise make mistakes and do harm. She begins thus: "In the year 1866 I discovered the Science of Metaphysical Healing, and named it Christian Science." And she says--quite beautifully, I think--"Through Christian Science, religion and medicine are inspired with a diviner nature and essence, fresh pinions are given to faith and understanding, and thoughts acquaint themselves intelligently with God." Her very words.'
'It is elegant. And it is a fine thought, too--marrying religion to medicine, instead of medicine to the undertaker in the old way; for religion and medicine properly belong together, they being the basis of all spiritual and physical health. What kind of medicine do you give for the ordinary diseases, such as--''We never give medicine in any circumstances whatever! We--' 'But, madam, it says--' 'I don't care what it says, and I don't wish to talk about it.' 'I am sorry if I have offended, but you see the mention seemed in some way inconsistent, and--'
'There are no inconsistencies in Christian Science. The thing is impossible, for the Science is absolute. It cannot be otherwise, since it proceeds directly from the All-in-all and the Everything-in-Which, also Soul, Bones, Truth, one of a series, alone and without equal. It is Mathematics purified from material dross and made spiritual.''I can see that, but--' 'It rests upon the immovable basis of an Apodictical Principle.' The word flattened itself against my mind trying to get in, and disordered me a little, and before I could inquire into its pertinency, she was already throwing the needed light:
'This Apodictical Principle is the absolute Principle of Scientific Mind-healing, the sovereign Omnipotence which delivers the children of men from pain, disease, decay, and every ill that flesh is heir to.'
'Surely not every ill, every decay?' 'Every one; there are no exceptions; there is no such thing as decay--it is an unreality, it has no existence.''But without your glasses your failing eyesight does not permit you to--' 'My eyesight cannot fail; nothing can fail; the Mind is master, and the Mind permits no retrogression.'
She was under the inspiration of the Third Degree, therefore there could be no profit in continuing this part of the subject. I shifted to other ground and inquired further concerning the Discoverer of the Science.'Did the discovery come suddenly, like Klondike, or after long study and calculation, like America?'
'The comparisons are not respectful, since they refer to trivialities-- but let it pass. I will answer in the Discoverer's own words: "God had been graciously fitting me, during many years, for the reception of a final revelation of the absolute Principle of Scientific Mindhealing."''Many years? How many?' 'Eighteen centuries!' 'All God, God-good, good-God, Truth, Bones, Liver, one of a series alone and without equal--it is amazing!'
'You may well say it, sir. Yet it is but the truth. This American lady, our revered and sacred founder, is distinctly referred to and her coming prophesied, in the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse; she could not have been more plainly indicated by St. John without actually mentioning her name.''How strange, how wonderful!'
'I will quote her own words, for her "Key to the Scriptures:" "The twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse has a special suggestiveness in connection with this nineteenth century." There--do you note that? Think--note it well.''But--what does it mean?'
'Listen, and you will know. I quote her inspired words again: "In the opening of the Sixth Seal, typical of six thousand years since Adam, there is one distinctive feature which has special reference to the present age. Thus:
'"Revelation xii. 1. And there appeared a great wonder in heaven--a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars." 'That is our Head, our Chief, our Discoverer of Christian Science-- nothing can be plainer, nothing surer. And note this:'"Revelation xii. 6. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared of God." 'That is Boston.' 'I recognise it, madam. These are sublime things and impressive; I never understood these passages before; please go on with the--with the-- proofs.' 'Very well. Listen:
'"And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud; and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire. And he had in his hand a little book."'A little book, merely a little book--could words be modester? Yet how stupendous its importance! Do you know what book that was?' 'Was it--' 'I hold it in my hand--"Christian Science"!' 'Love, Livers, Lights, Bones, Truth, Kidneys, one of a series, alone and without equal--it is beyond imagination and wonder!'
'Hear our Founder's eloquent words: "Then will a voice from harmony cry, 'Go and take the little book; take it and eat it up, and it shall make thy belly bitter; but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.' Mortal, obey the heavenly evangel. Take up Divine Science. Read it from beginning to end. Study it, ponder it. It will be indeed sweet at its first taste, when it heals you; but murmur not over Truth, if you find its digestion bitter." You now know the history of our dear and holy Science, sir, and that its origin is not of this earth, but only its discovery. I will leave the book with you and will go, now, but give yourself no uneasiness--I will give you absent treatment from now till I go to bed.'III
Under the powerful influence of the near treatment and the absent treatment together, my bones were gradually retreating inward and disappearing from view. The good word took a brisk start, now, and went on quite swiftly. My body was diligently straining and stretching, this way and that, to accommodate the processes of restoration, and every minute or two I heard a dull click inside and knew that the two ends of a fracture had been successfully joined. This muffled clicking and gritting and grinding and rasping continued during the next three hours, and then stopped--the connections had all been made. All except dislocations; there were only seven of these: hips, shoulders, knees, neck; so that was soon over; one after another they slipped into their sockets with a sound like pulling a distant cork, and I jumped up as good as new, as to framework, and sent for the horse-doctor.
I was obliged to do this because I had a stomach-ache and a cold in the head, and I was not willing to trust these things any longer in the hands of a woman whom I did not know, and in whose ability to successfully treat mere disease I had lost all confidence. My position was justified by the fact that the cold and the ache had been in her charge from the first, along with the fractures, but had experienced not a shade of relief; and indeed the ache was even growing worse and worse, and more and more bitter, now, probably on account of the protracted abstention from food and drink.
The horse-doctor came, a pleasant man and full of hope and professional interest in the case. In the matter of smell he was pretty aromatic, in fact quite horsey, and I tried to arrange with him for absent treatment, but it was not in his line, so out of delicacy I did not press it. He looked at my teeth and examined my hock, and said my age and general condition were favourable to energetic measures; therefore he would give me something to turn the stomach-ache into the botts and the cold in the head into the blind staggers; then he should be on his own beat and would know what to do. He made up a bucket of bran-mash, and said a dipperful of it every two hours, alternated with a drench with turpentine and axle-grease in it, would either knock my ailments out of me in twenty-four hours or so interest me in other ways as to make me forget they were on the premises. He administered my first dose himself, then took his leave, saying I was free to eat and drink anything I pleased and in any quantity I liked. But I was not hungry any more, and did not care for food.
I took up the 'Christian Scientist' book and read half of it, then took a dipperful of drench and read the other half. The resulting experiences were full of interest and adventure. All through the rumblings and grindings and quakings and effervescings accompanying the evolution of the ache into the botts and the cold into the blind staggers I could note the generous struggle for mastery going on between the mash and the drench and the literature; and often I could tell which was ahead, and could easily distinguish the literature from the others when the others were separate, though not when they were mixed; for when a bran-mash and an eclectic drench are mixed together they look just like the Apodictical Principle out on a lark, and no one can tell it from that. The finish was reached at last, the evolutions were complete and a fine success; but I think that this result could have been achieved with fewer materials. I believe the mash was necessary to the conversion of the stomach-ache into the boots, but I think one could develop the blind staggers out of the literature by itself; also, that blind staggers produced in this way would be of a better quality and more lasting than any produced by the artificial processes of a horse-doctor.
For of all the strange, and frantic, and incomprehensible, and uninterpretable books which the imagination of man has created, surely this one is the prize sample. It is written with a limitless confidence and complacency, and with a dash and stir and earnestness which often compel the effects of eloquence, even when the words do not seem to have any traceable meaning. There are plenty of people who imagine they understand the book; I know this, for I have talked with them; but in all cases they were people who also imagined that there were no such things as pain, sickness, and death, and no realities in the world; nothing actually existent but Mind. It seems to me to modify the value of their testimony. When these people talk about Christian Science they do as Mrs. Fuller did; they do not use their own language, but the book's; they pour out the book's showy incoherences, and leave you to find out later that they were not originating, but merely quoting; they seem to know the volume by heart, and to revere it as they would a Bible-another Bible, perhaps I ought to say. Plainly the book was written under the mental desolations of the Third Degree, and I feel sure that none but the membership of that Degree can discover meanings in it. When you read it you seem to be listening to a lively and aggressive and oracular speech delivered in an unknown tongue, a speech whose spirit you get but not the particulars; or, to change the figure, you seem to be listening to a vigorous instrument which is making a noise it thinks is a tune, but which to persons not members of the band is only the martial tooting of a trombone, and merely stirs the soul through the noise but does not convey a meaning.
The book's serenities of self-satisfaction do almost seem to smack of a heavenly origin-they have no blood-kin in the earth. It is more than human to be so placidly certain about things, and so finely superior, and so airily content with one's performance. Without ever presenting anything which may rightfully be called by the strong name of Evidence, and sometimes without even mentioning a reason for a deduction at all, it thunders out the startling words, 'I have Proved' so and so! It takes the Pope and all the great guns of his church in battery assembled to authoritatively settle and establish the meaning of a sole and single unclarified passage of Scripture, and this at vast cost of time and study and reflection, but the author of this work is superior to all that: she finds the whole Bible in an unclarified condition, and at small expense of time and no expense of mental effort she clarifies it from lid to lid, reorganises and improves the meanings, then authoritatively settles and establishes them with formulae which you cannot tell from 'Let there be light!' and 'Here you have it!' It is the first time since the dawn-days of Creation that a Voice has gone crashing through space with such placid and complacent confidence and command.IV
A word upon a question of authorship. Not that quite; but, rather, a question of emendation and revision. We know that the Bible-Annex was not written by Mrs. Eddy, but was handed down to her eighteen hundred years ago by the Angel of the Apocalypse; but did she translate it alone, or did she have help? There seems to be evidence that she had help. For there are four several copyrights on it--1875, 1885, 1890, 1894. It did not come down in English, for in that language it could not have acquired copyright--there were no copyright laws eighteen centuries ago, and in my opinion no English language-at least up there. This makes it substantially certain that the Annex is a translation. Then, was not the first translation complete? If it was, on what grounds were the later copyrights granted?
I surmise that the first translation was poor; and that a friend or friends of Mrs. Eddy mended its English three times, and finally got it into its present shape, where the grammar is plenty good enough, and the sentences are smooth and plausible though they do not mean anything. I think I am right in this surmise, for Mrs. Eddy cannot write English to-day, and this is argument that she never could. I am not able to guess who did the mending, but I think it was not done by any member of the Eddy Trust, nor by the editors of the 'Christian Science Journal,' for their English is not much better than Mrs. Eddy's.
However, as to the main point: it is certain that Mrs. Eddy did not doctor the Annex's English herself. Her original, spontaneous, undoctored English furnishes ample proof of this. Here are samples from recent articles from her unappeasable pen; double columned with them are a couple of passages from the Annex. It will be seen that they throw light. The italics are mine:
1. 'What plague spot, 'Therefore the efficient or bacilli were (sic) gnawing remedy is to destroy the (sic) at the heart of this patient's unfortunate belief, metropolis... and bringing by both silently and audibly it on bended knee? arguing the opposite facts in Why, it was an institute that regard to harmonious being had entered its vitals (sic) representing man as
that, among other things, healthful instead of diseased, taught games,' et cetera. (P. and showing that it is 670, 'C.S.Journal,' article impossible for matter to suffer, entitled 'A Narrative - by to feel pain or heat, to be Mary Baker G. Eddy.') thirsty or sick.' (P. 375,Annex.) 2. 'Parks sprang up (sic)...
electric street cars run 'Man is never sick; for (sic) merrily through several Mind is not sick, and matter streets, concrete sidewalks cannot be. A false belief and macadamised roads dotted is both the tempter and the (sic) the place,' et cetera. tempted, the sin and the (Ibid.) sinner, the disease and its 3. 'Shorn (sic) of its cause. It is well to be calm suburbs it had indeed little in sickness; to be hopeful is left to admire, save to (sic) still better; but to such as fancy a skeleton understand that sickness is not above ground breathing (sic) real, and that Truth can slowly through a barren (sic) destroy it, is best of all, for breast.' (Ibid.) it is the universal and perfect
You notice the contrast between the smooth, plausible, elegant, addled English of the doctored Annex and the lumbering, ragged, ignorant output of the translator's natural, spontaneous, and unmedicated penwork. The English of the Annex has been slicked up by a very industrious and painstaking hand--but it was not Mrs. Eddy's.
If Mrs. Eddy really wrote or translated the Annex, her original draft was exactly in harmony with the English of her plague-spot or bacilli which were gnawing at the insides of the metropolis and bringing its heart on bended knee, thus exposing to the eye the rest of the skeleton breathing slowly through a barren breast. And it bore little or no resemblance to the book as we have it now--now that the salaried polisher has holystoned all of the genuine Eddyties out of it.
Will the plague-spot article go into a volume just as it stands? I think not. I think the polisher will take off his coat and vest and cravat and 'demonstrate over' it a couple of weeks and sweat it into a shape something like the following--and then Mrs. Eddy will publish it and leave people to believe that she did the polishing herself:
1. What injurious influence was it that was affecting the city's morals? It was a social club which propagated an interest in idle amusements, disseminated a knowledge of games, et cetera.
2. By the magic of the new and nobler influences the sterile spaces were transformed into wooded parks, the merry electric car replaced the melancholy 'bus, smooth concrete the tempestuous plank sidewalk, the macadamised road the primitive corduroy, et cetera.3. Its pleasant suburbs gone, there was little left to admire save the wrecked graveyard with its uncanny exposures. The Annex contains one sole and solitary humorous remark. There is a most elaborate and voluminous Index, and it is preceded by this note: 'This Index will enable the student to find any thought or idea contained in the book.' V
No one doubts--certainly not I--that the mind exercises a powerful influence over the body. From the beginning of time, the sorcerer, the interpreter of dreams, the fortuneteller, the charlatan, the quack, the wild medicine-man, the educated physician, the mesmerist, and the hypnotist have made use of the client's imagination to help them in their work. They have all recognised the potency and availability of that force. Physicians cure many patients with a bread pill; they know that where the disease is only a fancy, the patient's confidence in the doctor will make the bread pill effective.
Faith in the doctor. Perhaps that is the entire thing. It seems to look like it. In old times the King cured the king's evil by the touch of the royal hand. He frequently made extraordinary cures. Could his footman have done it? No--not in his own clothes. Disguised as the King, could he have done it? I think we may not doubt it. I think we may feel sure that it was not the King's touch that made the cure in any instance, but the patient's faith in the efficacy of a King's touch. Genuine and remarkable cures have been achieved through contact with the relics of a saint. Is it not likely that any other bones would have done as well if the substitution had been concealed from the patient? When I was a boy, a farmer's wife who lived five miles from our village, had great fame as a faith-doctor--that was what she called herself. Sufferers came to her from all around, and she laid her hand upon them and said, 'Have faith-- it is all that is necessary,' and they went away well of their ailments. She was not a religious woman, and pretended to no occult powers. She said that the patient's faith in her did the work. Several times I saw her make immediate cures of severe toothaches. My mother was the patient. In Austria there is a peasant who drives a great trade in this sort of industry and has both the high and the low for patients. He gets into prison every now and then for practising without a diploma, but his business is as brisk as ever when he gets out, for his work is unquestionably successful and keeps his reputation high. In Bavaria there is a man who performed so many great cures that he had to retire from his profession of stage-carpentering in order to meet the demand of his constantly increasing body of customers. He goes on from year to year doing his miracles, and has become very rich. He pretends to no religious helps, no supernatural aids, but thinks there is something in his make-up which inspires the confidence of his patients, and that it is this confidence which does the work and not some mysterious power issuing from himself.
Within the last quarter of a century, in America, several sects of curers have appeared under various names and have done notable things in the way of healing ailments without the use of medicines. There are the Mind Cure, the Faith Cure, the Prayer Cure, the Mental-Science Cure, and the Christian-Science Cure; and apparently they all do their miracles with the same old powerful instrument--the patient's imagination. Differing names, but no difference in the process. But they do not give that instrument the credit; each sect claims that its way differs from the ways of the others.
They all achieve some cures, there is no question about it; and the Faith Cure and the Prayer Cure probably do no harm when they do no good, since they do not forbid the patient to help out the cure with medicines if he wants to; but the others bar medicines, and claim ability to cure every conceivable human ailment through the application of their mental forces alone. They claim ability to cure malignant cancer, and other affections which have never been cured in the history of the race. There would seem to be an element of danger here. It has the look of claiming too much, I think. Public confidence would probably be increased if less were claimed.
I believe it might be shown that all the 'mind' sects except Christian Science have lucid intervals; intervals in which they betray some diffidence, and in effect confess that they are not the equals of the Deity; but if the Christian Scientist even stops with being merely the equal of the Deity, it is not clearly provable by his Christian-Science Amended Bible. In the usual Bible the Deity recognises pain, disease, and death as facts, but the Christian Scientist knows better. Knows better, and is not diffident about saying so.
The Christian Scientist was not able to cure my stomach-ache and my cold; but the horsedoctor did it. This convinces me that Christian Science claims too much. In my opinion it ought to let diseases alone and confine itself to surgery. There it would have everything its own way.
The horse-doctor charged me thirty kreutzers, and I paid him; in fact I doubled it and gave him a shilling. Mrs. Fuller brought in an itemised bill for a crate of broken bones mended in two hundred and thirty-four places--one dollar per fracture.
Let us consider that we are all partially insane. It will explain us to each other, it will unriddle many riddles, it will make clear and simple many things which are involved in haunting and harassing difficulties and obscurities now.
Those of us who are not in the asylum, and not demonstrably due there, are nevertheless no doubt insane in one or two particulars--I think we must admit this; but I think that we are otherwise healthy-minded. I think that when we all see one thing alike, it is evidence that as regards that one thing, our minds are perfectly sound. Now there are really several things which we do all see alike; things which we all accept, and about which we do not dispute. For instance, we who are outside of the asylum all agree that water seeks its level; that the sun gives light and heat; that fire consumes; that fog is damp; that 6 times 6 are thirty-six; that 2 from 10 leave eight; that 8 and 7 are fifteen. These are perhaps the only things we are agreed about; but although they are so few, they are of inestimable value, because they make an infallible standard of sanity. Whosoever accepts them we know to be substantially sane; sufficiently sane; in the working essentials, sane. Whoever disputes a single one of them we know to be wholly insane, and qualified for the asylum.
Very well, the man who disputes none of them we concede to be entitled to go at large-but that is concession enough; we cannot go any further than that; for we know that in all matters of mere opinion that same man is insane--just as insane as we are; just as insane as Shakespeare was, just as insane as the Pope is. We know exactly where to put our finger upon his insanity; it is where his opinion differs from ours.
That is a simple rule, and easy to remember. When I, a thoughtful and unbiased Presbyterian, examine the Koran, I know that beyond any question every Mohammedan is insane; not in all things, but in religious matters. When a thoughtful and unbiased Mohammedan examines the Westminster Catechism, he knows that beyond any question I am spiritually insane. I cannot prove to him that he is insane, because you never can prove anything to a lunatic--for that is a part of his insanity and the evidence of it. He cannot prove to me that I am insane, for my mind has the same defect that afflicts his. All democrats are insane, but not one of them knows it; none but the republicans and mugwumps know it. All the republicans are insane, but only the democrats and mugwumps can perceive it. The rule is perfect; in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane. When I look around me I am often troubled to see how many people are mad. To mention only a few:
The Atheist, The Shakers,
The Infidel, The Millerites, The Agnostic, The Mormons,
The Baptist, The Laurence Oliphant The Methodist, Harrisites, The Catholic, and the other The Grand Lama's people,
Presbyterian excepted, The Imperialists, The 72 Mohammedan sects, The Democrats, The Buddhist, The Republicans (but not The Blavatsky-Buddhist, the Mugwumps), The Nationalist, The Mind-Curists, The Confucian, The Faith-Curists, The Spiritualist, The Mental Scientists, The 2,000 East Indian The Allopaths,
sects, The Homeopaths, The Peculiar People, The Electropaths, The Swedenborgians,The--but there's no end to the list; there are millions of them! And all insane; each in his own way; insane as to his pet fad or opinion, but otherwise sane and rational.
This should move us to be charitable toward one another's lunacies. I recognise that in his special belief the Christian Scientist is insane, because he does not believe as I do; but I hail him as my mate and fellow because I am as insane as he--insane from his point of view, and his point of view is as authoritative as mine and worth as much. That is to say, worth a brass farthing. Upon a great religious or political question the opinion of the dullest head in the world is worth the same as the opinion of the brightest head in the world--a brass farthing. How do we arrive at this? It is simple: The affirmative opinion of a stupid man is neutralised by the negative opinion of his stupid neighbour--no decision is reached; the affirmative opinion of the intellectual giant Gladstone is neutralised by the negative opinion of the intellectual giant Cardinal Newman--no decision is reached. Opinions that prove nothing are, of course, without value--any but a dead person knows that much. This obliges us to admit the truth of the unpalatable proposition just mentioned above--that in disputed matters political and religious one man's opinion is worth no more than his peer's, and hence it follows that no man's opinion possesses any real value. It is a humbling thought, but there is no way to get around it: all opinions upon these great subjects are brass-farthing opinions.
It is a mere plain simple fact--as clear and as certain as that 8 and 7 make fifteen. And by it we recognise that we are all insane, as concerns those matters. If we were sane we should all see a political or religious doctrine alike, there would be no dispute: it would be a case of 8 and 7--just as it is in heaven, where all are sane and none insane. There there is but one religion, one belief, the harmony is perfect, there is never a discordant note.
Under protection of these preliminaries I suppose I may now repeat without offence that the Christian Scientist is insane. I mean him no discourtesy, and I am not charging--nor even imagining--that he is insaner than the rest of the human race. I think he is more picturesquely insane that some of us. At the same time, I am quite sure that in one important and splendid particular he is saner than is the vast bulk of the race.
Why is he insane? I told you before: it is because his opinions are not ours. I know of no other reason, and I do not need any other; it is the only way we have of discovering insanity when it is not violent. It is merely the picturesqueness of his insanity that makes it more interesting than my kind or yours. For instance, consider his 'little book'--the one described in the previous article; the 'little book' exposed in the sky eighteen centuries ago by the flaming angel of the Apocalypse and handed down in our day to Mrs. Mary Baker G. Eddy of New Hampshire and translated by her, word for word, into English (with help of a polisher), and now published and distributed in hundreds of editions by her at a clear profit per volume, above cost, of 700 per cent.!--a profit which distinctly belongs to the angel of the Apocalypse, and let him collect it if he can; a 'little book' which the C.S. very frequently calls by just that name, and always inclosed in quotationmarks to keep its high origin exultantly in mind; a 'little book' which 'explains' and reconstructs and new-paints and decorates the Bible and puts a mansard roof on it and a lightning-rod and all the other modern improvements; a little book which for the present affects to travel in yoke with the Bible and be friendly to it, and within half a century will hitch it in the rear, and thenceforth travel tandem, itself in the lead, in the coming great march of Christian Scientism through the Protestant dominions of the planet.
Perhaps I am putting the tandem arrangement too far away; perhaps five years might be nearer the mark than fifty; for a Viennese lady told me last night that in the Christian Science Mosque in Boston she noticed some things which seem to me to promise a shortening of the interval; on one side there was a display of texts from the New Testament, signed with the Saviour's initials, 'J.C.;' and on the opposite side a display of texts from the 'little book' signed--with the author's mere initials? No--signed with Mrs. Mary Baker G. Eddy's name in full. Perhaps the Angel of the Apocalypse likes this kind of piracy. I made this remark lightly to a Christian Scientist this morning, but he did not receive it lightly, but said it was jesting upon holy things; he said there was no piracy, for the angel did not compose the book, he only brought it--'God composed it.' I could have retorted that it was a case of piracy just the same; that the displayed texts should be signed with the Author's initials, and that to sign them with the translator's train of names was another case of 'jesting upon holy things.' However, I did not say these things, for this Scientist was a large person, and although by his own doctrine we have no substance, but are fictions and unrealities, I knew he could hit me an imaginary blow which would furnish me an imaginary pain which could last me a week. The lady said that in that Mosque there were two pulpits; in one of them was a man with the Former Bible, in the other a woman with Mrs. Eddy's apocalyptic Annex; and from these books the man and the woman were reading verse and verse about:'Hungry ones throng to hear the Bible read in connection with the text-book of Christian
Science, "Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker G. Eddy. These are our only preachers. They are the word of God.' --Christian Science Journal, October 1898.
Are these things picturesque? The Viennese lady told me that in a chapel of the Mosque there was a picture or image of Mrs. Eddy, and that before it burns a never-extinguished light. Is that picturesque? How long do you think it will be before the Christian Scientist will be worshipping that image and praying to it? How long do you think it will be before it is claimed that Mrs. Eddy is a Redeemer, a Christ, or Christ's equal? Already her army of disciples speak of her reverently as 'Our Mother.' How long will it be before they place her on the steps of the Throne beside the Virgin--and later a step higher? First, Mary the Virgin and Mary the Matron; later, with a change of Precedence, Mary the Matron and Mary the Virgin. Let the artist get ready with his canvas and his brushes; the new Renaissance is on its way, and there will be money in altar-canvases--a thousand times as much as the Popes and their Church ever spent on the Old Masters; for their riches were as poverty as compared with what is going to pour into the treasure-chest of the Christian-Scientist Papacy by-and-by, let us not doubt it. We will examine the financial outlook presently and see what it promises. A favourite subject of the new Old Master will be the first verse of the twelfth chapter of Revelation--a verse which Mrs. Eddy says (in her Annex to the Scriptures) has 'one distinctive feature which has special reference to the present age'--and to her, as is rather pointedly indicated:'And there appeared a great wonder in heaven--a woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet,' etc. The woman clothed with the sun will be a portrait of Mrs. Eddy.
Is it insanity to believe that Christian Scientism is destined to make the most formidable show that any new religion has made in the world since the birth and spread of Mohammedanism, and that within a century from now it may stand second to Rome only, in numbers and power in Christendom?
If this is a wild dream it will not be easy to prove it is so just yet, I think. There seems argument that it may come true. The Christian-Science 'boom' is not yet five years old; yet already it has 500 churches and 1,000,000 members in America.
It has its start, you see, and it is a phenomenally good one. Moreover, it is latterly spreading with a constantly accelerating swiftness. It has a better chance to grow and prosper and achieve permanency than any other existing 'ism;' for it has more to offer than any other. The past teaches us that, in order to succeed, a movement like this must not be a mere philosophy, it must be a religion; also, that it must not claim entire originality, but content itself with passing for an improvement on an existing religion, and show its hand later, when strong and prosperous--like Mohammedanism.
Next, there must be money--and plenty of it. Next, the power and authority and capital must be concentrated in the grip of a small and irresponsible clique, with nobody outside privileged to ask questions or find fault.Next, as before remarked, it must bait its hook with some new and attractive advantages over the baits offered by the other religions.
A new movement equipped with some of these endowments--like spiritualism, for instance--may count upon a considerable success; a new movement equipped with the bulk of them--like Mohammedanism, for instance--may count upon a widely extended conquest. Mormonism had all the requisites but one--it had nothing new and nothing valuable to bait with; and, besides, it appealed to the stupid and the ignorant only. Spiritualism lacked the important detail of concentration of money and authority in the hands of an irresponsible clique.
The above equipment is excellent, admirable, powerful, but not perfect. There is yet another detail which is worth the whole of it put together-- and more; a detail which has never been joined (in the beginning of a religious movement) to a supremely good working equipment since the world began, until now: a new personage to worship. Christianity had the Saviour, but at first and for generations it lacked money and concentrated power. In Mrs. Eddy, Christian Science possesses the new personage for worship, and in addition--here in the very beginning--a working equipment that has not a flaw in it. In the beginning, Mohammedanism had no money; and it has never had anything to offer its client but heaven--nothing here below that was valuable. In addition to heaven hereafter, Christian Science has present health and a cheerful spirit to offer--for cash--and in comparison with this bribe all other this-world bribes are poor and cheap. You recognise that this estimate is admissible, do you not?
To whom does Bellamy's 'Nationalism' appeal? Necessarily to the few: people who read and dream, and are compassionate, and troubled for the poor and the hard-driven. To whom does Spiritualism appeal? Necessarily to the few; its 'boom' has lasted for half a century and I believe it claims short of four millions of adherents in America. Who are attracted by Swedenborgianism and some of the other fine and delicate 'isms?' The few again: Educated people, sensitively organised, with superior mental endowments, who seek lofty planes of thought and find their contentment there. And who are attracted by Christian Science? There is no limit; its field is horizonless; its appeal is as universal as is the appeal of Christianity itself. It appeals to the rich, the poor, the high, the low, the cultured, the ignorant, the gifted, the stupid, the modest, the vain, the wise, the silly, the soldier, the civilian, the hero, the coward, the idler, the worker, the godly, the godless, the freeman, the slave, the adult, the child; they who are ailing, they who have friends that are ailing. To mass it in a phrase, its clientele is the Human Race? Will it march? I think so.VII
Remember its principal great offer: to rid the Race of pain and disease. Can it do it? In large measure, yes. How much of the pain and disease in the world is created by the imaginations of the sufferers, and then kept alive by those same imaginations? Fourfifths? Not anything short of that I should think. Can Christian Science banish that fourfifths? I think so. Can any other (organised) force do it? None that I know of. Would this be a new world when that was accomplished? And a pleasanter one--for us well people, as well as for those fussy and fretting sick ones? Would it seem as if there was not as much gloomy weather as there used to be? I think so.In the meantime would the Scientist kill off a good many patients? I think so. More than get killed off now by the legalised methods? I will take up that question presently.
At present I wish to ask you to examine some of the Scientist's performances, as registered in his magazine, 'The Christian Science Journal'--October number, 1898. First, a Baptist clergyman gives us this true picture of 'the average orthodox Christian'--and he could have added that it is a true picture of the average (civilised) human being:'He is a worried and fretted and fearful man; afraid of himself and his propensities, afraid of colds and fevers, afraid of treading on serpents or drinking deadly things.' Then he gives us this contrast: 'The average Christian Scientist has put all anxiety and fretting under his feet. He does have a victory over fear and care that is not achieved by the average orthodox Christian.'
He has put all anxiety and fretting under his feet. What proportion of your earnings or income would you be willing to pay for that frame of mind, year in year out? It really outvalues any price that can be put upon it. Where can you purchase it, at any outlay of any sort, in any Church or out of it, except the Scientist's?
Well, it is the anxiety and fretting about colds, and fevers, and draughts, and getting our feet wet, and about forbidden food eaten in terror of indigestion, that brings on the cold and the fever and the indigestion and the most of our other ailments; and so, if the Science can banish that anxiety from the world I think it can reduce the world's disease and pain about four-fifths.
In this October number many of the redeemed testify and give thanks; and not coldly but with passionate gratitude. As a rule they seem drunk with health, and with the surprise of it, the wonder of it, the unspeakable glory and splendour of it, after a long sober spell spent in inventing imaginary diseases and concreting them with doctor-stuff. The first witness testifies that when 'this most beautiful Truth first dawned on him' he had 'nearly all the ills that flesh is heir to;' that those he did not have he thought he had--and thus made the tale about complete. What was the natural result? Why, he was a dump-pit 'for all the doctors, druggists, and patent medicines of the country.' Christian Science came to his help, and 'the old sick conditions passed away,' and along with them the 'dismal forebodings' which he had been accustomed to employ in conjuring up ailments. And so he was a healthy and cheerful man, now, and astonished.
But I am not astonished, for from other sources I know what must have been his method of applying Christian Science. If I am in the right, he watchfully and diligently diverted his mind from unhealthy channels and compelled it to travel in healthy ones. Nothing contrivable by human invention could be more formidably effective than that, in banishing imaginary ailments and in closing the entrances against subsequent applicants of their breed. I think his method was to keep saying, 'I am well! I am sound!--sound and well! well and sound! Perfectly sound, perfectly well! I have no pain; there's no such thing as pain! I have no disease; there's no such thing as disease! Nothing is real but Mind; all is Mind, All-Good, Good-Good, Life, Soul, Liver, Bones, one of a series, ante and pass the buck!'
I do not mean that that was exactly the formula used, but that it doubtless contains the spirit of it. The Scientist would attach value to the exact formula, no doubt, and to the religious spirit in which it was used. I should think that any formula that would divert the mind from unwholesome channels and force it into healthy ones would answer every purpose with some people, though not with all. I think it most likely that a very religious man would find the addition of the religious spirit a powerful reinforcement in his case.The second witness testifies that the Science banished 'an old organic trouble' which the doctor and the surgeon had been nursing with drugs and the knife for seven years.
He calls it his 'claim.' A surface-miner would think it was not his claim at all, but the property of the doctor and his pal the surgeon--for he would be misled by that word, which is Christian-Science slang for 'ailment.' The Christian Scientist has no ailment; to him there is no such thing, and he will not use the lying word. All that happens to him is, that upon his attention an imaginary disturbance sometimes obtrudes itself which claims to be an ailment, but isn't.
This witness offers testimony for a clergyman seventy years old who had preached forty years in a Christian church, and has not gone over to the new sect. He was 'almost blind and deaf.' He was treated by the C.S. method, and 'when he heard the voice of Truth he saw spiritually.' Saw spiritually. It is a little indefinite; they had better treat him again. Indefinite testimonies might properly be waste-basketed, since there is evidently no lack of definite ones procurable, but this C.S. magazine is poorly edited, and so mistakes of this kind must be expected.The next witness is a soldier of the Civil War. When Christian Science found him, he had in stock the following claims:
Chalky deposits in
Shoulder joints, Arm joints,
Atrophy of the muscles of
Stiffness of all those joints,
Excruciating pains most of the time.
These claims have a very substantial sound. They came of exposure in the campaigns. The doctors did all they could, but it was little. Prayers were tried, but 'I never realised any physical relief from that source.' After thirty years of torture he went to a Christian Scientist and took an hour's treatment and went home painless. Two days later he 'began to eat like a well man.' Then 'the claims vanished--some at once, others more gradually;' finally, 'they have almost entirely disappeared.' And-- a thing which is of still greater value--he is now 'contented and happy.' That is a detail which, as earlier remarked, is a Scientist-Church specialty. With thirty-one years' effort the Methodist Church had not succeeded in furnishing it to this harassed soldier.
And so the tale goes on. Witness after witness bulletins his claims, declares their prompt abolishment, and gives Mrs. Eddy's Discovery the praise. Milk-leg is cured; nervous prostration is cured; consumption is cured; and St. Vitus's dance made a pastime. And now and then an interesting new addition to the Science slang appears on the page. We have 'demonstrations over' chilblains and such things. It seems to be a curtailed way of saying 'demonstrations of the power of Christian-Science Truth over the fiction which masquerades under the name of Chilblains.' The children as well as the adults, share in the blessings of the Science. 'Through the study of the "little book" they are learning how to be healthful, peaceful, and wise.' Sometimes they are cured of their little claims by the professional healer, and sometimes more advanced children say over the formula and cure themselves.
A little Far-Western girl of nine, equipped with an adult vocabulary, states her age and says, 'I thought I would write a demonstration to you.' She had a claim derived from getting flung over a pony's head and landed on a rock-pile. She saved herself from disaster by remember to say 'God is All' while she was in the air. I couldn't have done it. I shouldn't have even thought of it. I should have been too excited. Nothing but Christian Science could have enabled that child to do that calm and thoughtful and judicious thing in those circumstances. She came down on her head, and by all the rules she should have broken it; but the intervention of the formula prevented that, so the only claim resulting was a blackened eye. Monday morning it was still swollen and shut. At school 'it hurt pretty bad--that is, it seemed to.' So 'I was excused, and went down in the basement and said, "Now I am depending on mamma instead of God, and I will depend on God instead of mamma."' No doubt this would have answered; but, to make sure, she added Mrs. Eddy to the team and recited 'the Scientific Statement of Being,' which is one of the principal incantations, I judge. Then 'I felt my eye opening.' Why, it would have opened an oyster. I think it is one of the touchingest things in child-history, that pious little rat down cellar pumping away at the Scientific Statement of Being.
There is a page about another good child--little Gordon. Little Gordon 'came into the world without the assistance of surgery or anaesthetics.' He was a 'demonstration.' A painless one; therefore his coming evoked 'joy and thankfulness to God and the Discoverer of Christian Science.' It is a noticeable feature of this literature--the so frequent linking together of the Two Beings in an equal bond; also of Their Two Bibles. When little Gordon was two years old, 'he was playing horse on the bed, where I had left my "little book." I noticed him stop in his play, take the book carefully in his little hands, kiss it softly, then look about for the highest place of safety his arms could reach, and put it there.' This pious act filled the mother 'with such a train of thought as I had never experienced before. I thought of the sweet mother of long ago who kept things in her heart,' etc. It is a bold comparison; however, unconscious profanations are about as common in the mouths of the lay membership of the new Church as are frank and open ones in the mouths of its consecrated chiefs.
Some days later, the family library--Christian Science books--was lying in a deep-seated window. It was another chance for the holy child to show off. He left his play and went there and pushed all the books to one side except the Annex. 'It he took in both hands, slowly raised it to his lips, then removed it carefully, and seated himself in the window.' It had seemed to the mother too wonderful to be true, that first time; but now she was convinced that 'neither imagination nor accident had anything to do with it.' Later, little Gordon let the author of his being see him do it. After that he did it frequently; probably every time anybody was looking. I would rather have that child than a chromo. If this tale has any object, it is to intimate that the inspired book was supernaturally able to convey a sense of its sacred and awful character to this innocent little creature without the intervention of outside aids. The magazine is not edited with high-priced discretion. The editor has a claim, and he ought to get it treated.
Among other witnesses, there is one who had a 'jumping toothache,' which several times tempted her to 'believe that there was sensation in matter, but each time it was overcome by the power of Truth.' She would not allow the dentist to use cocaine, but sat there and let him punch and drill and split and crush the tool, and tear and slash its ulcerations, and pull out the nerve, and dig out fragments of bone; and she wouldn't once confess that it hurt. And to this day she thinks it didn't, and I have not a doubt that she is nine-tenths right, and that her Christian Science faith did her better service than she could have gotten out of cocaine.
There is an account of a boy who got broken all up into small bits by an accident, but said over the Scientific Statement of Being, or some of the other incantations, and got well and sound without having suffered any real pain and without the intrusion of a surgeon. I can believe this, because my own case was somewhat similar, as per my former article.
Also there is an account of the restoration to perfect health, in a single night, of a fatally injured horse, by the application of Christian Science. I can stand a good deal, but I recognise that the ice is getting thin here. That horse had as many as fifty claims: how could he demonstrate over them? Could he do the All-Good, Good-Good, GoodGracious, Liver, Bones, Truth, All down but Nine, Set them up on the Other Alley? Could he intone the Scientific Statement of Being? Now, could he? Wouldn't it give him a relapse? Let us draw the line at horses. Horses and furniture.
There is a plenty of other testimonies in the magazine, but these quoted samples will answer. They show the kind of trade the Science is driving. Now we come back to the question; Does it kill a patient here and there and now and then? We must concede it. Does it compensate for this? I am persuaded that it can make a plausible showing in that direction. For instance: when it lays its hands upon a soldier who has suffered thirty years of helpless torture and makes him whole in body and mind, what is the actual sum of that achievement? This, I think: that it has restored to life a subject who had essentially died ten deaths a year for thirty years, and each of them a long and painful one. But for its interference that man would have essentially died thirty times more, in the three years which have since elapsed. There are thousand of young people in the land who are now ready to enter upon a life-long death similar to that man's. Every time the Science captures one of these and secures to him life-long immunity from imaginationmanufactured disease, it may plausibly claim that in his person it has saved 300 lives. Meantime it will kill a man every now and then; but no matter, it will still be ahead on the credit side.VIII
'We consciously declare that "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," was foretold as well as its author, Mary Baker Eddy, in Revelation x. She is the "mighty angel," or God's highest thought to this age (verse 1), giving us the spiritual interpretation of the Bible in the "little book open" (verse 2). Thus we prove that Christian Science is the second coming of Christ--Truth--Spirit.' -- Lecture by Dr. George Tomkins, D.D., C.S.
There you have it in plain speech. She is the mighty angel; she is the divinely and officially sent bearer of God's highest thought. For the present, she brings the Second Advent. We must expect that before she has been in her grave fifty years she will be regarded by her following as having been herself the Second Advent. She is already worshipped, and we must expect this feeling to spread territorially, and also to deepen in intensity .
Particularly after her death; for then, as anyone can foresee, Eddy-worship will be taught in the Sunday-schools and pulpits of the cult. Already whatever she puts her trade-mark on, thought it be only a memorial spoon, is holy and is eagerly and passionately and gratefully bought by the disciple, and becomes a fetish in his house. I say bought, for the Boston Christian-Science Trust gives nothing away; everything it has for sale. And the terms are cash; and not cash only but cash in advance. Its god is Mrs. Eddy first, then the Dollar. Not a spiritual Dollar, but a real one. From end to end of the Christian-Science literature not a single (material) thing in the world is conceded to be real, except the Dollar. But all through and through its advertisements that reality is eagerly and persistently recognised. The hunger of the Trust for the Dollar, its adoration of the Dollar, its lust after the Dollar, its ecstasy in the mere thought of the Dollar--there has been nothing like it in the world in any age or country, nothing so coarse, nothing so lubricous, nothing so bestial, except a French novel's attitude towards adultery.
The Dollar is hunted down in all sorts of ways; the Christian-Science Mother-Church and Bargain-Counter in Boston peddles all kinds of spiritual wares to the faithful, always at extravagant prices, and always on the one condition--cash, cash in advance. The Angel of the Apocalypse could not go there and get a copy of his own pirated book on credit. Many, many precious Christian-Science things are to be had there--for cash: Bible Lessons; Church Manual; C.S. Hymnal; History of the building of the Mother-Church; lot of Sermons; Communion Hymn, 'Saw Ye My Saviour,' by Mrs. Eddy, half a dollar a copy, 'words used by special permission of Mrs. Eddy.' Also we have Mrs. Eddy's and the Angel's little Bible-Annex in eight styles of binding at eight kinds of war- prices: among these a sweet thing in 'levant, divinity circuit, leather lined to edge, round corners, gold edge, silk sewed, each, prepaid, $6,' and if you take a million you get them a shilling cheaper--that is to say, 'prepaid, $5.75.' Also we have Mrs. Eddy's 'Miscellaneous Writings,' at noble big prices, the divinity-circuit style heading the extortions, shilling discount where you take an edition. Next comes 'Christ and Christmas,' by the fertile Mrs. eddy--a poem--I would God I could see it--price $3, cash in advance. Then follow five more books by Mrs. Eddy at highwaymen's rates, as usual, some of them in 'leatherette covers,' some of them in 'pebbled cloth,' with divinity circuit, compensation balance, twin screw, and the other modern improvements: and at the same bargain counter can be had the 'Christian Science Journal.' I wish it were in refined taste to apply a rudely and ruggedly descriptive epithet to that literary slush-bucket, so as to give one an accurate idea of what it is like. I am moved to do it, but I must not: it is better to be refined than accurate when one is talking about a production like that.
Christian-Science literary oleomargarine is a monopoly of the Mother Church Headquarters Factory in Boston; none genuine without the trade-mark of the Trust. You must apply there, and not elsewhere; and you pay your money before you get your soapfat.
The Trust has still other sources of income. Mrs. Eddy is president (and perhaps proprietor?) of the Trust's Metaphysical College in Boston, where the student who has practised C.S. healing during three years the best he knew how perfects himself in the game by a two weeks' course, and pays one hundred dollars for it! And I have a case among my statistics where the student had a three weeks' course and paid three hundred for it.The Trust does love the Dollar when it isn't a spiritual one.
In order to force the sale of Mrs. Eddy's Bible-Annex, no healer, Metaphysical Collegebred or other, is allowed to practise the game unless he possess a copy of that holy nightmare. That means a large and constantly augmenting income for the Trust. No C.S. family would consider itself loyal or pious or pain-proof without an Annex or two in the house. That means an income for the Trust--in the near future--of millions: not thousands--millions a year.
No member, young or old, of a Christian-Scientist church can retain that membership unless he pay 'capitation tax' to the Boston Trust every year. That means an income for the Trust--in the near future--of millions more per year.
It is a reasonably safe guess that in America in 1910 there will be 10,000,000 Christian Scientists, and 3,000,000 in Great Britain; that these figures will be trebled by 1920; that in America in 1910 the Christian Scientists will be a political force, in 1920 politically formidable--to remain that, permanently. And I think it a reasonable guess that the Trust (which is already in our day pretty brusque in its ways) will then be the most insolent and unscrupulous and tyrannical politico-religious master that has dominated a people since the palmy days of the Inquisition. And a stronger master than the strongest of bygone times, because this one will have a financial strength not dreamed of by any predecessor; as effective a concentration of irresponsible power as any predecessor had; in the railway, the telegraph, and the subsidised newspaper, better facilities for watching and managing his empire than any predecessor has had; and after a generation or two he will probably divide Christendom with the Catholic Church.
The Roman Church has a perfect organisation, and it has an effective centralisation of power--but not of its cash. Its multitude of Bishops are rich, but their riches remain in large measure in their own hands. They collect from 200,000,000 of people, but they keep the bulk of the result at home. The Boston Pope of by-and-by will draw his dollar-ahead capitation-tax from 300,000,000 of the human race, and the Annex and the rest of his book-shop will fetch in double as much more; and his Metaphysical Colleges, the annual pilgrimage to Mrs. Eddy's tomb, from all over the world--admission, the Christian-Science Dollar (payable in advance)--purchases of consecrated glass beads, candles, memorial spoons, aureoled chromo-portraits and bogus autographs of Mrs. Eddy, cash offerings at her shrine--no crutches of cured cripples received, and no imitations of miraculously restored broken legs and necks allowed to be hung up except when made out of the Holy Metal and proved by fire-assay; cash for miracles worked at the tomb: these money-sources, with a thousand to be yet invented and ambushed upon the devotee, will bring the annual increment well up above a billion. And nobody but the Trust will have the handling of it. No Bishops appointed unless they agree to hand in 90 per cent. of the catch. In that day the Trust will monopolise the manufacture and sale of the Old and New Testaments as well as the Annex, and raise their price to Annex rates, and compel the devotee to buy (for even to-day a healer has to have the Annex and the Scriptures or he is not allowed to work the game), and that will bring several hundred million dollars more. In those days the Trust will have an income approaching $5,000,000 a day, and no expenses to be taken out of it; no taxes to pay, and no charities to support. That last detail should not be lightly passed over by the read; it is well entitled to attention.
No charities to support. No, nor even to contribute to. One searches in vain the Trust's advertisements and the utterances of its pulpit for any suggestion that it spends a penny on orphans, widows, discharged prisoners, hospitals, ragged schools, night missions, city missions, foreign missions, libraries, old people's homes, or any other object that appeals to a human being's purse through his heart.
I have hunted, hunted, and hunted, by correspondence and otherwise, and have not yet got upon the track of a farthing that the Trust has spent upon any worthy object. Nothing makes a Scientist so uncomfortable as to ask him if he knows of a case where Christian Science has spent money on a benevolence, either among its own adherents or elsewhere. He is obliged to say no. And then one discovers that the person questioned has been asked the question many times before, and that it is getting to be a sore subject with him. Why a sore subject? Because he has written his chiefs and asked with high confidence for an answer that will confound these questioners--and the chiefs did not reply. He has written again-- and then again--not with confidence, but humbly, now, and has begged for defensive ammunition in the voice of supplication. A reply does at last come--to this effect: 'We must have faith in Our Mother, and rest content in the conviction that whatever She does with the money it is in accordance with orders from Heaven, for She does no act of any kind without first "demonstrating over" it.'
That settles it--as far as the disciple is concerned. His Mind is entirely satisfied with that answer; he gets down his Annex and does an incantation or two, and that mesmerises his spirit and puts that to sleep--brings it peace. Peace and comfort and joy, until some inquirer punctures the old sore again.
Through friends in America I asked some questions, and in some cases got definite and informing answers; in other cases the answers were not definite and not valuable. From the definite answers I gather than the 'capitation-tax' is compulsory, and that the sum is one dollar. To the question, 'Does any of the money go to charities?' the answer from an authoritative source was: 'No, *not in the sense usually conveyed by this word*.' (The italics are mine.) That answer is cautious. But definite, I think--utterly and unassailably definite--although quite Christian-scientifically foggy in its phrasing. Christian Science is generally foggy, generally diffuse, generally garrulous. The writer was aware that the first word in his phrase answered the question which I was asking, but he could not help adding nine dark words. Meaningless ones, unless explained by him. It is quite likely--as intimated by him--that Christian Science has invented a new class of objects to apply the word charity to, but without an explanation we cannot know what they are. We quite easily and naturally and confidently guess that they are in all cases objects which will return five hundred per cent. on the Trust's investment in them, but guessing is not knowledge; it is merely, in this case, a sort of nine-tenths certainty deducible from what we think we know of the Trust's trade principles and its sly and furtive and shifty ways.
Sly? Deep? Judicious? The Trust understands business. The Trust does not give itself away. It defeats all the attempts of us impertinents to get at its trade secrets. To this day, after all our diligence, we have not been able to get it to confess what it does with the money. It does not even let its own disciples find out. All it says is, that the matter has been 'demonstrated over.' Now and then a lay Scientist says, with a grateful exultation, that Mrs. Eddy is enormously rich, but he stops there; as to whether any of the money goes to other charities or not, he is obliged to admit that he does not know. However, the Trust is composed of human beings; and this justifies the conjecture that if it had a charity on its list which it did not need to blush for, we should soon hear of it. 'Without money and without price.' Those used to be the terms. Mrs. Eddy's Annex cancels them. The motto of Christian Science is 'The labourer is worthy of his hire.' And now that it has been 'demonstrated over,' we find its spiritual meaning to be, 'Do anything and everything your hand may find to do; and charge cash for it, and collect the money in advance.' The Scientist has on his tongue's end a cut-and-dried, Boston-supplied set of rather lean arguments whose function is to show that it is a Heaven-commanded duty to do this, and that the croupiers of the game have no choice by to obey.The Trust seems to be a reincarnation. Exodus xxxii.4.
I have no reverence for Mrs. Eddy and the rest of the Trust--if there is a rest--but I am not lacking in reverence for the sincerities of the lay membership of the new Church. There is every evidence that the lay members are entirely sincere in their faith, and I think sincerity is always entitled to honour and respect, let the inspiration of the sincerity be what it may. Zeal and sincerity can carry a new religion further than any other missionary except fire and sword, and I believe that the new religion will conquer the half of Christendom in a hundred years. I am not intending this as a compliment to the human race, I am merely stating an opinion. And yet I think that perhaps it is a compliment to the race. I keep in mind that saying of an orthodox preacher--quoted further back. He conceded that this new Christianity frees its possessor's life from frets, fears, vexations, bitterness, and all sorts of imagination-propagated maladies and pains, and fills his world with sunshine and his heart with gladness. If Christian Science, with this stupendous equipment--and final salvation added--cannot win half the Christian globe, I must be badly mistaken in the make-up of the human race.
I think the Trust will be handed down like the other papacy, and will always know how to handle its limitless cash. It will press the button; the zeal, the energy, the sincerity, the enthusiasm of its countless vassals will do the rest.IX
The power which a man's imagination has over his body to heal it or make it sick is a force which none of us is born without. The first man had it, the last one will possess it. If left to himself a man is most likely to use only the mischievous half of the force--the half which invents imaginary ailments for him and cultivates them: and if he is one of these very wise people he is quite likely to scoff at the beneficent half of the force and deny its existence. And so, to heal or help that man, two imaginations are required: his own and some outsider's. The outsider, B, must imagine that his incantations are the healing power that is curing A, and A must imagine that this is so. It is not so, at all; but no matter, the cure is effected, and that is the main thing. The outsider's work is unquestionably valuable; so valuable that it may fairly be likened to the essential work performed by the engineer when he handles the throttle and turns on the steam: the actual power is lodged exclusively in the engine, but if the engine were left alone it would never start of itself. Whether the engineer be named Jim, or Bob, or Tom, it is all one--his services are necessary, and he is entitled to such wage as he can get you to pay. Whether he be named Christian Scientist, or Mental Scientist, or Mind Curist, or Lourdes Miracle- Worker, or King's-Evil Expert, it is all one,--he is merely the Engineer, he simply turns on the same old steam and the engine does the whole work.
In the case of the cure-engine it is a distinct advantage to clothe the engineer in religious overalls and give him a pious name. It greatly enlarges the business, and does no one any harm.
The Christian-Scientist engineer drives exactly the same trade as the other engineers, yet he out-prospers the whole of them put together. Is it because he has captured the takingest name? I think that that is only a small part of it. I think that the secret of his high prosperity lies elsewhere:
The Christian Scientist has organised the business. Now that was certainly a gigantic idea. There is more intellect in it than would be needed in the invention of a couple of millions of Eddy Science-and- Health Bible Annexes. Electricity, in limitless volume, has existed in the air and the rocks and the earth and everywhere since time began--and was going to waste all the while. In our time we have organised that scattered and wandering force and set it to work, and backed the business with capital, and concentrated it in few and competent hands, and the results are as we see.
The Christian Scientist has taken a force which has been lying idle in every member of the human race since time began, and has organised it, and backed the business with capital, and concentrated it at Boston headquarters in the hands of a small and very competent Trust, and there are results.
Therein lies the promise that this monopoly is going to extend its commerce wide in the earth. I think that if the business were conducted in the loose and disconnected fashion customary with such things, it would achieve but little more than the modest prosperity usually secured by unorganised great moral and commercial ventures; but I believe that so long as this one remains compactly organised and closely concentrated in a Trust, the spread of its dominion will continue.VIENNA: May 1, 1899.
 After raising a dead child to life, the disciple who did it writes an account of her performance, to Mrs. Eddy, and closes it thus: 'My prayer daily is to be more spiritual, that I may do more as you would have me do... and may we all love you more and so live it that the world may know that the Christ is come.' --Printed in the Concord, N.H., Independent Statesman, March 9, 1899. If this is no worship, it is a good imitation of it.
 In the past two years the membership of the Established Church of England have given voluntary contributions amounting to $73,000,000 to the Church's benevolent enterprises. Churches that give have nothing to hide. I may be introducing the capital S a little early--still it is on its way.