Tuesday, October 9, 2007



Both of the tales in this little volume
appeared originally in the ``Atlantic Monthly''
as anonymous contributions. I owe to the
present owners of that journal permission to
use them. ``The Autobiography of a Quack ''
has been recast with large additions.
``The Case of George Dedlow'' was not
written with any intention that it should
appear in print. I lent the manuscript to the
Rev. Dr. Furness and forgot it. This gentleman
sent it to the Rev. Edward Everett Hale.
He, presuming, I fancy, that every one
desired to appear in the ``Atlantic,'' offered it
to that journal. To my surprise, soon afterwards
I received a proof and a check. The
story was inserted as a leading article without
my name. It was at once accepted by many
as the description of a real case. Money was
collected in several places to assist the
unfortunate man, and benevolent persons went
to the ``Stump Hospital,'' in Philadelphia, to
see the sufferer and to offer him aid. The
spiritual incident at the end of the story was
received with joy by the spiritualists as a
valuable proof of the truth of their beliefs.
At this present moment of time
I am what the doctors call an
interesting case, and am to be
found in bed No. 10, Ward
11, Massachusetts General
Hospital. I am told that I have what is called
Addison's disease, and that it is this pleasing
malady which causes me to be covered with
large blotches of a dark mulatto tint. However,
it is a rather grim subject to joke about,
because, if I believed the doctor who comes
around every day, and thumps me, and listens
to my chest with as much pleasure as if I
were music all through--I say, if I really
believed him, I should suppose I was going to
die. The fact is, I don't believe him at all.
Some of these days I shall take a turn and
get about again; but meanwhile it is rather
dull for a stirring, active person like me to
have to lie still and watch myself getting big
brown and yellow spots all over me, like a
map that has taken to growing.
The man on my right has consumption
--smells of cod-liver oil, and coughs all
night. The man on my left is a down-easter
with a liver which has struck work; looks
like a human pumpkin; and how he contrives
to whittle jackstraws all day, and eat as he
does, I can't understand. I have tried reading
and tried whittling, but they don't either of
them satisfy me, so that yesterday I concluded
to ask the doctor if he couldn't suggest some
other amusement.
I waited until he had gone through the
ward, and then seized my chance, and asked
him to stop a moment.
``Well, my man,'' said he, ``what do you
I thought him rather disrespectful, but I
replied, ``Something to do, doctor.''
He thought a little, and then said: ``I'll
tell you what to do. I think if you were to
write out a plain account of your life it
would be pretty well worth reading. If half
of what you told me last week be true, you
must be about as clever a scamp as there is
to be met with. I suppose you would just
as lief put it on paper as talk it.''
``Pretty nearly,'' said I. ``I think I will
try it, doctor.''
After he left I lay awhile thinking over
the matter. I knew well that I was what the
world calls a scamp, and I knew also that I
had got little good out of the fact. If a man
is what people call virtuous, and fails in life,
he gets credit at least for the virtue; but
when a man is a--is--well, one of liberal
views, and breaks down, somehow or other
people don't credit him with even the
intelligence he has put into the business. This
I call hard. If I did not recall with satisfaction
the energy and skill with which I did
my work, I should be nothing but disgusted
at the melancholy spectacle of my failure.
I suppose that I shall at least find occupation
in reviewing all this, and I think, therefore,
for my own satisfaction, I shall try to
amuse my convalescence by writing a plain,
straightforward account of the life I have
led, and the various devices by which I have
sought to get my share of the money of my
countrymen. It does appear to me that I
have had no end of bad luck.
As no one will ever see these pages, I find it
pleasant to recall for my own satisfaction the
fact that I am really a very remarkable man.
I am, or rather I was, very good-looking, five
feet eleven, with a lot of curly red hair, and
blue eyes. I am left-handed, which is another
unusual thing. My hands have often been
noticed. I get them from my mother, who was
a Fishbourne, and a lady. As for my father,
he was rather common. He was a little man,
red and round like an apple, but very strong,
for a reason I shall come to presently. The
family must have had a pious liking for Bible
names, because he was called Zebulon, my
sister Peninnah, and I Ezra, which is not
a name for a gentleman. At one time I
thought of changing it, but I got over it
by signing myself ``E. Sanderaft.''
Where my father was born I do not know,
except that it was somewhere in New Jersey,
for I remember that he was once angry
because a man called him a Jersey Spaniard.
I am not much concerned to write about my
people, because I soon got above their level;
and as to my mother, she died when I was
an infant. I get my manners, which are
rather remarkable, from her.
My aunt, Rachel Sanderaft, who kept
house for us, was a queer character. She
had a snug little property, about seven
thousand dollars. An old aunt left her the money
because she was stone-deaf. As this defect
came upon her after she grew up, she still
kept her voice. This woman was the cause
of some of my ill luck in life, and I hope she
is uncomfortable, wherever she is. I think
with satisfaction that I helped to make her
life uneasy when I was young, and worse
later on. She gave away to the idle poor
some of her small income, and hid the rest,
like a magpie, in her Bible or rolled in her
stockings, or in even queerer places. The
worst of her was that she could tell what
people said by looking at their lips; this I
hated. But as I grew and became intelligent,
her ways of hiding her money proved useful,
to me at least. As to Peninnah, she was
nothing special until she suddenly bloomed
out into a rather stout, pretty girl, took to
ribbons, and liked what she called ``keeping
company.'' She ran errands for every one,
waited on my aunt, and thought I was a
wonderful person--as indeed I was. I never
could understand her fondness for helping
everybody. A fellow has got himself to
think about, and that is quite enough. I
was told pretty often that I was the most
selfish boy alive. But, then, I am an
unusual person, and there are several names
for things.
My father kept a small shop for the sale
of legal stationery and the like, on Fifth
street north of Chestnut. But his chief
interest in life lay in the bell-ringing of
Christ Church. He was leader, or No. 1, and
the whole business was in the hands of a
kind of guild which is nearly as old as the
church. I used to hear more of it than I
liked, because my father talked of nothing
else. But I do not mean to bore myself
writing of bells. I heard too much about
``back shake,'' ``raising in peal,'' ``scales,''
and ``touches,'' and the Lord knows what.
My earliest remembrance is of sitting on
my father's shoulder when he led off the
ringers. He was very strong, as I said, by
reason of this exercise. With one foot
caught in a loop of leather nailed to the
floor, he would begin to pull No. 1, and by
and by the whole peal would be swinging,
and he going up and down, to my joy; I used
to feel as if it was I that was making the
great noise that rang out all over the town.
My familiar acquaintance with the old church
and its lumber-rooms, where were stored the
dusty arms of William and Mary and George
II., proved of use in my later days.
My father had a strong belief in my
talents, and I do not think he was mistaken.
As he was quite uneducated, he determined
that I should not be. He had saved enough
to send me to Princeton College, and when I
was about fifteen I was set free from the
public schools. I never liked them. The last
I was at was the high school. As I had to
come down-town to get home, we used to
meet on Arch street the boys from the
grammar-school of the university, and there
were fights every week. In winter these
were most frequent, because of the snowballing.
A fellow had to take his share or be
marked as a deserter. I never saw any
personal good to be had out of a fight, but it
was better to fight than to be cobbed. That
means that two fellows hold you, and the
other fellows kick you with their bent knees.
It hurts.
I find just here that I am describing a
thing as if I were writing for some other
people to see. I may as well go on that way.
After all, a man never can quite stand off
and look at himself as if he was the only
person concerned. He must have an audience,
or make believe to have one, even if it
is only himself. Nor, on the whole, should I
be unwilling, if it were safe, to let people
see how great ability may be defeated by the
crankiness of fortune.
I may add here that a stone inside of a
snowball discourages the fellow it hits. But
neither our fellows nor the grammar-school
used stones in snowballs. I rather liked it.
If we had a row in the springtime we all
threw stones, and here was one of those bits
of stupid custom no man can understand;
because really a stone outside of a snowball
is much more serious than if it is mercifully
padded with snow. I felt it to be a
rise in life when I got out of the society of the
common boys who attended the high school.
When I was there a man by the name of
Dallas Bache was the head master. He had a
way of letting the boys attend to what he called
the character of the school. Once I had to
lie to him about taking another boy's ball.
He told my class that I had denied the charge,
and that he always took it for granted that a
boy spoke the truth. He knew well enough
what would happen. It did. After that I
was careful.
Princeton was then a little college, not
expensive, which was very well, as my father
had some difficulty to provide even the
moderate amount needed.
I soon found that if I was to associate with
the upper set of young men I needed money.
For some time I waited in vain. But in my
second year I discovered a small gold-mine, on
which I drew with a moderation which shows
even thus early the strength of my character.
I used to go home once a month for a
Sunday visit, and on these occasions I was often
able to remove from my aunt's big Bible a
five- or ten-dollar note, which otherwise would
have been long useless.
Now and then I utilized my opportunities
at Princeton. I very much desired certain
things like well-made clothes, and for these
I had to run in debt to a tailor. When he
wanted pay, and threatened to send the bill
to my father, I borrowed from two or three
young Southerners; but at last, when they
became hard up, my aunt's uncounted hoard
proved a last resource, or some rare chance
in a neighboring room helped me out. I
never did look on this method as of permanent
usefulness, and it was only the temporary
folly of youth.
Whatever else the pirate necessity appropriated,
I took no large amount of education,
although I was fond of reading, and especially
of novels, which are, I think, very
instructive to the young, especially the novels
of Smollett and Fielding.
There is, however, little need to dwell on
this part of my life. College students in
those days were only boys, and boys are very
strange animals. They have instincts. They
somehow get to know if a fellow does not
relate facts as they took place. I like to put
it that way, because, after all, the mode of
putting things is only one of the forms of
self-defense, and is less silly than the
ordinary wriggling methods which boys employ,
and which are generally useless. I was rather
given to telling large stories just for the fun
of it and, I think, told them well. But somehow
I got the reputation of not being strictly
definite, and when it was meant to indicate
this belief they had an ill-mannered way of
informing you. This consisted in two or
three fellows standing up and shuffling noisily
with their feet on the floor. When first I
heard this I asked innocently what it meant,
and was told it was the noise of the bearers'
feet coming to take away Ananias. This was
considered a fine joke.
During my junior year I became unpopular,
and as I was very cautious, I cannot see
why. At last, being hard up, I got to be
foolishly reckless. But why dwell on the
failures of immaturity?
The causes which led to my leaving Nassau
Hall were not, after all, the mischievous
outbreaks in which college lads indulge.
Indeed, I have never been guilty of any of
those pieces of wanton wickedness which
injure the feelings of others while they lead
to no useful result. When I left to return
home, I set myself seriously to reflect upon
the necessity of greater care in following out
my inclinations, and from that time forward
I have steadily avoided, whenever it was
possible, the vulgar vice of directly possessing
myself of objects to which I could show no
legal title. My father was indignant at the
results of my college career; and, according
to my aunt, his shame and sorrow had some
effect in shortening his life. My sister
believed my account of the matter. It ended
in my being used for a year as an assistant
in the shop, and in being taught to ring bells
--a fine exercise, but not proper work for a
man of refinement. My father died while
training his bell-ringers in the Oxford triple
bob--broke a blood-vessel somewhere. How
I could have caused that I do not see.
I was now about nineteen years old, and,
as I remember, a middle-sized, well-built
young fellow, with large eyes, a slight
mustache, and, I have been told, with very good
manners and a somewhat humorous turn.
Besides these advantages, my guardian held
in trust for me about two thousand dollars.
After some consultation between us, it was
resolved that I should study medicine. This
conclusion was reached nine years before the
Rebellion broke out, and after we had settled,
for the sake of economy, in Woodbury,
New Jersey. From this time I saw very little
of my deaf aunt or of Peninnah. I was resolute
to rise in the world, and not to be weighted
by relatives who were without my tastes and
my manners.
I set out for Philadelphia, with many good
counsels from my aunt and guardian. I look
back upon this period as a turning-point of
my life. I had seen enough of the world
already to know that if you can succeed
without exciting suspicion, it is by far the
pleasantest way; and I really believe that
if I had not been endowed with so fatal a
liking for all the good things of life I might
have lived along as reputably as most men.
This, however, is, and always has been, my
difficulty, and I suppose that I am not
responsible for the incidents to which it gave
rise. Most men have some ties in life, but I
have said I had none which held me. Peninnah
cried a good deal when we parted, and
this, I think, as I was still young, had a very
good effect in strengthening my resolution to
do nothing which could get me into trouble.
The janitor of the college to which I went
directed me to a boarding-house, where I
engaged a small third-story room, which I
afterwards shared with Mr. Chaucer of Georgia.
He pronounced it, as I remember, ``Jawjah.''
In this very remarkable abode I spent the
next two winters, and finally graduated,
along with two hundred more, at the close
of my two years of study. I should previously
have been one year in a physician's
office as a student, but this regulation was
very easily evaded. As to my studies, the
less said the better. I attended the quizzes,
as they call them, pretty closely, and, being
of a quick and retentive memory, was thus
enabled to dispense with some of the six or
seven lectures a day which duller men found
it necessary to follow.
Dissecting struck me as a rather nasty
business for a gentleman, and on this
account I did just as little as was absolutely
essential. In fact, if a man took his tickets
and paid the dissection fees, nobody troubled
himself as to whether or not he did any more
than this. A like evil existed at the
graduation: whether you squeezed through or
passed with credit was a thing which was
not made public, so that I had absolutely
nothing to stimulate my ambition. I am told
that it is all very different to-day.
The astonishment with which I learned of
my success was shared by the numerous
Southern gentlemen who darkened the floors
and perfumed with tobacco the rooms of our
boarding-house. In my companions, during
the time of my studies so called, as in other
matters of life, I was somewhat unfortunate.
All of them were Southern gentlemen, with
more money than I had. Many of them carried
great sticks, usually sword-canes, and
some bowie-knives or pistols; also, they
delighted in swallow-tailed coats, long hair,
broad-brimmed felt hats, and very tight
boots. I often think of these gentlemen
with affectionate interest, and wonder how
many are lying under the wheat-fields of
Virginia. One could see them any day
sauntering along with their arms over their
companions' shoulders, splendidly indifferent to
the ways of the people about them. They
hated the ``Nawth'' and cursed the Yankees,
and honestly believed that the leanest of
them was a match for any half a dozen of
the bulkiest of Northerners. I must also do
them the justice to say that they were quite
as ready to fight as to brag, which, by the
way, is no meager statement. With these
gentry--for whom I retain a respect which
filled me with regret at the recent course of
events--I spent a good deal of my large
leisure. The more studious of both sections
called us a hard crowd. What we did, or
how we did it, little concerns me here, except
that, owing to my esteem for chivalric blood
and breeding, I was led into many practices
and excesses which cost my guardian and
myself a good deal of money. At the close
of my career as a student I found myself aged
twenty-one years, and the owner of some
seven hundred dollars--the rest of my small
estate having disappeared variously within
the last two years. After my friends had
gone to their homes in the South I began to
look about me for an office, and finally settled
upon very good rooms in one of the downtown
localities of the Quaker City. I am not
specific as to the number and street, for
reasons which may hereafter appear. I liked
the situation on various accounts. It had
been occupied by a doctor; the terms were
reasonable; and it lay on the skirts of a
good neighborhood, while below it lived a
motley population, among which I expected
to get my first patients and such fees as were
to be had. Into this new home I moved my
medical text-books, a few bones, and myself.
Also, I displayed in the window a fresh sign,
upon which was distinctly to be read:
Office hours, 8 to 9 A.M., 7 to 9 P.M.
I felt now that I had done my fair share
toward attaining a virtuous subsistence, and
so I waited tranquilly, and without undue
enthusiasm, to see the rest of the world do
its part in the matter. Meanwhile I read up
on all sorts of imaginable cases, stayed at
home all through my office hours, and at
intervals explored the strange section of the
town which lay to the south of my office. I
do not suppose there is anything like it else
where. It was then filled with grog-shops,
brothels, slop-shops, and low lodging-houses.
You could dine for a penny on soup made
from the refuse meats of the rich, gathered
at back gates by a horde of half-naked children,
who all told varieties of one woeful
tale. Here, too, you could be drunk for five
cents, and be lodged for three, with men,
women, and children of all colors lying about
you. It was this hideous mixture of black
and white and yellow wretchedness which
made the place so peculiar. The blacks
predominated, and had mostly that swollen,
reddish, dark skin, the sign in this race of
habitual drunkenness. Of course only the
lowest whites were here--rag-pickers,
pawnbrokers, old-clothes men, thieves, and the
like. All of this, as it came before me, I
viewed with mingled disgust and philosophy.
I hated filth, but I understood that society
has to stand on somebody, and I was only
glad that I was not one of the undermost
and worst-squeezed bricks.
I can hardly believe that I waited a month
without having been called upon by a single
patient. At last a policeman on our beat
brought me a fancy man with a dog-bite.
This patient recommended me to his brother,
the keeper of a small pawnbroking-shop, and
by very slow degrees I began to get stray
patients who were too poor to indulge in uptown
doctors. I found the police very useful
acquaintances; and, by a drink or a cigar
now and then, I got most of the cases of cut
heads and the like at the next station-house.
These, however, were the aristocrats of my
practice; the bulk of my patients were soapfat
men, rag-pickers, oystermen, hose-house
bummers, and worse, with other and nameless
trades, men and women, white, black,
or mulatto. How they got the levies, fips,
and quarters with which I was reluctantly
paid, I do not know; that, indeed, was none
of my business. They expected to pay,
and they came to me in preference to the
dispensary doctor, two or three squares away,
who seemed to me to spend most of his days
in the lanes and alleys about us. Of course
he received no pay except experience, since
the dispensaries in the Quaker City, as a
rule, do not give salaries to their doctors;
and the vilest of the poor prefer a ``pay
doctor'' to one of these disinterested gentlemen,
who cannot be expected to give their
best brains for nothing, when at everybody's
beck and call. I am told, indeed I know,
that most young doctors do a large amount
of poor practice, as it is called; but, for my
own part, I think it better for both parties
when the doctor insists upon some compensation
being made to him. This has been
usually my own custom, and I have not found
reason to regret it.
Notwithstanding my strict attention to my
own interests, I have been rather sorely dealt
with by fate upon several occasions, where,
so far as I could see, I was vigilantly doing
everything in my power to keep myself out
of trouble or danger. I may as well relate
one of them, merely to illustrate of how little
value a man's intellect may be when fate and
the prejudices of the mass of men are against
One evening, late, I myself answered a ring
at the bell, and found a small black boy on
the steps, a shoeless, hatless little wretch,
curled darkness for hair, and teeth like new
tombstones. It was pretty cold, and he was
relieving his feet by standing first on one
and then on the other. He did not wait for
me to speak.
``Hi, sah, Missey Barker she say to come
quick away, sah, to Numbah 709 Bedford
The locality did not look like pay, but
it is hard to say in this quarter, because
sometimes you found a well-to-do ``brandysnifter''
(local for gin-shop) or a hard-working
``leather-jeweler'' (ditto for shoemaker), with
next door, in a house better or worse, dozens
of human rats for whom every police trap in
the city was constantly set.
With a doubt in my mind as to whether I
should find a good patient or some dirty nigger,
I sought the place to which I had been
directed. I did not like its looks; but I
blundered up an alley and into a back room,
where I fell over somebody, and was cursed
and told to lie down and keep easy, or
somebody, meaning the man stumbled over, would
make me. At last I lit on a staircase which
led into the alley, and, after much useless
inquiry, got as high as the garret. People
hereabout did not know one another, or did not
want to know, so that it was of little avail
to ask questions. At length I saw a light
through the cracks in the attic door, and
walked in. To my amazement, the first person
I saw was a woman of about thirty-five,
in pearl-gray Quaker dress--one of your
quiet, good-looking people. She was seated
on a stool beside a straw mattress upon
which lay a black woman. There were three
others crowded close around a small stove,
which was red-hot--an unusual spectacle in
this street. Altogether a most nasty den.
As I came in, the little Quaker woman got
up and said: ``I took the liberty of sending
for thee to look at this poor woman. I am
afraid she has the smallpox. Will thee be so
kind as to look at her?'' And with this she
held down the candle toward the bed.
``Good gracious!'' I said hastily, seeing
how the creature was speckled ``I didn't
understand this, or I would not have come.
I have important cases which I cannot subject
to the risk of contagion. Best let her
alone, miss,'' I added, ``or send her to the
smallpox hospital.''
Upon my word, I was astonished at the
little woman's indignation. She said just
those things which make you feel as if somebody
had been calling you names or kicking
you--Was I really a doctor? and so on. It
did not gain by being put in the
ungrammatical tongue of Quakers. However, I
never did fancy smallpox, and what could a
fellow get by doctoring wretches like these?
So I held my tongue and went away. About
a week afterwards I met Evans, the dispensary
man, a very common fellow, who was
said to be frank.
``Helloa!'' says he. ``Doctor, you made a
nice mistake about that darky at No. 709
Bedford street the other night. She had
nothing but measles, after all.''
``Of course I knew,'' said I, laughing; ``but
you don't think I was going in for dispensary
trash, do you?''
``I should think not,'' said Evans.
I learned afterwards that this Miss Barker
had taken an absurd fancy to the man
because he had doctored the darky and would
not let the Quakeress pay him. The end
was, when I wanted to get a vacancy in the
Southwark Dispensary, where they do pay
the doctors, Miss Barker was malignant
enough to take advantage of my oversight
by telling the whole story to the board; so
that Evans got in, and I was beaten.
You may be pretty sure that I found rather
slow the kind of practice I have described,
and began to look about for chances of
bettering myself. In this sort of locality rather
risky cases turned up now and then; and as
soon as I got to be known as a reliable man,
I began to get the peculiar sort of practice I
wanted. Notwithstanding all my efforts, I
found myself, at the close of three years, with
all my means spent, and just able to live
meagerly from hand to mouth, which by no
means suited a man of my refined tastes.
Once or twice I paid a visit to my aunt,
and was able to secure moderate aid by
overhauling her concealed hoardings. But as to
these changes of property I was careful, and
did not venture to secure the large amount I
needed. As to the Bible, it was at this time
hidden, and I judged it, therefore, to be her
chief place of deposit. Banks she utterly
Six months went by, and I was worse off
than ever--two months in arrears of rent,
and numerous other debts to cigar-shops and
liquor-dealers. Now and then some good job,
such as a burglar with a cut head, helped me
for a while; but, on the whole, I was like
Slider Downeyhylle in Neal's ``Charcoal
Sketches,'' and kept going ``downer and
downer'' the more I tried not to. Something
had to be done.
It occurred to me, about this time, that if
I moved into a more genteel locality I might
get a better class of patients, and yet keep
the best of those I now had. To do this it
was necessary to pay my rent, and the more
so because I was in a fair way to have no
house at all over my head. But here fortune
interposed. I was caught in a heavy rainstorm
on Seventh Street, and ran to catch an
omnibus. As I pulled open the door I saw
behind me the Quaker woman, Miss Barker.
I laughed and jumped in. She had to run a
little before the 'bus again stopped. She got
pretty wet. An old man in the corner, who
seemed in the way of taking charge of other
people's manners, said to me: ``Young man,
you ought to be ashamed to get in before the
lady, and in this pour, too!''
I said calmly, ``But you got in before her.''
He made no reply to this obvious fact, as
he might have been in the bus a half-hour.
A large, well-dressed man near by said, with a
laugh, ``Rather neat, that,'' and, turning, tried
to pull up a window-sash. In the effort
something happened, and he broke the glass,
cutting his hand in half a dozen places.
While he was using several quite profane
phrases, I caught his hand and said, ``I am a
surgeon,'' and tied my handkerchief around
the bleeding palm.
The guardian of manners said, ``I hope you
are not much hurt, but there was no reason
why you should swear.''
On this my patient said, ``Go to ----,''
which silenced the monitor.
I explained to the wounded man that the
cuts should be looked after at once. The
matter was arranged by our leaving the 'bus,
and, as the rain had let up, walking to his
house. This was a large and quite luxurious
dwelling on Fourth street. There I cared for
his wounds, which, as I had informed him,
required immediate attention. It was at this
time summer, and his wife and niece, the
only other members of his family, were
absent. On my second visit I made believe
to remove some splinters of glass which I
brought with me. He said they showed how
shamefully thin was that omnibus windowpane.
To my surprise, my patient, at the
end of the month,--for one wound was long
in healing,--presented me with one hundred
dollars. This paid my small rental, and as
Mr. Poynter allowed me to refer to him, I
was able to get a better office and bedroom on
Spruce street. I saw no more of my patient
until winter, although I learned that he was
a stock-broker, not in the very best repute,
but of a well-known family.
Meanwhile my move had been of small use.
I was wise enough, however, to keep up my
connection with my former clients, and
contrived to live. It was no more than that.
One day in December I was overjoyed to see
Mr. Poynter enter. He was a fat man, very
pale, and never, to my remembrance, without a
permanent smile. He had very civil ways, and
now at once I saw that he wanted something.
I hated the way that man saw through me.
He went on without hesitation, taking me
for granted. He began by saying he had
confidence in my judgment, and when a man
says that you had better look out. He said
he had a niece who lived with him, a brother's
child; that she was out of health and ought
not to marry, which was what she meant to
do. She was scared about her health,
because she had a cough, and had lost a brother
of consumption. I soon came to understand
that, for reasons unknown to me, my friend
did not wish his niece to marry. His wife,
he also informed me, was troubled as to the
niece's health. Now, he said, he wished to
consult me as to what he should do. I
suspected at once that he had not told me all.
I have often wondered at the skill with
which I managed this rather delicate matter.
I knew I was not well enough known
to be of direct use, and was also too young
to have much weight. I advised him to get
Professor C.
Then my friend shook his head. He said
in reply, ``But suppose, doctor, he says there
is nothing wrong with the girl?''
Then I began to understand him.
``Oh,'' I said, ``you get a confidential
written opinion from him. You can make it what
you please when you tell her.''
He said no. It would be best for me to
ask the professor to see Miss Poynter; might
mention my youth, and so on, as a reason. I
was to get his opinion in writing.
``Well?'' said I.
``After that I want you to write me a joint
opinion to meet the case--all the needs of
the case, you see.''
I saw, but hesitated as to how much would
make it worth while to pull his hot chestnuts
out of the fire--one never knows how hot
the chestnuts are.
Then he said, ``Ever take a chance in
I said, ``No.''
He said that he would lend me a little
money and see what he could do with it. And
here was his receipt from me for one thousand
dollars, and here, too, was my order to
buy shares of P. T. Y. Would I please to
Sign it? I did.
I was to call in two days at his house, and
meantime I could think it over. It seemed
to me a pretty weak plan. Suppose the
young woman--well, supposing is awfully
destructive of enterprise; and as for me, I
had only to misunderstand the professor's
opinion. I went to the house, and talked to
Mr. Poynter about his gout. Then Mrs. Poynter
came in, and began to lament her niece's
declining health. After that I saw Miss
Poynter. There is a kind of innocent-looking
woman who knows no more of the world
than a young chicken, and is choke-full of
emotions. I saw it would be easy to frighten
her. There are some instruments anybody
can get any tune they like out of. I was
very grave, and advised her to see the
professor. And would I write to ask him, said
Mr. Poynter. I said I would.
As I went out Mr. Poynter remarked:
``You will clear some four hundred easy.
Write to the professor. Bring my receipt
to the office next week, and we will settle.''
We settled. I tore up his receipt and gave
him one for fifteen hundred dollars, and
received in notes five hundred dollars.
In a day or so I had a note from the
professor stating that Miss Poynter was in no
peril; that she was, as he thought, worried,
and had only a mild bronchial trouble. He
advised me to do so-and-so, and had ventured
to reassure my young patient. Now, this
was a little more than I wanted. However,
I wrote Mr. Poynter that the professor thought
she had bronchitis, that in her case tubercle
would be very apt to follow, and that at present,
and until she was safe, we considered
marriage undesirable.
Mr. Poynter said it might have been put
stronger, but he would make it do. He made
it. The first effect was an attack of hysterics.
The final result was that she eloped with
her lover, because if she was to die, as she
wrote her aunt, she wished to die in her
husband's arms. Human nature plus hysteria
will defy all knowledge of character. This
was what our old professor of practice used
to say.
Mr. Poynter had now to account for a
large trust estate which had somehow dwindled.
Unhappily, princes are not the only
people in whom you must not put your trust.
As to myself, Professor L. somehow got to
know the facts, and cut me dead. It was
unpleasant, but I had my five hundred
dollars, and--I needed them. I do not see how
I could have been more careful.
After this things got worse. Mr. Poynter
broke, and did not even pay my last bill. I
had to accept several rather doubtful cases,
and once a policeman I knew advised me
that I had better be on my guard.
But, really, so long as I adhered to the
common code of my profession I was in danger
of going without my dinner.
Just as I was at my worst and in despair
something always turned up, but it was sure
to be risky; and now my aunt refused to see
me, and Peninnah wrote me goody-goody
letters, and said Aunt Rachel had been unable
to find certain bank-notes she had hidden,
and vowed I had taken them. This Peninnah
did not think possible. I agreed
with her. The notes were found somewhat
later by Peninnah in the toes of a pair of my
aunt's old slippers. Of course I wrote an
indignant letter. My aunt declared that
Peninnah had stolen the notes, and restored
them when they were missed. Poor Peninnah!
This did not seem to me very likely,
but Peninnah did love fine clothes.
One night, as I was debating with myself
as to how I was to improve my position, I
heard a knock on my shutter, and, going to
the door, let in a broad-shouldered man with
a whisky face and a great hooked nose. He
wore a heavy black beard and mustache, and
looked like the wolf in the pictures of Red
Riding-hood which I had seen as a child.
``Your name's Sanderaft?'' said the man.
``Yes; that's my name--Dr. Sanderaft.''
As he sat down he shook the snow over
everything, and said coolly: ``Set down, doc;
I want to talk with you.''
``What can I do for you?'' said I.
The man looked around the room rather
scornfully, at the same time throwing back
his coat and displaying a red neckerchief
and a huge garnet pin. ``Guess you're not
overly rich,'' he said.
``Not especially,'' said I. ``What's that
your business?''
He did not answer, but merely said,
``Know Simon Stagers?''
``Can't say I do,'' said I, cautiously. Simon
was a burglar who had blown off two fingers
when mining a safe. I had attended him
while he was hiding.
``Can't say you do. Well, you can lie, and
no mistake. Come, now, doc. Simon says
you're safe, and I want to have a leetle
plain talk with you.''
With this he laid ten gold eagles on the
table. I put out my hand instinctively.
``Let 'em alone,'' cried the man, sharply.
``They're easy earned, and ten more like 'em.''
``For doing what?'' I said.
The man paused a moment, and looked
around him; next he stared at me, and loosened
his cravat with a hasty pull. ``You're
the coroner,'' said he.
``I! What do you mean?''
``Yes, you're the coroner; don't you
understand?'' and so saying, he shoved the gold
pieces toward me.
``Very good,'' said I; ``we will suppose I'm
the coroner. What next?''
``And being the coroner,'' said he, ``you get
this note, which requests you to call at No. 9
Blank street to examine the body of a young
man which is supposed--only supposed, you
see--to have--well, to have died under
suspicious circumstances.''
``Go on,'' said I.
``No,'' he returned; ``not till I know how
you like it. Stagers and another knows it;
and it wouldn't be very safe for you to split,
besides not making nothing out of it. But
what I say is this, Do you like the business
of coroner?''
I did not like it; but just then two
hundred in gold was life to me, so I said: ``Let
me hear the whole of it first. I am safe.''
``That's square enough,'' said the man.
``My wife's got''--correcting himself with
a shivery shrug--``my wife had a brother
that took to cutting up rough because when
I'd been up too late I handled her a leetle
hard now and again.
``Luckily he fell sick with typhoid just
then--you see, he lived with us. When he
got better I guessed he'd drop all that; but
somehow he was worse than ever--clean off
his head, and strong as an ox. My wife said
to put him away in an asylum. I didn't
think that would do. At last he tried to get
out. He was going to see the police about--
well--the thing was awful serious, and my
wife carrying on like mad, and wanting
doctors. I had no mind to run, and something
had got to be done. So Simon Stagers and
I talked it over. The end of it was, he took
worse of a sudden, and got so he didn't know
nothing. Then I rushed for a doctor. He
said it was a perforation, and there ought to
have been a doctor when he was first took sick.
``Well, the man died, and as I kept about
the house, my wife had no chance to talk.
The doctor fussed a bit, but at last he gave a
certificate. I thought we were done with it.
But my wife she writes a note and gives it to
a boy in the alley to put in the post. We
suspicioned her, and Stagers was on the
watch. After the boy got away a bit, Simon
bribed him with a quarter to give him the
note, which wasn't no less than a request to
the coroner to come to the house to-morrow
and make an examination, as foul play was
suspected--and poison.''
When the man quit talking he glared at
me. I sat still. I was cold all over. I was
afraid to go on, and afraid to go back, besides
which, I did not doubt that there was a good
deal of money in the case.
``Of course,'' said I, ``it's nonsense; only
I suppose you don't want the officers about,
and a fuss, and that sort of thing.''
``Exactly,'' said my friend. ``It's all bosh
about poison. You're the coroner. You
take this note and come to my house. Says
you: `Mrs. File, are you the woman that
wrote this note? Because in that case I must
examine the body.' ''
``I see,'' said I; ``she needn't know who I
am, or anything else; but if I tell her it's all
right, do you think she won't want to know
why there isn't a jury, and so on?''
``Bless you,'' said the man, ``the girl isn't
over seventeen, and doesn't know no more
than a baby. As we live up-town miles
away, she won't know anything about you.''
``I'll do it,'' said I, suddenly, for, as I saw,
it involved no sort of risk; ``but I must have
three hundred dollars.''
``And fifty,'' added the wolf, ``if you do it
Then I knew it was serious.
With this the man buttoned about him a
shaggy gray overcoat, and took his leave
without a single word in addition.
A minute later he came back and said:
``Stagers is in this business, and I was to
remind you of Lou Wilson,--I forgot that,--
the woman that died last year. That's all.''
Then he went away, leaving me in a cold
sweat. I knew now I had no choice. I
understood why I had been selected.
For the first time in my life, that night I
couldn't sleep. I thought to myself, at last,
that I would get up early, pack a few clothes,
and escape, leaving my books to pay as they
might my arrears of rent. Looking out of
the window, however, in the morning, I saw
Stagers prowling about the opposite pavement;
and as the only exit except the street
door was an alleyway which opened alongside
of the front of the house, I gave myself
up for lost. About ten o'clock I took my case
of instruments and started for File's house,
followed, as I too well understood, by Stagers.
I knew the house, which was in a small uptown
street, by its closed windows and the
craped bell, which I shuddered as I touched.
However, it was too late to draw back, and I
therefore inquired for Mrs. File. A haggardlooking
young woman came down, and led
me into a small parlor, for whose darkened
light I was thankful enough.
``Did you write this note?''
``I did,'' said the woman, ``if you're the
coroner. Joe File--he's my husband--he's
gone out to see about the funeral. I wish it
was his, I do.''
``What do you suspect?'' said I.
``I'll tell you,'' she returned in a whisper.
``I think he was made away with. I think
there was foul play. I think he was poisoned.
That's what I think.''
``I hope you may be mistaken,'' said I.
``Suppose you let me see the body.''
``You shall see it,'' she replied; and following
her, I went up-stairs to a front chamber,
where I found the corpse.
``Get it over soon,'' said the woman, with
strange firmness. ``If there ain't no murder
been done I shall have to run for it; if there
was''--and her face set hard--``I guess I'll
stay.'' With this she closed the door and
left me with the dead.
If I had known what was before me I
never could have gone into the thing at all.
It looked a little better when I had opened
a window and let in plenty of light; for
although I was, on the whole, far less afraid
of dead than living men, I had an absurd
feeling that I was doing this dead man a
distinct wrong--as if it mattered to the
dead, after all! When the affair was over,
I thought more of the possible consequences
than of its relation to the dead man himself;
but do as I would at the time, I was in a
ridiculous funk, and especially when going
through the forms of a post-mortem examination.
I am free to confess now that I was
careful not to uncover the man's face, and that
when it was over I backed to the door and
hastily escaped from the room. On the stairs
opposite to me Mrs. File was seated, with her
bonnet on and a bundle in her hand.
``Well,'' said she, rising as she spoke, and
with a certain eagerness in her tone, ``what
killed him? Was it poison?''
``Poison, my good woman!'' said I. ``When
a man has typhoid fever he don't need poison
to kill him. He had a relapse, that's all.''
``And do you mean to say he wasn't
poisoned,'' said she, with more than a trace of
disappointment in her voice--``not poisoned
at all?''
``No more than you are,'' said I. ``If I had
found any signs of foul play I should have
had a regular inquest. As it is, the less said
about it the better. The fact is, it would
have been much wiser to have kept quiet at
the beginning. I can't understand why you
should have troubled me about it at all. The
man had a perforation. It is common enough
in typhoid.''
``That's what the doctor said--I didn't
believe him. I guess now the sooner I leave
the better for me.''
``As to that,'' I returned, ``it is none of my
business; but you may rest certain about the
cause of your brother's death.''
My fears were somewhat quieted that
evening when Stagers and the wolf appeared
with the remainder of the money, and I
learned that Mrs. File had fled from her
home and, as File thought likely, from the
city also. A few months later File himself
disappeared, and Stagers found his way for
the third time into the penitentiary. Then I
felt at ease. I now see, for my own part,
that I was guilty of more than one mistake,
and that I displayed throughout a want of
intelligence. I ought to have asked more,
and also might have got a good fee from
Mrs. File on account of my services as
coroner. It served me, however, as a good
lesson; but it was several months before I
felt quite comfortable.
Meanwhile money became scarce once more,
and I was driven to my wit's end to devise
how I should continue to live as I had done.
I tried, among other plans, that of keeping
certain pills and other medicines, which I
sold to my patients; but on the whole I found
it better to send all my prescriptions to one
druggist, who charged the patient ten or
twenty cents over the correct price, and
handed this amount to me.
In some cases I am told the percentage is
supposed to be a donation on the part of the
apothecary; but I rather fancy the patient
pays for it in the end. It is one of the absurd
vagaries of the profession to discountenance
the practice I have described, but I
wish, for my part, I had never done anything
more foolish or more dangerous. Of course
it inclines a doctor to change his medicines a
good deal, and to order them in large quantities,
which is occasionally annoying to the
poor; yet, as I have always observed, there is
no poverty as painful as your own, so that I
prefer to distribute pecuniary suffering among
many rather than to concentrate it on myself.
That's a rather neat phrase.
About six months after the date of this
annoying adventure, an incident occurred which
altered somewhat, and for a time improved,
my professional position. During my morning
office-hour an old woman came in, and
putting down a large basket, wiped her face
with a yellow-cotton handkerchief, and
afterwards with the corner of her apron. Then
she looked around uneasily, got up, settled
her basket on her arm with a jerk which may
have decided the future of an egg or two, and
remarked briskly: ``Don't see no little bottles
about; got the wrong stall, I guess. You
ain't no homeopath doctor, are you?''
With great presence of mind, I replied:
``Well, ma'am, that depends upon what you
want. Some of my patients like one, and
some like the other.'' I was about to add,
``You pay your money and you take your
choice,'' but thought better of it, and held my
peace, refraining from classical quotation.
``Being as that's the case,'' said the old lady,
``I'll just tell you my symptoms. You said
you give either kind of medicine, didn't you?''
``Just so,'' replied I.
``Clams or oysters, whichever opens most
lively, as my old Joe says--tends the oysterstand
at stall No. 9. Happen to know Joe?''
No, I did not know Joe; but what were the
They proved to be numerous, and included
a stunning in the head and a misery in the
side, with bokin after victuals.
I proceeded, of course, to apply a stethoscope
over her ample bosom, though what I
heard on this and similar occasions I should
find it rather difficult to state. I remember
well my astonishment in one instance where,
having unconsciously applied my instrument
over a clamorous silver watch in the watchfob
of a sea-captain, I concluded for a
moment that he was suffering from a rather
remarkable displacement of the heart. As to
my old lady, whose name was Checkers, and
who kept an apple-stand near by, I told her
that I was out of pills just then, but would
have plenty next day. Accordingly, I
proceeded to invest a small amount at a place
called a homeopathic pharmacy, which I
remember amused me immensely.
A stout little German, with great silver
spectacles, sat behind a counter containing
numerous jars of white powders labeled
concisely ``Lac.,'' ``Led.,'' ``Onis.,'' ``Op.,''
``Puls.,'' etc., while behind him were shelves
filled with bottles of what looked like minute
white shot.
``I want some homeopathic medicine,''
said I.
``Vat kindt?'' said my friend. ``Vat you
vants to cure!''
I explained at random that I wished to
treat diseases in general.
``Vell, ve gifs you a case, mit a pook,'' and
thereon produced a large box containing bottles
of small pills and powders, labeled variously
with the names of the diseases, so that
all you required was to use the headache or
colic bottle in order to meet the needs of
those particular maladies.
I was struck at first with the exquisite
simplicity of this arrangement; but before
purchasing, I happened luckily to turn over the
leaves of a book, in two volumes, which lay
on the counter; it was called ``Jahr's Manual.''
Opening at page 310, vol. i, I lit upon
``Lachesis,'' which proved to my amazement
to be snake-venom. This Mr. Jahr stated to
be indicated for use in upward of a hundred
symptoms. At once it occurred to me that
``Lach.'' was the medicine for my money, and
that it was quite needless to waste cash on
the box. I therefore bought a small jar of
``Lach.'' and a lot of little pills, and started
for home.
My old woman proved a fast friend; and
as she sent me numerous patients, I by and
by altered my sign to ``Homeopathic Physician
and Surgeon,'' whatever that may mean,
and was regarded by my medical brothers as
a lost sheep, and by the little-pill doctors as
one who had seen the error of his ways.
In point of fact, my new practice had
decided advantages. All pills looked and tasted
alike, and the same might be said of the
powders, so that I was never troubled by those
absurd investigations into the nature of
remedies which some patients are prone to
make. Of course I desired to get business,
and it was therefore obviously unwise to give
little pills of ``Lac.,'' or ``Puls.,'' or ``Sep.,''
when a man needed a dose of oil, or a whitefaced
girl iron, or the like. I soon made the
useful discovery that it was only necessary
to prescribe cod-liver oil, for instance, as a
diet, in order to make use of it where
required. When a man got impatient over an
ancient ague, I usually found, too, that I
could persuade him to let me try a good dose
of quinine; while, on the other hand, there
was a distinct pecuniary advantage in those
cases of the shakes which could be made to
believe that it ``was best not to interfere
with nature.'' I ought to add that this kind
of faith is uncommon among folks who carry
hods or build walls.
For women who are hysterical, and go
heart and soul into the business of being
sick, I have found the little pills a most
charming resort, because you cannot carry
the refinement of symptoms beyond what my
friend Jahr has done in the way of fitting
medicines to them, so that if I had taken
seriously to practising this double form of
therapeutics, it had, as I saw, certain
Another year went by, and I was beginning
to prosper in my new mode of life. My
medicines (being chiefly milk-sugar, with
variations as to the labels) cost next to nothing;
and as I charged pretty well for both these
and my advice, I was now able to start a gig.
I solemnly believe that I should have
continued to succeed in the practice of my
profession if it had not happened that fate was
once more unkind to me, by throwing in my
path one of my old acquaintances. I had a
consultation one day with the famous homeopath
Dr. Zwanzig. As we walked away we
were busily discussing the case of a poor
consumptive fellow who previously had lost
a leg. In consequence of this defect, Dr.
Zwanzig considered that the ten-thousandth
of a grain of aurum would be an overdose,
and that it must be fractioned so as to allow
for the departed leg, otherwise the rest of the
man would be getting a leg-dose too much.
I was particularly struck with this view of
the case, but I was still more, and less
pleasingly, impressed at the sight of my former
patient Stagers, who nodded to me familiarly
from the opposite pavement.
I was not at all surprised when, that
evening quite late, I found this worthy waiting in
my office. I looked around uneasily, which
was clearly understood by my friend, who
retorted: ``Ain't took nothin' of yours, doc.
You don't seem right awful glad to see me.
You needn't be afraid--I've only fetched
you a job, and a right good one, too.''
I replied that I had my regular business,
that I preferred he should get some one else,
and pretty generally made Mr. Stagers aware
that I had had enough of him. I did not ask
him to sit down, and, just as I supposed him
about to leave, he seated himself with a grin,
remarking, ``No use, doc; got to go into it
this one time.''
At this I, naturally enough, grew angry
and used several rather violent phrases.
``No use, doc,'' said Stagers.
Then I softened down, and laughed a little,
and treated the thing as a joke, whatever it
was, for I dreaded to hear.
But Stagers was fate. Stagers was
inevitable. ``Won't do, doc--not even money
wouldn't get you off.''
``No?'' said I, interrogatively, and as coolly
as I could, contriving at the same time to
move toward the window. It was summer,
the sashes were up, the shutters half drawn
in, and a policeman whom I knew was lounging
opposite, as I had noticed when I entered.
I would give Stagers a scare, charge him
with theft--anything but get mixed up with
his kind again. It was the folly of a moment
and I should have paid dear for it.
He must have understood me, the scoundrel,
for in an instant I felt a cold ring of
steel against my ear, and a tiger clutch on
my cravat. ``Sit down,'' he said. ``What a
fool you are! Guess you forgot that there
coroner's business and the rest.'' Needless to
say that I obeyed. ``Best not try that again,''
continued my guest. ``Wait a moment'';
and rising, he closed the window.
There was no resource left but to listen;
and what followed I shall condense rather
than relate it in the language employed by
Mr. Stagers.
It appeared that my other acquaintance
Mr. File had been guilty of a cold-blooded
and long-premeditated murder, for which he
had been tried and convicted. He now lay
in jail awaiting his execution, which was to
take place at Carsonville, Ohio. It seemed
that with Stagers and others he had formed
a band of expert counterfeiters in the West.
Their business lay in the manufacture of
South American currencies. File had thus
acquired a fortune so considerable that I was
amazed at his having allowed his passion to
seduce him into unprofitable crime. In his
agony he unfortunately thought of me, and
had bribed Stagers largely in order that he
might be induced to find me. When the
narration had reached this stage, and I had
been made fully to understand that I was now
and hereafter under the sharp eye of Stagers
and his friends, that, in a word, escape was
out of the question, I turned on my tormentor.
``What does all this mean?'' I said.
``What does File expect me to do?''
``Don't believe he exactly knows,'' said
Stagers. ``Something or other to get him
clear of hemp.''
``But what stuff!'' I replied. ``How can I
help him? What possible influence could
I exert?''
``Can't say,'' answered Stagers, imperturbably.
``File has a notion you're 'most cunning
enough for anything. Best try something, doc.''
``And what if I won't do it?'' said I.
``What does it matter to me if the rascal
swings or no?''
``Keep cool, doc,'' returned Stagers. ``I'm
only agent in this here business. My principal,
that's File, he says: `Tell Sanderaft
to find some way to get me clear. Once out,
I give him ten thousand dollars. If he don't
turn up something that will suit, I'll blow
about that coroner business and Lou Wilson,
and break him up generally.' ''
``You don't mean,'' said I, in a cold sweat
--``you don't mean that, if I can't do this
impossible thing, he will inform on me?''
``Just so,'' returned Stagers. ``Got a
cigar, doc?''
I only half heard him. What a frightful
position! I had been leading a happy and an
increasingly profitable life--no scrapes and
no dangers; and here, on a sudden, I had
presented to me the alternative of saving a
wretch from the gallows or of spending
unlimited years in a State penitentiary. As
for the money, it became as dead leaves for
this once only in my life. My brain seemed
to be spinning round. I grew weak all over.
``Cheer up a little,'' said Stagers. ``Take
a nip of whisky. Things ain't at the worst,
by a good bit. You just get ready, and we'll
start by the morning train. Guess you'll try
out something smart enough as we travel
along. Ain't got a heap of time to lose.''
I was silent. A great anguish had me in
its grip. I might squirm as I would, it was
all in vain. Hideous plans rose to my mind,
born of this agony of terror. I might murder
Stagers, but what good would that do?
As to File, he was safe from my hand. At
last I became too confused to think any
longer. ``When do we leave?'' I said feebly.
``At six to-morrow,'' he returned.
How I was watched and guarded, and how
hurried over a thousand miles of rail to my
fate, little concerns us now. I find it dreadful
to recall it to memory. Above all, an aching
eagerness for revenge upon the man who had
caused me these sufferings was uppermost in
my mind. Could I not fool the wretch and
save myself? Of a sudden an idea came into
my consciousness. Then it grew and formed
itself, became possible, probable, seemed to
me sure. ``Ah,'' said I, ``Stagers, give me
something to eat and drink.'' I had not
tasted food for two days.
Within a day or two after my arrival, I
was enabled to see File in his cell, on the
plea of being a clergyman from his native
I found that I had not miscalculated my
danger. The man did not appear to have the
least idea as to how I was to help him. He
only knew that I was in his power, and he
used his control to insure that something
more potent than friendship should be
enlisted in his behalf. As the days went by,
his behavior grew to be a frightful thing to
witness. He threatened, flattered, implored,
offered to double the sum he had promised
if I would save him. My really reasonable
first thought was to see the governor of the
State, and, as Stagers's former physician,
make oath to his having had many attacks of
epilepsy followed by brief periods of homicidal
mania. He had, in fact, had fits of alcoholic
epilepsy. Unluckily, the governor was in a
distant city. The time was short, and the
case against my man too clear. Stagers said
it would not do. I was at my wit's end.
``Got to do something,'' said File, ``or I'll
attend to your case, doc.''
``But,'' said I, ``suppose there is really
``Well,'' said Stagers to me when we were
alone, ``you get him satisfied, anyhow. He'll
never let them hang him, and perhaps--well,
I'm going to give him these pills when I get
a chance. He asked to have them. But
what's your other plan?''
Stagers knew as much about medicine as
a pig knows about the opera. So I set to
work to delude him, first asking if he could
secure me, as a clergyman, an hour alone
with File just before the execution. He said
money would do it, and what was my plan?
``Well,'' said I, ``there was once a man
named Dr. Chovet. He lived in London. A
gentleman who turned highwayman was to
be hanged. You see,'' said I, ``this was about
1760. Well, his friends bribed the jailer and
the hangman. The doctor cut a hole in the
man's windpipe, very low down where it could
be partly hid by a loose cravat. So, as they
hanged him only a little while, and the breath
went in and out of the opening below the
noose, he was only just insensible when his
friends got him--''
``And he got well,'' cried Stagers, much
pleased with my rather melodramatic tale.
``Yes,'' I said, ``he got well, and lived to
take purses, all dressed in white. People had
known him well, and when he robbed his
great-aunt, who was not in the secret, she
swore she had seen his ghost.''
Stagers said that was a fine story; guessed
it would work; small town, new business, lots
of money to use. In fact, the attempt thus to
save a man is said to have been made, but, by
ill luck, the man did not recover. It answered
my purpose, but how any one, even such an
ass as this fellow, could believe it could
succeed puzzles me to this day.
File became enthusiastic over my scheme,
and I cordially assisted his credulity. The
thing was to keep the wretch quiet until the
business blew up or--and I shuddered--
until File, in despair, took his pill. I should
in any case find it wise to leave in haste.
My friend Stagers had some absurd
misgivings lest Mr. File's neck might be broken
by the fall; but as to this I was able to
reassure him upon the best scientific authority.
There were certain other and minor questions,
as to the effect of sudden, nearly complete
arrest of the supply of blood to the brain;
but with these physiological refinements I
thought it needlessly cruel to distract a man
in File's peculiar position. Perhaps I shall
be doing injustice to my own intellect if I do
not hasten to state again that I had not the
remotest belief in the efficacy of my plan for
any purpose except to get me out of a very
uncomfortable position and give me, with
time, a chance to escape.
Stagers and I were both disguised as clergymen,
and were quite freely admitted to the
condemned man's cell. In fact, there was in
the little town a certain trustful simplicity
about all their arrangements. The day but
one before the execution Stagers informed
me that File had the pills, which he, Stagers,
had contrived to give him. Stagers seemed
pleased with our plan. I was not. He was
really getting uneasy and suspicious of me--
as I was soon to find out.
So far our plans, or rather mine, had
worked to a marvel. Certain of File's old
accomplices succeeded in bribing the hangman
to shorten the time of suspension.
Arrangements were made to secure me two
hours alone with the prisoner, so that
nothing seemed to be wanting to this tomfool
business. I had assured Stagers that I
would not need to see File again previous to
the operation; but in the forenoon of the day
before that set for the execution I was seized
with a feverish impatience, which luckily
prompted me to visit him once more. As
usual, I was admitted readily, and nearly
reached his cell when I became aware, from the
sound of voices heard through the grating in
the door, that there was a visitor in the cell.
``Who is with him?'' I inquired of the turnkey.
``The doctor,'' he replied.
``Doctor?'' I said, pausing. ``What doctor?''
``Oh, the jail doctor. I was to come back
in half an hour to let him out; but he's got
a quarter to stay. Shall I let you in, or will
you wait?''
``No,'' I replied; ``it is hardly right to
interrupt them. I will walk in the corridor for
ten minutes or so, and then you can come
back to let me into the cell.''
``Very good,'' he returned, and left me.
As soon as I was alone, I cautiously
advanced until I stood alongside of the door,
through the barred grating of which I was
able readily to hear what went on within.
The first words I caught were these:
``And you tell me, doctor, that, even if a
man's windpipe was open, the hanging would
kill him--are you sure?''
``Yes, I believe there would be no doubt
of it. I cannot see how escape would be
possible. But let me ask you why you have
sent for me to ask these singular questions.
You cannot have the faintest hope of escape,
and least of all in such a manner as this. I
advise you to think about the fate which is
inevitable. You must, I fear, have much to
reflect upon.''
``But,'' said File, ``if I wanted to try this
plan of mine, couldn't some one be found to
help me, say if he was to make twenty thousand
or so by it? I mean a really good doctor.''
Evidently File cruelly mistrusted my
skill, and meant to get some one to aid me.
``If you mean me,'' answered the doctor,
``some one cannot be found, neither for
twenty nor fifty thousand dollars. Besides,
if any one were wicked enough to venture on
such an attempt, he would only be deceiving
you with a hope which would be utterly vain.
You must be off your head.''
I understood all this with an increasing
fear in my mind. I had meant to get away
that night at all risks. I saw now that I must
go at once.
After a pause he said: ``Well, doctor, you
know a poor devil in my fix will clutch at
straws. Hope I have not offended you.''
``Not in the least,'' returned the doctor.
``Shall I send you Mr. Smith?'' This was
my present name; in fact, I was known as
the Rev. Eliphalet Smith.
``I would like it,'' answered File; ``but as
you go out, tell the warden I want to see
him immediately about a matter of great
At this stage I began to apprehend very
distinctly that the time had arrived when it
would be wiser for me to delay escape no
longer. Accordingly, I waited until I heard
the doctor rise, and at once stepped quietly
away to the far end of the corridor. I had
scarcely reached it when the door which
closed it was opened by a turnkey who had
come to relieve the doctor and let me into the
cell. Of course my peril was imminent. If
the turnkey mentioned my near presence to the
prisoner, immediate disclosure would follow.
If some lapse of time were secured before the
warden obeyed the request from File that he
should visit him, I might gain thus a muchneeded
hour, but hardly more. I therefore
said to the officer: ``Tell the warden that the
doctor wishes to remain an hour longer with
the prisoner, and that I shall return myself
at the end of that time.''
``Very good, sir,'' said the turnkey, allowing
me to pass out, and, as he followed me,
relocking the door of the corridor. ``I'll tell
him,'' he said. It is needless to repeat that
I never had the least idea of carrying out the
ridiculous scheme with which I had deluded
File and Stagers, but so far Stagers's watchfulness
had given me no chance to escape.
In a few moments I was outside of the
jail gate, and saw my fellow-clergyman, Mr.
Stagers, in full broadcloth and white tie,
coming down the street toward me. As
usual, he was on his guard; but this time
he had to deal with a man grown perfectly
desperate, with everything to win and
nothing to lose. My plans were made, and,
wild as they were, I thought them worth the
trying. I must evade this man's terrible
watch. How keen it was, you cannot imagine;
but it was aided by three of the
infamous gang to which File had belonged,
for without these spies no one person could
possibly have sustained so perfect a system.
I took Stagers's arm. ``What time,'' said I,
``does the first train start for Dayton?''
``At twelve. What do you want?''
``How far is it?''
``About fifteen miles,'' he replied.
``Good. I can get back by eight o'clock
``Easily,'' said Stagers, ``if you go. What
do you want?''
``I want a smaller tube to put in the windpipe--
must have it, in fact.''
``Well, I don't like it,'' said he, ``but the
thing's got to go through somehow. If you
must go, I will go along myself. Can't lose
sight of you, doc, just at present. You're
monstrous precious. Did you tell File?''
``Yes,'' said I; ``he's all right. Come.
We've no time to lose.''
Nor had we. Within twenty minutes we
were seated in the last car of a long train,
and running at the rate of twenty miles an
hour toward Dayton. In about ten minutes
I asked Stagers for a cigar.
``Can't smoke here,'' said he.
``No,'' I answered; ``of course not. I'll go
forward into the smoking-car.''
``Come along,'' said he, and we went
through the train.
I was not sorry he had gone with me when
I found in the smoking-car one of the spies
who had been watching me so constantly.
Stagers nodded to him and grinned at me,
and we sat down together.
``Chut!'' said I, ``left my cigar on the
window-ledge in the hindmost car. Be back
in a moment.''
This time, for a wonder, Stagers allowed
me to leave unaccompanied. I hastened
through to the nearer end of the hindmost
car, and stood on the platform. I instantly
cut the signal-cord. Then I knelt down, and,
waiting until the two cars ran together, I
tugged at the connecting-pin. As the cars
came together, I could lift it a little, then as
the strain came on the coupling the pin held
fast. At last I made a great effort, and out
it came. The car I was on instantly lost
speed, and there on the other platform, a
hundred feet away, was Stagers shaking his
fist at me. He was beaten, and he knew it.
In the end few people have been able to get
ahead of me.
The retreating train was half a mile away
around the curve as I screwed up the brake
on my car hard enough to bring it nearly to
a stand. I did not wait for it to stop entirely
before I slipped off the steps, leaving the
other passengers to dispose of themselves as
they might until their absence should be
discovered and the rest of the train return.
As I wish rather to illustrate my very
remarkable professional career than to amuse
by describing its lesser incidents, I shall not
linger to tell how I succeeded, at last, in
reaching St. Louis. Fortunately, I had never
ceased to anticipate the moment when escape
from File and his friends would be possible,
so that I always carried about with me the
very small funds with which I had hastily
provided myself upon leaving. The whole
amount did not exceed sixty-five dollars, but
with this, and a gold watch worth twice as
much, I hoped to be able to subsist until my
own ingenuity enabled me to provide more
liberally for the future. Naturally enough,
I scanned the papers closely to discover some
account of File's death and of the disclosures
concerning myself which he was only
too likely to have made.
I came at last on an account of how he had
poisoned himself, and so escaped the hangman.
I never learned what he had said about me,
but I was quite sure he had not let me off easy.
I felt that this failure to announce his confessions
was probably due to a desire on the part
of the police to avoid alarming me. Be this
as it may, I remained long ignorant as to
whether or not the villain betrayed my part
in that unusual coroner's inquest.
Before many days I had resolved to make
another and a bold venture. Accordingly
appeared in the St. Louis papers an advertisement
to the effect that Dr. von Ingenhoff, the
well-known German physician, who had spent
two years on the Plains acquiring a knowledge
of Indian medicine, was prepared to
treat all diseases by vegetable remedies alone.
Dr. von Ingenhoff would remain in St. Louis
for two weeks, and was to be found at the
Grayson House every day from ten until two
To my delight, I got two patients the first
day. The next I had twice as many, when at
once I hired two connecting rooms, and made
a very useful arrangement, which I may
describe dramatically in the following way:
There being two or three patients waiting
while I finished my cigar and morning julep,
enters a respectable-looking old gentleman
who inquires briskly of the patients if this is
really Dr. von Ingenhoff's. He is told it is.
My friend was apt to overact his part. I
had often occasion to ask him to be less
``Ah,'' says he, ``I shall be delighted to see
the doctor. Five years ago I was scalped on
the Plains, and now''--exhibiting a well-covered
head--``you see what the doctor did for
me. 'T isn't any wonder I've come fifty
miles to see him. Any of you been scalped,
To none of them had this misfortune
arrived as yet; but, like most folks in the lower
ranks of life and some in the upper ones, it
was pleasant to find a genial person who
would listen to their account of their own
Presently, after hearing enough, the old
gentleman pulls out a large watch. ``Bless
me! it's late. I must call again. May I
trouble you, sir, to say to the doctor that his
old friend called to see him and will drop in
again to-morrow? Don't forget: Governor
Brown of Arkansas.'' A moment later the
governor visited me by a side door, with his
account of the symptoms of my patients.
Enter a tall Hoosier, the governor having
retired. ``Now, doc,'' says the Hoosier, ``I've
been handled awful these two years back.''
``Stop!'' I exclaimed. ``Open your eyes.
There, now, let me see,'' taking his pulse as I
speak. ``Ah, you've a pain there, and there,
and you can't sleep; cocktails don't agree any
longer. Weren't you bit by a dog two years
ago?'' ``I was,'' says the Hoosier, in
amazement. ``Sir,'' I reply, ``you have chronic
hydrophobia. It's the water in the cocktails
that disagrees with you. My bitters will cure
you in a week, sir. No more whisky--drink
The astonishment of my patient at these
accurate revelations may be imagined. He is
allowed to wait for his medicine in the anteroom,
where the chances are in favor of his
relating how wonderfully I had told all his
symptoms at a glance.
Governor Brown of Arkansas was a small
but clever actor, whom I met in the billiardroom,
and who day after day, in varying
disguises and modes, played off the same tricks,
to our great common advantage.
At my friend's suggestion, we very soon
added to our resources by the purchase of
two electromagnetic batteries. This special
means of treating all classes of maladies has
advantages which are altogether peculiar. In
the first place, you instruct your patient that
the treatment is of necessity a long one. A
striking mode of putting it is to say, ``Sir,
you have been six months getting ill; it will
require six months for a cure.'' There is a
correct sound about such a phrase, and it is
sure to satisfy. Two sittings a week, at two
dollars a sitting, will pay. In many cases the
patient gets well while you are electrifying
him. Whether or not the electricity cured
him is a thing I shall never know. If, however,
he began to show signs of impatience, I
advised him that he would require a year's
treatment, and suggested that it would be
economical for him to buy a battery and use
it at home. Thus advised, he pays you twenty
dollars for an instrument which cost you ten,
and you are rid of a troublesome case.
If the reader has followed me closely, he
will have learned that I am a man of large
and liberal views in my profession, and of a
very justifiable ambition. The idea has often
occurred to me of combining in one establishment
all the various modes of practice which
are known as irregular. This, as will be
understood, is really only a wider application
of the idea which prompted me to unite in my
own business homeopathy and the practice of
medicine. I proposed to my partner, accordingly,
to combine with our present business
that of spiritualism, which I knew had been
very profitably turned to account in connection
with medical practice. As soon as he
agreed to this plan, which, by the way, I hoped
to enlarge so as to include all the available
isms, I set about making such preparations as
were necessary. I remembered having read
somewhere that a Dr. Schiff had shown that
he could produce remarkable ``knockings,'' so
called, by voluntarily dislocating the great
toe and then forcibly drawing it back into its
socket. A still better noise could be made by
throwing the tendon of the peroneus longus
muscle out of the hollow in which it lies,
alongside of the ankle. After some effort I
was able to accomplish both feats quite readily,
and could occasion a remarkable variety of
sounds, according to the power which I
employed or the positions which I occupied at
the time. As to all other matters, I trusted
to the suggestions of my own ingenuity,
which, as a rule, has rarely failed me.
The largest success attended the novel plan
which my lucky genius had devised, so that
soon we actually began to divide large profits
and to lay by a portion of our savings. It is,
of course, not to be supposed that this desirable
result was attained without many annoyances
and some positive danger. My spiritual
revelations, medical and other, were, as may
be supposed, only more or less happy guesses;
but in this, as in predictions as to the weather
and other events, the rare successes always
get more prominence in the minds of men
than the numerous failures. Moreover,
whenever a person has been fool enough to
resort to folks like myself, he is always glad
to be able to defend his conduct by bringing
forward every possible proof of skill on the
part of the men he has consulted. These
considerations, and a certain love of mysterious
or unusual means, I have commonly found
sufficient to secure an ample share of gullible
individuals. I may add, too, that those who
would be shrewd enough to understand and
expose us are wise enough to keep away
altogether. Such as did come were, as a rule,
easy enough to manage, but now and then we
hit upon some utterly exceptional patient
who was both foolish enough to consult us
and sharp enough to know he had been swindled.
When such a fellow made a fuss, it
was occasionally necessary to return his
money if it was found impossible to bully
him into silence. In one or two instances,
where I had promised a cure upon prepayment
of two or three hundred dollars, I was either
sued or threatened with suit, and had to
refund a part or the whole of the amount; but
most people preferred to hold their tongues
rather than expose to the world the extent of
their own folly.
In one most disastrous case I suffered
personally to a degree which I never can recall
without a distinct sense of annoyance, both
at my own want of care and at the disgusting
consequences which it brought upon me.
Early one morning an old gentleman called,
in a state of the utmost agitation, and
explained that he desired to consult the spirits
as to a heavy loss which he had experienced
the night before. He had left, he said, a sum
of money in his pantaloons pocket upon going
to bed. In the morning he had changed his
clothes and gone out, forgetting to remove the
notes. Returning in an hour in great haste,
he discovered that the garment still lay upon
the chair where he had thrown it, but that the
money was missing. I at once desired him to
be seated, and proceeded to ask him certain
questions, in a chatty way, about the habits
of his household, the amount lost, and the like,
expecting thus to get some clue which would
enable me to make my spirits display the
requisite share of sagacity in pointing out the
thief. I learned readily that he was an old
and wealthy man, a little close, too, I suspected,
and that he lived in a large house with but
two servants, and an only son about twentyone
years old. The servants were both women
who had lived in the household many years,
and were probably innocent. Unluckily,
remembering my own youthful career, I
presently reached the conclusion that the young
man had been the delinquent. When I ventured
to inquire a little as to his habits, the
old gentleman cut me very short, remarking
that he came to ask questions, and not to be
questioned, and that he desired at once to
consult the spirits. Upon this I sat down at
a table, and, after a brief silence, demanded
in a solemn voice if there were any spirits
present. By industriously cracking my big
toe-joint I was enabled to represent at once
the presence of a numerous assembly of these
worthies. Then I inquired if any one of them
had been present when the robbery was
effected. A prompt double knock replied in
the affirmative. I may say here, by the way,
that the unanimity of the spirits as to their
use of two knocks for ``yes'' and one for
``no'' is a very remarkable point, and shows,
if it shows anything, how perfect and universal
must be the social intercourse of the
respected departed. It is worthy of note, also,
that if the spirit--I will not say the medium
--perceives after one knock that it were wiser
to say yes, he can conveniently add the second
tap. Some such arrangement in real life
would, it appears to me, be highly desirable.
It seemed that the spirit was that of Vidocq,
the French detective. I had just read a translation
of his memoirs, and he seemed to me a
very available spirit to call upon.
As soon as I explained that the spirit who
answered had been a witness of the theft, the
old man became strangely agitated. ``Who
was it?'' said he. At once the spirit
indicated a desire to use the alphabet. As we
went over the letters,--always a slow method,
but useful when you want to observe excitable
people,--my visitor kept saying, ``Quicker--
go quicker.'' At length the spirit spelled out
the words, ``I know not his name.''
``Was it,'' said the gentleman--``was it a--
was it one of my household?''
I knocked ``yes'' without hesitation; who
else, indeed, could it have been?
``Excuse me,'' he went on, ``if I ask you for
a little whisky.''
This I gave him. He continued: ``Was it
Susan or Ellen?''
``No, no!''
``Was it--'' He paused. ``If I ask a question
mentally, will the spirits reply?'' I knew
what he meant. He wanted to ask if it was
his son, but did not wish to speak openly.
``Ask,'' said I.
``I have,'' he returned.
I hesitated. It was rarely my policy to
commit myself definitely, yet here I fancied,
from the facts of the case and his own terrible
anxiety, that he suspected, or more than
suspected, his son as the guilty person. I
became sure of this as I studied his face. At
all events, it would be easy to deny or explain
in case of trouble; and, after all, what slander
was there in two knocks? I struck twice
as usual.
Instantly the old gentleman rose up, very
white, but quite firm. ``There,'' he said, and
cast a bank-note on the table, ``I thank you,''
and bending his head on his breast, walked,
as I thought, with great effort out of the room.
On the following morning, as I made my
first appearance in my outer room, which
contained at least a dozen persons awaiting
advice, who should I see standing by the window
but the old gentleman with sandy-gray hair?
Along with him was a stout young man with
a head as red as mine, and mustache and
whiskers to match. Probably the son, I
thought--ardent temperament, remorse, come
to confess, etc. I was never more mistaken
in my life. I was about to go regularly
through my patients when the old gentleman
began to speak.
``I called, doctor,'' said he, ``to explain the
little matter about which I--about which I--''
``Troubled your spirits yesterday,'' added
the youth, jocosely, pulling his mustache.
``Beg pardon,'' I returned; ``had we not
better talk this over in private? Come into
my office,'' I added, touching the younger man
on the arm.
Would you believe it? he took out his
handkerchief and dusted the place I had touched.
``Better not,'' said he. ``Go on, father; let
us get done with this den.''
``Gentlemen,'' said the elder person, addressing
the patients, ``I called here yesterday, like
a fool, to ask who had stolen from me a sum
of money which I believed I left in my room
on going out in the morning. This doctor
here and his spirits contrived to make me
suspect my only son. Well, I charged him at
once with the crime as soon as I got back
home, and what do you think he did? He
said, `Father, let us go up-stairs and look for
it,' and--''
Here the young man broke in with: ``Come,
father; don't worry yourself for nothing'';
and then turning, added: ``To cut the thing
short, he found the notes under his candlestick,
where he left them on going to bed.
This is all of it. We came here to stop this
fellow'' (by which he meant me) ``from carrying
a slander further. I advise you, good
people, to profit by the matter, and to look up
a more honest doctor, if doctoring be what
you want.''
As soon as he had ended, I remarked
solemnly: ``The words of the spirits are not my
words. Who shall hold them accountable?''
``Nonsense,'' said the young man. ``Come,
father''; and they left the room.
Now was the time to retrieve my character.
``Gentlemen,'' said I, ``you have heard this
very singular account. Trusting the spirits
utterly and entirely as I do, it occurs to me
that there is no reason why they may not,
after all, have been right in their suspicions
of this young person. Who can say that,
overcome by remorse, he may not have seized
the time of his father's absence to replace the
To my amazement, up gets a little old man
from the corner. ``Well, you are a low cuss!''
said he, and taking up a basket beside him,
hobbled hastily out of the room. You may
be sure I said some pretty sharp things to him,
for I was out of humor to begin with, and it
is one thing to be insulted by a stout young
man, and quite another to be abused by a
wretched old cripple. However, he went away,
and I supposed, for my part, that I was done
with the whole business.
An hour later, however, I heard a rough
knock at my door, and opening it hastily, saw
my red-headed young man with the cripple.
``Now,'' said the former, taking me by the
collar, and pulling me into the room among
my patients, ``I want to know, my man, if
this doctor said that it was likely I was the
thief after all?''
``That's what he said,'' replied the cripple;
``just about that, sir.''
I do not desire to dwell on the after
conduct of this hot-headed young man. It was
the more disgraceful as I offered but little
resistance, and endured a beating such as I
would have hesitated to inflict upon a dog.
Nor was this all. He warned me that if I
dared to remain in the city after a week he
would shoot me. In the East I should have
thought but little of such a threat, but here
it was only too likely to be practically carried
out. Accordingly, with my usual decision of
character, but with much grief and reluctance,
I collected my whole fortune, which now
amounted to at least seven thousand dollars,
and turned my back upon this ungrateful
town. I am sorry to say that I also left
behind me the last of my good luck.
I traveled in a leisurely way until I reached
Boston. The country anywhere would have
been safer, but I do not lean to agricultural
pursuits. It seemed an agreeable city, and I
decided to remain.
I took good rooms at Parker's, and concluding
to enjoy life, amused myself in the company
of certain, I may say uncertain, young
women who danced at some of the theaters.
I played billiards, drank rather too much,
drove fast horses, and at the end of a delightful
year was shocked to find myself in debt,
and with only seven dollars and fifty-three
cents left--I like to be accurate. I had only
one resource: I determined to visit my deaf
aunt and Peninnah, and to see what I could
do in the role of the prodigal nephew. At
all events, I should gain time to think of what
new enterprise I could take up; but, above
all, I needed a little capital and a house over
my head. I had pawned nearly everything
of any value which I possessed.
I left my debts to gather interest, and went
away to Woodbury. It was the day before
Christmas when I reached the little Jersey
town, and it was also by good luck Sunday.
I was hungry and quite penniless. I wandered
about until church had begun, because
I was sure then to find Aunt Rachel and
Peninnah out at the service, and I desired to
explore a little. The house was closed, and
even the one servant absent. I got in with
ease at the back through the kitchen, and
having at least an hour and a half free from
interruption, I made a leisurely search. The
role of prodigal was well enough, but here
was a better chance and an indulgent opportunity.
In a few moments I found the famous Bible
hid away under Aunt Rachel's mattress. The
Bible bank was fat with notes, but I intended
to be moderate enough to escape suspicion.
Here were quite two thousand dollars. I
resolved to take, just now, only one hundred,
so as to keep a good balance. Then, alas! I
lit on a long envelop, my aunt's will. Every
cent was left to Christ Church; not a dime to
poor Pen or to me. I was in a rage. I tore
up the will and replaced the envelop. To
treat poor Pen that way--Pen of all people!
There was a heap more will than testament,
for all it was in the Bible. After that I
thought it was right to punish the old witch,
and so I took every note I could find. When
I was through with this business, I put back
the Bible under the mattress, and observing
that I had been quite too long, I went downstairs
with a keen desire to leave the town as
early as possible. I was tempted, however,
to look further, and was rewarded by finding
in an old clock case a small reticule stuffed
with bank-notes. This I appropriated, and
made haste to go out. I was too late. As I
went into the little entry to get my hat and
coat, Aunt Rachel entered, followed by Peninnah.
At sight of me my aunt cried out that I was
a monster and fit for the penitentiary. As
she could not hear at all, she had the talk to
herself, and went by me and up-stairs,
rumbling abuse like distant thunder overhead.
Meanwhile I was taken up with Pen. The
pretty fool was seated on a chair, all dressed
up in her Sunday finery, and rocking backward
and forward, crying, ``Oh, oh, ah!'' like
a lamb saying, ``Baa, baa, baa!'' She never
had much sense. I had to shake her to get a
reasonable word. She mopped her eyes, and
I heard her gasp out that my aunt had at last
decided that I was the person who had thinned
her hoards. This was bad, but involved less
inconvenience than it might have done an
hour earlier. Amid tears Pen told me that a
detective had been at the house inquiring for
me. When this happened it seems that the
poor little goose had tried to fool deaf Aunt
Rachel with some made-up story as to the man
having come about taxes. I suppose the girl
was not any too sharp, and the old woman, I
guess, read enough from merely seeing the
man's lips. You never could keep anything
from her, and she was both curious and
suspicious. She assured the officer that I was a
thief, and hoped I might be caught. I could
not learn whether the man told Pen any
particulars, but as I was slowly getting at the
facts we heard a loud scream and a heavy
Pen said, ``Oh, oh!'' and we hurried upstairs.
There was the old woman on the
floor, her face twitching to right, and her
breathing a sort of hoarse croak. The big
Bible lay open on the floor, and I knew what
had happened. It was a fit of apoplexy.
At this very unpleasant sight Pen seemed
to recover her wits, and said: ``Go away, go
away! Oh, brother, brother, now I know
you have stolen her money and killed her,
and--and I loved you, I was so proud of
you! Oh, oh!''
This was all very fine, but the advice was
good. I said: ``Yes, I had better go. Run
and get some one--a doctor. It is a fit of
hysterics; there is no danger. I will write
to you. You are quite mistaken.''
This was too feeble even for Pen, and she
``No, never; I never want to see you again.
You would kill me next.''
``Stuff!'' said I, and ran down-stairs. I
seized my coat and hat, and went to the
tavern, where I got a man to drive me to
Camden. I have never seen Pen since. As
I crossed the ferry to Philadelphia I saw that
I should have asked when the detective had
been after me. I suspected from Pen's terror
that it had been recently.
It was Sunday and, as I reminded myself,
the day before Christmas. The ground was
covered with snow, and as I walked up Market
street my feet were soon soaked. In my
haste I had left my overshoes. I was very
cold, and, as I now see, foolishly fearful. I
kept thinking of what a conspicuous thing a
fire-red head is, and of how many people
knew me. As I reached Woodbury early
and without a cent, I had eaten nothing all
day. I relied on Pen.
Now I concluded to go down into my old
neighborhood and get a lodging where no
references were asked. Next day I would
secure a disguise and get out of the way. I
had passed the day without food, as I have
just said, and having ample means, concluded
to go somewhere and get a good dinner. It
was now close to three in the afternoon. I
was aware of two things: that I was making
many plans, and giving them up as soon as
made; and that I was suddenly afraid without
cause, afraid to enter an eating-house,
and in fear of every man I met.
I went on, feeling more and more chilly.
When a man is really cold his mind does not
work well, and now it was blowing a keen
gale from the north. At Second and South
I came plump on a policeman I knew. He
looked at me through the drifting snow, as if
he was uncertain, and twice looked back after
having passed me. I turned west at Christian
street. When I looked behind me the
man was standing at the corner, staring after
me. At the next turn I hurried away northward
in a sort of anguish of terror. I have
said I was an uncommon person. I am. I
am sensitive, too. My mind is much above
the average, but unless I am warm and well
fed it does not act well, and I make mistakes.
At that time I was half frozen, in need of
food, and absurdly scared. Then that old fool
squirming on the floor got on to my nerves.
I went on and on, and at last into Second
street, until I came to Christ Church, of all
places for me. I heard the sound of the
organ in the afternoon service. I felt I must
go in and get warm. Here was another silly
notion: I was afraid of hotels, but not of the
church. I reasoned vaguely that it was a
dark day, and darker in the church, and so I
went in at the Church Alley entrance and sat
near the north door. No one noticed me. I
sat still in a high-backed pew, well hid, and
wondering what was the matter with me. It
was curious that a doctor, and a man of my
intelligence, should have been long in guessing
a thing so simple.
For two months I had been drinking hard,
and for two days had quit, being a man capable
of great self-control, and also being
short of money. Just before the benediction
I saw a man near by who seemed to stare at
me. In deadly fear I got up and quickly
slipped through a door into the tower room.
I said to myself, ``He will follow me or wait
outside.'' I stood a moment with my head
all of a whirl, and then in a shiver of fear
ran up the stairs to the tower until I got
into the bell-ringer's room. I was safe. I
sat down on a stool, twitching and tremulous.
There were the old books on bell-ringing, and
the miniature chime of small bells for
instruction. The wind had easy entrance, and
it swung the eight ropes about in a way I did
not like. I remember saying, ``Oh, don't do
that.'' At last I had a mad desire to ring
one of the bells. As a loop of rope swung
toward me it seemed to hold a face, and this
face cried out, ``Come and hang yourself;
then the bell will ring.''
If I slept I do not know. I may have done
so. Certainly I must have stayed there many
hours. I was dull and confused, and yet on
my guard, for when far into the night I
heard noises below, I ran up the steeper
steps which ascend to the steeple, where are
the bells. Half-way up I sat down on the
stair. The place was cold and the darkness
deep. Then I heard the eight ringers down
below. One said: ``Never knowed a Christmas
like this since Zeb Sanderaft died. Come,
boys!'' I knew it must be close on to midnight.
Now they would play a Christmas
carol. I used every Christmas to be roused
up and carried here and set on dad's shoulder.
When they were done ringing, Number Two
always gave me a box of sugar-plums and a
large red apple. As they rang off, my father
would cry out, ``One, two,'' and so on, and
then cry, ``Elias, all over town people are
opening windows to listen.'' I seemed to
hear him as I sat in the gloom. Then I
heard, ``All ready; one, two,'' and they rang
the Christmas carol. Overhead I heard the
great bells ringing out:
And all the bells on earth shall ring
On Christmas day, on Christmas day.
I felt suddenly excited, and began to hum
the air. Great heavens! There was the old
woman, Aunt Rachel, with her face going
twitch, twitch, the croak of her breathing
keeping a sort of mad time with ``On Christmas
day, on Christmas day.'' I jumped up.
She was gone. I knew in a hazy sort of way
what was the matter with me, but I had still
the sense to sit down and wait. I said now
it would be snakes, for once before I had
been almost as bad. But what I did see was
a little curly-headed boy in a white frock and
pantalets, climbing up the stairs right leg
first; so queer of me to have noticed that. I
knew I was that boy. He was an innocentlooking
little chap, and was smiling. He
seemed to me to grow and grow, and at last
was a big, red-headed man with a live rat in his
hand. I saw nothing more, but I surely
knew I needed whisky. I waited until all
was still, and got down and out, for I knew
every window. I soon found a tavern, and
got a drink and some food. At once my fear
left me. I was warm at last and clear of
head, and had again my natural courage. I
was well aware that I was on the edge of
delirium tremens and must be most prudent.
I paid in advance for my room and treated
myself as I had done many another. Only a
man of unusual force could have managed
his own case as I did. I went out only at
night, and in a week was well enough to
travel. During this time I saw now and
then that grinning little fellow. Sometimes
he had an apple and was eating it. I do not
know why he was worse to me than snakes,
or the twitchy old woman with her wide eyes
of glass, and that jerk, jerk, to right.
I decided to go back to Boston. I got to
New York prudently in a roundabout way,
and in two weeks' time was traveling east
from Albany.
I felt well, and my spirits began at last to
rise to their usual level. When I arrived in
Boston I set myself to thinking how best I
could contrive to enjoy life and at the same
time to increase my means. I possessed sufficient
capital, and was able and ready to embark
in whatever promised the best returns
with the smallest personal risks. I settled
myself in a suburb, paid off a few pressing
claims, and began to reflect with my ordinary
We were now in the midst of a most absurd
war with the South, and it was becoming
difficult to escape the net of conscription. It
might be wise to think of this in time.
Europe seemed a desirable residence, but I
needed more money to make this agreeable,
and an investment for my brains was what
I wanted most. Many schemes presented
themselves as worthy the application of
industry and talent, but none of them altogether
suited my case. I thought at times
of traveling as a physiological lecturer,
combining with it the business of a practitioner:
scare the audience at night with an enumeration
of symptoms which belong to ten out of
every dozen healthy people, and then doctor
such of them as are gulls enough to consult
me next day. The bigger the fright the
better the pay. I was a little timid, however,
about facing large audiences, as a man
will be naturally if he has lived a life of
adventure, so that upon due consideration I
gave up the idea altogether.
The patent medicine business also looked
well enough, but it is somewhat overdone at
all times, and requires a heavy outlay, with
the probable result of ill success. Indeed, I
believe one hundred quack remedies fail for
one that succeeds, and millions must have
been wasted in placards, bills, and advertisements,
which never returned half their value
to the speculator. I think I shall some day
beguile my time with writing an account of
the principal quack remedies which have met
with success. They are few in number, after
all, as any one must know who recalls the
countless pills and tonics which are puffed
awhile on the fences, and disappear, to be
heard of no more.
Lastly, I inclined for a while to undertake
a private insane asylum, which appeared to
me to offer facilities for money-making, as to
which, however, I may have been deceived by
the writings of certain popular novelists. I
went so far, I may say, as actually to visit
Concord for the purpose of finding a pleasant
locality and a suitable atmosphere. Upon
reflection I abandoned my plans, as
involving too much personal labor to suit one
of my easy frame of mind.
Tired at last of idleness and lounging on
the Common, I engaged in two or three little
ventures of a semi-professional character,
such as an exhibition of laughing-gas,
advertising to cure cancer,--``Send twenty-five
stamps by mail to J. B., and receive an
infallible receipt,''--etc. I did not find, however,
that these little enterprises prospered well in
New England, and I had recalled very forcibly
a story which my father was fond of
relating to me in my boyhood. It was about
how certain very knowing flies went to get
molasses, and how it ended by the molasses
getting them. This, indeed, was precisely
what happened to me in all my efforts to
better myself in the Northern States, until
at length my misfortunes climaxed in total
and unexpected ruin.
Having been very economical, I had now
about twenty-seven hundred dollars. It was
none too much. At this time I made the
acquaintance of a sea-captain from Maine.
He told me that he and two others had chartered
a smart little steamer to run to Jamaica
with a variety cargo. In fact, he meant to
run into Wilmington or Charleston, and he
was to carry quinine, chloroform, and other
medical requirements for the Confederates.
He needed twenty-five hundred dollars more,
and a doctor to buy the kind of things which
army surgeons require. Of course I was
prudent and he careful, but at last, on his
proving to me that there was no risk, I
agreed to expend his money, his friends',
and my own up to twenty-five hundred dollars.
I saw the other men, one of them a
rebel captain. I was well pleased with the
venture, and resolved for obvious reasons to
go with them on the steamer. It was a
promising investment, and I am free to
reflect that in this, as in some other things, I
have been free from vulgar prejudices. I
bought all that we needed, and was well
satisfied when it was cleverly stowed away in
the hold.
We were to sail on a certain Thursday
morning in September, 1863. I sent my
trunk to the vessel, and went down the evening
before we were to start to go on board,
but found that the little steamer had been
hauled out from the pier. The captain, who
met me at this time, endeavored to get a
boat to ferry us to the ship; but a gale was
blowing, and he advised me to wait until
morning. My associates were already on
board. Early next day I dressed and went
to the captain's room, which proved to be
empty. I was instantly filled with doubt,
and ran frantically to the Long Wharf,
where, to my horror, I could see no signs
of the vessel or captain. Neither have I
ever set eyes on them from that time to this.
I thought of lodging information with the
police as to the unpatriotic design of the
rascal who swindled me, but on the whole
concluded that it was best to hold my tongue.
It was, as I perceived, such utterly spilt
milk as to be little worth lamenting, and I
therefore set to work, with my accustomed
energy, to utilize on my own behalf the
resources of my medical education, which so
often before had saved me from want. The
war, then raging at its height, appeared to
offer numerous opportunities to men of talent.
The path which I chose was apparently a
humble one, but it enabled me to make very
practical use of my professional knowledge,
and afforded for a time rapid and secure
returns, without any other investment than a
little knowledge cautiously employed. In the
first place, I deposited my small remnant of
property in a safe bank. Then I went to
Providence, where, as I had heard, patriotic
persons were giving very large bounties in
order, I suppose, to insure the government
the services of better men than themselves.
On my arrival I lost no time in offering
myself as a substitute, and was readily accepted,
and very soon mustered into the Twentieth
Rhode Island. Three months were passed
in camp, during which period I received
bounty to the extent of six hundred and
fifty dollars, with which I tranquilly
deserted about two hours before the regiment
left for the field. With the product of my
industry I returned to Boston, and deposited
all but enough to carry me to New York,
where within a month I enlisted twice, earning
on each occasion four hundred dollars.
After this I thought it wise to try the same
game in some of the smaller towns near to
Philadelphia. I approached my birthplace
with a good deal of doubt; but I selected a
regiment in camp at Norristown, which is
eighteen miles away. Here I got nearly
seven hundred dollars by entering the service
as a substitute for an editor, whose pen,
I presume, was mightier than his sword. I
was, however, disagreeably surprised by being
hastily forwarded to the front under a foxy
young lieutenant, who brutally shot down a
poor devil in the streets of Baltimore for
attempting to desert. At this point I began
to make use of my medical skill, for I did
not in the least degree fancy being shot,
either because of deserting or of not deserting.
It happened, therefore, that a day or
two later, while in Washington, I was seized
in the street with a fit, which perfectly
imposed upon the officer in charge, and caused
him to leave me at the Douglas Hospital.
Here I found it necessary to perform fits
about twice a week, and as there were several
real epileptics in the ward, I had a
capital chance of studying their symptoms,
which, finally, I learned to imitate with the
utmost cleverness.
I soon got to know three or four men who,
like myself, were personally averse to bullets,
and who were simulating other forms of
disease with more or less success. One of
them suffered with rheumatism of the back,
and walked about like an old man; another,
who had been to the front, was palsied in the
right arm. A third kept open an ulcer on
the leg, rubbing in a little antimonial
ointment, which I bought at fifty cents, and sold
him at five dollars a box.
A change in the hospital staff brought all
of us to grief. The new surgeon was a quiet,
gentlemanly person, with pleasant blue eyes
and clearly cut features, and a way of looking
at you without saying much. I felt so
safe myself that I watched his procedures
with just that kind of enjoyment which one
clever man takes in seeing another at work.
The first inspection settled two of us.
``Another back case,'' said the assistant
surgeon to his senior.
``Back hurt you?'' says the latter, mildly.
``Yes, sir; run over by a howitzer; ain't
never been able to stand straight since.''
``A howitzer!'' says the surgeon. ``Lean
forward, my man, so as to touch the floor--
so. That will do.'' Then turning to his aid,
he said, ``Prepare this man's discharge
``His discharge, sir?''
``Yes; I said that. Who's next?''
``Thank you, sir,'' groaned the man with
the back. ``How soon, sir, do you think it
will be?''
``Ah, not less than a month,'' replied the
surgeon, and passed on.
Now, as it was unpleasant to be bent like
the letter C, and as the patient presumed that
his discharge was secure, he naturally allowed
himself a little relaxation in the way of
becoming straighter. Unluckily, those nice
blue eyes were everywhere at all hours, and
one fine morning Smithson was appalled at
finding himself in a detachment bound for
the field, and bearing on his descriptive list
an ill-natured indorsement about his malady.
The surgeon came next on O'Callahan,
standing, like each of us, at the foot of his
own bed.
``I've paralytics in my arm,'' he said, with
intention to explain his failure to salute his
``Humph!'' said the surgeon; ``you have
another hand.''
``An' it's not the rigulation to saloot with
yer left,'' said the Irishman, with a grin, while
the patients around us began to smile.
``How did it happen?'' said the surgeon.
``I was shot in the shoulder,'' answered the
patient, ``about three months ago, sir. I
haven't stirred it since.''
The surgeon looked at the scar.
``So recently?'' said he. ``The scar looks
older; and, by the way, doctor,''--to his
junior,--``it could not have gone near the
nerves. Bring the battery, orderly.''
In a few moments the surgeon was testing
one after another, the various muscles. At
last he stopped. ``Send this man away with
the next detachment. Not a word, my man.
You are a rascal, and a disgrace to honest
men who have been among bullets.''
The man muttered something, I did not
hear what.
``Put this man in the guard-house,'' cried
the surgeon, and so passed on without smile
or frown.
As to the ulcer case, to my amusement he
was put in bed, and his leg locked up in a
wooden splint, which effectually prevented
him from touching the part diseased. It
healed in ten days, and he too went as food
for powder.
The surgeon asked me a few questions, and
requesting to be sent for during my next fit,
left me alone.
I was, of course, on my guard, and took
care to have my attacks only during his
absence, or to have them over before he arrived.
At length, one morning, in spite of my care,
he chanced to enter the ward as I fell on the
floor. I was laid on the bed, apparently in
strong convulsions. Presently I felt a finger
on my eyelid, and as it was raised, saw the
surgeon standing beside me. To escape his
scrutiny I became more violent in my
motions. He stopped a moment and looked at
me steadily. ``Poor fellow!'' said he, to my
great relief, as I felt at once that I had
successfully deceived him. Then he turned to
the ward doctor and remarked: ``Take care
he does not hurt his head against the bed;
and, by the by, doctor, do you remember the
test we applied in Carstairs's case? Just tickle
the soles of his feet and see if it will cause
those backward spasms of the head.''
The aid obeyed him, and, very naturally,
I jerked my head backward as hard as I
``That will answer,'' said the surgeon, to
my horror. ``A clever rogue. Send him to
the guard-house.''
Happy had I been had my ill luck ended
here, but as I crossed the yard an officer
stopped me. To my disgust, it was the captain
of my old Rhode Island company.
``Hello!'' said he; ``keep that fellow safe.
I know him.''
To cut short a long story, I was tried,
convicted, and forced to refund the Rhode Island
bounty, for by ill luck they found my bankbook
among my papers. I was finally sent
to Fort Delaware and kept at hard labor,
handling and carrying shot, policing the
ground, picking up cigar-stumps, and other
light, unpleasant occupations.
When the war was over I was released. I
went at once to Boston, where I had about
four hundred dollars in bank. I spent nearly
all of this sum before I could satisfy the
accumulated cravings of a year and a half without
drink or tobacco, or a decent meal. I
was about to engage in a little business as a
vender of lottery policies when I first began
to feel a strange sense of lassitude, which
soon increased so as quite to disable me from
work of any kind. Month after month passed
away, while my money lessened, and this
terrible sense of weariness went on from
bad to worse. At last one day, after nearly
a year had elapsed, I perceived on my face a
large brown patch of color, in consequence
of which I went in some alarm to consult a
well-known physician. He asked me a multitude
of tiresome questions, and at last wrote
off a prescription, which I immediately read.
It was a preparation of arsenic.
``What do you think,'' said I, ``is the matter
with me, doctor?''
``I am afraid,'' said he, ``that you have a
very serious trouble--what we call Addison's
``What's that?'' said I.
``I do not think you would comprehend
it,'' he replied; ``it is an affection of the
suprarenal capsules.''
I dimly remembered that there were such
organs, and that nobody knew what they
were meant for. It seemed that doctors had
found a use for them at last.
``Is it a dangerous disease?'' I said.
``I fear so,'' he answered.
``Don't you really know,'' I asked, ``what's
the truth about it?''
``Well,'' he returned gravely, ``I'm sorry
to tell you it is a very dangerous malady.''
``Nonsense!'' said I; ``I don't believe it'';
for I thought it was only a doctor's trick, and
one I had tried often enough myself.
``Thank you,'' said he; ``you are a very ill
man, and a fool besides. Good morning.''
He forgot to ask for a fee, and I did not
therefore find it necessary to escape payment
by telling him I was a doctor.
Several weeks went by; my money was
gone, my clothes were ragged, and, like my
body, nearly worn out, and now I am an
inmate of a hospital. To-day I feel weaker
than when I first began to write. How it
will end, I do not know. If I die, the doctor
will get this pleasant history, and if I live, I
shall burn it, and as soon as I get a little
money I will set out to look for my sister.
I dreamed about her last night. What I
dreamed was not very agreeable. I thought
it was night. I was walking up one of the
vilest streets near my old office, and a girl
spoke to me--a shameless, worn creature,
with great sad eyes. Suddenly she screamed,
``Brother, brother!'' and then remembering
what she had been, with her round, girlish,
innocent face and fair hair, and seeing what
she was now, I awoke and saw the dim light
of the half-darkened ward.
I am better to-day. Writing all this stuff
has amused me and, I think, done me good.
That was a horrid dream I had. I suppose I
must tear up all this biography.
``Hello, nurse! The little boy--boy--''
``GOOD HEAVENS!'' said the nurse, ``he is
dead! Dr. Alston said it would happen this
way. The screen, quick--the screen--and
let the doctor know.''
The following notes of my own
case have been declined on various
pretests by every medical
journal to which I have offered
them. There was, perhaps,
some reason in this, because many of the
medical facts which they record are not
altogether new, and because the psychical
deductions to which they have led me are not
in themselves of medical interest. I ought
to add that a great deal of what is here
related is not of any scientific value
whatsoever; but as one or two people on whose
judgment I rely have advised me to print
my narrative with all the personal details,
rather than in the dry shape in which, as a
psychological statement, I shall publish it
elsewhere, I have yielded to their views. I
suspect, however, that the very character of
my record will, in the eyes of some of my
readers, tend to lessen the value of the
metaphysical discoveries which it sets forth.
I am the son of a physician, still in large
practice, in the village of Abington, Scofield
County, Indiana. Expecting to act as his
future partner, I studied medicine in his
office, and in 1859 and 1860 attended lectures
at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.
My second course should have been in
the following year, but the outbreak of the
Rebellion so crippled my father's means that
I was forced to abandon my intention. The
demand for army surgeons at this time
became very great; and although not a graduate,
I found no difficulty in getting the place
of assistant surgeon to the Tenth Indiana
Volunteers. In the subsequent Western
campaigns this organization suffered so
severely that before the term of its service
was over it was merged in the Twenty-first
Indiana Volunteers; and I, as an extra surgeon,
ranked by the medical officers of the latter
regiment, was transferred to the Fifteenth
Indiana Cavalry. Like many physicians, I
had contracted a strong taste for army life,
and, disliking cavalry service, sought and
obtained the position of first lieutenant in
the Seventy-ninth Indiana Volunteers, an
infantry regiment of excellent character.
On the day after I assumed command of
my company, which had no captain, we were
sent to garrison a part of a line of blockhouses
stretching along the Cumberland
River below Nashville, then occupied by a
portion of the command of General Rosecrans.
The life we led while on this duty was
tedious and at the same time dangerous in
the extreme. Food was scarce and bad, the
water horrible, and we had no cavalry to
forage for us. If, as infantry, we attempted
to levy supplies upon the scattered farms
around us, the population seemed suddenly
to double, and in the shape of guerrillas
``potted'' us industriously from behind
distant trees, rocks, or fences. Under these
various and unpleasant influences, combined
with a fair infusion of malaria, our men
rapidly lost health and spirits. Unfortunately,
no proper medical supplies had been forwarded
with our small force (two companies),
and, as the fall advanced, the want
of quinine and stimulants became a serious
annoyance. Moreover, our rations were
running low; we had been three weeks without
a new supply; and our commanding officer,
Major Henry L. Terrill, began to be uneasy as
to the safety of his men. About this time it was
supposed that a train with rations would be
due from the post twenty miles to the north
of us; yet it was quite possible that it would
bring us food, but no medicines, which were
what we most needed. The command was
too small to detach any part of it, and the
major therefore resolved to send an officer
alone to the post above us, where the rest of
the Seventy-ninth lay, and whence they could
easily forward quinine and stimulants by the
train, if it had not left, or, if it had, by a
small cavalry escort.
It so happened, to my cost, as it turned
out, that I was the only officer fit to make
the journey, and I was accordingly ordered
to proceed to Blockhouse No. 3 and make
the required arrangements. I started alone
just after dusk the next night, and during
the darkness succeeded in getting within
three miles of my destination. At this time
I found that I had lost my way, and, although
aware of the danger of my act, was forced to
turn aside and ask at a log cabin for
directions. The house contained a dried-up old
woman and four white-headed, half-naked
children. The woman was either stone-deaf
or pretended to be so; but, at all events, she
gave me no satisfaction, and I remounted
and rode away. On coming to the end of a
lane, into which I had turned to seek the
cabin, I found to my surprise that the bars
had been put up during my brief parley.
They were too high to leap, and I therefore
dismounted to pull them down. As I touched
the top rail, I heard a rifle, and at the same
instant felt a blow on both arms, which fell
helpless. I staggered to my horse and tried
to mount; but, as I could use neither arm,
the effort was vain, and I therefore stood still,
awaiting my fate. I am only conscious that
I saw about me several graybacks, for I must
have fallen fainting almost immediately.
When I awoke I was lying in the cabin
near by, upon a pile of rubbish. Ten or
twelve guerrillas were gathered about the fire,
apparently drawing lots for my watch, boots,
hat, etc. I now made an effort to find out
how far I was hurt. I discovered that I
could use the left forearm and hand pretty
well, and with this hand I felt the right limb
all over until I touched the wound. The ball
had passed from left to right through the left
biceps, and directly through the right arm
just below the shoulder, emerging behind.
The right arm and forearm were cold and
perfectly insensible. I pinched them as well
as I could, to test the amount of sensation
remaining; but the hand might as well have
been that of a dead man. I began to understand
that the nerves had been wounded, and
that the part was utterly powerless. By this
time my friends had pretty well divided the
spoils, and, rising together, went out. The
old woman then came to me, and said:
``Reckon you'd best git up. They-'uns is
a-goin' to take you away.'' To this I only
answered, ``Water, water.'' I had a grim
sense of amusement on finding that the old
woman was not deaf, for she went out, and
presently came back with a gourdful, which
I eagerly drank. An hour later the graybacks
returned, and finding that I was too
weak to walk, carried me out and laid me on
the bottom of a common cart, with which
they set off on a trot. The jolting was
horrible, but within an hour I began to have in
my dead right hand a strange burning, which
was rather a relief to me. It increased as the
sun rose and the day grew warm, until I felt
as if the hand was caught and pinched in a
red-hot vise. Then in my agony I begged
my guard for water to wet it with, but for
some reason they desired silence, and at every
noise threatened me with a revolver. At
length the pain became absolutely unendurable,
and I grew what it is the fashion to call
demoralized. I screamed, cried, and yelled
in my torture, until, as I suppose, my captors
became alarmed, and, stopping, gave me a
handkerchief,--my own, I fancy,--and a canteen
of water, with which I wetted the hand,
to my unspeakable relief.
It is unnecessary to detail the events by
which, finally, I found myself in one of the
rebel hospitals near Atlanta. Here, for the
first time, my wounds were properly cleansed
and dressed by a Dr. Oliver T. Wilson, who
treated me throughout with great kindness.
I told him I had been a doctor, which,
perhaps, may have been in part the cause of the
unusual tenderness with which I was managed.
The left arm was now quite easy,
although, as will be seen, it never entirely
healed. The right arm was worse than ever
--the humerus broken, the nerves wounded,
and the hand alive only to pain. I use this
phrase because it is connected in my mind
with a visit from a local visitor,--I am not
sure he was a preacher,--who used to go
daily through the wards, and talk to us or
write our letters. One morning he stopped
at my bed, when this little talk occurred:
``How are you, lieutenant?''
``Oh,'' said I, ``as usual. All right, but this
hand, which is dead except to pain.''
``Ah,'' said he, ``such and thus will the
wicked be--such will you be if you die in
your sins: you will go where only pain can
be felt. For all eternity, all of you will be
just like that hand--knowing pain only.''
I suppose I was very weak, but somehow I
felt a sudden and chilling horror of possible
universal pain, and suddenly fainted. When
I awoke the hand was worse, if that could be.
It was red, shining, aching, burning, and, as
it seemed to me, perpetually rasped with hot
files. When the doctor came I begged for
morphia. He said gravely: ``We have none.
You know you don't allow it to pass the
lines.'' It was sadly true.
I turned to the wall, and wetted the hand
again, my sole relief. In about an hour Dr.
Wilson came back with two aids, and
explained to me that the bone was so crushed
as to make it hopeless to save it, and that,
besides, amputation offered some chance of
arresting the pain. I had thought of this
before, but the anguish I felt--I cannot say
endured--was so awful that I made no more
of losing the limb than of parting with a
tooth on account of toothache. Accordingly,
brief preparations were made, which I
watched with a sort of eagerness such as
must forever be inexplicable to any one who
has not passed six weeks of torture like that
which I had suffered.
I had but one pang before the operation.
As I arranged myself on the left side, so as
to make it convenient for the operator to use
the knife, I asked: ``Who is to give me the
ether?'' ``We have none,'' said the person
questioned. I set my teeth, and said no
I need not describe the operation. The
pain felt was severe, but it was insignificant
as compared with that of any other minute of
the past six weeks. The limb was removed
very near to the shoulder-joint. As the second
incision was made, I felt a strange flash
of pain play through the limb, as if it were
in every minutest fibril of nerve. This was
followed by instant, unspeakable relief, and
before the flaps were brought together I was
sound asleep. I dimly remember saying, as
I pointed to the arm which lay on the floor:
``There is the pain, and here am I. How
queer!'' Then I slept--slept the sleep of
the just, or, better, of the painless. From
this time forward I was free from neuralgia.
At a subsequent period I saw a number of
cases similar to mine in a hospital in Philadelphia.
It is no part of my plan to detail my weary
months of monotonous prison life in the
South. In the early part of April, 1863, I
was exchanged, and after the usual thirty days'
furlough returned to my regiment a captain.
On the 19th of September, 1863, occurred
the battle of Chickamauga, in which my regiment
took a conspicuous part. The close of
our own share in this contest is, as it were,
burned into my memory with every least
detail. It was about 6 P. M., when we found
ourselves in line, under cover of a long, thin
row of scrubby trees, beyond which lay a
gentle slope, from which, again, rose a hill
rather more abrupt, and crowned with an
earthwork. We received orders to cross this
space and take the fort in front, while a
brigade on our right was to make a like
movement on its flank.
Just before we emerged into the open
ground, we noticed what, I think, was common
in many fights--that the enemy had
begun to bowl round shot at us, probably
from failure of shell. We passed across the
valley in good order, although the men fell
rapidly all along the line. As we climbed
the hill, our pace slackened, and the fire grew
heavier. At this moment a battery opened
on our left, the shots crossing our heads
obliquely. It is this moment which is so
printed on my recollection. I can see now,
as if through a window, the gray smoke, lit
with red flashes, the long, wavering line,
the sky blue above, the trodden furrows,
blotted with blue blouses. Then it was as if
the window closed, and I knew and saw no
more. No other scene in my life is thus
scarred, if I may say so, into my memory. I
have a fancy that the horrible shock which
suddenly fell upon me must have had something
to do with thus intensifying the
momentary image then before my eyes.
When I awakened, I was lying under a tree
somewhere at the rear. The ground was
covered with wounded, and the doctors were
busy at an operating-table, improvised from
two barrels and a plank. At length two of
them who were examining the wounded
about me came up to where I lay. A hospital
steward raised my head and poured
down some brandy and water, while another
cut loose my pantaloons. The doctors
exchanged looks and walked away. I asked
the steward where I was hit.
``Both thighs,'' said he; ``the doctors won't
do nothing.''
``No use?'' said I.
``Not much,'' said he.
``Not much means none at all,'' I answered.
When he had gone I set myself to thinking
about a good many things I had better have
thought of before, but which in no way concern
the history of my case. A half-hour
went by. I had no pain, and did not get
weaker. At last, I cannot explain why, I
began to look about me. At first things
appeared a little hazy. I remember one
thing which thrilled me a little, even then.
A tall, blond-bearded major walked up to
a doctor near me, saying, ``When you've a
little leisure, just take a look at my side.''
``Do it now,'' said the doctor.
The officer exposed his wound. ``Ball
went in here, and out there.''
The doctor looked up at him--half pity,
half amazement. ``If you've got any
message, you'd best send it by me.''
``Why, you don't say it's serious?'' was the
``Serious! Why, you're shot through the
stomach. You won't live over the day.''
Then the man did what struck me as a
very odd thing. He said, ``Anybody got a
pipe?'' Some one gave him a pipe. He filled
it deliberately, struck a light with a flint, and
sat down against a tree near to me. Presently
the doctor came to him again, and
asked him what he could do for him.
``Send me a drink of Bourbon.''
``Anything else?''
As the doctor left him, he called him back.
``It's a little rough, doc, isn't it?''
No more passed, and I saw this man no
longer. Another set of doctors were handling
my legs, for the first time causing pain.
A moment after a steward put a towel over
my mouth, and I smelled the familiar odor of
chloroform, which I was glad enough to
breathe. In a moment the trees began to
move around from left to right, faster and
faster; then a universal grayness came before
me,--and I recall nothing further until
I awoke to consciousness in a hospital-tent.
I got hold of my own identity in a moment
or two, and was suddenly aware of a sharp
cramp in my left leg. I tried to get at it to
rub it with my single arm, but, finding
myself too weak, hailed an attendant. ``Just
rub my left calf,'' said I, ``if you please.''
``Calf?'' said he. ``You ain't none. It's
took off.''
``I know better,'' said I. ``I have pain in
both legs.''
``Wall, I never!'' said he. ``You ain't
got nary leg.''
As I did not believe him, he threw off the
covers, and, to my horror, showed me that I
had suffered amputation of both thighs, very
high up.
``That will do,'' said I, faintly.
A month later, to the amazement of every
one, I was so well as to be moved from the
crowded hospital at Chattanooga to Nashville,
where I filled one of the ten thousand
beds of that vast metropolis of hospitals. Of
the sufferings which then began I shall
presently speak. It will be best just now to
detail the final misfortune which here fell upon
me. Hospital No. 2, in which I lay, was
inconveniently crowded with severely wounded
officers. After my third week an epidemic
of hospital gangrene broke out in my ward.
In three days it attacked twenty persons.
Then an inspector came, and we were transferred
at once to the open air, and placed in
tents. Strangely enough, the wound in my
remaining arm, which still suppurated, was
seized with gangrene. The usual remedy,
bromine, was used locally, but the main
artery opened, was tied, bled again and
again, and at last, as a final resort, the
remaining arm was amputated at the shoulderjoint.
Against all chances I recovered, to
find myself a useless torso, more like some
strange larval creature than anything of
human shape. Of my anguish and horror
of myself I dare not speak. I have dictated
these pages, not to shock my readers, but to
possess them with facts in regard to the
relation of the mind to the body; and I hasten,
therefore, to such portions of my case as best
illustrate these views.
In January, 1864, I was forwarded to
Philadelphia, in order to enter what was known
as the Stump Hospital, South street, then in
charge of Dr. Hopkinson. This favor was
obtained through the influence of my father's
friend, the late Governor Anderson, who has
always manifested an interest in my case, for
which I am deeply grateful. It was thought,
at the time, that Mr. Palmer, the leg-maker,
might be able to adapt some form of arm to
my left shoulder, as on that side there
remained five inches of the arm-bone, which I
could move to a moderate extent. The hope
proved illusory, as the stump was always too
tender to bear any pressure. The hospital
referred to was in charge of several surgeons
while I was an inmate, and was at all times
a clean and pleasant home. It was filled with
men who had lost one arm or leg, or one of
each, as happened now and then. I saw one
man who had lost both legs, and one who had
parted with both arms; but none, like myself,
stripped of every limb. There were collected
in this place hundreds of these cases, which
gave to it, with reason enough, the not very
pleasing title of Stump Hospital.
I spent here three and a half months,
before my transfer to the United States Army
Hospital for Injuries and Diseases of the
Nervous System. Every morning I was carried
out in an arm-chair and placed in the library,
where some one was always ready to write or
read for me, or to fill my pipe. The doctors
lent me medical books; the ladies brought me
luxuries and fed me; and, save that I was
helpless to a degree which was humiliating, I
was as comfortable as kindness could make me.
I amused myself at this time by noting in
my mind all that I could learn from other
limbless folk, and from myself, as to the
peculiar feelings which were noticed in regard
to lost members. I found that the great
mass of men who had undergone amputations
for many months felt the usual consciousness
that they still had the lost limb.
It itched or pained, or was cramped, but
never felt hot or cold. If they had painful
sensations referred to it, the conviction of its
existence continued unaltered for long periods;
but where no pain was felt in it, then
by degrees the sense of having that limb
faded away entirely. I think we may to
some extent explain this. The knowledge
we possess of any part is made up of the
numberless impressions from without which
affect its sensitive surfaces, and which are
transmitted through its nerves to the spinal
nerve-cells, and through them, again, to the
brain. We are thus kept endlessly informed
as to the existence of parts, because the
impressions which reach the brain are, by a law
of our being, referred by us to the part from
which they come. Now, when the part is cut
off, the nerve-trunks which led to it and from
it, remaining capable of being impressed by
irritations, are made to convey to the brain
from the stump impressions which are, as
usual, referred by the brain to the lost parts
to which these nerve-threads belonged. In
other words, the nerve is like a bell-wire.
You may pull it at any part of its course,
and thus ring the bell as well as if you pulled
at the end of the wire; but, in any case,
the intelligent servant will refer the pull to
the front door, and obey it accordingly. The
impressions made on the severed ends of the
nerve are due often to changes in the stump
during healing, and consequently cease when
it has healed, so that finally, in a very healthy
stump, no such impressions arise; the brain
ceases to correspond with the lost leg, and,
as les absents ont toujours tort, it is no longer
remembered or recognized. But in some
cases, such as mine proved at last to my sorrow,
the ends of the nerves undergo a curious
alteration, and get to be enlarged and
altered. This change, as I have seen in my
practice of medicine, sometimes passes up
the nerves toward the centers, and occasions
a more or less constant irritation of the nervefibers,
producing neuralgia, which is usually
referred by the brain to that part of the lost
limb to which the affected nerve belonged.
This pain keeps the brain ever mindful of
the missing part, and, imperfectly at least,
preserves to the man a consciousness of
possessing that which he has not.
Where the pains come and go, as they do
in certain cases, the subjective sensations
thus occasioned are very curious, since in
such cases the man loses and gains, and loses
and regains, the consciousness of the presence
of the lost parts, so that he will tell you,
``Now I feel my thumb, now I feel my
little finger.'' I should also add that nearly
every person who has lost an arm above the
elbow feels as though the lost member were
bent at the elbow, and at times is vividly
impressed with the notion that his fingers are
strongly flexed.
Other persons present a peculiarity which
I am at a loss to account for. Where the
leg, for instance, has been lost, they feel as
if the foot were present, but as though the leg
were shortened. Thus, if the thigh has been
taken off, there seems to them to be a foot at
the knee; if the arm, a hand seems to be at
the elbow, or attached to the stump itself.
Before leaving Nashville I had begun to
suffer the most acute pain in my left hand,
especially the little finger; and so perfect was
the idea which was thus kept up of the real
presence of these missing parts that I found
it hard at times to believe them absent. Often
at night I would try with one lost hand to
grope for the other. As, however, I had no
pain in the right arm, the sense of the
existence of that limb gradually disappeared, as
did that of my legs also.
Everything was done for my neuralgia
which the doctors could think of; and at
length, at my suggestion, I was removed, as
I have said, from the Stump Hospital to the
United States Army Hospital for Injuries
and Diseases of the Nervous System. It was
a pleasant, suburban, old-fashioned countryseat,
its gardens surrounded by a circle of
wooden, one-story wards, shaded by fine trees.
There were some three hundred cases of
epilepsy, paralysis, St. Vitus's dance, and wounds
of nerves. On one side of me lay a poor fellow,
a Dane, who had the same burning neuralgia
with which I once suffered, and which I now
learned was only too common. This man
had become hysterical from pain. He carried
a sponge in his pocket, and a bottle of
water in one hand, with which he constantly
wetted the burning hand. Every sound
increased his torture, and he even poured water
into his boots to keep himself from feeling
too sensibly the rough friction of his soles
when walking. Like him, I was greatly
eased by having small doses of morphia
injected under the skin of my shoulder with a
hollow needle fitted to a syringe.
As I improved under the morphia treatment,
I began to be disturbed by the horrible
variety of suffering about me. One man
walked sideways; there was one who could
not smell; another was dumb from an explosion.
In fact, every one had his own abnormal
peculiarity. Near me was a strange
case of palsy of the muscles called
rhomboids, whose office it is to hold down the
shoulder-blades flat on the back during the
motions of the arms, which, in themselves,
were strong enough. When, however, he
lifted these members, the shoulder-blades
stood out from the back like wings, and got
him the sobriquet of the ``Angel.'' In my
ward were also the cases of fits, which very
much annoyed me, as upon any great change
in the weather it was common to have a
dozen convulsions in view at once. Dr. Neek,
one of our physicians, told me that on one
occasion a hundred and fifty fits took place
within thirty-six hours. On my complaining
of these sights, whence I alone could not fly,
I was placed in the paralytic and wound
ward, which I found much more pleasant.
A month of skilful treatment eased me
entirely of my aches, and I then began to
experience certain curious feelings, upon
which, having nothing to do and nothing
to do anything with, I reflected a good deal.
It was a good while before I could correctly
explain to my own satisfaction the phenomena
which at this time I was called upon
to observe. By the various operations
already described I had lost about four fifths
of my weight. As a consequence of this I
ate much less than usual, and could scarcely
have consumed the ration of a soldier. I slept
also but little; for, as sleep is the repose of
the brain, made necessary by the waste of its
tissues during thought and voluntary movement,
and as this latter did not exist in my
case, I needed only that rest which was
necessary to repair such exhaustion of the nervecenters
as was induced by thinking and the
automatic movements of the viscera.
I observed at this time also that my heart,
in place of beating, as it once did, seventyeight
in the minute, pulsated only forty-five
times in this interval--a fact to be easily
explained by the perfect quiescence to which
I was reduced, and the consequent absence of
that healthy and constant stimulus to the
muscles of the heart which exercise occasions.
Notwithstanding these drawbacks, my
physical health was good, which, I confess,
surprised me, for this among other reasons:
It is said that a burn of two thirds of the
surface destroys life, because then all the
excretory matters which this portion of the
glands of the skin evolved are thrown upon
the blood, and poison the man, just as happens
in an animal whose skin the physiologist
has varnished, so as in this way to destroy
its function. Yet here was I, having lost at
least a third of my skin, and apparently none
the worse for it.
Still more remarkable, however, were the
psychical changes which I now began to perceive.
I found to my horror that at times I
was less conscious of myself, of my own
existence, than used to be the case. This
sensation was so novel that at first it quite
bewildered me. I felt like asking some one
constantly if I were really George Dedlow or
not; but, well aware how absurd I should
seem after such a question, I refrained from
speaking of my case, and strove more keenly
to analyze my feelings. At times the conviction
of my want of being myself was overwhelming
and most painful. It was, as well
as I can describe it, a deficiency in the egoistic
sentiment of individuality. About one half
of the sensitive surface of my skin was gone,
and thus much of relation to the outer world
destroyed. As a consequence, a large part
of the receptive central organs must be out
of employ, and, like other idle things,
degenerating rapidly. Moreover, all the great
central ganglia, which give rise to movements in
the limbs, were also eternally at rest. Thus
one half of me was absent or functionally
dead. This set me to thinking how much a
man might lose and yet live. If I were unhappy
enough to survive, I might part with
my spleen at least, as many a dog has done,
and grown fat afterwards. The other organs
with which we breathe and circulate the blood
would be essential; so also would the liver;
but at least half of the intestines might be
dispensed with, and of course all of the limbs.
And as to the nervous system, the only parts
really necessary to life are a few small ganglia.
Were the rest absent or inactive, we should
have a man reduced, as it were, to the lowest
terms, and leading an almost vegetative
existence. Would such a being, I asked myself,
possess the sense of individuality in its usual
completeness, even if his organs of sensation
remained, and he were capable of consciousness?
Of course, without them, he could
not have it any more than a dahlia or a tulip.
But with them--how then? I concluded that
it would be at a minimum, and that, if utter
loss of relation to the outer world were capable
of destroying a man's consciousness of
himself, the destruction of half of his sensitive
surfaces might well occasion, in a less
degree, a like result, and so diminish his
sense of individual existence.
I thus reached the conclusion that a man
is not his brain, or any one part of it, but all
of his economy, and that to lose any part
must lessen this sense of his own existence.
I found but one person who properly appreciated
this great truth. She was a New England
lady, from Hartford--an agent, I think,
for some commission, perhaps the Sanitary.
After I had told her my views and feelings
she said: ``Yes, I comprehend. The fractional
entities of vitality are embraced in the
oneness of the unitary Ego. Life,'' she added,
``is the garnered condensation of objective
impressions; and as the objective is the
remote father of the subjective, so must
individuality, which is but focused subjectivity,
suffer and fade when the sensation lenses, by
which the rays of impression are condensed,
become destroyed.'' I am not quite clear that
I fully understood her, but I think she
appreciated my ideas, and I felt grateful for
her kindly interest.
The strange want I have spoken of now
haunted and perplexed me so constantly that
I became moody and wretched. While in
this state, a man from a neighboring ward
fell one morning into conversation with the
chaplain, within ear-shot of my chair. Some
of their words arrested my attention, and I
turned my head to see and listen. The
speaker, who wore a sergeant's chevron and
carried one arm in a sling was a tall, loosely
made person, with a pale face, light eyes of
a washed-out blue tint, and very sparse yellow
whiskers. His mouth was weak, both
lips being almost alike, so that the organ
might have been turned upside down without
affecting its expression. His forehead,
however, was high and thinly covered with sandy
hair. I should have said, as a phrenologist,
will feeble; emotional, but not passionate;
likely to be an enthusiast or a weakly bigot.
I caught enough of what passed to make
me call to the sergeant when the chaplain
left him.
``Good morning,'' said he. ``How do you
get on?''
``Not at all,'' I replied. ``Where were you
``Oh, at Chancellorsville. I was shot in the
shoulder. I have what the doctors call paralysis
of the median nerve, but I guess Dr.
Neek and the lightnin' battery will fix it.
When my time's out I'll go back to Kearsarge
and try on the school-teaching again.
I've done my share.''
``Well,'' said I, ``you're better off than I.''
``Yes,'' he answered, ``in more ways than
one. I belong to the New Church. It's a
great comfort for a plain man like me, when
he's weary and sick, to be able to turn away
from earthly things and hold converse daily
with the great and good who have left this
here world. We have a circle in Coates
street. If it wa'n't for the consoling I get
there, I'd of wished myself dead many a time.
I ain't got kith or kin on earth; but this
matters little, when one can just talk to them
daily and know that they are in the spheres
above us.''
``It must be a great comfort,'' I replied,
``if only one could believe it.''
``Believe!'' he repeated. ``How can you
help it? Do you suppose anything dies?''
``No,'' I said. ``The soul does not, I am sure;
and as to matter, it merely changes form.''
``But why, then,'' said he, ``should not the
dead soul talk to the living? In space, no
doubt, exist all forms of matter, merely in
finer, more ethereal being. You can't suppose
a naked soul moving about without a
bodily garment--no creed teaches that; and
if its new clothing be of like substance to
ours, only of ethereal fineness,--a more delicate
recrystallization about the eternal spiritual
nucleus,--must it not then possess
powers as much more delicate and refined as
is the new material in which it is reclad?''
``Not very clear,'' I answered; ``but, after
all, the thing should be susceptible of some
form of proof to our present senses.''
``And so it is,'' said he. ``Come to-morrow
with me, and you shall see and hear for yourself.''
``I will,'' said I, ``if the doctor will lend
me the ambulance.''
It was so arranged, as the surgeon in
charge was kind enough, as usual, to oblige
me with the loan of his wagon, and two
orderlies to lift my useless trunk.
On the day following I found myself, with
my new comrade, in a house in Coates street,
where a ``circle'' was in the daily habit of
meeting. So soon as I had been comfortably
deposited in an arm-chair, beside a large pine
table, the rest of those assembled seated
themselves, and for some time preserved an
unbroken silence. During this pause I scrutinized
the persons present. Next to me, on
my right, sat a flabby man, with ill-marked,
baggy features and injected eyes. He was,
as I learned afterwards, an eclectic doctor,
who had tried his hand at medicine and several
of its quackish variations, finally settling
down on eclecticism, which I believe professes
to be to scientific medicine what vegetarianism
is to common-sense, every-day dietetics. Next
to him sat a female-authoress, I think, of
two somewhat feeble novels, and much pleasanter
to look at than her books. She was, I
thought, a good deal excited at the prospect
of spiritual revelations. Her neighbor was a
pallid, care-worn young woman, with very
red lips, and large brown eyes of great
beauty. She was, as I learned afterwards,
a magnetic patient of the doctor, and had
deserted her husband, a master mechanic, to
follow this new light. The others were, like
myself, strangers brought hither by mere
curiosity. One of them was a lady in deep
black, closely veiled. Beyond her, and
opposite to me, sat the sergeant, and next to
him the medium, a man named Brink. He
wore a good deal of jewelry, and had large
black side-whiskers--a shrewd-visaged, largenosed,
full-lipped man, formed by nature to
appreciate the pleasant things of sensual
Before I had ended my survey, he turned
to the lady in black, and asked if she wished
to see any one in the spirit-world.
She said, ``Yes,'' rather feebly.
``Is the spirit present?'' he asked. Upon
which two knocks were heard in affirmation.
``Ah!'' said the medium, ``the name is--it is
the name of a child. It is a male child. It
``Alfred!'' she cried. ``Great Heaven! My
child! My boy!''
On this the medium arose, and became
strangely convulsed. ``I see,'' he said--``I
see--a fair-haired boy. I see blue eyes--I
see above you, beyond you--'' at the same
time pointing fixedly over her head.
She turned with a wild start. ``Where--
``A blue-eyed boy,'' he continued, ``over
your head. He cries--he says, `Mama,
mama!' ''
The effect of this on the woman was
unpleasant. She stared about her for a moment,
and exclaiming, ``I come--I am coming,
Alfy!'' fell in hysterics on the floor.
Two or three persons raised her, and aided
her into an adjoining room; but the rest
remained at the table, as though well accustomed
to like scenes.
After this several of the strangers were
called upon to write the names of the dead
with whom they wished to communicate.
The names were spelled out by the agency
of affirmative knocks when the correct letters
were touched by the applicant, who was
furnished with an alphabet-card upon which
he tapped the letters in turn, the medium,
meanwhile, scanning his face very keenly.
With some, the names were readily made
out. With one, a stolid personage of
disbelieving type, every attempt failed, until at
last the spirits signified by knocks that he
was a disturbing agency, and that while he
remained all our efforts would fail. Upon
this some of the company proposed that he
should leave; of which invitation he took
advantage, with a skeptical sneer at the whole
As he left us, the sergeant leaned over and
whispered to the medium, who next addressed
himself to me. ``Sister Euphemia,'' he said,
indicating the lady with large eyes, ``will
act as your medium. I am unable to do
more. These things exhaust my nervous
``Sister Euphemia,'' said the doctor, ``will
aid us. Think, if you please, sir, of a spirit,
and she will endeavor to summon it to our
Upon this a wild idea came into my head.
I answered: ``I am thinking as you directed
me to do.''
The medium sat with her arms folded,
looking steadily at the center of the table.
For a few moments there was silence. Then
a series of irregular knocks began. ``Are
you present?'' said the medium.
The affirmative raps were twice given.
``I should think,'' said the doctor, ``that
there were two spirits present.''
His words sent a thrill through my heart.
``Are there two?'' he questioned.
A double rap.
``Yes, two,'' said the medium. ``Will it
please the spirits to make us conscious of
their names in this world?''
A single knock. ``No.''
``Will it please them to say how they are
called in the world of spirits?''
Again came the irregular raps--3, 4, 8, 6;
then a pause, and 3, 4, 8, 7.
``I think,'' said the authoress, ``they must
be numbers. Will the spirits,'' she said, ``be
good enough to aid us? Shall we use the
``Yes,'' was rapped very quickly.
``Are these numbers?''
``Yes,'' again.
``I will write them,'' she added, and, doing
so, took up the card and tapped the letters.
The spelling was pretty rapid, and ran
thus as she tapped, in turn, first the letters,
and last the numbers she had already set
Nos. 3486, 3487.''
The medium looked up with a puzzled expression.
``Good gracious!'' said I, ``they are MY LEGS
--MY LEGS!''
What followed, I ask no one to believe
except those who, like myself, have communed
with the things of another sphere.
Suddenly I felt a strange return of my selfconsciousness.
I was reindividualized, so to
speak. A strange wonder filled me, and, to
the amazement of every one, I arose, and,
staggering a little, walked across the room
on limbs invisible to them or me. It was no
wonder I staggered, for, as I briefly reflected,
my legs had been nine months in the strongest
alcohol. At this instant all my new friends
crowded around me in astonishment. Presently,
however, I felt myself sinking slowly.
My legs were going, and in a moment I was
resting feebly on my two stumps upon the
floor. It was too much. All that was left
of me fainted and rolled over senseless.
I have little to add. I am now at home in
the West, surrounded by every form of kindness
and every possible comfort; but alas!
I have so little surety of being myself that I
doubt my own honesty in drawing my pension,
and feel absolved from gratitude to
those who are kind to a being who is uncertain
of being enough himself to be conscientiously
responsible. It is needless to add
that I am not a happy fraction of a man,
and that I am eager for the day when I shall
rejoin the lost members of my corporeal
family in another and a happier world.

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