Story type: Essay
I remember an attorney, who practiced law out West years ago, who used to fill his pipe with brass paper fasteners, and try to light it with a ruling pen about twice a day. That was his usual average.
He would talk in unknown tongues, and was considered a thorough and revised encyclopedia on everything from the tariff on a meerschaum pipe to the latitude of Crazy Woman’s Fork west of Greenwich, and yet if he went to the postoffice he would probably mail his pocketbook and carefully bring his letter back to the office.
One day he got to thinking about the Monroe doctrine, or the sudden and horrible death of Judas Iscariot, and actually lost his office. He walked up and down for an hour, scouring the town for the evanescent office that had escaped his notice while he was sorrowing over the shocking death of Judas, or Noah’s struggles against malaria and a damp, late spring.
Martin Luther Brandt was the name of this eccentric jurist. He got up in the night once, and dressed himself, and taking a night train in that dreamy way of his, rode on to Denver, took the Rio Grande train in the morning and drifted away into old Mexico somewhere. He must have been in that same old half comatose state when he went away, for he made a most ludicrous error in getting his wife in the train. When he arrived in old Mexico he found that he had brought another man’s wife, and by some strange oversight had left his own at home with five children. It hardly seems possible that a man could be so completely enveloped in a brown study that he would err in the matter of a wife and five children, but such was the case with Martin Luther. Martin Luther couldn’t tell you his own name if you asked him suddenly, so as to give him a nervous shock.
This dreamy, absent-minded, wool-gathering disease is sometimes contagious. Pretty soon after Martin Luther struck Mexico the malignant form of brown study broke out among the greasers, and an alarming mania on the somnambulistic order seemed to follow it. A party of Mexican somnambuloes one night got together, and while the disease was at its height tied Martin Luther to the gable of a ‘dobe hen palace. His soul is probably at this moment floundering around through space, trying to find the evergreen shore.
An old hunter, who was a friend of mine, had this odd way of walking aimlessly around with his thoughts in some other world.
I used to tell him that some day he would regret it, but he only laughed and continued to do the same fool thing.
Last fall he saw a grizzly go into a cave in the upper waters of the Platte, and strolled in there to kill her. As he has not returned up to this moment, I am sure he has erroneously allowed himself to get mixed up as to the points of the compass, and has fallen a victim to this fatal brown study. Some think that the brown study had hair on it.