Story type: Humor
It is not often that I trouble the readers of The Atlantic Monthly. I should not trouble them now, but for the importunities of my wife, who “feels to insist” that a duty to society is unfulfilled, till I have told why I had to have a double, and how he undid me. She is sure, she says, that intelligent persons cannot understand that pressure upon public servants which alone drives any man into the employment of a double. And while I fear she thinks, at the bottom of her heart, that my fortunes will never be re-made, she has a faint hope, that, as another Rasselas, I may teach a lesson to future publics, from which they may profit, though we die. Owing to the behavior of my double, or, if you please, to that public pressure which compelled me to employ him, I have plenty of leisure to write this communication.
I am, or rather was, a minister, of the Sandemanian connection. I was settled in the active, wide-awake town of Naguadavick, on one of the finest water-powers in Maine. We used to call it a Western town in the heart of the civilization of New England. A charming place it was and is. A spirited, brave young parish had I; and it seemed as if we might have all “the joy of eventful living” to our hearts’ content.
Alas! how little we knew on the day of my ordination, and in those halcyon moments of our first housekeeping! To be the confidential friend in a hundred families in the town—cutting the social trifle, as my friend Haliburton says, “from the top of the whipped-syllabub to the bottom of the sponge-cake, which is the foundation”—to keep abreast of the thought of the age in one’s study, and to do one’s best on Sunday to interweave that thought with the active life of an active town, and to inspirit both and make both infinite by glimpses of the Eternal Glory, seemed such an exquisite forelook into one’s life! Enough to do, and all so real and so grand! If this vision could only have lasted.
The truth is, that this vision was not in itself a delusion, nor, indeed, half bright enough. If one could only have been left to do his own business, the vision would have accomplished itself and brought out new paraheliacal visions, each as bright as the original. The misery was and is, as we found out, I and Polly, before long, that, besides the vision, and besides the usual human and finite failures in life (such as breaking the old pitcher that came over in the Mayflower, and putting into the fire the alpenstock with which her father climbed Mont Blanc)—besides, these, I say (imitating the style of Robinson Crusoe), there were pitchforked in on us a great rowen-heap of humbugs, handed down from some unknown seed-time, in which we were expected, and I chiefly, to fulfil certain public functions before the community, of the character of those fulfilled by the third row of supernumeraries who stand behind the Sepoys in the spectacle of the Cataract of the Ganges. They were the duties, in a word, which one performs as member of one or another social class or subdivision, wholly distinct from what one does as A. by himself A. What invisible power put these functions on me, it would be very hard to tell. But such power there was and is. And I had not been at work a year before I found I was living two lives, one real and one merely functional—for two sets of people, one my parish, whom I loved, and the other a vague public, for whom I did not care two straws. All this was in a vague notion, which everybody had and has, that this second life would eventually bring out some great results, unknown at present, to somebody somewhere.
Crazed by this duality of life, I first read Dr. Wigan on the Duality of the Brain, hoping that I could train one side of my head to do these outside jobs, and the other to do my intimate and real duties. For Richard Greenough once told me that, in studying for the statue of Franklin, he found that the left side of the great man’s face was philosophic and reflective, and the right side funny and smiling. If you will go and look at the bronze statue, you will find he has repeated this observation there for posterity. The eastern profile is the portrait of the statesman Franklin, the western of Poor Richard. But Dr. Wigan does not go into these niceties of this subject, and I failed. It was then that, on my wife’s suggestion, I resolved to look out for a Double.
I was, at first, singularly successful. We happened to be recreating at Stafford Springs that summer. We rode out one day, for one of the relaxations of that watering-place, to the great Monsonpon House. We were passing through one of the large halls, when my destiny was fulfilled! I saw my man!
He was not shaven. He had on no spectacles. He was dressed in a green baize roundabout and faded blue overalls, worn sadly at the knee. But I saw at once that he was of my height, five feet four and a half. He had black hair, worn off by his hat. So have and have not I. He stooped in walking. So do I. His hands were large, and mine. And—choicest gift of Fate in all—he had, not “a strawberry-mark on his left arm,” but a cut from a juvenile brickbat over his right eye, slightly affecting the play of that eyebrow. Reader, so have I!—My fate was sealed!
A word with Mr. Holley, one of the inspectors, settled the whole thing. It proved that this Dennis Shea was a harmless, amiable fellow, of the class known as shiftless, who had sealed his fate by marrying a dumb wife, who was at that moment ironing in the laundry. Before I left Stafford, I had hired both for five years. We had applied to Judge Pynchon, then the probate judge at Springfield, to change the name of Dennis Shea to Frederic Ingham. We had explained to the Judge, what was the precise truth, that an eccentric gentleman wished to adopt Dennis under this new name into his family. It never occurred to him that Dennis might be more than fourteen years old. And thus, to shorten this preface, when we returned at night to my parsonage at Naguadavick, there entered Mrs. Ingham, her new dumb laundress, myself, who am Mr. Frederic Ingham, and my double, who was Mr. Frederic Ingham by as good right as I.
Oh, the fun we had the next morning in shaving his beard to my pattern, cutting his hair to match mine, and teaching him how to wear and how to take off gold-bowed spectacles! Really, they were electroplate, and the glass was plain (for the poor fellow’s eyes were excellent). Then in four successive afternoons I taught him four speeches. I had found these would be quite enough for the supernumerary-Sepoy line of life, and it was well for me they were. For though he was good-natured, he was very shiftless, and it was, as our national proverb says, “like pulling teeth” to teach him. But at the end of the next week he could say, with quite my easy and frisky air:
1. “Very well, thank you. And you?” This for an answer to casual salutations.
2. “I am very glad you liked it.”
3. “There has been so much said, and, on the whole, so well said, that I will not occupy the time.”
4. “I agree, in general, with my friend on the other side of the room.”
At first I had a feeling that I was going to be at great cost for clothing him. But it proved, of course, at once, that, whenever he was out, I should be at home. And I went, during the bright period of his success, to so few of those awful pageants which require a black dress-coat and what the ungodly call, after Mr. Dickens, a white choker, that in the happy retreat of my own dressing-gowns and jackets my days went by as happily and cheaply as those of another Thalaba. And Polly declares there was never a year when the tailoring cost so little. He lived (Dennis, not Thalaba) in his wife’s room over the kitchen. He had orders never to show himself at that window. When he appeared in the front of the house, I retired to my sanctissimum and my dressing-gown. In short, the Dutchman and, his wife, in the old weather-box, had not less to do with, each other than he and I. He made the furnace-fire and split the wood before daylight; then he went to sleep again, and slept late; then came for orders, with a red silk bandanna tied round his head, with his overalls on, and his dress-coat and spectacles off. If we happened to be interrupted, no one guessed that he was Frederic Ingham as well as I; and, in the neighborhood, there grew up an impression that the minister’s Irishman worked day-times in the factory village at New Coventry. After I had given him his orders, I never saw him till the next day.
I launched him by sending him to a meeting of the Enlightenment Board. The Enlightenment Board consists of seventy-four members, of whom sixty-seven are necessary to form a quorum. One becomes a member under the regulations laid down in old Judge Dudley’s will. I became one by being ordained pastor of a church in Naguadavick. You see you cannot help yourself, if you would. At this particular time we had had four successive meetings, averaging four hours each—wholly occupied in whipping in a quorum. At the first only eleven men were present; at the next, by force of three circulars, twenty-seven; at the third, thanks to two days’ canvassing by Auchmuty and myself, begging men to come, we had sixty. Half the others were in Europe. But without a quorum we could do nothing. All the rest of us waited grimly for our four hours, and adjourned without any action. At the fourth meeting we had flagged, and only got fifty-nine together. But on the first appearance of my double—whom I sent on this fatal Monday to the fifth meeting—he was the sixty-seventh man who entered the room. He was greeted with a storm of applause! The poor fellow had missed his way—read the street signs ill through his spectacles (very ill, in fact, without them)—and had not dared to inquire. He entered the room—finding the president and secretary holding to their chairs two judges of the Supreme Court, who were also members ex officio, and were begging leave to go away. On his entrance all was changed. Presto, the by-laws were amended, and the Western property was given away. Nobody stopped to converse with him. He voted, as I had charged him to do, in every instance, with the minority. I won new laurels as a man of sense, though a little unpunctual—and Dennis, alias Ingham, returned to the parsonage, astonished to see with how little wisdom the world is governed. He cut a few of my parishioners in the street; but he had his glasses off, and I am known to be nearsighted. Eventually he recognized them more readily than I.
I “set him again” at the exhibition of the New Coventry Academy; and here he undertook a “speaking part”—as, in my boyish, worldly days, I remember the bills used to say of Mlle. Celeste. We are all trustees of the New Coventry Academy; and there has lately been “a good deal of feeling” because the Sandemanian trustees did not regularly attend the exhibitions. It has been intimated, indeed, that the Sandemanians are leaning towards Free-Will, and that we have, therefore, neglected these semi-annual exhibitions, while there is no doubt that Auchmuty last year went to Commencement at Waterville. Now the head master at New Coventry is a real good fellow, who knows a Sanskrit root when he sees it, and often cracks etymologies with me—so that, in strictness, I ought to go to their exhibitions. But think, reader, of sitting through three long July days in that Academy chapel, following the program from
Tuesday Morning. English Composition. Sunshine. Miss Jones,
Trio on Three Pianos. Duel from opera of Midshipman Easy. Marryatt.
coming in at nine, Thursday evening! Think of this, reader, for men who know the world is trying to go backward, and who would give their lives if they could help it on! Well! The double had succeeded so well at the Board, that I sent him to the Academy. (Shade of Plato, pardon!) He arrived early on Tuesday, when, indeed, few but mothers and clergymen are generally expected, and returned in the evening to us, covered with honors. He had dined at the right hand of the chairman, and he spoke in high terms of the repast. The chairman had expressed his interest in the French conversation. “I am very glad you liked it,” said Dennis; and the poor chairman, abashed, supposed the accent had been wrong. At the end of the day, the gentlemen present had been called upon for speeches—the Rev. Frederic Ingham first, as it happened; upon which Dennis had risen, and had said, “There has been so much said, and, on the whole, so well said, that I will not occupy the time.” The girls were delighted, because Dr. Dabney, the year before, had given them at this occasion a scolding on impropriety of behavior at lyceum lectures. They all declared Mr. Ingham was a love—and so handsome! (Dennis is good-looking.) Three of them, with arms behind the others’ waists, followed him up to the wagon he rode home in; and a little girl with a blue sash had been sent to give him a rosebud. After this debut in speaking, he went to the exhibition for two days more, to the mutual satisfaction of all concerned. Indeed, Polly reported that he had pronounced the trustees’ dinners of a higher grade than those of the parsonage. When the next term began, I found six of the Academy girls had obtained permission to come across the river and attend our church. But this arrangement did not long continue.
After this he went to several Commencements for me, and ate the dinners provided; he sat through three of our Quarterly Conventions for me—always voting judiciously, by the simple rule mentioned above, of siding with the minority. And I, meanwhile, who had before been losing caste among my friends, as holding myself aloof from the associations of the body, began to rise in everybody’s favor. “Ingham’s a good fellow—always on hand”; “never talks much—but does the right thing at the right time”; “is not as unpunctual as he used to be—he comes early, and sits through to the end.” “He has got over his old talkative habit, too. I spoke to a friend of his about it once; and I think Ingham took it kindly,” etc., etc.
This voting power of Dennis was particularly valuable at the quarterly meetings of the Proprietors of the Naguadavick Ferry. My wife inherited from her father some shares in that enterprise, which is not yet fully developed, though it doubtless will become a very valuable property. The law of Maine then forbade stockholders to appear by proxy at such meetings. Polly disliked to go, not being, in fact, a “hens’-rights hen,” and transferred her stock to me. I, after going once, disliked it more than she. But Dennis went to the next meeting, and liked it very much. He said the armchairs were good, the collation good, and the free rides to stockholders pleasant. He was a little frightened when they first took him upon one of the ferry-boats, but after two or three quarterly meetings he became quite brave.
Thus far I never had any difficulty with him. Indeed, being of that type which is called shiftless, he was only too happy to be told daily what to do, and to be charged not to be forthputting or in any way original in his discharge of that duty. He learned, however, to discriminate between the lines of his life, and very much preferred these stockholders’ meetings and trustees’ dinners and commencement collations to another set of occasions, from which he used to beg off most piteously. Our excellent brother, Dr. Fillmore, had taken a notion at this time that our Sandemanian churches needed more expression of mutual sympathy. He insisted upon it that we were remiss. He said, that, if the Bishop came to preach at Naguadavick, all the Episcopal clergy of the neighborhood were present; if Dr. Pond came, all the Congregational clergymen turned out to hear him; if Dr. Nichols, all the Unitarians; and he thought we owed it to each other that, whenever there was an occasional service at a Sandemanian church, the other brethren should all, if possible, attend. “It looked well,” if nothing more. Now this really meant that I had not been to hear one of Dr. Fillmore’s lectures on the Ethnology of Religion. He forgot that he did not hear one of my course on the Sandemanianism of Anselm. But I felt badly when he said it; and afterwards I always made Dennis go to hear all the brethren preach, when I was not preaching myself. This was what he took exceptions to—the only thing, as I said, which he ever did except to. Now came the advantage of his long morning-nap, and of the green tea with which Polly supplied the kitchen. But he would plead, so humbly, to be let off, only from one or two! I never excepted him, however. I knew the lectures were of value, and I thought it best he should be able to keep the connection.
Polly is more rash than I am, as the reader has observed in the outset of this memoir. She risked Dennis one night under the eyes of her own sex. Governor Gorges had always been very kind to us; and when he gave his great annual party to the town, asked us. I confess I hated to go. I was deep in the new volume of Pfeiffer’s Mystics, which Haliburton had just sent me from Boston. “But how rude,” said Polly, “not to return the Governor’s civility and Mrs. Gorges’s, when they will be sure to ask why you are away!” Still I demurred, and at last she, with the wit of Eve and of Semiramis conjoined, let me off by saying that, if I would go in with her, and sustain the initial conversations with the Governor and the ladies staying there, she would risk Dennis for the rest of the evening. And that was just what we did. She took Dennis in training all that afternoon, instructed him in fashionable conversation, cautioned him against the temptations of the supper-table—and at nine in the evening he drove us all down in the carryall. I made the grand star-entrée with Polly and the pretty Walton girls, who were staying with us. We had put Dennis into a great rough top-coat, without his glasses—and the girls never dreamed, in the darkness, of looking at him. He sat in the carriage, at the door, while we entered. I did the agreeable to Mrs. Gorges, was introduced to her niece. Miss Fernanda—I complimented Judge Jeffries on his decision in the great case of D’Aulnay vs. Laconia Mining Co.—I stepped into the dressing-room for a moment—stepped out for another—walked home, after a nod with Dennis, and tying the horse to a pump—and while I walked home, Mr. Frederic Ingham, my double, stepped in through the library into the Gorges’s grand saloon.
Oh! Polly died of laughing as she told me of it at midnight! And even here, where I have to teach my hands to hew the beech for stakes to fence our cave, she dies of laughing as she recalls it—and says that single occasion was worth all we have paid for it. Gallant Eve that she is! She joined Dennis at the library door, and in an instant presented him to Dr. Ochterlong, from Baltimore, who was on a visit in town, and was talking with her, as Dennis came in. “Mr. Ingham would like to hear what you were telling us about your success among the German population.” And Dennis bowed and said, in spite of a scowl from Polly, “I’m very glad you liked it.” But Dr. Ochterlong did not observe, and plunged into the tide of explanation, Dennis listening like a prime-minister, and bowing like a mandarin—which is, I suppose, the same thing. Polly declared it was just like Haliburton’s Latin conversation with the Hungarian minister, of which he is very fond of telling. “Quoene sit historia Reformationis in Ungariâ?” quoth Haliburton, after some thought. And his confrère replied gallantly, “In seculo decimo tertio,” etc., etc., etc.; and from decimo tertio [Which means, “In the thirteenth century,” my dear little bell-and-coral reader. You have rightly guessed that the question means, “What is the history of the Reformation in Hungary?”] to the nineteenth century and a half lasted till the oysters came. So was it that before Dr. Ochterlong came to the “success,” or near it, Governor Gorges came to Dennis and asked him to hand Mrs. Jeffries down to supper, a request which he heard with great joy.
Polly was skipping round the room, I guess, gay as a lark. Auchmuty came to her “in pity for poor Ingham,” who was so bored by the stupid pundit—and Auchmuty could not understand why I stood it so long. But when Dennis took Mrs. Jeffries down, Polly could not resist standing near them. He was a little flustered, till the sight of the eatables and drinkables gave him the same Mercian courage which it gave Diggory. A little excited then, he attempted one or two of his speeches to the Judge’s lady. But little he knew how hard it was to get in even a promptu there edgewise. “Very well, I thank you,” said he, after the eating elements were adjusted; “and you?” And then did not he have to hear about the mumps, and the measles, and arnica, and belladonna, and chamomile-flower, and dodecathem, till she changed oysters for salad—and then about the old practice and the new, and what her sister said, and what her sister’s friend said, and what the physician to her sister’s friend said, and then what was said by the brother of the sister of the physician of the friend of her sister, exactly as if it had been in Ollendorff? There was a moment’s pause, as she declined champagne. “I am very glad you liked it,” said Dennis again, which he never should have said, but to one who complimented a sermon. “Oh! you are so sharp, Mr. Ingham! No! I never drink any wine at all—except sometimes in summer a little currant spirits—from our own currants, you know. My own mother—that is, I call her my own mother, because, you know, I do not remember,” etc., etc., etc.; till they came to the candied orange at the end of the feast—when Dennis, rather confused, thought he must say something, and tried No. 4—”I agree, in general, with my friend the other side of the room”—which he never should have said but at a public meeting. But Mrs. Jeffries, who never listens expecting to understand, caught him up instantly with, “Well, I’m sure my husband returns the compliment; he always agrees with you—though we do worship with the Methodists—but you know, Mr. Ingham,” etc., etc., etc., till the move was made upstairs; and as Dennis led her through the hall, he was scarcely understood by any but Polly, as he said, “There has been so much said, and, on the whole, so well said, that I will not occupy the time.”
His great resource the rest of the evening was standing in the library, carrying on animated conversations with one and another in much the same way. Polly had initiated him in the mysteries of a discovery of mine, that it is not necessary to finish your sentence in a crowd, but by a sort of mumble, omitting sibilants and dentals. This, indeed, if your words fail you, answers even in public extempore speech—but better where other talking is going on. Thus: “We missed you at the Natural History Society, Ingham.” Ingham replies: “I am very gligloglum, that is, that you were m-m-m-m-m.” By gradually dropping the voice, the interlocutor is compelled to supply the answer. “Mrs. Ingham, I hope your friend Augusta is better.” Augusta has not been ill. Polly cannot think of explaining, however, and answers: “Thank you, ma’am; she is very rearason wewahwewob,” in lower and lower tones. And Mrs. Throckmorton, who forgot the subject of which she spoke, as soon as she asked the question, is quite satisfied. Dennis could see into the card-room, and came to Polly to ask if he might not go and play all-fours. But, of course, she sternly refused. At midnight they came home delightedly: Polly, as I said, wild to tell me the story of victory; only both the pretty Walton girls said: “Cousin Frederic, you did not come near me all the evening.”
We always called him Dennis at home, for convenience, though his real name was Frederic Ingham, as I have explained. When the election day came round, however, I found that by some accident there was only one Frederic Ingham’s name on the voting-list; and, as I was quite busy that day in writing some foreign letters to Halle, I thought I would forego my privilege of suffrage, and stay quietly at home, telling Dennis that he might use the record on the voting-list and vote. I gave him a ticket, which I told him he might use, if he liked to. That was that very sharp election in Maine which the readers of The Atlantic so well remember, and it had been intimated in public that the ministers would do well not to appear at the polls. Of course, after that, we had to appear by self or proxy. Still, Naguadavick was not then a city, and this standing in a double queue at townmeeting several hours to vote was a bore of the first water; and so, when I found that there was but one Frederic Ingham on the list, and that one of us must give up, I stayed at home and finished the letters (which, indeed, procured for Fothergill his coveted appointment of Professor of Astronomy at Leavenworth), and I gave Dennis, as we called him, the chance. Something in the matter gave a good deal of popularity to the Frederic Ingham name; and at the adjourned election, next week, Frederic Ingham was chosen to the legislature. Whether this was I or Dennis, I never really knew. My friends seemed to think it was I; but I felt, that, as Dennis had done the popular thing, he was entitled to the honor; so I sent him to Augusta when the time came, and he took the oaths. And a very valuable member he made. They appointed him on the Committee on Parishes; but I wrote a letter for him, resigning, on the ground that he took an interest in our claim to the stumpage in the minister’s sixteenths of Gore A, next No. 7, in the 10th Range. He never made any speeches, and always voted with the minority, which was what he was sent to do. He made me and himself a great many good friends, some of whom I did not afterwards recognize as quickly as Dennis did my parishioners. On one or two occasions, when there was wood to saw at home, I kept him at home; but I took those occasions to go to Augusta myself. Finding myself often in his vacant seat at these times, I watched the proceedings with a good deal of care; and once was so much excited that I delivered my somewhat celebrated speech on the Central School District question, a speech of which the State of Maine printed some extra copies. I believe there is no formal rule permitting strangers to speak; but no one objected.
Dennis himself, as I said, never spoke at all. But our experience this session led me to think, that if, by some such “general understanding” as the reports speak of in legislation daily, every member of Congress might leave a double to sit through those deadly sessions and answer to roll-calls and do the legitimate party-voting, which appears stereotyped in the regular list of Ashe, Bocock, Black, etc., we should gain decidedly in working power. As things stand, the saddest state prison I ever visit is that Representatives’ Chamber in Washington. If a man leaves for an hour, twenty “correspondents” may be howling, “Where was Mr. Prendergast when the Oregon bill passed?” And if poor Prendergast stays there! Certainly, the worst use you can make of a man is to put him in prison!
I know, indeed, that public men of the highest rank have resorted to this expedient long ago. Dumas’s novel of The Iron Mask turns on the brutal imprisonment of Louis the Fourteenth’s double. There seems little doubt, in our own history, that it was the real General Pierce who shed tears when the delegate from Lawrence explained to him the sufferings of the people there—and only General Pierce’s double who had given the orders for the assault on that town, which was invaded the next day. My charming friend, George Withers, has, I am almost sure, a double, who preaches his afternoon sermons for him. This is the reason that the theology often varies so from that of the forenoon. But that double is almost as charming as the original. Some of the most well-defined men, who stand out most prominently on the background of history, are in this way stereoscopic men; who owe their distinct relief to the slight differences between the doubles. All this I know. My present suggestion is simply the great extension of the system, so that all public machine-work may be done by it.
But I see I loiter on my story, which is rushing to the plunge. Let me stop an instant more, however, to recall, were it only to myself, that charming year while all was yet well. After the double had become a matter of course, for nearly twelve months before he undid me, what a year it was! Full of active life, full of happy love, of the hardest work, of the sweetest sleep, and the fulfilment of so many of the fresh aspirations and dreams of boyhood! Dennis went to every school-committee meeting, and sat through all those late wranglings which used to keep me up till midnight and awake till morning. He attended all the lectures to which foreign exiles sent me tickets begging me to come for the love of Heaven and of Bohemia. He accepted and used all the tickets for charity concerts which were sent to me. He appeared everywhere where it was specially desirable that “our denomination,” or “our party,” or “our class,” or “our family,” or “our street,” or “our town,” or “our country,” or “our state,” should be fully represented. And I fell back to that charming life which in boyhood one dreams of, when he supposes he shall do his own duty and make his own sacrifices, without being tied up with those of other people. My rusty Sanskrit, Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, Italian, Spanish, German and English began to take polish. Heavens! how little I had done with them while I attended to my public duties! My calls on my parishioners became the friendly, frequent, homelike sociabilities they were meant to be, instead of the hard work of a man goaded to desperation by the sight of his lists of arrears. And preaching! what a luxury preaching was when I had on Sunday the whole result of an individual, personal week, from which to speak to a people whom all that week I had been meeting as hand-to-hand friend! I never tired on Sunday, and was in condition to leave the sermon at home, if I chose, and preach it extempore, as all men should do always. Indeed, I wonder, when I think that a sensible people like ours—really more attached to their clergy than they were in the lost days, when the Mathers and Nortons were noblemen—should choose to neutralize so much of their ministers’ lives, and destroy so much of their early training, by this undefined passion for seeing them in public. It springs from our balancing of sects. If a spirited Episcopalian takes an interest in the almshouse, and is put on the Poor Board, every other denomination must have a minister there, lest the poorhouse be changed into St. Paul’s Cathedral. If a Sandemanian is chosen president of the Young Men’s Library, there must be a Methodist vice-president and a Baptist secretary. And if a Universalist Sunday-School Convention collects five hundred delegates, the next Congregationalist Sabbath-School Conference must be as large, “lest ‘they’—whoever they may be—should think ‘we’—whoever we may be—are going down.”
Freed from these necessities, that happy year, I began to know my wife by sight. We saw each other sometimes. In those long mornings, when Dennis was in the study explaining to map-peddlers that I had eleven maps of Jerusalem already, and to school-book agents that I would see them hanged before I would be bribed to introduce their textbooks into the schools—she and I were at work together, as in those old dreamy days—and in these of our log-cabin again. But all this could not last—and at length poor Dennis, my double, overtasked in turn, undid me.
It was thus it happened. There is an excellent fellow—once a minister—I will call him Isaacs—who deserves well of the world till he dies, and after—because he once, in a real exigency, did the right thing, in the right way, at the right time, as no other man could do it. In the world’s great football match, the ball by chance found him loitering on the outside of the field; he closed with it, “camped” it, charged, it home—yes, right through the other side—not disturbed, not frightened by his own success—and breathless found himself a great man—as the Great Delta rang applause. But he did not find himself a rich man; and the football has never come in his way again. From that moment to this moment he has been of no use, that one can see, at all. Still, for that great act we speak of Isaacs gratefully and remember him kindly; and he forges on, hoping to meet the football somewhere again. In that vague hope, he had arranged a “movement” for a general organization of the human family into Debating Clubs, County Societies, State Unions, etc., etc., with a view of inducing all children to take hold of the handles of their knives and forks, instead of the metal. Children have bad habits in that way. The movement, of course, was absurd; but we all did our best to forward, not it, but him. It came time for the annual county-meeting on this subject to be held at Naguadavick. Isaacs came round, good fellow! to arrange for it—got the townhall, got the Governor to preside (the saint!—he ought to have triplet doubles provided him by law), and then came to get me to speak. “No,” I said, “I would not speak, if ten Governors presided. I do not believe in the enterprise. If I spoke, it should be to say children should take hold of the prongs of the forks and the blades of the knives. I would subscribe ten dollars, but I would not speak a mill.” So poor Isaacs went his way, sadly, to coax Auchmuty to speak, and Delafield. I went out. Not long after, he came back, and told Polly that they had promised to speak—the Governor would speak—and he himself would close with the quarterly report, and some interesting anecdotes regarding. Miss Biffin’s way of handling her knife and Mr. Nellis’s way of footing his fork. “Now if Mr. Ingham will only come and sit on the platform, he need not say one word; but it will show well in the paper—it will show that the Sandemanians take as much interest in the movement as the Armenians or the Mesopotamians, and will be a great favor to me.” Polly, good soul! was tempted, and she promised. She knew Mrs. Isaacs was starving, and the babies—she knew Dennis was at home—and she promised! Night came, and I returned. I heard her story. I was sorry. I doubted. But Polly had promised to beg me, and I dared all! I told Dennis to hold his peace, under all circumstances, and sent him down.
It was not half an hour more before he returned, wild with excitement—in a perfect Irish fury—which it was long before I understood. But I knew at once that he had undone me!
What happened was this: The audience got together, attracted by Governor Gorges’s name. There were a thousand people. Poor Gorges was late from Augusta. They became impatient. He came in direct from the train at last, really ignorant of the object of the meeting. He opened it in the fewest possible words, and said other gentlemen were present who would entertain them better than he. The audience were disappointed, but waited. The Governor, prompted by Isaacs, said, “The Honorable Mr. Delafield will address you.” Delafield had forgotten the knives and forks, and was playing the Ruy Lopez opening at the chess club. “The Rev. Mr. Auchmuty will address you.” Auchmuty had promised to speak late, and was at the school committee. “I see Dr. Stearns in the hall; perhaps he will say a word.” Dr. Stearns said he had come to listen and not to speak. The Governor and Isaacs whispered. The Governor looked at Dennis, who was resplendent on the platform; but Isaacs, to give him his due, shook his head. But the look was enough. A miserable lad, ill-bred, who had once been in Boston, thought it would sound well to call for me, and peeped out, “Ingham!” A few more wretches cried, “Ingham! Ingham!” Still Isaacs was firm; but the Governor, anxious, indeed, to prevent a row, knew I would say something, and said, “Our friend Mr. Ingham is always prepared—and though we had not relied upon him, he will say a word, perhaps.” Applause followed, which turned Dennis’s head. He rose, flattered, and tried No. 3: “There has been so much said, and, on the whole, so well said, that I will not longer occupy the time!” and sat down, looking for his hat; for things seemed squally. But the people cried, “Go on! go on!” and some applauded. Dennis, still confused, but flattered by the applause, to which neither he nor I are used, rose again, and this time tried No. 2: “I am very glad you liked it!” in a sonorous, clear delivery. My best friends stared. All the people who did not know me personally yelled with delight at the aspect of the evening; the Governor was beside himself, and poor Isaacs thought he was undone! Alas, it was I! A boy in the gallery cried in a loud tone, “It’s all an infernal humbug,” just as Dennis, waving his hand, commanded silence, and tried No. 4: “I agree, in general, with my friend the other side of the room.” The poor Governor doubted his senses, and crossed to stop him—not in time, however. The same gallery-boy shouted, “How’s your mother?”—and Dennis, now completely lost, tried, as his last shot, No. 1, vainly: “Very well, thank you; and you?”
I think I must have been undone already. But Dennis, like another Lockhard chose “to make sicker.” The audience rose in a whirl of amazement, rage, and sorrow. Some other impertinence, aimed at Dennis, broke all restraint, and, in pure Irish, he delivered himself of an address to the gallery, inviting any person who wished to fight to come down and do so—stating, that they were all dogs and cowards—that he would take any five of them single-handed, “Shure, I have said all his Riverence and the Misthress bade me say,” cried he, in defiance; and, seizing the Governor’s cane from his hand, brandished it, quarter-staff fashion, above his head. He was, indeed, got from the hall only with the greatest difficulty by the Governor, the City Marshal, who had been called in, and the Superintendent of my Sunday School.
The universal impression, of course, was, that the Rev. Frederic Ingham had lost all command of himself in some of those haunts of intoxication which for fifteen years I have been laboring to destroy. Till this moment, indeed, that is the impression in Naguadavick. This number of The Atlantic will relieve from it a hundred friends of mine who have been sadly wounded by that notion now for years—but I shall not be likely ever to show my head there again.
No! My double has undone me.
We left town at seven the next morning. I came to No. 9, in the Third Range, and settled on the Minister’s Lot, In the new towns in Maine, the first settled minister has a gift of a hundred acres of land. I am the first settled minister in No. 9. My wife and little Paulina are my parish. We raise corn enough to live on in summer. We kill bear’s meat enough to carbonize it in winter. I work on steadily on my Traces of Sandemanianism in the Sixth and Seventh Centuries, which I hope to persuade Phillips, Sampson & Co. to publish next year. We are very happy, but the world thinks we are undone.