by F. Hopkinson Smith
By F. Hopkinson Smith
This is Marny's story, not mine. He had a hammer in his hand at the
time and a tack between his teeth.
Going to hang Fiddles right under the old fellow's head, he burst
out. That's where he belongs. I'd have given a ten-acre if he could
have drawn a bead on that elk himself. Fiddles behind a .44 Winchester
and that old buck browsing to windwardand he nodded at the elk's
headwould have made the village Mayor sit up and think. What a
picturesque liar you are, Fiddleshere the point of the tack was
pressed into the plaster with Marny's fat thumband what a
good-for-nothing, breezy, lovable vagabond(Bang! Bang! Hammer at
play now)you could be when you tried. There!
Marny stepped back and took in the stuffed head and wide-branched
antlers of the magnificent elk (five feet six from skull to tips) and
the small, partly faded miniature of a young man in a student cap and
I waited and let him run on. It is never wise to interrupt Marny. He
will lose the thread of his talk if you do, and though he starts off
immediately on another lead, and one, perhaps equally graphic, he has
left you suspended in mid-air so far as the tale you were getting
interested in is concerned. Who Fiddles was and why his Honor the Mayor
should sit up and think; why, too, the miniature of the young manand
he was young and remarkably good-looking, as I well knew, having
seen the picture many times before on his mantelshould now be
suspended below the elk's head, would come out in time if I loosened my
ear-flaps and buttoned up my tongue, but not if I reversed the
Ah, you young fraud, he went onthe position of both head and
miniature pleased him nowdo you remember the time I hauled you out
from under the table when the hucksters were making a door-mat of your
back; and the time I washed you off at the pump, and what you said to
the gendarme, andNo, you never remembered anything. You'd rather
sprawl out on the grass, or make eyes at Gretchen or the
landladyfifty, if she was a daymaybe fifty-five, and yet she fell
in love (this last was addressed directly to me; it had been
reminiscent before that, fired at the ceiling, at the hangings in his
sumptuous studio, or the fire crackling oil the hearth), fell in love
with that trampa boy of twenty-two,'mind youAh! but what a rounder
he was! Such a trim, well-knit figure; so light and nimble on his feet;
such a pair of eyes in his head, leaking tears one minute and flashing
hate the next. And his mouth! I tried, but I couldn't paint itnobody
couldso I did his profile; one of those curving, seductive mouths you
sometimes see on a man, that quivers when he smiles, the teeth gleaming
between the moist lips.
I had lassoed a chair with my foot by this time, had dragged it
nearer the fire, and had settled myself in another.
Funny name, though for a German, I remarked carelesslyquite as
if the fellow's patronymic had already formed part of the discussion.
Had to call him something for short, Marny retorted.
Feudels-Shimmer was what they called him in RosengartenWilhelm
Feudels-Shimmer. I tried all of it at first, then I bit off the
Shimmer, and then the Wilhelm, and ran him along on Feudels for a
while, then it got down to Fuddles, and at last to Fiddles, and there
it stuck. Just fitted him, too. All he wanted was a bow, and I
furnished thatenough of the devil's resin to set him goingand out
would roll jigs, lullabys, fandangoes, serenadesanything you wanted:
anything to which his mood tempted him.
Marny had settled into his chair now, and had stretched his fat legs
toward the blaze, his middle distance completely filling the space
between the arms. He had pushed himself over many a ledge with this
same pair of legs and on this same rotundity, his hand on his
Winchester, before his first ball crashed through the shoulder of the
big elk whose glass eyes were now looking down upon Fiddles and
ourselvesand he would do it again on another big-horn when the season
opened. You wouldn't have thought so had you dropped in upon us and
scanned his waist measure, but then, of course, you don't know Marny.
Again Marny's eyes rested for a moment on the miniature; then he
We were about broke when I painted it, he said. There was a fair
of some sort in the village, and I got an old frame for half a mark in
a pawnshop, borrowed a coat from Fritz, the stableman, squeezed Fiddles
into it, stuck a student's cap on his head, made it look a hundred
years oldthe frame was all of thatand tried to sell it as a
portrait of a 'Gentleman of the Last Century,' but it wouldn't work.
Fiddles's laugh gave it away. 'Looks like you,' the old man said. 'Yes,
it's my brother,' he blurted out, slapping the dealer on the back.
Where did you pick Fiddles up? I asked.
Nowhere, answered Marny; he picked me up. That is, the gendarme
did who had him by the coat collar.
'This fellow insists you know him,' said the officer of the law.
'He says that he is honest and that this rabbit'here he pointed to a
pair of long ears sticking out of a game bag'is one he shot with the
Mayor this morning. Is this true?'
Now if there is one thing, old man, continued Marny, that gets me
hot around the collar, it is to see a brother sportsman arrested for
killing anything that can fly, run, or swim. So I rose from my
sketching stool and looked him over: his eyesnot a bit of harm in
'em; his loose necktie thrown over one shoulder; trim waist, and so on
down to the leather leggings buttoned to his knees. If he was a poacher
and subject to the law, he certainly was the most picturesque specimen
I had met in many a day. I had, of course, never laid eyes on him
before, having been but a few days in the village, but that made the
situation all the more interesting. To rescue a friend would be
commonplace, to rescue a stranger smacked of adventure.
I uncovered my head and bowed to the ground. 'His Honor shoots
almost every day, your Excellency,' I said to the gendarme. 'I have
seen him frequently with his friendsthis young man is no doubt one of
themLetmethinkwas it this morning, or yesterday, I met the
Mayor? It is at best a very small rabbit'here I fingered the head and
ears'and would probably have died of hunger anyway. However, if any
claim should be made by the farmer I will pay the damages'this with a
lordly air, and I with only a week's board in my pocket.
The gendarme released his hold and stood looking at the young
fellow. The day was hot and the village lock-up two miles away. That
the rabbit was small and the Mayor an inveterate sportsman were also
'Next time,' he said sententiously, with a scowl, 'do you let his
Honor carry the game home in his own bag,' and he walked away.
Oh, you just ought to have seen Fiddles skip around when a turn in
the road shut out the cocked hat and cross-belts, and heard him pour
out his thanks. 'His name was Wilhelm, he cried out; it had only been
by chance that he had got separated from his friends. Where did I live?
Would I let him give me the rabbit for a stew for my dinner? Was I the
painter who had come to the inn? If so he had heard of me. Could he and
his friends call upon me that night? He would never forget my kindness.
What was the use of being a gentleman if you couldn't help another
gentleman out of a scrape? As for Herr Rabbitthe poor little Herr
Rabbit-here he stroked his furwhat more honorable end than gracing
the table of the Honorable Painter? Ah, these dogs of the lawwhen
would they learn not to meddle with things that did not concern them?
And did Fiddles come to your inn, Marny? I asked, merely as a prod
to keep him going.
Yes, a week later, and with the same gendarme. The cobbler in the
village, who sat all day long pegging at his shoes, and who, it seemed,
was watch-goose for the whole village and knew the movements of every
inhabitant, man, woman, and child, and who for some reason hated
Fiddles, on being interviewed by the gendarme, had stated positively
that the Mayor had not passed his corner with his gun and four
dogs on the day of Fiddles's arrest. This being the case, the gendarme
had rearrested the culprit, and would have taken him at once to the
lock-up had not Fiddles threatened the officer with false arrest. Would
the Herr Painter accompany the officer and himself to the house of the
Mayor and settle the matter as to whether his Honor was or was not out
hunting on that particular morning?
All this time Fiddles was looking about the dining-room of the inn,
taking in the supper-table, the rows of mugs, especially the landlady,
who was frightened half out of her wits by Cocked Hat's presence, and
more especially still little Gretchensuch a plump, rosy-cheeked,
blue-eyed little Dutch girlwith two Marguerite pig-tails down her
back. (Gretchen served the beer, and was the life of the place. 'Poor
young man!' she said to the landlady, who had by this time come to the
same conclusion'and he is so good-looking and with such lovely
When we got to the Mayor's the old fellow was asleep in a big
armchair, his pipe out, his legs far aparta keg-shaped kind of a man,
with a head flattened on his shoulders like a stove-lid, who said 'Ach
Gott' every five minutes, and spluttered when he talked.
I went in first, leaving the two on the porch until I should send
for them. I didn't know how things were going to turn out and had
become a little anxious. I had run up from Munich for a few weeks'
outdoor work and wanted to stay out, not behind iron bars for abetting
'Your Supreme Highness,' I began, 'I have heard of your great
prowess as a sportsman, and so I wanted to pay my respects. I, too, am
a shootistan American shootist.' Here I launched out on our big game
(I had been six months in the Rockies before I came abroad, and knew
what I was talking about). He was wide awake by this time and was
listening. Dropping into the chair which he had drawn up for me, I told
him of our elk'As big as horses, your Honor'; of our mountain
lionssavage beasts that could climb trees and fall upon the
defenseless; of our catamounts, deer, wolves, bears, foxesall these
we killed without molestation from anybody; I told him how all American
sportsmen were like the Nimrods of old. How galling, then, for a true
shootist to be misunderstood, decried, denounced, and arrested for so
insignificant a beastie as a rabbit! This indignity my very dear
friend, Herr Wilhelm Fuedels-Shimmer, had suffereda most estimable
young mancareless, perhaps, in his interpretation of the law, but who
would not bethat is, what sportsman would not be? I had in Wilhelm's
defense not only backed up his story, but I had gone so far as to
hazard the opinion to the officer of that law, that it was not on some
uncertain Tuesday or Friday or Saturday, but on that very Wednesday,
that his Supreme Highness had been wont to follow with his four
accomplished dogs the tracks of the nimble cotton-tail. Would his
Highness, therefore, be good enough to concentrate his giant brain on
his past life and fish from out his memory the exact day on which he
last hunted? While that was going on I would excuse myself long enough
to bring in the alleged criminal.
Fiddles stepped in with the easy grace of a courtier accustomed to
meeting a Mayor every day of his life, and, after a confirmatory wink
from me, boldly asserted that he had followed behind his Honorhad
really assisted in driving the game his way. His Honor might not
remember his face, but he surely must remember that his Honorable Honor
had extraordinarily good luck that day. The rabbit in controversya
very small, quite a baby rabbitwas really one his Honorable and Most
Supreme Highness had himself wounded, and which he, Fiddles, had
finished. He was bringing it to his Honor when the estimable gendarme
had stopped him.
'And what day was that?' interrupted the Mayor.
'On last Wednesday.'
'The cobbler said it was Tuesday,' insisted Cocked Hat. 'On this
point hangs the case. Now on which day did your Honor take the field
with your dogs?'
There was a dead silence, during which the Mayor's eyes rested on
the culprit. Fiddles returned the look, head up, a smile on his lips
that would have fooled the devil himself. Then his Honor turned to me
and said: 'My memory is not always very good, but this time the
cobbler'swho is a meddlesome personis even more defective. Yes, I
think it quite possible I was hunting on last Wednesday. I can
sympathize with the young man as to the size of the rabbit. They are
running very small this year. My decision, therefore, is that you can
let the young man go.'
Oh, but that was a great night at the inn. Gretchen was so happy
that she spilled the beer down the apothecary's back and the landlady
could talk of nothing but Fiddles's release. But the real fun began an
hour later, when shouts for the Herr Mahler, interwoven with the music
of a concertina, made me step to the door. Outside, in the road, stood
four young menall pals of Fiddles, all bareheaded, and all carrying
lanterns. They had come to crown the American with a gold chaplet cut
from gilt paper, after which I was to be conducted to the public house
where bumpers of beer were to be drunk until the last pfennig was
On hearing this, Gretchen, the landlady, the apothecary, the
hostler, and the stable-boynot the cobbler, you may be sureburst
forth with cries of: 'Hip! Hip!Hock! Donder und Blitzen!' or whatever
they do yell when they are mad with joy.
Then the landlady broke out in a fresh place: 'No public-house for
you! This is my treat! All of you come inside. Gretchen, get the mugs
fullall the mugsSit down! Sit down! The Herr Painter at the top of
the table, the Herr Feudels-Shimmer on the right; all the other Herrs
anywhere in between. Hock the Mahler! Hock the Hunter! Hock everybody
but the cobbler!' Here a groan went round. 'Hock! Hip and Blather
skitzen for the good and honorable Mayor, who always loves the people!'
'And Hock! too, for the honorable and good gendarme!' laughed
Fiddles, dropping into his chair. 'But for him I would be in the
lock-up instead of basking in the smiles of two such lovely women as
the fascinating landlady and the bewitching Gretchen.'
After that Fiddles and I became inseparable. That I hadn't a mark
over my expenses to give him in return for his servicesand there was
nothing he would not do for memade no difference. He wouldn't take
any wages; all he wanted was to carry my traps, to sit by me while I
worked; wake me up in the morning, be the last to wish me good night.
Soon it became a settled fact that, while the landlady fed two
mouthsmine and Fiddles'sand provided two bedsFiddles in the
garretmy single board bill covered all the items. 'That is the Herr
Painter and his servant,' she would say to inquiring strangers who
watched us depart for a day's work, Fiddles carrying my easel and
This went on for weeksmight have gone on all summer but for the
events which followed a day's outing. We had spent the morning
sketching, and on our way home had stood opposite a wide-open gatea
great baronial affair with a coat of arms in twisted iron, the whole
flanked by two royal lamps.
'Step inside, Master,' said Fiddles. 'It is hot, and there is a
seat under that tree; there we will get cool.'
'It's against the rules, Fiddles, and I don't know these people.'
'Then I'll introduce you.'
He was half-way across the grass by this time and within reach of a
wooden bench, when an old lady stepped out from behind a treea real
old aristocrat in black silk and white ruffles. She had a book in her
hand, and had evidently been reading.
You should have seen the bow Fiddles gave her, and the courtesy she
'Madame the Baroness,' said the rascal, with an irradiating smile
as I approached them, 'has been good enough to ask us to accompany her
to the house. Permit me, Madame, to present my friend, a distinguished
American painter who is visiting our country, and who was so entranced
at the beauty of your grounds and the regal splendor of your gate and
château that rather than disappoint him'
'You are both doubly welcome, gentlemen,' 'This way, please,'
replied the old lady with a dip of her aristocratic head; and before I
knew it we were seated in an oak-panelled dining-room with two servants
in livery tumbling over each other in their efforts to find the
particular wine best suited to our palates.
Fiddles sipped his Rudesheimer with the air of a connoisseur,
blinking at the ceiling now and then after the manner of expert wine
tasters, and complimenting the old lady meanwhile on the quality of the
vintage. I confined myself to a glass of sherry and a biscuit, while
Fiddles, rising from his seat, later on, stood enraptured before this
portrait and that, commenting on their coloring, ending by drawing an
ancient book from the library and going into ecstasies over the binding
On our way home to the inn from the chateau there was, so far as I
could see, no change in Fiddles's manner. Neither was his speech or
gait at all affected by the bottle of Rudesheimer (and he managed to
get away with it all). I mention this because it is vitally important
to what follows. Only once did he seem at all excited, and that was
when he passed the cobbler's corner. But then he was always excited
when he passed the cobbler seated at workso much so sometimes that I
have seen him shake his fist at him. To-day he merely tightened his
jaw, stopped for a moment as if determined to step in and have it out
with him (the cobbler, I afterward found out, was to leave the village
for good the next day, his trade having fallen off, owing to his being
so unpopular), and then, as if changing his mind, followed along after
me, muttering: 'Spyinformerbeast' as I had often heard him do
Judge of my astonishment then, when, an hour later, Gretchen came
running into my room wringing her handsI had caught him kissing her
the night beforeand burst out with:
'He is under the tablethe huckster's feet on himHe is there
like a dogOh, it is dreadful! Mine Herrwon't you come?'
'Who is under the table?'
'At the public-house.'
'How do you know?'
'Fritz, the stable-boy has just seen him.'
'What's the matter with him?'
Gretchen hung her head, and the tears streamed down her cheeks,
'He ishe isOh, Meinherrit is not the beernobody ever gets
that way with our beerit is something he'
'Yes, dead drunk, and under the table like a hog in the mudOh, my
poor Wilhelm! Oh, who has been so wicked to you! Oh! Oh!' and she ran
from the room.
I started on the run, Gretchen and the good landlady close behind.
If the Rudesheimer had upset Fiddles it had worked very slowly; maybe
it had revived an old conquered thirst, and the cheap cognac at the
public-house was the result. That he was not a man of humble birth, nor
one without home refinements, I had long since divined. Had I not
suspected it before, his manner in presenting me to the old Baroness,
and his behavior in the dining-hall, especially toward the servants,
would have opened my eyes. How then could such a man in an hour become
so besotted a brute?
And yet every word of Gretchen's story was true. Not only was
Fiddles drunk, soggy, helplessly drunk, but from all accounts he was in
that same condition when he had staggered into the place, and, falling
over a table, had rolled himself against the wall. There he had lain,
out of the way, except when some dram-drinking driver's heavy cowhide
boots had made a doormat of his yielding bodynot an unusual
occurrence, by the way, at the roadside taverns frequented by the lower
We worked over him, calling him by name, propping him up against
the wall, only to have him sag back; and finally, at the suggestion of
one of the truckmenhe was in a half-comatose state really from the
liquor he had absorbedwe carried him out into the stable yard, and I
held his shapely head, with its beautiful hair a-frowze, while a stream
of cold water from the pump struck the back of his head and neck.
The poor fellow stared around wildly as the chill reached his
nerves and tried to put his arm around me, then he toppled over again
and lay like a log. Nothing was left but to pick him up bodily and
carry him home; that I did with Fritz's, the stable-boy's, help,
Gretchen carrying his cap, and the landlady following behind with his
coat, which I had stripped off when his head went under the pump. The
bystanders didn't careone drunken man more or less made no
differencebut both of the women were in tears, 'Poor Wilhelm!
Somebody had drugged him; some wicked men had played a trick, etc.,
etc. I thought of the Rudesheimer, and then dismissed it from my mind.
Something stronger than Rhine wine had wrought this change.
We laid him flat out on a cot in a room on the second floor, and
dragged it near the open window so he could get the air from the
garden, and left him, I taking the precaution to lock the door to
prevent his staggering downstairs and breaking his neck.
The next morning, before I was dressed, in fact, a row downstairs
brought me into the hall outside my door, where I stood listening over
the banister. Then came the tramp of men, and three gendarmes mounted
the steps and halted at Fiddles's door.
Bang! bang! went the hilt of a short-sword on the panel. 'Open, in
the name of the law.'
'What for?' I demanded. Getting drunk was not a crime in
Rosengarten, especially when the offender had been tucked away in bed.
'For smashing the face of a citizena worthy cobblerthe night
before, at the hour of eight,just as he was closing his shutters. The
cobbler lay insensible until he had been found by the patrol. He had,
however, recognized Fuedels-Shimmer as the'
'But, gentleman, Herr Fiddles was dead drunk at eight o'clock; he
hasn't stirred out of the room since. Here is the key,' and I unlocked
the door and we all stepped in, Gretchen and the landlady close behind.
They had told the officers the same story downstairs, but they would
not believe it.
At the intrusion, Fiddles rose to a sitting posture and stared
wonderingly. He was sober enough now, but his heavy sleep still showed
about his eyes.
The production of the key, my positive statement, backed by the
women, and Fiddles's wondering gaze, brought the gendarmes to a halt
for a moment, but his previous arrest was against him, and so the boy
was finally ordered to put on his clothes and accompany them to the
I got into the rest of my duds, and began waving the American flag
and ordering out gunboats. I insisted that the cobbler had lied before
in accusing Fiddles of shooting the rabbit, as was well known, and he
would lie again. Fiddles was my friend, my servanta youth of
incorruptible character. It is true he had been intoxicated the night
before, and that I had in consequence put him to bed, but that was
entirely due to the effects of some very rare wine which he had drunk
at a luncheon given in his honor and mine by our very dear friend the
Baroness Morghenslitz, who had entertained us at her princely home.
This, with the heat of the day, had been, etc., etc.
The mention of the distinguished woman's name caused another halt.
Further consultation ensued, resulting in the decision that we all
adjourn to the office of the Mayor. If, after hearing our alibione
beyond dispute, and submitting our evidence (Exhibit A, the key, which
they must admit exactly fitted the lock of Fiddles's bedroom door), his
Honor could still be made to believe the perjured testimony of the
cobblerFiddles's enemy, as had been abundantly proved in the previous
rabbit case, when the same mendacious half-soler and heeler had
informed on my friendwell and good; but if not, then, the resources
of my Government would be set in motion for the young man's release.
The Mayor's first words were: 'Ah, you have come again, is it,
Meinherr Marny; and it is the same young man, too, Herr Fuddles. Well,
well, it is much trouble that you have.' (I'd give it to you in German,
old man, but you wouldn't understand itthis to me in a sort of an
Fiddles never moved a muscle of his face. You would have thought
that he was the least interested man in the room. Only once did his
features relax, and that was when the cobbler arrived with his head
swathed in bandages. Then a grim smile flickered about the corners of
his mouth, as if fate had at last overtaken his enemy.
Of course, the Mayor dismissed the case. Gretchen's tearful,
pleading face, the landlady's positive statement of helping put the
dear young gentleman to bed; the key and the use I had made of it; the
reluctant testimony of the officers, who had tried the knob and could
not get in until I had turned the lock, together with the well-known
animosity of the cobbler (and all because Fiddles had ridiculed his
workmanship on a pair of shoes the boy had left with him to be
half-soled), turned the tide in the lad's favor and sent us all back to
the inn rejoicing.
Some weeks later Fiddles came into my room, locked the door, pulled
down the shades, looked under the bed, in the closet and behind the
curtains, and sat down in front of me. (I had to return to Munich the
next day, and this would be our last night together.)
You have been very good to me, Master,' he said with a choke in his
voice. 'I love people who are good to me; I hate those who are not. I
have been that way all my lifeit would have been better for me if I
hadn't.' Then he leaned forward and took my hand. 'I want you to do
something more for me; I want you to promise me you'll take me home to
America with you when you go. I'm tired dodging these people. I want to
get somewhere where I can shoot and hunt and fish, and nobody can stop
me. I snared that rabbit; been snaring them all summer; going to keep
on snaring them after you're gone. I love to hunt themlove the fun of
itborn that way. And I've got something else to tell you'here a
triumphant smile flashed over his face'I smashed that cobbler!'
'You, Fiddles!' I laughed. 'Why, you were dead drunk, and I put you
under the pump and'
'Yes, I know you thought soI intended you should. I heard every
word that you said, and what little Gretchen saiddear little
Gretchen, I had studied it all out, and to play drunk seemed the best
way to get at the brute, and it was; they'd have proved it on me if I
hadn't fooled them that way' and again his eyes snapped and his face
flushed as the humor of the situation rose in his mind. 'You'll forgive
me, won't you? Don't tell Gretchen.' The light in his eyes was gone
now. I'd rather she'd think me drunk than vulgar, and it was vulgar,
and maybe cowardly, to hit him, but I couldn't help that either, and
I'm not sorry I did it.'
'But I locked you in,' I persisted. Was this some invention of his
fertile imagination, or was it true?
'Yes, you locked the door,' he answered, as he broke into a subdued
laugh. 'I dropped from the window sill when it got darkit wasn't
high, about fifteen feet, and the waterspout helpedran down the back
way, gave him a crack as he opened the door, and was back in bed by the
help of the same spout before he had come to. He was leaving the next
day and it was my only chance. I wasn't out of the room five
minutesmaybe less. You'll forgive me that too, won't you?'
Marny stopped and looked into the smouldering coals. For a brief
instant he did not speak. Then he rose from his chair, crossed the
room, took the miniature from the wall where he had hung it and looked
at it steadily.
What a delightful devil you were, Fiddles. And you were so human.
Is he living yet? I asked.
No, he died in Gretchen's arms. I kept my promise, and two months
later went back to the village to bring him to America with me, but a
forester's bullet had ended him. It was on the Baroness's grounds, too.
He wouldn't halt and the guard fired. Think of killing such an adorable
savageand all because the blood of the primeval man boiled in his
veins. Oh, it was damnable!
And you know nothing more about him? Where he came from? The story
had strangely moved me. Were there no letters or notebooks? Nothing to
show who he really was?
Only an empty envelope postmarked 'Berlin.' This had reached him
the day before, and was sealed with a coat of arms in violet wax.