The Survivor's Story by Edward
Fortunately we were with our wives.
It is in general an excellent custom, as I will
explain if opportunity is given.
First, you are thus sure of good company.
For four mortal hours we had ground along, and
stopped and waited and started again, in the drifts
between Westfield and Springfield. We had shrieked out
our woes by the voices of five engines. Brave men had
dug. Patient men had sat inside and waited for the
results of the digging. At last, in triumph, at eleven
and three quarters, as they say in "Cinderella," we
entered the Springfield station.
It was Christmas Eve!
Leaving the train to its devices, Blatchford and his
wife (her name was Sarah), and I with mine (her name was
Phebe), walked quickly with our little sacks out of the
station, ploughed and waded along the white street, not
to the Massasoit—no, but to the old Eagle and Star,
which was still standing, and was a favorite with us
youngsters. Good waffles, maple syrup ad lib., such
fixings of other sorts as we preferred, and some liberty.
The amount of liberty in absolutely first-class
hotels is but small. A drowsy boy waked, and turned up
the gas. Blatchford entered our names on the register,
and cried at once, "By George, Wolfgang is here, and
Dick! What luck!" for Dick and Wolfgang also travel with
their wives. The boy explained that they had come up the
river in the New Haven train, were only nine hours behind
time, had arrived at ten, and had just finished supper
and gone to bed. We ordered rare beefsteak, waffles,
dip-toast, omelettes with kidneys, and omelettes without;
we toasted our feet at the open fire in the parlor; we
ate the supper when it was ready; and we also went to
bed; rejoicing that we had home with us, having travelled
with our wives; and that we could keep our Merry
Christmas here. If only Wolfgang and Dick and their
wives would join us, all would be well. (Wolfgang's wife
was named Bertha, and Dick's was named Hosanna,—a name
I have never met with elsewhere.)
Bed followed; and I am a graceless dog that I do not
write a sonnet here on the unbroken slumber that
followed. Breakfast, by arrangement of us four, at nine.
At 9.30, to us enter Bertha, Dick, Hosanna, and Wolfgang,
to name them in alphabetical order. Four chairs had been
turned down for them. Four chops, four omelettes, and
four small oval dishes of fried potatoes had been
ordered, and now appeared. Immense shouting, immense
kissing among those who had that privilege, general
wondering, and great congratulating that our wives were
there. Solid resolution that we would advance no
farther. Here, and here only, in Springfield itself,
would we celebrate our Christmas Day.
It may be remarked in parenthesis that we had learned
already that no train had entered the town since eleven
and a quarter; and it was known by telegraph that none
was within thirty-four miles and a half of the spot, at
the moment the vow was made.
We waded and ploughed our way through the snow to
church. I think Mr. Rumfry, if that is the gentleman's
name who preached an admirable Christmas sermon in a
beautiful church there, will remember the platoon of four
men and four women who made perhaps a fifth of his
congregation in that storm,—a storm which shut off most
church-going. Home again: a jolly fire in the parlor,
dry stockings, and dry slippers. Turkeys, and all things
fitting for the dinner; and then a general assembly, not
in a caravansary, not in a coffee-room, but in the
regular guests' parlor of a New England second-class
hotel, where, as it was ordered, there were no
"transients" but ourselves that day; and whence all the
"boarders" had gone either to their own rooms or to other
For people who have their wives with them, it is not
difficult to provide entertainment on such an occasion.
"Bertha," said Wolfgang, "could you not entertain us
with one of your native dances?"
"Ho! slave," said Dick to Hosanna, "play upon the
virginals." And Hosanna played a lively Arab air on the
tavern piano, while the fair Bertha danced with a spirit
unusual. Was it indeed in memory of the Christmas of her
own dear home in Circassia?
All that, from "Bertha" to "Circassia," is not so.
We did not do this at all. That was all a slip of the
pen. What we did was this. John Blatchford pulled the
bell-cord till it broke (they always break in novels, and
sometimes they do in taverns). This bell-cord broke.
The sleepy boy came; and John said, "Caitiff, is there
never a barber in the house?" The frightened boy said
there was; and John bade him send him. In a minute the
barber appeared—black, as was expected—with a shining
face, and white teeth, and in shirt-sleeves, and broad
"Do you tell me, Caesar," said John, "that in your
country they do not wear their coats on Christmas Day?"
"Sartin, they do, sah, when they go outdoors."
"Do you tell me, Caesar," said Dick, "that they have
doors in your country?"
"Sartin, they do," said poor Caesar, flurried.
"Boy," said I, "the gentlemen are making fun of you.
They want to know if you ever keep Christmas in your
country without a dance."
"Never, sah," said poor Caesar.
"Do they dance without music?"
"No, sah; never."
"Go, then," I said, in my sternest accents,—"go
fetch a zithern, or a banjo, or a kit, or a hurdy-gurdy,
or a fiddle."
The black boy went, and returned with his violin.
And as the light grew gray, and crept into the darkness,
and as the darkness gathered more thick and more, he
played for us, and he played for us, tune after tune; and
we danced—first with precision, then in sport, then in
wild holiday frenzy. We began with waltzes—so great is
the convenience of travelling with your wives—where
should we have been, had we been all sole alone, four
men? Probably playing whist or euchre. And now we began
with waltzes, which passed into polkas, which subsided
into other round dances; and then in very exhaustion we
fell back in a grave quadrille. I danced with Hosanna;
Wolfgang and Sarah were our vis-a-vis. We went
through the same set that Noah and his three boys danced
in the ark with their four wives, and which has been
danced ever since, in every moment, on one or another
spot of the dry earth, going round it with the sun, like
the drum-beat of England—right and left, first two
forward, right hand across, pastorale—the whole
series of them; we did them with as much spirit as if it
had been on a flat on the side of Ararat, ground yet too
muddy for croquet. Then Blatchford called for
"Virginia Reel," and we raced and chased through that.
Poor Caesar began to get exhausted, but a little flip
from downstairs helped him amazingly. And after the flip
Dick cried, "Can you not dance `Money-Musk'?" And in one
wild frenzy of delight we danced "Money-Musk" and "Hull's
Victory" and "Dusty Miller" and "Youth's Companion," and
"Irish jigs" on the closet-door lifted off for the
occasion, till the men lay on the floor screaming with
the fun, and the women fell back on the sofas, fairly
faint with laughing.
All this last, since the sentence after "Circassia,"
is a mistake. There was not any bell, nor any barber,
and we did not dance at all. This was all a slip of my
What we really did was this:
John Blatchford said, "Let us all tell stories." It
was growing dark and he put more logs on the fire.
"Heap on more wood, the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We'll keep our merry Christmas still."
She said that because it was in "Bertha's Visit,"—a
very stupid book, which she remembered.
Then Wolfgang told
THE PENNY-A-LINER'S STORY
[Wolfgang is a reporter, or was then, on the staff of
When I was on the "Tribune" [he never was on the
"Tribune" an hour, unless he calls selling the "Tribune"
at Fort Plains being on the "Tribune." But I tell the
story as he told it. He said:] When I was on the
"Tribune," I was despatched to report Mr. Webster's great
reply to Hayne. This was in the days of stages. We had
to ride from Baltimore to Washington early in the morning
to get there in time. I found my boots were gone from my
room when the stage-man called me, and I reported that
speech in worsted slippers my wife had given me the week
before. As we came into Bladensburg, it grew light, and
I recognized my boots on the feet of my fellow-
passenger,—there was but one other man in the stage. I
turned to claim them, but stopped in a moment, for it was
Webster himself. How serene his face looked as he slept
there! He woke soon, passed the time of day, offered me
a part of a sandwich, for we were old friends,—I was
counsel against him in the Ogden case. Said Webster to
me, "Steele, I am bothered about this speech; I have a
paragraph in it which I cannot word up to my mind;" and
he repeated it to me. "How would this do?" said he.
"`Let us hope that the sense of unrestricted freedom may
be so intertwined with the desire to preserve a
connection of the several parts of the body politic, that
some arrangement, more or less lasting, may prove in a
measure satisfactory.' How would that do?"
I said I liked the idea, but the expression seemed
"And it is involved," said Webster; "but I can't
"How would this do?" said I.
"`LIBERTY AND UNION, NOW AND FOREVER, ONE AND
"Capital!" he said, "capital! write that down for
me." At that moment we arrived at the Capitol steps. I
wrote down the words for him, and from my notes he read
them, when that place in the speech came along.
All of us applauded the story.
Phebe then told
THE SCHOOLMISTRESS'S STORY
You remind me of the impression that very speech made
on me, as I heard Henry Chapin deliver it at an
exhibition at Leicester Academy. I resolved then that I
would free the slave, or perish in the attempt. But how?
I, a woman—disfranchised by the law? Ha! I saw!
I went to Arkansas. I opened a "Normal College, or
Academy for Teachers." We had balls every second
night, to make it popular. Immense numbers came. Half
the teachers of the Southern States were trained there.
I had admirable instructors in oil painting and music—
the most essential studies. The arithmetic I taught
myself. I taught it well. I achieved fame. I achieved
wealth; invested in Arkansas five per cents. Only one
secret device I persevered in. To all—old and young,
innocent girls and sturdy men—I so taught the
multiplication table that one fatal error was hidden in
its array of facts. The nine line is the difficult one.
I buried the error there. "Nine times six," I taught
them, "is fifty-six." The rhyme made it easy. The
gilded falsehood passed from lip to lip, from State to
State,—one little speck in a chain of golden verity. I
retired from teaching. Slowly I watched the growth of
the rebellion. At last the aloe blossom shot up—after
its hundred years of waiting. The Southern heart was
fired. I brooded over my revenge. I repaired to
Richmond. I opened a first-class boarding-house, where
all the Cabinet and most of the Senate came for their
meals; and I had eight permanents. Soon their brows
clouded. The first flush of victory passed away. Night
after night they sat over their calculations, which all
came wrong. I smiled—and was a villain! None of their
sums would prove. None of their estimates matched the
performance! Never a muster-roll that fitted as it
should do! And I—the despised boarding-mistress—I
alone knew why! Often and often, when Memminger has
said to me, with an oath, "Why this discordancy in our
totals?" have my lips burned to tell the secret! But no!
I hid it in my bosom. And when at last I saw a black
regiment march into Richmond, singing "John Brown," I
cried, for the first time in twenty years, "Six times
nine is fifty-four," and gloated in my sweet revenge.
Then was hushed the harp of Phebe, and Dick told his story.
THE INSPECTOR OF GAS-METERS' STORY
Mine is a tale of the ingratitude of republics. It
is well-nigh thirty years since I was walking by the
Owego and Ithaca Railroad,—a crooked road, not then
adapted to high speed. Of a sudden I saw that a long
cross timber, on a trestle, high above a swamp, had
sprung up from its ties. I looked for a spike with which
to secure it. I found a stone with which to hammer the
spike. But at this moment a train approached, down hill.
I screamed. They heard! But the engine had no power to
stop the heavy train. With the presence of mind of a
poet, and the courage of a hero, I flung my own weight on
the fatal timber. I would hold it down, or perish. The
engine came. The elasticity of the pine timber whirled
me in the air! But I held on. The tender crossed.
Again I was flung in wild gyrations. But I held on.
"It is no bed of roses," I said; "but what act of
Parliament was there that I should be happy?" Three
passenger cars and ten freight cars, as was then the
vicious custom of that road, passed me. But I held on,
repeating to myself texts of Scripture to give me
courage. As the last car passed, I was whirled into the
air by the rebound of the rafter. "Heavens!" I said, "if
my orbit is a hyperbola, I shall never return to earth."
Hastily I estimated its ordinates, and calculated the
curve. What bliss! It was a parabola! After a flight
of a hundred and seventeen cubits, I landed, head down,
in a soft mud-hole!
In that train was the young U. S. Grant, on his way
to West Point for examination. But for me the armies of
the Republic would have had no leader.
I pressed my claim, when I asked to be appointed
Minister to England. Although no one else wished to go,
I alone was forgotten. Such is gratitude with republics!
He ceased. Then Sarah Blatchford told
THE WHEELER AND WILSON'S OPERATIVE'S STORY
My father had left the anchorage of Sorrento for a
short voyage, if voyage it may be called. Life was
young, and this world seemed heaven. The yacht bowled on
under tight-reefed staysails, and all was happy.
Suddenly the corsairs seized us; all were slain in my
defence; but I—this fatal gift of beauty bade them spare
Why linger on my tale? In the Zenana of the Shah of
Persia I found my home. "How escape his eye?" I said;
and, fortunately, I remembered that in my reticule I
carried one box of F. Kidder's indelible ink. Instantly
I applied the liquid in the large bottle to one cheek.
Soon as it was dry, I applied that in the small bottle,
and sat in the sun one hour. My head ached with the
sunlight, but what of that? I was a fright, and I knew
all would be well.
I was consigned, so soon as my hideous deficiencies
were known, to the sewing-room. Then how I sighed for my
machine! Alas! it was not there; but I constructed an
imitation from a cannon-wheel, a coffee-mill, and two
nut-crackers. And with this I made the underclothing for
the palace and the Zenana.
I also vowed revenge. Nor did I doubt one instant
how; for in my youth I had read Lucretia Borgia's
memoirs, and I had a certain rule for slowly slaying a
tyrant at a distance. I was in charge of the Shah's own
linen. Every week I set back the buttons on his shirt
collars by the width of one thread; or, by arts known to
me, I shrunk the binding of the collar by a like
proportion. Tighter and tighter with each week did the
vice close around his larynx. Week by week, at the
high religious festivals, I could see his face was
blacker and blacker. At length the hated tyrant died.
The leeches called it apoplexy. I did not undeceive
them. His guards sacked the palace. I bagged the
diamonds, fled with them to Trebizond, and sailed thence
in a caique to South Boston. No more! such memories
Her voice was hushed. I told my tale in turn.
THE CONDUCTOR'S STORY
I was poor. Let this be my excuse, or rather my
apology. I entered a Third Avenue car at Thirty-sixth
Street, and saw the conductor sleeping. Satan tempted
me, and I took from him his badge, 213. I see the hated
figures now. When he woke, he knew not he had lost it.
The car started, and he walked to the rear. With the
badge on my coat I collected eight fares within, stepped
forward, and sprang into the street. Poverty is my only
apology for the crime. I concealed myself in a cellar
where men were playing with props. Fear is my only
excuse. Lest they should suspect me, I joined their
game, and my forty cents were soon three dollars and
seventy. With these ill-gotten gains I visited the gold
exchange, then open evenings. My superior intelligence
enabled me to place well my modest means, and at
midnight I had a competence. Let me be a warning to all
young men. Since that night I have never gambled more.
I threw the hated badge into the river. I bought a
palace on Murray Hill, and led an upright and honorable
life. But since that night of terror the sound of the
horse-cars oppresses me. Always since, to go up town or
down, I order my own coupe, with George to drive me; and
never have I entered the cleanly, sweet, and airy
carriage provided for the public. I cannot; conscience
is too much for me. You see in me a monument of crime.
I said no more. A moment's pause, a few natural
tears, and a single sigh hushed the assembly; then
Bertha, with her siren voice, told
THE WIFE OF BIDDEFORD'S STORY
At the time you speak of I was the private governess
of two lovely boys, Julius and Pompey—Pompey the senior
of the two. The black-eyed darling! I see him now. I
also see, hanging to his neck, his blue-eyed brother, who
had given Pompey his black eye the day before. Pompey
was generous to a fault; Julius parsimonious beyond
virtue. I, therefore, instructed them in two different
rooms. To Pompey I read the story of "Waste not, want
not." To Julius, on the other hand, I spoke of the
All-love of his great Mother Nature, and her profuse
gifts to her children. Leaving him with grapes and
oranges, I stepped back to Pompey, and taught him how to
untie parcels so as to save the string. Leaving him
winding the string neatly, I went back to Julius, and
gave him ginger-cakes. The dear boys grew from year to
year. They outgrew their knickerbockers, and had
trousers. They outgrew their jackets, and became men;
and I felt that I had not lived in vain. I had conquered
nature. Pompey, the little spendthrift, was the honored
cashier of a savings-bank, till he ran away with the
capital. Julius, the miser, became the chief croupier at
the New Crockford's. One of those boys is now in Botany
Bay, and the other is in Sierra Leone!
"I thought you were going to say in a hotter place,"
said John Blatchford; and he told his story.
THE STOKER'S STORY
We were crossing the Atlantic in a Cunarder. I was
second stoker on the starboard watch. In that horrible
gale we spoke of before dinner, the coal was exhausted,
and I, as the best-dressed man, was sent up to the
captain to ask him what we should do. I found him
himself at the wheel. He almost cursed me, and bade me
say nothing of coal, at a moment when he must keep
her head to the wind with her full power, or we were
lost. He bade me slide my hand into his pocket, and take
out the key of the after freight-room, open that, and use
the contents for fuel. I returned hastily to the engine-
room, and we did as we were bid. The room contained
nothing but old account books, which made a hot and
On the third day the captain came down himself into
the engine-room, where I had never seen him before,
called me aside, and told me that by mistake he had given
me the wrong key; asking me if I had used it. I pointed
to him the empty room; not a leaf was left. He turned
pale with fright. As I saw his emotion, he confided to
me the truth. The books were the evidences or accounts
of the British national debt; of what is familiarly known
as the Consolidated Fund, or the "Consols." They had
been secretly sent to New York for the examination of
James Fiske, who had been asked to advance a few millions
on this security to the English Exchequer, and now all
evidence of indebtedness was gone!
The captain was about to leap into the sea. But I
dissuaded him. I told him to say nothing; I would keep
his secret; no man else knew it. The government would
never utter it. It was safe in our hands. He
reconsidered his purpose. We came safe to port and did—
Only on the first quarter-day which followed, I
obtained leave of absence, and visited the Bank of
England, to see what happened. At the door was this
placard, "Applicants for dividends will file a written
application, with name and amount, at desk A, and proceed
in turn to the Paying Teller's Office." I saw their
ingenuity. They were making out new books, certain that
none would apply but those who were accustomed to. So
skilfully do men of government study human nature.
I stepped lightly to one of the public desks. I took
one of the blanks. I filled it out, "John Blatchford,
L1747 6s. 8d." and handed it in at the open trap. I
took my place in the queue in the teller's room. After
an agreeable hour, a pile, not thick, of Bank of England
notes was given to me; and since that day I have
quarterly drawn that amount from the maternal government
of that country. As I left the teller's room, I observed
the captain in the queue. He was the seventh man from
the window, and I have never seen him more.
We then asked Hosanna for her story.
THE N. E. HISTORICAL GENEALOGIST'S STORY
"My story," said she, "will take us far back into the
past. It will be necessary for me to dwell on some
incidents in the first settlement of this country, and I
propose that we first prepare and enjoy the Christmas
tree. After this, if your courage holds, you shall hear
an over-true tale." Pretty creature, how little she
knew what was before us!
As we had sat listening to the stories, we had been
preparing for the tree. Shopping being out of the
question, we were fain from our own stores to make up our
presents, while the women were arranging nuts, and blown
egg-shells, and popcorn strings from the stores of the
Eagle and Star. The popping of corn in two corn-poppers
had gone on through the whole of the story-telling. All
being so nearly ready, I called the drowsy boy again,
and, showing him a very large stick in the wood-box,
asked him to bring me a hatchet. To my great joy he
brought the axe of the establishment, and I bade him
farewell. How little did he think what was before him!
So soon as he had gone I went stealthily down the stairs,
and stepping out into the deep snow, in front of the
hotel, looked up into the lovely night. The storm had
ceased, and I could see far back into the heavens. In
the still evening my strokes might have been heard far
and wide, as I cut down one of the two pretty Norways
that shaded Mr. Pynchon's front walk, next the hotel. I
dragged it over the snow. Blatchford and Steele lowered
sheets to me from the large parlor window, which I
attached to the larger end of the tree. With infinite
difficulty they hauled it in. I joined them in the
parlor, and soon we had as stately a tree growing there
as was in any home of joy that night in the river
With swift fingers did our wives adorn it. I should
have said above, that we travelled with our wives, and
that I would recommend that custom to others. It was
impossible, under the circumstances, to maintain much
secrecy; but it had been agreed that all who wished to
turn their backs to the circle, in the preparation of
presents, might do so without offence to the others. As
the presents were wrapped, one by one, in paper of
different colors, they were marked with the names of
giver and receiver, and placed in a large clothes-basket.
At last all was done. I had wrapped up my knife, my
pencil-case, my lettercase, for Steele, Blatchford, and
Dick. To my wife I gave my gold watch-key, which
fortunately fits her watch; to Hosanna, a mere trifle, a
seal ring I wore; to Bertha, my gold chain; and to Sarah
Blatchford, the watch which generally hung from it. For
a few moments we retired to our rooms while the pretty
Hosanna arranged the forty-nine presents on the tree.
Then she clapped her hands, and we rushed in. What a
wondrous sight! What a shout of infantine laughter and
charming prattle! for in that happy moment were we not
all children again?
I see my story hurries to its close. Dick, who is
the tallest, mounted a step-ladder, and called us by name
to receive our presents. I had a nice gold watch-key
from Hosanna, a knife from Steele, a letter-case from
Phebe, and a pretty pencil-case from Bertha. Dick had
given me his watch-chain, which he knew I fancied;
Sarah Blatchford, a little toy of a Geneva watch she
wore; and her husband, a handsome seal ring,—a present
to him from the Czar, I believe; Phebe, that is my
wife,—for we were travelling with our wives,—had a
pencil-case from Steele, a pretty little letter-case from
Dick, a watch-key from me, and a French repeater from
Blatchford; Sarah Blatchford gave her the knife she
carried, with some bright verses, saying that it was not
to cut love; Bertha, a watch-chain; and Hosanna, a ring
of turquoise and amethysts. The other presents were
similar articles, and were received, as they were given,
with much tender feeling. But at this moment, as Dick
was on the top of the flight of steps, handing down a red
apple from the tree, a slight catastrophe occurred.
The first thing I was conscious of was the angry hiss
of steam. In a moment I perceived that the steam-boiler,
from which the tavern was warmed, had exploded. The
floor beneath us rose, and we were driven with it through
the ceiling and the rooms above,—through an opening in
the roof into the still night. Around us in the air were
flying all the other contents and occupants of the Star
and Eagle. How bitterly was I reminded of Dick's flight
from the railroad track of the Ithaca and Owego Railroad!
But I could not hope such an escape as his. Still my
flight was in a parabola; and, in a period not longer
than it has taken to describe it, I was thrown senseless,
at last, into a deep snow-bank near the United
Tender hands lifted me and assuaged me. Tender teams
carried me to the City Hospital. Tender eyes brooded
over me. Tender science cared for me. It proved
necessary, before I recovered, to amputate my two legs at
the hips. My right arm was wholly removed, by a delicate
and curious operation, from the socket. We saved the
stump of my left arm, which was amputated just below the
shoulder. I am still in the hospital to recruit my
strength. The doctor does not like to have me occupy my
mind at all; but he says there is no harm in my compiling
my memoirs, or writing magazine stories. My faithful
nurse has laid me on my breast on a pillow, has put a
camel's-hair pencil in my mouth, and, feeling almost
personally acquainted with John Carter, the artist, I
have written out for you, in his method, the story of my
I am sorry to say that the others have never been found.