Short Stories
All Titles

In Association with Amazon.com

Home > Authors Index > Ellis Parker Butler > Kilo > This page

Kilo, a novel by Ellis Parker Butler

Chapter 11. The False Gods Of Doc Weaver

< Previous
Table of content
Next >
_ CHAPTER XI. The False Gods of Doc Weaver

When Eliph' Hewlitt reached the hotel after his unfortunate visit of courtship, he stood a minute irresolute, and then the sign of the KILO TIMES, across the street, caught his eye. Here was a power he must not neglect; the power of the press. He knew well enough that the next issue of the KILO TIMES would chronicle his arrival in town; something like "E. Hewlitt is registered at the Kilo Hotel," or "E. Hewlitt, representing a New York publishing house, is sojourning in our midst," but he felt that his heart interest in Kilo demanded something more than this. He was willing to have all the friends he could muster for the fight he would have to make for Miss Sally's affection, and he knew that the press was powerful in creating first impressions. He crossed the street and climbed the stair to the office of the KILO TIMES.

Every Thursday, except once a year, when Thomas Jefferson Jones went to the State Fair at Des Moines, the KILO TIMES appeared, printed on an old Washington hand-power press in the TIMES office four small pages, backed by four other pages that came already printed from a Chicago supply house, with the usual assortment of serial story, "Hints to Farmers," column of jokes, sermon, and patent medicine advertisements. T. J.'s own side was made up of local advertisements, a column of editorial, a few bits of local news that he could scrape together, and several columns of "country correspondence." T. J. himself was the entire force of the TIMES, except for a boy who came in every Thursday morning to work the hand-power of the press, who then washed up and delivered the papers about town. T. J. had built up the paper from a state of decay until it was one of the most prosperous country weeklies in Iowa, and he had done this against a handicap that would have discouraged most men--he was not married.

In Kilo subscriptions are frequently paid in turnips or cordwood, and the advertisers expect at least half of their bills to be taken out in trade, and the unmarried publisher is at a disadvantage. An unmarried publisher has little use for the trade half of the payment he received from the advertising milliner. No editor can appear in public wearing a gorgeously flowered hat of the type known as "buzzard," and retain the respect of his subscribers. Neither can he receive as currency, in a year when the turnip crop is unusually plentiful, more than sixty or seventy bushels of turnips in one day without having to get rid of them at a severe discount. But, in spite of all this, T. J., by his energy and good humor, had made a success of the TIME, and his editorials advising the people not to patronize the Chicago mail-order houses, but to patronize their home merchants, were copied by his contemporaries all over the State. One of his editorials on the prospects of the year's hog crop was quoted by the hog editor of a big Chicago daily, word for word. These are the real triumphs of country journalism, and all over the State his paper was referred to by his brother editors as "Our enterprising contemporary, the KILO TIMES," and T. J. as "The brilliant young editor of the same."

When Eliph' Hewlitt entered the printing office T. J. was standing by his case setting up an item of news. He never wrote anything but editorials on paper; other matter he composed in type as he went along. It saved time. Now he laid his "stick" on the case and turned to Eliph'.

"My name is Hewlitt, Eliph' Hewlitt," said the book agent, "agent for Jarby's Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art,' published by Jarby & Goss, New York; price five dollars, neatly bound in cloth, one dollar down, and one dollar a month until paid."

As the editor was about to speak, Eliph' raised his hand.

"I don't want to sell you one!" he exclaimed. "We are members of the same craft, and I never canvass publishers, except to offer them a chance to buy this book at a very liberal discount offered by our firm to the fellow members of the great craft, a discount of forty percent, bringing the cost of the book, complete in every respect and exactly like those sold regularly for five dollars, down to the phenomenally low cost of three dollars. At this price no publisher can afford to be without a copy, containing, as it does, all the matter usually found in the most complete and expensive encyclopedias, and much more, all condensed into one volume for ready reference. It saves times and money."

T. J. shook his head, not unkindly, but positively, and was about to turn to his case again, but Eliph' held out his hand.

"I merely mentioned it," he said, with a smile. "I don't want to sell you one. I supposed you would have learned from the landlord that I was in town and I only wanted to be sure that you got the item right for the next paper."

T. J. turned to his galleys and read from the type:

"'One of the visitors to our little burg this week is E. Hewlitt, of New York, who is stopping at the Kilo House.'"

Eliph' stroked his whiskers and smiled.

"Yes," he said. "Quite correct. H-e-w-l-i-t-t, I presume? A very good item, and well worded, but it might be more--more extensive."

"We are rather crowded for space this week," said T. J. "Two of our country correspondents missed the mails last week, and we have a double dose of it this week."

"Certainly," said Eliph'. "But I was thinking that this book ought to be mentioned. The advent of a book like Jarby's Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, containing, as it does, selections from the world's best literature, hints and helps for each and every day in the year, recipes for the kitchen, the dying words of all the world's great men, with their lives, et cetery, ought to be noticed. I was wondering if you would have space to run in a little card about that book."

T. J. came forward and brushed a heap of exchanges from the only chair in the office, and motioned to it with his hand. Eliph' laid his book on the editor's desk, and picked up a copy of last week's TIMES. He ran his eye over the columns, and stopped at the advertisement of Skinner, the butcher.

"I was thinking of something about twice the size of this," he suggested.

T. J. smiled and mentioned his rate for the space. It was not much, and Eliph' nodded.

"Every week, until forbid," he said, "and I guess I'd better subscribe. I am going to live right her in Kilo right along now, and the man that don't take his home paper never knows what is going on."

T. J. was pleased. He was more pleased when Eliph' pulled a long purse from his pocket, and paid for one insertion of the advertisement and for the subscription. The editor pulled a pad of paper toward himself, and wrote hastily, while Eliph' briefly mentioned facts. When the next number of the TIMES appeared there was a well-displayed advertisement of Jarby's Encyclopedia, with Eliph' Hewlitt mentioned as agent, but more important to Eliph' was the "local item" that stood at the very top of the local column.

"We are glad to announce that Kilo has secured as a citizen Eliph' Hewlitt, a man whose work in behalf of good literature entitles him to the highest praise. Mr. Hewlitt, who intends to make his home with us permanently, is representative of the celebrated work, Jarby's Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, published by Jarby & Goss, Greater New York, and his travels in behalf of that work have taken him to all parts of the nation. To have a man of such extensive travel decide to make Kilo his home is an honor. Mr. Hewlitt says that in all his travels he never found a town more up-to-date and progressive for its size than our own little burg. We heartily welcome him to our midst.

"We have it on good authority that Mr. Hewlitt is a man of considerable means, amassed in carrying on his work as a disseminator of literature, and that he intends, in the near future, to purchase a home here. He will probably buy a lot, and erect a dwelling that will be a credit to him and to our little burg. At present he is stopping with Doctor Weaver, the leading physician of our little burg.

"We learn that our new citizen has followed a habit universally adopted by many authors, theatrical artists, and others gifted in various ways, and early adopted a NOM DE PLUME, choosing the name of Eliph' Hewlitt because of its unassuming simplicity. His real name is Samuel Mills, and he is the son of the late W. P. Mills, of Franklin, gifted author of the deservedly famous poetical work, 'The wages of Sin.' Early in his career our new citizen found himself overshadowed by the fame of his father, and unwilling to succeed buy by and because of his own efforts, he chose a NOM DE PLUME, which he has ever since used. This truly American independence does him the greatest credit.

"Mr. Mills, or Eliph' Hewlitt, as he prefers to be known, is an old schoolmate of James Wilkins, the prominent livery and hotel man of our little burg. Again we welcome him to our midst."

This was headed, "Eliph' Hewlitt Now a Citizen of Kilo!" and it was all the introduction the little book agent needed--except to Miss Sally. When se read it she turned pale. A book agent living in the very town was more than she could bear.

But there was another item of news that Eliph' left with T. J. that went into the same issue of the TIMES. This stated that Mrs. Smith, of New York, and Miss Susan Bell were visiting Miss Sally Briggs, and T. J. had completed the slight information given him by Eliph' by a call at Miss Sally's. It was after Eliph' had told T. J. that he meant to make his home in Kilo that the enterprising editor suggested Doc Weaver's as a good boarding place, and the little book agent was glad enough to settle himself in a real home, for the Kilo Hotel was hardly more than an annex to the liver, feed and sale stable part of Jim Wilkins' business, and any man with half an eye could see that it was not, as a home for men, to be compared to the comfort with the stable, as a home for horses. Jim would have been the last man in Kilo to expect a visitor to remain in the Kilo Hotel more than two days. Before the end of the day Eliph' had arranged with Mrs. Doc Weaver for board and lodging, and had moved his big valise to the little back room on the second floor, from the low six-paned windows of which he could look out over the cornfield that environed Kilo on that side.

At supper he met Doc Weaver himself, and found him, as Kilo pronounced him, "a ready talker." Eliph' and Doc Weaver were sitting at the supper table, earnestly engaged in conversation, while the doctor's wife cleared away the dishes, and Eliph' was pouring out the knowledge he had absorbed from Jarby's Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art. The doctor was having a mental feast. Behind his spectacles his eyes glowed, and in exact ratio, as the doctor's spirits rose, the frown on his wife's forehead deepened.

The doctor had few opportunities for discussing any subjects but the most ordinary. Neighborhood gossip, the weather, the price of corn, were the usual sources of conversation in Kilo, except when an election gave a political tinge to discussions, or when a revival turned all attention to religious matters; but the doctor's mind scorned these limitation, and he found few persons from year's end to year's end to whom he could speak openly on his favorite themes.

To Kilo in general the doctor was something of a mystery. Ordinarily he was the most silent of men, but on occasion, as for instance when he could buttonhole an intelligent stranger, he dissolved into a torrent of words.

Doc Weaver held views. He believed there were other things besides the Republican party and the Methodist Church, and being liberal-minded, he believed all these other things in turn, and he had believed them enthusiastically. He could not help thinking that he was of a little finer clay than Skinner, or Wilkins, or Colonel Guthrie. Kilo considered the doctor one of her peculiar institutions; as Kilo took the ever-joking Toole seriously, so she took the ever serious doctor good-naturedly, but not too seriously. He was "jist Doc Weaver," and Kilo reserved the right to laugh at him in private, and to brag about him to strangers, and they were apt to "joke" him about his beliefs. As he was sensitive and dreaded the rough raillery of his neighbors, he kept his enthusiasms to himself. He was like an overcharged bottle of soda water.

Eliph' and the doctor were discussing Christian Science and faith cures generally, and when the doctor's wife passed to and fro, catching a phrase now and then, a look of deep anxiety spread over her face, until, as she brushed the crumbs from the red tablecloth, her shoulders seemed to droop in dejection.

When she smoothed the cloth and set the lamp on the mat in the center the doctor glanced at his watch and arose. He buttoned his frock coat over his breast (it was the only frock coat in Kilo), and drew on his driving gloves, holding his hands on a level with his chin. It was a habit, an aristocratic touch, which, like his side-whiskers, detached him from the rest of Kilo. He had once worn a silk hat, but he soon abandoned it for gray felt; for even he saw that a silk hat emphasized his individuality too strongly for comfort. It was a tempting mark for snowballs in winter.

When the doctor had closed the door and stepped from the front porch, his wife sank into a chair.

"I do hope you won't git mad at what I'm goin' to say, Mister Hewlitt," she said, "'cause I ain't goin' to say it for no such thing; but I couldn't help hearin' what you was sayin' to Doc while I was reddin' off the table. I wisht you wouldn't let him git to talkin' about new-fangled religions and sich. It ain't for his good nor mine."

Eliph' nodded good-naturedly.

"Why, ma'm," he exclaimed, "we were only discussing faith cures, and neither of us believes in them--wholly, that is. Of course everyone who has read the chapter on "India, It's Religions and Its History,' in Jarby's Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, must to some extend admit the power of mind over matter. But if you'd rather not have me, I'll not discuss it again. There are one thousand and one other interesting subjects treated of in this great book, any one of which will please the studious mind."

"I'd rather you wouldn't, if you don't mind," said the doctor's wife simply.

Eliph' Hewlitt pushed back his chair, and arose as he saw the lines of worry leave the face of his hostess. He turned to the side table and looked among the books that lay on it.

Mrs. Weaver sprang to her feet.

"Land's sakes!" she cried. "I know what you're lookin' for. You're lookin' for that book of yourn, ain't you? It's right there behind them wax flowers on that what-not. I seen it layin' around and I jist shoved it back there so Doc wouldn't git at it."

"Well, you sit down, ma'm," said the book agent. "I can get it. But there was no need to be so particular. The doctor knows how to hand a book as well as the next man."

The doctor's wife drew her darning basket from the side table and turned its contents into her lap.

"'Twasn't that," she said; "I'd never have thought of that, I guess. I hit it because I didn't know if 'twas a proper book for Doc. It's got a kind of a queer name."

Eliph' turned the book over in his hand. It was the first time anyone had suggested that the volume might be dangerous. He looked up and smiled.

"It would not harm the youngest child, ma'm," he said, "unless it fell on it. I wouldn't harm a baby."

"Well, I guess you'll think I'm awful foolish about Doc," said Mrs. Weaver, "but I wasn't goin' to take no chances, and the name kind of riled. Me. And them pictures of ladies bending."

"Physical Culture," said Eliph', "How to Develop the Body, How to Maintain Perfect Health, How to Keep Young and Beautiful. Page 542. Why, ma'm, that's just a system of training for the body. It makes one more graceful, just like running and jumping makes a boy strong."

The doctor's wife heaved a sigh of relief.

"Well, I guess that won't hurt Doc any if he does read it," she laughed. "I thought it was some new-fangled religion or other, and I allus keep sich things out of Doc's reach. Mebby you'll think I'm crazy, but when you know Doc as well as I do, you'll find out mortal quick he is to take up with new notions, and it would be jist like him to give up his sittin' in church and go and be a Physical Culture, if there was any sich belief. I don't mind much his bein' a Socialist, or any of them politercal things, if he wants to,--and goodness knows he does,--'cause they keep his mind busy; but since I got him to jine church I'm goin' to keep him jined, Physical Culture or no Physical Culture. I seen them pictures, and they riled me right up, to think of Doc's goin' round wrapped up in them sheets, or whatever it is on them folks in the pictures. Mebby it's all right for Physical Culturers, but I don't ever hope to see Doc so."

Eliph' Hewlitt laughed a thin little laugh, and Mrs. Weaver smiled.

"Now, you do think I'm foolish, don't you?" she inquired. "But I had sich a time with Doc 'fore I married him that I'm scared half to death every time I hear a long word I ain't right sure of. I was 'most worried out of my wits last Summer when Miss Crawford was lecturin' on Christian Science. It was jist about even whether Doc 'ud git in line or not. He had an awful struggle, poor feller, 'cause he can't bear to have nothin' new to believe in com round and him not believe in it. Religions is to Doc jist like teethin' is to babies; they got to teethe, and seem like Doc's got to catch new religions. He ain't never real happy when he ain't got no queer fandango to poke his nose into. But he didn't git Christian Scientisted.

"I says to him, 'Doc, ain't you an allopathy?' And he says, 'Yes, certainly.' 'Well,' I says, 'if you go and be a Christian Science you can't be no allopathy, Doc. Christian Science and allopathy don't mix,' I says, 'and you'd starve, that's what you'd do. I leave it to you, Doc, if you quit big pills, how'd you ever git a livin'? There ain't no big pills set down in the Christian Science book.'

"Well, he poked his eyes up at the ceiling, and says, 'I might write, Loreny.' 'Yes,' I says, 'so you might. And what 'd you write, Doc Weaver?' I says. 'Shakespeare?' And Doc shet right up, and never said another word. It was a mean thing for me to say, but I was awful worried."

"Shakespeare?" inquired Eliph'.

"Yes, that's the word--Shakespeare," said Mrs. Weaver. "It come purty nigh keeping me from marrying Doc. You see, Doc ain't like common folks. Don's got sich broad ideas of things. Lib'ral, he calls it, but I name it jist common foolish. He's got to give every new-fangled scheme a show. I guess, off and on, Doc's believed most every queer name in the dictionary, and some that ain't been put in yet. I used to tell him they didn't git them up fast enough to keep up with him. He's got a wonderful mind, Doc has.

"I hain't no notion how ever Doc got started believin' things, but mebby he got in with a bad lot at the doctor school he went to. Doc told me hisself they cut up dead folks. Anyhow, he come back from Chicago a regular atheist; but that was before I knowed him. He lived up at Clarence, and he didn't come to Kilo 'til about ten years after that, and he'd got pretty well along by then, and had got right handy at believin' things.

"Well, when Doc come to Kilo pa had jist died an' ma an' me had to take in boarders to git along; so Doc come to our house to board. That's how Doc an' me got to know each other. I was about as old as Doc, and we wasn't either of us very chickenish, but I thought Doc was the finest man I'd ever saw, an' exceptin' what I'm tellin' you, I ain't ever had cause to change my mind.

"I'd never sa so many books as Doc brought--more'n we've got now. I burned a lot when we got married--Tom Paine and Bob Ingersoll, and all I wasn't sure was orthodoxy. Why, we had more books than we've got in the Kilo Sunday School Lib'ry. 'Specially Shakespeare books, some Shakespeare writ hisself, an' some that was writ about him. Doc was real took up with Shakespeare them days.

"'Most all his spare time Doc put in readin' them Shakespeare books, and sometime he'd git a new one. One day he come home mad. I ain't seen Doc real mad but twice, but he was mad that day and no mistake. He'd got a new book, an' he set down to read it as soon as he got in the house; but every couple of pages he'd slap it shut and walk up an' down, growlin' to hisself. Oh, but he was riled! That night I heard him stampin' up an' down his room, mad as a wet hen, and by and by I heard that book go rattlin' out of the window and plunk down in the radish bed. So next morning I went out and got it, 'cause I liked Doc purty well by then, and it made me sorry to see sich a nice, quiet man carry on so.

"I couldn't make head nor tail of the book, nor see why it riled Doc up so. It was jist another Shakespeare book, only this one said that it wasn't Shakespeare, but some one else, that wrote the Shakespeare books. I thought Doc was real foolish to git so mad about it, but I had no idea how much Doc had took it to heart.

"Well, I do run on terribul when I git started, don't I? An' them supper dishes waitin' to be washed! But I guess it won't hurt them to stand a bit. You see, when Doc begun to take a likin' for me, the poor feller started in to talk about what he believed in. Most fellers does. First he begun about greenbacks. He was the only Greenbacker in Kilo; but that was jist politercal stuff, and while I'm a good Republican, like pa was, I didn't see that it would hurt if my husband did think other than what I did on that, so long as he wasn't a saloon Democrat. That was when they was havin' the prohibition fight in Ioway, you know. But when Doc begun lettin' out hints that he didn't think much of goin' to church, I was real sorry.

"I was sorry because I couldn't see my way clear to marry an outsider, bein' a good Methodist myself; but I didn't dream but that he was jist one of these lazy Christians that don't attend church lest they're dragged. There is plenty sich. I thought mebby I could bring him round all right once he was married; so I jist asked him right out if he would jine church.

"Well, you'd have thought I'd asked him to take poison! He didn't flare up like some would, but jist sat down and explained how he couldn't. I guess he must have explained, off an' on, for three weeks before I got a good hang of his idea. Seems like he was believing some Hindoo stuff jist then. I don't know as you ever heart tell of it. It's about souls. When a person dies his soul goes into another person, and so on, until kingdom come. R'inca'nation's what they call it."

"Yes," said Eliph' Hewlitt, "it is all given in 'India, Its Religions and Its History,' in Jarby's Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art."

"Jist so!" said Mrs. Weaver. "Well, I guess by the time Doc got done explainin' I knew more about r'inca'nation than what your Encyclopedia of Compendium does, because night after night Doc would sit up and explain till I'd drop off asleep.

"But it wasn't no use. So far as I could see, r'inca'nation was jist plain error and follerin' after false gods, and I told Doc so. Anyhow, I knowed there wan't nothin' like it in the Methodist Church, an' I jist up and let Doc know I wouldn't marry anybody that believed such stuff. Doc reckoned to change my mind, but my argument was jist plain 'I won't!' and that settled it. I believe a man and wife ought to belong to the same church,--'thy God shall be my God'--and I wasn't goin' to give up what I'd been taught for any crazy notions Doc had got into his head. I told him so, plain.

"Then Doc took a poetry-writing spell, but he wasn't no great hand at it. I told him in plain words he would be better off rollin' allopathy pills. I used to git right put out with Doc sometimes, foolin' away good time that way, sittin' round by the hour spoilin' good paper. I reckon he started close onto a thousand poems, but he didn't git along very good. 'Bout the their line he'd stop and tear up what he'd wrote. When I wasn't mad I used to feel real sorry for Doc, he tried so hard; but feelin' sorry for him didn't help him none, and it was kind of ridiculous to see him.

"One day I asked Doc why he didn't tell ma and the rest of Kilo what he believed in, and he said that Kilo folks couldn't understand sich things, bein' mostly born and bred in the Methodist Church, and not lib'ral like he was. I seen he was payin' me a compliment, because he had told me, but I couldn't swaller r'inca'nation, for all that. And so we didn't seem to git no further.

"But one day Doc says, 'Well, Loreny, WHY can't you marry me? They ain't no one can love you like I do, and you know I'll make you a good husband, and I'll go to church with you reg'lar if you say so.'

"'Goin' to church ain't all, Doc Weaver,' I says. 'I jist won't marry a man that believes sich trash as you do.'

"'Well, tell me why not,' he says.

"'I'll tell you, Doc Weaver,' I says, 'since you drive me to it. I'm willing enough to marry YOU, but I ain't willing to marry some old heathen Chinee or goodness knows what!'

"'Doc was took all aback. 'Why, Loreny!' he says, 'Why, Loreny!'

"'I mean it,' I says, 'jist what I say. How can I tell who you are when you say yourself you ain't nothing but some old spirit in a new body? Like as not you're Herod, or an Indian, or a cannibal savage, and I'd like to see myself marryin' sich,' I says, 'I'd look purty, wouldn't I, settin' in church alongside of a made-over Chinee?'

"Doc ain't very pale, ever, but he got as red as a beet, and I see I'd hit him purty hard. Then he kind of stiffened up.

"'Loreny,' he says, 'I'd have thought you'd have believed my spirit to be a little better than a heathen Chinee's,' he says, 'though there's much worse folks than what they are.'

"I seen he was put out, an' I hadn't meant to hurt his feelings, so I says, more gentle, 'Well, Doc, if you ain't that, what are you?'

"I s'pose, Mr. Hewlitt, you've noticed how sometimes something you find out will make clear to you a lot of things you couldn't make head nor tail of before. That's the way what Doc said did for me. There was that poetry writin' of his, an' the way that Shakespeare book made him mad, an' how he read those Shakespeare books instead of his Mateery Medicky volumes.

"Well, I asked Doc, 'If you ain't a heathen Chinee or some sich, what are you?' an' when he answered you could have knocked me down with a wisp of hay. You'd never guess, no more than I did.

"'Loreny,' he says, solemn as a deacon, 'I didn't reckon never to tell nobody, an' you mustn't judge what I tell you too quick. I ain't made up my mind sudden-like,' he says, 'but have studied myself and what I like and don't like, for years, and I've jist been forced to it,' he says. 'There ain't no doubt in my mind, Loreny,' he says, an' he let his voice go way down low, like he was 'most afraid to say it hisself. 'Loreny, I believe that Shakespeare's spirit has transmigrated into me.'

"Well, sir, I was too taken aback to say a word. I thought Doc had gone crazy. But he hadn't.

"When I kind of got my senses back I riled up right away. 'Well,' I says snappy, 'I think when you was pickin' out someone to be you might have picked out someone better. From all I've heard, Shakespeare wasn't no better than he'd ought to have been. He don't suit me no better than a Chinee would, and I hain't no fancy to marry Mister Shakespeare. Maybe you think it's fine doin's to be Shakespeare, Doc Weaver, but I don't, and I ain't going to marry a man that's like a two-headed cow, half one thing and half another, and not all of any. When you git your senses,' I says, 'you can talk about marryin' me' and off I went, perky as a peacock. But I cried 'most all night.

"Him an' me kind of stood off from each other after that, and I made up my mind I'd die before I'd marry Doc so long as he was Shakespeare, and Doc had got the notion that he was Shakespeare so set in his mind it seemed likely he would.

"I hadn't never took much stock in poetry readin' since I got out of 'Mother Goose,' but I begun to read Shakespeare a little jist to see what kind of poetry Doc thought he had writ when he was Shakespeare. Well, I wouldn't want to see sich books in the Sunday School Lib'ry, that's all I've got to say. Some I couldn't make sense out of, but there was one long poem about Venus and some young feller--well, I shouldn't thing the gov'ment would allow sich things printed! I jist knowed Doc couldn't ever have writ such stuff. There ain't so much meanness in him. But I couldn't see clear how to make Doc see it that way.

"I'd about given up hopes of ever curing Doc, when one day a feller come to town and give a lecture in the dance room over the grocery. He was one of these spiritualism fellers, and as soon as it was noised around that he was comin', I knowed Doc would be the first man to go and the last to come away, and he was. Thinks I, 'Let him go. If Doc jines in with spiritualists, it will be better'n what he believes in now, and if he begins changin' religions, mebby I can keep him changin', and change him into a churchgoer." And so, jist to see what Doc was like to be, I coaxed ma to go, an' I went, too. It wasn't near so sinful as I expected.

"The feller's name was Gilson, an' he was as pale as a picked chicken, but real common lookin', otherwise. He was a right-down good talker and seemed real earnest. He wasn't the ghost-raisin' kind of spiritualist, and them that went to see a show, come away dissap'inted, for all he did was to talk and take up a collection. He said he was a new beginner and used to be a Presbyterian minister. Doc stayed after it was over and had a talk with Gilson, and of course he got converted, like he always did. He told ma so.

"I hadn't been havin' much talk with Doc one way or another, but when ma told me he had jined the spiritualists I eased up a litt, and one day I made bold to say, 'Well, Doc, I s'pose now you have give up that Shakespeare foolishness, ain't you?'

"'No, Loreny,' he says, 'I ain't.'

"'Land's sakes!' I says, 'do you mean to say you can be two things at once in religion, as well as bein' Shakespeare and Doc Weaver?'

"'Yes, Loreny,' he says. 'The spirit has got to be somewheres between the times it has got a body,' he says, 'That stands to reason. It's always puzzled me where I was between the time I died two or three hundred years ago and the time I entered this body,' he says, 'and spiritualism makes it all clear. I was floatin' in space.'

"That's jist how fool-crazy Doc was them days. There he was believin' with all his might that r'inca'nation business and that spirit business at the same time.

"I says, 'Well, Doc, some day you'll see how deep in error you are,' and I didn't say no more.

"Of course Doc wouldn't let well-enough alone. There was a big spiritualist over to Peory, Illinoy, a reg'lar ghost-raisin' feller, and what did Doc do but write over and git him to come to Kilo and give a seance. That is a meetin' where they raise up ghosts. Doc wanted the feller to stop at our house, but I wouldn't have it, so he had to put up at the hotel. Doc said it was a shame, but as soon as I seen the man I said it served him right, and that he was a fraud, but Doc swallered him right down, hide an' hoof.

"They had the seance in the hotel parlor, and no charge, so me and ma went, thought we wasn't jist sure it was right; but I says it wasn't as if it was real--we knowed it was all foolishness; so ma and me trotted along. I found out afterward that Doc paid to have the feller come to Kilo. His name was Moller, an' he was one of them long-haired greasy-lookin' men.

"I must say it was real scary when they turned the lights down an' Moller made tables jump around and fiddles play without anybody playin' on them. There wasn't many folks there, but ma held my hand, an' I held ma's, and Doc was right in front of us.

"Moller did a lot of tricks sich as I hear they always do, an' then he said he'd bring up any spirits anyone would like to have come up. That was what Doc was waitin' for, and he popped right up.

"'I should like to talk to Bacon,' he says.

"'Bacon?' says Moller. 'There's a good many Bacons in spirit-land. Which one do you want to speak to, brother?"

"'The one that lived when Shakespeare did,' says Doc. 'The one that wrote the essays and sich. Sir Francis Bacon.'

"'Ah, yes!' says Moller. 'I'll see if he's willin' to say anyting to-night.' And down he set into a chair. Well, you'd have died! In a bit his head and legs begun to jerk like he had St. Vitus dance, and then he straightened out, stiff as a broomstick. It was the silliest thing ever I seen. I felt real sorry for Doc, he was so dead earnest about it.

"In a minute Moller opened his jaw and begun to talk. It was all sort of jerky-like.

"'I'm sailin' through starry fields,' he says, 'explorin' the wonders of the universe. Why am I called back to earth this way? Doth somebody want to question me about something?'

"Doc was all worked up. He held onto a chairback, an' he was so shakin' I could hear the loose chair rungs rattle.

"'Is this Bacon?' he says.

"'It is,' says Moller, his voice jerkin' like a kitten taken with the fits.

"'Well,' says Doc, like his life was hangin' on what Moller would say, 'did you, or did you not, write Shakespeare's plays?'

"'I did not,' Moller jerked out; 'Shakespeare did.'

"You could hear Doc sigh all over the room, it was sich a relief to his mind. Doc was awful pleased. He was smilin' all over his face, he was so pleased to have Bacon own up, an' he turned to ma and me and says, 'Ain't it wonderful!'

"Then Moller come out of his fit an' set still a while, like he had jist woke up from a long nap. Then he says he's goin' into another trance, an' if any in the room wants to hold talk with any of their lost friends or kin, they should ask for them, an' he jerked again, and jerked out stiff.

"That old back-slider, Pap Briggs, popped up, but Doc was ahead of him, 'cause Pap always has to regulate his store teeth before he can git his tongue goin', and Doc says, 'I desire to speak with Richard Burbage.'

"I guess Moller didn't now any sich feller. Anyways he jist lay still an' so Doc says, 'Mebby there's several Richard Burbages. I mean the one that owned a theater with Shakespeare.' But Richard Burbage didn't feed like talkin' that evenin'. I reckon Moller didn't know nothin' about Richard Burbage, and was frightened that Doc would ask him something that he couldn't answer. There ain't nobody slicker than them fake fellers. It's their business.

"But Doc was so worked up he would have swallered anything, and I guess Moller thought he had to make up to Doc for payin' his expenses, so he says, smilin', 'I see, doctor, you are interested in literature, and I'll try to get somebody in that line that's willing to talk.' So he jerked into another trance.

"Purty soon Moller says: 'From the seventh circle I have come, drawn by the will of somebody that knows and loves me. It's a long way. Billions of miles off is ny new home, where I spend eternity writin' things that make what I writ on earth look like nothin','--or some sich nonsense. Doc looked back at me once, proud as sin, an' then he swelled out his lungs, an' run his hand over his whiskers, like you've seen him do. He was gittin' wound up for a good talk.

"If I do say it myself, Doc's a good talker, an' I figgered he'd make Moller hustle. I see Doc was goin' to spread hisself to do credit to Shakespeare. He hadn't no doubt that one spirit would recognize another, so he says, like he was makin' a speech, 'You know who I am?'

"'I do,' says Moller.

"'Then,' says Doc, 'since my spirit eyes are blinded by this mortal body, may I ask who you are?' He didn't hardly breathe. Then Moller jerked. 'I am Shakespeare,' he says, sudden-like.

"'What's that?' says Doc, short and quick.

"'Shakespeare,' says Moller--'William Shakespeare.'

"Poor Doc jist dropped into his chair, and run his hand over his forehead and his eyes, like he had bumped into the edge of a door in the dark. I ain't never seen Doc real pale but once, and that was then. Then he turned round to ma an' me, weak as a sick baby, an' says, 'Come, Loreny; this lyin' place ain't nowhere for you and me to be,' and we went out.

"'Well, Doc,' I says, when we was outside, 'seems to me like there is two of you,' and that was all I says to him about it, then; but I guess he see what a fool he'd been, 'cause the next night he says, 'Loreny, I wisht you'd git me a set of the articles of belief of our church. I'd like to look them over.'

"'Well,' I says, 'who'll I say wants them, Shakespeare or Doc Weaver?'

"'You can say an old fool wants them,' says Doc, 'and you'll hit it about right.'

"So Doc jined church, an' he's leadin' the singin' now; but you can see why I keep sich a lookout lest he gits started off on some new religion."

Mrs. Weaver glanced at the clock.

"Mercy me!" she exclaimed. "Doc'll be home before I git them supper dishes washed up. Now, you won't feel hurt because I don't want you to talk new religions to Doc, will you? You can see jist how I feel, and you wouldn't want no husband yourself that was a philopeny, as you might say. I don't believe I could git on real well with Doc if he had kept on bein' Shakespeare. I'd always have felt like he was 'bout three hundred years older than me. But there's jist one thing I dread more than anything else. If Doc should take up with the Mormon religion and start a harem, I believe I'd coax him to be Shakespeare again. It's bad enough to have a double husband, but, land's sakes, I'd rather that than be part of a wife." _

Read next: Chapter 12. Getting Acquainted

Read previous: Chapter 10. The Boss Grafter

Table of content of Kilo


Post your review
Your review will be placed after the table of content of this book