In 1886 a young woman was living in a modest house near a secluded New
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England village, with no company but a little boy about five years old.
She did her own work, she discouraged acquaintanceships, and had none.
The butcher, the baker, and the others that served her could tell the
villagers nothing about her further than that her name was Stillman, and
that she called the child Archy. Whence she came they had not been able
to find out, but they said she talked like a Southerner. The child had
no playmates and no comrade, and no teacher but the mother. She taught
him diligently and intelligently, and was satisfied with the results--
even a little proud of them. One day Archy said:
"Mamma, am I different from other children?"
"Well, I suppose not. Why?"
"There was a child going along out there and asked me if the postman had
been by and I said yes, and she said how long since I saw him and I said
I hadn't seen him at all, and she said how did I know he'd been by, then,
and I said because I smelt his track on the sidewalk, and she said I was
a dum fool and made a mouth at me. What did she do that for?"
The young woman turned white, and said to herself, "It's a birth mark!
The gift of the bloodhound is in him." She snatched the boy to her
breast and hugged him passionately, saying, "God has appointed the way!"
Her eyes were burning with a fierce light, and her breath came short and
quick with excitement. She said to herself: "The puzzle is solved now;
many a time it has been a mystery to me, the impossible things the child
has done in the dark, but it is all clear to me now."
She set him in his small chair, and said:
"Wait a little till I come, dear; then we will talk about the matter."
She went up to her room and took from her dressing-table several small
articles and put them out of sight: a nail-file on the floor under the
bed; a pair of nail-scissors under the bureau; a small ivory paper-knife
under the wardrobe. Then she returned, and said:
"There! I have left some things which I ought to have brought down."
She named them, and said, "Run up and bring them, dear."
The child hurried away on his errand and was soon back again with the
"Did you have any difficulty, dear?"
"No, mamma; I only went where you went."
During his absence she had stepped to the bookcase, taken several books
from the bottom shelf, opened each, passed her hand over a page, noting
its number in her memory, then restored them to their places. Now she
"I have been doing something while you have been gone, Archy. Do you
think you can find out what it was?"
The boy went to the bookcase and got out the books that had been touched,
and opened them at the pages which had been stroked.
The mother took him in her lap, and said:
"I will answer your question now, dear. I have found out that in one way
you are quite different from other people. You can see in the dark, you
can smell what other people cannot, you have the talents of a bloodhound.
They are good and valuable things to have, but you must keep the matter a
secret. If people found it out, they would speak of you as an odd child,
a strange child, and children would be disagreeable to you, and give you
nicknames. In this world one must be like everybody else if he doesn't
want to provoke scorn or envy or jealousy. It is a great and fine
distinction which has been born to you, and I am glad; but you will keep
it a secret, for mamma's sake, won't you?"
The child promised, without understanding.
All the rest of the day the mother's brain was busy with excited
thinkings; with plans, projects, schemes, each and all of them uncanny,
grim, and dark. Yet they lit up her face; lit it with a fell light of
their own; lit it with vague fires of hell. She was in a fever of
unrest; she could not sit, stand, read, sew; there was no relief for her
but in movement. She tested her boy's gift in twenty ways, and kept
saying to herself all the time, with her mind in the past: "He broke my
father's heart, and night and day all these years I have tried, and all
in vain, to think out a way to break his. I have found it now--I have
found it now."
When night fell, the demon of unrest still possessed her. She went on
with her tests; with a candle she traversed the house from garret to
cellar, hiding pins, needles, thimbles, spools, under pillows, under
carpets, in cracks in the walls, under the coal in the bin; then sent the
little fellow in the dark to find them; which he did, and was happy and
proud when she praised him and smothered him with caresses.
From this time forward life took on a new complexion for her. She said,
"The future is secure--I can wait, and enjoy the waiting." The most of
her lost interests revived. She took up music again, and languages,
drawing, painting, and the other long-discarded delights of her
maidenhood. She was happy once more, and felt again the zest of life.
As the years drifted by she watched the development of her boy, and was
contented with it. Not altogether, but nearly that. The soft side of
his heart was larger than the other side of it. It was his only defect,
in her eyes. But she considered that his love for her and worship of her
made up for it. He was a good hater--that was well; but it was a
question if the materials of his hatreds were of as tough and enduring a
quality as those of his friendships--and that was not so well.
The years drifted on. Archy was become a handsome, shapely, athletic
youth, courteous, dignified, companionable, pleasant in his ways, and
looking perhaps a trifle older than he was, which was sixteen. One
evening his mother said she had something of grave importance to say to
him, adding that he was old enough to hear it now, and old enough and
possessed of character enough and stability enough to carry out a stern
plan which she had been for years contriving and maturing. Then she told
him her bitter story, in all its naked atrociousness. For a while the
boy was paralyzed; then he said:
"I understand. We are Southerners; and by our custom and nature there is
but one atonement. I will search him out and kill him."
"Kill him? No! Death is release, emancipation; death is a favor. Do I
owe him favors? You must not hurt a hair of his head."
The boy was lost in thought awhile; then he said:
"You are all the world to me, and your desire is my law and my pleasure.
Tell me what to do and I will do it."
The mother's eyes beamed with satisfaction, and she said:
"You will go and find him. I have known his hiding-place for eleven
years; it cost me five years and more of inquiry, and much money, to
locate it. He is a quartz-miner in Colorado, and well-to-do. He lives
in Denver. His name is Jacob Fuller. There--it is the first time I have
spoken it since that unforgettable night. Think! That name could have
been yours if I had not saved you that shame and furnished you a cleaner
one. You will drive him from that place; you will hunt him down and
drive him again; and yet again, and again, and again, persistently,
relentlessly, poisoning his life, filling it with mysterious terrors,
loading it with weariness and misery, making him wish for death, and that
he had a suicide's courage; you will make of him another Wandering Jew;
he shall know no rest any more, no peace of mind, no placid sleep; you
shall shadow him, cling to him, persecute him, till you break his heart,
as he broke my father's and mine."
"I will obey, mother."
"I believe it, my child. The preparations are all made; everything is
ready. Here is a letter of credit; spend freely, there is no lack of
money. At times you may need disguises. I have provided them; also some
other conveniences." She took from the drawer of the typewriter-table
several squares of paper. They all bore these typewritten words:
It is believed that a certain man who is wanted in an Eastern state
is sojourning here. In 1880, in the night, he tied his young wife
to a tree by the public road, cut her across the face with a
cowhide, and made his dogs tear her clothes from her, leaving her
naked. He left her there, and fled the country. A blood-relative
of hers has searched for him for seventeen years. Address . . .
. . . . . . , . . . . . . . . . . , Post-office.
The above reward will be paid in cash to the person who will furnish
the seeker, in a personal interview, the criminal's address.
"When you have found him and acquainted yourself with his scent, you will
go in the night and placard one of these upon the building he occupies,
and another one upon the post-office or in some other prominent place.
It will be the talk of the region. At first you must give him several
days in which to force a sale of his belongings at something approaching
their value. We will ruin him by and by, but gradually; we must not
impoverish him at once, for that could bring him to despair and injure
his health, possibly kill him."
She took three or four more typewritten forms from the drawer--
duplicates--and read one:
. . . . . . . . . . , . . . . . . . . . . , 18.
. . .
To Jacob Fuller:
You have . . . . . . days in which to settle your affairs.
You will not be disturbed during that limit, which will expire at .
. . . . . M., on the . . . . . . of . . . . . . .
You must then MOVE ON. If you are still in the place after the
named hour, I will placard you on all the dead walls, detailing your
crime once more, and adding the date, also the scene of it, with all
names concerned, including your own. Have no fear of bodily injury
--it will in no circumstances ever be inflicted upon you. You
brought misery upon an old man, and ruined his life and broke his
heart. What he suffered, you are to suffer.
"You will add no signature. He must receive this before he learns of the
reward placard--before he rises in the morning--lest he lose his head and
fly the place penniless."
"I shall not forget."
"You will need to use these forms only in the beginning--once may he
enough. Afterward, when you are ready for him to vanish out of a place,
see that he gets a copy of this form, which merely says:
"MOVE ON. You have . . . . . . days."
"He will obey. That is sure."