Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > American
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vols. I–V: American
 
My Double and How He Undid Me
By Edward Everett Hale (1822–1909)
 
IT is not often that I trouble the readers of the Atlantic Monthly. I should not trouble them now, but for the importunities of my wife, who “feels to insist” that a duty to society is unfulfilled till I have told why I had to have a double, and how he undid me. She is sure, she says, that intelligent persons cannot understand that pressure upon public servants which alone drives any man into the employment of a double. And while I fear she thinks, at the bottom of her heart, that my fortunes will never be remade, she has a faint hope that, as another Rasselas, I may teach a lesson to future publics from which they may profit, though we die. Owing to the behaviour of my double, or, if you please, to that public pressure which compelled me to employ him, I have plenty of leisure to write this communication.  1
  I am, or rather was, a minister of the Sandemanian connection. I was settled in the active, wide-awake town of Naguadavick, on one of the finest water-powers in Maine. We used to call it a Western town in the heart of the civilization of New England. A charming place it was and is. A spirited, brave young parish had I, and it seemed as if we might have all “the joy of eventful living” to our heart’s content.  2
  Alas! how little we knew on the day of my ordination, and in those halcyon moments of our first housekeeping. To be the confidential friend of a hundred families in the town—cutting the social trifle, as my friend Haliburton says, “from the top of the whipped syllabub to the bottom of the spongecake, which is the foundation”—to keep abreast of the thought of the age in one’s study, and to do one’s best on Sunday to interweave that thought with the active life of an active town and to inspirit both and to make both infinite by glimpses of the Eternal Glory, seemed such an exquisite forelook into one’s life! Enough to do, and all so real and so grand! If this vision could only have lasted!  3
  The truth is, this vision was not in itself a delusion, nor, indeed, half bright enough. If one could only have been left to do his own business, the vision would have accomplished itself and brought out new paraheliacal visions, each as bright as the original. The misery was, and is, as we found out, I and Polly, before long, that besides the vision, and besides the usual human and finite failures in life (such as breaking the old pitcher that came over in the Mayflower, and putting into the fire the Alpenstock with which her father climbed Mont Blanc)—besides these, I say (imitating the style of Robinson Crusoe), there were pitchforked in on us a great rowen-heap of humbugs, handed down from some unknown seed-time, in which we were expected, and I chiefly, to fulfil certain public functions before the community, of the character of those fulfilled by the third row of supernumeraries who stand behind the Sepoys in the spectacle of the “Cataract of the Ganges.” They were the duties, in a word, which one performs as member of one or another social class or subdivision, wholly distinct from what one does as A. by himself A. What invisible power put these functions on me it would be very hard to tell. But such power there was and is. And I had not been at work a year before I found I was living two lives, one real and one merely functional—for two sets of people, one my parish, whom I loved, and the other a vague public, for whom I did not care two straws. All this was a vague notion, which everybody had and has, that this second life would eventually bring out some great results, unknown at present, to somebody somewhere.  4
  Crazed by this duality of life, I first read Doctor Wigan on the “Duality of the Brain,” hoping that I could train one side of my head to do these outside jobs, and the other to do my intimate and real duties…. But Doctor Wigan does not go into these niceties of this subject, and I failed. It was then that, on my wife’s suggestion, I resolved to look out for a Double.  5
  I was at first singularly successful. We happened to be recreating at Stafford Springs that summer. We rode out one day, for one of the relaxations of that watering-place, to the great Monson Poorhouse. We were passing through one of the large halls, when my destiny was fulfilled!  6
  He was not shaven. He had on no spectacles. He was dressed in a green baize roundabout and faded blue overalls, worn sadly at the knee. But I saw at once that he was of my height—five feet four and a half. He had black hair, worn off by his hat. So have and have not I. He stooped in walking. So do I. His hands were large, and mine. And—choicest gift of Fate in all—he had, not “a strawberry-mark on his left arm,” but a cut from a juvenile brickbat over his right eye, slightly affecting the play of that eyebrow. Reader, so have I! My fate was sealed!  7
  A word with Mr. Holly, one of the inspectors, settled the whole thing. It proved that this Dennis Shea was a harmless, amiable fellow, of the class known as shiftless, who had sealed his fate by marrying a dumb wife, who was at that moment ironing in the laundry. Before I left Stafford I had hired both for five years. We had applied to Judge Pynchon, then the probate judge at Springfield, to change the name of Dennis Shea to Frederic Ingham. We had explained to the judge, what was the precise truth, that an eccentric gentleman wished to adopt Dennis, under this new name, into his family. It never occurred to him that Dennis might be more than fourteen years old. And thus, to shorten this preface, when we returned at night to my parsonage at Naguadavick, there entered Mrs. Ingham, her new dumb laundress, myself, who am Mr. Frederic Ingham, and my double, who was Mr. Frederic Ingham, by as good right as I.  8
  Oh, the fun we had the next morning in shaving his beard to my pattern, cutting his hair to match mine, and teaching him how to wear and how to take off gold-bowed spectacles! Really, they were electro-plate, and the glass was plain (for the poor fellow’s eyes were excellent). Then in four successive afternoons I taught him four speeches. I had found these would be quite enough for the supernumerary-Sepoy line of life, and it was well for me they were; for though he was good-natured, he was very shiftless, and it was, as our national proverb says, “like pulling teeth” to teach him. But at the end of the next week he could say, with quite my easy and frisky air:  9
  1. “Very well, thank you. And you?” This for an answer to casual salutations.  10
  2. “I am very glad you liked it.”  11
  3. “There has been so much said, and, on the whole, so well said, that I will not occupy the time.”  12
  4. “I agree, in general, with my friend the other side of the room.”  13
  At first I had a feeling that I was going to be at great cost for clothing him. But it proved, of course, at once, that, whenever he was out, I should be at home. And I went, during the bright period of his success, to so few of those awful pageants which require a black dress-coat and what the ungodly call, after Mr. Dickens, a white choker, that in the happy retreat of my own dressing-gowns and jackets my days went by as happily and cheaply as those of another Thalaba. And Polly declares there never was a year when the tailoring cost so little. He lived (Dennis, not Thalaba) in his wife’s room over the kitchen. He had orders never to show himself at that window. When he appeared in the front of the house, I retired to my sanctissimum and my dressing-gown. In short, the Dutchman and his wife, in the old weather-box, had not less to do with each other than he and I. He made the furnace fire and split the wood before daylight; then he went to sleep again, and slept late; then came for orders, with a red silk bandanna tied round his head, with his overalls on, and his dress-coat and spectacles off. If we happened to be interrupted, no one guessed that he was Frederic Ingham as well as I; and in the neighborhood there grew up an impression that the minister’s Irishman worked daytimes in the factory village at New Coventry. After I had given him his orders, I never saw him till the next day.  14
  I launched him by sending him to a meeting of the Enlightenment Board. The Enlightenment Board consists of seventy-four members, of whom sixty-seven are necessary to form a quorum…. At this particular time we had had four successive meetings, averaging four hours each—wholly occupied in whipping in a quorum. At the first only eleven men were present; at the next, by force of three circulars, twenty-seven; at the third, thanks to two days’ canvasing by Auchmuty and myself, begging men to come, we had sixty. Half the others were in Europe. But without a quorum we could do nothing. All the rest of us waited grimly for four hours and adjourned without any action. At the fourth meeting we had flagged, and only got fifty-nine together.  15
  But on the first appearance of my double—whom I sent on this fatal Monday to the fifth meeting—he was the sixty-seventh man who entered the room. He was greeted with a storm of applause! The poor fellow had missed his way—read the street signs ill through his spectacles (very ill, in fact, without them)—and had not dared to inquire. He entered the room—finding the president and secretary holding to their chairs two judges of the Supreme Court, who were also members ex officio, and were begging leave to go away. On his entrance all was changed. Presto, the by-laws were suspended, and the Western property was given away. Nobody stopped to converse with him. He voted, as I had charged him to do, in every instance, with the minority. I won new laurels as a man of sense, though a little unpunctual—and Dennis, alias Ingham, returned to the parsonage, astonished to see with how little wisdom the world is governed. He cut a few of my parishioners in the street; but he had his glasses off, and I am known to be near-sighted. Eventually he recognized them more readily than I….  16
  After this he went to several Commencements for me, and ate the dinners provided; he sat through three of our Quarterly Conventions for me—always voting judiciously, by the simple rules mentioned above, of siding with the minority. And I meanwhile, who had before been losing caste among my friends, as holding myself aloof from the association of the body, began to rise in everybody’s favor. “Ingham’s a good fellow—always on hand;” “never talks much, but does the right thing at the right time;” “is not as unpunctual as he used to be—he comes early, and sits through to the end.” “He has got over his old talkative habit, too. I spoke to a friend of his about it once; and I think Ingham took it kindly,” etc., etc.  17
  … Polly is more rash than I am, as the reader has observed in the outset of this memoir. She risked Dennis one night under the eyes of her own sex. Governor Gorges had always been very kind to us, and, when he gave his great annual party to the town, asked us. I confess I hated to go. I was deep in the new volume of Pfeiffer’s “Mystics,” which Haliburton had just sent me from Boston. “But how rude,” said Polly, “not to return the Governor’s civility and Mrs. Gorges’s, when they will be sure to ask why you are away!” Still I demurred, and at last she, with the wit of Eve and of Semiramis conjoined, let me off by saying that, if I would go in with her and sustain the initial conversations with the Governor and the ladies staying there, she would risk Dennis for the rest of the evening. And that was just what we did. She took Dennis in training all that afternoon, instructed him in fashionable conversation, cautioned him against the temptations of the supper table—and at nine in the evening he drove us all down in the carryall. I made the grand star entrée with Polly and the pretty Walton girls, who were staying with us. We had put Dennis into a great rough top-coat, without his glasses; and the girls never dreamed, in the darkness, of looking at him. He sat in the carriage, at the door, while we entered. I did the agreeable to Mrs. Gorges, was introduced to her niece, Miss Fernanda; I complimented Judge Jeffries on his decision in the great case of D’Aulnay vs. Laconia Mining Company; I stepped into the dressing-room for a moment, stepped out for another, walked home after a nod with Dennis and tying the horse to a pump; and while I walked home, Mr. Frederic Ingham, my double, stepped in through the library into the Gorges’s grand saloon.  18
  Oh! Polly died of laughing as she told me of it at midnight! And even here, where I have to teach my hands to hew the beech for stakes to fence our cave, she dies of laughing at the recalls it—and says that single occasion was worth all we have paid for it. Gallant Eve that she is! She joined Dennis at the library door, and in an instant presented him to Doctor Ochterlony, from Baltimore, who was on a visit in town, and was talking with her as Dennis came in. “Mr. Ingham would like to hear what you were telling us about your success among the German population.” And Dennis bowed and said, in spite of a scowl from Polly, “I’m very glad you liked it.” But Doctor Ochterlony did not observe, and plunged into the tide of explanation; Dennis listened like a prime minister, and bowing like a mandarin, which is, I suppose, the same thing…. So was it that before Doctor Ochterlony came to the “success,” or near it, Governor Gorges came to Dennis and asked him to hand Mrs. Jeffries down to supper, a request which he heard with great joy.  19
  Polly was skipping round the room, I guess, gay as a lark. Auchmuty came to her “in pity for poor Ingham,” who was so bored by the stupid pundit—and Auchmuty could not understand why I stood it so long. But when Dennis took Mrs. Jeffries down, Polly could not resist standing near them. He was a little flustered, till the sight of the eatables and drinkables gave him the same Mercian courage which it gave Diggory. A little excited then, he attempted one or two of his speeches to the Judge’s lady. But little he knew how hard it was to get in even a promptu there edgewise. “Very well, I thank you,” said he, after the eating elements were adjusted; “and you?” And then did not he have to hear about the mumps, and the measles, and arnica, and belladonna, and camomile flower, and dodecatheon, till she changed oysters for salad; and then about the old practice and the new, and what her sister said, and what her sister’s friend said, and what the physician to her sister’s friend said, and then what was said by the brother of the sister of the physician of the friend of her sister, exactly as if it had been in Ollendorff? There was a moment’s pause, as she declined champagne. “I am very glad you like it,” said Dennis again, which he never should have said but to one who complimented a sermon. “Oh! you are so sharp, Mr. Ingham! No! I never drink any wine at all—except sometimes in summer a little currant shrub—from our own currants, you know. My own mother—that is, I call her my own mother, because, you know, I do not remember,” etc., etc., etc.; till they came to the candied orange at the end of the feast, when Dennis, rather confused, thought he must say something, and tried No. 4—“I agree, in general, with my friend the other side of the room”—which he never should have said but at a public meeting. But Mrs. Jeffries, who never listens excepting to understand, caught him up instantly with, “Well, I’m sure my husband returns the compliment; he always agrees with you—though we do worship with the Methodists; but you know, Mr. Ingham,” etc., etc., etc., till they move upstairs; and as Dennis led her through the hall, he was scarcely understood by any but Polly, as he said, “There has been so much said, and, on the whole, so well said, that I will not occupy the time.”  20
  His great resource the rest of the evening was standing in the library, carrying on animated conversations with one and another in much the same way. Polly had initiated him in the mysteries of a discovery of mine, that it is not necessary to finish your sentences in a crowd, but by a sort of mumble, omitting sibilants and details. This, indeed, if your words fail you, answers even in public extempore speech, but better where other talking is going on. Thus: “We missed you at the Natural History Society, Ingham.” Ingham replies, “I am very gligloglum, that is, that you were mmmmm.” By gradually dropping the voice, the interlocutor is compelled to supply the answer. “Mrs. Ingham, I hope your friend Augusta is better.” Augusta has not been ill. Polly cannot think of explaining, however, and answers, “Thank you, ma’am; she is very reareson wewahwewoh,” in lower and lower tones. And Mrs. Throckmorton, who forgot the subject of which she spoke as soon as she asked the question, is quite satisfied. Dennis could see into the card-room, and came to Polly to ask if he might not go and play all-fours. But, of course, she refused. At midnight they came home delighted—Polly, wild to tell me the story of the victory; only both the pretty Walton girls said, “Cousin Frederic, you did not come near me all the evening.”…  21
  But I see I loiter on my story, which is rushing to the plunge. Let me stop an instant more, however, to recall, were it only to myself, that charming year while all was yet well. After the double had become a matter of course, for nearly twelve months before he undid me, what a year it was! Full of active life, full of happy love, of the hardest work, of the sweetest sleep, and the fulfilment of so many of the fresh aspirations and dreams of boyhood! Dennis went to every school-committee meeting, and sat through all those late wranglings which used to keep me up till midnight and awake till morning. He attended all the lectures to which foreign exiles sent me tickets begging me to come for the love of Heaven and of Bohemia. He accepted and used all the tickets for charity concerts which were sent to me. He appeared everywhere where it was specially desirable that “our denomination,” or “our party,” or “our class,” or “our family,” or “our street,” or “our town,” or “our country,” or “our State,” should be fully represented….  22
  Freed from these necessities, that happy year I began to know my wife by sight. We saw each other sometimes. In those long mornings when Dennis was in the study explaining to map-pedlers that I had eleven maps of Jerusalem already, and to school-book agents that I would see them hanged before I would be bribed to introduce their text-books into the schools, she and I were at work together, as in those old dreamy days—and in these of our log-cabin again. But all this could not last, and at length poor Dennis, my double, overtasked in turn, undid me.  23
  It was thus it happened. There is an excellent fellow—once a minister—I will call him Isaacs—who deserves well of the world till he dies, and after, because he once, in a real exigency, did the right thing, in the right way, at the right time, as no other man could do it. In the world’s great football match, the ball by chance found him loitering on the outside of the field; he closed with it, “camped” it, charged it home—yes, right through the other side—not disturbed, not frightened by his own success—and breathless found himself a great man, as the Great Delta rang applause. But he did not find himself a rich man; and the football has never come in his way again. From that moment to this moment he has been of no use, that one can see, at all. Still, for that great act we speak of Isaacs gratefully and remember him kindly; and he forges on, hoping to meet the football somewhere again. In that vague hope he had arranged a “movement” for a general organization of the human family into Debating Clubs, County Societies, State Unions, etc., etc., with a view of inducing all children to take hold of the handles of their knives and forks, instead of the metal. Children have bad habits in that way. The movement, of course, was absurd; but we all did our best to forward, not it, but him. It came time for the annual county meeting on this subject to be held at Naguadavick. Isaacs came round, good fellow! to arrange for it—got the town-hall, got the Governor to preside (the saint! He ought to have triplet doubles provided him by law), and then came to get me to speak. “No,” I said, “I would not speak if ten Governors presided. I do not believe in the enterprise. If I spoke, it should be to say children should take hold of the prongs of the forks and the blades of the knives. I would subscribe ten dollars, but I would not speak a mill.” So poor Isaacs went his way sadly, to coax Auchmuty to speak, and Delafield. I went out. Not long after, he came back and told Polly that they promised to speak, the Governor would speak, and he himself would close with the quarterly report and some interesting anecdotes regarding Miss Biffin’s way of handling her knife and Mr. Nellis’s way of footing his fork. “Now, if Mr. Ingham will only come and sit on the platform, he need not say one word; but it will show well in the paper—it will show that the Sandemanians take as much interest in the movement as the Armenians or the Mesopotamians, and will be a great favor to me.” Polly, good soul! was tempted, and she promised. She knew Mrs. Isaacs was starving, and the babies—she knew Dennis was at home—and she promised! Night came, and I returned. I heard her story. I was sorry. I doubted. But Polly had promised to beg me, and I dared all! I told Dennis to hold his peace, under all circumstances, and sent him down.  24
  It was not half an hour before he returned wild with excitement—in a perfect Irish fury—which it was long before I understood. But I knew at once that he had undone me!  25
  What happened was this. The audience got together, attracted by Governor Gorges’s name. There were a thousand people. Poor Gorges was late from Augusta. They became impatient. He came in direct from the train at last, really ignorant of the object of the meeting. He opened it in the fewest possible words, and said other gentlemen were present who would entertain them better than he.  26
  The audience were disappointed, but waited. The Governor, prompted by Isaacs, said, “The Honorable Mr. Delafield will address you.” Delafield had forgotten the knives and forks, and was playing the Ruy Lopez opening at the chess club.  27
  “The Reverend Mr. Auchmuty will address you.” Auchmuty had promised to speak late, and was at the school committee.  28
  “I see Doctor Stearns in the hall; perhaps he will say a word.” Doctor Stearns said he had come to listen and not to speak.  29
  The Governor and Isaacs whispered. The Governor looked at Dennis, who was resplendent on the platform; but Isaacs, to give him his due, shook his head. But the look was enough.  30
  A miserable lad, ill-bred, who had once been in Boston, thought it would sound well to call for me, and peeped out “Ingham!” A few more wretches cried “Ingham! Ingham!” Still Isaacs was firm; but the Governor, anxious, indeed, to prevent a row, knew I would say something, and said: “Our friend, Mr. Ingham, is always prepared; and, though we had not relied upon him, he will say a word perhaps.”  31
  Applause followed, which turned Dennis’s head. He rose, fluttered, and tried No. 3: “There has been so much said, and, on the whole, so well said, that I will not longer occupy the time!” and sat down, looking for his hat; for things seemed squally.  32
  But the people cried “Go on! Go on!” and some applauded. Dennis, still confused, but flattered by the applause, to which neither he nor I are used, rose again, and this time tried No. 2: “I am very glad you liked it!” in a sonorous, clear delivery. My best friends stared. All the people who did not know me personally yelled with delight at the aspect of the evening; the Governor was beside himself, and poor Isaacs thought he was undone! Alas, it was I! A boy in the gallery cried in a loud tone, “It’s all an infernal humbug,” just as Dennis, waving his hand, commanded silence, and tried No. 4: “I agree, in general, with my friend the other side of the room.” The Governor doubted his senses and crossed to stop him—not in time, however. The same gallery boy shouted, “How’s your mother?” and Dennis, now completely lost, tried, as his last shot, No. 1, vainly: “Very well, thank you; and you?”  33
  I think I must have been undone already. But Dennis, like another Lockhard, chose “to make sicker.”  34
  The audience rose in a whirl of amazement, rage, and sorrow. Some other impertinence, aimed at Dennis, broke all restraint, and, in pure Irish, he delivered himself of an address to the gallery, inviting any person who wished to fight to come down and do so, stating that they were all dogs and cowards and the sons of dogs and cowards, that he would take any five of them single-handed. “Shure, I have said all his Riverence and the Misthress bade me say,” cried he in defiance; and, seizing the Governor’s cane from his hand, brandished it, quarter-staff fashion, above his head. He was, indeed, got from the hall only with the greatest difficulty by the Governor, the City Marshal, who had been called in, and the Superintendent of my Sunday-school.  35
  The universal impression, of course, was that the Reverend Frederic Ingham had lost all command of himself in some of those haunts of intoxication which for fifteen years I had been laboring to destroy. Till this moment, indeed, that is the impression in Naguadavick. This number of the Atlantic will relieve from it a hundred friends of mine who have been sadly wounded by that notion now for years; but I shall not be likely ever to show my head there again.  36
  No. My double has undone me.  37
  We left town at seven the next morning. I came to No. 9, in the Third Range, and settled on the Minister’s Lot. In the new towns in Maine, the first settled minister has a gift of a hundred acres of land. I am the first settled minister in No. 9. My wife and little Paulina are my parish. We raise corn enough to live on in summer. We kill bear’s meat enough to carbonize it in winter. I work on steadily on my “Traces of Sandemanianism in the Sixth and Seventh Centuries,” which I hope to persuade Phillips, Sampson & Company to publish next year. We are very happy, but the world thinks we are undone.—If, yes, and perhaps.  38
 
 
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