It s perfectly true. I feel guilty and ashamed. And
I m past it. Let us make a pallet here ; we ve got to
stand watch till the bank vault opens in the morning and
admits the sack. . . . Oh dear, oh dear if we hadn t
made the mistake !
The pallet was made, and Mary said :
The open sesame what could it have been ? I do
wonder what that remark could have been. But come j
we will get to bed now.
And sleep ?
By this time the Coxes too had completed their spat
and their reconciliation, and were turning in to think, to
think, and toss, and fret, and worry over what the remark
could possibly have been which Goodson made to the
stranded derelict ; that golden remark ; that remark worth
forty thousand dollars, cash.
The reason that the village telegraph-office was open
later than usual that night was this : The foreman of
Cox s paper was the local representative of the Associated
Press. One might say its honorary representative, for it
wasn t four times a year that he could furnish thirty words
that would be accepted. But this time it was different.
His despatch stating what he had caught got an instant
Send the whole thing all the details twelve hundred
i 6 THE MAN
A colossal order ! The foreman filled the bill ; and he
was the proudest man in the State. By breakfast-time the
next morning the name of Hadleyburg the Incorruptible
was on every lip in America, from Montreal to the Gulf,
from the glaciers of Alaska to the orange-groves of Florida ;
and millions and millions of people were discussing the
stranger and his money-sack, and wondering if the right
man would be found, and hoping some more news about
the matter would come soon right away.
Hadleyburg village woke up world-celebrated
astonished happy vain. Vain beyond imagination. Its
nineteen principal citizens and their wives went about
shaking hands with each other, and beaming, and smiling,
and congratulating, and saying this thing adds a new word
to the dictionary Hadleyburg^ synonym for incorruptible
destined to live in dictionaries for ever ! And the minor
and unimportant citizens and their wives went around
acting in much the same way. Everybody ran to the bank
to see the gold-sack ; and before noon grieved and envious
crowds began to flock in from Brixton and all neigh
bouring towns ; and that afternoon and next day reporters
began to arrive from everywhere to verify the sack and its
history and write the whole thing up anew, and make
dashing free-hand pictures of the sack, and of Richards s
house, and the bank, and the Presbyterian church, and the
Baptist church, and the public square, and the town-hall
where the test would be applied and the money delivered ;
and damnable portraits of the Richardses, and Pinkerton the
banker, and Cox, and the foreman, and Reverend Burgess,
and the postmaster and even of Jack Halliday, who was
the loafing, good-natured, no-account, irreverent fisherman,
hunter, boys friend, stray-dogs friend, typical Sam
Lawson of the town. The little mean, smirking, oily
Pinkerton showed the sack to all comers, and rubbed his
sleek palms together pleasantly, and enlarged upon the
town s fine old reputation for honesty and upon this wonder
ful endorsement of it, and hoped and believed that the ex
ample would now spread far and wide over the American
world, and be epoch-making in the matter of moral regene
ration. And so on, and so on.
By the end of a week things had quieted down again ;
the wild intoxication of pride and joy had sobered to
a soft, sweet, silent delight a sort of deep, nameless,
unutterable content. All faces bore a look of peaceful, holy
Then a change came. It was a gradual change ; so
gradual that its beginnings were hardly noticed ; maybe
were not noticed at all, except by Jack Halliday, who
always noticed everything ; and always made fun of it, too,
no matter what it was. He began to throw out chaffing
remarks about people not looking quite so happy as they
did a day or two ago ; and next he claimed that the new
aspect was deepening to positive sadness ; next, that it was
taking on a sick look ; and finally he said that everybody
was become so moody, thoughtful, and absent-minded
that he could rob the meanest man in town of a cent out
of the bottom of his breeches pocket and not disturb his
At this stage or at about this stage a saying like this
was dropped at bedtime with a sigh, usually by the head
of each of the nineteen principal households :
Ah, what could have been the remark that Goodson
i8 THE MAN
And straightway with a shudder came this, from the
man s wife :
* Oh, don t / What horrible thing are you mulling in
your mind ? Put it away from you, for God s sake !
But that question was wrung from those men again
the next night and got the same retort. But weaker.
And the third night the men uttered the question yet
again with anguish, and absently. This time and the
following night the wives fidgeted feebly, and tried to say
something. But didn t.
And the night after that they found their tongues and
responded longingly :
* Oh, if we could only guess ! *
Halliday s comments grew daily more and more spark-
lingly disagreeable and disparaging. He went diligently
about, laughing at the town, individually and in mass.
But his laugh was the only one left in the village : it fell
upon a hollow and mournful vacancy and emptiness. Not
even a smile was findable anywhere. Halliday carried a
cigar-box around on a tripod, playing that it was a camera,
and halted all passers and aimed the thing and said Ready !
now look pleasant, please, but not even this capital joke
could surprise the dreary faces into any softening.
So three weeks passed one week was left. It was
Saturday evening after supper. Instead of the aforetime
Saturday-evening flutter and bustle and shopping and lark
ing, the streets were empty and desolate. Richards and his
old wife sat apart in their little parlour miserable and think
ing. This was become their evening habit now : the life
long habit which had preceded it, of reading, knitting, and
contented chat, or receiving or paying neighbourly calls, was
dead and gone and forgotten, ages ago two or three weeks
ago ; nobody talked now, nobody read, nobody visited the
THAT CORRUPTED HADLEYBURG 19
whole village sat at home, sighing, worrying, silent.
Trying to guess out that remark.
The postman left a letter. Richards glanced listlessly
at the superscription and the post-mark unfamiliar, both
and tossed the letter on the table and resumed his might-
have-beens and his hopeless dull miseries where he had left
them off. Two or three hours later his wife got wearily
up and was going away to bed without a good- night
custom now but she stopped near the letter and eyed it
awhile with a dead interest, then broke it open, and began
to skim it over. Richards, sitting there with his chair
tilted back against the wall and his chin between his knees,
heard something fall. It was his wife. He sprang to her
side, but she cried out :
Leave me alone, I am too happy. Read the letter
read it !
He did. He devoured it, his brain reeling. The letter
was from a distant State, and it said :
* / am a stranger to you, hut no matter : I have something
to tell. I have just arrived home from Mexico, and learned
about that episode. Of course you do not know wh>j made that
remark, but I know, and I am the only person living who does
know. It was GOODSON. / knew him well, many years ago.
I passed through your village that very night, and was his guest
till the midnight train came along. I overheard him make that
remark to the stranger in the dark it was in Hale Alley. He
and I talked of it the rest of the way hoim, and while smoking
in his house. He mentioned many of your villagers in the course
of his talk most of them in a very uncomplimentary way, but
two or three favourably : among these latter yourself. I say
favourably nothing stronger. I remember his saying he did
not actually LIKE any person in the toiun not one ; but that
you / THINK he said you am almost sure had done him a
very great service once, possibly without knowing the full value
of it, and he wished he had a fortune^ he would leave it to you
20 THE MAN
when he died, and a curse apiece for the rest of the citizens.
Now, then, if it was you that did him that service, you are his
legitimate heir, and entitled to the sack of gold. I know that I
can trust to your honour and honesty, for in a citizen of Hadley-
burg these virtues are an unfailing inheritance, and so I am
going to reveal to you the remark, well satisfied that if you are
not the right man you will seek and find the right one and see
that poor Goodsons debt of gratitude for the service referred to is
paid. This is the remark : " You ARE FAR FROM BEING A
BAD MAN : GO, AND REFORM."
* HOWARD L. STEPHENSON.
* Oh, Edward, the money is ours, and I am so grateful,
oh, so grateful, kiss me, dear, it s for ever since we kissed
and we needed it so the money and now you are free
of Pinkerton and his bank, and nobody s slave any more ; it
seems to me I could fly for joy.
It was a happy half-hour that the couple spent there on
the settee caressing each other ; it was the old days come
again days that had begun with their courtship and lasted
without a break till the stranger brought the deadly money.
By-and-by the wife said :
( Oh, Edward, how lucky it was you did him that
grand service, poor Goodson ! I never liked him, but I
love him now. And it was fine and beautiful of you never
to mention it or brag about it. Then, with a touch of
reproach, * But you ought to have told me, Edward, you
ought to have told your wife, you know.
* Well, I er well, Mary, you see
4 Now stop hemming and hawing, and tell me about it,
Edward. I always loved you, and now I m proud of you.
Everybody believes there was only one good generous soul
in this village, and now it turns out that you Edward,
why don t you tell me ?
< Well er er Why, Mary, I can t !
THAT CORRUPTED KADLEYBURG 21
You cant ? Why can t you ?
You see, he well, he he made me promise I
The wife looked him over, and said, very slowly :
1 Made you promise ? Edward, what do you tell
me that for ?
* Mary, do you think I would lie ?
She was troubled and silent for a moment, then she laid
her hand within his and said :
No . . . no. We have wandered far enough from
our bearings God spare us that ! In all your life you
have never uttered a lie. But now now that the founda
tions of things seem to be crumbling from under us, we
we She lost her voice for a moment, then said, brokenly,
Lead us not into temptation. ... I think you made the
promise, Edward. Let it rest so. Let us keep away from
that ground. Now that is all gone by ; let us be happy
again ; it is no time for clouds.
Edward found it something of an effort to comply, for
his mind kept wandering trying to remember what the
service was that he had done Goodson.
The couple lay awake the most of the night, Mary
happy and busy, Edward busy, but not so happy. Mary
was planning what she would do with the money. Edward
was trying to recall that service. At first his conscience
was sore on account of the lie he had told Mary if it was
a lie. After much reflection suppose it was a lie ? What
then ? Was it such a great matter ? Aren t we always
acting lies ? Then why not tell them ? Look at Mary
look what she had done. While he was hurrying off on
his honest errand, what was she doing ? Lamenting be
cause the papers hadn t been destroyed and the money kept.
Is theft better than lying ?
22 THE MAN
That point lost its sting the lie dropped into the back
ground and left comfort behind it. The next point came
to the front : had he rendered that service ? Well, here
was Goodson s own evidence as reported in Stephenson s
letter ; there could be no better evidence than that it was
even proof that he had rendered it. Of course. So that
point was settled. . . . No, not quite. He recalled with a
wince that this unknown Mr. Stephenson was just a trifle
unsure as to whether the performer of it was Richards or
some other and, oh dear, he had put Richards on his
honour ! He must himself decide whither that money
must go and Mr. Stephenson was not doubting that if he
was the wrong man he would go honourably and find the
right one. Oh, it was odious to put a man in such a situa
tion ah, why couldn t Stephenson have left out that doubt ?
What did he want to intrude that for ?
Further reflection. How did it happen that Richards 1 !
name remained in Stephenson s mind as indicating the right
man, and not some other man s name ? That looked good.
Yes, that looked very good. In fact it went on looking
better and better, straight along until by-and-by it grew
into positive proof. And then Richards put the matter at
once out of his mind, for he had a private instinct that a
proof once established is better left so.
He was feeling reasonably comfortable now, but there
was still one other detail that kept pushing itself on his
notice : of course he had done that service that was settled ;
but what was that service ? He must recall it he would
not go to sleep till he had recalled it ; it would make his
peace of mind perfect. And so he thought and thought.
He thought of a dozen things possible services, even pro
bable services but none of them seemed adequate, none
of them seemed large enough, none of them seemed worth
THAT CORRUPTED HADLEYBURG 23
the money worth the fortune Goodson had wished he
could leave in his will. And besides, he couldn t remember
having done them, anyway. Now, then now, then what
kind of a service would it be that would make a man so
inordinately grateful ? Ah the saving of his soul ! That
must be it. Yes, he could remember, now, how he once
set himself the task of converting Goodson, and laboured at
it as much as he was going to say three months ; but upon
closer examination it shrunk to a month, then to a week,
then to a day, then to nothing. Yes, he remembered now,
and with unwelcome vividness, that Goodson had told
him to go to thunder and mind his own business lie wasn t
hankering to follow Hadleyburg to heaven !
So that solution was a failure he hadn t saved Good-
son s soul. Richards was discouraged. Then after a little
came another idea : had he saved Goodson s property ?
No, that wouldn t do he hadn t any. His life ? That is
it! Of course. Why, he might have thought of it before.
This time he was on the right track, sure. His imagination-
mill was hard at work in a minute, now.
Thereafter, during a stretch of two exhausting hours, he
was busy saving Goodson s life. He saved it in all kinds of
difficult and perilous ways. In every case he got it saved
satisfactorily up to a certain point ; then, just as he was
beginning to get well persuaded that it had really happened,
a troublesome detail would turn up which made the whole
thing impossible. As in the matter of drowning, for instance.
In that case he had swum out and tugged Goodson ashore
in an unconscious state with a great crowd looking on and
applauding, but when he had got it all thought out and was
just beginning to remember all about it, a whole swarm of
disqualifying details arrived on the ground : the town would
have known of the circumstance, Mary would have known of
24 THE MAN
it, it would glare like a limelight in his own memory instead
of being an inconspicuous service which he had possibly
rendered c without knowing its full value. And at this
point he remembered that he couldn t swim anyway.
Ah there was a point which he had been overlooking
from the start : it had to be a service which he had rendered
* possibly without knowing the full value of it. Why,
really, that ought to^be an easy hunt much easier than
those others. And sure enough, by-and-by he found it.
Goodson, years and years ago, came near marrying a very
sweet and pretty girl, named Nancy Hewitt, but in some
way or other the match had been broken off; the girl died,
Goodson remained a bachelor, and by-and-by became a
soured one and a frank despiser of the human species.
Soon after the girl s death the village found out, or thought
it had found out, that she carried a spoonful of negro blood
in her veins. Richards worked at these details a good while,
and in the end he thought he remembered things concerning
them which must have gotten mislaid in his memory through
long neglect. He seemed to dimly remember that it was
he that found out about the negro blood ; that it was he
that told the village ; that the village told Goodson where
they got it ; that he thus saved Goodson from marrying the
tainted girl ; that he had done him this great service without
knowing the full value of it, in fact without knowing that
he was doing it ; but that Goodson knew the value of it,
and what a narrow escape he had had, and so went to his
grave grateful to his benefactor and wishing he had a fortune
to leave him. It was all clear and simple, now, and the
more he went over it the more luminous and certain it grew ;
and at last, when he nestled to sleep, satisfied and happy, he
remembered the whole thing just as if it had been yesterday.
In fact, he dimly remembered Goodson s telling him his
THAT CORRUPTED HADLEYBURG 25
gratitude once. Meantime Mary had spent six thousand
dollars on a new house for herself and a pair of slippers for
her pastor, and then had fallen peacefully to rest.
That same Saturday evening the postman had delivered
a letter to each of the other principal citizens nineteen
letters in all. No two of the envelopes were alike, and no
two of the superscriptions were in the same hand, but the
letters inside were just like each other in every detail but
one. They were exact copies of the letter received by
Richards handwriting and all and were all signed by
Stephenson, but in place of Richards s name each receiver s
own name appeared.
All night long eighteen principal citizens did what
their caste-brother Richards was doing at the same time
they put in their energies trying to remember what notable
service it was that they had unconsciously done Barclay
Goodson. In no case was it a holiday job ; still they
And while they were at this work, which was difficult,
their wives put in the night spending the money, which
was easy. During that one night the nineteen wives spent
an average of seven thousand dollars each out of the forty
thousand in the sack a hundred and thirty-three thousand
Next day there was a surprise for Jack Halliday. He
noticed that the faces of the nineteen chief citizens and
their wives bore that expression of peaceful and holy happi
ness again. He could not understand it, neither was he
able to invent any remarks about it that could damage it or
disturb it. And so it was his turn to be dissatisfied with
life. His private guesses at the reasons for the happiness
failed in all instances, upon examination. When he met
Mrs. Wilcox and noticed the placid ecstasy in her face, he
26 THE MAN
said to himself, * Her cat has had kittens and went and
asked the cook ; it was not so, the cook had detected the
happiness, but did not know the cause. When Halliday
found the duplicate ecstasy in the face of * Shadbelly Billson
(village nickname), he was sure some neighbour of
Billson s had broken his leg, but inquiry showed that this
had not happened. The subdued ecstasy in Gregory
Yates s face could mean but one thing he was a mother-
in-law short ; it was another mistake. And Pinkerton
Pinkerton he has collected ten cents that he thought he
was going to lose. And so on, and so on. In some cases
the guesses had to remain in doubt, in the others they
proved distinct errors. In the end Halliday said to himself,
* Anyway it foots up that there s nineteen Hadleyburg
families temporarily in heaven : I don t know how it
happened ; I only know Providence is off duty to-day.
An architect and builder from the next State had lately
ventured to set up a small business in this unpromising
village, and his sign had now been hanging out a week.
Not a customer yet ; he was a discouraged man, and sorry
he had come. But his weather changed suddenly now.
First one and then another chief citizen s wife said to him
Come to my house Monday week but say nothing
about it for the present. We think of building.
He got eleven invitations that day. That night he
wrote his daughter and broke off her match with her
student. He said she could marry a mile higher than that.
Pinkerton the banker and two or three other well-to-do
men planned country-seats but waited. That kind don t
count their chickens until they are hatched.
The Wilsons devised a grand new thing a fancy-dress
ball. They made no actual promises, but told all their
THAT CORRUPTED HADLEYBURG 27
acquaintanceship in confidence that they were thinking the
matter over and thought they should give it * and if we
do, you will be invited, of course. People were surprised,
and said, one to another, Why, they are crazy, those poor
Wilsons, they can t afford it. Several among the nine
teen said privately to their husbands, It is a good idea, we
will keep still till their cheap thing is over, then we will
give one that will make it sick.
The days drifted along, and the bill of future squander
ings rose higher and higher, wilder and wilder, more and
more foolish and reckless. It began to look as if every
member of the nineteen would not only spend his whole
forty thousand dollars before receiving-day, but be actually
in debt by the time he got the money. In some cases
light-headed people did not stop with planning to spend,
they really spent on credit. They bought land, mort
gages, farms, speculative stocks, fine clothes, horses, and
various other things, paid down the bonus, and made them
selves liable for the rest at ten days. Presently the sober
second thought came, and Halliday noticed that a ghastly
anxiety was beginning to show up in a good many faces.
Again he was puzzled, and didn t know what to make of
it. The Wilcox kittens aren t dead, for they weren t
born ; nobody s broken a leg ; there s no shrinkage in
mother-in-laws ; nothing has happened it is an insolvable
There was another puzzled man, too the Rev. Mr.
Burgess. For days, wherever he went, people seemed to
follow him or to be watching out for him ; and if he ever
found himself in a retired spot, a member of the nineteen
would be sure to appear, thrust an envelope privately into
his hand, whisper To be opened at the town-hall Friday
evening, then vanish away like a guilty thing. He was
28 THE MAN
expecting that there might be one claimant for the sack
doubtful, however, Goodson being dead but it never oc
curred to him that all this crowd might be claimants.
When the great Friday came at last, he found that he had
The town-hall had never looked finer. The platform
at the end of it was backed by a showy draping of flags ;
at intervals along the walls were festoons of flags ; the
gallery fronts were clothed in flags ; the supporting columns
were swathed in flags ; all this was to impress the stranger,
for he would be there in considerable force, and in a large
degree he would be connected with the press. The house
was full. The 412 fixed seats were occupied ; also the 68
extra chairs which had been packed into the aisles ; the steps
of the platform were occupied ; some distinguished strangers
were given seats on the platform ; at the horseshoe of tables
which fenced the front and sides of the platform sat a strong
force of special correspondents who had come from every
where. It was the best-dressed house the town had ever
produced. There were some tolerably expensive toilets
there, and in several cases the ladies who wore them had the
look of being unfamiliar with that kind of clothes. At least
the town thought they had that look, but the notion could
have arisen from the town s knowledge of the fact that these
ladies had never inhabited such clothes before.
The gold-sack stood on a little table at the front of the
platform where all the house could see it. The bulk of the
house gazed at it with a burning interest, a mouth-watering
interest, a wistful and pathetic interest ; a minority of nine
teen couples gazed at it tenderly, lovingly, proprietarily, and
the male half of this minority kept saying over to themselves
THAT CORRUPTED HADLEYBURG 29
the moving little impromptu speeches of thankfulness for