the audience s applause and congratulations which they were
presently going to get up and deliver. Every now and then
one of these got a piece of paper out of his vest pocket and
privately glanced at it to refresh his memory.
Of course there was a buzz of conversation going on
there always is ; but at last, when the Rev. Mr. Burgess
rose and laid his hand on the sack, he could hear his microbes
gnaw, the place was so still. He related the curious history
of the sack, then went on to speak in warm terms of Had-
leyburg s old and well-earned reputation for spotless honesty,
and of the town s just pride in this reputation. He said
that this reputation was a treasure of priceless value ; that
under Providence its value had now become inestimably
enhanced, for the recent episode had spread this fame far
and wide, and thus had focussed the eyes of the American
world upon this village, and made its name for all time, as
he hoped and believed, a synonym for commercial incor
ruptibility. [Applause,] And who is to be the guardian
of this noble fame the community as a whole ? No !
The responsibility is individual, not communal. From this
day forth each and every one of you is in his own person its
special guardian, and individually responsible that no harm
shall come to it. Do you does each of you accept this
great trust ? [Tumultuous assent. ~\ Then all is well.
Transmit it to your children and to your children s children.
To-day your purity is beyond reproach see to it that it
shall remain so. To-day there is not a person in your
community who could be beguiled to touch a penny not his
own see to it that you abide in this grace. [ We wi.ll !
we will! ] This is not the place to make comparisons
between ourselves and other communities some of them
ungracious towards us ; they have their ways, we have
30 THE MAN
ours ; let us be content. [Applause.] I am done. Under
my hand, my friends, rests a stranger s eloquent recognition
of what we are ; through him the world will always hence
forth know what we are. We do not know who he is,
but in your name I utter your gratitude, and ask you to
raise your voices in indorsement.
The house rose in a body and made the walls quake
with the thunders of its thankfulness for the space of a long
minute. Then it sat down, and Mr. Burgess took an
envelope out of his pocket. The house held its breath
while he slit the envelope open and took from it a slip of
paper. He read its contents slowly and impressively the
audience listening with tranced attention to this magic
document, each of whose words stood for an ingot of gold :
* " The remark which I made to the distressed stranger was
this : Tou are very far from being a bad man ; go y and
reform? * Then he continued : * We shall know in a
moment now whether the remark here quoted corresponds
with the one concealed in the sack ; and if that shall prove
to be so and it undoubtedly will this sack of gold belongs
to a fellow-citizen who will henceforth stand before the
nation as the symbol of the special virtue which has made
our town famous throughout the land Mr. Billson !
The house had gotten itself all ready to burst into the
proper tornado of applause ; but instead of doing it, it
seemed stricken with a paralysis ; there was a deep hush
for a moment or two, then a wave of whispered murmurs
swept the place of about this tenor : l Billson I oh, come,
this is too thin ! Twenty dollars to a stranger or anybody
Billson I Tell it to the marines ! And now at this point
the house caught its breath all of a sudden in a new access
of astonishment, for it discovered that whereas in one part
of the hall Deacon Billson was standing up with his head
THAT CORRUPTED HADLEYBURG 31
meekly bowed, in another part of it Lawyer Wilson was
doing; the same. There was a wondering- silence now for
a while. Everybody was puzzled, and nineteen couples
were surprised and indignant.
Billson and Wilson turned and stared at each other.
Billson asked, bitingly :
Why do you rise, Mr. Wilson ?
* Because I have a right to. Perhaps you will be good
enough to explain to the house why you rise.
With great pleasure. Because I wrote that paper.
It is an impudent falsity ! I wrote it myself.
It was Burgess s turn to be paralysed. He stood
looking vacantly at first one of the men and then the other,
and did not seem to know what to do. The house was
stupefied. Lawyer Wilson spoke up now, and said :
I ask the Chair to read the name signed to that
That brought the Chair to itself, and it read out the
" John Wharton Bilhon"
There ! shouted Billson, what have you got to say
for yourself now ? And what kind of apology are you
going to make to me and to this insulted house for the
imposture which you have attempted to play here ?
No apologies are due, sir ; and as for the rest of it, I
publicly charge you with pilfering my note from Mr.
Burgess and substituting a copy of it signed with your own
name. There is no other way by which you could have
gotten hold of the test-remark ; I alone, of living men,
possessed the secret of its wording.
There was likely to be a scandalous state of things if
this went on ; everybody noticed with distress that the
shorthand scribes were scribbling like mad ; many people
32 THE MAN
were crying * Chair, chair ! Order ! order ! Burgess
rapped with his gavel, and said :
Let us not forget the proprieties due. There has
evidently been a mistake somewhere, but surely that is all.
If Mr. Wilson gave me an envelope and I remember now
that he did I still have it.
He took one out of his pocket, opened it, glanced at it,
looked surprised and worried, and stood silent a few
moments. Then he waved his hand in a wandering and
mechanical way, and made an effort or two to say some
thing, then gave it up, despondently. Several voices cried
* Read it ! read it ! What is it ?
So he began, in a dazed and sleep-walker fashion :
* " The remark which I made to the unhappy stranger was
this : * You are far from being a bad man. [The house
gazed at him marvelling.] G0, and reform? : [Murmurs :
4 Amazing ! what can this mean ? ] This one, said the
Chair, * is signed Thurlow G. Wilson.
There ! cried Wilson, I reckon that settles it ! I
knew perfectly well my note was purloined.
Purloined ! retorted Billson. I ll let you know that
neither you nor any man of your kidney must venture
The Chair : * Order, gentlemen, order ! Take your
seats, both of you, please.
They obeyed, shaking their heads and grumbling
angrily. The house was profoundly puzzled ; it did not
know what to do with this curious emergency. Presently
Thompson got up. Thompson was the hatter. He would
have liked to be a Nineteener ; but such was not for him ;
his stock of hats was not considerable enough for the
position. He said :
THAT CORRUPTED HADLEYBURG 33
1 Mr. Chairman, if I may be permitted to make a
suggestion, can both of these gentlemen be right ? I put
it to you, sir, can both have happened to say the very same
words to the stranger ? It seems to me
The tanner got up and interrupted him. The tanner
was a disgruntled man ; he believed himself entitled to be
a Nineteener, but he couldn t get recognition. It made
him a little unpleasant in his ways and speech. Said he :
* Sho, that s not the point ! That could happen twice
in a hundred years but not the other thing. Neither of
them gave the twenty dollars ! \_A ripple of applause.]
Ellison. / did !
IVlhon. < / did !
Then each accused the other of pilfering.
The Chair. Order ! Sit down, if you please both
of you. Neither of the notes has been out of my possession
at any moment.
A Voice. Good that settles that !
The Tanner. Mr. Chairman, one thing is now plain :
one of these men has been eavesdropping under the other
one s bed, and filching family secrets. If it is not unparlia
mentary to suggest it, I will remark that both are equal to
it. [The Chair. Order! order! ] I withdraw the
remark, sir, and will confine myself to suggesting that if
one of them has overheard the other reveal the test-remark
to his wife, we shall catch him now.
A Voice. How ?
The Tanner. Easily. The two have not quoted the
remark in exactly the same words. You would have
noticed that, if there hadn t been a considerable stretch of
time and an exciting quarrel inserted between the two
A Voice. Name the difference.
34 THE MAN
The Tanner. * The word very is in Billson s note, and
not in the other.
Many Voices. l That s so he s right !
The Tanner. * And so, if the Chair will examine the
test-remark in the sack, we shall know which of these two
frauds [The Chair. Order! ] which of these two
adventurers [The Chair. Order! order! ] which of
these two gentlemen [laughter and applause~\ is entitled
to wear the belt as being the first dishonest blatherskite
ever bred in this town which he has dishonoured, and
which will be a sultry place for him from now out !
[Vigorous applause. ]
Many Voices. Open it ! open the sack !
Mr. Burgess made a slit in the sack, slid his hand in,
and brought out an envelope. In it were a couple of folded
notes. He said :
* One of these is marked, " Not to be examined until all
written communications which have been addressed to the
Chair if any shall have been read." The other is
marked " The Test." Allow me. It is worded to wit :
" I do not require that the first half of the remark
which was made to me by my benefactor shall be quoted
with exactness, for it was not striking, and could be for
gotten ; but its closing fifteen words are quite striking, and
I think easily rememberable ; unless these shall be accu
rately reproduced, let the applicant be regarded as an
impostor. My benefactor began by saying he seldom gave
advice to anyone, but that it always bore the hall-mark of
high value when he did give it. Then he said this and it
has never faded from my memory : " Ton are far from being
a bad man "
Fifty Voices. That settles it the money s Wilson s !
Wilson ! Wilson ! Speech ! Speech !
THAT CORRUPTED HADLEYBURG 35
People jumped up and crowded around Wilson, wringing
his hand and congratulating fervently meantime the Chair
was hammering with the gavel and shouting :
* Order, gentlemen ! Order ! Order ! Let me finish
reading, please. When quiet was restored, the reading was
resumed as follows :
" Go, and reform or, mark ?ny words some day, for your
sins you will die and go to hell or Hadleyburg TRY AND
MAKE IT THE FORMER."
A ghastly silence followed. First an angry cloud began
to settle darkly upon the faces of the citizenship ; after a
pause the cloud began to rise, and a tickled expression tried
to take its place ; tried so hard that it was only kept under
with great and painful difficulty ; the reporters, the
Brixtonites, and other strangers bent their heads down and
shielded their faces with their hands, and managed to hold
in by main strength and heroic courtesy. At this most
inopportune time burst upon the stillness the roar of a
solitary voice Jack Halliday s :
That s got the hall-mark on it !
Then the house let go, strangers and all. Even Mr.
Burgess s gravity broke down presently, then the audience
considered itself officially absolved from all restraint, and it
made the most of its privilege. It was a good long laugh,
and a tempestuously whole-hearted one, but it ceased at last
long enough for Mr. Burgess to try to resume, and for
the people to get their eyes partially wiped ; then it broke
out again, and afterward yet again ; then at last Burgess
was able to get out these serious words :
* It is useless to try to disguise the fact we find our
selves in the presence of a matter of grave import. It
involves the honour of your town it strikes at the town s
good name. The difference of a single word between the
36 THE MAN
test-remarks offered by Mr. Wilson and Mr. Billson was
itself a serious thing, since it indicated that one or the other
of these gentlemen had committed a theft
The two men were sitting limp, nerveless, crushed ; but
at these words both were electrified into movement, and
started to get up.
* Sit down ! said the Chair, sharply, and they obeyed.
* That, as I have said, was a serious thing. And it was
but for only one of them. But the matter has become
graver ; for the honour of both is now in formidable peril.
Shall I go even further, and say in inextricable peril ? Both
left out the crucial fifteen words. He paused. During
several moments he allowed the pervading stillness to gather
and deepen its impressive effects, then added : l There
would seem to be but one way whereby this could happen.
I ask these gentlemen Was there collusion ? agreement ?
A low murmur sifted through the house ; its import
was, * He s got them both.
Billson was not used to emergencies ; he sat in a helpless
collapse. But Wilson was a lawyer. He struggled to his
feet, pale and worried, and said :
I ask the indulgence of the house while I explain this
most painful matter. I am sorry to say what I am about
to say, since it must inflict irreparable injury upon Mr.
Billson, whom I have always esteemed and respected until
now, and in whose invulnerability to temptation I entirely
believed as did you all. But for the preservation of my
own honour I must speak and with frankness. I confess
with shame and I now beseech your pardon for it that I
said to the ruined stranger all of the words contained in the
test-remark, including the disparaging fifteen. [Sensation.]
When the late publication was made I recalled them, and I
resolved to claim the sack of coin, for by every right I was
THAT CORRUPTED HADLEYBURG 37
entitled to it. Now I will ask you to consider this point, and
weigh it well ; that stranger s gratitude to me that night knew
no bounds ; he said himself that he could find no words for
it that were adequate, and that if he should ever be able he
would repay me a thousandfold. Now, then, I ask you
this ; could I expect could I believe could I even
remotely imagine that, feeling as he did, he would do so
ungrateful a thing as to add those quite unnecessary fifteen
words to his test ? set a trap for me ? expose me as a
slanderer of my own town before my own people assembled
in a public hall ? It was preposterous ; it was impossible.
His test would contain only the kindly opening clause of
my remark. Of that I had no shadow of doubt. You
would have thought as I did. You would not have ex
pected a base betrayal from one whom you had befriended
and against whom you had committed no offence. And so
with perfect confidence, perfect trust, I wrote on a piece of
paper the opening words ending with " Go, and reform,"
and signed it. When I was about to put it in an
envelope I was called into my back office, and without
thinking I left the paper lying open on my desk. He
stopped, turned his head slowly toward Billson, waited a
moment, then added : I ask you to note this ; when I
returned, a little latter, Mr. Billson was retiring by my
street door. [Sensation. ]
In a moment Billson was on his feet and shouting :
* It s a lie ! It s an infamous lie !
The Chair. Be seated, sir! Mr. Wilson has the
Billson s friends pulled him into his seat and quieted
him, and Wilson went on :
Those are the simple facts. My note was now lying
in a different place on the table from where I had left it. I
38 THE MAN
noticed that, but attached no importance to it, thinking a
draught had blown it there. That Mr. Billson would read
a private paper was a thing which could not occur to me ;
he was an honourable man, and he would be above that.
If you will allow me to say it, I think his extra word " very"
stands explained : it is attributable to a defect of memory.
I was the only man in the world who could furnish here
any detail of the test-mark by honourable means. I have
There is nothing in the world like a persuasive speech
to fuddle the mental apparatus and upset the convictions and
debauch the emotions of an audience not practised in the
tricks and delusions of oratory. Wilson sat down victorious.
The house submerged him in tides of approving applause ;
friends swarmed to him and shook him by the hand and
congratulated him, and Billson was shouted down and not
allowed to say a word. The Chair hammered and ham
mered with its gavel, and kept shouting :
4 But let us proceed, gentlemen, let us proceed !
At last there was a measurable degree of quiet, and the
hatter said :
But what is there to proceed with, sir, but to deliver
the money ?
Voices. < That s it ! That s it ! Come forward, Wil
The Hatter, *I move three cheers for Mr. Wilson,
Symbol of the special virtue which
The cheers burst forth before he could finish ; and in
the midst of them and in the midst of the clamour of the
gavel also some enthusiasts mounted Wilson on a big
friend s shoulder and were going to fetch him in triumph
to the platform. The Chair s voice now rose above the
THAT CORRUPTED HADLEYBURG 39
Order ! To your places ! You forget that there is
still a document to be read. When quiet had been restored
he took up the document, and was going to read it, but laid
it down again saying 1 1 forgot ; this is not to be read until
all written communications received by me have first been
read. He took an envelope out of his pocket, removed its
enclosure, glanced at it seemed astonished held it out and
gazed at it stared at it.
Twenty or thirty voices cried out :
1 What is it ? Read it ! read it !
And he did slowly, and wondering :
* " The remark which I made to the stranger [Voices.
Hello ! how s this ? ] was this : You are far from being
a bad man. [Voices. ( Great Scott ! ] Go, and reform. "
[Voice. Oh, saw my leg off ! ] Signed by Mr. Pinkerton
The pandemonium of delight which turned itself
loose now was of a sort to make the judicious weep. Those
whose withers were unwrung laughed till the tears ran
down ; the reporters, in throes of laughter, set down disordered
pot-hooks which would never in the world be decipherable ;
and a sleeping dog jumped up scared out of its wits, and
barked itself crazy at the turmoil. All manner of cries were
scattered through the din : * We re getting rich two
Symbols of Incorruptibility ! without counting Billson !
* Three ! count Shadbelly in we can t have too many !
( All right Billson s elected ! * Alas, poor Wilson ! victim
of two thieves !
A Powerful Voice. * Silence ! The Chair s fished up
something more out of its pocket.
Voices. ( Hurrah ! Is it something fresh ? Read it !
read ! read !
The Chair [reading]. < " The remark which I made," etc.
40 THE MAN
" You are far from being a bad man. Go," etc. Signed,
" Gregory Yates."
Tornado of Voices. Four Symbols ! Rah for
Yates ! Fish again !
The house was in a roaring humour now, and ready to
get all the fun out of the occasion that might be in it.
Several Nineteeners, looking pale and distressed, got up and
began to work their way towards the aisles, but a score of
shouts went up :
The doors, the doors close the doors ; no Incorruptible
shall leave this place ! Sit down, everybody !
The mandate was obeyed.
Fish again ! Read ! read !
The Chair fished again, and once more the familiar
words began to fall from its lips < " You are far from
being a bad man "
1 Name ! name ! What s his name ?
1 " L. Ingoldsby Sargent."
4 Five elected ! Pile up the Symbols ! Go on, go on !
4 " You are far from being a bad "
Name ! name !
< " Nicholas Whitworth. "
Hooray ! hooray ! it s a symbolical day !
Somebody wailed in, and began to sing this rhyme
(leaving out * it s ) to the lovely Mikado tune of * When
a man s afraid of a beautiful maid ; the audience joined in,
with joy ; then, just in time, somebody contributed another
And don t you this forget
The house roared it out. A third line was at once
Corruptibles far from Hadleyburg are
The house roared that one too. As the last note died, Jack
THAT CORRUPTED HADLEYBURG 41
Halliday s voice rose high and dear, freighted with a final
1 But the Symbols are here, you bet !
That was sung, with booming enthusiasm. Then the
happy house started in at the beginning and sang the four
lines through twice, with immense swing and dash, and
finished up with a crashing three-times-three and a tiger for
* Hadleyburg the Incorruptible and all Symbols of it which
we shall find worthy to receive the hall-mark to-night.
Then the shoutings at the Chair began again, all over
the place :
Go on ! go on ! Read ! read some more ! Read all
you ve got !
* That s it go on ! We are winning eternal
A dozen men got up now and began to protest. They
said that this farce was the work of some abandoned joker,
and was an insult to the whole community. Without a
doubt these signatures were all forgeries
Sit down ! sit down ! Shut up ! You are confessing.
We ll find your names in the lot.
4 Mr. Chairman, how many of those envelopes have you
The Chair counted.
* Together with those that have been already examined,
there are nineteen.
A storm of derisive applause broke out.
Perhaps they all contain the secret. I move that you
open them all and read every signature that is attached to a
note of that sort and read also the first eight words of the
Second the motion !
It was put and carried uproariously. Then poor old
42 THE MAN
Richards got up, and his wife rose and stood at his side.
Her head was bent down, so that none might see that she
was crying. Her husband gave her his arm, and so support
ing her, he began to speak in a quavering voice :
1 My friends, you have known us two Mary and me
all our lives, and I think you have liked us and respected
The Chair interrupted him :
Allow me. It is quite true that which you are say
ing, Mr. Richards ; this town does know you two ; it does
like you ; it does respect you ; more it honours you and
Halliday s voice rang out :
That s the hall-marked truth, too ! If the Chair is
right, let the house speak up and say it. Rise ! Now,
then hip ! hip ! hip ! all together !
The house rose in mass, faced toward the old couple
eagerly, filled the air with a snow-storm of waving handker
chiefs, and delivered the cheers with all its affectionate
The Chair then continued :
4 What I was going to say is this : We know your
good heart, Mr. Richards, but this is not a time for the
exercise of charity toward offenders. [Shouts of Right !
right ! ] I see your generous purpose in your face, but I
cannot allow you to plead for these men
But I was going to
1 Please take your seat, Mr. Richards. We must
examine the rest of these notes simple fairness to the men
who have already been exposed requires this. As soon as
that has been done I give you my word for this you
shall be heard.
Many voices. * Right ! the Chair is right no inter-
THAT CORRUPTED HADLEYBURG 43
ruption can be permitted at this stage ! Go on ! the
names ! the names ! according to the terms of the
The old couple sat reluctantly down, and the husband
whispered to the wife, * It is pitifully hard to have to wait ;
the shame will be greater than ever when they find we were
only going to plead for ourselves.
Straightway the jollity broke loose again with the reading
of the names.
" You are far from being a bad man " Signature,
" Robert J. Titmarsh."
" You are far from being a bad man " Signature,
" Eliphalet Weeks."
" You are far from being a bad man " Signature,
" Oscar B. Wilder."
At this point the house lit upon the idea of taking the
eight words out of the Chairman s hands. He was not
unthankful for that. Thenceforward he held up each note
in its turn and waited. The house droned out the eight
words in a massed and measured and musical deep volume
of sound (with a daringly close resemblance to a well-
known church chant) ( You are f-a-r from being a
b-a-a-a-d man. Then the Chair said, * Signature, " Archi
bald Wilcox." And so on, and so on, name after name,
and everybody had an increasingly and gloriously good time
except the wretched Nineteen. Now and then, when a
particularly shining name was called, the house made the
Chair wait while it chanted the whole of the test-remark
from the beginning to the closing words, And go to hell
or Hadlcyburg try and make it the for-or-m-e-r ! and in
these special cases they added a grand and agonised and
imposing A-a-a-a-wr /
The list dwindled, dwindled, dwindled, poor old
44 THE MAN
Richards keeping tally of the count, wincing when a name