system. Here it is yanked back and forth through the heart, lungs and
capillaries, and if anything is left to fork over to the disease, it has
to squeeze into the long, bony, air-tight socket that holds the spinal
cord. All this is done without seeing the patient's spinal cord before
or after taking. If it could be taken out, and hung over a clothes
line and cleansed with benzine, and then treated with insect powder,
or rolled in corn meal, or preserved in alcohol, and then put back, it
would be all right; but you can't. You pull a man's spine out of his
system and he is bound to miss it, no matter how careful you have been
about it. It is difficult to keep house without the spine. You need
it every time you cook a meal. If the spinal cord could be pulled by a
dentist and put away in pounded ice every time it gets a hot-box, spinal
meningitis would lose its stinger.
I was treated by thirteen physicians, whose names I may give in a future
article. They were, as I said, men I shall long remember. One of them
said very sensibly that meningitis was generally over-doctored. I told
him that I agreed with him. I said that if I should have another year of
meningitis and thirteen more doctors, I would have to postpone my trip
to Europe, where I had hoped to go and cultivate my voice. I've got
a perfectly lovely voice, if I could take it to Europe and have it
sand-papered and varnished, and mellowed down with beer and bologna.
But I was speaking of my physicians. Some time I'm going to give their
biographies and portraits, as they did those of Dr. Bliss, Dr. Barnes
and others. Next year, if I can get railroad rates, I am going to hold
a reunion of my physicians in Chicago. It will be a pleasant relaxation
for them, and will save the lives of a large percentage of their
SKIMMING THE MILKY WAY.
The comet is a kind of astronomical parody on the planet. Comets look
some like planets, but they are thinner and do not hurt so hard when
they hit anybody as a planet does. The comet was so called because
it had hair on it, I believe, but late years the bald-headed comet is
giving just as good satisfaction everywhere.
The characteristic features of a comet are: A nucleus, a nebulous light
or coma, and usually a luminous train or tail worn high. Sometimes
several tails are observed on one comet, but this occurs only in flush
When I was young I used to think I would like to be a comet in the sky,
up above the world so high, with nothing to do but loaf around and play
with the little new-laid planets and have a good time, but now I can see
where I was wrong. Comets also have their troubles, their perihilions,
their hyperbolas and their parabolas. A little over 300 years ago Tycho
Brahe discovered that comets were extraneous to our atmosphere, and
since then times have improved. I can see that trade is steadier and
potatoes run less to tows than they did before.
Soon after that they discovered that comets all had more or less
periodicity. Nobody knows how they got it. All the astronomers had been
watching them day and night and didn't know when they were exposed, but
there was no time to talk and argue over the question. There were two or
three hundred comets all down with it at once. It was an exciting time.
Comets sometimes live to a great age. This shows that the night air is
not so injurious to the health as many people would have us believe. The
great comet of 1780 is supposed to have been the one that was noticed
about the time of Caesar's death, 44 B. C, and still, when it appeared
in Newton's time, seventeen hundred years after its first grand farewell
tour, Ike said that it was very well preserved, indeed, and seemed to
have retained all its faculties in good shape.
Astronomers say that the tails of all comets are turned from the sun. I
do not know why they do this, whether it is etiquette among them or just
a mere habit.
A later writer on astronomy said that the substance of the nebulosity
and the tail is of almost inconceivable tenuity. He said this and then
death came to his relief. Another writer says of the comet and its tail
that "the curvature of the latter and the acceleration of the periodic
time in the case of Encke's comet indicate their being affected by a
resisting medium which has never been observed to have the slightest
influence on the planetary periods."
I do not fully agree with the eminent authority, though he may be right.
Much fear has been the result of the comet's appearance ever since the
world began, and it is as good a thing to worry about as anything I know
of. If we could get close to a comet without frightening it away, we
would find that we could walk through it anywhere as we could through
the glare of a torchlight procession. We should so live that we will
not be ashamed to look a comet in the eye, however. Let us pay up our
newspaper subscription and lead such lives that when the comet strikes
we will be ready.
Some worry a good deal about the chances for a big comet to plow into
the sun some dark, rainy night, and thus bust up the whole universe.
I wish that was all I had to worry about. If any respectable man will
agree to pay my taxes and funeral expenses, I will agree to do his
worrying about the comet's crashing into the bosom of the sun and
knocking its daylights out.
This luminous body is 92,000,000 miles from the earth, though there have
been mornings this winter when it seemed to me that it was further than
that. A railway train going at the rate of 40 miles per hour would be
263 years going there, to say nothing of stopping for fuel or water, or
stopping on side tracks to wait for freight trains to pass. Several
years ago it was discovered that a slight error had been made in the
calculations of the sun's distance from the earth, and, owing to a
misplaced logarithm, or something of that kind, a mistake of 3,000,000
miles was made in the result. People cannot be too careful in such
matters. Supposing that, on the strength of the information contained in
the old timetable, a man should start out with only provisions
sufficient to take him 89,000,000 miles and should then find that
3,000,000 miles still stretched out ahead of him. He would then have to
buy fresh figs of the train boy in order to sustain life. Think of
buying nice fresh figs on a train that had been en route 250 years!
Imagine a train boy starting out at ten years of age, and perishing at
the age of 60 years with only one-fifth of his journey accomplished.
Think of five train boys, one after the other, dying of old age on the
way, and the train at last pulling slowly into the depot with not a
living thing on board except the worms in the "nice eating apples!"
The sun cannot be examined through an ordinary telescope with impunity.
Only one man ever tried that, and he is now wearing a glass eye that
cost him $9.
If you examine the sun through an ordinary solar microscope, you
discover that it has a curdled or mottled appearance, as though
suffering from biliousness. It is also marked here and there by long
streaks of light, called faculae, which look like foam flecks below a
cataract. The spots on the sun vary from minute pores the size of an
ordinary school district to spots 100,000 miles in diameter, visible to
the nude eye. The center of these spot's is as black as a brunette cat,
and is called the umbra, so called because is resembles an umbrella. The
next circle is less dark, and called the penumbra, because it so closely
resembles the penumbra.
There are many theories regarding these spots, but, to be perfectly
candid with the gentle reader, neither Prof. Proctor nor myself can
tell exactly what they are. If we could get a little closer, we flatter
ourselves that we could speak more definitely. My own theory is they are
either, first, open air caucuses held by the colored people of the sun;
or, second, they may be the dark horses in the campaign; or, third, they
may be the spots knocked off the defeated candidate by the opposition.
Frankly, however, I do not believe either of these theories to be
tenable. Prof. Proctor sneers at these theories also on the ground that
these spots do not appear to revolve so fast as the sun. This, however,
I am prepared to explain upon the theory that this might be the result
of delays in the returns. However, I am free to confess that speculative
science is filled with the intangible. .
The sun revolves upon his or her axletree, as the case may be, Once in
25 to 28 of our days, so that a man living there would have almost two
years to pay a 30-day note. We should so live that when we come to die
we may go at once to the sun.
Regarding the sun's temperature, Sir John Herschel says that it is
sufficient to melt a shell of ice covering its entire surface to a depth
of 40 feet. I do not know whether he made this experiment personally or
hired a man to do it for him.
The sun is like the star spangled banner - as it is "still there." You
get up to-morrow morning just before sunrise and look away toward the
east, and keep on looking in that direction, and at last you will, see a
fine sight, if what I have been told is true. If the sunrise is as grand
as the sunset, it indeed must be one of nature's most sublime phenomena.
The sun is the great source of light and heat for our earth. If the sun
were to go somewhere for a few weeks for relaxation and rest, it would
be a cold day for us. The moon, too, would be useless, for she is
largely dependent on the sun. Animal life would soon cease and real
estate would become depressed in price. We owe very much of our
enjoyment to the sun, and not many years ago there were a large number
of people who worshiped the sun. When a man showed signs of emotional
insanity, they took him up on the observatory of the temple and
sacrificed him to the sun. They were a very prosperous and happy people.
If the conqueror had not come among them with civilization and guns and
grand juries they would have been very happy, indeed.
There is much in the great field of astronomy that is discouraging to
the savant who hasn't the time nor the means to rummage around through
the heavens. At times I am almost hopeless, and feel like saying to
the great yearnful, hungry world: "Grope on forever. Do not ask me for
another scientific fact. Find it out yourself. Hunt up your own new-laid
planets, and let me have a rest. Never ask me again to sit up all night
and take care of a new-born world, while you lie in bed and reck not."
I get no salary for examining the trackless void night after night when
I ought to be in bed. I sacrifice my health in order that the public may
know at once of the presence of a red-hot comet, fresh from the factory.
And yet, what thanks do I get?
Is it surprising that every little while I contemplate withdrawing from
scientific research, to go and skin an eight-mule team down through the
dim vista of relentless years?
Then, again, you take a certain style of star, which you learn from
Professor Simon Newcomb is such a distance that it takes 50,000 years
for its light to reach Boston. Now, we will suppose that after looking
over the large stock of new and second-hand stars, and after examining
the spring catalogue and price list, I decide that one of the smaller
size will do me, and I buy it. How do I know that it was there when I
bought it? Its cold and silent rays may have ceased 49,000 years before
I was born and the intelligence be still on the way. There is too much
margin between sale and delivery. Every now and then another astronomer
comes to me and says: "Professor, I have discovered another new star and
intend to file it. Found it last night about a mile and a half south of
the zenith, running loose. Haven't heard of anybody who has lost a star
of the fifteenth magnitude, about thirteen hands high, with light mane
and tail, have you?" Now, how do I know that he has discovered a brand
new star? How can I discover whether he is or is not playing and old,
threadbare star on me for a new one?
We are told that there has been no perceptible growth or decay in the
star business since man began to roam around through space, in his mind,
and make figures on the barn door with red chalk showing the celestial
No serious accidents have occurred in the starry heavens since I began
to observe and study their habits. Not a star has waxed, not a star has
waned to my knowledge. Not a planet has season-cracked or shown any of
the injurious effects of our rigorous climate. Not a star has ripened
prematurely or fallen off the trees. The varnish on the very oldest
stars I find on close and critical examination to be in splendid
condition. They will all no doubt wear as long as we need them, and wink
on long after we have ceased to wink back.
In 1866 there appeared suddenly in the northern crown a star of about
the third magnitude and worth at least $250. It was generally conceded
by astronomers that this was a brand new star that had never been used,
but upon consulting Argelander's star catalogue and price list it was
found that this was not a new star at all, but an old, faded star of
the ninth magnitude, with the front breadths turned wrong side out and
trimmed with moonlight along the seams. After a few days of phenomenal
brightness, it gently ceased to draw a salary as a star of the third
magnitude, and walked home with an Uncle Tom's Cabin company.
It is such things as this that make the life of the astronomer one of
constant and discouraging toil. I have long contemplated, as I say, the
advisability of retiring from this field of science and allowing
others to light the northern lights, skim chores. I would do it myself
cheerfully if my health would permit, but for years I have realized, and
so has my wife, that my duties as an astronomer kept me up too much at
night, and my wife is certainly right about it when she says if I insist
on scanning the heavens night after night, coming home late with
the cork out of my telescope and my eyes red and swollen with these
exhausting night vigils, I will be cut down in my prime. So I am liable
to abandon the great labor to which I had intended to devote my life, my
dazzling genius and my princely income. I hope that other savants will
spare me the pain of another refusal, for my mind is fully made up
that unless another skimmist is at once secured, the milky way will
henceforth remain unskum.
A THRILLING EXPERIENCE.
I had a very thrilling experience the other evening. I had just filled
an engagement in a strange city, and retired to my cozy room at the
The thunders of applause had died away, and the opera house had been
locked up to await the arrival of an Uncle Tom's Cabin Company. The last
loiterer had returned to his home, and the lights in the palace of the
pork packer were extinguished.
No sound was heard, save the low, tremulous swash of the sleet outside,
or the death-rattle in the throat of the bath-tub. Then all was as still
as the bosom of a fried chicken when the spirit has departed.
The swallow-tail coat hung limp and weary in the wardrobe, and the gross
receipts of the evening were under my pillow. I needed sleep, for I was
worn out with travel and anxiety, but the fear of being robbed kept
me from repose. I know how desperate a man becomes when he yearns for
another's gold. I know how cupidity drives a wicked man to angle his
victim, that he may win precarious prosperity, and how he will often
take a short cut to wealth by means of murder, when, if he would enter
politics, he might accomplish his purpose as surely and much more
Anon, however, tired nature succumbed. I know I had succumbed, for the
bell-boy afterward testified that he heard me do so.
The gentle warmth of the steam-heated room, and the comforting assurance
of duty well done and the approval of friends, at last lulled me into a
Anyone who might have looked upon me, as I lay there in that innocent
slumber, with the winsome mouth slightly ajar and the playful limbs
cast wildly about, while a merry smile now and then flitted across the
regular features, would have said that no heart could be so hard as to
harbor ill for one so guileless and so simple.
I do not know what it was that caused me to wake. Some slight sound or
other, no doubt, broke my slumber, and I opened my eyes wildly. The room
was in semi-darkness.
A slight movement in the corner, and the low, regular breathing of a
human being! I was now wide awake. Possibly I could have opened my eyes
wider but not without spilling them out of their sockets.
Regularly came that soft, low breathing. Each time it seemed like a sigh
of relief, but it did not relieve me. Evidently it was not done for that
purpose. It sounded like a sigh of blessed relief, such as a woman might
heave after she has returned from church and transferred herself from
the embrace of her new Russia iron, black silk dress into a friendly
Regularly, like the rise, and fall of a wave on the summer sea, it rose
and fell, while my pale lambrequin of hair rose and fell fitfully with
I know that people who read this will laugh at it, but there was nothing
to laugh at. At first I feared that the sigh might be that of a woman
who had entered the room through a transom in order to see me, as I lay
wrapt in slumber, and then carry the picture away to gladden her whole
But no. That was hardly possible. It was cupidity that had driven some
cruel villain to enter my apartments and to crouch in the gloom till the
proper moment should come in which to spring upon me, throttle me, crowd
a hotel pillow into each lung, and, while I did the Desdemona act, rob
me of my hard-earned wealth.
Regularly still rose the soft breathing, as though the robber might be
trying to suppress it. I reached gently under the pillow, and securing
the money I put it in the pocket of my robe de nuit. Then, with great
care, I pulled out a copy of Smith & Wesson's great work on "How to
Ventilate the Human Form." I said to myself that I would sell my life
as dearly as possible, so that whoever bought it would always regret the
Then I opened the volume at the first chapter and addressed a
thirty-eight calibre remark in the direction of the breath in the
When the echoes had died away a sigh of relief welled up from the dark
corner. Also another sigh of relief later on.
I then decided to light the gas and fight it out. You have no doubt seen
a man scratch a match on the leg of his pantaloons. Perhaps you have
also seen an absent-minded man undertake to do so, forgetting that his
pantaloons were hanging on a chair at the other end of the room.
However, I lit the gas with my left hand and kept my revolver pointed
toward the dark corner where the breath was still rising and falling.
People who had heard my lecture came rushing in, hoping to find that
I had suicided, but they found that, instead of humoring the public in
that way, I had shot the valve off the steam radiator.
It is humiliating to write the foregoing myself, but I would rather do
so than have the affair garbled by careless hands.
CATCHING A BUFFALO.
A pleasing anecdote is being told through the press columns recently,
of an encounter on the South Platte, which occurred some years ago
between a Texan and a buffalo. The recital sets forth the fact that the
Texans went out to hunt buffalo, hoping to get enough for a mess during
the day. Toward evening they saw two gentlemen buffalo on a neighboring
hill near the Platte, and at once pursued their game, each selecting an
animal. They separated at once, Jack going one way galloping-after his
beast, while Sam went in the other direction. Jack soon got a shot at
his game, but the bullet only tore a large hole in the fleshy shoulder
of the bull and buried itself in the neck, maddening the animal to such
a degree that he turned at once and charged upon horse and rider.
The astonished horse, with the wonderful courage, sagacity and sang
froid peculiar to the broncho, whirled around two consecutive times,
tangled his feet in the tall grass and fell, throwing his rider about
fifty feet. He then rose and walked away to a quiet place, where
he could consider the matter and give the buffalo an opportunity to
The infuriated bull then gave chase to Jack, who kept out of the way for
a few yards only, when, getting his legs entangled in the grass, he
fell so suddenly that his pursuer dashed over him without doing him any
bodily injury. However, as the animal went over his prostrate form, Jack
felt the buffalo's tail brush across his face, and, rising suddenly, he
caught it with a terrific grip and hung to it, thus keeping out of the
reach of his enemy's horns, till his strength was just giving out, when
Sam hove in sight and put a large bullet through the bull's heart.
This tale is told, apparently, by an old plainsman and scout, who reels
it off as though he might be telling his own experience.
Now, I do not wish to seem captious and always sticking my nose into
what is none of my business, but as a logical and zoological fact, I
desire, in my cursory way, to coolly take up the subject of the buffalo
tail. Those who have been in the habit of killing buffaloes, instead of
running an account at the butcher shop, will remember that this noble
animal has a genuine camel's hair tail about eight inches long, with
a chenille tassel at the end, which he throws lip into the rarefied
atmosphere of the far west, whenever he is surprised or agitated.
In passing over a prostrate man, therefore, I apprehend that in order to
brush his face with the average buffalo tail, it would be necessary for
him to sit down on the bosom of the prostrate scout and fan his features
with the miniature caudal Tud.
The buffalo does not gallop an hundred miles a day, dragging his tail
across the bunch grass and alkali of the boundless plains.
He snorts a little, turns his bloodshot eyes toward the enemy a moment
and then, throwing his cunning little taillet over the dash-boardlet, he
wings away in an opposite direction.
The man who could lie on his back and grab that vision by the tail would
have to be moderately active. If he succeeded, however, it would be a
question of the sixteenth part of a second only, whether he had his arms
jerked out by the roots and scattered through space or whether he had
strength of will sufficient to yank out the withered little frizz and
hold the quivering ornament in his hands. Few people have the moral
courage to follow a buffalo around over half a day holding on by the
tail. It is said that a Sioux brave once tried it, and they say his
tracks were thirteen miles apart. After merrily sauntering around with
the buffalo one hour, during which time he crossed the territories of
Wyoming and Dakota twice and surrounded the regular army three times, he
became discouraged and died from the injuries he had received. Perhaps,
however, it may have been fatigue.
It might be possible for a man to catch hold of the meager tail of a
meteor and let it snatch him through the coming years.
It might be, that a man with a strong constitution could catch a cyclone
and ride it bareback across the United States and then have a fresh one
ready to ride back again, but to catch a buffalo bull in the full flush
of manhood, as it were, and retain his tail while he crossed three
reservations and two mountain ranges, requires great tenacity of purpose
and unusual mental equipoise.
Remember, I do not regard the story I refer to as false, at least I do
not wish to be so understood. I simply say that it recounts an incident
that is rather out of the ordinary. Let the gentle reader lie down and
have a Jack-rabbit driven across his face, for instance. The J. Rabbit
is as likely to brush your face with his brief and erect tail as
the buffalo would be. Then carefully note how rapidly and promptly
instantaneous you must be. Then closely attend to the manner in which
you abruptly and almost simultaneously, have not retained the tail in
A few people may have successfully seized the grieved and startled
buffalo by the tail, but they are not here to testify to the
circumstances. They are dead, abnormally and extremely dead.
After viewing the birthplace of the Adamses out at Quincy I felt more
reconciled to my own birthplace. Comparing the house in which I was