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Page 280



Martin Speed was a bachelor. He had backed and
filled, and hesitated and doubted about entering upon
the “blissful estate” of matrimony, until the fire of
youthful passion was all spent, and matrimony had become
a problem to him as dry and formal as one in old
Walsh's arithmetic; to be ciphered out for an answer,
as much as that proposition about carrying the fox,
goose, and bag of corn, across the creek, that everybody
“problemly” remembers. Being a phrenologist,
he left the province of hearts altogether, and went
to examining heads, to ascertain by craniological developments
a woman's fitness for the position of a wife to
Martin Speed, Esq., as letters came addressed to him at
the Speedwell post-office. The town of Speedwell was
named for an ancestor of his, and boasted of several
thousands of inhabitants; and, as it was a factory place,
it had a goodly share of good-looking marriageable girls.

Martin studied Combe and Spurzheim and Gall, and
grew bitter as disappointment saw him enter his forty-first
year a bachelor. He looked back on the past,
and saw the chances he had neglected, and the happiness
of those who had started with him, and were now
portly people, the heads and fronts of families; and the
delicate damsels he had slighted, respected mothers in
Israel, and exemplary and amiable wives. He sought
every opportunity for examining the heads of such as
would submit themselves to his hand with a hope of
catching the bachelor; for they knew his weakness, and
he was well-to-do and an eligible match. But in vain
he looked for perfection. The bumps would not be
arranged as he wished them. If he took a liking to a


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pretty face, phrenology impertinently gave it the lie
straight, and he at once avoided it.

It was at this juncture that a biological lecturer —
a grave professor in that science — came to Speedwell
and gave a series of exhibitions. These Martin
attended, and biology at once became an “intensity”
with him, — a “new emotion.” He attended all the
exhibitions; — saw men personate roosters and crow;
hens and scratch; shiver with cold or burn with
heat, at the will of the operator; saw a miser endeavor
to clutch an eagle held out to him while under the influence
of the wonderful spell, and the tongue of a woman
stilled who for twenty years had been the pest of Speedwell
by her loquacity.

This put the mind of Martin on a new track. He sold
his old phrenological works, and devoted himself to the
study of the wonderful science through which such
marvels were performed. The professor was a fine
teacher, and Martin placed himself under his tuition.
He succeeded admirably. In a short time he surpassed
his instructor, and had more than his powers
in influencing the susceptible among his weak brethren
and sisters.

He formed a resolution to himself, that through this
means he would gain a wife. Could he find one that
his science could control, — one that at a glance he
could transfix, like the man who was stopped by the
mesmerizer half-way down, as he was falling from the
roof of a house, — he would marry her; for the reason,
dear reader, that Martin had not married, was that he
had heard of wives wearing the — authority over
their lords, and he was a timid man. In this new science
he saw security, and sedulously sought for one of


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the right description. At every party where he was
invited, at every sewing-circle, at every knot of factory-girls
in which he mingled in the summer evenings, he
tried his art, but without success. At last, when on the
point of despairing, accident gave what he had failed
of obtaining by earnest seeking. A widow — dangerous
to bacheloric peace, as edged tools are to the
careless hands of the inexperienced — came to the
village on a visit. The weeds had not been removed
that marked her bereavement, and the merest touch of
melancholy rested on her brow; but her eye was laughing,
and a sweet curl strayed away and lay like a chiselled
eddy upon the marble of her cheek. She had a
jewel on her hand, and the black dress she wore was
cut judiciously, — the milliner that cut it had been a
widow herself, and knew how to manage such matters,
— showing a beautiful white shoulder, and revealing a
bust of rare loveliness.

Martin met the widow at the residence of a friend,
and liked her. He had never seen so prepossessing a
woman, he thought. But she had buried one husband,
and that was rather a drawback. One visit led to another,
the liking still increasing, until he broached the
subject of biology, with a wish fervently felt that this
might be the woman he sought. She was fully acquainted
with it, and, in answer to his question if she
was susceptible to its influence, she replied that she
did n't know, but was willing to have the fact tested.
What a position for Martin! Seated by her side on a
sofa, with her hand laid in his, her rich dark eyes resting
upon his with a look equal to that which the widow
Wadman poured into those of the unsuspecting Toby, in
the stillness of a summer evening! But science held
him secure, and his nerves were calm as the summer


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day of that evening. By and by the beautiful lids
drooped, the head bent gently forward, and the widow,
with a sweet smile upon her lips, lay fast asleep. Martin
could have shouted “Eureka,” in his delight at the
discovery. Now his pulse quickened, and he stooped
to kiss the lips that lay unresisting before him; but he
did n't. By the exercise of his power he awakened her,
and she was much surprised at being caught napping,
and blushed at the strangeness of it; and blushed more
when Martin told her how he had been tempted, and
how gloriously he had resisted; and laughed a little
when she slapped his cheek with her fingers as he took
pay from the widow's lips for his self-denial, and went
home half crazy with joy at his new-found treasure,
more like a boy of nineteen than a matured gentleman
of forty.

Every night found him a visitor at the widow's, and
every night the success of the science was proved, until
by a mere look or a wave of the hand the beautiful
widow became a subject to his will, and he became at
the same time a subject to hers. She was such a splendid
creature, too! You would not find in a long journey
another fairer, or more intelligent, or more virtuous.
The question might be asked, which magnetism was the
most pleasant or most powerful, his or hers. But he
thought only of his own, not deeming that he was in
a spell more powerful, that was irrevocably binding
him. What could an old bachelor know of such a

This state of things grew to a crisis, at last, and Martin
formally proposed to the widow that the two should
be made one, by the transmutation of the church. To
this she assented; and it was announced soon after, to
the astonishment of all, that Martin Speed had married


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the widow Goode. The punster of the village made
a notable pun about Good-Speed, at which people
laughed very much; and the editor of one of the
papers, who was a very funny man, put it in print.

It happened, shortly after the marriage, that they had
a famous party, and some of the guests bantered Martin
about his marriage, upon which he told them of the
manner it came about. They were a little incredulous,
and he volunteered to give them some specimens of his
remarkable power over his wife. She was in another
room attending to some female friends, when he called
her to him. She came obediently, and he asked her to
sit down, which she did. He took her hand and looked
into her eyes, to put her to sleep. Her eyes were wide
open, and a lurking spirit of mischief looked out of
them broadly into his. He waved his hands before
them, but they remained persistently open. He bent
the force of his will to their subjugation, but it was of
no use.

“Mr. Speed,” said she, laughing, “I don't believe
the magnetism of the husband is equal to that of the
lover; or, perhaps, science and matrimony are at

She said this in a manner to awaken a strong suspicion
in his mind that she had humbugged him, and had
never been put to sleep at all. His friends, as friends will
when they fancy a poor fellow has got into a hobble,
laughed at him, and told the story all round the village.
For months he was an object of sport to everybody.
People would make passes over each other as he passed,
and women would shut their eyes and look knowing.
But, whether his power had gone or not, hers remained;
and he cared not a fig for their laughing, for he was
happy in the beautiful spell of affection which she threw


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over him, that bound him as a chain of flowers. The
attempt to close her eyes was never repeated, for he
was too glad to see them open to wish to lose sight of
them. Life with Speed sped well, and Martin became
a father in time. He never regretted the expedient he
adopted to get his wife, though he never could make
out exactly whether she humbugged him or not.