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1. I.

MR. BENJAMIN BLOSSOM was guilty of three faults
which his brother Archy, the bachelor, could not forgive:
first, having a family; second, going to California;
and, lastly, dying when he got there.

The news of the lamented Blossom's decease was brought
to Archy one morning, like Cleopatra's asp, with his breakfast.
The surviving brother, unconscious of the sting prepared
for him, comfortably seated himself to nibble the
bread of single-blessedness, spread his landlady's neat white
napkin on his lap, tucking the corners into the armholes of
his waistcoat, stirred his coffee, read the morning paper, ate
three eggs out of the shell with a little ivory scoop, and
finally broke the seal of the feminine-looking envelope beside
his plate.

“I knew there was something deused disagreeable in
that letter!” said Archy, turning first purple and then
pale. “The best I can do, I am always being made a

The epistle was from the mother of Benjamin's children;
and in a cramped chirography, and a style full of grammatical
errors, italics, and tears, indicating a good deal of
grief and not much education, it informed the bachelor
that his sister-in-law was a widdow (with two d's), and his


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nephews and nieces “orfens.” The news would have been
very apt to spoil his breakfast, but for the precaution he
had taken to open the eggs before he did the letter.

Archy walked the room with his napkin, and thought of a
good many things, — poor Ben dying away off there, among
strangers, and, no doubt, in very improper clothes; how he
(the surviving brother) would look in black; and what was
his duty respecting Priscilla and her orphans.

“There is no other way, as I see,” he mused, wiping his
forehead with the napkin, “but to submit, and be a victim!
Think of me, Archibald Blossom, suddenly called to be the
father of four little Blossoms; and a brother to her whose
heart is left destitoot-t, double-o, t, toot!” groaned Archy,
holding the letter up to the light. “Poor woman! poor
woman! no doubt she was too much afflicted to give attention
to her spelling. A brother to her! I wonder she
did n't say a husband, while she was about it!” And Archy
smiled a grim smile in the glass, mentally contrasting his
fastidious habits of life with the disagreeable ties and duties
of paternity.

To the bachelor's love of nicety and sleepless solicitude
for himself was joined an amiable disposition which was forever
getting the other traits into trouble. On the present
occasion he was perfectly well aware, as we have seen, that
he was to be made a victim; nevertheless, even while heaping
reproaches upon the late Benjamin, calling his children
brats, and cursing the man who first invented widows, he
resolved to visit his brother's family, — brushed his wig, colored
his whiskers, packed a carpet-bag, and made other
preparations for the pious pilgrimage. It was the first
time he had ever thought of fulfilling the Scriptural injunction,
“To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction”;
although it had long been a personal habit of his to keep
himself, literally, “unspotted from the world.”


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2. II.

It was half a day's journey from Archy's residence in town
to the rural locality which he had no doubt was all this
time resounding with the lamentations of the bereaved
family. Arrived at the village hotel, he ordered a room
and supper; and, after the necessary ablutions and refreshments,
and certain studious moments devoted to his attire,
he set out, with his immaculate waistcoat and gold-headed
cane, to walk to the Blossom cottage.

It was Archy's first advent in the place; a chronic dislike
of scenes rustic and domestic having hitherto deterred
him from venturing upon a visit. He was surprised to
find the little town so charming. It was the close of a
pleasant June day; the sunset was superb, the air cool and
sweet, the foliage of the sunlit trees thick and refulgent.

“Really,” said Archy to himself, snuffing the odor of
roses and pinks that breathed from somewhere about a
green-embowered cottage, — “really, and upon my soul, a
man might pass an hour or two in this place quite agreeably!
Young man,” — accosting a village youth, in soiled
shirt-sleeves and patched trousers, who approached, pushing
a loaded wheelbarrow before him on the sidewalk, —
“can you inform me where Mrs. Blossom lives?”

“P'scill Blossom?” said the village youth, setting down
the wheelbarrow and tucking up his shirt-sleeves.

“Mrs. Benjamin Blossom,” replied Archy, with dignity.

“That 's P'scill,” said the village youth, twisting his
mouth into a queer expression, and eying Archy with a
slant, shrewd leer. “You 've come past. Foller me, and
I 'll show ye. Look out for your shins!”


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He spat upon his hands, rubbed them together, and once
more addressed himself to the wheelbarrow. Archy stepped
aside and walked behind. The young man turned up to
the fence that enclosed the green-embowered cottage, from
about which breathed the delightful odor of pinks and

“Wish you 'd jest open that gate,” said he, holding the

Archy, who was unaccustomed to opening gates for
people, stood amazed at this audacity. But the young man
repeating his request, he concluded to take a benevolent
and humorous view of the matter, and, stepping before
the wheel, rendered the service.

“Clear the track now!” And the young man began to

“Hold! take care!” cried Archy, in peril of his legs.
“You scoundrel!” He flourished his cane. But as the
wheelbarrow continued to advance, his alternative was
either to suffer a collision or retreat. Preferring the latter,
he went backward into the yard. Going backward into the
yard, he struck his heel against the border of a flower-bed.
Striking his heel, he tripped, as was natural, and lost his
balance, being unable to recover which, he made a formidable
plunge, falling in the most awkward of all positions.
His cane flew into the air, his hat into the bushes, and instantly
he found himself deeply seated amidst some of the
aforesaid odorous pinks and roses.

“Hello! look out! darnation!” ejaculated the youth of
the wheelbarrow; “tumblin' over them beds! P'scill 'll be
in your hair!” Which last allusion prompted the unfortunate
Mr. Blossom to catch at his wig, that useful article
having found a closer affinity with a rosebush than with
the head to which it belonged.

“Young man!” said Archy, regaining his feet and gathering


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up his hat and stick, “you deserve to be caned
within an inch of your life!”

“Do I, though?” and the youth's shrewd leer brightened
into an expression of sparkling fun. “I ha'n't done noth'n',
only showed you where we live.”

“Who cares where you live?” retorted Archy, pale and
agitated, hastily brushing his clothes. “You remorseless
idiot! I inquired for Mrs. Blossom's house.”

“Wal, a'n't I showin' ye? This is our house; I 'm her
cousin,” said the youth. “I a'n't to blame, as I see, for
your goin' on to the bed backwards.”

“I must always be a victim!” growled Archy, using his
handkerchief for a duster. “Young man, I am Benjamin
Blossom's brother, and I wish to see Mrs. Blossom.”

“Jimmyneddy!” cried the youth, “be ye, though?
Darned if I did n't think you was the new minister! I
would n't have done it — I mean, I did n't mean to — lemme
brush off the dirt!” And he fell to using his unwashed
hands about Archy's person with a freedom more alarming
than any quantity of unadulterated dirt. The poor bachelor
was endeavoring to defend himself when a young
woman appeared, coming out of the house, and inquiring
eagerly what was the trouble.

A young woman, — she might have been forty; but she
was still fresh and good-looking, with a plump figure, hazel
eyes, a genuine complexion, teeth that were teeth, beautiful
hair of her own, and a pleasing smile. The smile beamed,
and at the same time the hazel eyes shone through tears,
when the youth of the wheelbarrow announced Mr. Blossom's

“O dear, good brother Archy!” she exclaimed, with
something between a sob and cry of joy.

“My afflicted sister — ” began Archy, who had composed
a pathetic little speech, appropriate to the occasion.


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He paused, either from forgetfulness or emotion. As she
made a movement indicative of falling into his arms, he
opened them. Seeing them opened, she could do no less
than fall into them. So the afflicted couple embraced, and
Mrs. Benjamin Blossom wept upon Mr. Archibald Blossom's

“To think we should meet, for the first time since my
marriage, on such an occasion!” murmured Mrs. Blossom.

“You have changed very little since that time,” said
Archy, gallantly, regarding her at arm's-length.

“Brother Archy,” faltered Priscilla, wiping her eyes,
“this is my cousin, Cyrus Drole.” And the bachelor was
formally introduced to the youth of the wheelbarrow.

Cyrus offered to shake hands, and Archy, after some
hesitation, gave him two fingers.

“And these,” said Mrs. Blossom, “are my — his — his
children!” — meaning her late husband's, not the grinning
Cyrus's. She burst into tears, and catching up the youngest
of the lamented Benjamin's progeny, as they came running
out of the house, almost smothered it with kisses.

Archy took out his handkerchief again, wiped first the
two fingers Cyrus had shaken, and then his eyes.

“Poor little dears!” he said, much affected. “How
could Benjamin ever leave for a moment so — so interesting
a family!”

“Benjie — Phidie — Archy,” Mrs. Blossom called the
names of the three older children according to their ages,
“this is your uncle, — your kind, dear uncle, — your father's
only brother, and now all the father you have left!” More
sobs, of the choking species. “Kiss your good uncle!”

“Dear little ones — yes!” said Archy, “give your uncle
a kiss! (I am going to be a victim, — I know I am!”
he added, in a parenthesis, to himself.) “There! there!
there!” embracing the three children in succession, but


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invariably allowing the kisses to explode before their faces
touched his, and then putting them immediately away. He
was congratulating himself on having done up this little
business so handsomely, when Mrs. Blossom reminded

“This is the youngest, — the baby, brother Archy; don't
forget the baby!”

“Bless his little heart, no,” said Archy, gayly fencing
with his forefinger; “tut-tut! cock-a-doodle-do! Really,
and upon my soul, what a fine boy it is!”

“But it 's a girl,” said Priscilla, hugging the frightened
little thing to keep it from crying.

“O, indeed! my mistake! But it 's all the same till they
get their baby frocks off,” replied Archy. And the procession
moved into the house, Cyrus Drole bringing up the rear.
Priscilla, hastily emptying the large rocking-chair of a cat,
two kittens, and a doll, offered her brother-in-law a seat.

“That 's my pussy!” said Benjie (young Blossom number
one, æt. 7).

“My doll!” screamed Phidie (number two, æt. 5).

“Mamma's chair!” cried little Blossom number three;
and before Archy the uncle could sit down, Archy the
nephew had scrambled into it.

“Archy, my dear,” remonstrated the mother, “get down
and give his uncle the chair.”

But Archy, laying hold of the arms with both hands, began
to rock with all his might, his bright eyes glistening,
and his curls shaking merrily about his cheeks. Thereupon
the uncle quietly helped himself to another chair,
which Priscilla hastened to dust with her apron before she
would suffer him to sit down.

“Say, P'scill!” cried Cyrus, who had gone into the
kitchen to wash himself; and he appeared at the sitting-room
door, rubbing his hands in a profuse foam of soft-soap


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and water, — “say! wa'n't it queer I should take
Uncle Archy for a minister?”

“He calls me uncle too!” inwardly groaned the bachelor.

“You have n't been to tea, I suppose?” observed Priscilla,
setting out the table, and putting up a leaf. Archy
said he had taken tea at the hotel. “Indeed! Are you
sure? That was n't very kind in you, brother Archibald!”

The young widow was reluctantly putting down the leaf,
with many expressions of regret, when all were startled by
a sound of shivered glass, and Phidie (abbreviation of Sophia)
uttered a cry of alarm.

“O ma! look at Cilly!” (Blossom number four, æt. 2,
named after her mother.) She had got Uncle Archy's
cane, and had tested the virtue of the pretty gold head by
putting it through a window-pane.

“Why, Cilly! what has she done?” exclaimed her mother.

Cilly began to cry. At that moment young Archy
rocked over. Another cry. The benevolent bachelor
sprang to lift up his namesake from beneath the overturned
chair, and, stooping, struck his head against Phidie's
nose. Third cry added to the chorus. Mrs. Blossom,
meanwhile, was occupied in running over Benjie, whose
fingers she had previously pinched by too suddenly dropping
the table-leaf when the alarm was given. At the same
time Cyrus, with his soapy hands, ran to the rescue, and
took the cane from the affrighted and screaming Cilly.

“What did I tell you, Archibald Blossom?” said the
bachelor to himself. “I knew perfectly well you would be
a victim!” And stepping back upon a kitten's tail, he
elicited a squall of pain from the feline proprietress of
the pinched appendage, and a mew of solicitude from the
maternal cat.

For a few minutes the domestic confusion in the cottage


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surpassed the most dreadful scenes the bachelor's imagination
had ever conceived. But the tumult soon passed; the
broken glass was picked up; the cane (with the streaks of
Cyrus's soapy fingers on it) set away; Phidie's nose washed,
which had bled; and the Blossoms number three and four
put to bed, after saying their prayers and kissing, with
oozy faces, — or, rather, kissing at, — their Uncle Archy.
Benjie and Phidie were suffered to sit up half an hour
longer, upon condition that they should behave themselves;
at the expiration of which time they also said their “Now
I lay me” and “Our Father” at their mother's knee,
greatly to the edification of their uncle, whom they afterward
kissed at, with a good-night, on going to bed. Cyrus,
in the mean time, had gone to spend his evening at the
village stores and bar-rooms; and now the widow and the
surviving brother of the late Benjamin Blossom were left
alone together.

3. III.

The cottage was quiet; a single lamp was lighted; the
grief-stricken widow took a seat rather near the surviving
brother. As they discussed the lamentable news the last
steamer had brought, she drew her chair closer still, allowing
her head, weighed down by affliction, to droop sympathetically
toward his shoulder. Archy was deeply troubled.

“I am more than ever convinced that I shall be a
victim,” he thought, as he glanced sideways at his companion;
“but, really, and upon my soul, there 's something
pleasing about her!”


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In the abandonment of grief she let her hand drop
upon his knee. She was too much absorbed by her sorrows
to think of removing it. Archy experienced a very
strange sensation. He had never in his life known anything
to produce precisely such an effect as that hand
upon his knee; and he wondered if his companion was
really aware that it had gone a-visiting. Then Archy suffered
his own hand (in the abandonment of grief) to drop
near the widow's. There is something magnetic in hands.
They attract by laws more subtle than the loadstone's.
Two peculiarly charged hands upon the same knee must
inevitably touch. Archy's palm lay in the most careless
manner upon the back of Priscilla's hand. Gradually his
fingers tended to encircle hers; an encouraging movement
on her part, then a nestling together of thrilling
palms, then an ardent mutual pressure, — and Archy found
himself in a position which he would have deemed utterly
impossible an hour ago. With that soft, warm, flexible, electric
conductor pouring its vital streams into his veins, he
comprehended, as never before, how men are entrapped into
matrimony. He saw how his brother (the lamented Benjamin)
had been entrapped, and forgave him. It was Archy's
left hand that clasped Priscilla's left, she sitting upon his
right; and now his other arm (all in the abandonment of
grief) fell from the top of her chair and lodged near her
waist. Her right hand met his, — not to remove it, but to
draw it ever so gently about her. At the same time her
head, which had been drooping so long, touched his shoulder.
Silence, and two deep breaths. Very natural: he
had lost a brother, she a husband; and this was consolation.

“My dear sister,” said Archy, “you must not let — ah
— circumstances trouble you. I have a little property, —
enough to keep me comfortable, — and I have put by a little


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to — to — provide against such a day as this; for I
always felt sure Benjamin's projects would turn out in
some such way; and, you see, you are not to want for anything,
Priscilla —”

“O dear, dear Archy! bless you!” said the widow,
with so much emotion that tears were drawn right out of
Archy's eyes. “But it is n't money I want! True, I have
four children, — they are friendless orphans, — I am poor;
but I can work for them with my last breath. It is n't
money I want! but sympathy, — a brother's love, — somebody
to talk to that knew him, — to keep my heart from
breaking while my dear children live! O, promise me
that!” She clung to Archy. He knew he was a victim,
but he also perceived that to be a victim might be sweeter
than he had deemed.

4. IV.

At this interesting moment the gate clanged, a shuffling
of shoes on the stoop-floor followed, and Cyrus Drole
walked unceremoniously into the room.

“I am saved!” thought Archy. But it must be confessed
he would have preferred not to be saved quite so
soon. His chair, as Cyrus entered, was at least a yard and
a half from the widow's, and their hands looked perfectly
innocent of contact. The hero of the wheelbarrow might
have perceived that he was expected to withdraw from the
sacred precincts of grief; but he coolly took a chair and
sat down, with his hat on.

“Everybody is askin' about Uncle Archy; you 'd think
the President had come to town!” said Cyrus, tipping


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back against the wall, and setting his feet upon the chair-round.
“But did n't they all la'f when I told about takin'
him for a minister, and runnin' him on to the beds!” And
Cyrus chuckled under his hat-brim, hugging his elevated

The two votaries of grief heard these ill-timed words in
appropriate solemn silence. Nobody else appearing inclined
to talk, Mr. Drole “improved” the occasion. He quoted
popular remarks concerning the surviving Mr. Blossom.
Elder Spoon's daughter thought he walked “drea'ful stiff”;
Miss Brespin, the dressmaker, declared that he winked at
her as he passed her window. Archy writhed at this stinging
imputation, but contented himself with frowning upon

“Brother Archy don't want to hear all this, Cyrus,”
interposed the serious-faced Priscilla.

“Jeff Jones said he looked like a horned pout with his
white-bellied jacket on!” continued Cyrus. “Cap'in Fling
wanted to know if he was an old bach; an' when I said he
was, says he, `I 'll bet fifty dollars,' says he, `he 'll marry
the widder!' `If he does,' says Old Cooney, says he, `he
won't look so much as if he 'd just walked out of a ban'box
time he 's been married a month,' says he. I did n't say
nothin', but la'ft!”

“Cyrus Drole!” cried the indignant widow, “if you
can't behave yourself, you shall go straight to bed. What
must Brother Archy think of your impudence?”

“I guess he 'll think it 's natur'!” laughed Cyrus. “I
s'posed you would n't mind, bein' we 're all cousins.”

Archy had arisen. He inquired, in some agitation, for
his hat and cane.

“Why, Brother Archy!” said Priscilla, alarmed, “where
are you going?” Archy explained that he had engaged
his lodging at the hotel, where his baggage remained. “I


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can't bear the thought of your going back there to sleep!”
And the widow's tearful eyes looked up pleadingly. “Do
stay with us! Cyrus shall go for your carpet-bag!”

Archy said something about “giving trouble.” She reproached
him tenderly. It would be a comfort, she assured
him, to know that he was beneath her roof; and
it would soothe her loneliness to remember the pathetic
circumstance after he was gone.

“I am a victim!” thought Archy; but he could not
resist such winning entreaties. Cyrus was despatched for
the carpet-bag. He was absent not much more than five
minutes; and on his return, placing the article of luggage
on the table, he seated himself, tipped against the wall,
with his hat on, as before.

“Any time you wish to retire, Brother Archy, — ” suggested
the widow's softened voice.

Archy cast a scowling glance at Cyrus (who appeared
immovable), and replied that he felt the need of rest after
his long journey.

“Don't hurry on my account,” said Cyrus. “I jest
as lives set up and keep ye comp'ny!”

Unseduced by this generous offer, Archy took his
carpet-bag and proceeded, under the widow's guidance,
to the spare bedroom. It was a neat little chamber, with
a rag-carpet on the floor, and cheap lithographs in cheap
frames on the wall. The lamp was placed on the white-spread
stand, and the carpet-bag on a chair. Archy gave
the widow his hand.

“Good night, sister!” Priscilla wept. “Afflicted one!”
said Archy, drawing her near him. He put down his lips;
she put up hers. At that affecting moment a chuckle was
heard. Both started.

“Ye 'fraid of muskeeters, Uncle Archy?” said Cyrus,
putting his head in at the door.


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Archy had never in his life felt so powerful an impulse
to fracture somebody's cervical column. Had there been
a weapon at hand, Cyrus would have suffered. As it was,
he advanced with impunity into the room.

“'Cause, ef you be, there 's some in this room that long!
he added, measuring off a piece of his hand. “Ain't they,

“Cyrus Drole! there is n't a mosquito in the house, and
you know it!” exclaimed the widow. “What do you talk
so for?”

“They 've got some over to the tavern bigger yit,” said
Cyrus, seating himself astride a chair, and resting his
arms on the back. “They hitched six on 'em to a handcart
t'other day, and they ripped it all to flinders!”

“Come, Cyrus,” expostulated the widow, “you 've no
business here; brother wants to go to bed.”

“He won't mind me; I 'll keep him comp'ny till he
wants to go to sleep. You need n't stop, if you don't
want to!”

Thereupon the widow hastily withdrew, calling upon
him to follow. Cyrus rocked to and fro, in his reversed
position, appearing perfectly and entirely at home. Archy
regarded him sternly.

“What d'ye haf to pay for them kind o' boots?” asked
Cyrus. “Pegged or sewed? hey?” No reply. “Psho!
what 's the matter? You look as though you 'd forgot

“Young man,” said Archy, loftily, “will you have the
kindness to postpone the entertainment of your personal
presence and conversation to some remote future period?
In other words, will you oblige me by leaving this room?”

“Don't feel like talkin', hey? Wal, I d'n' know but I
will, seein' it 's you!” Cyrus, rising deliberately, knocked
over his chair, set it up again, and walked slowly to the


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door. “I forgot what you said you give for them boots?
Oh! you 're in a hurry, be ye?”

Seeing Archy advancing upon him with a somewhat
ferocious look, he quickened his step, and with a grin of
insolent good-nature dodged out of the room.

5. V.

Archy shut the door, and placed two chairs against it,
— there being no lock, — pulled off the said boots, hung
his wig on the bedpost, and in due time retiring, thought
of the widow, and called himself a victim, until he fell
asleep; when he dreamed that he was wedded to a spectre,
in soiled shirt-sleeves and patched trousers, and had nine
children, all of whom were born with little wheelbarrows
in their hands.

He was awakened by shouts of childish laughter. He
thought of his dream, rubbed his eyes, recognized his wig
on the bedpost, and remembered where he was. The
laughter proceeded from an adjoining room, where the
little Blossoms slept. Archy took his watch from beneath
the pillow, and discovered that he had been robbed of his
rest three hours earlier than his usual time for rising.

“I 'm always being a victim!” he said, with a yawn.
“But I suppose it 's the custom in the country to get up
at five. It will be such a novelty, I 'll try it for once.”

So Archy arose, dressed, put on his hat, found his
gold-headed cane (with the marks of Cyrus's soapy fingers
on it), and went out to walk. There was a freshness and
beauty in nature which afforded him an agreeable surprise.


Page 184

“Really, and upon my soul,” he said, “I had quite
forgotten that mornings in the country were so fine! One
might enjoy an experience of this kind once or twice a
year very well indeed.”

Priscilla was occupied in dressing the children when
he went out. On his return she was preparing breakfast.
He was curious to see how she would look by daylight;
and he was conscious of a slight agitation as he entered
the room. Her occupation, together with the heat of the
kitchen stove, had given her a beautiful color; and the
tear and smile with which she greeted him completed the
charm. Thus the day began. Archy, who had intended
to return on the first train to town, stayed until the afternoon.
He then found it impossible to turn a deaf ear to
the widow's entreaties, who urged him to remain another
night beneath her roof. He delayed his departure another
day, and still another night; and ended by spending
a week with the widow, Cyrus, and the children, — a week
whose history would fill a volume. What we have not
space to detail here the reader's imagination — it must be
vivid — will supply.

At last the bachelor returned to town. He had long
wished to go, and wished not to go. His experiences had
been both sweet and terrible; and to depart was as excruciating
as to remain. In tearing himself away he left
behind a lacerated heart, which Mrs. Priscilla Blossom
retained, and in return for which she sent him letters full
of affection and bad spelling. It is singular how soon
a tender interest in persons invests even their faults with
a certain charm. Not a month had elapsed before Archy
had learned to love those innocent little errors of orthography
and construction as dearly as if the i's she neglected
to dot were the very eyes which he had so often
seen weep and smile.


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“Really, and upon my soul,” said Archy, one morning,
after kissing her letter at least twice for every precious
error it contained, “she is a delightful creature; and, by
Jove, I 'd marry her — I would, truly — if — if it was n't
for being a victim!”

A strange unrest — to use a perfectly unhackneyed
expression — agitated his once placid bosom. Appetite
and flesh forsook him; his landlady observed that her
bountiful repasts no longer filled him; his tailor, that
he no longer filled his clothes. His friends shook their
heads and said, “The Blossom has been nipped by untimely

At length, yielding to destiny, he again disappeared
mysteriously from town. It is supposed that he visited
Priscilla. He was absent a week. He returned, bearing
a still larger burden of unrest than he had carried away.
In short — to sum up the tragical result in one word —
Archy was a victim, and he knew it!

How it all happened, poor Archy could never tell; and
if he could not, how can his biographer? As early as the
middle of October he had written to Priscilla irrevocable
words, ordered a wedding suit of his tailor, bought a new
wig, and purchased a trunkful of presents for his future
wife and children. The 11th of November was fixed
for the fatal event. On the night of the 9th he slept
not at all, but filled the hours with wakefulness and sighs.
“O Benjamin,” he said, “if you had only lived! I wish
I had never gone up there! But it is too late to retract!
It would break poor dear Priscilla's heart! I am quite
sure she would die of grief! I must go through with it
now, — I see no other way!” Mrs. Brown wondered what
made her lodger groan so in his sleep.

On the other hand, Archy endeavored to console himself
by reasoning thus: “It was n't in human nature to


Page 186
resist, — she is such a charming woman! Besides, I was
only doing my duty. I should have the family to support
any way. I can keep them in the country, and spend as
much time in town as I choose. I shall probably spend
all my time in town, with the exception of now and then
a few days in summer. Though really, and upon my soul,
if it was n't for Cyrus and the children I think I could be
very happy with Priscilla.”

He sank into a half-conscious state, and fancied himself
pursuing a wild, sweet, dangerous road, with two figures
whirling in a dance before him, one beautiful and bright,
but nearly enveloped in the other's black, voluminous
robes. One was Happiness, the other Misery; and so
they led him on, until the former quite disappeared, and
the latter, grim, inexorable, whirled alone. He awoke
with a start just as the hideous creature reached forth a
skeleton hand to claim him as a partner; and once more
Mrs. Brown wondered what made her lodger groan in
his sleep.

Archy was expected on the afternoon of the 10th, and
Cyrus was at the railroad station to meet him when the
train came in. The surviving brother felt not only like a
victim, but also very much like a culprit, when he stepped
from the cars, a spectacle to the group of loungers.

“Haryunclarchy?” (that is, “How are you, Uncle
Archy?”) cried Cyrus, familiarly advancing to shake
hands. “Got along, have ye? P'scill 's been drea'ful
'fraid you would n't come.” A broad grin from Mr. Drole.
Laughter and significant looks from the crowd. Embarrassment
on the part of Mr. Blossom.

“Where 's the carriage?” whispered the future bridegroom,
who, anticipating this scene, had directed that a
decent conveyance should be in waiting for him on his


Page 187

“Could n't git no kind of a one,” said Cyrus, in a loud
tone of voice. “Jinkins 's usin' hisn; Alvord's hoss 's lame;
Hillick, that keeps the tavern, had let hisn; I told 'em
you was comin', and I did n't know what I should do; but
not a darned thing in the shape of a carriage could I scare
up. So I concluded you could walk over to the house, —
guess you ha'n't quite forgot the way; and I 've brought
my wheelbarrer for your trunks.”

“Always a victim!” muttered Archy, red and perspiring,
perhaps at the recollection of his first adventure with
the wheelbarrow. He would have given worlds — as the
romance writers say — had he never set foot in the village.
But retrogression was now impossible. He hastily
pointed out his baggage with his gold-headed cane, and
walked up the street. He had not proceeded twenty
yards when Cyrus came after him, running his wheelbarrow
on the walk, and shouting to the retiring loungers
to “clear the track.” He pushed his load of trunks to
Archy's heels, and there he kept it, occasionally grazing
his calves with the wheel, until the exasperated bridegroom
stepped aside and stopped.

“Go on!” he said, hoarsely.

“Never mind; I a'n't pa'tic'lar!” replied Cyrus, setting
the wheelbarrow down, and spitting on his hands.
“I jest as lives you 'd go ahead. Whew! makes me

Archy raised his cane, but forebore exercising it upon
the young gentleman's back (as justice seemed to require)
in consequence of the publicity of the scene. He walked
on. The wheelbarrow followed, again at his heels. And
thus the bridegroom traversed the village, the head of a
procession which caused a general expansion of risible
muscles and a compression of noses upon window-panes
as it passed.


Page 188

“By the furies!” thought Archy, “I can't go through
with it! I 'll put a stop to the insane proceeding at
once! I 'll make some excuse; I 'll say I 've heard from
California and Benjamin is n't dead. That would n't do,
though; Priscilla 's had a letter from the friend who
received his parting breath. I 'll tell her — I 'll tell her
I 've got another wife. Then she 'll reproach me, and
what shall I say? Say I thought my wife was dead, but
she 's turned up again! That won't do, though, — I
can't lie.”

“Look out for yer legs!” cried Cyrus. They had
passed the gate. Archy was met by Mrs. Blossom and
four little Blossoms, soon to be all his own. Priscilla
clung to his neck, Benjie to his hand, Phidie to his coat-tails,
leaving the lesser Blossoms each a leg.

“I am doomed!” thought Archy. He assumed a gayety,
though he felt it not; opened his heart and his trunk;
distributed presents; received a good many more thanks
and kisses than he wanted; withdrew to the solitude of
his chamber; conferred with Priscilla, who followed him
thither, and whom he found, after all his doubts and despair,
to be the dearest and best of women.

He came out brighter than he had gone in; taking his
seat at the tea-table with Blossoms three and four on each
side and Priscilla opposite. The children had quarrelled
to sit next their uncle, and that rare indulgence had been
granted to the youngest two. Little Archy was barefoot,
and he persisted in rubbing his toes against big Archy's
trousers. Little Cilly (Blossom number four) sprinkled
him with crumbs, buttered his coat-sleeve, and tipped
over his teacup. Archy (the uncle) was beginning to
have very much the air of a parent.

The presents had so much excited the children that the
house that evening was a perfect little Babel. “And this


Page 189
is the family I am going to marry!” groaned poor Archy.
Cyrus was practising upon a new fiddle, in the kitchen,
and nothing could silence his horrible discords. The
domestic — a recent addition to Mrs. Blossom's establishment
— let fall a pile of dishes, deluging the threshold
with fragments. Benjie upset the table with a lamp and
pitcher, which saturated the carpet with oil and water.
Phidie and Archy quarrelled, and cried an hour after they
had gone to bed. Number four was sick, in consequence
of eating too much of Uncle Archy's candy, and had to
be doctored. Priscilla was harassed and — shall we confess
it? — cross. Add to the picture the melancholy coloring
of the season, — imagine the dreary whistling of the
November wind, and the rattling of dry leaves and naked
boughs, — and you have some notion of a nice, comfort-loving
old bachelor's reasons for homesickness.

Archy retired to his room. “I can't go through with
it! It 's no use! I 'll break it to Priscilla — gradually —
but I 'm resolved to do it! Suppose I make believe
I 'm insane, and tear things? Insane! I 've been insane!
O Benjamin —”

Rap, rap! gently, at the door. “There she is!” said
Archy. “Now, Blossom, be a man!” He opened; Priscilla
entered. She observed his excited mien with a look
of alarm.

“Dear Archy! what is the matter?”

What a wonderful influence there is in woman's eyes, a
ripe lip reaching up to you, and an arm about your neck!
Archy was afraid he was going to be shaken.

“Priscilla!” he said, with a tragic air, “I 've had a
horrid thought! Suppose — suppose Benjamin should
still be alive! and should come home! and find me — me
— a usurper of his happiness!”

“O Archy!” articulated Priscilla, with strong symptoms
of fainting, “spare me! spare me!”


Page 190

“Of course it is n't reasonable to suppose such a thing,
— but,” stammered Archy, “is n't our marriage hasty,
— premature? Not six months after the news of his
death, — though, to be sure, he had then been dead four
months, and that makes ten. But would n't it, after all,
be wise to postpone our bliss, — say till spring?”

“If you leave me,” said Priscilla, “I shall die!” She
closed her eyes, drooping tremulously in his arms; and
the scene would have been very romantic indeed but for
the plumpness of her figure and the laws of gravitation,
which united in compelling him to ease her down upon
a chair. “But go!” she added, “go! you do not love me!”

“Really, and upon my soul, I do!” vowed Archy,
greatly moved. “Priscilla, I adore you!”

“Then don't — don't break my heart!”

His resolution was melted; he saw that either Priscilla
or himself must be a victim. “I 'll be one myself,” he
thought; “I 'm used to it!” And he said no more of
postponing their conjugal felicity.

We read of prisoners sleeping soundly on the eve of
their execution. So Archy slept that night. The wedding
was appointed for the next morning. The bridegroom
awoke at half past six. It was cold and rainy. He
looked out upon the dismallest scene, — dark and dreary
hills, a deserted street, dripping and shivering trees, dead
leaves rotting upon the ground.

“I have brought my razor with me,” said Archy;
“really, and upon my soul, I think the best thing I can
do is to cut off the wretched thread of my existence,
just under the chin!”

Already the children were laughing and screaming in
the next room, and Cyrus's fiddle squeaked in the kitchen.
Archy got up, took his razor, deliberately honed it, uncovered
his throat, and — with a firm hand — shaved himself.


Page 191

6. VI.

The marriage ceremony was to take place at nine
o'clock, without display; only the clergyman and two
other witnesses were to be present, and the happy pair
were to take the cars at ten for a little journey. Two
bridesmaids came in the rain, at eight o'clock, to dress the
bride. She had already put upon the children their neatest
attire, charging them to remain in the house, and keep
themselves dry and clean. The arrival of the clergyman
was prompt. Nine o'clock struck, — a knell to Archy's
heart. At the fatal moment he appeared; he was handsomely
dressed; he was pale, but firm. No martyr ever
approached the stake with greater fortitude than he displayed
on standing up beside Priscilla, in the little parlor,
with the clergyman facing them and the witnesses waiting.

At this critical moment, Cyrus, who had gone to secure
a conveyance for the wedding party, rushed into the room.

“You, sir,” said the clergyman, addressing Archy, “solemnly
promise to take this woman —”

“Guess you better wait half a jiffy!” cried Cyrus, flirting
his wet cap.

“To be your lawful wife,” added the clergyman.

“Somebody else to come,” added Cyrus; “he 's 'most
here; I run ahead to tell ye to stop.”

“Hush, Cyrus!” whispered the bride.

“To love, honor, and obey,” said the clergyman, growing
confused, “until death do you part —”

“He 'd jest come in on the cars,” interpolated Cyrus.

“Promise,” said the clergyman to Archy, who stood


Page 192

“To obey?” faltered Archy.

“Did I say obey? No matter; it 's a mere form —”

“I guess he 's from Caleforny!” cried Cyrus; “mebby
's he 's got news.”

“From California!” uttered Archy, with a gleam of
hope. “Wait; what does the fellow mean? Who — where
is this man?”

“I d'n' know; I never saw him afore; but here he
comes!” said Cyrus. The rascal grinned. Priscilla looked
wild and distressed. Archy believed it was one of Cyrus's
miserable jokes, but resolved to make the most of it.

“Shall I proceed?” inquired the clergyman, who had
quite forgotten where he left off. The gate had previously
clanged; doors had been opened; and now, to the astonishment
of all, a stranger put his head into the room.
He wore a Spanish sombrero, a shaggy coat, and an immense
red beard. As all turned to look at him, he advanced
into the room.

“Stranger!” cried the excited Archy, “who — how —
why this interruption?”

“What is going on?” asked the Californian, in a suppressed

“Nothing — only — getting married a little,” replied
Archy, excited more and more. “You are welcome, sir,
welcome! but if you have no business —”

“I have business!” The intruder removed his wet
sombrero. “Priscilla! Archibald!”

“Benjamin!” ejaculated Archy, springing forward upon
the clergyman's corns.

“My husband!” burst from the lips of the bride; and
she threw up her arms, swooning in the traveller's damp
embrace. Archy, quite beside himself, ran over the children,
and flung his arms frantically about the reunited

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Page 193

“I be darned,” said Cyrus, flinging his cap into the
corner, “if 't a'n't Ben Blossom come to life again!”

“Just stand off,” cried Benjamin, sternly, “till we have
this matter a little better understood.”

“I don't object,” replied Archy, brushing himself, “for,
really, and upon my soul, you are very wet!”

Priscilla was restored to consciousness (which, if the
truth must be confessed, she had not lost at all), explanations
were made, and the husband's ire appeased. He,
on his part, maintained that he had not been dead at all;
that the treacherous friend who reported him so had indeed
deserted him when he was in an extremely feeble
condition at the mines, leaving him to perish alone, of
sickness and want, in the dismal rainy season; that he
(Mr. Blossom) had lived, so to speak, out of spite, finding
shelter in a squatter's hut, digging a little for gold, returning
to the seaboard, crossing the Isthmus, and finally
reaching home (with less than half the money he had carried
away) sooner than any letter, mailed at the earliest
opportunity, could have arrived. He seemed rejoiced to
get back again; kissed the children; shook hands with
the neighbors; and, finally, supporting his wife upon one
arm, while he gave Archy a fraternal embrace with the
other, frankly forgave them the little matrimonial proceeding
we have described.

The truth is, Priscilla had expressed her joy at his return
with a spontaneity and emphasis which left no doubt
of her sincerity. Archy felt one pang of jealousy at this;
but it was evident enough that his satisfaction at seeing
Benjamin was unfeigned.

“We are brother and sister again now, Archy?” said
Priscilla, offering him her hand.

“We are nothing else, I am happy to say!” replied
Archy, overflowing with good humor.


Page 194

“I must beg your pardon, Archy,” said Ben, “for taking
away your bride.”

“Really, and upon my soul,” cried Archy, magnanimously,
“I relinquish her — under the circumstances —
with joy! Take back your family, Ben! Here are the
children, good as new. I give 'em up without a murmur.
Heaven forbid that I should wish to rob my brother of
his treasures!” Archy's self-denial was beautiful.

“S'pos'n' — s'pos'n',” giggled Cyrus, “he had n't come
till to-morrer, an' found there 'd been a weddin'! an' nobody
but me an' the children left to hum!”

This ill-timed speech proved very unpopular, and Cyrus
was hustled out of the room. The wedding having failed
to take place, there was no wedding tour.

Archy remained, and made a visit at his brother's; experiencing
unaccountable sensations upon witnessing the
unbounded happiness of Priscilla. How she could so easily
give up a well-dressed gentleman like himself (after all
her professions, too!) and show such preference for a
rough, bearded, unkempt, half-savage Californian, puzzled
his philosophy. The sight became unendurable. So that
afternoon he packed up his luggage and took leave of the
happy family, turning a deaf ear to all their entreaties,
and setting out, under painful circumstances and a dilapidated
umbrella, to walk to the cars. Cyrus accompanied
him, transporting his trunks upon the celebrated wheelbarrow.
At the station Mr. Drole brought Archy the
checks for his baggage, and gave him his good-by, together
with a little tribute of sympathy.

“I swanny,” said Cyrus, “'t was too bad anyhow you
can fix it! But I would n't give up so; mebby you 'll
have better luck next time.”

“Always a victim!” muttered Archy, taking his seat in
the cars. Cyrus got upon his wheelbarrow, and whistled


Page 195
“Try, try again!” playing an imaginary fiddle over his
arm. The bachelor (still a bachelor) thanked Heaven
when the cars started, and so returned to his elegant
single lodgings in town.

But he was no longer the cheerful, contented bachelor
of other times. An affectionate letter from Mrs. Blossom,
in which she hoped he would find another widdow (with
two d's), and be hapy (with one p), served only to keep
alive the fires that had been kindled in his once cool
breast. He began to seek female society; grew studious
of fair faces; and, to the astonishment of his friends,
within a year both Priscilla's wish and Cyrus's prediction
touching better luck were realized. Archy had found another
widow; who, although perhaps not quite so charming
a creature as she who had first aroused him from
apathetic celibacy, proved, nevertheless, quite as sincere a
woman, as true a wife, and as devoted a mother of her
little Blossoms. They occupy a handsome little cottage a
few miles out of town; where the late bachelor, now the
blessed husband and father, finds wedded life so entirely
to his liking, that he often assures Mrs. Blossom that really,
and upon his soul, the most fortunate day of his life was
when she made him a victim.