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The Vizier of the Two-Horned Alexander

Frank Richard Stockton

  Produced by Suzanne Shell, Bonny Fafard, Tonya Allen and PG DistributedProofreaders






  The story told in this book is based upon legendary history, and thestatements on which it is founded appear in the chronicles of Abou-djafarMohammed Tabari. This historian was the first Mussulman to write a generalhistory of the world. He was born in the year 244 of the Hejira(838-839 A.D.), and passed a great part of his life in Bagdad, where hestudied and taught theology and jurisprudence. His chronicles embrace thehistory of the world, according to his lights, from the creation to theyear 302 of the Hejira.

  In these chronicles Tabari relates some of the startling experiences ofEl Khoudr, or El Kroudhr, then Vizier of that great monarch, theTwo-Horned Alexander, and these experiences furnish the motive forthose subsequent adventures which are now related in this book.

  Some writers have confounded the Two-Horned Alexander with Alexander theGreat, but this is an inexcusable error. References in ancient historiesto the Two-Horned Alexander describe him as a great and powerfulpotentate, and place him in the time of Abraham. Mr. S. Baring-Gould, inhis "Legends of the Patriarchs and Prophets," states that, after a carefulexamination, he has come to the conclusion that some of the most generallyknown legends which have come down to us through the ages are based onincidents which occurred in the reign of this monarch.

  The hero of this story now deems it safe to speak out plainly withoutfear of evil consequences to himself, and his confidence in our highcivilization is a compliment to the age.


  I lent large sums to the noble knights

  "Don't you do it"

  His wife was a slender lady

  "Time of Abraham!" I exclaimed

  Moses asked embarrassing questions

  An encounter with Charles Lamb

  I cut that picture from its frame

  When we left Cordova

  I had been a broker in Pompeii

  Solomon and the Jinns

  "Go tell the queen"

  She gave me her hand, and I shook it heartily

  Asking all sorts of questions

  And roughly told me

  She turned her head

  "How like!"

  I proceeded to dig a hole

  "Why are you not in the army?"

  Nebuchadnezzar and the gardener

  Petrarch and Laura

  The crouching African fixed her eyesupon him



  I was on a French steamer bound from Havre to New York, when I had apeculiar experience in the way of a shipwreck. On a dark and foggynight, when we were about three days out, our vessel collided witha derelict--a great, heavy, helpless mass, as dull and colorlessas the darkness in which she was enveloped. We struck her almosthead on, and her stump of a bowsprit was driven into our port bowwith such tremendous violence that a great hole--nobody knew of whatdimensions--was made in our vessel.

  The collision occurred about two hours before daylight, and the frightenedpassengers who crowded the upper deck were soon informed by the officersthat it would be necessary to take to the boats, for the vessel wasrapidly settling by the head.

  Now, of course, all was hurry and confusion. The captain endeavoredto assure his passengers that there were boats enough to carry everysoul on board, and that there was time enough for them to embarkquietly and in order. But as the French people did not understand himwhen he spoke in English, and as the Americans did not readily comprehendwhat he said in French, his exhortations were of little avail. With suchof their possessions as they could carry, the people crowded into theboats as soon as they were ready, and sometimes before they were ready;and while there was not exactly a panic on board, each man seemed to beinspired with the idea that his safety, and that of his family, if he hadone, depended upon precipitate individual action.

  I was a young man, traveling alone, and while I was as anxious as anyone to be saved from the sinking vessel, I was not a coward, and Icould not thrust myself into a boat when there were women and childrenbehind me who had not yet been provided with places. There were menwho did this, and several times I felt inclined to knock one of thepoltroons overboard. The deck was well lighted, the steamer was settlingslowly, and there was no excuse for the dastardly proceedings which weregoing on about me.

  It was not long, however, before almost all of the passengers weresafely embarked, and I was preparing to get into a boat which wasnearly filled with the officers and crew, when I was touched on theshoulder, and turning, I saw a gentleman whose acquaintance I hadmade soon after the steamer had left Havre. His name was Crowder.He was a middle-aged man, a New-Yorker, intelligent and of a socialdisposition, and I had found him a very pleasant companion. To myamazement, I perceived that he was smoking a cigar.

  "If I were you," said he, "I would not go in that boat. It is horriblycrowded, and the captain and second officer have yet to find placesin it."

  "That's all the more reason," said I, "why we should hurry. I amnot going to push myself ahead of women and children, but I've justas much right to be saved as the captain has, and if there are anyvacant places, let us get them as soon as possible."

  Crowder now put his hand on my shoulder as if to restrain me. "Safety!"said he. "You needn't trouble yourself about safety. You are just as safewhere you are as you could possibly be in one of those boats. If they arenot picked up soon,--and they may float about for days,--their sufferingsand discomforts will be very great. There is a shameful want ofaccommodation in the way of boats."

  "But, my dear sir," said I, "I can't stop here to talk about that.They are calling for the captain now."

  "Oh, he's in no hurry," said my companion. "He's collecting his papers,I suppose, and he knows his vessel will not sink under him while he isdoing it. I'm not going in that boat; I haven't the least idea of sucha thing. It will be odiously crowded, and I assure you, sir, that if thesea should be rough that boat will be dangerous. Even now she isoverloaded."

  I looked at the man in amazement. He had spoken earnestly, but he was ascalm as if we were standing on a sidewalk, and he endeavoring to dissuademe from boarding an overcrowded street-car. Before I could say anythinghe spoke again:

  "I am going to remain on this ship. She is a hundred times safer than anyof those boats. I have had a great deal of experience in regard to vesselsand ocean navigation, and it will be a long time before this vessel sinks,if she ever sinks of her own accord. She's just as likely to float as thatderelict we ran into. The steam is nearly out of her boilers by this time,and nothing is likely to happen to her. I wish you would stay with me.Here we will be safe, with plenty of room, and plenty to eat and drink.When it is daylight we will hoist a flag of distress, which will be muchmore likely to be seen than anything that can flutter from those littleboats. If you have noticed, sir, the inclination of this deck is notgreater now than it was half an hour ago. That proves that our bow hassettled down about as far as it is going. I think it likely that the waterhas entered only a few of the forward compartments."

  The man spoke so confidently that his words made an impression upon me.I knew that it very often happens that a wreck floats for a long time,and the boat from which the men were now frantically shouting for thecaptain would certainly be dangerously crowded.

  "Stay with me," said Mr. Crowder, "and I assure you, with as much reasonas any man can assure any other man of anything in this world, that youwill be perfectly safe. This steamer is not going to sink."

  There were rapid footstep
s, and I saw the captain and his second officerapproaching.

  "Step back here," said Mr. Crowder, pulling me by the coat. "Don't letthem see us. They may drag us on board that confounded boat. Keep quiet,sir, and let them get off. They think they are the last on board."

  Involuntarily I obeyed him, and we stood in the shadow of the greatfunnel. The captain had reached the rail.

  "Is every one in the boats?" he shouted, in French and in English. "Isevery one in the boats? I am going to leave the vessel."

  I made a start as if to rush toward him, but Crowder held me by the arm.

  "Don't you do it," he whispered very earnestly. "I have the greatestpossible desire to save you. Stay where you are, and you will be allright. That overloaded boat may capsize in half an hour."

  "'DON'T YOU DO IT.'"]

  I could not help it; I believed him. My own judgment seemed suddenly torise up and ask me why I should leave the solid deck of the steamer forthat perilous little boat.

  I need say but little more in regard to this shipwreck. When the foglifted, about ten o'clock in the morning, we could see no signs of anyof the boats. A mile or so away lay the dull black line of the derelict,as if she were some savage beast who had bitten and torn us, and wasnow sullenly waiting to see us die of the wound. We hoisted a flag,union down, and then we went below to get some breakfast. Mr. Crowderknew all about the ship, and where to find everything. He told me hehad made so many voyages that he felt almost as much at home on seaas on land. We made ourselves comfortable all day, and at night we wentto our rooms, and I slept fairly well, although there was a verydisagreeable slant to my berth. The next day, early in the afternoon,our signal of distress was seen by a tramp steamer on her way toNew York, and we were taken off.

  We cruised about for many hours in the direction the boats had probablytaken, and the next day we picked up two of them in a sorry condition,the occupants having suffered many hardships and privations. We neverhad news of the captain's boat, but the others were rescued by asailing-vessel going eastward.

  Before we reached New York, Mr. Crowder had made me promise that Iwould spend a few days with him at his home in that city. His familywas small, he told me,--a wife, and a daughter about six,--and he wantedme to know them. Naturally we had become great friends. Very likely theman had saved my life, and he had done it without any act of heroism ordaring, but simply by impressing me with the fact that his judgment wasbetter than mine. I am apt to object to people of superior judgment, butMr. Crowder was an exception to the ordinary superior person. From theway he talked it was plain that he 'had much experience of various sorts,and that he had greatly advantaged thereby; but he gave himself no airs onthis account, and there was nothing patronizing about him. If I were ableto tell him anything he did not know,--and I frequently was,--he was veryglad to hear it.

  Moreover, Mr. Crowder was a very good man to look at. He was certainlyover fifty, and his closely trimmed hair was white, but he had a freshand florid complexion. He was tall and well made, fashionably dressed,and had an erect and somewhat military carriage. He was fond of talking,and seemed fond of me, and these points in his disposition attractedme very much.

  My relatives were few, they lived in the West, and I never had had afriend whose company was so agreeable to me as that of Mr. Crowder.

  Mr. Crowder's residence was a handsome house in the upper part of thecity. His wife was a slender lady, scarcely half his age, with a sweetand interesting face, and was attired plainly but tastefully. In generalappearance she seemed to be the opposite of her husband in every way. Shehad suffered a week of anxiety, and was so rejoiced at having her husbandagain that when I met her, some hours after Crowder had reached the house,her glorified face seemed like that of an angel. But there was nothingdemonstrative about her. Even in her great joy she was as quiet as a dove,and I was not surprised when her husband afterward told me that she was aQuaker.


  I was entertained very handsomely by the Crowders. I spent several dayswith them, and although they were so happy to see each other, they madeit very plain that they were also happy to have me with them, he becausehe liked me, she because he liked me.

  On the day before my intended departure, Mr. Crowder and I were smoking,after dinner, in his study. He had been speaking of people and things thathe had seen in various parts of the world, but after a time he became alittle abstracted, and allowed me to do most of the talking.

  "You must excuse me," he said suddenly, when I had repeated a question;"you must not think me willingly inattentive, but I was consideringsomething important--very important. Ever since you have been here,--almost ever since I have known you, I might say,--the desire has beengrowing upon me to tell you something known to no living being butmyself."

  This offer did not altogether please me; I had grown very fond of Crowder,but the confidences of friends are often very embarrassing. At this momentthe study door was gently opened, and Mrs. Crowder came in.

  "No," said she, addressing her husband with a smile; "thee need not letthy conscience trouble thee. I have not come to say anything aboutgentlemen being too long over their smoking. I only want to say thatMrs. Norris and two other ladies have just called, and I am going downto see them. They are a committee, and will not care for the society ofgentlemen. I am sorry to lose any of your company, Mr. Randolph,especially as you insist that this is to be your last evening with us;but I do not think you would care anything about our ward organizations."

  "Now, isn't that a wife to have!" exclaimed my host, as we resumed ourcigars. "She thinks of everybody's happiness, and even wishes us to feelfree to take another cigar if we desire it, although in her heart shedisapproves of smoking."

  We settled ourselves again to talk, and as there really could be noobjection to my listening to Crowder's confidences, I made none.

  "What I have to tell you," he said presently, "concerns my life,present, past, and future. Pretty comprehensive, isn't it? I have longbeen looking for some one to whom I should be so drawn by bonds ofsympathy that I should wish to tell him my story. Now, I feel thatI am so drawn to you. The reason for this, in some degree at least, isbecause you believe in me. You are not weak, and it is my opinion thaton important occasions you are very apt to judge for yourself, and notto care very much for the opinions of other people; and yet, on a mostimportant occasion, you allowed me to judge for you. You are not onlyable to rely on yourself, but you know when it is right to rely onothers. I believe you to be possessed of a fine and healthy sense ofappreciation."

  I laughed, and begged him not to bestow too many compliments upon me,for I was not used to them.

  "I am not thinking of complimenting you," he said. "I am simply tellingyou what I think of you in order that you may understand why I tell youmy story. I must first assure you, however, that I do not wish to placeany embarrassing responsibility upon you by taking you into my confidence.All that I say to you, you may say to others when the time comes; butfirst I must tell the tale to you."

  He sat up straight in his chair, and put down his cigar. "I will begin,"he said, "by stating that I am the Vizier of the Two-horned Alexander."

  I sat up even straighter than my companion, and gazed steadfastly at him.

  "No," said he, "I am not crazy. I expected you to think that, and amentirely prepared for your look of amazement and incipient horror. I willask you, however, to set aside for a time the dictates of your own sense,and hear what I have to say. Then you can take the whole matter intoconsideration, and draw your own conclusions." He now leaned back in hischair, and went on with his story: "It would be more correct, perhaps,for me to say that I was the Vizier of the Two-horned Alexander, forthat great personage died long ago. Now, I don't believe you ever heardanything about the Two-horned Alexander."

  I had recovered sufficiently from my surprise to assure him that hewas right.

  My host nodded. "I thought so," said he; "very few people do know anythingabout that powerful potentate.
He lived in the time of Abraham. He was aman of considerable culture, even of travel, and of an adventurousdisposition. I entered into the service of his court when I was a veryyoung man, and gradually I rose in position until I became his chiefofficer, or vizier."


  I sprang from my chair. "Time of Abraham!" I exclaimed. "This is simply--"

  "No; it is not," he interrupted, and speaking in perfect good humor."I beg you will sit down and listen to me. What I have to say to you isnot nearly so wonderful as the nature and power of electricity."

  I obeyed; he had touched me on a tender spot, for I am an electrician,and can appreciate the wonderful.

  "There has been a great deal of discussion," he continued, "in regard tothe peculiar title given to Alexander, but the appellation 'two-horned'has frequently been used in ancient times. You know Michelangelo gavetwo horns to Moses; but he misunderstood the tradition he had heard, andfurnished the prophet with real horns. Alexander wore his hair arrangedover his forehead in the shape of two protruding horns. This was simplya symbol of high authority; as the bull is monarch of the herd, so washe monarch among men. He was the first to use this symbol, although itwas imitated afterward by various Eastern potentates.

  "As I have said, Alexander was a man of enterprise, and it had come to hisknowledge that there existed somewhere a certain spring the waters ofwhich would confer immortality upon any descendant of Shem who shoulddrink of them, and he started out to find this spring. I traveled withhim for more than a year. It was on this journey that he visited Abrahamwhen the latter was building the great edifice which the Mohammedans claimas their holy temple, the Kaaba.

  "It was more than a month after we had parted from Abraham that I, beingin advance of the rest of the company, noticed a little pool in the shadeof a rock, and being very warm and thirsty, I got down on my hands andknees, and putting my face to the water, drank of it. I drank heartily,and when I raised my head, I saw, to my amazement, that there was not adrop of water left in the spring. Now it so happened that when Alexandercame to this spot, he stopped, and having regarded the little hollow underthe rock, together with its surroundings, he dismounted and stood by it.He called me, and said: 'According to all the descriptions I have read,this might have been the spring of immortality for which I have beensearching; but it cannot be such now, for there is no water in it.' Thenhe stooped down and looked carefully at the hollow. 'There has been waterhere,' said he, 'and that not long ago, for the ground is wet.'

  "A horrible suspicion now seized upon me. Could I have drained thecontents of the spring of inestimable value? Could I, without knowing it,have deprived my king of the great prize for which he had searched solong, with such labor and pains? Of course I was certain of nothing, butI bowed before Alexander, and told him that I had found an insignificantlittle puddle at the place, that I had tasted it and found it was nothingbut common water, and in quantity so small that it scarcely sufficed toquench my thirst. If he would consent to camp in the shade, and wait a fewhours, water would trickle again into the little basin, and fill it, andhe could see for himself that this could not be the spring of which he wasin search.

  "We waited at that place for the rest of the day and the whole of thenight, and the next morning the little basin was empty and entirely dry.Alexander did not reproach me; he was accustomed to rule all men, evenhimself, and he forbade himself to think that I had interfered with thegreat object of his search. But he sent me home to his capital city, andcontinued his journey without me. 'Such a thirsty man must not travelwith me,' he said. 'If we should really come to the immortal spring,he would be sure to drink it all.'

  "Nine years afterward Alexander returned to his palace, and whenI presented myself before him he regarded me steadfastly. I knew why hewas looking at me, and I trembled. At length he spoke: 'Thou art not oneday older than when I dismissed thee from my company. It was indeed thefountain of immortality which thou didst discover, and of which thou didstdrink every drop. I have searched over the whole habitable world, andthere is no other. Thou, too, art an aristocrat; thou, too, art of thefamily of Shem. It was for this reason that I placed thee near me, thatI gave thee great power; and now thou hast destroyed all my hopes, myaspirations. Thou hast put an end to my ambitions. I had believed thatI should rule the world, and rule it forever.' His face grew black; hisvoice was terrible. 'Retire!' he said. 'I will attend to thy future.'

  "I retired, but my furious sovereign never saw me again. I was fifty-threeyears old when I drank the water in the little pool under the rock, andI was well aware that at the time of my sovereign's return I felt no olderand looked no older. But still I hoped that this was merely the result ofmy general good health, and that when Alexander came back he would informme that he had discovered the veritable spring of immortality; soI retained my high office, and waited. But I had made my plans for escapein case my hope should not be realized. In two minutes from the timeI left his presence I had begun my flight, and there were no horses inall his dominions which could equal the speed of mine.

  "Now began a long, long period of danger and terror, of concealment anddeprivation. I fled into other lands, and these were conquered in orderthat I might be found. But at last Alexander died, and his son died, andthe sons of his son died, and the whole story was forgotten ordisbelieved, and I was no longer in danger of living forever as an exampleof the ingenious cruelty of an exasperated monarch.

  "I do not intend to recount my life and adventures since that time; infact, I shall scarcely touch upon them. You can see for yourself that thatwould be impossible. One might as well attempt to read a history of theworld in a single evening. I merely want to say enough to make youunderstand the situation.

  "A hundred years after I had fled from Alexander I was still fifty-threeyears old, and knew that that would be my age forever. I stayed so longin the place where I first established myself that people began to lookupon me with suspicion. Seeing me grow no older, they thought I was awizard, and I was obliged to seek a new habitation. Ever since, my fatehas been the necessity of moving from place to place. I would gosomewhere as a man beginning to show signs of age, and I would remain aslong as a man could reasonably be supposed to live without becoming trulyold and decrepit. Sometimes I remained in a place far longer than myprudence should have permitted, and many were the perils I escaped onaccount of this rashness; but I have gradually learned wisdom."

  The man spoke so quietly and calmly, and made his statements in sucha matter-of-fact way, that I listened to him with the same fascinatedattention I had given to the theory of telegraphy without wires, when itwas first propounded to me. In fact, I had been so influenced by his ownconviction of the truth of what he said that I had been on the point ofasking him if Abraham had really had anything to do with the buildingof the Islam temple, but had been checked by the thought of the utterabsurdity of supposing that this man sitting in front of me could possiblyknow anything about it. But now I spoke. I did not want him to supposethat I believed anything he said, nor did I really intend to humor him inhis insane retrospections; but what he had said suggested to me the veryapropos remark that one might suppose he had been giving a new version ofthe story of the Wandering Jew.

  At this he sat up very straight, on the extreme edge of his chair; hiseyes sparkled.

  "You must excuse me," he said, "but for twenty seconds I am going to beangry. I can't help it. It isn't your fault, but that remark alwaysenrages me. I expect it, of course, but it makes my blood boil, all thesame."

  "Then you have told your story before?" I said.

  "Yes," he answered. "I have told it to certain persons to whom I thoughtit should be known. Some of these have believed it, some have not; but,believers or disbelievers, all have died and disappeared. Their opinionsare nothing to me. You are now the only living being who knows my story."

  I was going to ask a question here, but he did not give me a chance.He was very much moved.

  "I hate that Wandering Jew," said
he, "or, I should say, I despise thethin film of a tradition from which he was constructed. There never wasa Wandering Jew. There could not have been; it is impossible to conceiveof a human being sent forth to wander in wretchedness forever. Moreover,suppose there had been such a man, what a poor, modern creature he wouldbe compared with me! Even now he would be less than two thousand yearsold. You must excuse my perturbation, but I am sure that during the wholeof the Christian era I have never told my story to any one who did not, insome way or other, make an absurd or irritating reference to the WanderingJew. I have often thought, and I have no doubt I am right, that theancient story of my adventures as Kroudhr, the Vizier of the Two-hornedAlexander, combined with what I have related, in one century or another,of my subsequent experiences, has given rise to the tradition of thatvery unpleasant Jew of whom Eug?ne Sue and many others have made gooduse. It is very natural that there should be legends about people who insome way or other are enabled to live forever. If Ponce De Leon and hiscompanions had mysteriously disappeared when in search of the Fountainof Youth, there would be stories now about rejuvenated Spaniards wanderingabout the earth, and who would always continue to wander. But the Fountainof Youth is not a desirable water-supply, and a young person who shouldfind such a pool would do well to wait until he had arrived at maturitybefore entering upon an existence of indefinite continuance.

  "But I must go on with my story. At one time I made for myself a home, andremained in it for many, many years without making any change. I became asort of hermit, and lived in a rocky cave. I allowed my hair and beard togrow, so that people really thought I was getting older and older; at lastI acquired the reputation of a prophet, and was held in veneration by agreat many religious people. Of course I could not prophesy, but as I hadsuch a vast deal of experience I was able to predicate intelligentlysomething about the future from my knowledge of the past. I became famedas a wonderful seer, and there were a great many curious stories toldabout me.

  "Among my visitors at that time was Moses. He had heard of me, and came tosee what manner of man I was. We became very well acquainted. He was a mananxious to obtain information, and he asked me questions which embarrassedme very much; but I do not know that he suspected I had lived beyond theordinary span of life. There are a good many traditions about this visitof Moses, some of which are extant at the present day; but these, ofcourse, are the result of what might be called cumulative imagination.Many of them are of Moslem origin, and the great Arabian historian Tabarihas related some of them.


  "I learned a great deal while I lived in this cave, both from scholars andfrom nature; but at last new generations arose who did not honor or evenrespect me, and by some I was looked upon as a fraudulent successor to theold prophet of whom their ancestors had told them, and so I thought itprudent to leave."

  My interest in this man's extraordinary tissue of retrospection wasincreasing, and I felt that I must not doubt nor deny; to do so wouldbe to break the spell, to close the book.

  "Did it not sometimes fill you with horror to think that you must liveforever?" I asked.

  "Yes," he answered, "that has happened to me; but such feelings have long,long passed away. If you could have lived as I have, and had seen theworld change from what it was when I was young to what it is now, youwould understand how a man of my disposition, a man of my overpoweringlove of knowledge, love of discovery, love of improvement, love ofprogress of all kinds, would love to live. In fact, if I were now to betold that at the end of five thousand years I must expire and cease, itwould fill me with gloom. Having seen so much, I expect more than most menare capable of comprehending. And I shall see it all--see the centuriesunfold, behold the wonderful things of the future arise! The very thoughtof it fills me with inexpressible joy."

  For a few moments he remained silent. I could understand the state of hismind, no matter how those mental conditions had been brought about.

  "But you must not suppose," he continued, "that this earthly immortalityis without its pains, its fears, I may say its horrors. It is preciselyon account of all these that I am now talking to you. The knowledge thatmy life is always safe, no matter in what peril I may be, does not relieveme from anxiety and apprehension of evil. It would be a curse to live ifI were not in sound physical condition; it would be a curse to live as aslave; it would be a curse to live in a dungeon. I have known vicissitudesand hardships of every kind, but I have been fortunate enough to preservemyself whole and unscathed, in spite of the dangers I have incurred.

  "I often think from what a terrible fate I saved my master, Alexanderof the two horns. If he had found the fountain he might have enjoyed hispower and dominion for a few generations. Then he would have been throwndown, cast out, and even if he had escaped miseries which I cannot bearto mention, he never could have regained his high throne. He would havebeen condemned to live forever in a station for which he was not fitted.

  "It is very different with me. My nature allows me to adapt myself tovarious conditions, and my habits of prudence prevent me from seekingto occupy any position which may be dangerous to me by making meconspicuous, and from which I could not easily retire when I believethe time has come to do so. I have been almost everything; I have evenbeen a soldier. But I have never taken up arms except when obliged to doso, and I have known as little of war as possible. No weapon or missilecould kill me, but I have a great regard for my arms and legs. I havebeen a ruler of men, but I have trembled in my high estate, for I fearedthe populace. They could do everything except take my life. ThereforeI made it a point to abdicate when the skies were clear. In such casesI set out on journeys from which I never returned.

  "I have also lived the life of the lowly; I have drawn water, and I havehewn wood. By the way, that reminds me of a little incident which mayinterest you. I was employed in the East India House at the time CharlesLamb was a clerk there. It was not long after he had begun to contributehis Elia essays to the 'London Magazine.' I had read some of them, andwas interested in the man. I met him several times in the corridors oron the stairways, and one day I was going up-stairs, carrying a hod ofcoals, as he was coming down. Looking up at him, I made a misstep, andcame near dropping a portion of my burden. 'My good man,' said he, witha queer smile, 'if you would learn to carry your coals as well as youcarry your age you would do well.' I don't remember what I said inreply; but I know I thought if Charles Lamb could be made aware of myreal age he would abandon his Elia work and devote himself to me."

  "It is a pity you did not tell him," I suggested.

  "No," replied my host. "He might have been interested, but he could nothave appreciated the situation, even if I had told him everything. Hewould not really have known my age, for he would not have believed me.I might have found myself in a lunatic asylum. I never saw Lamb again,and very soon after that meeting I came to America."