SETTLING THE BUSINESS—VINDICATION OF MR. BOB PARKER—A COMPLETE RECONCILIATION—THE GREAT COOLEY INQUEST—THE UNCERTAINTY IN REGARD TO THOMAS COOLEY—A PHENOMENAL CORONER—PROFITABLE INVESTIGATIONS—HOW THE PEOPLE PROSPERED—THE SOLUTION OF THE MYSTERY.
R. PARKER had good reason for exultation. He had in his possession testimony which exposed and completely defeated the wretched little conspiracy organized against him by Smiley.
"It was a very easy thing to settle this business," said Bob. "I explained the matter to the members of our firm, and they not only gave me a letter containing very strong expressions of confidence in me and denouncing Stonebury as a wholly untrustworthy and disreputable person, but they insisted that I should make Stonebury confess. Accordingly, a member of the firm accompanied me while I hunted him up. We found that he had a clerkship in one of the municipal offices, and we called to see him. He turned absolutely white when he saw me, and looked as if he would like to beat a retreat. But we went at him, and threatened that if he did not acknowledge in writing that he had maligned me we would prosecute him for the theft committed while he was engaged at the store, and have him ousted from his present position.
"He came down at once, and began to excuse his conduct upon the ground that Smiley had compelled him to do as he did. Then he made a written confession that his statements concerning me were lies, and that he was the real author of the letter which professed to come from Rev. Dr. Dewey. Here it is—here are both letters; and I propose to enlighten the Magruder intellect with them this very night."
"Wouldn't it be better to wait until to-morrow? It is rather late now."
"No, sir. I intend to settle the affair finally and for ever before I go to bed. I have been waiting long enough. Now I am going to enjoy my victory without further delay. Let's go around there at once."
So Bob and I started for the Magruder mansion; and when we reached the street, he strode along at such a rapid gait that I could hardly keep up with him. As we approached the house I ventured to suggest that the dog might perhaps be at large, in which event I thought I would rather remain in the drug store on the other side of the street until he returned.
"I would go into the house," exclaimed Bob, "if there were a million bloodhounds tearing around the front yard."
"Well, I believe I wouldn't. I have less enthusiasm than you. I am growing old and cautious. A much smaller quantity of bloodhound would restrain what little impetuosity I have. Only one vigorous bloodhound stationed in that yard and betraying a disposition to exclude me would dampen my ardor. I should go home at once."
"Magruder's dog won't bite," said Bob. "He knows me well, and we needn't be a bit afraid of him."
"Very well, I will run the risk; but if any accident occurs, I shall blame you for it. I would rather you should lose your lady-love than that I should be deprived of the use of my legs."
"And, of course, I wouldn't. But come along, and never mind the dog."
As we entered the gate the dog was there, and he followed us upon the porch, still manifesting intense eagerness to sniff our trowsers. It is remarkable with what carefulness and steadiness a man walks under such circumstances. I would not have made a sudden jump or a quick movement of any kind for a valuable consideration.
When we entered the house, Mr. Magruder met us, and we went with him into the library, where Mrs. Magruder was sitting with a book in her hand. We obtained a glimpse of Bessie as she vanished through the other door into the next room; and Bob seemed to feel a little disappointed that she had not remained. Mr. Magruder began the conversation:
"Well, Mr. Parker, I trust you have been successful in your efforts?"
"Yes, sir," replied Bob. "I have accomplished all that I hoped for. I have, I think, procured evidence which will vindicate me completely and prove that I have been grossly slandered."
"I hope this is the case," said Mr. Magruder. "What is the nature of your—"
"Here are two letters. This one is from one of my employers. The other is written by Samuel Stonebury, a man whose name at least is known to you."
Magruder took the papers and read them aloud, so that his wife might obtain the information supplied by them. Then, as he slowly folded them up, he said:
"Mr. Parker, this does indeed seem to be conclusive. I blame myself very much fig having reposed confidence in Smiley and in his villainous friend, but more than all because I treated you as if you were guilty before I heard you in your own defence. I owe you a very humble apology, sir, and I now make it. I hope you will forgive me;" and Magruder extended his hand.
"I believed in you from the first," said Mrs. Magruder. "And I thank you for it," replied Bob.
"I suppose Bessie might as well come in now, my dear," said Mr. Magruder.
"Certainly," replied his wife, and she called Bessie.
Bessie had evidently been listening upon the other side of the door, for she entered instantly, with her smiling face rosy with blushes. Bob merely took her hand, and stood by her looking as if he would like to indulge in a tenderer demonstration. Then I announced my intention to go home, and as I did so Bob said he believed he would stay a little longer. Mr. and Mrs. Magruder came out with me into the hall to say good-bye, and as the library-door closed I thought I heard the sound of a kiss. I hope the old people went into the parlor or retired to bed after my departure. There had been a cruel separation of the two lovers, and a good deal of genuine suffering, at least upon Bessie's part, and it was but fair that they should have a chance to enjoy to the very utmost, without the intrusion of another person, the bliss of that reunion.
Upon the day following this reconciliation Smiley was in town, and he called at Magruder's. The old gentleman saw him coming, and met him at the door. In reply to Smiley's salutation Magruder looked sternly at him, and after telling him that his villainy had been exposed, the indignant man ordered the lieutenant to leave his house and never to enter it again. Smiley turned upon his heel and slunk away. We have probably seen the last of him; and just as he has disappeared we have learned that he is likely to be cashiered from the army for bad conduct. His brother officers at the fort have discovered his true character just as it has been revealed to us.
This rambling narrative would not deserve to be received as a faithful record of events that have occurred in our neighborhood if it should fail to include an account of the extraordinary circumstances attending what is known here as "The Great Cooley Inquest." The story of that remarkable business must be given even if it shall be introduced with abruptness.
My neighbor William Cooley had a brother named Thomas, who lived at a place called Vandyke, in New Castle county. Thomas Cooley was in some respects a very remarkable man. He was gifted with genius, but it was genius of an impracticable kind. He was an inventor, and during the later years of his life he devoted all his time to the work of constructing surprising machines which would never do anything when they were constructed.
Down at the patent-office they got so at last that when a new model and specifications would come along from Cooley, the commissioner and clerks would grant him a patent on the spot, for they knew, from a rich and generous experience, that when Cooley invented anything it was perfectly certain to be unlike any other contrivance ever conceived by the mind of fallen man; and they were aware, at any rate, that nobody who was sane enough to be at large would ever want to interfere with Cooley's exclusive right to pin together such a bewildering and useless lot of cranks and axles and wheels. I think Cooley had about two hundred patents of various kinds; and besides the machines and dodges thus protected by the law, he owned scores of others which were never heard of in Washington or anywhere else but at Cooley's home.
Cooley had a kind of "den" of his own in the garret. He used to shut himself up in this for hours together while he perfected his inventions or conducted his chemical investigations. His last idea was that he could put together a compound which would rule gunpowder out of the market, and make the destruction of armies and navies comparatively easy. And so, for a time, Mrs. Cooley, while bustling about in the vicinity of the den, instead of hearing the buzz and hum of wheels and the click of the hammer, would sniff terrific smells, evolved by the irrepressible Cooley from the contents of his laboratory. And one day there came a fearful explosion. The roof was torn off and reduced to splinters, and Thomas Cooley had disappeared.
Vandyke, as I have said, is in New Castle county, Delaware, but it is also close to the boundary line between Delaware and the counties of Cecil and Kent, in Maryland.
And so it was not surprising when, a few minutes after the explosion, persons in all three of the counties perceived fragments of a demoralized and disintegrated human being tumbling from the air. The pieces of the unhappy victim of the disaster were unevenly distributed between New Castle, Cecil and Kent. The first named got twelve of the fragments. There were persons who thought Cooley might have showed even greater partiality for his own county, but I do not blame him; he was in a measure controlled by circumstances.
I think the friends of the coroner complained with greatest bitterness. He was an enthusiastic coroner. He had been known, when one of Dr. Tobias Jones's relatives returned from Egypt with a mummy embalmed fifteen hundred years before the Christian era, to seize that ancient subject of Pharaoh and summon a jury, and sit upon it, and brood over it and think. And it is rumored that he put that jury up to bringing in a verdict, "The death of the deceased ensued from cause or causes unknown, at the hands of persons also unknown." His enemies at the next election openly asserted that he charged the county with the usual fee, with compound interest from the time of Moses.
So of course when Thomas Cooley went up, he wasn't sorry; and the more Cooley was scattered over New Castle county, the more serene and affable the coroner felt. When he had selected his jury and looked around him a little in order to command the situation, he perceived that Cooley had put into his hands a tolerably good thing. The coroner spent the next three days holding an inquest upon each of the twelve fragments of the deceased. He empaneled a new jury every time, and then proceeded cautiously and deliberately in each case.
There was by no means complete unanimity of opinion. The first jury decided that "the deceased met his death by being struck by something sudden." The second one advanced the theory that "Thomas Cooley was surreptitiously and insidiously blowed apart." The others threw out suggestions respecting the probability that the trouble came from Cooley's well-known weakness for flying machines, or from his being lifted out and cut up by some kind of a hurricane. Once the jury decided not to bring in a verdict, but merely to pass resolutions of regret.
And the coroner would sit there over the particular piece of Cooley in question, and smile and permit these manifestations of generous feeling to have full play. It didn't perplex hint that all the verdicts differed. "Truth," he remarked to a friend, "is well enough. But as Cooley is certainly dead, what's the odds if we can't agree as to what killed him? Let us collect our fees and yield with Christian resignation to destiny."
It was always interesting to me to hear that coroner converse upon the subject of resignation. He would rather have died than to have resigned while any of the Cooleys were in town inventing explosive compounds.
The Cecil county coroner discovered six pieces of the deceased within his jurisdiction, but his pride would not permit him to yield the supremacy in such a matter to his rival over the line. The New Castle man had twelve inquests, and so would he, with more besides. And his juries used to go out and consult and come in after a while with a majority report, declaring, perhaps, that deceased was killed by fooling with some sort of a gun, and a minority report insisting that he had been murdered and dissected by a medical student or students unknown.
And then the coroner would disband the inquest and drum up a fresh jury, which would also disagree, until out of those six fractions of poor old Cooley the coroner got thirty-seven deliberations, with the attendant fees. And every time the doctors would testify that post-mortem examinations revealed the fact that the inside of the deceased was crammed with fragments of the Latin language; and invariably the jurors would sit there and try to look as if they understood those terms, although a dim impression prevailed most of the time that the physicians were indulging recklessly in profanity.
And when a relative of Cooley's testified before the thirty-seventh jury that "Thomas Cooley was a man of marked idiosyncrasies, and his brain was always excited by his irresistible fondness for chimeras of various kinds," the jury looked solemn and immediately brought in a verdict that "death was caused by idiosyncrasies forming on his brain in consequence of excessive indulgence in chimeras, thus supplying an awful warning to the young to refrain from the use of that and other intoxicating beverages."
Only two pieces fell in Kent county, but the coroner was animated by even greater professional enthusiasm than his neighbors across the border. He spent the entire season over as much of Cooley as he could reach. All his juries but one disagreed, and he had eighty-four. The sixth would have been unanimous but for an obstinate man named Selfridge. All the others were for a verdict of mysterious butchery, but Selfridge insisted upon attributing the disaster to nitro-glycerine. So earnest was he that he fought over the subject with a fellow-juryman named Smith; and he held Smith down and remonstrated with him, and showed him the matter in different lights, and bit his nose to convince Smith that the nitro-glycerine hypothesis was correct. And when the jury was dismissed, Selfridge, true to his solemn convictions, carried the war into the papers, and published an obituary poem entitled "A Monody on the Death of Thomas Cooley," in which he presented his views in this fashion:
"When Cooley got his glycerine all properly adjusted,
He knocked it unexpectedly, and suddenly it busted;
And when it reached old Thomas C., he got up quick and dusted,
And left his wife and family disheartened and disgusted."
It was discovered that one of the bones of the deceased had fallen directly across the boundary line between Cecil and Kent. As soon as the fact was reported, the coroner of Kent rallied a jury upon his end; and just as the proceedings were about to begin, the Cecil coroner arrived with a jury for the purpose of attending to his share of the work. While the authorities of Kent mused at one end of the bone, the jurymen of Cecil reflected at the other end, and the result was that each brought in an entirely different verdict. But they were unanimous on the question of the collection of fees.
In all there were thirteen or fourteen conflicting verdicts rendered, and so some uncertainty prevailed as to the precise cause of Cooley's death. Men's minds were unsettled, and their conclusions were demoralized, in the presence of so much official authority of an indecisive kind. But nobody mourned over these differences. They were a blessing for the people of the counties. Almost every man in the neighborhood had had a turn at Cooley's remains, and some of them had served on the juries six or seven times. The farmers all bought new mowing-machines that spring with their fees. The doctors collected more money for post-mortem examinations than they would have done in a time of an epidemic of small-pox and sudden death. People fixed up their houses and paid off mortgages and laid in their port; and started grocery stores and gave hops out of the profits of Cooley's explosion. And there were men who cherished a wish that Cooley could be put together again and exploded once a month for the next decade. But that of course was impossible.
One day, when the tide of prosperity was at its height, the widow Cooley perceived a wagon driving up to her door. The man within the vehicle dismounted, and unloaded four pieces of iron pipe sixty feet long. Presently another wagon arrived, and this driver also unloaded the same quantity of pipe. Then a third driver arrived and did the same thing Then a fourth came, and Mrs. Cooley saw a man in it with a queer-looking object by him. It proved to be Thomas Cooley himself. Thomas had been up to the city at a machine-shop getting up a working model of a new kind of a patent duplex elliptic artesian pump; and now he was home again. The remains scattered over the counties were—so Cooley said—merely a lot of beef with which he had been trying to make a new kind of patent portable soup and an improved imperishable army sausage; and the explosion, he thought, must have been caused by spontaneous combustion.
Thomas Cooley would have been happy, after all, but for one thing—everybody outside of his own family refused to recognize him as a living man. If he was willing to move about in the community in the character of an unburied corpse, the people would agree not to interfere and not to insist upon his burial; but that was as far as they could go conscientiously. Their duty to society, their obligations to the law, compelled them to reject the idea that he was anything more than inanimate remains. He was officially dead. The fact had been declared under oath by hundreds of jurymen, and it was registered in the records of two States and three counties. The testimony was overwhelmingly against him. To admit that he was still alive would be dangerous, it would be revolutionary. The foundations of society would be shaken, the majesty of the law would suffer insult, the fabric of republican government would be undermined. If a being who was legally only a mere cadaver was to be permitted to strut out into daylight, and to urge incendiary theories about the condition of his vital spark, nothing would be safe; there would be no guarantee that the cemeteries would not unload, and that all of the departed would not be crowding out and wanting to vote. Besides, if it was admitted that Cooley was yet alive, all the money that had been earned by the jurymen, all the fees that had been charged by the coroners, would have to be returned to the county treasuries. The people were aghast at the thought. The coroners entered into a solemn compact to persist in ignoring Cooley or to regard him merely as an absurd and very indelicate goblin who had behaved in a manner wholly unworthy of a ghost with gentlemanly instincts. They declared publicly that they could not admit that Cooley was alive unless there should be a general resurrection in the States of Delaware and Maryland, and until that time arrived, they considered that the best thing Cooley could do would be to select a sepulchre somewhere and creep into it and behave.
I do not know that I can find a better place than this to insert a bundle of rhymes which I have at hand. The wholesale slaughter in which the hero and heroine indulge seems to entitle the poem to association with the three coroners above mentioned. And I may venture to remark that not one of the officials in question will read the lines without a feeling of profound regret that such magnificent opportunities for inquests are hardly likely to be presented in Maryland and Delaware. Our New Castle coroner would accumulate millions in the shape of fees if he could have the privilege of summoning juries to investigate such a butchery as this.
A HINDOO LEGEND.
There was a Hindoo maiden once on India's coral strand
Who had some forty suitors for her coffee-colored hand.
Her father was a Brahmin of aristocratic caste
Who much internal revenue in dry goods had amassed.
These lovers thought it would be nice the dusky maid to wed
And spend the rupees lavishly when her papa was dead.
But she turned up her nose at them—a very pretty pug—
Because clandestinely she loved an elegant young Thug.
This Thug, in his profession, was a very active man;
He strangled eighty men the year to practice he began.
But as the maiden's father had no taste for art at all,
He foolishly disliked the Thug, and wouldn't let him call.
And then she loved him better still, as always is the case,
And so she met him daily at a certain trysting-place.
Hand in hand amid the verdant fields deliciously they strayed,
Now culling flowers, now strangling little children as they played.
And this young Thug, one afternoon, he kissed the maid and said,
"It really seems to me, my dear, high time that we should wed.
And as your guardians to me so seriously object,
'Twould be as well to kill them; I can do it, I expect."
Then said the lovely maiden, with a sweet, confiding smile:
"I go for chopping of them up in most effectual style.
And as my marriage simply on my papa's death depends,
Why, just for fun we'll butcher all my relatives and friends."
The Thug procured a hatchet, and the maiden got a knife;
They cut and slashed the Brahmin till he was bereft of life;
Then they seized the loving mother, though she desperately fought,
And crunched her aged bones beneath the car of Juggernaut.
A consecrated lasso, thrown with admirable skill,
Swiftly roped her brother in and choked him 'gainst his will.
Her sister's fair young form was hooked upon the sacred swing;
And flying 'round until she died; she screamed like everything.
The maiden jabbed the knife into the colored coachman's brain
And stabbed her uncle William and her aunt Matilda Jane.
The Thug he steeped his hatchet in the chambermaiden's gore,
And with a skewer pinned the cook against the cellar door.
The maiden cut her grandpa up in little tiny bits,
And scared her grandma so she died in epileptic fits
The dry nurse with the clothes-line was serenely strangled, while
They tossed the little baby to the sacred crocodile.
And when the fuss was over, said the maiden to the Thug:
"You'd better have a hole within the cemetery dug;
And let the undertaker take extraordinary pains
To decently inter this lot of mangled-up remains."
And when the usual bitter tears were at the funeral shed,
The lovers to the temple went, in order to be wed.
The priest had barbecued a man that day for sacrifice;
They cooked him with the cracklin' on; with gravy brown and nice,
The chief priest asked the maiden, when the services began,
If her papa had said she might annex this fine young man?
"Oh no," she said, "my loving wish he foolishly withstood,
So him and all the family we slaughtered in cold blood."
"You shock me!" said the pious priest; "your conduct makes me sad;
You never learned at Sunday-school to be so awful bad.
I've told you often, when you killed a person anywhere,
To bring the body to that old nine-headed idol there
“The great Vishnu is suffering for victims every day,
And here you go and cut them up and throw the bones away.
Extravagance is sinful; I must really put it down;
I've half a mind to pull the string and make the idol frown.
"I must punish you with rigor; and I order that you two
Instead of getting married shall severest penance do."
So on a piece of paper then he scribbled a brief word;
The lovers as they left, of course, felt perfectly absurd.
The Thug then read the order o'er, and bursting into tears,
He said, "This paper realizes my unpleasant fears.
Upon my word, my sweetest one, it really chills my blood;
I've got to suffocate you in the Ganges' holy mud."
And so he sadly led her down unto the river's bank,
And like a stone into the cold, religious slime she sank.
And there she stuck the livelong day, and all the following night
Until an alligator came and ate her at a bite.
The Thug he felt exceeding hurt at her untimely fate,
But his, though not so dreadful, was not nice, at any rate.
The priest, in his fierce anger, had condemned him, it appears,
To stand alone upon one leg for forty-seven years!