Even the rich are hungry for love, for being cared for, for being wanted, for having someone to call their own. Mother Teresa
Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand. Mother Teresa
Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.Mother Teresa
ITS ALMOST HALLOWEEN! HOW GREAT IS THAT?
A. F. Murray
A gypsy flame is on the hearth,
Sign of this carnival of mirth.
Through the dun fields and from the glade
Flash merry folk in masquerade—
It is the witching Hallowe'en.
Pale tapers glimmer in the sky,
The dead and dying leaves go by;
Dimly across the faded green
Strange shadows, stranger shades, are seen—
It is the mystic Hallowe'en.
Soft gusts of love and memory
Beat at the heart reproachfully;
The lights that burn for those who die
Were flickering low, let them flare high—
It is the haunting Hallowe'en.
THE HAUNTED WHITE HOUSE
Abigail Adams (November 22 1744 – October 28, 1818) was the wife of John Adams, (They were third cousins and had known each other since childhood) the second President of the United States and the first to live in the White House (George Washington selected the site, oversaw construction of the executive mansion but never lived in there.) Mrs. Adams, the second First Lady of America (Thomas Jefferson never married) was also the mother of John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States.
Abigail Adams died on October 28, 1818, of typhoid fever at age 73. (Two weeks shy of her 74th birthday.) Her last words were, "Do not grieve, my friend, my dearest friend. I am ready to go. And John, it will not be long." She was buried beside her husband in a crypt in the United First Parish Church (AKA “The Church of the Presidents”) in Quincy, Massachusetts, a very long way from the White House. However, her spirit is still seen there.
She was reported to have been seen by White House staffers shortly after her death, as an aberration, her arms extended as if she were still carrying laundry into the cavernous East Room. (There was no furniture in the East Room at the time) where water was brought in by jugs (The White House would not having running water until 1834) to be used for washing and bathing.
The ghost was said to be accompanied by the smell of soap or damp clothing. (Reportedly Abigail hung the family's laundry up to dry in the East Room during inclement weather) In more recent times, the Household staff in the Taft administration reported that they observed Abigail walking through walls.
THE BLACK CAT
The legend of the Black Cat (AKA the Demon Cat) is shared by the White House and Capitol Building, a few blocks away.
At the White House, the Black Cat is seen in the basement before various tragic events. But up in the Capitol, it apparently roams the halls at will. It should be noted that back in the 19th century, both buildings employed cats to check the rat population, which is numerous in Washington.
Supposedly (No actual report exists) A Capital Building Policeman (The Capital has its own police force, as does the US Supreme Court and the local DC federally managed park system) said he saw the cat in the very early 19th century and another was said to have shot at it in 1862. “It seemed to grow” he said “as I looked at it. When I shot at the critter, it jumped right over my head”
The cat sightings in both the White House and Capitol Building tend to follow a national tragedy. A White House guard claimed to have seen just before the Lincoln assassination, a week before the stock market crash of 1929 and also reportedly seen days before the assassination of JFK. The last semi-official sighting of the Demon Cat was in 1940.
Interestingly enough, a few block away from the White House sits the Octagon House, which is said to be curse and haunted. Legend says that Betty Taylor, the married niece of the first owner of the house, tripped and fell to her death by a black cat as she raced down the houses circular stairs. She was running in the dark to greet her lover who entered the property by a secret passage that opened on the bank of the Potomac (The river has since been pushed by, but at one time it did run close to the house)
THE BRITISH SOLDIER
On August 19, 1814, during the War of 1812, over 4,500 British soldiers landed at Benedict, Maryland, on the shores of the Patuxent River and marched towards Washington. Their mission was to capture Washington and take revenge for the burning of their British Capitol in Canada a year earlier by American forces.
It what remains one of the worst pieces of advice ever given to a President, Secretary of War John Armstrong said that Washington was safe and didn’t need military protection because the British were focused on Baltimore. After the destruction of Washington, Madison forced him to resign in September 1814.
Arriving in the city, the British sent a party of men under a white flag of truce to Capitol Hill to come to terms, but they were attacked by snipers hiding in a house at the corners of Maryland, Constitution, and Second Street NE. It was the only resistance the soldiers met within the city. The English responded by setting the house afire, tossing the white flag and marching into the city proper under the British flag.
Arriving to the top of Capitol Hill, the troops set fire to the partially completed the Senate and House of Representatives building there, and set fire to what was the miniscule Library of Congress inside the Senate building. However the library was replaced through Thomas Jefferson who, in 1815, sold his personal library of more than 6,487 volumes to the government to restock the Library of Congress for $23,950, a staggering amount of money for the time. (Prior to the fire the library held about 3,000 volumes).
But the collection was incredible. It had taken Jefferson 50 years to accumulate the wide variety of books that included volumes in foreign languages, philosophy, science, literature and cookbooks.
"I do not know” Said Jefferson “that it contains any branch of science which Congress would wish to exclude from their collection; there is, in fact, no subject to which a Member of Congress may not have occasion to refer." Oddly enough, a second fire on Christmas Eve of 1851 destroyed nearly two thirds of the 6,487 volumes Congress had purchased from Jefferson.
The English intended to capture the supplies stored at the vast Washington Navy Yard but the Americans had already set it afire rather than have the English capture it. The English sent two hundred men to secure a fort on Greenleaf's Point. (Now Fort McNair) but the fort had already been destroyed by the Americans, however, for some reason, they had left behind 150 barrels of gunpowder. The British arrived, found the powder and tried to destroy it by dropping the barrels into a well, the powder ignited killing about thirty men and maiming many others in the explosion that followed.
The US Patent Office was saved from destruction by the Superintendent of Patents, Dr. William Thornton (Above), who convinced the British of the importance of its preservation.
Then the troops marched down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White House where a gallant First Lady, Dolley Madison remained behind, alone. President James Madison had left the White House on August 22 to meet with his generals on the battlefield and his cabinet had already fled the city, and saved the nation’s valuables from the British. (Silverware, books, clocks, curtains)
However it is not true that she removed Gilbert Stuart's full-length portrait of George Washington. (The portrait was actually a copy of Gilbert Stuart's original)
James Madison's personal servant, the slave Paul Jennings, was an eyewitness (He was 15 years old at the time) to the event and wrote later’
“It has often been stated in print, that when Mrs. Madison escaped from the White House, she cut out from the frame the large portrait of Washington, and carried it off. She had no time for doing it. It would have required a ladder to get it down. All she carried off was the silver in her reticule, as the British were thought to be but a few squares off, and were expected any moment.”
The heroes of the White House burning were John Susé, Frenchman and doorkeeper, and a man named Magraw [McGraw], the President's gardener. They saved Washington’s portrait (The portrait was screwed to the wall) along with large silver urns, packed it aboard a wagon and sent if off to Virginia. Senior clerk Stephen Pleasonton saved the Declaration of Independence by hiding it in a gristmill near Georgetown.
Senior clerk Stephen Pleasonton. Secretary of State James Monroe directed Pleasonton with preserving the books and papers of the State Department during the burning of Washington. He filled several coarse linen bags, and filled them with all the Department's records, including the still-unpublished secret journals of Congress, the commission and correspondence of George Washington, the Articles of Confederation, the United States Constitution, and all the treaties, laws, and correspondence of the Department made since 1789. Before he left, he noticed the Declaration of Independence had been forgotten and was still hanging in its frame on the wall, and took it all to Leesburg, Virginia, where they were stored in an empty stone house.
Jennings concluded, “When the British did arrive, they ate up the very dinner, and drank the wines, &c., that I had prepared for the President's party”
Admiral Cockburn made his way to the White House after his officers arrived and began taking souvenirs. Dolly Madison had abandon the couple's personal belongings and the admiral was able to take one of President Madison's hats, and a cushion from Dolley Madison's chair.
Rear Admiral George Cockburn. He later delivered Napoleon Bonaparte into exile at St. Helena and remained there as governor of the island
He then issued an order for his troops to drink Madison's wine and helped themselves to food.
British soldier George Gleig wrote “[H]aving satisfied their appetites … and partaken pretty freely of the wines, they finished by setting fire to the house which had so liberally entertained them. … Of the Senate house, the President's palace, the barracks, the dockyard, etc., nothing could be seen except heaps of smoking ruins.”
They set fire to the White House (Then called the Presidents House) by tossing torches through the windows and adding fuel to the fire to ensure that it would keep burning and reports had it that the thick black smoke could be seen as far away as Baltimore (Which is very doubtful) and the Patuxent River (Which is likely). They also set fire to the adjacent Treasury Department building.
Washington lay in ruins. American soldiers, government officials, and residents fled the city. The White House, the Capitol, and many other public buildings and residences were burning and the next day, August 25, Washington was still burning. Suddenly, in the early afternoon, the sky darkened, lightening flashed, loud thunder could be heard and the winds swept up into what one resident called “a frightening roar.”
The White House in ruins. After the 1812 burning, the White House was whitewashed to cover the smoke stains. Originally light gray in color, the building’s exterior was painted white during the restoration to cover the smoke stain.
It was a tornado. On the one hand, the city, which was made mostly of wood, was saved from a rapidly expanding fire by the storm but on the other hand, the tornado probably did more damage to the city than it stopped. Buildings were lifted into the air and tossed a block away. Flying debris killed several English soldiers and one gust made off with several cannons. Hundreds of English soldiers laid face down in the streets as the storm passed over them and one account describes how a British officer on horseback did not dismount and the winds slammed both horse and rider violently to the ground.
It ended after two hours and the heavy rain that followed put out most of the flames and prevented Washington from burning to the ground. The British regrouped on Capitol Hill and marched out of the city that night.
As the English left the city, Admiral Cockburn asked a local woman, “Great God, Madam! Is this the kind of storm to which you are accustomed in this infernal country?” The lady answered, “No, Sir, this is a special interposition of Providence to drive our enemies from our city.”
“Not so Madam.” The Admiral answered, “It is rather to aid your enemies in the destruction of your city.”
Hours later, the British forces left Washington and returned to their ships on the Patuxent River but the journey back to their ships was a difficult one. Downed trees on the roadway slowed their return and the war ships they arrived on had been badly damaged in the storm. Still, the English stopped their ships in Old Town Alexandria long enough to loot it. (A separate British force had already captured Alexandria, The mayor of Alexandria made a deal and the British refrained from burning the town.)
President Madison and Dolly returned to Washington three days later, but the White House was made unlivable by the fire. President Madison served the rest of his term residing at the Octagon House. It was not until 1817 that newly elected president James Monroe moved back into the reconstructed building.
After the attack, Congress was determined to relocate the nation's capital north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Fearful that the capitol would be moved to Philadelphia, local Washington businessmen financed the construction of the Old Brick Capitol, (Mayor Thomas Corcoran offered Georgetown College as a temporary home for Congress.) where Congress met while the Capitol was reconstructed from 1815 to 1819.
For many decades the White House has had reports that the ghost of a British soldier dressed in a uniform from the War of 1812 and carrying a torch haunts the executive mansion. (He has also been seen on the front lawn) Some think the soldier is one of those who burned the White House, or accidently killed while burning down the White House or who lost his life the following tornado. He is the only malicious spirit who haunts the White House. In 1953, one couple staying in a second-floor bedroom said the ghost tried to set fire to their bed with a flaming torch.
Gary J. Walters was appointed White House Chief Usher in 1986.
According to Walters, “I was standing at the state floor of the White House adjacent to the staircase that comes up from the ground floor. The police officers and I felt a cool rush of air pass between us and then two doors that stand open closed by themselves. I have never seen these doors move before without somebody specifically closing them by hand. It was quite remarkable.” Other staff member report that White House doors throughout the building close by themselves.
FRANCIS FOLSOM CLEVELAND
First Lady Frances Folsom Cleveland, (1864-1947) married to President Grover Cleveland, a life-long bachelor, in the White House's Blue Room in 1886. She was 21 years old student at Wells College at the time, the youngest First Lady in American history. He was 49 and executor of her father’s estate. (Who died in a carriage accident on July 23, 1875, without having written a will. The court appointed Cleveland administrator of his estate.) Cleveland had more or less supervised Frances upbringing since she was 11 years old.
Cleveland remains the only President to be married in the White House and the second President to be married while serving in office. The couple were wildly popular with the American people and by all reports, Francis was aid to be a warm and interesting person of great beauty. The couple eventually had five children.
After her husband's death in 1908, Frances Cleveland remarried in 1913 to Thomas J. Preston, Jr., a professor of archeology at Wells College. She was the first presidential widow to remarry. Francis died in Baltimore on October 29, 1947, and was buried in Princeton with her first husband, President Grover Cleveland.
That same year, 1947, her ghost was reported to have appeared in the Blue Room where she married sixty-one years before. She is still reported to haunt the room and visitors tell of sensing “an overpowering presence” when in the room alone.
The night bodyguard to President Benjamin Harrison reported hearing near constant footsteps in the hall where he was posted and assumed it was spirit of Abe Lincoln pacing the floor, back and forth. He was said to have grown so weary of the sound that he attended a séance to ask President Lincoln to stop. The noises were heard by many others over the year but they are said to have stopped after the extensive repairs were done to the second floor of the White House in 1952.
President Benjamin Harrison grandfather, William Henry Harrison, is said to haunt the White House attic. Harrison was the last president born before the United States Declaration of Independence was signed and served the shortest term, 30 days, 12 hours and 30 minutes.
Harrison died only three weeks after his inauguration when he caught a common cold which developed into Pneumonia and then pleurisy. His last words, spoken to his Vice President, John Tyler were, “Sir, I wish you to understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more.”
Harrison’s death started the legend of the “curse of the Shawnee Prophet”. The curse (Which is also called The Curse of Tippecanoe) derives from the battle of Tippecanoe in 1811 while Harrison was governor of the Indiana Territory. Apparently during the negotiation of the 1809 Treaty of Fort Wayne with Native Americans, Harrison used some underhanded tactics to cede enormous tracks of land from the Indian nations to the U.S. government.
The terms brought about the battle of Tippecanoe in which the Shawnee leader Tecumseh and his brother rose up against the westward expansion of the United States. It was Harrison’s leadership of the US troops during the battle that brought him national fame as a war hero. However, Tecumseh's brother Tenskwatawa, known as the Prophet, set a curse against Harrison and all others who were elected president during years with the same end number as Harrison. (He was elected in 1840)
For the next 120 years, presidents elected during years ending in a zero (occurring every 20 years) died while serving in office, from Harrison to John F. Kennedy and including Ronald Reagan, (elected in 1980) who was shot but survived and George W. Bush (2000) who survived an attempt on his life unharmed. However, the only president who died in office without being elected in a "cursed" year was Zachary Taylor, who was elected in 1848 and died in 1850.
Harrison is said to haunt the White House attic where his ghost has been seen tossing about papers and boxes as if he was looking for something very specific.
Harrison’s guard brush with the afterworld was not the only a séance was related to the White House. President Lincoln, no doubt in a move to appease his somewhat erratic wife, attended several séance in the White House and in his book The Choice, Bob Woodward describes a 1995, a séance was held by psychic Jean Houston in the White House solarium for the benefit of Hillary Clinton.
According to the book, Hillary, while in a deep trance, channeled the spirits of Eleanor Roosevelt and Mahatma Gandhi. Before that, First Lady Nancy Reagan asked her astrologer, Joan Quigley, to arrange an attempt to communicate with the otherworld through the so-called White House portal.
Nancy Reagan called Quigley in 1981 after John Hinckley's attempted assassination of the president and asked Quigley if she could have foreseen the assassination attempt. Quigley said she could have and Nancy then had her stay on as the White House astrologer in secret until that secret was released in 1988 by former chief of staff Donald Regan.
Explaining why she kept Quigley on, the First Lady wrote “Very few people can understand what it's like to have your husband shot at and almost die, and then have him exposed all the time to enormous crowds, tens of thousands of people, any one of whom might be a lunatic with a gun... I was doing everything I could think of to protect my husband and keep him alive."
Quigley later wrote, "Not since the days of the Roman emperors—and never in the history of the United States Presidency—has an astrologer played such a significant role in the nation's affairs of State."
Lillian Rogers Parks, a one-time society hairdresser who had used her client connections to get the White House job as a seamstress and Executive maid from the beginning of the Hoover Administration in 1929 to the end of the Eisenhower years in 1961, she had been a familiar figure at the White House since she was a little girl. Her mother, Maggie Rogers, was part of the White House staff at the start of the Taft Administration and often took her daughter to work with her.
Parks. Who lived to age 100, wrote ''My Thirty Years Backstairs at the White House.'' which became the basis of a nine-part NBC miniseries in 1979, created an immediate sensation when it was published in 1961 and was on The New York Times best-seller list for 26 weeks. But its success so alarmed the incoming First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, that she ordered all White House domestic employees to sign a pledge not to write about their White House experiences. (Mrs. Kennedy's secretary, Mary Gallagher, was assigned to the task of collecting the signatures but neglected to sign one, herself, and eventually wrote her own tell-all with Miss Leighton, ''My Boss,'' in 1969.)
In her book, Park told of working in the Rose Bedroom (the modern Queen's Suite) to prepare it for a visit from Queen Elizabeth, when she gradually became aware of a cold presence standing behind her. Frightened, she rushed out of the room not looking once behind her. It was three years before she could bring herself to enter the room again.
In that same room, President Andrew Jackson is said to be seen lying on the Queens' Bedroom and his would rough laugh has been heard in the White House since the beginning of the 1860s. First Lady press secretary Liz Carpenter heard the laugh and swore it was Jackson's, and Mary Todd Lincoln (Who had some mental health issues) claimed to have heard the stomping and swearing of an invisible presence which she claimed was the uncouth Jackson. Mary Todd Lincoln was certain that President Jackson was caring for her young son Willie in the afterlife. In the 1940s, Katurah Brooks, a maid, said that she often heard laughter coming from the Queen's Suite.
Mary also once remarked that she heard President Thomas Jefferson playing his violin in the Yellow Oval Room (below) and remarked “My, my, how that Mr. Jefferson does play that violin.” However, she was the only person who heard the sounds.
FDR and Fala
A naked Winston Churchill was waddling about in the Lincoln bedroom when he saw Lincoln’s ghost. There are two versions of the story. In the first version there was knock on the. The Prime Minster opened the door and purportedly saw the ghost of Abraham Lincoln standing there.
Churchill slammed the door shut, demanded to be moved to another room across the hall and vowed to never enter the Lincoln bedroom again.
In the second version of the same sighting, Churchill had just stepped out of a bath and was enjoying a cigar and a glass of scotch when Lincoln appeared, standing by the fireplace. The pair are said to have started at each other for some time before the ghost faded away.
One night at 3 AM, President Harry Truman was awaken by a series of loud raps on his door. He stepped out of bed, opened the door and found no one but publicly attributed the knock to Abe Lincoln. The President’s daughter, Margaret said she heard also heard a loud knocking on her door in the White House and also believed it was Lincoln.
Gerald Ford's daughter Susan Ford refused to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom and Ronald Reagan’s daughter, Maureen, insisted that she saw Lincoln in the Lincoln Bedroom while staying there during her father’s administration.
I'm not kidding” she said “We've really seen it. When I told my parents what I saw they looked at me a little weirdly." Maureen said that the spirit appeared to her in the early morning hours as a red and sometimes orange aura. Years later, First Lady Nancy Reagan said that the family dog, Rex, would often stand outside the Lincoln Bedroom door and bark loudly but refused to go in.
The last reported sighting of Lincoln’s ghost came in the early 1980s when the White House operations foreman, Tony Savoy, came into the White House and saw Lincoln sitting in a chair at the top of some stairs.
When I was a boy in the 1960s, The Wizard of Oz was shown the night before Halloween. It was a special night for kids across the country. I couldn't find the entire but I found this; Enjoy!
Photographs I’ve taken
Photos taken last year in Shepherdstown West Virginia
All Souls' Night, 1917
“Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness—for then
The spirits of the dead, who stood
In life before thee, are again
In death around thee, and their will
Shall overshadow thee; be still.”
—From “Spirits of the Dead” by Edgar Allan Poe
Christina Rossetti, 1830 - 1894
Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck’d cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
All ripe together
In summer weather,—
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy:
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I [Round about the cauldron go]
William Shakespeare, 1564 - 1616
The three witches, casting a spell
Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights hast thirty one
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse,
Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807 - 1882
All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.
We meet them at the door-way, on the stair,
Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
A sense of something moving to and fro.
There are more guests at table than the hosts
Invited; the illuminated hall
Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,
As silent as the pictures on the wall.
The stranger at my fireside cannot see
The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;
He but perceives what is; while unto me
All that has been is visible and clear.
We have no title-deeds to house or lands;
Owners and occupants of earlier dates
From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,
And hold in mortmain still their old estates.
The spirit-world around this world of sense
Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
Wafts through these earthly mists and vapours dense
A vital breath of more ethereal air.
Our little lives are kept in equipoise
By opposite attractions and desires;
The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,
And the more noble instinct that aspires.
These perturbations, this perpetual jar
Of earthly wants and aspirations high,
Come from the influence of an unseen star
An undiscovered planet in our sky.
And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud
Throws o'er the sea a floating bridge of light,
Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd
Into the realm of mystery and night,—
So from the world of spirits there descends
A bridge of light, connecting it with this,
O'er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,
Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.
All Souls' Night, 1917
Hortense King Flexner
You heap the logs and try to fill
The little room with words and cheer,
But silent feet are on the hill,
Across the window veiled eyes peer.
The hosts of lovers, young in death,
Go seeking down the world to-night,
Remembering faces, warmth and breath—
And they shall seek till it is light.
Then let the white-flaked logs burn low,
Lest those who drift before the storm
See gladness on our hearth and know
There is no flame can make them warm.
Spirits of the Dead
Edgar Allan Poe, 1809 - 1849
Thy soul shall find itself alone
'Mid dark thoughts of the grey tomb-stone;
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.
Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness — for then
The spirits of the dead, who stood
In life before thee, are again
In death around thee, and their will
Shall overshadow thee; be still.
The night, though clear, shall frown,
And the stars shall not look down
From their high thrones in the Heaven
With light like hope to mortals given,
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee for ever.
Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,
Now are visions ne'er to vanish;
From thy spirit shall they pass
No more, like dew-drop from the grass.
The breeze, the breath of God, is still,
And the mist upon the hill
Shadowy, shadowy, yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token.
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!
Some folk in courts for pleasure sue,
An' some ransack the theatre:
The airy nymph is won by few;
She's of so coy a nature.
She shuns the great bedaub'd with lace,
Intent on rural jokin
An' spite o' breeding, deigns to grace
A merry Airshire rockin,
Sometimes at night.
At Halloween, when fairy sprites
Perform their mystic gambols,
When ilka witch her neebour greets,
On their nocturnal rambles;
When elves at midnight-hour are seen,
Near hollow caverns sportin,
Then lads an' lasses aft convene,
In hopes to ken their fortune,
By freets that night.
At Jennet Reid's not long ago,
Was held an annual meeting,
Of lasses fair an' fine also,
With charms the most inviting:
Though it was wat, an' wondrous mirk,
It stopp'd nae kind intention;
Some sprightly youths, frae Loudon-kirk,
Did haste to the convention,
Wi' glee that night.
The nuts upon a clean hearthstane,
Were plac'd by ane anither,
An' some gat lads, an' some gat nane,
Just as they bleez'd the gither.
Some sullen cooffs refuse to burn;
Bad luck can ne'er be mended;
But or they a' had got a turn,
The pokeful nits was ended
Owre soon that night.
A candle on a stick was hung,
An' ti'd up to the kipple:
Ilk lad an' lass, baith auld an' young,
Did try to catch the apple;
Which aft, in spite o' a' their care,
Their furious jaws escaped;
They touch'd it ay, but did nae mair,
Though greedily they gaped,
Fu' wide that night.
The dishes then, by joint advice,
Were plac'd upon the floor;
Some stammer'd on the toom ane thrice,
In that unlucky hour.
Poor Mall maun to the garret go,
Nae rays o' comfort meeting;
Because sae aft she's answered no,
She'll spend her days in greeting,
An' ilka night.
Poor James sat trembling for his fate;
He lang had dree'd the worst o't;
Though they had tugg'd and rugg'd till yet,
To touch the dish he durst not.
The empty bowl, before his eyes,
Replete with ills appeared;
No man nor maid could make him rise,
The consequence he feared
Sae much that night.
Wi' heartsome glee the minutes past,
Each act to mirth conspired:
The cushion game perform'd at last,
Was most of all admired.
From Janet's bed a bolster came,
Nor lad nor lass was missing;
But ilka ane wha caught the same,
Was pleas'd wil routh o' kissing,
Fu' sweet that night.
Soon as they heard the forward clock
Proclaim 'twas nine, they started,
An' ilka lass took up her rock;
Reluctantly they parted,
In hopes to meet some other time,
Exempt from false aspersion;
Nor will they count it any crime,
To hae sic like diversion
Some future night.
Bring forth the raisins and the nuts—To-night All-Hallows' Spectre struts
Along the moonlit way.
No time is this for tear or sob, Or other woes our joys to rob,
But time for Pippin and for Bob, And Jack-o'-lantern gay.
Come forth, ye lass and trousered kid,
From prisoned mischief raise the lid, And lift it good and high.
Leave grave old Wisdom in the lurch, Set Folly on a lofty perch,
Nor fear the awesome rod of birch When dawn illumes the sky.
'Tis night for revel, set apart
To reillume the darkened heart,
And rout the hosts of Dole.'Tis night when Goblin, Elf, and Fay,
Come dancing in their best array
To prank and royster on the way,
And ease the troubled soul.
The ghosts of all things, past parade, Emerging from the mist and shade
That hid them from our gaze,
And full of song and ringing mirth,In one glad moment of rebirth,
Again they walk the ways of earth,
As in the ancient days.
The beacon light shines on the hill,
The will-o'-wisps the forests fillWith flashes filched from noon;
And witches on their broomsticks sprySpeed here and yonder in the sky,
And lift their strident voices highUnto the Hunter's moon.
The air resounds with tuneful notesFrom myriads of straining throats,All hailing Folly Queen;
So join the swelling choral throng,Forget your sorrow and your wrong,In one glad hour of joyous song
To honor Hallowe'en.
"I heard the voices and howlings of devils, which complained strongly because that the souls of them that were dead were taken away from their hands by alms and by prayers."
Pixie, kobold, elf, and sprite
All are on their rounds to-night,—In the wan moon's silver ray
Thrives their helter-skelter play.
Fond of cellar, barn, or stack
True unto the almanac,
They present to credulous eyes
Strange hobgoblin mysteries.
Cabbage-stumps—straws wet with dew—Apple-skins, and chestnuts too,
And a mirror for some lass
Show what wonders come to pass.
Doors they move, and gates they hide
Mischiefs that on moonbeams ride
Are their deeds,—and, by their spells,
Love records its oracles.
Don't we all, of long ago[
By the ruddy fireplace glow,
In the kitchen and the hall,
Those queer, coof-like pranks recall?
Eery shadows were they then—But to-night they come again;
Were we once more but sixteen
Precious would be Hallowe'en.
"There is a world in which we dwell,
And yet a world invisible.
And do not think that naught can be
Save only what with eyes ye see:
I tell ye that, this very hour,
Had but your sight a spirit's power,
Ye would be looking, eye to eye,
At a terrific company."
"'Among the usually invisible races which I have seen in Ireland, I distinguish five classes. There are the Gnomes, who are earth-spirits, and who seem to be a sorrowful race. I once saw some of them distinctly on the side of Ben Bulbin. They had rather round heads and dark thick-set bodies, and in stature were about two and one-half feet. The Leprechauns are different, being full of mischief, though they, too, are small. I followed a Leprechaun from the town of Wicklow out to the Carraig Sidhe, "Rock of the Fairies," a distance of half a mile or more, where he disappeared. He had a very merry face, and beckoned to me with his finger. A third class are the Little People, who, unlike the Gnomes and Leprechauns, are quite good-looking; and they are very small. The Good People are tall, beautiful beings, as tall as ourselves.... They direct the magnetic currents of the earth. The Gods are really the Tuatha De Danann, and they are much taller than our race.'" Wentz: Fairy-faith in Celtic Countries.
"—how the drudging goblin sweat
To earn his cream-bowl duly set,
When in one night, ere glimpse of morn,
His shadowy flail hath threshed the corn
That ten day-laborers could not end.
Then lies him down the lubbar fiend,
And stretcht out all the chimney's length
Basks at the fire his hairy strength."
"The autumn wind—oh hear it howl:
Without—October's tempests scowl,
As he troops away on the raving wind!
And leaveth dry leaves in his path behind.
"'Tis the night—the night
Of the graves' delight,
And the warlock are at their play! Ye think that without
The wild winds shout, But no, it is they—it is they!"
"These glowing nuts are emblems true
Of what in human life we view;
The ill-matched couple fret and fume,
And thus in strife themselves consume,
Or from each other wildly start
And with a noise forever part.
But see the happy, happy pair
Of genuine love and truth sincere;
With mutual fondness, while they burn
Still to each other kindly turn:
And as the vital sparks decay,
Together gently sink away.
Till, life's fierce ordeal being past,
Their mingled ashes rest at last."
GRAYDON: On Nuts Burning, Allhallows Eve.
The Book of Hallowe'en
SUN-WORSHIP. THE SOURCES OF HALLOWE'EN
If we could ask one of the old-world pagans whom he revered as his greatest gods, he would be sure to name among them the sun-god; calling him Apollo if he were a Greek; if an Egyptian, Horus or Osiris; if of Norway, Sol; if of Peru, Bochica. As the sun is the center of the physical universe, so all primitive peoples made it the hub about which their religion revolved, nearly always believing it a living person to whom they could say prayers and offer sacrifices, who directed their lives and destinies, and could even snatch men from earthly existence to dwell for a time with him, as it draws the water from lakes and seas.
In believing this they followed an instinct of all early peoples, a desire to make persons of the great powers of nature, such as the world of growing things, mountains and water, the sun, moon, and stars; and a wish for these gods they had made to take an interest in and be part of their daily life. The next step was making stories about them to account for what was seen; so arose myths and legends.
The sun has always marked out work-time and rest, divided the year into winter idleness, seed-time, growth, and harvest; it has always been responsible for all the beauty and goodness of the earth; it is itself splendid to look upon. It goes away and stays longer and longer, leaving the land in cold and gloom; it returns bringing the long fair days and resurrection of spring. A Japanese legend tells how the hidden sun was lured out by an image made of a copper plate with saplings radiating from it like sunbeams, and a fire kindled, dancing, and prayers; and round the earth in North America the Cherokees believed they brought the sun back upon its northward path by the same means of rousing its curiosity, so that it would come out to see its counterpart and find out what was going on.
All the more important church festivals are survivals of old rites to the sun. "How many times the Church has decanted the new wine of Christianity into the old bottles of heathendom." Yule-tide, the pagan Christmas, celebrated the sun's turning north, and the old midsummer holiday is still kept in Ireland and on the Continent as St. John's Day by the lighting of bonfires and a dance about them from east to west as the sun appears to move. The pagan Hallowe'en at the end of summer was a time of grief for the decline of the sun's glory, as well as a harvest festival of thanksgiving to him for having ripened the grain and fruit, as we formerly had husking-bees when the ears had been garnered, and now keep our own Thanksgiving by eating of our winter store in praise of God who gives us our increase.
Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit, lends us the harvest element of Hallowe'en; the Celtic day of "summer's end" was a time when spirits, mostly evil, were abroad; the gods whom Christ dethroned joined the ill-omened throng; the Church festivals of All Saints' and All Souls' coming at the same time of year—the first of November—contributed the idea of the return of the dead; and the Teutonic May Eve assemblage of witches brought its hags and their attendant beasts to help celebrate the night of October 3st.
THE CELTS: THEIR RELIGION AND FESTIVALS
The first reference to Great Britain in European annals of which we know was the statement in the fifth century b. c. of the Greek historian Herodotus, that Phœnician sailors went to the British Isles for tin. He called them the "Tin Islands." The people with whom these sailors traded must have been Celts, for they were the first inhabitants of Britain who worked in metal instead of stone.
The Druids were priests of the Celts centuries before Christ came. There is a tradition in Ireland that they first arrived there in b. c., seven hundred years before St. Patrick. The account of them written by Julius Cæsar half a century before Christ speaks mainly of the Celts of Gaul, dividing them into two ruling classes who kept the people almost in a state of slavery; the knights, who waged war, and the Druids who had charge of worship and sacrifices, and were in addition physicians, historians, teachers, scientists, and judges.
Cæsar says that this cult originated in Britain, and was transferred to Gaul. Gaul and Britain had one religion and one language, and might even have one king, so that what Cæsar wrote of Gallic Druids must have been true of British.
The Celts worshipped spirits of forest and stream, and feared the powers of evil, as did the Greeks and all other early races. Very much of their primitive belief has been kept, so that to Scotch, Irish, and Welsh peasantry brooks, hills, dales, and rocks abound in tiny supernatural beings, who may work them good or evil, lead them astray by flickering lights, or charm them into seven years' servitude unless they are bribed to show favor.
The name "Druid" is derived from the Celtic word "druidh," meaning "sage," connected with the Greek word for oak, "drus,"for the oak was held sacred by them as a symbol of the omnipotent god, upon whom they depended for life like the mistletoe growing upon it. Their ceremonies were held in oak-groves.
Later from their name a word meaning "magician" was formed, showing that these priests had gained the reputation of being dealers in magic.
They dealt in symbols, common objects to which was given by the interposition of spirits, meaning to signify certain facts, and power to produce certain effects. Since they were tree-worshippers, trees and plants were thought to have peculiar powers.
Cæsar provides them with a galaxy of Roman divinities, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Minerva, who of course were worshipped under their native names. Their chief god was Baal, of whom they believed the sun the visible emblem. They represented him by lowlier tokens, such as circles and wheels. The trefoil, changed into a figure composed of three winged feet radiating from a center, represented the swiftness of the sun's journey. The cross too was a symbol of the sun, being the appearance of its light shining upon dew or stream, making to the half-closed eye little bright crosses. One form of the cross was the swastika.
To Baal they made sacrifices of criminals or prisoners of war, often burning them alive in wicker images. These bonfires lighted on the hills were meant to urge the god to protect and bless the crops and herds. From the appearance of the victims sacrificed in them, omens were taken that foretold the future. The gods and other supernatural powers in answer to prayer were thought to signify their will by omens, and also by the following methods: the ordeal, in which the innocence or guilt of a person was shown by the way the god permitted him to endure fire or other torture; exorcism, the driving out of demons by saying mysterious words or names over them. Becoming skilled in interpreting the will of the gods, the Druids came to be known as prophets.
They kept their lore for the most part a secret, forbidding it to be written, passing it down by word of mouth. They taught the immortality of the soul, that it passed from one body to another at death.
They believed that on the last night of the old year (October 3st) the lord of death gathered together the souls of all those who had died in the passing year and had been condemned to live in the bodies of animals, to decree what forms they should inhabit for the next twelve months. He could be coaxed to give lighter sentences by gifts and prayers.
The badge of the initiated Druid was a glass ball reported to be made in summer of the spittle of snakes, and caught by the priests as the snakes tossed it into the air.
It was real glass, blown by the Druids themselves. It was supposed to aid the wearer in winning lawsuits and securing the favor of kings.
An animal sacred to the Druids was the cat.
"A slender black cat reclining on a chain of old silver" guarded treasure in the old days. For a long time cats were dreaded by the people because they thought human beings had been changed to that form by evil means.
The chief festivals of the Druids fell on four days, celebrating phases of the sun's career. Fires of sacrifice were lighted especially at spring and midsummer holidays, by exception on November st.
May Day and November Day were the more important, the beginning and end of summer, yet neither equinoxes nor solstices. The time was divided then not according to sowing and reaping, but by the older method of reckoning from when the herds were turned out to pasture in the spring and brought into the fold again at the approach of winter—by a pastoral rather than an agricultural people.
On the night before Beltaine ("Baal-fire"), the first of May, fires were burned to Baal to celebrate the return of the sun bringing summer. Before sunrise the houses were decked with garlands to gladden the sun when he appeared; a rite which has survived in "going maying." The May-Day fires were used for purification. Cattle were singed by being led near the flames, and sometimes bled that their blood might be offered as a sacrifice for a prosperous season.
A cake was baked in the fire with one piece blacked with charcoal. Whoever got the black piece was thereby marked for sacrifice to Baal, so that, as the ship proceeded in safety after Jonah was cast overboard, the affairs of the group about the May-Eve fire might prosper when it was purged of the one whom Baal designated by lot. Later only the symbol of offering was used, the victim being forced to leap thrice over the flames.
In history it was the day of the coming of good. Partholon, the discoverer and promoter of Ireland, came thither from the other world to stay three hundred years. The gods themselves, the deliverers of Ireland, first arrived there "through the air" on May Day.
June st, the day of the summer solstice, the height of the sun's power, was marked by midnight fires of joy and by dances. These were believed to strengthen the sun's heat. A blazing wheel to represent the sun was rolled down hill.
Spirits were believed to be abroad, and torches were carried about the fields to protect them from invasion. Charms were tried on that night with seeds of fern and hemp, and dreams were believed to be prophetic.
On November first was Samhain ("summer's end").
"Take my tidings:
"A chill wind raging,
The sun low keeping,
Swift to set
O'er seas high sweeping.
"Dull red the fern;
Shapes are shadows;
Wild geese mourn
O'er misty meadows.
"Keen cold limes each weaker wing,
Such I sing!
Take my tidings."
Graves: First Winter Song.
Then the flocks were driven in, and men first had leisure after harvest toil. Fires were built as a thanksgiving to Baal for harvest. The old fire on the altar was quenched before the night of October 3st, and the new one made, as were all sacred fires, by friction. It was called "forced-fire." A wheel and a spindle were used: the wheel, the sun symbol, was turned from east to west, sunwise. The sparks were caught in tow, blazed upon the altar, and were passed on to light the hilltop fires. The new fire was given next morning, New Year's Day, by the priests to the people to light their hearths, where all fires had been extinguished. The blessed fire was thought to protect the year through the home it warmed. In Ireland the altar was Tlactga, on the hill of Ward in Meath, where sacrifices, especially black sheep, were burnt in the new fire. From the death struggles and look of the creatures omens for the future year were taken.
The year was over, and the sun's life of a year was done. The Celts thought that at this time the sun fell a victim for six months to the powers of winter darkness. In Egyptian mythology one of the sun-gods, Osiris, was slain at a banquet by his brother Sîtou, the god of darkness. On the anniversary of the murder, the first day of winter, no Egyptian would begin any new business for fear of bad luck, since the spirit of evil was then in power.
From the idea that the sun suffered from his enemies on this day grew the association of Samhain with death.
In the same state as those who are dead, are those who have never lived, dwelling right in the world, but invisible to most mortals at most times. Seers could see them at any time, and if very many were abroad at once others might get a chance to watch them too.
These supernatural spirits ruled the dead. There were two classes: the Tuatha De Danann, "the people of the goddess Danu," gods of light and life; and spirits of darkness and evil. The Tuatha had their chief seat on the Isle of Man, in the middle of the Irish Sea, and brought under their power the islands about them. On a Midsummer Day they vanquished the Fir Bolgs and gained most of Ireland, by the battle of Moytura.
A long time afterwards—perhaps b. c.—the Fomor, sea-demons, after destroying nearly all their enemies by plagues, exacted from those remaining, as tribute, "a third part of their corn, a third part of their milk, and a third part of their children." This tax was paid on Samhain. It was on the week before Samhain that the Fomor landed upon Ireland. On the eve of Samhain the gods met them in the second battle of Moytura, and they were driven back into the ocean.
Samhain was then a day sacred to the death of the sun, on which had been paid a sacrifice of death to evil powers. Though overcome at Moytura evil was ascendant at Samhain. Methods of finding out the will of spirits and the future naturally worked better then, charms and invocations had more power, for the spirits were near to help, if care was taken not to anger them, and due honors paid.
THE COMING OF CHRISTIANITY. ALL SAINTS'. ALL SOULS'
The great power which the Druids exercised over their people interfered with the Roman rule of Britain. Converts were being made at Rome. Augustus forbade Romans to became initiated, Tiberius banished the priestly clan and their adherents from Gaul, and Claudius utterly stamped out the belief there, and put to death a Roman knight for wearing the serpent's-egg badge to win a lawsuit. Forbidden to practise their rites in Britain, the Druids fled to the isle of Mona, near the coast of Wales. The Romans pursued them, and in a. d. they were slaughtered and their oak groves cut down. During the next three centuries the cult was stifled to death, and the Christian religion substituted.
It was believed that at Christ's advent the pagan gods either died or were banished.
The Christian Fathers explained all oracles and omens by saying that there was something in them, but that they were the work of the evil one. The miraculous power they seemed to possess worked "black magic."
It was a long, hard effort to make men see that their gods had all the time been wrong, and harder still to root out the age-long growth of rite and symbol. But on the old religion might be grafted new names; Midsummer was dedicated to the birth of Saint John; Lugnasad became Lammas. The fires belonging to these times of year were retained, their old significance forgotten or reconsecrated. The rowan, or mountain ash, whose berries had been the food of the Tuatha, now exorcised those very beings. The trefoil signified the Trinity, and the cross no longer the rays of the sun on water, but the cross of Calvary. The fires which had been built to propitiate the god and consume his sacrifices to induce him to protect them were now lighted to protect the people from the same god, declared to be an evil mischief-maker. In time the autumn festival of the Druids became the vigil of All Hallows or All Saints' Day.
All Saints' was first suggested in the fourth century, when the Christians were no longer persecuted, in memory of all the saints, since there were too many for each to have a special day on the church calendar. A day in May was chosen by Pope Boniface IV in for consecrating the Pantheon, the old Roman temple of all the gods, to the Virgin and all the saints and martyrs. Pope Gregory III dedicated a chapel in St. Peter's to the same, and that day was made compulsory in 3 by Pope Gregory IV, as All Saints'. The day was changed from May to November so that the crowds that thronged to Rome for the services might be fed from the harvest bounty. It is celebrated with a special service in the Greek and Roman churches and by Episcopalians.
In the tenth century St. Odilo, Bishop of Cluny, instituted a day of prayer and special masses for the souls of the dead. He had been told that a hermit dwelling near a cave
This day became All Souls', and was set for November d.
It is very appropriate that the Celtic festival when the spirits of the dead and the supernatural powers held a carnival of triumph over the god of light, should be followed by All Saints' and All Souls'. The church holy-days were celebrated by bonfires to light souls through Purgatory to Paradise, as they had lighted the sun to his death on Samhain. On both occasions there were prayers: the pagan petitions to the lord of death for a pleasant dwelling-place for the souls of departed friends; and the Christian for their speedy deliverance from torture. They have in common the celebrating of death: the one, of the sun; the other, of mortals: of harvest: the one, of crops; the other, of sacred memories. They are kept by revelry and joy: first, to cheer men and make them forget the malign influences abroad; second, because as the saints in heaven rejoice over one repentant sinner, we should rejoice over those who, after struggles and sufferings past, have entered into everlasting glory.
ORIGIN AND CHARACTER OF HALLOWE'EN OMENS
The custom of making tests to learn the future comes from the old system of augury from sacrifice. Who sees in the nuts thrown into the fire, turning in the heat, blazing and growing black, the writhing victim of an old-time sacrifice to an idol?
Many superstitions and charms were believed to be active at any time, but all those and numerous special ones worked best on November Eve. All the tests of all the Celtic festivals have been allotted to Hallowe'en. Cakes from the May Eve fire, hemp-seed and prophetic dreams from Midsummer, games and sports from Lugnasad have survived in varied forms.
Tests are very often tried blindfold, so that the seeker may be guided by fate. Many are mystic—to evoke apparitions from the past or 3 future. Others are tried with harvest grains and fruits. Because skill and undivided attention is needed to carry them through successfully, many have degenerated into mere contests of skill, have lost their meaning, and become rough games.
Answers are sought to questions about one's future career; chiefly to: when and whom shall I marry? what will be my profession and degree of wealth, and when shall I die?
HALLOWE'EN BELIEFS AND CUSTOMS IN IRELAND
Ireland has a literature of Hallowe'en, or "Samhain," as it used to be called. Most of it was written between the seventh and the twelfth centuries, but the events were thought to have happened while paganism still ruled in Ireland.
The evil powers that came out at Samhain lived the rest of the time in the cave of Cruachan in Connaught, the province which was given to the wicked Fomor after the battle of Moytura. This cave was called the "hell-gate of Ireland," and was unlocked on November Eve to let out spirits and copper-colored birds which killed the farm animals. They also stole babies, leaving in their place changelings, goblins who were old in wickedness while still in the cradle, possessing superhuman cunning and skill in music. One way of getting rid of these demon children was to ill-treat them so that their people 3 would come for them, bringing the right ones back; or one might boil egg-shells in the sight of the changeling, who would declare his demon nature by saying that in his centuries of life he had never seen such a thing before.
Even after Christianity was made the vital religion in Ireland, it was believed that places not exorcised by prayers and by the sign of the cross, were still haunted by Druids. As late as the fifth century the Druids kept their skill in fortune-telling. King Dathi got a Druid to foretell what would happen to him from one Hallowe'en to the next, and the prophecy came true. Their religion was now declared evil, and all evil or at any rate suspicious beings were assigned to them or to the devil as followers.
The power of fairy music was so great that St. Patrick himself was put to sleep by a minstrel who appeared to him on the day before Samhain. The Tuatha De Danann, angered at the renegade people who no longer did them honor, sent another minstrel, who after laying the ancient religious seat Tara under a twenty-three years' charm, burned up the city with his fiery breath.
These infamous spirits dwelt in grassy mounds, called "forts," which were the entrances to underground palaces full of treasure, where was always music and dancing. These treasure-houses were open only on November Eve when the throngs of spirits, fairies, and goblins trooped out for revels about the country. The old Druid idea of obsession, the besieging of a person by an evil spirit, was practised by them at that time.
"For the fairy mounds of Erinn are always
opened about Hallowe'en."
If the fairies wished to seize a mortal—which power they had as the sun-god could take men to himself—they caused him to give them certain tokens by which he delivered himself into their hands. They might be milk and fire—or one might receive a fairy thorn such as Oonah brings home, which shrivels up at the touch of St. Bridget's image; or one might be lured by music as he stopped near the fort to watch the dancing, for the revels were held in secret, as those of the Druids had been, and no one could look on them unaffected. Sometimes people did not have the luck to return, but were led away to a realm of perpetual youth and music.
If one returned, he found that the space which seemed to him but one night, had been many years, and with the touch of earthly sod the age he had postponed suddenly weighed him down. Ossian, released from fairyland after three hundred years dalliance there, rode back to his own country on horseback. He saw men imprisoned under a block of marble and others trying to lift the stone. As he leaned over to aid them the girth broke. With the touch of earth "straightway the white horse fled away on his way home, and Ossian became aged, decrepit, and blind."
No place as much as Ireland has kept the belief in all sorts of supernatural spirits abroad among its people. From the time when on the hill of Ward, near Tara, in pre-Christian days, the sacrifices were burned and the Tuatha were thought to appear on Samhain, to as late as , testimony to actual appearances of the "little people" is to be found.
The sight of apparitions on Hallowe'en is believed to be fatal to the beholder.
One version of the Jack-o'-lantern story comes from Ireland. A stingy man named Jack was for his inhospitality barred from all hope of heaven, and because of practical jokes on the Devil was locked out of hell. Until the Judgment Day he is condemned to walk the earth with a lantern to light his way.
The place of the old lord of the dead, the Tuatha god Saman, to whom vigil was kept and prayers said on November Eve for the good of departed souls, was taken in Christian times by St. Colomba or Columb Kill, the founder of a monastery in Iona in the fifth century. In the seventeenth century the Irish peasants went about begging money and goodies for a feast, and demanding in the name of Columb Kill that fatted calves and black sheep be prepared. In place of the Druid fires, candles were collected and lighted on Hallowe'en, and prayers for the souls of the givers said before them. The name of Saman is kept in the title "Oidhche Shamhna," "vigil of Saman," by which the night of October 3st was until recently called in Ireland.
There are no Hallowe'en bonfires in Ireland now, but charms and tests are tried. Apples and nuts, the treasure of Pomona, figure largely in these. They are representative winter fruits, the commonest. They can be gathered late and kept all winter.
A popular drink at the Hallowe'en gathering in the eighteenth century was milk in which crushed roasted apples had been mixed. It was called lambs'-wool (perhaps from "La Mas Ubhal," "the day of the apple fruit"). At the Hallowe'en supper "callcannon," mashed potatoes, parsnips, and chopped onions, is indispensable. A ring is buried in it, and the one who finds it in his portion will be married in a year, or if he is already married, will be lucky. A coin betokened to the finder wealth; the thimble, that he would never marry.
A ring and a nut are baked in a cake. The ring of course means early marriage, the nut signifies that its finder will marry a widow or a widower. If the kernel is withered, no marriage at all is prophesied. In Roscommon, in central Ireland, a coin, a sloe, and a bit of wood were baked in a cake. The one getting the sloe would live longest, the one getting the wood was destined to die within the year.
A mould of flour turned out on the table held similar tokens. Each person cut off a slice with a knife, and drew out his prize with his teeth.
After supper the tests were tried. In the last century nut-shells were burned. The best-known nut test is made as follows: three nuts are named for a girl and two sweethearts. If one burns steadily with the girl's nut, that lover is faithful to her, but if either hers or one of the other nuts starts away, there will be no happy friendship between them.
Apples are snapped from the end of a stick hung parallel to the floor by a twisted cord which whirls the stick rapidly when it is let go. Care has to be taken not to bite the candle burning on the other end. Sometimes this test is made easier by dropping the apples into a tub of water and diving for them, or piercing them with a fork dropped straight down.
Green herbs called "livelong" were plucked by the children and hung up on Midsummer Eve. If a plant was found to be still green on Hallowe'en, the one who had hung it up would prosper for the year, but if it had turned yellow or had died, the child would also die.
Hemp-seed is sown across three furrows, the sower repeating: "Hemp-seed, I saw thee, hemp-seed, I saw thee; and her that is to be my true love, come after me and draw thee." On looking back over his shoulder he will see the apparition of his future wife in the act of gathering hemp.
Seven cabbage stalks were named for any seven of the company, then pulled up, and the guests asked to come out, and "see their sowls."
Twelve of the party may learn their future, if one gets a clod of earth from the churchyard sets up twelve candles in it, lights and names them. The fortune of each will be like that of the candle-light named for him,—steady, wavering, or soon in darkness.
A ball of blue yarn was thrown out of the window by a girl who held fast to the end. She wound it over on her hand from left to right, saying the Creed backwards. When she had nearly finished, she expected the yarn would be held. She must ask "Who holds?" and the wind would sigh her sweetheart's name in at the window.
In some charms the devil was invoked directly. If one walked about a rick nine times with a rake, saying, "I rake this rick in the devil's name," a vision would come and take away the rake.
If one went out with nine grains of oats in his mouth, and walked about until he heard a girl's name called or mentioned, he would know the name of his future wife, for they would be the same.
Lead is melted, and poured through a key or a ring into cold water. The form each spoonful takes in cooling indicates the occupation of the future husband of the girl who poured it.
After the future had been searched, a piper played a jig, to which all danced merrily with a loud noise to scare away the evil spirits.
Just before midnight was the time to go out "alone and unperceived" to a south-running brook, dip a shirt-sleeve in it, bring it home and hang it by the fire to dry. One must go to bed, but watch till midnight for a sight of the destined mate who would come to turn the shirt to dry the other side.
Ashes were raked smooth on the hearth at bedtime on Hallowe'en, and the next morning examined for footprints. If one was turned from the door, guests or a marriage was prophesied; if toward the door, a death.
To have prophetic dreams a girl should search for a briar grown into a hoop, creep through thrice in the name of the devil, cut it in silence, and go to bed with it under her pillow. A boy should cut ten ivy leaves, throw away one and put the rest under his head before he slept.
The Celtic spirit of yearning for the unknown, retained nowhere else as much as in Ireland, is expressed very beautifully in The introduction to his Celtic Twilight by Yeats
"The host is riding from Knocknarea
And over the grave of Clooth-na-bare;
Caolte tossing his burning hair,
And Niam calling: 'Away, come away;
"'And brood no more where the fire is bright,
Filling thy heart with a mortal dream;
For breasts are heaving and eyes a-gleam:
Away, come away to the dim twilight
"'Arms are heaving and lips apart;
And if any gaze on our rushing band,
We come between him and the deed of his hand,
We come between him and the hope of his heart.'
"The host is rushing twixt night and day,
And where is there hope or deed as fair?
Caolte tossing his burning hair,
And Niam calling: 'Away, come away.'"
MEANWHILE IN CANADA............
The Canadian Festival of Spoken Word is happening right now in Saskatoon. Beat poets from across the country are competing against each other for the chance to be crowned national champions.
GOOD WORDS TO HAVE………………..
Probity (PRO-bi-tee) Integrity and honesty. From Latin probus (upright, good). Ultimately from the Indo-European root per- (forward), which also gave us paramount, prime, proton, prow, German Frau (woman), and Hindi purana (old). Earliest documented use: 1425.
To love beauty is to see light.Victor Hugo
HERE'S PLEASANT POEM FOR YOU TO ENJOY................
So early it’s still almost dark out.
I’m near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.
When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.
They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren’t saying anything, these boys.
I think if they could, they would take
each other’s arm.
It’s early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.
They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.
Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn’t enter into this.
Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.
An award winning full length play.
"Cyberdate.Com is the story of six ordinary people in search of romance, friendship and love and find it in very extraordinary ways. Based on the real life experiences of the authors misadventures with on line dating, Cyber date is a bittersweet story that will make you laugh, cry and want to fall in love again." Ellis McKay
Cyberdate.Com, was chosen for a public at the Actors Chapel in Manhattan in February of 2007 as part of the groups Reading Series for New York project. In June of 2008, the play won the Virginia Theater of The First Amendment Award for best new play. The play was also given a full reading at The Frederick Playhouse in Maryland in March of 2007.
HERE'S MY LATEST BOOK.....
This is a book of short stories taken from the things I saw and heard in my childhood in the factory town of Ansonia in southwestern Connecticut.
Most of these stories, or as true as I recall them because I witnessed these events many years ago through the eyes of child and are retold to you now with the pen and hindsight of an older man. The only exception is the story Beat Time which is based on the disappearance of Beat poet Lew Welch. Decades before I knew who Welch was, I was told that he had made his from California to New Haven, Connecticut, where was an alcoholic living in a mission. The notion fascinated me and I filed it away but never forgot it.
The collected stories are loosely modeled around Joyce’s novel, Dubliners (I also borrowed from the novels character and place names. Ivy Day, my character in “Local Orphan is Hero” is also the name of chapter in Dubliners, etc.) and like Joyce I wanted to write about my people, the people I knew as a child, the working class in small town America and I wanted to give a complete view of them as well. As a result the stories are about the divorced, Gays, black people, the working poor, the middle class, the lost and the found, the contented and the discontented.
Conversely many of the stories in this book are about starting life over again as a result of suicide (The Hanging Party, Small Town Tragedy, Beat Time) or from a near death experience (Anna Bell Lee and the Charge of the Light Brigade, A Brief Summer) and natural occurring death. (The Best Laid Plans, The Winter Years, Balanced and Serene)
With the exception of Jesus Loves Shaqunda, in each story there is a rebirth from the death. (Shaqunda is reported as having died of pneumonia in The Winter Years)
Sal, the desperate and depressed divorcee in Things Change, changes his life in Lunch Hour when asks the waitress for a date and she accepts. (Which we learn in Closing Time, the last story in the book) In The Arranged Time, Thisby is given the option of change and whether she takes it or, we don’t know. The death of Greta’s husband in A Matter of Time has led her to the diner and into the waiting arms of the outgoing and loveable Gabe.
Although the book is based on three sets of time (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and the diner is opened in the early morning and closed at night, time stands still inside the Diner. The hour on the big clock on the wall never changes time and much like my memories of that place, everything remains the same.
The Valley Lives
By Marion Marchetto, author of The Bridgewater Chronicles on October 15, 2015
Short Stores from a Small Town is set in The Valley (known to outsiders as The Lower Naugatuck Valley) in Connecticut.
While the short stories are contemporary they provide insight into the timeless qualities of an Industrial Era community and the values and morals of the people who live there. Some are first or second generation Americans, some are transplants, yet each takes on the mantle of Valleyite and wears it proudly. It isn't easy for an author to take the reader on a journey down memory lane and involve the reader in the life stories of a group of seemingly unrelated characters. I say seemingly because by book's end the reader will realize that he/she has done more than meet a group of loosely related characters.
We meet all of the characters during a one-day time period as each of them finds their way to the Valley Diner on a rainy autumn day. From our first meeting with Angel, the educationally challenged man who opens and closes the diner, to our farewell for the day to the young waitress whose smile hides her despair we meet a cross section of the Valley population.
OTHER AMAZON REVIEWS.........................
By Sandra Mendyk on October 23, 2015
Just read "Short Stories from a Small Town," and couldn't put it down! Like Mr. Tuohy's other books I read, they keep your interest, especially if you're from a small town and can relate to the lives of the people he writes about. I recommend this book for anyone interested in human interest stories. His characters all have a central place where the stories take place--a diner--and come from different walks of life and wrestle with different problems of everyday life. Enjoyable and thoughtful.
WONDERFUL book, I loved it!
By John M. Cribbins on October 24, 2015
What wonderful stories...I just loved this book.... It is great how it is written following, breakfast, lunch, dinner, at a diner. Great characters.... I just loved it....
Rich, poor, ambitious, and not so ambitious, each life proves that there is more to it beneath the surface. And the one thing that binds these lives together is The Valley itself. Not so much a place (or a memory) but an almost palpable living thing that becomes a part of its inhabitants.
Let me be the first the congratulate author John William Tuohy on a job well done. He has evoked the heart of The Valley and in doing so brought to life the fabric that Valleyites wear as a mantle of pride. While set in a specific region of the country, the stories that unfold within the pages of this slim volume are similar to those that live in many a small town from coast to coast.
HERE'S MY LATEST BOOK.....
In 1962, six year old John Tuohy, his two brothers and two sisters entered Connecticut’s foster care system and were promptly split apart. Over the next ten years, John would live in more than ten foster homes, group homes and state schools, from his native Waterbury to Ansonia, New Haven, West Haven, Deep River and Hartford. In the end, a decade later, the state returned him to the same home and the same parents they had taken him from. As tragic as is funny compelling story will make you cry and laugh as you journey with this child to overcome the obstacles of the foster care system and find his dreams.
To read the first 12 chapters of this book, visit it's BlogSpot @ amemoirofalifeinfostercare.blogspot.com/
Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! - I have as much soul as you, - and full as much heart! ― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
I am here because I worked too hard and too long not to be here. But although I told the university that I would walk across the stage to take my diploma, I won't. At age fifty-seven, I'm too damned old, and I'd look ridiculous in this crowd. From where I'm standing in the back of the hall, I can see that I am at least two decades older than most of the parents of these kids in their black caps and gowns.
So I'll graduate with this class, but I won't walk across the stage and collect my diploma with them; I'll have the school send it to my house. I only want to hear my name called. I'll imagine what the rest would have been like. When you've had a life like mine, you learn to do that, to imagine the good things.
The ceremony is about to begin. It's a warm June day and a hallway of glass doors leading to the parking lot are open, the dignitaries march onto the stage, a janitor slams the doors shut, one after the other.
That banging sound.
It's Christmas Day 1961 and three Waterbury cops are throwing their bulk against our sorely overmatched front door. They are wearing their long woolen blue coats and white gloves and they swear at the cold.
They've finally come for us, in the dead of night, to take us away, just as our mother said they would.
"They'll come and get you kids," she screamed at us, "and put youse all in an orphanage where you'll get the beatin's youse deserve, and there won't be no food either."
That's why we're terrified, that's why we don't open the door and that's how I remember that night. I was six years old then, one month away from my seventh birthday. My older brother, the perpetually-worried, white-haired Paulie, was ten. He is my half-brother, actually, although I have never thought of him that way. He was simply my brother. My youngest brother, Denny, was six; Maura, the baby, was four; and Bridget, our auburn-haired leader, my half -sister, was twelve.
We didn't know where our mother was. The welfare check, and thank God for it, had arrived, so maybe she was at a gin mill downtown spending it all, as she had done a few times before.
Maybe she'd met yet another guy, another barfly, who wouldn't be able to remember our names because his beer-soaked brain can't remember anything. We are thankful that he'll disappear after the money runs out or the social worker lady comes around and tells him he has to leave because the welfare won't pay for him as well as for us. It snowed that day and after the snow had finished falling, the temperature dropped and the winds started.
"Maybe she went to Brooklyn," Paulie said, as we walked through the snow to the Salvation Army offices one that afternoon before the cops came for us.
"She didn't go back to New York," Bridget snapped. "She probably just--"
"She always says she gonna leave and go back home to Brooklyn," I interrupted.
"Yeah," Denny chirped, mostly because he was determined to be taken as our equal in all things, including this conversation.
We walked along in silence for a second, kicking the freshly fallen snow from our paths, and then Paulie added what we were all thinking: "Maybe they put her back in Saint Mary's."
No one answered him. Instead, we fell into our own thoughts, recalling how, several times in the past, when too much of life came at our mother at once, she broke down and lay in bed for weeks in a dark room, not speaking and barely eating. It was a frightening and disturbing thing to watch.
"It don't matter," Bridget snapped again, more out of exhaustion than anything else. She was always cranky. The weight of taking care of us, and of being old well before her time, strained her. "It don't matter," she mumbled.
It didn't matter that night either, that awful night, when the cops were at the door and she wasn't there. We hadn't seen our mother for two days, and after that night, we wouldn't see her for another two years.
When we returned home that day, the sun had gone down and it was dark inside the house because we hadn't paid the light bill. We never paid the bills, so the lights were almost always off and there was no heat because we didn't pay that bill either. And now we needed the heat. We needed the heat more than we needed the lights.
The cold winter winds pushed up at us from the Atlantic Ocean and down on us from frigid Canada and battered our part of northwestern Connecticut, shoving freezing drifts of snow against the paper-thin walls of our ramshackle house and covering our windows in a thick veneer of silver-colored ice.
The house was built around 1910 by the factories to house immigrant workers mostly brought in from southern Italy. These mill houses weren't built to last. They had no basements; only four windows, all in the front; and paper-thin walls. Most of the construction was done with plywood and tarpaper. The interiors were long and narrow and dark.
Bridget turned the gas oven on to keep us warm. "Youse go get the big mattress and bring it in here by the stove," she commanded us. Denny, Paulie, and I went to the bed that was in the cramped living room and wrestled the stained and dark mattress, with some effort, into the kitchen. Bridget covered Maura in as many shirts as she could find, in a vain effort to stop the chills that racked her tiny and frail body and caused her to shake.
We took great pains to position the hulking mattress in exactly the right spot by the stove and then slid, fully dressed, under a pile of dirty sheets, coats, and drapes that was our blanket. We squeezed close to fend off the cold, the baby in the middle and the older kids at the ends.
"Move over, ya yutz, ya," Paulie would say to Denny and me because half of his butt was hanging out onto the cold linoleum floor. We could toss insults in Yiddish. We learned them from our mother, whose father was a Jew and who grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in New York.
I assumed that those words we learned were standard American English, in wide and constant use across our great land. It wasn't until I was in my mid-twenties and moved from the Naugatuck Valley and Connecticut that I came to understand that most Americans would never utter a sentence like, "You and your fakakta plans".
We also spoke with the Waterbury aversion to the sound of the letter "T," replacing it with the letter "D," meaning that "them, there, those, and these" were pronounced "dem, dere, dose, and dese." We were also practitioners of "youse," the northern working-class equivalent to "you-all," as in "Are youse leaving or are youse staying?"
"Move in, ya yutz, ya," Paulie said again with a laugh, but we didn't move because the only place to move was to push Bridget off the mattress, which we were not about to do because Bridget packed a wallop that could probably put a grown man down. Then Paulie pushed us, and at the other end of the mattress, Bridget pushed back with a laugh, and an exaggerated, rear-ends pushing war for control of the mattress broke out.
From the Inside Flap
By jackiehon October 13, 2015
After reading about John's deeply personal and painful past, I just wanted to hug the child within him......and hug all the children who were thrown into the state's foster system....it is an amazing read.......
By Jane Pogodaon October 9, 2015
I truly enjoyed reading his memoir. I also grew up in Ansonia and had no idea conditions such as these existed. The saving grace is knowing the author made it out and survived the system. Just knowing he was able to have a family of his own made me happy. I attended the same grammar school and was happy that his experience there was not negative. I had a wonderful experience in that school. I wish that I could have been there for him when he was at the school since we were there at probably at the same time.
By Sueon September 27, 2015
Hi - just finished your novel "No time to say goodbye" - what a powerful read!!! - I bought it for my 90 year old mom who is an avid reader and lived in the valley all her life-she loved it also along with my sister- we are all born and raised in the valley- i.e. Derby and Ansonia
By David A. Wrighton September 7, 2015
I enjoyed this book. I grew up in Ansonia CT and went to the Assumption School. Also reconized all the places he was talking about and some of the families.
By Robert G Manleyon September 7, 2015
This is a wonderfully written book. It is heart wrenchingly sad at times and the next minute hilariously funny. I attribute that to the intelligence and wit of the author who combines the humor and pathos of his Irish catholic background and horrendous "foster kid" experience. He captures each character perfectly and the reader can easily visualize the individuals the author has to deal with on daily basis. Having lived part of my life in the parochial school system and having lived as a child in the same neighborhood as the author, I was vividly brought back to my childhood .Most importantly, it shows the strength of the soul and how just a little compassion can be so important to a lost child.
ByLNAon July 9, 2015
John Tuohy writes with compelling honesty, and warmth. I grew up in Ansonia, CT myself, so it makes it even more real. He brings me immediately back there with his narrative, while he wounds my soul, as I realize I had no idea of the suffering of some of the children around me. His story is a must read, of courage and great spirit in the face of impoverishment, sorrow, and adult neglect. I could go on and on, but just get the book. If you're like me, you'll soon be reading it out loud to any person in the room who will listen. Many can suffer and overcome as they go through it, but few can find the words that take us through the story. John is a gifted writer to be able to do that.
ByBarbara Pietruszkaon June 29, 2015
I am from Connecticut so I was very familiar with many locations described in the book especially Ansonia where I lived. I totally enjoyed the book and would like to know more about the author. I recommend the book to everyone
ByJoanne B.on June 28, 2015
What an emotional rollercoaster. I laughed. I cried. Once you start reading it's hard to stop. I was torn between wanting to gulp it up and read over and over each quote that started the chapter. I couldn't help but feel part of the Tuohy clan. I wanted to scream in their defense. It's truly hard to believe the challenges that foster children face. I can only pray that this story may touch even one person facing this life. It's an inspiring read. That will linger long after you finish it. This is a wonderfully written memoir that immediately pulls you in to the lives of the Tuohy family.
Dr. Wm. Anthony Connolly
This incredible memoir, No Time to Say Goodbye, tells of entertaining angels, dancing with devils, and of the abandoned children many viewed simply as raining manna from some lesser god.
The young and unfortunate lives of the Tuohy bruins—sometimes Irish, sometimes Jewish, often Catholic, rambunctious, but all imbued with Lion’s hearts—told here with brutal honesty leavened with humor and laudable introspective forgiveness. The memoir will have you falling to your knees thanking that benevolent Irish cop in the sky, your lucky stars, or hugging the oxygen out of your own kids the fate foisted upon Johnny and his siblings does not and did not befall your own brood. John William Tuohy, a nationally-recognized authority on organized crime and Irish levity, is your trusted guide through the weeds the decades of neglect ensnared he and his brothers and sisters, all suffering for the impersonal and often mercenary taint of the foster care system. Theirs, and Tuohy’s, story is not at all figures of speech as this review might suggest, but all too real and all too sad, and maddening. I wanted to scream. I wanted to get into a time machine, go back and adopt every last one of them. I was angry. I was captivated. The requisite damning verities of foster care are all here, regretfully, but what sets this story above others is its beating heart, even a bruised and broken one, still willing to forgive and understand, and continue to aid its walking wounded. I cannot recommend this book enough.
ByPaul Dayon June 15, 2015
Great reading. Life in foster care told from a very rare point of view.
ByJackie Malkeson June 5, 2015
This book is definitely a must for social workers working with children specifically. This is an excellent memoir which identifies the trails of foster children in the 1960s in the United States. The memoir captures stories of joy as well as nail biting terror, as the family is at times torn apart but finds each other later and finds solace in the experiences of one another. The stories capture the love siblings have for one another as well as the protection they have for one another in even the worst of circumstances. On the flip side, one of the most touching stories to me was when a Nun at the school helped him to read-- truly an example of how a positive person really helped to shape the author in times when circumstances at home were challenging and treacherous. I found the book to be a page turner and at times show how even in the hardest of circumstances there was a need to live and survive and make the best of any moment. The memoir is eye-opening and helped to shed light and make me feel proud of the volunteer work I take part in with disadvantaged children. Riveting....Must read....memory lane on steroids....Catholic school banter, blue color towns...Lawrence Welk on Sundays night's.
Byeileenon June 4, 2015
From ' No time to say Goodbye 'and authors John W. Touhys Gangster novels, his style never waivers...humorous to sadness to candidly realistic situations all his writings leaves the reader in awe......longing for more.
Bykaren pojakeneon June 1, 2015
This book is a must-read for anyone who administers to the foster care program in any state. This is not a "fell through the cracks" life story, but rather a memoir of a life guided by strength and faith and a hard determination to survive. it is heartening to know that the "sewer" that life can become to steal our personal peace can be fought and our peace can be restored, scarred, but restored.
A captivating, shocking, and deeply moving memoir, No Time to Say Goodbye is a true page turner. John shares the story of his childhood, from the struggles of living in poverty to being in the foster care system and simply trying to survive. You will be cheering for him all the way, as he never loses his will to thrive even in the darkest and bleakest of circumstances. This memoir is a very truthful and unapologetic glimpse into the way in which some of our most vulnerable citizens have been treated in the past and are still being treated today. It is truly eye-opening, and hopefully will inspire many people to take action in protection of vulnerable children.
ByKimberlyon May 24, 2015
I found myself in tears while reading this book. John William Tuohy writes quite movingly about the world he grew up in; a world in which I had hoped did not exist within the foster care system. This book is at times funny, raw, compelling, heartbreaking and disturbing. I found myself rooting for John as he tries to escape from an incredibly difficult life. You will too!
By Geoffrey A. Childs on May 20, 2015
I found this book to be a compelling story of life in the Ct foster care system. at times disturbing and at others inspirational ,The author goes into great detail in this gritty memoir of His early life being abandoned into the states system and his subsequent escape from it. Every once in a while a book or even an article in a newspaper comes along that bears witness to an injustice or even something that's just plain wrong. This chronicle of the foster care system is such a book and should be required reading for any aspiring social workers.
QUOTES FROM THE BOOKS
“I am here because I worked too hard and too long not to be here. But although I told the university that I would walk across the stage to take my diploma, I won’t. At age fifty-seven, I’m too damned old, and I’d look ridiculous in this crowd. From where I’m standing in the back of the hall, I can see that I am at least two decades older than most of the parents of these kids in their black caps and gowns.
So I’ll graduate with this class, but I won’t walk across the stage and collect my diploma with them; I’ll have the school send it to my house. I only want to hear my name called. I’ll imagine what the rest would have been like. When you’ve had a life like mine, you learn to do that, to imagine the good things.
The ceremony is about to begin. It’s a warm June day and a hallway of glass doors leading to the parking lot are open, the dignitaries march onto the stage, a janitor slams the doors shut, one after the other.
That banging sound.
It’s Christmas Day 1961 and three Waterbury cops are throwing their bulk against our sorely overmatched front door. They are wearing their long woolen blue coats and white gloves and they swear at the cold.
They’ve finally come for us, in the dead of night, to take us away, just as our mother said they would.”
“Otherwise, there were no long goodbyes or emotional scenes. That isn’t part of foster care. You just leave and you just die a little bit. Just a little bit because a little bit more of you understands that this is the way it’s going to be. And you grow hard around the edges, just a little bit. Not in some big way, but just a little bit because you have to, because if you don’t it only hurts worse the next time and a little bit more of you will die. And you don’t want that because you know that if enough little bits of you die enough times, a part of you leaves. Do you know what I mean? You’re still there, but a part of you leaves until you stand on the sidelines of life, simply watching, like a ghost that everyone can see and no one is bothered by. You become the saddest thing there is: a child of God who has given .”
“As I said, you die a little bit in foster care, but I spose we all die a little bit in our daily lives, no matter what path God has chosen for us. But there is always a balance to that sadness; there’s always a balance. You only have to look for it. And if you look for it, you’ll see it. I saw it in a well-meaning nun who wanted to share the joy of her life’s work with us. I saw it in an old man in a garden who shared the beauty of the soil and the joy he took in art, and I saw it in the simple decency and kindness of an underpaid nurse’s aide. Yeah. Great things rain on us. The magnificence of life’s affirmations are all around us, every day, everywhere. They usually go unnoticed because they seldom arrive with the drama and heartbreak of those hundreds of negative things that drain our souls. But yeah, it’s there, the good stuff, the stuff worth living for. You only have to look for it and when you see it, carry it around right there at the of your heart so it’s always there when you need it. And you’ll need it a lot, because life is hard.”
“As sad as I so often was, and I was often overwhelmed with sadness, I never admitted it, and I don’t recall ever having said aloud that I was sad. I tried not to think about it, about all the sad things, because I had this feeling that if I started to think about it, that was all I would ever think of again. I often had a nightmare of falling into a deep dark well that I could never climb out of. But then there was the other part of me that honestly believed I wasn’t sad at all, and I had little compassion for those who dwelled in sadness. Strange how that works. You would think that it would be the other way around.”
“In late October of 1962, it was our turn to go. Miss Hanrahan appeared in her state Ford Rambler, which, by that point, seemed more like a hearse than a nice lady’s car. Our belongings were packed in a brown bags. The ladies in the kitchen, familiar with our love of food, made us twelve fried-fish sandwiches each large enough to feed eight grown men and wrapped them in tinfoil for the ride ahead of us. Miss Louisa, drenched with tears, walked us to the car and before she let go of my hand she said, “When you a big, grown man, you come back and see Miss Louisa, you hear?”
“But,” I said, “you won’t know who I am. I’ll be big.”
“No, child,” she said as she gave me her last hug, “you always know forever the peoples you love. They with you forever. They don’t never leave you.”
She was right, of course. Those we love never leave us because we carry them with us in our hearts and a piece of us is within them. They change with us and they grow old with us and with time, they are a part of us, and thank God for that.”
“One day at the library I found a stack of record albums. I was hoping I’d find ta Beatles album, but it was all classical music so I reached for the first name I knew, Beethoven. I checked it out his Sixth Symphony and walked home. I didn’t own a record player and I don’t know why I took it out. I had Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony but nothing to play it on.”
“The next day, when I came home from the library, there was a small, used red record player in my room. I found my mother in the kitchen and spotted a bandage taped to her arm.
“Ma,” I asked. “Where did you get the money for the record player?”
“I had it saved,” she lied.
My father lived well, had a large house and an expensive imported car, wanted for little, and gave nothing. My mother lived on welfare in a slum and sold her blood to the Red Cross to get me a record player.
“Education is everything, Johnny,” she said, as she headed for the refrigerator to get me food. “You get smart like regular people and you don’t have to live like this no more.”
She and I were not hugging types, but I put my hand on her shoulder as she washed the dishes with her back to me and she said, in best Brooklynese, “So go and enjoy, already.” My father always said I was my mother’s son and I was proud of that. On her good days, she was a good and noble thing to be a part of.
That evening, I plugged in the red record player and placed it by the window. My mother and I took the kitchen chairs out to the porch and listened to Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony from beginning to end, as we watched the oil-stained waters of the Mad River roll by. It was a good night, another good night, one of many that have blessed my life.”
“The next day I was driven to New York City to take the physical. It was one of the strangest things I’d ever seen. Several hundred young men, maybe even a thousand, in their skivvies, walking around an enormous room, all of us lost, dazed, and confused.
Some of these guys had dodged the draft and were there under the watchful eyes of dozens of federal marshals lined against one of the walls. After eight hours of being poked, prodded, stuck, and poked again, I was given a large red envelope. I had been rejected. I had the respiratory problems of an old man, high blood pressure, partial loss of hearing, very bad teeth, very flat, very wide feet and I tested positive for tuberculosis.
“Frankly,” the doctor said, “I don’t know how the hell you’re even standing ,” and that was when the sergeant told me that if they bottled everything that was wrong with me “we could take over the world without a shot.”
“I had decided that I wanted to earn my living as a writer and the only place in Waterbury where they paid you for writing was at the local newspaper. My opportunity came when the paper had an opening for a night janitor. Opportunities are easy to miss, because they don’t always show in their best clothes. Sometimes opportunities look like beggars in rags. After an eight-hour shift in the shop tossing thirty-pound crates I hustled to the newspaper building and cleaned toilets, with a vague plan that it would somehow lead to a reporter’s .”
“One Friday afternoon at the close of the working day the idiot bosses in their fucking ties and suit coats came and handed out pink slips to every other person on the floor. I got one. They were firing us. Then they turned and, without a word, went back to their offices. Corporate pricks.”
“There is a sense of danger in leaving what you know, even if what you know isn’t much. These mill towns with their narrow lanes and often narrow minds were all I really knew and I feared that if I left it behind, I would lose it and not find anything to replace it. The other reason I didn’t want to go was because I wanted to be the kind of person who stays, who builds a stable and predictable life. But I wasn’t one of the people, nor would I ever be.
I had a vision for my life. It wasn’t clear, but it was beautiful and involved leaving my history and my poverty behind me. I wasn’t happy about who I was or where I was, but I didn’t worry about it. It didn’t define me. We’re always in the making. God always has us on his anvil, melting, bending and shaping us for another purpose.
It was time to change, to find a new purpose.”
“I was tired of fighting the windstorm I was tossed into, and instead I would let go and ride with the winds of change. How bad could it be, compared to the life I knew? I was living life as if it were a rehearsal for the real thing. Another beginning might be rough at first, but any place worth getting to is going to have some problems. I wanted the good life, the life well lived, and you can’t buy that or marry into it. It’s there to be found, and it can be taken by those who want it and have the resolve to make it happen for themselves.”
“Imagine being beaten every day for something you didn’t do and yet, when it’s over, you keep on smiling. That’s what every day of Donald’s life was like. His death was a small death. No one mourned his passing; they merely agreed it was for the best that he be forgotten as quickly as possible, since his was a life misspent.”
“Then there are all of those children, the ones who aren’t resilient. The ones who slowly, quietly die. I think the difference is that the kids who bounce back learn to bear a little bit more than they thought they could, and they soon understand that the secret to surviving foster care is to accept finite disappointments while never losing infinite hope. I think that was how Donald survived as long as he did, by never losing his faith in the wish that tomorrow would be better. But as time went by, day after day, the tomorrows never got better; they got worse, and he simply gave . In the way he saw the world, pain was inevitable, but no one ever explained to him that suffering was optional.”
“In foster care it’s easier to measure what you’ve lost over what you have gained, because it there aren’t many gains in that life and you are a prisoner to someone else’s plans for your life.”
“I developed an interest in major league baseball and the 1960s were, as far as I’m concerned (with a nod to the Babe Ruth era of the 1920s), the Golden Age of Baseball. Like most people in the valley, I was a diehard Yankees fan and, in a pinch, a Mets fan. They were New York teams, and most New Englanders rooted for the Boston Red Sox, but our end of Connecticut was geographically and culturally closer to New York than Boston, and that’s where our loyalties went.
And what was not to love? The Yankees ruled the earth in those days. The great Roger Maris set one Major League record after another and even he was almost always one hit shy of Mickey Mantle, God on High of the Green Diamond.”
“For the first time in my life, I was eating well and from plates—glass plates, no less, not out of the frying pan because somebody lost all the plates in the last move. Now when we ate, we sat at a fine round oak table in sturdy chairs that matched. No one rushed through the meal or argued over who got the biggest portion, and we ate three times a day.”
“The single greatest influence in our lives was the church. The Catholic Church in the 1960s differs from what it is today, especially in the Naugatuck Valley, in those days an overwhelmingly conservative Catholic place.
I was part of what might have been the last generation of American Catholic children who completely and unquestioningly accepted the sernatural as real. Miracles happened. Virgin birth and transubstantiation made perfect sense. Mere humans did in fact, become saints. There was a Holy Ghost. Guardian angels walked beside us and our patron saints really did put in a good word for us every now and then.”
“Henry read it and said, “A story has to have three things. They are a beginning, a middle and an end. They don’t have to be in that order. You can start a story at the end or end it in the middle. There are no rules on that except where you, the author, decide to put all three parts. Your story has a beginning and an end. But it’s good. Go put in a middle and bring it back to me.”
I went away encouraged, rewrote the story and returned it to him two days later. Again he looked it over and said, “It’s a good story but it lacks a bullet-between-the-eyes opening. Your stories should always have a knock-’em-dead opening.” Then, looking with exaggerated suspicion around the crime-prone denizens of the room with an exaggerated suspicion, he said loudly, “I don’t mean that literally.”
“A few days after I began my short story, I returned to his desk and handed him my dates. He pushed his wire-rimmed reading glasses way on his nose and focused on the two pages. “Okay, you got a beginning; you got yourself a middle and an end. You got a wing-dinger opening line. But you don’t have an establishing paragraph. Do you know what that is?”
He didn’t wait for me to answer.
“It’s kinda like an outdated road map for the reader,” he said. “It gives the reader a general idea of where you’re taking him, but doesn’t tell him exactly how you intend to get there, which is all he needs to know.”
“I don’t know’,” he said. “Those three words from a willing soul are the start of a grand and magnificent voyage.” And with that he began a discourse that lasted for several weeks, covering scene-setting, establishing conflict, plot twists, and first- and third-person narration. [ I learned in these rapid-fire mini-dissertations that like most literature lovers I would come to know, Henry was a book snob. He assumed that if a current author was popular and widely enjoyed, then he or she had no merit. He made a few exceptions, such as Kurt Vonnegut, although that was mostly because Vonnegut lived on Cape Cod and so he probably had some merits as a human being, if not as a writer.
I think that the way Henry saw it was that he was not being a snob. In fact I would venture that in his view of things, snobbery had nothing to do with it. Rather, it was a matter of standards. It was bout quality in the author’s craftsmanship.”
“The foundries were vast, dark castles built for efficiency, not comfort. Even in the mild New England summers, when the warm air combined with the stagnant heat from the machines or open flames in the huge melting rooms where the iron was cast, the effects were overwhelming. The heat came in unrelenting waves and sucked the soul from your body. In the winter, the enormous factories were impossible to heat and frigid New England air reigned sreme in the long halls.
The work was difficult, noisy, mind-numbing, sometimes dangerous and highly regulated. Bathroom and lunch breaks were scheduled to the second. There was no place to make a private phone call. Company guards, dressed in drab uniforms straight out of a James Cagney prison film [those films were in black and white, notoriously tough, weren’t there to guard company property. They were there to keep an eye on us.
No one entered or the left the building without punching in or out on a clock, because the doors were locked and opened electronically from the main office.”
“So he sings,” he continued as if Denny had said nothing. “His solo mio, that with her in his life he is rich because she is so beautiful that she makes the sun more beautiful, you understand?” And at that he dropped the hoe, closed his eyes and spread out his arms wide and with the fading sun shining on his handsome face he sang:
Che bella cosa è na jurnata 'e sole
n'aria serena doppo na tempesta!
Pe' ll'aria fresca pare già na festa
Che bella cosa e' na jurnata 'e sole
Ma n'atu sole,
cchiù bello, oi ne'
'O sole mio
sta 'nfronte a te!
'O sole, 'o sole mio
sta 'nfronte a te!
sta 'nfronte a te!
It looked like fun. We dropped our tools and joined him, belting out something that sounded remarkably like Napolitano. We sang as loud as we could, holding on to each note as long as we could before we ran out of breath, and then we sang again, occasionally dropping to one knee, holding our hands over our hearts with exaggerated looks of deep pain. Although we made the words , we sang with the deepest passion, with the best that we had, with all of our hearts, and that made us artists, great artists, for in that song, we had made all that art is: the creation of something from nothing, fashioned with all of the soul, born from joy.
And as that beautiful summer sun set over Waterbury, the Brass City, the City of Churches, our voices floated above the wonderful aromas of the garden, across the red sky and joined the spirits in eternity.”
“It didn’t last long. Not many good things in a foster kid’s life last long. One day, Maura was gone. Her few things were packed in paper bags and a tearful Miss Louisa carried her out to Miss Hanrahan’s black state-owned Ford sedan with the state emblem on the door, and she was gone. The state had found a foster home that would take a little girl but couldn’t take the rest of us. There were no long goodbyes. She was just gone. I remember having an enormous sense of helplessness when they took her. Maura didn’t know where she were going or long she would be there. She was just gone”
“After another second had passed I added, “But you’re pretty, pretty,” and as soon as I said it I thought, “Pretty, pretty? John, you’re an idiot.” But she squeezed my hand and when I looked at her I saw her entire lovely face was aglow with a wonderful smile, the kind of smile you get when you have won something.
“Why do you rub your fingers together all the time?” she asked me, and I felt the breath leave my body and gasped for air. She had seen me do my crazy finger thing, my affliction. I clenched my teeth while I searched for a long, exaggerated lie to tell her about why I did what I did. I didn’t want to be the crazy kid with tics, I wanted to be James Bond 007, so slick ice avoided me.
“It’s okay,” she said. “I bite my nails, see?” and she showed me the backs of her hands. Her finger nails were painted a color I later learned was puce.
“My Dad, he blinks all the time, he doesn’t know why either,” she continued. She looked her feet and said, “I shouldn’t have asked you that. I’m really nervous and I say stid things when I’m nervous. I’m a girl and this is my first date, and for girls this really is a very big deal.”
I understood completely. I was so nervous I couldn’t feel my toes, so I started moving them and to make sure they were still there.
“It’s all right,” I said. “I don’t know why I do that with my fingers; it’s a thing I do.”
“Well, you’re really cute when you do it,” she said.
“I know,” I said, and I don’t know why I said it, but I did.”
“So began my love affair with books. Years later, as a college student, I remember having a choice between a few slices of pizza that would have held me over for a day or a copy of On the Road. I bought the book. I would have forgotten what the pizza tasted like, but I still remember Kerouac.
The world was mine for the reading. I traveled with my books. I was there on a tramp steamer in the North Atlantic with the Hardy Boys, piecing together an unsolvable crime. I rode into the Valley of Death with the six hundred and I stood at the graves of Uncas and Cora and listened to the mournful song of the Lenni Linape. Although I braved a frozen death at Valley Forge and felt the spin of a hundred bullets at Shiloh, I was never afraid. I was there as much as you are where you are, right this second. I smelled the gunsmoke and tasted the frost. And it was good to be there. No one could harm me there. No one could punch me, slap me, call me stid, or pretend I wasn’t in the room. The other kids raced through books so they could get the completion stamp on their library card. I didn’t care about that stid completion stamp. I didn’t want to race through books. I wanted books to walk slowly through me, stop, and touch my brain and my memory. If a book couldn’t do that, it probably wasn’t a very good book. Besides, it isn’t how much you read, it’s what you read.
What I learned from books, from young Ben Franklin’s anger at his brother to Anne Frank’s longing for the way her life used to be, was that I wasn’t alone in my pain. All that caused me such anguish affected others, too, and that connected me to them and that connected me to my books. I loved everything about books. I loved that odd sensation of turning the final page, realizing the story had ended, and feeling that I was saying a last goodbye to a new friend.”
“I had developed a very complicated and little-understood disorder called misophonia, which means “hatred of sound.” Certain sounds act as triggers that turn me from a Teddy bear into an agitated grizzly bear. People with misophonia are annoyed, sometimes to the point of rage, by ordinary sounds such as people eating, breathing, sniffing, or coughing, certain consonants, or repetitive sounds. Those triggers, and there are dozens of them, set off anxiety and avoidant behaviors.
What is a mild irritation for most people -- the person who keeps sniffling, a buzzing fly in a closed room—those are major irritants to people with misophonia because we have virtually no ability to ignore those sounds, and life can be a near constant bombardment of noises that bother us. I figured out that the best way to cope was to avoid the triggers. So I turned off the television at certain sounds and avoided loud people. All of these things gave me a reputation as a high-strung, moody and difficult child. I knew my overreactions weren’t normal. My playmates knew it”
“Sometimes in the midst of our darkest moments it’s easy to forget that it’s to us to turn on the light, but that’s what I did. I switched on the light, the light of cognizance.”
“I don’t know what I would have done if they had hugged me. I probably would have frozen in place, become stiff. It took most of my life to overcome my distaste for physical contact and not to stiffen when I was touched, or flinch, twitch, fidget, and eventually figure out how to move away. I learned to accept being hugged by my children when they were infants. Their joy at seeing me enter a room was real and filled with true love and affection and it showed in their embraces. Like a convert, when I learned the joy and comfort of being hugged by and hugging those I loved, I became a regular practitioner.”
“Most people don’t understand how mighty the power of touch is, how mighty a kind word can be, how important a listening ear is, or how giving an honest compliment can move the child who has not known those things, only watched them from afar. As insignificant as they can be, they have the power to change a life.”
“They were no better than common thieves. They stole our childhood. But even with that, I was heartbroken that I would not know the Wozniaks anymore, the only people who came close to being parents to me. I would be conscious of their absence for the rest of my life. I needed them. You know, if you think about it, we all need each other. But even with all of the evidence against the Wozniaks, I had conflicted emotions about them, then and now. They were the closest I had to a real family and real parents.
But now I was bankrt of any feelings at all towards them at all.
I felt then, and feel now, a great sense of loss. I felt as if I were burying them. when I never really had them to lose in the first place. Disillusioned is probably a better word. In fact the very definition of disillusionment is a sense of loss for something you never had. When you are disillusioned and disappointed enough times, you shoping. That’s what happens to many foster kids. We become loners, not because we enjoy the solitude, but because we let people into our lives and they disappoint us. So we close and travel alone. Even in a crowd, we’re alone.
Because I survived, I was one of the lucky ones. Why is it so hard to articulate love, yet so easy to express disappointment?”
“My first and lasting impression of the Connecticut River Valley is its serene beauty, especially in the autumn months. Deep River was a near picture-perfect New England village. When I arrived there, the town was a typical working-class place, nothing like the trendy per-income enclave it became. The town center had a cluster of shops, a movie theater open only on weekends, several white-steepled churches (none of them Catholic), the town hall, and a Victorian library. It was small, even by Ansonia standards.”
“While I may not have been a bastion of good mental health, many of these boys were on their way to becoming crazier than they already were. Most couldn’t relate to other people socially at all, because they only dealt inappropriately with other people or didn’t respond to overtures of friendship or even engage in basic conversations.
Some became too familiar with you too fast, following their new, latest friend everywhere, including the showers, insisting on giving you items that were dear to them and sharing everything else. They also had the awful habit of touching other people, putting their hands on you as a sign of affection or friendship, and for people like myself, with my affliction and disdain for being touched unless I wanted to be touched, these guys were a nightmare. It was often difficult to get word in edgewise with these kids, and when I did, they interrted me—not in some obnoxious way, but because they wanted to be included in every single aspect of everything you did.
The other ones, the stone-cold silent ones, reacted with deep suspicion toward even the slightest attempt to befriend them or the smallest show of kindness. If you touched some of these children, even accidentally, they would warn you to back away. They didn’t care what others thought of them or anything else, and almost all their talk concerned punching and hurting and maiming.
I noticed that most of these kids, the ones who were truly damaged, were eventually filtered out of St. John’s to who knows where. Institutions have a way of protecting themselves from future problems.”
“Jesus,” I prayed silently, “please fix it so that my turn to read won’t come around.”
And then the nun called my name, but before I stood I thought, “I’ll bet you think this is funny, huh, Jesus?”
I stood and stared at the sentence assigned to me and believed that, through some miracle, I would suddenly be able to read it and not be humiliated. I stood there and stared at it until the children started giggling and snickering and Sister told me to sit.”
“My affliction decided to join us, forcing me to push my toes on the floor as though I were trying to eject myself from the chair. I prayed she didn’t notice what the affliction was making me do. I half expected to be eaten alive or murdered and buried out back in the school yard.
“I’m not afraid of you, ya know,” I said, although I was terrified of her. The words hurt her, but that wasn’t my intent. She turned her face and looked out the window into North Cliff Street. She knew what her face and twisted body looked like, and she probably knew what the kids said about her. It was probably an open wound for her and I had just tossed salt into it.
I was instantly ashamed of what I done and tried to correct myself. I didn’t mean to be hurtful, because I knew what it was like to be ridiculed for something that was beyond one’s control, such as my affliction, and how it made me afraid to touch the chalk because the feel of chalk to people like me is overwhelming. If I had to write on the blackboard, I held the chalk with the cuff of my shirt and the class laughed.
“You look good in a nun’s suit,” I said. It was a stid thing to say, but I meant well by it. She looked at the black robe as if she were seeing it for the first time.”
“Jews were a frequent topic of conversation with all of the Wozniaks, which was surprising, since none of them had any contact at all with anything even remotely Jewish.
While watching television, Walter would point out who was and who was not Jewish and Helen’s frequent comment when watching the television news was, “And won’t the Jews be happy about that!” To bargain with a merchant for a lower price was to “Jew him ,” and that sort of thing.
Walter’s mother and father were far worse. They despised the Jews and blamed them for everything from the start of World War I to the Kennedy assassination to the rising price of beef.
I didn’t pay much heed to any of this. It wasn’t my problem, and if I were to think through all the ethnic, racial and religious barbs the Wozniaks threw out in the course of a week, I’d think about nothing else.
After being told about a part of my mother’s heritage, the Wozniaks began their verbal and cultural assault against us. As odd as it sounds, they might not always have intended to be mean.”
“Explaining the Jews in a Catholic school when you’re Irish is like having to explain your country’s foreign policy while on a vacation in France. You don’t know what you’re talking about and no matter what you say, they’re not going to like it anyway.”
“You could read the story of his entire life on his face in one glance.”
“As interesting as that was, it didn’t inspire me. What did was that here was a Jew who was tough with his fists, a Jew who fought back. The only Jews I had ever heard of surrendered or were beaten by the Romans, the Egyptians, or the Nazis. You name it, it seemed like everyone on earth at some point had taken their turn slapping the Jews around. But not Benny Leonard. I figured you’d have to kill Benny Leonard before he surrendered.”
“One afternoon Walter brought Izzy to the house for lunch and, pointing to me, he said to Izzy, “He’s one of your tribe.”
Dobkins lifted his head to look at me and after a few seconds said, “I don’t see it.”
“The mother’s a Jew,” Walter answered, as if he were describing the breeding of a mongrel dog.
“Then you are a Jew,” Izzy said, and sort of blessed me with his salami sandwich.”
“Sometimes a man must stand for what is right and sometimes you must simply walk away and suffer the babblings of weak-minded fools or try to change their minds. It’s like teachin’ a pig to sing. It is a waste of your time and it annoys the pig.”
“Father, I can’t take this,” I said.
“Because you’re a priest, Father.”
“And my money’s no good because of it? What are you? A member of the Masonic Lodge?”
“Naw, Father,” I said. “I just feel guilty taking money from you.”
“Well, you’re Irish and Jewish. You have to feel guilty over somethin’, don’t ya? Take the money and be happy ye have it.”
― John William Tuohy, No time to say goodbye: memoirs of a life n foster care
“I caddied—more accurately, I drove the golf cart—for Father O’Leary and his friends throughout most of the summer of that year. I was a good caddie because I saw nothing when they passed the bottle of whiskey and turned a deaf ear to yet another colorful reinvention of the words “motherless son of a bitch from hell” when the golf ball betrayed them.”
“Weeks turned into months and a year passed, but I didn’t miss my parents. I missed the memory of them. I assumed that part of my life was over. I didn’t understand that I was required to have an attachment to them, to these people I barely knew. Rather, it was my understanding that I was sposed to switch my attachment to my foster parents. So I acted on that notion and no one corrected me, so I assumed that what I was doing was good and healthy.”
“I felt empty a lot and I sometimes had a sense—and I know this sounds strange—that I really had no existence as my own person, that I could disappear and no one would notice or remember that I had ever existed. It is a terrifying thing to live with. I kept myself busy to avoid that feeling, because somehow being busy made me feel less empty.”
“Denny thought our parents needed a combination of material goods and temperamental changes before he could return home.
“If Dad buys Ma a car, then she’ll love him, and they’ll get back together and she won’t be all crazy anymore,” he said. For years he held out the possibility that those things would happen and all would change. “If we had more things, like stoves and cars,” he told me at night in our bedroom, “and Ma wasn’t like she is, we could go home.”
“Because we were raised in a bigoted and hate-filled home, we simply assumed that calling someone a “cheap Jew” or saying someone “Jewed him ” were perfectly acceptable ways to communicate. Or at least we did until the day came when I called one of the cousins, a Neanderthal DeRosa boy, “a little Jew,” and he told me he wasn’t the Jew, that I was the Jew, and he even got Helen and Nana to confirm it for him.
It came as a shock to me to find out we were a part of this obviously terrible tribe of skinflint, trouble-making, double-dealing, shrewdly smart desert people. When Denny found out, he was crestfallen because he had assumed that being Jewish meant, according to what his former foster family the Skodiens had taught him, a life behind a desk crunching numbers. “And I hate math,” he said, shaking his head.
So here we were, accused Jews living in a hotbed of anti-Semitism. Not a good situation. Walter’s father was the worst. Learning about our few drops of Jewish blood seemed to ignite a special, long-held hatred in him. He became vile over nothing, finding any excuse to deride the Jews in front of us until Helen made him stop. We didn’t know what to make of it, except to write it off as another case of Wozniak-inspired insanity, but as young as we were, we could tell that at some point in his life he had crossed swords with a Jew someplace and came out on the losing end and we were going to pay for it. But because we really didn’t feel ourselves to be Jews, it didn’t sink in that he intended to hurt us with his crazy tirades. As I said, it’s hard to insult somebody when they don’t understand the insult, and it’s equally hard to insult them when they out and out refuse to be insulted.
Word got around quickly.”
“I hit him for every single thing that was wrong in my life and kicked him in a fierce fury of madness as he sobbed and covered his face and screamed. I hit him because Walter hit me and I hit him because I hated my life and I hit him because I just wanted to go home and I hit him because I didn’t know where home was.”
“I also told him about the dramatic, vivid verbal picture of God that the nuns drew for us—an enormous, slightly dangerous and very touchy guy with white hair and a long white beard.
“It’s all the talk of feeble minds,” he whispered to me in confidence. “Those nuns know as much about prayer as they do about sex. Listen to me, now. God is everywhere and alive in everything, while them nuns figured God is as good as dead, a recluse in a permanently bad mood. Well, I refuse to believe that to my God, my maker and creator, my life is little more than a dice game.” He stopped and turned and looked at me and said, “Never believe that a life full of sin puts you on a direct route to hell. Even if you only know a little bit about God, you learn pretty quick that he’s big on U-turns, dead stops and starting over again.”
As each day passes and my memories of Father O’Leary and Sister Emmarentia fade, and I can no longer recall their faces or the sounds of their voices as clearly as I could a decade ago, what remains, clear and uncluttered, are the lessons I took from them.”
“Eventually, many years later, I came to see him the way everyone else saw him—a nice guy who, despite all the damage he did to us, wasn’t a bad man, not inherently bad, anyway. He just wasn’t very bright, and was in over his head on almost every level of life. He was capable of only so much and not a drop more, and because he seemed so harmless and lost, people not only liked him, they protected him.
My mother, despite her poverty, left the opposite impression. She left no doubt that she was psychologically tough and mentally sharp, and because of that the Wozniaks disliked her.
And that was another difference between my mother and father. My father was a whiner, a complainer, a perpetually unhappy man unable to comprehend the simple fact that sometimes life is unfair. My mother never complained, and yet her poverty-stricken life was miserable. She never carried on about the early death of her raging alcoholic mother, or the father who raped her, or of a diet dictated by the restrictions of food stamps.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John William Tuohy is a writer who lives in Washington DC. He holds an MFA in writing from Lindenwood University.
He is the author of No Time to Say Goodbye: Memoirs of a Life in Foster Care and Short Stories from a Small Town. He is also the author of numerous non-fiction on the history of organized crime including the ground break biography of bootlegger Roger Tuohy "When Capone's Mob Murdered Touhy" and "Guns and Glamour: A History of Organized Crime in Chicago."
His non-fiction crime short stories have appeared in The New Criminologist, American Mafia and other publications. John won the City of Chicago's Celtic Playfest for his work The Hannigan's of Beverly, and his short story fiction work, Karma Finds Franny Glass, appeared in AdmitTwo Magazine in October of 2008.
His play, Cyberdate.Com, was chosen for a public performance at the Actors Chapel in Manhattan in February of 2007 as part of the groups Reading Series for New York project. In June of 2008, the play won the Virginia Theater of The First Amendment Award for best new play.
2016 Writivism Creative Writing Workshops Call for Applications
Oct 27th, 2015
A call has gone out for applications for next year’s Writivism Creative Writing Workshops, which will be held in January, March and April 2016 in five different African cities.
For the first time, one of the workshops will be open to emerging writers based in the Caribbean.
Applications close on 30 October, 2015. Successful applicants will be announced at the Ake Arts and Books Festival (16 – 20 November, 2015), in Abeokuta, Nigeria.
The #Writivism2016 workshops will be held on various dates in January, March and April 2016 in five different African cities. The three-day non-residential workshops are planned for Goma, Dakar, Abidjan, Accra and Kampala. For the first time, we shall hold Non-Fiction and Poetry workshops besides Fiction and shall hold some in French besides the English ones.
The three-day non-residential workshops are planned for Goma, Dakar, Abidjan, Accra and Kampala. For the first time, we shall hold Non-Fiction and Poetry workshops besides Fiction and shall hold some in French besides the English ones.
Below are the details of the various workshops.
• January 8 – 10, 2016: Goma (Fiction – held in French)
• January 15 – 17, 2016: Dakar (Non-Fiction – held in French)
• January 22 – 24, 2016: Abidjan (Fiction – held in French)
• March 6 – 8, 2016: Accra (Non-Fiction – held in English)
• April 15 – 17, 2016: Kampala (Poetry – held in English)
Another innovation is that whereas our workshops have in the past been limited to writers based on the continent, the Accra workshop shall be open to emerging writers based in the Caribbean.
Facilitators for the various workshops shall be announced soon and processes for applying for limited travel funding to attend some of the workshops for needy applicants shall be announced after successful applicants have been selected (in November, 2015).
Successful applicants will be announced at the Ake Arts and Books Festival (16 – 20 November, 2015), in Abeokuta Nigeria.
NOTE: Applications process closes on October 30, 2015.
The workshops will include daily two-hour master classes on creative writing, group sessions of critiquing of draft stories, one on one sessions with facilitators and private time for participants to re-write their stories. A separate process to select talented and committed writers to be assigned mentors shall follow the workshop. Those taken on for mentoring shall work on two separate pieces in their art form (fiction, nonfiction and poetry) to be published by online publication partners. Fiction mentees shall also write a short story for submission to the Writivism Short Story Prize.
The 2016 workshops aim at identifying emerging writers in Anglophone and Francophone Africa as well as the Caribbean.
Applicants must be resident on the African continent or in the Caribbean;
Applicants must not have published a book before;
All applications must be made online; here for the Fiction (in French in Goma and Abidjan) and Non-Fiction (in French for Dakar); here for the Non-Fiction (in English in Accra, includes writers based in the Caribbean) and here for the Poetry (to be held only in Kampala);
Deadline for submission is 30th October 2015 midnight, East African time;
The list of successful applicants shall be announced at the Ake Books and Arts Festival 2015;
The workshops are residential and participants are responsible for the transport to and from the venue, meals and accommodation during the workshop at a specific rate;
There will be special travel funding opportunities for the Goma, Dakar and Accra workshops, but this should not be a condition for applying as the application process for these will open after successful applicants have been announced and will have their own eligibility criteria;
Participants in past Writivism workshops can apply if they have since not published a book.
For more information, keep checking our website, writivism.com and our social media pages. You can also reach us on firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on +25 677 453 5545 if you need more details.
HERE'S SOME NICE ART FOR YOU TO LOOK AT....ENJOY!
In 1648 a contemporary writer noted that Willem Claesz Heda was a specialist in breakfast and banquet still lifes, painting "fruit, and all kinds of knick-knacks." At first glance, what do you see in this banquet still life? What type of banquet is the artist welcoming you to?
At first sight, Heda's largest known still-life painting appears to welcome the viewer to a sumptuous feast. Yet pewter plates teeter precariously over the table's edge, while a translucent goblet and a silver tazza have toppled over, indicating that the feast has already been enjoyed. The broken glass, the burnt-out candle, the peeled lemon, and the rolled-up almanac page all indicate the tenuousness of earthly existence. The untouched bread in the center suggests an inattention to religious matters in favor of the indulgence of pleasures in this life. A careful examination of the pewter pitcher reveals the reflection of a human skull, the most potent symbol of the passage to an afterlife.
Willem Claesz Heda, “Banquet Piece with Mince Pie,” 1635, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1991.87.1
HERE'S WORD FROM EMERSON.....................
AN AMAZON BESTSELLER
Concentration is the secret of strength in politics in war in trade in short in all the management of human affairs.
The only prudence in life is concentration.
I can reason down or deny everything except this perpetual Belly: feed he must and will and I cannot make him respectable.
Let the stoics say what they please we do not eat for the good of living but because the meat is savory and the appetite is keen.
In 1959, the U.S. Department of State released these regulations on what to do if you spotted a "Yeti" while hiking in Nepal. Photography was fine, but shooting and killing a yet was forbidden--except in an emergency or self-defense.
St Paul: The Misunderstood Apostle, by Karen Armstrong: coming to St Paul’s rescue
The saint has been harshly criticised but he may have been misjudged
ew figures in the New Testament have a more contested legacy than St Paul. He is revered as the Jewish Pharisee who, having undergone a dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus, brought the message of what would later become Christianity across Asia Minor and Europe.
On the other hand he has often been accused of transforming the original egalitarian message of the Jesus movement into a misogynistic and authoritarian one.
Different views of his role and impact have been a feature of Christianity for many centuries, and have been driven by a variety of theological and ideological positions, much of it either in support of, or in opposition to, Martin Luther’s reading of Paul in the 16th century.
The contemporary debate about Paul tends to be determined by different views of the authenticity of Paul’s authorship of what have traditionally been called the Letters of St Paul, and in particular whether he is in fact the personal author of these biblical texts.
Karen Armstrong’s St Paul The Misunderstood Apostle enters confidently into this contested terrain and develops a compelling interpretation of the importance of this most prominent of early Christian figures. It is a difficult task however because although Paul played a seminal role in the early and remarkable expansion of the Jesus movement beyond Judea, and although his interactions with some of the most important early communities is reported both in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Letters, nonetheless relatively little is known about the personal life of the man.
What one can do however, and indeed what scholars have attempted to do over the centuries, is to piece together from the multiple but fragmentary Jewish, early Christian, Greek and Roman sources, an account of Paul’s mission and theology and to situate it in its immediate historical, cultural and religious context. In attempting to construct an historically reliable account of the man and his mission Armstrong prioritises seven of Paul’s letters, namely First Thessalonians, Galatians, First and Second Corinthians, Philippians, Philemon, and Romans. These are the letters that most scholars believe to have been actually written by Paul, and so reflect his main concerns and reveal his emerging theology. They are important too because they are among the earliest of the New Testament writings, likely to have been composed through the 50s CE, two decades before the first of the gospels (Mark) is likely to have been written. So they provide an invaluable window into the questions, concerns and dramas of these diverse, fragile and turbulent communities.
Arguably the most significant and contentious issue in understanding Paul’s legacy is his relationship to his Jewish heritage. This has been an age-old concern, the modern incarnation of which can be traced to the mid-19th century to the Tübingen School. Although there were subtleties among these scholars, the standard view for more than a century was one that set Paul in strong opposition to his Jewish heritage and positioned Christianity in radical discontinuity with its Jewish roots.
A “new perspective” on Paul emerged in the 1960s challenging this discontinuity narrative and seeking to reposition Paul in continuity with his original Jewish context.
Armstrong too is deeply concerned with this issue of how to position Paul within his Jewish context. She is especially interested in how Paul’s missionary activity among the gentiles , and his response to the practical questions raised by these predominantly gentile communities, shaped his evolving relationship with his Jewish background and identity.
In this regard she attempts to create a nuanced reading of Paul where, on the one hand she recognises that in many of his writings Paul told these communities that they need not observe the Sabbath, or adhere to Jewish dietary laws or become circumcised, and on that basis it might seem like Paul was repudiating Judaism. However on the other hand she does not endorse the earlier interpretations that set Paul apart from, and in opposition to, his Jewish religious context. Rather she is clear that Paul remained a Jew through his life and did not see himself as creating a new movement.
Armstrong captures very well how diverse, contested and fragile these early communities were, and she highlights how the character of these predominantly gentile communities became a point of serious contention for some of the Jewish followers of Jesus. Armstrong creates a vivid account of the debates about whether gentiles needed to become Jewish first in order to participate in these new communities. However she is insistent that in each case Paul was addressing a specific problem in a particular congregation and that “he was not writing for Everyman and never intended to make a general rule applicable to everybody”, nor was he “legislating for future generations of Christians” since he was expecting the Parousia (or second coming) in his lifetime.
Related important themes, including Paul’s views on what we would today call issues of equality, particularly the equality of women and men, slaves and free, are also discussed by Armstrong. Here the authenticity of particular letters of Paul form an important part of the argument. Armstrong supports the majority contemporary scholarly view that certain letters traditionally ascribed to Paul are not his, but rather written after his death, some as late as the second century. Moreover it is in the letters that are no longer regarded as having come from Paul’s hand that we see much of the misogyny, and this stands in contrast to the egalitarian statements in letters that can be reliably attributed to him.
Here again Armstrong is entering into contested terrain, but with a clarity of purpose and a persuasive argument. To be sure there are aspects of Armstrong’s interpretation that are likely to be disputed, particularly her unambiguous positioning of Paul as one who, through all his life, “struggled to transcend the barriers of ethnicity, class and gender”. However such disagreements about interpretation are inevitable in such a disputed field.
With St Paul The Misunderstood Apostle Armstrong attempts something quite difficult, that is, to place Paul in his historical context and in so doing to communicate to a general audience the intricacies of centuries of scholarship about his legacy.
In this she has succeeded admirably, and has written an absorbing and informative work.
Linda Hogan is the Vice-Provost/Chief Academic Officer and Professor of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin. Her new book is Keeping Faith with Human Rights.
The highest patriotism is not a blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one's country deep enough to call her to a higher plain. George McGovern
I LOVE BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOS FROM FILM
Matt Weber, Tenement Windows, Lower East Side, New York City, 1989.
“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.
A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.
A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master...” ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
THE ART OF WAR...............................
AND NOW FOR A BEATLE BREAK
Mish Mash: noun \ˈmish-ˌmash, -ˌmäsh\ A : hodgepodge, jumble “The painting was just a mishmash of colors and abstract shapes as far as we could tell”. Origin Middle English & Yiddish; Middle English mysse masche, perhaps reduplication of mash mash; Yiddish mish-mash, perhaps reduplication of mishn to mix. First Known Use: 15th century
1914-1918 Romanovs in color
ALLEGED MOB GUY
The late Frank Abbatemarco AKA Frankie Shots
Frank Abbatemarco (born 1899 - died November 4, 1959) known as "Frankie Shots", was a capo in the Profaci crime family.
Abbatemarco was an policy bank (numbers) operator for the Profaci crime family during the 1940's and 50's and was the capo of "Crazy Joe" Joe Gallo and his brothers. He was the Gallo brothers' mentor in the mob.
One of New York's many policy operators, Frank Abbatemarco was obligated to pay a certain amount of money or "taxes" in the form of protection money. However, suffering financial losses, he had fallen into debt by the late 1950s. When Joe Profaci demanded Abbatemarco pay $50,000 in "back taxes", Abbatemarco was unable to raise the money and was killed by Profaci gunmen near Cardiello's Tavern on November 4, 1959. He was the father of Anthony Abbatemarco known as "Tony Shots", who later became a high ranking member of the Colombo crime family.
Frankie Shots murder sparked a bloody gang war that would last for decades between the Gallo Gang and the Profaci, later Colombo crime family, culminating in the murder of Crazy Joe Gallo in April of 1972 outside of Umberto's Clam House.
THESE BOOKS ARE AVAILABLE ON LINE AT AMAZON BOOKS AND AT ALL BARNES AND NOBLE STORES
Charlie Rouse and Thelonious Monk, 1961
I LOVE BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOS FROM FILM
An unidentified bass player’s fingers, 1943 by Gjon Mili
BY LITCHFIELD LITERARY BOOKS
Robert F. Kennedy
All great questions must be raised by great voices, and the greatest voice is the voice of the people-speaking out-in prose, or painting or poetry or music; speaking out-in homes and halls, streets and farms, courts and cafes-let that voice speak and the stillness you hear will be the gratitude of mankind. Robert F. Kennedy 10th Anniversary Convocation Center for Study of Democratic Institutions of the Fund for the Republic, New York City, January 22, 1963.
More and more of our children are estranged, alienated in the literal sense, almost unreachable by the familiar premises and arguments of our adult world. And the task of leadership, the first task of concerned people, is not to condemn or castigate or deplore-it is to search out the reason for disillusionment and alienation, the rationale of protest and dissent-perhaps, indeed, to learn from it. And we will learn most, I think, from the minority who most sharply articulate their criticism of our ways. And we may find that we learn most of all from those political and social dissenters whose different with us are most grave; for among the young as among adults, the sharpest criticism often goes hand in hand with the deepest idealism and love of country. Robert F. Kennedy, Americans for Democratic Action, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania February 24, 1967.
Justice delayed is democracy denied. Robert F. Kennedy
The problem of power is how to achieve its responsible use rather than its irresponsible and indulgent use - of how to get men of power to live for the public rather than off the public. Robert F. Kennedy
Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change. Robert F. Kennedy, 1966
Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. Robert F. Kennedy
There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not. Robert F. Kennedy
DON'T YOU JUST LOVE POP ART?
Sculpture this and Sculpture that
DON'T YOU WANT TO SEE THE ENTIRE WORLD? I DO
Chaiyaphum Thailand by hooksamui
Christ the Redeemer at the Corcovado peak, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Conques, Midi-Pyrénées, France
ON SALE NOW AT AMAZON
It's Not All Right to be a Foster Kid....no matter what they tell you: Tweet the books contents
Paperback 94 pages
From the Author
I spent my childhood, from age seven through seventeen, in foster care. Over the course of those ten years, many decent, well-meaning, and concerned people told me, "It's okay to be foster kid."
In saying that, those very good people meant to encourage me, and I appreciated their kindness then, and all these many decades later, I still appreciate their good intentions. But as I was tossed around the foster care system, it began to dawn on me that they were wrong. It was not all right to be a foster kid.
During my time in the system, I was bounced every eighteen months from three foster homes to an orphanage to a boy's school and to a group home before I left on my own accord at age seventeen.
In the course of my stay in foster care, I was severely beaten in two homes by my "care givers" and separated from my four siblings who were also in care, sometimes only blocks away from where I was living.
I left the system rather than to wait to age out, although the effects of leaving the system without any family, means, or safety net of any kind, were the same as if I had aged out. I lived in poverty for the first part of my life, dropped out of high school, and had continuous problems with the law.
Today, almost nothing about foster care has changed. Exactly what happened to me is happening to some other child, somewhere in America, right now. The system, corrupt, bloated, and inefficient, goes on, unchanging and secretive.
Something has gone wrong in a system that was originally a compassionate social policy built to improve lives but is now a definitive cause in ruining lives. Due to gross negligence, mismanagement, apathy, and greed, mostly what the foster care system builds are dangerous consequences. Truly, foster care has become our epic national disgrace and a nightmare for those of us who have lived through it.
Yet there is a suspicion among some Americans that foster care costs too much, undermines the work ethic, and is at odds with a satisfying life. Others see foster care as a part of the welfare system, as legal plunder of the public treasuries.
None of that is true; in fact, all that sort of thinking does is to blame the victims. There is not a single child in the system who wants to be there or asked to be there. Foster kids are in foster care because they had nowhere else to go. It's that simple. And believe me, if those kids could get out of the system and be reunited with their parents and lead normal, healthy lives, they would. And if foster care is a sort of legal plunder of the public treasuries, it's not the kids in the system who are doing the plundering.
We need to end this needless suffering. We need to end it because it is morally and ethically wrong and because the generations to come will not judge us on the might of our armed forces or our technological advancements or on our fabulous wealth.
Rather, they will judge us, I am certain, on our compassion for those who are friendless, on our decency to those who have nothing and on our efforts, successful or not, to make our nation and our world a better place. And if we cannot accomplish those things in the short time allotted to us, then let them say of us "at least they tried."
You can change the tragedy of foster care and here's how to do it. We have created this book so that almost all of it can be tweeted out by you to the world. You have the power to improve the lives of those in our society who are least able to defend themselves. All you need is the will to do it.
If the American people, as good, decent and generous as they are, knew what was going on in foster care, in their name and with their money, they would stop it. But, generally speaking, although the public has a vague notion that foster care is a mess, they don't have the complete picture. They are not aware of the human, economic and social cost that the mismanagement of the foster care system puts on our nation.
By tweeting the facts laid out in this work, you can help to change all of that. You can make a difference. You can change things for the better.
We can always change the future for a foster kid; to make it better ...you have the power to do that. Speak up (or tweet out) because it's your country. Don't depend on the "The other guy" to speak up for these kids, because you are the other guy.
We cannot build a future for foster children, but we can build foster children for the future and the time to start that change is today.
I began work on this book while I still was an undergraduate student in the Criminal Justice Program at the University of New Haven in 1975. The book grew out of class assignment, given to us by Dr. Henry Lee who later came to some fame as an expert witness during the sensational O.J. Simpson murder trial. Dr. Lee assigned each of us in the class to investigate and write about a case of a miscarriage of American justice.
I had heard a few, vague facts about the Roger Touhy case from my father, who had heard about it from his father, who had known Roger Touhy. After some initial research, I placed a call to Betty Brennan, the widow of Touhy's ghost writer on his autobiography, The Stolen Years.
Betty was a wealth of insightful, important information and she encouraged me to follow up on the case, which I did, not realizing then that the investigation into the true facts behind the Roger Touhy case would take up almost twenty-six years of my life and propel me across the United States, from Washington to Las Vegas and Los Angeles to Miami and back again, in search of the truth. I interviewed several hundred people and pored over thousands of pages of documents that relate to the case.
After all of that, I am only certain of one thing; no one except Roger Touhy and John Factor really knows the full truth behind this case. I also know that the truth about what happened between these two professional criminals is to be found somewhere in the middle.
There are some aspects of the story which I am certain are true but can't prove. One of them is that Roger and Tommy Touhy more than probably knew Factor either before the fake kidnapping occurred, that they helped in some ways to plan the phony crime. I also doubt very much that Touhy’s underlings plotted the kidnapping with Factor without Touhy’s consent. The Touhy brothers were tough, street savvy criminals who ran a tight ship.
I also believe that Factor probably didn't completely understand that he would never be freed of the Mafia's iron-clad grasp on his life and that Sam Giancana was one of the wheelmen for Touhy's assassins on that frigid December night when the Capone mob killed Touhy. But why such a high ranking hood for such a low level murder?
Because to a degree Roger Touhy's murder was personal. His killers had been members of the old 42 Gang and had fought Touhy in Capone's name twenty-six years earlier. The same holds true for the mob bosses who ordered the killing. They had watched as Touhy's gunmen shot their way across the Windy City, murdering their childhood friends, cousins, business partners, and brothers.
I also want to take this opportunity to share my concerns about the secretive and powerful role of the United States Pardon Attorney, which, officially anyway, falls under the Office of the Attorney General of the United States.
In my quest for the truth about President Kennedy's very suspicious twelfth-hour pardon of John Factor, the Pardons Attorney's Office went out of its way to derail my research. Pardon records that I requested as part of this investigation were moved around the country making access difficult, sometimes impossible. On several occasions, records were hidden from me. I was lied to several times regarding the existence of some pardon records and members of my staff were questioned about my personal life.
Still, even with this interference, I uncovered a total of 500 pardons granted by Presidents Truman and Kennedy, which, at the least, can be considered highly questionable.
Originally I was convinced that John Factor's presidential pardon was granted as part of the federal government's tangled and illegal dealings with the Mafia during the Kennedy administration. Now, all these later and reconsidering the facts, I believe that Factor’s pardon by the White House was doled out without any knowledge of the pending deportation order from the Justice Department that the pardon would cancel. In other words the government’s left hand didn’t know what the government’s right hand was doing. Business as usual.
However, this is the stuff for another researcher and another writer for another book, but the indisputable fact remains that if details of the Factor pardon have not been released, the fault lies squarely with the U.S. Pardons Attorney's Office.
A final note word about Roger Touhy. It is important to point out to the reader that although Touhy suffered from a terrible miscarriage of justice the circumstances that led to his imprisonment and even his murder were of his own design. Roger Touhy was a criminal. True, he was charming, witty, insightful and passionate man, but he was a common criminal who held the law in contempt. We reap as we sow.
-John William Tuohy Washington D.C.
This is a book about greed, power, betrayal and persistence. It spans four decades and extends from Poland to London to New York and Chicago to Las Vegas and Hollywood to Los Angeles and involve immigrants, gangsters, newspapermen, dirty cops, crooked politicians, assassins and Presidents.
Prohibition ruled America in the 1920s. It produced a lawless decade and lawless citizens. In Chicago, Al Capone became not only the nation's leading bootlegger but a pioneer and kingpin in the union extortion racket, a golden source of easy money and power. At that same time, Roger Touhy emerged from the poverty-drenched Chicago Irish slum section known as "the Valley."
Roger was the son of an honest Chicago cop and the youngest of the six Brothers, the so-called "Terrible Touhy’s" who ruled a small but widely-feared criminal empire on the city's outskirts. They refused to deal in prostitution or narcotics but did manufacture and distributed beer all across Chicago’s western suburbs north to Minnesota. They controlled dozens of unions and supported the labor bosses in their war against the Chicago syndicate through a series of lucrative robberies of the U.S. mail. The Touhy-Syndicate War of 1931-1933, according to the Chicago Tribune took the lives at least 90 hoodlums.
Touhy, an educated suburban gangster, evaded both the law and the many attempts on his life. However in 1933 he was sentenced to ninety-nine years in prison for a crime he never committed: the kidnapping of international confidence man John "Jake the Barber" Factor.
Factor, the black sheep brother of the cosmetics king, Max Factor, was an illegal immigrant in America, who had fled England to avoid a long jail term for engineering one of the largest stock frauds in the history of the British Empire. In a desperate attempt to save himself from extradition, Factor, working with the Capone organization, had himself kidnapped and, with the connivance of some of Touhy's men, accused Roger Touhy of the crime. After two sensational trials, held in the shadow of the national outrage over the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, Roger was convicted and sentenced to 99 in a state prison.
After serving eleven years behind bars and being denied a hearing for parole, Touhy and a band of convicts shot their way out of Stateville Penitentiary only to be recaptured in a sensational gun battle with the FBI. Hollywood made a film about it.
Sentenced to an additional ninety-nine years for abetting the escape, Touhy began the long and arduous process of re-opening his case before the federal bench. Finally, seventeen years later, thanks to the efforts of a rumpled private detective and an eccentric lawyer, Roger Touhy won his freedom. A federal judge determined that John Factor had engineered his own kidnapping to avoid extradition to England where he was wanted on a series of criminal charges.
Freed in 1959, Touhy intended to enter a multi- million-dollar lawsuit against the state of Illinois. After his release from jail he was gunned down on the doorstep of his sister's home. He had been free for twenty-eight days.
John Factor, Touhy's nemesis, was luckier. Over the years he manipulated the legal system through the use of his vast fortune. He managed to remain in the United States but continued to be a pawn for the Chicago mob. In 1955 he ran the incredibly successful Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas, representing the mob and in 1962, just the day before his extradition was ordered, he received a full presidential pardon from John F. Kennedy. He was allowed to remain in the United States, safe from the British courts which had long pursued him.
Interesting Information on A Little Known Case
By Bill Emblom on August 13, 2001
Author John Tuohy, who has a similar spelling of the last name to his subject Roger, but apparently no relation, has provided us with an interesting story of northwest Chicago beer baron Roger Touhy who was in competition with Al Capone during Capone's heyday. Touhy appeared to be winning the battle since Mayor Anton Cermak was deporting a number of Capone's cronies. However, the mob hit, according to the author, on Mayor Cermak in Miami, Florida, by Giuseppe Zangara following a speech by President-elect Roosevelt, put an end to the harrassment of Capone's cronies. The author details the staged "kidnapping" of Jake "the Barber" Factor who did this to avoid being deported to England and facing a prison sentence there for stock swindling, with Touhy having his rights violated and sent to prison for 25 years for the kidnapping that never happened. Factor and other Chicago mobsters were making a lot of money with the Stardust Casino in Las Vegas when they got word that Touhy was to be parolled and planned to write his life story. The mob, not wanting this, decided Touhy had to be eliminated. Touhy was murdered by hit men in 1959, 28 days after gaining his freedom. Jake Factor had also spent time in prison in the United States for a whiskey swindle involving 300 victims in 12 states. Two days before Factor was to be deported to England to face prison for the stock swindle President Kennedy granted Factor a full Presidential Pardon after Factor's contribution to the Bay of Pigs fund. President Kennedy, the author notes, issued 472 pardons (about half questionable) more than any president before or since.
There are a number of books on Capone and the Chicago mob. This book takes a look at an overlooked beer baron from that time period, Roger Touhy. It is a very worthwhile read and one that will hold your interest.
Near Namesake Author Corroborates Touhy's Memoir - Sorta ... (Warning: Long-winded Review)
By mistakesweremade on August 16, 2014
Eight long years locked up for a kidnapping that was in fact a hoax, in autumn 1942, Roger Touhy & his gang of cons busted out of Stateville, the infamous "roundhouse" prison, southwest of Chicago Illinois. On the lam 2 months he was, when J Edgar & his agents sniffed him out in a run down 6-flat tenement on the city's far north lakefront. "Terrible Roger" had celebrated Christmas morning on the outside - just like all square Johns & Janes - but by New Year's eve, was back in the bighouse.
Touhy's arrest hideout holds special interest to me because I grew up less than a mile away from it. Though I never knew so til 1975 when his bio was included in hard-boiled crime chronicler Jay Robert Nash's, Badmen & Bloodletters, a phone book sized encyclopedia of crooks & killers. Touhy's hard scrabble charisma stood out among 200 years' worth of sociopathic Americana Nash had alphabetized, and gotten a pulphouse publisher to print up for him.
I read Nash's outlaw dictionary as a teen, and found Touhy's Prohibition era David vs Goliath battles with ultimate gangster kingpin, Al Capone quite alluring, in an anti-hero sorta way. Years later I learned Touhy had written a memoir, and reading his The Stolen Years only reinforced my image of an underdog speakeasy beer baron - slash suburban family man - outwitting the stone cold killer who masterminded the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
Like most autobiographies tho, Touhy's book painted him the good guy. Just an everyday gent caught up in events, and he sold his story well. Had I been a saloonkeeper back then I could picture myself buying his sales pitch - and liking the guy too. I sure bought into his tale, which in hindsight criminal scribe Nash had too, because both writers portray Touhy - though admittedly a crook - as never "really" hurting anybody. Only doing what any down-to-earth bootlegger running a million dollar/year criminal enterprise would have.
What Capone's Mob Murdered Roger Touhy author John Tuohy does tho is, provide a more objective version of events, balancing out Touhy's white wash ... 'er ... make that subjectively ... remembered telling of his life & times. Author Tuohy's account of gangster Touhy's account forced me - grown up now - to re-account for my own original take on the story.
As a kid back then, Touhy seemed almost a Robin Hood- ish hood - if you'll pardon a very lame pun. Forty years on tho re-considering the evidence, I think a persuasive - if not iron-clad convincing - case can be made for his conviction in the kidnapping of swindler scumbag Jake the Barber Factor. At least as far as conspiracy to do so goes, anyways. (Please excuse the crude redundancy there but Factor's stench truly was that of the dog s*** one steps in on those unfortunate occasions one does.)
Touhy's memoir painted himself as almost an innocent bystander at his own life's events. But he was a very smart & savvy guy - no dummy by a long shot. And I kinda do believe now, to not have known his own henchmen were in on Factor's ploy to stave off deportation and imprisonment, Touhy would have had to be as naive a Prohibition crime boss - and make no mistake he was one - as I was as a teenage kid reading Nash's thug-opedia,
On the other hand, the guy was the father of two sons and it's repulsive to consider he would have taken part in loathsomeness the crime of kidnapping was - even if the abducted victim was an adult and as repulsively loathsome as widows & orphans conman, Jake Factor.
This book's target audience is crime buffs no doubt, but it's an interesting read just the same; and includes anecdotes and insights I had not known of before. Unfortunately too, one that knocks a hero of mine down a peg or two - or more like ten.
Circa 1960, President Kennedy pardoned Jake the Barber, a fact that reading of almost made me puke. Then again JFK and the Chicago Mob did make for some strange bedfellowery every now & again. I'll always admire WWII US Navy commander Kennedy's astonishing (word chosen carefully) bravery following his PT boat's sinking, but him signing that document - effectively wiping Factor's s*** stain clean - as payback for campaign contributions Factor made to him, was REALLY nauseating to read.
Come to think of it tho, the terms "criminal douchedog" & "any political candidate" are pretty much interchangeable.
Anyways tho ... rest in peace Rog, & I raise a toast - of virtual bootleg ale - in your honor: "Turns out you weren't the hard-luck mug I'd thought you were, but what the hell, at least you had style." And guts to meet your inevitable end with more grace than a gangster should.
Post Note: Author Tuohy's re-examination of the evidence in the Roger Touhy case does include some heroes - guys & women - who attempted to find the truth of what did happen. Reading about people like that IS rewarding. They showed true courage - and decency - in a world reeking of corruption & deceit. So, here's to the lawyer who took on a lost cause; the private detective who dug up buried facts; and most of all, Touhy's wife & sister who stood by his side all those years.
Crime don't pay, kids - even if you're the kinda person naive readers might be inclined to admire ... in an anti-hero sorta way ...
Chicago Gangster History At It's Best
By J. CROSBY on November 14, 2012
As a 4th generation Chicagoan, I just loved this book. Growing up in the 1950's and 60's I heard the name "Terrible Touhy's" mentioned many times. Roger was thought of as a great man, and seems to have been held in high esteem among the old timer Chicagoans.
That said, I thought this book to be nothing but interesting and well written. (It inspired me to find a copy of Roger's "Stolen Years" bio.) I do recommend this book to other folks interested in prohibition/depression era Chicago crime research. It is a must have for your library of Gangsters literature from that era. Chock full of information and the reader is transported back in time.
I'd like to know just what is "The Valley" area today in Chicago. I still live in the Windy City and would like to see if anything remains from the early days of the 20th century.
A good writer and a good book! I will buy some more of Mr. Tuohy's work.
THE ART OF PULP
The Diamond Lens
By FITZ-JAMES O'BRIEN
Fitz James O'Brien (also spelled Fitz-James; December 31 1828 – April 6 1862) was an Irish writer, some of whose work is often considered a forerunner of today's science fiction. He was born Michael O'Brien in County Cork and was very young when the family moved to Limerick, Ireland. He attended the University of Dublin and is believed to have been a soldier in the British army at one time.
On leaving college, he went to London and in the course of four years spent his inheritance of £8,000, meanwhile editing a periodical in aid of the World's Fair of 1851. About 1852 he immigrated to the United States, in the process changing his name to Fitz James, and thenceforth he devoted his attention to literature.
While he was in college he had shown an aptitude for writing verse, and two of his poems—Loch Ine and Irish Castles—were published in The Ballads of Ireland (1856).
His earliest writings in the United States were contributed to the Lantern, which was then edited by John Brougham. Subsequently he wrote for the Home Journal, the New York Times, and the American Whig Review.
His first important literary connection was with Harper's Magazine, and beginning in February 1853, with The Two Skulls, he contributed more than sixty articles in prose and verse to that periodical.
He likewise wrote for the New York Saturday Press, Putnam's Magazine, Vanity Fair, and the Atlantic Monthly. To the latter he sent "The Diamond Lens" (1858) and "The Wonder Smith" (1859). "The Diamond Lens" is probably his most famous short story, and tells the story of a scientist who invents a powerful microscope and discovers a beautiful female in a microscopic world inside a drop of water. It was one of the favorite stories of H.P. Lovecraft. "The Wonder Smith" is an early predecessor of robot rebellion, where toys possessed by evil spirits are transformed into living automata who turn against their creators.
His 1858 short story "From Hand to Mouth" has been referred to as "the single most striking example of surrealistic fiction to pre-date Alice in Wonderland" (Sam Moskowitz, 1971). "What Was It? A Mystery" (1859) is one of the earliest known examples of invisibility in fiction.
He was also employed in writing plays. For James W. Wallack he made A Gentleman from Ireland, which held the boards for a generation. He also wrote and adapted other pieces for the theatres, but they had a shorter existence.
In New York he at once associated with the brilliant set of contemporary Bohemians, among whom he was ranked as the most able. At the weekly dinners that were given by John Brougham, or at the nightly suppers at Pfaff's on Broadway, he was the soul of the entertainment.
When the American Civil War began in 1861, O'Brien joined the 7th regiment of the New York National Guard, hoping to be sent to the front. He was stationed at Camp Cameron outside Washington, D.C. for six weeks.
When his regiment returned to New York he received an appointment on the staff of General Frederick W. Lander. He was severely wounded in a skirmish on February 26 1862, and lingered until April, when he died of tetanus at Cumberland, Maryland.
This story, published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1858, was the first of the great weird-scientific stories. It won immediate popularity for the author—a popularity which continued unbroken until his death in the Civil War.
1. The Bending of the Twig
From a very early period of my life the entire bent of my inclinations had been towards microscopic investigations. When I was not more than ten years old, a distant relative of our family, hoping to astonish my inexperience, constructed a simple microscope for me, by drilling in a disk of copper a small hole, in which a drop of pure water was sustained by capillary attraction. This very primitive apparatus, magnifying some fifty diameters, presented, it is true, only indistinct and imperfect forms, but still sufficiently wonderful to work up my imagination to a preternatural state of excitement.
Seeing me so interested in this rude instrument, my cousin explained to me all that he knew about the principles of the microscope, related to me a few of the wonders which had been accomplished through its agency, and ended by promising to send me one regularly constructed, immediately on his return to the city. I counted the days, the hours, the minutes, that intervened between that promise and his departure.
Meantime I was not idle. Every transparent substance that bore the remotest resemblance to a lens I eagerly seized upon, and employed in vain attempts to realize that instrument, the theory of whose construction I as yet only vaguely comprehended. All panes of glass containing those oblate spheroidal knots familiarly known as "bull's eyes" were ruthlessly destroyed, in the hope of obtaining lenses of marvelous power. I even went so far as to extract the crystalline humor from the eyes of fishes and animals, and endeavored to press it into the microscopic service. I plead guilty to having stolen the glasses from my Aunt Agatha's spectacles, with a dim idea of grinding them into lenses of wondrous magnifying properties—in which attempt it is scarcely necessary to say that I totally failed.
At last the promised instrument came. It was of that order known as Field's simple microscope, and had cost perhaps about fifteen dollars. As far as educational purposes went, a better apparatus could not have been selected. Accompanying it was a small treatise on the microscope—its history, uses, and discoveries. I comprehended then for the first time the Arabian Nights Entertainments. The dull veil of ordinary existence that hung across the world seemed suddenly to roll away, and to lay bare a land of enchantments. I felt towards my companions as the seer might feel towards the ordinary masses of men. I held conversations with nature in a tongue which they could not understand. I was in daily communication with living wonders, such as they never imagined in their wildest visions. I penetrated beyond the external portal of things, and roamed through the sanctuaries. Where they beheld only a drop of rain slowly rolling down the window-glass, I saw a universe of beings animated with all the passions common to physical life, and convulsing their minute sphere with struggles as fierce and protracted as those of men. In the common spots of mold, which my mother, good housekeeper that she was, fiercely scooped away from her jam pots, there abode for me, under the name of mildew, enchanted gardens, filled with dells and avenues of the densest foliage and most astonishing verdure, while from the fantastic boughs of these microscopic forests hung strange fruits glittering with green, and silver and gold.
It was no scientific thirst that at this time filled my mind. It was the pure enjoyment of a poet to whom a world of wonders has been disclosed. I talked of my solitary pleasures to none. Alone with my microscope, I dimmed my sight, day after day and night after night, poring over the marvels which it unfolded to me. I was like one who, having discovered the ancient Eden still existing in all its primitive glory, should resolve to enjoy it in solitude, and never betray to mortal the secret of its locality. The rod of my life was bent at this moment. I destined myself to be a microscopist.
Of course, like every novice, I fancied myself a discoverer. I was ignorant at the time of the thousands of acute intellects engaged in the same pursuit as myself, and with the advantage of instruments a thousand times more powerful than mine. The names of Leeuwenhoek, Williamson, Spencer, Ehrenberg, Schultz, Dujardin, Schacht and Schleiden were then entirely unknown to me, or if known, I was ignorant of their patient and wonderful researches. In every fresh specimen of cryptogamia which I placed beneath my instrument I believed that I discovered wonders of which the world was as yet ignorant. I remember well the thrill of delight and admiration that shot through me the first time that I discovered the common wheel animalcule (Rotifera vulgaris) expanding and contracting its flexible spokes, and seemingly rotating through the water. Alas! as I grew older, and obtained some works treating of my favorite study, I found that I was only on the threshold of a science to the investigation of which some of the greatest men of the age were devoting their lives and intellects.
As I grew up, my parents, who saw but little likelihood of anything practical resulting from the examination of bits of moss and drops of water through a brass tube and a piece of glass, were anxious that I should choose a profession. It was their desire that I should enter the counting-house of my uncle, Ethan Blake, a prosperous merchant, who carried on business in New York. This suggestion I decisively combated. I had no taste for trade; I should only make a failure; in short, I refused to become a merchant.
But it was necessary for me to select some pursuit. My parents were staid New England people, who insisted on the necessity of labor; and therefore, although, thanks to the bequest of my poor Aunt Agatha, I should, on coming of age, inherit a small fortune sufficient to place me above want, it was decided that, instead of waiting for this, I should act the nobler part, and employ the intervening years in rendering myself independent.
After much cogitation I complied with the wishes of my family, and selected a profession. I determined to study medicine at the New York Academy. This disposition of my future suited me. A removal from my relatives would enable me to dispose of my time as I pleased without fear of detection. As long as I paid my Academy fees, I might shirk attending the lectures if I chose; and, as I never had the remotest intention of standing an examination, there was no danger of my being "plucked." Besides, a metropolis was the place for me. There I could obtain excellent instruments, the newest publications, intimacy with men of pursuits kindred with my own—in short, all things necessary to insure a profitable devotion of my life to my beloved science. I had an abundance of money, few desires that were not bounded by my illuminating mirror on one side and my object-glass on the other; what, therefore, was to prevent my becoming an illustrious investigator of the veiled worlds? It was with the most buoyant hope that I left my New England home and established myself in New York.
2. The Longing of a Man of Science
My first step, of course, was to find suitable apartments. These I obtained, after a couple of days' search, in Fourth Avenue; a very pretty second-floor unfurnished, containing sitting-room, bedroom, and a smaller apartment which I intended to fit up as a laboratory. I furnished my lodgings simply, but rather elegantly, and then devoted all my energies to the adornment of the temple of my worship. I visited Pike, the celebrated optician, and passed in review his splendid collection of microscopes—Field's Compound, Hingham's, Spencer's, Nachet's Binocular (that founded on the principles of the stereoscope), and at length fixed upon that form known as Spencer's Trunnion Microscope, as combining the greatest number of improvements with an almost perfect freedom from tremor. Along with this I purchased every possible accessory—draw-tubes, micrometers, a camera-lucida, leverstage, achromatic condensers, white cloud illuminators, prisms, parabolic condensers, polarizing apparatus, forceps, aquatic boxes, fishing-tubes, with a host of other articles, all of which would have been useful in the hands of an experienced microscopist, but, as I afterwards discovered, were not of the slightest present value to me. It takes years of practise to know how to use a complicated microscope. The optician looked suspiciously at me as I made these wholesale purchases. He evidently was uncertain whether to set me down as some scientific celebrity or a madman. I think he inclined to the latter belief. I suppose I was mad. Every great genius is mad upon the subject in which he is greatest. The unsuccessful madman is disgraced and called a lunatic.
Mad or not, I set myself to work with a zeal which few scientific students have ever equaled. I had everything to learn relative to the delicate study upon which I had embarked—a study involving the most earnest patience, the most rigid analytic powers, the steadiest hand, the most untiring eye, the most refined and subtile manipulation.
For a long time half my apparatus lay inactively on the shelves of my laboratory, which was now most amply furnished with every possible contrivance for facilitating my investigations. The fact was that I did not know how to use some of my scientific implements—never having been taught microscopics—and those whose use I understood theoretically were of little avail, until by practise I could attain the necessary delicacy of handling. Still, such was the fury of my ambition, such the untiring perseverance of my experiments, that, difficult of credit as it may be, in the course of one year I became theoretically and practically an accomplished microscopist.
During this period of my labors, in which I submitted specimens of every substance that came under my observation to the action of my lenses, I became a discoverer—in a small way, it is true, for I was very young, but still a discoverer. It was I who destroyed Ehrenberg's theory that the Volvox globator was an animal, and proved that his "monads" with stomachs and eyes were merely phases of the formation of a vegetable cell, and were, when they reached their mature state, incapable of the act of conjugation, or any true generative act, without which no organism rising to any stage of life higher than vegetable can be said to be complete. It was I who resolved the singular problem of rotation in the cells and hairs of plants into ciliary attraction, in spite of the assertions of Mr. Wenham and others, that my explanation was the result of an optical illusion.
But notwithstanding these discoveries, laboriously and painfully made as they were, I felt horribly dissatisfied. At every step I found myself stopped by the imperfections of my instruments. Like all active microscopists, I gave my imagination full play. Indeed, it is a common complaint against many such, that they supply the defects of their instruments with the creations of their brains. I imagined depths beyond depths in nature which the limited power of my lenses prohibited me from exploring. I lay awake at night constructing imaginary microscopes of immeasurable power, with which I seemed to pierce through all the envelopes of matter down to its original atom. How I cursed those imperfect mediums which necessity through ignorance compelled me to use! How I longed to discover the secret of some perfect lens, whose magnifying power should be limited only by the resolvability of the object, and which at the same time should be free from spherical and chromatic aberrations, in short from all the obstacles over which the poor microscopist finds himself continually stumbling! I felt convinced that the simple microscope, composed of a single lens of such vast yet perfect power, was possible of construction. To attempt to bring the compound microscope up to such a pitch would have been commencing at the wrong end; this latter being simply a partially successful endeavor to remedy those very defects of the simple instrument, which, if conquered, would leave nothing to be desired.
It was in this mood of mind that I became a constructive microscopist. After another year passed in this new pursuit, experimenting on every imaginable substance—glass, gems, flints, crystals, artificial crystals formed of the alloy of various vitreous materials—in short, having constructed as many varieties of lenses as Argus had eyes, I found myself precisely where I started, with nothing gained save an extensive knowledge of glass-making. I was almost dead with despair. My parents were surprized at my apparent want of progress in my medical studies (I had not attended one lecture since my arrival in the city), and the expenses of my mad pursuit had been so great as to embarrass me very seriously.
I was in this frame of mind one day, experimenting in my laboratory on a small diamond—that stone, from its great refracting power, having always occupied my attention more than any other—when a young Frenchman, who lived on the floor above me, and who was in the habit of occasionally visiting me, entered the room.
I think that Jules Simon was a Jew. He had many traits of the Hebrew character: a love of jewelry, of dress, and of good living. There was something mysterious about him. He always had something to sell, and yet went into excellent society. When I say sell, I should perhaps have said peddle; for his operations were generally confined to the disposal of single articles—a picture, for instance, or a rare carving in ivory, or a pair of duelling-pistols, or the dress of a Mexican caballero. When I was first furnishing my rooms, he paid me a visit, which ended in my purchasing an antique silver lamp, which he assured me was a Cellini—it was handsome enough even for that—and some other knickknacks for my sitting-room. Why Simon should pursue this petty trade I never could imagine. He apparently had plenty of money, and had the entrée of the best houses in the city—taking care, however, I suppose, to drive no bargains within the enchanted circle of the Upper Ten. I came at length to the conclusion that this peddling was but a mask to cover some greater object, and even went so far as to believe my young acquaintance to be implicated in the slave-trade. That, however, was none of my affair.
On the present occasion, Simon entered my room in a state of considerable excitement.
"Ah! mon ami!" he cried, before I could even offer him the ordinary salutation, "it has occurred to me to be the witness of the most astonishing things in the world. I promenade myself to the house of Madame—how does the little animal—le renard—name himself in the Latin?"
"Vulpes," I answered.
"Ah! yes—Vulpes. I promenade myself to the house of Madame Vulpes."
"The spirit medium?"
"Yes, the great medium. Great heavens! what a woman! I write on a slip of paper many of questions concerning affairs the most secret—affairs that conceal themselves in the abysses of my heart the most profound; and behold! by example! what occurs? This devil of a woman makes me replies the most truthful to all of them. She talks to me of things that I do not love to talk of to myself. What am I to think? I am fixed to the earth!"
"Am I to understand you, Monsieur Simon, that this Mrs. Vulpes replied to questions secretly written by you, which questions related to events known only to yourself?"
"Ah! more than that, more than that," he answered, with an air of some alarm. "She related to me things——But," he added, after a pause, and suddenly changing his manner, "why occupy ourselves with these follies? It was all the biology, without doubt. It goes without saying that it has not my credence.—But why are we here, mon ami? It has occurred to me to discover the most beautiful thing as you can imagine—a vase with green lizards on it, composed by the great Bernard Palissy. It is in my apartment; let us mount. I go to show it to you."
I followed Simon mechanically; but my thoughts were far from Palissy and his enameled ware, although I, like him, was seeking in the dark a great discovery. This casual mention of the spiritualist, Madame Vulpes, set me on a new track. What if this spiritualism should be really a great fact? What if, through communication with more subtile organisms than my own, I could reach at a single bound the goal, which perhaps a life of agonizing mental toil would never enable me to attain?
While purchasing the Palissy vase from my friend Simon, I was mentally arranging a visit to Madame Vulpes.
3. The Spirit of Leeuwenhoek
Two evenings after this, thanks to an arrangement by letter and the promise of an ample fee, I found Madame Vulpes awaiting me at her residence alone. She was a coarse-featured woman, with keen and rather cruel dark eyes, and an exceedingly sensual expression about her mouth and under jaw. She received me in perfect silence, in an apartment on the ground floor, very sparely furnished. In the center of the room, close to where Mrs. Vulpes sat, there was a common round mahogany table. If I had come for the purpose of sweeping her chimney, the woman could not have looked more indifferent to my appearance. There was no attempt to inspire the visitor with awe. Everything bore a simple and practical aspect. This intercourse with the spiritual world was evidently as familiar an occupation with Mrs. Vulpes as eating her dinner or riding in an omnibus.
"You come for a communication, Mr. Linley?" said the medium, in a dry, businesslike tone of voice.
"What sort of communication do you want?—a written one?"
"Yes—I wish for a written one."
"From any particular spirit?"
"Have you ever known this spirit on this earth?"
"Never. He died long before I was born. I wish merely to obtain from him some information which he ought to be able to give better than any other."
"Will you seat yourself at the table, Mr. Linley," said the medium, "and place your hands upon it?"
I obeyed—Mrs. Vulpes being seated opposite to me, with her hands also on the table. We remained thus for about a minute and a half, when a violent succession of raps came on the table, on the back of my chair, on the floor immediately under my feet, and even on the window-panes. Mrs. Vulpes smiled composedly.
"They are very strong tonight," she remarked. "You are fortunate." She then continued, "Will the spirits communicate with this gentleman?"
"Will the particular spirit he desires to speak with communicate?"
A very confused rapping followed this question.
"I know what they mean," said Mrs. Vulpes, addressing herself to me; "they wish you to write down the name of the particular spirit that you desire to converse with. Is that so?" she added, speaking to her invisible guests.
That it was so was evident from the numerous affirmatory responses. While this was going on, I tore a slip from my pocket-book, and scribbled a name, under the table.
"Will this spirit communicate in writing with this gentleman?" asked the medium once more.
After a moment's pause, her hand seemed to be seized with a violent tremor, shaking so forcibly that the table vibrated. She said that a spirit had seized her hand and would write. I handed her some sheets of paper that were on the table, and a pencil. The latter she held loosely in her hand, which presently began to move over the paper with a singular and seemingly involuntary motion. After a few moments had elapsed, she handed me the paper, on which I found written, in a large, uncultivated hand, the words:
He is not here, but has been sent for.
A pause of a minute or so now ensued, during which Mrs. Vulpes remained perfectly silent, but the raps continued at regular intervals. When the short period I mention had elapsed, the hand of the medium was again seized with its convulsive tremor, and she wrote, under this strange influence, a few words on the paper, which she handed to me. They were as follows:
I am here. Question me.
I was astounded. The name was identical with that I had written beneath the table, and carefully kept concealed. Neither was it at all probable that an uncultivated woman like Mrs. Vulpes should know even the name of the great father of microscopics. It may have been biology; but this theory was soon doomed to be destroyed. I wrote on my slip—still concealing it from Mrs. Vulpes—a series of questions, which, to avoid tediousness, I shall place with the responses, in the order in which they occurred:
I.—Can the microscope be brought to perfection?
I.—Am I destined to accomplish this great task?
I.—I wish to know how to proceed to attain this end. For the love which you bear to science, help me!
Spirit.—A diamond of one hundred and forty carats, submitted to electro-magnetic currents for a long period, will experience a rearrangement of its atoms inter se, and from that stone you will form the universal lens.
I.—Will great discoveries result from the use of such a lens?
Spirit.—So great that all that has gone before is as nothing.
I.—But the refractive power of the diamond is so immense, that the image will be formed within the lens. How is that difficulty to be surmounted?
Spirit.—Pierce the lens through its axis, and the difficulty is obviated. The image will be formed in the pierced space, which will itself serve as a tube to look through. Now I am called. Good-night.
I can not at all describe the effect that these extraordinary communications had upon me. I felt completely bewildered. No biological theory could account for the discovery of the lens. The medium might, by means of biological rapport with my mind, have gone so far as to read my questions, and reply to them coherently. But biology could not enable her to discover that magnetic currents would so alter the crystals of the diamond as to remedy its previous defects, and admit of its being polished into a perfect lens. Some such theory may have passed through my head, it is true; but if so, I had forgotten it. In my excited condition of mind there was no course left but to become a convert, and it was in a state of the most painful nervous exaltation that I left the medium's house that evening. She accompanied me to the door, hoping that I was satisfied. The raps followed us as we went through the hall, sounding on the balusters, the flooring, and even the lintels of the door. I hastily expressed my satisfaction, and escaped hurriedly into the cool night air. I walked home with but one thought possessing me—how to obtain a diamond of the immense size required. My entire means multiplied a hundred times over would have been inadequate to its purchase. Besides, such stones are rare, and become historical. I could find such only in the regalia of Eastern or European monarchs.
4. The Eye of Morning
There was a light in Simon's room as I entered my house. A vague impulse urged me to visit him. As I opened the door of his sitting-room unannounced, he was bending, with his back toward me, over a carcel lamp, apparently engaged in minutely examining some object which he held in his hands. As I entered, he started suddenly, thrust his hand into his breast pocket, and turned to me with a face crimson with confusion.
"What!" I cried, "poring over the miniature of some fair lady? Well, don't blush so much; I won't ask to see it."
Simon laughed awkwardly enough, but made none of the negative protestations usual on such occasions. He asked me to take a seat.
"Simon," said I, "I have just come from Madame Vulpes."
This time Simon turned as white as a sheet, and seemed stupefied, as if a sudden electric shock had smitten him. He babbled some incoherent words, and went hastily to a small closet where he usually kept his liquors. Although astonished at his emotion, I was too preoccupied with my own idea to pay much attention to anything else.
"You say truly when you call Madame Vulpes a devil of a woman," I continued. "Simon, she told me wonderful things tonight, or rather was the means of telling me wonderful things. Ah! if I could only get a diamond that weighed one hundred and forty carats!"
Scarcely had the sigh with which I uttered this desire died upon my lips, when Simon, with the aspect of a wild beast, glared at me savagely, and, rushing to the mantelpiece, where some foreign weapons hung on the wall, caught up a Malay creese, and brandished it furiously before him.
"No!" he cried in French, into which he always broke when excited. "No! you shall not have it! You are perfidious! You have consulted with that demon, and desire my treasure! But I shall die first! Me! I am brave! You can not make me fear!"
All this, uttered in a loud voice trembling with excitement, astounded me. I saw at a glance that I had accidentally trodden upon the edges of Simon's secret, whatever it was. It was necessary to reassure him.
"My dear Simon," I said, "I am entirely at a loss to know what you mean. I went to Madame Vulpes to consult her on a scientific problem, to the solution of which I discovered that a diamond of the size I just mentioned was necessary. You were never alluded to during the evening, nor, so far as I was concerned, even thought of. What can be the meaning of this outburst? If you happen to have a set of valuable diamonds in your possession, you need fear nothing from me. The diamond which I require you could not possess; or, if you did possess it, you would not be living here."
Something in my tone must have completely reassured him; for his expression immediately changed to a sort of constrained merriment, combined, however, with a certain suspicious attention to my movements. He laughed, and said that I must bear with him; that he was at certain moments subject to a species of vertigo, which betrayed itself in incoherent speeches, and that the attacks passed off as rapidly as they came. He put his weapon aside while making this explanation, and endeavored, with some success, to assume a more cheerful air.
All this did not impose on me in the least. I was too much accustomed to analytical labors to be baffled by so flimsy a veil. I determined to probe the mystery to the bottom.
"Simon," I said, gayly, "let us forget all this over a bottle of Burgundy. I have a case of Lausseure's Clos Vougeot downstairs, fragrant with the odors and ruddy with the sunlight of the Côte d'Or. Let us have up a couple of bottles. What say you?"
"With all my heart," answered Simon, smilingly.
I produced the wine and we seated ourselves to drink. It was of a famous vintage, that of 1848, a year when war and wine throve together—and its pure but powerful juice seemed to impart renewed vitality to the system. By the time we had half finished the second bottle, Simon's head, which I knew was a weak one, had begun to yield, while I remained calm as ever, only that every draft seemed to send a flush of vigor through my limbs. Simon's utterance became more and more indistinct. He took to singing French chansons of a not very moral tendency. I rose suddenly from the table just at the conclusion of one of those incoherent verses, and, fixing my eyes on him with a quiet smile, said: "Simon, I have deceived you. I learned your secret this evening. You may as well be frank with me. Mrs. Vulpes, or rather one of her spirits, told me all."
He started with horror. His intoxication seemed for the moment to fade away, and he made a movement towards the weapon that he had a short time before laid down. I stopped him with my hand.
"Monster," he cried, passionately, "I am ruined! What shall I do? You shall never have it! I swear by my mother!"
"I don't want it," I said; "rest secure, but be frank with me. Tell me all about it."
The drunkenness began to return. He protested with maudlin earnestness that I was entirely mistaken—that I was intoxicated; then asked me to swear eternal secrecy, and promised to disclose the mystery to me. I pledged myself, of course, to all. With an uneasy look in his eyes, and hands unsteady with drink and nervousness, he drew a small case from his breast and opened it. Heavens! How the mild lamplight was shivered into a thousand prismatic arrows, as it fell upon a vast rose-diamond that glittered in the case! I was no judge of diamonds, but I saw at a glance that this was a gem of rare size and purity. I looked at Simon with wonder, and—must I confess it?—with envy. How could he have obtained this treasure? In reply to my questions, I could just gather from his drunken statements (of which, I fancy, half the incoherence was affected) that he had been superintending a gang of slaves engaged in diamond-washing in Brazil; that he had seen one of them secrete a diamond, but, instead of informing his employers, had quietly watched the negro until he saw him bury his treasure; that he had dug it up and fled with it, but that as yet he was afraid to attempt to dispose of it publicly—so valuable a gem being almost certain to attract too much attention to its owner's antecedents—and he had not been able to discover any of those obscure channels by which such matters are conveyed away safely. He added, that, in accordance with the Oriental practise, he had named his diamond with the fanciful title of "The Eye of Morning."
While Simon was relating this to me, I regarded the great diamond attentively. Never had I beheld anything so beautiful. All the glories of light, ever imagined or described, seemed to pulsate in its crystalline chambers. Its weight, as I learned from Simon, was exactly one hundred and forty carats. Here was an amazing coincidence. The hand of destiny seemed in it. On the very evening when the spirit of Leeuwenhoek communicates to me the great secret of the microscope, the priceless means which he directs me to employ start up within my easy reach! I determined, with the most perfect deliberation, to possess myself of Simon's diamond.
I sat opposite to him while he nodded over his glass, and calmly revolved the whole affair. I did not for an instant contemplate so foolish an act as a common theft, which would of course be discovered, or at least necessitate flight and concealment, all of which must interfere with my scientific plans. There was but one step to be taken—to kill Simon. After all, what was the life of a little peddling Jew, in comparison with the interests of science? Human beings are taken every day from the condemned prisons to be experimented on by surgeons. This man, Simon, was by his own confession a criminal, a robber, and I believed on my soul a murderer. He deserved death quite as much as any felon condemned by the laws: why should I not, like government, contrive that his punishment should contribute to the progress of human knowledge?
The means for accomplishing everything I desired lay within my reach. There stood upon the mantelpiece a bottle half full of French laudanum. Simon was so occupied with his diamond, which I had just restored to him, that it was an affair of no difficulty to drug his glass. In a quarter of an hour he was in a profound sleep.
I now opened his waistcoat, took the diamond from the inner pocket in which he had placed it, and removed him to the bed, on which I laid him so that his feet hung down over the edge. I had possessed myself of the Malay creese, which I held in my right hand, while with the other I discovered as accurately as I could by pulsation the exact locality of the heart. It was essential that all the aspects of his death should lead to the surmise of self-murder. I calculated the exact angle at which it was probable that the weapon, if leveled by Simon's own hand, would enter his breast; then with one powerful blow I thrust it up to the hilt in the very spot which I desired to penetrate. A convulsive thrill ran through Simon's limbs. I heard a smothered sound issue from his throat, precisely like the bursting of a large air-bubble, sent up by a diver, when it reaches the surface of the water; he turned half round on his side, and, as if to assist my plans more effectually, his right hand, moved by some mere spasmodic impulse, clasped the handle of the creese, which it remained holding with extraordinary muscular tenacity. Beyond this there was no apparent struggle. The laudanum, I presume, paralyzed the usual nervous action. He must have died instantly.
There was yet something to be done. To make it certain that all suspicion of the act should be diverted from any inhabitant of the house to Simon himself, it was necessary that the door should be found in the morning locked on the inside. How to do this, and afterwards escape myself? Not by the window; that was a physical impossibility. Besides, I was determined that the windows also should be found bolted. The solution was simple enough. I descended softly to my own room for a peculiar instrument which I had used for holding small slippery substances, such as minute spheres of glass, etc. This instrument was nothing more than a long slender hand-vise, with a very powerful grip, and a considerable leverage, which last was accidentally owing to the shape of the handle. Nothing was simpler than, when the key was in the lock, to seize the end of its stem in this vise, through the keyhole, from the outside, and so lock the door. Previously, however, to doing this, I burned a number of papers on Simon's hearth. Suicides almost always burn papers before they destroy themselves. I also emptied some more laudanum into Simon's glass—having first removed from it all traces of wine—cleaned the other wine-glass, and brought the bottles away with me. If traces of two persons drinking had been found in the room, the question naturally would have arisen, Who was the second? Besides, the wine-bottles might have been identified as belonging to me. The laudanum I poured out to account for its presence in his stomach, in case of a post-mortem examination. The theory naturally would be, that he first intended to poison himself, but, after swallowing a little of the drug, was either disgusted with its taste, or changed his mind from other motives, and chose the dagger. These arrangements made, I walked out, leaving the gas burning, locked the door with my vise, and went to bed.
Simon's death was not discovered until nearly 3 in the afternoon. The servant, astonished at seeing the gas burning—the light streaming on the dark landing from under the door—peeped through the keyhole and saw Simon on the bed. She gave the alarm. The door was burst open, and the neighborhood was in a fever of excitement.
Everyone in the house was arrested, myself included. There was an inquest; but no clue to his death beyond that of suicide could be obtained. Curiously enough, he had made several speeches to his friends the preceding week, that seemed to point to self-destruction. One gentleman swore that Simon had said in his presence that "he was tired of life." His landlord affirmed that Simon, when paying him his last month's rent, remarked that "he should not pay him rent much longer." All the other evidence corresponded—the door locked inside, the position of the corpse, the burnt papers. As I anticipated, no one knew of the possession of the diamond by Simon, so that no motive was suggested for his murder. The jury, after a prolonged examination, brought in the usual verdict, and the neighborhood once more settled down into its accustomed quiet.
The three months succeeding Simon's catastrophe I devoted night and day to my diamond lens. I had constructed a vast galvanic battery, composed of nearly two thousand pairs of plates—a higher power I dared not use, lest the diamond should be calcined. By means of this enormous engine I was enabled to send a powerful current of electricity continually through my great diamond, which it seemed to me gained in luster every day. At the expiration of a month I commenced the grinding and polishing of the lens, a work of intense toil and exquisite delicacy. The great density of the stone, and the care required to be taken with the curvatures of the surfaces of the lens, rendered the labor the severest and most harassing that I had yet undergone.
At last the eventful moment came; the lens was completed. I stood trembling on the threshold of new worlds. I had the realization of Alexander's famous wish before me. The lens lay on the table, ready to be placed upon its platform. My hand fairly shook as I enveloped a drop of water with a thin coating of oil of turpentine, preparatory to its examination—a process necessary in order to prevent the rapid evaporation of the water. I now placed the drop on a thin slip of glass under the lens, and throwing upon it, by the combined aid of a prism and a mirror, a powerful stream of light, I approached my eye to the minute hole drilled through the axis of the lens. For an instant I saw nothing save what seemed to be an illuminated chaos, a vast luminous abyss. A pure white light, cloudless and serene, and seemingly limitless as space itself, was my first impression. Gently, and with the greatest care, I depressed the lens a few hair's-breadths. The wondrous illumination still continued, but as the lens approached the object a scene of indescribable beauty was unfolded to my view.
I seemed to gaze upon a vast space, the limits of which extended far beyond my vision. An atmosphere of magical luminousness permeated the entire field of view. I was amazed to see no trace of animalculous life. Not a living thing, apparently, inhabited that dazzling expanse. I comprehended instantly that, by the wondrous power of my lens, I had penetrated beyond the grosser particles of aqueous matter, beyond the realms of infusoria and protozoa, down to the original gaseous globule, into whose luminous interior I was gazing, as into an almost boundless dome filled with a supernatural radiance.
It was, however, no brilliant void into which I looked. On every side I beheld beautiful inorganic forms, of unknown texture, and colored with the most enchanting hues. These forms presented the appearance of what might be called, for want of a more specific definition, foliated clouds of the highest rarity; that is, they undulated and broke into vegetable formations, and were tinged with splendors compared with which the gilding of our autumn woodlands is as dross compared with gold. Far away into the illimitable distance stretched long avenues of these gaseous forests, dimly transparent, and painted with prismatic hues of unimaginable brilliancy. The pendent branches waved along the fluid glades until every vista seemed to break through half-lucent ranks of many-colored drooping silken pennons. What seemed to be either fruits or flowers, pied with a thousand hues, lustrous and ever varying, bubbled from the crowns of this fairy foliage. No hills, no lakes, no rivers, no forms animate or inanimate, were to be seen, save those vast auroral copses that floated serenely in the luminous stillness, with leaves and fruits and flowers gleaming with unknown fires, unrealizable by mere imagination.
How strange, I thought, that this sphere should be thus condemned to solitude! I had hoped, at least to discover some new form of animal life—perhaps of a lower class than any with which we are at present acquainted, but still, some living organism. I found my newly discovered world, if I may so speak, a beautiful chromatic desert.
While I was speculating on the singular arrangements of the internal economy of Nature, with which she so frequently splinters into atoms our most compact theories, I thought I beheld a form moving slowly through the glades of one of the prismatic forests. I looked more attentively, and found that I was not mistaken.
Words can not depict the anxiety with which I awaited the nearer approach of this mysterious object. Was it merely some inanimate substance, held in suspense in the attenuated atmosphere of the globule? or was it an animal endowed with vitality and motion? It approached, flitting behind the gauzy, colored veils of cloud-foliage, for seconds dimly revealed, then vanished. At last the violet pennons that trailed nearest to me vibrated; they were gently pushed aside, and the form floated out into the broad light.
It was a female human shape. When I say human, I mean it possessed the outlines of humanity—but there the analogy ends. Its adorable beauty lifted it illimitable heights beyond the loveliest daughter of Adam.
I can not, I dare not, attempt to inventory the charms of this divine revelation of perfect beauty. Those eyes of mystic violet, dewy and serene, evade my words. Her long, lustrous hair following her glorious head in a golden wake, like the track sown in heaven by a falling star, seems to quench my most burning phrases with its splendors. If all the bees of Hybla nestled upon my lips, they would still sing but hoarsely the wondrous harmonies of outline that enclosed her form.
She swept out from between the rainbow-curtains of the cloud-trees into the broad sea of light that lay beyond. Her motions were those of some graceful naiad, cleaving, by a mere effort of her will, the clear, unruffled waters that fill the chambers of the sea. She floated forth with the serene grace of a frail bubble ascending through the still atmosphere of a June day. The perfect roundness of her limbs formed suave and enchanting curves. It was like listening to the most spiritual symphony of Beethoven the divine, to watch the harmonious flow of lines. This, indeed, was a pleasure, cheaply purchased at any price. What cared I, if I had waded to the portal of this wonder through another's blood? I would have given my own to enjoy one such moment of intoxication and delight.
Breathless with gazing on this lovely wonder, and forgetful for an instant of everything save her presence, I withdrew my eye from the microscope eagerly—alas! As my gaze fell on the thin slide that lay beneath my instrument, the bright light from mirror and from prism sparkled on a colorless drop of water! There, in that tiny bead of dew, this beautiful being was forever imprisoned. The planet Neptune was not more distant from me than she. I hastened once more to apply my eye to the microscope.
Animula (let me now call her by that dear name which I subsequently bestowed on her) had changed her position. She had again approached the wondrous forest, and was gazing earnestly upwards. Presently one of the trees—as I must call them—unfolded a long ciliary process, with which it seized one of the gleaming fruits that glittered on its summit, and, sweeping slowly down, held it within reach of Animula. The sylph took it in her delicate hand and began to eat. My attention was so entirely absorbed by her, that I could not apply myself to the task of determining whether this singular plant was or was not instinct with volition.
I watched her, as she made her repast, with the most profound attention. The suppleness of her motions sent a thrill of delight through my frame; my heart beat madly as she turned her beautiful eyes in the direction of the spot in which I stood. What would I not have given to have had the power to precipitate myself into that luminous ocean, and float with her through those groves of purple and gold! While I was thus breathlessly following her every movement, she suddenly started, seemed to listen for a moment, and then cleaving the brilliant ether in which she was floating, like a flash of light, pierced through the opaline forest, and disappeared.
Instantly a series of the most singular sensations attacked me. It seemed as if I had suddenly gone blind. The luminous sphere was still before me, but my daylight had vanished. What caused this sudden disappearance? Had she a lover or a husband? Yes, that was the solution! Some signal from a happy fellow-being had vibrated through the avenues of the forest, and she had obeyed the summons.
The agony of my sensations, as I arrived at this conclusion, startled me. I tried to reject the conviction that my reason forced upon me. I battled against the fatal conclusion—but in vain. It was so. I had no escape from it. I loved an animalcule!
It is true that, thanks to the marvelous power of my microscope, she appeared of human proportions. Instead of presenting the revolting aspect of the coarser creatures, that live and struggle and die, in the more easily resolvable portions of the water-drop, she was fair and delicate and of surpassing beauty. But of what account was all that? Every time that my eye was withdrawn from the instrument, it fell on a miserable drop of water, within which, I must be content to know, dwelt all that could make my life lovely.
Could she but see me once! Could I for one moment pierce the mystical walls that so inexorably rose to separate us, and whisper all that filled my soul, I might consent to be satisfied for the rest of my life with the knowledge of her remote sympathy. It would be something to have established even the faintest personal link to bind us together—to know that at times, when roaming through those enchanted glades, she might think of the wonderful stranger, who had broken the monotony of her life with his presence, and left a gentle memory in her heart!
But it could not be. No invention of which human intellect was capable could break down the barriers that nature had erected. I might feast my soul upon her wondrous beauty, yet she must always remain ignorant of the adoring eyes that day and night gazed upon her, and, even when closed, beheld her in dreams. With a bitter cry of anguish I fled from the room, and, flinging myself on my bed, sobbed myself to sleep like a child.
6. The Spilling of the Cup
I arose the next morning almost at daybreak, and rushed to my microscope. I trembled as I sought the luminous world in miniature that contained my all. Animula was there. I had left the gas-lamp, surrounded by its moderators, burning, when I went to bed the night before. I found the sylph bathing, as it were, with an expression of pleasure animating her features, in the brilliant light which surrounded her. She tossed her lustrous golden hair over her shoulders with innocent coquetry. She lay at full length in the transparent medium, in which she supported herself with ease, and gamboled with the enchanting grace that the nymph Salmacis might have exhibited when she sought to conquer the modest Hermaphroditus. I tried an experiment to satisfy myself if her powers of reflection were developed. I lessened the lamplight considerably. By the dim light that remained, I could see an expression of pain flit across her face. She looked upward suddenly, and her brows contracted. I flooded the stage of the microscope again with a full stream of light, and her whole expression changed. She sprang forward like some substance deprived of all weight. Her eyes sparkled and her lips moved. Ah! if science had only the means of conducting and reduplicating sounds, as it does the rays of light, what carols of happiness would then have entranced my ears! what jubilant hymns to Adonis would have thrilled the illumined air!
I now comprehended how it was that the Count de Gabalis peopled his mystic world with sylphs—beautiful beings whose breath of life was lambent fire, and who sported forever in regions of purest ether and purest light. The Rosicrucian had anticipated the wonder that I had practically realized.
How long this worship of my strange divinity went on thus I scarcely know. I lost all note of time. All day from early dawn, and far into the night, I was to be found peering through that wonderful lens. I saw no one, went nowhere, and scarce allowed myself sufficient time for my meals. My whole life was absorbed in contemplation as rapt as that of any of the Romish saints. Every hour that I gazed upon the divine form strengthened my passion—a passion that was always overshadowed by the maddening conviction, that, although I could gaze on her at will, she never, never could behold me!
At length, I grew so pale and emaciated, from want of rest and continual brooding over my insane love and its cruel conditions, that I determined to make some effort to wean myself from it. "Come," I said, "this is at best but a fantasy. Your imagination has bestowed on Animula charms which in reality she does not possess. Seclusion from female society has produced this morbid condition of mind. Compare her with the beautiful women of your own world, and this false enchantment will vanish."
I looked over the newspapers by chance. There I beheld the advertisement of a celebrated danseuse who appeared nightly at Niblo's. The Signorina Caradolce had the reputation of being the most beautiful as well as the most graceful woman in the world. I instantly dressed and went to the theater.
The curtain drew up. The usual semicircle of fairies in white muslin were standing on the right toe around the enameled flower-bank, of green canvas, on which the belated prince was sleeping. Suddenly a flute is heard. The fairies start. The trees open, the fairies all stand on the left toe, and the queen enters. It was the Signorina. She bounded forward amid thunders of applause, and, lighting on one foot, remained poised in air! Heavens! was this the great enchantress that had drawn monarchs at her chariot-wheels? Those heavy muscular limbs, those thick ankles, those cavernous eyes, that stereotyped smile, those crudely painted cheeks! Where were the vermeil blooms, the liquid expressive eyes, the harmonious limbs of Animula?
The Signorina danced. What gross, discordant movements! The play of her limbs was all false and artificial. Her bounds were painful athletic efforts; her poses were angular and distressed the eye. I could bear it no longer; with an exclamation of disgust that drew every eye upon me, I rose from my seat in the very middle of the Signorina's pas-de-fasination, and abruptly quitted the house.
I hastened home to feast my eyes once more on the lovely form of my sylph. I felt that henceforth to combat this passion would be impossible. I applied my eye to the lens. Animula was there—but what could have happened? Some terrible change seemed to have taken place during my absence. Some secret grief seemed to cloud the lovely features of her I gazed upon. Her face had grown thin and haggard; her limbs trailed heavily; the wondrous luster of her golden hair had faded. She was ill!—ill, and I could not assist her! I believe at that moment I would have gladly forfeited all claims to my human birthright, if I could only have been dwarfed to the size of an animalcule, and permitted to console her from whom fate had forever divided me.
I racked my brain for the solution of this mystery. What was it that afflicted the sylph? She seemed to suffer intense pain. Her features contracted, and she even writhed, as if with some internal agony. The wondrous forests appeared also to have lost half their beauty. Their hues were dim and in some places faded away altogether. I watched Animula for hours with a breaking heart, and she seemed absolutely to wither away under my very eye. Suddenly I remembered that I had not looked at the water-drop for several days. In fact, I hated to see it; for it reminded me of the natural barrier between Animula and myself. I hurriedly looked down on the stage of the microscope. The slide was still there—but, great heavens! the water-drop had vanished! The awful truth burst upon me; it had evaporated, until it had become so minute as to be invisible to the naked eye; I had been gazing on its last atom, the one that contained Animula—and she was dying!
I rushed again to the front of the lens, and looked through. Alas! the last agony had seized her. The rainbow-hued forests had all melted away, and Animula lay struggling feebly in what seemed to be a spot of dim light. Ah! the sight was horrible: the limbs once so round and lovely shriveling up into nothings; the eyes—those eyes that shone like heaven—being quenched into black dust; the lustrous golden hair now lank and discolored. The last throe came. I beheld that final struggle of the blackening form—and I fainted.
When I awoke out of a trance of many hours, I found myself lying amid the wreck of my instrument, myself as shattered in mind and body as it. I crawled feebly to my bed, from which I did not rise for months.
They say now that I am mad; but they are mistaken. I am poor, for I have neither the heart nor the will to work; all my money is spent, and I live on charity. Young men's associations that love a joke invite me to lecture on optics before them, for which they pay me, and laugh at me while I lecture. "Linley, the mad microscopist," is the name I go by. I suppose that I talk incoherently while I lecture. Who could talk sense when his brain is haunted by such ghastly memories, while ever and anon among the shapes of death I behold the radiant form of my lost Animula!
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