He that knows
not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool. Shun him.
He that knows not, and knows that he knows
not, is simple. Teach him.
He that knows, and knows not that he knows,
is asleep. Wake him.
He that knows, and knows that he knows, is
wise. Follow him.—Arabian Proverb.
Much as I dislike it, I am obliged to include this story
in a volume devoted to fiction: I have attempted to tell it as an
absolutely true story, but until three months ago, when the indisputable
proofs were placed before the British Association by Professor James
Holroyd, I was regarded as an impostor. Now that the Smithsonian Institute
in Washington, the Philadelphia Zoological Society, and the Natural
History Museum of New York city, are convinced that the story is truthful
and accurate in every particular, I prefer to tell it my own way.
Professor Holroyd urges me to do this, although Professor Bruce Stoddard,
of Columbia College, is now at work upon a pamphlet, to be published
the latter part of next month, describing scientifically the extraordinary
discovery which, to the shame of the United States, was first accepted
and recognised in England.
no technical ability concerning the affair in question, and having
no knowledge of either comparative anatomy or zoology, I am perhaps
unfitted to tell this story. But the story is true; the episode occurred
under my own eyes—here, within a few hours’ sail of the
Battery. And as I was one of the first persons to verify what has
long been a theory among scientists, and, moreover, as the result
of Professor Holroyd’s discovery is to be placed on exhibition
in Madison Square Garden on the twentieth of next month, I have decided
to tell, as simply as I am able, exactly what occurred.
I first wrote
out the story on April 1, 1896. The North American Review, the Popular
Science Monthly, the Scientific American, Nature, Forest and Stream,
and the Fossiliferous Magazine in turn rejected it; some curtly informing
me that fiction had no place in their columns. When I attempted to
explain that it was not fiction, the editors of these periodicals
either maintained a contemptuous silence, or bluntly notified me that
my literary services and opinions were not desired. But finally, when
several publishers offered to take the story as fiction, I cut short
all negotiations and decided to publish it myself. Where I am known
at all, it is my misfortune to be known as a writer of fiction. This
makes it impossible for me to receive a hearing from a scientific
audience. I regret it bitterly, because now, when it is too late,
I am prepared to prove certain scientific matters of interest, and
to produce the proofs. In this case, however, I am fortunate, for
nobody can dispute the existence of a thing when the bodily proof
is exhibited as evidence.
This is the
story; and if I write it as I write fiction, it is because I do not
know how to write it otherwise.
I was walking
along the beach below Pine Inlet, on the south shore of Long Island.
The railroad and telegraph station is at West Oyster Bay. Everybody
who has travelled on the Long Island Railroad knows the station, but
few, perhaps, know Pine Inlet. Duck shooters, of course, are familiar
with it; but as there are no hotels there, and nothing to see except
salt meadow, salt creek, and a strip of dune and sand, the summer-squatting
public may probably be unaware of its existence. The local name for
the place is Pine Inlet; the maps give its name as Sand Point, I believe,
but anybody at West Oyster Bay can direct you to it. Captain McPeek,
who keeps the West Oyster Bay House, drives duck shooters there in
winter. It lies five miles southeast from West Oyster Bay.
I had walked
over that afternoon from Captain McPeek’s. There was a reason
for my going to Pine Inlet—it embarrasses me to explain it,
but the truth is I meditated writing an ode to the ocean. It was out
of the question to write it in West Oyster Bay, with the whistle of
locomotives in my ears. I knew that Pine Inlet was one of the loneliest
places on the Atlantic coast; it is out of sight of everything except
leagues of gray ocean. Rarely one might make out fishing smacks drifting
across the horizon. Summer squatters never visited it; sportsmen shunned
it, except in winter. Therefore, as I was about to do a bit of poetry,
I thought that Pine Inlet was the spot for the deed. So I went there.
As I was strolling
along the beach, biting my pencil reflectively, tremendously impressed
by the solitude and the solemn thunder of the surf, a thought occurred
to me: how unpleasant it would be if I suddenly stumbled on a summer
boarder. As this joyless impossibility flitted across my mind, I rounded
a bleak sand dune.
A summer girl
stood directly in my path.
If I jumped,
I think the young lady has pardoned me by this time. She ought to,
because she also started, and said something in a very faint voice.
What she said was “Oh!”
She stared at
me as though I had just crawled up out of the sea to bite her. I don’t
know what my own expression resembled, but I have been given to understand
it was idiotic.
Now I perceived,
after a few moments, that the young lady was frightened, and I knew
I ought to say something civil. So I said, “Are there any mosquitoes
she replied, with a slight quiver in her voice; “I have only
seen one, and it was biting somebody else.”
I looked foolish;
the conversation seemed so futile, and the young lady appeared to
be more nervous than before. I had an impulse to say, “Do not
run; I have breakfasted,” for she seemed to be meditating a
plunge into the breakers. What I did say was: “I did not know
anybody was here. I do not intend to intrude. I come from Captain
McPeek’s, and I am writing an ode to the ocean.” After
I had said this it seemed to ring in my ears like, “I come from
Table Mountain, and my name is Truthful James.”
I glanced timidly
thinking of the same thing,” said Ito myself. “What an
ass I must appear!”
young lady seemed to be a trifle reassured. I noticed she drew a sigh
of relief and looked at my shoes. She looked so long that it made
me suspicious, and I also examined my shoes. They seemed to be fairly
am sorry,” she said, “but would you mind not walking on
This was sudden.
I had intended to retire and leave the beach to her, but I did not
fancy being driven away so abruptly.
about to withdraw, madam,” said I, bowing stiffly; “I
beg you will pardon any inconvenience—”
me!” she cried, “you don’t understand. I do not—I
would not think for a moment of asking you to leave Pine Inlet. I
merely ventured to request you to walk on the dunes. I am so afraid
that your footprints may obliterate the impressions that my father
said I, looking about me as though I had been caught in the middle
of a flower-bed; “really I did not notice any impressions. Impressions
of what—if I may be permitted?”
know,” she said, smiling a little at my awkward pose. “If
you step this way in a straight line you can do no damage.”
I did as she
bade me. I suppose my movements resembled the gait of a wet peacock.
Possibly they recalled the delicate manceuvres of the kangaroo. Anyway,
This seriously annoyed me. I had been at a disadvantage; I walk well
enough when let alone.
“You can scarcely expect,” said I, “that a man absorbed
in his own ideas could notice impressions on the sand. I trust I have
As I said this
I looked back at the long line of footprints stretching away in prospective
across the sand. They were my own. How large they looked! Was that
what she was laughing at?
to explain,” she said gravely, looking at the point of her parasol.
“I am very sorry to be obliged to warn you—to ask you
to forego the pleasure of strolling on a beach that does not belong
to me. Perhaps,” she continued, in sudden alarm, “perhaps
this beach belongs to you?”
Oh, no,” I said.
you were going to write poems about it?”
one-and that does not necessitate owning the beach. I have observed,”
said I frankly, “that the people who own nothing write many
poems about it.”
She looked at
many poems,” I added.
you rather I went away?” I asked politely.
no—I mean that you may do as you please—except please
do not walk on the beach.”
I do not alarm you by my presence?” I inquired. My clothes were
a bit ancient. I wore them shooting, sometimes. “My family is
respectable,” I added; and I told her my name.
you wrote ‘Culled Cowslips’ and ‘Faded Fig-Leaves,’
and you imitate Maeterlinck, and you—Oh, I know lots of people
that you know;” she cried with every symptom of relief; “and
you know my brother.”
the author,” said I coldly, “of ‘Culled Cowslips,’
but ‘Faded Fig-Leaves’ was an earlier work, which I no
longer recognise, and I should be grateful to you if you would be
kind enough to deny that I ever imitated Maeterlinck. Possibly,”
I added, “he imitates me.”
do you know,” she said, “I was afraid of you at first?
Papa is digging in the salt meadows nearly a mile away.”
It was hard
not see,” said I, “that I am wearing a shooting coat?”
see—now; but it is so-so old,” she pleaded.
a shooting coat all the same,” I said bitterly.
She was very
quiet, and I saw she was sorry.
mind,” I said magnanimously, “you probably are not familiar
with sporting goods. If I knew your name I should ask permission to
I am Daisy Holroyd,” she said.
Jack Holroyd’s little sister?”
mean that,” said I. “You know that your brother and I
were great friends in Paris
she said significantly.
Of course,” I said, “Jack and I were inseparable—”
when shut in separate cells,” said Miss Holroyd coldly.
allusion to the unfortunate termination of a Latin-Quarter celebration
said I, “were too officious.”
says,” replied Miss Holroyd demurely.
We had unconsciously
moved on along the sand hills, side by side, as we spoke.
I repeated, “that I should meet Jack’s little—”
she said, “you are only three years my senior.”
She opened the
sunshade and tipped it over one shoulder. It was white, and had spots
and posies on it.
sends us every new book you write,” she observed. “I do
not approve of some things you write.”
school,” I mumbled.
is no excuse,” she said severely; “Anthony Trollope didn’t
The foam spume
from the breakers was drifting across the dunes, and the little tip-up
snipe ran along the beach and teetered and whistled and spread their
white-barred wings for a low, straight flight across the shingle,
only to tip and skeep and sail on again. The salt sea wind whistled
and curled through the crested waves, blowing in perfumed puffs across
thickets of sweet bay and cedar. As we passed through the crackling
juicy-stemmed marsh weed myriads of fiddler crabs raised their fore-claws
in warning and backed away, rustling, through the reeds, aggressive,
millions of pigmy Ajaxes defying the lightning,” I said. Miss
never imagined that authors were clever except in print,” she
said. She was a most extraordinary girl.
she observed after a moment’s silence—”I suppose
I am taking you to my father.”
I mumbled. “H’m! I had the honour of meeting Professor
Holroyd in Paris.” “Yes; he bailed you and Jack out,”
said Miss Holroyd serenely.
was too painful to last.
McPeek is an interesting man,” I said. I spoke more loudly than
I intended; I may have been nervous.
said Daisy Holroyd, “but he has a most singular hotel clerk.”
I admitted, “Mr. Frisby is queer. He was once a bill-poster.”
it!” exclaimed Daisy Holroyd, with some heat. “He ruins
landscapes whenever he has an opportunity. Do you know that he has
a passion for bill-posting? He has; he posts bills for the pure pleasure
of it, just as you play golf; or tennis, or billiards.”
a hotel clerk now,” I said; “nobody employs him to post
it! He does it all by himself for the pure pleasure of it. Papa has
engaged him to come down here for two weeks, and I dread it,”
said the girl.
Holroyd might want of Frisby I had not the faintest notion. I suppose
Miss Holroyd noticed the bewilderment in my face, for she laughed,
and nodded her head twice.
Mr. Frisby, but Captain McPeek also,” she said.
mean to say that Captain McPeek is going to close his hotel!”
I exclaimed. My trunk was there. It contained guarantees of my respectability.
his wife will keep it open,” replied the girl. “Look!
you can see papa now. He’s digging.”
I blurted out.
Professor Holroyd as a prim, spectacled gentleman, with close-cut,
snowy beard and a clerical allure. The man I saw digging wore green
goggles, a jersey, a battered sou’wester, and hip-boots of rubber.
He was delving in the muck of the salt meadow, his face streaming
with perspiration, his boots and jersey splashed with unpleasant-looking
mud. He glanced up as we approached, shading his eyes with a sunburnt
dear,” said Miss Holroyd, “here is Jack’s friend,
whom you bailed out of Mazas.”
The introduction was startling. I turned crimson with mortification.
The professor was very decent about it; he called me by name at once.
When he said
this he looked at his spade. It was clear that he considered me a
nuisance and wished to go on with his digging.
he said, “you are still writing?”
I replied, trying not to speak sarcastically. My output had rivaled
that of “The Duchess”—in quantity, I mean.
read—fiction,” he said, looking restlessly at the hole
in the ground. Miss Holroyd came to my rescue.
was a charming story you wrote last,” she said. “Papa
should read it—you should, papa; it’s all about a fossil.”
We both looked
narrowly at Miss Holroyd. Her smile was guileless.
repeated the professor. “Do you care for fossils?”
much,” said I.
Now I am not
perfectly sure what my object was in lying. I looked at Daisy Holroyd’s
dark-fringed eyes. They were very grave.
said I, “are my hobby.”
I think Miss
Holroyd winced a little at this. I did not care. I went on:
seldom had the opportunity to study the subject, but, as a boy, I
collected flint arrowheads
arrow-heads!” said the professor coldly.
they were the nearest things to fossils obtainable,” I replied,
marvelling at my own mendacity.
looked into the hole. I also looked. I could see nothing in it. “He’s
digging for fossils,” thought Ito myself.
said the professor cautiously, “you might wish to aid me in
a little research— that is to say, if you have an inclination
for fossils.” The double-entendre was not lost upon me.
read all your books so eagerly,” said I, “that to join
you, to be of service to you in any research, however difficult and
trying, would be an honour and a privilege that I never dared to hope
thought Ito myself; “will do its own work.”
But the professor
was still suspicious. How could he help it, when he remembered Jack’s
escapades, in which my name was always blended! Doubtless he was satisfied
that my influence on Jack was evil. The contrary was the case, too.
he said, worrying the edges of the excavation with his spade, “fossils
are not things to be lightly considered.”
are the most interesting as well as puzzling things in the world,”
are!” I cried enthusiastically.
am not looking for fossils,” observed the professor mildly.
This was a facer.
I looked at Daisy Holroyd. She bit her lip and fixed her eyes on the
sea. Her eyes were wonderful eyes.
think I was digging for fossils in a salt meadow?” queried the
professor. “You can have read very little about the subject.
I am digging for something quite different.”
I was silent.
I knew that my face was a trifle flushed. I longed to say, “Well,
what the devil are you digging for?” but I only stared into
the hole as though hypnotized.
McPeek and Frisby ought to be here,” he said, looking first
at Daisy and then across the meadows.
I ached to ask
him why he had subpoenaed Captain McPeek and Frisby.
are coming,” said Daisy, shading her eyes. “Do you see
the speck on the meadows?”
be a mud hen,” said the professor.
Holroyd is right,” I said. “A wagon and team and two men
are coming from the north. There is a dog beside the wagon—it’s
that miserable yellow dog of Frisby’s.”
gracious!” cried the professor, “you don’t mean
to tell me that you see all that at such a distance?”
nothing,” he insisted.
see that I’m right, presently,” I laughed.
removed his blue goggles and rubbed them, glancing obliquely at me.
you heard what extraordinary eyesight duck shooters have?” said
his daughter, looking back at her father. “Jack says that they
can tell exactly what kind of a duck is flying before most people
could see anything at all in the sky.”
true,” I said; “it comes to anybody, I fancy, who has
regarded me with a new interest. There was inspiration in his eyes.
He turned toward the ocean. For a long time he stared at the tossing
waves on the beach, then he looked far out to where the horizon met
any ducks out there?” he asked at last.
said I, scanning the sea, “there are.”
a pair of binoculars from his coat-tail pocket, adjusted them, and
raised them to his eyes.
What sort of ducks?”
I looked more
carefully, holding both hands over my forehead.
ducks—scoters and widgeon. There is one bufflehead among them—no,
two; the rest are coots,” I replied.
cried the professor, “is most astonishing. I have good eyes,
but I can’t see a blessed thing without these binoculars!”
“It’s not extraordinary,” said I, “the
surf ducks and coots any novice might recognise; the widgeon and buffleheads
I should not have been able to name unless they had risen from the
water. It is easy to tell any duck when it is flying, even though
it looks no bigger than a black pin-point.”
But the professor
insisted that it was marvellous, and he said that I might render him
invaluable service if I would consent to come and camp at Pine Inlet
for a few weeks.
I looked at
his daughter, but she turned her back—not exactly in disdain
either. Her back was beautifully moulded. Her gown fitted also.
out here?” I repeated, pretending to be unpleasantly surprised.
“I do not think he would care to,” said Miss Holroyd without
turning. I had not expected that.
all things,” said I, in a clear, pleasant voice, “I like
to camp out.” She said nothing.
not exactly camping,” said the professor. “Come, you shall
see our conservatory. Daisy, come, dear! you must put on a heavier
frock; it is getting toward sundown.”
At that moment,
over a near dune, two horses’ heads appeared, followed by two
human heads, then a wagon, then a yellow dog.
I turned triumphantly
to the professor.
the very man I want,” he muttered; “the very man—the
very man.” I looked at Daisy Holroyd. She returned my glance
with a defiant little smile. “Waal,” said Captain McPeek,
driving up, “here we be! Git out, Frisby.”
nervous, and sentimental, hopped out of the cart.
said the professor, impatiently moving across the dunes. I walked
with Daisy Holroyd. McPeek and Frisby followed. The yellow dog walked
End of PART ONE..... GO TO PART