Professor Farrago had remarked to
me that morning:
“The city of New York always reminds me of a slovenly, fat woman with her
dress unbuttoned behind.”
“New York’s architecture,” said I, “—or what popularly passes for it—is
all in front. The minute you get to the rear a pitiable condition
He said: “Professor Jane Bottomly is all facade; the remainder of her is
merely an occiputal backyard full of theoretical tin cans and broken bottles.
I think we all had
It was a fearsome description. I trembled as I lighted an inexpensive
cigar. The sentimental feminist movement in America was clearly at
the bottom of the Bottomly
Long ago, in a reactionary burst of hysteria, the North enfranchised the
Ethiopian. In a similar sentimental explosion of dementia, some sixty
years later, the United
States wept violently over the
immemorial wrongs perpetrated upon the restless sex, opened the front and
back doors of opportunity, and sobbed out, “Go to it, ladies!”
They are still going.
Professor Jane Bottomly was wished on us out of a pleasant April sky.
She fell like a meteoric mass of molten metal upon the Bronx Park Zoölogical
splashing her excoriating personality
over everybody until everybody writhed.
I had not yet seen the lady. I did not care to. Sooner or later
I’d be obliged to meet her but I was not impatient.
Now the Field Expeditionary Force of the Bronx Park Zoölogical Society
is, perhaps, the most important arm of the service. Professor Bottomly
had just been
appointed official head of all
field work. Why? Nobody knew. It is true that she had written
several combination nature and love romances. In these popular volumes
flowers, butterflies, birds, animals,
dialect, sobs, and sun-bonnets were stirred up together into a saccharine
mess eagerly gulped down by a provincial reading public, which
immediately protruded its tongue
The news of her impending arrival among us was an awful blow to everybody
at the Bronx. Professor Farrago fainted in the arms of his pretty
Professor Cornelius Lezard of the
Batrachian Department ran around his desk all day long in narrowing circles
and was discovered on his stomach still feebly squirming
like an expiring top; Dr.
Hans Fooss, our beloved Professor of Pachydermatology sat for hours weeping
into his noodle soup. As for me, I was both furious and frightened,
for, within the hearing of several
people, Professor Bottomly had remarked in a very clear voice to her new
assistant, Dr. Daisy Delmour, that she intended to get rid of me
for the good of the Bronx because
of my reputation for indiscreet gallantry among the feminine employees
of the Bronx Society.
Professor Lezard overhead that outrageous remark and he hastened to repeat
it to me.
I was lunching at the time in my private office in the Administration Building
with Dr. Hans Fooss—he and I being too busy dissecting an unusually
fine specimen of
Dingue to go to the Rolling Stone
Inn for luncheon—when Professor Lezard rushed in with the scandalous libel
still sizzling in his ears.
“Everybody heard her say it!” he went on, wringing his hands. “It
was a most unfortunate thing for anybody to say about you before all those
young ladies. Every
stenographer and typewriter there
turned pale and then red.” “What!” I exclaimed, conscious that my own ears
were growing large and hot. “Did that outrageous woman
have the bad taste to say such
a thing before all those sensitive girls!”
“She did. She glared at them when she said it. Several blondes
and one brunette began to cry.”
“I hope,” said I, a trifle tremulously, “that no typewriter so far forgot
herself as to admit noticing playfulness on my part.”
“They all were tearfully unanimous in declaring you to be a perfect gentleman!”
“I am,” I said. “I am also a married man—irrevocably wedded to science.
I desire no other spouse. I am ineligible; and everybody knows it.
If at times a purely
scientific curiosity leads me into
a detached and impersonally psychological investigation of certain—ah—feminine
“Certainly,” said Lezard. “To investigate the feminine is more than
a science; it is a duty!”
“Of a surety!” nodded Dr. Fooss.
I looked proudly upon my two loyal friends and bit into my cheese sandwich.
Only men know men. A jury of my peers had exonerated me. What
did I care for
“All the same,” added Lezard, “you’d better be careful or Professor Bottomly
will put one over on you yet.”
“I am always careful,” I said with dignity.
“All men should be. It is the only protection of a defenseless coast
line,” nodded Lezard.
“Und neffer, neffer commid nodding to paper,” added Dr. Fooss.
“Don’d neffer write it, ‘I lofe you like I was going to blow up alretty!’
Ach, nein! Don’d you write
down somedings. Effery man
he iss entitled to protection; und so iss it he iss protected.”
Stein in hand he beamed upon us benevolently over his knifeful of sauerfisch,
then he fed himself and rammed it down with a hearty draught of Pilsner.
with reverence upon Kultur as embodied
in this great Teuton.
“That woman,” remarked Lezard to me, “certainly means to get rid of you.
It seems to me that there are only two possible ways for you to hold down
your job at the
Bronx. You know it, don’t
I nodded. “Yes,” I said; “either I must pay marked masculine attention
to Professor Bottomly: or I must manage to put one over on her.”
“Of course,” said Lezard, “the first method is the easier for you—”
“Not for a minute!” I said, hastily; “I simply couldn’t become frolicsome
with her. You say she’s got a voice like a drill-sergeant and she
goose-steps when she
walks; and I don’t mind admitting
she has me badly scared already. No; she must be scientifically ruined.
It is the only method which makes her elimination certain.”
“But if her popular nature books didn’t ruin her scientifically, how can
we hope to lead her astray?” inquired Lezard.
“There is,” I said, thoughtfully, “only one thing that can really ruin
a scientist. Ridicule! I have braved it many a time, taking my scientific
life in my hands in pursuit
of unknown specimens which might
have proved only imaginary.
Public ridicule would have ended my scientific career in such an event.
I know of no better way to end Professor Bottomly’s scientific career and
mischief than to start her out
after something which doesn’t exist, inform the newspapers, and let her
suffer the agonising consequences.”
Dr. Fooss began to shout:
“The idea iss schön! colossal! prachtvol! ausgezeichnet! wunderbar!
wunderschön! gemütlich—” A large, tough noodle checked him.
While he labored with Teutonic imperturbability to master it Lezard and
I exchanged suggestions regarding the proposed annihilation of this fearsome
woman who had come ravening among us amid the peaceful and soporific environment
of Bronx Park.
It was a dreadful thing for us to have our balmy Lotus-eaters’ paradise
so startlingly invaded by a large, loquacious, loud-voiced lady who had
already stirred us all out of our agreeable, traditional and leisurely
inertia. Inertia begets cogitation, and cogitation begets ideas,
and ideas beget reflexion, and profound reflexion is the fundamental cornerstone
of that immortal temple in which the goddess Science sits asleep between
her dozing sisters, Custom and Religion. This thought seemed to me
so unusually beautiful that I wrote it with a pencil upon my cuff.
While I was writing it, quietly happy in the deep pleasure that my intellectual
allegory afforded me, Dr. Fooss swabbed the last morsel of nourishment
from his plate with a wad of rye bread, then bolting the bread and wiping
his beard with his fingers and his fingers on his waistcoat, he made several
guttural observations too profoundly German to be immediately intelligible,
and lighted his porcelain pipe.
“Ach wass!” he remarked in ruminative fashion. “Dot Frauenzimmer
she iss to raise hell alretty determined. Von Pachydermatology she
knows nodding. Maybe she leaves me alone, maybe it is to be ‘raus
mit me. I’ weis’ ni’! It iss aber besser one over on dat lady to
“It certainly is advisable,” replied Lezard.
“Let us try to think of something sufficiently disastrous to terminate
her scientific career,” said I. And I bowed my rather striking head
and rested the point of my forefinger upon my forehead. Though crystallises
more quickly for me when I assume this attitude.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Lezard fold his arms and sit frowning
Dr. Fooss lay back in a big, deeply padded armchair and closed his
prominent eyes. His pipe went out presently, and now and then he
made long-drawn nasal remarks, in German, too complicated for either Lezard
or for me to entirely comprehend. “We must try to get her as far
away from here as possible,” mused Lezard. “Is Oyster Bay too far
and too cruel?”
I pondered darkly upon the suggestion. But it seemed unpleasantly
“Lezard,” said I, “come, let us reason together. Now what is woman’s
“Very well; assuming that to be true, what—ah—quality particularly characterizes
woman when so beset.”
“Then,” said I, “we ought to begin my exciting the curiosity of Professor
Bottomly; and her ruthless determination to satisfy that curiosity should
“How,” he asked, “are we to arouse her curiosity?”
“By pretending that we have knowledge of something hitherto undiscovered,
the discovery of which would redound to our scientific glory.”
“I see. She’d want the glory for herself. She’d swipe it.”
“She would,” said I.
“Tee—hee!” he giggled; “Wouldn’t it be funny to plant something phony on
I waved my arms rather gracefully in my excitement:
“That is the germ of an idea!” I said. “If we could plant something—
something—far away from here—very far away—if we could bury something—
like the Cardiff
“Hundreds and hundreds of miles away!”
“Thousands!” I insisted, enthusiastically.
“Tee-hee! In Tasmania, for example! Maybe a Tasmanian Devil might acquire
“There exists a gnat,” said I, “in Borneo— Gnatus soporificus—and when
this tiny gnat stings people they never entirely wake up. It’s really
rather a pleasurable catastrophe, I understand. Life becomes one
endless cat-nap— one delightful siesta, with intervals for light nourishment....
She—ah—could sit very comfortably in some pleasant retreat and rock in
a rocking-chair and doze quite happily through the years to come....
And from your description of her I should say that the Soldiers’ Home might
“It won’t do,” he said, gloomily.
“Why? Is it too much like crime?”
“Oh not at all. Only if she went to Borneo she’d be sure to take
a mosquito-bar with her.”
In the depressed silence which ensued Dr. Fooss suddenly made several
Futurist observations through his nose with monotonous but authoritative
regularity. I tried to catch his meaning and his eye. The one
remained cryptic, the other shut.
Lezard sat thinking very hard. And as I fidgetted in my chair, fiddling
nervously with various objects lying on my desk I chanced to pick up a
letter from the pile of still unopened mail at my elbow.
Still pondering on Professor Bottomly’s proposed destruction, I turned
the letter over idly and my preoccupied gaze rested on the postmark.
After a moment I leaned forward and examined it more attentively.
The letter directed to me was postmarked Fort Carcajou, Cook’s Peninsula,
Baffin Land; and now I recalled the handwriting, having already seen it
three or four times within the last month or so.
“Lezard,” I said, “that lunatic trapper from Baffin Land has written to
me again. What do you suppose is the matter with him? Is he just
plain crazy or does he think he can be funny with me?”
Lezard gazed at me absently. Then, all at once a gleam of savage
interest lighted his somewhat solemn features.
“Read the letter to me,” he said, with an evil smile which instantly animated
my own latent imagination. And immediately it occurred to me that
perhaps, in the humble letter from the wilds of Baffin Land, which I was
now opening with eager and unsteady fingers, might lie concealed the professional
undoing of Professor Jane Bottomly, and the only hope of my own ultimate
and scientific salvation.
The room became hideously still as I unfolded the pencil-scrawled sheets
of cheap, ruled letter paper.
Dr. Fooss opened his eyes, looked at me, made porcine sounds indicative
of personal well-being, relighted his pipe, and disposed himself to listen.
But just as I was about to begin, Lezard suddenly laid his forefinger across
his lips conjuring us to densest silence.
For a moment or two I heard nothing except the buzzing of flies.
Then I stole a startled glance at my door. It was opening slowly,
almost imperceptibly. But it did not open very far—just a crack remained.
Then, listening with all our might, we heard the cautiously suppressed
breathing of somebody in the hallway just outside of my door.
Lezard turned and cast at me a glance of horrified intelligence.
In dumb pantomime he outlined in the air, with one hand, the large and
feminine amplification of his own person, conveying to us the certainty
of his suspicions concerning the unseen eavesdropper.
We nodded. We understood perfectly that she was out there prepared
to listen to every word we uttered.
A flicker of ferocious joy disturbed Lezard’s otherwise innocuous features;
he winked horribly at Dr. Fooss and at me, and uttered a faint click
with his teeth and tongue like the snap of a closing trap.
“Gentlemen,” he said, in the guarded yet excited voice of a man who is
confident of not being overheard, “the matter under discussion admits of
only one interpretation: a discovery—perhaps the most vitally important
discovery of all the centuries—is imminent.
“Secrecy is imperative; the scientific glory is to be shared by us alone,
and there is enough of glory to go around.
“Mr. Chairman, I move that epoch-making letter be read aloud!”
“I second dot motion!” said Dr. Fooss, winking so violently at me
that his glasses wabbled.
“Gentlemen,” said I, “it has been moved and seconded that this epochmaking
letter be read aloud. All those in favor will kindly say ‘aye.’”
“Aye! Aye!” they exclaimed, fairly wriggling in their furtive joy.
“The contrary-minded will kindly emit the usual negation,” I went on....
“It seems to be carried .... It is carried. The chairman will
proceed to the reading of the epoch-making letter.”
I quietly lighted a five-cent cigar, unfolded the letter and read aloud:
“Joneses Shack, Golden Glacier, Cook’s Peninsula, Baffin Land, March 15,
“Professor, Dear Sir:
“I already wrote you three times no answer having been rec’d perhaps you
think I’m kiddin’ you’re a dam’ liar I ain’t.
“Hoping to tempt you to come I will hereby tell you more’n I told you in
my other letters, the terminal moraine of this here Golden Glacier finishes
into a marsh, nothing to see for miles excep’ frozen tussock and mud and
all flat as hell for fifty miles which is where I am trappin’ it for mink
and otter and now ready to go back to Fort Carcajou. i told you what
I seen stickin’ in under this here marsh, where anything sticks out the
wolves have eat it, but most of them there ellerphants is in under the
ice and mud too far for the wolves to git ‘em.
“i ain’t kiddin’ you, there is a whole herd of furry ellerphants in the
marsh like as they were stuck there and all lay down and was drownded like.
Some has tusks and some hasn’t. Two ellerphants stuck out of the
ice, I eat onto one, the meat was good and sweet and joosy, the damn wolves
eat it up that night, I had cut stakes and rost for three months though
and am eating off it yet.
“Thinking as how ellerphants and all like that is your graft, I being a
keeper in the Mouse House once in the Bronx and seein’ you nosin’ around
like you was full of scientific thinks, it comes to me to write you and
put you next.
“If you say so I’ll wait here and help you with them ellerphants.
Livin’ wages is all I ask also eleven thousand dollars for tippin’ you
wise. I won’t tell nobody till I hear from you. I’m hones’you
can trus’ me. Write me to Fort Carcajou if you mean bizness.
So no more respectfully,
When I finished reading I cautiously glanced at the door, and, finding
it still on the crack, turned and smiled subtly upon Lezard and Fooss.
In their slowly spreading grins I saw they agreed with me that somebody,
signing himself James Skaw, was still trying to hoax the Great Zoölogical
Society of Bronx Park.
“Gentlemen,” I said aloud, injecting innocent enthusiasm into my voice,
“this secret expedition to Baffin Land which we three are about to organise
is destined to be without doubt the most scientifically prolific field
expedition ever organised by man.
“Imagine an entire herd of mammoths preserved in mud and ice through all
these thousands of years!
“Gentlemen, no discovery ever made has even remotely approached in importance
the discovery made by this simple, illiterate trapper, James Skaw.”
“I thought,” protested Lezard, “that we are to be announced as the discoverers.”
“We are,” said I, “the discoverers of James Skaw, which makes us technically
the finders of the ice-preserved herd of mammoths— technically, you understand.
A few thousand dollars,” I added, carelessly, “ought to satiate James Skaw.”
“We could name dot glacier after him,” suggested Dr. Fooss.
“Certainly—the Skaw Glacier. That ought to be enough glory for him.
It ought to satisfy him and prevent any indiscreet remarks,” nodded Lezard.
“Gentlemen,” said I, “there is only one detail that really troubles me.
Ought we to notify our honoured and respected Chief of Division concerning
“Do you mean, should we tell that accomplished and fascinating lady, Professor
Bottomly, about this herd of mammoths?” I asked in a loud, clear voice.
And immediately answered my own question: “No,” I said, “no, dear friends.
Professor Bottomly already has too much responsibility weighing upon her
distinguished mind. No, dear brothers in science, we should steal
away unobserved as though setting out upon an ordinary field expedition.
And when we return with fresh and immortal laurels such as no man before
has ever worn, no doubt that our generous-minded Chief of Division will
weave for us further wreaths to crown our brows—the priceless garlands
of professional approval!” And I made a horrible face at my co-conspirators.
Before I finished Lezard had taken his own face in his hands for the purpose
of stifling raucous and untimely mirth. As for Dr. Fooss, his
small, porcine eyes snapped and twinkled madly behind his spectacles, but
he seemed rather inclined to approve my flowers of rhetoric.
“Ja,” said he, “so iss it besser oursellufs dot gefrozenss herd von elephanten
to discover, und, by and by, die elephanten bei der Pronx Bark home yet
again once more to bring. We shall therefore much praise thereby
bekommen. Ach wass!”
“Gentlemen,” said I, distinctly, “it is decided, then, that we shall say
nothing concerning the true object of this expedition to Professor Bottomly.”
Lezard and Fooss nodded assent. Then, in the silence, we all strained
our ears to listen. And presently we detected the scarcely heard
sound of cautiously retreating footsteps down the corridor.
When it was safe to do so I arose and closed my door.
“I think,” said I, with a sort of infernal cheerfulness in my tones, “that
we are about to do something jocose to Jane Bottomly.”
“A few,” said Professor Lezard. He rose and silently executed a complicated
“I shall laff,” said Dr. Fooss, earnestly, “und I shall laff, und
I shall laff—ach Gott how I shall laff my pally head off!”
I folded my arms and turned romanesquely toward the direction in which
Professor Bottomly had retreated.
“Viper!” I said. “The Bronx shall nourish you in its bosom no more!
Fade away, Ophidian!”
The sentiment was applauded by all. There chanced to be in my desk
a bottle marked: “That’s all!” On the label somebody had written: “Do it
End of PART ONE..... GO TO PART