"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Monday, March 30, 2020

The Thing That Went Clawing in the Night

Accounts of haunted dwellings tend to be pretty bog-standard stuff. Spectral figures drifting over the lawn, mysterious rappings at night. Murder victims unable to find peace, or villains with guilty consciences that won’t allow them to rest. To be honest, when you’ve read enough of them, real-life ghost stories can get pretty dull. For that reason, when you come across one that combines unusually disturbing features with an utterly inexplicable cause, one has to sit up and take notice.

In early 1975, two young nursing students, Shirley Brown and Gail Bruce, became roommates in a flat in an old tenement in Dundee, Scotland. It was a modest place: tiny living room, a bedroom, a small bathroom, and a postage-stamp sized kitchenette. Still, it suited their needs, and as the two women were friends who were enjoying the training for their chosen professions, life seemed pretty good.

For ten months, neither woman saw anything unusual about their residence. Then, in January 1976, things began getting very weird indeed. One morning, Shirley had the afternoon shift, so she stayed in bed while Gail got ready to leave for work. Before Gail left, she noticed that Shirley was sitting up and staring at her in a very peculiar way. When she asked if anything was wrong, Shirley just turned over in bed silently.

Later, as the two had lunch together, Gail told her friend that something very odd had happened the previous night. For whatever reason, she found it impossible to sleep. At about 3:30, the hall light came on, followed by the sound of someone slowly moving around in their bathroom. Naturally, her first thought was of burglars...except she was certain the front door was locked. After a moment, the footsteps stopped and the light went out.

Then Gail saw something even more disturbing. There was an old woman in a blue nightgown standing next to Shirley’s bed. Gail felt an intense aura of evil around her. The intruder and Shirley were talking together intently, but the conversation was too whispered and muttered for her to make out what was being said. Gail closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them. The old woman was gone. The next day, Shirley claimed to have no memory of any of this, but she was just as terrified as Gail. Not knowing what else to do, the women agreed that neither would ever be alone in the flat again.

One night about a week later, Shirley lay in bed reading while Gail was getting ready for bed in the bathroom. Then she heard footsteps in the kitchenette, which was adjacent to the bedroom. Nervously, she rapped on the wall between the two rooms, hoping against hope it was just Gail in there. In response, there was the menacing sound of what she later described as “giant talons” violently clawing at the wall. Shirley screamed, which brought Gail running in from the bathroom. When she entered the room, the frightening sounds stopped. As the two women--now understandably scared for their lives--huddled together on the bed, the uproar began again, with even greater intensity. For some fifteen minutes, they heard the sound of wild tearing and scratching, as if some demonic beast was determined to claw down the wall and tear the frantic women to pieces. The pair quickly threw some clothes on so they could escape, but then they realized their keys were on the kitchen table. In order to retrieve them, they would have to confront whatever clawed nightmare thing had taken over their flat.

Staying where they were, however, seemed even more terrifying. With the courage that can come from desperation, the women flung open the bedroom door and switched on the light. With a blinding flash, the bulb fused. Simultaneously, the hideous clawing noises stopped. The pair raced across the room, grabbed their keys, and ran, not slowing down until they reached the safety of a friend’s apartment.

The following morning, Gail and Shirley only returned to their flat long enough to pack their belongings. Despite the uproar of the previous night, nothing was out of place, and the kitchen wall was unmarked.

The two never entered the tenement again. They briefly considered looking into the flat’s history, to see if it provided any clues regarding the horror they had experienced. However, on second thought, they decided it might be best not to know.

Paranormal researcher Peter Moss, who interviewed Gail and Shirley as part of his book “Ghosts Over Britain,” believed they were entirely truthful. Unfortunately, he could not provide any more explanation for this sudden, brief, and extremely disturbing experience than the women could.

There are just some things that defy anyone’s explanation.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Weekend Link Dump

"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

This week's Link Dump features skilled musical accompaniment!

Who the hell is (was?) the Long Island serial killer?

Famous left-handers from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Imagine winning a game show and finding out your prize is a date with a serial killer.

The lawyer who helped build the modern entertainment world. Does he deserve thanks, or a bit of spitting on his grave?  Discuss.

Ruined castles are being digitally reconstructed.

Those fishy Neanderthals.

A Danish West Indies governor comes to a bad end.

Remembering the Battle of Cheriton.

Haunted Melrose Abbey.

Witchcraft trials in British India.

A banished unwed mother finally returns home.

The last survivor of the transatlantic slave trade.

The bigamous Arthur Wicks.

The Victorian fondness for romanticizing female suicide.

The weirdness of German puppetry, and other theatrical links.

Hey, God, where's a good lightning strike when you need one?

A history of hand washing.

Black Charley of Norwich.

The 18th century fondness for eye portraits.

A General with strong opinions.

That time a Brazilian island was attacked by aliens.

Ancient history and a bronze cat.

The murder of a champion racehorse.

Tudor political intrigue and the Pearl of York.

How a pauper got a proper funeral.

Einstein in Bohemia.

In praise of marginalia.

Reexamining Alexander von Humboldt.

The plagues of Old London.

A murder is finally solved, albeit a bit too late.

I'll see your English Stonehenge and raise you one Scottish crannog.

The difference between Canadian and American whiskey.

Some timely reading from the 18th century.

The Spitalfields Nippers.

Vanity and the grave-robbing vampire occultist.

The Arian Vandals; or why early Christianity was a hot mess.

The Romanovs and the Windsors go on holiday.

Restoring Notre Dame.

How Tibetan yogis upgrade their brains.

The curious case of Typhoid Mary.

The massacre of the Knight family.

The real "Sound of Music."

Red Cross, the kitten of Bellevue.

Photos of 19th century Constantinople.

Did plague doctors really wear those bird masks?

The magical Davenport Brothers.

Equinox and the Sphinx.

A teenage murderess.

The Mississippi Company and the birth of the millionaire.

The notorious Rugeley poisoner.

Celebrating Lady Day.

An archaeology student just found a 5,000 year old sword.

The Cat Lady of Bedford Street.

The fight over Alexander the Great's tomb.

The Victorian language of flowers.

The serial killer who disappeared.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a particularly weird ghost story.  In the meantime, be safe, everyone.  Strange times, indeed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

You wouldn’t normally expect to see “Anne Bronte” and “haunted staircase” in the same newspaper article, but that’s just the sort of wacky little blog I’m running here. This installment of Norton Mockridge’s syndicated column appeared in the (Helena, Montana) “Independent Record,” September 4, 1966:
New York--Everybody knows, of course, that if you've got a very old house, or a falling-down castle, you might very well have a ghost in it. But what if you've got a relatively new house and you have a ghost in it? And what if that ghost is only on the stairs?

Well, that's what Mrs. Gladys Topping has at "Sanderling," her home on Beach lane, Quogue, Long Island. Honest!

Now let me explain. There's nothing kooky about Mrs. Topping. She's the widow of Allen S. Topping, a gentleman who built a large and prosperous industrial hardware firm, Topping Brothers, in Manhattan. And it's Gladys herself who now runs the business. She's also a real estate broker on Long Island, and in her spare time she judges horse shows.

But she definitely has a ghost in her house. And this ghost is a lady who goes up and down the beautiful Queen Anne staircase that Gladys had installed in her new house. The ghost doesn't seem to go anywhere else in the house, and Gladys believes she acquired it with the staircase when she bought it in England.

Here's the story: In 1958, Gladys and her husband were in London to attend the Kensington Antiques Fair. They were looking for mantel pieces, corner cupboards, chandeliers and such to put in their house, which had been built in 1954.

"You know," said one dealer, "you really ought to buy my Queen Anne staircase and have it put in your home. It's hand-carved and made entirely of burled yew which, as you know, is very rare. The staircast has quite a history."

So the Toppings drove 50 miles to the dealer's warehouse, fell in love with the staircase and bought it. It had come from a stately Eighteenth Century mansion called Blake Hall, in Mirfield, which had been dismantled in 1954, with everything in it put up for auction.

It was in Mirfield, which is on the road from Dewsbury to Huddersfield, Yorkshire, that the three Bronte sisters once lived and went to school. And Anne Bronte served as a governess for three years at Blake Hall, where she wrote hymns and composed much of her story of Agnes Grey.

Well, the Toppings had the staircase shipped to their house on Long Island and had it put in place of the old staircase in the main hall, leading to the second floor. I saw it the other day, and it's a beautiful thing.

Nothing happened for four years.

"But," Gladys told me, "on the third of September, 1962, about sunset, I was sitting in my second-floor bedroom in an hour of meditation. My husband, who had passed away the previous April, had given me a Doberman pinscher puppy who was my constant shadow and who now, 9 months old, lay peacefully sleeping at my feet.

"No one else was in the house, and only the late call of a quail on the grounds, or the cry of a waterfowl from the nearby marshland, broke the stillness of the day's closing. Suddenly I heard light footsteps which seemed to be on the stairs. The Doberman, Mister Wyk, was instantly on his feet and he hastened to the landing. I followed, to find him with hackles up and looking uneasily toward the first floor.

"To my astonishment, I saw the figure of a young woman ascending the stairs. She was dressed in a long, full skirt which she lifted above her ankles. A tri-cornered shawl was about her shoulders, and her hair was held in a bun on the back of her neck. In her right hand she carried a chamber stick. Her expression was pensive, as though she were locked deep in her own pleasant thoughts.

"As the silent figure approached the head of the stairs, Mister Wyk became agitated and backed to the end of the hallway. I spoke gently to him and, in that moment, the figure vanished.

"Mentally, I asked: 'Who?' and the instant impression I received was 'Anne Bronte.' It was an hour before Mister Wyk became completely quiet. I had, of course, read and studied about the Bronte sisters and had been touched by the exceeding pathos of their short lives. And, when in England, I had visited the lonely moors where they often had walked. Perhaps it was this bond that caused the spirit of Anne to pay me the visit and again climb that stair.

"Since then, I have not seen her again. But often I feel her presence. I hear footsteps and, occasionally, rappings and other noises. Mister Wyk hears them, too, and his ears go up, and he trots to the stairs. But Anne if, indeed, it is Anne, apparently does not wish to reveal herself any more. She seems content just going up and down the stairs."

Gladys has never heard of anyone else inheriting a ghost with a staircase, or with any other household furnishings, and neither have I. But if anyone knows of anything like this, she and I would be glad to hear about it.

The Topping home--complete with staircase--is still standing. No word on any further sightings of ghosts, unfortunately.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Elopement or Abduction? The Confusing Disappearance of Luella Mabbitt

"Lafayette Journal and Courier," January 6, 1980, via Newspapers.com

All families have their ups and downs. However, when you find a clan where an infanticide trial is arguably the least worst thing to happen to them, it’s safe to say you’ve found one very special household.

The Mabbitts--described by one newspaper as from “good old farmer stock”--lived just outside of Delphi, Indiana. They seemed like an ideal family. The father, Peter Mabbitt, was both wealthy and respectable. The children were all attractive, intelligent, and popular. The belle of the family was 23-year-old Luella, who, naturally, had many suitors. Her favored beau was a man ten years her senior named Amer Green, but--for what may well have been very good reasons--her father disapproved of him. So strong was Mr. Mabbitt’s dislike for Green that he was able to persuade Luella to write her lover a “Dear John” letter.

Unfortunately, Green did not take his dismissal well. On August 6, 1886, William Walker, the swain of Luella’s twin sister Ella, rode to the Mabbitt house and called Ella out for a chat. As the two were talking, Green appeared, demanding that Luella come out as well. When Ella told him her sister was asleep, Green lost his temper, snapping that if he didn’t get to see Luella, he would “tear the house apart.”

Luella--whether reluctantly or not is not recorded--went out to see Green. The two talked quietly for a few minutes, and then they walked off together. After a moment, Walker drove off, and Ella went back to the house, little guessing that this would be the last time she would ever see her sister.

When Luella failed to return that night, her family was naturally alarmed. Equally inevitably, their first thought was to hunt down Amer Green. The local police questioned both Walker and Green, but neither of them claimed to have any idea what had happened to Luella. A massive search was made of the area, without finding any trace of the missing young woman. Peter Mabbitt hired a private detective, and offered a substantial reward for any information about his daughter, but no clues emerged. It was as if Luella had simply evaporated into the air.

When Amer Green quietly slipped out of town, that only hardened local certainty that he knew exactly what had become of Luella. On August 12, a mob of the lynching variety was soon assembled around the Green home. They dragged Amer’s mother out, placed a noose around her neck, and demanded that she tell them where her son had gone. She either couldn’t or wouldn’t say. Eventually, the frustrated crowd let her go and left. As the prime suspect in the disappearance was unable to be found, police did the next best thing. They arrested Mrs. Green. William Walker was tossed into jail as well, apparently only because he had the bad luck to be on the scene the night Luella vanished.

As it turned out, Amer wasn’t the only member of his family with an alleged penchant for murder. His brother William had been accused of killing one Enos Brumbaught, and he too had fled justice. Pinkerton detectives eventually managed to track the pair down in Texas. They were arrested in July 1887 and brought back to Indiana.

In the meantime, the mystery of the whereabouts of Luella Mabbitt had finally been solved...maybe. In February 1887, a body was discovered in the Wabash River. It was so badly decomposed as to be unrecognizable, but Ella Mabbitt and her mother believed that these were Luella’s remains--largely, apparently, on the grounds that the corpse’s teeth resembled Ella’s. Peter Mabbitt, on the other hand, was unconvinced. A physician who examined the body believed the teeth were of someone much older than Luella, and, furthermore, the corpse was that of a man! The uncertainty about these remains only ensured that the Mabbitt Mystery was even more muddled than before.

Meanwhile, Amer Green, from his cell in the Carroll County jail, continued to insist that Luella was alive and well and living in Texas with a man named Samuel Payne. He refused to say any more than this, intimating that all would eventually be made clear.

If Green truly did have evidence that Luella was still among the living, he was soon to regret keeping it to himself. Locals were convinced he was a murderer, but lacking a verified body or any other hard evidence that Green--or anybody else--had murdered Luella, it was looking increasingly unlikely that he would ever be convicted. The men of Delphi began to say that if the law could not punish Amer Green, well, they would have to do so themselves.

On the night of October 21, 1887, some two hundred men quietly marched through the streets, surrounding the county jail. They broke their way in and confronted the sheriff, demanding the keys to the prison. When he refused, some of the mob overpowered him, and the others used sledgehammers to break the locks leading to the cells. They went straight to the cell containing Amer Green. At gunpoint, he was seized and tied up. He was led outside and forced into a covered wagon. It drove off, with the bulk of the crowd following.

The wagon drove to the woods of Walnut Grove, about eight miles away. It was soon joined by a large caravan of carriages, wagons, and men on horseback. Green was taken out of the wagon and ordered to confess his guilt.

Green maintained the stolid calm of a man who knows he’s doomed. He quietly maintained that Luella was in Fort Worth. When asked why, if this was the case, she didn’t come home and resolve the mystery, he replied, “She would if I had the time to send for her.” He claimed that Luella had been desperate to leave her home for some time, and on the night she vanished, he had merely assisted in her desire to run away.

Among the crowd was Peter Mabbitt. He stepped forward and begged Green to tell the truth. What had he done with Luella?

“I loved her better than my own life,” Green retorted. “That is the reason I went away with her. I loved her better than you did and all the times she has been away I have cared for her.”

His words were not enough to convince a mob bent on murder. A rope was tied around a branch of a walnut tree and the other end wrapped around Green’s neck as he stood in the wagon seat. The wagon lurched forward, leaving the condemned man dangling in the air.

When it was clear that Green was dead, the crowd soon dispersed, leaving the body hanging in the tree. Before the coroner took charge of it the next day, thousands of people came to gawk at the grotesque sight. Someone took a photograph of the hanging corpse, which was--I kid you not--turned into a postcard. (Copies can be found online, but I strongly urge you not to try to find them.) The men responsible for Green’s lynching were never punished. To this day, Green’s ghost is said to haunt the grove where he died.

"Jackson County Banner," October 27, 1887, via Newspapers.com

Green’s death was not the end of the mystery. Detectives went to Fort Worth in an effort to track down this elusive “Samuel Payne.” Somewhat to their surprise, they found a Mrs. Orr, who claimed to have lived next door to Payne and a woman who said she was his wife. “Mrs. Payne” was a pretty woman in her early twenties, who told Mrs. Orr that she was originally from Indiana. Unfortunately, the couple had since left town for parts unknown. If this was, as Amer Green insisted with literally his dying breath, Luella Mabbitt, she was never heard from again.

This was not the end of the Mabbitt family tragedies. In 1890, Luella’s 17 year old sister Minnie became pregnant. Upon hearing of the news, the baby’s father, one Charles Spilter, promptly washed his hands of her. Not knowing where else to turn, Minnie sought the help of her brothers, Oris and Mont. They helped her check into an Indianapolis hotel under the name of “Mrs. Minnie Jones,” where she gave birth to a daughter she named “Merle.”

Soon after this, the body of a baby girl was discovered in Eagle Creek. A coroner determined that she had died of strangulation soon after birth. Two women from the hotel where Minnie had stayed identified the baby as Merle. A buggy weight that had been used to weigh down the tiny corpse was determined to have come from the livery stable where Mont Mabbitt worked. It was also learned that on the night Minnie checked out of her hotel, Mont took out one of the stable’s buggies. Minnie, Mont, and Oris were all arrested.

Minnie soon confessed all. She stated that she had believed her brothers would place her baby in an orphanage. She last saw the child when her brothers drove her in the direction of Eagle Creek. Mont took Merle from her and left their carriage. Oris and Minnie drove off for a while, and when they returned, Mont was waiting for them...alone. The three then returned to the city. “No one told me the baby was dead,” said Minnie. “But I knew it was.”

During her trial, the beautiful young Minnie won everyone’s sympathy. It was universally believed that she was but a helpless child, completely under the control of her brothers. She was acquitted of murder, much to the approval of those in the courtroom. Eventually, Oris and Mont--who both argued that they had never intended to murder the baby--were also set free.

In the legal sense, this was the end of the Mabbitt saga. The lingering question of just what, exactly, became of Luella Mabbitt was never resolved. For many years after that fateful night in August 1886, there were periodic “sightings” of the supposedly murdered woman. In February 1916, her sister Ella told a reporter, “For all I know, my sister may have not been murdered and may be living today.”

If such was the case, Amer Green must rank as one of the unluckiest men in Indiana history.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Weekend Link Dump

"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

This week's Link Dump is proud to be hosted by...uh...

This guy.

What the hell was the Killhill Light?

The Goffle Road murders.

What it was like to be a Customs Officer in the Georgian era.

A haunted city hall.

Marilyn's deadly diary.

The travails of a Victorian female barber.

Solving--perhaps--a disappearance in Joshua Tree National Park.

Quarantine in the 19th century.

In which a 16th century lady tells a schoolmaster to go to hell.

The story of Puss in Boots.

A "poysoner's" dreadful punishment.

19th century beard sculpting.

Murder in high society.

Rambling through 17th century Ireland.

The corpse and the barber.

King Lear in quarantine, and other theatrical links.

Lonely Old London.

A "brutal and fiendish" crime.

Let's talk animated horse hairs.

Charles Lennox, Noble Radical.

Influenza and the Sun.

Fashion during a pandemic.

A walk along the River Lea.

Medicines for melancholy.

The North Pole could be called literally timeless.

This week in Russian Weird looks at a structure made of mammoth bones.

Remembering Thomas Coryate and his shoes.  (You might remember this post about him.)

The war that killed off a kettle.

Laudanum, a Victorian's best friend.

The rotten Mrs. Cotton.  Her best friend was arsenic.

The mysterious murder of William Robinson.

The creepy legend of the "Dog Boy" ghost.

A murder victim’s long-delayed burial.

A socialite turns to murder.

Censoring Anne Frank.

A Scottish stegosaur.

The cult of Breatharianism.

Some vintage Cat Ladies.

Well, this is embarrassing.

An extremely weird and gruesome murder.

And we're done for this week! Join me on Monday, when we'll look at a young woman's enigmatic fate. In the meantime, here's Van the Man.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

This particularly odd UFO report comes from the (Racine, Wisconsin) “Journal Times,” July 4, 1965:
VALENSOLE, France. Gendarmes in this mountain village said Saturday they are investigating a report by a farmer who said he saw a mysterious aircraft take off from his field.

Dozens of people came to see tracks left behind by the "flying saucer." Maurice Masse, 41, told the gendarmes he spotted the craft Thursday morning at dawn. He said it looked like a big rugby ball and had four metal legs. With the craft, he reported, was a small human form, about the size of an 8- year-old child.

"Suddenly," Masse said, "the craft took off and disappeared in the sky. I couldn't believe my eyes.”

Masse said he went to the spot and found tracks left by the legs and that the ground was packed hard as concrete.

A gendarmerie officer said strange tracks had been seen and that the ground was hard- packed.

Masse, who has a reputation as a calm and solid citizen, was worried about the lavender plants in his field being trampled by the crowds, who continued to arrive today.

"We don't think it was a gag," one gendarme said.

Weirdness was popping out all over around this same time. The “Fort Lauderdale News,” July 8, 1965:
The flying saucer season has opened.

So has the Loch Ness monster season. Within the last few days, strange objects have been reported from France, Argentina and Warminster in England's County Wiltshire.

The Loch Ness Monster, reportedly seen by two Scottish brothers, is so familiar to residents around Loch Ness that it’s affectionately known as Nessie.

At least five persons saw the thing in Warminster. They agreed it was a “fiery object” glowing in the southern sky after a heavy rain.

Last night Harold Horlock and his wife Dora spotted the thing.

"It was very frightening,” said Mrs. Horlock. It sharpened into focus high up and looked just like two red hot pokers--one on top of the other.”

“It was as plain and as bright as could be," said her husband. "It stopped still in the sky for at least 10 minutes.”

Colin Hampton, 18, and his friend Michael Fraser, 20, also said they saw the thing. Others reported hearing loud high-pitched noises overhead.

From Argentina yesterday came a report of a mysterious flying object seen in the Antarctic during the weekend.

[This was followed by a repeat of the Masse story.]

Monday, March 16, 2020

The Adventures of Maria ter Meetelen

”The course of things in life is confounding.”
~From the autobiography of Maria ter Meetelen

Many 18th century women had lives of high adventure. Unfortunately, few of them left written records of their exploits, so they soon became forgotten. One exception to this is a Dutch woman whose own writings saved her from this fate, turning her into a fascinating historical footnote.

Maria ter Meetelen was born in Amsterdam on June 20, 1704. Her Catholic family was extremely poor, leaving her to spend her childhood as a “street kid” in the Dutch slums. From the time she was 13, she was alone in the world, and left to fend for herself. The experience clearly hardened her and fostered the spirit of bold independence she was to show throughout her life.

In 1721, she decided to hit the road. She cut her hair, donned male clothing, and, masquerading as a young man, set off to see what the world could offer her. She spent a few years wandering through France and Spain. In the latter country, she enlisted as a dragoon, but her army career ended quickly and abruptly when, as she later wrote with admirable understatement, “it came out that I was not the person I was registered as.”

After being kicked out the army, Maria lived as a nun until 1728, when she married a sailor named Claes van der Meer. The couple decided to return to their native Netherlands, and in the summer of 1731, sailed from Cadiz to what they assumed would be their home country.

There was a very nasty surprise in store for them. Off the coast of Portugal, their ship was attacked by Barbary pirates, who had little trouble taking the small group of passengers and crew prisoner. Maria and her fellow hostages were taken to the imperial city of Meknes, Morocco. Maria’s husband died of a fever shortly after their arrival, which made her position all the more precarious. “I was young and beautiful, according to the people of that country,” she later wrote, which left her vulnerable to being forced to join the harem of the sultan, Moulay Abdullah.

One day, Maria was brought to the sultan’s palace. It was, from her viewpoint, a decidedly exotic sight. “I found myself in front of the sultan in his room, where he was lying with fifty of his women, each more beautiful than the last. They were dressed like goddesses and extraordinarily stunning. Each had an instrument and they were playing and singing.” The sultan’s four senior wives were seated opposite him, adorned with gold, silver, and pearls. They wore gold gem-encrusted crowns and their fingers glowed with gold rings.

The sultan himself, alas, was a much less appealing sight. Maria wrote, “He had his head resting on the knees of one of his wives, his feet on the knees of another; a third was behind him and the fourth in front, and they were caressing him.” The disgusted Maria found him the ultimate in dissipation.

Unfortunately for her, the sultan was immediately charmed by his Dutch prisoner. On the spot, he ordered her to convert to Islam and become part of his harem. She refused, and was led away by one of the wives, who warned her of the consequences should she continue to defy the sultan. She would suffer horrible tortures before being burned alive.

Maria had a brainwave. She told the sultan’s wives that there was simply no way she could join the harem--she was pregnant. Fortunately, the women were sympathetic to her plight. Bravely, they went to the sultan to speak on her behalf. Eventually, he was persuaded to allow her to marry her unborn child’s father.

As that man was as fictitious as her pregnancy, this obviously would take some doing. Maria picked out one of her fellow Dutch prisoners, one Pieter Janszoon, explained the terrible danger she was in, and begged him to come to her rescue.

Janszoon’s family and friends had managed to raise a ransom for his release, so he was naturally reluctant to give up his chance for freedom just to wed a virtual stranger. However, Maria--who must have been a master persuader--finally convinced him to go along with the gag, and they were married by a local Catholic priest.

The lives of the European captives were not enviable. Maria recalled, “They were obliged to work extremely hard, in blistering sunshine, digging, working the quarries, and receiving in recompense a tiny roll of bread, and sometimes nothing at all.” However, the newly-married couple had enough ingenuity to do relatively well for themselves. Although Islam forbade alcohol, it was permitted to the Christian captives. Maria and her husband set up a bar in the stable of the slave quarters, selling enough booze to give themselves enough of an income to maintain a certain independence. Additionally, Maria had managed to befriend the sultan’s wives, which gave her a status and protection not granted to her fellow prisoners. She and her husband eventually had eight children.

In 1743, the Dutch government negotiated a ransom agreement with the sultan. After twelve years, Maria and Pieter were finally free. They and their two surviving children returned to the Netherlands, where they settled in the town of Medemblik. Unfortunately, such uncharacteristic domestic tranquillity was not fated to last. After two years, Pieter joined a voyage to the East Indies, where he died in 1750. In 1748, Maria published her memoirs, “The Curious and Amazing Adventures of Maria ter Meetelen; Twelve Years a Slave.” Although the book is now relatively little-known, historians consider it to be among the most valuable narratives of life as a European slave.

Maria’s troubles were not over. Not long after she received news of Pieter’s death, her last two children also passed away, leaving her once again alone. As had been the case in her youth, she sought to rebuild her life elsewhere. In 1751, she emigrated to South Africa.

We will never know how this last adventure worked out, because Maria ter Meetelen subsequently permanently disappeared from the historical record.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Weekend Link Dump

"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

For this week's Link Dump, the cats of Strange Company HQ offer some timeless vintage advice:

The Dancing Marquess.

The evolution of the afterlife.

Detailing who was on the Mayflower.

Commemorating the Tower of London's menagerie. 

The lives of imprisoned women in early 20th century England.

The logic of animal conflict.

The literature of pandemics.

The Judge vs. the Deputy Chief Constable.

Cults, conspiracies, and kabooms.

The execution of an infamous "baby farmer."

A dinosaur trapped in amber.

The North Star is being weird.

The magic of seeds.

In defense of Bloody Mary.

A tiny Polish cat museum.

The death of the novel?

The execution of an Irish rebel.

A murder sparked by secession.

An unsolved--and particularly senseless--murder.

A significant cosmic impact.

If you want to make archaeologists happy, show them a medieval cesspool.

The era of poison pen letters.  Nowadays we have social media, which can't be called an improvement.

A look at ancient mariners.

Voyager 2 is about to become very lonely.

The birth of revenge tragedy, and other theatrical links.

A pioneer of artificial intelligence.

More on the life of General James Wolfe.  (And here!)

A mother and son expose a geographic hoax.

The hunt for a stolen cat.

A 5,000 year old sword.

Epic poems and epic memories.

Using bread and quicksilver to discover bodies of the drowned.

The Duchess and her necromancers.

Madame Recamier's famed bedroom.

Found: the bones of a 7th century saint.

The game of checkers.

A failed Nazi aircraft.

The death of the apostrophe.

The Bishopsgate Goodsyard.

Praising the passive protagonist.

So, Betelgeuse isn't exploding, it's just sneezing.

The restoration of Egypt's oldest pyramid.

Two new biographies of Hitler.

A terrible theater fire.

The anti-vaccination movement of the early 20th century.

A medical mystery: the toxic death of Gloria Ramirez.

Ghosts and the stone tape theory.

The first transatlantic telephone call.

Soldiers recall the Napoleonic Wars.

The deadly "sweating sickness."

How the Whitechapel killer became "Jack the Ripper."

The Death Clock of Doom.

A brief history of pizza.

And, finally, a cat says goodbye to her human.  This story reminds me of the night my grandmother died some years ago, after a long battle with both Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.  Our cat Pongo was on the bed with her when she passed away.  He immediately began wailing, and was visibly terribly upset, and remained so for days afterward.  So don't tell me animals don't understand death.

That's all for this week.  See you on Monday, when we'll look at the adventurous life of an 18th century Dutch woman.  In the meantime, this song seems appropriate to kick off the weekend.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

One little-known fact about the “Illustrated Police News” (AKA “the slightly-warped blogger’s best friend”) is that along with the usual ‘orrible murders, grisly suicides, and other lurid news items, it was a regular source of “true” ghost tales, usually with a crime angle. One such spectral cautionary tale appeared in the February 5, 1876 issue:
The large illustration in the centre of the front-page of this week’s POLICE NEWS represents the scene of a murder, which took place in a village in Warwickshire, the details of the tragedy have been narrated at many a fireside in the county.

The two murderers represented in our illustration were aware that their victim would pass through the village in question, they therefore concealed themselves till he arrived, whereupon they rushed out from their hiding place and slew their victim, after which they proceeded to rifle his pockets. It is said (and is, moreover, implicitly believed by the natives of the place and surrounding districts) that while thus engaged a grim spectre, in the shape of Death or a skeleton, appeared to the guilty men, who were panic-stricken at the awful figure presented to their wonder-struck eyes--their hearts seemed to sink within them. The figure stood on an old rustic wooden bridge, and seemed by its presence to warn them that the time of retribution was near at hand. The murderers were so overcome that they fled from the spot. Their movements, however, had not escaped the notice of a lad who, concealed in a waggon, had been a silent witness of the crime. The boy immediately raised an alarm and the whole village was aroused, the villagers gave chase, night crept over the scene, the moon, which had been clear and cloudless, became suddenly obscured. The murderers grew desperate, and ran they knew not whither. In the extremity of their fear they rushed madly on, and at length found themselves chin deep in water and entangled amongst weeds and brushwood. In vain did they endeavour to release themselves. The villagers, who had given up the search, discovered the dead bodies of the assassins next morning floating on the surface of the stream.
Now, it’s possible that you are tempted to leave a comment asking, “Undine, if the murderers both died, how does anyone know what they saw?”

Hush. Don’t spoil a good ghost story.

Monday, March 9, 2020

The Case of the Disappearing Dog Lady

One of the most common stereotypes about small towns is that “Everybody knows everything about everybody.” It’s a given that your life immediately becomes an open book to your neighbors. But there are exceptions to this rule. For example, nobody in the tiny rural town of Delavan, Kansas, ever really knew anything about Julia Stoddard. In life or in her presumed death.

Stoddard was a civilian employee in Fort Riley. After her retirement in 1973, she purchased two acres just outside of Delavan, living in a ramshackle little house on the property. She was divorced, childless, and, as far as anyone knew, had little communication with her relatives.

She kept very much to herself. She was an intelligent woman who read voraciously--her favorites were Western novels. That was about all anyone in town could say about her.

Oh, and that she loved dogs. Perhaps a bit too well. Along the nearby highway, unwanted dogs were often abandoned to fend for themselves. Stoddard would collect the strays and bring them back to her property. Before very long, she had accumulated up to 500 of them. Unlike most people who hoard large numbers of pets, the dogs were well cared-for--arguably, Stoddard saw to it that they had a higher standard of living than she herself enjoyed. She spent so much money on dog food that she often had little left over to feed herself. She gave the dogs names, and when they occasionally ran off, she would go to the sheriff anxiously asking him to look out for them. Inevitably, she became known around town as “The Dog Lady.”

While the dogs were kept clean and tidy, her little home became filled with refuse, dust, dirt, mud, and dog manure. Stacks of books were piled everywhere. She had no heat, electricity, running water, telephone service, stove, or refrigerator.

Stoddard was indifferent to the squalor, and as she was a quiet, law-abiding sort who caused no trouble, Delavan was content to leave her be. Although she refused to let anyone on her property--she was known to have run off social workers and the county health official with a shotgun--Delavan residents who interacted with her found Stoddard to be a nice, friendly person who was entirely in her right mind. When asked about her eccentric ways, a neighbor named Edward Jones shrugged, “It’s like Howard Hughes. He had his right to his lifestyle. She has a right to her friendship with those dogs.”

Life went on uneventfully. In late December 1984, it was snowing heavily in Delavan. On December 28, a neighbor passing by Stoddard’s property saw the 69-year-old attempting to shovel out her old pickup truck.

It was the last time anyone ever saw Julia Stoddard, alive or dead.

On December 31, her neighbor Jesse Bettles realized that he had not seen or heard anything from her for several days, which concerned him enough to alert the sheriff, Richard Malek. When Malek went to Stoddard’s home, he found an appalling sight: Stoddard’s beloved dogs--she had about 100 at the time--were freezing and slowly starving to death. A number of them were already dead. Some of the surviving dogs could be saved for adoption, but, sadly, most had to be euthanized. There was no trace of Stoddard. Her purse was missing, but the cane she carried with her everywhere was found beside her pickup.

"Manhattan Mercury," January 8, 1984, via Newspapers.com

It was initially assumed that while walking to get food or water, she fell and was buried in a snowdrift somewhere. However, days of searching produced no clue as to her whereabouts. Also, it seems unlikely that she would hike anywhere without her cane.

Foul play? The idea that anyone had a motive to murder or kidnap her seemed absurd. Stoddard had no known enemies, and she certainly was no tempting target for robbers. The ongoing lack of clues in her disappearance led to a particularly ghastly theory: what if she died of natural causes, only to be eaten by her famished dogs?

This Grand Guignol notion spawned some colorful newspaper headlines, but it too was soon dismissed. It seemed impossible that the animals could have consumed her so completely that no trace of clothing, bones, or blood remained.

"Council Grove Republican," January 9, 1984

The hunt for Stoddard went on. Military helicopters scanned the area. Four-wheel drives and horses were used to hunt for any sign of the missing woman. There was nothing. After days of fruitless searching, the sheriff finally called off the efforts. It was presumed her body was in a snowdrift somewhere, to be found once winter ended.

Spring came. The snows melted. And still no trace of Julia Stoddard.

Such has been the case ever since. In 1992, she was declared legally dead. The following year, her house was demolished so the property could be sold. The sheriff continued to keep the file on her case open, in the hope that new clues in her disappearance might emerge. To date, this wait has been futile.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Weekend Link Dump

"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

This week's Link Dump is hosted by yet another of our Cats From the Past!

Meet Rudolpho.  That's what I called him, at least.  He was a feral for, I believe, his entire life.  He had no "real" name, no home, no anything.  Years ago, we were putting food in our back yard for a couple of strays that came by regularly, and one day, Rudolpho came by as well.  Being a sensible guy who knew not to let a reliable source of meals go to waste, he became a frequent visitor.  He loved snuggling into the catnip I grow in the yard.

Rudolpho was the most "feral" feral I've ever met.  In all the years I knew him, I couldn't get within a couple of feet from him.  And traps?  Forget about it.  He was truly his own man. He always made me think of Kipling’s line:  “I am the Cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me.”

He was quite a cat.  A handsome Siamese, with the most brilliant blue eyes.  Those eyes shone with a remarkable--I won't call it human, because that would be a disservice to him--let's say, uncanny intelligence.  I always sensed that he understood everything.  I strongly believe that he wasn't scared of humans as much as he simply didn't want anything to do with their world.

Rudolpho was an incredible survivor.  I must have seen him around the neighborhood for at least twenty years--and he was a full-grown cat when I first made his acquaintance.  He knew how to take care of himself.  As far as I know, he never got into fights--when threatened with trouble or challenged by other cats, he simply ran.  Or flew.  I'll never forget the morning when, walking a block or two from my house, I saw Rudolpho staring at another cat who was approaching him in a menacing manner.  Rudolpho's reaction was to--I swear--levitate straight upwards.  One second, he was on the ground, the next, he was sitting on someone's roof.  I think that other cat was as startled as I was.

Rudolpho wasn't always a daily visitor.  He had places to go, things to do.  Sometimes, I wouldn't see him for days, or even weeks, and I'd wonder if the stalwart fellow had finally met his end.  But, eventually, there he'd be in the backyard, waiting for a meal.

The years went by, and, eventually, Rudolpho visibly aged.  He lost weight, began walking in a stiff, arthritic manner, and his beautiful eyes became sunken.  Still, valiant as ever, he'd make his steady rounds, living his life.  Then one evening when he came by for dinner, he seemed different to me.  He suddenly looked worn out.  I just had the feeling he didn't have long.  I brought him a plate of tuna--his favorite--and I stood a respectful distance away as he gobbled it down.  After he ate, I told him that we loved him, and just wished we could have given him a real home.  He stared at me while I was talking, and I swear he knew exactly what I was saying.  Then, he left.

Early the next morning, as I was out on my daily run, I came across his body a short distance from my house.  He was lying peacefully on his side in the middle of the sidewalk.  He was uninjured, so it seemed clear that he hadn't run into a car or some predator.  After he left my yard, he started to resume his rounds, but...his wanderings just came to their inevitable end.  It was as if he had decided, "I don't want to do this any longer.  It's time to go."

It always pained me that someone with Rudolpho's looks, calm, gentle personality, and intelligence was fated to remain feral.  He would have made somebody a wonderful companion.  But his was a very long life and, I think, not an unhappy one.  I thought of him as a dear friend, and in his own strange way, I think he saw me as a friend, as well.

Yes, we're still trying to figure out what the hell happened at Tunguska.

What the hell exploded over Brazil?

What the hell happened to Gerry Irwin?

William Faulkner goes Hollywood.

The birth of the trampoline.

The birth of penicillin.

More medieval she-wolves.

More on the life of General James Wolfe.

Why the Soviet census of 1937 didn't turn out too well.

Some nifty new photos from Mars.

If you live in North Dakota and have old human remains around the house, (and who doesn't?) you just might have clues to a 100-year-old murder mystery.

Vintage Ads With Unexpected Napoleons.   (That will only make sense if you're unfortunate enough to follow me on Twitter.)

Shorter version:  Montague Summers was weird.

Artistic snobs.

Care to visit the Stairs of Death?

So, what was our planet like 1.5 billion years ago?  Quite possibly, very, very wet.

The museum that's said to boast the book-tossing ghost of Agatha Christie.

Channel Islands imprisonment during WWII.

That time "Aida" was performed under the Great Pyramid.

One of my favorite urban legends: Jackie Gleason, Richard Nixon, and the alien corpses.

A well-traveled message in a bottle.  A number of years ago, I was on a boat headed for Catalina Island.  On a whim, I wrote a note, put it in a bottle, and chucked it over the side.  Never got a reply.  The way things go with me, it was probably swallowed by a shark.

George Orwell's enigmatic first wife.

How contemporary newspapers covered five famous unsolved murders.

A love story from 1950s New York.

Historical playbills, and other theatrical links.

When mourning becomes an entertaining hobby.

In praise of dogs.

A Norman castle turned hotel.

Napoleon and the Demon Man.

The 1980s soap opera fad.

A typhus quarantine in 1892.

The bad luck of Captain Kidd.

An abused indentured servant turns to murder.

The first Englishman to be sent to the gallows by women.

An archaeological mystery.

The life of General James Wolfe.

The notorious "man they couldn't hang."

A famed "ghost ship."

Benjamin Walker's strange castle.

The chicken coop murders.

Consuelo Vanderbilt's miserable marriage.

Alice Shaw, whistling prima donna.

The murderous Dr. Snook.

Murder in Lancashire.

The "leap year privilege."

The doctor who was at every key battle of the Civil War.

The "cholera ship."

The desk clerk who was the first man to reach the North Pole.

A leap-year tragedy.

That's all for this week! Tune in on Monday, when we'll look at the disappearance of a Kansas woman. In the meantime, here's Hank.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

This week’s newspaper story stars one of American literature’s most famous cats. The “New York Times,” April 9, 1905:
Mark Twain had lost his cat. Consumed with an attack of wanderlust, Bambino had fled from home and roamed for a day and a half. The humorist had offered a reward of $5. Then his secretary, Miss Lyon, had met Bambino on University Place and haled him home.

It was all in the papers.

Failing to understand why it shouldn't be in the papers some more, a woman from THE TIMES had called at the Clemens mansion, 21 Fifth Avenue.

A man with china blue eyes and a white waistcoat opened the door for her. He opened it just half way.

Upon her request to see Mr. Clemens, he gave a start of surprise, frowned, and said:

"Mr. Clemens is asleep."

It was then 1:30 in the afternoon.

"When can I see him?" asked the woman.

"I will find out," said the servant, and shut the door upon her while he did so.

By and by he reopened it.

"He may see you," he told her, "if you come back at 5 o'clock."

It was a beautiful sunshiny day, but the woman went home, stayed indoors to rest up for this interview, and at 5 o'clock again sauntered toward the Clemens mansion.

The same man appeared. He wore the same waistcoat. He had, likewise, the same blue eyes.

"Mr. Clemens is not in now," he said, "but his secretary might see you."

"Very well," responded the woman, and stood outside the shut door once more while he searched for the secretary.

As she gazed upon Fifth Avenue, gay in the sunshine with automobiles and carriages and people enjoying themselves, she wondered vaguely if thieves were in the habit of infesting the Clemens mansion; if that was the reason they were so particular about the door.

Then it opened cautiously and the servant said:

"You may come in."

Precious privilege. The woman went in and stood in the hall as if she were a book agent. There were chairs, but she was afraid to sit down.

Presently the secretary, a nice little woman with brown eyes and old-fashioned sleeves, came down the stairs and asked her what she wanted.

"I want to see Mr. Clemens about the cat," replied the woman.

"Mr. Clemens never sees anybody - I mean any newspaper people. Besides, he is not at home."

"Then," said the woman, "may I see the cat?"

"Yes," nodded the secretary, "you may see the cat," and she ran lightly up the long stairway and came down soon with Bambino in her arms, a beautiful black silent cat with long velvety fur and luminous eyes that looked very intelligently into the face of the woman.

The secretary and the woman then sat down on a bench in the hall, and talked about the cat. The cat listened but said nothing.

"We were terribly distressed about him, cooed the secretary. "He is a great pet with Mr. Clemens. He is a year old. It is the first time he has ever run away. He lies curled up on Mr. Clemens's bed all day long."

"Does Mr. Clemens breakfast at five o'clock tea and dine on the following day?" asked the woman.

"Oh, no. He does all his writing before he gets up. That's why he gets up at 5 o'clock. Bambino always stays with him while he writes."

"I should consider it a great privilege," smiled the woman, "to breathe the same atmosphere with Mr. Clemens for about three minutes. Don't you think if I came back at 7 you might arrange it?"

"I will try," promised the secretary, kindly.

At 7, therefore, the woman toiled up the dark red steps and rang the bell. The china-eyed man with the white waistcoat opened the door, disclosed one eye and the half of his face, said abruptly, "Mr. Clemens doesn't wish to see you," and slammed the door.

The woman walked slowly down the red steps and looked up Fifth Avenue, wondering whether she would walk home or take a car.

Fifth Avenue was very beautiful.

Purplish in the dusk, it was gemmed with softly gleaming opalescent electric balls of light.

It was, moreover, admirably bare of people.

She concluded to walk home.

She was about to start forward when she became aware of a furry gentle something rubbing against her skirts.

She looked down, and there was Bambino, purring at her, looking up at her out of his luminous cat eyes.

The man at the door had shut him out, too!

She took him in both hands and lifted him up. He nestled against her shoulder.

"I don't like to prejudice you against the people you have to live with, Bambino," she said. "It seems they will make you live with them. But they weren't so nice. Were they? They might have told me at the start he wouldn't see me. They needn't have made me lose all the sunshine of to-day. You can't bring back a day and you can't bring back sunshine.

"You wouldn't have treated me like that, would you?"

Bambino purred musically in his earnest assurance that he would not.

"I suppose you heard it all," she went on, "and you sympathized with me. You are awfully tired yourself. I can see that. If you were a Parisian cat we'd call it ennuid, that expresses it better, but we'll let it go at tired. You are. Aren't you? Or you wouldn't have run off."

Bambino sighed wearily and half closed his eyes.

"It's a pretty rarefied atmosphere, I imagine, for a cat," she reasoned. "I don't blame you for wanting to get out with the common cats and whoop it up a little. Any self respecting cat would rather run himself in a gutter or walk the back fence than sit cooped up the livelong day with a humorist. You can't tell me anything about that. It's a deadly thing to see people grind out fun. I used to know a comic artist. I had to sit by and watch him try to match his jokes to pictures!

She clasped Bambino closer and caught her breath in a sigh.

"I don't blame you one bit for running off," she reiterated. "I can imagine what you must have suffered. Shall we walk along a little on this beautiful street that's so wide and empty now of people?" politely. "I get as tired as you do sometimes of people, Bambino. They are not always so nice. There are a lot of times that I like cats better."

Bambino curled himself up in her arms and laid an affectionate paw on her wrist by way of rewarding her.

She walked on, fondling him.

"I've the greatest notion," she confided presently, "to run off with you and paralyze them. It would serve them right. How would you like, Bambino, to come and live with me in my studio?"

Bambino raised his head and purred loudly against her cheek to show how well he would like it.

"Now, I want to tell you exactly how it will be. I want to be perfectly fair with you. If you come with me you must come with your eyes open. Maybe you won't have half as soft a bed to lie on, but you won't have to lie on it all day long. I'll promise you that. In the first place, it masquerades as a couch full of pillows in the daytime, and in the second place I've got to get out and hustle if I want to eat. Not that I mind hustling. I wouldn't stay in bed all day long out of the sunshine if I could. And you mayn't have as much to eat either, but if you get too hungry there are the goldfish - and the canary wouldn't make half a bad meal. I am pretty fond of both, but I am reckless to-night somehow. You'll be welcome to them."

Bambino licked his chops preparatorily.

"There are a good many little things you are apt to miss. The studio isn't as big as a house by an means, but you'll have all out doors to roam in. I'll trust to your coming home of nights because you'll like it there," she concluded confidently.

"And you'll be rid of the man at the door for good and all. Tell me, now, doesn't he step on your tail and 'sic' the mice on you when they are all away?"

Bambino groaned slightly, but he was otherwise noncommittal.

"I knew he did. He looks capable of anything. He's not as wise as he looks, though. He may not know it, but I push the pen for the tallest newspaper building in the city, the tallest in the world, I think. I'll take you up to the top of that building of mine, and let you climb the flag pole. Then if there should happen to be another cat on the Flatiron Building there'd be some music, wouldn't there, for the rest of the city? And they couldn't throw that flatiron at you anyway, could they? Want to go?"

Bambino put both paws around her neck, and purred an eloquent assent.

"You talk less than anybody I ever interviewed," remarked the woman, "but I think I know what you mean."

She pressed his affectionate black paws against her neck and hurried up the avenue, looking back over her shoulder to see that nobody followed.

She almost ran until she got to the bridge over the yawning chasm near Sixteenth Street. Then she stopped.

Bambino looked anxiously up to see what was the matter.

But turned deliberately around.

Bambino gave a long-drawn sigh. He looked appealingly up at her out of his luminous eyes.

"I reckon I won't steal you, Bambino," she concluded, sadly. 'I'd like to, but it wouldn't be fair.

"In the morning he'd be sorry. Maybe he couldn't work without you there, looking at him out of your beautiful eyes. You don't have to hear him dictate, too, do you Bambino? If I thought that! *** But no. There is a limit. He's had his troubles, too, you know. He's bound to be a little lenient. The goose hasn't always hung so high for him. Of course you don't remember it, but he had an awful time establishing himself as the great American humorist. Couldn't get a single publisher to believe it. Had to publish his 'Innocents Abroad' himself. Just said to the American public, 'Now, you've got to take this. It's humor,' and made them take it. Held their noses. That was a long time ago. Couldn't do it to-day. Not with 'Innocents Abroad.' The American public is getting too well educated. Who ever reads 'Innocents Abroad' now? Not the rising generation. You ask any boy of to-day what is the funniest book, and see if he doesn't say 'Alice in Wonderland'?

"Still, for an old back date book, that wasn't half bad. He has never written anything better. It must give him the heartache to see it laid on the shelf. I suppose you must hear these things discussed, but not this side of them, perhaps. No. Naturally no. They don't make you read their books, they can't, but you must have to hear about them. *** Life is hard! But I must take you back. We mustn't do anything at all to hurt his feelings."

Bambino was fairly limp with disappointment. He had set his heart on the top of The Times Building flagpole. He had almost tasted the canary, to say nothing of the goldfish. He hadn't the heart to purr any longer. He paws fell from the woman's neck. She had to carry him like that, all four feet handing lifeless, his head drooping.

"And there's another thing, Bambino," she continued, as they went along. "I don't want anything I said about his having to establish himself as a humorist to disillusion you or make you more dissatisfied than you are. All humorists are like that. They have to establish themselves. Why, wasn't I in London when Nat Goodwin produced his 'Cowboy and the Lady' at Daly's? Couldn't I hear people he had planted all over the audience that first night explaining that he was a humorist, and the play was intended to be funny? Certainly. But it didn't work that whirl. Those English people are more determined than we are. They wouldn't stand for it. He had to take the play off.

"Your master happened to catch us when we were young and innocent. He deserves a lot of credit for bamboozling us. You ought to admire him for it. I do."

They were nearly home by now. Bambino managed to emit another purr. It was like a whimper.

"Don't you cry, Bambino," she soothed. "We all have our troubles. You must be a brave cat and bear up under yours," and she tiptoed up the red steps and set him at the door where they could find him when they missed him.

He sat there, a crumpled, black, discouraged ball, his eyes following her hungrily.

She ran back to him.

"Bear up under it the best you can, Bambino," she implored; "but if it gets so you can't stand it again, you know where to find a friend."

There was a sound of approaching footsteps in the hall.

She pressed her lips to Bambino's ear, whispered her address to him, and fled.