Jap Herron/The Coming Of Jap Herron: An Introduction
On the afternoon of the second Thursday in March, 1915, I responded to an invitation to the regular meet ing of a small psychical research society. There was to be a lecture on cosmic relations, and the hostess for the afternoon, whom I had met twice socially, thought I might be interested, my name having ap peared in connection with a recently detailed series of psychic experiments. To all those present, with the exception of the hostess, I was a total stranger. I learned, with some surprise, that these men and women had been meeting, with an occasional break of a few months, for more than five years.
The record of these meetings filled several type-written volumes.
When word came that the lecturer was unavoidably detained, the hostess requested Mrs. Lola V. Hays to entertain the members and guests by a demonstration of her ability to transmit spirit messages by means of a planchette and a lettered board. The apparatus was familiar to me ; but the outcome of that afternoon's experience revealed a new use for the transmission board. After several messages, more or less personal, had been spelled out, the pointer of the planchette traced the words:
"Samuel L. Clemens, lazy Sam."
There was a long pause, and then: "Well, why don t some of you say something?"
I was born in Hannibal, and my pulses quickened. I wanted to put a host of questions to the greatest humorist and the greatest philosopher of modern times ; but I was an outsider, unacquainted with the usages of the club, and I remained silent while the planchette continued :
"Say, folks, don t knock my memoirs too hard. They were written when Mark Twain was dead to all sense of decency.
When brains are soft, the method should be anaesthesia."
Not one of those present had read Mark Twain's memoirs, and the plaint fell upon barren soil. The arrival of the lecturer prevented further confession from the unseen communicant; but I was so deeply impressed that I begged my hostess to permit me to come again. For my benefit a meeting was arranged at which there was no lecturer, and I was asked to sit for the first time with Mrs. Hays.
In my former psychic investigation, it had been my habit to pronounce the letters as the pointer of the planchette
indicated them, and Mrs. Hays urged me to render the same service when I sat with her, because
she never permitted herself to
look at the board, fear ing that her own mind would interfere with the trans mission. Scarcely had our finger-tips touched
the planchette when it darted to the letters which spelled the words :
"I tried to write a romance once, and the little wife laughed at it. I still think it is good stuff and I want it
written. The plot is simple. You d best skeletonize the plot. Solly Jenks, Hiram Wall young men. Time, before the Civil War."
Then the outline of a typical Mark Twain story came in short, explosive sentences. It was entitled, "Up the Furrow to
Fortune." A brief account of its coming seems vital to the more sustained work which was destined to follow it. I was not
present at the next regular meeting of the society; but at its close I was summoned to the telephone and informed that Mark Twain had come again and had said that "the Han nibal girl" was the one for whom he and Mrs. Hays had been waiting. When they
asked him what he meant, the planchette made reply :
"Consult your record for 1911."
One of the early volumes of the society s record was brought forth, and a curious fact that all the members of the
society had forgotten was unearthed. About a year after his passing out, Mr. Clemens had told Mrs. Hays that he had carried
with him much valuable literary material which he yearned to send back, and that he would transmit stories through her, if she could find just the right person to sit with her at the transmission board. Although she experimented with each member of the club, and with several of her friends who were sympathetic though not avowed investigators, he was not satisfied with any of them. Then she gave up the attempt and dismissed it from her mind. A twenty-minute test with me seemed to convince him that in me he had found the negative side of the mysterious human mechanism for which he had been waiting.
The work of transmitting that first story was at tended with the greatest difficulty. No less than three distinct styles of diction, accompanied by correspondingly distinct motion in the planchette under our fingers, were thrust into the record. At first we were at a loss to understand these intrusions. That they were intrusions there could be no doubt. In each case there was a sharp deviation from the plot of the story, as it had been given to us in the synopsis.
After one of these experiences, which resulted in the introduction of a paragraph that was rather clever but not at all pertinent, Mark regained
control with the impatiently traced words:
"Every scribe here wants a pencil on earth."
Not until the middle of summer did we achieve that sureness of touch which now enables us to recognize, intuitively,
the presence of the one scribe whose thoughts we are eager to transmit. That the story of Jap Herron and the two short stories which preceded it are the actual post-mortem work of Samuel L. Clemens, known to the world as Mark Twain, we do not
for one moment doubt. His individuality has been revealed to us in ways which could leave no ques tion in our minds. The
little, intimate touches which reveal personality are really of more importance than the larger and more conspicuous fact
that neither Mrs. Hays nor I could have written the fiction that has come across our transmission board. Our literary output
is well known, and not even the severest psychological skeptic could assert that it bears any resemblance to the literary
style of "Jap Herron."
Mrs. Hays has found the best market for her short stories with one of the large religious publishing houses, and in
the early days Mark Twain seemed to fear that her subconscious mind might inadvertently color or distort his thought, in
process of transmission. We had come to the end of our fourth session when he added this:
"There will be minor errors that you will be able to take care of. I don t object. Only don t try to cor rect my
grammar. I know what I want to say. And, dear ladies, when I say d-a-m-n, please don t write d-a-r-n. Don t try to smooth it
out. This is not a smooth story."
That Mark should fear the blue pencil, at our hands,
amused us greatly. The story bristles with profanity and is
roughly picturesque in its diction. It deals with a section of the Ozark country with which neither of us is familiar, and in
the speech of the natives there are words that we had never heard, that are included in no dictionary but are, it transpires,
perfectly fa miliar to the primitive people in the southwestern part of the state. When the revision of the story was al most
complete, Mark interrupted the dictation, one afternoon, to remark:
"You are too tired. Forces must be strong for re sults. Somebody handed you a lemon, back there. Cut out that part
about the apple at fly time. I am not carping. You have done well. The interpretation is excellent. I was afraid of
femininity. Women have their ideas, but this is not a woman s story. Good- bye."
There was another meeting, at which the revision of "Up the Furrow to Fortune" was completed, and then we went to
work on the second story, "A Daughter of Mars." As in the case of the first one, it began with a partial synopsis. Vallon
Leithe, an enthusiastic aeronaut, was resting after a long flight, when a strange air-craft fell out of the sky, lodging in
the top of a great tree. The occupant of the marvelously constructed flying machine proved to be a girl from the planet Mars.
Her name was Ulethe, and she had many
thrilling adventures on our earth. The synopsis ended with the wholly unexpected words:
"Now, girls, it is not yet clear in my mind whether we d better send Ulethe back to Mars, kill her, marry her to
Leithe, or have an expedition from Mars raise the dickens. But we will let it develop itself."
The board, on which two short stories and a novel have already been transmitted, is one of the ordinary varieties, a
polished surface over which the planchette glides to indicate the letters of the alphabet and the figures from 1 to 10. In
the main our dictation came without any apparent need for marks of punctuation. Occasionally the words "quotation marks," or
"Put that in quotes" would be interjected. Once when my intonation, as I pronounced the words for the amanuen sis who was
keeping our record, seemed to indicate a direct statement, the planchette whirled under our fingers and traced the crisp
statement, "I meant that for a question."
When I told my husband of these grippingly intimate evidences of an unseen personality, it occurred to him that a
complete set of punctuation marks, carefully applied in India ink, where the pointer of the planchette could pick them out as
they were required, would facili tate the transmission of sustained narrative. To him it seemed that the absence of these
marks on the board must be maddening, especially to Mark Twain, whose thought could be hopelessly distorted by the omission
of so trivial a thing as a comma, and whose subtle use of the colon was known to all the clan of printers. Before our next
meeting the board had been duly adorned with ten of the most important marks, includ ing the hyphen and the M-dash. The comma
was at the head of the right-hand column and the apostrophe at the bottom. My husband, Mrs. Hays and I knew exactly what all
these markings meant, yet we had some confusion because Mark insisted on using the comma when he wished to indicate a
possessive case. The sen tence was this, as I understood it:
"I was not wont to disobey my father, scommand." Instantly my husband, who had become interested and had taken the place of our first amanuensis, per ceived that I had
made a mistake, when I pronounced the combination, "f-a-t-h-e-r, comma, s-c-o-m-m-a-n-d."
"But," I defended
myself, "the pointer went to the comma. I can see now that it should have been the apostrophe." As I spoke the pointer of the
planchette traced the words on the board:
"Edwin did a pretty piece of work, but that apos trophe is too far down. I am in danger of falling off the board every
time I make a run for it."
The result was that another apostrophe was placed in the middle of the board, directly under the
letter S. In connection with the M-dash we had a yet more start ling evidence of an outside personality, one dependent on us
for his means of communication, but wholly in
dependent of our thought and knowledge. Mark had dictated the synopsis for the
second story and had enlarged upon the first situation. Then, as has since be come his fixed habit, he indicated that the
serious work for the evening was ended, and returned for an informal chat. Mrs. Hays and I had discussed the plot at some
length, and after my husband had read aloud the second evening s dictation we commented on some of the obscure points, our
fingers resting, the while, lightly on the planchette. Suddenly it became agitated, assumed a vigorous sweeping motion and
traced very rapidly these words :
"It is starting good; but will you two ladies stop speculating? I am going to take care of this story. Don t try to
dictate. You are interrupting the thread of the story. There is ample time for smoothing the rough places. I am not caviling.
I am well pleased." After a pause, he continued : "There is the same class of interruption those who could write stories, but
not to write my ; At this, the planchette turned
to the M-dash and slid back and forth under it several times. It then
spelled the word "stories." We were utterly at a loss, until he explained: "I was using that black line for an underscore."
Again and again we have had the word "good" in an adverbial construction, a usage that is not common to either Mrs.
Hays or me ; but Mark has told us that he liked it, in familiar conversation. We have tried to
adhere with absolute fidelity
to even the seeming errors which came over the board.
The second installment of the story gave all of us much trouble. Incidentally it served to develop several bits of
humorous conversation. When it was finished, we received this comment:
"I think that is all we can do to-night. I intend to enlarge upon this chapter before going further. The forces are
not strong enough to-night. We will re write this part Monday night."
We naturally expected a rehandling of that install ment, which for convenience he had designated a "chap ter." To our
surprise, the pointer of the planchette gave this:
"I have changed my mind. We will proceed to New York. I will probably want to handle chapter second in a different
way. It reads like a printed porous plaster ; but that is no one s fault. Begin !"
The dictation went smoothly, and there were no interruptions from the unseen rivals who had so per sistently contested
Mark Twain's right to the exclusive use of our "pencil." Before the next meeting I was urged to take a prominent part in
another piece of psychic work, and to persuade both my husband and Mrs. Hays to join me. I said nothing to either one of them
about it, intending to discuss it with them when the evening s work was over. As soon, however,
as we applied our finger tips
to the planchette, this astonishing communication came:
"I am afraid that my pencil-holders are going to get wound up in other stuff that will make much confusion. I heard
Emily talking over the telephone and making promises that are not good for our work."
When I had been questioned concerning the meaning of this rebuke, and had explained its import, Mark added: "If we
are going to make good there must be concentration, to that end. Get busy." We did! It was a hot July night, and the
planchette flew over the board so swiftly that at times I could scarcely keep pace with it as I pronounced the letters. With
other amanuenses I had been forced to pronounce the fin ished words, and to repeat sentences in whole or in part; but after
my husband came into the work this was not necessary. As much as a score of letters might be run together, to be divided into
words after the dictation was ended. Sometimes, when I had failed utterly to catch the thought, and would hesitate or ask to
have the thing repeated, my husband would say to me: "Don t stop him. I know what it means." Mrs. Hays avoided looking at the
board lest her own mind interfere with the transmission, and with less efficient help, the entire responsibility had been on
me. When I came to realize that nothing was expected of me beyond the mere pronouncing of the letters, the three of us
developed swiftly into a smoothly working
machine. Yet Mark was constantly worried for fear that my heart would be alienated
and that I would "go chasing after strange gods," as he once put it.
When he had finished the fifth installment of the story, with a climax that surprised and puzzled us, he said:
"I reckon we had better lay by for a few days till I get this thing riffled out. It has slipped its tether. I have
had such things happen often. Don t get scared."
We discussed the use of the word "riffle," and then Mark became serious.
"I don t want to be disappointed in the Hannibal girl. I have been trying for several years to get through to the
light. I don t want a false sentiment for a crew of fanatics to wreck my chance. I don t want to act nasty, but if you go
into that other work I am likely to ruin your reputation. You are likely to explode into some of the mediocre piffle that is
the height and depth of such would-be communications with the other world. There is nothing to hold to. So, my dear girls, if
you want a future, cut it out. I don t want to command all your time, but right now it is best to avoid all complications."
It is needless to say I declined the invitation. After this, whenever anything went wrong, the rebuke or complaint
was invariably addressed to me. When there were humorous or pleasant things to be said, they were
dispensed equally to the
three of us, whom Mark Twain had come to designate as "my office force." Two bits of personal communication came within the
succeeding week which seem to have a bearing on the whole mys terious experience. That second installment was undertaken and
abandoned again and again. Finally he said:
"I am going ahead with the main body of the story. There will be another round with that second chapter, but not
until the theme is fully developed. The second chapter sticks in my throat like the cockleburr that I tried to swallow when I
was five. It won't slip down or come up."
We had worked patiently on the latter part of the narrative and had accomplished a big evening s work, when the
dictation was interrupted by this remark:
"It is going good ; but I sure wish that I had Edwin's pipe."
We fairly gasped with astonishment; but we had no time for comment, as the planchette continued its amazing
"Smoke up, old man, for auld lang syne. In the other world they don't know Walter Raleigh's weed, and I have not
found Walter yet to make complaint. I forget about it till I get Edwin s smoke. But for pity s sake, Ed, cut out that tobacco you were trying out. It made me sick. I hoped it would get you, so that you wouldn t try it again."
My husband, whom neither Mrs. Hays nor I would, under any circumstances, address by the abbreviation of his name, "
Ed," asked Mark what tobacco he had in mind. He replied: "That packet you were substituting, or that some one that had a grudge against you gave you."
A comparison of dates revealed the fact that on the evening when that troublesome second installment was transmitted,
my husband had smoked some heavy im ported tobacco that had been given to him by a friend he had met that afternoon. The
circumstance had passed from the minds of all of us. Indeed, it had never impressed us in the least, and it had not occurred
to any of us that our unseen visitor still retained the sense of smell, or that he could distinguish between two brands of
tobacco. He had given evidence of both sight and hearing, had told us frequently that he was tired, at the end of a long
evening s work, and had made other incidental revelations of his environment and condition: but his reference to the pipe was
more significant than any of them.
Early in August, when our second story was nearing completion, the transmission began with this curious bit, which
none of us understood for a long time:
"Emily, I think that when we finish this story we will do a pastoral of Missouri. There appear high lights and
shadows, purple and dark, and the misty pink of dawnings that make world-weary ones have surcease."
Not until "Jap Herron" was more than half finished did we realize that it was the Missouri pastoral. There was one
other veiled reference to that story which must not be omitted. We had planned a trip to New York, for some time in October
or early November, although we had never discussed it while at the board. One evening Mark terminated his dictation abruptly,
"Emily, I think well of your plan." I asked what plan he referred to. "New York. I will go, too. I will try to
convince them that I am not done working. I am rejuvenated and want to finish my work. When I was in New York last I had a
very beautiful dream. I did not understand it then. It meant that my days were numbered, and gave me the picture of an angel bringing a book from heaven to earth, and on its cover was blazoned this : MARK TWAIN S COMPLIMENTS. Ask them what they think
about that. I was so tired so tired that I could not rest. A cool hand seemed to soothe my weariness away and I slept, and,
When I found that passage in the early part of our record, I wondered if "Jap Herron" might be the book sent to earth
with Mark Twain's compliments. I asked him about it, one evening when our regular dictation had been finished. The reply was
a slow journey of the planchette to the word, "Yes," followed by the rapidly spelled words, "But old Mark isn't done talking yet."
We assumed that he had something further to say to us, and when I asked him what he wanted to talk about, he gave
this tantalizing reply:
"Curious? Wait and see." Then, after a pause, "I shall have other work for my office force."
The explanation of this cryptic statement was not given until we had completed the final revision of the story. Before I reveal what he had in mind, I wish to state that which is to me the most convincing proof of the supernormal origin of the three stories that had been traced, letter by letter, on our transmission board. That they come through Mrs. Hays, there can be no doubt whatever. My total lack of psychic power has been abundantly demonstrated. Mrs. Hays has written much light fiction; but it is necessary for her to write a story at one sitting. If it does not come "all in one piece" it is foredoomed to failure. I know nothing of Mark Twain s habits ; but in all the work we have done for him, the first draft has been rough and vigorous, and sweeping changes have been made by him while the work was undergoing revision. In the case of "Jap Herron" some of the most important changes were made without a rereading of the story, changes that involved incidents which we had forgotten, and for which I was compelled to search the original record. When I had substituted these passages for the ones they were to supplant, I made a typewritten copy of the entire story and we read it aloud to Mark. Mrs. Hays and I sat with our finger tips on the planchette so that he could interrupt ; but he made only a few minor corrections. The story had been virtually rewritten twice, although a few of the chapters, as they now stand, are exactly as they were transmitted, not so much as a word having been changed. The only change made in the fourteenth chapter came near the end, where Mark had suggested a line of dashes or stars to bridge the break between Jap s leaving his mother and the announcement that his mother was dead. Forty-eight words were dictated to show what Jap actually did, in that painful interim, the three sentences being rounded out by the words, "There, I think that sounds better."
Sometimes, in the course of the revision, we have been interrupted by the jerkily traced words, "Try this," or "We ll fix that better," or "I told Emily to take out those repetitions." It has happened that he used the same word four times in one paragraph, and in copying I have substituted the obvious synonym. Occasionally he did not approve of my correction and would rebuke me sharply. In the main he has expressed himself as well pleased with the labor I have spared him. On the 10th of January, 1916, Mrs. Hays came to my home for a last reading of the finished manuscript. When she read it through, I asked her to sit at the board with me. There was something about which I wanted to question Mark, and I did not wish her mind to interfere in any way with the answer. Mrs. Hays had had two curious psychic experiences in con nection with our work. The first came to her when we were still at work on "A Daughter of Mars." It was in the form of a vivid dream in which Mark Twain said to her, "Don't be discouraged, Lola. All that we have done in the past is just forging the hammer for the larger strokes we are going to make." The second was similar; but the man who appeared to her was a stocky, bald-headed man in a frock coat. When she asked him who he was and what he wanted, he replied, "Mark Twain sent me to call on you."
At this time, "Jap Herron" was being revised, and she supposed that this man, with the striking personality, would be introduced somewhere. However, the story was ended, and no such character had appeared. I wanted to know whether or not the dream was significant. I said:
"Mark, did you ever send anybody to call on Lola?"
The planchette replied: "Yes, I sent him. We will do another story. We will wait until the smoke of this one clears away. I want Emily to have a rest, and many other things will be adjusted. I would like to have my old office force. It is to be a bigger book than this one more important. The man I sent you was Brent Roberts."
We dropped our hands in amazement. Brent Roberts appears twice in the Jap Herron story. He is not half so conspicuous as Holmes, the saloon-keeper, or Hollins, the grocer. In truth, we had scarcely noticed him. I asked:
"Mark, are you going to give a sequel to Map Her- ron ?" He said: "No. Brent Roberts had a story before he elected to spend his last years in Bloomtown. Now, girls, don't speculate. I am taking care of Brent Roberts."
He added that it was "up to Emily" to give his book to the world, and that he intended to explore a little of the Uncharted Country while he was waiting for his office force to resume work. Once I asked him, while he was transmitting "A Daughter of Mars," whether he had ever visited that planet. He replied:
"No, this is pure fiction. I elected to return to earth. I wanted to take the taste of those memoirs out of my mouth."
One other passage from the early record may profit ably precede the actual story of Jap's coming. We were in the midst of the most critical revision. My husband was commanded to read the story, paragraph by paragraph. When there was no comment, the planchette remained motionless under our fingers, but there were few passages that escaped some change. Several times the changed wording conflicted with something farther along in the story, and it was necessary to go back and make another correction. The revision sheets covered a big table, and my husband found it very exasperating to make the corrections. At length Mark said:
"Smoke up and cool off, old boy. Perhaps I should apologize. The last secretary I had used to wear an ice-soaked towel inside his head. The girls and old Mark together make a riffle. Well, we will slow up. In my ambition, I have been too eager. It is hard to explain how great a thing is the power to project my mentality through the clods of oblivion. I have so long sought for an opening. Be patient, please. I am not carping. I get Edwin s position. We will be easy with the new saddle, so the nag won t run away. I heard Edwin's suggestion, and it is a good one. We will go straight through the story, beginning where we left off to-night. That was what I intended to do, but that second chapter nipped me."
When next we met we had no thought of any other work than the revision of the story on which we had been working at frequent intervals for about two months. We never knew whether a session at the board would begin with a bit of personal conversation or a prolonged stretch of dictation. We held ourselves passive, ready to fall in with the humor or whim of our astonishingly human though still intangible guest. The beginning of that evening's work-it was the 6th of September- was almost too great an upheaval for me. The planchette fairly raced as it spelled the words:
"This story will have legitimate chapters. Nosy nopsis. Then ameisjapherron. Begin. Asevery wellbred story has a hero, and as the reseems better material in jap than in any other party to this story, we will dignify him."
I wanted to stop, but my husband insisted that I make no break in the impatient dictation. He had perceived that the first string of letters spelled the words, "No synopsis. The name is Jap Herron," but I could not see his copy, and to my mind the sentences spelled chaos. A little farther along I ventured an interruption, when we had transmitted the sentence, "The folks in Happy Hollow continued to say Magnesia long after she left its fragrant depths." I had just spelled out the name, Agnesia, and I was too deeply engrossed with the labor of following the letters to even attempt to understand the meaning. I turned to my husband and said:
"It probably didn t intend to stop on that letter M," whereat the planchette rebuked my stupidity thus: "Emily, they called her Magnesia."
After that, I contrived to get control of my nerves, and the rest of the dictation was not so difficult. When we had received the crisp final sentence, "And stay he did," the planchette went right on with this information, "This is the first copy of the first chapter. There will be 25 or more chapters. This is enough for this time, as the office force is a little weak. But results. . . very good. We will finish the other story and dip into this at the next session. There will be better speed in this, for there will be no revision until it is finished. We will work hard and fast. Emily may meet folks she knows in this tale, for she knows a town with a river and a Happy Hollow. I did not intend to start another story so soon, but other influences are so strong that they may try to dominate the board. This will not tire you so much. You must be determined not to permit intruders. If they are recognized, you will not be free of them again. I am pushed aside. Leave the board when they appear. Good-bye."
The use of the name, Happy Hollow, forms a link with Hannibal; but if any of the characters in "Jap Herron" were drawn from life, they must have belonged to Mark Twain s generation and not to mine. Mark never seems to take into account the fact that he left Hannibal before I was born, and that there have been many changes in the old town. The character of Jacky Herron may have been suggested by a disreputable drunken fisherman whose experiences I have heard my father relate; but there is one little touch in that first chapter that must have come from Mark s own mind, since the underlying fact was not known to any of us until we read Walter Prichard Eaton s article on birds nests, months later. When we transmitted that statement, "The father of the little Herrons was a king fisher," none of us knew that the kingfisher s home nest is a filthy hole, close to the river bank. The application is too perfect to have been accidental.
Before another chapter of the story was transmitted, I went to spend a morning with Mrs. Hays. At the request of her son, we consented to allay his curiosity by a visible demonstration of the workings of the mysterious board, of which he had necessarily heard much. He hoped to receive some definite communication from his father, or the sister who had died in her girlhood; but this is what he recorded:
"Emily, I gave those synopses not for a guide but to prevent others from imposing their ideas and confusing you. It might be said that it made it easier for you, but that idea is wrong. It would be easier to write the story direct. You have learned that this was wise, because constant efforts have been made to break in and alter the stories. For this reason I gave you the synopses, so that you could not be deceived. Now I am going to trust you. I intended to advise you that it would be a more convincing psychic record, if you have nothing on which a subconscious mind might be said to be working. The synopsis was for your protection, and has no value to the record. At first you had such a conglomerate method of working that it was necessary. You did not recognize the difficulties that were likely to occur. You were apt to employ temporary help, so eliminate."
Just what was meant by "temporary help" is not apparent; but there was no opportunity to question him further, for at that moment we were interrupted by the arrival of another luncheon guest and the board was put aside. We devoted two sessions to the revision and finishing touches of the troublesome short story, and then we plunged into the transmission of "Jap Herron" in deadly earnest.
As far as possible, we sat twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays. We usually worked uninterruptedly for two hours, with no sound save that of my voice as I pronounced the letters and punctuation marks over which the pointer of the planchette paused in its swift race across the board. My husband discovered early in the work that if he permitted himself the luxury of a smile he was in danger of distracting Mrs. Hays, who always sat facing him, and thus of bringing about confusion in the record. Under Mark's specific instruction she has schooled herself to keep her mind as nearly blank as is possible for a woman who is absolutely conscious and normal, and the evidence that some thing humorous was being transmitted through her would be diverting, to say the least. As for my own part in the work, I seldom realized the import of the sentences I had spelled out, my whole attention being concentrated on the rapidly gliding pointer. When my husband read aloud the copy he had taken down it almost invariably came to Mrs. Hays and me as some thing entirely new.
The story of Jap Herron, as it stands completed, does not follow the original order of the first fifteen chapters. The early part of the tale was handled in a manner so sketchy and rapid in its action that three whole chapters and seven fragments of chapters were dictated and inserted after the work was finished. In the original copy the second chapter suffered little change up to the point of George Thomas s advent, with the suggestion that he might bring in some more turnips. Following the disaster to Judge Bowers's speech, Mark took a short cut to pave the way for the next chapter. It ran thus :
"But bad luck cannot camp on your trail forever. In the gladsome June-time, Ellis married Flossy Bowers, and her dowry of two thousand dollars and her following of kin set the Herald on its feet."
These two sentences were expanded into the more important half of the third chapter, almost five months after they had been dictated, and this without a rereading of the story. At another time, when this curious kind of revision was under way, Mark dictated the latter part of the second chapter, wherein Ellis Hinton tells Jap how he happened to be starving in Bloomtown. When he had finished the dictation, with the words, "My boy, that blue calico lady was Mrs. Kelly Jones," he continued:
"Emily will know where to fit it in."
This fitting in was not extremely difficult, since there was only one place in the story into which each of the inserted chapters or fragments could be made to fit; but the original copy had to be read several times before these thin places became apparent, and I got no help whatever from Mark. Once, when I implored him to tell me where a certain brief but gripping paragraph belonged, he replied, "Emily, that is your job. I don't want the Hannibal girl to fall down on it."
On that second Monday night in September, when the "office force" settled itself to serious work, my husband read to us the copy we had transmitted. The chapter ended with what is now the closing paragraph of the third chapter:
"The Herald put on a new dress, and the hell-box was dumped full of the discarded, mutilated types that had so long given strabismus to the patient readers of the Bloomtown Herald"
The diet of turnips and sorghum and the other humorous touches of the narrative overwhelmed us with laughter, whereat the planchette under our fingers wrote :
"Sounds like Mark, eh?"
I asked him if he was satisfied with the use of the word "Herald" twice in that last sentence. He replied: "You must excuse me. I am all in. I told you I would leave minor points to your pencil. T-i-r-e-d. Good-bye."
Our first acquaintance with Wat Harlow, as he appeared in the fourth chapter, gave little promise of the character into which he was destined to be developed. To the three of us, who laughed over the episode of the vermilion handbill, he appeared to be nothing more than a third-rate country politician. In the original transcription he received only an occasional passing touch, until the death of Ellis brought him forth in a new light. We did not know then what Ellis had meant by "that reformed auctioneer," for the story of Wat's connection with the upbuilding of Bloomtown, as it is set forth in the sixth chapter, was not told until we were well along with the work of revision.
One of the most interesting personal touches, to be found only in our private record, was introduced at the end of the fourth chapter. It had been a long stretch of dictation, and when the planchette stopped I asked if there was any more. The pointer gave only this, "No 30." Having had no experience with printing offices, I was mystified until my husband explained that "30 on the hook" means the end of a given piece of work.
Mark once made use of the expression, "the story contains a great deal of brevity that will have to be untied later on." This untying process is nowhere more aptly illustrated than in the fourth chapter of our original copy, a brief chapter that contained the condensed material of Wat Harlow s letter to Jap, the birth of little J.W. and Isabel Granger s first kiss. There was nothing about Bill s boyhood, no record of Jap s home surroundings, none of the amusing details of the printing office wherein Jap and Bill were learning their trade. All these incidents, which seem so essential to the story, were introduced when the first draft of the story had been completed. The seventh chapter, which has to do with the babyhood of little J.W., was dictated after the revision had apparently been completed. When I asked Mark why he inserted it, the planchette made this curious reply:
"I was thinking that we'd better soften the shock of the boy s death."
For us, through whom the story was being transmitted, there was no softening of Ellis Hinton s death. We knew from the foregoing chapter that the country editor had gone to the mountains for his health, and that Flossy had no hope ; but when we had recorded the words : "Jap closed the press upon the inky type, and gathered the great bunches of fragrant blossoms and heaped them upon the press, to be forever silent," a great wave of sadness swept over me, I knew not why. The action of the planchette was so rapid that I could not stop to think or question. It was as if the man dictating the story had an unpleasant task before him, which he wished to have done with as soon as possible. When the final words, "At rest. FLOSSY," had been spelled out, and the planchette stopped abruptly, Mrs. Hays cried :
"My God, what has happened!" and I looked up to see that she was very white, and tears were slipping down her cheeks.
"Ellis is dead," my husband said, very simply. He had foreseen the end, had grasped the infinite pathos of that old Washington press, decked as a funeral casket with the flowers that had been sent to usher in the new regime.
When the evening s copy had been read, I asked Mark if he wished to comment on it. "Not to-night, Emily," the planchette spelled. "I am all broken up. I didn't want Ellis to die. I tried to figure a way to save him ; but I couldn t make it go."
When we met again, on the 2d of October, the dicta tion began with these words :
"I want Edwin to go back to the beginning of the last chapter. I left out a sentence that is necessary. It explains why Ellis left by rail. You insert."
Then he dictated the passage relating to the new railroad and the temporary station. When he had finished he said, "Go on with the story," and the next sentence began, "When Ellis went away it was to the sound of jollity." The reference to Robert Louis Stevenson was new to both of us, and we have not sought to verify the incident. That Mark wanted it included in his story was sufficient for us. That next chapter contained another accumulation of brevity which was afterward untied. The funeral, the reading of Ellis Hinton's will, Judge Bowers s can didacy, the nomination of Jap Herron as the ugliest man in Bloomtown, Bill s first spree and the local option fight, all these were sketched with the sharp ness and sudden transition of pictures on a cinemato graph screen.
The following chapter was almost as tightly packed with incident, and in the midst of it there was a break, with an astonishing explanation. Three evenings in succession we had had trouble with the planchette. It had seemed to me that Mrs. Hays was trying to pull it from beneath my fingers. Mean while she had mentally accused me of digital heaviness. She uses the finger tips of her left hand while I use my right. As a rule our touch is so light that the planchette glides automatically. On these three evenings we had left the board with cramped fingers, and a general sense of dissatisfaction. Several sentences that were plainly spurious were afterward stricken from the record ; but we had forgotten about the other scribes who wanted "a pencil on earth," until Mark interrupted the story to say:
"I must ask you to be wary and sharp to dismiss impostors. Right now there are more than twenty hands trying to control your dictation. It is very hard for me. I am disconsolate, and powerless to help myself. If we do not watch every avenue, our work is spoiled. There has been a constant struggle for my rights. I only ask a little help, and you are all my hope. If you fail me, I am undone."
This illuminating outburst served to clear the atmosphere, and the three chapters were afterward expanded into seven, much of the same diction being reproduced. It was as if Mark, knowing the difficulties on his own side of the shadow-line, had tried to get at least the outline of his story down on paper, lest he lose his hold entirely. After that evening we had almost no trouble with intruders.
The story of Jones, of the Barton Standard, came to us like a thunder clap from a cloudless sky, for the part which old Pee-Dee Jones played in the development of Bloomtown and Barton was not related until we had begun the work of revision. In the original story of that near-fight, Mark gave us a significant cross-light on the conditions under which he lives. The marshal had appeared in the office at the crucial moment, as if he had dropped through the roof or arisen out of the floor. Several times in the earlier part of the work the characters had thus appeared without obvious means of locomotion, and I had called attention to the inconsistency, with the result that Mark had dictated a few words to show how or whence the new arrival had come. When Wilfred Jones shouted to the marshal, "I demand protection," my husband, who was reading the evening s copy aloud to us, said:
"How does the marshal happen to be there ? I don't see any previous mention of him."
Instantly the planchette, which we always kept in readiness under our finger tips, began to move. It dictated this:
"You might say, at that moment the town marshal, wearing his star pinned to his blue flannel shirt, strolled in. I have been away from the need of going up stairs and down-stairs for so long that I forget about it."
"How do you get from one place to another, Mark?" I asked.
"Now, Emily, curiosity ! But you know we haven't any Pullman cars or elevators here. When I want to be at a place where I am free to go why, I am there."
He took occasion, when our difficulties seemed to be at an end and his grip on his "pencil" was once more firmly established, to make it very plain to me that I alone was responsible for the annoyance we had had. He put it thus :
"Things will be all right if you don t give way to any more curiosity. In the beginning I told you that it would not do. Emily wants to investigate too much. It must be one or all. Edwin and I understand. It was you that mixed the type. Lola must be passive. If she tries to watch for intruders, she gets in my way. So it is up to the Hannibal girl."
I do not know, even now, how I could have prevented the trouble that well-nigh wrecked our work. It is true I had taken part in another psychic demonstration, but it was in a remote part of the city and it had nothing to do with Mark Twain s "pencil." However, I took no further chance with psychic investigation.
When Jap Herron was elected Mayor of Bloomtown, and the girl he loved had walked right into his astonished arms, it seemed to us that the story must be ended. We had forgotten that Jap ever had a family of his own, a mother and two sisters, and when the drunken hag reeled into the Herald office we were as greatly horrified as Jap himself was. I had put my husband's carefully kept copy into type-written form, and it occurred to me to get the opinion of a master critic on the story, not as evidence of the survival of the human mind after physical death, but as pure fiction. Acting upon the impulse, and without telling either my husband or Mrs. Hays what I intended to do, I took the copy to William Marion Reedy1, permitting him to infer that I had created it, and asked him to tell me whether, in his judgment, the story was worth
1 William Marion Reedy, Editor and Publisher of Reedy s Mir ror, a weekly journal published in St. Louis, has long been in terested in psychic phenomena, as a source of exotic and un usual literature. He has also discovered and developed much purely terrestrial literary talent, having brought out some of the best poets and fiction writers of present-day America, As a critic, he is a recognized master.
finishing. It was the beginning of the week, when the issuing of the Mirror consumed all his time, and while I was waiting for his verdict we received three more chapters. In the first of these we had a new light on Isabel Granger s character, and came for the first time absolutely to love Bill Bowers. After that nothing that Bill might do would shake our faith in his ability to make good in the end. He might be weak and foolish, but we understood why Jap believed in and loved him. We were jubilant when Rosy Raymond was eliminated from the game, for we feared, whenever we permitted ourselves to speculate, that Bill would marry her, and regret the step. We assumed that the son of the much-married Judge Bowers had inherited a nature sufficiently mobile to recover from the shock of the silly girl's perfidy.
While this unexpected development of the story was being revealed to us, William Marion Reedy sent me, in the envelope with the first ten chapters of "Jap Herron," a criticism that fairly made me tingle with delight. Had the work been my own, I could not have been more pleased with his unstinted praise. I wanted to go to him at once and confess the truth ; but he was not in his office when I called.
Two of the succeeding chapters were taken down by friends who had been let into the secret of our work and had asked permission to sit with us. It was the time of year when my husband could seldom spare an evening from his work, and Mark consented to break into his beloved office-force arrangement, for the sake of expediency. Three men and five women served us in the capacity of amanuenses while the latter third of the book was being transmitted. The first deviation from our original arrangement came in connection with the dictation of the seventeenth chapter, the chapter that ends with the death of Flossy and her son. We were three sympathetic women, and when the planchette had traced the words, "It was a smile of heavenly beauty, as the pure soul of Ellis Hinton's wife flew to join her loved ones," we three burst simultaneously into violent weeping. I have never experienced more genuine grief at the grave of a departed friend or relative than I felt when this woman, who had come to be more than human to me, was released from her envelope of mortal clay.
The following day Mrs. Hays and I were invited to the home of a delightful little Scotch woman who asked us to bring the planchette board. She knew nothing of the story, and had no intimation of the personality on the other side who was sending it across, through our planchette; nevertheless she was willing to keep copy for us. The chapter she wrote down is the eighteenth in the finished story, Jap's funeral sermon and Isabel s song beside Flossy's coffin. Even now I cannot think of that scene without a swelling of the throat and a blinding rush of tears. It is needless to say we wept when the dictation was ended.
When our hostess had read aloud the copy I asked our invisible companion if he had anything more to say. I avoided mentioning his name, for we did not wish his identity disclosed. The planchette traced the curious words :
"You know that the air gets pretty damp for an old boy after this."
I looked out of the window. It was a murky Novem ber afternoon, and I asked, "Do you feel the dampness of the material atmosphere?" Like a flash came the reply :
"Emily, girl, you have been getting sob stuff."
Then I yearned to get my fingers in his shock of white hair, for I knew Mark Twain was laughing at me. But I had that which gave me consolation, for I had brought with me Mr. Reedy s letter, analyzing and commenting upon the story that Mark had created. Incidentally Mrs. Reedy had asked Mrs. Hays and me to come to her home the following day to luncheon. I had told her that Mrs. Hays possessed a high degree of psychic power, and I consented to bring our board for a demonstration. I wanted to see Mr. Reedy alone and explain to him that "Jap Herron" had come to us over that insensate board, but opportunity was denied me. As soon as luncheon was over we went up to that beautiful yellow room in which the best of Reedy s Mirror is created, and Mrs. Hays and I placed the board on our knees. As soon as Mr. Reedy's fountain pen was ready for action our planchette began:
"Well, I should doff my plaidie and don a kirtle, for tis not the sands o Dee but the wearing o the green." There was a wide sweep of the planchette, and then, " Tis not the shine of steel that always reflects ; but it is the claymore that cuts. Both are made of steel and both will mirror sometimes the shillalah. Yet the shillalah is better than the claymore, for the man that is cut will run ; but if ye slug him with the blackthorn he will have to listen. This is just a flicker of high light. Bill jumped from bed as the rattle of the latch announced the arrival of a visitor."
My heart thumped wildly for a moment, then sank. I knew that the Bill referred to was Bill Bowers, and not the editor whom hundreds delight to call "Bill Reedy," and I knew, too, that it would be only a moment until he must realize that the sentences he was writing down from my dictation were part and parcel of the story whose first ten chapters he had read and praised. I dared not lift my eyes from the board, yet I wanted to stop and explain that I had not intended to deceive him- that I only wanted an unbiased opinion of Mark Twain s story. In vain I tried to stop the whirling planchette, my voice so husky that I could scarcely pronounce the letters. It went right on, with a situation that neither Mrs. Hays nor I had anticipated. We had schooled ourselves not to speculate, yet the previous afternoon we had left Jap in a fainting condition and on the verge of a long illness. The chapter we transmitted that day was the story of a gubernatorial election in a small Missouri town.
Subsequently, when Mark gave us the intervening chapter, Jap s visit to the cemetery and the humorous incidents of the campaign, I asked him:
"Why didn't you give this chapter last Thursday?"
"I thought that election would amuse Reedy. Don't worry, Emily. He understood you. He knows the Hannibal girl is honest," was the comforting reply.
When the revision of the story was under way, and several fragments had been dictated, the planchette spelled the words, "I want to add something to the Reedy chapter," and without further ado it proceeded: "The Bloomtown Herald did itself proud that week." That fragment was the easiest of them all to fit into place. At its conclusion we were favored with a bit of pleasantry that seems significant. My husband gave us a lift whenever he could spare the time ; but on this occasion a woman friend was sitting with us. She had written about two thousand words of copy, when the tenor of the dictation changed suddenly to the personal vein.
"Old Mark has been working like a badger, and is pleased with the story. The girls and friend Ed are going as well as Twain ever did when he wielded his own pen. When Edwin lights up a fresh smoke and smiles, I know that all is well. But when Lola frowns and Edwin forgets to smoke, look out for leaks. The story has sprung and therain was hesitthininspots." The last of the sentence came so rapidly that none of us had any idea what it meant, or that it meant any thing at all. Before we had separated it into the words, "the rain washes it thin in spots," I asked that that last part be repeated. Instead we got the words :
"When a board is sprung, it lets in rain. It is Emily who has to hold the drip pan for the temperamental ones."
"Thank you for those few kind words, Mark," I said. "But if you think enough of me to trust me with this important work, why do you single me out for all the scoldings, when Edwin and Lola sometimes deserve at least a share in your displeasure?"
"Whist, Hannibal girl, we know our office force," was the humorous rejoinder.
The appearance of Agnesia was one of the keen surprises of the story, and before we realized what Jap's little sister would mean to Bloomtown, Mark interrupted his dictation with the words, "Stop ! Girls, the yarn is nearly all unwound. We will skip a bit that we will tie in later. But now Bill sat doubled over the case, the stick held listlessly in his hand. Nervously he fingered the copy, not knowing what he was reading."
Without a break, we received the brief final chapter, ending with the words, "Isabel wants to call him Jasper William." The planchette added, "The End." We transmitted no more that day, although we knew that our story was far from completion.
The next time we met we had another surprise in the coming of Jap's elder sister. When the twenty-fifth chapter was finished, Mark said:
"Girls, I think the story is done."
"It s pretty short for a book," I protested. By way of reply, he gave this:
"Did you ever know about my prize joke? One day I went to church, heard a missionary sermon, was carried away to the extent of a hundred dollars. The preacher kept talking. I reduced my ante to fifty dollars. He talked on. I came down to twenty-five, to ten, to five, and after he had said all that he had in him, I stole a nickel from the basket. Reason for your selves. Not how long but how strong. Yet I have a sneaking wish to tell you something of the early days of Ellis s work, especially about Granger and Blanke. But to-day I have writer s cramp. So let's get together soon and make the finish complete."
There were two more sessions, with the dictation of a whole chapter and several fragments, at each meet ing, and we met no more until I had put the whole complex record into consecutive form. We had a final review of the work, and a few minor changes in words. and phrases were made. Mark expressed himself as well pleased, and as a little farewell he gave us this, which has nothing to do with Jap Herron:
"There will be a great understanding some day. It will come when the earth realizes that we must leave it, to live, and when it can put itself in touch with the heavens that surround it. I have met a number of preachers over here who would like to undo many things they promulgated while they had a whack at sinners.
"There are hardshell Baptists who have a happy time meeting their members, to whom they preached hell and brimstone. They have many things to explain. There is one melancholy Presbyterian who frankly stated the fact underscore fact that there were infants in hell not an ell long. He has cleared out quite a space in hell since he woke up. He doesn't rush out to meet his congregation. It would create trouble and be embarrassing if they looked around for the suffering infants. As I said before, there is everything to learn, after the shackles of earth are thrown aside. I would like to write a story about some of these preachers, and the mistakes they made, when the doctrines of brimstone and everlasting punishment were ladled out as freely to the little maid who danced as to the harlot. It showed a mind asleep to the undiscovered country."
"Can you shed any light on that undiscovered country?" I asked him.
"Perhaps. But for the present there is enough of the truth of life and death in Jap Herron to hold you."
And with that he told us good-bye.