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  • Consider the SourceThe Man Who Thought Himself a Woman
  • Edited by Elizabeth Reis
    University of Oregon
Abstract

Following appears a complete transcription of “The Man Who Thought Himself a Woman,” which appeared in The Knickerbocker; or New York Monthly Magazine, December 1857, 599–610. Minor changes in punctuation are the only alterations to the original text.

Keywords

Transgender, Japhet Colbones, New York Knickerbocker, Cross-dressing Man, Queer, Freak, Gender Crossing, Suicide

Japhet Colbones was a very odd individual. All his ancestors were odd individuals, as far back as they can be remembered. His great-grand-father, at the age of seventy-one, built a hut in a patch of thick woods, leaving a handsome and comfortable home, a wife, children, and grand-children, to live alone by himself. He even forbade the visits of his family, though a favorite daughter ventured sometimes to present herself on the forbidden premises, till one day he brought out his gun and threatened to shoot her if she came again. At long intervals he would return to his old home, but he required to be received in all respects as a stranger. Dire was his wrath if any one called him “father”; and the little tow-headed urchins on the premises were taught, with their catechism, not to notice the old man whenever they should see him, nor, on peril of their lives, to call him by the endearing cognomen of grand-daddy.

Nobody could account for this freak taken in his old age. His forest residence was uncouth, irregular—lighted by an unsheltered opening, filled with logs and coarse contrivances for furniture. There, in his rude fire-place he cooked the game that he killed, with his own hands. Whenever he was out of necessary food he supplied himself from his well-filled larder at home, the servants or the daughters knowing what provision he wanted by the particular basket or utensil he carried.

It was useless for the old wife, poor thing! to follow him mutely, the longing in her heart to comfort and to live with him, plainly written on her [End Page 666] face. He deigned to take no notice of her whatever, except to frown if he met her eye; and thus he lived till he died.

The son, grand-father to Japhet, was not a whit behind his father in his oddities. He caused a coat to be made wherein were introduced seven different colors, and would not kill or allow to be killed on his premises, any thing that had life. Consequently his family were Grahamites against their will. Cats and dogs swarmed in all directions, and it took nearly every thing that was raised to keep his constantly-multiplying herds. None who lived in Rattle-Snake Village can have forgotten the extraordinary sensation caused by his death, nor with what gusto scores of useless animals were sacrificed to the manes of the departed oddity.

Number three, father of Japhet was in his way an original and an eccentric. His tastes travelled bookward. Not an auction took place in the neighboring city that he did not attend, and purchase every leather-covered and worm-eaten volume that could be found, oftentimes paying the most ridiculous prices, extorted by those who took advantage of his weakness. He is living now, a pale, loose-jointed man, a little weak in the knees, with an abundant shock of iron-gray locks; large, flatulent-looking blue-white eyes, a prominent nose, and a peaked chin. In his house books abounded. Not a closet, chest, trunk, drawer, or shelf but was filled with flapping leaves. The children kicked and tore them about the premises, for the old man seemed to set no store by them after he had made them his own by way of purchase. All the sentimental maids and youths came to ‘Squire Colbones for mental aliment, and I am not sure that the collection was the choicest in the world. Many of them were never returned; and as Mrs. Colbones said, when the ‘Squire grumbled, she was sure it was a mercy, for they eat, and drank, and slept on books now; and if they were all returned they’d have to build additions every year for the sake of getting a room to themselves.

All the male members of the Colbones family, were, as it is generally expressed, “lacking somewhere.” The women were generally good, harmless creatures, with few idiosyncrasies, and feeble mental constitutions, willing to put up with the queer freaks of the masculines, and always ready with a defence or an excuse when they were particularly disagreeable. They did hope, however, the four maiden aunts belonging to the last generation but one, that Japhet, the most promising scion of the family and the only son of his father, (seven daughters preceding him,) would be free from all singularities, queerities, quips, quirks, and oddities; and while they watched him with fearful misgivings, they yet said to themselves and to each other: “He looks so different from the Colbones, and so much like the Rashers, (his mother’s side,) that I guess there won’t be any streaks in him.” Japhet was [End Page 667] rather a fine-looking boy. The only draw-back to his good appearance was a head of somewhat unwieldy size, and whitish blue eyes, exactly like his father’s. With books, of course, he was on intimate terms, they having been his playthings from his earliest years—indeed, he was seldom seen without them. Manfully he mastered his “abs” and “ebs,” and hurried forward to the first class in the primary school. So rapid was his progress, that every body marvelled, and an itinerant phrenologist examined his cranium for nothing, because, he said: “One did not often meet with such splendid development of brain.” Forthwith he declared that Japhet must go to college; that he shouldn’t wonder if the boy was a marvel; yes, indeed, he fully expected to ask him for an office when he should advance to the dignity of being President of the United States. The elder Colbones was in raptures, and almost went to the city heels over head in his anxiety to buy more books, that the sciences and ologies might be crammed into that capacious brain. Only one person professed to have no faith in the predictions of the man with the skulls, old goody Granger—the matron of the poor-house.

“La!” she would say, putting her thumbs on her hips, “do you s’pose a Colbones’ll ever come to any thing? Talk about his brain; any body might see it was rickety. Take my word for ‘t, he’ll be as much of a fool as the rest on ’em.”

Suddenly, when he was fourteen, Master Japhet refused to go to school any longer. His mother coaxed him, his father beat him, but all to no purpose. He had learning enough, he said; he meant to go to farming, or any thing else he liked. He had his way; left the red school-house; made up faces at the teacher when he asked him why; bought himself yarn and knitting-needles, and pestered his mother till she taught him how to knit. From knitting he went to embroidery, and during the long winter evenings made fancy seats for chairs, table-covers, and every thing else he could think of, saying that he was preparing himself for future housekeeping. His family grew accustomed to his odd ways, and his sisters happy that instead of teasing them as other brothers did their sisters, he sat down with them like a real good boy, and when they were in a quandary, helped them out. Japhet was something of a genius, in his way, in devising patterns and drawing them; and he often made a sixpence in this manner. As he grew older he became more and more fond of his needle and of in-door employment. The moment his labor was over in the field, he would hie to his own little room, and there, cutting out articles to please his fancy, stich away at them with all the ardor of a young mother shaping a dress for her first-born. Singular as it may seem, he was not ashamed to have his handiwork shown at the county fair, with his name attached, and contemplated a handsome quilt, [End Page 668] which he had contributed, with as much satisfaction as a first-rate machinist gazes at his complicated cogs and wheels, shafts and pulleys.

Every body laughed at Japhet, though they said it was to be expected, coming from so odd a family. The girls made all manner of sport of him, especially Nanny Halliday and Nelly Gray, two young ladies who were quite near neighbors of the odd family, and to whom Japhet distributed his smiles and nodded his capacious head.

“Don’t you say another word to me about Japhet Colbones,” cried Nanny, in great wrath, to some one who quizzed her. “Good laws! ketch me to have a woman for a husband when there are plenty of men about.”

“But jest see what a grand farm you’d get, Nanny,” pursued her tormentor; “and if ever you got tired cutting out, makin’ and mendin’, why, you could jest hand the needle-book over to your husband, and he’d do it tidy as a mitten.”

“Oh! do hush,” cried Nanny with spirit, her red cheeks growing redder; “I wouldn’t have Japhet Colbones if there wasn’t another fellow in the world.”

Just then Tiddy Grant came into the little cottage. Tiddy was twenty-four, lean, poor, and worked very hard. Her face had a sort of sharp prettiness that sometimes falls to the lot of thin people. She had been washing, and came to rest herself in talking with her neighbors.

“Poh!” she exclaimed, overhearing the last remark, “you’re a great fool then, if he’s asked you, I’m sure. Catch me to refuse a young man that’s got nothing suspicious about him but a few little oddities. I’m sure Japhet’s a very good farmer, and a very good-looking man too; and as for his sewing propensities, I know some men that had better be using needle and thread than be lounging in bar-rooms and making their wives miserable.”

Little she thought that Japhet, now a young man of nineteen, was hidden in the next room, and that he had indulged in another odd freak in prevailing upon an old friend to propose for him in this novel manner.

“Bless us, Japhet!” exclaimed his sisters as he came down the next morning in his newest suit of blue, with bright buttons, “an’t you going to work?”

“I’m going to get married,” said Japhet shortly.

Such a look of consternation! The girls caught their breath and stared at him stupidly.

“For pity’s sake, who to?” queried the oldest.

“Tiddy Grant,” he responded, pulling up his dicky before the little glass.

“Oh! g-r-a-c-i-o-u-s!” cried his eldest sister again. “Why she’s an old maid.”

“So are you!” responded the young man quietly. [End Page 669]

“Well, if I am, I arn’t going to get married to a little boy,” retorted his sister sharply.

“Nor an’t she,” replied Japhet, giving a final look at the glass.

“I don’t believe it; it’s only one of his odd freaks,” said another sister, watching him as he went down the road.

“It’ll be just like him exactly, to bring that mean, poor-spirited thing here this very day,” exclaimed another; “and we can’t have a wedding, or company, or any thing.”

“Like’s not he’ll find her at the wash-tub, and marry her in a check apron,” said the younger sister, who had never liked Tiddy, because she was poor and mean in her appearance.

Off posted Japhet to the little brown cottage where lived Tiddy Grant. At a long table her mother and herself were ironing, for they took in washing for their living. Both paused when they saw the young man; and Tiddy, bethinking herself of yesterday’s speech, blushed till she looked almost handsome.

“It’s a nice day!” said Japhet.

“Very,” echoed mother and daughter.

“A fine day to be married in,” suggested the young man.

Tiddy looked up in astonishment and then looked down in confusion.

“If you’ll have me Tiddy, say ‘Yes,’ and put your bonnet on; we’ll go right to the minister’s.”

The poor girl was confounded; she never had received an offer before in her life. So she stood awkwardly, catching by the table; then in her consternation, took hold of a hot iron, cried, “Oh!” and sank upon a seat paralyzed.

“I an’t got much time,” said Japhet very coolly, rising; “and I’m determined to be married to day or never. If you’ll have me, here I am; but you must make haste or we shan’t be home in time for dinner.”

“Law, Tiddy, are you dumb?” exclaimed old Mrs. Grant in an agony of fear that her daughter would lose the chance; “do say ‘Yes!’ and done with it.”

“Yes, and done with it,” murmured Tiddy faintly.

“Well, now don’t lose any time; I’ve got some hoeing to do to that patch of corn at the left of the house. I’ll wait till you put on your bonnet and shawl.”

Tiddy walked in a dream to the door to go up-stairs. Then turning irresolutely, she said, timidly: “What will your sisters think?”

“Law! Tiddy, do hurry!” cried old Mrs. Grant, while Japhet said quite coolly: “I never ask them what they think, or any body else.”

Another moment of indecision, and Tiddy was arraying herself in her best gown—a shilling print—trembling, half-laughing, half-crying. It was so strange! so odd! but then every body knew Japhet came of an odd family. [End Page 670]

Japhet got home with his wife just as his father drove up with a new cartload of books. Sisters and mother looked daggers at the double infliction. Old Mr. Colbones glanced suspiciously at Tiddy Grant, now Tiddy Colbones.

“Now you can all have your look, and say your say,” exclaimed Japhet; “Tiddy is my wife. I’ve jest been and married her, and brought her home to dinner; I hope it’s most ready.”

The elder Colbones spoke not a word, but sending for some one to unload his books, he went complacently into the house. Poor Mrs. Col-bones, on the contrary, fretted and fumed. “What did Japhet want to be such a confounded fool for? Wasn’t the house already full from cellar floor to clapboard with trash?—and now he must go to bringing more.”

Tiddy had not been in her new home a week before the sisters of the new bridegroom held a consultation, with the doors shut.

“I’m sure no such thing ever happened before,” whispered the eldest, “and I’m almost confident that huzzy has taken it.”

“And don’t you think,” said Sarah, the next eldest, “two pair of my very finest stockings are gone.”

“And my nicest, newest flannel petticoat,” chimed in another.

“And my blue and green striped calico!”

“Did mother tell you she missed two of her best caps?”

“No! the laws, you don’t say so!”

“Yes, and like’s not the huzzy has carried them to the old woman’s, at home,” chimed in another.

“Well, I declare! To think that our Japhet should go and marry a thief!”

All this while, poor Tiddy was scrubbing away down stairs, (for work was her life,) helping her new mother-in-law. She had really found in Japhet a tolerable companion and a very industrious husband. She had not yet become sufficiently accustomed to her sisters to like their ways; she even felt nervous and uncomfortable in their presence. How would her indignation have been roused could she have known that they suspected her of stealing! She noticed their growing coldness, their avoidance of her, and spoke to her husband about it. His only reply was: “I’m going to build a house; wait awhile.”

With his father’s aid, Japhet set himself to work in earnest, and near the close of the harvest he had ready a pretty little cottage, with a garden spot attached, and a fine orchard in the rear. The land was his father’s gift; the house he built with his own money, and furnished it neatly. By this time Tiddy was looked upon with less suspicion by the members of the odd family. They had searched her drawers in her absence, and found means to inspect even the old widow’s wardrobe. Finding none of the missing clothes, they contented themselves with calling it a mystery, or supposing that in [End Page 671] their absence some strolling thief had robbed them. As the family was over large, Tiddy suggested to her husband, that two of his sisters should come and stay with them, adding that “she might be glad of their services before a great while.”

“Do just as you please,” was his reply.

So Drusy, the eldest, and Fanny, the next in age, were invited to become inmates of the new house. The girls very willingly accepted the offer, as their father was disclosing some new freak of eccentricity every day. He had recently had every door taken from its hinges, and the house was uncomfortably cold, until he had a mind to put them on again.

Some years had passed, and Tiddy had often congratulated herself on her good fortune. She was the mother of two handsome little girls, who were the delight of their parents; and Japhet, though very odd and singular, had developed no very unusual trait of character. Drusy and Fanny, still unmarried, lived with them yet.

One pleasant morning Drusy came down stairs in no very amiable mood.

“I can’t find my best black silk!” she cried in consternation; “the one I earned myself. I’ve looked for it high and low. And my nice tucked skirt is gone, too; and Fanny’s pink pelerine and best bonnet. What shall we do? I’m sure they were all in my drawers yesterday!”

Tiddy was astonished as well as they. She left her work, and commenced searching. In every nook and corner of the house they hunted, turned chests wrong side out, emptied drawers, stripped closets, but nothing could they find of the missing articles. There was no other recourse for Drusy, the poor thing, but to cry; and at it she went, bemoaning her ill-fortune in the most extravagant manner.

It certainly was very mysterious. None but the usual inmates had been in the house. Tiddy searched her own part of the premises as faithfully as every other. But what would she want of the dress or the vandyke? She could get such things whenever she wished; and Drusy did not even suspect her this time: but how had it happened? By witchcraft? The Colbones were very superstitious, and they shuddered to go to bed after this strange mishap. Drusy declared that she heard foot-steps every night; and waking up her sister the night after the accident, both lay listening and trembling, for there certainly was a sound as of some one moving around the house.

“As sure as you live, Fanny, the house is haunted,” whispered Drusy.

“For pity’s sake, don’t!” cried Fanny, pulling the bed-quilt over her head.

“I’ve heard that sometimes them that’s gone get a spite against you, and torment you almost to———” [End Page 672]

“Drusy! hold your tongue! I wish you hadn’t waked me up,” chattered Fanny under the bed-clothes.

“I was only wondering,” persisted Drusy, who had a love for the horrible, “if old Grandpa Colbones———”

“I’ll scream murder if you don’t keep still!” cried Fanny, now trembling so that the bed shook.

“Well, anyhow, there’s a noise down stairs. There, don’t you hear it? Like somebody marching.”

Poor Fanny was striving to be oblivious to every thing, but it would not do; she was thoroughly frightened.

“O Drusy!” she moaned, “if there should be robbers! Japhet has got money in the house; and they might come in and murder us in our beds. O Drusy! Did you lock the door?”

Yes: Drusy never went to bed without locking doors and windows, and shaking every dress and stocking out, to be sure there was nobody inside. She would have gone to her brother’s room, but that it was across the entry, and she was a coward. Beside, she was sure she had heard the same sounds before, and they were yet unharmed.

Fanny declared the next day that she would go back to her father’s house, for she was scared almost out of her seven senses. Tiddy was astonished. Tiddy had heard nothing; but then, she added, with a laugh, a whole regiment of soldiers might come in the house, and she never should know it, she was so sound a sleeper.

It was very strange, she said, an hour after, she could not find her best shawl, high nor low; and two very fine night-dresses were gone. She had been hunting for them quietly, though she very well knew where she had left them. She had but one place for them. Wasn’t it strange?

Drusy wondered, Fanny wondered; but Japhet said not a word, and soon went out as usual.

“How dreadfully stupid Japhet looks of mornings!” said Drusy, who began to question and to be suspicious of every body.

“He’s such a hard sleeper!” responded Tiddy; “why, I can hardly get him awake by breakfast-time! I have to pound him and pull him and turn him!”

“He used to be up earlier,” said Drusy thoughtfully.

In the course of the day a neighbor came in and brought her knitting-work.

“Has Japhet taken to peddling?” she asked with a little laugh.

“Taken to peddling!” echoed Tiddy and both the sisters: “what can you mean?”

“Why, he goes through the village every day with a great tin box,” replied [End Page 673] the woman; “and actually as many as a dozen people have asked me if he has gone to peddling.”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean!” said Tiddy; “I didn’t know he carried any box of the kind.”

“Very strange!” said Drusy and Fanny; but they determined to “wait for the wagon.” When they heard it coming they hurried to a chamber at the back of the house, overlooking the barn. Sure enough, there was Japhet, just lifting from his wagon with no little difficulty a great tin box such as peddlers carry. The sisters looked at each other: what did it mean?

“Between you and me,” whispered Drusy, “I shouldn’t wonder if he grew strange as he grew older; you know they say all the others did: but what can he have in that box?”

“I’m sure I can’t think,” replied Fanny; “and do look: if he arnt locking up the carriage-house! Laws, Drusy! I thought of going in and trying to find out what it can be.”

“So did I,” responded Drusy; “but it’s no use now. He’s got some odd idea in his head, and I suppose he’ll keep it there.”

Tiddy Colbones manifested no little astonishment when Drusy and Fanny told her what they had seen, and what they had heard; and for the moment seemed a little uneasy.

“Perhaps it’s empty, and he’s only taken the notion to carry the box with him because it looks sort of business-like,” she suggested.

“I’m sure it isn’t empty!” exclaimed Drusy, “for he lifted it as if it was a heft. Dear me! What can it be?”

“Did you bring any thing from town, Japhet?” asked Tiddy that evening at supper.

He looked up as if astonished at the question.

“To be sure I did: I brought myself,” he answered.

“Oh!” and his wife made no other reply; only Drusy and Fanny exchanged glances with her.

That night, by previous arrangement, Drusy and Fanny were to occupy the chamber adjoining Tiddy’s sleeping-room. A small window or movable frame opened from one chamber to the other, and under that Tiddy had affixed a string in such a way that a slight pull upon it would awaken her, if her slumber were ever so deep. For a long while the redoubtable spinster kept awake, her fears excited at the slightest sound; but finally drowsiness overcame her, and her eyes obstinately refused to keep open.

For some hours she slept heavily; but at the accustomed time awoke, as had become a usual habit with her.

There were the sounds again; the going down-stairs, lifting the latch, the [End Page 674] fumbling and stepping about. Drusy pulled the string. In a few moments Tiddy’s night-capped-head appeared at the door.

“It is Japhet, as I suspected,” she said, whispering. “He’s not in my room. Come; we won’t light a lamp, but go softly down-stairs. You foolish thing, to tremble so! It’s only one of his freaks, and harmless, I suppose, at that. Come; are you ready?”

Drusy delayed as long as she could, fidgeting about the shawl she had prepared beforehand, and shivering, she said, at the cold; then, taking care to keep behind Tiddy, crept down-stairs.

There seemed to be an illumination. The hall was quite light. Tiddy stood on the stair, and reached over to the glass top of the door. For a moment she stood gazing; then, sinking back, she began laughing immoderately to herself; her queer contortions, as she beckoned Drusy to look, and the efforts she made to keep from betraying herself, making her, in her night-cap and uncouth attire, appear quite ridiculous.

Drusy stood on tip-toe, taking in the whole scene and its ludicrousness at a glance. Japhet was standing before the looking-glass, his box open beside him. He was arrayed in woman’s clothes almost from head to foot, and was just then pulling and straightening out the ruffles on a cap which Drusy recognized as the one her mother had lost some years before. The gown, with its bright blue and white pattern, was familiar to her; and now he was throwing over the pelerine that they had missed so lately. Every thing he had on seemed to have undergone a change—to have been widened, enlarged, and otherwise altered. After he had sufficiently admired himself, he spread out his gown, took his handkerchief in his hand, and began to walk back and forth with as much of the air and gait of a woman as he could assume. Then he would take out his knitting, smile amicably, sit down with finikin niceness, and knit, holding his head affectedly now this way, now that, with many an accomplished smirk.

Poor Drusy did not feel like laughing, for she saw now where her nice black silk had gone, and sundry other of her valuables, and she began forming a plan in her mind how she should avail herself of them, when Japhet arose, and appeared to be coming toward the door, whereupon the two women fled up-stairs.

The next night, and the next, they watched, and saw the same scene acted over with but few variations. Sometimes the beautiful black silk, altered and disfigured; sometimes other missing dresses were donned; and the imaginary woman kept on knitting, smirking, and smiling, till the two hours he had allotted himself were over.

Many were the plans the three women formed to get possession of the [End Page 675] box, but they could seem to make none of them available; and they dared not hint to Japhet what they knew.

One beautiful bright day in August, when the rich harvests, rudely wrested from the bosom of nature, covered the land, and the heavens smiled in a blue and quiet serenity, Japhet lingered about the house till the breakfast-dishes were placed away, and the usual domestic work was begun. All at once the man of few words spoke:

“Tiddy! Take the children, and go and spend the day at father’s.”

“Oh! I can’t, Japhet; there’s the churning, and little bits of things to do that I have let go till now. But I’ll get them all through, and go to-morrow, Japhet.”

“Drusy and Fanny,” said the oddity, looking about, “dress the children, and go with Tiddy to spend the day at father’s.”

Nothing more was to be said. Tiddy had never dreamed of having a way of her own; so she smothered down her disappointment, and prepared for the visit. They all set off very soon, Japhet standing at the door as they went, saying, that if he didn’t call for them before dark they needn’t come home that night.

“If you don’t come for me by five,” spoke up Tiddy with more self-will than she had ever dared before, “I shall come home.”

He jerked his head in his odd way, and off they went.

The day passed pleasantly. The old man and his old wife were social in their queerness; for association with her husband for over forty years had made Mrs. Colbones almost as strange as he. But toward five Tiddy began to grow uneasy.

“I feel worried and unhappy,” she said to Drusy; “I wish Japhet would come.”

“Why should you feel worried?” asked Drusy, her own face somewhat clouded.

“I don’t know,” was the reply; “but just as I got up from the dinner-table, something seemed to choke me: did you see me catch hold of my throat? and I have had a peculiar feeling ever since.”

“And just then I grew dizzy, too,” said Drusy; “I didn’t like to tell you, but I’ve felt queer ever since.”

“How foolish we are,” said Tiddy, trying to laugh; “there’s the cart now: and there’s———oh! no, it isn’t; it’s a neighbor. Let us get the children and ourselves ready; for if he isn’t here by five, I shall certainly go home.”

They all sat waiting till after the clock struck five. Then they started, Tiddy saying, in a faint sort of way, that they should probably meet Japhet [End Page 676] on the road, and they might as well be occupied with something: it was only half a mile.

Quite silent, listening to the pretty prattle of the little girls, they arrived at the house. It was shut up, and looked strangely lonesome. They rapped at the door. No answer. Pretty soon the girl they had left at home came flying over from a neighbor’s.

“Mr. Colbones told me I might go for the day, after you were gone,” she said, laughing. Apparently she had been enjoying herself very much.

“But the work?” said Tiddy reproachfully.

“I know: but he wouldn’t let me stay. When I told him what you expected, he just took me by the arm and put me out.”

“Where in the world is he?” cried Tiddy now alarmed, shaking the door.

“I’m sure I don’t know,” replied the girl; “gone off somewhere, I suppose. I’ll get in the cellar-way, and let you in.” And so she did.

Once in the house, Tiddy felt oppressed with a strange awe. She went into the parlor, and started back with a scream. All the chairs in the house had been brought in and ranged in double rows around the room, as if for a funeral, while the large hall-table was set in the centre, spread with a white cloth, and occupied only by the great Bible and hymn-book.

“What does this mean?” asked Tiddy, sinking down, her strength entirely gone. The children laughed with glee, and began to play meeting.

“It’s surely a sign!” cried Drusy, her cheeks whitening, while Fanny shivered as with an ague.

“Where is that man? Oh! dear! where can he be?” cried Tiddy, in great distress. “Drusy! You go hunt. Mary! (to the girl) go round to all the neighbors.” Then, proceeding to the foot of the stairs, she shouted his name; but there was no answer.

“I don’t know why, but I dread to go up-stairs,” said Tiddy falteringly. “Look; he has shut up every blind.”

“There’s no use in feeling so; we might as well go up,” said Drusy, summoning a show of courage. “I don’t believe he’s in the house, nor haven’t from the first. That fixing in the parlor, and shutting up the blinds, was just one of his freaks. I knew he would grow odder as he drew older; all the Colbones do. Come; we might as well have it over with.” So saying, she resolutely mounted into the chamber.

Every thing there was in scrupulous order; though the rooms, upon such an unexpected summons, had been left somewhat untidy. He was in none of the sleeping-apartments, and Tiddy breathed more freely. Drusy now boldly opened the door leading to the great garret. The red rays of the fast-setting sun streamed down the narrow stairs. She went up slowly, one at a [End Page 677] time, and when well at the top, gave one sweeping glance about. Then, in a loud voice she cried: “Here he is, Tiddy: the wicked fellow! Trying to scare us all out of our senses. O Japhet!”

By this time Tiddy had flown up with Fanny, and now approached the figure that sat in the shadow. Bonnet, cap, pelerine, gloves, black-silk gown, a bag in its hand, fantastic bows pinned all over it: it was a most fearfully grotesque object. Tiddy, calling him by name, went nearer and nearer, and still nearer; then, with a shriek: “O Drusy!” she cried, “he’s stone dead!” and fell down fainting.

It was quite true. This was the oddest freak yet, of the odd man. He had managed to hang himself in a sitting posture, and his face was calm and placid. In the bag in his hand was a paper on which were written the words:

“I think I am a woman. I have been seven years making me a perfect suit of garments appropriate for my sex. As I have passed so long, falsely, for a man, I am ashamed to show myself in my true colors; therefore, I hang myself. The property all to go to the woman I have called my wife. It is now twelve o’clock. I have prepared every thing for the funeral, and desire that I may be laid out in the clothes I have on.

Japhet Colbones.”

Poor Tiddy was almost distracted. In spite of his strange ways, she had loved her husband deeply, and the manner of his death made the bereavement much more dreadful. Crowds came flocking to see the strange sight; and the wonder grew when it was seen that he had taken the greatest pains to leave out not the smallest minutia of a woman’s wearing-apparel.

And thus, according to the term of his singular request, he was placed in his coffin in Drusy’s black silk; the only difference in the terms being that the bonnet and shawl were taken off, and the gold rings and jewelry with which he had adorned his neck and fingers.

“There’s the last of the Colbones, likely,” whispered one neighbor to another. “The women will die old maids, and Tiddy’s two children are girls: an’t it lucky?”

Tiddy was left with a handsome property; but she could no longer bear to live in the house where he had died. So she bought a little cottage for herself and her mother, and very kindly took Drusy and Fanny to live with her.

Old Mr. Colbones still mourns that he has no sons to leave his books to; and it is whispered that if he should die before his wife, there will probably be a great bonfire somewhere in the vicinity. [End Page 678]

Elizabeth Reis
University of Oregon

Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0895
Print ISSN
1543-4273
Pages
666-678
Launched on MUSE
2014-08-18
Open Access
No
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