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The Taxidermist
by [?]

“Msieu Smeet; when you was bawn?”

“I? December 9, 1844. Why do you ask?”

“O nut’n’; only I thing you make me luck; nine, h-eighteen, fawty-fo’–I play me doze number’ in de lott’ree to-day.”

“Why, pshaw! you don’t play the lottery, do you?”

“Yass. I play her; why not? She make me reech some of doze day’. Win fifty dollah one time las’ year.”

The soft voice of the wife spoke up–“And spend it all to the wife of my dead brother. What use him be reech? I think he don’t stoff bird’ no betteh.”

But the husband responded more than half to himself,

“Yass, I think mebbe I stoff him lill’ more betteh.”

When, some days afterward I called again, thinking as I drew near how much fineness of soul and life, seen or unseen, must have existed in earlier generations to have produced this man, I noticed the in conspicuous sign over his door, P.T.B. Manouvrier, and as he led me at once into the back room I asked him playfully what such princely abundance of initials might stand for.

“Doze? Ah, doze make only Pas-Trop-Bon.”

I appealed to his wife; but she, with her placid laugh, would only confirm him:

“Yass; Pastropbon; he like that name. Tha’s all de way I call him– Pastropbon.”


The hummingbird was ready for me. I will not try to tell how lifelike and beautiful the artist had made it. Even with him I took pains to be somewhat reserved. As I stood holding and admiring the small green wonder, I remarked that I was near having to bring him that morning another and yet finer bird. A shade of displeasure (and, I feared, of suspicion also) came to his face as he asked me how that was. I explained.

Going into my front hall, whose veranda-door framed in a sunny picture of orange-boughs, jasmine-vines, and white-clouded blue sky, I had found a male ruby-throat circling about the ceiling, not wise enough to stoop, fly low, and pass out by the way it had come in. It occurred to me that it might be the mate of the one already mine. For some time all the efforts I could contrive, either to capture or free it, were vain. Round and round it flew, silently beating and bruising its exquisite little head against the lofty ceiling, the glory of its luminous red throat seeming to heighten into an expression of unspeakable agony. At last Mrs. Smith ran for a long broom, and, as in her absence I stood watching the self-snared captive’s struggle, the long, tiny beak which had never done worse than go twittering with rapture to the grateful hearts of thousands of flowers, began to trace along the smooth, white ceiling a scarlet thread of pure heart’s blood. The broom came. I held it up, the flutterer lighted upon it, and at first slowly, warily, and then triumphantly, I lowered it under the lintel out into the veranda, and the bird darted away into the garden and was gone like a soul into heaven.

In the middle of my short recital Manouvrier had sunk down upon the arm of his wife’s rocking-chair with one huge hand on both of hers folded over her sewing, and as I finished he sat motionless, still gazing into my face.

“But,” I started, with sudden pretence of business impulse, “how much am I to pay?”

He rose, slowly, and looked dreamily at his wife; she smiled at him, and he grunted,


“Oh, my friend,” I laughed, “that’s absurd!”

But he had no reply, and his wife, as she resumed her sewing, said, sweetly, as if to her needle, “Ah, I think Pastropbon don’t got to charge nut’n’ if he don’t feel like.” And I could not move them.

As I was leaving them, a sudden conjecture came to me.

“Did those birthday numbers bring you any luck?”

The taxidermist shook his head, good-naturedly, but when his wife laughed he turned upon her.