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Memories Of A Manuscript
by [?]

I was born in Indiana. That was several years ago, and I have since seen a good deal of the world. I was reading in a newspaper the other day of a new film which shows on the screen the innumerable adventures of a book in the making, from the time the manuscript is accepted to the point where the completed volume is delivered into the hands of the reader. And it struck me that the intimate life of a manuscript before it is accepted might be even more curious to the general public. The career of many an obscure manuscript, I reflected, doubtless is much more romantic than its character. I wonder why, I said, manuscripts have all been so uncommonly reticent concerning themselves. But manuscripts, one recollects, have sensitive natures; and their experiences, at least the experiences of those not born to a great name, could hardly be called flattering to their feelings. Indeed, manuscripts suffer much humiliation, doubtless little suspected of the world. And it requires a manuscript strong in the spirit of detachment to lay bare its heart.

My parent–manuscripts commonly have but one parent–bore me great love; indeed I think he loved me beyond everything else in the world. He was a young man apprenticed to the law, but he cared more for me, I think, than for his calling, which I suspect he decidedly neglected for my sake. I know that in his family he was held a rather disappointing young man; but his family did not know the fervour of his heart, or the tenacity of purpose of which he was capable. He toiled over my up-bringing for two years, and often and often into the very small hours. I think I was never altogether absent from his thoughts, even when he was abroad about his business or his pleasure. I was his first manuscript–his first, that is, that ever grew up. And though I know he was not ashamed but very proud of me, he attempted to keep my existence something of a secret. I could not but feel that as I developed I was a great happiness to him, and yet at times he would give way to black discouragement about me. I know that I have passages which caused him intense pain to bring about. Throughout the time of my growth my dear parent alternated between periods of high exultation and of keen torture. As time passed he became more and more completely absorbed in me. When my climax came into sight he fell to working upon me with exceeding fury, and in the construction of my climax it was plain that he wrestled with much agony–an agony, however, which seemed to be a kind of strange, mad joy.

And then one night (I remember a storm raged without) my parent came to me with a wild, yet happy, light on his face. He pounded at me harder than ever before; and at intervals paced the floor, up and down, up and down, like a man demented, throwing innumerable half-smoked cigarettes over everywhere. The wind blew, and the little frame house strained and groaned in its timbers. As he bent over me a face enwrapt, striking the keys with a quick, nervous touch, great tears started from my dear parent’s eyes. Then, it must have been near dawn and the little room hung and swayed in a golden fog of tobacco smoke, I knew that I was finished. My parent was bending over my last page like a six-day bicycle racer over his machine, when he straightened up, raising his hands, and drove his right fist into his left palm. “Done!” he cried, and started from his chair to pace the room in such a frenzy as I had never seen him in before. It was fully half an hour before his excitement abated, when he fell back into his chair, and smoked incessantly until the light of morning paled our lamp. At length I noticed he had ceased to smoke, his head gradually slipped backward, his eyes closed, and he slept. Thus I was born and brought up and grew to manuscript’s estate in a little Middle-Western town, on a rented typewriter.