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Through The Scuttle With The Tinman
by [?]

Yesterday I was on the roof with the tinman. He did not resemble the tinman of the “Wizard of Oz” or the flaming tinman of “Lavengro,” for he wore a derby hat, had a shiny seat, and smoked a ragged cigar. It was a flue he was fixing, a thing of metal for the gastronomic whiffs journeying from the kitchen to the upper airs. There was a vent through the roof with a cone on top to shed the rain. I watched him from the level cover of a second-story porch as he scrambled up the shingles. I admire men who can climb high places and stand upright and unmoved at the gutter’s edge. But their bravado forces on me unpleasantly how closely I am tied because of dizziness to Mother Earth’s apron strings. These fellows who perch on scaffolds and flaunt themselves on steeple tops are frontiersmen. They stand as the outposts of this flying globe. Often when I observe a workman descend from his eagle’s nest in the open steel frame of a lofty building, I look into his face for some trace of exaltation, some message from his wider horizon. You may remember how they gazed into Alcestis’ face when she returned from the House of Hades, that they might find there a token of her shadowed journey. It is lucky that I am no taller than six feet; if ten, giddiness would set in and reversion to type on all fours. An undizzied man is to me as much of a marvel as one who in his heart of hearts is not afraid of a horse.

Maybe after all, it is just because I am so cowardly and dizzy that I have a liking for high places and especially for roofs. Although here my people have lived for thousands of years on the very rim of things, with the unimagined miles above them and the glitter of Orion on their windows, so little have I learned of these verities that I am frightened on my shed top and the grasses below make me crouch in terror. And yet to my fearful perceptions there may be pleasures that cannot exist for the accustomed and jaded senses of the tinman. Could he feel stimulus in Hugo’s description of Paris from the towers of Notre Dame? He is too much the gargoyle himself for the delights of dizziness.

Quite a little could be said about the creative power of gooseflesh. If Shakespeare had been a tinman he could not have felt the giddy height and grandeur of the Dover Cliffs; Ibsen could not have wrought the climbing of the steeple into the crisis and calamity of “The Master Builder”; Teufelsdroeckh could not have uttered his extraordinary night thoughts above the town of Weissnichtwo; “Prometheus Bound” would have been impossible. Only one with at least a dram of dizziness could have conceived an “eagle-baffling mountain, black, wintry, dead, unmeasured.” In the days when we read Jules Verne, was not our chief pleasure found in his marvelous way of suspending us with swimming senses over some fearful abyss; wet and slippery crags maybe, and void and blackness before us and below; and then just to give full measure of fright, a sound of running water in the depths. Doesn’t it raise the hair? Could a tinman have written it?

But even so, I would like to feel at home on my own roof and have a slippered familiarity with my slates and spouts. A chimney-sweep in the old days doubtless had an ugly occupation, and the fear of a sooty death must have been recurrent to him. But what a sable triumph was his when he had cleared his awful tunnel and had emerged into daylight, blooming, as Lamb would say, in his first tender nigritude! “I seem to remember,” he continues, “that a bad sweep was once left in a stack with his brush to indicate which way the wind blew.” After observing the tinman for a while, I put on rubber shoes and slunk up to the ridgepole, the very watershed of my sixty-foot kingdom, my legs slanting into the infinities of the North and South. It sounds unexciting when written, but there I was, astride my house, up among the vents and exhausts of my former cloistered life, my head outspinning the weathercock. My Matterhorn had been climbed, “the pikes of darkness named and stormed.” Next winter when I sit below snug by the fire and hear the wind funneling down the chimney, will not my peace be deeper because I have known the heights where the tempest blows, and the rain goes pattering, and the whirling tin cones go mad?