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Perry Chumly’s Eclipse
by [?]

“When Perry Chumly had waited a long time,” William went on to say, “looking up and expecting every minute to see the sun, it began to get into his mind, somehow, that the bright, circular opening above his head–the mouth of the well–was the sun, and that the black disk of the moon was all that was needed to complete the expected phenomenon. The notion soon took complete obsession of his brain, so that he forgot where he was and imagined himself standing on the surface of the earth.”

I was now scrutinizing the cometic spectrum very closely, being particularly attracted by a thin, faint line, which I thought Ben had overlooked.

“Oh, that is nothing,” he explained; “that’s a mere local fault arising from conditions peculiar to the medium through which the light is transmitted–the atmosphere of this neighborhood. It is whisky. This other line, though, shows the faintest imaginable trace of soap; and these uncertain, wavering ones are caused by some effluvium not in the comet itself, but in the region beyond it. I am compelled to pronounce it tobacco smoke. I will now tilt the instrument so as to get the spectrum of the celestial wanderer’s tail. Ah! there we have it. Splendid!”

“Now this old well,” said William, “was near a road, along which was traveling a big and particularly hideous nigger.”

“See here, Thomas,” exclaimed Ben, removing the magnifying glass from his eye and looking me earnestly in the face, “if I were to tell you that the coma of this eccentric heavenly body is really hair, as its name implies, would you believe it?”

“No, Ben, I certainly should not.”

“Well, I won’t argue the matter; there are the lines–they speak for themselves. But now that I look again, you are not entirely wrong: there is a considerable admixture of jute, moss, and I think tallow. It certainly is most remarkable! Sir Isaac Newton–“

“That big nigger,” drawled William, “felt thirsty, and seeing the mouth of the well thought there was perhaps a bucket in it. So he ventured to creep forward on his hands and knees and look in over the edge.”

Suddenly our spectrum vanished, and a very singular one of a quite different appearance presented itself in the same place. It was a dim spectrum, crossed by a single broad bar of pale yellow.

“Ah!” said Ben, “our waif of the upper deep is obscured by a cloud; let us see what the misty veil is made of.”

He took a look at the spectrum with his magnifying glass, started back, and muttered: “Brown linen, by thunder!”

“You can imagine the rapture of Perry Chumly,” pursued the indefatigable William, “when he saw, as he supposed, the moon’s black disk encroaching upon the body of the luminary that had so long riveted his gaze. But when that obscuring satellite had thrust herself so far forward that the eclipse became almost annular, and he saw her staring down upon a darkened world with glittering white eyes and a double row of flashing teeth, it is perhaps not surprising that he vented a scream of terror, fainted and collapsed among his frogs! As for the big nigger, almost equally terrified by this shriek from the abyss, he executed a precipitate movement which only the breaking of his neck prevented from being a double back-somersault, and lay dead in the weeds with his tongue out and his face the color of a cometic spectrum. We laid them in the same grave, poor fellows, and on many a still summer evening afterward I strayed to the lonely little church-yard to listen to the smothered requiem chanted by the frogs that we had neglected to remove from the pockets of the lamented astronomer.

“And, now,” added William, taking his heels from the window, “as you can not immediately resume your spectroscopic observations on that red-haired chamber-maid in the dormer-window, who pulled down the blind when I made a mouth at her, I move that we adjourn.”