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The Goddess of Excelsior
by [?]

“Looks like a squaw, eh?” interrupted a critic, “or a cursed Chinaman?”

“And if it’s of metal, it will weigh a ton! How are we going to get it up here?” said another.

But here Mr. Trigg was on sure ground. “I’ve ordered it cast holler, and, if necessary, in two sections,” he returned triumphantly. “A child could tote it round and set it up.”

Its arrival was therefore looked forward to with great expectancy when the hotel was finished and occupied by the combined Excelsior companies. It was to come from New York via San Francisco, where, however, there was some delay in its transshipment, and still further delay at Sacramento. It finally reached the settlement over the new wagon road, and was among the first freight carried there by the new express company, and delivered into the new express office. The box–a packing-case, nearly three feet square by five feet long–bore superficial marks of travel and misdirection, inasmuch as the original address was quite obliterated and the outside lid covered with corrected labels. It was carried to a private sitting-room in the hotel, where its beauty was to be first disclosed to the president of the united companies, three of the committee, and the excited and triumphant purchaser. A less favored crowd of members and workmen gathered curiously outside the room. Then the lid was carefully removed, revealing a quantity of shavings and packing paper which still hid the outlines of the goddess. When this was promptly lifted a stare of blank astonishment fixed the faces of the party! It was succeeded by a quick, hysteric laugh, and then a dead silence.

Before them lay a dressmaker’s dummy, the wire and padded model on which dresses are fitted and shown. With its armless and headless bust, abruptly ending in a hooped wire skirt, it completely filled the sides of the box.

“Shut the door,” said the president promptly.

The order was obeyed. The single hysteric shriek of laughter had been followed by a deadly, ironical silence. The president, with supernatural gravity, lifted it out and set it up on its small, round, disk-like pedestal.

“It’s some cussed fool blunder of that confounded express company,” burst out the unlucky purchaser. But there was no echo to his outburst. He looked around with a timid, tentative smile. But no other smile followed his.

“It looks,” said the president, with portentous gravity, “like the beginnings of a fine woman, that MIGHT show up, if you gave her time, into a first-class goddess. Of course she ain’t all here; other boxes with sections of her, I reckon, are under way from her factory, and will meander along in the course of the year. Considerin’ this as a sample–I think, gentlemen,” he added, with gloomy precision, “we are prepared to accept it, and signify we’ll take more.”

“It ain’t, perhaps, exactly the idee that we’ve been led to expect from previous description,” said Dick Flint, with deeper seriousness; “for instance, this yer branch of thorns we heard of ez bein’ held behind her is wantin’, as is the arms that held it; but even if they had arrived, anybody could see the thorns through them wires, and so give the hull show away.”

“Jam it into its box again, and we’ll send it back to the confounded express company with a cussin’ letter,” again thundered the wretched purchaser.

“No, sonny,” said the president with gentle but gloomy determination, “we’ll fasten on to this little show jest as it is, and see what follows. It ain’t every day that a first-class sell like this is worked off on us ACCIDENTALLY.”

It was quite true! The settlement had long since exhausted every possible form of practical joking, and languished for a new sensation. And here it was! It was not a thing to be treated angrily, nor lightly, nor dismissed with that single hysteric laugh. It was capable of the greatest possibilities! Indeed, as Washington Trigg looked around on the imperturbably ironical faces of his companions, he knew that they felt more true joy over the blunder than they would in the possession of the real statue. But an exclamation from the fifth member, who was examining the box, arrested their attention.