Cobwebs from an Empty Skull, by Ambrose Bierce

Dr. Deadwood, i Presume.

My name is Shandy, and this is the record of my Sentimental Journey. Mr. Ames Jordan Gannett, proprietor’s son of the “York —— ” with which paper I am connected by marriage, sent me a post-card in a sealed envelope, asking me to call at a well-known restaurant in Regent Street. I was then at a well-known restaurant in Houndsditch. I put on my worst and only hat, and went. I found Mr. Gannett, at dinner, eating pease with his knife, in the manner of his countrymen. He opened the conversation, characteristically, thus:

“Where’s Dr. Deadwood?”

After several ineffectual guesses I had a happy thought. I asked him:

“Am I my brother’s bar-keeper?”

Mr. Gannett pondered deeply, with his forefinger alongside his nose. Finally he replied:

“I give it up.”

He continued to eat for some moments in profound silence, as that of a man very much in earnest. Suddenly he resumed:

“Here is a blank cheque, signed. I will send you all my father’s personal property to-morrow. Take this and find Dr. Deadwood. Find him actually if you can, but find him. Away!”

I did as requested; that is, I took the cheque. Having supplied myself with such luxuries as were absolutely necessary, I retired to my lodgings. Upon my table in the centre of the room were spread some clean white sheets of foolscap, and sat a bottle of black ink. It was a good omen: the virgin paper was typical of the unexplored interior of Africa; the sable ink represented the night of barbarism, or the hue of barbarians, indifferently.

Now began the most arduous undertaking mentioned in the “York —— ” I mean in history. Lighting my pipe, and fixing my eye upon the ink and paper, I put my hands behind my back and took my departure from the hearthrug toward the Interior. Language fails me; I throw myself upon the reader’s imagination. Before I had taken two steps, my vision alighted upon the circular of a quack physician, which I had brought home the day before around a bottle of hair-wash. I now saw the words, “Twenty-one fevers!” This prostrated me for I know not how long. Recovering, I took a step forward, when my eyes fastened themselves upon my pen-wiper, worked into the similitude of a tiger. This compelled me to retreat to the hearthrug for reinforcements. The red-and-white dog displayed upon that article turned a deaf ear to my entreaties; nothing would move him.

A torrent of rain now began falling outside, and I knew the roads were impassable; but, chafing with impatience, I resolved upon another advance. Cautiously proceeding viâ the sofa, my attention fell upon a scrap of newspaper; and, to my unspeakable disappointment, I read:

“The various tribes of the Interior are engaged in a bitter warfare.”

It may have related to America, but I could not afford to hazard all upon a guess. I made a wide détour by way of the coal-scuttle, and skirted painfully along the sideboard. All this consumed so much time that my pipe expired in gloom, and I went back to the hearthrug to get a match off the chimney-piece. Having done so, I stepped over to the table and sat down, taking up the pen and spreading the paper between myself and the ink-bottle. It was late, and something must be done. Writing the familiar word Ujijijijijiji, I caught a neighbourly cockroach, skewered him upon a pin, and fastened him in the centre of the word. At this supreme moment I felt inclined to fall upon his neck and devour him with kisses; but knowing by experience that cockroaches are not good to eat, I restrained my feelings. Lifting my hat, I said:

“Dr. Deadwood, I presume?”

He did not deny it!

Seeing he was feeling sick, I gave him a bit of cheese and cheered him up a trifle. After he was well restored,

“Tell me,” said I, “is it true that the Regent’s Canal falls into Lake Michigan, thence running uphill to Omaha, as related by Ptolemy, thence spirally to Melbourne, where it joins the delta of the Ganges and becomes an affluent of the Albert Nicaragua, as Herodotus maintains?”

HE DID NOT DENY IT!

The rest is known to the public.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/bierce/ambrose/cobwebs-from-an-empty-skull/chapter3.7.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31