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Dill's fishing-boots, and Mrs. Antonia Sparrow's red flannel mittens; but, by the gods, the spectacles were my own, and mine the puffing, the cramped calves, and the breath that froze white on that itchy collar! Past an inlet with grasses caught in the snowdrifted ice; along the frozen beach, which stung my feet at every pounding step; among sand-dunes, which for a moment gave blessed shelter; out again into the sweep of foam-slavering wind, the bellow of the surf, I went.
I sank all winded on the icy step of Captain Abiathar Gould's bachelor shack.
He was not deaf and he was not dull at eighty-seven. He came to the door, looked down on me studiously, and grunted:
nose in a book. Some said he was a good fighter; I dunno."
"But did n't you-how did he talk, for instance?”
"Talk? Talked like other folks, I suppose. But he wa'n't a fisherman, like the rest of us. Oh, one time he tanned my hide for tearing up some papers with writin' on 'em that I swiped for gun-wadding." "What did he say then?" "He said "
On second thought it may not be discreet to report what Jason said. Beyond that Captain Gould testified only:
"Guess I kind of get him mixed up with the other fellows; good many years ago. But"-he brightened— "I recollect he wa'n't handy round a
"What do you want? D' yuh bring schooner. No, he wa'n't much of a me any hootch?" fisherman."
I had n't. There was much conversation bearing on that point while I broiled and discovered new muscles by his stove. He had only one bunk, a swirl of coiled blankets and comforters and strips of gunny-sacking. I did not care to spend the night; Captain Gould cared even less. I had to be back. I opened:
"Cap'n, you knew Jason Sanders?" "Sanders? I knew Byron Sanders, and Gideon Sanders of Wellfleet and Cephas Sanders of Falmouth and Bessie Sanders, but I never knew no Jason -oh, wa'n't he Byron's pa? Sure I remember him. Eight or nine years older 'n I was. Died in foreign parts. I was a boy on the Dancing Jig when he went fishing. Only time he ever went. Wa'n't much of a fisherman." "Yes, but what do you remember-"
"Don't remember nothing. Jassy never went with us fellows; had his
When I got back to Kennuit my nose was frozen.
No newspaper had been published in Kennuit before 1877, and I unearthed nothing more. Yet this very blankness made Jason Sanders my own province. I knew incomparably more about him than any other living soul. He was at once my work, my spiritual ancestor, and my beloved son. I had a sense of the importance and nobility of all human life such as-I acknowledge sadly I had never acquired in dealing with cubbish undergraduates. I wondered how many Jasons might be lost in the routine of my own classes. I forgot my studies of Ben Jonson. I was obsessed by Jason. I was, I fancy, like a jitney pilot turned racing driver.
Quinta Gates,-I don't know,when I met her at the president's reception in February, she said I had been neglecting her. been neglecting her. At the time I
supposed that she was merely teasing; but I wonder now. She was-oh, too She was-oh, too cool; she had n't quite the frankness I had come to depend on in her. I don't care. Striding the dunes with Jason, I could n't return to Quinta and the discussion of sonatas in a lavender twilight over thin tea-cups.
I gave Jason Sanders to the world in a thumping article in "The Weekly Gonfalon."
Much of it was reprinted in the New York "Courier's" Sunday literary section, with Jason's picture, and—I note it modestly-with mine, the rather interesting picture of me in knickers sitting beside Quinta's tennis-court. Then the New York "Gem" took him up. It did not mention me or my article. It took Jason under its own saffron wing and crowed, at the head of a full-page Sunday article:
VICIOUS EUROPEAN CONSPIRACY HIDES DEATH OF GREATEST AMERICAN BARD
I was piqued by their theft, but I was also amused to see the creation of a new mythical national hero. "The Gem" had Jason sailing nine of the seven seas, and leading his crew to rescue a most unfortunate Christian maiden who had been kidnapped by the Turks-at Tangier! About the little matter of deserting his wife and son "The Gem" was absent-minded. According to them, Jason's weeping helpmate bade him, "Go where duty calls you," whereupon he kissed her, left her an agreeable fortune, and departed with banners and bands. But "The Gem's" masterpiece was the interview with Captain Abiathar Gould, whose conversational graces I
have portrayed. In "The Gem" Captain Gould rhapsodizes:
We boys was a wild lot, sailing on them reckless ships. But Captain Jason Sanders was, well, sir, he was like a god
to us. Not one of the crew would have dared, like he done, to spring overboard in a wintry blast to rescue the poor devils capsized in a dory, and yet he was so quiet and scholarly, always a-reading at his poetry books between watches. Oh, them was wonderful days on the barkantine Dancing Jig!
"The Gem" reporter must have taken down to Abiathar some of the "hootch" I failed to bring.
I was to be honest, I was unacademically peeved. My hero was going out of my hands, and I wanted him back. I got him back. No one knew what had happened to Jason after he went to Greece, but I found out. With a friend in the European history department I searched all available records of Greek history in 1853-54. I had faith that the wild youngster would tear his way through the dryest pages of reports.
We discovered that in '54, when the French and English occupied Piræus, a mysterious Lieutenant Jasmin Sandec appeared as a popular hero in Athens.
Do you see the resemblance? Jasmin Sandec-Jason Sanders. The romantic boy had colored his drab Yankee name. Nobody quite knew who Lieutenant Sandec was. He was not Greek. The French said he was English; the English said he was French. He led a foray of rollicking young Athenians against the French lines; he was captured and incontinently shot. After his death an American sea-captain identified Lieutenant Sandec as a cousin of his! He
testified that Sandec was not his name, though what his name was the skipper did not declare. He ended his statement:
"My cousin comes from the town of Kennebunkport, and has by many been thought to be insane."
Need I point out how easily the Greek scribe confused Kennebunkport with Kennuit? As easily as the miserable cousinly captain confused insanity with genius.
Do you see the picture of Jason's death? Was it not an end more fitting than molding away in a sail-loft, or becoming a grocer, a parson, an associate professor? The Grecian afternoon, sun glaring on whitewashed wall, the wine-dark sea, the marblestudded hills of Sappho, and a youth, perhaps in a crazy uniform, French shako and crimson British coat, Cape Cod breeches, and Grecian boots, lounging dreamily, not quite understanding; a line of soldiers with long muskets; a volley, and that fiery flesh united to kindred dust from the bright body of Helen and the thews of Ajax. The report of these facts about Jason's fate I gave in my second article in "The Gonfalon." By this time people were everywhere discussing Jason. It was time for my book.
Briefly, it was a year's work. It contained all his writing and the lives of three generations of Sanderses. It had a reasonable success, and it made of Jason's notoriety a solid fame. So, in 1919, sixty-five years after his death, he began to live.
An enterprising company published his picture in a large carbon print which appeared on school-room walls beside portraits of Longfellow, Lowell, and Washington. So veritably was he living that I saw him! In New
York, at a pageant representing the great men of America, he was enacted by a clever young man made up to the life, and shown as talking to Poe. That, of course, was inaccurate. Then he appeared as a character in a novel; he was condescendingly mentioned by a celebrated visiting English poet; his death was made the subject of a painting; a motion-picture person inquired as to the possibilities of "filming" him, and he was, in that surging tide of new living, suddenly murdered!
The poison which killed Jason the second time was in a letter to "The Gonfalon" from Whitney A. Edgerton, Ph.D., adjunct professor of English literature in Melanchthon College.
Though I had never met Edgerton, we were old combatants. The dislike had started with my stern, but just, review of his edition of Herrick. Edgerton had been the only man who had dared to sneer at Jason. In a previous letter in "The Gonfalon" he had hinted that Jason had stolen his imagery from Chinese lyrics, a pretty notion, since Jason probably never knew that the Chinese had any literature save laundry checks. But now I quote his letter:
I have seen reproductions of a very bad painting called "The Death of Jason Sanders," portraying that admirable young person as being shot in Greece. It happens that Mr. Sanders was not shot in Greece. He deserved to be, but he was n't. Jason Sanders was not Jasmin Sandec. The changing of his own honest name to such sugar-candy was the sort of thing he would have done. But he did n't do it. What kept Jason from heroically dying in Greece in 1854 was the misfortune that from December,
'53, to April, '58, he was doing time in the Delaware State Penitentiary for the proved crimes of arson and assault with intent to kill. His poetic cell in Dela
ware was the nearest he ever, in his entire life, came to Greece. Yours, etc., WHITNEY EDGERTON.
The editor of "The Gonfalon" telegraphed me the contents of the letter just too late for me to prevent its printing, and one hour later I was bound for Delaware, forgetting, I am afraid, that Quinta had invited me to dinner. I knew that I would "show up," as my students say, this Edgerton,
The warden of the penitentiary was interested. He helped me. He brought out old registers. We were thorough. We were too thorough. We read that Jason Sanders of Kennuit, Massachusetts, married, profession sailmaker, was committed to the penitentiary in December, 1853, for arson and murderous assault, and that he was incarcerated for over four years.
In the Wilmington library, in the files of a newspaper long defunct, I found an item dated, November, 1853:
What appears to have been a piece of wretched scoundrelism was perpetrated at the house of Mr. Palatinus, a highly esteemed farmer residing near Christiansburg, last Thursday. Mr. Palatinus gave food and shelter to a tramp calling himself Sanders, in return for some slight labor. The second evening the fellow found some spirits concealed in the barn, became intoxicated, demanded money from Mr. Palatinus, struck him, cast the lamp upon the floor, and set fire to the dwelling. He has been arrested and is held for trial. He is believed to have been a sailor on Cape Cod. Where are our officers of the peace that such dangerous criminals should roam unapprehended?
I did not make any especial haste to communicate my discoveries.
It was a New York "Gem" correspondent who did that. His account was copied rather widely.
The pictures of Jason were taken down from school-room walls.
I returned to the university. I was sustained only by Quinta's faith. As she sat by the fire, chin resting against fragile fingers, she asserted, "Perhaps there has been some mistake." That inspired me. I left her, too hastily, it may be, but she is ever one to understand and forgive. I fled to my rooms, stopping only to telephone to my friend of the history department. He assured me that there was a common Greek family name, Palatainos. You will note its resemblance to Palatinus! At this I jiggled in the drug-store telephonebooth and joyfully beat on the resounding walls, and looked out to see one of my own students, purchasing a bar of chocolate, indecently grinning at me. I sought to stalk out, but I could not quiet my rejoicing feet.
I began my new letter to "The Gonfalon" at ten in the evening. I finished it at five of a cold morning. I remember myself as prowling through the room with no dignity, balancing myself ridiculously on the brass bar at the foot of my bed, beating my desk with my fists, lighting and hurling down cigarettes.
In my letter I pointed out-I virtually proved-that the Delaware farmer's name was not Palatinus, but Palatainos. He was a Greek. He could not have sheltered Jason "in return for some slight labor," because this was December, when farm-work was slackest. No, this Palatainos was an agent of the Greek revolutionists.