Jim Saddlebag, Head-Liner
William Hamilton Osborne in the Circle Magazine
The Quaint History of a Villager Who, to the Very Last, Believed in Not Allowing His Left Hand to Know What His Right Hand Did.
OLD bleary McGaffney, the town inebriate, shivered and shook himself spasmodically down Main Street in the town of Donaldson. At the corner of Market Street he wavered for an instant. Some instinct warned him to stop and look and listen. He did it—but he looked in one direction only.
“ ’S all righ’,” he told himself, and started on.
In another instant the tragedy had happened. There was a mighty yell from the throats of the onlookers, a terrific scream from an auxiliary horn, and then . . . the big, strange,
out-of-town car had closed in on McGaffney, and for the last time in his life McGaffney bit the dust. The car went on, but McGaffney lay where he had lain many a time before—in the gutter of the street.
The loungers stood helplessly about. But not for long. Down the street, in a big, comfortable wagon, came a big, comfortable, prosperous-looking man. He had seen it all.
“Hold on, boys,” he yelled in a strident voice, “I’m coming. Cradlebaugh’s coming. I’ll help. Wait for
Even in the presence of tragedy, the loungers sneered and snickered. “Gee,” they said, “you’d think Jim Cradlebaugh was the whole show. You’d think, by George! that he’d killed him.”
And so it seemed. Cradlebaugh, the big man, forced his big body through the crowd, gave an order here, a direction there, and became
for the instant the big toad in the puddle.
An hour later he was standing alone with the widow McGaffney and the thing that once had been her husband—that once, long ago, had been a man—in the little hut that the McGaffney’s called home. The rest of the sympathizers had left.
“Johnny, Johnny,” wailed the widow, “what am I a-goin’ to do?”
“Now, don’t you worry, Missus McGaffney,” said big Jim Cradlebaugh, ostentatiously, “the town’ll see that you don’t suffer. I’ll see to it. I’ll make the boys shell out.” He laid a coin down on the window-sill. “There’s half a dollar for your immediate needs, Missus McGaffney,” he told her, “and don’t you worry. T'll make the boys do their part, too.”
He started in to do it. Down in the office of the Donaldson Daily they were waiting for him—the boys.
“Now bovs,” he said, as he bustled into the office of the Daily, “gimme a sheet of paner. This here is for contributors for Sarah McGaffney, the bereaved. There you are. There’s my name at the head, where it always is in this here town. I subscribe half a dollar, do you see? Come. now. put your names in. Don’t be afraid. The list ’ll be printed in the Dailv just as usual. I give half a dollar. Who’ll give more?”
Young Rill Matheson, the liardwareman. stepped forth. “Mr. Cradlebaugh.” he said, and his lip curled as he said it. “I’m worth about one-tenth the sum that you are. Put me down
for five dollars—I’ll give ten times as much as you.”
Tim Cradlebaugh was never freezed. “Hurrah,” he said, “example is contagious. I give fifty cents, and the next man gives five dollars. Who’ll give more? Come, now, your names’ll all be printed, don't you know. Won't they, Bartlett?”
Bartlett, editor and proprietor of the Donaldson Daily, nodded. “As usual," he responded. But his lip curled just a little, too. For the only thing that the town could give Tim Cradlebaugh credit for was that he could make other people give. He was the originator of the published lists in the Daily. He had started them during the smallpox scare some three years before, and the editor acknowledged to himself that the idea was a good one. Charity is a pleasant weakness, but it becomes much more attractive when it is set before the eyes of men, with names and amounts in full.
But Cradlebaugh—the town was disgusted with Cradlebaugh ; the Donaldson Daily was disgusted with him, though it did not dare to say so. Jim Cradlebaugh could have bought and sold many men in the Town of Donaldson ; he was fat with prosperity. But never yet had he given a five-dollar bill on any one occasion, though when he gave the whole town knew it. Cradlebaugh took care to let them know it. He was more than a laughing-stock in the town ; he was the subject of bitter jeers. But he never realized it, so it seemed.
“Well,” finally said Bartlett, the editor, when the McGaffney contribution-sheet was filled up, “you’ve subscribed fifty cents. Mr. Cradlebaugh. Hand it over, then.”
“Oho,” answered Tim Cradlebaugh, “but I’ve already given it. I gave it personally to the widow—myself. Personally. Yes, sir.”
“I’ll bet he didn’t,” whispered young Bill Mathewson. “I’ll stop in at McGaffney’s and inquire.” He did stop in and inquire. Next day he strode into the Daily office, laughing.
“What do vou think, Bartlett,” he
said, “old Jim Cradlebaugh gave the widow a twenty-dollar gold piece.”
“What?” gasped the editor man.
“By mistake,” roared Mathewson— “by mistake. When I told him that she had it, he looked in his pocket, and went near crazy. He was goin’ up to the widow to tell her about it, and exchange it for the half he meant to give, but I headed him off. I had already told her that he hadn’t made a mistake—that he had meant to do it—that—by George ! here he comes now.”
Jim Cradlebaugh swung into the office. His face was red. “Say, Bartlett,” he said, “if you haven’t printed that list, you’d better put me down for twenty dollars. That’s what I gave, and I’m entitled to credit for it, don’t you see?”
The editor smiled a wicked smile. “Too bad, Mr. Cradlebaugh,” he said; “it’s all set up. I corrldn’t change it now if I wanted to. And,” he added to himself, “I wouldn't if I could.”
Jim Cradlebaugh groaned. “It’s a pity,” he said, “that when the man who heads the list gives twenty he don't get credit for it. Say, let me look at that list, will you, Mr. Bartlett.”
The editor handed over a damp proof-sheet.
“Say, Bartlett,” went on Jim Cradlebaugh, “there’s a man in this town that never gives a cent. That’s old Terwilliger, that lives down at the end of this street. He’s a miser, that man. He’s got money to burn. And he never gives a cent.”
“How do you know he doesn’t?” asked Bartlett quietly.
“He ain’t on this list,” answered Jim Cradlebaugh.
“How do you know he isn’t?” asked Bartlett.
“I don’t see his name,” persisted Cradlebaugh; “funny that old skinflint has got so much and he never
His eye traveled slowly down the column.
“ ‘A friend,’ ” he read. “ ‘A friend $500!’ Who’s that, anyhow?”
Bartlett shook his head. “I’ll tell you who it is, Mr. Cradlebaugh,” he
said, with some severity ; “that five hundred was given by a man in this town who won’t let his left hand know what his right hand is doing. That’s who it is.”
“I wonder,” mused Cradlebaugh, “if he’s the same as ‘Anonymous,’ who gave a thousand in the smallpoxtime.”
The editor shrugged his shoulders. He was not there to give information to Jim Cradlebaugh.
“Well,” went on Cradlebaugh, “I can’t see why that old skinflint Terwilliger, at the end of this street, don’t give nothin’. That’s what I can’t see. A man with his money, too. It’s a scandal. Here’s me givin’ twenty dollars-”
“Fifty cents,” broke in Mathewson ; “that’s all you meant to give, you know.”
Cradlebaugh snorted and left. Mathewson turned to the editor.
“Who did give the $500?” he queried confidentially.
“No, no,” answered the editor, “the man who gave it don’t want it known. And I won’t make it known ; that’s all. Twenty-three for yours. Skiddoo.”
The old skinflint of the name of Terwilliger, who lived at the end of the street, was a comparative stranger in the Town of Donaldson. He had lived there for fifteen years. No one knew whence he had come. All that was known about him the banks knew. Every six months he made substantial deposits in the First National and in the Dime Savings Bank. At the end of each six months the deposits dwindled to a cipher. The banks did not know where the money went—certainly old lean Terwilliger did not spend it on himself. And he had no vices, no luxuries. He was a plain, simple, unsophisticated old man. But the eyes of Editor Bartlett always twinkled when the name of Terwilliger was spoken, and sometimes moistened. Then they would harden when he thought of Cradlebaugh.
“What a difference between the two men,” he thought to himself, Cradlebaugh, a blatant, ostentatious
egotist. Terwilliger, a gentle, shrinking—man.”
But if Terwilliger had a secret, and if Bartlett knew it, he never divulged it to his best friend.
And as time went on, and the charity lists in the Donaldson Daily multiplied, it was invariably Cradlebaugh who headed the list—with a dollar; and it was invariably “Constant Reader,” or “Pro Bono,” or “A Friend” who closed it out—with hundreds.
Suddenly the Town of Keno, a hundred miles away, found itself struggling in the mighty strength of a devastating flood. It was sudden, appalling, unexpected.
Bartlett got it over the wire at about ten o’clock in the morning.
“Great Scott!” he gasped, “it can’t be possible,” Then he came to his senses. “They’ll need money,” he told himself ; “that’s the first thing— money.” He thought for an instant. “This time,” he said to himself, “I’ll start the list myself. Old Cradlebaugh, with his quarter contribution, can take a back seat.”
But before he knew it—before the news was on the street—Cradlebaugh came, puffing and blowing, into the office.
“Say, Bartlett,” he said, “it’s terrible. I was down at the station, and Werner, the operator, gave it to me as it came over the wires. Gee, those poor drowned folks at Keno. Gee, but I’ve hustled. And look here, what I’ve got already.”
He passed over the sheet of paper. Bartlett groaned. On it there were fifteen names. And heading these appeared this item :
FOR THE KENO FLOOD SUFFERERS
LET EACH GIVE ACCORDING TO HIS MEANS
James Cradlebaugh .......$1.50
“I tell the boys this time they’ve got to give. And. look here, Bartlett, let somebody get after that old skinflint Terwilliger, good and hard. This is a
time when every rich man ought to shell out, and no mistake.”
They did shell out. So deeply were the feelings of the Donaldson people touched that it seemed like hysteria. But it wasn’t. It was charity, pure and simple. Bartlett worked harder than did Cradlebaugh—for the editor was proud of his town, and he wanted it to stand well in the eyes of the world. He did his best, and when he had finished, he glanced lovingly upon the last line of the contribution-sheet. For there he read :
From a sympathizer......$2,500
“Twenty-five hundred dollars,” he sighed ; “almost two thousand times as much as we got from Cradlebaugh.”
The Town of Donaldson—a small, insignificant town of the East, sent twenty-thousand dollars to her stricken neighbor Keno.
“Cheer up,” said the overgrown Village of Donaldson to the big town that had been steeped in ruin a hundred miles away.
“And I started that list,” Jim Cradlebaugh told everybody. “I tell you, it’s the man that begins the thing that’s entitled to the credit.”
But the small Town of Donaldson never knew what fate had in store for her. She had given bounteously to all her neighbors. She little knew how much she would need charity herself.
It was the widow McGaffney who started it, after all. One morning she raked her little coalfire and banked it, and left it for the day. Her occupation was that of washerwoman. She left at six in the morning—she returned at six at night. On the morning in question, she rose late. She ate her breakfast in a hurry. In haste she raked her fire. Then she locked up and left.
Unknown to her, a small red coal had dribbled down upon the floor. The mission of a small red coal is to burn. This coal fulfilled its mission.
It was a windy day, terribly windy. Mrs. McGaffney’s hut was in the
heart of the town. The wind blew:
the little coal burned away for dear life.
By night the rising little town of Donaldson lay in ruins—ruins black and stark and uncompromising. Donaldson was a city without a home.
Yes, there was one home that escaped. It was Jim Cradlebaugh’s big house, upon the hill. And there was another home—-the home that men seek in their extremity. The Donaldson First Church was unscathed.
All night the people of Donaldson camped on the hillside, moaning. There were no lives lost ; there had been many narrow escapes.
But with the morning and rising sun hope grew. The banks reported that their vaults were safe. And the insurance companies wired that they would pay Donaldson losses immediately. And all that the people needed was food, temporary shelter—just the bare necessaries of life.
“We’ll supply those ourselves,” cried Bartlett to the crowd; “come into the church.”
They flocked in. Bartlett, the leader this time, stepped into the pulpit beside the old clergyman. He even smiled to himself.
“This time,” he thought, “I’m ahead of Cradlebaugh.” He was right. Cradlebaugh was nowhere to be seen. The rumor grew that Cradlebaugh was keeping himself to himself in comfort up in his big house on the hill. Others, who had, perforce, sheltered themselves there during the night, had not seen him. At any rate, he was not among the crowd in the church.
Bartlett leaned down over the pulpit and told the people just how things stood. He knew the town. He knew its needs.
“This is business,” he said ; “fully a third of us are very well-to-do. We’ve saved money. Two-thirds of us have been living from hand to mouth. The one-third must rise to the occasion. Gentlemen.” he added earnestly, “this is a thing that will make the rich poor; but it’s real—it’s real—it’s real.”
The crowd felt it. The old clergy-:
man stood there with tears in his eyes. Bartlett prepared a dozen subscription lists and sent them through the crowd.
“We’ll pull through,” he told himself, when he began to see results. “And Terwilliger. Terwilliger ’ll give. Good old ‘Pro bono.’ But—■ where is he?”
Almost as he spoke Terwilliger, a lean, straggling old man, entered the church, and struggled up the aisle.
He seated himself at the foot of the stairs just below the pulpit. He waited hours until the lists were all in. Then Bartlett stepped to his side.
“I want something from ‘A Friend,’ ” he ventured.
Terwilliger took the list, and scribbled something at the bottom. Bartlett looked at it, and shouted aloud with glee.
“Hurrah, boys,” he yelled, “here’s something worth seeing. Listen while I read. The last name on the list :
“ ‘From a fellow townsman, $30,000.’
“Now,” he cried, “I’m going to tell at last—it’s from Mr. Terwilliger here. That’s who it is. The man of this town—the man who gives every time, all the time, who-”
But Terwilliger was up beside him in the pulpit, holding his arm.
“Wait, wait,” cried Terwilliger, in a thin, shrill, piping voice, but a voice quivering with earnestness—“wait.” He turned to the audience.
“If the truth's to be told,” he said, “let’s tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Gents,” he went on, “fifteen years ago I was in the poorhouse over in Monroe. Listen. There was a man who found me there, and who brought me over here—a man with 'a big hearty smile on his face, and a big warm hand, and a big warm heart. Gents, he—he supported me. He made me live in comfort, but, gents, he”—old Terwilliger smiled in spite of himself—“he was a joker —such a joker. And I didn’t mind so much. But his heart—that man would give, give, give all he had for the poor, the sick, the stricken. But, gents, he was a man who would never
let his left hand know what his right hand was doing. He gave through me.” Old Terwilliger became terribly in earnest. “Gents,” he went on, “yesterday, in the fire, I was in my second-storey back room, in a closet. 1 was shut off by the fire. There was no hope for me. But—he, this man with the big heart. He found me. Pie rescued me. I’m safe. But he— lie’s up in his big house.” Terwilliger’s voice quivered. “Only the doctor knows. He’s burned, that man. And he ain’t a-goin’ to get well. Gents,” he cried aloud, “that man is the man you never knew, who wouldn't let you know him, whose left hand didn’t know his own right hand. Gents, that man was—Cradlebaugh. He gives the thirty thousand, as he gave all he ever gave — unbeknown — through me.”
The crowd was silent for a moment. Bartlett led the cheering, stepped down from the pulpit, and led the way silently out of the church, and up the steep hill toward the house of Cradlebaugh.
For there was one thing more important than to rebuild the town ; more important than to feed its people ; the first thing the town had to do was to make amends to a—man.
The town was almost too late. The doctor shook his head as the committee forced its way on tiptoe into the room of Cradlebaugh.
“He’ll never speak again,” the doctor said. But he was mistaken. Cradlebaugh had heard them. He struggled painfully up on his elbow.
“Boys, boys,” he cried, “you’ve come for me—to—get—up—a list. It's—all—right—boys.”
He stopped for an instant. Then his voice rang loud and clear:
“Jim Cradlebaugh gives two dollars to rebuild Donaldson,” he cried. “Come, step up now. Who’ll give twenty ?”
That night there was a list of fatalities in the hand-printed Donaldson Daily. And Jim Cradlebaugh, headliner, was at its top. Pie had passed into the loving memory of the town whose best friend he had been.