JOHN SOMERS RETURNS
Are you ever conscious of another personality within your own — a subconscious self, a dual identity?
CHARLES C. JENKINS
JOHN SOMERS—plain John Somers —was what he was in the beginning. John Warren Somers he became as an inventor, known popularly as John Warren by fawning intimates. John Somers— plain John Somers—he died.
The double twist in John Somers’ life was brought about by influences identical with those which have most swayed men since Adam’s fall.
In the lives of most men of any note, philosophers say, there is at least one story quite as strange as imagination might conjure; but it is not to produce a case in point that I set down on these pages the odd outward circumstances in John Somers’ career and the cause thereof. I hold no brief for the philosophers or their contentions. Their ways are not my ways. If this record should supply one more proof of their theory, well and good; they are welcome to it.
I tell John Somers’ story because, in justice to all concerned, I believe it should be told. That is not absolutely all. Holding myself to strict sincerity, I must admit I tell because of a weakness as strong as Death in that it will have its day.
That weakness I cannot name. I could not define it. I do not believe there is a word in the English language that truly defines it. But when you have read the story of John Somers, who was also John Warren Somers, you will understand with no need of word or phrase to conjure it for you.
You shall have the story, which, however much I may appear to have digressed thus far, is part and parcel of all that has gone before:—
/^VLD-TIMERS of the little manufacturing town of ^ Osawgnee who knew Osawgnee in the early ’90’s will remember John Warren Somers, whose inventions made the Happystitch Sewing Machine the most famous ever exploited in the New World. For them I need not recall the intense mystification of his friends and business associates, when, in the prime of life, at the very zenith of his career as an inventor, John Warren Somers quitted the field of mechanics forever, sold out the stock he had acquired in the Happystitch Sewing Machine Company and went to the Pacific Coast to settle on an apple farm.
Gossip whispered of a scandal, peddled dim-eyed tales of a great sorrow; there was a nine days’ wonder for idle tongues to wag over.
John Warren Somers preferred to leave things so. He would rather have gone from Osawgnee suspected of dark crime than have confided the truth to anyone.
While he lived I kept his secret, the secret he did not dare admit to his own soul was shared by another. I can write of it to-day with no qualms of conscience. Neither will I allow memories of John Somers’ reproving brown eyes, surmounted by so much shining baldness and its fringe of peppery red-brown hair, to stop me. There’s a life’s debt to be paid, not mere romancing tobe satiated or sentiment considered.
John Somers—plain John Somers he was then—a hard-working young machinist, shortly after his marriage to a young girl from the country, went one morning to his employers with the completed plans for a wonderful invention — a shuttle movement that was destined to revolutionize the making of sewing machines.
John Somers’ shuttle made the Happystitch Sewing Machine the leader in markets all over the world. It also made John Somers famous—made him John Warren Somers.
With his sudden rise to fame the young inventor de-
veloped a dual personality. Fruits of great achievements sometimes affect men so, and the lives of outstanding figures in history bear evidence of this. Napoleon’s chroniclers hint that he lived two distinct lives. I wonder as I write if his extra existence was of the same shoddy stuff as John Somers’.
But as to the two Somers personalities:—
JOHN WARREN SOMERS had the reserve and dig*-» nity becoming a great inventor. He was most fastidious about his home surroundings and his wearing apparel, carried a gold-headed cane and smoked expensive black cigars. A refined dreamer given much to long periods of abstraction, he could, nevertheless, be a brilliant conversationalist on occasions.
John Warren Somers sought and gained membership in exclusive clubs and in most of the popular secret societies. The opera, high-toned race meets and smart social affairs—things John Somers shrank from in the old days of his struggle for place— became a mania with him. He developed into an expert club billiardist and an inveterate golfer in a day when golfing was the recreation of the affluent only.
John Somers—plain John Somers—the other personality, was little better than a sloven; a slow-going, dogged man, who did little things well in his prosaic but thoroughly wholesome way.
John Somers despised John Warren Somers’ goldheaded cane and his black cigars, eschewed his clubs and
wore dowdy clothes. He seemed to take a grim delight in doing and saying the very things that would deeply wound the sensitive pride and intense respectability of John Warren Somers. He invited illiterate, loud-talking former neighbors from the East End to dine with him in his new brownstone residence in the exclusive West End, and of a Sunday afternoon he would loll about on the porch with unbuttoned vest while he smoked a disreputable and very evil-smelling old black pipe.
During his periods as John Somers he either shaved himself or he did not shave at all. He astonished and shocked tine lady acquaintances he met on the street with gruff plebeian salutations, and he would walk blocks through the
rain rather than go to the trouble and expense of boarding a tramcar or calling a cab.
His friends accepted his moods and adapted themselves to them. The smart set in which John Warren Somers moved actually approved of all this. John Somers was a genius, they said, and this was his idiosyncrasy; he had a dual personality.
But I knew better—I knew better.
The smart public, so-called, is really such a stupid, superficial thing, ever ready to wallow in novelty, no matter how absurd, so long as its exponent has the skill to keep it guessing, beyond the footlights, so to speak. Bah! So say I, and again Bah! So-called genius with the mask off is pitiable, common clay.
John Somers, who was also John Warren Somers, was a clever enough man and a straight-going man at heart. I like clever, open men. They are the salt of the earth. It is the fawning, novelty-loving idlers and hangers-on in the social set with whom I have my quarrel—the cheap flatterers of the clubs and drawingrooms always snooping around for fresh excuses for hero-worship. It is they who spoil useful men and women by leading them to believe they are what they are not. They almost spoiled John Somers.
John Somers was upright in his methods and as substantial in character as John Warren Somers was childish in his susceptibility to flattery. While the John Somers personality held periodical sway there was less danger of his ruin.
Even as John Warren Somers he was curiously sincere —or affected a curious sincerity about certain things. I was present on an occasion when a number of guests were discussing his sudden rise to fame and success. It was Eugene Singleton, a clubman do-nothing, who made reference to Somers’ impersonal way of referring to his own invention.
“John Warren,” he asked, “how is it that you always
speak of your invention with such diffidence, as though it were not your own brain-child?” “Because it is not my brain-child,” John Warren Somers made reply. “That is,” he qualified next moment, “the invention appeals to me as something away greater than I could ever be capable of evolving out of my everyday brain. Friends, I cannot explain what causes this conviction: but I always feel that the idea came to me from somewhere on the outside—that I was only the interpreter of the thing, not the originator.” Clever I call that reply. I liked John Warren Somers when he was clever. I loathed him as a dreamer. That off-hand observation by John Warren Somers brought him new notoriety, of the sort
he revelled in. A feature-writer from a Sunday newspaper got hold of it and there was an illustrated article which followed depicting “the wizard, John Warren Somers,” communing with filmy inhabitants of the spirit world. Columns were devoted to similar instances of “creative trances” and “subconscious inspiration.”
Rats! What an ass they were trying to make of poor John Somers! The spirits—if there are such things— never helped anyone to an idea.
Sales of Happystitch Sewing Machine products went up and UD, trebled and quadrupled themselves in a year
Continued on page 44
Continued from page 19
after the production of the Somers shuttle movement. Somers, as a stockholder, prospered accordingly. Then came the beginning of the second twist in the career of John Somers. As time went on and his wealth accumulated, changes came simultaneously over the dual personalities of the inventor.
JOHN WARREN SOMERS, who had •J been grave and reserved of manner, became gay and care-free, walked with a strut and affected clothing more suited to a man in his twenties. He took to smoking cigarettes instead of cigars, saturated his outward self with faint perfumes and wore gaudy little flowers in the lapel of of his coat.
John Somers—plain John Somers—on the other hand, commenced to age rapidly. He had the look of a man suffering from insomnia. He started at sudden sounds, seemed apprehensive of coming disaster. He consulted a doctor who informed him that in order to avert a breakdown he must go on a long trip, preferably abroad.
1 laughed in his face when he told me what the doctor had ordered. “Then you will have to induce John Warren Somers to accompany you,” I suggested ironically, “for you cannot very conveniently leave him at home.”
“That’s the worst part ot it,” he further irritated me by replying. “John Warren doesn’t care to leave town—at least, not now.”
It was time this insane play-acting was put a stop to, I felt, and I told him so without mincing words. He took my unsympathetic attitude keenly as he always did. I was cold and cutting, I’ll admit, but you see I knew what the doctor did not know; that which John Somers dare not admit to himself. Later events proved that there was also that which I did not know. If I had known, I might have understood more acutely that last phrase of his.
Instead of having the effect I had hoped for my derision apparently produced the opposite one. The John Warren Somers personality commenced to predominate. John Somers—plain John Somers of old— became less and less in evidence. The inventor seldom indulged in his periods of relaxation when he smoked a pipe on the back verandah in shirt sleeves and slippered feet. His moments of blunt mannerisms and crude but wholesome humor almost disappeared.
I had not the least suspicion of what was behind his latest whim until that day I came upon him seated in a secluded spot at the Wilmere lawn party—seated beside that designing blonde adventuress, Alma Gleason. I overheard without being observed by the sinful pair.
“I am strangling John Somers, killing him off by degrees,” he was relating to her with dramatic emphasis. “It hurts terribly. I feel almost as guilty as a potential murderer. You see, Alma, John Somers— sober, old John Somers—made me. His was the plodding, patient character that pioneered life for John Warren Somers, left him his experience and his craftsmanship to build on. It makes me feel like an ungrateful son slaying his father.
“But when it is all over, when I have utterly destroyed the last trace of John Somers, I will be free. Then Alma, beloved, we will fly away together—away from all this hum-drum—to live out the happiness it was intended we should know.”
What my feelings were over that revelation I will not attempt to analyze here. Mine is a positive temperament and I prefer to bear my bitterest emotions without the drug of sympathy. That explains why I bided my time about applying a knock-out remedy for Somers’ desperate case. Lightning cleans the air when the elements are ripe for disintegraion. There is a season for all things.
WELL do I remember that November night when I brought Somers before the forked road and forced him to see that there was but one of two alternatives
before him ... It was raining outside, and there was a weak wind with the rain, that moaned dolorously about the chimneys and gables of the house. We had been discussing his projected trip when suddenly I switched the subject.
“Why is it,” I demanded, “that you are not any more the John Somers I used to know. What is the cause of all this recent change in you? Come, I want the truth!”
“Because,” he stammered, taken thus unawares, “because I thought that which was coming over John Somers could only be averted by dropping him entirely. He would not see the disgrace he was sure to bring upon himself and his family.”
“Disgrace?” I echoed. “For heaven’s sake what has he done?”
“Nothing heinous so far, thank goodness,” he replied. “But—but the silly, old fossil was falling in love with a woman not his wife.” John Somers looked away furtively. “He—he seemed bound to
become infatuated with Theresa Maunders, the maid; in fact, I have had to revert the role to prevent him openly making love to her. That was why I wished to eliminate him.”
I went to the window and looked out where the street lamps shone blearily through the downpour. In another moment I had turned and fixed him with a scornful eye.
“What a heap of amorous fun you missd by not assuming half a dozen personalities!” I sneered.
He quailed under that. I think he sensed that I knew more than I told. He was quick that way sometimes, was John Warren Somers.
“Now,” I said decisively without further preamble, “there is but one course open to you. You must go out to-night. Put on your rubbers and rain-coat and take your umbrella. While you are out, you are to lose John Warren Somers and forget that he ever existed. You are to come back to me plain John Somers, for good and for keeps, or you are not to come back at all!”
“What! I am to give up being John Warren Somers!” He wailed it aghast. “Give up my career and all that it means to me?”
“You are to do just what I said,” I emphasized coldly. “John Warren
Somers means nothing to you in future. He will invent no more. In other words your play-acting is at an end. If you will not quietly take off the mask yourself, I will tear it from you in public; I will expose the truth to all and sundry. You understand that?”
“But—but think what—” he began to stammer dazedly. _
“I have thought,” I cut in. “Look you,” I flamed at him, “plain John Somers, with his simple, rugged personality, even if he has been secretly flirtatious, as you allege, means infinitely more to me than John Warren Somers the pseudo-man could ever be, however well he tried. If John Somers has really become infatuated with another as you say, it is but the erstwhile whim of a middle-aged mam I will see that it will pass. He will go West at once taking with him all the wealth John Warren Somers has made for him and, as a gentleman farmer, he will live the life he was intended to live.
“Go, fetch him back to me. I will wait up for his return.”
THAT night, in the rain, John Warren Somers disappeared forever as I had willed it, and John Somers—plain, loveable John Somers of old—came back to me.
You who read no doubt have guessed a part of the truth. Yes, I was John Somers’ wife, and therefore had the very best right to take the firm stand I did in this matter.
But the grim part of it all I have not made plain to you:—
It was I, Anna Meredith Somers, wife ot John Somers, who, while cleaning the under-works of my sewing machine one morning shortly after our marriage, hit upon the idea for the shuttle-movement invention that made John Warren Somers famous.