The Effects of telling Secrets.

From: Kobboltozo: A Sequel to the Last of the Huggermuggers (1869)
Author: Christopher Pearse Cranch
Published: Lee and Shepard 1869 Boston



  NOW Hammawhaxo had a wife, and it is very natural for wives to desire to know what has happened, when their husbands are out all night and a great part of next day. Some wives will know their husbands’ secrets, and may not keep them safely locked after they have them.

  Mrs. Hammawhaxo (to tell the truth) loved to visit and gossip.

  In fine, the best intentioned wives, if they are endowed with a social disposition, will sometimes let a secret escape—not all at once, but little by little, like a leaky bucket.

  And so it happened—that which was whispered in the ear was soon buzzed about, and then trumpeted from one house to another, till the whole community of dwarfs knew something of the giant’s secret, and of the events we have been narrating.

  It was whispered that Kobboltozo and Hammawhaxo had entered into partnership in the oyster and other shell-fish business. And now the whole village was in a state of excitement, and every one was preparing to commence the shell-fish business on his own account. “Is it possible,” they said, “that we have been all our lives living here, within reach of this wonderful shell-fish, and have never found it? What wouldn’t we give to grow to be giants! We would give all that we have—houses, gardens, trades, wives, children, peace, and happiness—all—to find this wondrous food.”

  My friends (said Stitchkin) I needn’t tell you all the details of this unfortunate business. Look there, at those houses and fences tumbling to pieces—those gardens overgrown with weeds—this whole village deserted and dead. They will tell you more forcibly than I can, the sad fate that befell us.

  And yet hardly any of them bore me any good will. They laughed at me, or were cold towards me, because I didn’t join them or sympathize with them in their mad and ruinous enterprises. And when I did all I could to dissuade them from giving themselves up to a vain and fruitless search, after what I knew they never could find, they treated me as an enemy, and I had no peace or enjoyment as long as they were near me.

  As soon as the fatal secret was known, our people began to desert their homes and daily occupations and encamped in numbers near the sea-shore, where they spent days and nights in looking for new species of shell-fish. But they rarely found any. When they did, there was no end to their selfish and envious quarrels. They would wade into the sea, and dig in the sand, and suffer wet and fatigue and hunger all day; and if two or three happened to light at the same time upon any strange bivalve, they would stand and dispute about it all day. Sometimes they organized little companies, and when they had collected a number of shells, some one would steal them and hide them. These companies never held together long. Then each man would seek for himself, and so increase the labor by not having it shared.

  Sometimes one fellow would find an enormous clam or oyster, and stand sentinel over it all day, or begin devouring it; or he would deliberately sit down upon it, defending his property, tooth and nail, against all unlawful claimants, and, when night came, carry it off to some secret place.

  Did you ever notice a parcel of chickens, when one has found a worm or a bit of mouldy bread? No. 1, the finder, picks up worm and runs, followed hard by No. 2. No. 3 and 4 join in the pursuit, and twenty more. No. 1 drops his worm, which is seized by No. 25. No. 25 is dodged and run down, and relinquishes worm to No. 40, who in turn is persecuted by 45, 46, and 47. Finally, No. 50, being the longest legged and greediest, succeeds in getting ahead of the runners, and bolts down the worm. And so the farce ends, to commence over again the next time a worm turns up.

  Just such a farce went on every day among the dwarfs, except that sometimes it turned into a tragedy. Bloody battles sometimes took place among them. Sometimes the waves would wash them away and drown them. Some fell sick, or died from exposure to the hot sun or the damp night air, or from having gormandized upon the shell-fish. Some of them took a fancy, as Kobboltozo did, that the giants’ food was to be found in caves, or by burrowing in the earth. Many of them went under ground, and never returned. In fine, all was disorder, strife; and disunion. And, in the mean time, their houses, and shops, and gardens were totally neglected—until all became as you see.

  As for myself (said Stitchkin) I remained at home as long as I could; but no one brought me any work, and I became poor. But for all that, I couldn’t bear to see my fellow-beings suffer, even through their own folly; and I spent many a night nursing the sick, many a day trying to settle some foolish quarrel, or endeavoring to persuade my neighbors to return to their occupations. I tried to show them that we small people were evidently intended by Providence to be as we are—that mere size did not constitute happiness—that we could not change our natures—that as long as we followed the path allotted to us, we should be happy and prosperous, but while we spent our lives in seeking for the impossible, we should be miserable. Some listened to my advice—when it was too late. Sickness and death had already seized upon them.

  “But what became of Hammawhaxo and Kobboltozo?” said Mr. Nabbum.

  Neither of them became giants, I believe, (said the tailor.) Hammawhaxo had a boat, which he made for himself. He rigged it up with a mast and sail, and, one moonlight night, he and his wife, and a few friends sailed off on a voyage of discovery. His little vessel was seen for some days cruising about, as if seeking for something, then sailed to the north. One day there came on a storm, and he never returned.

  As for Kobboltozo, it is not clearly known yet what became of him either. He was seen last entering a cave, which is supposed to· lead to vast subterranean chambers. It is said that some others followed him, and found him seated beside a pile of enormous oysters, which he was busily devouring, and that he seemed to be in an unnatural state of jovial excitement, and expressed no intention of returning. Those who saw him left him there, and returned; so that the probability is that he is still under ground, or that he has lost his way and perished.

  I have now (said Stitchkin) told you all I know about the fate of our race. In the main, we have brought about our own destruction. But there were some of us who perhaps deserved a better fate—some who regretted the misfortunes of the giants, and looked upon them more as benefactors than as enemies—who, had it not been for the malice and the selfish ambition of Kobboltozo, would still have made good and useful members of our little community.

  As for Hammawhaxo, I always thought he had a great deal that was good in him. It was an unfortunate curiosity which made him the first to become acquainted with the giants’ secret; and a pardonable want of thought—say even a confiding and unsuspicious nature—which induced him to whisper it in the shoemaker’s ear. I can’t think he entertained any positive ill will towards Huggermugger. But he erred sadly in having any thing to do with Kobboltozo, after he saw the unhappy results of having imparted to him the secret. He erred in not taking a decided and bold stand against him, rather than siding with him and entering tamely into his schemes.

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