THE slaughter-house is gone from the mouth of Bear Creek and so is the
small jail (or 'calaboose') which once stood in its neighborhood.
citizen asked, 'Do you remember when Jimmy Finn, the town drunkard, was
burned to death in the calaboose?'
Observe, now, how history becomes defiled, through lapse of time and the
help of the bad memories of men. Jimmy Finn was not burned in the
calaboose, but died a natural death in a tan vat, of a combination of
delirium tremens and spontaneous combustion. When I say natural death, I
mean it was a natural death for Jimmy Finn to die. The calaboose victim
was not a citizen; he was a poor stranger, a harmless whiskey-sodden
tramp. I know more about his case than anybody else; I knew too much of
it, in that bygone day, to relish speaking of it. That tramp was
wandering about the streets one chilly evening, with a pipe in his
mouth, and begging for a match; he got neither matches nor courtesy; on
the contrary, a troop of bad little boys followed him around and amused
themselves with nagging and annoying him. I assisted; but at last, some
appeal which the wayfarer made for forbearance, accompanying it with a
pathetic reference to his forlorn and friendless condition, touched such
sense of shame and remnant of right feeling as were left in me, and I
went away and got him some matches, and then hied me home and to bed,
heavily weighted as to conscience, and unbuoyant in spirit.
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