It happened out on South Hill, nine thousand miles from Maple Street. The man's wife had taken up the carpet in the bath-room the day before, and put all the crooked tacks in a saucer, and put it on a chair. It is a marvellous thing why women will always save tacks that come out of the carpet; although it is a matter of record, that, out of the countless millions of tacks thus laid by, not one was ever used again, save in the soles of the bare masculine feet. They—the tacks, not the feet—are stowed away in saucers up on high shelves, in dark closets, and in all sorts of out-of-the-way places. And on these dusty perches they remain until the corroding hand of time, and dust, and spider-webs, and dead flies, and flakes of whitewash, and old bits of resin, and chunks of sealing-wax, and old steel pens, and similar accumulations, have filled the saucer to overflowing, when it is taken down and thrown away by the woman, who petulantly wonders who under the sun put all that trash in the saucer, and stuck it up there. And nine times out of ten she charges the crime on her husband. The tenth time she declares it was the hired girl. And always, before the saucer of crooked tacks is stowed away on the shelf, it is stuck around for three or four days on chairs and in corners of the room, spilling out occasional tacks on the carpet of every bedroom in the house, which fill the masculine soles with agony, and darken the air of the bedroom with inartistic but forcible profanity. Nothing is so painful as a crooked tack in the middle of one's foot. A broken heart doesn't hold half so much anguish, and a boil is a blessing in comparison.
This man who lives so far from Maple Street had a splendid bath ; and when he had rubbed his skin into a glow with a crash-towel as rough as a pig's back, he gathered his socks, and, backing up to the only chair in the room, sat down to put them on.
Every tack in that saucer saw him coming down.
Every last tack smiled in anticipation of the dénoûment, and stood on its head, and reached for him.
Every last solitary individual and collective tack fetched him, got him, and held to him.
He dropped his socks, and rose from that chair with an abruptness that knocked his head against the ceiling. He came down, and waltzed wildly round and round the room, shrieking and yelling, gyrating madly with his arms, while his eyes stuck out so far they hung down. He howled until the neighbors besieged the house, yet he wouldn't let any of them in. At last his yells died away; but they could hear his breath hiss between his set teeth, while at short intervals would come a yell, supplemented by the remark, "There's another out!" In about three-quarters of an hour the yells ceased entirely, the window was opened, and a shower of tacks fell over the assembled and wondering multitude; while a large saucer skimmed across the street, and smashed against the side of a house opposite.
Nobody knows what ails the man, for he will not tell any one a thing about it: but he takes his meals off the mantelpiece all the same; and, when he sits, he sits down on his hip, for all the world as though he wore a "tied-back." But he doesn't. It's a tacked-back that ails him.
J. M. Bailey.