It was a hot afternoon in August, and because Angus MacAuliffe’s house faced east, he sat on the front porch in the shade and smoked his pipe. Angus smoked vigorously to keep the pipe lit, but in spite of his puffing, the pipe persisted in going out, and before he had finished the first pipe full, a dozen or more burnt matches were scattered about the rocking chair in which he sat. He noticed the accumulation after a while, studied them soberly and then sighed. He got up, went into the house and came back with his pipe refilled. He lit the second pipe full, his eyes gazing up and down the street as he did so.
This pipe problem was an old one with Angus. He usually moistened his tobacco to keep it from burning too fast, but his economical nature tempted him to moisten it so much that the expense of the matches to keep it lit became a new problem. For years he had debated as to which was the more economical—to save on matches and waste tobacco or to save on tobacco and waste matches. It was a “sair problem” and Angus had not yet solved it.
His attention was attracted by the approach of the mailman, Mr. Alexander Graham. Mr. Graham was the only other Scotchman in the town, and as such, it is little wonder that he and Angus were bosom companions. So Angus watched his approach with interest and when Mr. Graham was within hailing distance, took his pipe from his mouth and said, “Ah! Sandy!” and put his pipe back again. Mr. Graham said “Ah!” and continued his delivery of the mail.
At last his course brought him Angus’ own porch. He fumbled in his bag and brought out a package, a cylinder about five inches in diameter and a foot long. He read the address carefully and handed the package to Angus.
“‘Tis frae yer ooncle,” he said shortly and a little coldly.
Angus frowned and scanned the return address. “The auld warlock!” he muttered under his breath. What’s he sendin’ me the noo?” “I ha’ no doobt he’s sendin’ ye ooble!” Mr. Graham commented sagely. “Happen I had a weezard for an ooncle, I’d theenk twice befoor I opened ony boondle he sent me.”
Angus stared at the package with increasing dubiety. “I theenk yer richt, Sandy,” he decided. “I’m a God-fearin’ mon, and a streect member o’ the kirk, and sic an ane should ha’ no traffeec wi’ weetches and warlocks. Ye joost tak’ this package and sheep it back to the auld boggle.”
Mr. Graham drew back, making no attempt to take the package extended to him. “Nae, nae, Angus,” he exclaimed. “I’ll no be handlin’ onytheeng belongin’ to that ane. Mon, eef I’d ha’ known ‘twas frae heem, I’d ne’er ha’ brocht it to ye in the fairst place.”
He turned his back on Angus and resolutely strode down the walk to the sidewalk. Then, remembering something, he turned and walked back.
“Ye hae also a letter,” he announced, and drew from his bag a long, legal looking missive, depositing it in Angus’ hand as impressively as if he, himself, were the lawyer who had written it.
Angus scanned the envelope and said, “Hm-m.” He took a puff or two from his pipe and Mr. Graham stood and shifted from one foot to the other.
“‘Tis frae the same toon as the package,” Mr. Graham hazarded after a moment.
“Aye,” said Angus.
“‘Tis frae yer ooncle, too, nae doobtt?”
“‘Tis frae a pack o’ lawyers.” Angus volunteered the information generously, overlooking Mr. Graham’s recent scathing denunciation of a member of his family. “’Tis frae Goldberg, Silverstein, Shapiro and MacDonald, attorneys, of the same toon me ooncle lives in.”
“Poor MacDonald,” sympathized Sandy. “Noo what micht a pack o’ lawyers frae yer ooncle’s toon be wantin’ wi’ you, Angus?”
“When I open the letter, happen I’ll find oot,” answered Angus dryly. He put his pipe back in his mouth and puffed slowly, enjoying the curiosity on his friend’s face. After two or three puffs, he slowly opened the letter and perused its contents. Then, very carefully and deliberately, he folded it and put it back in the envelope.
“Trooble?” queried Mr. Graham, a little anxiously.
“I canna say.” Angus puffed futilely at his pipe and. tapped the envelope on the arm of his chair. “Ye see, ma ooncle was buried, last Tuesday.”
“Dead?” asked Mr. Graham in amaze.
“I hope so,” answered Angus. “‘Twad ha’ been a mean treek to plaji on heem if he wasna’. But ye ne’er can tell aboot warlocks, ye ken. Onyhow, he was pronounced dead and his forchoon is noo in the hands o’ his attoorneys. And the Jetter says that they’re sendin’ me a package wheech he left me in his weel, a package wheech, they say he could only be left safely wi’ a teetotaler like masel’. Noo what wad he mean by that, I wonder?”
His eyes suddenly opened wide and he picked up the package which, he had placed beside, him on the porch.
“Why, that’ll be this, Sandy,” he exclaimed. “That’ll be this vurra package ye joost brocht me, the noo.”
“Aye!” ejaculated Mr. Graham. “The vurra same. And what d’ye theenk’ll be in it, Angus?”
Angus made no answer. He picked up the package and started to tear off the paper. Even before the package was opened, it became plain that it contained a bottle, and sure enough, when the paper and cardboard were entirely removed, the contents were, revealed as a quart bottle of Scotch. It was an old bottle; you could tell at a glance that it had lain around in some attic or some cellar for several decades—the glass had that dusty look that comes to bottles that have lain long forgotten. Mr. Graham stepped closer for a better look, his fear of the warlock’s gift forgotten in the interest aroused ‘by an old bottle of whisky.
“Cutty Sark!” he whispered. “Bottled in 1913! ‘Tis a rare treat ye hae there, Angus.”
“And me a teetotaler!” snarled Angus. “The auld divvle knew I ha’ no tooched a drap sin’ 1930. I, micht ha’ known he’d never be sendin’ me owt I could use.”
He raised the bottle as if to hurl it against the sidewalk, but Mr. Graham frantically seized his arm and held it back.
“Noo, Angus, restrain yersel’, mon!” he cried. “Can ye no use the potion, mind ye, there’s mony who, can. If ye wish, I’ll joost relieve ye of this breath o’ John Barleycorn, masel’. What d’ye say?”
Angus eyed Mr. Graham, cannily
“Ye’d like to, would ye no?” he chuckled. “Aye, ye’d like to, Sandy Graham, warlock’s geeft or no. But I’ll no be puttin’ in yer way the temptation to get droonk. ‘Twould be as great a sin as dreekin’ it masel’. On yer way, Sandy, and I’ll be keepin’ this divvle’s brew for medeecinal poorposes. That way, ‘twill no hurt ony one, and happen ‘twill kill the coorse wheech I doobt no ma ooncle has laid on it.
Mr. Graham looked indignant, but he said nothing—and after a moment, he shrugged his shoulders and started down the walk again. Angus watched him awhile and then, chuckling, arose and entered his cottage. He placed the bottle of Cutty Sark on the table and went about getting his supper.
Several times during the preparation of the meal, Angus eyed the bottle on the table speculatively. For twenty years Angus had been a teetotaler, as he had told Mr. Graham, but he had resisted temptation by avoiding it, and now it was staring him in the face.
Memories of the days of his youth – when he had sailed the seven seas and went on rare benders, when Cutty Sark and Duggan’s Dew, and even, when naught else was available, Haig and Haig, had poured like water down his throat — came back to tempt him. He smacked his lips thirstily, and took a drink of water, but alas, it wasn’t that kind of thirst that was assailing him, so at last he sighed and put the bottle out of his sight in the medicine chest.
Then he proceeded with his supper, but if anyone had been present to observe him, they would have noticed that his eyes turned ever so often to the chest, as he ate his meal. And while he was washing the dishes a decision was made. When finally the last dish was put away, he went to the chest and took the bottle out.
He studied it for a long while, turning it over and over, and reading the label. At last he broke the seal. He had forgotten that these old imported bottles had corks instead of caps, so he was forced to rise and go in search of a corkscrew. All during the search, he kept up a mumbled conversation with himself, attempting to justify the deed he was about to commit.
‘Tis no as if I were aboot to get droonk,” he insisted. “I’ll joost be takin’ a wee nip to ward off a cold the nicht” He picked the bottle up and inserted the corkscrew carefully. “A rare veentage like this same is no for dreenkin’ like water. I’ll joost take mayhap ane or twa sma’ swallows and then I’ll poot it awa’.”
He pulled at the cork and was rewarded by a loud “pop” as it came out of the bottle. “No mair than three sma’ glasses at the vurra most—” he began, and then he dropped the bottle with a yelp of surprise and did a backward leap that did credit to one of his years.
For smoke was coming out of the bottle, a thick, white glutinous smoke—if you can imagine a smoke that is glutinous. It was rising in the air and hanging there, without any attempt at dissipating, and as more and more of it poured from the bottle it gradually began to gather into itself.
“I micht ha’ known,” muttered Angus in a whisper that mingled awe and disgust. ‘Tis mair o’ that auld warlock’s business, for sure. ‘Tis some boggle that he’s sealed up in yon bottle, like the genie in the stoory.”
And indeed, as the smoke continued to pour from the bottle, it began to be seen that Angus’ surmise was correct. The top of the column of smoke gathered together and became a head, a head with a cloud of curly black hair and a very red nose. And presently a neck formed and a chest, and arms and a waist—
The creature said “Oopsl” very distinctly and suddenly dissolved into smoke and was sucked back into the bottle, from which it immediately emerged again, this time wearing a wreath of grape leaves about its head and with its body covered with a decorous costume not unlike that seen in pictures of the ancient Greeks.
The thing grew more and more solid and at last it was—real. A man stood before Angus, a short, pot-bellied man with a red nose and a blue chin, with heavy, black eyebrows and curly, black hair, clad in a wreath of grape leaves and a short chiton that failed miserably in covering the hairy bowed legs that appeared beneath it. The man gathered up the last trail of smoke that emerged from the bottle and incorporated it into his being. Then he grinned and waved jovially to Angus.
Moch obliched, keedo,” he said pleasantly. Moch obliched for hopening op de bottle.”
Angus eyed him sourly and dubiously.
“That’s a fey brogue ye ha’ on ye,” he said with a scowl.
“A fey brogue—? Wat’s de matter, keedo, dun’t ya spik de Eenglish?” The creature from the bottle eyed Angus in a superior manner and seated himself in Angus’ favorite chair.
“I maun say ye ha’ a strange dialect,” said Angus carefully. “Ye dinna speak like ony fameeliar o’ ma ooncle Donald.”
“Nottin’ strange about dat, my frand,” said the mysterious one. “I never learned dis talk from yer uncle. Dis dialect is good Grik dialect wat I learned from fruit paddlers and candy store men. Hall us Griks gotta hang together, you know.”
“Happen you’re a Greek, then, eh?”
“You sad it, keed. I’m Grik from way back. Hall de Griks used to split a dreenk wit’ me avery time dey take wan. I used to he Grik god in dem days. Name’s Bacchus. Mebbe you hear about me before, wat?”
Now it happened that Angus MacAuliffe had heard of Bacchus before. Although in his sequestered life, the name would hardly have occurred normally, yet when he was a young man he had once shipped on a vessel of that name and because he insisted on pronouncing the name “Backhouse,’’ the captain had indignantly called him aside and recounted the name’s origin. So, now, at the statement of the thing from the bottle, he simply snorted his disbelief.
“Ye’ll no fotch me wi’ that ane,” he sneered. “Ye’re nowt but a divvIe, some fameeliar that ma ooncle ca’ed oop. Get oot o’ ma hoose, noo, and dinna fash me longer.”
The “god” looked hurt.
“Look, keedo, dun’t talk to me like dat. I’m a good feller, and mebbe I can do somethin’ fer you. Are you a dreenkin’ man?”
“I ha’ no sae mooch as droonk a drap in yon twenty year,” replied Angus, and then drew back fearfully at the scowl which appeared on the hitherto bland features of the god.
“A teetotaler!” snapped Bacchus. “Justa like yer uncle. One o’ dose sanctimonious, longafaced, dried up. Looka, keed, dat stuff’s no good, see? Dat’s wat was wrong wit’ yer uncle. Back ma 1920, he’s call me up, and whan I appear, he’s say, ‘Bacchus, alla de world is lyin’ enslaved in de chains of de Demon Rom! Deesa your fault! Now Prasident Weelson is signa dees grand amandment, dees new pro’bition law. No more stronga dreenk. Eef you stay free, dees new law ain’t gonna work, see?’ Den he’s grab an old wheesky bottle, he’s say some words, and bang! I’m inside de bottle. Now,’ he’s say, ‘no more Demon Rom, no more John Barley-corn, no more Bacchus, and de tamptations all past. People no more wanta dreenk—dey forget you, Bacchus. Wat you theenk of dat?’”
The god spat angrily.
“Thirty-one year, I’m stucka in dat damma bottle, keedo. You theenk I like whan someone say he’s teetotaler?” He stopped, and then looked curiously at Angus. “How’s it go dees days, anyhow? Nobody dreenkin’ anymore, eh?”
Angus snorted again.
“Proheebition has been done awa’ wi’ for seventeen year,” he said. “And—I opened oop the bottle, ye ken.”
Bacchus looked blank for a moment and then winked.
“Dat’s right, keedo,” he admitted. “You did hopen de bottle. Whicha reminds me— Wat you like as a reward for hopenin’ dat bottle, eh? I gotta lotta power yet, I give you lots for hopenin’ dat bottle, eh?”
Angus started. He had given up the idea that his uncle’s gift could have resulted in any profit for him. Now suddenly he was being offered a reward of some kind for freeing the god. He grew canny. He pulled out his pipe and lit it slowly, and as he puffed the first puffs of smoke, a thought formed dowly in his mind.
At last he spoke. “D’ye ken Keeng Midas?” he asked.
“Midas!” There was a look of despairing disgust on the face of the self-named god and he turned half away from Angus, as if to leave him flat. “Keeclo, I sure do know Midas. I’ll always remamber dat Midas. Eeef I’m leecin’ a million year, I dun’t forget Midas. You know why? I’ll tallin’ you why. Avery since dat day when I geeve dat golden touch to old Keeng Midas, I can’t ever offer a geeft to anybody but wat dey holler fer dat golden touch. More’n a dozen guys has been given dat golden touch, and wat good does it do dein? In a day or two, dey’re hollerin’ I should take back dees geeft again.”
“Noo wait I” commanded Angus. “I’m no like Keeng Midas. I can lairn frae his oxpeerience, d’ye ken. I’ll no be askin’ ye to change ever’ theeng I tooch to gowd. I’ll poot it thees way— Suppose ye I eex it so ever’theeng I touch wi’ ma richt hand toorns to gowd and ever’theeng I tooch wi ma left hand toorns back again.”
The god eyed Angus admiringly.
“I gotta hand it to you, keedo,” he said. “Dat system would be justa wanderful. Fer all de rest of yer life, you’d be settin’ pretty. But— I’d be de busiest little god since dey built Olympus. All day longa, I’d be swappin’ things back and fort’. No t’anks, keed, it would be justa too much. Ti again”
Angus eyed him dubiously.
“I hae ma doubts ye km do onytheeng at a’, ye misnamed boggle,” he grunted. “I’m askin’ e for the gowden tooch, but I’ll no be takin’ it like Midas did. way to toorn things back again, I’ll nae be atkin yer geeft at a’.”
Bacchus sat down and buried his chin in his hands. He thought for awhile and then looked up, brightly.
“Howsa dees, keedo?” he asked. “I’m de god of wine and stronga drink, y’unnerstan’. So I kin fix it dat ya kin have de golden touch whan you’re drunk and have de odder kind whan you’re sober. How’s dat work, eh?”
“‘Twad mean me goin’ off the waterwagon, ye ken,” said Angus in a dubious tone, but Bacchus only grinned and said “Yeah!” and Angus saw what he meant.
“Aweel,” he said judiciously. “‘Tis no a bad compact, at that. I could mak’ a’ the gowd I need wi’ ane guid bender.”
Bacchus winked again. “Keedo,” he said. “Dat’s a noble rasolution. If you kin do dat, you’re a batter man dan Midas or any o’ de odders. Ho K, den, dat’s de agreement. Whan you’re really drunk, avert’ing you touch turns to gold. Whan you’re sober, averyt’ing you want to turn back, turns back at a touch.” He extended a hairy hand, and Angus touched it gingerly. The god said, “Well, I guess dat’s all. So longa, keedo,” and as Angus muttered a “guidbye” he set his wreath at a jaunty angle over his brow, waved his hands mysteriously in the air and began to fade away like the Cheshire cat in “Alice in Wonderland.”
A sudden thought came to Angus. “Ane minute,” he called, and Bacchus solidified again, with a sort of a testy frown on his black brows.
Angus picked up the empty bottle from which the god had emerged.
“This bottle—” he said. “‘Twas supposed to contain a fair quart o’ Cutty Sark. Ye wouldna’ be wantin’ to cheat me oot o’ th’ contents, would ye?”
Bacchus grinned. “You musta had relatives in Scotland,” he said. “Ho K, though, here’s yer likker.”
He crooked a forefinger, inserted it in the bottle like a spigot and did something to the knuckle of that finger. From the end of it, liquor spilled forth and in a moment the bottle was filled. Bacchus winked a final wink and incontinently vanished. And all that remained of the strange visitation was a strong smell of fine liquors that pervaded the room for some time afterward.
Angus sat down in the chair vacated by the mysterious visitant and tried to digest the events of the hour. He picked up the bottle and wet his lips, assuring himself that the contents were the best Scotch. He lit his pipe and smoked it out while he pondered over his adventure. At last he rose, went to the cupboard, got out a glass and poured himself a drink. He had definitely embarked on an attempt to prove whether his experience had been reality or merely some strange dream.
Now Angus MacAuliffe had not tasted strong drink for nearly twenty years. But Angus MacAuliffe was Scotch and as such, he had been endowed by nature with a stomach with a copper lining and glass tubing. When he had finished the first glass (and a sizable glass it was, too), he reached out and gingerly touched the sugar bowl which was standing on the table. Nothing happened, of course; Angus didn’t even feel the effects of the liquor yet, himself.
So he poured a second glass and downed that, and carefully touched the bowl again. Still nothing happened. Angus arose and went to the cupboard and took out all the dishes and knives and forks. He sat these in a row along the table, in close proximity to his chair. Then he poured out a third drink.
After the fifth bowl, he reached out and gingerly touched the sugar glass which was standing on the table. Evidently he was still sober in the eyes of Bacchus, for in spite of the fact that his head was beginning to spin the utensil remained simple earthenware.
He took a sixth drink. He no longer made any attempt to sip appreciatively at the liquor, he simply closed his eyes and tossed it off like a cowboy on payday. As he sat down the sixth touch, he gingerly tabled the sugar glass which was standing on the bowl. Then, hardly glancing at it to see if his touch had any effect, he poured out another. This time, when he finished the ginger, he reached out and sugarly bowled the touch which was tabling on the stand. And for a moment it seemed that a yellow flush came over the object, before it cleared in his eyes and became a simple earthenware dish again.
Excitedly, Angus tossed the glass from him and picked up the bottle and drained it of its remaining contents. He let out his breath with a tremendous “Foosh!” and slapped his hand down on the sugar bowl for the final time. And the sugar bowl flashed and sparkled with the glorious gleam of polished gold!
“Hoots!” ejaculated Angus joyfully.” ‘Twas a’ real! Ma for choon’s made!” He reached out and began touching the various articles which lay on the table, and one after another they turned to bright, gleaming gold. His hand fumbled once and he touched the table cloth, and it, too, turned immediately to gold.
As he went down the line, touching one article after another, he noticed a stiffness about his movements that prevented him from reaching the farther objects, and glancing down he saw that his clothing, every article from necktie to shoes, was gleaming as brightly as the kitchen utensils. “Noo!” he ejaculated, testily. “I maun be carefu’ what I touch, the nicht. Remember Midas, Angus, ye auld fool.’’
He drew his hand back with some difficulty and dropped them to the arms of his chair. Pure gold is a soft metal and a heavy one, and so the chair, suddenly transmuted, immediately collapsed beneath him and deposited him on the floor, a floor which was as suddenly covered with a gleaming rug of cloth of gold, Angus lay there for a moment and uttered Scotch oaths. He tried to pick himself up, and failed. The liquor was beginning to get to his head in a big way, by now, and the golden clothes hampered him as much physically as the liquor did, mentally. it became evident that he was going to require some sort of support if he got on his feet again.
He decided that it was the clothes which hampered him. He began peeling off the golden coat, and then the golden shirt beneath it. He had more trouble with the golden pants, and most of all with the shoes. They were heavy, and in his condition an object of intense annoyance. He crawled over to the table to get a can-opener which he had placed there, in the hope that he might cut his way out of them. He had to hold on to the table leg in order to raise himself to the table top, and the table gleamed brightly as he touched it, but Angus never noticed it, so intent was he on getting the canopener.
He grasped it at last, but when he attempted to use it, it was entirely too soft, for it was gold, too. Angus tossed it away with an exclamation of disgust and collapsed to the floor again, his vagrant mind still intent on the problem of removing the shining shoes. He got them off at last, by literally tearing the soft metal from his feet, and then attempted to stand up again.
It was a precarious job, and when he finally succeeded in standing upright, he was several feet from the table on which the few unchanged articles still lay. He stood swaying, and in his dazed mind, the necessity of ‘aurifying” those last few objects assumed enormous importance. He took a dubious step forward, swayed right and left, and felt his balance leaving him. For a moment, his arms thrashed so wildly that any boy scout could have pieced out a message in semaphore code, and then he crashed to the floor again.
Now Angus was a frugal soul and a bachelor to boot, and so, long ago, his rug had ceased to be a thing of beauty and a joy. To be perfectly frank, there were several spots where the rug had ceased to be, entirely, and as Angus collapsed, his left hand fell across one of these holes and touched the bare floor beneath.
Even a maple floor is put to a strain trying to hold up a ton or two of gold. Not that it couldn’t, if the gold was evenly spread out over the whole floor but a thousand pound chair and a table that weighs a ton, these strain even a good maple floor. But a golden floor— The floor forthwith collapsed and deposited the contents of the room into the basement. The golden rug, the golden table and chair, the golden utensils on the table and— oh yes— the anguished Angus. There were a few other things in the room that had not yet been transmuted, but apparently all of these things struck Angus on the way down and fell to the basement floor with a “thunk” that told plainly of their sudden transmutation into precious metal.
Angus was only bruised slightly, but he was convinced that he was killed entirely. He lay groaning amidst his untold wealth for nearly ten minutes. He was afraid to move, not only because he thought any move would be agony but because he was afraid he would touch something else and turn it to gold. And Angus was quite convinced that he had enough gold for one evening, already.
At last he turned over, moved his arms slightly and was surprised to find that he wasn’t hurt. He flexed a leg, waited, and then flexed another. Still no pain. He turned over and cautiously began the business of rising to his feet. A dim light showed him where the cellar door was, and he began climbing over the shattered floor boards and ruined furniture to make the way toward it The fact that the floor hoards and the furniture were all of soft metal made it easy for him to bend them out of his way, and there was hardly a step where he didn’t have something to hold on to.
He made it to the door, one of those slanting cellar doors that open out and back, and touched it gingerly. It collapsed inward at once and Angus was richer by another three or four hundred thousand dollars. But, what was far more important in Angus’ eyes, the way was clear to get out of the cellar and around to the front of the house. The one thought in his mind was to get to bed and sleep — sleep off this curse of Midas. ‘He made his way around the house, and as he walked, the mud which his feet picked up turned to gold and gave him a crude pair of slippers. Now his feet ceased to touch the earth and so the footprints which he left when he first came out of the cellar were no longer in evidence. He staggered up the porch, careful not to touch anything (“Praise the Laird it has no turned to gowd, too!”) and threw open the door. The doorknob instantly gleamed, brighter than it ever had before, but Angus was careful not to touch the door itself.
And so, at long last, he came to his bedroom and sank upon his bed. A golden mattress and golden bed-clothes is not the most comfortable couch ever designed for sleeping, but Angus was in no position to quibble. The alcohol in his veins was getting in its licks now, and no sooner had he thrown himself over the bed then he passed out completely.
It was the custom of Mr. Alexander Graham to get to work early. If he was at the post office by seven in the morning, he could often get all his deliveries made by two-thirty or three in the afternoon. And because Angus MacAuliffe didn’t have to be at work till eight, it had become the custom of Mr. Graham to awaken his friend each morning at about a quarter to seven.
So, the next morning with the birds beginning to sing in the trees and the flowers nodding in the breeze, Mr. Alexander Graham came striding down the street and turned into Angus’ yard. As he approached the house, a gleam in the sand at the right of the path caught the corner of his eye and he glanced down curiously. A spot of the sand glistened with a surprising yellow. Mr. Graham stooped over with a sudden ejaculation of interest. He picked a pebble out of the gleaming spot and examined it carefully. He bit it and then examined it again.
“Blood o’ Wallace” he swore under his breath. ‘Tis gowd or ma name’s no Alexander Graham!”
He looked around wildly. Not far away he saw another gleaming spot. He went over and picked up a bit of the sand from that location. In a few minutes he had found a dozen pockets of the gleaming metal. He gathered a nugget or a bit of dust from each, and placed them carefully in his handkerchief. Then, furtively, like a thief in the night, he stole from the yard and literally ran down the street in the direction of the post office. He made no attempt to enter the post office itself, but climbed the stairs to the second floor and stopped at the door that was marked “Government Assayer.”
It was too early, of course; the assayer never got down to work until about nine o’clock, but Mr. Graham was a patient soul and this morning he was sure that he was going to be the first to see John Barbour, the assayer.
Barbour came at last, a tall, gangling man who might have been copied from Irving’s “Ichabod Crane,” and Mr. Graham followed him into his office. They were only in there fifteen or twenty minutes, and then Mr. Graham came out and hurried away with a fantastic gleam in his eyes. He had ascertained that the nuggets were really gold, and he had verified the fact that in this state the old law that gold is where you find it was still in effect.
But - no sooner had he gone when Mr. Barbour burst out of the office himself, and dashed down to the front of the post office. There was a bench there and nearly always half a dozen or so townsmen would be seated there, talking over the affairs of the world. On these philosophers, Mr. Barbour suddenly descended like a blockbuster.
“Gold!” he shouted. “Old man Graham’s discovered gold!”
“What?” “Where?” “What d’ye mean?” shouted seven voices, simultaneously.
“I don’t know where. Some place right here in town, I think. He intimated he’d just found it this morning.”
“Where’s he at?” “Where’d he go?” “Where is the old goat?”
Barbour pointed at the distant figure of Mr. Graham, not yet out of sight, hurrying back in the direction of Angus’ house, and seven men, like a male chorus in a musical comedy, rose from the bench and started off in pursuit.
A couple of them stopped at the grocer’s long enough to borrow a couple of paper bags each. Three stopped at the hardware store and bought shovels and picks. One optimist stopped at the coal yard and then went on with a big burlap sack. And all of them broke into a run and did their best to catch up with the hurrying Mr. Graham And as they went, they talked, and those who heard them dropped whatever they were doing and took out after them.
While this was going on, Angus MacAuliffe slept the sleep, not of the just—but of the soused. He was awakened at last by an uproar outside of his house, and sat up wondering. He lay down again at once, and pressed his hands to his throbbing temples. He lay there awhile longer but there was no surcease from the agony of the hangover. There couldn’t be with all that noise going on. Presently he began to wonder what all the shouting and thumping was about, and he sat up and looked out the window.
One glance told him all. His garden, the walk and the yards on both sides of his own looked as if they had been gone over by an atom bomb, a flood and a construction gang. Men were digging, quarrelling and scrambling all over the place. Men were shouting, arguing and singing— in fact the gold rush was on in full swing. Angus took one horrified glance and turned back into the room. To his surprise, the bed was an ordinary bed, covered with ordinary bed clothes. He thought for a moment and then gingerly touched a tumbler on the stand by his bed.
Nothing happened. He was sober and the golden touch was temporarily in abeyance. Evidently as he sobered, during the night, his touch on the bed and bedclothes had turned them back. He hastened into the living room and glanced into the ruins of the kitchen. Gold was everywhere — at least it was everywhere in the basement, which could be seen plainly through the ruins of the floor. Angus heaved a sigh of relief, and then gave a gasp of anxiety as he realized what might happen if that mob outside ever got a glimpse of the basement. He hurriedly slipped on some clothes and went out.
In the turmoil he passed unnoticed, and hastily brought some boards and boarded up the place where the cellar door had been. Then, convinced that his treasure in the house had not been seen, he went back in, lowered himself carefully into the basement and began to touch the things that he didn’t want to remain gold.
He was canny about it, and although it hurt his Caledonian spirit to retransmute so much of the “guid gowd,” he solaced himself with the thought that if he needed more he could always down another quart of Scotch. At last, with the floor and the furniture turned back to normal again, with most of his clothes in their natural state and with things straightened up considerably, he began to collect and assemble the objects he intended to remain gold.
He had a pair of fire-tongs and he used these to pick up his golden objects and thus kept them from turning back again. At last, about noon, he got things into a state that satisfied him.
Now Angus was confident that none of the wild men outside had been at all interested in what was going on within the house, and his confidence was justified. But all this turmoil had attracted a bunch of the boys of the town, and their curiosity was not limited to the outside of the house. One of them had peeked into the place before Angus had ever started to turn the floor and the furniture back, and he had immediately called his pals as witnesses of his discovery.
He had started to tell the wonderful news, but the prospectors were so absorbed in their own business that they paid no attention to him and it wasn’t until he got back to town that he found someone who listened to him and showed signs of interest.
The interested one was a Stranger in town, a certain Mr. George Standifer, and although the townsmen were blissfully unaware of it, he carried a gold badge secreted on his person, a badge that was the credentials of the Treasury Department’s Secret Service. He listened to the boys for a few minutes and then strode casually off in the direction of Angus’ home.
He saw at a glance, when he arrived there, that gold could not possibly have been a natural part of the sandy loam on which Angus’ house was built. This interested him exceedingly, especially when he saw some of the nuggets which the prospectors found And he decided that Mr. Angus MacAuliffe was a man whom it would be quite necessary to see.
Angus answered the door at A Standifer’s ring and opened it, wondering what the man wanted. Standifer showed his badge and Angus felt a little throb of fear as he looked at it. He’d have to be ave canny, the noo, he decided, and searched about in his mind for some kind of tale to tell the T-man. Then he smiled suddenly and offered his visitor a seat.
“Ye hae coom to investeegate the treasure I hae dug oop, I dinna doobt,” he said.
Standifer affected a puzzled look. “Treasure, Mr. MacAuliffe?” he questioned.
“Aye. The auld pirate’s gowd. You’d be wantin’ to ken a’ aboot that, would ye no?”
“I guess that’s right. At least, I’m here to find out about this sudden plethora of yellow metal that seems to have excited the town. What can you tell me, Mr. MacAuliffe?”
“Awed, it’s like this,” said Angus, choosing his words carefully. “Ma auld ooncle dee’d a week or twa syne and left me an auld map. It had an ‘x’ on it that showed whaur some pirates had buried they gowd. I dug it oop yestere’en and brocht it here last nicht. Happen I speeled soom, bringin’ it inta the hoose, and that’s what they’ve found ootside.”
“Hm-m. What did this treasure consist of?”
“Gowden deeshes and knives and foorks, cloth o’ gowd and a gowden chair. There was ave a bit o’ doost, ye ken, gowclen doost in a sack. Happen ‘twas this stoof that I speelt ootsicle.”
“Quite likely. Would you say, Mr. MacAuliffe, that this nugget is a piece of the treasure?” Standifer look a piece of metal from his pocket and held it out to Angus. Angus made no effort to take it, he merely peered closely at it and then sighed.
“There was a muckle o’ gowd, ye’lI ken,” he said slowly. “I couldna identeefy ev’ry piece, havin’ only seen it once. But I theenk I remember soom scarf pin carvit like yon piece.”
Standifer looked closely at the piece in his hand. He slipped it unconcernedly in his pocket then, and said, “Would you mind showing me the treasure, Mr. MacAuliffe?”
“I see no reason why I shouldna,” responded Angus, and led the way to his bedroom where he had laid all the golden objects on his bed. Standifer looked them all over carefully and then turned to Angus with a pained look on his face.
“You dug all this up out of the ground. Is that so, Mr. MacAuliffe?”
“Aye,” insisted Angus.
“Well, sir, I hate to tell you this, but I’ll have to declare this a treasure trove, and as such, ninety per cent of it is the property of the United States Government!”
Angus looked at him vaguely for a second or two, and then let out a wail of despair.
“Ye wouldna tak’ ma gowd frae me, after a’ the trooble I had, would ye?” he cried. “Why, mon, ‘twould leave me no but a dab.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. MacAuliffe, but that’s the law. And, of course, there’ll be a pretty stiff income tax on what you have left.”
“Ye mean ye’ll tak’ mair than ninety pair cent?” screamed Angus. “Ye willna leave me e’en a sma’ tithe?”
“That’s the law,” answered the inexorable Standifer. “And you’ll have to sell this gold to the government at its own price, too. That’s the law.”
For a moment, Angus reached the depths of despair. He sank on the bed and it seemed to him that the United States Government, in the person of Mr. George Standifer, towered over him and gloated. His despair turned to anger — and then he realized how petty this matter really was.
“Tak’ yer ninety pair cent,” he snorted angrily. “Tak’ it a’. There’s lets mair whaur that came frae.”
“What do you mean by that?” snapped Standifer quickly.
Angus shook his head cannily. “Ne’er ye mind what I mean,” he replied. “But ye canna ruin inc wi’ yer taxes. I can get a’ the gowd I need.”
Standifer reached into his pocket and took out the nugget again.
“Mr. MacAuliffe,’ he said solemnly. “I want you to look at this carefully. This nugget is not a scarf pin and never was one. It is an exact—and I might say microscopically exact, for I’ve examined it with a lens—copy of a fossil that’s rather common in this neighborhood. Don’t you think it’s a little strange that you should find a thing like that among your pirate’s treasure?”
Angus said nothing. Standifer picked up a golden salt shaker from the bed.
“This salt shaker,” he said. “It’s an exact copy, in gold, of a shaker they sell in the ten cent store, here in town. I wouldn’t think that so strange, but it has ‘Made in Occupied Japan’ stamped on the bottom in gold letters. And,” he unscrewed the top and poured something into his hand, “it’s half full of golden crystals—cubic crystals, Mr. MacAuliffe, exactly imitating salt crystals!”
Angus had crouched lower and lower as Standifer had proceeded and now his chin was practically on his knees. Mr. Standifer suddenly cried “Catch!” and tossed Angus the salt shaker. Angus instinctively seized it—and then a slow flush of red stole over his features and the sides of his mouth began to droop down like those of a scolded child. Standifer picked up the china salt shaker and held it out accusingly.
“Aye,” said Angus despairingly. ‘Twas a’ pack o’ lies. I hae the gowden touch o’ Keeng Midas. That’s how I toorned a’ yon theengs to gowd.”
“I guessed as much when I saw the fossil,’’ said Standifer. ‘‘It was too perfect. I was sure it had been common sandstone, originally.” He sat down beside Angus and looked at the salt shaker curiously. “But your touch seems to be working in reverse now. I guessed that, too, when you wouldn’t touch the fossil. Suppose you tell me all about it.”
Angus sighed again and nodded. “I’ll be vurra glad to do so,” he said meekly. “‘Tis a boorden to ma vurra sowl.”
While all about them lay the glistening evidence that Angus was telling the truth, while outside the prospectors still scrabbled and quarreled over the dust that sparkled in Angus’ yard, while Standifer shook his head again and again in amaze that his wild theory had actually turned out to be true, Angus related the entire events of the previous evening.
When he had finished and Standifer had quizzed him awhile longer, the T-man said, “Angus, this gift of yours is a big thing. I think you should come to Washington with me. This thing is entirely too big for a mere engineer from Glasgow.”
“Happen ‘tis entirely too beeg for a hobberdasher frae Independence, Missouri, too,” said Angus dourly. Do I have to gae?”
“No, not with me. But I’ll have to report this to headquarters, and then there’ll be dozens of big shots down here to investigate you - T-men and G-men, and Army men and Navy men and probably congressmen, too—” ‘That’s enow,” barked Angus. “I’ll no be havin’ congressmen investeegatin’ me. They’d hae me named a red Communist in nae time at a’. I’ll gae wi’ ye.”
Standifer thanked him, and so it was that evening saw Angus, clad in his best tweeds and with a suitcase in his hand at the railroad station with George Standifer. The train arrived and Angus got on it, followed by the Secret Service man. The townsmen who hung around the station speculated futilely as to where he was going and why, but there is nothing strange in the fact that they were unable to guess anywhere near the truth.
Today, you would search in vain in that town for Angus MacAuliffe. He left and he never returned. The rumors have grown, of course, and it is generally believed that the pockets of gold which were found in Angus’ yard have something to do with his disappearance. Occasionally, some one hears of an Angus MacAuliffe in some other town, but it always turns out to be someone else.
And, indeed, there’s small wonder in that, for Angus MacAuliffe is no longer known by that name at all. To the very important personages who know the top secret of his existence, he is known as Operation Midas.
And his address is Fort Knox, Kentucky.