DROOP’S THEORY IN PRACTICE
All were up betimes when the faithful
clock announced that it ought to be morning.
As for the sun, as though resenting the liberties about
to be taken by these adventurers with its normal functions,
it refused to set, and was found by the three travellers
at the same altitude as the night before.
Promptly after breakfast Droop proceeded
to don a suit of furs which he drew from a cupboard
within the engine-room.
“Ye’d better hev suthin’
hot ready when I come in again,” he said.
“I ’xpect I’ll be nigh froze to
He drew on a huge cap of bear’s
fur which extended from his crown to his shoulders.
There was a small hole in front which exposed only
his nose and eyes.
“My, but you do look just like
a pictur of Kris Kringle!” laughed Phoebe.
“Don’t he, Rebecca?”
Rebecca came to the kitchen door wiping
a dish with slow circular movements of her towel.
“I don’t guess you’ll
freeze very much with all that on,” she remarked.
“Thet shows you don’t
know what seventy or eighty below zero means,”
said a muffled voice from within the fur cap.
“You’ll hev suthin’ hot, won’t
ye?” Droop continued, looking appealingly at
“The’ll be a pot o’
good hot tea,” she said. “That’ll
warm you all right.”
Droop thought of something more stimulating
and fragrant, but said nothing as he returned to the
cupboard. Here he drew forth an apparently endless
piece of stout rope. This he wound in a thick
coil and hung over his head.
“Now, then,” he said,
“when I get down you shet the door at the top
of the stairs tight, coz jest’s soon’s
I open the outside door, thet hall’s goin’
to freeze up solid.”
“All right!” said Phoebe. “I’ll
see to it.”
Droop descended the stairs with a
heavy tread, and as he reached the foot Phoebe closed
the upper door, which she now noticed was provided
Then the two women stood at the windows
on the right-hand side of the vessel and watched Droop
as he walked toward the pole. He raised the huge
iron ring, snapping over it a special coupling hook
fixed to the end of the rope.
Then he backed toward the vessel,
unrolling the coil of rope as he moved away from the
pole. Evidently they were within the forty-foot
limit from the pole, for Droop had some rope to spare
when he at length reached under the machine to attach
the end to a ring which the sisters could not see.
He emerged from beneath the bulging
side of the vessel swinging his arms and blowing a
mighty volume of steam, which turned to snow as it
left him. As he made directly for the entrance
again, Phoebe ran to the kitchen.
“Poor man, he’ll be perished!” she
As Droop entered the room, bringing
with him a bitter atmosphere, Phoebe appeared with
a large cup of hot tea.
“Here, Mr. Droop,” she said, “drink
Copernicus pulled off his cap and
sat down to drink his tea without a word. When
he had finished it, he pulled back his chair with a
“Whillikins! But ‘twas
cold!” he exclaimed. “Seems mos’
like heaven to get into a nice warm room like this!”
“An’ did ye get every thin’ done
right?” Rebecca asked.
“I guess I did,” he said,
emphatically. “I don’t want to take
no two bites out o’ that kind o’ cherry.”
He rose and proceeded to remove his fur coverings.
“Goin’ to start right now?” said
“Might’s well, I guess.”
He proceeded to the engine-room, followed
by Phoebe, who watched his actions with the greatest
“What you doin’ with that handle?”
“That sets the airyplane on
the uptilt. I’m only settin’ it a
mite jest ‘nough to keep the machine
from sinkin’ down when we get to movin’.”
“How are you goin’ to lift us up?”
“Just let out a mite o’
gas below,” said Droop. He suited the action
to the word, and, with a tremendous hissing beneath
it, the vessel rose slowly.
Droop pulled the starting lever and
they moved forward with increasing speed. When
they had gathered way, he shut off the gas escape and
carefully readjusted the aeroplanes until the machine
as a whole moved horizontally.
There was felt a slight jerk as they
reached the end of the rope, and then they began to
move in a circle from east to west.
Phoebe glanced at the clock.
“Just five minutes past eight,” she said.
The sun was pouring its beams into
the right-hand windows when they started, but the
shafts of light now began to sweep circularly across
the floor, and in a few moments, as they faced the
sun, it ceased to shine in from the right. Immediately
afterward it shone in at the left-hand windows and
circled slowly around until again they were in shadow
with the sun behind them.
Droop took out his watch and timed
their revolutions by the sun’s progress from
window to window.
“’Bout one to the minute,”
he remarked. “Guess I’ll speed her
up a mite.”
Carefully he regulated the speed,
timing their revolutions accurately.
“There!” he said at length.
“I guess that’s pretty nigh two to the
minute. D’ye feel any side weight?”
he said, addressing his companions.
“No,” said Rebecca.
Phoebe shook her head.
“You manage right well, Mr.
Droop,” she said. “You must have practised
a good deal.”
“Oh, not much,” he replied,
greatly pleased. “The future man showed
me how to work it three four times.
It’s simple ’nough when ye understand
These remarks brought a new idea to Rebecca’s
“Why, Mr. Droop,” she
exclaimed, “whatever’s the use o’
you goin’ back to 1876! Why don’t
ye jest set up as the inventor o’ this machine?
I’m sure thet ought to make yer everlastin’
“Oh, I thought o’ that,”
he said. “But it’s one thing to know
how to work a thing an’ it’s a sight different
to know how it’s made an’ all that.
The future man tried to explain all the new scientific
principles that was mixed into it fer
makin’ power an’ all but I couldn’t
understand that part at all.”
“An’ besides,” exclaimed
Phoebe, “it’s a heap more fun to be the
only ones can use the thing, I think.”
“Yes seems like fun’s
all we’re thinkin’ of,” said Rebecca,
rising and moving toward the kitchen. “We’re
jest settin’ round doin’ nothin’.
I’ll finish with the breakfast things if you’ll
put to rights and dust, Phoebe. We can’t
make beds till night with the windows tight shut.”
These suggestions were followed by
the two women, while Droop, picking up the newspaper
which Rebecca had brought, sat down to read.
After a long term of quiet reading,
his attention was distracted by Rebecca’s voice.
“I declare to goodness, Phoebe!”
she was saying. “Seems’s if every
chance you get, you go to readin’ those old letters.”
“Well, the’s one or two
that’s spelled so funny and written so badly
that I haven’t been able yet to read them,”
Droop looked over his paper.
Phoebe and her sister were seated near one of the
windows on the opposite side.
“P’raps I could help ye,
Cousin Phoebe,” he said. “I’ve
got mighty strong eyesight.”
“Oh, ’tain’t a question
of eyesight,” Phoebe replied, laughing.
“Oh, I see,” said Droop,
smiling slyly, “letters from some young feller,
He winked knowingly at Rebecca, who
drew herself up indignantly and looked severely down
at her knitting.
Phoebe blushed, but replied quite calmly:
“Yes some of them
from a young man, but they weren’t any of them
written to me.”
“No?” said Droop. “Who was
they to ’f I may ask?”
“They were all written to this lady.”
Phoebe held something out for Droop’s
inspection, and he walked over to take it.
He recognized at once the miniature
on ivory which he had seen once before in Peltonville.
“Well,” he said, taking
the portrait from her and eying it with his head on
one side, “if ye hadn’t said ’twasn’t
you, I’d certainly a-thought ‘twas.
I’d mos’ sworn ’twas your photygraph,
Cousin Phoebe. Who is it, anyway?”
“It isn’t anybody,”
she replied, “but it was Mistress Mary
Burton of Burton Hall. I’m one of her descendants,
an’ these are some letters she had with her
in this funny old carved box when she disappeared with
her lover. They fled to Holland and were married
there, the story goes, an’ one o’ their
children came over in the early days o’ New England.
He brought the letters an’ the picture with
“Well, now! I want to know!”
exclaimed Droop, in great admiration. “‘Twouldn’t
be perlite, I s’pose, to ask to hear some o’
“Would you like to hear some of them?”
“I would fer a fact,” he replied.
“Well, bring your chair over here and I’ll
read you one,” she said.
Droop seated himself near the two
sisters and Phoebe unfolded a large and rather rough
sheet of paper, yellow with age, on which Droop perceived
a bold scrawl in a faded ink.
“This seems to have been from
Mary Burton’s father,” Phoebe said.
“I don’t think he can have been a very
nice man. This is what he says:
“’Dear Poll’ horrid nickname,
“Seems so to me,” said Droop.
“’Dear Poll I’m
starting behind the grays for London, on my way, as
you know ere this, to be knighted by her Majesty.
I send this ahead by Gregory on Bess she
being fast enow for my purpose which is
to get thee straight out of the grip of that’ ”
“He uses a bad word there,”
she said, in a low tone. “I’ll go
on and leave that out.”
“Yes, do,” said Droop.
aunt of thine,’” she continued, reading.
“’I know her tricks and I learn how she
hath suffered that’ ”
“There’s another,” said Phoebe.
“Skip it,” said Droop, gravely.
milk-and-water popinjay to come courting my Poll.
So see you follow Gregory, mistress, and without wait
or parley come with him to the Peacock Inn, where
I lie to-night. The grays are in fine fettle and
thy black mare grows too fat for want of exercise.
Thy mother-in-law commands thy instant return with
Gregory, having much business forward with preparing
gowns and fallals against our presentation to her
“It is signed ‘Isaac Burton,’”
said Phoebe, “and see, the paper was sealed
with a steel gauntlet.”
Droop examined the seal carefully
and then returned it, saying:
“Looks to me like a bunch of
’sparagus tumbled over on one side.”
“But what always interests me
most in this letter is the postscript,” she
said. “It reads: ’Thy mother
thinks thou wilt make better speed if I make thee
to know that the players thou wottest of’ ”
“What’s a ’wottest’?”
said Droop, in puzzled tones.
“Wottest means knowest haven’t
you read Shakespeare?”
“No,” said Droop.
“’The players thou wottest
of are to stop at the Peacock, and will be giving
some sport there.’
“Now, those players always interest
me,” Phoebe continued. “Somehow I
can’t help but believe that William Shakespeare ”
“Fiddle ends!” Rebecca
interrupted. “I’ve heard that talk
fifty-leven times an’ I’m pinin’
fer relief. Mr. Droop, would you mind
tellin’ us what the time o’ year is now.
Seems to me that sun has whirled in an’ out
o’ that window ‘nough times to bring us
back to the days o’ creation.”
Droop consulted the date indicator
and announced that it was now September 5, 1897.
“Not a year yet!” cried the two women
“Why, no,” said Copernicus.
“Ye see, we are takin’ about three hours
to lose a year.”
“Fer the lands sakes!”
cried Rebecca. “Can’t we go a little
“My gracious, yes!” said
Droop. “But I’m ‘fraid o’
the side weight fer ye.”
“I’d rather hev side weight
than wait forever,” said Rebecca, with a grim
“D’ye think ye could stand
a little more speed, Cousin Phoebe?” said Droop.
“We might try,” she replied.
“Well, let’s try, then,”
he said, and turned promptly to the engine-room.
Very soon the difference in speed
was felt, and as they found themselves travelling
more rapidly in a circle, the centrifugal force now
became distinctly perceptible.
The two women found themselves obliged
to lean somewhat toward the central pole to counteract
this tendency, and as Copernicus emerged from the
engine-room he came toward the others at a decided
angle to the floor.
“There! now ye feel the side weight,”
“My, ain’t it funny!”
exclaimed Rebecca. “Thet’s the way
I’ve felt afore now when the cars was goin’
round a curve kinder topplin’ like.”
“Why, that is the centrifugal
force,” Phoebe said, with dignity.
“It’s the side weight that’s
what I call it,” Droop replied, obstinately,
and for some time there was silence.
“How many years back are we
makin’ by the hour now, Mr. Droop?” Rebecca
asked at length.
“Jest a little over two hours
fer a year now,” he replied.
“Well,” said Rebecca,
in a discontented tone, “I think the old Panchronicle
is rayther a slow actin’ concern, considerin’
th’ amount o’ side weight it makes.
I declare I’m mos’ tired out leanin’
over to one side, like old man Titus’s paralytic
Phoebe laughed and Droop replied:
“If ye can’t stand it
or set it, why lay, Cousin Rebecca. The’s
good settles all ’round.”
With manifestly injured feelings Droop
hunted up a book and sat down to read in silence.
The Panchronicon was his pet and he did not relish
its being thus contemned.
The remainder of the morning was spent
in almost completely silent work or reading.
Droop scarce took his eyes from his book. Phoebe
spent part of the time deep in the Baconian work and
part of the time contemplating the monotonous landscape.
Rebecca was dreaming of her future past or
her past future, while her knitting grew steadily upon
The midday meal was duly prepared
and disposed of, and, as the afternoon wore away,
the three travellers began to examine the date indicator
and to ask themselves surreptitiously whether or not
they actually felt any younger. They took sly
peeps at each other’s faces to observe, if possible,
any signs of returning youth.
By supper-time there was certainly
a less aged air about each of the three and the elders
inwardly congratulated themselves upon the unmistakable
effects of another twelve hours.
Not long after the supper dishes had
been washed, Rebecca took Phoebe aside and said:
“Phoebe, it seems to me you’d
ought to be goin’ to bed right soon, now.
You’re only ‘bout eighteen years old at
present, an’ you’ll certainly begin to
grow smaller again very soon. It wouldn’t
hardly be respectable fer ye to do yer shrinkin’
This view of the probabilities had not yet struck
“Why, no!” she exclaimed,
rather startled. “I I don’t
know’s I thought about it. But I certainly
don’t want Mr. Droop to see me when my clothes
begin to hang loose.”
Then a new problem presented itself.
“Come to think of it, Rebecca,”
she said, dolefully, “what’ll I do all
the time between full-grown and baby size? I didn’t
bring anything but the littlest clothes, you know.”
“Thet’s so,” said
Rebecca, thoughtfully. Then, after a pause:
“I don’t see but ye’ll hev to stay
abed, Phoebe, till we get to th’ end,”
she said, sympathetically.
“There it is,” said Phoebe,
crossly. “Gettin’ sent to bed a’ready even
before I expected it.”
“But ’tain’t that,
Phoebe,” said Rebecca, with great concern.
“I ain’t sendin’ ye to bed but but whatever
else can ye do with a man in the house!”
“Nothin’,” Phoebe replied, with
a toss of her chin.
She crossed the room and held out her hand to Droop.
“Good-night, Mr. Droop,” she said.
Surprised at this sudden demonstration
of friendship, he took her hand and tipped his head
to one side as he looked into her face.
“Next time you see me, I don’t
suppose you’ll know me, I’ll be so little,”
she said, trying to laugh.
“I I wish’t
you’d call me Cousin Copernicus,” he said,
“Well, p’raps I will when
I see ye again,” she replied, freeing her hand
with a slight effort.
Rebecca retired shortly after her
sister and Copernicus was once more left alone.
He rubbed his hands slowly, with a sense of satisfaction,
and glanced at the date dial.
“July 2, 1892,” he said
to himself. “I’m only thirty-four
years old. Don’t feel any older than that,
He walked deliberately to the shutters,
closed them and turned on the electric light.
Surrounded thus by the wonted conditions of night,
it was not long before he began to yawn. He removed
his coat and shoes and lay back in an easy chair to
meditate at ease. He faced toward the pole so
that the “side weight” would tend to press
him gently backward into his chair and therefore not
annoy him by calling for constant opposing effort.
He soon dozed off and was whisked
through a quick succession of fantastic dreams.
Then he awoke suddenly, and as though someone had
spoken to him. Listening intently, he only heard
the low murmur of the machinery below and the ticking
of the many clocks and indicators all about him.
He closed his eyes, intending to take
up that last dream where he had been interrupted.
He recollected that he had been on the very point of
some delightful consummation, but just what it was
he could not recall.
Sleep evaded him, however. His
mind reverted to the all-important question of the
recovered years. He began to plan again.
This time he should not make his former
mistakes. No he would not only make
immense wealth promptly with the great inventions,
he would give up liquor forever. It would be
so easy in 1876, for he had never taken up the unfortunate
habit until 1888.
Then rich, young, sober,
he would seek out a charming, rosy, good-natured girl something
of the type of Phoebe, for instance. They would
be married and
He got up at this and looked at the
clock. It was after midnight. He looked
at the date indicator. It said October 9, 1890.
“Well, come!” he thought.
“The old Panchronicon is a steady vessel.
She’s keepin’ right on.”
He put on his shoes again, for something
made him nervous and he wished to walk up and down.
The first thing he did after his shoes
were donned was to gaze at himself in the mirror.
“Don’t look any younger,”
he thought, “but I feel so.” He walked
across the room once or twice.
“Shucks!” he exclaimed.
“Couldn’t expect to look younger in these
old duds, an’ at this time o’ night, too tired
like I am.”
For some time he walked up and down,
keeping his eyes resolutely from the date indicator.
Finally he threw himself down in the chair again and
closed his eyes, nervous and exhausted. He did
not feel sleepy, but he must have dozed, for the next
time he looked at the clock it was half-past one.
He put out the light and crossed to
a settle. Here he lay at full length courting
sleep. When he awoke, he thought, refreshed and
alert, he would show his youth unmistakably.
But sleep would not return. He
tried every position, every trick for propitiating
Morpheus. All in vain.
At length he rose again and turned
on the light. It was two-fifteen. This time
he could not resist looking at the date indicator.
It said September 30, 1889.
Again he looked into the glass.
“My, but I’m nervous!”
he thought as he turned away, disappointed. “I
look older than ever!”
As he paced the floor there all alone,
he began to doubt for the first time the success of
“It must work right!”
he said aloud. “Didn’t I go back five
weeks with that future man? Didn’t he ”
A fearful thought struck him.
Had he perhaps made a mistake? Had they been
cutting meridians the wrong way?
But no; the indicator could not be
wrong, and that registered a constantly earlier date.
“Ah, I know!” he suddenly
exclaimed. “I’ll ask Cousin Phoebe.”
He reflected a moment. Yes the
idea was a good one. She would be only fifteen
years old by this time, and must certainly have changed
to an extent of which he was at his age incapable.
Besides, she had been asleep, and nervous insomnia
could not be responsible for retarding the evidences
of youth in her case. His agony of dread lest
this great experiment fail made him bold.
He walked directly to Phoebe’s
door and knocked first softly, then more
“Cousin Phoebe Cousin Phoebe,”
After a few calls and knockings, there came a sleepy
reply from within.
“Well what who is it?”
“It’s Cousin Copernicus,”
he said. “Please tell me. Hev ye shrunk
“What how?” The tones were
very sleepy indeed.
“Hev ye shrunk any yet?
Are ye growin’ littler in there? Oh, please
feel fer the footboard with yer toe!”
He waited and heard a rustling as of someone moving
“Did ye feel the footboard?” he asked.
“Yes kicked it good now
let me sleep.” She was ill-natured with
Poor Droop staggered away from the door as though
he had been struck.
All had failed, then. They were
circling uselessly. Those inventions would never
be his. The golden dreams he had been nursing oh,
impossible! It was unbearable!
He put both hands to his head and
walked across the room. He paused half-consciously
before a small closet partly hidden in the wall.
With an instinctive movement, he touched
a spring and the door slid back. He drew from
the cupboard thus revealed two bottles and a glass
and returned to seat himself at the table.
A half an hour later the Panchronicon,
circling in the outer brightness and silence, contained
three unconscious travellers, and one of them sat
with his arms flung across the table supporting his
head, and beside him an empty bottle.