by Bill Nye

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Public Domain Books

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<h2>A Thrilling Experience</h2><p style=

I had a very thrilling experience the other evening. I had just filled an engagement in a strange city, and retired to my cozy room at the hotel.

The thunders of applause had died away, and the opera house had been locked up to await the arrival of an Uncle Tom’s Cabin Company. The last loiterer had returned to his home, and the lights in the palace of the pork packer were extinguished.

No sound was heard, save the low, tremulous swash of the sleet outside, or the death-rattle in the throat of the bath-tub. Then all was still as the bosom of a fried chicken when the spirit has departed.

The swallow-tail coat hung limp and weary in the wardrobe, and the gross receipts of the evening were under my pillow. I needed sleep, for I was worn out with travel and anxiety, but the fear of being robbed kept me from repose. I know how desperate a man becomes when he yearns for another’s gold. I know how cupidity drives a wicked man to mangle his victim, that he may win precarious prosperity, and how he will often take a short cut to wealth by means of murder, when, if he would enter politics, he might accomplish his purpose as surely and much more safely.

Anon, however, tired nature succumbed. I know I had succumbed, for the bell-boy afterward testified that he heard me do so.

The gentle warmth of the steam-heated room, and the comforting assurance of duty well done and the approval of friends, at last lulled me into a gentle repose.

Anyone who might have looked upon me, as I lay there in that innocent slumber, with the winsome mouth slightly ajar and the playful limbs cast wildly about, while a merry smile now and then flitted across the regular features, would have said that no heart could be so hard as to harbor ill for one so guileless and so simple.

I do not know what it was that caused me to wake. Some slight sound or other, no doubt, broke my slumber, and I opened my eyes wildly. The room was in semi-darkness.


A slight movement in the corner, and the low, regular breathing of a human being! I was now wide awake. Possibly I could have opened my eyes wider, but not without spilling them out of their sockets.

Regularly came that soft, low breathing. Each time it seemed like a sigh of relief, but it did not relieve me. Evidently it was not done for that purpose. It sounded like a sigh of blessed relief, such as a woman might heave after she has returned from church and transferred herself from the embrace of her new Russia iron, black silk dress into a friendly wrapper.

Regularly, like the rise and fall of a wave on the summer sea, it rose and fell, while my pale lambrequin of hair rose and fell fitfully with it.

I know that people who read this will laugh at it, but there was nothing to laugh at. At first I feared that the sigh might be that of a woman who had entered the room through a transom in order to see me, as I lay wrapt in slumber, and then carry the picture away to gladden her whole life.

But no. That was hardly possible. It was cupidity that had driven some cruel villain to enter my apartments and to crouch in the gloom till the proper moment should come in which to spring upon me, throttle me, crowd a hotel pillow into each lung, and, while I did the Desdemona act, rob me of my hard-earned wealth.

Regularly still rose the soft breathing, as though the robber might be trying to suppress it. I reached gently under the pillow, and securing the money I put it in the pocket of my robe de nuit. Then, with great care, I pulled out a copy of Smith & Wesson’s great work on “How to Ventilate the Human Form.” I said to myself that I would sell my life as dearly as possible, so that whoever bought it would always regret the trade.

Then I opened the volume at the first chapter and addressed a thirty- eight calibre remark in the direction of the breath in the corner.

When the echoes had died away a sigh of relief welled up from the dark corner. Also another sigh of relief later on.

I then decided to light the gas and fight it out. You have no doubt seen a man scratch a match on the leg of his pantaloons. Perhaps you have also seen an absent-minded man undertake to do so, forgetting that his pantaloons were hanging on a chair at the other end of the room.

However, I lit the gas with my left hand and kept my revolver pointed toward the dark corner where the breath was still rising and falling.

People who had heard my lecture came rushing in, hoping to find that I had suicided, but they found that, instead of humoring the public in that way, I had shot the valve off the steam radiator.

It is humiliating to write the foregoing myself, but I would rather do so than have the affair garbled by careless hands.


Preface  •  Directions  •  My School Days  •  Recollections of Noah Webster  •  To Her Majesty  •  Habits of a Literary Man  •  A Father’s Letter  •  Archimedes  •  Anatomy  •  Mr. Sweeney’s Cat  •  The Heyday of Life  •  They Fell  •  Second Letter to the President  •  Milling in Pompeii  •  Broncho Sam  •  How Evolution Evolves  •  Hours With Great Men  •  Concerning Coroners  •  Down East Rum  •  Railway Etiquette  •  B. Franklin, Deceased  •  Life Insurance as a Health Restorer  •  The Opium Habit  •  More Paternal Correspondence  •  Twombley’s Tale  •  On Cyclones  •  The Arabian Language  •  Verona  •  A Great Upheaval  •  The Weeping Woman  •  The Crops  •  Literary Freaks  •  A Father’s Advice to His Son  •  Eccentricity in Lunch  •  Insomnia in Domestic Animals  •  Along Lake Superior  •  I Tried Milling  •  Our Forefathers  •  Preventing a Scandal  •  About Portraits  •  The Old South  •  Knights of the Pen  •  The Wild Cow  •  Spinal Meningitis  •  Skimming the Milky Way  •  A Thrilling Experience  •  Catching a Buffalo  •  John Adams  •  Bunker Hill  •  A Lumber Camp  •  My Lecture Abroad  •  The Miner at Home  •  An Operatic Entertainment  •  Dogs and Dog Days  •  Christopher Columbus  •  Accepting the Laramie Postoffice  •  A Journalistic Tenderfoot  •  The Amateur Carpenter  •  The Average Hen  •  Woodtick William’s Story  •  In Washington  •  My Experience as an Agriculturist  •  A New Autograph Album  •  A Resign  •  My Mine  •  Mush and Melody  •  The Blase Young Man  •  History of Babylon  •  Lovely Horrors  •  The Bite of a Mad Dog  •  Arnold Winkelreid  •  Murray and the Mormons  •  About Geology  •  A Wallula Night  •  Flying Machines  •  Asking for a Pass  •  Words About Washington  •  The Board of Trade  •  Stirring Incidents at a Fire  •  The Little Barefoot Boy  •  Favored a Higher Fine  •  Man Overbored  •  Picnic Incidents  •  Nero  •  Squaw Jim  •  Squaw Jim’s Religion  •  One Kind of Fool  •  John Adams’ Diary  •  The Approaching Humorist  •  What We Eat  •  Care of House Plants  •  A Peaceable Man

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By Bill Nye
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