the man who felt sad
back to hardware store fiction.
Appeared originally in the Detroit Free Press, and reprinted in Phineas Garrett, comp., The Speaker’s Garland and Literary Bouquet... (1905). Earliest newspaper appearance that can be found via America’s Historical Newspapers is The Macon Weekly Telegraph, April 6, 1875, which takes it from the Detroit Free Press.
He entered the hardware store on Woodward avenue about 10 o'clock Saturday morning, and taking a seat by the stove, he beckoned to the proprietor and said:
"Sit down here—I want to speak with you."
He was a man who looked sad from the crown of his hat to the toes of his boots. There were deep care lines on his face, his eyes were red and anxious looking, and his tattered overcoat was drawn in at the waist by a wide leather belt.
"Can we do anything for you to-day?" asked the merchant as he sat down.
The sad man slowly wiped his nose, slowly turned around, and slowly replied;
"Sir, it makes me feel sad when I reflect that we have all got to die!"
"Yes—um," replied the merchant.
"Christopher Columbus is dead!" continued the sad man, "and who feels bad about it—who sheds a tear over his loss? He is gone, and we shall never see him more! You and I must sooner or later follow him, and the world will go on just the same."
"Then you don't want anything to-day ?" queried the merchant after a painful pause.
"—nd King James is dead!" exclaimed the sad man, wiping his nose again. "Is anybody weeping over his loss? Don't folks laugh and laugh, and don't the world go on just the same? Sir, it may not be a week before you and I will be called upon to rest from the labors of this life. Doesn't it make you feel sad when you think of it?"
"Of course, we've got to die," replied the merchant as he tossed a stray nail over among the eightpennys.
"Andrew Jackson is dead," continued the sad man, a tear falling on his hand. "Yes, Andrew has been gathered, and a good man has gone from among us. Were you acquainted with him?"
"I believe not," was the answer.
"Well, he was a fine man, and many a night I have laid awake and cried to think that he would be seen among us no more forever. Yet do you hear any wailing and sobbing? Does anybody seem to care a cent whether Andrew Jackson is dead or living? You or I may be the next to go, and the world will move on just the same as if we had never lived."
"The world can't, of course, stop for the death of one man, no matter how great," said the merchant.
"That's what makes me sad—that's why I weep these tears! " answered the man, wringing his long, peaked nose with vigorous grief. "William Penn is also dead. Once in a great while I hear some one express sorrow, but as a general thing the world has forgotten William with the rest. Don't it make you feel sad when you reflect that you will never see him again? Don't it make you feel like crying when you think he has gone from among us?"
"I never have time to think of these things," answered the merchant, fondling the coal stove shaker.
"And Shakspeare's gone, too!" exclaimed the man, his chin quivering with agitation," we may sigh, and sigh, and wish, and wish, but poor Shaky will never be seen moving with us again! They have laid him away to sleep his long sleep, and a bright lamp has been extinguished forever."
"Well, did you want anything in the line of hardware?" asked the merchant as he rose up.
"Can you speak of hardware to me at such a time as this?" exclaimed the sad man. "Knowing my sad feelings, seeing these tears, and listening to my broken voice, can you have the heart to try and force hardware upon me?"
The merchant went over to his desk and the sad man wrung his nose again and went out.
— Detroit Free Press.