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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe House Of Martha - Chapter 5. Chester Walkirk
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The House Of Martha - Chapter 5. Chester Walkirk Post by :Joe_Coon Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :2510

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The House Of Martha - Chapter 5. Chester Walkirk


It is not my custom to be discouraged by a first failure. I looked over the letters which had been sent to me in answer to my advertisement, and wrote to another of the applicants, who very promptly came to see me.

The appearance of this man somewhat discouraged me. My first thought concerning him was that a man who seemed to be so thoroughly alive was not likely to prove a good listener. But after I had had a talk with him I determined to give him a trial. Of one thing I was satisfied: he would keep awake. He was a man of cheerful aspect; alert in motion, glance, and speech. His age was about forty; he was of medium size, a little inclined to be stout, and his face, upon which he wore no hair, was somewhat ruddy. In dress he was neat and proper, and he had an air of friendly deference, which seemed to me to suit the position I wished him to fill.

He spoke of himself and his qualifications with tact, if not with modesty, and rated very highly his ability to serve me as a listener; but he did so in a manner intended to convince me that he was not boasting, but stating facts which it was necessary I should know. His experience had been varied: he had acted as a tutor, a traveling companion, a confidential clerk, a collector of information for technical writers, and in other capacities requiring facility of adaptation to exigencies. At present he was engaged in making a catalogue for a collector of prints, whose treasures, in the course of years, had increased to such an extent that it was impossible for him to remember what his long rows of portfolios contained. The collector was not willing that work among his engravings should be done by artificial light, and, as the evenings of my visitor were therefore disengaged, he said he should be glad to occupy them in a manner which would not only be profitable to him, but, he was quite sure, would be very interesting.

The man's name was Chester Walkirk, and I engaged him to come to me every evening, as my first listener had done.

I began my discourses with Walkirk with much less confidence and pleasurable anticipation than I had felt with regard to the quiet, unassuming elderly person who had been my first listener, and whom I had supposed to be a very model of receptivity. The new man I feared would demand more,--if not by word, at least by manner. He would be more like an audience; I should find myself striving to please him, and I could not feel careless whether he liked what I said or not.

But by the middle of the first evening all my fears and doubts in regard to Walkirk had disappeared. He proved to be an exceptionally good listener. As I spoke, he heard me with attention and evident interest; and this he showed by occasional remarks, which he took care should never be interruptions. These interpolations were managed with much tact; sometimes they were in the form of questions, which reminded me of something I had intended to say, but had omitted, which led me to speak further upon the subject, perhaps on some other phase of it. Now and then, by the expression on his countenance, or by a word or two, he showed interest, gratification, astonishment, or some other appropriate sentiment.

When I stopped speaking, he would sit quietly and muse upon what I had been saying; or, if he thought me not too deeply absorbed in reflection, would ask a question, or say something relative to the subject in hand, which would give me the opportunity of making some remarks which it gratified me to know that he wanted to hear.

I could not help feeling that I talked better to Walkirk than I had ever done to any one else; and I did not hesitate to admit to myself that this gratifying result was due in great part to his ability as a listener. I do not say that he drew me out, but he gave me opportunities to show myself in the broadest and best lights. This truly might be said to be good listening; it produced good speech.

Day after day I became better and better satisfied with Chester Walkirk, and it is seldom that I have enjoyed myself more than in talking to him. I am sure that it gave me more actual pleasure to tell him what I had seen and what I had done than I had felt in seeing and doing those things. This may appear odd, but it is a fact. I readily revived in myself the emotions that accompanied my experiences, and to these recalled emotions was added the sympathetic interest of another.

In other ways Walkirk won my favor. He was good-natured and intelligent, and showed that he was anxious to please me not only as a listener, but as a companion, or, I might better say, as an associate inmate of my study. What he did not know in this respect he set himself diligently to learn.

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