Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, July 13, 2021


 "Insects I Have Met" by William Henry Bishop (from his collection Anti-Babel and Other Such Doings, 1919; any previous publication unknown)

The narrator of this tale has known  lot of insects in his lifetime:  the wasp, the mosquito, the midge, the black fly, the housefly, the katy-did the lightening bug, the water bug, the ant, the cstapillar, the cricket-on-the-heath, the hornet, and the dragonfly (which he avoided as boy because, as we all know, it would sew up ypur ears if you gave him a chance).  The insects that would "exert the profoundist influence on my chrcter and destiny forever more" were a samll group in dried and specimen from.  This is the story:

Anson Bushwick, 27, the secretary of an impirtant manufacturing comapny in Rhode Island, has arrived at the only hotel in Squamquit, a small Massachusetts seaside town, for a needed rest after being ill with a "nervous fever."  There are few residents at the hotel and it turns out that Bushwick is the only male guest staying there.  While settling inton his room, he notices "attached to the door, a large card of bugs, apparently of the grasshopper order, neatly labeled."  He takes the card down to inspect it and there is a kknock on the door.  It is a young lady with an older woman.  The girl is Dorothea Hanford, the previous occupant of the room, which she had taken briefly while her aunt's house -- where she was now staying -- was put in order.  She had left the card of insects there to be taken on her last trip moving her things to her aunt's.  Bushwick handed the card and she looked at it, saying, "I will thank you for the Acrydium Americanum, if you please."  For there in the center of the card, in the place of honor, so to speak, was an empty spot.  The insect must have jarred loose when Bushwick too the card from the door.  Bushwick immediately dropped to the floor to search for it, and soon there was a crunch!  Bushwick picked up the mangled body and threw it out  the window.  With a sob, Dorothea left the room.

Dorothea was a woman of passionate interests, which at the time included entomology, which she was studying under a Professor Gregg, who would come up twice a week from New Bedford to direct her studies.  Dorothea had recently graduated from college and was hoping for an offer of post-graduate work.  She was at Squamquit because this small town was the hotbed of Acrydium Americanum, which was quite rare elsewhere.  What Bushwick would gather from two of the other guests at the hotel, Taylor and Smith, two younger girls who owned a single camera between them and photographed Dorothea's collection for her, was that Dorothea had blown through many passionate interests, from fine arts to music to  library work to nursing to raising mushrooms for profit, and now to entomology.  For how long she would be passionate about entomology was uncertain, according to Taylor and Smith.  Bushwick felt better about stepping on the Acrydium Americanum then; Dorothea would soon move on to another interest, he was sure.

As the days rolled by and as he watched Dorothea go after insects with both net and vigor, Bushwick realized that Dorothea's passion for her insects was real and he began to feel guilty.  Bushwick decides that he must do something to make up for his accidental error of destrying Dorothea's prize specimen; he must try to capture an Acrydiuum Americanum himself and present it to her.  So off he goes and purchases a net and soon he is catching all manner of bugs, just not the prized grasshopper.  Some of the insects he captures, though, are also rare and pleaase Dororthea.  She warms to him and regrets her being cold to Bushwick so unfairly.  For his part, Bushwick begins to appreciate Dorothea's intellect -- such a lot of knowledge in such a small head, a head topped with luxerious red hair.  He also notices while she is swimming that she is what the French call a fausse maigre, that is, "one who appears to be thin but is really delectably plump."

According toTaylor and Smith, Dorothea is entranced by her mentor, Professor Gregg.  she follows him lovingly and listens to his every word.  It' difficult to say how this could be because Gregg is an unattractive and unplesant man.  For his part, Gregg appears to want to marry Dorothea.  In order to save Dorothea from such a possible fate, Bushwwick vows to pursue her himself.

One day, while walking with Dorothea and Taylor and Smith, the younger girls suggest they go in two different way to see who would reach their destination first.  Bushwick and Dorothea head off in one direction, eventually coming across a large grouping of brambles.  One branch poked itself under Dorothea's hat and got tangled in her hair so much that she could not release it.  Bushwick then slowly -- very slowly and lovingly -- attempted to untangle the hair from the branch, with Dorothea's face turned up to him.  Impulsively, he kisses her.  On the lips!  Immediately he apologizes for commiting such an affront.  Dorothea, however, did not seem to mind.

Later, Taylor and Smith overhear Dorothea telling Gregg that she would not do it.  Later, maybe, but not now.  Give her time.  (The reader goes, "Hmm.")

One day, while out withhisnet, Bushwick spies an Acrydium Americanum, the first live one he has seen.  (Although Squamquit is the breeding ground for the species, it has been a rather bad year for them.)  Bushwick goes in pirsuit of the wily insect, who leads him on a merry chase through swampy waters and brambles and then to a field belonging to a disagreeable farmer named Groffin.  And in Groffin's field was a bull.  Bushwick convinces himself that the bull would not harm him and enters the field.  The Acrydium Americanum, meanwhile, has taken refuge at the top of a tree in the field.  Biushwick decides to wait it out.  And wait,  and wait.  Eventually he decides to climb the tree to go after the elusive grasshopper.  Swinging his net wildly, he loses his footing and crashed to the ground.  Bushwick awakens a few minutes later, but whre is the grasshopper?  There it is -- it has landed between the horns of the bull.  Bushwick swings the net.  It gets caught in the bull's horns.  The bull is startled and angry and begins to toss his head.  Bushwick is knock to the ground once again.

 As he recovers at the hotel, Dorothea comes up with his net and thanks him.  It seems that the bull had charged out of the field, still wearing the net on his head, and traveled a long distance before he stopped on the highroad.  Bushnell's net had been dislodged a short distance from Dorothea's home, and it had been brought to her.  In the net was the Acrydium Americanum, totally unharmed -- a far better specimen than the one Bushwick had stepped on during his first meeting with Dorothea.

Bushwick feels his obligation to Dorothea has been paid and he (the fool!) tries to distance himself from her, but he can't.  The two eventually become engaged but before they are to be wed, Dorothea goes on to graduate studies, as well as degrees in in industrial manual training and landscape gradening.  Bushwick, meanwhile, has also gotten engaged to mabel Taylor (of Taylor and Smith).  Dorothea is currentlyin Europe and, having completed her study of monarchical governments and of the architecture of Northern Italy. will soon be headed home.  Now that she seems to have exhausted all distracting pursuits and has continued to say nice things about Bushwick in her letters, she may even marry Bushwick.  Perhaps in a year.

William Henry Bishop (1847-1928)  was an American novelist, short story, and travel writer, born in Hartford, Connecticut.  There is some confusion about him online.  He is evidently not the William Henry Bishop who published the Utopia The Garden of Eden, USA:  A Very Possible Story in 1895.  He may or may not have been (I suspect not) the William Henry Bishop who was an American consul, photographed in Italy holding the skull of James Smithson, with Alexander Graham Bell and others.

Anti-Babel and Other Such Doings can be read online.


  1. This reminds me of the 1971 film THE HELLSTROM CHRONICLES:
    As always, you come with with unique stories for Patti's WEDNESDAY'S SHORT STORIES! Nice review!

  2. Unique indeed. On the city block I lived on in Philly, a boy name Arthur was never seen without a net in his hand. He was mostly after butterflies but I am sure the stray grasshopper found its way to his home. I hope he spent the rest of his life in a place more conducive to the study of insects than our concrete location.