ANGUS MacAULIFFE and
the GOWDEN TOOCH
By Charles R.
Angus received a legacy
from his warlock uncle, but it wasn’t what it
for it contained a Greek,
and what was worse, he was a Greek who came
It was a hot afternoon in August, and because Angus
MacAuliffe’s house faced east, he sat on the front porch
in the shade and smoked his pipe. Angus smoked
vigorously to keep the pipe lit, but in spite of his
puffing, the pipe persisted in going out, and before he
had finished the first pipe full, a dozen or more burnt
matches were scattered about the rocking chair in which
he sat. He noticed the accumulation after a while,
studied them soberly and then sighed. He got up, went
into the house and came back with his pipe refilled. He
lit the second pipe full, his eyes gazing up and down
the street as he did so.
This pipe problem was an old one with Angus. He usually
moistened his tobacco to keep it from burning too fast,
but his economical nature tempted him to moisten it so
much that the expense of the matches to keep it lit
became a new problem. For years he had debated as to
which was the more economical—to save on matches and
waste tobacco or to save on tobacco and waste matches.
It was a “sair problem” and Angus had not yet solved
His attention was attracted by the approach of the
mailman, Mr. Alexander Graham. Mr. Graham was the only
other Scotchman in the town, and as such, it is little
wonder that he and Angus were bosom companions. So Angus
watched his approach with interest and when Mr. Graham
was within hailing distance, took his pipe from his
mouth and said, “Ah! Sandy!” and put his pipe back
again. Mr. Graham said “Ah!” and continued his delivery
of the mail.
At last his course brought him Angus’ own porch.
He fumbled in his bag and brought out a package, a
cylinder about five inches in diameter and a foot long.
He read the address carefully and handed the package to
“‘Tis frae yer ooncle,” he said shortly and a
Angus frowned and scanned the return address. “The
auld warlock!” he muttered under his breath. What’s he
sendin’ me the noo?” “I ha’ no doobt he’s sendin’ ye
ooble!” Mr. Graham commented sagely. “Happen I had a
weezard for an ooncle, I’d theenk twice befoor I opened
ony boondle he sent me.”
Angus stared at the package with increasing
dubiety. “I theenk yer richt, Sandy,” he decided. “I’m a
God-fearin’ mon, and a streect member o’ the kirk, and
sic an ane should ha’ no traffeec wi’ weetches and
warlocks. Ye joost tak’ this package and sheep it back
to the auld boggle.”
Mr. Graham drew back, making no attempt to take
the package extended to him. “Nae, nae, Angus,” he
exclaimed. “I’ll no be handlin’ onytheeng belongin’ to
that ane. Mon, eef I’d ha’ known ‘twas frae heem, I’d
ne’er ha’ brocht it to ye in the fairst place.”
He turned his back on Angus and resolutely strode
down the walk to the sidewalk. Then, remembering
something, he turned and walked back.
“Ye hae also a letter,” he announced, and drew
from his bag a long, legal looking missive, depositing
it in Angus’ hand as impressively as if he, himself,
were the lawyer who had written it.
Angus scanned the envelope and said, “Hm-m.” He took a
puff or two from his pipe and Mr. Graham stood and
shifted from one foot to the other.
“‘Tis frae the same toon as the package,” Mr.
Graham hazarded after a moment.
“Aye,” said Angus.
“‘Tis frae yer ooncle, too, nae doobtt?”
“‘Tis frae a pack o’ lawyers.” Angus volunteered
the information generously, overlooking Mr. Graham’s
recent scathing denunciation of a member of his family.
“’Tis frae Goldberg, Silverstein, Shapiro and MacDonald,
attorneys, of the same toon me ooncle lives in.”
“Poor MacDonald,” sympathized Sandy. “Noo what
micht a pack o’ lawyers frae yer ooncle’s toon be
wantin’ wi’ you, Angus?”
“When I open the letter, happen I’ll find oot,”
answered Angus dryly. He put his pipe back in his
mouth and puffed slowly, enjoying the curiosity on his
friend’s face. After two or three puffs, he slowly
opened the letter and perused its contents. Then, very
carefully and deliberately, he folded it and put it back
in the envelope.
“Trooble?” queried Mr. Graham, a little anxiously.
“I canna say.” Angus puffed futilely at his pipe
and. tapped the envelope on the arm of his chair. “Ye
see, ma ooncle was buried, last Tuesday.”
“Dead?” asked Mr. Graham in amaze.
“I hope so,” answered Angus. “‘Twad ha’ been a
mean treek to plaji on heem if he wasna’. But ye ne’er
can tell aboot warlocks, ye ken. Onyhow, he was
pronounced dead and his forchoon is noo in the hands o’
his attoorneys. And the Jetter says that they’re sendin’
me a package wheech he left me in his weel, a package
wheech, they say he could only be left safely wi’ a
teetotaler like masel’. Noo what wad he mean by that, I
His eyes suddenly opened wide and he picked up the
package which, he had placed beside, him on the porch.
“Why, that’ll be this, Sandy,” he exclaimed.
“That’ll be this vurra package ye joost brocht me, the
“Aye!” ejaculated Mr. Graham. “The vurra same.
And what d’ye theenk’ll be in it, Angus?”
Angus made no answer. He picked up the package
and started to tear off the paper. Even before the
package was opened, it became plain that it contained a
bottle, and sure enough, when the paper and cardboard
were entirely removed, the contents were, revealed as a
quart bottle of Scotch. It was an old bottle; you could
tell at a glance that it had lain around in some attic
or some cellar for several decades—the glass had that
dusty look that comes to bottles that have lain long
forgotten. Mr. Graham stepped closer for a better look,
his fear of the warlock’s gift forgotten in the
interest aroused ‘by an old bottle of whisky.
“Cutty Sark!” he whispered. “Bottled in 1913! ‘Tis
a rare treat ye hae there, Angus.”
“And me a teetotaler!” snarled Angus. “The auld
divvle knew I ha’ no tooched a drap sin’ 1930. I, micht
ha’ known he’d never be sendin’ me owt I could use.”
He raised the bottle as if to hurl it against
the sidewalk, but Mr. Graham frantically seized his arm
and held it back.
“Noo, Angus, restrain yersel’, mon!” he cried.
“Can ye no use the potion, mind ye, there’s mony who,
can. If ye wish, I’ll joost relieve ye of this breath
o’ John Barleycorn, masel’. What d’ye say?”
Angus eyed Mr. Graham,
“Ye’d like to, would ye no?” he chuckled. “Aye,
ye’d like to, Sandy Graham, warlock’s geeft or no. But
I’ll no be puttin’ in yer way the temptation to get
droonk. ‘Twould be as great a sin as dreekin’ it masel’.
On yer way, Sandy, and I’ll be keepin’ this divvle’s
brew for medeecinal poorposes. That way, ‘twill no hurt
ony one, and happen ‘twill kill the coorse wheech I
doobt no ma ooncle has laid on it.
Mr. Graham looked indignant, but he said nothing—and after a moment, he shrugged his shoulders and
started down the walk again. Angus watched him awhile
and then, chuckling, arose and entered his cottage. He
placed the bottle of Cutty Sark on the table and went
about getting his supper.
Several times during the preparation of the meal,
Angus eyed the bottle on the table speculatively. For
twenty years Angus had been a teetotaler, as he had told
Mr. Graham, but he had resisted temptation by avoiding
it, and now it was staring him in the face.
Memories of the days of his youth – when he had
sailed the seven seas and went on rare benders, when
Cutty Sark and Duggan’s Dew, and even, when naught else
was available, Haig and Haig, had poured like water
down his throat — came back to tempt him. He smacked his
lips thirstily, and took a drink of water, but alas, it
wasn’t that kind of thirst that was assailing him, so at
last he sighed and put the bottle out of his sight in
the medicine chest.
Then he proceeded with his supper, but if anyone
had been present to observe him, they would have
noticed that his eyes turned ever so often to the chest,
as he ate his meal. And while he was washing the dishes
a decision was made. When finally the last dish was put
away, he went to the chest and took the bottle out.
He studied it for a long while, turning it over
and over, and reading the label. At last he broke the
seal. He had forgotten that these old imported bottles
had corks instead of caps, so he was forced to rise and
go in search of a corkscrew. All during the search, he
kept up a mumbled conversation with himself, attempting
to justify the deed he was about to commit.
‘Tis no as if I were aboot to get droonk,” he
insisted. “I’ll joost be takin’ a wee nip to ward off a
cold the nicht” He picked the bottle up and inserted the
corkscrew carefully. “A rare veentage like this same is
no for dreenkin’ like water. I’ll joost take mayhap ane
or twa sma’ swallows and then I’ll poot it awa’.”
He pulled at the cork and was rewarded by a loud
“pop” as it came out of the bottle. “No mair than three
sma’ glasses at the vurra most—” he began, and then he
dropped the bottle with a yelp of surprise and did a
backward leap that did credit to one of his years.
For smoke was coming out of the bottle, a thick,
white glutinous smoke—if you can imagine a smoke that is
glutinous. It was rising in the air and hanging there,
without any attempt at dissipating, and as more and more
of it poured from the bottle it gradually began to
gather into itself.
“I micht ha’ known,” muttered Angus in a whisper
that mingled awe and disgust. ‘Tis mair o’ that auld
warlock’s business, for sure. ‘Tis some boggle that he’s
sealed up in yon bottle, like the genie in the stoory.”
And indeed, as the smoke continued to pour from
the bottle, it began to be seen that Angus’ surmise was
correct. The top of the column of smoke gathered
together and became a head, a head with a cloud of curly
black hair and a very red nose. And presently a neck
formed and a chest, and arms and a waist—
The creature said “Oopsl” very distinctly and
suddenly dissolved into smoke and was sucked back into
the bottle, from which it immediately emerged again,
this time wearing a wreath of grape leaves about its
head and with its body covered with a decorous costume
not unlike that seen in pictures of the ancient Greeks.
The thing grew more and more solid and at last it
was—real. A man stood before Angus, a short, pot-bellied
man with a red nose and a blue chin, with heavy, black
eyebrows and curly, black hair, clad in a wreath of
grape leaves and a short chiton that failed miserably in
covering the hairy bowed legs that appeared beneath it.
The man gathered up the last trail of smoke that
emerged from the bottle and incorporated it into his
being. Then he grinned and waved jovially to Angus.
Moch obliched, keedo,” he said pleasantly. Moch
obliched for hopening op de bottle.”
Angus eyed him sourly and dubiously.
“That’s a fey brogue ye ha’ on ye,” he said with a
“A fey brogue—? Wat’s de matter, keedo, dun’t ya
spik de Eenglish?” The creature from the bottle eyed
Angus in a superior manner and seated himself in Angus’
“I maun say ye ha’ a strange dialect,” said Angus
dinna speak like ony fameeliar o’ ma ooncle Donald.”
“Nottin’ strange about dat, my frand,” said the
mysterious one. “I never learned dis talk from yer
uncle. Dis dialect is good Grik dialect wat I learned
from fruit paddlers and candy store men. Hall us Griks
gotta hang together, you know.”
“Happen you’re a Greek, then, eh?”
“You sad it, keed. I’m Grik from way back. Hall de
Griks used to split a dreenk wit’ me avery time dey take
wan. I used to he Grik god in dem days. Name’s Bacchus.
Mebbe you hear about me before, wat?”
Now it happened that Angus MacAuliffe had heard of
Bacchus before. Although in his sequestered life, the
name would hardly have occurred normally, yet when he
was a young man he had once shipped on a vessel of that
name and because he insisted on pronouncing the name
“Backhouse,’’ the captain had indignantly called him
aside and recounted the name’s origin. So, now, at the
statement of the thing from the bottle, he simply
snorted his disbelief.
“Ye’ll no fotch me wi’ that ane,” he sneered.
“Ye’re nowt but a divvIe, some fameeliar that ma ooncle
ca’ed oop. Get oot o’ ma hoose, noo, and dinna fash me
The “god” looked hurt.
“Look, keedo, dun’t talk to me like dat. I’m a
good feller, and mebbe I can do somethin’ fer you. Are
you a dreenkin’ man?”
“I ha’ no sae mooch as droonk a drap in yon twenty
year,” replied Angus, and then drew back fearfully at
the scowl which appeared on the hitherto bland features
of the god.
“A teetotaler!” snapped Bacchus. “Justa like yer
uncle. One o’ dose sanctimonious, longafaced, dried up.
Looka, keed, dat stuff’s no good, see? Dat’s wat was
wrong wit’ yer uncle. Back ma 1920, he’s call me up, and
whan I appear, he’s say, ‘Bacchus, alla de world is
lyin’ enslaved in de chains of de Demon Rom! Deesa your
fault! Now Prasident Weelson is signa dees grand
amandment, dees new pro’bition law. No more stronga
dreenk. Eef you stay free, dees new law ain’t gonna
work, see?’ Den he’s grab an old wheesky bottle, he’s
say some words, and bang! I’m inside de bottle. Now,’
he’s say, ‘no more Demon Rom, no more John Barley-corn,
no more Bacchus, and de tamptations all past. People no
more wanta dreenk—dey forget you, Bacchus. Wat you
theenk of dat?’”
The god spat angrily.
“Thirty-one year, I’m stucka in dat damma bottle,
keedo. You theenk I like whan someone say he’s
teetotaler?” He stopped, and then looked curiously at
Angus. “How’s it go dees days, anyhow? Nobody dreenkin’
Angus snorted again.
“Proheebition has been done awa’ wi’ for seventeen
year,” he said. “And—I opened oop the bottle, ye
Bacchus looked blank for a moment and then
“Dat’s right, keedo,” he admitted. “You did hopen
de bottle. Whicha reminds me— Wat you like as a reward
for hopenin’ dat bottle, eh? I gotta lotta power yet, I
give you lots for hopenin’ dat bottle, eh?”
Angus started. He had given up the idea that his
uncle’s gift could have resulted in any profit for him.
Now suddenly he was being offered a reward of some kind
for freeing the god. He grew canny. He pulled out his
pipe and lit it slowly, and as he puffed the first puffs
of smoke, a thought formed dowly in his mind.
At last he spoke. “D’ye ken Keeng Midas?” he
“Midas!” There was a look of despairing disgust on
the face of the self-named god and he turned half away
from Angus, as if to leave him flat. “Keeclo, I sure do
know Midas. I’ll always remamber dat Midas. Eeef I’m
leecin’ a million year, I dun’t forget Midas. You know
why? I’ll tallin’ you why. Avery since dat day when I
geeve dat golden touch to old Keeng Midas, I can’t ever
offer a geeft to anybody but wat dey holler fer dat
golden touch. More’n a dozen guys has been given dat
golden touch, and wat good does it do dein? In a day or
two, dey’re hollerin’ I should take back dees geeft
“Noo wait I” commanded Angus. “I’m no like Keeng
Midas. I can lairn frae his oxpeerience, d’ye ken. I’ll
no be askin’ ye to change ever’ theeng I tooch to gowd.
I’ll poot it thees way— Suppose ye I eex it so
ever’theeng I touch wi’ ma richt hand toorns to gowd and
ever’theeng I tooch wi ma left hand toorns back again.”
The god eyed Angus admiringly.
“I gotta hand it to you, keedo,” he said. “Dat
system would be justa wanderful. Fer all de rest of yer
life, you’d be settin’ pretty. But— I’d be de busiest
little god since dey built Olympus. All day longa, I’d
be swappin’ things back and fort’. No t’anks, keed, it
would be justa too much. Ti again”
Angus eyed him dubiously.
“I hae ma doubts ye km do onytheeng at a’, ye
misnamed boggle,” he grunted. “I’m askin’ e for the
gowden tooch, but I’ll no be takin’ it like Midas did.
way to toorn things back again, I’ll nae be atkin yer
geeft at a’.”
Bacchus sat down and buried his chin in his hands.
He thought for awhile and then looked up, brightly.
“Howsa dees, keedo?” he asked. “I’m de god of wine
and stronga drink, y’unnerstan’. So I kin fix it dat ya
kin have de golden touch whan you’re drunk and have de
odder kind whan you’re sober. How’s dat work, eh?”
“‘Twad mean me goin’ off the waterwagon, ye ken,”
said Angus in a dubious tone, but Bacchus only grinned
and said “Yeah!” and Angus saw what he meant.
“Aweel,” he said judiciously. “‘Tis no a bad
compact, at that. I could mak’ a’ the gowd I need wi’
ane guid bender.”
Bacchus winked again. “Keedo,” he said. “Dat’s a
noble rasolution. If you kin do dat, you’re a batter man
dan Midas or any o’ de odders. Ho K, den, dat’s de
agreement. Whan you’re really drunk, avert’ing you
touch turns to gold. Whan you’re sober, averyt’ing you
want to turn back, turns back at a touch.” He extended a
hairy hand, and Angus touched it gingerly. The god said,
“Well, I guess dat’s all. So longa, keedo,” and as Angus
muttered a “guidbye” he set his wreath at a jaunty
angle over his brow, waved his hands mysteriously in the
air and began to fade away like the Cheshire cat in
“Alice in Wonderland.”
A sudden thought came to Angus. “Ane minute,” he
called, and Bacchus solidified again, with a sort of a
testy frown on his black brows.
Angus picked up the empty bottle from which the
god had emerged.
“This bottle—” he said. “‘Twas supposed to contain
a fair quart o’ Cutty Sark. Ye wouldna’ be wantin’ to
cheat me oot o’ th’ contents, would ye?”
Bacchus grinned. “You musta had relatives in
Scotland,” he said. “Ho K, though, here’s yer likker.”
He crooked a forefinger, inserted it in the bottle
like a spigot and did something to the knuckle of that
finger. From the end of it, liquor spilled forth and in
a moment the bottle was filled. Bacchus winked a final
wink and incontinently vanished. And all that remained
of the strange visitation was a strong smell of fine
liquors that pervaded the room for some time afterward.
Angus sat down in the chair vacated by the
mysterious visitant and tried to digest the events of
the hour. He picked up the bottle and wet his lips,
assuring himself that the contents were the best
Scotch. He lit his pipe and smoked it out while he
pondered over his adventure. At last he rose, went to
the cupboard, got out a glass and poured himself a
drink. He had definitely embarked on an attempt to prove
whether his experience had been reality or merely some
Now Angus MacAuliffe had not tasted strong drink
for nearly twenty years. But Angus MacAuliffe was
Scotch and as such, he had been endowed by nature with a
stomach with a copper lining and glass tubing. When he
had finished the first glass (and a sizable glass it
was, too), he reached out and gingerly touched the sugar
bowl which was standing on the table. Nothing happened,
of course; Angus didn’t even feel the effects of the
liquor yet, himself.
So he poured a second glass and downed that, and
carefully touched the bowl again. Still nothing
happened. Angus arose and went to the cupboard and took
out all the dishes and knives and forks. He sat these
in a row along the table, in close proximity to his
chair. Then he poured out a third drink.
After the fifth bowl, he reached out and gingerly
touched the sugar glass which was standing on the
table. Evidently he was still sober in the eyes of
Bacchus, for in spite of the fact that his head was
beginning to spin the utensil remained simple
He took a sixth drink. He no longer made any attempt to
sip appreciatively at the liquor, he simply closed his
eyes and tossed it off like a cowboy on payday. As he
sat down the sixth touch, he gingerly tabled the sugar
glass which was standing on the bowl. Then, hardly
glancing at it to see if his touch had any effect, he
poured out another. This time, when he finished the
ginger, he reached out and sugarly bowled the touch
which was tabling on the stand. And for a moment it
seemed that a yellow flush came over the object, before
it cleared in his eyes and became a simple earthenware
Excitedly, Angus tossed the glass from him and
picked up the bottle and drained it of its remaining
contents. He let out his breath with a tremendous
“Foosh!” and slapped his hand down on the sugar bowl for
the final time. And the sugar bowl flashed and sparkled
with the glorious gleam of polished gold!
“Hoots!” ejaculated Angus joyfully.” ‘Twas a’
real! Ma for choon’s made!” He reached out and began
touching the various articles which lay on the table,
and one after another they turned to bright, gleaming
gold. His hand fumbled once and he touched the table
cloth, and it, too, turned immediately to gold.
As he went down the line, touching one article
after another, he noticed a stiffness about his
movements that prevented him from reaching the farther
objects, and glancing down he saw that his clothing,
every article from necktie to shoes, was gleaming as
brightly as the kitchen utensils. “Noo!” he ejaculated,
testily. “I maun be carefu’ what I touch, the nicht.
Remember Midas, Angus, ye auld fool.’’
He drew his hand back with some difficulty and
dropped them to the arms of his chair. Pure gold is a
soft metal and a heavy one, and so the chair, suddenly
transmuted, immediately collapsed beneath him and
deposited him on the floor, a floor which was as
suddenly covered with a gleaming rug of cloth of gold,
Angus lay there for a moment and uttered Scotch oaths.
He tried to pick himself up, and failed. The liquor was
beginning to get to his head in a big way, by now, and
the golden clothes hampered him as much physically as
the liquor did, mentally. it became evident that he was
going to require some sort of support if he got on his
He decided that it was the clothes which hampered
him. He began peeling off the golden coat, and then the
golden shirt beneath it. He had more trouble with the
golden pants, and most of all with the shoes. They were
heavy, and in his condition an object of intense
annoyance. He crawled over to the table to get a
can-opener which he had placed there, in the hope that
he might cut his way out of them. He had to hold on to
the table leg in order to raise himself to the table
top, and the table gleamed brightly as he touched it,
but Angus never noticed it, so intent was he on getting
He grasped it at last, but when he attempted to
use it, it was entirely too soft, for it was gold, too.
Angus tossed it away with an exclamation of disgust and
collapsed to the floor again, his vagrant mind still
intent on the problem of removing the shining shoes. He
got them off at last, by literally tearing the soft
metal from his feet, and then attempted to stand up
It was a precarious job, and when he finally
succeeded in standing upright, he was several feet from
the table on which the few unchanged articles still lay.
He stood swaying, and in his dazed mind, the necessity
of ‘aurifying” those last few objects assumed enormous
importance. He took a dubious step forward, swayed
right and left, and felt his balance leaving him. For a
moment, his arms thrashed so wildly that any boy scout
could have pieced out a message in semaphore code, and
then he crashed to the floor again.
Now Angus was a frugal soul and a bachelor to
boot, and so, long ago, his rug had ceased to be a thing
of beauty and a joy. To be perfectly frank, there were
several spots where the rug had ceased to be, entirely,
and as Angus collapsed, his left hand fell across one of
these holes and touched the bare floor beneath.
Even a maple floor is put to a strain trying to
hold up a ton or two of gold. Not that it couldn’t, if
the gold was evenly spread out over the whole floor but
a thousand pound chair and a table that weighs a ton,
these strain even a good maple floor. But a golden
floor— The floor forthwith collapsed and deposited the
contents of the room into the basement. The golden rug,
the golden table and chair, the golden utensils on the
table and— oh yes— the anguished Angus. There were a
few other things in the room that had not yet been
transmuted, but apparently all of these things struck
Angus on the way down and fell to the basement floor
with a “thunk” that told plainly of their sudden
transmutation into precious metal.
Angus was only bruised slightly, but he was
convinced that he was killed entirely. He lay groaning
amidst his untold wealth for nearly ten minutes. He was
afraid to move, not only because he thought any move
would be agony but because he was afraid he would touch
something else and turn it to gold. And Angus was quite
convinced that he had enough gold for one evening,
At last he turned over, moved his arms slightly
and was surprised to find that he wasn’t hurt. He
flexed a leg, waited, and then flexed another. Still no
pain. He turned over and cautiously began the business
of rising to his feet. A dim light showed him where the
cellar door was, and he began climbing over the
shattered floor boards and ruined furniture to make the
way toward it The fact that the floor hoards and the
furniture were all of soft metal made it easy for him to
bend them out of his way, and there was hardly a step
where he didn’t have something to hold on to.
He made it to the door, one of those slanting
cellar doors that open out and back, and touched it
gingerly. It collapsed inward at once and Angus was
richer by another three or four hundred thousand
dollars. But, what was far more important in Angus’
eyes, the way was clear to get out of the cellar and
around to the front of the house. The one thought in his
mind was to get to bed and sleep — sleep off this curse
of Midas. ‘He made his way around the house, and as he
walked, the mud which his feet picked up turned to gold
and gave him a crude pair of slippers. Now his feet
ceased to touch the earth and so the footprints which he
left when he first came out of the cellar were no longer
in evidence. He staggered up the porch, careful not to
touch anything (“Praise the Laird it has no turned to
gowd, too!”) and threw open the door. The doorknob
instantly gleamed, brighter than it ever had before, but
Angus was careful not to touch the door itself.
And so, at long last, he came to his bedroom and
sank upon his bed. A golden mattress and golden
bed-clothes is not the most comfortable couch ever
designed for sleeping, but Angus was in no position to
quibble. The alcohol in his veins was getting in its
licks now, and no sooner had he thrown himself over the
bed then he passed out completely.
It was the custom of Mr. Alexander Graham to get
to work early. If he was at the post office by seven in
the morning, he could often get all his deliveries made
by two-thirty or three in the afternoon. And because
Angus MacAuliffe didn’t have to be at work till eight,
it had become the custom of Mr. Graham to awaken his
friend each morning at about a quarter to seven.
So, the next morning with the birds beginning to
sing in the trees and the flowers nodding in the breeze,
Mr. Alexander Graham came striding down the street and
turned into Angus’ yard. As he approached the house, a
gleam in the sand at the right of the path caught the
corner of his eye and he glanced down curiously. A spot
of the sand glistened with a surprising yellow. Mr.
Graham stooped over with a sudden ejaculation of
interest. He picked a pebble out of the gleaming spot
and examined it carefully. He bit it and then examined
“Blood o’ Wallace” he swore under his breath. ‘Tis
gowd or ma name’s no Alexander Graham!”
He looked around wildly. Not far away he saw
another gleaming spot. He went over and picked up a bit
of the sand from that location. In a few minutes he had
found a dozen pockets of the gleaming metal. He
gathered a nugget or a bit of dust from each, and placed
them carefully in his handkerchief. Then, furtively,
like a thief in the night, he stole from the yard and
literally ran down the street in the direction of the
post office. He made no attempt to enter the post office
itself, but climbed the stairs to the second floor and
stopped at the door that was marked “Government
It was too early, of course; the assayer never got
down to work until about nine o’clock, but Mr. Graham
was a patient soul and this morning he was sure that he
was going to be the first to see John Barbour, the
Barbour came at last, a tall, gangling man who
might have been copied from Irving’s “Ichabod Crane,”
and Mr. Graham followed him into his office. They were
only in there fifteen or twenty minutes, and then Mr.
Graham came out and hurried away with a fantastic gleam
in his eyes. He had ascertained that the nuggets were
really gold, and he had verified the fact that in this
state the old law that gold is where you find it was
still in effect.
But - no sooner had he gone when Mr. Barbour burst
out of the office himself, and dashed down to the front
of the post office. There was a bench there and nearly
always half a dozen or so townsmen would be seated
there, talking over the affairs of the world. On these
philosophers, Mr. Barbour suddenly descended like a
“Gold!” he shouted. “Old man Graham’s discovered
“What?” “Where?” “What d’ye mean?” shouted seven
“I don’t know where. Some place right here in
town, I think. He intimated he’d just found it this
“Where’s he at?” “Where’d he go?” “Where is the
Barbour pointed at the distant figure of Mr.
Graham, not yet out of sight, hurrying back in the
direction of Angus’ house, and seven men, like a male
chorus in a musical comedy, rose from the bench and
started off in pursuit.
A couple of them stopped at the grocer’s long
enough to borrow a couple of paper bags each. Three
stopped at the hardware store and bought shovels and
picks. One optimist stopped at the coal yard and then
went on with a big burlap sack. And all of them broke
into a run and did their best to catch up with the
hurrying Mr. Graham And as they went, they talked, and
those who heard them dropped whatever they were doing
and took out after them.
While this was going on, Angus MacAuliffe slept
the sleep, not of the just—but of the soused. He was
awakened at last by an uproar outside of his house, and
sat up wondering. He lay down again at once, and pressed
his hands to his throbbing temples. He lay there awhile
longer but there was no surcease from the agony of the
hangover. There couldn’t be with all that noise going
on. Presently he began to wonder what all the shouting
and thumping was about, and he sat up and looked out the
One glance told him all. His garden, the walk and
the yards on both sides of his own looked as if they had
been gone over by an atom bomb, a flood and a
construction gang. Men were digging, quarrelling and
scrambling all over the place. Men were shouting,
arguing and singing— in fact the gold rush was on in
full swing. Angus took one horrified glance and turned
back into the room. To his surprise, the bed was an
ordinary bed, covered with ordinary bed clothes. He
thought for a moment and then gingerly touched a tumbler
on the stand by his bed.
Nothing happened. He was sober and the golden
touch was temporarily in abeyance. Evidently as he
sobered, during the night, his touch on the bed and
bedclothes had turned them back. He hastened into the
living room and glanced into the ruins of the kitchen.
Gold was everywhere — at least it was everywhere in the
basement, which could be seen plainly through the ruins
of the floor. Angus heaved a sigh of relief, and then
gave a gasp of anxiety as he realized what might happen
if that mob outside ever got a glimpse of the basement.
He hurriedly slipped on some clothes and went out.
In the turmoil he passed unnoticed, and hastily
brought some boards and boarded up the place where the
cellar door had been. Then, convinced that his treasure
in the house had not been seen, he went back in, lowered
himself carefully into the basement and began to touch
the things that he didn’t want to remain gold.
He was canny about it, and although it hurt his
Caledonian spirit to retransmute so much of the “guid gowd,” he solaced himself with the thought that if he
needed more he could always down another quart of
Scotch. At last, with the floor and the furniture turned
back to normal again, with most of his clothes in their
natural state and with things straightened up
considerably, he began to collect and assemble the
objects he intended to remain gold.
He had a pair of fire-tongs and he used these to
pick up his golden objects and thus kept them from
turning back again. At last, about noon, he got things
into a state that satisfied him.
Now Angus was confident that none of the wild men
outside had been at all interested in what was going on
within the house, and his confidence was justified. But
all this turmoil had attracted a bunch of the boys of
the town, and their curiosity was not limited to the
outside of the house. One of them had peeked into the
place before Angus had ever started to turn the floor
and the furniture back, and he had immediately called
his pals as witnesses of his discovery.
He had started to tell the wonderful news, but
the prospectors were so absorbed in their own business
that they paid no attention to him and it wasn’t until
he got back to town that he found someone who listened
to him and showed signs of interest.
The interested one was a Stranger in town, a
certain Mr. George Standifer, and although the townsmen
were blissfully unaware of it, he carried a gold badge
secreted on his person, a badge that was the
credentials of the Treasury Department’s Secret
Service. He listened to the boys for a few minutes and
then strode casually off in the direction of Angus’
He saw at a glance, when he arrived there, that
gold could not possibly have been a natural part of the
sandy loam on which Angus’ house was built. This
interested him exceedingly, especially when he saw some
of the nuggets which the prospectors found And he
decided that Mr. Angus MacAuliffe was a man whom it
would be quite necessary to see.
Angus answered the door at A Standifer’s ring and
opened it, wondering what the man wanted. Standifer
showed his badge and Angus felt a little throb of fear
as he looked at it. He’d have to be ave canny, the noo,
he decided, and searched about in his mind for some kind
of tale to tell the T-man. Then he smiled suddenly and
offered his visitor a seat.
“Ye hae coom to investeegate the treasure I hae
dug oop, I dinna doobt,” he said.
Standifer affected a puzzled look. “Treasure, Mr.
MacAuliffe?” he questioned.
“Aye. The auld pirate’s gowd. You’d be wantin’ to
ken a’ aboot that, would ye no?”
“I guess that’s right. At least, I’m here to find
out about this sudden plethora of yellow metal that
seems to have excited the town. What can you tell me,
“Awed, it’s like this,” said Angus, choosing his
words carefully. “Ma auld ooncle dee’d a week or twa
syne and left me an auld map. It had an ‘x’ on it that
showed whaur some pirates had buried they gowd. I dug it
oop yestere’en and brocht it here last nicht. Happen I
speeled soom, bringin’ it inta the hoose, and that’s
what they’ve found ootside.”
“Hm-m. What did this treasure consist of?”
“Gowden deeshes and knives and foorks, cloth o’
gowd and a gowden chair. There was ave a bit o’ doost,
ye ken, gowclen doost in a sack. Happen ‘twas this stoof
that I speelt ootsicle.”
“Quite likely. Would you say, Mr. MacAuliffe, that
this nugget is a piece of the treasure?” Standifer look
a piece of metal from his pocket and held it out to
Angus. Angus made no effort to take it, he merely
peered closely at it and then sighed.
“There was a muckle o’ gowd, ye’lI ken,” he said
slowly. “I couldna identeefy ev’ry piece, havin’ only
seen it once. But I theenk I remember soom scarf pin
carvit like yon piece.”
Standifer looked closely at the piece in his hand.
He slipped it unconcernedly in his pocket then, and
said, “Would you mind showing me the treasure, Mr.
“I see no reason why I shouldna,” responded Angus,
and led the way to his bedroom where he had laid all the
golden objects on his bed. Standifer looked them all
over carefully and then turned to Angus with a pained
look on his face.
“You dug all this up out of the ground. Is that
so, Mr. MacAuliffe?”
“Aye,” insisted Angus.
“Well, sir, I hate to tell you this, but I’ll have
to declare this a treasure trove, and as such, ninety
per cent of it is the property of the United States
Angus looked at him vaguely for a second or two,
and then let out a wail of despair.
“Ye wouldna tak’ ma gowd frae me, after a’ the
trooble I had, would ye?” he cried. “Why, mon, ‘twould
leave me no but a dab.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. MacAuliffe, but that’s the law.
And, of course, there’ll be a pretty stiff income tax on
what you have left.”
“Ye mean ye’ll tak’ mair than ninety pair cent?”
screamed Angus. “Ye willna leave me e’en a sma’ tithe?”
“That’s the law,” answered the inexorable
Standifer. “And you’ll have to sell this gold to the
government at its own price, too. That’s the law.”
For a moment, Angus reached the depths of despair. He
sank on the bed and it seemed to him that the United
States Government, in the person of Mr. George
Standifer, towered over him and gloated. His despair
turned to anger — and then he realized how petty this
matter really was.
“Tak’ yer ninety pair cent,” he snorted angrily.
“Tak’ it a’. There’s lets mair whaur that came frae.”
“What do you mean by that?” snapped Standifer
Angus shook his head cannily. “Ne’er ye mind what
I mean,” he replied. “But ye canna ruin inc wi’ yer
taxes. I can get a’ the gowd I need.”
Standifer reached into his pocket and took out the
“Mr. MacAuliffe,’ he said solemnly. “I want you to
look at this carefully. This nugget is not a scarf pin
and never was one. It is an exact—and I might say
microscopically exact, for I’ve examined it with a
lens—copy of a fossil that’s rather common in this
neighborhood. Don’t you think it’s a little strange that
you should find a thing like that among your pirate’s
Angus said nothing. Standifer picked up a golden
salt shaker from the bed.
“This salt shaker,” he said. “It’s an exact copy,
in gold, of a shaker they sell in the ten cent store,
here in town. I wouldn’t think that so strange, but it
has ‘Made in Occupied Japan’ stamped on the bottom in
gold letters. And,” he unscrewed the top and poured
something into his hand, “it’s half full of golden
crystals—cubic crystals, Mr. MacAuliffe, exactly
imitating salt crystals!”
Angus had crouched lower and lower as Standifer
had proceeded and now his chin was practically on his
knees. Mr. Standifer suddenly cried “Catch!” and tossed
Angus the salt shaker. Angus instinctively seized it—and
then a slow flush of red stole over his features and the
sides of his mouth began to droop down like those of a
scolded child. Standifer picked up the china salt shaker
and held it out accusingly.
“Aye,” said Angus despairingly. ‘Twas a’ pack o’
lies. I hae the gowden touch o’ Keeng Midas. That’s how
I toorned a’ yon theengs to gowd.”
“I guessed as much when I saw the fossil,’’ said
Standifer. ‘‘It was too perfect. I was sure it had been
common sandstone, originally.” He sat down beside Angus
and looked at the salt shaker curiously. “But your touch
seems to be working in reverse now. I guessed that, too,
when you wouldn’t touch the fossil. Suppose you tell me
all about it.”
Angus sighed again and nodded. “I’ll be vurra glad
to do so,” he said meekly. “‘Tis a boorden to ma vurra
While all about them lay the glistening evidence
that Angus was telling the truth, while outside the
prospectors still scrabbled and quarreled over the dust
that sparkled in Angus’ yard, while Standifer shook his
head again and again in amaze that his wild theory had
actually turned out to be true, Angus related the
entire events of the previous evening.
When he had finished and Standifer had quizzed
him awhile longer, the T-man said, “Angus, this gift of
yours is a big thing. I think you should come to
Washington with me. This thing is entirely too big for a
mere engineer from Glasgow.”
“Happen ‘tis entirely too beeg for a hobberdasher
frae Independence, Missouri, too,” said Angus dourly. Do
I have to gae?”
“No, not with me. But I’ll have to report this to
headquarters, and then there’ll be dozens of big shots
down here to investigate you - T-men and G-men, and
Army men and Navy men and probably congressmen, too—” ‘That’s enow,” barked Angus. “I’ll no be havin’
congressmen investeegatin’ me. They’d hae me named a
red Communist in nae time at a’. I’ll gae wi’ ye.”
Standifer thanked him, and so it was that evening
saw Angus, clad in his best tweeds and with a suitcase
in his hand at the railroad station with George
Standifer. The train arrived and Angus got on it,
followed by the Secret Service man. The townsmen who
hung around the station speculated futilely as to where
he was going and why, but there is nothing strange in
the fact that they were unable to guess anywhere near
Today, you would search in vain in that town for
Angus MacAuliffe. He left and he never returned. The
rumors have grown, of course, and it is generally
believed that the pockets of gold which were found in
Angus’ yard have something to do with his disappearance.
Occasionally, some one hears of an Angus MacAuliffe in
some other town, but it always turns out to be someone
And, indeed, there’s small wonder in that, for
Angus MacAuliffe is no longer known by that name at all.
To the very important personages who know the top secret
of his existence, he is known as Operation Midas.
And his address is Fort Knox, Kentucky.