page 24



This is a strange world, or, if you please, many strange things occur in this world--either way suits us, and amongst the strange things which happen in this strange world, some are ludicrous and some are serious--some are one thing and some another. Many things, too, which take place, are shrouded in the dark pall of mystery, and remain unknown and inexplicable, till some chance of fate or fortune draws aside the veil from our vision, and we behold objects which before we had not thought of. Thus has it been with the present story which we are about to unfold. Like a sweet flower blushing unseen, it has long remained concealed. But chance has given it to us, and we shall now give to our readers the story of Drawing a Chalk line, or reserving the Right of Passage.

“Once upon a time” there came to this city a young Kentuckian, for the purpose of learning the sciences of medicine and surgery. He was tall and athletic, shrewd, apt, and intelligent, with a “little sprinkling” of waggishness. He was inducted into the Charity Hospital, and a room in the third story given him as a study. On entering into his new quarters, he was introduced to a young French gentleman, occupying the room also as a student. The young Frenchman, it seems, was very frank in his manners, courteous, yet cold, and he thus addressed his new companion :

“Sir, I am indeed pleased to see you, and hope that we may prove mutually agreeable ; but, in order that this may be the case, I will inform you that I have had several former room-

page 25

mates, with none of whom I could ever agree--we could never pursue our studies together. This room contains two beds ; as the oldest occupant, I claim that nearest the window.”

The Kentuckian assented.

“Now,” says the Frenchman, “I’ll draw the boundary line between our territories, and we shall each agree not to encroach upon the others’ rights, and taking a piece of chalk from his pocket, he made the mark of division, midway, from one side of the room to the other. “Sir,” he added, “I hope you have no objection to the treaty.”

“None in the world, sir,” answered the stranger, “I am perfectly satisfied with it.” He then sent down for his baggage and both students sat down with their books.

The Frenchman was soon deeply engaged, while “Old Kentuck” was watching him, and thinking what a singular genius he must be, and how he might “fix” him.

Thus things went on until dinner time came. The bell was rung ; the Frenchman popped up, adjusted his cravat, brushed up his whiskers and mustachios, and essayed to depart.

“Stand, sir!” said the stranger, suddenly placing himself with toe to the mark, directly before the French student, “if you cross that line, you are a dead man.”

The Frenchman stood pale with astonishment. The Kentuckian moved not a muscle of his face. Both remained in silence for some moments, when the Frenchman exclaimed “Is it possible that I did not reserve the right of passage?”

“No, sir, indeed you did not ; and you pass this line at your peril.”

“But how shall I get out of the room?”

“There is the window which you reserved to yourself--you may use that ; but you pass not that door--my door, which you generously left me.”

The poor Frenchman was fairly caught. He was in a quandary, and made all sorts of explanations and entreaties. The
page 26

Kentuckian took compassion on him, and thinking that going out of a third-story window was not “what it’s cracked up to be,” said to his new friend, “Sir, in order that we may be mutually agreeable, I’ll rub out that hateful chalk line and let you pass.”

The Frenchman politely thanked him, and since the settlement of that “boundary question,” they have been the very best friends.


Source: Southern and Southwestern Sketches: Fun, Sentiment, and Adventure. Edited by a Gentleman of Richmond. Richmond: J.W. Randolph, n.d. 24-26. University of Virginia Alderman Library.

Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.

We would like to thank the staff of the Library of Virginia Archives and Special Collections, Alderman Library, and Barrett Collection for their assistance. This page contains material in the public domain and it may be reproduced in its entirety or cited for courses, scholarship, or other non-commercial uses. We ask that users cite the source and support the archives that have provided materials to the Spirit site.