Alonzo Fitz and Other Stories
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
THE LOVES OF ALONZO FITZ CLARENCE AND ROSANNAH ETHELTON
ON THE DECAY OF THE ART OF LYING
ABOUT MAGNANIMOUS-INCIDENT LITERATURE
PUNCH, BROTHERS, PUNCH
THE GREAT REVOLUTION IN PITCAIRN
THE CANVASSER'S TALE
AN ENCOUNTER WITH AN INTERVIEWER
LEGEND OF SAGENFELD, IN GERMANY
SPEECH ON THE BABIES
SPEECH ON THE WEATHER
CONCERNING THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE
THE LOVES OF ALONZO FITZ CLARENCE AND ROSANNAH ETHELTON
It was well along in the forenoon of a bitter winter's day. The town of
Eastport, in the state of Maine, lay buried under a deep snow that was
newly fallen. The customary bustle in the streets was wanting. One
could look long distances down them and see nothing but a dead-white
emptiness, with silence to match. Of course I do not mean that you could
see the silence--no, you could only hear it. The sidewalks were merely
long, deep ditches, with steep snow walls on either side. Here and there
you might hear the faint, far scrape of a wooden shovel, and if you
were quick enough you might catch a glimpse of a distant black figure
stooping and disappearing in one of those ditches, and reappearing the
next moment with a motion which you would know meant the heaving out of
a shovelful of snow. But you needed to be quick, for that black figure
would not linger, but would soon drop that shovel and scud for the
house, thrashing itself with its arms to warm them. Yes, it was too
venomously cold for snow-shovelers or anybody else to stay out long.
Presently the sky darkened; then the wind rose and began to blow in
fitful, vigorous gusts, which sent clouds of powdery snow aloft, and
straight ahead, and everywhere. Under the impulse of one of these gusts,
great white drifts banked themselves like graves across the streets; a
moment later another gust shifted them around the other way, driving a
fine spray of snow from their sharp crests, as the gale drives the spume
flakes from wave-crests at sea; a third gust swept that place as clean
as your hand, if it saw fit. This was fooling, this was play; but each
and all of the gusts dumped some snow into the sidewalk ditches, for
that was business.
Alonzo Fitz Clarence was sitting in his snug and elegant little parlor,
in a lovely blue silk dressing-gown, with cuffs and facings of crimson
satin, elaborately quilted. The remains of his breakfast were before
him, and the dainty and costly little table service added a harmonious
charm to the grace, beauty, and richness of the fixed appointments of
the room. A cheery fire was blazing on the hearth.
A furious gust of wind shook the windows, and a great wave of snow
washed against them with a drenching sound, so to speak. The handsome
young bachelor murmured:
"That means, no going out to-day. Well, I am content. But what to do for
company? Mother is well enough, Aunt Susan is well enough; but these,
like the poor, I have with me always. On so grim a day as this,
one needs a new interest, a fresh element, to whet the dull edge of
captivity. That was very neatly said, but it doesn't mean anything. One
doesn't want the edge of captivity sharpened up, you know, but just the
He glanced at his pretty French mantel-clock.
"That clock's wrong again. That clock hardly ever knows what time it
is; and when it does know, it lies about it--which amounts to the same
There was no answer.
"Alfred!... Good servant, but as uncertain as the clock."
Alonzo touched an electric bell button in the wall. He waited a moment,
then touched it again; waited a few moments more, and said:
"Battery out of order, no doubt. But now that I have started, I will
find out what time it is." He stepped to a speaking-tube in the wall,
blew its whistle, and called, "Mother!" and repeated it twice.
"Well, that's no use. Mother's battery is out of order, too. Can't raise
anybody down-stairs--that is plain."
He sat down at a rosewood desk, leaned his chin on the left-hand edge of
it and spoke, as if to the floor: "Aunt Susan!"
A low, pleasant voice answered, "Is that you, Alonzo?'
"Yes. I'm too lazy and comfortable to go downstairs; I am in extremity,
and I can't seem to scare up any help."
"Dear me, what is the matter?"
"Matter enough, I can tell you!"
"Oh, don't keep me in suspense, dear! What is it?"
"I want to know what time it is."
"You abominable boy, what a turn you did give me! Is that all?"
"All--on my honor. Calm yourself. Tell me the time, and receive my
"Just five minutes after nine. No charge--keep your blessing."
"Thanks. It wouldn't have impoverished me, aunty, nor so enriched you
that you could live without other means."
He got up, murmuring, "Just five minutes after nine," and faced his
clock. "Ah," said he, "you are doing better than usual. You are only
thirty-four minutes wrong. Let me see... let me see.... Thirty-three
and twenty-one are fifty-four; four times fifty-four are two hundred and
thirty-six. One off, leaves two hundred and thirty-five. That's right."
He turned the hands of his clock forward till they marked twenty-five
minutes to one, and said, "Now see if you can't keep right for a
while--else I'll raffle you!"
He sat down at the desk again, and said, "Aunt Susan!"
"Yes, indeed, an hour ago."
"No--except sewing. Why?"
"Got any company?"
"No, but I expect some at half past nine."
"I wish I did. I'm lonesome. I want to talk to somebody."
"Very well, talk to me."
"But this is very private."
"Don't be afraid--talk right along, there's nobody here but me."
"I hardly know whether to venture or not, but--"
"But what? Oh, don't stop there! You know you can trust me, Alonzo--you
know, you can."
"I feel it, aunt, but this is very serious. It affects me deeply--me,
and all the family---even the whole community."
"Oh, Alonzo, tell me! I will never breathe a word of it. What is it?"
"Aunt, if I might dare--"
"Oh, please go on! I love you, and feel for you. Tell me all. Confide in
me. What is it?"
"Plague take the weather! I don't see how you can have the heart to
serve me so, Lon."
"There, there, aunty dear, I'm sorry; I am, on my honor. I won't do it
again. Do you forgive me?"
"Yes, since you seem so sincere about it, though I know I oughtn't to.
You will fool me again as soon as I have forgotten this time."
"No, I won't, honor bright. But such weather, oh, such weather! You've
got to keep your spirits up artificially. It is snowy, and blowy, and
gusty, and bitter cold! How is the weather with you?"
"Warm and rainy and melancholy. The mourners go about the streets with
their umbrellas running streams from the end of every whalebone. There's
an elevated double pavement of umbrellas, stretching down the sides of
the streets as far as I can see. I've got a fire for cheerfulness, and
the windows open to keep cool. But it is vain, it is useless: nothing
comes in but the balmy breath of December, with its burden of mocking
odors from the flowers that possess the realm outside, and rejoice in
their lawless profusion whilst the spirit of man is low, and flaunt
their gaudy splendors in his face while his soul is clothed in sackcloth
and ashes and his heart breaketh."
Alonzo opened his lips to say, "You ought to print that, and get it
framed," but checked himself, for he heard his aunt speaking to some
one else. He went and stood at the window and looked out upon the wintry
prospect. The storm was driving the snow before it more furiously than
ever; window-shutters were slamming and banging; a forlorn dog, with
bowed head and tail withdrawn from service, was pressing his quaking
body against a windward wall for shelter and protection; a young girl
was plowing knee-deep through the drifts, with her face turned from the
blast, and the cape of her waterproof blowing straight rearward over her
head. Alonzo shuddered, and said with a sigh, "Better the slop, and the
sultry rain, and even the insolent flowers, than this!"
He turned from the window, moved a step, and stopped in a listening
attitude. The faint, sweet notes of a familiar song caught his ear. He
remained there, with his head unconsciously bent forward, drinking in
the melody, stirring neither hand nor foot, hardly breathing. There was
a blemish in the execution of the song, but to Alonzo it seemed an added
charm instead of a defect. This blemish consisted of a marked flatting
of the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh notes of the refrain or
chorus of the piece. When the music ended, Alonzo drew a deep breath,
and said, "Ah, I never have heard 'In the Sweet By-and-by' sung like
He stepped quickly to the desk, listened a moment, and said in a
guarded, confidential voice, "Aunty, who is this divine singer?"
"She is the company I was expecting. Stays with me a month or two. I
will introduce you. Miss--"
"For goodness' sake, wait a moment, Aunt Susan! You never stop to think
what you are about!"
He flew to his bedchamber, and returned in a moment perceptibly changed
in his outward appearance, and remarking, snappishly:
"Hang it, she would have introduced me to this angel in that sky-blue
dressing-gown with red-hot lapels! Women never think, when they get
He hastened and stood by the desk, and said eagerly, "Now, Aunty, I am
ready," and fell to smiling and bowing with all the persuasiveness and
elegance that were in him.
"Very well. Miss Rosannah Ethelton, let me introduce to you my favorite
nephew, Mr. Alonzo Fitz Clarence. There! You are both good people, and
I like you; so I am going to trust you together while I attend to a
few household affairs. Sit down, Rosannah; sit down, Alonzo. Good-by; I
sha'n't be gone long."
Alonzo had been bowing and smiling all the while, and motioning
imaginary young ladies to sit down in imaginary chairs, but now he took
a seat himself, mentally saying, "Oh, this is luck! Let the winds blow
now, and the snow drive, and the heavens frown! Little I care!"
While these young people chat themselves into an acquaintanceship, let
us take the liberty of inspecting the sweeter and fairer of the two. She
sat alone, at her graceful ease, in a richly furnished apartment which
was manifestly the private parlor of a refined and sensible lady,
if signs and symbols may go for anything. For instance, by a low,
comfortable chair stood a dainty, top-heavy workstand, whose summit was
a fancifully embroidered shallow basket, with varicolored crewels, and
other strings and odds and ends protruding from under the gaping lid and
hanging down in negligent profusion. On the floor lay bright shreds of
Turkey red, Prussian blue, and kindred fabrics, bits of ribbon, a spool
or two, a pair of scissors, and a roll or so of tinted silken stuffs.
On a luxurious sofa, upholstered with some sort of soft Indian goods
wrought in black and gold threads interwebbed with other threads not
so pronounced in color, lay a great square of coarse white stuff, upon
whose surface a rich bouquet of flowers was growing, under the deft
cultivation of the crochet-needle. The household cat was asleep on this
work of art. In a bay-window stood an easel with an unfinished picture
on it, and a palette and brushes on a chair beside it. There were books
everywhere: Robertson's Sermons, Tennyson, Moody and Sankey,
Rab and His Friends, cook-books, prayer-books, pattern-books--and books
about all kinds of odious and exasperating pottery, of course. There was
a piano, with a deck-load of music, and more in a tender. There was
a great plenty of pictures on the walls, on the shelves of the
mantelpiece, and around generally; where coigns of vantage offered
were statuettes, and quaint and pretty gimcracks, and rare and costly
specimens of peculiarly devilish china. The bay-window gave upon a
garden that was ablaze with foreign and domestic flowers and flowering
But the sweet young girl was the daintiest thing these premises, within
or without, could offer for contemplation: delicately chiseled features,
of Grecian cast; her complexion the pure snow of a japonica that is
receiving a faint reflected enrichment from some scarlet neighbor of
the garden; great, soft blue eyes fringed with long, curving lashes; an
expression made up of the trustfulness of a child and the gentleness of
a fawn; a beautiful head crowned with its own prodigal gold; a lithe
and rounded figure, whose every attitude and movement was instinct with
Her dress and adornment were marked by that exquisite harmony that can
come only of a fine natural taste perfected by culture. Her gown was of
a simple magenta tulle, cut bias, traversed by three rows of light-blue
flounces, with the selvage edges turned up with ashes-of-roses
chenille; overdress of dark bay tarlatan with scarlet satin lambrequins;
corn-colored polonaise, en panier, looped with mother-of-pearl buttons
and silver cord, and hauled aft and made fast by buff velvet lashings;
basque of lavender reps, picked out with valenciennes; low neck, short
sleeves; maroon velvet necktie edged with delicate pink silk; inside
handkerchief of some simple three-ply ingrain fabric of a soft saffron
tint; coral bracelets and locket-chain; coiffure of forget-me-nots and
lilies-of-the-valley massed around a noble calla.
This was all; yet even in this subdued attire she was divinely
beautiful. Then what must she have been when adorned for the festival or
All this time she had been busily chatting with Alonzo, unconscious of
our inspection. The minutes still sped, and still she talked. But by and
by she happened to look up, and saw the clock. A crimson blush sent its
rich flood through her cheeks, and she exclaimed:
"There, good-by, Mr. Fitz Clarence; I must go now!"
She sprang from her chair with such haste that she hardly heard the
young man's answering good-by. She stood radiant, graceful, beautiful,
and gazed, wondering, upon the accusing clock. Presently her pouting
lips parted, and she said:
"Five minutes after eleven! Nearly two hours, and it did not seem twenty
minutes! Oh, dear, what will he think of me!"
At the self-same moment Alonzo was staring at his clock. And presently
"Twenty-five minutes to three! Nearly two hours, and I didn't believe
it was two minutes! Is it possible that this clock is humbugging again?
Miss Ethelton! Just one moment, please. Are you there yet?"
"Yes, but be quick; I'm going right away."
"Would you be so kind as to tell me what time it is?"
The girl blushed again, murmured to herself, "It's right down cruel
of him to ask me!" and then spoke up and answered with admirably
counterfeited unconcern, "Five minutes after eleven."
"Oh, thank you! You have to go, now, have you?"
"You--you're there yet, ain't you?"
"Yes; but please hurry. What did you want to say?"
"Well, I--well, nothing in particular. It's very lonesome here. It's
asking a great deal, I know, but would you mind talking with me again by
and by--that is, if it will not trouble you too much?"
"I don't know but I'll think about it. I'll try."
"Oh, thanks! Miss Ethelton!... Ah, me, she's gone, and here are the
black clouds and the whirling snow and the raging winds come again! But
she said good-by. She didn't say good morning, she said good-by! ... The
clock was right, after all. What a lightning-winged two hours it was!"
He sat down, and gazed dreamily into his fire for a while, then heaved a
sigh and said:
"How wonderful it is! Two little hours ago I was a free man, and now my
heart's in San Francisco!"
About that time Rosannah Ethelton, propped in the window-seat of her
bedchamber, book in hand, was gazing vacantly out over the rainy seas
that washed the Golden Gate, and whispering to herself, "How different
he is from poor Burley, with his empty head and his single little antic
talent of mimicry!"
Four weeks later Mr. Sidney Algernon Burley was entertaining a gay
luncheon company, in a sumptuous drawing-room on Telegraph Hill, with
some capital imitations of the voices and gestures of certain popular
actors and San Franciscan literary people and Bonanza grandees. He was
elegantly upholstered, and was a handsome fellow, barring a trifling
cast in his eye. He seemed very jovial, but nevertheless he kept his eye
on the door with an expectant and uneasy watchfulness. By and by a nobby
lackey appeared, and delivered a message to the mistress, who nodded her
head understandingly. That seemed to settle the thing for Mr. Burley;
his vivacity decreased little by little, and a dejected look began to
creep into one of his eyes and a sinister one into the other.
The rest of the company departed in due time, leaving him with the
mistress, to whom he said:
"There is no longer any question about it. She avoids me. She
continually excuses herself. If I could see her, if I could speak to her
only a moment--but this suspense--"
"Perhaps her seeming avoidance is mere accident, Mr. Burley. Go to
the small drawing-room up-stairs and amuse yourself a moment. I will
despatch a household order that is on my mind, and then I will go to her
room. Without doubt she will be persuaded to see you."
Mr. Burley went up-stairs, intending to go to the small drawing-room,
but as he was passing "Aunt Susan's" private parlor, the door of which
stood slightly ajar, he heard a joyous laugh which he recognized; so
without knock or announcement he stepped confidently in. But before he
could make his presence known he heard words that harrowed up his soul
and chilled his young blood, he heard a voice say:
"Darling, it has come!"
Then he heard Rosannah Ethelton, whose back was toward him, say:
"So has yours, dearest!"
He saw her bowed form bend lower; he heard her kiss something--not
merely once, but again and again! His soul raged within him. The
heartbreaking conversation went on:
"Rosannah, I knew you must be beautiful, but this is dazzling, this is
blinding, this is intoxicating!"
"Alonzo, it is such happiness to hear you say it. I know it is not true,
but I am so grateful to have you think it is, nevertheless! I knew you
must have a noble face, but the grace and majesty of the reality beggar
the poor creation of my fancy."
Burley heard that rattling shower of kisses again.
"Thank you, my Rosannah! The photograph flatters me, but you must not
allow yourself to think of that. Sweetheart?"
"I am so happy, Rosannah."
"Oh, Alonzo, none that have gone before me knew what love was, none that
come after me will ever know what happiness is. I float in a gorgeous
cloud land, a boundless firmament of enchanted and bewildering ecstasy!"
"Oh, my Rosannah!--for you are mine, are you not?"
"Wholly, oh, wholly yours, Alonzo, now and forever! All the day long,
and all through my nightly dreams, one song sings itself, and its sweet
burden is, 'Alonzo Fitz Clarence, Alonzo Fitz Clarence, Eastport, state
"Curse him, I've got his address, anyway!" roared Burley, inwardly, and
rushed from the place.
Just behind the unconscious Alonzo stood his mother, a picture of
astonishment. She was so muffled from head to heel in furs that nothing
of herself was visible but her eyes and nose. She was a good allegory of
winter, for she was powdered all over with snow.
Behind the unconscious Rosannah stood "Aunt Susan," another picture of
astonishment. She was a good allegory of summer, for she was lightly
clad, and was vigorously cooling the perspiration on her face with a
Both of these women had tears of joy in their eyes.
"Soho!" exclaimed Mrs. Fitz Clarence, "this explains why nobody has been
able to drag you out of your room for six weeks, Alonzo!"
"So ho!" exclaimed Aunt Susan, "this explains why you have been a hermit
for the past six weeks, Rosannah!"
The young couple were on their feet in an instant, abashed, and standing
like detected dealers in stolen goods awaiting judge Lynch's doom.
"Bless you, my son! I am happy in your happiness. Come to your mother's
"Bless you, Rosannah, for my dear nephew's sake! Come to my arms!"
Then was there a mingling of hearts and of tears of rejoicing on
Telegraph Hill and in Eastport Square.
Servants were called by the elders, in both places. Unto one was given
the order, "Pile this fire high, with hickory wood, and bring me a
Unto the other was given the order, "Put out this fire, and bring me two
palm-leaf fans and a pitcher of ice-water."
Then the young people were dismissed, and the elders sat down to talk
the sweet surprise over and make the wedding plans.
Some minutes before this Mr. Burley rushed from the mansion on Telegraph
Hill without meeting or taking formal leave of anybody. He hissed
through his teeth, in unconscious imitation of a popular favorite in
melodrama, "Him shall she never wed! I have sworn it! Ere great Nature
shall have doffed her winter's ermine to don the emerald gauds of
spring, she shall be mine!"
Two weeks later. Every few hours, during same three or four days, a very
prim and devout-looking Episcopal clergyman, with a cast in his eye, had
visited Alonzo. According to his card, he was the Rev. Melton Hargrave,
of Cincinnati. He said he had retired from the ministry on account of
his health. If he had said on account of ill-health, he would probably
have erred, to judge by his wholesome looks and firm build. He was the
inventor of an improvement in telephones, and hoped to make his bread
by selling the privilege of using it. "At present," he continued, "a man
may go and tap a telegraph wire which is conveying a song or a concert
from one state to another, and he can attach his private telephone and
steal a hearing of that music as it passes along. My invention will stop
"Well," answered Alonzo, "if the owner of the music could not miss what
was stolen, why should he care?"
"He shouldn't care," said the Reverend.
"Well?" said Alonzo, inquiringly.
"Suppose," replied the Reverend, "suppose that, instead of music that
was passing along and being stolen, the burden of the wire was loving
endearments of the most private and sacred nature?"
Alonzo shuddered from head to heel. "Sir, it is a priceless invention,"
said he; "I must have it at any cost."
But the invention was delayed somewhere on the road from Cincinnati,
most unaccountably. The impatient Alonzo could hardly wait. The thought
of Rosannah's sweet words being shared with him by some ribald thief was
galling to him. The Reverend came frequently and lamented the delay, and
told of measures he had taken to hurry things up. This was some little
comfort to Alonzo.
One forenoon the Reverend ascended the stairs and knocked at Alonzo's
door. There was no response. He entered, glanced eagerly around, closed
the door softly, then ran to the telephone. The exquisitely soft and
remote strains of the "Sweet By-and-by" came floating through the
instrument. The singer was flatting, as usual, the five notes that
follow the first two in the chorus, when the Reverend interrupted her
with this word, in a voice which was an exact imitation of Alonzo's,
with just the faintest flavor of impatience added:
"Please don't sing that any more this week--try something modern."
The agile step that goes with a happy heart was heard on the stairs,
and the Reverend, smiling diabolically, sought sudden refuge behind the
heavy folds of the velvet window-curtains. Alonzo entered and flew to
the telephone. Said he:
"Rosannah, dear, shall we sing something together?"
"Something modern?" asked she, with sarcastic bitterness.
"Yes, if you prefer."
"Sing it yourself, if you like!"
This snappishness amazed and wounded the young man. He said:
"Rosannah, that was not like you."
"I suppose it becomes me as much as your very polite speech became you,
Mr. Fitz Clarence."
"Mister Fitz Clarence! Rosannah, there was nothing impolite about my
"Oh, indeed! Of course, then, I misunderstood you, and I most humbly
beg your pardon, ha-ha-ha! No doubt you said, 'Don't sing it any more
"Sing what any more to-day?"
"The song you mentioned, of course, How very obtuse we are, all of a
"I never mentioned any song."
"Oh, you didn't?"
"No, I didn't!"
"I am compelled to remark that you did."
"And I am obliged to reiterate that I didn't."
"A second rudeness! That is sufficient, sir. I will never forgive you.
All is over between us."
Then came a muffled sound of crying. Alonzo hastened to say:
"Oh, Rosannah, unsay those words! There is some dreadful mystery here,
some hideous mistake. I am utterly earnest and sincere when I say I
never said anything about any song. I would not hurt you for the whole
world.... Rosannah, dear speak to me, won't you?"
There was a pause; then Alonzo heard the girl's sobbings retreating,
and knew she had gone from the telephone. He rose with a heavy sigh, and
hastened from the room, saying to himself, "I will ransack the charity
missions and the haunts of the poor for my mother. She will persuade her
that I never meant to wound her."
A minute later the Reverend was crouching over the telephone like a cat
that knoweth the ways of the prey. He had not very many minutes to wait.
A soft, repentant voice, tremulous with tears, said:
"Alonzo, dear, I have been wrong. You could not have said so cruel a
thing. It must have been some one who imitated your voice in malice or
The Reverend coldly answered, in Alonzo's tones:
"You have said all was over between us. So let it be. I spurn your
proffered repentance, and despise it!"
Then he departed, radiant with fiendish triumph, to return no more with
his imaginary telephonic invention forever.
Four hours afterward Alonzo arrived with his mother from her favorite
haunts of poverty and vice. They summoned the San Francisco household;
but there was no reply. They waited, and continued to wait, upon the
At length, when it was sunset in San Francisco, and three hours and
a half after dark in Eastport, an answer to the oft-repeated cry of
But, alas, it was Aunt Susan's voice that spake. She said:
"I have been out all day; just got in. I will go and find her."
The watchers waited two minutes--five minutes--ten minutes. Then came
these fatal words, in a frightened tone:
"She is gone, and her baggage with her. To visit another friend, she
told the servants. But I found this note on the table in her room.
Listen: 'I am gone; seek not to trace me out; my heart is broken; you
will never see me more. Tell him I shall always think of him when I sing
my poor "Sweet By-and-by," but never of the unkind words he said about
it.' That is her note. Alonzo, Alonzo, what does it mean? What has
But Alonzo sat white and cold as the dead. His mother threw back
the velvet curtains and opened a window. The cold air refreshed the
sufferer, and he told his aunt his dismal story. Meantime his mother
was inspecting a card which had disclosed itself upon the floor when
she cast the curtains back. It read, "Mr. Sidney Algernon Burley, San
"The miscreant!" shouted Alonzo, and rushed forth to seek the false
Reverend and destroy him; for the card explained everything, since in
the course of the lovers' mutual confessions they had told each other
all about all the sweethearts they had ever had, and thrown no end of
mud at their failings and foibles for lovers always do that. It has a
fascination that ranks next after billing and cooing.
During the next two months many things happened. It had early transpired
that Rosannah, poor suffering orphan, had neither returned to her
grandmother in Portland, Oregon, nor sent any word to her save a
duplicate of the woeful note she had left in the mansion on Telegraph
Hill. Whosoever was sheltering her--if she was still alive--had been
persuaded not to betray her whereabouts, without doubt; for all efforts
to find trace of her had failed.
Did Alonzo give her up? Not he. He said to himself, "She will sing
that sweet song when she is sad; I shall find her." So he took his
carpet-sack and a portable telephone, and shook the snow of his native
city from his arctics, and went forth into the world. He wandered far
and wide and in many states. Time and again, strangers were astounded to
see a wasted, pale, and woe-worn man laboriously climb a telegraph-pole
in wintry and lonely places, perch sadly there an hour, with his ear at
a little box, then come sighing down, and wander wearily away. Sometimes
they shot at him, as peasants do at aeronauts, thinking him mad and
dangerous. Thus his clothes were much shredded by bullets and his person
grievously lacerated. But he bore it all patiently.
In the beginning of his pilgrimage he used often to say, "Ah, if I could
but hear the 'Sweet By-and-by'!" But toward the end of it he used to
shed tears of anguish and say, "Ah, if I could but hear something else!"
Thus a month and three weeks drifted by, and at last some humane people
seized him and confined him in a private mad-house in New York. He made
no moan, for his strength was all gone, and with it all heart and all
hope. The superintendent, in pity, gave up his own comfortable parlor
and bedchamber to him and nursed him with affectionate devotion.
At the end of a week the patient was able to leave his bed for the first
time. He was lying, comfortably pillowed, on a sofa, listening to the
plaintive Miserere of the bleak March winds and the muffled sound of
tramping feet in the street below for it was about six in the evening,
and New York was going home from work. He had a bright fire and the
added cheer of a couple of student-lamps. So it was warm and snug
within, though bleak and raw without; it was light and bright within,
though outside it was as dark and dreary as if the world had been lit
with Hartford gas. Alonzo smiled feebly to think how his loving vagaries
had made him a maniac in the eyes of the world, and was proceeding to
pursue his line of thought further, when a faint, sweet strain, the very
ghost of sound, so remote and attenuated it seemed, struck upon his ear.
His pulses stood still; he listened with parted lips and bated
breath. The song flowed on--he waiting, listening, rising slowly and
unconsciously from his recumbent position. At last he exclaimed:
"It is! it is she! Oh, the divine hated notes!"
He dragged himself eagerly to the corner whence the sounds proceeded,
tore aside a curtain, and discovered a telephone. He bent over, and as
the last note died away he burst forthwith the exclamation:
"Oh, thank Heaven, found at last! Speak to me, Rosannah, dearest! The
cruel mystery has been unraveled; it was the villain Burley who mimicked
my voice and wounded you with insolent speech!"
There was a breathless pause, a waiting age to Alonzo; then a faint
sound came, framing itself into language:
"Oh, say those precious words again, Alonzo!"
"They are the truth, the veritable truth, my Rosannah, and you shall
have the proof, ample and abundant proof!"
"Oh; Alonzo, stay by me! Leave me not for a moment! Let me feel that you
are near me! Tell me we shall never be parted more! Oh, this happy hour,
this blessed hour, this memorable hour!"
"We will make record of it, my Rosannah; every year, as this dear hour
chimes from the clock, we will celebrate it with thanksgivings, all the
years of our life."
"We will, we will, Alonzo!"
"Four minutes after six, in the evening, my Rosannah, shall
"Twenty-three minutes after twelve, afternoon shall--"
"Why; Rosannah, darling, where are you?"
"In Honolulu, Sandwich Islands. And where are you? Stay by me; do not
leave me for a moment. I cannot bear it. Are you at home?"
"No, dear, I am in New York--a patient in the doctor's hands."
An agonizing shriek came buzzing to Alonzo's ear, like the sharp buzzing
of a hurt gnat; it lost power in traveling five thousand miles. Alonzo
hastened to say:
"Calm yourself, my child. It is nothing. Already I am getting well under
the sweet healing of your presence. Rosannah?"
"Yes, Alonzo? Oh, how you terrified me! Say on."
"Name the happy day, Rosannah!"
There was a little pause. Then a diffident small voice replied, "I
blush--but it is with pleasure, it is with happiness. Would--would you
like to have it soon?"
"This very night, Rosannah! Oh, let us risk no more delays. Let it be
now!--this very night, this very moment!"
"Oh, you impatient creature! I have nobody here but my good old uncle,
a missionary for a generation, and now retired from service--nobody but
him and his wife. I would so dearly like it if your mother and your Aunt
"Our mother and our Aunt Susan, my Rosannah."
"Yes, our mother and our Aunt Susan--I am content to word it so if it
pleases you; I would so like to have them present."
"So would I. Suppose you telegraph Aunt Susan. How long would it take
her to come?"
"The steamer leaves San Francisco day after tomorrow. The passage is
eight days. She would be here the 31st of March."
"Then name the 1st of April; do, Rosannah, dear."
"Mercy, it would make us April fools, Alonzo!"
"So we be the happiest ones that that day's suit looks down upon in the
whole broad expanse of the globe, why need we care? Call it the 1st of
"Then the 1st of April at shall be, with all my heart!"
"Oh, happiness! Name the hour, too, Rosannah."
"I like the morning, it is so blithe. Will eight in the morning do,
"The loveliest hour in the day--since it will make you mine."
There was a feeble but frantic sound for some little time, as if
wool-lipped, disembodied spirits were exchanging kisses; then Rosannah
said, "Excuse me just a moment, dear; I have an appointment, and am
called to meet it."
The young girl sought a large parlor and took her place at a window
which looked out upon a beautiful scene. To the left one could view the
charming Nuuana Valley, fringed with its ruddy flush of tropical flowers
and its plumed and graceful cocoa palms; its rising foothills clothed
in the shining green of lemon, citron, and orange groves; its storied
precipice beyond, where the first Kamehameha drove his defeated foes
over to their destruction, a spot that had forgotten its grim history,
no doubt, for now it was smiling, as almost always at noonday, under the
glowing arches of a succession of rainbows. In front of the window one
could see the quaint town, and here and there a picturesque group of
dusky natives, enjoying the blistering weather; and far to the right lay
the restless ocean, tossing its white mane in the sunshine.
Rosannah stood there, in her filmy white raiment, fanning her flushed
and heated face, waiting. A Kanaka boy, clothed in a damaged blue
necktie and part of a silk hat, thrust his head in at the door, and
announced, "'Frisco haole!"
"Show him in," said the girl, straightening herself up and assuming a
meaning dignity. Mr. Sidney Algernon Burley entered, clad from head to
heel in dazzling snow--that is to say, in the lightest and whitest of
Irish linen. He moved eagerly forward, but the girl made a gesture and
gave him a look which checked him suddenly. She said, coldly, "I am
here, as I promised. I believed your assertions, I yielded to your
importune lies, and said I would name the day. I name the 1st of
April--eight in the morning. NOW GO!"
"Oh, my dearest, if the gratitude of a lifetime--"
"Not a word. Spare me all sight of you, all communication with you,
until that hour. No--no supplications; I will have it so."
When he was gone, she sank exhausted in a chair, for the long siege of
troubles she had undergone had wasted her strength. Presently she
said, "What a narrow escape! If the hour appointed had been an hour
earlier--Oh, horror, what an escape I have made! And to think I had come
to imagine I was loving this beguiling, this truthless, this treacherous
monster! Oh, he shall repent his villainy!"
Let us now draw this history to a close, for little more needs to be
told. On the 2d of the ensuing April, the Honolulu Advertiser contained
MARRIED.--In this city, by telephone, yesterday morning,--at eight
o'clock, by Rev. Nathan Hays, assisted by Rev. Nathaniel Davis, of
New York, Mr. Alonzo Fitz Clarence, of Eastport, Maine, U. S., and
Miss Rosannah Ethelton, of Portland, Oregon, U. S. Mrs. Susan
Howland, of San Francisco, a friend of the bride, was present, she
being the guest of the Rev. Mr. Hays and wife, uncle and aunt of the
bride. Mr. Sidney Algernon Burley, of San Francisco, was also
present but did not remain till the conclusion of the marriage
service. Captain Hawthorne's beautiful yacht, tastefully decorated,
was in waiting, and the happy bride and her friends immediately
departed on a bridal trip to Lahaina and Haleakala.
The New York papers of the same date contained this notice:
MARRIED.--In this city, yesterday, by telephone, at half-past two in
the morning, by Rev. Nathaniel Davis, assisted by Rev. Nathan Hays,
of Honolulu, Mr. Alonzo Fitz Clarence, of Eastport, Maine, and Miss
Rosannah Ethelton, of Portland, Oregon. The parents and several
friends of the bridegroom were present, and enjoyed a sumptuous
breakfast and much festivity until nearly sunrise, and then departed
on a bridal trip to the Aquarium, the bridegroom's state of health
not admitting of a more extended journey.
Toward the close of that memorable day Mr. and Mrs. Alonzo Fitz Clarence
were buried in sweet converse concerning the pleasures of their several
bridal tours, when suddenly the young wife exclaimed: "Oh, Lonny, I
forgot! I did what I said I would."
"Did you, dear?"
"Indeed, I did. I made him the April fool! And I told him so, too!
Ah, it was a charming surprise! There he stood, sweltering in a black
dress-suit, with the mercury leaking out of the top of the thermometer,
waiting to be married. You should have seen the look he gave when I
whispered it in his ear. Ah, his wickedness cost me many a heartache
and many a tear, but the score was all squared up, then. So the vengeful
feeling went right out of my heart, and I begged him to stay, and said
I forgave him everything. But he wouldn't. He said he would live to be
avenged; said he would make our lives a curse to us. But he can't, can
"Never in this world, my Rosannah!"
Aunt Susan, the Oregonian grandmother, and the young couple and their
Eastport parents, are all happy at this writing, and likely to remain
so. Aunt Susan brought the bride from the islands, accompanied her
across our continent, and had the happiness of witnessing the rapturous
meeting between an adoring husband and wife who had never seen each
other until that moment.
A word about the wretched Burley, whose wicked machinations came so
near wrecking the hearts and lives of our poor young friends, will be
sufficient. In a murderous attempt to seize a crippled and helpless
artisan who he fancied had done him some small offense, he fell into a
caldron of boiling oil and expired before he could be extinguished.
ON THE DECAY OF THE ART OF LYING
ESSAY, FOR DISCUSSION, READ AT A MEETING OF THE HISTORICAL
ANTIQUARIAN CLUB OF HARTFORD, AND OFFERED FOR THE THIRTY-
NOW FIRST PUBLISHED.--[Did not take the prize]
Observe, I do not mean to suggest that the custom of lying has suffered
any decay or interruption--no, for the Lie, as a Virtue, a Principle, is
eternal; the Lie, as a recreation, a solace, a refuge in time of need,
the fourth Grace, the tenth Muse, man's best and surest friend, is
immortal, and cannot perish from the earth while this Club remains. My
complaint simply concerns the decay of the art of lying. No high-minded
man, no man of right feeling, can contemplate the lumbering and
slovenly lying of the present day without grieving to see a noble art so
prostituted. In this veteran presence I naturally enter upon this scheme
with diffidence; it is like an old maid trying to teach nursery matters
to the mothers in Israel. It would not become me to criticize you,
gentlemen, who are nearly all my elders--and my superiors, in this
thing--and so, if I should here and there seem to do it, I trust it will
in most cases be more in a spirit of admiration than of fault-finding;
indeed, if this finest of the fine arts had everywhere received the
attention, encouragement, and conscientious practice and development
which this Club has devoted to it I should not need to utter this lament
or shed a single tear. I do not say this to flatter: I say it in a
spirit of just and appreciative recognition.
[It had been my intention, at this point, to mention names and give
illustrative specimens, but indications observable about me admonished
me to beware of particulars and confine myself to generalities.]
No fact is more firmly established than that lying is a necessity of
our circumstances--the deduction that it is then a Virtue goes without
saying. No virtue can reach its highest usefulness without careful and
diligent cultivation--therefore, it goes without saying that this one
ought to be taught in the public schools--at the fireside--even in the
newspapers. What chance has the ignorant, uncultivated liar against the
educated expert? What chance have I against Mr. Per-- against a lawyer?
Judicious lying is what the world needs. I sometimes think it were
even better and safer not to lie at all than to lie injudiciously. An
awkward, unscientific lie is often as ineffectual as the truth.
Now let us see what the philosophers say. Note that venerable
proverb: Children and fools always speak the truth. The deduction is
plain--adults and wise persons never speak it. Parkman, the historian,
says, "The principle of truth may itself be carried into an absurdity."
In another place in the same chapter he says, "The saying is old
that truth should not be spoken at all times; and those whom a sick
conscience worries into habitual violation of the maxim are imbeciles
and nuisances." It is strong language, but true. None of us could live
with an habitual truth-teller; but, thank goodness, none of us has to.
An habitual truth-teller is simply an impossible creature; he does not
exist; he never has existed. Of course there are people who think they
never lie, but it is not so--and this ignorance is one of the very
things that shame our so-called civilization. Everybody lies--every day;
every hour; awake; asleep; in his dreams; in his joy; in his mourning;
if he keeps his tongue still, his hands, his feet, his eyes, his
attitude, will convey deception--and purposely. Even in sermons--but
that is a platitude.
In a far country where I once lived the ladies used to go around paying
calls, under the humane and kindly pretense of wanting to see each
other; and when they returned home, they would cry out with a glad
voice, saying, "We made sixteen calls and found fourteen of them
out"--not meaning that they found out anything against the fourteen--no,
that was only a colloquial phrase to signify that they were not at
home--and their manner of saying it--expressed their lively satisfaction
in that fact. Now, their pretense of wanting to see the fourteen--and
the other two whom they had been less lucky with--was that commonest
mildest form of lying which is sufficiently described as a deflection
from the truth. Is it justifiable? Most certainly. It is beautiful,
it is noble; for its object is, not to reap profit, but to convey a
pleasure to the sixteen. The iron-souled truth-monger would plainly
manifest, or even utter the fact, that he didn't want to see those
people--and he would be an ass, and inflict a totally unnecessary pain.
And next, those ladies in that far country--but never mind, they had a
thousand pleasant ways of lying, that grew out of gentle impulses, and
were a credit to their intelligence and an honor to their hearts. Let
the particulars go.
The men in that far country were liars; every one. Their mere howdy-do
was a lie, because they didn't care how you did, except they were
undertakers. To the ordinary inquirer you lied in return; for you made
no conscientious diagnosis of your case, but answered at random, and
usually missed it considerably. You lied to the undertaker, and said
your health was failing--a wholly commendable lie, since it cost you
nothing and pleased the other man. If a stranger called and interrupted
you, you said with your hearty tongue, "I'm glad to see you," and said
with your heartier soul, "I wish you were with the cannibals and it was
dinner-time." When he went, you said regretfully, "Must you go?" and
followed it with a "Call again"; but you did no harm, for you did not
deceive anybody nor inflict any hurt, whereas the truth would have made
you both unhappy.
I think that all this courteous lying is a sweet and loving art, and
should be cultivated. The highest perfection of politeness is only a
beautiful edifice, built, from the base to the dome, of graceful and
gilded forms of charitable and unselfish lying.
What I bemoan is the growing prevalence of the brutal truth. Let us do
what we can to eradicate it. An injurious truth has no merit over an
injurious lie. Neither should ever be uttered. The man who speaks an
injurious truth, lest his soul be not saved if he do otherwise, should
reflect that that sort of a soul is not strictly worth saving. The man
who tells a lie to help a poor devil out of trouble is one of whom the
angels doubtless say, "Lo, here is an heroic soul who casts his own
welfare into jeopardy to succor his neighbor's; let us exalt this
An injurious lie is an uncommendable thing; and so, also, and in the
same degree, is an injurious truth--a fact which is recognized by the
law of libel.
Among other common lies, we have the silent lie--the deception which one
conveys by simply keeping still and concealing the truth. Many obstinate
truth-mongers indulge in this dissipation, imagining that if they speak
no lie, they lie not at all. In that far country where I once lived,
there was a lovely spirit, a lady whose impulses were always high and
pure, and whose character answered to them. One day I was there at
dinner, and remarked, in a general way, that we are all liars. She was
amazed, and said, "Not all!" It was before "Pinafore's" time so I did
not make the response which would naturally follow in our day, but
frankly said, "Yes, all--we are all liars; there are no exceptions." She
looked almost offended, and said, "Why, do you include me?" "Certainly,"
I said, "I think you even rank as an expert." She said, "'Sh!--'sh! the
So the subject was changed in deference to the children's presence, and
we went on talking about other things. But as soon as the young people
were out of the way, the lady came warmly back to the matter and said,
"I have made it the rule of my life to never tell a lie; and I have
never departed from it in a single instance." I said, "I don't mean the
least harm or disrespect, but really you have been lying like smoke
ever since I've been sitting here. It has caused me a good deal of pain,
because I am not used to it." She required of me an instance--just a
single instance. So I said:--
"Well, here is the unfilled duplicate of the blank which the Oakland
hospital people sent to you by the hand of the sick-nurse when she came
here to nurse your little nephew through his dangerous illness. This
blank asks all manner of questions as to the conduct of that sick-nurse:
'Did she ever sleep on her watch? Did she ever forget to give the
medicine?' and so forth and so on. You are warned to be very careful and
explicit in your answers, for the welfare of the service requires that
the nurses be promptly fined or otherwise punished for derelictions.
You told me you were perfectly delighted with that nurse--that she had
a thousand perfections and only one fault: you found you never could
depend on her wrapping Johnny up half sufficiently while he waited in
a chilly chair for her to rearrange the warm bed. You filled up the
duplicate of this paper, and sent it back to the hospital by the hand of
the nurse. How did you answer this question--'Was the nurse at any
time guilty of a negligence which was likely to result in the patient's
taking cold?' Come--everything is decided by a bet here in California:
ten dollars to ten cents you lied when you answered that question." She
said, "I didn't; I left it blank!" "Just so--you have told a silent lie;
you have left it to be inferred that you had no fault to find in that
matter." She said, "Oh, was that a lie? And how could I mention her one
single fault, and she so good?--it would have been cruel." I said, "One
ought always to lie when one can do good by it; your impulse was right,
but, your judgment was crude; this comes of unintelligent practice. Now
observe the result of this inexpert deflection of yours. You know
Mr. Jones's Willie is lying very low with scarlet fever; well, your
recommendation was so enthusiastic that that girl is there nursing him,
and the worn-out family have all been trustingly sound asleep for the
last fourteen hours, leaving their darling with full confidence in
those fatal hands, because you, like young George Washington, have a
reputa--However, if you are not going to have anything to do, I will
come around to-morrow and we'll attend the funeral together, for, of
course, you'll naturally feel a peculiar interest in Willie's case--as
personal a one, in fact, as the undertaker."
But that was all lost. Before I was half-way through she was in a
carriage and making thirty miles an hour toward the Jones mansion to
save what was left of Willie and tell all she knew about the deadly
nurse. All of which was unnecessary, as Willie wasn't sick; I had been
lying myself. But that same day, all the same, she sent a line to the
hospital which filled up the neglected blank, and stated the facts, too,
in the squarest possible manner.
Now, you see, this lady's fault was not in lying, but only in lying
injudiciously. She should have told the truth there, and made it up to
the nurse with a fraudulent compliment further along in the paper. She
could have said, "In one respect the sick-nurse is perfection--when she
is on watch, she never snores." Almost any little pleasant lie would
have taken the sting out of that troublesome but necessary expression of
Lying is universal--we all do it; we all must do it. Therefore, the
wise thing is for us diligently to train ourselves to lie thoughtfully,
judiciously; to lie with a good object, and not an evil one; to lie
for others' advantage, and not our own; to lie healingly, charitably,
humanely, not cruelly, hurtfully, maliciously; to lie gracefully
and graciously, not awkwardly and clumsily; to lie firmly, frankly,
squarely, with head erect, not haltingly, tortuously, with pusillanimous
mien, as being ashamed of our high calling. Then shall we be rid of
the rank and pestilent truth that is rotting the land; then shall we be
great and good and beautiful, and worthy dwellers in a world where
even benign Nature habitually lies, except when she promises execrable
weather. Then--but I am but a new and feeble student in this gracious
art; I can not instruct this Club.
Joking aside, I think there is much need of wise examination into what
sorts of lies are best and wholesomest to be indulged, seeing we must
all lie and do all lie, and what sorts it may be best to avoid--and this
is a thing which I feel I can confidently put into the hands of this
experienced Club--a ripe body, who may be termed, in this regard, and
without undue flattery, Old Masters.
ABOUT MAGNANIMOUS-INCIDENT LITERATURE
All my life, from boyhood up, I have had the habit of reading a certain
set of anecdotes, written in the quaint vein of The World's ingenious
Fabulist, for the lesson they taught me and the pleasure they gave me.
They lay always convenient to my hand, and whenever I thought meanly of
my kind I turned to them, and they banished that sentiment; whenever
I felt myself to be selfish, sordid, and ignoble I turned to them, and
they told me what to do to win back my self-respect. Many times I wished
that the charming anecdotes had not stopped with their happy climaxes,
but had continued the pleasing history of the several benefactors and
beneficiaries. This wish rose in my breast so persistently that at last
I determined to satisfy it by seeking out the sequels of those anecdotes
myself. So I set about it, and after great labor and tedious research
accomplished my task. I will lay the result before you, giving you each
anecdote in its turn, and following it with its sequel as I gathered it
through my investigations.
THE GRATEFUL POODLE
One day a benevolent physician (who had read the books) having found a
stray poodle suffering from a broken leg, conveyed the poor creature
to his home, and after setting and bandaging the injured limb gave the
little outcast its liberty again, and thought no more about the matter.
But how great was his surprise, upon opening his door one morning, some
days later, to find the grateful poodle patiently waiting there, and in
its company another stray dog, one of whose legs, by some accident, had
been broken. The kind physician at once relieved the distressed animal,
nor did he forget to admire the inscrutable goodness and mercy of God,
who had been willing to use so humble an instrument as the poor outcast
poodle for the inculcating of, etc., etc., etc.
The next morning the benevolent physician found the two dogs,
beaming with gratitude, waiting at his door, and with them two other
dogs-cripples. The cripples were speedily healed, and the four went
their way, leaving the benevolent physician more overcome by pious
wonder than ever. The day passed, the morning came. There at the door
sat now the four reconstructed dogs, and with them four others requiring
reconstruction. This day also passed, and another morning came; and now
sixteen dogs, eight of them newly crippled, occupied the sidewalk, and
the people were going around. By noon the broken legs were all set, but
the pious wonder in the good physician's breast was beginning to get
mixed with involuntary profanity. The sun rose once more, and exhibited
thirty-two dogs, sixteen of them with broken legs, occupying the
sidewalk and half of the street; the human spectators took up the rest
of the room. The cries of the wounded, the songs of the healed brutes,
and the comments of the onlooking citizens made great and inspiring
cheer, but traffic was interrupted in that street. The good physician
hired a couple of assistant surgeons and got through his benevolent
work before dark, first taking the precaution to cancel his
church membership, so that he might express himself with the latitude
which the case required.
But some things have their limits. When once more the morning dawned,
and the good physician looked out upon a massed and far-reaching
multitude of clamorous and beseeching dogs, he said, "I might as well
acknowledge it, I have been fooled by the books; they only tell the
pretty part of the story, and then stop. Fetch me the shotgun; this
thing has gone along far enough."
He issued forth with his weapon, and chanced to step upon the tail of
the original poodle, who promptly bit him in the leg. Now the great and
good work which this poodle had been engaged in had engendered in him
such a mighty and augmenting enthusiasm as to turn his weak head at last
and drive him mad. A month later, when the benevolent physician lay in
the death-throes of hydrophobia, he called his weeping friends about
him, and said:--
"Beware of the books. They tell but half of the story. Whenever a poor
wretch asks you for help, and you feel a doubt as to what result may
flow from your benevolence, give yourself the benefit of the doubt and
kill the applicant."
And so saying he turned his face to the wall and gave up the ghost.
THE BENEVOLENT AUTHOR
A poor and young literary beginner had tried in vain to get his
manuscripts accepted. At last, when the horrors of starvation were
staring him in the face, he laid his sad case before a celebrated
author, beseeching his counsel and assistance. This generous man
immediately put aside his own matters and proceeded to peruse one of
the despised manuscripts. Having completed his kindly task, he shook the
poor young man cordially by the hand, saying, "I perceive merit in
this; come again to me on Monday." At the time specified, the celebrated
author, with a sweet smile, but saying nothing, spread open a
magazine which was damp from the press. What was the poor young man's
astonishment to discover upon the printed page his own article. "How
can I ever," said he, falling upon his knees and bursting into tears,
"testify my gratitude for this noble conduct!"
The celebrated author was the renowned Snodgrass; the poor young
beginner thus rescued from obscurity and starvation was the afterward
equally renowned Snagsby. Let this pleasing incident admonish us to turn
a charitable ear to all beginners that need help.
The next week Snagsby was back with five rejected manuscripts. The
celebrated author was a little surprised, because in the books the
young struggler had needed but one lift, apparently. However, he plowed
through these papers, removing unnecessary flowers and digging up some
acres of adjective-stumps, and then succeeded in getting two of the
A week or so drifted by, and the grateful Snagsby arrived with another
cargo. The celebrated author had felt a mighty glow of satisfaction
within himself the first time he had successfully befriended the poor
young struggler, and had compared himself with the generous people in
the books with high gratification; but he was beginning to suspect now
that he had struck upon something fresh in the noble-episode line.
His enthusiasm took a chill. Still, he could not bear to repulse this
struggling young author, who clung to him with such pretty simplicity
Well, the upshot of it all was that the celebrated author presently
found himself permanently freighted with the poor young beginner. All
his mild efforts to unload this cargo went for nothing. He had to give
daily counsel, daily encouragement; he had to keep on procuring
magazine acceptances, and then revamping the manuscripts to make them
presentable. When the young aspirant got a start at last, he rode into
sudden fame by describing the celebrated author's private life with such
a caustic humor and such minuteness of blistering detail that the book
sold a prodigious edition, and broke the celebrated author's heart with
mortification. With his latest gasp he said, "Alas, the books deceived
me; they do not tell the whole story. Beware of the struggling
young author, my friends. Whom God sees fit to starve, let not man
presumptuously rescue to his own undoing."
THE GRATEFUL HUSBAND
One day a lady was driving through the principal street of a great city
with her little boy, when the horses took fright and dashed madly away,
hurling the coachman from his box and leaving the occupants of the
carnage paralyzed with terror. But a brave youth who was driving a
grocery-wagon threw himself before the plunging animals, and succeeded
in arresting their flight at the peril of his own.--[This is probably a
misprint.--M. T.]--The grateful lady took his number, and upon arriving
at her home she related the heroic act to her husband (who had read the
books), who listened with streaming eyes to the moving recital, and who,
after returning thanks, in conjunction with his restored loved ones, to
Him who suffereth not even a sparrow to fall to the ground unnoticed,
sent for the brave young person, and, placing a check for five hundred
dollars in his hand, said, "Take this as a reward for your noble act,
William Ferguson, and if ever you shall need a friend, remember that
Thompson McSpadden has a grateful heart." Let us learn from this that a
good deed cannot fail to benefit the doer, however humble he may be.
William Ferguson called the next week and asked Mr. McSpadden to use his
influence to get him a higher employment, he feeling capable of
better things than driving a grocer's wagon. Mr. McSpadden got him an
under-clerkship at a good salary.
Presently William Ferguson's mother fell sick, and William--Well, to
cut the story short, Mr. McSpadden consented to take her into his house.
Before long she yearned for the society of her younger children; so Mary
and Julia were admitted also, and little Jimmy, their brother. Jimmy had
a pocket knife, and he wandered into the drawing-room with it one
day, alone, and reduced ten thousand dollars' worth of furniture to an
indeterminable value in rather less than three-quarters of an hour. A
day or two later he fell down-stairs and broke his neck, and seventeen
of his family's relatives came to the house to attend the funeral. This
made them acquainted, and they kept the kitchen occupied after that, and
likewise kept the McSpaddens busy hunting up situations of various sorts
for them, and hunting up more when they wore these out. The old woman
drank a good deal and swore a good deal; but the grateful McSpaddens
knew it was their duty to reform her, considering what her son had done
for them, so they clave nobly to their generous task. William came
often and got decreasing sums of money, and asked for higher and
more lucrative employments--which the grateful McSpadden more or less
promptly procured for him. McSpadden consented also, after some demur,
to fit William for college; but when the first vacation came and the
hero requested to be sent to Europe for his health, the persecuted
McSpadden rose against the tyrant and revolted. He plainly and squarely
refused. William Ferguson's mother was so astounded that she let her
gin-bottle drop, and her profane lips refused to do their office. When
she recovered she said in a half-gasp, "Is this your gratitude? Where
would your wife and boy be now, but for my son?"
William said, "Is this your gratitude? Did I save your wife's life or
not? Tell me that!"
Seven relations swarmed in from the kitchen and each said, "And this is
William's sisters stared, bewildered, and said, "And this is his
grat--" but were interrupted by their mother, who burst into tears and
"To think that my sainted little Jimmy threw away his life in the
service of such a reptile!"
Then the pluck of the revolutionary McSpadden rose to the occasion, and
he replied with fervor, "Out of my house, the whole beggarly tribe
of you! I was beguiled by the books, but shall never be beguiled
again--once is sufficient for me." And turning to William he shouted,
"Yes, you did save my wife's life, and the next man that does it shall
die in his tracks!"
Not being a clergyman, I place my text at the end of my sermon instead
of at the beginning. Here it is, from Mr. Noah Brooks's Recollections of
President Lincoln in "Scribners Monthly":
J. H. Hackett, in his part of Falstaff, was an actor who gave Mr.
Lincoln great delight. With his usual desire to signify to others
his sense of obligation, Mr. Lincoln wrote a genial little note to
the actor expressing his pleasure at witnessing his performance.
Mr. Hackett, in reply, sent a book of some sort; perhaps it was one
of his own authorship. He also wrote several notes to the
President. One night, quite late, when the episode had passed out
of my mind, I went to the White House in answer to a message.
Passing into the President's office, I noticed, to my surprise,
Hackett sitting in the anteroom as if waiting for an audience. The
President asked me if any one was outside. On being told, he said,
half sadly, "Oh, I can't see him, I can't see him; I was in hopes he
had gone away." Then he added, "Now this just illustrates the
difficulty of having pleasant friends and acquaintances in this
place. You know how I liked Hackett as an actor, and how I wrote to
tell him so. He sent me that book, and there I thought the matter
would end. He is a master of his place in the profession, I
suppose, and well fixed in it; but just because we had a little
friendly correspondence, such as any two men might have, he wants
something. What do you suppose he wants?" I could not guess, and
Mr. Lincoln added, "well, he wants to be consul to London. Oh,
I will observe, in conclusion, that the William Ferguson incident
occurred, and within my personal knowledge--though I have changed the
nature of the details, to keep William from recognizing himself in it.
All the readers of this article have in some sweet and gushing hour of
their lives played the role of Magnanimous-Incident hero. I wish I knew
how many there are among them who are willing to talk about that episode
and like to be reminded of the consequences that flowed from it.
PUNCH, BROTHERS, PUNCH
Will the reader please to cast his eye over the following lines, and see
if he can discover anything harmful in them?
Conductor, when you receive a fare,
Punch in the presence of the passenjare!
A blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare,
A buff trip slip for a six-cent fare,
A pink trip slip for a three-cent fare,
Punch in the presence of the passenjare!
Punch, brothers! punch with care!
Punch in the presence of the passenjare!
I came across these jingling rhymes in a newspaper, a little while ago,
and read them a couple of times. They took instant and entire possession
of me. All through breakfast they went waltzing through my brain; and
when, at last, I rolled up my napkin, I could not tell whether I had
eaten anything or not. I had carefully laid out my day's work the day
before--thrilling tragedy in the novel which I am writing. I went to my
den to begin my deed of blood. I took up my pen, but all I could get it
to say was, "Punch in the presence of the passenjare." I fought hard for
an hour, but it was useless. My head kept humming, "A blue trip slip for
an eight-cent fare, a buff trip slip for a six-cent fare," and so on and
so on, without peace or respite. The day's work was ruined--I could
see that plainly enough. I gave up and drifted down-town, and presently
discovered that my feet were keeping time to that relentless jingle.
When I could stand it no longer I altered my step. But it did no
good; those rhymes accommodated themselves to the new step and went
on harassing me just as before. I returned home, and suffered all the
afternoon; suffered all through an unconscious and unrefreshing dinner;
suffered, and cried, and jingled all through the evening; went to bed
and rolled, tossed, and jingled right along, the same as ever; got up at
midnight frantic, and tried to read; but there was nothing visible
upon the whirling page except "Punch! punch in the presence of the
passenjare." By sunrise I was out of my mind, and everybody marveled and
was distressed at the idiotic burden of my ravings--"Punch! oh, punch!
punch in the presence of the passenjare!"
Two days later, on Saturday morning, I arose, a tottering wreck, and
went forth to fulfil an engagement with a valued friend, the Rev.
Mr.------, to walk to the Talcott Tower, ten miles distant. He stared at
me, but asked no questions. We started. Mr.------ talked, talked, talked
as is his wont. I said nothing; I heard nothing. At the end of a mile,
Mr.------ said "Mark, are you sick? I never saw a man look so haggard
and worn and absent-minded. Say something, do!"
Drearily, without enthusiasm, I said: "Punch brothers, punch with care!
Punch in the presence of the passenjare!"
My friend eyed me blankly, looked perplexed, then said:
"I do not think I get your drift, Mark. There does not seem to be any
relevancy in what you have said, certainly nothing sad; and yet--maybe
it was the way you said the words--I never heard anything that sounded
so pathetic. What is--"
But I heard no more. I was already far away with my pitiless,
heartbreaking "blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare, buff trip slip
for a six-cent fare, pink trip slip for a three-cent fare; punch in
the presence of the passenjare." I do not know what occurred during the
other nine miles. However, all of a sudden Mr.------ laid his hand on my
shoulder and shouted:--
"Oh, wake up! wake up! wake up! Don't sleep all day! Here we are at the
Tower, man! I have talked myself deaf and dumb and blind, and never got
a response. Just look at this magnificent autumn landscape! Look at
it! look at it! Feast your eye on it! You have traveled; you have seen
boasted landscapes elsewhere. Come, now, deliver an honest opinion. What
do you say to this?"
I sighed wearily; and murmured:--
"A buff trip slip for a six-cent fare, a pink trip slip for a three-cent
fare, punch in the presence of the passenjare."
Rev. Mr. ------ stood there, very grave, full of concern, apparently,
and looked long at me; then he said:--
"Mark, there is something about this that I cannot understand. Those are
about the same words you said before; there does not seem to be anything
in them, and yet they nearly break my heart when you say them. Punch in
the--how is it they go?"
I began at the beginning and repeated all the lines.
My friend's face lighted with interest. He said:--
"Why, what a captivating jingle it is! It is almost music. It flows
along so nicely. I have nearly caught the rhymes myself. Say them over
just once more, and then I'll have them, sure."
I said them over. Then Mr. ------ said them. He made one little mistake,
which I corrected. The next time and the next he got them right. Now a
great burden seemed to tumble from my shoulders. That torturing jingle
departed out of my brain, and a grateful sense of rest and peace
descended upon me. I was light-hearted enough to sing; and I did sing
for half an hour, straight along, as we went jogging homeward. Then my
freed tongue found blessed speech again, and the pent talk of many
a weary hour began to gush and flow. It flowed on and on, joyously,
jubilantly, until the fountain was empty and dry. As I wrung my friend's
hand at parting, I said:--
"Haven't we had a royal good time! But now I remember, you haven't said
a word for two hours. Come, come, out with something!"
The Rev. Mr.------ turned a lack-lustre eye upon me, drew a deep sigh,
and said, without animation, without apparent consciousness:
"Punch, brothers, punch with care! Punch in the presence of the
A pang shot through me as I said to myself, "Poor fellow, poor fellow!
he has got it, now."
I did not see Mr.------ for two or three days after that. Then, on
Tuesday evening, he staggered into my presence and sank dejectedly into
a seat. He was pale, worn; he was a wreck. He lifted his faded eyes to
my face and said:--
"Ah, Mark, it was a ruinous investment that I made in those heartless
rhymes. They have ridden me like a nightmare, day and night, hour after
hour, to this very moment. Since I saw you I have suffered the torments
of the lost. Saturday evening I had a sudden call, by telegraph, and
took the night train for Boston. The occasion was the death of a valued
old friend who had requested that I should preach his funeral sermon. I
took my seat in the cars and set myself to framing the discourse. But I
never got beyond the opening paragraph; for then the train started
and the car-wheels began their 'clack, clack-clack-clack-clack!
clack-clack!--clack-clack-clack!' and right away those odious rhymes
fitted themselves to that accompaniment. For an hour I sat there and
set a syllable of those rhymes to every separate and distinct clack
the car-wheels made. Why, I was as fagged out, then, as if I had been
chopping wood all day. My skull was splitting with headache. It seemed
to me that I must go mad if I sat there any longer; so I undressed and
went to bed. I stretched myself out in my berth, and--well, you
know what the result was. The thing went right along, just the same.
'Clack-clack clack, a blue trip slip, clack-clack-clack, for an
eight-cent fare; clack-clack-clack, a buff trip slip, clack clack-clack, for a
six-cent fare, and so on, and so on, and so on punch in the presence of
the passenjare!' Sleep? Not a single wink! I was almost a lunatic when
I got to Boston. Don't ask me about the funeral. I did the best I could,
but every solemn individual sentence was meshed and tangled and woven in
and out with 'Punch, brothers, punch with care, punch in the presence
of the passenjare.' And the most distressing thing was that my delivery
dropped into the undulating rhythm of those pulsing rhymes, and I could
actually catch absent-minded people nodding time to the swing of it with
their stupid heads. And, Mark, you may believe it or not, but before I
got through the entire assemblage were placidly bobbing their heads in
solemn unison, mourners, undertaker, and all. The moment I had finished,
I fled to the anteroom in a state bordering on frenzy. Of course
it would be my luck to find a sorrowing and aged maiden aunt of the
deceased there, who had arrived from Springfield too late to get into
the church. She began to sob, and said:--
"'Oh, oh, he is gone, he is gone, and I didn't see him before he died!'
"'Yes!' I said, 'he is gone, he is gone, he is gone--oh, will this
suffering never cease!'
"'You loved him, then! Oh, you too loved him!'
"'Loved him! Loved who?'
"'Why, my poor George! my poor nephew!'
"'Oh--him! Yes--oh, yes, yes. Certainly--certainly. Punch--punch--oh,
this misery will kill me!'
"'Bless you! bless you, sir, for these sweet words! I, too, suffer in
this dear loss. Were you present during his last moments?'
"'Yes. I--whose last moments?'
"'His. The dear departed's.'
"'Yes! Oh, yes--yes--yes! I suppose so, I think so, I don't know! Oh,
certainly--I was there--I was there!'
"'Oh, what a privilege! what a precious privilege! And his last
words--oh, tell me, tell me his last words! What did he say?'
"'He said--he said--oh, my head, my head, my head! He said--he said--he
never said anything but Punch, punch, punch in the presence of the
passenjare! Oh, leave me, madam! In the name of all that is generous,
leave me to my madness, my misery, my despair!--a buff trip slip for a
six-cent fare, a pink trip slip for a three-cent fare--endu--rance can
no fur--ther go!--PUNCH in the presence of the passenjare!"
My friend's hopeless eyes rested upon mine a pregnant minute, and then
he said impressively:--
"Mark, you do not say anything. You do not offer me any hope. But, ah
me, it is just as well--it is just as well. You could not do me any
good. The time has long gone by when words could comfort me. Something
tells me that my tongue is doomed to wag forever to the jigger of that
remorseless jingle. There--there it is coming on me again: a blue trip
slip for an eight-cent fare, a buff trip slip for a--"
Thus murmuring faint and fainter, my friend sank into a peaceful trance
and forgot his sufferings in a blessed respite.
How did I finally save him from an asylum? I took him to a neighboring
university and made him discharge the burden of his persecuting rhymes
into the eager ears of the poor, unthinking students. How is it with
them, now? The result is too sad to tell. Why did I write this article?
It was for a worthy, even a noble, purpose. It was to warn you, reader,
if you should came across those merciless rhymes, to avoid them--avoid
them as you would a pestilence!
THE GREAT REVOLUTION IN PITCAIRN
Let me refresh the reader's memory a little. Nearly a hundred years ago
the crew of the British ship Bounty mutinied, set the captain and his
officers adrift upon the open sea, took possession of the ship, and
sailed southward. They procured wives for themselves among the natives
of Tahiti, then proceeded to a lonely little rock in mid-Pacific, called
Pitcairn's Island, wrecked the vessel, stripped her of everything that
might be useful to a new colony, and established themselves on shore.
Pitcairn's is so far removed from the track of commerce that it was many
years before another vessel touched there. It had always been considered
an uninhabited island; so when a ship did at last drop its anchor there,
in 1808, the captain was greatly surprised to find the place peopled.
Although the mutineers had fought among themselves, and gradually killed
each other off until only two or three of the original stock remained,
these tragedies had not occurred before a number of children had been
born; so in 1808 the island had a population of twenty-seven persons.
John Adams, the chief mutineer, still survived, and was to live many
years yet, as governor and patriarch of the flock. From being mutineer
and homicide, he had turned Christian and teacher, and his nation of
twenty-seven persons was now the purest and devoutest in Christendom.
Adams had long ago hoisted the British flag and constituted his island
an appanage of the British crown.
To-day the population numbers ninety persons--sixteen men, nineteen
women, twenty-five boys, and thirty girls--all descendants of the
mutineers, all bearing the family names of those mutineers, and all
speaking English, and English only. The island stands high up out of
the sea, and has precipitous walls. It is about three-quarters of a mile
long, and in places is as much as half a mile wide. Such arable land as
it affords is held by the several families, according to a division made
many years ago. There is some live stock--goats, pigs, chickens, and
cats; but no dogs, and no large animals. There is one church building
used also as a capitol, a schoolhouse, and a public library. The title
of the governor has been, for a generation or two, "Magistrate and Chief
Ruler, in subordination to her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain." It
was his province to make the laws, as well as execute them. His office
was elective; everybody over seventeen years old had a vote--no matter
about the sex.
The sole occupations of the people were farming and fishing; their
sole recreation, religious services. There has never been a shop in the
island, nor any money. The habits and dress of the people have always
been primitive, and their laws simple to puerility. They have lived in
a deep Sabbath tranquillity, far from the world and its ambitions and
vexations, and neither knowing nor caring what was going on in the
mighty empires that lie beyond their limitless ocean solitudes. Once in
three or four years a ship touched there, moved them with aged news
of bloody battles, devastating epidemics, fallen thrones, and ruined
dynasties, then traded them some soap and flannel for some yams and
breadfruit, and sailed away, leaving them to retire into their peaceful
dreams and pious dissipations once more.
On the 8th of last September, Admiral de Horsey, commander-in-chief of
the British fleet in the Pacific, visited Pitcairn's Island, and speaks
as follows in his official report to the admiralty:--
They have beans, carrots, turnips, cabbages, and a little maize;
pineapples, fig-trees, custard-apples, and oranges; lemons, and
cocoa-nuts. Clothing is obtained alone from passing ships, in barter
for refreshments. There are no springs on the island, but as it
rains generally once a month they have plenty of water, although at
times in former years they have suffered from drought. No alcoholic
liquors, except for medicinal purposes, are used, and a drunkard is
The necessary articles required by the islanders are best shown by
those we furnished in barter for refreshments: namely, flannel,
serge, drill, half-boots, combs, tobacco, and soap. They also stand
much in need of maps and slates for their school, and tools of any
kind are most acceptable. I caused them to be supplied from the
public stores with a Union jack for display on the arrival of
ships, and a pit-saw, of which they were greatly in need. This, I
trust, will meet the approval of their lordships. If the munificent
people of England were only aware of the wants of this most
deserving little colony, they would not long go unsupplied....
Divine service is held every Sunday at 10.30 A.M. and at 3 P.M.,
in the house built and used by John Adams for that purpose until he
died in 1829. It is conducted strictly in accordance with the
liturgy of the Church of England, by Mr. Simon Young, their selected
pastor, who is much respected. A Bible class is held every
Wednesday, when all who conveniently can, attend. There is also a
general meeting for prayer on the first Friday in every month.
Family prayers are said in every house the first thing in the
morning and the last thing in the evening, and no food is partaken
of without asking God's blessing before and afterward. Of these
islanders' religious attributes no one can speak without deep
respect. A people whose greatest pleasure and privilege is to
commune in prayer with their God, and to join in hymns of praise,
and who are, moreover, cheerful, diligent, and probably freer from
vice than any other community, need no priest among them.
Now I come to a sentence in the admiral's report which he dropped
carelessly from his pen, no doubt, and never gave the matter a second
thought. He little imagined what a freight of tragic prophecy it bore!
This is the sentence:--
One stranger, an American, has settled on the island--a doubtful
A doubtful acquisition, indeed! Captain Ormsby, in the American ship
Hornet, touched at Pitcairn's nearly four months after the admiral's
visit, and from the facts which he gathered there we now know all about
that American. Let us put these facts together in historical form. The
American's name was Butterworth Stavely. As soon as he had become
well acquainted with all the people--and this took but a few days, of
course--he began to ingratiate himself with them by all the arts he
could command. He became exceedingly popular, and much looked up to;
one of the first things he did was to forsake his worldly way of life,
and throw all his energies into religion. He was always reading his
Bible, or praying, or singing hymns, or asking blessings. In prayer, no
one had such "liberty" as he, no one could pray so long or so well.
At last, when he considered the time to be ripe, he began secretly to
sow the seeds of discontent among the people. It was his deliberate
purpose, from the beginning, to subvert the government, but of course he
kept that to himself for a time. He used different arts with different
individuals. He awakened dissatisfaction in one quarter by calling
attention to the shortness of the Sunday services; he argued that there
should be three three-hour services on Sunday instead of only two.
Many had secretly held this opinion before; they now privately banded
themselves into a party to work for it. He showed certain of the women
that they were not allowed sufficient voice in the prayer-meetings;
thus another party was formed. No weapon was beneath his notice; he
even descended to the children, and awoke discontent in their breasts
because--as he discovered for them--they had not enough Sunday-school.
This created a third party.
Now, as the chief of these parties, he found himself the strongest power
in the community. So he proceeded to his next move--a no less important
one than the impeachment of the chief magistrate, James Russell Nickoy;
a man of character and ability, and possessed of great wealth, he being
the owner of a house with a parlor to it, three acres and a half of
yam land, and the only boat in Pitcairn's, a whaleboat; and, most
unfortunately, a pretext for this impeachment offered itself at just the
One of the earliest and most precious laws of the island was the law
against trespass. It was held in great reverence, and was regarded
as the palladium of the people's liberties. About thirty years ago an
important case came before the courts under this law, in this wise: a
chicken belonging to Elizabeth Young (aged, at that time, fifty-eight,
a daughter of John Mills, one of the mutineers of the Bounty) trespassed
upon the grounds of Thursday October Christian (aged twenty-nine, a
grandson of Fletcher Christian, one of the mutineers). Christian killed
the chicken. According to the law, Christian could keep the chicken; or,
if he preferred, he could restore its remains to the owner and receive
damages in "produce" to an amount equivalent to the waste and injury
wrought by the trespasser. The court records set forth that "the said
Christian aforesaid did deliver the aforesaid remains to the said
Elizabeth Young, and did demand one bushel of yams in satisfaction of the
damage done." But Elizabeth Young considered the demand exorbitant; the
parties could not agree; therefore Christian brought suit in the courts.
He lost his case in the justice's court; at least, he was awarded only
a half-peck of yams, which he considered insufficient, and in the
nature of a defeat. He appealed. The case lingered several years in an
ascending grade of courts, and always resulted in decrees sustaining the
original verdict; and finally the thing got into the supreme court, and
there it stuck for twenty years. But last summer, even the supreme court
managed to arrive at a decision at last. Once more the original verdict
was sustained. Christian then said he was satisfied; but Stavely was
present, and whispered to him and to his lawyer, suggesting, "as a mere
form," that the original law be exhibited, in order to make sure that
it still existed. It seemed an odd idea, but an ingenious one. So the
demand was made. A messenger was sent to the magistrate's house; he
presently returned with the tidings that it had disappeared from among
the state archives.
The court now pronounced its late decision void, since it had been made
under a law which had no actual existence.
Great excitement ensued immediately. The news swept abroad over the
whole island that the palladium of the public liberties was lost--maybe
treasonably destroyed. Within thirty minutes almost the entire nation
were in the court-room--that is to say, the church. The impeachment of
the chief magistrate followed, upon Stavely's motion. The accused met
his misfortune with the dignity which became his great office. He did
not plead, or even argue; he offered the simple defense that he had not
meddled with the missing law; that he had kept the state archives in
the same candle-box that had been used as their depository from the
beginning; and that he was innocent of the removal or destruction of the
But nothing could save him; he was found guilty of misprision of
treason, and degraded from his office, and all his property was
The lamest part of the whole shameful matter was the reason suggested
by his enemies for his destruction of the law, to wit: that he did it to
favor Christian, because Christian was his cousin! Whereas Stavely was
the only individual in the entire nation who was not his cousin. The
reader must remember that all these people are the descendants of half
a dozen men; that the first children intermarried together and bore
grandchildren to the mutineers; that these grandchildren intermarried;
after them, great and great-great-grandchildren intermarried; so that
to-day everybody is blood kin to everybody. Moreover, the relationships
are wonderfully, even astoundingly, mixed up and complicated. A
stranger, for instance, says to an islander:--
"You speak of that young woman as your cousin; a while ago you called
her your aunt."
"Well, she is my aunt, and my cousin, too. And also my stepsister, my
niece, my fourth cousin, my thirty-third cousin, my forty-second cousin,
my great-aunt, my grandmother, my widowed sister-in-law--and next week
she will be my wife."
So the charge of nepotism against the chief magistrate was weak. But
no matter; weak or strong, it suited Stavely. Stavely was immediately
elected to the vacant magistracy, and, oozing reform from every pore,
he went vigorously to work. In no long time religious services raged
everywhere and unceasingly. By command, the second prayer of the Sunday
morning service, which had customarily endured some thirty-five or forty
minutes, and had pleaded for the world, first by continent and then by
national and tribal detail, was extended to an hour and a half, and
made to include supplications in behalf of the possible peoples in the
several planets. Everybody was pleased with this; everybody said, "Now
this is something like." By command, the usual three-hour sermons were
doubled in length. The nation came in a body to testify their gratitude
to the new magistrate. The old law forbidding cooking on the Sabbath was
extended to the prohibition of eating, also. By command, Sunday-school
was privileged to spread over into the week. The joy of all classes was
complete. In one short month the new magistrate had become the people's
The time was ripe for this man's next move. He began, cautiously at
first, to poison the public mind against England. He took the chief
citizens aside, one by one, and conversed with them on this topic.
Presently he grew bolder, and spoke out. He said the nation owed it to
itself, to its honor, to its great traditions, to rise in its might and
throw off "this galling English yoke."
But the simple islanders answered:
"We had not noticed that it galled. How does it gall? England sends
a ship once in three or four years to give us soap and clothing, and
things which we sorely need and gratefully receive; but she never
troubles us; she lets us go our own way."
"She lets you go your own way! So slaves have felt and spoken in all the
ages! This speech shows how fallen you are, how base, how brutalized
you have become, under this grinding tyranny! What! has all manly pride
forsaken you? Is liberty nothing? Are you content to be a mere appendage
to a foreign and hateful sovereignty, when you might rise up and take
your rightful place in the august family of nations, great, free,
enlightened, independent, the minion of no sceptered master, but the
arbiter of your own destiny, and a voice and a power in decreeing the
destinies of your sister-sovereignties of the world?"
Speeches like this produced an effect by-and-by. Citizens began to feel
the English yoke; they did not know exactly how or whereabouts they
felt it, but they were perfectly certain they did feel it. They got to
grumbling a good deal, and chafing under their chains, and longing for
relief and release. They presently fell to hating the English flag, that
sign and symbol of their nation's degradation; they ceased to glance
up at it as they passed the capitol, but averted their eyes and grated
their teeth; and one morning, when it was found trampled into the mud at
the foot of the staff, they left it there, and no man put his hand to
it to hoist it again. A certain thing which was sure to happen sooner or
later happened now. Some of the chief citizens went to the magistrate by
night, and said:--
"We can endure this hated tyranny no longer. How can we cast it off?"
"By a coup d'etat."
"A coup d'etat. It is like this: everything is got ready, and at the
appointed moment I, as the official head of the nation, publicly and
solemnly proclaim its independence, and absolve it from allegiance to
any and all other powers whatsoever."
"That sounds simple and easy. We can do that right away. Then what will
be the next thing to do?"
"Seize all the defenses and public properties of all kinds, establish
martial law, put the army and navy on a war footing, and proclaim the
This fine program dazzled these innocents. They said:--
"This is grand--this is splendid; but will not England resist?"
"Let her. This rock is a Gibraltar."
"True. But about the empire? Do we need an empire and an emperor?"
"What you need, my friends, is unification. Look at Germany; look at
Italy. They are unified. Unification is the thing. It makes living dear.
That constitutes progress. We must have a standing army and a navy.
Taxes follow, as a matter of course. All these things summed up make
grandeur. With unification and grandeur, what more can you want? Very
well--only the empire can confer these boons."
So on the 8th day of December Pitcairn's Island was proclaimed a free
and independent nation; and on the same day the solemn coronation of
Butterworth I, Emperor of Pitcairn's Island, took place, amid great
rejoicings and festivities. The entire nation, with the exception of
fourteen persons, mainly little children, marched past the throne in
single file, with banners and music, the procession being upward of
ninety feet long; and some said it was as much as three-quarters of a
minute passing a given point. Nothing like it had ever been seen in the
history of the island before. Public enthusiasm was measureless.
Now straightway imperial reforms began. Orders of nobility were
instituted. A minister of the navy was appointed, and the whale-boat put
in commission. A minister of war was created, and ordered to proceed at
once with the formation of a standing army. A first lord of the treasury
was named, and commanded to get up a taxation scheme, and also open
negotiations for treaties, offensive, defensive, and commercial, with
foreign powers. Some generals and admirals were appointed; also
some chamberlains, some equerries in waiting, and some lords of the
At this point all the material was used up. The Grand Duke of Galilee,
minister of war, complained that all the sixteen grown men in the empire
had been given great offices, and consequently would not consent to
serve in the ranks; wherefore his standing army was at a stand-still. The
Marquis of Ararat, minister of the navy, made a similar complaint. He
said he was willing to steer the whale-boat himself, but he must have
somebody to man her.
The emperor did the best he could in the circumstances: he took all the
boys above the age of ten years away from their mothers, and pressed
them into the army, thus constructing a corps of seventeen privates,
officered by one lieutenant-general and two major-generals. This pleased
the minister of war, but procured the enmity of all the mothers in the
land; for they said their precious ones must now find bloody graves in
the fields of war, and he would be answerable for it. Some of the more
heartbroken and unappeasable among them lay constantly wait for the
emperor and threw yams at him, unmindful of the body-guard.
On account of the extreme scarcity of material, it was found necessary
to require the Duke of Bethany postmaster-general, to pull stroke-oar
in the navy and thus sit in the rear of a noble of lower degree namely,
Viscount Canaan, lord-justice of the common pleas. This turned the Duke
of Bethany into tolerably open malcontent and a secret conspirator--a
thing which the emperor foresaw, but could not help.
Things went from bad to worse. The emperor raised Nancy Peters to the
peerage on one day, and married her the next, notwithstanding, for
reasons of state, the cabinet had strenuously advised him to marry
Emmeline, eldest daughter of the Archbishop of Bethlehem. This caused
trouble in a powerful quarter--the church. The new empress secured the
support and friendship of two-thirds of the thirty-six grown women in
the nation by absorbing them into her court as maids of honor; but this
made deadly enemies of the remaining twelve. The families of the maids
of honor soon began to rebel, because there was nobody at home to keep
house. The twelve snubbed women refused to enter the imperial kitchen
as servants; so the empress had to require the Countess of Jericho and
other great court dames to fetch water, sweep the palace, and perform
other menial and equally distasteful services. This made bad blood in
Everybody fell to complaining that the taxes levied for the support
of the army, the navy, and the rest of the imperial establishment were
intolerably burdensome, and were reducing the nation to beggary. The
emperor's reply--"Look--Look at Germany; look at Italy. Are you better
than they? and haven't you unification?"---did not satisfy them. They
said, "People can't eat unification, and we are starving. Agriculture
has ceased. Everybody is in the army, everybody is in the navy,
everybody is in the public service, standing around in a uniform, with
nothing whatever to do, nothing to eat, and nobody to till the fields--"
"Look at Germany; look at Italy. It is the same there. Such is
unification, and there's no other way to get it--no other way to keep it
after you've got it," said the poor emperor always.
But the grumblers only replied, "We can't stand the taxes--we can't
Now right on top of this the cabinet reported a national debt amounting
to upward of forty-five dollars--half a dollar to every individual in
the nation. And they proposed to fund something. They had heard that
this was always done in such emergencies. They proposed duties on
exports; also on imports. And they wanted to issue bonds; also paper
money, redeemable in yams and cabbages in fifty years. They said the pay
of the army and of the navy and of the whole governmental machine was
far in arrears, and unless something was done, and done immediately,
national bankruptcy must ensue, and possibly insurrection and
revolution. The emperor at once resolved upon a high-handed measure, and
one of a nature never before heard of in Pitcairn's Island. He went in
state to the church on Sunday morning, with the army at his back, and
commanded the minister of the treasury to take up a collection.
That was the feather that broke the camel's back. First one citizen, and
then another, rose and refused to submit to this unheard-of outrage--and
each refusal was followed by the immediate confiscation of the
malcontent's property. This vigor soon stopped the refusals, and the
collection proceeded amid a sullen and ominous silence. As the emperor
withdrew with the troops, he said, "I will teach you who is master
here." Several persons shouted, "Down with unification!" They were at
once arrested and torn from the arms of their weeping friends by the
But in the mean time, as any prophet might have foreseen, a Social
Democrat had been developed. As the emperor stepped into the gilded
imperial wheelbarrow at the church door, the social democrat stabbed at
him fifteen or sixteen times with a harpoon, but fortunately with such a
peculiarly social democratic unprecision of aim as to do no damage.
That very night the convulsion came. The nation rose as one man--though
forty-nine of the revolutionists were of the other sex. The infantry
threw down their pitchforks; the artillery cast aside their cocoa-nuts;
the navy revolted; the emperor was seized, and bound hand and foot in
his palace. He was very much depressed. He said:--
"I freed you from a grinding tyranny; I lifted you up out of your
degradation, and made you a nation among nations; I gave you a strong,
compact, centralized government; and, more than all, I gave you the
blessing of blessings--unification. I have done all this, and my reward
is hatred, insult, and these bonds. Take me; do with me as you will.
I here resign my crown and all my dignities, and gladly do I release
myself from their too heavy burden. For your sake I took them up; for
your sake I lay them down. The imperial jewel is no more; now bruise and
defile as ye will the useless setting."
By a unanimous voice the people condemned the ex-emperor and the social
democrat to perpetual banishment from church services, or to perpetual
labor as galley-slaves in the whale-boat--whichever they might prefer.
The next day the nation assembled again, and rehoisted the British flag,
reinstated the British tyranny, reduced the nobility to the condition of
commoners again, and then straightway turned their diligent attention
to the weeding of the ruined and neglected yam patches, and the
rehabilitation of the old useful industries and the old healing and
solacing pieties. The ex-emperor restored the lost trespass law, and
explained that he had stolen it--not to injure any one, but to further
his political projects. Therefore the nation gave the late chief
magistrate his office again, and also his alienated Property.
Upon reflection, the ex-emperor and the social democrat chose perpetual
banishment from religious services in preference to perpetual labor as
galley-slaves "with perpetual religious services," as they phrased
it; wherefore the people believed that the poor fellows' troubles had
unseated their reason, and so they judged it best to confine them for
the present. Which they did.
Such is the history of Pitcairn's "doubtful acquisition."
THE CANVASSER'S TALE
Poor, sad-eyed stranger! There was that about his humble mien, his tired
look, his decayed-gentility clothes, that almost reached the
mustard-seed of charity that still remained, remote and lonely, in the
empty vastness of my heart, notwithstanding I observed a portfolio under
his arm, and said to myself, Behold, Providence hath delivered his
servant into the hands of another canvasser.
Well, these people always get one interested. Before I well knew how it
came about, this one was telling me his history, and I was all attention
and sympathy. He told it something like this:--
My parents died, alas, when I was a little, sinless child. My uncle
Ithuriel took me to his heart and reared me as his own. He was my only
relative in the wide world; but he was good and rich and generous. He
reared me in the lap of luxury. I knew no want that money could satisfy.
In the fullness of time I was graduated, and went with two of my
servants--my chamberlain and my valet--to travel in foreign countries.
During four years I flitted upon careless wing amid the beauteous
gardens of the distant strand, if you will permit this form of speech in
one whose tongue was ever attuned to poesy; and indeed I so speak with
confidence, as one unto his kind, for I perceive by your eyes that you
too, sir, are gifted with the divine inflation. In those far lands I
reveled in the ambrosial food that fructifies the soul, the mind, the
heart. But of all things, that which most appealed to my inborn esthetic
taste was the prevailing custom there, among the rich, of making
collections of elegant and costly rarities, dainty objets de vertu,
and in an evil hour I tried to uplift my uncle Ithuriel to a plane of
sympathy with this exquisite employment.
I wrote and told him of one gentleman's vast collection of shells;
another's noble collection of meerschaum pipes; another's elevating and
refining collection of undecipherable autographs; another's
priceless collection of old china; another's enchanting collection of
postage-stamps--and so forth and so on. Soon my letters yielded fruit.
My uncle began to look about for something to make a collection of.
You may know, perhaps, how fleetly a taste like this dilates. His soon
became a raging fever, though I knew it not. He began to neglect his
great pork business; presently he wholly retired and turned an elegant
leisure into a rabid search for curious things. His wealth was vast, and
he spared it not. First he tried cow-bells. He made a collection which
filled five large salons, and comprehended all the different sorts of
cow-bells that ever had been contrived, save one. That one--an antique,
and the only specimen extant--was possessed by another collector. My
uncle offered enormous sums for it, but the gentleman would not sell.
Doubtless you know what necessarily resulted. A true collector attaches
no value to a collection that is not complete. His great heart
breaks, he sells his hoard, he turns his mind to some field that seems
Thus did my uncle. He next tried brickbats. After piling up a vast and
intensely interesting collection, the former difficulty supervened;
his great heart broke again; he sold out his soul's idol to the retired
brewer who possessed the missing brick. Then he tried flint hatchets
and other implements of Primeval Man, but by and by discovered that the
factory where they were made was supplying other collectors as well
as himself. He tried Aztec inscriptions and stuffed whales--another
failure, after incredible labor and expense. When his collection seemed
at last perfect, a stuffed whale arrived from Greenland and an Aztec
inscription from the Cundurango regions of Central America that made all
former specimens insignificant. My uncle hastened to secure these
noble gems. He got the stuffed whale, but another collector got the
inscription. A real Cundurango, as possibly you know, is a possession of
such supreme value that, when once a collector gets it, he will rather
part with his family than with it. So my uncle sold out, and saw his
darlings go forth, never more to return; and his coal-black hair turned
white as snow in a single night.
Now he waited, and thought. He knew another disappointment might kill
him. He was resolved that he would choose things next time that no other
man was collecting. He carefully made up his mind, and once more entered
the field-this time to make a collection of echoes.
"Of what?" said I.
Echoes, sir. His first purchase was an echo in Georgia that repeated
four times; his next was a six-repeater in Maryland; his next was a
thirteen-repeater in Maine; his next was a nine-repeater in Kansas;
his next was a twelve-repeater in Tennessee, which he got cheap, so
to speak, because it was out of repair, a portion of the crag which
reflected it having tumbled down. He believed he could repair it at a
cost of a few thousand dollars, and, by increasing the elevation with
masonry, treble the repeating capacity; but the architect who undertook
the job had never built an echo before, and so he utterly spoiled
this one. Before he meddled with it, it used to talk back like a
mother-in-law, but now it was only fit for the deaf-and-dumb asylum.
Well, next he bought a lot of cheap little double-barreled echoes,
scattered around over various states and territories; he got them
at twenty per cent. off by taking the lot. Next he bought a perfect
Gatling-gun of an echo in Oregon, and it cost a fortune, I can tell
you. You may know, sir, that in the echo market the scale of prices
is cumulative, like the carat-scale in diamonds; in fact, the same
phraseology is used. A single-carat echo is worth but ten dollars over
and above the value of the land it is on; a two-carat or double-barreled
echo is worth thirty dollars; a five-carat is worth nine hundred and
fifty; a ten-carat is worth thirteen thousand. My uncle's Oregon-echo,
which he called the Great Pitt Echo, was a twenty-two carat gem, and
cost two hundred and sixteen thousand dollars--they threw the land in,
for it was four hundred miles from a settlement.
Well, in the mean time my path was a path of roses. I was the accepted
suitor of the only and lovely daughter of an English earl, and was
beloved to distraction. In that dear presence I swam in seas of bliss.
The family were content, for it was known that I was sole heir to an
uncle held to be worth five millions of dollars. However, none of us
knew that my uncle had become a collector, at least in anything more
than a small way, for esthetic amusement.
Now gathered the clouds above my unconscious head. That divine echo,
since known throughout the world as the Great Koh-i-noor, or Mountain
of Repetitions, was discovered. It was a sixty-five carat gem. You could
utter a word and it would talk back at you for fifteen minutes, when the
day was otherwise quiet. But behold, another fact came to light at the
same time: another echo-collector was in the field. The two rushed to
make the peerless purchase. The property consisted of a couple of
small hills with a shallow swale between, out yonder among the back
settlements of New York State. Both men arrived on the ground at the
same time, and neither knew the other was there. The echo was not all
owned by one man; a person by the name of Williamson Bolivar Jarvis
owned the east hill, and a person by the name of Harbison J. Bledso
owned the west hill; the swale between was the dividing-line. So while
my uncle was buying Jarvis's hill for three million two hundred and
eighty-five thousand dollars, the other party was buying Bledso's hill
for a shade over three million.
Now, do you perceive the natural result? Why, the noblest collection of
echoes on earth was forever and ever incomplete, since it possessed but
the one-half of the king echo of the universe. Neither man was content
with this divided ownership, yet neither would sell to the other.
There were jawings, bickerings, heart-burnings. And at last that other
collector, with a malignity which only a collector can ever feel toward
a man and a brother, proceeded to cut down his hill!
You see, as long as he could not have the echo, he was resolved that
nobody should have it. He would remove his hill, and then there would be
nothing to reflect my uncle's echo. My uncle remonstrated with him, but
the man said, "I own one end of this echo; I choose to kill my end; you
must take care of your own end yourself."
Well, my uncle got an injunction put on him. The other man appealed and
fought it in a higher court. They carried it on up, clear to the Supreme
Court of the United States. It made no end of trouble there. Two of
the judges believed that an echo was personal property, because it was
impalpable to sight and touch, and yet was purchasable, salable, and
consequently taxable; two others believed that an echo was real estate,
because it was manifestly attached to the land, and was not removable
from place to place; other of the judges contended that an echo was not
property at all.
It was finally decided that the echo was property; that the hills were
property; that the two men were separate and independent owners of the
two hills, but tenants in common in the echo; therefore defendant was at
full liberty to cut down his hill, since it belonged solely to him, but
must give bonds in three million dollars as indemnity for damages which
might result to my uncle's half of the echo. This decision also debarred
my uncle from using defendant's hill to reflect his part of the echo,
without defendant's consent; he must use only his own hill; if his part
of the echo would not go, under these circumstances, it was sad, of
course, but the court could find no remedy. The court also debarred
defendant from using my uncle's hill to reflect his end of the echo,
without consent. You see the grand result! Neither man would give
consent, and so that astonishing and most noble echo had to cease from
its great powers; and since that day that magnificent property is tied
up and unsalable.
A week before my wedding-day, while I was still swimming in bliss and
the nobility were gathering from far and near to honor our espousals,
came news of my uncle's death, and also a copy of his will, making me
his sole heir. He was gone; alas, my dear benefactor was no more. The
thought surcharges my heart even at this remote day. I handed the will
to the earl; I could not read it for the blinding tears. The earl read
it; then he sternly said, "Sir, do you call this wealth?--but doubtless
you do in your inflated country. Sir, you are left sole heir to a vast
collection of echoes--if a thing can be called a collection that is
scattered far and wide over the huge length and breadth of the American
continent; sir, this is not all; you are head and ears in debt; there
is not an echo in the lot but has a mortgage on it; sir, I am not a hard
man, but I must look to my child's interest; if you had but one echo
which you could honestly call your own, if you had but one echo which
was free from incumbrance, so that you could retire to it with my child,
and by humble, painstaking industry cultivate and improve it, and thus
wrest from it a maintenance, I would not say you nay; but I cannot marry
my child to a beggar. Leave his side, my darling; go, sir, take your
mortgage-ridden echoes and quit my sight forever."
My noble Celestine clung to me in tears, with loving arms, and swore she
would willingly, nay gladly, marry me, though I had not an echo in the
world. But it could not be. We were torn asunder, she to pine and die
within the twelvemonth, I to toil life's long journey sad and alone,
praying daily, hourly, for that release which shall join us together
again in that dear realm where the wicked cease from troubling and the
weary are at rest. Now, sir, if you will be so kind as to look at these
maps and plans in my portfolio, I am sure I can sell you an echo for
less money than any man in the trade. Now this one, which cost my uncle
ten dollars, thirty years ago, and is one of the sweetest things in
Texas, I will let you have for--
"Let me interrupt you," I said. "My friend, I have not had a moment's
respite from canvassers this day. I have bought a sewing-machine which I
did not want; I have bought a map which is mistaken in all its details;
I have bought a clock which will not go; I have bought a moth poison
which the moths prefer to any other beverage; I have bought no end of
useless inventions, and now I have had enough of this foolishness. I
would not have one of your echoes if you were even to give it to me. I
would not let it stay on the place. I always hate a man that tries to
sell me echoes. You see this gun? Now take your collection and move on;
let us not have bloodshed."
But he only smiled a sad, sweet smile, and got out some more diagrams.
You know the result perfectly well, because you know that when you have
once opened the door to a canvasser, the trouble is done and you have
got to suffer defeat.
I compromised with this man at the end of an intolerable hour. I bought
two double-barreled echoes in good condition, and he threw in another,
which he said was not salable because it only spoke German. He said,
"She was a perfect polyglot once, but somehow her palate got down."
AN ENCOUNTER WITH AN INTERVIEWER
The nervous, dapper, "peart" young man took the chair I offered him, and
said he was connected with the Daily Thunderstorm, and added:
"Hoping it's no harm, I've come to interview you."
"Come to what?"
"Ah! I see. Yes--yes. Um! Yes--yes."
I was not feeling bright that morning. Indeed, my powers seemed a bit
under a cloud. However, I went to the bookcase, and when I had been
looking six or seven minutes I found I was obliged to refer to the young
man. I said:--
"How do you spell it?"
"Oh, my goodness! what do you want to spell it for?"
"I don't want to spell it; I want to see what it means."
"Well, this is astonishing, I must say. I can tell you what it means, if
"Oh, all right! That will answer, and much obliged to you, too."
"In, in, ter, ter, inter--"
"Then you spell it with an I?"
"Oh, that is what took me so long."
"Why, my dear sir, what did you propose to spell it with?"
"Well, I--I--hardly know. I had the Unabridged, and I was ciphering
around in the back end, hoping I might tree her among the pictures. But
it's a very old edition."
"Why, my friend, they wouldn't have a picture of it in even the latest
e---- My dear sir, I beg your pardon, I mean no harm in the world, but
you do not look as--as--intelligent as I had expected you would. No
harm--I mean no harm at all."
"Oh, don't mention it! It has often been said, and by people who would
not flatter and who could have no inducement to flatter, that I am quite
remarkable in that way. Yes--yes; they always speak of it with rapture."
"I can easily imagine it. But about this interview. You know it is the
custom, now, to interview any man who has become notorious."
"Indeed, I had not heard of it before. It must be very interesting. What
do you do it with?"
"Ah, well--well--well--this is disheartening. It ought to be done with
a club in some cases; but customarily it consists in the interviewer
asking questions and the interviewed answering them. It is all the rage
now. Will you let me ask you certain questions calculated to bring out
the salient points of your public and private history?"
"Oh, with pleasure--with pleasure. I have a very bad memory, but I
hope you will not mind that. That is to say, it is an irregular
memory--singularly irregular. Sometimes it goes in a gallop, and then
again it will be as much as a fortnight passing a given point. This is a
great grief to me."
"Oh, it is no matter, so you will try to do the best you can."
"I will. I will put my whole mind on it."
"Thanks. Are you ready to begin?"
Q. How old are you?
A. Nineteen, in June.
Q. Indeed. I would have taken you to be thirty-five or six. Where were
A. In Missouri.
Q. When did you begin to write?
A. In 1836.
Q. Why, how could that be, if you are only nineteen now?
A. I don't know. It does seem curious, somehow.
Q. It does, indeed. Whom do you consider the most remarkable man you
A. Aaron Burr.
Q. But you never could have met Aaron Burr, if you are only nineteen
A. Now, if you know more about me than I do, what do you ask me for?
Q. Well, it was only a suggestion; nothing more. How did you happen to
A. Well, I happened to be at his funeral one day, and he asked me to
make less noise, and--
Q. But, good heavens! if you were at his funeral, he must have been
dead, and if he was dead how could he care whether you made a noise or
A. I don't know. He was always a particular kind of a man that way.
Q. Still, I don't understand it at all. You say he spoke to you, and
that he was dead.
A. I didn't say he was dead.
Q. But wasn't he dead?
A. Well, some said he was, some said he wasn't.
Q. What did you think?
A. Oh, it was none of my business! It wasn't any of my funeral.
Q. Did you--However, we can never get this matter straight. Let me ask
about something else. What was the date of your birth?
A. Monday, October 31, 1693.
Q. What! Impossible! That would make you a hundred and eighty years old.
How do you account for that?
A. I don't account for it at all.
Q. But you said at first you were only nineteen, and now you make
yourself out to be one hundred and eighty. It is an awful discrepancy.
A. Why, have you noticed that? (Shaking hands.) Many a time it has
seemed to me like a discrepancy, but somehow I couldn't make up my mind.
How quick you notice a thing!
Q. Thank you for the compliment, as far as it goes. Had you, or have
you, any brothers or sisters?
A. Eh! I--I--I think so--yes--but I don't remember.
Q. Well, that is the most extraordinary statement I ever heard!
A. Why, what makes you think that?
Q. How could I think otherwise? Why, look here! Who is this a picture of
on the wall? Isn't that a brother of yours?
A. Oh, yes, yes, yes! Now you remind me of it; that was a brother of
mine. That's William--Bill we called him. Poor old Bill!
Q. Why? Is he dead, then?
A. Ah! well, I suppose so. We never could tell. There was a great
mystery about it.
Q. That is sad, very sad. He disappeared, then?
A. Well, yes, in a sort of general way. We buried him--
Q. Buried him! Buried him, without knowing whether he was dead or not?
A. Oh, no! Not that. He was dead enough.
Q. Well, I confess that I can't understand this. If you buried him, and
you knew he was dead.
A. No! no! We only thought he was.
Q. Oh, I see! He came to life again?
A. I bet he didn't.
Q. Well, I never heard anything like this. Somebody was dead. Somebody
was buried. Now, where was the mystery?
A. Ah! that's just it! That's it exactly. You see, we were
twins--defunct and I--and we got mixed in the bathtub when we were only
two weeks old, and one of us was drowned. But we didn't know which. Some
think it was Bill. Some think it was me.
Q. Well, that is remarkable. What do you think?
A. Goodness knows! I would give whole worlds to know. This solemn, this
awful mystery has cast a gloom over my whole life. But I will tell you
a secret now, which I never have revealed to any creature before. One of
us had a peculiar mark--a large mole on the back of his left hand; that
was me. That child was the one that was drowned!
Q. Very well, then, I don't see that there is any mystery about it,
A. You don't? Well, I do. Anyway, I don't see how they could ever have
been such a blundering lot as to go and bury the wrong child. But,
'sh!--don't mention it where the family can hear of it. Heaven knows
they have heartbreaking troubles enough without adding this.
Q. Well, I believe I have got material enough for the present, and I am
very much obliged to you for the pains you have taken. But I was a good
deal interested in that account of Aaron Burr's funeral. Would you mind
telling me what particular circumstance it was that made you think Burr
was such a remarkable man?
A. Oh! it was a mere trifle! Not one man in fifty would have noticed it
at all. When the sermon was over, and the procession all ready to start
for the cemetery, and the body all arranged nice in the hearse, he said
he wanted to take a last look at the scenery, and so he got up and rode
with the driver.
Then the young man reverently withdrew. He was very pleasant company,
and I was sorry to see him go.
[Crowded out of "A Tramp Abroad" to make room for more
vital statistics.--M. T.]
The Parisian travels but little, he knows no language but his own, reads
no literature but his own, and consequently he is pretty narrow and
pretty self-sufficient. However, let us not be too sweeping; there are
Frenchmen who know languages not their own: these are the waiters.
Among the rest, they know English; that is, they know it on the European
plan--which is to say, they can speak it, but can't understand it. They
easily make themselves understood, but it is next to impossible to word
an English sentence in such a way as to enable them to comprehend it.
They think they comprehend it; they pretend they do; but they don't.
Here is a conversation which I had with one of these beings; I wrote it
down at the time, in order to have it exactly correct.
I. These are fine oranges. Where are they grown?
He. More? Yes, I will bring them.
I. No, do not bring any more; I only want to know where they are
from--where they are raised.
He. Yes? (with imperturbable mien and rising inflection.)
I. Yes. Can you tell me what country they are from?
He. Yes? (blandly, with rising inflection.)
I. (disheartened). They are very nice.
He. Good night. (Bows, and retires, quite satisfied with himself.)
That young man could have become a good English scholar by taking
the right sort of pains, but he was French, and wouldn't do that. How
different is the case with our people; they utilize every means that
offers. There are some alleged French Protestants in Paris, and they
built a nice little church on one of the great avenues that lead away
from the Arch of Triumph, and proposed to listen to the correct thing,
preached in the correct way, there, in their precious French tongue, and
be happy. But their little game does not succeed. Our people are always
there ahead of them Sundays, and take up all the room. When the minister
gets up to preach, he finds his house full of devout foreigners, each
ready and waiting, with his little book in his hand--a morocco-bound
Testament, apparently. But only apparently; it is Mr. Bellows's
admirable and exhaustive little French-English dictionary, which in look
and binding and size is just like a Testament and those people are there
to study French. The building has been nicknamed "The Church of the
Gratis French Lesson."
These students probably acquire more language than general information,
for I am told that a French sermon is like a French speech--it never
names a historical event, but only the date of it; if you are not up in
dates, you get left. A French speech is something like this:
Comrades, citizens, brothers, noble parts of the only sublime and
perfect nation, let us not forget that the 21st January cast off our
chains; that the 10th August relieved us of the shameful presence of
foreign spies; that the 5th September was its own justification
before heaven and humanity; that the 18th Brumaire contained the
seeds of its own punishment; that the 14th July was the mighty voice
of liberty proclaiming the resurrection, the new day, and inviting
the oppressed peoples of the earth to look upon the divine face of
France and live; and let us here record our everlasting curse
against the man of the 2d December, and declare in thunder tones,
the native tones of France, that but for him there had been no 17th
March in history, no 12th October, no 19th January, no 22d April,
no 16th November, no 30th September, no 2d July, no 14th February,
no 29th June, no 15th August, no 31st May--that but for him, France
the pure, the grand, the peerless, had had a serene and vacant
I have heard of one French sermon which closed in this odd yet eloquent
My hearers, we have sad cause to remember the man of the 13th
January. The results of the vast crime of the 13th January have
been in just proportion to the magnitude of the set itself. But for
it there had been no 30 November--sorrowful spectacle! The grisly
deed of the 16th June had not been done but for it, nor had the man
of the 16th June known existence; to it alone the 3d September was
due, also the fatal 12th October. Shall we, then, be grateful for
the 13th January, with its freight of death for you and me and all
that breathe? Yes, my friends, for it gave us also that which had
never come but for it, and it alone--the blessed 25th December.
It may be well enough to explain, though in the case of many of my
readers this will hardly be necessary. The man of the 13th January is
Adam; the crime of that date was the eating of the apple; the sorrowful
spectacle of the 30th November was the expulsion from Eden; the
grisly deed of the 16th June was the murder of Abel; the act of the 3d
September was the beginning of the journey to the land of Nod; the 12th
day of October, the last mountain-tops disappeared under the flood.
When you go to church in France, you want to take your almanac with
LEGEND OF SAGENFELD, IN GERMANY
[Left out of "A Tramp Abroad" because its authenticity seemed
doubtful, and could not at that time be proved.--M. T.]
More than a thousand years ago this small district was a kingdom--a
little bit of a kingdom, a sort of dainty little toy kingdom, as one
might say. It was far removed from the jealousies, strifes, and turmoils
of that old warlike day, and so its life was a simple life, its people
a gentle and guileless race; it lay always in a deep dream of peace, a
soft Sabbath tranquillity; there was no malice, there was no envy, there
was no ambition, consequently there were no heart-burnings, there was no
unhappiness in the land.
In the course of time the old king died and his little son Hubert came
to the throne. The people's love for him grew daily; he was so good and
so pure and so noble, that by and by his love became a passion, almost
a worship. Now at his birth the soothsayers had diligently studied the
stars and found something written in that shining book to this effect:
In Hubert's fourteenth year a pregnant event will happen; the animal
whose singing shall sound sweetest in Hubert's ear shall save
Hubert's life. So long as the king and the nation shall honor this
animal's race for this good deed, the ancient dynasty shall not fail
of an heir, nor the nation know war or pestilence or poverty. But
beware an erring choice!
All through the king's thirteenth year but one thing was talked of by
the soothsayers, the statesmen, the little parliament, and the general
people. That one thing was this: How is the last sentence of the
prophecy to be understood? What goes before seems to mean that the
saving animal will choose itself at the proper time; but the closing
sentence seems to mean that the king must choose beforehand, and say
what singer among the animals pleases him best, and that if he choose
wisely the chosen animal will save his life, his dynasty, his people,
but that if he should make "an erring choice"--beware!
By the end of the year there were as many opinions about this matter
as there had been in the beginning; but a majority of the wise and the
simple were agreed that the safest plan would be for the little king to
make choice beforehand, and the earlier the better. So an edict was sent
forth commanding all persons who owned singing creatures to bring them
to the great hall of the palace in the morning of the first day of the
new year. This command was obeyed. When everything was in readiness for
the trial, the king made his solemn entry with the great officers of the
crown, all clothed in their robes of state. The king mounted his golden
throne and prepared to give judgment. But he presently said:--
"These creatures all sing at once; the noise is unendurable; no one can
choose in such a turmoil. Take them all away, and bring back one at a
This was done. One sweet warbler after another charmed the young king's
ear and was removed to make way for another candidate. The precious
minutes slipped by; among so many bewitching songsters he found it hard
to choose, and all the harder because the promised penalty for an error
was so terrible that it unsettled his judgment and made him afraid to
trust his own ears. He grew nervous and his face showed distress. His
ministers saw this, for they never took their eyes from him a moment.
Now they began to say in their hearts:
"He has lost courage--the cool head is gone--he will err--he and his
dynasty and his people are doomed!"
At the end of an hour the king sat silent awhile, and then said:--
"Bring back the linnet."
The linnet trilled forth her jubilant music. In the midst of it the king
was about to uplift his scepter in sign of choice, but checked himself
"But let us be sure. Bring back the thrush; let them sing together."
The thrush was brought, and the two birds poured out their marvels of
song together. The king wavered, then his inclination began to settle
and strengthen--one could see it in his countenance. Hope budded in the
hearts of the old ministers, their pulses began to beat quicker, the
scepter began to rise slowly, when: There was a hideous interruption! It
was a sound like this--just at the door:
"Waw... he! waw... he! waw-he!-waw he!-waw-he!"
Everybody was sorely startled--and enraged at himself for showing it.
The next instant the dearest, sweetest, prettiest little peasant-maid
of nine years came tripping in, her brown eyes glowing with childish
eagerness; but when she saw that august company and those angry faces
she stopped and hung her head and put her poor coarse apron to her
eyes. Nobody gave her welcome, none pitied her. Presently she looked up
timidly through her tears, and said:--
"My lord the king, I pray you pardon me, for I meant no wrong. I have no
father and no mother, but I have a goat and a donkey, and they are all
in all to me. My goat gives me the sweetest milk, and when my dear good
donkey brays it seems to me there is no music like to it. So when my
lord the king's jester said the sweetest singer among all the animals
should save the crown and nation, and moved me to bring him here--"
All the court burst into a rude laugh, and the child fled away crying,
without trying to finish her speech. The chief minister gave a private
order that she and her disastrous donkey be flogged beyond the precincts
of the palace and commanded to come within them no more.
Then the trial of the birds was resumed. The two birds sang their best,
but the scepter lay motionless in the king's hand. Hope died slowly out
in the breasts of all. An hour went by; two hours, still no decision.
The day waned to its close, and the waiting multitudes outside the
palace grew crazed with anxiety and apprehension. The twilight came
on, the shadows fell deeper and deeper. The king and his court could no
longer see each other's faces. No one spoke--none called for lights. The
great trial had been made; it had failed; each and all wished to hide
their faces from the light and cover up their deep trouble in their own
Finally-hark! A rich, full strain of the divinest melody streamed forth
from a remote part of the hall--the nightingale's voice!
"Up!" shouted the king, "let all the bells make proclamation to the
people, for the choice is made and we have not erred. King, dynasty,
and nation are saved. From henceforth let the nightingale be honored
throughout the land forever. And publish it among all the people that
whosoever shall insult a nightingale, or injure it, shall suffer death.
The king hath spoken."
All that little world was drunk with joy. The castle and the city blazed
with bonfires all night long, the people danced and drank and sang; and
the triumphant clamor of the bells never ceased.
From that day the nightingale was a sacred bird. Its song was heard in
every house; the poets wrote its praises; the painters painted it; its
sculptured image adorned every arch and turret and fountain and public
building. It was even taken into the king's councils; and no grave
matter of state was decided until the soothsayers had laid the thing
before the state nightingale and translated to the ministry what it was
that the bird had sung about it.
The young king was very fond of the chase. When the summer was come he
rode forth with hawk and hound, one day, in a brilliant company of his
nobles. He got separated from them by and by, in a great forest, and
took what he imagined a near cut, to find them again; but it was a
mistake. He rode on and on, hopefully at first, but with sinking courage
finally. Twilight came on, and still he was plunging through a lonely
and unknown land. Then came a catastrophe. In the dim light he forced
his horse through a tangled thicket overhanging a steep and rocky
declivity. When horse and rider reached the bottom, the former had a
broken neck and the latter a broken leg. The poor little king lay there
suffering agonies of pain, and each hour seemed a long month to him.
He kept his ear strained to hear any sound that might promise hope of
rescue; but he heard no voice, no sound of horn or bay of hound. So at
last he gave up all hope, and said, "Let death come, for come it must."
Just then the deep, sweet song of a nightingale swept across the still
wastes of the night.
"Saved!" the king said. "Saved! It is the sacred bird, and the prophecy
is come true. The gods themselves protected me from error in the
He could hardly contain his joy; he could not word his gratitude. Every
few moments now he thought he caught the sound of approaching succor.
But each time it was a disappointment; no succor came. The dull hours
drifted on. Still no help came--but still the sacred bird sang on. He
began to have misgivings about his choice, but he stifled them. Toward
dawn the bird ceased. The morning came, and with it thirst and hunger;
but no succor. The day waxed and waned. At last the king cursed the
Immediately the song of the thrush came from out the wood. The king said
in his heart, "This was the true-bird--my choice was false--succor will
But it did not come. Then he lay many hours insensible. When he came to
himself, a linnet was singing. He listened with apathy. His faith was
gone. "These birds," he said, "can bring no help; I and my house and my
people are doomed." He turned him about to die; for he was grown very
feeble from hunger and thirst and suffering, and felt that his end was
near. In truth, he wanted to die, and be released from pain. For long
hours he lay without thought or feeling or motion. Then his senses
returned. The dawn of the third morning was breaking. Ah, the world
seemed very beautiful to those worn eyes. Suddenly a great longing to
live rose up in the lad's heart, and from his soul welled a deep and
fervent prayer that Heaven would have mercy upon him and let him see
his home and his friends once more. In that instant a soft, a faint, a
far-off sound, but oh, how inexpressibly sweet to his waiting ear, came
floating out of the distance:
"Waw... he! waw... he! Waw-he!--waw-he!--waw-he!"
"That, oh, that song is sweeter, a thousand times sweeter than the voice
of the nightingale, thrush, or linnet, for it brings not mere hope, but
certainty of succor; and now, indeed, am I saved! The sacred singer has
chosen itself, as the oracle intended; the prophecy is fulfilled, and my
life, my house, and my people are redeemed. The ass shall be sacred from
The divine music grew nearer and nearer, stronger--and stronger and ever
sweeter and sweeter to the perishing sufferer's ear. Down the declivity
the docile little donkey wandered, cropping herbage and singing as he
went; and when at last he saw the dead horse and the wounded king, he
came and snuffed at them with simple and marveling curiosity. The king
petted him, and he knelt down as had been his wont when his little
mistress desired to mount. With great labor and pain the lad drew
himself upon the creature's back, and held himself there by aid of the
generous ears. The ass went singing forth from the place and carried
the king to the little peasant-maid's hut. She gave him her pallet for
a bed, refreshed him with goat's milk, and then flew to tell the great
news to the first scouting-party of searchers she might meet.
The king got well. His first act was to proclaim the sacredness and
inviolability of the ass; his second was to add this particular ass to
his cabinet and make him chief minister of the crown; his third was to
have all the statues and effigies of nightingales throughout his kingdom
destroyed, and replaced by statues and effigies of the sacred donkey;
and, his fourth was to announce that when the little peasant maid should
reach her fifteenth year he would make her his queen and he kept his
Such is the legend. This explains why the moldering image of the ass
adorns all these old crumbling walls and arches; and it explains why,
during many centuries, an ass was always the chief minister in that
royal cabinet, just as is still the case in most cabinets to this day;
and it also explains why, in that little kingdom, during many centuries,
all great poems, all great speeches, all great books, all public
solemnities, and all royal proclamations, always began with these
"Waw... he! waw... he!--waw he! Waw-he!"
SPEECH ON THE BABIES
AT THE BANQUET, IN CHICAGO, GIVEN BY THE ARMY OF THE
TENNESSEE TO THEIR
FIRST COMMANDER, GENERAL U. S. GRANT, NOVEMBER, 1879
The fifteenth regular toast was "The Babies--as they comfort us in
our sorrows, let us not forget them in our festivities."
I like that. We have not all had the good fortune to be ladies. We have
not all been generals, or poets, or statesmen; but when the toast works
down to the babies, we stand on common ground. It is a shame that for a
thousand years the world's banquets have utterly ignored the baby, as
if he didn't amount to anything. If you will stop and think a minute--if
you will go back fifty or one hundred years to your early married life
and recontemplate your first baby--you will remember that he amounted to
a great deal, and even something over. You soldiers all know that when
the little fellow arrived at family headquarters you had to hand in your
resignation. He took entire command. You became his lackey, his mere
body-servant, and you had to stand around, too. He was not a commander
who made allowances for time, distance, weather, or anything else. You
had to execute his order whether it was possible or not. And there was
only one form of marching in his manual of tactics, and that was
the double-quick. He treated you with every sort of insolence and
disrespect, and the bravest of you didn't dare to say a word. You could
face the death-storm at Donelson and Vicksburg, and give back blow
for blow; but when he clawed your whiskers, and pulled your hair, and
twisted your nose, you had to take it. When the thunders of war were
sounding in your ears you set your faces toward the batteries, and
advanced with steady tread; but when he turned on the terrors of his
war-whoop you advanced in the other direction, and mighty glad of the
chance, too. When he called for soothing-syrup, did you venture to throw
out any side remarks about certain services being unbecoming an
officer and a gentleman? No. You got up and got it. When he ordered his
pap-bottle and it was not warm, did you talk back? Not you. You went to
work and warmed it. You even descended so far in your menial office as
to take a suck at that warm, insipid stuff yourself, to see if it was
right--three parts water to one of milk, a touch of sugar to modify the
colic, and a drop of peppermint to kill those hiccoughs. I can taste
that stuff yet. And how many things you learned as you went along!
Sentimental young folks still take stock in that beautiful old saying
that when the baby smiles in his sleep, it is because the angels
are whispering to him. Very pretty, but too thin--simply wind on the
stomach, my friends. If the baby proposed to take a walk at his usual
hour, two o'clock in the morning, didn't you rise up promptly and
remark, with a mental addition which would not improve a Sunday-school
book much, that that was the very thing you were about to propose
yourself? Oh! you were under good discipline, and as you went fluttering
up and down the room in your undress uniform, you not only prattled
undignified baby-talk, but even tuned up your martial voices and
tried to sing!--"Rock-a-by baby in the treetop," for instance. What a
spectacle for an Army of the Tennessee! And what an affliction for the
neighbors, too; for it is not everybody within a mile around that likes
military music at three in the morning. And when you had been keeping
this sort of thing up two or three hours, and your little velvet-head
intimated that nothing suited him like exercise and noise, what did you
do? ["Go on!"] You simply went on until you dropped in the last ditch.
The idea that a baby doesn't amount to anything! Why, one baby is just
a house and a front yard full by itself. One baby can furnish more
business than you and your whole Interior Department can attend to. He
is enterprising, irrepressible, brimful of lawless activities. Do what
you please, you can't make him stay on the reservation. Sufficient unto
the day is one baby. As long as you are in your right mind don't you
ever pray for twins. Twins amount to a permanent riot. And there ain't
any real difference between triplets and an insurrection.
Yes, it was high time for a toast-master to recognize the importance
of the babies. Think what is in store for the present crop! Fifty years
from now we shall all be dead, I trust, and then this flag, if it still
survive (and let us hope it may), will be floating over a Republic
numbering 200,000,000 souls, according to the settled laws of our
increase. Our present schooner of State will have grown into a political
leviathan--a Great Eastern. The cradled babies of to-day will be on
deck. Let them be well trained, for we are going to leave a big contract
on their hands. Among the three or four million cradles now rocking in
the land are some which this nation would preserve for ages as sacred
things, if we could know which ones they are. In one of those cradles the
unconscious Farragut of the future is at this moment teething--think
of it!--and putting in a world of dead earnest, unarticulated, but
perfectly justifiable profanity over it, too. In another the future
renowned astronomer is blinking at the shining Milky Way with but a
languid interest--poor little chap!--and wondering what has become of
that other one they call the wet-nurse. In another the future great
historian is lying--and doubtless will continue to lie until his earthly
mission is ended. In another the future President is busying himself
with no profounder problem of state than what the mischief has become of
his hair so early; and in a mighty array of other cradles there are now
some 60,000 future office-seekers, getting ready to furnish him occasion
to grapple with that same old problem a second time. And in still
one more cradle, somewhere under the flag, the future illustrious
commander-in-chief of the American armies is so little burdened with
his approaching grandeurs and responsibilities as to be giving his whole
strategic mind at this moment to trying to find out some way to get his
big toe into his mouth--an achievement which, meaning no disrespect, the
illustrious guest of this evening turned his entire attention to some
fifty-six years ago; and if the child is but a prophecy of the man,
there are mighty few who will doubt that he succeeded.
SPEECH ON THE WEATHER
AT THE NEW ENGLAND SOCIETY'S SEVENTY-FIRST ANNUAL DINNER,
NEW YORK CITY
The next toast was: "The Oldest Inhabitant--The Weather of New
Who can lose it and forget it?
Who can have it and regret it?
Be interposer 'twixt us Twain.
Merchant of Venice.
To this Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) replied as follows:--
I reverently believe that the Maker who made us all makes everything in
New England but the weather. I don't know who makes that, but I think
it must be raw apprentices in the weather-clerk's factory who experiment
and learn how, in New England, for board and clothes, and then are
promoted to make weather for countries that require a good article,
and will take their custom elsewhere if they don't get it. There is
a sumptuous variety about the New England weather that compels the
stranger's admiration--and regret. The weather is always doing something
there; always attending strictly to business; always getting up new
designs and trying them on the people to see how they will go. But it
gets through more business in spring than in any other season. In the
spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of
weather inside of four-and-twenty hours. It was I that made the fame
and fortune of that man that had that marvelous collection of weather on
exhibition at the Centennial, that so astounded the foreigners. He
was going to travel all over the world and get specimens from all the
climes. I said, "Don't you do it; you come to New England on a favorable
spring day." I told him what we could do in the way of style, variety,
and quantity. Well, he came and he made his collection in four days. As
to variety, why, he confessed that he got hundreds of kinds of weather
that he had never heard of before. And as to quantity--well, after he
had picked out and discarded all that was blemished in any way, he not
only had weather enough, but weather to spare; weather to hire out;
weather to sell; to deposit; weather to invest; weather to give to the
poor. The people of New England are by nature patient and forbearing,
but there are some things which they will not stand. Every year they
kill a lot of poets for writing about "Beautiful Spring." These are
generally casual visitors, who bring their notions of spring from
somewhere else, and cannot, of course, know how the natives feel about
spring. And so the first thing they know the opportunity to inquire
how they feel has permanently gone by. Old Probabilities has a mighty
reputation for accurate prophecy, and thoroughly well deserves it. You
take up the paper and observe how crisply and confidently he checks off
what to-day's weather is going to be on the Pacific, down South, in the
Middle States, in the Wisconsin region. See him sail along in the joy
and pride of his power till he gets to New England, and then see his
tail drop. He doesn't know what the weather is going to be in New
England. Well, he mulls over it, and by and by he gets out something
about like this: Probable northeast to southwest winds, varying to the
southward and westward and eastward, and points between, high and low
barometer swapping around from place to place; probable areas of rain,
snow, hail, and drought, succeeded or preceded by earthquakes, with
thunder and lightning. Then he jots down this postscript from his
wandering mind, to cover accidents: "But it is possible that the program
may be wholly changed in the mean time." Yes, one of the brightest gems
in the New England weather is the dazzling uncertainty of it. There is
only one thing certain about it: you are certain there is going to be
plenty of it--a perfect grand review; but you never can tell which end
of the procession is going to move first. You fix up for the drought;
you leave your umbrella in the house and sally out, and two to one you
get drowned. You make up your mind that the earthquake is due; you stand
from under, and take hold of something to steady yourself, and the
first thing you know you get struck by lightning. These are great
disappointments; but they can't be helped. The lightning there is
peculiar; it is so convincing, that when it strikes a thing it doesn't
leave enough of that thing behind for you to tell whether--Well, you'd
think it was something valuable, and a Congressman had been there. And
the thunder. When the thunder begins to merely tune up and scrape and
saw, and key up the instruments for the performance, strangers say,
"Why, what awful thunder you have here!" But when the baton is raised
and the real concert begins, you'll find that stranger down in the
cellar with his head in the ash-barrel. Now as to the size of the
weather in New England lengthways, I mean. It is utterly disproportioned
to the size of that little country. Half the time, when it is packed as
full as it can stick, you will see that New England weather sticking out
beyond the edges and projecting around hundreds and hundreds of miles
over the neighboring states. She can't hold a tenth part of her weather.
You can see cracks all about where she has strained herself trying to
do it. I could speak volumes about the inhuman perversity of the New
England weather, but I will give but a single specimen. I like to hear
rain on a tin roof. So I covered part of my roof with tin, with an eye
to that luxury. Well, sir, do you think it ever rains on that tin? No,
sir; skips it every time. Mind, in this speech I have been trying merely
to do honor to the New England weather--no language could do it justice.
But, after all, there is at least one or two things about that weather
(or, if you please, effects produced, by it) which we residents would
not like to part with. If we hadn't our bewitching autumn foliage,
we should still have to credit the weather with one feature which
compensates for all its bullying vagaries--the ice-storm: when a
leafless tree is clothed with ice from the bottom to the top--ice that
is as bright and clear as crystal; when every bough and twig is strung
with ice-beads, frozen dewdrops, and the whole tree sparkles cold and
white, like the Shah of Persia's diamond plume. Then the wind waves the
branches and the sun comes out and turns all those myriads of beads and
drops to prisms that glow and burn and flash with all manner of colored
fires, which change and change again with inconceivable rapidity from
blue to red, from red to green, and green to gold--the tree becomes a
spraying fountain, a very explosion of dazzling jewels; and it stands
there the acme, the climax, the supremest possibility in art or nature,
of bewildering, intoxicating, intolerable magnificence. One cannot make
the words too strong.
CONCERNING THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE --
[Being part of a chapter which was
crowded out of "A Tramp Abroad."--M.T.]
There was as Englishman in our compartment, and he complimented me
on--on what? But you would never guess. He complimented me on my
English. He said Americans in general did not speak the English language
as correctly as I did. I said I was obliged to him for his compliment,
since I knew he meant it for one, but that I was not fairly entitled to
it, for I did not speak English at all--I only spoke American.
He laughed, and said it was a distinction without a difference. I said
no, the difference was not prodigious, but still it was considerable. We
fell into a friendly dispute over the matter. I put my case as well as I
could, and said:--
"The languages were identical several generations ago, but our changed
conditions and the spread of our people far to the south and far to
the west have made many alterations in our pronunciation, and have
introduced new words among us and changed the meanings of many old
English people talk through their noses; we do not. We say know, English
people say nao; we say cow, the Briton says kaow; we--"
"Oh, come! that is pure Yankee; everybody knows that."
"Yes, it is pure Yankee; that is true. One cannot hear it in America
outside of the little corner called New England, which is Yankee land.
The English themselves planted it there, two hundred and fifty years
ago, and there it remains; it has never spread. But England talks
through her nose yet; the Londoner and the backwoods New-Englander
pronounce 'know' and 'cow' alike, and then the Briton unconsciously
satirizes himself by making fun of the Yankee's pronunciation."
We argued this point at some length; nobody won; but no matter, the fact
remains Englishmen say nao and kaow for "know" and "cow," and that is
what the rustic inhabitant of a very small section of America does.
"You conferred your 'a' upon New England, too, and there it remains; it
has not traveled out of the narrow limits of those six little states
in all these two hundred and fifty years. All England uses it, New
England's small population--say four millions--use it, but we have
forty-five millions who do not use it. You say 'glahs of wawtah,' so
does New England; at least, New England says 'glahs.' America at large
flattens the 'a', and says 'glass of water.' These sounds are pleasanter
than yours; you may think they are not right--well, in English they are
not right, but in 'American' they are. You say 'flahsk' and 'bahsket,' and
'jackahss'; we say 'flask,' 'basket,' 'jackass'--sounding the 'a' as it
is in 'tallow,' 'fallow,' and so on. Up to as late as 1847 Mr. Webster's
Dictionary had the impudence to still pronounce 'basket' bahsket, when
he knew that outside of his little New England all America shortened the
'a' and paid no attention to his English broadening of it. However, it
called itself an English Dictionary, so it was proper enough that it
should stick to English forms, perhaps. It still calls itself an English
Dictionary today, but it has quietly ceased to pronounce 'basket' as if
it were spelt 'bahsket.' In the American language the 'h' is respected;
the 'h' is not dropped or added improperly."
"The same is the case in England--I mean among the educated classes, of
"Yes, that is true; but a nation's language is a very large matter. It
is not simply a manner of speech obtaining among the educated handful;
the manner obtaining among the vast uneducated multitude must be
considered also. Your uneducated masses speak English, you will not deny
that; our uneducated masses speak American it won't be fair for you to
deny that, for you can see, yourself, that when your stable-boy says,
'It isn't the 'unting that 'urts the 'orse, but the 'ammer, 'ammer,
'ammer on the 'ard 'ighway,' and our stable-boy makes the same remark
without suffocating a single h, these two people are manifestly talking
two different languages. But if the signs are to be trusted, even your
educated classes used to drop the 'h.' They say humble, now, and heroic,
and historic etc., but I judge that they used to drop those h's because
your writers still keep up the fashion of putting an AN before those words
instead of A. This is what Mr. Darwin might call a 'rudimentary' sign
that as an was justifiable once, and useful when your educated classes
used to say 'umble, and 'eroic, and 'istorical. Correct writers of the
American language do not put an before those words."
The English gentleman had something to say upon this matter, but
never mind what he said--I'm not arguing his case. I have him at a
disadvantage, now. I proceeded:
"In England you encourage an orator by exclaiming, 'H'yaah! h'yaah!' We
pronounce it heer in some sections, 'h'yer' in others, and so on; but
our whites do not say 'h'yaah,' pronouncing the a's like the a in ah.
I have heard English ladies say 'don't you'--making two separate and
distinct words of it; your Mr. Burnand has satirized it. But we always
say 'dontchu.' This is much better. Your ladies say, 'Oh, it's oful
nice!' Ours say, 'Oh, it's awful nice!' We say, 'Four hundred,' you say
'For'--as in the word or. Your clergymen speak of 'the Lawd,' ours of
'the Lord'; yours speak of 'the gawds of the heathen,' ours of 'the gods
of the heathen.' When you are exhausted, you say you are 'knocked
up.' We don't. When you say you will do a thing 'directly,' you mean
'immediately'; in the American language--generally speaking--the word
signifies 'after a little.' When you say 'clever,' you mean 'capable';
with us the word used to mean 'accommodating,' but I don't know what it
means now. Your word 'stout' means 'fleshy'; our word 'stout' usually
means 'strong.' Your words 'gentleman' and 'lady' have a very restricted
meaning; with us they include the barmaid, butcher, burglar, harlot, and
horse-thief. You say, 'I haven't got any stockings on,' 'I haven't got
any memory,' 'I haven't got any money in my purse; we usually say, 'I
haven't any stockings on,' 'I haven't any memory!' 'I haven't any money
in my purse.' You say 'out of window'; we always put in a the. If
one asks 'How old is that man?' the Briton answers, 'He will be about
forty'; in the American language we should say, 'He is about forty.'
However, I won't tire you, sir; but if I wanted to, I could pile
up differences here until I not only convinced you that English and
American are separate languages, but that when I speak my native tongue
in its utmost purity an Englishman can't understand me at all."
"I don't wish to flatter you, but it is about all I can do to understand
That was a very pretty compliment, and it put us on the pleasantest
terms directly--I use the word in the English sense.
[Later--1882. Esthetes in many of our schools are now beginning to teach
the pupils to broaden the 'a,' and to say "don't you," in the elegant
This Man Rogers happened upon me and introduced himself at the town of
-----, in the South of England, where I stayed awhile. His stepfather
had married a distant relative of mine who was afterward hanged; and so
he seemed to think a blood relationship existed between us. He came
in every day and sat down and talked. Of all the bland, serene human
curiosities I ever saw, I think he was the chiefest. He desired to look
at my new chimney-pot hat. I was very willing, for I thought he would
notice the name of the great Oxford Street hatter in it, and respect
me accordingly. But he turned it about with a sort of grave compassion,
pointed out two or three blemishes, and said that I, being so recently
arrived, could not be expected to know where to supply myself. Said he
would send me the address of his hatter. Then he said, "Pardon me," and
proceeded to cut a neat circle of red tissue paper; daintily notched the
edges of it; took the mucilage and pasted it in my hat so as to cover
the manufacturer's name. He said, "No one will know now where you got
it. I will send you a hat-tip of my hatter, and you can paste it over
this tissue circle." It was the calmest, coolest thing--I never admired
a man so much in my life. Mind, he did this while his own hat sat
offensively near our noses, on the table--an ancient extinguisher of
the "slouch" pattern, limp and shapeless with age, discolored by
vicissitudes of the weather, and banded by an equator of bear's grease
that had stewed through.
Another time he examined my coat. I had no terrors, for over my tailor's
door was the legend, "By Special Appointment Tailor to H. R. H. the
Prince of Wales," etc. I did not know at the time that the most of
the tailor shops had the same sign out, and that whereas it takes nine
tailors to make an ordinary man, it takes a hundred and fifty to make a
prince. He was full of compassion for my coat. Wrote down the address
of his tailor for me. Did not tell me to mention my nom de plume and the
tailor would put his best work on my garment, as complimentary people
sometimes do, but said his tailor would hardly trouble himself for an
unknown person (unknown person, when I thought I was so celebrated in
England!--that was the cruelest cut), but cautioned me to mention his
name, and it would be all right. Thinking to be facetious, I said:--
"But he might sit up all night and injure his health."
"Well, let him," said Rogers; "I've done enough for him, for him to show
some appreciation of it."
I might as well have tried to disconcert a mummy with my facetiousness.
Said Rogers: "I get all my coats there--they're the only coats fit to be
I made one more attempt. I said, "I wish you had brought one with you--I
would like to look at it."
"Bless your heart, haven't I got one on?--this article is Morgan's
I examined it. The coat had been bought ready-made, of a Chatham Street
Jew, without any question--about 1848. It probably cost four dollars
when it was new. It was ripped, it was frayed, it was napless and
greasy. I could not resist showing him where it was ripped. It so
affected him that I was almost sorry I had done it. First he seemed
plunged into a bottomless abyss of grief. Then he roused himself, made
a feint with his hands as if waving off the pity of a nation, and
said--with what seemed to me a manufactured emotion--"No matter; no
matter; don't mind me; do not bother about it. I can get another."
When he was thoroughly restored, so that he could examine the rip and
command his feelings, he said, ah, now he understood it--his servant
must have done it while dressing him that morning.
His servant! There was something awe-inspiring in effrontery like this.
Nearly every day he interested himself in some article of my clothing.
One would hardly have expected this sort of infatuation in a man who
always wore the same suit, and it a suit that seemed coeval with the
It was an unworthy ambition, perhaps, but I did wish I could make this
man admire something about me or something I did--you would have felt
the same way. I saw my opportunity: I was about to return to London,
and had "listed" my soiled linen for the wash. It made quite an imposing
mountain in the corner of the room--fifty-four pieces. I hoped he would
fancy it was the accumulation of a single week. I took up the wash-list,
as if to see that it was all right, and then tossed it on the table,
with pretended forgetfulness. Sure enough, he took it up and ran his
eye along down to the grand total. Then he said, "You get off easy," and
laid it down again.
His gloves were the saddest ruin, but he told me where I could get some
like them. His shoes would hardly hold walnuts without leaking, but he
liked to put his feet up on the mantelpiece and contemplate them.
He wore a dim glass breastpin, which he called a "morphylitic
diamond"--whatever that may mean--and said only two of them had ever
been found--the Emperor of China had the other one.
Afterward, in London, it was a pleasure to me to see this fantastic
vagabond come marching into the lobby of the hotel in his grand-ducal
way, for he always had some new imaginary grandeur to develop--there
was nothing stale about him but his clothes. If he addressed me when
strangers were about, he always raised his voice a little and called me
"Sir Richard," or "General," or "Your Lordship"--and when people began
to stare and look deferential, he would fall to inquiring in a casual
way why I disappointed the Duke of Argyll the night before; and then
remind me of our engagement at the Duke of Westminster's for the
following day. I think that for the time being these things were
realities to him. He once came and invited me to go with him and spend
the evening with the Earl of Warwick at his town house. I said I had
received no formal invitation. He said that that was of no consequence,
the Earl had no formalities for him or his friends. I asked if I could
go just as I was. He said no, that would hardly do; evening dress was
requisite at night in any gentleman's house. He said he would wait while
I dressed, and then we would go to his apartments and I could take a
bottle of champagne and a cigar while he dressed. I was very willing to
see how this enterprise would turn out, so I dressed, and we started to
his lodgings. He said if I didn't mind we would walk. So we tramped some
four miles through the mud and fog, and finally found his "apartments";
they consisted of a single room over a barber's shop in a back street.
Two chairs, a small table, an ancient valise, a wash-basin and pitcher
(both on the floor in a corner), an unmade bed, a fragment of a
looking-glass, and a flower-pot, with a perishing little rose geranium
in it, which he called a century plant, and said it had not bloomed now
for upward of two centuries--given to him by the late Lord
Palmerston--(been offered a prodigious sum for it)--these were
the contents of the room. Also a brass candlestick and a part of a
candle. Rogers lit the candle, and told me to sit down and make myself
at home. He said he hoped I was thirsty, because he would surprise my
palate with an article of champagne that seldom got into a commoner's
system; or would I prefer sherry, or port? Said he had port in bottles
that were swathed in stratified cobwebs, every stratum representing a
generation. And as for his cigars--well, I should judge of them
myself. Then he put his head out at the door and called:
"Sackville!" No answer.
"Hi-Sackville!" No answer.
"Now what the devil can have become of that butler? I never allow a
servant to--Oh, confound that idiot, he's got the keys. Can't get into
the other rooms without the keys."
(I was just wondering at his intrepidity in still keeping up the
delusion of the champagne, and trying to imagine how he was going to get
out of the difficulty.)
Now he stopped calling Sackville and began to call "Anglesy." But
Anglesy didn't come. He said, "This is the second time that that equerry
has been absent without leave. To-morrow I'll discharge him." Now
he began to whoop for "Thomas," but Thomas didn't answer. Then for
"Theodore," but no Theodore replied.
"Well, I give it up," said Rogers. "The servants never expect me at
this hour, and so they're all off on a lark. Might get along without
the equerry and the page, but can't have any wine or cigars without the
butler, and can't dress without my valet."
I offered to help him dress, but he would not hear of it; and besides,
he said he would not feel comfortable unless dressed by a practised
hand. However, he finally concluded that he was such old friends with
the Earl that it would not make any difference how he was dressed. So we
took a cab, he gave the driver some directions, and we started. By and
by we stopped before a large house and got out. I never had seen this
man with a collar on. He now stepped under a lamp and got a venerable
paper collar out of his coat pocket, along with a hoary cravat, and put
them on. He ascended the stoop, and entered. Presently he reappeared,
descended rapidly, and said:
We hurried away, and turned the corner.
"Now we're safe," he said, and took off his collar and cravat and
returned them to his pocket.
"Made a mighty narrow escape," said he.
"How?" said I.
"B' George, the Countess was there!"
"Well, what of that?--don't she know you?"
"Know me? Absolutely worships me. I just did happen to catch a glimpse
of her before she saw me--and out I shot. Haven't seen her for two
months--to rush in on her without any warning might have been fatal. She
could not have stood it. I didn't know she was in town--thought she
was at the castle. Let me lean on you--just a moment--there; now I
am better--thank you; thank you ever so much. Lord bless me, what an
So I never got to call on the Earl, after all. But I marked the house
for future reference. It proved to be an ordinary family hotel, with
about a thousand plebeians roosting in it.
In most things Rogers was by no means a fool. In some things it was
plain enough that he was a fool, but he certainly did not know it. He
was in the "deadest" earnest in these matters. He died at sea, last
summer, as the "Earl of Ramsgate."