The Facts Concerning The Recent Carnival Of
Crime In Connecticut
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
THE FACTS CONCERNING THE RECENT CARNIVAL OF CRIME IN
I was feeling blithe, almost jocund. I put a match to my cigar, and
just then the morning's mail was handed in. The first superscription I
glanced at was in a handwriting that sent a thrill of pleasure through
and through me. It was Aunt Mary's; and she was the person I loved and
honored most in all the world, outside of my own household. She had been
my boyhood's idol; maturity, which is fatal to so many enchantments,
had not been able to dislodge her from her pedestal; no, it had only
justified her right to be there, and placed her dethronement permanently
among the impossibilities. To show how strong her influence over me was,
I will observe that long after everybody else's "do-stop-smoking" had
ceased to affect me in the slightest degree, Aunt Mary could still stir
my torpid conscience into faint signs of life when she touched upon the
matter. But all things have their limit in this world. A happy day came
at last, when even Aunt Mary's words could no longer move me. I was
not merely glad to see that day arrive; I was more than glad--I was
grateful; for when its sun had set, the one alloy that was able to mar
my enjoyment of my aunt's society was gone. The remainder of her stay
with us that winter was in every way a delight. Of course she pleaded
with me just as earnestly as ever, after that blessed day, to quit my
pernicious habit, but to no purpose whatever; the moment she opened
the subject I at once became calmly, peacefully, contentedly
indifferent--absolutely, adamantinely indifferent. Consequently the
closing weeks of that memorable visit melted away as pleasantly as a
dream, they were so freighted for me with tranquil satisfaction. I could
not have enjoyed my pet vice more if my gentle tormentor had been a
smoker herself, and an advocate of the practice. Well, the sight of her
handwriting reminded me that I way getting very hungry to see her again.
I easily guessed what I should find in her letter. I opened it. Good!
just as I expected; she was coming! Coming this very day, too, and by
the morning train; I might expect her any moment.
I said to myself, "I am thoroughly happy and content now. If my most
pitiless enemy could appear before me at this moment, I would freely
right any wrong I may have done him."
Straightway the door opened, and a shriveled, shabby dwarf entered. He
was not more than two feet high. He seemed to be about forty years old.
Every feature and every inch of him was a trifle out of shape; and so,
while one could not put his finger upon any particular part and say,
"This is a conspicuous deformity," the spectator perceived that this
little person was a deformity as a whole--a vague, general, evenly
blended, nicely adjusted deformity. There was a fox-like cunning in the
face and the sharp little eyes, and also alertness and malice. And
yet, this vile bit of human rubbish seemed to bear a sort of remote
and ill-defined resemblance to me! It was dully perceptible in the
mean form, the countenance, and even the clothes, gestures, manner,
and attitudes of the creature. He was a farfetched, dim suggestion of
a burlesque upon me, a caricature of me in little. One thing about him
struck me forcibly and most unpleasantly: he was covered all over with
a fuzzy, greenish mold, such as one sometimes sees upon mildewed bread.
The sight of it was nauseating.
He stepped along with a chipper air, and flung himself into a doll's
chair in a very free-and-easy way, without waiting to be asked. He
tossed his hat into the waste-basket. He picked up my old chalk pipe
from the floor, gave the stem a wipe or two on his knee, filled the
bowl from the tobacco-box at his side, and said to me in a tone of pert
"Gimme a match!"
I blushed to the roots of my hair; partly with indignation, but mainly
because it somehow seemed to me that this whole performance was very
like an exaggeration of conduct which I myself had sometimes been
guilty of in my intercourse with familiar friends--but never, never with
strangers, I observed to myself. I wanted to kick the pygmy into the
fire, but some incomprehensible sense of being legally and legitimately
under his authority forced me to obey his order. He applied the match
to the pipe, took a contemplative whiff or two, and remarked, in an
irritatingly familiar way:
"Seems to me it's devilish odd weather for this time of year."
I flushed again, and in anger and humiliation as before; for the
language was hardly an exaggeration of some that I have uttered in
my day, and moreover was delivered in a tone of voice and with an
exasperating drawl that had the seeming of a deliberate travesty of my
style. Now there is nothing I am quite so sensitive about as a mocking
imitation of my drawling infirmity of speech. I spoke up sharply and
"Look here, you miserable ash-cat! you will have to give a little more
attention to your manners, or I will throw you out of the window!"
The manikin smiled a smile of malicious content and security, puffed
a whiff of smoke contemptuously toward me, and said, with a still more
"Come--go gently now; don't put on too many airs with your betters."
This cool snub rasped me all over, but it seemed to subjugate me, too,
for a moment. The pygmy contemplated me awhile with his weasel eyes, and
then said, in a peculiarly sneering way:
"You turned a tramp away from your door this morning."
I said crustily:
"Perhaps I did, perhaps I didn't. How do you know?"
"Well, I know. It isn't any matter how I know."
"Very well. Suppose I did turn a tramp away from the door--what of it?"
"Oh, nothing; nothing in particular. Only you lied to him."
"I didn't! That is, I--"
"Yes, but you did; you lied to him."
I felt a guilty pang--in truth, I had felt it forty times before that
tramp had traveled a block from my door--but still I resolved to make a
show of feeling slandered; so I said:
"This is a baseless impertinence. I said to the tramp--"
"There--wait. You were about to lie again. I know what you said to him.
You said the cook was gone down-town and there was nothing left from
breakfast. Two lies. You knew the cook was behind the door, and plenty
of provisions behind her."
This astonishing accuracy silenced me; and it filled me with wondering
speculations, too, as to how this cub could have got his information. Of
course he could have culled the conversation from the tramp, but by what
sort of magic had he contrived to find out about the concealed cook? Now
the dwarf spoke again:
"It was rather pitiful, rather small, in you to refuse to read that poor
young woman's manuscript the other day, and give her an opinion as to
its literary value; and she had come so far, too, and so hopefully. Now
I felt like a cur! And I had felt so every time the thing had recurred
to my mind, I may as well confess. I flushed hotly and said:
"Look here, have you nothing better to do than prowl around prying into
other people's business? Did that girl tell you that?"
"Never mind whether she did or not. The main thing is, you did that
contemptible thing. And you felt ashamed of it afterward. Aha! you feel
ashamed of it now!"
This was a sort of devilish glee. With fiery earnestness I responded:
"I told that girl, in the kindest, gentlest way, that I could not
consent to deliver judgment upon any one's manuscript, because an
individual's verdict was worthless. It might underrate a work of high
merit and lose it to the world, or it might overrate a trashy production
and so open the way for its infliction upon the world: I said that the
great public was the only tribunal competent to sit in judgment upon
a literary effort, and therefore it must be best to lay it before that
tribunal in the outset, since in the end it must stand or fall by that
mighty court's decision anyway."
"Yes, you said all that. So you did, you juggling, small-souled
shuffler! And yet when the happy hopefulness faded out of that poor
girl's face, when you saw her furtively slip beneath her shawl the
scroll she had so patiently and honestly scribbled at--so ashamed of her
darling now, so proud of it before--when you saw the gladness go out of
her eyes and the tears come there, when she crept away so humbly who had
"Oh, peace! peace! peace! Blister your merciless tongue, haven't all
these thoughts tortured me enough without your coming here to fetch them
Remorse! remorse! It seemed to me that it would eat the very heart out
of me! And yet that small fiend only sat there leering at me with joy
and contempt, and placidly chuckling. Presently he began to speak again.
Every sentence was an accusation, and every accusation a truth. Every
clause was freighted with sarcasm and derision, every slow-dropping word
burned like vitriol. The dwarf reminded me of times when I had flown at
my children in anger and punished them for faults which a little inquiry
would have taught me that others, and not they, had committed. He
reminded me of how I had disloyally allowed old friends to be traduced
in my hearing, and been too craven to utter a word in their defense. He
reminded me of many dishonest things which I had done; of many which I
had procured to be done by children and other irresponsible persons; of
some which I had planned, thought upon, and longed to do, and been
kept from the performance by fear of consequences only. With exquisite
cruelty he recalled to my mind, item by item, wrongs and unkindnesses I
had inflicted and humiliations I had put upon friends since dead, "who
died thinking of those injuries, maybe, and grieving over them," he
added, by way of poison to the stab.
"For instance," said he, "take the case of your younger brother, when
you two were boys together, many a long year ago. He always lovingly
trusted in you with a fidelity that your manifold treacheries were not
able to shake. He followed you about like a dog, content to suffer wrong
and abuse if he might only be with you; patient under these injuries
so long as it was your hand that inflicted them. The latest picture you
have of him in health and strength must be such a comfort to you! You
pledged your honor that if he would let you blindfold him no harm should
come to him; and then, giggling and choking over the rare fun of the
joke, you led him to a brook thinly glazed with ice, and pushed him
in; and how you did laugh! Man, you will never forget the gentle,
reproachful look he gave you as he struggled shivering out, if you live
a thousand years! Oh! you see it now, you see it now!"
"Beast, I have seen it a million times, and shall see it a million more!
and may you rot away piecemeal, and suffer till doomsday what I suffer
now, for bringing it back to me again!"
The dwarf chuckled contentedly, and went on with his accusing history
of my career. I dropped into a moody, vengeful state, and suffered in
silence under the merciless lash. At last this remark of his gave me a
"Two months ago, on a Tuesday, you woke up, away in the night, and fell
to thinking, with shame, about a peculiarly mean and pitiful act of
yours toward a poor ignorant Indian in the wilds of the Rocky Mountains
in the winter of eighteen hundred and--"
"Stop a moment, devil! Stop! Do you mean to tell me that even my very
thoughts are not hidden from you?"
"It seems to look like that. Didn't you think the thoughts I have just
"If I didn't, I wish I may never breathe again! Look here, friend--look
me in the eye. Who are you?"
"Well, who do you think?"
"I think you are Satan himself. I think you are the devil."
"No? Then who can you be?"
"Would you really like to know?"
"Indeed I would."
"Well, I am your Conscience!"
In an instant I was in a blaze of joy and exultation. I sprang at the
"Curse you, I have wished a hundred million times that you were
tangible, and that I could get my hands on your throat once! Oh, but I
will wreak a deadly vengeance on--"
Folly! Lightning does not move more quickly than my Conscience did!
He darted aloft so suddenly that in the moment my fingers clutched the
empty air he was already perched on the top of the high bookcase, with
his thumb at his nose in token of derision. I flung the poker at him,
and missed. I fired the bootjack. In a blind rage I flew from place to
place, and snatched and hurled any missile that came handy; the storm of
books, inkstands, and chunks of coal gloomed the air and beat about the
manikin's perch relentlessly, but all to no purpose; the nimble figure
dodged every shot; and not only that, but burst into a cackle of
sarcastic and triumphant laughter as I sat down exhausted. While I
puffed and gasped with fatigue and excitement, my Conscience talked to
"My good slave, you are curiously witless--no, I mean characteristically
so. In truth, you are always consistent, always yourself, always an
ass. Other wise it must have occurred to you that if you attempted this
murder with a sad heart and a heavy conscience, I would droop under the
burdening in influence instantly. Fool, I should have weighed a ton, and
could not have budged from the floor; but instead, you are so cheerfully
anxious to kill me that your conscience is as light as a feather;
hence I am away up here out of your reach. I can almost respect a mere
ordinary sort of fool; but you pah!"
I would have given anything, then, to be heavyhearted, so that I could
get this person down from there and take his life, but I could no more
be heavy-hearted over such a desire than I could have sorrowed over its
accomplishment. So I could only look longingly up at my master, and rave
at the ill luck that denied me a heavy conscience the one only time that
I had ever wanted such a thing in my life. By and by I got to musing
over the hour's strange adventure, and of course my human curiosity
began to work. I set myself to framing in my mind some questions for
this fiend to answer. Just then one of my boys entered, leaving the door
open behind him, and exclaimed:
"My! what has been going on here? The bookcase is all one riddle of--"
I sprang up in consternation, and shouted:
"Out of this! Hurry! jump! Fly! Shut the door! Quick, or my Conscience
will get away!"
The door slammed to, and I locked it. I glanced up and was grateful, to
the bottom of my heart, to see that my owner was still my prisoner. I
"Hang you, I might have lost you! Children are the heedlessest
creatures. But look here, friend, the boy did not seem to notice you at
all; how is that?"
"For a very good reason. I am invisible to all but you."
I made a mental note of that piece of information with a good deal of
satisfaction. I could kill this miscreant now, if I got a chance, and no
one would know it. But this very reflection made me so lighthearted that
my Conscience could hardly keep his seat, but was like to float aloft
toward the ceiling like a toy balloon. I said, presently:
"Come, my Conscience, let us be friendly. Let us fly a flag of truce for
a while. I am suffering to ask you some questions."
"Very well. Begin."
"Well, then, in the first place, why were you never visible to me
"Because you never asked to see me before; that is, you never asked in
the right spirit and the proper form before. You were just in the right
spirit this time, and when you called for your most pitiless enemy I was
that person by a very large majority, though you did not suspect it."
"Well, did that remark of mine turn you into flesh and blood?"
"No. It only made me visible to you. I am unsubstantial, just as other
This remark prodded me with a sharp misgiving.
If he was unsubstantial, how was I going to kill him? But I dissembled,
and said persuasively:
"Conscience, it isn't sociable of you to keep at such a distance. Come
down and take another smoke."
This was answered with a look that was full of derision, and with this
"Come where you can get at me and kill me? The invitation is declined
"All right," said I to myself; "so it seems a spirit can be killed,
after all; there will be one spirit lacking in this world, presently, or
I lose my guess." Then I said aloud:
"There; wait a bit. I am not your friend. I am your enemy; I am not your
equal, I am your master, Call me 'my lord,' if you please. You are too
"I don't like such titles. I am willing to call you, sir. That is as far
"We will have no argument about this. Just obey, that is all. Go on with
"Very well, my lord--since nothing but my lord will suit you--I was
going to ask you how long you will be visible to me?"
I broke out with strong indignation: "This is simply an outrage. That is
what I think of it! You have dogged, and dogged, and dogged me, all the
days of my life, invisible. That was misery enough, now to have such a
looking thing as you tagging after me like another shadow all the rest
of my day is an intolerable prospect. You have my opinion my lord, make
the most of it."
"My lad, there was never so pleased a conscience in this world as I was
when you made me visible. It gives me an inconceivable advantage. Now I
can look you straight in the eye, and call you names, and leer at you,
jeer at you, sneer at you; and you know what eloquence there is in
visible gesture and expression, more especially when the effect is
heightened by audible speech. I shall always address you henceforth in
your o-w-n s-n-i-v-e-l-i-n-g d-r-a-w-l--baby!"
I let fly with the coal-hod. No result. My lord said:
"Come, come! Remember the flag of truce!"
"Ah, I forgot that. I will try to be civil; and you try it, too, for a
novelty. The idea of a civil conscience! It is a good joke; an excellent
joke. All the consciences I have ever heard of were nagging, badgering,
fault-finding, execrable savages! Yes; and always in a sweat about some
poor little insignificant trifle or other--destruction catch the lot
of them, I say! I would trade mine for the smallpox and seven kinds of
consumption, and be glad of the chance. Now tell me, why is it that a
conscience can't haul a man over the coals once, for an offense, and
then let him alone? Why is it that it wants to keep on pegging at him,
day and night and night and day, week in and week out, forever and ever,
about the same old thing? There is no sense in that, and no reason in
it. I think a conscience that will act like that is meaner than the very
"Well, WE like it; that suffices."
"Do you do it with the honest intent to improve a man?"
That question produced a sarcastic smile, and this reply:
"No, sir. Excuse me. We do it simply because it is 'business.' It is
our trade. The purpose of it is to improve the man, but we are merely
disinterested agents. We are appointed by authority, and haven't
anything to say in the matter. We obey orders and leave the consequences
where they belong. But I am willing to admit this much: we do crowd
the orders a trifle when we get a chance, which is most of the time. We
enjoy it. We are instructed to remind a man a few times of an error; and
I don't mind acknowledging that we try to give pretty good measure. And
when we get hold of a man of a peculiarly sensitive nature, oh, but
we do haze him! I have consciences to come all the way from China and
Russia to see a person of that kind put through his paces, on a special
occasion. Why, I knew a man of that sort who had accidentally crippled
a mulatto baby; the news went abroad, and I wish you may never commit
another sin if the consciences didn't flock from all over the earth
to enjoy the fun and help his master exorcise him. That man walked the
floor in torture for forty-eight hours, without eating or sleeping, and
then blew his brains out. The child was perfectly well again in three
"Well, you are a precious crew, not to put it too strong. I think I
begin to see now why you have always been a trifle inconsistent with me.
In your anxiety to get all the juice you can out of a sin, you make
a man repent of it in three or four different ways. For instance, you
found fault with me for lying to that tramp, and I suffered over that.
But it was only yesterday that I told a tramp the square truth, to wit,
that, it being regarded as bad citizenship to encourage vagrancy, I
would give him nothing. What did you do then: Why, you made me say to
myself, 'Ah, it would have been so much kinder and more blameless to
ease him off with a little white lie, and send him away feeling that if
he could not have bread, the gentle treatment was at least something to
be grateful for!' Well, I suffered all day about that. Three days before
I had fed a tramp, and fed him freely, supposing it a virtuous act.
Straight off you said, 'Oh, false citizen, to have fed a tramp!' and I
suffered as usual. I gave a tramp work; you objected to it--after the
contract was made, of course; you never speak up beforehand. Next, I
refused a tramp work; you objected to that. Next, I proposed to kill a
tramp; you kept me awake all night, oozing remorse at every pore. Sure
I was going to be right this time, I sent the next tramp away with my
benediction; and I wish you may live as long as I do, if you didn't make
me smart all night again because I didn't kill him. Is there any way of
satisfying that malignant invention which is called a conscience?"
"Ha, ha! this is luxury! Go on!"
"But come, now, answer me that question. Is there any way?"
"Well, none that I propose to tell you, my son. Ass! I don't care what
act you may turn your hand to, I can straightway whisper a word in your
ear and make you think you have committed a dreadful meanness. It is my
business--and my joy--to make you repent of everything you do. If I have
fooled away any opportunities it was not intentional; I beg to assure
you it was not intentional!"
"Don't worry; you haven't missed a trick that I know of. I never did a
thing in all my life, virtuous or otherwise, that I didn't repent of in
twenty-four hours. In church last Sunday I listened to a charity sermon.
My first impulse was to give three hundred and fifty dollars; I repented
of that and reduced it a hundred; repented of that and reduced it
another hundred; repented of that and reduced it another hundred;
repented of that and reduced the remaining fifty to twenty-five;
repented of that and came down to fifteen; repented of that and dropped
to two dollars and a half; when the plate came around at last, I
repented once more and contributed ten cents. Well, when I got home, I
did wish to goodness I had that ten cents back again! You never did
let me get through a charity sermon without having something to sweat
"Oh, and I never shall, I never shall. You can always depend on me."
"I think so. Many and many's the restless night I've wanted to take you
by the neck. If I could only get hold of you now!"
"Yes, no doubt. But I am not an ass; I am only the saddle of an ass. But
go on, go on. You entertain me more than I like to confess."
"I am glad of that. (You will not mind my lying a little, to keep in
practice.) Look here; not to be too personal, I think you are about the
shabbiest and most contemptible little shriveled-up reptile that can be
imagined. I am grateful enough that you are invisible to other people,
for I should die with shame to be seen with such a mildewed monkey of a
conscience as you are. Now if you were five or six feet high, and--"
"Oh, come! who is to blame?"
"I don't know."
"Why, you are; nobody else."
"Confound you, I wasn't consulted about your personal appearance."
"I don't care, you had a good deal to do with it, nevertheless. When you
were eight or nine years old, I was seven feet high, and as pretty as a
"I wish you had died young! So you have grown the wrong way, have you?"
"Some of us grow one way and some the other. You had a large conscience
once; if you've a small conscience now I reckon there are reasons for
it. However, both of us are to blame, you and I. You see, you used to be
conscientious about a great many things; morbidly so, I may say. It was
a great many years ago. You probably do not remember it now. Well, I
took a great interest in my work, and I so enjoyed the anguish which
certain pet sins of yours afflicted you with that I kept pelting at you
until I rather overdid the matter. You began to rebel. Of course I began
to lose ground, then, and shrivel a little--diminish in stature, get
moldy, and grow deformed. The more I weakened, the more stubbornly you
fastened on to those particular sins; till at last the places on my
person that represent those vices became as callous as shark-skin. Take
smoking, for instance. I played that card a little too long, and I lost.
When people plead with you at this late day to quit that vice, that old
callous place seems to enlarge and cover me all over like a shirt of
mail. It exerts a mysterious, smothering effect; and presently I, your
faithful hater, your devoted Conscience, go sound asleep! Sound? It is
no name for it. I couldn't hear it thunder at such a time. You have some
few other vices--perhaps eighty, or maybe ninety--that affect me in much
the same way."
"This is flattering; you must be asleep a good part of your time."
"Yes, of late years. I should be asleep all the time but for the help I
"Who helps you?"
"Other consciences. Whenever a person whose conscience I am acquainted
with tries to plead with you about the vices you are callous to, I get
my friend to give his client a pang concerning some villainy of his
own, and that shuts off his meddling and starts him off to hunt personal
consolation. My field of usefulness is about trimmed down to tramps,
budding authoresses, and that line of goods now; but don't you
worry--I'll harry you on theirs while they last! Just you put your trust
"I think I can. But if you had only been good enough to mention
these facts some thirty years ago, I should have turned my particular
attention to sin, and I think that by this time I should not only have
had you pretty permanently asleep on the entire list of human vices, but
reduced to the size of a homeopathic pill, at that. That is about the
style of conscience I am pining for. If I only had you shrunk you down
to a homeopathic pill, and could get my hands on you, would I put you in
a glass case for a keepsake? No, sir. I would give you to a yellow dog!
That is where you ought to be--you and all your tribe. You are not fit
to be in society, in my opinion. Now another question. Do you know a
good many consciences in this section?"
"Plenty of them."
"I would give anything to see some of them! Could you bring them here?
And would they be visible to me?"
"I suppose I ought to have known that without asking. But no matter,
you can describe them. Tell me about my neighbor Thompson's conscience,
"Very well. I know him intimately; have known him many years. I knew him
when he was eleven feet high and of a faultless figure. But he is very
pasty and tough and misshapen now, and hardly ever interests himself
about anything. As to his present size--well, he sleeps in a cigar-box."
"Likely enough. There are few smaller, meaner men in this region than
Hugh Thompson. Do you know Robinson's conscience?"
"Yes. He is a shade under four and a half feet high; used to be a blond;
is a brunette now, but still shapely and comely."
"Well, Robinson is a good fellow. Do you know Tom Smith's conscience?"
"I have known him from childhood. He was thirteen inches high, and
rather sluggish, when he was two years old--as nearly all of us are at
that age. He is thirty-seven feet high now, and the stateliest figure in
America. His legs are still racked with growing-pains, but he has a good
time, nevertheless. Never sleeps. He is the most active and energetic
member of the New England Conscience Club; is president of it. Night
and day you can find him pegging away at Smith, panting with his labor,
sleeves rolled up, countenance all alive with enjoyment. He has got his
victim splendidly dragooned now. He can make poor Smith imagine that the
most innocent little thing he does is an odious sin; and then he sets to
work and almost tortures the soul out of him about it."
"Smith is the noblest man in all this section, and the purest; and
yet is always breaking his heart because he cannot be good! Only a
conscience could find pleasure in heaping agony upon a spirit like that.
Do you know my aunt Mary's conscience?"
"I have seen her at a distance, but am not acquainted with her. She
lives in the open air altogether, because no door is large enough to
"I can believe that. Let me see. Do you know the conscience of that
publisher who once stole some sketches of mine for a 'series' of his,
and then left me to pay the law expenses I had to incur in order to
choke him off?"
"Yes. He has a wide fame. He was exhibited, a month ago, with some
other antiquities, for the benefit of a recent Member of the Cabinet's
conscience that was starving in exile. Tickets and fares were high, but
I traveled for nothing by pretending to be the conscience of an editor,
and got in for half-price by representing myself to be the conscience of
a clergyman. However, the publisher's conscience, which was to have been
the main feature of the entertainment, was a failure--as an exhibition.
He was there, but what of that? The management had provided a
microscope with a magnifying power of only thirty thousand diameters, and
so nobody got to see him, after all. There was great and general
dissatisfaction, of course, but--"
Just here there was an eager footstep on the stair; I opened the door,
and my aunt Mary burst into the room. It was a joyful meeting and a
cheery bombardment of questions and answers concerning family matters
ensued. By and by my aunt said:
"But I am going to abuse you a little now. You promised me, the day I
saw you last, that you would look after the needs of the poor family
around the corner as faithfully as I had done it myself. Well, I found
out by accident that you failed of your promise. Was that right?"
In simple truth, I never had thought of that family a second time! And
now such a splintering pang of guilt shot through me! I glanced up at
my Conscience. Plainly, my heavy heart was affecting him. His body was
drooping forward; he seemed about to fall from the bookcase. My aunt
"And think how you have neglected my poor protege at the almshouse, you
dear, hard-hearted promise-breaker!" I blushed scarlet, and my tongue
was tied. As the sense of my guilty negligence waxed sharper and
stronger, my Conscience began to sway heavily back and forth; and when
my aunt, after a little pause, said in a grieved tone, "Since you never
once went to see her, maybe it will not distress you now to know that
that poor child died, months ago, utterly friendless and forsaken!" My
Conscience could no longer bear up under the weight of my sufferings,
but tumbled headlong from his high perch and struck the floor with a
dull, leaden thump. He lay there writhing with pain and quaking with
apprehension, but straining every muscle in frantic efforts to get up.
In a fever of expectancy I sprang to the door, locked it, placed my back
against it, and bent a watchful gaze upon my struggling master. Already
my fingers were itching to begin their murderous work.
"Oh, what can be the matter!" exclaimed by aunt, shrinking from me, and
following with her frightened eyes the direction of mine. My breath
was coming in short, quick gasps now, and my excitement was almost
uncontrollable. My aunt cried out:
"Oh, do not look so! You appal me! Oh, what can the matter be? What
is it you see? Why do you stare so? Why do you work your fingers like
"Peace, woman!" I said, in a hoarse whisper. "Look elsewhere; pay no
attention to me; it is nothing--nothing. I am often this way. It will
pass in a moment. It comes from smoking too much."
My injured lord was up, wild-eyed with terror, and trying to hobble
toward the door. I could hardly breathe, I was so wrought up. My aunt
wrung her hands, and said:
"Oh, I knew how it would be; I knew it would come to this at last! Oh, I
implore you to crush out that fatal habit while it may yet be time!
You must not, you shall not be deaf to my supplications longer!" My
struggling Conscience showed sudden signs of weariness! "Oh, promise me
you will throw off this hateful slavery of tobacco!" My Conscience began
to reel drowsily, and grope with his hands--enchanting spectacle! "I beg
you, I beseech you, I implore you! Your reason is deserting you! There
is madness in your eye! It flames with frenzy! Oh, hear me, hear me, and
be saved! See, I plead with you on my very knees!" As she sank before
me my Conscience reeled again, and then drooped languidly to the floor,
blinking toward me a last supplication for mercy, with heavy eyes. "Oh,
promise, or you are lost! Promise, and be redeemed! Promise! Promise and
live!" With a long-drawn sigh my conquered Conscience closed his eyes
and fell fast asleep!
With an exultant shout I sprang past my aunt, and in an instant I had my
lifelong foe by the throat. After so many years of waiting and longing,
he was mine at last. I tore him to shreds and fragments. I rent the
fragments to bits. I cast the bleeding rubbish into the fire, and drew
into my nostrils the grateful incense of my burnt-offering. At last, and
forever, my Conscience was dead!
I was a free man! I turned upon my poor aunt, who was almost petrified
with terror, and shouted:
"Out of this with your paupers, your charities, your reforms, your
pestilent morals! You behold before you a man whose life-conflict is
done, whose soul is at peace; a man whose heart is dead to sorrow, dead
to suffering, dead to remorse; a man WITHOUT A CONSCIENCE! In my joy I
spare you, though I could throttle you and never feel a pang! Fly!"
She fled. Since that day my life is all bliss. Bliss, unalloyed bliss.
Nothing in all the world could persuade me to have a conscience again.
I settled all my old outstanding scores, and began the world anew. I
killed thirty-eight persons during the first two weeks--all of them
on account of ancient grudges. I burned a dwelling that interrupted my
view. I swindled a widow and some orphans out of their last cow, which
is a very good one, though not thoroughbred, I believe. I have also
committed scores of crimes, of various kinds, and have enjoyed my work
exceedingly, whereas it would formerly have broken my heart and turned
my hair gray, I have no doubt.
In conclusion, I wish to state, by way of advertisement, that medical
colleges desiring assorted tramps for scientific purposes, either by the
gross, by cord measurement, or per ton, will do well to examine the lot
in my cellar before purchasing elsewhere, as these were all selected
and prepared by myself, and can be had at a low rate, because I wish to
clear, out my stock and get ready for the spring trade.