THE TRAGEDY OF PUDD'NHEAD WILSON
by Mark Twain
A WHISPER TO THE READER
_There is no character, howsoever good and fine, but it can
be destroyed by ridicule, howsoever poor and witless.
Observe the ass, for instance: his character is about
perfect, he is the choicest spirit among all the humbler
animals, yet see what ridicule has brought him to. Instead
of feeling complimented when we are called an ass, we are
left in doubt._ --Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
A person who is ignorant of legal matters is always liable to make
mistakes when he tries to photograph a court scene with his pen; and so I
was not willing to let the law chapters in this book go to press without
first subjecting them to rigid and exhausting revision and correction by
a trained barrister--if that is what they are called. These chapters are
right, now, in every detail, for they were rewritten under the immediate
eye of William Hicks, who studied law part of a while in southwest
Missouri thirty-five years ago and then came over here to Florence for
his health and is still helping for exercise and board in Macaroni
Vermicelli's horse-feed shed, which is up the back alley as you turn
around the corner out of the Piazza del Duomo just beyond the house where
that stone that Dante used to sit on six hundred years ago is let into
the wall when he let on to be watching them build Giotto's campanile and
yet always got tired looking as Beatrice passed along on her way to get a
chunk of chestnut cake to defend herself with in case of a Ghibelline
outbreak before she got to school, at the same old stand where they sell
the same old cake to this day and it is just as light and good as it was
then, too, and this is not flattery, far from it. He was a little rusty
on his law, but he rubbed up for this book, and those two or three legal
chapters are right and straight, now. He told me so himself.
Given under my hand this second day of January, 1893, at the Villa
Viviani, village of Settignano, three miles back of Florence, on the
hills--the same certainly affording the most charming view to be found
on this planet, and with it the most dreamlike and enchanting sunsets to
be found in any planet or even in any solar system--and given, too, in
the swell room of the house, with the busts of Cerretani senators and
other grandees of this line looking approvingly down upon me, as they
used to look down upon Dante, and mutely asking me to adopt them into my
family, which I do with pleasure, for my remotest ancestors are but
spring chickens compared with these robed and stately antiques, and it
will be a great and satisfying lift for me, that six hundred years will.
CHAPTER 1 -- Pudd'nhead Wins His Name
_Tell the truth or trump--but get the trick._ --Pudd'nhead
The scene of this chronicle is the town of Dawson's Landing, on the
Missouri side of the Mississippi, half a day's journey, per steamboat,
below St. Louis.
In 1830 it was a snug collection of modest one- and two-story frame
dwellings, whose whitewashed exteriors were almost concealed from sight
by climbing tangles of rose vines, honeysuckles, and morning glories.
Each of these pretty homes had a garden in front fenced with white
palings and opulently stocked with hollyhocks, marigolds, touch-me-nots,
prince's-feathers, and other old-fashioned flowers; while on the
windowsills of the houses stood wooden boxes containing moss rose plants
and terra-cotta pots in which grew a breed of geranium whose spread of
intensely red blossoms accented the prevailing pink tint of the rose-clad
house-front like an explosion of flame. When there was room on the ledge
outside of the pots and boxes for a cat, the cat was there--in sunny
weather--stretched at full length, asleep and blissful, with her furry
belly to the sun and a paw curved over her nose. Then that house was
complete, and its contentment and peace were made manifest to the world
by this symbol, whose testimony is infallible. A home without a cat--and
a well-fed, well-petted, and properly revered cat--may be a perfect
home, perhaps, but how can it prove title?
All along the streets, on both sides, at the outer edge of the brick
sidewalks, stood locust trees with trunks protected by wooden boxing, and
these furnished shade for summer and a sweet fragrancer in spring, when
the clusters of buds came forth. The main street, one block back from
the river, and running parallel with it, was the sole business street.
It was six blocks long, and in each block two or three brick stores,
three stories high, towered above interjected bunches of little frame
shops. Swinging signs creaked in the wind the street's whole length.
The candy-striped pole, which indicates nobility proud and ancient along
the palace-bordered canals of Venice, indicated merely the humble
barbershop along the main street of Dawson's Landing. On a chief corner
stood a lofty unpainted pole wreathed from top to bottom with tin pots
and pans and cups, the chief tinmonger's noisy notice to the world (when
the wind blew) that his shop was on hand for business at that corner.
The hamlet's front was washed by the clear waters of the great river; its
body stretched itself rearward up a gentle incline; its most rearward
border fringed itself out and scattered its houses about its base line of
the hills; the hills rose high, enclosing the town in a half-moon curve,
clothed with forests from foot to summit.
Steamboats passed up and down every hour or so. Those belonging to the
little Cairo line and the little Memphis line always stopped; the big
Orleans liners stopped for hails only, or to land passengers or freight;
and this was the case also with the great flotilla of "transients."
These latter came out of a dozen rivers--the Illinois, the Missouri, the
Upper Mississippi, the Ohio, the Monongahela, the Tennessee, the Red
River, the White River, and so on--and were bound every whither and
stocked with every imaginable comfort or necessity, which the
Mississippi's communities could want, from the frosty Falls of St.
Anthony down through nine climates to torrid New Orleans.
Dawson's Landing was a slaveholding town, with a rich, slave-worked grain
and pork country back of it. The town was sleepy and comfortable and
contented. It was fifty years old, and was growing slowly--very slowly,
in fact, but still it was growing.
The chief citizen was York Leicester Driscoll, about forty years old,
judge of the county court. He was very proud of his old Virginian
ancestry, and in his hospitalities and his rather formal and stately
manners, he kept up its traditions. He was fine and just and generous.
To be a gentleman--a gentleman without stain or blemish--was his only
religion, and to it he was always faithful. He was respected, esteemed,
and beloved by all of the community. He was well off, and was gradually
adding to his store. He and his wife were very nearly happy, but not
quite, for they had no children. The longing for the treasure of a child
had grown stronger and stronger as the years slipped away, but the
blessing never came--and was never to come.
With this pair lived the judge's widowed sister, Mrs. Rachel Pratt, and
she also was childless--childless, and sorrowful for that reason, and not
to be comforted. The women were good and commonplace people, and did
their duty, and had their reward in clear consciences and the community's
approbation. They were Presbyterians, the judge was a freethinker.
Pembroke Howard, lawyer and bachelor, aged almost forty, was another old
Virginian grandee with proved descent from the First Families. He was a
fine, majestic creature, a gentleman according to the nicest requirements
of the Virginia rule, a devoted Presbyterian, an authority on the "code",
and a man always courteously ready to stand up before you in the field if
any act or word of his had seemed doubtful or suspicious to you, and
explain it with any weapon you might prefer from bradawls to artillery.
He was very popular with the people, and was the judge's dearest friend.
Then there was Colonel Cecil Burleigh Essex, another F.F.V. of formidable
caliber--however, with him we have no concern.
Percy Northumberland Driscoll, brother to the judge, and younger than he
by five years, was a married man, and had had children around his
hearthstone; but they were attacked in detail by measles, croup, and
scarlet fever, and this had given the doctor a chance with his effective
antediluvian methods; so the cradles were empty. He was a prosperous
man, with a good head for speculations, and his fortune was growing. On
the first of February, 1830, two boy babes were born in his house; one to
him, one to one of his slave girls, Roxana by name. Roxana was twenty
years old. She was up and around the same day, with her hands full, for
she was tending both babes.
Mrs. Percy Driscoll died within the week. Roxy remained in charge of the
children. She had her own way, for Mr. Driscoll soon absorbed himself in
his speculations and left her to her own devices.
In that same month of February, Dawson's Landing gained a new citizen.
This was Mr. David Wilson, a young fellow of Scotch parentage. He had
wandered to this remote region from his birthplace in the interior of the
State of New York, to seek his fortune. He was twenty-five years old,
college bred, and had finished a post-college course in an Eastern law
school a couple of years before.
He was a homely, freckled, sandy-haired young fellow, with an intelligent
blue eye that had frankness and comradeship in it and a covert twinkle of
a pleasant sort. But for an unfortunate remark of his, he would no doubt
have entered at once upon a successful career at Dawson's Landing. But he
made his fatal remark the first day he spent in the village, and it
"gaged" him. He had just made the acquaintance of a group of citizens
when an invisible dog began to yelp and snarl and howl and make himself
very comprehensively disagreeable, whereupon young Wilson said, much as
one who is thinking aloud:
"I wish I owned half of that dog."
"Why?" somebody asked.
"Because I would kill my half."
The group searched his face with curiosity, with anxiety even, but found
no light there, no expression that they could read. They fell away from
him as from something uncanny, and went into privacy to discuss him. One
"'Pears to be a fool."
"'Pears?" said another. "_Is,_ I reckon you better say."
"Said he wished he owned _half_ of the dog, the idiot," said a third.
"What did he reckon would become of the other half if he killed his half?
Do you reckon he thought it would live?"
"Why, he must have thought it, unless he IS the downrightest fool in the
world; because if he hadn't thought it, he would have wanted to own the
whole dog, knowing that if he killed his half and the other half died, he
would be responsible for that half just the same as if he had killed that
half instead of his own. Don't it look that way to you, gents?"
"Yes, it does. If he owned one half of the general dog, it would be so;
if he owned one end of the dog and another person owned the other end, it
would be so, just the same; particularly in the first case, because if
you kill one half of a general dog, there ain't any man that can tell
whose half it was; but if he owned one end of the dog, maybe he could
kill his end of it and--"
"No, he couldn't either; he couldn't and not be responsible if the other
end died, which it would. In my opinion that man ain't in his right
"In my opinion he hain't _got_ any mind."
No. 3 said: "Well, he's a lummox, anyway."
"That's what he is;" said No. 4. "He's a labrick--just a Simon-pure
labrick, if there was one."
"Yes, sir, he's a dam fool. That's the way I put him up," said No. 5.
"Anybody can think different that wants to, but those are my sentiments."
"I'm with you, gentlemen," said No. 6. "Perfect jackass--yes, and it
ain't going too far to say he is a pudd'nhead. If he ain't a pudd'nhead,
I ain't no judge, that's all."
Mr. Wilson stood elected. The incident was told all over the town, and
gravely discussed by everybody. Within a week he had lost his first
name; Pudd'nhead took its place. In time he came to be liked, and well
liked too; but by that time the nickname had got well stuck on, and it
stayed. That first day's verdict made him a fool, and he was not able to
get it set aside, or even modified. The nickname soon ceased to carry
any harsh or unfriendly feeling with it, but it held its place, and was
to continue to hold its place for twenty long years.
CHAPTER 2 -- Driscoll Spares His Slaves
_Adam was but human--this explains it all. He did not want
the apple for the apple's sake, he wanted it only because it
was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the
serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent._ --Pudd'nhead
Pudd'nhead Wilson had a trifle of money when he arrived, and he bought a
small house on the extreme western verge of the town. Between it and
Judge Driscoll's house there was only a grassy yard, with a paling fence
dividing the properties in the middle. He hired a small office down in
the town and hung out a tin sign with these words on it:
D A V I D W I L S O N
ATTORNEY AND COUNSELOR-AT-LAW
SURVEYING, CONVEYANCING, ETC.
But his deadly remark had ruined his chance--at least in the law. No
clients came. He took down his sign, after a while, and put it up on his
own house with the law features knocked out of it. It offered his
services now in the humble capacities of land surveyor and expert
accountant. Now and then he got a job of surveying to do, and now and
then a merchant got him to straighten out his books. With Scotch patience
and pluck he resolved to live down his reputation and work his way into
the legal field yet. Poor fellow, he could foresee that it was going to
take him such a weary long time to do it.
He had a rich abundance of idle time, but it never hung heavy on his
hands, for he interested himself in every new thing that was born into
the universe of ideas, and studied it, and experimented upon it at his
house. One of his pet fads was palmistry. To another one he gave no
name, neither would he explain to anybody what its purpose was, but
merely said it was an amusement. In fact, he had found that his fads
added to his reputation as a pudd'nhead; there, he was growing chary of
being too communicative about them. The fad without a name was one which
dealt with people's finger marks. He carried in his coat pocket a
shallow box with grooves in it, and in the grooves strips of glass five
inches long and three inches wide. Along the lower edge of each strip
was pasted a slip of white paper. He asked people to pass their hands
through their hair (thus collecting upon them a thin coating of the
natural oil) and then making a thumb-mark on a glass strip, following it
with the mark of the ball of each finger in succession. Under this row
of faint grease prints he would write a record on the strip of white
JOHN SMITH, right hand--
and add the day of the month and the year, then take Smith's left hand on
another glass strip, and add name and date and the words "left hand." The
strips were now returned to the grooved box, and took their place among
what Wilson called his "records."
He often studied his records, examining and poring over them with
absorbing interest until far into the night; but what he found there--if
he found anything--he revealed to no one. Sometimes he copied on paper
the involved and delicate pattern left by the ball of the finger, and
then vastly enlarged it with a pantograph so that he could examine its
web of curving lines with ease and convenience.
One sweltering afternoon--it was the first day of July, 1830--he was at
work over a set of tangled account books in his workroom, which looked
westward over a stretch of vacant lots, when a conversation outside
disturbed him. It was carried on in yells, which showed that the people
engaged in it were not close together.
"Say, Roxy, how does yo' baby come on?" This from the distant voice.
"Fust-rate. How does _you_ come on, Jasper?" This yell was from close
"Oh, I's middlin'; hain't got noth'n' to complain of, I's gwine to come
a-court'n you bimeby, Roxy."
"_You_ is, you black mud cat! Yah--yah--yah! I got somep'n' better to
do den 'sociat'n' wid niggers as black as you is. Is ole Miss Cooper's
Nancy done give you de mitten?" Roxy followed this sally with another
discharge of carefree laughter.
"You's jealous, Roxy, dat's what's de matter wid you, you
hussy--yah--yah--yah! Dat's de time I got you!"
"Oh, yes, _you_ got me, hain't you. 'Clah to goodness if dat conceit o'
yo'n strikes in, Jasper, it gwine to kill you sho'. If you b'longed to
me, I'd sell you down de river 'fo' you git too fur gone. Fust time I
runs acrost yo' marster, I's gwine to tell him so."
This idle and aimless jabber went on and on, both parties enjoying the
friendly duel and each well satisfied with his own share of the wit
exchanged--for wit they considered it.
Wilson stepped to the window to observe the combatants; he could not work
while their chatter continued. Over in the vacant lots was Jasper,
young, coal black, and of magnificent build, sitting on a wheelbarrow in
the pelting sun--at work, supposably, whereas he was in fact only
preparing for it by taking an hour's rest before beginning. In front of
Wilson's porch stood Roxy, with a local handmade baby wagon, in which sat
her two charges--one at each end and facing each other. From Roxy's
manner of speech, a stranger would have expected her to be black, but she
was not. Only one sixteenth of her was black, and that sixteenth did not
show. She was of majestic form and stature, her attitudes were imposing
and statuesque, and her gestures and movements distinguished by a noble
and stately grace. Her complexion was very fair, with the rosy glow of
vigorous health in her cheeks, her face was full of character and
expression, her eyes were brown and liquid, and she had a heavy suit of
fine soft hair which was also brown, but the fact was not apparent
because her head was bound about with a checkered handkerchief and the
hair was concealed under it. Her face was shapely, intelligent, and
comely--even beautiful. She had an easy, independent carriage--when she
was among her own caste--and a high and "sassy" way, withal; but of
course she was meek and humble enough where white people were.
To all intents and purposes Roxy was as white as anybody, but the one
sixteenth of her which was black outvoted the other fifteen parts and
made her a Negro. She was a slave, and salable as such. Her child was
thirty-one parts white, and he, too, was a slave, and by a fiction of law
and custom a Negro. He had blue eyes and flaxen curls like his white
comrade, but even the father of the white child was able to tell the
children apart--little as he had commerce with them--by their clothes;
for the white babe wore ruffled soft muslin and a coral necklace, while
the other wore merely a coarse tow-linen shirt which barely reached to
its knees, and no jewelry.
The white child's name was Thomas a Becket Driscoll, the other's name was
Valet de Chambre: no surname--slaves hadn't the privilege. Roxana had
heard that phrase somewhere, the fine sound of it had pleased her ear,
and as she had supposed it was a name, she loaded it on to her darling.
It soon got shorted to "Chambers," of course.
Wilson knew Roxy by sight, and when the duel of wits begun to play out,
he stepped outside to gather in a record or two. Jasper went to work
energetically, at once, perceiving that his leisure was observed. Wilson
inspected the children and asked:
"How old are they, Roxy?"
"Bofe de same age, sir--five months. Bawn de fust o' Feb'uary."
"They're handsome little chaps. One's just as handsome as the other,
A delighted smile exposed the girl's white teeth, and she said:
"Bless yo' soul, Misto Wilson, it's pow'ful nice o' you to say dat,
'ca'se one of 'em ain't on'y a nigger. Mighty prime little nigger, _I_
al'ays says, but dat's 'ca'se it's mine, o' course."
"How do you tell them apart, Roxy, when they haven't any clothes on?"
Roxy laughed a laugh proportioned to her size, and said:
"Oh, _I_ kin tell 'em 'part, Misto Wilson, but I bet Marse Percy
couldn't, not to save his life."
Wilson chatted along for awhile, and presently got Roxy's fingerprints
for his collection--right hand and left--on a couple of his glass strips;
then labeled and dated them, and took the "records" of both children, and
labeled and dated them also.
Two months later, on the third of September, he took this trio of finger
marks again. He liked to have a "series," two or three "takings" at
intervals during the period of childhood, these to be followed at
intervals of several years.
The next day--that is to say, on the fourth of September--something
occurred which profoundly impressed Roxana. Mr. Driscoll missed another
small sum of money--which is a way of saying that this was not a new
thing, but had happened before. In truth, it had happened three times
before. Driscoll's patience was exhausted. He was a fairly humane man
toward slaves and other animals; he was an exceedingly humane man toward
the erring of his own race. Theft he could not abide, and plainly there
was a thief in his house. Necessarily the thief must be one of his
Negros. Sharp measures must be taken. He called his servants before him.
There were three of these, besides Roxy: a man, a woman, and a boy
twelve years old. They were not related. Mr. Driscoll said:
"You have all been warned before. It has done no good. This time I will
teach you a lesson. I will sell the thief. Which of you is the guilty
They all shuddered at the threat, for here they had a good home, and a
new one was likely to be a change for the worse. The denial was general.
None had stolen anything--not money, anyway--a little sugar, or cake, or
honey, or something like that, that "Marse Percy wouldn't mind or miss"
but not money--never a cent of money. They were eloquent in their
protestations, but Mr. Driscoll was not moved by them. He answered each
in turn with a stern "Name the thief!"
The truth was, all were guilty but Roxana; she suspected that the others
were guilty, but she did not know them to be so. She was horrified to
think how near she had come to being guilty herself; she had been saved
in the nick of time by a revival in the colored Methodist Church, a
fortnight before, at which time and place she "got religion." The very
next day after that gracious experience, while her change of style was
fresh upon her and she was vain of her purified condition, her master
left a couple dollars unprotected on his desk, and she happened upon that
temptation when she was polishing around with a dustrag. She looked at
the money awhile with a steady rising resentment, then she burst out
"Dad blame dat revival, I wisht it had 'a' be'n put off till tomorrow!"
Then she covered the tempter with a book, and another member of the
kitchen cabinet got it. She made this sacrifice as a matter of religious
etiquette; as a thing necessary just now, but by no means to be wrested
into a precedent; no, a week or two would limber up her piety, then she
would be rational again, and the next two dollars that got left out in
the cold would find a comforter--and she could name the comforter.
Was she bad? Was she worse than the general run of her race? No. They
had an unfair show in the battle of life, and they held it no sin to take
military advantage of the enemy--in a small way; in a small way, but not
in a large one. They would smouch provisions from the pantry whenever
they got a chance; or a brass thimble, or a cake of wax, or an emery bag,
or a paper of needles, or a silver spoon, or a dollar bill, or small
articles of clothing, or any other property of light value; and so far
were they from considering such reprisals sinful, that they would go to
church and shout and pray the loudest and sincerest with their plunder in
their pockets. A farm smokehouse had to be kept heavily padlocked, or
even the colored deacon himself could not resist a ham when Providence
showed him in a dream, or otherwise, where such a thing hung lonesome,
and longed for someone to love. But with a hundred hanging before him,
the deacon would not take two--that is, on the same night. On frosty
nights the humane Negro prowler would warm the end of the plank and put
it up under the cold claws of chickens roosting in a tree; a drowsy hen
would step on to the comfortable board, softly clucking her gratitude,
and the prowler would dump her into his bag, and later into his stomach,
perfectly sure that in taking this trifle from the man who daily robbed
him of an inestimable treasure--his liberty--he was not committing any
sin that God would remember against him in the Last Great Day.
"Name the thief!"
For the fourth time Mr. Driscoll had said it, and always in the same hard
tone. And now he added these words of awful import:
"I give you one minute." He took out his watch. "If at the end of that
time, you have not confessed, I will not only sell all four of you,
BUT--I will sell you DOWN THE RIVER!"
It was equivalent to condemning them to hell! No Missouri Negro doubted
this. Roxy reeled in her tracks, and the color vanished out of her face;
the others dropped to their knees as if they had been shot; tears gushed
from their eyes, their supplicating hands went up, and three answers came
in the one instant.
"I done it!"
"I done it!"
"I done it!--have mercy, marster--Lord have mercy on us po' niggers!"
"Very good," said the master, putting up his watch, "I will sell you
_here_ though you don't deserve it. You ought to be sold down the
The culprits flung themselves prone, in an ecstasy of gratitude, and
kissed his feet, declaring that they would never forget his goodness and
never cease to pray for him as long as they lived. They were sincere, for
like a god he had stretched forth his mighty hand and closed the gates of
hell against them. He knew, himself, that he had done a noble and
gracious thing, and was privately well pleased with his magnanimity; and
that night he set the incident down in his diary, so that his son might
read it in after years, and be thereby moved to deeds of gentleness and
CHAPTER 3 -- Roxy Plays a Shrewd Trick
_Whoever has lived long enough to find out what life is,
knows how deep a debt of gratitude we owe to Adam, the first
great benefactor of our race. He brought death into the
world._ --Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
Percy Driscoll slept well the night he saved his house minions from
going down the river, but no wink of sleep visited Roxy's eyes. A
profound terror had taken possession of her. Her child could grow up and
be sold down the river! The thought crazed her with horror. If she dozed
and lost herself for a moment, the next moment she was on her feet flying
to her child's cradle to see if it was still there. Then she would gather
it to her heart and pour out her love upon it in a frenzy of kisses,
moaning, crying, and saying, "Dey sha'n't, oh, dey _sha'nt'!'_--yo' po'
mammy will kill you fust!"
Once, when she was tucking him back in its cradle again, the other child
nestled in its sleep and attracted her attention. She went and stood
over it a long time communing with herself.
"What has my po' baby done, dat he couldn't have yo' luck? He hain't done
nuth'n. God was good to you; why warn't he good to him? Dey can't sell
_you_ down de river. I hates yo' pappy; he hain't got no heart--for
niggers, he hain't, anyways. I hates him, en I could kill him!" She
paused awhile, thinking; then she burst into wild sobbings again, and
turned away, saying, "Oh, I got to kill my chile, dey ain't no yuther
way--killin' _him_ wouldn't save de chile fum goin' down de river. Oh, I
got to do it, yo' po' mammy's got to kill you to save you, honey." She
gathered her baby to her bosom now, and began to smother it with
caresses. "Mammy's got to kill you--how _kin_ I do it! But yo' mammy
ain't gwine to desert you--no, no, _dah_, don't cry--she gwine _wid_
you, she gwine to kill herself too. Come along, honey, come along wid
mammy; we gwine to jump in de river, den troubles o' dis worl' is all
over--dey don't sell po' niggers down the river over _yonder_."
She stared toward the door, crooning to the child and hushing it; midway
she stopped, suddenly. She had caught sight of her new Sunday gown--a
cheap curtain-calico thing, a conflagration of gaudy colors and fantastic
figures. She surveyed it wistfully, longingly.
"Hain't ever wore it yet," she said, "en it's just lovely." Then she
nodded her head in response to a pleasant idea, and added, "No, I ain't
gwine to be fished out, wid everybody lookin' at me, in dis mis'able ole
She put down the child and made the change. She looked in the glass and
was astonished at her beauty. She resolved to make her death toilet
perfect. She took off her handkerchief turban and dressed her glossy
wealth of hair "like white folks"; she added some odds and ends of rather
lurid ribbon and a spray of atrocious artificial flowers; finally she
threw over her shoulders a fluffy thing called a "cloud" in that day,
which was of a blazing red complexion. Then she was ready for the tomb.
She gathered up her baby once more; but when her eye fell upon its
miserably short little gray tow-linen shirt and noted the contrast
between its pauper shabbiness and her own volcanic eruption of infernal
splendors, her mother-heart was touched, and she was ashamed.
"No, dolling mammy ain't gwine to treat you so. De angels is gwine to
'mire you jist as much as dey does yo' mammy. Ain't gwine to have 'em
putt'n dey han's up 'fo' dey eyes en sayin' to David and Goliah en dem
yuther prophets, 'Dat chile is dress' to indelicate fo' dis place.'"
By this time she had stripped off the shirt. Now she clothed the naked
little creature in one of Thomas `a Becket's snowy, long baby gowns, with
its bright blue bows and dainty flummery of ruffles.
"Dah--now you's fixed." She propped the child in a chair and stood off
to inspect it. Straightway her eyes begun to widen with astonishment and
admiration, and she clapped her hands and cried out, "Why, it do beat
all! I _never_ knowed you was so lovely. Marse Tommy ain't a bit
puttier--not a single bit."
She stepped over and glanced at the other infant; she flung a glance
back at her own; then one more at the heir of the house. Now a strange
light dawned in her eyes, and in a moment she was lost in thought. She
seemed in a trance; when she came out of it, she muttered, "When I 'uz
a-washin' 'em in de tub, yistiddy, he own pappy asked me which of 'em was
She began to move around like one in a dream. She undressed Thomas `a
Becket, stripping him of everything, and put the tow-linen shirt on him.
She put his coral necklace on her own child's neck. Then she placed the
children side by side, and after earnest inspection she muttered:
"Now who would b'lieve clo'es could do de like o' dat? Dog my cats if it
ain't all _I_ kin do to tell t' other fum which, let alone his pappy."
She put her cub in Tommy's elegant cradle and said:
"You's young Marse _Tom_ fum dis out, en I got to practice and git used
to 'memberin' to call you dat, honey, or I's gwine to make a mistake
sometime en git us bofe into trouble. Dah--now you lay still en don't
fret no mo', Marse Tom. Oh, thank de lord in heaven, you's saved, you's
saved! Dey ain't no man kin ever sell mammy's po' little honey down de
She put the heir of the house in her own child's unpainted pine cradle,
and said, contemplating its slumbering form uneasily:
"I's sorry for you, honey; I's sorry, God knows I is--but what _kin_ I
do, what _could_ I do? Yo' pappy would sell him to somebody, sometime,
en den he'd go down de river, sho', en I couldn't, couldn't, _couldn't_
She flung herself on her bed and began to think and toss, toss and think.
By and by she sat suddenly upright, for a comforting thought had flown
through her worried mind--
"'T ain't no sin--_white_ folks has done it! It ain't no sin, glory to
goodness it ain't no sin! _Dey's_ done it--yes, en dey was de biggest
quality in de whole bilin', too--_kings!"_
She began to muse; she was trying to gather out of her memory the dim
particulars of some tale she had heard some time or other. At last she
"Now I's got it; now I 'member. It was dat ole nigger preacher dat tole
it, de time he come over here fum Illinois en preached in de nigger
church. He said dey ain't nobody kin save his own self--can't do it by
faith, can't do it by works, can't do it no way at all. Free grace is de
_on'y_ way, en dat don't come fum nobody but jis' de Lord; en _he_ kin
give it to anybody He please, saint or sinner--_he_ don't kyer. He do
jis' as He's a mineter. He s'lect out anybody dat suit Him, en put
another one in his place, and make de fust one happy forever en leave t'
other one to burn wid Satan. De preacher said it was jist like dey done
in Englan' one time, long time ago. De queen she lef' her baby layin'
aroun' one day, en went out callin'; an one 'o de niggers roun'bout de
place dat was 'mos' white, she come in en see de chile layin' aroun', en
tuck en put her own chile's clo's on de queen's chile, en put de queen's
chile's clo'es on her own chile, en den lef' her own chile layin' aroun',
en tuck en toted de queen's chile home to de nigger quarter, en nobody
ever foun' it out, en her chile was de king bimeby, en sole de queen's
chile down de river one time when dey had to settle up de estate. Dah,
now--de preacher said it his own self, en it ain't no sin, 'ca'se white
folks done it. DEY done it--yes, DEY done it; en not on'y jis' common
white folks nuther, but de biggest quality dey is in de whole bilin'.
_Oh_, I's _so_ glad I 'member 'bout dat!"
She got lighthearted and happy, and went to the cradles, and spent what
was left of the night "practicing." She would give her own child a light
pat and say humbly, "Lay still, Marse Tom," then give the real Tom a pat
and say with severity, "Lay _still_, Chambers! Does you want me to take
somep'n _to_ you?"
As she progressed with her practice, she was surprised to see how
steadily and surely the awe which had kept her tongue reverent and her
manner humble toward her young master was transferring itself to her
speech and manner toward the usurper, and how similarly handy she was
becoming in transferring her motherly curtness of speech and
peremptoriness of manner to the unlucky heir of the ancient house of
She took occasional rests from practicing, and absorbed herself in
calculating her chances.
"Dey'll sell dese niggers today fo' stealin' de money, den dey'll buy
some mo' dat don't now de chillen--so _dat's_ all right. When I takes de
chillen out to git de air, de minute I's roun' de corner I's gwine to
gaum dey mouths all roun' wid jam, den dey can't _nobody_ notice dey's
changed. Yes, I gwine ter do dat till I's safe, if it's a year.
"Dey ain't but one man dat I's afeard of, en dat's dat Pudd'nhead Wilson.
Dey calls him a pudd'nhead, en says he's a fool. My lan, dat man ain't
no mo' fool den I is! He's de smartes' man in dis town, lessn' it's
Jedge Driscoll or maybe Pem Howard. Blame dat man, he worries me wid dem
ornery glasses o' his'n; _I_ b'lieve he's a witch. But nemmine, I's gwine
to happen aroun' dah one o' dese days en let on dat I reckon he wants to
print a chillen's fingers ag'in; en if HE don't notice dey's changed, I
bound dey ain't nobody gwine to notice it, en den I's safe, sho'. But I
reckon I'll tote along a hoss-shoe to keep off de witch work."
The new Negros gave Roxy no trouble, of course. The master gave her
none, for one of his speculations was in jeopardy, and his mind was so
occupied that he hardly saw the children when he looked at them, and all
Roxy had to do was to get them both into a gale of laughter when he came
about; then their faces were mainly cavities exposing gums, and he was
gone again before the spasm passed and the little creatures resumed a
Within a few days the fate of the speculation became so dubious that Mr.
Percy went away with his brother, the judge, to see what could be done
with it. It was a land speculation as usual, and it had gotten
complicated with a lawsuit. The men were gone seven weeks. Before they
got back, Roxy had paid her visit to Wilson, and was satisfied. Wilson
took the fingerprints, labeled them with the names and with the date
--October the first--put them carefully away, and continued his chat with
Roxy, who seemed very anxious that he should admire the great advance in
flesh and beauty which the babes had made since he took their
fingerprints a month before. He complimented their improvement to her
contentment; and as they were without any disguise of jam or other stain,
she trembled all the while and was miserably frightened lest at any
But he didn't. He discovered nothing; and she went home jubilant, and
dropped all concern about the matter permanently out of her mind.
CHAPTER 4 -- The Ways of the Changelings
_Adam and Eve had many advantages, but the principal one
was, that they escaped teething._ --Pudd'nhead Wilson's
_There is this trouble about special providences--namely,
there is so often a doubt as to which party was intended to
be the beneficiary. In the case of the children, the bears,
and the prophet, the bears got more real satisfaction out of
the episode than the prophet did, because they got the
children._ --Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
This history must henceforth accommodate itself to the change which
Roxana has consummated, and call the real heir "Chambers" and the
usurping little slave, "Thomas `a Becket"--shortening this latter name to
"Tom," for daily use, as the people about him did.
"Tom" was a bad baby, from the very beginning of his usurpation. He would
cry for nothing; he would burst into storms of devilish temper without
notice, and let go scream after scream and squall after squall, then
climax the thing with "holding his breath"--that frightful specialty of
the teething nursling, in the throes of which the creature exhausts its
lungs, then is convulsed with noiseless squirmings and twistings and
kickings in the effort to get its breath, while the lips turn blue and
the mouth stands wide and rigid, offering for inspection one wee tooth
set in the lower rim of a hoop of red gums; and when the appalling
stillness has endured until one is sure the lost breath will never
return, a nurse comes flying, and dashes water in the child's face,
and--presto! the lungs fill, and instantly discharge a shriek, or a yell,
or a howl which bursts the listening ear and surprises the owner of it
into saying words which would not go well with a halo if he had one. The
baby Tom would claw anybody who came within reach of his nails, and pound
anybody he could reach with his rattle. He would scream for water until
he got it, and then throw cup and all on the floor and scream for more.
He was indulged in all his caprices, howsoever troublesome and
exasperating they might be; he was allowed to eat anything he wanted,
particularly things that would give him the stomach-ache.
When he got to be old enough to begin to toddle about and say broken
words and get an idea of what his hands were for, he was a more
consummate pest than ever. Roxy got no rest while he was awake. He would
call for anything and everything he saw, simply saying, "Awnt it!" (want
it), which was a command. When it was brought, he said in a frenzy, and
motioning it away with his hands, "Don't awnt it! don't awnt it!" and the
moment it was gone he set up frantic yells of "Awnt it! awnt it!" and
Roxy had to give wings to her heels to get that thing back to him again
before he could get time to carry out his intention of going into
convulsions about it.
What he preferred above all other things was the tongs. This was because
his "father" had forbidden him to have them lest he break windows and
furniture with them. The moment Roxy's back was turned he would toddle
to the presence of the tongs and say, "Like it!" and cock his eye to one
side or see if Roxy was observed; then, "Awnt it!" and cock his eye
again; then, "Hab it!" with another furtive glance; and finally, "Take
it!"--and the prize was his. The next moment the heavy implement was
raised aloft; the next, there was a crash and a squall, and the cat was
off on three legs to meet an engagement; Roxy would arrive just as the
lamp or a window went to irremediable smash.
Tom got all the petting, Chambers got none. Tom got all the delicacies,
Chambers got mush and milk, and clabber without sugar. In consequence
Tom was a sickly child and Chambers wasn't. Tom was "fractious," as Roxy
called it, and overbearing; Chambers was meek and docile.
With all her splendid common sense and practical everyday ability, Roxy
was a doting fool of a mother. She was this toward her child--and she
was also more than this: by the fiction created by herself, he was
become her master; the necessity of recognizing this relation outwardly
and of perfecting herself in the forms required to express the
recognition, had moved her to such diligence and faithfulness in
practicing these forms that this exercise soon concreted itself into
habit; it became automatic and unconscious; then a natural result
followed: deceptions intended solely for others gradually grew
practically into self-deceptions as well; the mock reverence became real
reverence, the mock homage real homage; the little counterfeit rift of
separation between imitation-slave and imitation-master widened and
widened, and became an abyss, and a very real one--and on one side of it
stood Roxy, the dupe of her own deceptions, and on the other stood her
child, no longer a usurper to her, but her accepted and recognized
master. He was her darling, her master, and her deity all in one, and in
her worship of him she forgot who she was and what he had been.
In babyhood Tom cuffed and banged and scratched Chambers unrebuked, and
Chambers early learned that between meekly bearing it and resenting it,
the advantage all lay with the former policy. The few times that his
persecutions had moved him beyond control and made him fight back had
cost him very dear at headquarters; not at the hands of Roxy, for if she
ever went beyond scolding him sharply for "forgett'n' who his young
marster was," she at least never extended her punishment beyond a box on
the ear. No, Percy Driscoll was the person. He told Chambers that under
no provocation whatever was he privileged to lift his hand against his
little master. Chambers overstepped the line three times, and got three
such convincing canings from the man who was his father and didn't know
it, that he took Tom's cruelties in all humility after that, and made no
Outside the house the two boys were together all through their boyhood.
Chambers was strong beyond his years, and a good fighter; strong because
he was coarsely fed and hard worked about the house, and a good fighter
because Tom furnished him plenty of practice--on white boys whom he
hated and was afraid of. Chambers was his constant bodyguard, to and
from school; he was present on the playground at recess to protect his
charge. He fought himself into such a formidable reputation, by and by,
that Tom could have changed clothes with him, and "ridden in peace," like
Sir Kay in Launcelot's armor.
He was good at games of skill, too. Tom staked him with marbles to play
"keeps" with, and then took all the winnings away from him. In the winter
season Chambers was on hand, in Tom's worn-out clothes, with "holy" red
mittens, and "holy" shoes, and pants "holy" at the knees and seat, to
drag a sled up the hill for Tom, warmly clad, to ride down on; but he
never got a ride himself. He built snowmen and snow fortifications under
Tom's directions. He was Tom's patient target when Tom wanted to do some
snowballing, but the target couldn't fire back. Chambers carried Tom's
skates to the river and strapped them on him, then trotted around after
him on the ice, so as to be on hand when he wanted; but he wasn't ever
asked to try the skates himself.
In summer the pet pastime of the boys of Dawson's Landing was to steal
apples, peaches, and melons from the farmer's fruit wagons--mainly on
account of the risk they ran of getting their heads laid open with the
butt of the farmer's whip. Tom was a distinguished adept at these
thefts--by proxy. Chambers did his stealing, and got the peach stones,
apple cores, and melon rinds for his share.
Tom always made Chambers go in swimming with him, and stay by him as a
protection. When Tom had had enough, he would slip out and tie knots in
Chamber's shirt, dip the knots in the water and make them hard to undo,
then dress himself and sit by and laugh while the naked shiverer tugged
at the stubborn knots with his teeth.
Tom did his humble comrade these various ill turns partly out of native
viciousness, and partly because he hated him for his superiorities of
physique and pluck, and for his manifold cleverness. Tom couldn't dive,
for it gave him splitting headaches. Chambers could dive without
inconvenience, and was fond of doing it. He excited so much admiration,
one day, among a crowd of white boys, by throwing back somersaults from
the stern of a canoe, that it wearied Tom's spirit, and at last he shoved
the canoe underneath Chambers while he was in the air--so he came down on
his head in the canoe bottom; and while he lay unconscious, several of
Tom's ancient adversaries saw that their long-desired opportunity was
come, and they gave the false heir such a drubbing that with Chamber's
best help he was hardly able to drag himself home afterward.
When the boys was fifteen and upward, Tom was "showing off" in the river
one day, when he was taken with a cramp, and shouted for help. It was a
common trick with the boys--particularly if a stranger was present--to
pretend a cramp and howl for help; then when the stranger came tearing
hand over hand to the rescue, the howler would go on struggling and
howling till he was close at hand, then replace the howl with a sarcastic
smile and swim blandly away, while the town boys assailed the dupe with a
volley of jeers and laughter. Tom had never tried this joke as yet, but
was supposed to be trying it now, so the boys held warily back; but
Chambers believed his master was in earnest; therefore, he swam out, and
arrived in time, unfortunately, and saved his life.
This was the last feather. Tom had managed to endure everything else,
but to have to remain publicly and permanently under such an obligation
as this to a nigger, and to this nigger of all niggers--this was too
much. He heaped insults upon Chambers for "pretending" to think he was in
earnest in calling for help, and said that anybody but a blockheaded
nigger would have known he was funning and left him alone.
Tom's enemies were in strong force here, so they came out with their
opinions quite freely. They laughed at him, and called him coward, liar,
sneak, and other sorts of pet names, and told him they meant to call
Chambers by a new name after this, and make it common in the town--"Tom
Driscoll's nigger pappy,"--to signify that he had had a second birth into
this life, and that Chambers was the author of his new being. Tom grew
frantic under these taunts, and shouted:
"Knock their heads off, Chambers! Knock their heads off! What do you
stand there with your hands in your pockets for?"
Chambers expostulated, and said, "But, Marse Tom, dey's too many of
"Do you hear me?"
"Please, Marse Tom, don't make me! Dey's so many of 'em dat--"
Tom sprang at him and drove his pocketknife into him two or three times
before the boys could snatch him away and give the wounded lad a chance
to escape. He was considerably hurt, but not seriously. If the blade had
been a little longer, his career would have ended there.
Tom had long ago taught Roxy "her place." It had been many a day now
since she had ventured a caress or a fondling epithet in his quarter.
Such things, from a "nigger," were repulsive to him, and she had been
warned to keep her distance and remember who she was. She saw her
darling gradually cease from being her son, she saw THAT detail perish
utterly; all that was left was master--master, pure and simple, and it
was not a gentle mastership, either. She saw herself sink from the
sublime height of motherhood to the somber depths of unmodified slavery,
the abyss of separation between her and her boy was complete. She was
merely his chattel now, his convenience, his dog, his cringing and
helpless slave, the humble and unresisting victim of his capricious
temper and vicious nature.
Sometimes she could not go to sleep, even when worn out with fatigue,
because her rage boiled so high over the day's experiences with her boy.
She would mumble and mutter to herself:
"He struck me en I warn't no way to blame--struck me in de face, right
before folks. En he's al'ays callin' me nigger wench, en hussy, en all
dem mean names, when I's doin' de very bes' I kin. Oh, Lord, I done so
much for him--I lif' him away up to what he is--en dis is what I git for
Sometimes when some outrage of peculiar offensiveness stung her to the
heart, she would plan schemes of vengeance and revel in the fancied
spectacle of his exposure to the world as an imposter and a slave; but in
the midst of these joys fear would strike her; she had made him too
strong; she could prove nothing, and--heavens, she might get sold down
the river for her pains! So her schemes always went for nothing, and she
laid them aside in impotent rage against the fates, and against herself
for playing the fool on that fatal September day in not providing herself
with a witness for use in the day when such a thing might be needed for
the appeasing of her vengeance-hungry heart.
And yet the moment Tom happened to be good to her, and kind--and this
occurred every now and then--all her sore places were healed, and she was
happy; happy and proud, for this was her son, her nigger son, lording it
among the whites and securely avenging their crimes against her race.
There were two grand funerals in Dawson's Landing that fall--the fall of
1845. One was that of Colonel Cecil Burleigh Essex, the other that of
On his deathbed Driscoll set Roxy free and delivered his idolized
ostensible son solemnly into the keeping of his brother, the judge, and
his wife. Those childless people were glad to get him. Childless people
are not difficult to please.
Judge Driscoll had gone privately to his brother, a month before, and
bought Chambers. He had heard that Tom had been trying to get his father
to sell the boy down the river, and he wanted to prevent the scandal--for
public sentiment did not approve of that way of treating family servants
for light cause or for no cause.
Percy Driscoll had worn himself out in trying to save his great
speculative landed estate, and had died without succeeding. He was hardly
in his grave before the boom collapsed and left his envied young devil of
an heir a pauper. But that was nothing; his uncle told him he should be
his heir and have all his fortune when he died; so Tom was comforted.
Roxy had no home now; so she resolved to go around and say good-by to her
friends and then clear out and see the world--that is to say, she would
go chambermaiding on a steamboat, the darling ambition of her race and
Her last call was on the black giant, Jasper. She found him chopping
Pudd'nhead Wilson's winter provision of wood.
Wilson was chatting with him when Roxy arrived. He asked her how she
could bear to go off chambermaiding and leave her boys; and chaffingly
offered to copy off a series of their fingerprints, reaching up to their
twelfth year, for her to remember them by; but she sobered in a moment,
wondering if he suspected anything; then she said she believed she didn't
want them. Wilson said to himself, "The drop of black blood in her is
superstitious; she thinks there's some devilry, some witch business about
my glass mystery somewhere; she used to come here with an old horseshoe
in her hand; it could have been an accident, but I doubt it."
CHAPTER 5 -- The Twins Thrill Dawson's Landing
_Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond;
cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college
education._ --Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
_Remark of Dr. Baldwin's, concerning upstarts: We don't care
to eat toadstools that think they are truffles._
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
Mrs. York Driscoll enjoyed two years of bliss with that prize,
Tom--bliss that was troubled a little at times, it is true, but bliss
nevertheless; then she died, and her husband and his childless sister,
Mrs. Pratt, continued this bliss-business at the old stand. Tom was
petted and indulged and spoiled to his entire content--or nearly that.
This went on till he was nineteen, then he was sent to Yale. He went
handsomely equipped with "conditions," but otherwise he was not an object
of distinction there. He remained at Yale two years, and then threw up
the struggle. He came home with his manners a good deal improved; he had
lost his surliness and brusqueness, and was rather pleasantly soft and
smooth, now; he was furtively, and sometimes openly, ironical of speech,
and given to gently touching people on the raw, but he did it with a
good-natured semiconscious air that carried it off safely, and kept him
from getting into trouble. He was as indolent as ever and showed no very
strenuous desire to hunt up an occupation. People argued from this that
he preferred to be supported by his uncle until his uncle's shoes should
become vacant. He brought back one or two new habits with him, one of
which he rather openly practiced--tippling--but concealed another, which
was gambling. It would not do to gamble where his uncle could hear of
it; he knew that quite well.
Tom's Eastern polish was not popular among the young people. They could
have endured it, perhaps, if Tom had stopped there; but he wore gloves,
and that they couldn't stand, and wouldn't; so he was mainly without
society. He brought home with him a suit of clothes of such exquisite
style and cut in fashion--Eastern fashion, city fashion--that it filled
everybody with anguish and was regarded as a peculiarly wanton affront.
He enjoyed the feeling which he was exciting, and paraded the town serene
and happy all day; but the young fellows set a tailor to work that night,
and when Tom started out on his parade next morning, he found the old
deformed Negro bell ringer straddling along in his wake tricked out in a
flamboyant curtain-calico exaggeration of his finery, and imitating his
fancy Eastern graces as well as he could.
Tom surrendered, and after that clothed himself in the local fashion. But
the dull country town was tiresome to him, since his acquaintanceship
with livelier regions, and it grew daily more and more so. He began to
make little trips to St. Louis for refreshment. There he found
companionship to suit him, and pleasures to his taste, along with more
freedom, in some particulars, than he could have at home. So, during the
next two years, his visits to the city grew in frequency and his
tarryings there grew steadily longer in duration.
He was getting into deep waters. He was taking chances, privately, which
might get him into trouble some day--in fact, _did_.
Judge Driscoll had retired from the bench and from all business
activities in 1850, and had now been comfortably idle three years. He was
president of the Freethinkers' Society, and Pudd'nhead Wilson was the
other member. The society's weekly discussions were now the old lawyer's
main interest in life. Pudd'nhead was still toiling in obscurity at the
bottom of the ladder, under the blight of that unlucky remark which he
had let fall twenty-three years before about the dog.
Judge Driscoll was his friend, and claimed that he had a mind above the
average, but that was regarded as one of the judge's whims, and it failed
to modify the public opinion. Or rather, that was one of the reasons why
it failed, but there was another and better one. If the judge had stopped
with bare assertion, it would have had a good deal of effect; but he made
the mistake of trying to prove his position. For some years Wilson had
been privately at work on a whimsical almanac, for his amusement--a
calendar, with a little dab of ostensible philosophy, usually in ironical
form, appended to each date; and the judge thought that these quips and
fancies of Wilson's were neatly turned and cute; so he carried a handful
of them around one day, and read them to some of the chief citizens. But
irony was not for those people; their mental vision was not focused for
it. They read those playful trifles in the solidest terms, and decided
without hesitancy that if there had ever been any doubt that Dave Wilson
was a pudd'nhead--which there hadn't--this revelation removed that doubt
for good and all. That is just the way in this world; an enemy can partly
ruin a man, but it takes a good-natured injudicious friend to complete
the thing and make it perfect. After this the judge felt tenderer than
ever toward Wilson, and surer than ever that his calendar had merit.
Judge Driscoll could be a freethinker and still hold his place in society
because he was the person of most consequence to the community, and
therefore could venture to go his own way and follow out his own notions.
The other member of his pet organization was allowed the like liberty
because he was a cipher in the estimation of the public, and nobody
attached any importance to what he thought or did. He was liked, he was
welcome enough all around, but he simply didn't count for anything.
The Widow Cooper--affectionately called "Aunt Patsy" by everybody--lived
in a snug and comely cottage with her daughter Rowena, who was nineteen,
romantic, amiable, and very pretty, but otherwise of no consequence.
Rowena had a couple of young brothers--also of no consequence.
The widow had a large spare room, which she let to a lodger, with board,
when she could find one, but this room had been empty for a year now, to
her sorrow. Her income was only sufficient for the family support, and
she needed the lodging money for trifling luxuries. But now, at last, on
a flaming June day, she found herself happy; her tedious wait was ended;
her year-worn advertisement had been answered; and not by a village
applicant, no, no!--this letter was from away off yonder in the dim great
world to the North; it was from St. Louis. She sat on her porch gazing
out with unseeing eyes upon the shining reaches of the mighty
Mississippi, her thoughts steeped in her good fortune. Indeed it was
specially good fortune, for she was to have two lodgers instead of one.
She had read the letter to the family, and Rowena had danced away to see
to the cleaning and airing of the room by the slave woman, Nancy, and the
boys had rushed abroad in the town to spread the great news, for it was a
matter of public interest, and the public would wonder and not be pleased
if not informed. Presently Rowena returned, all ablush with joyous
excitement, and begged for a rereading of the letter. It was framed thus:
HONORED MADAM: My brother and I have seen your advertisement, by chance,
and beg leave to take the room you offer. We are twenty-four years of
age and twins. We are Italians by birth, but have lived long in the
various countries of Europe, and several years in the United States. Our
names are Luigi and Angelo Capello. You desire but one guest; but, dear
madam, if you will allow us to pay for two, we will not incommode you.
We shall be down Thursday.
"Italians! How romantic! Just think, Ma--there's never been one in this
town, and everybody will be dying to see them, and they're all OURS!
Think of that!"
"Yes, I reckon they'll make a grand stir."
"Oh, indeed they will. The whole town will be on its head!
Think--they've been in Europe and everywhere! There's never been a
traveler in this town before, Ma, I shouldn't wonder if they've seen
"Well, a body can't tell, but they'll make stir enough, without that."
"Yes, that's of course. Luigi--Angelo. They're lovely names; and so
grand and foreign--not like Jones and Robinson and such. Thursday they
are coming, and this is only Tuesday; it's a cruel long time to wait.
Here comes Judge Driscoll in at the gate. He's heard about it. I'll go
and open the door."
The judge was full of congratulations and curiosity. The letter was read
and discussed. Soon Justice Robinson arrived with more congratulations,
and there was a new reading and a new discussion. This was the beginning.
Neighbor after neighbor, of both sexes, followed, and the procession
drifted in and out all day and evening and all Wednesday and Thursday.
The letter was read and reread until it was nearly worn out; everybody
admired its courtly and gracious tone, and smooth and practiced style,
everybody was sympathetic and excited, and the Coopers were steeped in
happiness all the while.
The boats were very uncertain in low water in these primitive times. This
time the Thursday boat had not arrived at ten at night--so the people
had waited at the landing all day for nothing; they were driven to their
homes by a heavy storm without having had a view of the illustrious
Eleven o'clock came; and the Cooper house was the only one in the town
that still had lights burning. The rain and thunder were booming yet,
and the anxious family were still waiting, still hoping. At last there
was a knock at the door, and the family jumped to open it. Two Negro men
entered, each carrying a trunk, and proceeded upstairs toward the guest
room. Then entered the twins--the handsomest, the best dressed, the most
distinguished-looking pair of young fellows the West had ever seen. One
was a little fairer than the other, but otherwise they were exact
CHAPTER 6 -- Swimming in Glory
_Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even
the undertaker will be sorry._ --Pudd'nhead Wilson's
_Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by
any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time._
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
At breakfast in the morning, the twins' charm of manner and easy and
polished bearing made speedy conquest of the family's good graces. All
constraint and formality quickly disappeared, and the friendliest feeling
succeeded. Aunt Patsy called them by their Christian names almost from
the beginning. She was full of the keenest curiosity about them, and
showed it; they responded by talking about themselves, which pleased her
greatly. It presently appeared that in their early youth they had known
poverty and hardship. As the talk wandered along, the old lady watched
for the right place to drop in a question or two concerning that matter,
and when she found it, she said to the blond twin, who was now doing the
biographies in his turn while the brunette one rested:
"If it ain't asking what I ought not to ask, Mr. Angelo, how did you come
to be so friendless and in such trouble when you were little? Do you mind
telling? But don't, if you do."
"Oh, we don't mind it at all, madam; in our case it was merely
misfortune, and nobody's fault. Our parents were well to do, there in
Italy, and we were their only child. We were of the old Florentine
nobility"--Rowena's heart gave a great bound, her nostrils expanded, and
a fine light played in her eyes--"and when the war broke out, my father
was on the losing side and had to fly for his life. His estates were
confiscated, his personal property seized, and there we were, in Germany,
strangers, friendless, and in fact paupers. My brother and I were ten
years old, and well educated for that age, very studious, very fond of
our books, and well grounded in the German, French, Spanish, and English
languages. Also, we were marvelous musical prodigies--if you will allow
me to say it, it being only the truth.
"Our father survived his misfortunes only a month, our mother soon
followed him, and we were alone in the world. Our parents could have
made themselves comfortable by exhibiting us as a show, and they had many
and large offers; but the thought revolted their pride, and they said
they would starve and die first. But what they wouldn't consent to do,
we had to do without the formality of consent. We were seized for the
debts occasioned by their illness and their funerals, and placed among
the attractions of a cheap museum in Berlin to earn the liquidation
money. It took us two years to get out of that slavery. We traveled all
about Germany, receiving no wages, and not even our keep. We had to be
exhibited for nothing, and beg our bread.
"Well, madam, the rest is not of much consequence. When we escaped from
that slavery at twelve years of age, we were in some respects men.
Experience had taught us some valuable things; among others, how to take
care of ourselves, how to avoid and defeat sharks and sharpers, and how
to conduct our own business for our own profit and without other people's
help. We traveled everywhere--years and years--picking up smatterings
of strange tongues, familiarizing ourselves with strange sights and
strange customs, accumulating an education of a wide and varied and
curious sort. It was a pleasant life. We went to Venice--to London,
Paris, Russia, India, China, Japan--"
At this point Nancy, the slave woman, thrust her head in at the door and
"Ole Missus, de house is plum' jam full o' people, en dey's jes
a-spi'lin' to see de gen'lemen!" She indicated the twins with a nod of
her head, and tucked it back out of sight again.
It was a proud occasion for the widow, and she promised herself high
satisfaction in showing off her fine foreign birds before her neighbors
and friends--simple folk who had hardly ever seen a foreigner of any
kind, and never one of any distinction or style. Yet her feeling was
moderate indeed when contrasted with Rowena's. Rowena was in the clouds,
she walked on air; this was to be the greatest day, the most romantic
episode in the colorless history of that dull country town. She was to
be familiarly near the source of its glory and feel the full flood of it
pour over her and about her; the other girls could only gaze and envy,
The widow was ready, Rowena was ready, so also were the foreigners.
The party moved along the hall, the twins in advance, and entered the
open parlor door, whence issued a low hum of conversation. The twins took
a position near the door, the widow stood at Luigi's side, Rowena stood
beside Angelo, and the march-past and the introductions began. The widow
was all smiles and contentment. She received the procession and passed
it on to Rowena.
"Good mornin', Sister Cooper"--handshake.
"Good morning, Brother Higgins--Count Luigi Capello, Mr. Higgins"
--handshake, followed by a devouring stare and "I'm glad to see ye,"
on the part of Higgins, and a courteous inclination of the head and a
pleasant "Most happy!" on the part of Count Luigi.
"Good mornin', Roweny"--handshake.
"Good morning, Mr. Higgins--present you to Count Angelo Capello."
Handshake, admiring stare, "Glad to see ye"--courteous nod, smily "Most
happy!" and Higgins passes on.
None of these visitors was at ease, but, being honest people, they didn't
pretend to be. None of them had ever seen a person bearing a title of
nobility before, and none had been expecting to see one now, consequently
the title came upon them as a kind of pile-driving surprise and caught
them unprepared. A few tried to rise to the emergency, and got out an
awkward "My lord," or "Your lordship," or something of that sort, but the
great majority were overwhelmed by the unaccustomed word and its dim and
awful associations with gilded courts and stately ceremony and anointed
kingship, so they only fumbled through the handshake and passed on,
speechless. Now and then, as happens at all receptions everywhere, a
more than ordinary friendly soul blocked the procession and kept it
waiting while he inquired how the brothers liked the village, and how
long they were going to stay, and if their family was well, and dragged
in the weather, and hoped it would get cooler soon, and all that sort of
thing, so as to be able to say, when he got home, "I had quite a long
talk with them"; but nobody did or said anything of a regrettable kind,
and so the great affair went through to the end in a creditable and
General conversation followed, and the twins drifted about from group to
group, talking easily and fluently and winning approval, compelling
admiration and achieving favor from all. The widow followed their
conquering march with a proud eye, and every now and then Rowena said to
herself with deep satisfaction, "And to think they are ours--all ours!"
There were no idle moments for mother or daughter. Eager inquiries
concerning the twins were pouring into their enchanted ears all the time;
each was the constant center of a group of breathless listeners; each
recognized that she knew now for the first time the real meaning of that
great word Glory, and perceived the stupendous value of it, and
understood why men in all ages had been willing to throw away meaner
happiness, treasure, life itself, to get a taste of its sublime and
supreme joy. Napoleon and all his kind stood accounted for--and
When Rowena had at last done all her duty by the people in the parlor,
she went upstairs to satisfy the longings of an overflow meeting there,
for the parlor was not big enough to hold all the comers. Again she was
besieged by eager questioners, and again she swam in sunset seas of
glory. When the forenoon was nearly gone, she recognized with a pang
that this most splendid episode of her life was almost over, that nothing
could prolong it, that nothing quite its equal could ever fall to her
fortune again. But never mind, it was sufficient unto itself, the grand
occasion had moved on an ascending scale from the start, and was a noble
and memorable success. If the twins could but do some crowning act now
to climax it, something usual, something startling, something to
concentrate upon themselves the company's loftiest admiration, something
in the nature of an electric surprise--
Here a prodigious slam-banging broke out below, and everybody rushed down
to see. It was the twins, knocking out a classic four-handed piece on
the piano in great style. Rowena was satisfied--satisfied down to the
bottom of her heart.
The young strangers were kept long at the piano. The villagers were
astonished and enchanted with the magnificence of their performance, and
could not bear to have them stop. All the music that they had ever heard
before seemed spiritless prentice-work and barren of grace and charm when
compared with these intoxicating floods of melodious sound. They realized
that for once in their lives they were hearing masters.
CHAPTER 7 -- The Unknown Nymph
_One of the most striking differences between a cat and a
lie is that a cat has only nine lives._ --Pudd'nhead
The company broke up reluctantly, and drifted toward their several
homes, chatting with vivacity and all agreeing that it would be many a
long day before Dawson's Landing would see the equal of this one again.
The twins had accepted several invitations while the reception was in
progress, and had also volunteered to play some duets at an amateur
entertainment for the benefit of a local charity. Society was eager to
receive them to its bosom. Judge Driscoll had the good fortune to secure
them for an immediate drive, and to be the first to display them in
public. They entered his buggy with him and were paraded down the main
street, everybody flocking to the windows and sidewalks to see.
The judge showed the strangers the new graveyard, and the jail, and where
the richest man lived, and the Freemasons' hall, and the Methodist
church, and the Presbyterian church, and where the Baptist church was
going to be when they got some money to build it with, and showed them
the town hall and the slaughterhouse, and got out the independent fire
company in uniform and had them put out an imaginary fire; then he let
them inspect the muskets of the militia company, and poured out an
exhaustless stream of enthusiasm over all these splendors, and seemed
very well satisfied with the responses he got, for the twins admired his
admiration, and paid him back the best they could, though they could have
done better if some fifteen or sixteen hundred thousand previous
experiences of this sort in various countries had not already rubbed off
a considerable part of the novelty in it.
The judge laid himself out hospitality to make them have a good time, and
if there was a defect anywhere, it was not his fault. He told them a good
many humorous anecdotes, and always forgot the nub, but they were always
able to furnish it, for these yarns were of a pretty early vintage, and
they had had many a rejuvenating pull at them before. And he told them
all about his several dignities, and how he had held this and that and
the other place of honor or profit, and had once been to the legislature,
and was now president of the Society of Freethinkers. He said the
society had been in existence four years, and already had two members,
and was firmly established. He would call for the brothers in the
evening, if they would like to attend a meeting of it.
Accordingly he called for them, and on the way he told them all about
Pudd'nhead Wilson, in order that they might get a favorable impression of
him in advance and be prepared to like him. This scheme succeeded--the
favorable impression was achieved. Later it was confirmed and solidified
when Wilson proposed that out of courtesy to the strangers the usual
topics be put aside and the hour be devoted to conversation upon ordinary
subjects and the cultivation of friendly relations and good-fellowship--a
proposition which was put to vote and carried.
The hour passed quickly away in lively talk, and when it was ended, the
lonesome and neglected Wilson was richer by two friends than he had been
when it began. He invited the twins to look in at his lodgings
presently, after disposing of an intervening engagement, and they
accepted with pleasure.
Toward the middle of the evening, they found themselves on the road to
his house. Pudd'nhead was at home waiting for them and putting in his
time puzzling over a thing which had come under his notice that morning.
The matter was this: He happened to be up very early--at dawn, in fact;
and he crossed the hall, which divided his cottage through the center,
and entered a room to get something there. The window of the room had no
curtains, for that side of the house had long been unoccupied, and
through this window he caught sight of something which surprised and
interested him. It was a young woman--a young woman where properly no
young woman belonged; for she was in Judge Driscoll's house, and in the
bedroom over the judge's private study or sitting room. This was young
Tom Driscoll's bedroom. He and the judge, the judge's widowed sister Mrs.
Pratt, and three Negro servants were the only people who belonged in the
house. Who, then, might this young lady be? The two houses were
separated by an ordinary yard, with a low fence running back through its
middle from the street in front to the lane in the rear. The distance
was not great, and Wilson was able to see the girl very well, the window
shades of the room she was in being up, and the window also. The girl had
on a neat and trim summer dress, patterned in broad stripes of pink and
white, and her bonnet was equipped with a pink veil. She was practicing
steps, gaits and attitudes, apparently; she was doing the thing
gracefully, and was very much absorbed in her work. Who could she be, and
how came she to be in young Tom Driscoll's room?
Wilson had quickly chosen a position from which he could watch the girl
without running much risk of being seen by her, and he remained there
hoping she would raise her veil and betray her face. But she
disappointed him. After a matter of twenty minutes she disappeared and
although he stayed at his post half an hour longer, she came no more.
Toward noon he dropped in at the judge's and talked with Mrs. Pratt about
the great event of the day, the levee of the distinguished foreigners at
Aunt Patsy Cooper's. He asked after her nephew Tom, and she said he was
on his way home and that she was expecting him to arrive a little before
night, and added that she and the judge were gratified to gather from his
letters that he was conducting himself very nicely and creditably--at
which Wilson winked to himself privately. Wilson did not ask if there was
a newcomer in the house, but he asked questions that would have brought
light-throwing answers as to that matter if Mrs. Pratt had had any light
to throw; so he went away satisfied that he knew of things that were
going on in her house of which she herself was not aware.
He was now awaiting for the twins, and still puzzling over the problem of
who that girl might be, and how she happened to be in that young fellow's
room at daybreak in the morning.
CHAPTER 8 -- Marse Tom Tramples His Chance
_The holy passion of Friendship is of so sweet and steady
and loyal and enduring a nature that it will last through a
whole lifetime, if not asked to lend money._ --Pudd'nhead
_Consider well the proportions of things. It is better to be
a young June bug than an old bird of paradise._ --Pudd'nhead
It is necessary now to hunt up Roxy.
At the time she was set free and went away chambermaiding, she was
thirty-five. She got a berth as second chambermaid on a Cincinnati boat
in the New Orleans trade, the _Grand Mogul_. A couple of trips made her
wonted and easygoing at the work, and infatuated her with the stir and
adventure and independence of steamboat life. Then she was promoted and
become head chambermaid. She was a favorite with the officers, and
exceedingly proud of their joking and friendly way with her.
During eight years she served three parts of the year on that boat, and
the winters on a Vicksburg packet. But now for two months, she had had
rheumatism in her arms, and was obliged to let the washtub alone. So she
resigned. But she was well fixed--rich, as she would have described it;
for she had lived a steady life, and had banked four dollars every month
in New Orleans as a provision for her old age. She said in the start
that she had "put shoes on one bar'footed nigger to tromple on her with,"
and that one mistake like that was enough; she would be independent of
the human race thenceforth forevermore if hard work and economy could
accomplish it. When the boat touched the levee at New Orleans she bade
good-by to her comrades on the _Grand Mogul_ and moved her kit ashore.
But she was back in a hour. The bank had gone to smash and carried her
four hundred dollars with it. She was a pauper and homeless. Also
disabled bodily, at least for the present. The officers were full of
sympathy for her in her trouble, and made up a little purse for her. She
resolved to go to her birthplace; she had friends there among the Negros,
and the unfortunate always help the unfortunate, she was well aware of
that; those lowly comrades of her youth would not let her starve.
She took the little local packet at Cairo, and now she was on the
homestretch. Time had worn away her bitterness against her son, and she
was able to think of him with serenity. She put the vile side of him out
of her mind, and dwelt only on recollections of his occasional acts of
kindness to her. She gilded and otherwise decorated these, and made them
very pleasant to contemplate. She began to long to see him. She would go
and fawn upon him slavelike--for this would have to be her attitude, of
course--and maybe she would find that time had modified him, and that he
would be glad to see his long-forgotten old nurse and treat her gently.
That would be lovely; that would make her forget her woes and her
Her poverty! That thought inspired her to add another castle to her
dream: maybe he would give her a trifle now and then--maybe a dollar,
once a month, say; any little thing like that would help, oh, ever so
By the time she reached Dawson's Landing, she was her old self again; her
blues were gone, she was in high feather. She would get along, surely;
there were many kitchens where the servants would share their meals with
her, and also steal sugar and apples and other dainties for her to carry
home--or give her a chance to pilfer them herself, which would answer
just as well. And there was the church. She was a more rabid and devoted
Methodist than ever, and her piety was no sham, but was strong and
sincere. Yes, with plenty of creature comforts and her old place in the
amen corner in her possession again, she would be perfectly happy and at
peace thenceforward to the end.
She went to Judge Driscoll's kitchen first of all. She was received
there in great form and with vast enthusiasm. Her wonderful travels, and
the strange countries she had seen, and the adventures she had had, made
her a marvel and a heroine of romance. The Negros hung enchanted upon a
great story of her experiences, interrupting her all along with eager
questions, with laughter, exclamations of delight, and expressions of
applause; and she was obliged to confess to herself that if there was
anything better in this world than steamboating, it was the glory to be
got by telling about it. The audience loaded her stomach with their
dinners, and then stole the pantry bare to load up her basket.
Tom was in St. Louis. The servants said he had spent the best part of
his time there during the previous two years. Roxy came every day, and
had many talks about the family and its affairs. Once she asked why Tom
was away so much. The ostensible "Chambers" said:
"De fac' is, ole marster kin git along better when young marster's away
den he kin when he's in de town; yes, en he love him better, too; so he
gives him fifty dollahs a month--"
"No, is dat so? Chambers, you's a-jokin', ain't you?"
"'Clah to goodness I ain't, Mammy; Marse Tom tole me so his own self. But
nemmine, 'tain't enough."
"My lan', what de reason 'tain't enough?"
"Well, I's gwine to tell you, if you gimme a chanst, Mammy. De reason it
ain't enough is 'ca'se Marse Tom gambles."
Roxy threw up her hands in astonishment, and Chambers went on:
"Ole marster found it out, 'ca'se he had to pay two hundred dollahs for
Marse Tom's gamblin' debts, en dat's true, Mammy, jes as dead certain as
"Two--hund'd dollahs! Why, what is you talkin' 'bout?
Two--hund'd--dollahs. Sakes alive, it's 'mos' enough to buy a tol'able
good secondhand nigger wid. En you ain't lyin', honey? You wouldn't lie
to you' old Mammy?"
"It's God's own truth, jes as I tell you--two hund'd dollahs--I wisht I
may never stir outen my tracks if it ain't so. En, oh, my lan', ole Marse
was jes a-hoppin'! He was b'ilin' mad, I tell you! He tuck 'n'
"What's dat? What do you mean?"
"Means he bu'sted de will."
"Bu's--ted de will! He wouldn't _ever_ treat him so! Take it back, you
mis'able imitation nigger dat I bore in sorrow en tribbilation."
Roxy's pet castle--an occasional dollar from Tom's pocket--was tumbling
to ruin before her eyes. She could not abide such a disaster as that;
she couldn't endure the thought of it. Her remark amused Chambers.
"Yah-yah-yah! Jes listen to dat! If I's imitation, what is you? Bofe of
us is imitation _white_--dat's what we is--en pow'ful good imitation,
too. Yah-yah-yah! We don't 'mount to noth'n as imitation _niggers_; en
"Shet up yo' foolin', 'fo' I knock you side de head, en tell me 'bout de
will. Tell me 'tain't bu'sted--do, honey, en I'll never forgit you."
"Well, _'tain't_--'ca'se dey's a new one made, en Marse Tom's all right
ag'in. But what is you in sich a sweat 'bout it for, Mammy? 'Tain't
none o' your business I don't reckon."
"'Tain't none o' my business? Whose business is it den, I'd like to
know? Wuz I his mother tell he was fifteen years old, or wusn't I?--you
answer me dat. En you speck I could see him turned out po' and ornery on
de worl' en never care noth'n' 'bout it? I reckon if you'd ever be'n a
mother yo'self, Valet de Chambers, you wouldn't talk sich foolishness as
"Well, den, ole Marse forgive him en fixed up de will ag'in--do dat
Yes, she was satisfied now, and quite happy and sentimental over it. She
kept coming daily, and at last she was told that Tom had come home. She
began to tremble with emotion, and straightway sent to beg him to let his
"po' ole nigger Mammy have jes one sight of him en die for joy."
Tom was stretched at his lazy ease on a sofa when Chambers brought the
petition. Time had not modified his ancient detestation of the humble
drudge and protector of his boyhood; it was still bitter and
uncompromising. He sat up and bent a severe gaze upon the face of the
young fellow whose name he was unconsciously using and whose family
rights he was enjoying. He maintained the gaze until the victim of it
had become satisfactorily pallid with terror, then he said:
"What does the old rip want with me?"
The petition was meekly repeated.
"Who gave you permission to come and disturb me with the social
attentions of niggers?"
Tom had risen. The other young man was trembling now, visibly. He saw
what was coming, and bent his head sideways, and put up his left arm to
shield it. Tom rained cuffs upon the head and its shield, saying no
word: the victim received each blow with a beseeching, "Please, Marse
Tom!--oh, please, Marse Tom!" Seven blows--then Tom said, "Face the
door--march!" He followed behind with one, two, three solid kicks. The
last one helped the pure-white slave over the door-sill, and he limped
away mopping his eyes with his old, ragged sleeve. Tom shouted after
him, "Send her in!"
Then he flung himself panting on the sofa again, and rasped out the
remark, "He arrived just at the right moment; I was full to the brim with
bitter thinkings, and nobody to take it out of. How refreshing it was!
I feel better."
Tom's mother entered now, closing the door behind her, and approached her
son with all the wheedling and supplication servilities that fear and
interest can impart to the words and attitudes of the born slave. She
stopped a yard from her boy and made two or three admiring exclamations
over his manly stature and general handsomeness, and Tom put an arm under
his head and hoisted a leg over the sofa back in order to look properly
"My lan', how you is growed, honey! 'Clah to goodness, I wouldn't
a-knowed you, Marse Tom! 'Deed I wouldn't! Look at me good; does you
'member old Roxy? Does you know yo' old nigger mammy, honey? Well now, I
kin lay down en die in peace, 'ca'se I'se seed--"
"Cut it short, Goddamn it, cut it short! What is it you want?"
"You heah dat? Jes the same old Marse Tom, al'ays so gay and funnin' wid
de ole mammy. I'uz jes as shore--"
"Cut it short, I tell you, and get along! What do you want?"
This was a bitter disappointment. Roxy had for so many days nourished
and fondled and petted her notion that Tom would be glad to see his old
nurse, and would make her proud and happy to the marrow with a cordial
word or two, that it took two rebuffs to convince her that he was not
funning, and that her beautiful dream was a fond and foolish variety, a
shabby and pitiful mistake. She was hurt to the heart, and so ashamed
that for a moment she did not quite know what to do or how to act. Then
her breast began to heave, the tears came, and in her forlornness she was
moved to try that other dream of hers--an appeal to her boy's charity;
and so, upon the impulse, and without reflection, she offered her
"Oh, Marse Tom, de po' ole mammy is in sich hard luck dese days; en she's
kinder crippled in de arms and can't work, en if you could gimme a
dollah--on'y jes one little dol--"
Tom was on his feet so suddenly that the supplicant was startled into a
"A dollar!--give you a dollar! I've a notion to strangle you! Is _that_
your errand here? Clear out! And be quick about it!"
Roxy backed slowly toward the door. When she was halfway she stopped,
and said mournfully:
"Marse Tom, I nussed you when you was a little baby, en I raised you all
by myself tell you was 'most a young man; en now you is young en rich, en
I is po' en gitt'n ole, en I come heah b'leavin' dat you would he'p de
ole mammy 'long down de little road dat's lef' 'twix' her en de grave,
Tom relished this tune less than any that he had preceded it, for it
began to wake up a sort of echo in his conscience; so he interrupted and
said with decision, though without asperity, that he was not in a
situation to help her, and wasn't going to do it.
"Ain't you ever gwine to he'p me, Marse Tom?"
"No! Now go away and don't bother me any more."
Roxy's head was down, in an attitude of humility. But now the fires of
her old wrongs flamed up in her breast and began to burn fiercely. She
raised her head slowly, till it was well up, and at the same time her
great frame unconsciously assumed an erect and masterful attitude, with
all the majesty and grace of her vanished youth in it. She raised her
finger and punctuated with it.
"You has said de word. You has had yo' chance, en you has trompled it
under yo' foot. When you git another one, you'll git down on yo' knees
en _beg_ for it!"
A cold chill went to Tom's heart, he didn't know why; for he did not
reflect that such words, from such an incongruous source, and so solemnly
delivered, could not easily fail of that effect. However, he did the
natural thing: he replied with bluster and mockery.
"_You'll_ give me a chance--_you_! Perhaps I'd better get down on my
knees now! But in case I don't--just for argument's sake--what's going
to happen, pray?"
"Dis is what is gwine to happen, I's gwine as straight to yo' uncle as I
kin walk, en tell him every las' thing I knows 'bout you."
Tom's cheek blenched, and she saw it. Disturbing thoughts began to chase
each other through his head. "How can she know? And yet she must have
found out--she looks it. I've had the will back only three months, and
am already deep in debt again, and moving heaven and earth to save myself
from exposure and destruction, with a reasonably fair show of getting the
thing covered up if I'm let alone, and now this fiend has gone and found
me out somehow or other. I wonder how much she knows? Oh, oh, oh, it's
enough to break a body's heart! But I've got to humor her--there's no
Then he worked up a rather sickly sample of a gay laugh and a hollow
chipperness of manner, and said:
"Well, well, Roxy dear, old friends like you and me mustn't quarrel.
Here's your dollar--now tell me what you know."
He held out the wildcat bill; she stood as she was, and made no movement.
It was her turn to scorn persuasive foolery now, and she did not waste
it. She said, with a grim implacability in voice and manner which made
Tom almost realize that even a former slave can remember for ten minutes
insults and injuries returned for compliments and flatteries received,
and can also enjoy taking revenge for them when the opportunity offers:
"What does I know? I'll tell you what I knows, I knows enough to bu'st
dat will to flinders--en more, mind you, _more!_"
Tom was aghast.
"More?" he said, "What do you call more? Where's there any room for
Roxy laughed a mocking laugh, and said scoffingly, with a toss of her
head, and her hands on her hips:
"Yes!--oh, I reckon! _co'se_ you'd like to know--wid yo' po' little ole
rag dollah. What you reckon I's gwine to tell _you_ for?--you ain't got
no money. I's gwine to tell yo' uncle--en I'll do it dis minute,
too--he'll gimme FIVE dollahs for de news, en mighty glad, too."
She swung herself around disdainfully, and started away. Tom was in a
panic. He seized her skirts, and implored her to wait. She turned and
"Look-a-heah, what 'uz it I tole you?"
"You--you--I don't remember anything. What was it you told me?"
"I tole you dat de next time I give you a chance you'd git down on yo'
knees en beg for it."
Tom was stupefied for a moment. He was panting with excitement. Then he
"Oh, Roxy, you wouldn't require your young master to do such a horrible
thing. You can't mean it."
"I'll let you know mighty quick whether I means it or not! You call me
names, en as good as spit on me when I comes here, po' en ornery en
'umble, to praise you for bein' growed up so fine and handsome, en tell
you how I used to nuss you en tend you en watch you when you 'uz sick en
hadn't no mother but me in de whole worl', en beg you to give de po' ole
nigger a dollah for to get her som'n' to eat, en you call me
names--_names_, dad blame you! Yassir, I gives you jes one chance mo',
and dat's _now_, en it las' on'y half a second--you hear?"
Tom slumped to his knees and began to beg, saying:
"You see I'm begging, and it's honest begging, too! Now tell me, Roxy,
The heir of two centuries of unatoned insult and outrage looked down on
him and seemed to drink in deep draughts of satisfaction. Then she said:
"Fine nice young white gen'l'man kneelin' down to a nigger wench! I's
wanted to see dat jes once befo' I's called. Now, Gabr'el, blow de hawn,
I's ready . . . Git up!"
Tom did it. He said, humbly:
"Now, Roxy, don't punish me any more. I deserved what I've got, but be
good and let me off with that. Don't go to uncle. Tell me--I'll give
you the five dollars."
"Yes, I bet you will; en you won't stop dah, nuther. But I ain't gwine
to tell you heah--"
"Good gracious, no!"
"Is you 'feared o' de ha'nted house?"
"Well, den, you come to de ha'nted house 'bout ten or 'leven tonight, en
climb up de ladder, 'ca'se de sta'rsteps is broke down, en you'll find
me. I's a-roostin' in de ha'nted house 'ca'se I can't 'ford to roos'
nowher's else." She started toward the door, but stopped and said,
"Gimme de dollah bill!" He gave it to her. She examined it and said,
"H'm--like enough de bank's bu'sted." She started again, but halted
again. "Has you got any whisky?"
"Yes, a little."
He ran to his room overhead and brought down a bottle which was
two-thirds full. She tilted it up and took a drink. Her eyes sparkled
with satisfaction, and she tucked the bottle under her shawl, saying,
"It's prime. I'll take it along."
Tom humbly held the door for her, and she marched out as grim and erect
as a grenadier.
CHAPTER 9 -- Tom Practices Sycophancy
_Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a
funeral? It is because we are not the person involved._
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
_It is easy to find fault, if one has that disposition.
There was once a man who, not being able to find any other
fault with his coal, complained that there were too many
prehistoric toads in it._ --Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
Tom flung himself on the sofa, and put his throbbing head in his hands,
and rested his elbows on his knees. He rocked himself back and forth and
"I've knelt to a nigger wench!" he muttered. "I thought I had struck the
deepest depths of degradation before, but oh, dear, it was nothing to
this. . . . Well, there is one consolation, such as it is--I've struck
bottom this time; there's nothing lower."
But that was a hasty conclusion.
At ten that night he climbed the ladder in the haunted house, pale, weak,
and wretched. Roxy was standing in the door of one of the rooms,
waiting, for she had heard him.
This was a two-story log house which had acquired the reputation a few
years ago of being haunted, and that was the end of its usefulness.
Nobody would live in it afterward, or go near it by night, and most
people even gave it a wide berth in the daytime. As it had no
competition, it was called _the_ haunted house. It was getting crazy and
ruinous now, from long neglect. It stood three hundred yards beyond
Pudd'nhead Wilson's house, with nothing between but vacancy. It was the
last house in the town at that end.
Tom followed Roxy into the room. She had a pile of clean straw in the
corner for a bed, some cheap but well-kept clothing was hanging on the
wall, there was a tin lantern freckling the floor with little spots of
light, and there were various soap and candle boxes scattered about,
which served for chairs. The two sat down. Roxy said:
"Now den, I'll tell you straight off, en I'll begin to k'leck de money
later on; I ain't in no hurry. What does you reckon I's gwine to tell
"Well, you--you--oh, Roxy, don't make it too hard for me! Come right out
and tell me you've found out somehow what a shape I'm in on account of
dissipation and foolishness."
"Disposition en foolishness! NO sir, dat ain't it. Dat jist ain't
nothin' at all, 'longside o' what _I_ knows."
Tom stared at her, and said:
"Why, Roxy, what do you mean?"
She rose, and gloomed above him like a Fate.
"I means dis--en it's de Lord's truth. You ain't no more kin to ole
Marse Driscoll den I is! _dat's_ what I means!" and her eyes flamed
"Yassir, en _dat_ ain't all! You's a _nigger!_--_bawn_ a nigger and a
_slave!_--en you's a nigger en a slave dis minute; en if I opens my mouf
ole Marse Driscoll'll sell you down de river befo' you is two days older
den what you is now!"
"It's a thundering lie, you miserable old blatherskite!"
"It ain't no lie, nuther. It's just de truth, en nothin' _but_ de truth,
so he'p me. Yassir--you's my _son_--"
"En dat po' boy dat you's be'n a-kickin' en a-cuffin' today is Percy
Driscoll's son en yo' _marster_--"
"En _his_ name is Tom Driscoll, en _yo's_ name's Valet de Chambers, en
you ain't GOT no fambly name, beca'se niggers don't _have_ em!"
Tom sprang up and seized a billet of wood and raised it, but his mother
only laughed at him, and said:
"Set down, you pup! Does you think you kin skyer me? It ain't in you,
nor de likes of you. I reckon you'd shoot me in de back, maybe, if you
got a chance, for dat's jist yo' style--_I_ knows you, throo en
throo--but I don't mind gitt'n killed, beca'se all dis is down in writin'
and it's in safe hands, too, en de man dat's got it knows whah to look
for de right man when I gits killed. Oh, bless yo' soul, if you puts yo'
mother up for as big a fool as _you_ is, you's pow'ful mistaken, I kin
tell you! Now den, you set still en behave yo'self; en don't you git up
ag'in till I tell you!"
Tom fretted and chafed awhile in a whirlwind of disorganizing sensations
and emotions, and finally said, with something like settled conviction:
"The whole thing is moonshine; now then, go ahead and do your worst; I'm
done with you."
Roxy made no answer. She took the lantern and started for the door. Tom
was in a cold panic in a moment.
"Come back, come back!" he wailed. "I didn't mean it, Roxy; I take it
all back, and I'll never say it again! Please come back, Roxy!"
The woman stood a moment, then she said gravely:
"Dat's one thing you's got to stop, Valet de Chambers. You can't call me
_Roxy_, same as if you was my equal. Chillen don't speak to dey mammies
like dat. You'll call me ma or mammy, dat's what you'll call
me--leastways when de ain't nobody aroun'. _Say_ it!"
It cost Tom a struggle, but he got it out.
"Dat's all right, don't you ever forgit it ag'in, if you knows what's
good for you. Now den, you had said you wouldn't ever call it lies en
moonshine ag'in. I'll tell you dis, for a warnin': if you ever does say
it ag'in, it's de LAS' time you'll ever say it to me; I'll tramp as
straight to de judge as I kin walk, en tell him who you is, en _prove_
it. Does you b'lieve me when I says dat?"
"Oh," groaned Tom, "I more than believe it; I _know_ it."
Roxy knew her conquest was complete. She could have proved nothing to
anybody, and her threat of writings was a lie; but she knew the person
she was dealing with, and had made both statements without any doubt as
to the effect they would produce.
She went and sat down on her candle box, and the pride and pomp of her
victorious attitude made it a throne. She said:
"Now den, Chambers, we's gwine to talk business, en dey ain't gwine to be
no mo' foolishness. In de fust place, you gits fifty dollahs a month;
you's gwine to han' over half of it to yo' ma. Plank it out!"
But Tom had only six dollars in the world. He gave her that, and
promised to start fair on next month's pension.
"Chambers, how much is you in debt?"
Tom shuddered, and said:
"Nearly three hundred dollars."
"How is you gwine to pay it?"
Tom groaned out: "Oh, I don't know; don't ask me such awful questions."
But she stuck to her point until she wearied a confession out of him: he
had been prowling about in disguise, stealing small valuables from
private houses; in fact, he made a good deal of a raid on his fellow
villagers a fortnight before, when he was supposed to be in St. Louis;
but he doubted if he had sent away enough stuff to realize the required
amount, and was afraid to make a further venture in the present excited
state of the town. His mother approved of his conduct, and offered to
help, but this frightened him. He tremblingly ventured to say that if
she would retire from the town he should feel better and safer, and could
hold his head higher--and was going on to make an argument, but she
interrupted and surprised him pleasantly by saying she was ready; it
didn't make any difference to her where she stayed, so that she got her
share of the pension regularly. She said she would not go far, and would
call at the haunted house once a month for her money. Then she said:
"I don't hate you so much now, but I've hated you a many a year--and
anybody would. Didn't I change you off, en give you a good fambly en a
good name, en made you a white gen'l'man en rich, wid store clothes
on--en what did I git for it? You despised me all de time, en was al'ays
sayin' mean hard things to me befo' folks, en wouldn't ever let me forgit
I's a nigger--en--en--"
She fell to sobbing, and broke down. Tom said: "But you know I didn't
know you were my mother; and besides--"
"Well, nemmine 'bout dat, now; let it go. I's gwine to fo'git it." Then
she added fiercely, "En don't ever make me remember it ag'in, or you'll
be sorry, _I_ tell you."
When they were parting, Tom said, in the most persuasive way he could
"Ma, would you mind telling me who was my father?"
He had supposed he was asking an embarrassing question. He was mistaken.
Roxy drew herself up with a proud toss of her head, and said:
"Does I mine tellin' you? No, dat I don't! You ain't got no 'casion to
be shame' o' yo' father, _I_ kin tell you. He wuz de highest quality in
dis whole town--ole Virginny stock. Fust famblies, he wuz. Jes as good
stock as de Driscolls en de Howards, de bes' day dey ever seed." She put
on a little prouder air, if possible, and added impressively: "Does you
'member Cunnel Cecil Burleigh Essex, dat died de same year yo' young
Marse Tom Driscoll's pappy died, en all de Masons en Odd Fellers en
Churches turned out en give him de bigges' funeral dis town ever seed?
Dat's de man."
Under the inspiration of her soaring complacency the departed graces of
her earlier days returned to her, and her bearing took to itself a
dignity and state that might have passed for queenly if her surroundings
had been a little more in keeping with it.
"Dey ain't another nigger in dis town dat's as highbawn as you is. Now
den, go 'long! En jes you hold yo' head up as high as you want to--you
has de right, en dat I kin swah."
CHAPTER 10 -- The Nymph Revealed
_All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"--a strange
complaint to come from the mouths of people who have had to
live._ --Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
_When angry, count four; when very angry, swear._
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
Every now and then, after Tom went to bed, he had sudden wakings out of
his sleep, and his first thought was, "Oh, joy, it was all a dream!"
Then he laid himself heavily down again, with a groan and the muttered
words, "A nigger! I am a nigger! Oh, I wish I was dead!"
He woke at dawn with one more repetition of this horror, and then he
resolved to meddle no more with that treacherous sleep. He began to
think. Sufficiently bitter thinkings they were. They wandered along
something after this fashion:
"Why were niggers _and_ whites made? What crime did the uncreated first
nigger commit that the curse of birth was decreed for him? And why is
this awful difference made between white and black? . . . How hard the
nigger's fate seems, this morning!--yet until last night such a thought
never entered my head."
He sighed and groaned an hour or more away. Then "Chambers" came humbly
in to say that breakfast was nearly ready. "Tom" blushed scarlet to see
this aristocratic white youth cringe to him, a nigger, and call him
"Young Marster." He said roughly:
"Get out of my sight!" and when the youth was gone, he muttered, "He has
done me no harm, poor wretch, but he is an eyesore to me now, for he is
Driscoll, the young gentleman, and I am a--oh, I wish I was dead!"
A gigantic eruption, like that of Krakatoa a few years ago, with the
accompanying earthquakes, tidal waves, and clouds of volcanic dust,
changes the face of the surrounding landscape beyond recognition,
bringing down the high lands, elevating the low, making fair lakes where
deserts had been, and deserts where green prairies had smiled before.
The tremendous catastrophe which had befallen Tom had changed his moral
landscape in much the same way. Some of his low places he found lifted to
ideals, some of his ideas had sunk to the valleys, and lay there with the
sackcloth and ashes of pumice stone and sulphur on their ruined heads.
For days he wandered in lonely places, thinking, thinking, thinking
--trying to get his bearings. It was new work. If he met a friend, he
found that the habit of a lifetime had in some mysterious way vanished
--his arm hung limp, instead of involuntarily extending the hand for a
shake. It was the "nigger" in him asserting its humility, and he blushed
and was abashed. And the "nigger" in him was surprised when the white
friend put out his hand for a shake with him. He found the "nigger" in
him involuntarily giving the road, on the sidewalk, to a white rowdy and
loafer. When Rowena, the dearest thing his heart knew, the idol of his
secret worship, invited him in, the "nigger" in him made an embarrassed
excuse and was afraid to enter and sit with the dread white folks on
equal terms. The "nigger" in him went shrinking and skulking here and
there and yonder, and fancying it saw suspicion and maybe detection in
all faces, tones, and gestures. So strange and uncharacteristic was
Tom's conduct that people noticed it, and turned to look after him when
he passed on; and when he glanced back--as he could not help doing, in
spite of his best resistance--and caught that puzzled expression in a
person's face, it gave him a sick feeling, and he took himself out of
view as quickly as he could. He presently came to have a hunted sense
and a hunted look, and then he fled away to the hilltops and the
solitudes. He said to himself that the curse of Ham was upon him.
He dreaded his meals; the "nigger" in him was ashamed to sit at the white
folk's table, and feared discovery all the time; and once when Judge
Driscoll said, "What's the matter with you? You look as meek as a
nigger," he felt as secret murderers are said to feel when the accuser
says, "Thou art the man!" Tom said he was not well, and left the table.
His ostensible "aunt's" solicitudes and endearments were become a terror
to him, and he avoided them.
And all the time, hatred of his ostensible "uncle" was steadily growing
in his heart; for he said to himself, "He is white; and I am his chattel,
his property, his goods, and he can sell me, just as he could his dog."
For as much as a week after this, Tom imagined that his character had
undergone a pretty radical change. But that was because he did not know
In several ways his opinions were totally changed, and would never go
back to what they were before, but the main structure of his character
was not changed, and could not be changed. One or two very important
features of it were altered, and in time effects would result from this,
if opportunity offered--effects of a quite serious nature, too. Under the
influence of a great mental and moral upheaval, his character and his
habits had taken on the appearance of complete change, but after a while
with the subsidence of the storm, both began to settle toward their
former places. He dropped gradually back into his old frivolous and
easygoing ways and conditions of feeling and manner of speech, and no
familiar of his could have detected anything in him that differentiated
him from the weak and careless Tom of other days.
The theft raid which he had made upon the village turned out better than
he had ventured to hope. It produced the sum necessary to pay his gaming
debts, and saved him from exposure to his uncle and another smashing of
the will. He and his mother learned to like each other fairly well. She
couldn't love him, as yet, because there "warn't nothing _to_ him," as
she expressed it, but her nature needed something or somebody to rule
over, and he was better than nothing. Her strong character and
aggressive and commanding ways compelled Tom's admiration in spite of the
fact that he got more illustrations of them than he needed for his
comfort. However, as a rule her conversation was made up of racy tales
about the privacies of the chief families of the town (for she went
harvesting among their kitchens every time she came to the village), and
Tom enjoyed this. It was just in his line. She always collected her
half of his pension punctually, and he was always at the haunted house to
have a chat with her on these occasions. Every now and then, she paid
him a visit there on between-days also.
Occasions he would run up to St. Louis for a few weeks, and at last
temptation caught him again. He won a lot of money, but lost it, and
with it a deal more besides, which he promised to raise as soon as
For this purpose he projected a new raid on his town. He never meddled
with any other town, for he was afraid to venture into houses whose ins
and outs he did not know and the habits of whose households he was not
acquainted with. He arrived at the haunted house in disguise on the
Wednesday before the advent of the twins--after writing his Aunt Pratt
that he would not arrive until two days after--and laying in hiding there
with his mother until toward daylight Friday morning, when he went to his
uncle's house and entered by the back way with his own key, and slipped
up to his room where he could have the use of the mirror and toilet
articles. He had a suit of girl's clothes with him in a bundle as a
disguise for his raid, and was wearing a suit of his mother's clothing,
with black gloves and veil. By dawn he was tricked out for his raid, but
he caught a glimpse of Pudd'nhead Wilson through the window over the way,
and knew that Pudd'nhead had caught a glimpse of him. So he entertained
Wilson with some airs and graces and attitudes for a while, then stepped
out of sight and resumed the other disguise, and by and by went down and
out the back way and started downtown to reconnoiter the scene of his
But he was ill at ease. He had changed back to Roxy's dress, with the
stoop of age added to the disguise, so that Wilson would not bother
himself about a humble old women leaving a neighbor's house by the back
way in the early morning, in case he was still spying. But supposing
Wilson had seen him leave, and had thought it suspicious, and had also
followed him? The thought made Tom cold. He gave up the raid for the
day, and hurried back to the haunted house by the obscurest route he
knew. His mother was gone; but she came back, by and by, with the news of
the grand reception at Patsy Cooper's, and soon persuaded him that the
opportunity was like a special Providence, it was so inviting and
perfect. So he went raiding, after all, and made a nice success of it
while everybody was gone to Patsy Cooper's. Success gave him nerve and
even actual intrepidity; insomuch, indeed, that after he had conveyed his
harvest to his mother in a back alley, he went to the reception himself,
and added several of the valuables of that house to his takings.
After this long digression we have now arrived once more at the point
where Pudd'nhead Wilson, while waiting for the arrival of the twins on
that same Friday evening, sat puzzling over the strange apparition of
that morning--a girl in young Tom Driscoll's bedroom; fretting, and
guessing, and puzzling over it, and wondering who the shameless creature
CHAPTER 11 -- Pudd'nhead's Thrilling Discovery
_There are three infallible ways of pleasing an author, and
the three form a rising scale of compliment: 1--to tell him
you have read one of his books; 2--to tell him you have read
all of his books; 3--to ask him to let you read the
manuscript of his forthcoming book. No. 1 admits you to his
respect; No. 2 admits you to his admiration; No. 3 carries
you clear into his heart._ --Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
_As to the Adjective: when in doubt, strike it out._
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
The twins arrived presently, and talk began. It flowed along chattily
and sociably, and under its influence the new friendship gathered ease
and strength. Wilson got out his Calendar, by request, and read a
passage or two from it, which the twins praised quite cordially. This
pleased the author so much that he complied gladly when they asked him to
lend them a batch of the work to read at home. In the course of their
wide travels, they had found out that there are three sure ways of
pleasing an author; they were now working the best of the three.
There was an interruption now. Young Driscoll appeared, and joined the
party. He pretended to be seeing the distinguished strangers for the
first time when they rose to shake hands; but this was only a blind, as
he had already had a glimpse of them, at the reception, while robbing the
house. The twins made mental note that he was smooth-faced and rather
handsome, and smooth and undulatory in his movements--graceful, in fact.
Angelo thought he had a good eye; Luigi thought there was something
veiled and sly about it. Angelo thought he had a pleasant free-and-easy
way of talking; Luigi thought it was more so than was agreeable. Angelo
thought he was a sufficiently nice young man; Luigi reserved his
decision. Tom's first contribution to the conversation was a question
which he had put to Wilson a hundred times before. It was always cheerily
and good-natured put, and always inflicted a little pang, for it touched
a secret sore; but this time the pang was sharp, since strangers were
"Well, how does the law come on? Had a case yet?"
Wilson bit his lip, but answered, "No--not yet," with as much
indifference as he could assume. Judge Driscoll had generously left the
law feature out of Wilson's biography which he had furnished to the
twins. Young Tom laughed pleasantly, and said:
"Wilson's a lawyer, gentlemen, but he doesn't practice now."
The sarcasm bit, but Wilson kept himself under control, and said without
"I don't practice, it is true. It is true that I have never had a case,
and have had to earn a poor living for twenty years as an expert
accountant in a town where I can't get a hold of a set of books to
untangle as often as I should like. But it is also true that I did
myself well for the practice of the law. By the time I was your age,
Tom, I had chosen a profession, and was soon competent to enter upon it."
Tom winced. "I never got a chance to try my hand at it, and I may never
get a chance; and yet if I ever do get it, I shall be found ready, for I
have kept up my law studies all these years."
"That's it; that's good grit! I like to see it. I've a notion to throw
all my business your way. My business and your law practice ought to
make a pretty gay team, Dave," and the young fellow laughed again.
"If you will throw--" Wilson had thought of the girl in Tom's bedroom,
and was going to say, "If you will throw the surreptitious and
disreputable part of your business my way, it may amount to something,"
but thought better of it and said,
"However, this matter doesn't fit well in a general conversation."
"All right, we'll change the subject; I guess you were about to give me
another dig, anyway, so I'm willing to change. How's the Awful Mystery
flourishing these days? Wilson's got a scheme for driving plain window
glass panes out of the market by decorating it with greasy finger marks,
and getting rich by selling it at famine prices to the crowned heads over
in Europe to outfit their palaces with. Fetch it out, Dave."
Wilson brought three of his glass strips, and said:
"I get the subject to pass the fingers of his right hand through his hair,
so as to get a little coating of the natural oil on them, and then press
the balls of them on the glass. A fine and delicate print of the lines
in the skin results, and is permanent, if it doesn't come in contact with
something able to rub it off. You begin, Tom."
"Why, I think you took my finger marks once or twice before."
"Yes, but you were a little boy the last time, only about twelve years
"That's so. Of course, I've changed entirely since then, and variety is
what the crowned heads want, I guess."
He passed his fingers through his crop of short hair, and pressed them
one at a time on the glass. Angelo made a print of his fingers on
another glass, and Luigi followed with a third. Wilson marked the
glasses with names and dates, and put them away. Tom gave one of his
little laughs, and said:
"I thought I wouldn't say anything, but if variety is what you are after,
you have wasted a piece of glass. The hand print of one twin is the same
as the hand print of the fellow twin."
"Well, it's done now, and I like to have them both, anyway," said Wilson,
returned to his place.
"But look here, Dave," said Tom, "you used to tell people's fortunes, too,
when you took their finger marks. Dave's just an all-round genius--a
genius of the first water, gentlemen; a great scientist running to seed
here in this village, a prophet with the kind of honor that prophets
generally get at home--for here they don't give shucks for his
scientifics, and they call his skull a notion factory--hey, Dave, ain't
it so? But never mind, he'll make his mark someday--finger mark, you
know, he-he! But really, you want to let him take a shy at your palms
once; it's worth twice the price of admission or your money's returned at
the door. Why, he'll read your wrinkles as easy as a book, and not only
tell you fifty or sixty things that's going to happen to you, but fifty
or sixty thousand that ain't. Come, Dave, show the gentlemen what an
inspired jack-at-all-science we've got in this town, and don't know it."
Wilson winced under this nagging and not very courteous chaff, and the
twins suffered with him and for him. They rightly judged, now, that the
best way to relieve him would be to take the thing in earnest and
treat it with respect, ignoring Tom's rather overdone raillery; so Luigi
"We have seen something of palmistry in our wanderings, and know very
well what astonishing things it can do. If it isn't a science, and one
of the greatest of them too, I don't know what its other name ought to
be. In the Orient--"
Tom looked surprised and incredulous. He said:
"That juggling a science? But really, you ain't serious, are you?"
"Yes, entirely so. Four years ago we had our hands read out to us as if
our plans had been covered with print."
"Well, do you mean to say there was actually anything in it?" asked Tom,
his incredulity beginning to weaken a little.
"There was this much in it," said Angelo: "what was told us of our
characters was minutely exact--we could have not have bettered it
ourselves. Next, two or three memorable things that have happened to us
were laid bare--things which no one present but ourselves could have
"Why, it's rank sorcery!" exclaimed Tom, who was now becoming very much
interested. "And how did they make out with what was going to happen to
you in the future?"
"On the whole, quite fairly," said Luigi. "Two or three of the most
striking things foretold have happened since; much the most striking one
of all happened within that same year. Some of the minor prophesies have
come true; some of the minor and some of the major ones have not been
fulfilled yet, and of course may never be: still, I should be more
surprised if they failed to arrive than if they didn't."
Tom was entirely sobered, and profoundly impressed. He said,
"Dave, I wasn't meaning to belittle that science; I was only chaffing
--chattering, I reckon I'd better say. I wish you would look at their
palms. Come, won't you?"
"Why certainly, if you want me to; but you know I've had no chance to
become an expert, and don't claim to be one. When a past event is
somewhat prominently recorded in the palm, I can generally detect that,
but minor ones often escape me--not always, of course, but often--but I
haven't much confidence in myself when it comes to reading the future. I
am talking as if palmistry was a daily study with me, but that is not so.
I haven't examined half a dozen hands in the last half dozen years; you
see, the people got to joking about it, and I stopped to let the talk die
down. I'll tell you what we'll do, Count Luigi: I'll make a try at your
past, and if I have any success there--no, on the whole, I'll let the
future alone; that's really the affair of an expert."
He took Luigi's hand. Tom said:
"Wait--don't look yet, Dave! Count Luigi, here's paper and pencil. Set
down that thing that you said was the most striking one that was foretold
to you, and happened less than a year afterward, and give it to me so I
can see if Dave finds it in your hand."
Luigi wrote a line privately, and folded up the piece of paper, and
handed it to Tom, saying:
"I'll tell you when to look at it, if he finds it."
Wilson began to study Luigi's palm, tracing life lines, heart lines, head
lines, and so on, and noting carefully their relations with the cobweb of
finer and more delicate marks and lines that enmeshed them on all sides;
he felt of the fleshy cushion at the base of the thumb and noted its
shape; he felt of the fleshy side of the hand between the wrist and the
base of the little finger and noted its shape also; he painstakingly
examined the fingers, observing their form, proportions, and natural
manner of disposing themselves when in repose. All this process was
watched by the three spectators with absorbing interest, their heads bent
together over Luigi's palm, and nobody disturbing the stillness with a
word. Wilson now entered upon a close survey of the palm again, and his
He mapped out Luigi's character and disposition, his tastes, aversions,
proclivities, ambitions, and eccentricities in a way which sometimes made
Luigi wince and the others laugh, but both twins declared that the chart
was artistically drawn and was correct.
Next, Wilson took up Luigi's history. He proceeded cautiously and with
hesitation now, moving his finger slowly along the great lines of the
palm, and now and then halting it at a "star" or some such landmark, and
examining that neighborhood minutely. He proclaimed one or two past
events, Luigi confirmed his correctness, and the search went on.
Presently Wilson glanced up suddenly with a surprised expression.
"Here is a record of an incident which you would perhaps not wish me
"Bring it out," said Luigi, good-naturedly. "I promise you sha'n't
But Wilson still hesitated, and did not seem quite to know what to do.
Then he said:
"I think it is too delicate a matter to--to--I believe I would rather
write it or whisper it to you, and let you decide for yourself whether
you want it talked out or not."
"That will answer," said Luigi. "Write it."
Wilson wrote something on a slip of paper and handed it to Luigi, who
read it to himself and said to Tom:
"Unfold your slip and read it, Mr. Driscoll."
"'IT WAS PROPHESIED THAT I WOULD KILL A MAN. IT CAME TRUE BEFORE THE
YEAR WAS OUT.'"
Tom added, "Great Scott!"
Luigi handed Wilson's paper to Tom, and said:
"Now read this one."
"'YOU HAVE KILLED SOMEONE, BUT WHETHER MAN, WOMAN, OR CHILD, I DO NOT
"Caesar's ghost!" commented Tom, with astonishment. "It beats anything
that was ever heard of! Why, a man's own hand is his deadliest enemy!
Just think of that--a man's own hand keeps a record of the deepest and
fatalest secrets of his life, and is treacherously ready to expose
himself to any black-magic stranger that comes along. But what do you
let a person look at your hand for, with that awful thing printed on it?"
"Oh," said Luigi, reposefully, "I don't mind it. I killed the man for
good reasons, and I don't regret it."
"What were the reasons?"
"Well, he needed killing."
"I'll tell you why he did it, since he won't say himself," said Angelo,
warmly. "He did it to save my life, that's what he did it for. So it was
a noble act, and not a thing to be hid in the dark."
"So it was, so it was," said Wilson. "To do such a thing to save a
brother's life is a great and fine action."
"Now come," said Luigi, "it is very pleasant to hear you say these
things, but for unselfishness, or heroism, or magnanimity, the
circumstances won't stand scrutiny. You overlook one detail; suppose I
hadn't saved Angelo's life, what would have become of mine? If I had let
the man kill him, wouldn't he have killed me, too? I saved my own life,
"Yes, that is your way of talking," said Angelo, "but I know you--I
don't believe you thought of yourself at all. I keep that weapon yet
that Luigi killed the man with, and I'll show it to you sometime. That
incident makes it interesting, and it had a history before it came into
Luigi's hands which adds to its interest. It was given to Luigi by a
great Indian prince, the Gaikowar of Baroda, and it had been in his
family two or three centuries. It killed a good many disagreeable people
who troubled the hearthstone at one time or another. It isn't much too
look at, except it isn't shaped like other knives, or dirks, or whatever
it may be called--here, I'll draw it for you." He took a sheet of paper
and made a rapid sketch. "There it is--a broad and murderous blade, with
edges like a razor for sharpness. The devices engraved on it are the
ciphers or names of its long line of possessors--I had Luigi's name added
in Roman letters myself with our coat of arms, as you see. You notice
what a curious handle the thing has. It is solid ivory, polished like a
mirror, and is four or five inches long--round, and as thick as a large
man's wrist, with the end squared off flat, for your thumb to rest on;
for you grasp it, with your thumb resting on the blunt end--so--and lift
it along and strike downward. The Gaikowar showed us how the thing was
done when he gave it to Luigi, and before that night was ended, Luigi had
used the knife, and the Gaikowar was a man short by reason of it. The
sheath is magnificently ornamented with gems of great value. You will
find a sheath more worth looking at than the knife itself, of course."
Tom said to himself:
"It's lucky I came here. I would have sold that knife for a song; I
supposed the jewels were glass."
"But go on; don't stop," said Wilson. "Our curiosity is up now, to hear
about the homicide. Tell us about that."
"Well, briefly, the knife was to blame for that, all around. A native
servant slipped into our room in the palace in the night, to kill us and
steal the knife on account of the fortune encrusted on its sheath,
without a doubt. Luigi had it under his pillow; we were in bed together.
There was a dim night-light burning. I was asleep, but Luigi was awake,
and he thought he detected a vague form nearing the bed. He slipped the
knife out of the sheath and was ready and unembarrassed by hampering
bedclothes, for the weather was hot and we hadn't any. Suddenly that
native rose at the bedside, and bent over me with his right hand lifted
and a dirk in it aimed at my throat; but Luigi grabbed his wrist, pulled
him downward, and drove his own knife into the man's neck. That is the
Wilson and Tom drew deep breaths, and after some general chat about the
tragedy, Pudd'nhead said, taking Tom's hand:
"Now, Tom, I've never had a look at your palms, as it happens; perhaps
you've got some little questionable privacies that need--hel-lo!"
Tom had snatched away his hand, and was looking a good deal confused.
"Why, he's blushing!" said Luigi.
Tom darted an ugly look at him, and said sharply:
"Well, if I am, it ain't because I'm a murderer!" Luigi's dark face
flushed, but before he could speak or move, Tom added with anxious haste:
"Oh, I beg a thousand pardons. I didn't mean that; it was out before I
thought, and I'm very, very sorry--you must forgive me!"
Wilson came to the rescue, and smoothed things down as well as he could;
and in fact was entirely successful as far as the twins were concerned,
for they felt sorrier for the affront put upon him by his guest's
outburst of ill manners than for the insult offered to Luigi. But the
success was not so pronounced with the offender. Tom tried to seem at
his ease, and he went through the motions fairly well, but at bottom he
felt resentful toward all the three witnesses of his exhibition; in fact,
he felt so annoyed at them for having witnessed it and noticed it that he
almost forgot to feel annoyed at himself for placing it before them.
However, something presently happened which made him almost comfortable,
and brought him nearly back to a state of charity and friendliness. This
was a little spat between the twins; not much of a spat, but still a
spat; and before they got far with it, they were in a decided condition
of irritation while pretending to be actuated by more respectable
motives. By his help the fire got warmed up to the blazing point, and he
might have had the happiness of seeing the flames show up in another
moment, but for the interruption of a knock on the door--an interruption
which fretted him as much as it gratified Wilson. Wilson opened the
The visitor was a good-natured, ignorant, energetic middle-aged Irishman
named John Buckstone, who was a great politician in a small way, and
always took a large share in public matters of every sort. One of the
town's chief excitements, just now, was over the matter of rum. There
was a strong rum party and a strong anti-rum party. Buckstone was
training with the rum party, and he had been sent to hunt up the twins
and invite them to attend a mass meeting of that faction. He delivered
his errand, and said the clans were already gathering in the big hall
over the market house. Luigi accepted the invitation cordially. Angelo
less cordially, since he disliked crowds, and did not drink the powerful
intoxicants of America. In fact, he was even a teetotaler sometimes
--when it was judicious to be one.
The twins left with Buckstone, and Tom Driscoll joined the company with
In the distance, one could see a long wavering line of torches drifting
down the main street, and could hear the throbbing of the bass drum, the
clash of cymbals, the squeaking of a fife or two, and the faint roar of
remote hurrahs. The tail end of this procession was climbing the market
house stairs when the twins arrived in its neighborhood; when they
reached the hall, it was full of people, torches, smoke, noise, and
enthusiasm. They were conducted to the platform by Buckstone--Tom
Driscoll still following--and were delivered to the chairman in the midst
of a prodigious explosion of welcome. When the noise had moderated a
little, the chair proposed that "our illustrious guests be at once
elected, by complimentary acclamation, to membership in our ever-glorious
organization, the paradise of the free and the perdition of the slave."
This eloquent discharge opened the floodgates of enthusiasm again, and
the election was carried with thundering unanimity. Then arose a storm
"Wet them down! Wet them down! Give them a drink!"
Glasses of whisky were handed to the twins. Luigi waves his aloft, then
brought it to his lips; but Angelo set his down. There was another storm
"What's the matter with the other one?" "What is the blond one going
back on us for?" "Explain! Explain!"
The chairman inquired, and then reported:
"We have made an unfortunate mistake, gentlemen. I find that the Count
Angelo Capello is opposed to our creed--is a teetotaler, in fact, and was
not intending to apply for membership with us. He desires that we
reconsider the vote by which he was elected. What is the pleasure of the
There was a general burst of laughter, plentifully accented with
whistlings and catcalls, but the energetic use of the gavel presently
restored something like order. Then a man spoke from the crowd, and said
that while he was very sorry that the mistake had been made, it would not
be possible to rectify it at the present meeting. According to the
bylaws, it must go over to the next regular meeting for action. He would
not offer a motion, as none was required. He desired to apologize to the
gentlemen in the name of the house, and begged to assure him that as far
as it might lie in the power of the Sons of Liberty, his temporary
membership in the order would be made pleasant to him.
This speech was received with great applause, mixed with cries of:
"That's the talk!" "He's a good fellow, anyway, if he _is_ a teetotaler!"
"Drink his health!" "Give him a rouser, and no heeltaps!"
Glasses were handed around, and everybody on the platform drank Angelo's
health, while the house bellowed forth in song:
For he's a jolly good fel-low,
For he's a jolly good fel-low,
For he's a jolly good fe-el-low,
Which nobody can deny.
Tom Driscoll drank. It was his second glass, for he had drunk Angelo's
the moment that Angelo had set it down. The two drinks made him very
merry--almost idiotically so, and he began to take a most lively and
prominent part in the proceedings, particularly in the music and catcalls
and side remarks.
The chairman was still standing at the front, the twins at his side. The
extraordinarily close resemblance of the brothers to each other suggested
a witticism to Tom Driscoll, and just as the chairman began a speech he
skipped forward and said, with an air of tipsy confidence, to the
"Boys, I move that he keeps still and lets this human philopena snip you
out a speech."
The descriptive aptness of the phrase caught the house, and a mighty
burst of laughter followed.
Luigi's southern blood leaped to the boiling point in a moment under the
sharp humiliation of this insult delivered in the presence of four
hundred strangers. It was not in the young man's nature to let the
matter pass, or to delay the squaring of the account. He took a couple of
strides and halted behind the unsuspecting joker. Then he drew back and
delivered a kick of such titanic vigor that it lifted Tom clear over the
footlights and landed him on the heads of the front row of the Sons of
Even a sober person does not like to have a human being emptied on him
when he is not doing any harm; a person who is not sober cannot endure
such an attention at all. The nest of Sons of Liberty that Driscoll
landed in had not a sober bird in it; in fact there was probably not an
entirely sober one in the auditorium. Driscoll was promptly and
indignantly flung on the heads of Sons in the next row, and these Sons
passed him on toward the rear, and then immediately began to pummel the
front row Sons who had passed him to them. This course was strictly
followed by bench after bench as Driscoll traveled in his tumultuous and
airy flight toward the door; so he left behind him an ever-lengthening
wake of raging and plunging and fighting and swearing humanity. Down went
group after group of torches, and presently above the deafening clatter
of the gavel, roar of angry voices, and crash of succumbing benches, rose
the paralyzing cry of "_fire!_"
The fighting ceased instantly; the cursing ceased; for one distinctly
defined moment, there was a dead hush, a motionless calm, where the
tempest had been; then with one impulse the multitude awoke to life and
energy again, and went surging and struggling and swaying, this way and
that, its outer edges melting away through windows and doors and
gradually lessening the pressure and relieving the mass.
The fireboys were never on hand so suddenly before; for there was no
distance to go this time, their quarters being in the rear end of the
market house, There was an engine company and a hook-and-ladder company.
Half of each was composed of rummies and the other half of anti-rummies,
after the moral and political share-and-share-alike fashion of the
frontier town of the period. Enough anti-rummies were loafing in quarters
to man the engine and the ladders. In two minutes they had their red
shirts and helmets on--they never stirred officially in unofficial
costume--and as the mass meeting overhead smashed through the long row of
windows and poured out upon the roof of the arcade, the deliverers were
ready for them with a powerful stream of water, which washed some of them
off the roof and nearly drowned the rest. But water was preferable to
fire, and still the stampede from the windows continued, and still the
pitiless drenching assailed it until the building was empty; then the
fireboys mounted to the hall and flooded it with water enough to
annihilate forty times as much fire as there was there; for a village
fire company does not often get a chance to show off, and so when it does
get a chance, it makes the most of it. Such citizens of that village as
were of a thoughtful and judicious temperament did not insure against
fire; they insured against the fire company.
CHAPTER 12 -- The Shame of Judge Driscoll
_Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear--not absence
of fear. Except a creature be part coward, it is not a
compliment to say it is brave; it is merely a loose
misapplication of the word. Consider the flea!--incomparably
the bravest of all the creatures of God, if ignorance of
fear were courage. Whether you are asleep or awake he will
attack you, caring nothing for the fact that in bulk and
strength you are to him as are the massed armies of the
earth to a sucking child; he lives both day and night and
all days and nights in the very lap of peril and the
immediate presence of death, and yet is no more afraid than
is the man who walks the streets of a city that was
threatened by an earthquake ten centuries before. When we
speak of Clive, Nelson, and Putnam as men who "didn't know
what fear was," we ought always to add the flea--and put him
at the head of the procession._ --Pudd'nhead Wilson's
Judge Driscoll was in bed and asleep by ten o'clock on Friday night, and
he was up and gone a-fishing before daylight in the morning with his
friend Pembroke Howard. These two had been boys together in Virginia
when that state still ranked as the chief and most imposing member of the
Union, and they still coupled the proud and affectionate adjective "old"
with her name when they spoke of her. In Missouri a recognized
superiority attached to any person who hailed from Old Virginia; and this
superiority was exalted to supremacy when a person of such nativity could
also prove descent from the First Families of that great commonwealth.
The Howards and Driscolls were of this aristocracy. In their eyes, it
was a nobility. It had its unwritten laws, and they were as clearly
defined and as strict as any that could be found among the printed
statutes of the land. The F.F.V. was born a gentleman; his highest duty in
life was to watch over that great inheritance and keep it unsmirched. He
must keep his honor spotless. Those laws were his chart; his course was
marked out on it; if he swerved from it by so much as half a point of the
compass, it meant shipwreck to his honor; that is to say, degradation
from his rank as a gentleman. These laws required certain things of him
which his religion might forbid: then his religion must yield--the laws
could not be relaxed to accommodate religions or anything else. Honor
stood first; and the laws defined what it was and wherein it differed in
certain details from honor as defined by church creeds and by the social
laws and customs of some of the minor divisions of the globe that had got
crowded out when the sacred boundaries of Virginia were staked out.
If Judge Driscoll was the recognized first citizen of Dawson's Landing,
Pembroke Howard was easily its recognized second citizen. He was called
"the great lawyer"--an earned title. He and Driscoll were of the same
age--a year or two past sixty.
Although Driscoll was a freethinker and Howard a strong and determined
Presbyterian, their warm intimacy suffered no impairment in consequence.
They were men whose opinions were their own property and not subject to
revision and amendment, suggestion or criticism, by anybody, even their
The day's fishing finished, they came floating downstream in their skiff,
talking national politics and other high matters, and presently met a
skiff coming up from town, with a man in it who said:
"I reckon you know one of the new twins gave your nephew a kicking last
"Gave him a kicking."
The old judge's lips paled, and his eyes began to flame. He choked with
anger for a moment, then he got out what he was trying to say:
"Well--well--go on! Give me the details!"
The man did it. At the finish the judge was silent a minute, turning
over in his mind the shameful picture of Tom's flight over the
footlights; then he said, as if musing aloud,
"H'm--I don't understand it. I was asleep at home. He didn't wake me.
Thought he was competent to manage his affair without my help, I reckon."
His face lit up with pride and pleasure at that thought, and he said with
a cheery complacency, "I like that--it's the true old blood--hey,
Howard smiled an iron smile, and nodded his head approvingly. Then the
news-bringer spoke again.
"But Tom beat the twin on the trial."
The judge looked at the man wonderingly, and said:
"The trial? What trial?"
"Why, Tom had him up before Judge Robinson for assault and battery."
The old man shrank suddenly together like one who has received a death
stroke. Howard sprang for him as he sank forward in a swoon, and took
him in his arms, and bedded him on his back in the boat. He sprinkled
water in his face, and said to the startled visitor:
"Go, now--don't let him come to and find you here. You see what an
effect your heedless speech has had; you ought to have been more
considerate than to blurt out such a cruel piece of slander as that."
"I'm right down sorry I did it now, Mr. Howard, and I wouldn't have done
it if I had thought; but it ain't slander; it's perfectly true, just as I
He rowed away. Presently the old judge came out of his faint and looked
up piteously into the sympathetic face that was bent over him.
"Say it ain't true, Pembroke; tell me it ain't true!" he said in a weak
There was nothing weak in the deep organ tones that responded:
"You know it's a lie as well as I do, old friend. He is of the best
blood of the Old Dominion."
"God bless you for saying it!" said the old gentleman, fervently. "Ah,
Pembroke, it was such a blow!"
Howard stayed by his friend, and saw him home, and entered the house with
him. It was dark, and past supper-time, but the judge was not thinking
of supper; he was eager to hear the slander refuted from headquarters,
and as eager to have Howard hear it, too. Tom was sent for, and he came
immediately. He was bruised and lame, and was not a happy-looking
object. His uncle made him sit down, and said:
"We have been hearing about your adventure, Tom, with a handsome lie
added for embellishment. Now pulverize that lie to dust! What measures
have you taken? How does the thing stand?"
Tom answered guilelessly: "It don't stand at all; it's all over. I had
him up in court and beat him. Pudd'nhead Wilson defended him--first
case he ever had, and lost it. The judge fined the miserable hound five
dollars for the assault."
Howard and the judge sprang to their feet with the opening sentence
--why, neither knew; then they stood gazing vacantly at each other.
Howard stood a moment, then sat mournfully down without saying anything.
The judge's wrath began to kindle, and he burst out:
"You cur! You scum! You vermin! Do you mean to tell me that blood of
my race has suffered a blow and crawled to a court of law about it?
Tom's head drooped, and he answered with an eloquent silence. His uncle
stared at him with a mixed expression of amazement and shame and
incredulity that was sorrowful to see. At last he said:
"Which of the twins was it?"
"You have challenged him?"
"N--no," hesitated Tom, turning pale.
"You will challenge him tonight. Howard will carry it."
Tom began to turn sick, and to show it. He turned his hat round and
round in his hand, his uncle glowering blacker and blacker upon him as
the heavy seconds drifted by; then at last he began to stammer, and said
"Oh, please, don't ask me to do it, uncle! He is a murderous devil--I
never could--I--I'm afraid of him!"
Old Driscoll's mouth opened and closed three times before he could get it
to perform its office; then he stormed out:
"A coward in my family! A Driscoll a coward! Oh, what have I done to
deserve this infamy!" He tottered to his secretary in the corner,
repeated that lament again and again in heartbreaking tones, and got out
of a drawer a paper, which he slowly tore to bits, scattering the bits
absently in his track as he walked up and down the room, still grieving
and lamenting. At last he said:
"There it is, shreds and fragments once more--my will. Once more you
have forced me to disinherit you, you base son of a most noble father!
Leave my sight! Go--before I spit on you!"
The young man did not tarry. Then the judge turned to Howard:
"You will be my second, old friend?"
"There is pen and paper. Draft the cartel, and lose no time."
"The Count shall have it in his hands in fifteen minutes," said Howard.
Tom was very heavyhearted. His appetite was gone with his property and
his self-respect. He went out the back way and wandered down the obscure
lane grieving, and wondering if any course of future conduct, however
discreet and carefully perfected and watched over, could win back his
uncle's favor and persuade him to reconstruct once more that generous
will which had just gone to ruin before his eyes. He finally concluded
that it could. He said to himself that he had accomplished this sort of
triumph once already, and that what had been done once could be done
again. He would set about it. He would bend every energy to the task,
and he would score that triumph once more, cost what it might to his
convenience, limit as it might his frivolous and liberty-loving life.
"To begin," he says to himself, "I'll square up with the proceeds of my
raid, and then gambling has got to be stopped--and stopped short off.
It's the worst vice I've got--from my standpoint, anyway, because it's
the one he can most easily find out, through the impatience of my
creditors. He thought it expensive to have to pay two hundred dollars to
them for me once. Expensive--_that!_ Why, it cost me the whole of his
fortune--but, of course, he never thought of that; some people can't
think of any but their own side of a case. If he had known how deep I am
in now, the will would have gone to pot without waiting for a duel to
help. Three hundred dollars! It's a pile! But he'll never hear of it,
I'm thankful to say. The minute I've cleared it off, I'm safe; and I'll
never touch a card again. Anyway, I won't while he lives, I make oath to
that. I'm entering on my last reform--I know it--yes, and I'll win; but
after that, if I ever slip again I'm gone."
CHAPTER 13 -- Tom Stares at Ruin
_When I reflect upon the number of disagreeable people who I
know have gone to a better world, I am moved to lead a
different life._ --Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
_October. This is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to
speculate in stocks in. The others are July, January,
September, April, November, May, March, June, December,
August, and February._ --Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
Thus mournfully communing with himself, Tom moped along the lane past
Pudd'nhead Wilson's house, and still on and on between fences enclosing
vacant country on each hand till he neared the haunted house, then he
came moping back again, with many sighs and heavy with trouble. He sorely
wanted cheerful company. Rowena! His heart gave a bound at the thought,
but the next thought quieted it--the detested twins would be there.
He was on the inhabited side of Wilson's house, and now as he approached
it, he noticed that the sitting room was lighted. This would do; others
made him feel unwelcome sometimes, but Wilson never failed in courtesy
toward him, and a kindly courtesy does at least save one's feelings, even
if it is not professing to stand for a welcome. Wilson heard footsteps at
his threshold, then the clearing of a throat.
"It's that fickle-tempered, dissipated young goose--poor devil, he find
friends pretty scarce today, likely, after the disgrace of carrying a
personal assault case into a law-court."
A dejected knock. "Come in!"
Tom entered, and dropped into a chair, without saying anything. Wilson
"Why, my boy, you look desolate. Don't take it so hard. Try and forget
you have been kicked."
"Oh, dear," said Tom, wretchedly, "it's not that, Pudd'nhead--it's not
that. It's a thousand times worse than that--oh, yes, a million times
"Why, Tom, what do you mean? Has Rowena--"
"Flung me? _No_, but the old man has."
Wilson said to himself, "Aha!" and thought of the mysterious girl in the
bedroom. "The Driscolls have been making discoveries!" Then he said
"Tom, there are some kinds of dissipation which--"
"Oh, shucks, this hasn't got anything to do with dissipation. He wanted
me to challenge that derned Italian savage, and I wouldn't do it."
"Yes, of course he would do that," said Wilson in a meditative
matter-of-course way, "but the thing that puzzled me was, why he didn't
look to that last night, for one thing, and why he let you carry such a
matter into a court of law at all, either before the duel or after it.
It's no place for it. It was not like him. I couldn't understand it.
How did it happen?"
"It happened because he didn't know anything about it. He was asleep
when I got home last night."
"And you didn't wake him? Tom, is that possible?"
Tom was not getting much comfort here. He fidgeted a moment, then said:
"I didn't choose to tell him--that's all. He was going a-fishing before
dawn, with Pembroke Howard, and if I got the twins into the common
calaboose--and I thought sure I could--I never dreamed of their slipping
out on a paltry fine for such an outrageous offense--well, once in the
calaboose they would be disgraced, and uncle wouldn't want any duels with
that sort of characters, and wouldn't allow any.
"Tom, I am ashamed of you! I don't see how you could treat your good old
uncle so. I am a better friend of his than you are; for if I had known
the circumstances I would have kept that case out of court until I got
word to him and let him have the gentleman's chance."
"You would?" exclaimed Tom, with lively surprise. "And it your first
case! And you know perfectly well there never would have _been_ any case
if he had got that chance, don't you? And you'd have finished your days
a pauper nobody, instead of being an actually launched and recognized
lawyer today. And you would really have done that, would you?"
Tom looked at him a moment or two, then shook his head sorrowfully and
"I believe you--upon my word I do. I don't know why I do, but I do.
Pudd'nhead Wilson, I think you're the biggest fool I ever saw."
"Don't mention it."
"Well, he has been requiring you to fight the Italian, and you have
refused. You degenerate remnant of an honorable line! I'm thoroughly
ashamed of you, Tom!"
"Oh, that's nothing! I don't care for anything, now that the will's torn
"Tom, tell me squarely--didn't he find any fault with you for anything
but those two things--carrying the case into court and refusing to
He watched the young fellow's face narrowly, but it was entirely
reposeful, and so also was the voice that answered:
"No, he didn't find any other fault with me. If he had had any to find,
he would have begun yesterday, for he was just in the humor for it. He
drove that jack-pair around town and showed them the sights, and when he
came home he couldn't find his father's old silver watch that don't keep
time and he thinks so much of, and couldn't remember what he did with it
three or four days ago when he saw it last, and when I suggested that it
probably wasn't lost but stolen, it put him in a regular passion, and he
said I was a fool--which convinced me, without any trouble, that that
was just what he was afraid _had_ happened, himself, but did not want to
believe it, because lost things stand a better chance of being found
again than stolen ones."
"Whe-ew!" whistled Wilson. "Score another one the list."
"Yes, theft. That watch isn't lost, it's stolen. There's been another
raid on the town--and just the same old mysterious sort of thing that has
happened once before, as you remember."
"You don't mean it!"
"It's as sure as you are born! Have you missed anything yourself?"
"No. That is, I did miss a silver pencil case that Aunt Mary Pratt gave
me last birthday--"
"You'll find it stolen--that's what you'll find."
"No, I sha'n't; for when I suggested theft about the watch and got such a
rap, I went and examined my room, and the pencil case was missing, but it
was only mislaid, and I found it again."
"You are sure you missed nothing else?"
"Well, nothing of consequence. I missed a small plain gold ring worth
two or three dollars, but that will turn up. I'll look again."
"In my opinion you'll not find it. There's been a raid, I tell you. Come
Mr. Justice Robinson entered, followed by Buckstone and the town
constable, Jim Blake. They sat down, and after some wandering and
aimless weather-conversation Wilson said:
"By the way, We've just added another to the list of thefts, maybe two.
Judge Driscoll's old silver watch is gone, and Tom here has missed a gold
"Well, it is a bad business," said the justice, "and gets worse the
further it goes. The Hankses, the Dobsons, the Pilligrews, the Ortons,
the Grangers, the Hales, the Fullers, the Holcombs, in fact everybody
that lives around about Patsy Cooper's had been robbed of little things
like trinkets and teaspoons and suchlike small valuables that are easily
carried off. It's perfectly plain that the thief took advantage of the
reception at Patsy Cooper's when all the neighbors were in her house and
all their niggers hanging around her fence for a look at the show, to
raid the vacant houses undisturbed. Patsy is miserable about it;
miserable on account of the neighbors, and particularly miserable on
account of her foreigners, of course; so miserable on their account that
she hasn't any room to worry about her own little losses."
"It's the same old raider," said Wilson. "I suppose there isn't any
doubt about that."
"Constable Blake doesn't think so."
"No, you're wrong there," said Blake. "The other times it was a man;
there was plenty of signs of that, as we know, in the profession, though
we never got hands on him; but this time it's a woman."
Wilson thought of the mysterious girl straight off. She was always in
his mind now. But she failed him again. Blake continued:
"She's a stoop-shouldered old woman with a covered basket on her arm, in
a black veil, dressed in mourning. I saw her going aboard the ferryboat
yesterday. Lives in Illinois, I reckon; but I don't care where she
lives, I'm going to get her--she can make herself sure of that."
"What makes you think she's the thief?"
"Well, there ain't any other, for one thing; and for another, some nigger
draymen that happened to be driving along saw her coming out of or going
into houses, and told me so--and it just happens that they was _robbed_,
It was granted that this was plenty good enough circumstantial evidence.
A pensive silence followed, which lasted some moments, then Wilson said:
"There's one good thing, anyway. She can't either pawn or sell Count
Luigi's costly Indian dagger."
"My!" said Tom. "Is _that_ gone?"
"Well, that was a haul! But why can't she pawn it or sell it?"
"Because when the twins went home from the Sons of Liberty meeting last
night, news of the raid was sifting in from everywhere, and Aunt Patsy
was in distress to know if they had lost anything. They found that the
dagger was gone, and they notified the police and pawnbrokers everywhere.
It was a great haul, yes, but the old woman won't get anything out of it,
because she'll get caught."
"Did they offer a reward?" asked Buckstone.
"Yes, five hundred dollars for the knife, and five hundred more for the
"What a leather-headed idea!" exclaimed the constable. "The thief das'n't
go near them, nor send anybody. Whoever goes is going to get himself
nabbed, for their ain't any pawnbroker that's going to lose the chance
If anybody had noticed Tom's face at that time, the gray-green color of
it might have provoked curiosity; but nobody did. He said to himself:
"I'm gone! I never can square up; the rest of the plunder won't pawn or
sell for half of the bill. Oh, I know it--I'm gone, I'm gone--and this
time it's for good. Oh, this is awful--I don't know what to do, nor
which way to turn!"
"Softly, softly," said Wilson to Blake. "I planned their scheme for them
at midnight last night, and it was all finished up shipshape by two this
morning. They'll get their dagger back, and then I'll explain to you how
the thing was done."
There were strong signs of a general curiosity, and Buckstone said:
"Well, you have whetted us up pretty sharp, Wilson, and I'm free to say
that if you don't mind telling us in confidence--"
"Oh, I'd as soon tell as not, Buckstone, but as long as the twins and I
agreed to say nothing about it, we must let it stand so. But you can take
my word for it, you won't be kept waiting three days. Somebody will apply
for that reward pretty promptly, and I'll show you the thief and the
dagger both very soon afterward."
The constable was disappointed, and also perplexed. He said:
"It may all be--yes, and I hope it will, but I'm blamed if I can see my
way through it. It's too many for yours truly."
The subject seemed about talked out. Nobody seemed to have anything
further to offer. After a silence the justice of the peace informed
Wilson that he and Buckstone and the constable had come as a committee,
on the part of the Democratic party, to ask him to run for mayor--for the
little town was about to become a city and the first charter election was
approaching. It was the first attention which Wilson had ever received
at the hands of any party; it was a sufficiently humble one, but it was a
recognition of his debut into the town's life and activities at last; it
was a step upward, and he was deeply gratified. He accepted, and the
committee departed, followed by young Tom.
CHAPTER 14 -- Roxana Insists Upon Reform
_The true Southern watermelon is a boon apart, and not to be
mentioned with commoner things. It is chief of this world's
luxuries, king by the grace of God over all the fruits of
the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels
eat. It was not a Southern watermelon that Eve took: we know
it because she repented._ --Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
About the time that Wilson was bowing the committee out, Pembroke Howard
was entering the next house to report. He found the old judge sitting
grim and straight in his chair, waiting.
"Well, Howard--the news?"
"The best in the world."
"Accepts, does he?" and the light of battle gleamed joyously in the
"Accepts? Why he jumped at it."
"Did, did he? Now that's fine--that's very fine. I like that. When is
it to be?"
"Now! Straight off! Tonight! An admirable fellow--admirable!"
"Admirable? He's a darling! Why, it's an honor as well as a pleasure to
stand up before such a man. Come--off with you! Go and arrange
everything--and give him my heartiest compliments. A rare fellow, indeed;
an admirable fellow, as you have said!"
"I'll have him in the vacant stretch between Wilson's and the haunted
house within the hour, and I'll bring my own pistols."
Judge Driscoll began to walk the floor in a state of pleased excitement;
but presently he stopped, and began to think--began to think of Tom.
Twice he moved toward the secretary, and twice he turned away again; but
finally he said:
"This may be my last night in the world--I must not take the chance. He
is worthless and unworthy, but it is largely my fault. He was entrusted
to me by my brother on his dying bed, and I have indulged him to his
hurt, instead of training him up severely, and making a man of him, I
have violated my trust, and I must not add the sin of desertion to that.
I have forgiven him once already, and would subject him to a long and
hard trial before forgiving him again, if I could live; but I must not
run that risk. No, I must restore the will. But if I survive the duel, I
will hide it away, and he will not know, and I will not tell him until he
reforms, and I see that his reformation is going to be permanent."
He redrew the will, and his ostensible nephew was heir to a fortune
again. As he was finishing his task, Tom, wearied with another brooding
tramp, entered the house and went tiptoeing past the sitting room door.
He glanced in, and hurried on, for the sight of his uncle was nothing but
terrors for him tonight. But his uncle was writing! That was unusual at
this late hour. What could he be writing? A chill of anxiety settled
down upon Tom's heart. Did that writing concern him? He was afraid so.
He reflected that when ill luck begins, it does not come in sprinkles,
but in showers. He said he would get a glimpse of that document or know
the reason why. He heard someone coming, and stepped out of sight and
hearing. It was Pembroke Howard. What could be hatching?
Howard said, with great satisfaction:
"Everything's right and ready. He's gone to the battleground with his
second and the surgeon--also with his brother. I've arranged it all with
Wilson--Wilson's his second. We are to have three shots apiece."
"Good! How is the moon?"
"Bright as day, nearly. Perfect, for the distance--fifteen yards. No
wind--not a breath; hot and still."
"All good; all first-rate. Here, Pembroke, read this, and witness it."
Pembroke read and witnessed the will, then gave the old man's hand a
hearty shake and said:
"Now that's right, York--but I knew you would do it. You couldn't leave
that poor chap to fight along without means or profession, with certain
defeat before him, and I knew you wouldn't, for his father's sake if not
for his own."
"For his dead father's sake, I couldn't, I know; for poor Percy--but you
know what Percy was to me. But mind--Tom is not to know of this unless I
"I understand. I'll keep the secret."
The judge put the will away, and the two started for the battleground. In
another minute the will was in Tom's hands. His misery vanished, his
feelings underwent a tremendous revulsion. He put the will carefully back
in its place, and spread his mouth and swung his hat once, twice, three
times around his head, in imitation of three rousing huzzahs, no sound
issuing from his lips. He fell to communing with himself excitedly and
joyously, but every now and then he let off another volley of dumb
He said to himself: "I've got the fortune again, but I'll not let on
that I know about it. And this time I'm going to hang on to it. I take no
more risks. I'll gamble no more, I'll drink no more, because--well,
because I'll not go where there is any of that sort of thing going on,
again. It's the sure way, and the only sure way; I might have thought of
that sooner--well, yes, if I had wanted to. But now--dear me, I've had a
scare this time, and I'll take no more chances. Not a single chance
more. Land! I persuaded myself this evening that I could fetch him
around without any great amount of effort, but I've been getting more and
more heavyhearted and doubtful straight along, ever since. If he tells
me about this thing, all right; but if he doesn't, I sha'n't let on.
I--well, I'd like to tell Pudd'nhead Wilson, but--no, I'll think about
that; perhaps I won't." He whirled off another dead huzzah, and said,
"I'm reformed, and this time I'll stay so, sure!"
He was about to close with a final grand silent demonstration, when he
suddenly recollected that Wilson had put it out of his power to pawn or
sell the Indian knife, and that he was once more in awful peril of
exposure by his creditors for that reason. His joy collapsed utterly, and
he turned away and moped toward the door moaning and lamenting over the
bitterness of his luck. He dragged himself upstairs, and brooded in his
room a long time, disconsolate and forlorn, with Luigi's Indian knife for
a text. At last he sighed and said:
"When I supposed these stones were glass and this ivory bone, the thing
hadn't any interest for me because it hadn't any value, and couldn't help
me out of my trouble. But now--why, now it is full of interest; yes, and
of a sort to break a body's heart. It's a bag of gold that has turned to
dirt and ashes in my hands. It could save me, and save me so easily, and
yet I've got to go to ruin. It's like drowning with a life preserver in
my reach. All the hard luck comes to me, and all the good luck goes to
other people--Pudd'nhead Wilson, for instance; even his career has got a
sort of a little start at last, and what has he done to deserve it, I
should like to know? Yes, he has opened his own road, but he isn't
content with that, but must block mine. It's a sordid, selfish world, and
I wish I was out of it." He allowed the light of the candle to play upon
the jewels of the sheath, but the flashings and sparklings had no charm
for his eye; they were only just so many pangs to his heart. "I must not
say anything to Roxy about this thing," he said. "She is too daring. She
would be for digging these stones out and selling them, and then--why,
she would be arrested and the stones traced, and then--" The thought made
him quake, and he hid the knife away, trembling all over and glancing
furtively about, like a criminal who fancies that the accuser is already
Should he try to sleep? Oh, no, sleep was not for him; his trouble was
too haunting, too afflicting for that. He must have somebody to mourn
with. He would carry his despair to Roxy.
He had heard several distant gunshots, but that sort of thing was not
uncommon, and they had made no impression upon him. He went out at the
back door, and turned westward. He passed Wilson's house and proceeded
along the lane, and presently saw several figures approaching Wilson's
place through the vacant lots. These were the duelists returning from the
fight; he thought he recognized them, but as he had no desire for white
people's company, he stooped down behind the fence until they were out of
Roxy was feeling fine. She said:
"Whah was you, child? Warn't you in it?"
"In de duel."
"Duel? Has there been a duel?"
"Co'se dey has. De ole Jedge has be'n havin' a duel wid one o' dem
"Great Scott!" Then he added to himself: "That's what made him remake
the will; he thought he might get killed, and it softened him toward me.
And that's what he and Howard were so busy about. . . . Oh dear, if the
twin had only killed him, I should be out of my--"
"What is you mumblin' 'bout, Chambers? Whah was you? Didn't you know dey
was gwine to be a duel?"
"No, I didn't. The old man tried to get me to fight one with Count
Luigi, but he didn't succeed, so I reckon he concluded to patch up the
family honor himself."
He laughed at the idea, and went rambling on with a detailed account of
his talk with the judge, and how shocked and ashamed the judge was to
find that he had a coward in his family. He glanced up at last, and got
a shock himself. Roxana's bosom was heaving with suppressed passion, and
she was glowering down upon him with measureless contempt written in her
"En you refuse' to fight a man dat kicked you, 'stid o' jumpin' at de
chance! En you ain't got no mo' feelin' den to come en tell me, dat
fetched sich a po' lowdown ornery rabbit into de worl'! Pah! it make me
sick! It's de nigger in you, dat's what it is. Thirty-one parts o' you
is white, en on'y one part nigger, en dat po' little one part is yo'
_soul_. 'Tain't wuth savin'; 'tain't wuth totin' out on a shovel en
throwin' en de gutter. You has disgraced yo' birth. What would yo' pa
think o' you? It's enough to make him turn in his grave."
The last three sentences stung Tom into a fury, and he said to himself
that if his father were only alive and in reach of assassination his
mother would soon find that he had a very clear notion of the size of his
indebtedness to that man, and was willing to pay it up in full, and would
do it too, even at risk of his life; but he kept this thought to himself;
that was safest in his mother's present state.
"Whatever has come o' yo' Essex blood? Dat's what I can't understan'.
En it ain't on'y jist Essex blood dat's in you, not by a long
sight--'deed it ain't! My great-great-great-gran'father en yo'
great-great-great-great-gran'father was Ole Cap'n John Smith, de highest
blood dat Ole Virginny ever turned out, en _his_ great-great-gran'mother,
or somers along back dah, was Pocahontas de Injun queen, en her husbun'
was a nigger king outen Africa--en yit here you is, a slinkin' outen a
duel en disgracin' our whole line like a ornery lowdown hound! Yes, it's
de nigger in you!"
She sat down on her candle box and fell into a reverie. Tom did not
disturb her; he sometimes lacked prudence, but it was not in
circumstances of this kind, Roxana's storm went gradually down, but it
died hard, and even when it seemed to be quite gone, it would now and
then break out in a distant rumble, so to speak, in the form of muttered
ejaculations. One of these was, "Ain't nigger enough in him to show in
his fingernails, en dat takes mighty little--yit dey's enough to pain
Presently she muttered. "Yassir, enough to paint a whole thimbleful of
'em." At last her ramblings ceased altogether, and her countenance began
to clear--a welcome sight to Tom, who had learned her moods, and knew she
was on the threshold of good humor now. He noticed that from time to time
she unconsciously carried her finger to the end of her nose. He looked
closer and said:
"Why, Mammy, the end of your nose is skinned. How did that come?"
She sent out the sort of wholehearted peal of laughter which God had
vouchsafed in its perfection to none but the happy angels in heaven and
the bruised and broken black slave on the earth, and said:
"Dad fetch dat duel, I be'n in it myself."
"Gracious! did a bullet do that?"
"Yassir, you bet it did!"
"Well, I declare! Why, how did that happen?"
"Happened dis-away. I 'uz a-sett'n' here kinder dozin' in de dark, en
_che-bang!_ goes a gun, right out dah. I skips along out towards t'other
end o' de house to see what's gwine on, en stops by de ole winder on de
side towards Pudd'nhead Wilson's house dat ain't got no sash in it--but
dey ain't none of 'em got any sashes, for as dat's concerned--en I stood
dah in de dark en look out, en dar in the moonlight, right down under me
'uz one o' de twins a-cussin'--not much, but jist a-cussin' soft--it 'uz
de brown one dat 'uz cussin,' 'ca'se he 'uz hit in de shoulder. En
Doctor Claypool he 'uz a-workin' at him, en Pudd'nhead Wilson he 'uz
a-he'pin', en ole Jedge Driscoll en Pem Howard 'uz a-standin' out yonder
a little piece waitin' for 'em to get ready agin. En treckly dey squared
off en give de word, en _bang-bang_ went de pistols, en de twin he say,
'Ouch!'--hit him on de han' dis time--en I hear dat same bullet go
_spat!_ ag'in de logs under de winder; en de nex' time dey shoot, de twin
say, 'Ouch!' ag'in, en I done it too, 'ca'se de bullet glance' on his
cheekbone en skip up here en glance' on de side o' de winder en whiz
right acrost my face en tuck de hide off'n my nose--why, if I'd 'a'
be'n jist a inch or a inch en a half furder 't would 'a' tuck de whole
nose en disfiggered me. Here's de bullet; I hunted her up."
"Did you stand there all the time?"
"Dat's a question to ask, ain't it! What else would I do? Does I git a
chance to see a duel every day?"
"Why, you were right in range! Weren't you afraid?"
The woman gave a sniff of scorn.
"'Fraid! De Smith-Pocahontases ain't 'fraid o' nothin', let alone
"They've got pluck enough, I suppose; what they lack is judgment. _I_
wouldn't have stood there."
"Nobody's accusin' you!"
"Did anybody else get hurt?"
"Yes, we all got hit 'cep' de blon' twin en de doctor en de seconds. De
Jedge didn't git hurt, but I hear Pudd'nhead say de bullet snip some o'
his ha'r off."
"'George!" said Tom to himself, "to come so near being out of my trouble,
and miss it by an inch. Oh dear, dear, he will live to find me out and
sell me to some nigger trader yet--yes, and he would do it in a minute."
Then he said aloud, in a grave tone:
"Mother, we are in an awful fix."
Roxana caught her breath with a spasm, and said:
"Chile! What you hit a body so sudden for, like dat? What's be'n en gone
"Well, there's one thing I didn't tell you. When I wouldn't fight, he
tore up the will again, and--"
Roxana's face turned a dead white, and she said:
"Now you's _done!_--done forever! Dat's de end. Bofe un us is gwine to
"Wait and hear me through, can't you! I reckon that when he resolved to
fight, himself, he thought he might get killed and not have a chance to
forgive me any more in this life, so he made the will again, and I've
seen it, and it's all right. But--"
"Oh, thank goodness, den we's safe ag'in!--safe! en so what did you want
to come here en talk sich dreadful--"
"Hold ON, I tell you, and let me finish. The swag I gathered won't half
square me up, and the first thing we know, my creditors--well, you know
Roxana dropped her chin, and told her son to leave her alone--she must
think this matter out. Presently she said impressively:
"You got to go mighty keerful now, I tell you! En here's what you got to
do. He didn't git killed, en if you gives him de least reason, he'll
bust de will ag'in, en dat's de _las'_ time, now you hear me! So--you's
got to show him what you kin do in de nex' few days. You got to be pison
good, en let him see it; you got to do everything dat'll make him b'lieve
in you, en you got to sweeten aroun' ole Aunt Pratt, too--she's pow'ful
strong with de Jedge, en de bes' frien' you got. Nex', you'll go 'long
away to Sent Louis, en dat'll _keep_ him in yo' favor. Den you go en make
a bargain wid dem people. You tell 'em he ain't gwine to live long--en
dat's de fac', too--en tell 'em you'll pay 'em intrust, en big intrust,
too--ten per--what you call it?"
"Ten percent a month?"
"Dat's it. Den you take and sell yo' truck aroun', a little at a time,
en pay de intrust. How long will it las'?"
"I think there's enough to pay the interest five or six months." "Den
you's all right. If he don't die in six months, dat don't make no
diff'rence--Providence'll provide. You's gwine to be safe--if you
behaves." She bent an austere eye on him and added, "En you IS gwine to
behave--does you know dat?"
He laughed and said he was going to try, anyway. She did not unbend. She
"Tryin' ain't de thing. You's gwine to _do_ it. You ain't gwine to
steal a pin--'ca'se it ain't safe no mo'; en you ain't gwine into no bad
comp'ny--not even once, you understand; en you ain't gwine to drink a
drop--nary a single drop; en you ain't gwine to gamble one single
gamble--not one! Dis ain't what you's gwine to try to do, it's what
you's gwine to DO. En I'll tell you how I knows it. Dis is how. I's
gwine to foller along to Sent Louis my own self; en you's gwine to come
to me every day o' your life, en I'll look you over; en if you fails in
one single one o' dem things--jist _one_--I take my oath I'll come
straight down to dis town en tell de Jedge you's a nigger en a slave--en
_prove_ it!" She paused to let her words sink home. Then she added,
"Chambers, does you b'lieve me when I says dat?"
Tom was sober enough now. There was no levity in his voice when he
"Yes, Mother, I know, now, that I am reformed--and permanently.
Permanently--and beyond the reach of any human temptation."
"Den g'long home en begin!"
CHAPTER 15 -- The Robber Robbed
_Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits._
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
_Behold, the fool saith, "Put not all thine eggs in the one
basket"--which is but a manner of saying, "Scatter your
money and your attention"; but the wise man saith, "Put all
your eggs in the one basket and--WATCH THAT BASKET!"_
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
What a time of it Dawson's Landing was having! All its life it had been
asleep, but now it hardly got a chance for a nod, so swiftly did big
events and crashing surprises come along in one another's wake: Friday
morning, first glimpse of Real Nobility, also grand reception at Aunt
Patsy Cooper's, also great robber raid; Friday evening, dramatic kicking
of the heir of the chief citizen in presence of four hundred people;
Saturday morning, emergence as practicing lawyer of the long-submerged
Pudd'nhead Wilson; Saturday night, duel between chief citizen and titled
The people took more pride in the duel than in all the other events put
together, perhaps. It was a glory to their town to have such a thing
happen there. In their eyes the principals had reached the summit of
human honor. Everybody paid homage to their names; their praises were in
all mouths. Even the duelists' subordinates came in for a handsome share
of the public approbation: wherefore Pudd'nhead Wilson was suddenly
become a man of consequence. When asked to run for the mayoralty Saturday
night, he was risking defeat, but Sunday morning found him a made man and
his success assured.
The twins were prodigiously great now; the town took them to its bosom
with enthusiasm. Day after day, and night after night, they went dining
and visiting from house to house, making friends, enlarging and
solidifying their popularity, and charming and surprising all with their
musical prodigies, and now and then heightening the effects with samples
of what they could do in other directions, out of their stock of rare and
curious accomplishments. They were so pleased that they gave the
regulation thirty days' notice, the required preparation for citizenship,
and resolved to finish their days in this pleasant place. That was the
climax. The delighted community rose as one man and applauded; and when
the twins were asked to stand for seats in the forthcoming aldermanic
board, and consented, the public contentment was rounded and complete.
Tom Driscoll was not happy over these things; they sunk deep, and hurt
all the way down. He hated the one twin for kicking him, and the other
one for being the kicker's brother.
Now and then the people wondered why nothing was heard of the raider, or
of the stolen knife or the other plunder, but nobody was able to throw
any light on that matter. Nearly a week had drifted by, and still the
thing remained a vexed mystery.
On Sunday Constable Blake and Pudd'nhead Wilson met on the street, and
Tom Driscoll joined them in time to open their conversation for them. He
said to Blake: "You are not looking well, Blake; you seem to be annoyed
about something. Has anything gone wrong in the detective business? I
believe you fairly and justifiably claim to have a pretty good reputation
in that line, isn't it so?"--which made Blake feel good, and look it;
but Tom added, "for a country detective"--which made Blake feel the other
way, and not only look it, but betray it in his voice.
"Yes, sir, I _have_ got a reputation; and it's as good as anybody's in
the profession, too, country or no country."
"Oh, I beg pardon; I didn't mean any offense. What I started out to ask
was only about the old woman that raided the town--the stoop-shouldered
old woman, you know, that you said you were going to catch; and I knew
you would, too, because you have the reputation of never boasting,
and--well, you--you've caught the old woman?"
"Damn the old woman!"
"Why, sho! you don't mean to say you haven't caught her?"
"No, I haven't caught her. If anybody could have caught her, I could;
but nobody couldn't, I don't care who he is."
"I am sorry, real sorry--for your sake; because, when it gets around that
a detective has expressed himself confidently, and then--"
"Don't you worry, that's all--don't you worry; and as for the town, the
town needn't worry either. She's my meat--make yourself easy about that.
I'm on her track; I've got clues that--"
"That's good! Now if you could get an old veteran detective down from
St. Louis to help you find out what the clues mean, and where they lead
to, and then--"
"I'm plenty veteran enough myself, and I don't need anybody's help. I'll
have her inside of a we--inside of a month. That I'll swear to!"
Tom said carelessly:
"I suppose that will answer--yes, that will answer. But I reckon she is
pretty old, and old people don't often outlive the cautious pace of the
professional detective when he has got his clues together and is out on
Blake's dull face flushed under this gibe, but before he could set his
retort in order Tom had turned to Wilson, and was saying, with placid
indifference of manner and voice:
"Who got the reward, Pudd'nhead?"
Wilson winced slightly, and saw that his own turn was come.
"Why, the reward for the thief, and the other one for the knife."
Wilson answered--and rather uncomfortably, to judge by his hesitating
fashion of delivering himself:
"Well, the--well, in face, nobody has claimed it yet."
Tom seemed surprised.
"Why, is that so?"
Wilson showed a trifle of irritation when he replied:
"Yes, it's so. And what of it?"
"Oh, nothing. Only I thought you had struck out a new idea, and invented
a scheme that was going to revolutionize the timeworn and ineffectual
methods of the--" He stopped, and turned to Blake, who was happy now
that another had taken his place on the gridiron. "Blake, didn't you
understand him to intimate that it wouldn't be necessary for you to hunt
the old woman down?"
"'B'George, he said he'd have thief and swag both inside of three days
--he did, by hokey! and that's just about a week ago. Why, I said at the
time that no thief and no thief's pal was going to try to pawn or sell a
thing where he knowed the pawnbroker could get both rewards by taking HIM
into camp _with_ the swag. It was the blessedest idea that ever I
"You'd change your mind," said Wilson, with irritated bluntness, "if you
knew the entire scheme instead of only part of it."
"Well," said the constable, pensively, "I had the idea that it wouldn't
work, and up to now I'm right anyway."
"Very well, then, let it stand at that, and give it a further show. It
has worked at least as well as your own methods, you perceive."
The constable hadn't anything handy to hit back with, so he discharged a
discontented sniff, and said nothing.
After the night that Wilson had partly revealed his scheme at his house,
Tom had tried for several days to guess out the secret of the rest of it,
but had failed. Then it occurred to him to give Roxana's smarter head a
chance at it. He made up a supposititious case, and laid it before
her. She thought it over, and delivered her verdict upon it. Tom said
to himself, "She's hit it, sure!" He thought he would test that verdict
now, and watch Wilson's face; so he said reflectively:
"Wilson, you're not a fool--a fact of recent discovery. Whatever your
scheme was, it had sense in it, Blake's opinion to the contrary
notwithstanding. I don't ask you to reveal it, but I will suppose a
case--a case which you will answer as a starting point for the real thing
I am going to come at, and that's all I want. You offered five hundred
dollars for the knife, and five hundred for the thief. We will suppose,
for argument's sake, that the first reward is _advertised_ and the second
offered by _private letter_ to pawnbrokers and--"
Blake slapped his thigh, and cried out:
"By Jackson, he's got you, Pudd'nhead! Now why couldn't I or _any_ fool
have thought of that?"
Wilson said to himself, "Anybody with a reasonably good head would have
thought of it. I am not surprised that Blake didn't detect it; I am only
surprised that Tom did. There is more to him than I supposed." He said
nothing aloud, and Tom went on:
"Very well. The thief would not suspect that there was a trap, and he
would bring or send the knife, and say he bought it for a song, or found
it in the road, or something like that, and try to collect the reward,
and be arrested--wouldn't he?"
"Yes," said Wilson.
"I think so," said Tom. "There can't be any doubt of it. Have you ever
seen that knife?"
"Has any friend of yours?"
"Not that I know of."
"Well, I begin to think I understand why your scheme failed."
"What do you mean, Tom? What are you driving at?" asked Wilson, with a
dawning sense of discomfort.
"Why, that there _isn't_ any such knife."
"Look here, Wilson," said Blake, "Tom Driscoll's right, for a thousand
dollars--if I had it."
Wilson's blood warmed a little, and he wondered if he had been played
upon by those strangers; it certainly had something of that look. But
what could they gain by it? He threw out that suggestion. Tom replied:
"Gain? Oh, nothing that you would value, maybe. But they are strangers
making their way in a new community. Is it nothing to them to appear as
pets of an Oriental prince--at no expense? Is it nothing to them to be
able to dazzle this poor town with thousand-dollar rewards--at no
expense? Wilson, there isn't any such knife, or your scheme would have
fetched it to light. Or if there is any such knife, they've got it yet.
I believe, myself, that they've seen such a knife, for Angelo pictured it
out with his pencil too swiftly and handily for him to have been
inventing it, and of course I can't swear that they've never had it; but
this I'll go bail for--if they had it when they came to this town,
they've got it yet."
"It looks mighty reasonable, the way Tom puts it; it most certainly
Tom responded, turning to leave:
"You find the old woman, Blake, and if she can't furnish the knife, go
and search the twins!"
Tom sauntered away. Wilson felt a good deal depressed. He hardly knew
what to think. He was loath to withdraw his faith from the twins, and
was resolved not to do it on the present indecisive evidence; but--well,
he would think, and then decide how to act.
"Blake, what do you think of this matter?"
"Well, Pudd'nhead, I'm bound to say I put it up the way Tom does. They
hadn't the knife; or if they had it, they've got it yet."
The men parted. Wilson said to himself:
"I believe they had it; if it had been stolen, the scheme would have
restored it, that is certain. And so I believe they've got it."
Tom had no purpose in his mind when he encountered those two men. When he
began his talk he hoped to be able to gall them a little and get a trifle
of malicious entertainment out of it. But when he left, he left in great
spirits, for he perceived that just by pure luck and no troublesome labor
he had accomplished several delightful things: he had touched both men
on a raw spot and seen them squirm; he had modified Wilson's sweetness
for the twins with one small bitter taste that he wouldn't be able to get
out of his mouth right away; and, best of all, he had taken the hated
twins down a peg with the community; for Blake would gossip around
freely, after the manner of detectives, and within a week the town would
be laughing at them in its sleeve for offering a gaudy reward for a
bauble which they either never possessed or hadn't lost. Tom was very
well satisfied with himself.
Tom's behavior at home had been perfect during the entire week. His uncle
and aunt had seen nothing like it before. They could find no fault with
Saturday evening he said to the Judge:
"I've had something preying on my mind, uncle, and as I am going away,
and might never see you again, I can't bear it any longer. I made you
believe I was afraid to fight that Italian adventurer. I had to get out
of it on some pretext or other, and maybe I chose badly, being taken
unawares, but no honorable person could consent to meet him in the field,
knowing what I knew about him."
"Indeed? What was that?"
"Count Luigi is a confessed assassin."
"It's perfectly true. Wilson detected it in his hand, by palmistry, and
charged him with it, and cornered him up so close that he had to confess;
but both twins begged us on their knees to keep the secret, and swore
they would lead straight lives here; and it was all so pitiful that we
gave our word of honor never to expose them while they kept the promise.
You would have done it yourself, uncle."
"You are right, my boy; I would. A man's secret is still his own
property, and sacred, when it has been surprised out of him like that.
You did well, and I am proud of you." Then he added mournfully, "But I
wish I could have been saved the shame of meeting an assassin on the
field of honor."
"It couldn't be helped, uncle. If I had known you were going to
challenge him, I should have felt obliged to sacrifice my pledged word in
order to stop it, but Wilson couldn't be expected to do otherwise than
"Oh, no, Wilson did right, and is in no way to blame. Tom, Tom, you have
lifted a heavy load from my heart; I was stung to the very soul when I
seemed to have discovered that I had a coward in my family."
"You may imagine what it cost ME to assume such a part, uncle."
"Oh, I know it, poor boy, I know it. And I can understand how much it
has cost you to remain under that unjust stigma to this time. But it is
all right now, and no harm is done. You have restored my comfort of
mind, and with it your own; and both of us had suffered enough."
The old man sat awhile plunged in thought; then he looked up with a
satisfied light in his eye, and said: "That this assassin should have
put the affront upon me of letting me meet him on the field of honor as
if he were a gentleman is a matter which I will presently settle--but not
now. I will not shoot him until after election. I see a way to ruin them
both before; I will attend to that first. Neither of them shall be
elected, that I promise. You are sure that the fact that he is an
assassin has not got abroad?"
"Perfectly certain of it, sir."
"It will be a good card. I will fling a hint at it from the stump on the
polling day. It will sweep the ground from under both of them."
"There's not a doubt of it. It will finish them."
"That and outside work among the voters will, to a certainty. I want you
to come down here by and by and work privately among the rag-tag and
bobtail. You shall spend money among them; I will furnish it."
Another point scored against the detested twins! Really it was a great
day for Tom. He was encouraged to chance a parting shot, now, at the
same target, and did it.
"You know that wonderful Indian knife that the twins have been making
such a to-do about? Well, there's no track or trace of it yet; so the
town is beginning to sneer and gossip and laugh. Half the people believe
they never had any such knife, the other half believe they had it and
have got it still. I've heard twenty people talking like that today."
Yes, Tom's blemishless week had restored him to the favor of his aunt and
His mother was satisfied with him, too. Privately, she believed she was
coming to love him, but she did not say so. She told him to go along to
St. Louis now, and she would get ready and follow. Then she smashed her
whisky bottle and said:
"Dah now! I's a-gwine to make you walk as straight as a string,
Chambers, en so I's bown, you ain't gwine to git no bad example out o'
yo' mammy. I tole you you couldn't go into no bad comp'ny. Well, you's
gwine into my comp'ny, en I's gwine to fill de bill. Now, den, trot
along, trot along!"
Tom went aboard one of the big transient boats that night with his heavy
satchel of miscellaneous plunder, and slept the sleep of the unjust,
which is serener and sounder than the other kind, as we know by the
hanging-eve history of a million rascals. But when he got up in the
morning, luck was against him again: a brother thief had robbed him while
he slept, and gone ashore at some intermediate landing.
CHAPTER 16 -- Sold Down the River
_If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he
will not bite you. This is the principal difference between
a dog and a man._ --Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
_We all know about the habits of the ant, we know all about
the habits of the bee, but we know nothing at all about the
habits of the oyster. It seems almost certain that we have
been choosing the wrong time for studying the oyster._
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
When Roxana arrived, she found her son in such despair and misery that
her heart was touched and her motherhood rose up strong in her. He was
ruined past hope now; his destruction would be immediate and sure, and he
would be an outcast and friendless. That was reason enough for a mother
to love a child; so she loved him, and told him so. It made him wince,
secretly--for she was a "nigger." That he was one himself was far from
reconciling him to that despised race.
Roxana poured out endearments upon him, to which he responded
uncomfortably, but as well as he could. And she tried to comfort him, but
that was not possible. These intimacies quickly became horrible to him,
and within the hour he began to try to get up courage enough to tell her
so, and require that they be discontinued or very considerably modified.
But he was afraid of her; and besides, there came a lull now, for she had
begun to think. She was trying to invent a saving plan. Finally she
started up, and said she had found a way out. Tom was almost suffocated
by the joy of this sudden good news. Roxana said:
"Here is de plan, en she'll win, sure. I's a nigger, en nobody ain't
gwine to doubt it dat hears me talk. I's wuth six hund'd dollahs. Take
en sell me, en pay off dese gamblers."
Tom was dazed. He was not sure he had heard aright. He was dumb for a
moment; then he said:
"Do you mean that you would be sold into slavery to save me?"
"Ain't you my chile? En does you know anything dat a mother won't do for
her chile? Day ain't nothin' a white mother won't do for her chile. Who
made 'em so? De Lord done it. En who made de niggers? De Lord made 'em.
In de inside, mothers is all de same. De good lord he made 'em so. I's
gwine to be sole into slavery, en in a year you's gwine to buy yo' ole
mammy free ag'in. I'll show you how. Dat's de plan."
Tom's hopes began to rise, and his spirits along with them. He said:
"It's lovely of you, Mammy--it's just--"
"Say it ag'in! En keep on sayin' it! It's all de pay a body kin want in
dis worl', en it's mo' den enough. Laws bless you, honey, when I's slav'
aroun', en dey 'buses me, if I knows you's a-sayin' dat, 'way off yonder
somers, it'll heal up all de sore places, en I kin stan' 'em."
"I DO say it again, Mammy, and I'll keep on saying it, too. But how am I
going to sell you? You're free, you know."
"Much diff'rence dat make! White folks ain't partic'lar. De law kin sell
me now if dey tell me to leave de state in six months en I don't go. You
draw up a paper--bill o' sale--en put it 'way off yonder, down in de
middle o' Kaintuck somers, en sign some names to it, en say you'll sell
me cheap 'ca'se you's hard up; you'll find you ain't gwine to have no
trouble. You take me up de country a piece, en sell me on a farm; dem
people ain't gwine to ask no questions if I's a bargain."
Tom forged a bill of sale and sold his mother to an Arkansas cotton
planter for a trifle over six hundred dollars. He did not want to commit
this treachery, but luck threw the man in his way, and this saved him the
necessity of going up-country to hunt up a purchaser, with the added risk
of having to answer a lot of questions, whereas this planter was so
pleased with Roxy that he asked next to none at all. Besides, the
planter insisted that Roxy wouldn't know where she was, at first, and
that by the time she found out she would already have been contented.
So Tom argued with himself that it was an immense advantaged for Roxy to
have a master who was pleased with her, as this planter manifestly was.
In almost no time his flowing reasonings carried him to the point of even
half believing he was doing Roxy a splendid surreptitious service in
selling her "down the river." And then he kept diligently saying to
himself all the time: "It's for only a year. In a year I buy her free
again; she'll keep that in mind, and it'll reconcile her." Yes; the
little deception could do no harm, and everything would come out right
and pleasant in the end, anyway. By agreement, the conversation in
Roxy's presence was all about the man's "up-country" farm, and how
pleasant a place it was, and how happy the slaves were there; so poor
Roxy was entirely deceived; and easily, for she was not dreaming that her
own son could be guilty of treason to a mother who, in voluntarily going
into slavery--slavery of any kind, mild or severe, or of any duration,
brief or long--was making a sacrifice for him compared with which death
would have been a poor and commonplace one. She lavished tears and
loving caresses upon him privately, and then went away with her owner
--went away brokenhearted, and yet proud to do it.
Tom scored his accounts, and resolved to keep to the very letter of his
reform, and never to put that will in jeopardy again. He had three
hundred dollars left. According to his mother's plan, he was to put that
safely away, and add her half of his pension to it monthly. In one year
this fund would buy her free again.
For a whole week he was not able to sleep well, so much the villainy
which he had played upon his trusting mother preyed upon his rag of
conscience; but after that he began to get comfortable again, and was
presently able to sleep like any other miscreant.
The boat bore Roxy away from St. Louis at four in the afternoon, and she
stood on the lower guard abaft the paddle box and watched Tom through a
blur of tears until he melted into the throng of people and disappeared;
then she looked no more, but sat there on a coil of cable crying till far
into the night. When she went to her foul steerage bunk at last, between
the clashing engines, it was not to sleep, but only to wait for the
morning, and, waiting, grieve.
It had been imagined that she "would not know," and would think she was
traveling upstream. She! Why, she had been steamboating for years. At
dawn she got up and went listlessly and sat down on the cable coil again.
She passed many a snag whose "break" could have told her a thing to break
her heart, for it showed a current moving in the same direction that the
boat was going; but her thoughts were elsewhere, and she did not notice.
But at last the roar of a bigger and nearer break than usual brought her
out of her torpor, and she looked up, and her practiced eye fell upon
that telltale rush of water. For one moment her petrified gaze fixed
itself there. Then her head dropped upon her breast, and she said:
"Oh, de good Lord God have mercy on po' sinful me--I'S SOLE DOWN DE
CHAPTER 17 -- The Judge Utters Dire Prophesy
_Even popularity can be overdone. In Rome, along at first,
you are full of regrets that Michelangelo died; but by and
by, you only regret that you didn't see him do it._
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
_JULY 4. Statistics show that we lose more fools on this day
than in all the other days of the year put together. This
proves, by the number left in stock, that one Fourth of July
per year is now inadequate, the country has grown so._
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
The summer weeks dragged by, and then the political campaign opened
--opened in pretty warm fashion, and waxed hotter and hotter daily. The
twins threw themselves into it with their whole heart, for their
self-love was engaged. Their popularity, so general at first, had
suffered afterward; mainly because they had been TOO popular, and so a
natural reaction had followed. Besides, it had been diligently whispered
around that it was curious--indeed, VERY curious--that that wonderful
knife of theirs did not turn up--IF it was so valuable, or IF it had ever
existed. And with the whisperings went chucklings and nudgings and winks,
and such things have an effect. The twins considered that success in the
election would reinstate them, and that defeat would work them
irreparable damage. Therefore they worked hard, but not harder than
Judge Driscoll and Tom worked against them in the closing days of the
canvass. Tom's conduct had remained so letter-perfect during two whole
months now, that his uncle not only trusted him with money with which to
persuade voters, but trusted him to go and get it himself out of the safe
in the private sitting room.
The closing speech of the campaign was made by Judge Driscoll, and he
made it against both of the foreigners. It was disastrously effective.
He poured out rivers of ridicule upon them, and forced the big mass
meeting to laugh and applaud. He scoffed at them as adventurers,
mountebanks, sideshow riffraff, dime museum freaks; he assailed their
showy titles with measureless derision; he said they were back-alley
barbers disguised as nobilities, peanut peddlers masquerading as
gentlemen, organ-grinders bereft of their brother monkey. At last he
stopped and stood still. He waited until the place had become absolutely
silent and expectant, then he delivered his deadliest shot; delivered it
with ice-cold seriousness and deliberation, with a significant emphasis
upon the closing words: he said he believed that the reward offered for
the lost knife was humbug and bunkum, and that its owner would know where
to find it whenever he should have occasion TO ASSASSINATE SOMEBODY.
Then he stepped from the stand, leaving a startled and impressive hush
behind him instead of the customary explosion of cheers and party cries.
The strange remark flew far and wide over the town and made an
extraordinary sensation. Everybody was asking, "What could he mean by
that?" And everybody went on asking that question, but in vain; for the
judge only said he knew what he was talking about, and stopped there; Tom
said he hadn't any idea what his uncle meant, and Wilson, whenever he was
asked what he thought it meant, parried the question by asking the
questioner what HE thought it meant.
Wilson was elected, the twins were defeated--crushed, in fact, and left
forlorn and substantially friendless. Tom went back to St. Louis happy.
Dawson's Landing had a week of repose now, and it needed it. But it was
in an expectant state, for the air was full of rumors of a new duel.
Judge Driscoll's election labors had prostrated him, but it was said that
as soon as he was well enough to entertain a challenge he would get one
from Count Luigi.
The brothers withdrew entirely from society, and nursed their humiliation
in privacy. They avoided the people, and went out for exercise only late
at night, when the streets were deserted.
CHAPTER 18 -- Roxana Commands
_Gratitude and treachery are merely the two extremities of
the same procession. You have seen all of it that is worth
staying for when the band and the gaudy officials have gone
by._ --Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
_THANKSGIVING DAY. Let us all give humble, hearty, and
sincere thanks now, but the turkeys. In the island of Fiji
they do not use turkeys; they use plumbers. It does not
become you and me to sneer at Fiji._ --Pudd'nhead Wilson's
The Friday after the election was a rainy one in St. Louis. It rained
all day long, and rained hard, apparently trying its best to wash that
soot-blackened town white, but of course not succeeding. Toward midnight
Tom Driscoll arrived at his lodgings from the theater in the heavy
downpour, and closed his umbrella and let himself in; but when he would
have shut the door, he found that there was another person
entering--doubtless another lodger; this person closed the door and
tramped upstairs behind Tom. Tom found his door in the dark, and entered
it, and turned up the gas. When he faced about, lightly whistling, he
saw the back of a man. The man was closing and locking his door from
him. His whistle faded out and he felt uneasy. The man turned around, a
wreck of shabby old clothes, sodden with rain and all a-drip, and showed
a black face under an old slouch hat. Tom was frightened. He tried to
order the man out, but the words refused to come, and the other man got
the start. He said, in a low voice:
"Keep still--I's yo' mother!"
Tom sunk in a heap on a chair, and gasped out:
"It was mean of me, and base--I know it; but I meant it for the best, I
did indeed--I can swear it."
Roxana stood awhile looking mutely down on him while he writhed in shame
and went on incoherently babbling self-accusations mixed with pitiful
attempts at explanation and palliation of his crime; then she seated
herself and took off her hat, and her unkept masses of long brown hair
tumbled down about her shoulders.
"It warn't no fault o' yo'n dat dat ain't gray," she said sadly, noticing
"I know it, I know it! I'm a scoundrel. But I swear I meant it for the
best. It was a mistake, of course, but I thought it was for the best, I
Roxana began to cry softly, and presently words began to find their way
out between her sobs. They were uttered lamentingly, rather than
"Sell a pusson down de river--DOWN DE RIVER!--for de bes'! I wouldn't
treat a dog so! I is all broke down en wore out now, en so I reckon
it ain't in me to storm aroun' no mo', like I used to when I 'uz trompled
on en 'bused. I don't know--but maybe it's so. Leastways, I's suffered
so much dat mournin' seem to come mo' handy to me now den stormin'."
These words should have touched Tom Driscoll, but if they did, that
effect was obliterated by a stronger one--one which removed the heavy
weight of fear which lay upon him, and gave his crushed spirit a most
grateful rebound, and filled all his small soul with a deep sense of
relief. But he kept prudently still, and ventured no comment. There was
a voiceless interval of some duration now, in which no sounds were heard
but the beating of the rain upon the panes, the sighing and complaining
of the winds, and now and then a muffled sob from Roxana. The sobs became
more and more infrequent, and at last ceased. Then the refugee began to
"Shet down dat light a little. More. More yit. A pusson dat is hunted
don't like de light. Dah--dat'll do. I kin see whah you is, en dat's
enough. I's gwine to tell you de tale, en cut it jes as short as I kin,
en den I'll tell you what you's got to do. Dat man dat bought me ain't a
bad man; he's good enough, as planters goes; en if he could 'a' had his
way I'd 'a' be'n a house servant in his fambly en be'n comfortable: but
his wife she was a Yank, en not right down good lookin', en she riz up
agin me straight off; so den dey sent me out to de quarter 'mongst de
common fiel' han's. Dat woman warn't satisfied even wid dat, but she
worked up de overseer ag'in' me, she 'uz dat jealous en hateful; so de
overseer he had me out befo' day in de mawnin's en worked me de whole
long day as long as dey'uz any light to see by; en many's de lashin's I
got 'ca'se I couldn't come up to de work o' de stronges'. Dat overseer
wuz a Yank too, outen New Englan', en anybody down South kin tell you
what dat mean. DEY knows how to work a nigger to death, en dey knows how
to whale 'em too--whale 'em till dey backs is welted like a washboard.
'Long at fust my marster say de good word for me to de overseer, but dat
'uz bad for me; for de mistis she fine it out, en arter dat I jist
ketched it at every turn--dey warn't no mercy for me no mo'."
Tom's heart was fired--with fury against the planter's wife; and he said
to himself, "But for that meddlesome fool, everything would have gone all
right." He added a deep and bitter curse against her.
The expression of this sentiment was fiercely written in his face, and
stood thus revealed to Roxana by a white glare of lightning which turned
the somber dusk of the room into dazzling day at that moment. She was
pleased--pleased and grateful; for did not that expression show that her
child was capable of grieving for his mother's wrongs and of feeling
resentment toward her persecutors?--a thing which she had been doubting.
But her flash of happiness was only a flash, and went out again and left
her spirit dark; for she said to herself, "He sole me down de river--he
can't feel for a body long; dis'll pass en go." Then she took up her tale
"'Bout ten days ago I 'uz sayin' to myself dat I couldn't las' many mo'
weeks I 'uz so wore out wid de awful work en de lashin's, en so
downhearted en misable. En I didn't care no mo', nuther--life warn't
wuth noth'n' to me, if I got to go on like dat. Well, when a body is in
a frame o' mine like dat, what do a body care what a body do? Dey was a
little sickly nigger wench 'bout ten year ole dat 'uz good to me, en
hadn't no mammy, po' thing, en I loved her en she loved me; en she come
out whah I 'uz workin' en she had a roasted tater, en tried to slip it to
me--robbin' herself, you see, 'ca'se she knowed de overseer didn't give
me enough to eat--en he ketched her at it, en giver her a lick acrost de
back wid his stick, which 'uz as thick as a broom handle, en she drop'
screamin' on de groun', en squirmin' en wallerin' aroun' in de dust like
a spider dat's got crippled. I couldn't stan' it. All de hellfire dat
'uz ever in my heart flame' up, en I snatch de stick outen his han' en
laid him flat. He laid dah moanin' en cussin', en all out of his head,
you know, en de niggers 'uz plumb sk'yred to death. Dey gathered roun'
him to he'p him, en I jumped on his hoss en took out for de river as
tight as I could go. I knowed what dey would do wid me. Soon as he got
well he would start in en work me to death if marster let him; en if dey
didn't do dat, they'd sell me furder down de river, en dat's de same
thing, so I 'lowed to drown myself en git out o' my troubles. It 'uz
gitt'n' towards dark. I 'uz at de river in two minutes. Den I see a
canoe, en I says dey ain't no use to drown myself tell I got to; so I
ties de hoss in de edge o' de timber en shove out down de river, keepin'
in under de shelter o' de bluff bank en prayin' for de dark to shet down
quick. I had a pow'ful good start, 'ca'se de big house 'uz three mile
back f'om de river en on'y de work mules to ride dah on, en on'y niggers
ride 'em, en DEY warn't gwine to hurry--dey'd gimme all de chance dey
could. Befo' a body could go to de house en back it would be long pas'
dark, en dey couldn't track de hoss en fine out which way I went tell
mawnin', en de niggers would tell 'em all de lies dey could 'bout it.
"Well, de dark come, en I went on a-spinnin' down de river. I paddled
mo'n two hours, den I warn't worried no mo', so I quit paddlin' en
floated down de current, considerin' what I 'uz gwine to do if I didn't
have to drown myself. I made up some plans, en floated along, turnin'
'em over in my mine. Well, when it 'uz a little pas' midnight, as I
reckoned, en I had come fifteen or twenty mile, I see de lights o' a
steamboat layin' at de bank, whah dey warn't no town en no woodyard, en
putty soon I ketched de shape o' de chimbly tops ag'in' de stars, en den
good gracious me, I 'most jumped out o' my skin for joy! It 'uz de GRAN'
MOGUL--I 'uz chambermaid on her for eight seasons in de Cincinnati en
Orleans trade. I slid 'long pas'--don't see nobody stirrin' nowhah--hear
'em a-hammerin' away in de engine room, den I knowed what de matter
was--some o' de machinery's broke. I got asho' below de boat and turn'
de canoe loose, den I goes 'long up, en dey 'uz jes one plank out, en I
step' 'board de boat. It 'uz pow'ful hot, deckhan's en roustabouts 'uz
sprawled aroun' asleep on de fo'cas'l', de second mate, Jim Bangs, he sot
dah on de bitts wid his head down, asleep--'ca'se dat's de way de second
mate stan' de cap'n's watch!--en de ole watchman, Billy Hatch, he 'uz
a-noddin' on de companionway;--en I knowed 'em all; en, lan', but dey did
look good! I says to myself, I wished old marster'd come along NOW en
try to take me--bless yo' heart, I's 'mong frien's, I is. So I tromped
right along 'mongst 'em, en went up on de b'iler deck en 'way back aft to
de ladies' cabin guard, en sot down dah in de same cheer dat I'd sot in
'mos' a hund'd million times, I reckon; en it 'uz jist home ag'in, I tell
"In 'bout an hour I heard de ready bell jingle, en den de racket begin.
Putty soon I hear de gong strike. 'Set her back on de outside,' I says
to myself. 'I reckon I knows dat music!' I hear de gong ag'in. 'Come
ahead on de inside,' I says. Gong ag'in. 'Stop de outside.' gong ag'in.
'Come ahead on de outside--now we's pinted for Sent Louis, en I's outer
de woods en ain't got to drown myself at all.' I knowed de MOGUL 'uz in
de Sent Louis trade now, you see. It 'uz jes fair daylight when we
passed our plantation, en I seed a gang o' niggers en white folks huntin'
up en down de sho', en troublin' deyselves a good deal 'bout me; but I
warn't troublin' myself none 'bout dem.
"'Bout dat time Sally Jackson, dat used to be my second chambermaid en
'uz head chambermaid now, she come out on de guard, en 'uz pow'ful glad
to see me, en so 'uz all de officers; en I tole 'em I'd got kidnapped en
sole down de river, en dey made me up twenty dollahs en give it to me, en
Sally she rigged me out wid good clo'es, en when I got here I went
straight to whah you used to wuz, en den I come to dis house, en dey say
you's away but 'spected back every day; so I didn't dast to go down de
river to Dawson's, 'ca'se I might miss you.
"Well, las' Monday I 'uz pass'n by one o' dem places in fourth street
whah deh sticks up runaway nigger bills, en he'ps to ketch 'em, en I seed
my marster! I 'mos' flopped down on de groun', I felt so gone. He had
his back to me, en 'uz talkin' to de man en givin' him some bills--nigger
bills, I reckon, en I's de nigger. He's offerin' a reward--dat's it.
Ain't I right, don't you reckon?"
Tom had been gradually sinking into a state of ghastly terror, and he
said to himself, now: "I'm lost, no matter what turn things take! This
man has said to me that he thinks there was something suspicious about
that sale; he said he had a letter from a passenger on the GRAND MOGUL
saying that Roxy came here on that boat and that everybody on board knew
all about the case; so he says that her coming here instead of flying to
a free state looks bad for me, and that if I don't find her for him, and
that pretty soon, he will make trouble for me. I never believed that
story; I couldn't believe she would be so dead to all motherly instincts
as to come here, knowing the risk she would run of getting me into
irremediable trouble. And after all, here she is! And I stupidly swore
I would help find her, thinking it was a perfectly safe thing to promise.
If I venture to deliver her up, she--she--but how can I help myself?
I've got to do that or pay the money, and where's the money to come from?
I--I--well, I should think that if he would swear to treat her kindly
hereafter--and she says, herself, that he is a good man--and if he would
swear to never allow her to be overworked, or ill fed, or--"
A flash of lightning exposed Tom's pallid face, drawn and rigid with
these worrying thoughts. Roxana spoke up sharply now, and there was
apprehension in her voice.
"Turn up dat light! I want to see yo' face better. Dah now--lemme look
at you. Chambers, you's as white as yo' shirt! Has you see dat man? Has
he be'n to see you?"
"Monday noon! Was he on my track?"
"He--well, he thought he was. That is, he hoped he was. This is the bill
you saw." He took it out of his pocket.
"Read it to me!"
She was panting with excitement, and there was a dusky glow in her eyes
that Tom could not translate with certainty, but there seemed to be
something threatening about it. The handbill had the usual rude woodcut
of a turbaned Negro woman running, with the customary bundle on a stick
over her shoulder, and the heading in bold type, "$100 REWARD." Tom read
the bill aloud--at least the part that described Roxana and named the
master and his St. Louis address and the address of the Fourth street
agency; but he left out the item that applicants for the reward might
also apply to Mr. Thomas Driscoll.
"Gimme de bill!"
Tom had folded it and was putting it in his pocket. He felt a chilly
streak creeping down his back, but said as carelessly as he could:
"The bill? Why, it isn't any use to you, you can't read it. What do you
want with it?"
"Gimme de bill!" Tom gave it to her, but with a reluctance which he
could not entirely disguise. "Did you read it ALL to me?"
"Certainly I did."
"Hole up yo' han' en swah to it."
Tom did it. Roxana put the bill carefully away in her pocket, with her
eyes fixed upon Tom's face all the while; then she said:
"What would I want to lie about it for?"
"I don't know--but you is. Dat's my opinion, anyways. But nemmine 'bout
dat. When I seed dat man I 'uz dat sk'yerd dat I could sca'cely wobble
home. Den I give a nigger man a dollar for dese clo'es, en I ain't be'in
in a house sence, night ner day, till now. I blacked my face en laid hid
in de cellar of a ole house dat's burnt down, daytimes, en robbed de
sugar hogsheads en grain sacks on de wharf, nights, to git somethin' to
eat, en never dast to try to buy noth'n', en I's 'mos' starved. En I
never dast to come near dis place till dis rainy night, when dey ain't no
people roun' sca'cely. But tonight I be'n a-stanin' in de dark alley
ever sence night come, waitin' for you to go by. En here I is."
She fell to thinking. Presently she said:
"You seed dat man at noon, las' Monday?"
"I seed him de middle o' dat arternoon. He hunted you up, didn't he?"
"Did he give you de bill dat time?"
"No, he hadn't got it printed yet."
Roxana darted a suspicious glance at him.
"Did you he'p him fix up de bill?"
Tom cursed himself for making that stupid blunder, and tried to rectify
it by saying he remembered now that it WAS at noon Monday that the man
gave him the bill. Roxana said:
"You's lyin' ag'in, sho." Then she straightened up and raised her
"Now den! I's gwine to ask you a question, en I wants to know how you's
gwine to git aroun' it. You knowed he 'uz arter me; en if you run off,
'stid o' stayin' here to he'p him, he'd know dey 'uz somethin' wrong
'bout dis business, en den he would inquire 'bout you, en dat would take
him to yo' uncle, en yo' uncle would read de bill en see dat you be'n
sellin' a free nigger down de river, en you know HIM, I reckon! He'd
t'ar up de will en kick you outen de house. Now, den, you answer me dis
question: hain't you tole dat man dat I would be sho' to come here, en
den you would fix it so he could set a trap en ketch me?"
Tom recognized that neither lies nor arguments could help him any
longer--he was in a vise, with the screw turned on, and out of it there
was no budging. His face began to take on an ugly look, and presently he
said, with a snarl:
"Well, what could I do? You see, yourself, that I was in his grip and
couldn't get out."
Roxy scorched him with a scornful gaze awhile, then she said:
"What could you do? You could be Judas to yo' own mother to save yo'
wuthless hide! Would anybody b'lieve it? No--a dog couldn't! You is de
lowdownest orneriest hound dat was ever pup'd into dis worl'--en I's
'sponsible for it!"--and she spat on him.
He made no effort to resent this. Roxy reflected a moment, then she
"Now I'll tell you what you's gwine to do. You's gwine to give dat man
de money dat you's got laid up, en make him wait till you kin go to de
judge en git de res' en buy me free agin."
"Thunder! What are you thinking of? Go and ask him for three hundred
dollars and odd? What would I tell him I want it for, pray?"
Roxy's answer was delivered in a serene and level voice.
"You'll tell him you's sole me to pay yo' gamblin' debts en dat you lied
to me en was a villain, en dat I 'quires you to git dat money en buy me
"Why, you've gone stark mad! He would tear the will to shreds in a
minute--don't you know that?"
"Yes, I does."
"Then you don't believe I'm idiot enough to go to him, do you?"
"I don't b'lieve nothin' 'bout it--I KNOWS you's a-goin'. I knows it
'ca'se you knows dat if you don't raise dat money I'll go to him myself,
en den he'll sell YOU down de river, en you kin see how you like it!"
Tom rose, trembling and excited, and there was an evil light in his eye.
He strode to the door and said he must get out of this suffocating place
for a moment and clear his brain in the fresh air so that he could
determine what to do. The door wouldn't open. Roxy smiled grimly, and
"I's got the key, honey--set down. You needn't cle'r up yo' brain none
to fine out what you gwine to do--_I_ knows what you's gwine to do." Tom
sat down and began to pass his hands through his hair with a helpless and
desperate air. Roxy said, "Is dat man in dis house?"
Tom glanced up with a surprised expression, and asked:
"What gave you such an idea?"
"You done it. Gwine out to cle'r yo' brain! In de fust place you ain't
got none to cle'r, en in de second place yo' ornery eye tole on you.
You's de lowdownest hound dat ever--but I done told you dat befo'. Now
den, dis is Friday. You kin fix it up wid dat man, en tell him you's
gwine away to git de res' o' de money, en dat you'll be back wid it nex'
Tuesday, or maybe Wednesday. You understan'?"
Tom answered sullenly: "Yes."
"En when you gits de new bill o' sale dat sells me to my own self, take
en send it in de mail to Mr. Pudd'nhead Wilson, en write on de back dat
he's to keep it tell I come. You understan'?"
"Dat's all den. Take yo' umbreller, en put on yo' hat."
"Beca'se you's gwine to see me home to de wharf. You see dis knife? I's
toted it aroun' sence de day I seed dat man en bought dese clo'es en it.
If he ketch me, I's gwine to kill myself wid it. Now start along, en go
sof', en lead de way; en if you gives a sign in dis house, or if anybody
comes up to you in de street, I's gwine to jam it right into you.
Chambers, does you b'lieve me when I says dat?"
"It's no use to bother me with that question. I know your word's good."
"Yes, it's diff'rent from yo'n! Shet de light out en move along--here's
They were not followed. Tom trembled every time a late straggler brushed
by them on the street, and half expected to feel the cold steel in his
back. Roxy was right at his heels and always in reach. After tramping a
mile they reached a wide vacancy on the deserted wharves, and in this
dark and rainy desert they parted.
As Tom trudged home his mind was full of dreary thoughts and wild plans;
but at last he said to himself, wearily:
"There is but the one way out. I must follow her plan. But with a
variation--I will not ask for the money and ruin myself; I will ROB the
CHAPTER 19 -- The Prophesy Realized
_Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of
a good example._ --Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
_It were not best that we should all think alike; it is
difference of opinion that makes horse races._ --Pudd'nhead
Dawson's Landing was comfortably finishing its season of dull repose and
waiting patiently for the duel. Count Luigi was waiting, too; but not
patiently, rumor said. Sunday came, and Luigi insisted on having his
challenge conveyed. Wilson carried it. Judge Driscoll declined to fight
with an assassin--"that is," he added significantly, "in the field of
Elsewhere, of course, he would be ready. Wilson tried to convince him
that if he had been present himself when Angelo told him about the
homicide committed by Luigi, he would not have considered the act
discreditable to Luigi; but the obstinate old man was not to be moved.
Wilson went back to his principal and reported the failure of his
mission. Luigi was incensed, and asked how it could be that the old
gentleman, who was by no means dull-witted, held his trifling nephew's
evidence in inferences to be of more value than Wilson's. But Wilson
laughed, and said:
"That is quite simple; that is easily explicable. I am not his doll--his
baby--his infatuation: his nature is. The judge and his late wife never
had any children. The judge and his wife were past middle age when this
treasure fell into their lap. One must make allowances for a parental
instinct that has been starving for twenty-five or thirty years. It is
famished, it is crazed with hunger by that time, and will be entirely
satisfied with anything that comes handy; its taste is atrophied, it
can't tell mud cat from shad. A devil born to a young couple is
measurably recognizable by them as a devil before long, but a devil
adopted by an old couple is an angel to them, and remains so, through
thick and thin. Tom is this old man's angel; he is infatuated with him.
Tom can persuade him into things which other people can't--not all
things; I don't mean that, but a good many--particularly one class of
things: the things that create or abolish personal partialities or
prejudices in the old man's mind. The old man liked both of you. Tom
conceived a hatred for you. That was enough; it turned the old man
around at once. The oldest and strongest friendship must go to the ground
when one of these late-adopted darlings throws a brick at it."
"It's a curious philosophy," said Luigi.
"It ain't philosophy at all--it's a fact. And there is something
pathetic and beautiful about it, too. I think there is nothing more
pathetic than to see one of these poor old childless couples taking a
menagerie of yelping little worthless dogs to their hearts; and then
adding some cursing and squawking parrots and a jackass-voiced macaw; and
next a couple of hundred screeching songbirds, and presently some fetid
guinea pigs and rabbits, and a howling colony of cats. It is all a
groping and ignorant effort to construct out of base metal and brass
filings, so to speak, something to take the place of that golden treasure
denied them by Nature, a child. But this is a digression. The unwritten
law of this region requires you to kill Judge Driscoll on sight, and he
and the community will expect that attention at your hands--though of
course your own death by his bullet will answer every purpose. Look out
for him! Are you healed--that is, fixed?"
"Yes, he shall have his opportunity. If he attacks me, I will respond."
As Wilson was leaving, he said:
"The judge is still a little used up by his campaign work, and will not
get out for a day or so; but when he does get out, you want to be on the
About eleven at night the twins went out for exercise, and started on a
long stroll in the veiled moonlight.
Tom Driscoll had landed at Hackett's Store, two miles below Dawson's,
just about half an hour earlier, the only passenger for that lonely spot,
and had walked up the shore road and entered Judge Driscoll's house
without having encountered anyone either on the road or under the roof.
He pulled down his window blinds and lighted his candle. He laid off his
coat and hat and began his preparations. He unlocked his trunk and got
his suit of girl's clothes out from under the male attire in it, and laid
it by. Then he blacked his face with burnt cork and put the cork in his
pocket. His plan was to slip down to his uncle's private sitting room
below, pass into the bedroom, steal the safe key from the old gentleman's
clothes, and then go back and rob the safe. He took up his candle to
start. His courage and confidence were high, up to this point, but both
began to waver a little now. Suppose he should make a noise, by some
accident, and get caught--say, in the act of opening the safe? Perhaps
it would be well to go armed. He took the Indian knife from its hiding
place, and felt a pleasant return of his wandering courage. He slipped
stealthily down the narrow stair, his hair rising and his pulses halting
at the slightest creak. When he was halfway down, he was disturbed to
perceive that the landing below was touched by a faint glow of light.
What could that mean? Was his uncle still up? No, that was not likely;
he must have left his night taper there when he went to bed. Tom crept
on down, pausing at every step to listen. He found the door standing
open, and glanced in. What he saw pleased him beyond measure. His uncle
was asleep on the sofa; on a small table at the head of the sofa a lamp
was burning low, and by it stood the old man's small cashbox, closed.
Near the box was a pile of bank notes and a piece of paper covered with
figures in pencil. The safe door was not open. Evidently the sleeper had
wearied himself with work upon his finances, and was taking a rest.
Tom set his candle on the stairs, and began to make his way toward the
pile of notes, stooping low as he went. When he was passing his uncle,
the old man stirred in his sleep, and Tom stopped instantly--stopped, and
softly drew the knife from its sheath, with his heart thumping, and his
eyes fastened upon his benefactor's face. After a moment or two he
ventured forward again--one step--reached for his prize and seized it,
dropping the knife sheath. Then he felt the old man's strong grip upon
him, and a wild cry of "Help! help!" rang in his ear. Without hesitation
he drove the knife home--and was free. Some of the notes escaped from his
left hand and fell in the blood on the floor. He dropped the knife and
snatched them up and started to fly; transferred them to his left hand,
and seized the knife again, in his fright and confusion, but remembered
himself and flung it from him, as being a dangerous witness to carry away
He jumped for the stair-foot, and closed the door behind him; and as he
snatched his candle and fled upward, the stillness of the night was
broken by the sound of urgent footsteps approaching the house. In another
moment he was in his room, and the twins were standing aghast over the
body of the murdered man!
Tom put on his coat, buttoned his hat under it, threw on his suit of
girl's clothes, dropped the veil, blew out his light, locked the room
door by which he had just entered, taking the key, passed through his
other door into the black hall, locked that door and kept the key, then
worked his way along in the dark and descended the black stairs. He was
not expecting to meet anybody, for all interest was centered in the other
part of the house now; his calculation proved correct. By the time he
was passing through the backyard, Mrs. Pratt, her servants, and a dozen
half-dressed neighbors had joined the twins and the dead, and accessions
were still arriving at the front door.
As Tom, quaking as with a palsy, passed out at the gate, three women came
flying from the house on the opposite side of the lane. They rushed by
him and in at the gate, asking him what the trouble was there, but not
waiting for an answer. Tom said to himself, "Those old maids waited to
dress--they did the same thing the night Stevens's house burned down next
door." In a few minutes he was in the haunted house. He lighted a candle
and took off his girl-clothes. There was blood on him all down his left
side, and his right hand was red with the stains of the blood-soaked
notes which he has crushed in it; but otherwise he was free from this
sort of evidence. He cleansed his hand on the straw, and cleaned most of
the smut from his face. Then he burned the male and female attire to
ashes, scattered the ashes, and put on a disguise proper for a tramp. He
blew out his light, went below, and was soon loafing down the river road
with the intent to borrow and use one of Roxy's devices. He found a
canoe and paddled down downstream, setting the canoe adrift as dawn
approached, and making his way by land to the next village, where he kept
out of sight till a transient steamer came along, and then took deck
passage for St. Louis. He was ill at ease until Dawson's Landing was behind
him; then he said to himself, "All the detectives on earth couldn't trace
me now; there's not a vestige of a clue left in the world; that homicide
will take its place with the permanent mysteries, and people won't get
done trying to guess out the secret of it for fifty years."
In St. Louis, next morning, he read this brief telegram in the
papers--dated at Dawson's Landing:
Judge Driscoll, an old and respected citizen, was assassinated
here about midnight by a profligate Italian nobleman or a
barber on account of a quarrel growing out of the recent
election. The assassin will probably be lynched.
"One of the twins!" soliloquized Tom. "How lucky! It is the knife that
has done him this grace. We never know when fortune is trying to favor
us. I actually cursed Pudd'nhead Wilson in my heart for putting it out
of my power to sell that knife. I take it back now."
Tom was now rich and independent. He arranged with the planter, and
mailed to Wilson the new bill of sale which sold Roxana to herself; then
he telegraphed his Aunt Pratt:
Have seen the awful news in the papers and am almost
prostrated with grief. Shall start by packet today. Try to
bear up till I come.
When Wilson reached the house of mourning and had gathered such details
as Mrs. Pratt and the rest of the crowd could tell him, he took command
as mayor, and gave orders that nothing should be touched, but everything
left as it was until Justice Robinson should arrive and take the proper
measures as coroner. He cleared everybody out of the room but the twins
and himself. The sheriff soon arrived and took the twins away to jail.
Wilson told them to keep heart, and promised to do his best in their
defense when the case should come to trial. Justice Robinson came
presently, and with him Constable Blake. They examined the room
thoroughly. They found the knife and the sheath. Wilson noticed that
there were fingerprints on the knife's handle. That pleased him, for the
twins had required the earliest comers to make a scrutiny of their hands
and clothes, and neither these people nor Wilson himself had found any
bloodstains upon them. Could there be a possibility that the twins had
spoken the truth when they had said they found the man dead when they ran
into the house in answer to the cry for help? He thought of that
mysterious girl at once. But this was not the sort of work for a girl to
be engaged in. No matter; Tom Driscoll's room must be examined.
After the coroner's jury had viewed the body and its surroundings, Wilson
suggested a search upstairs, and he went along. The jury forced an
entrance to Tom's room, but found nothing, of course.
The coroner's jury found that the homicide was committed by Luigi, and
that Angelo was accessory to it.
The town was bitter against the misfortunates, and for the first few days
after the murder they were in constant danger of being lynched. The
grand jury presently indicted Luigi for murder in the first degree, and
Angelo as accessory before the fact. The twins were transferred from the
city jail to the county prison to await trial.
Wilson examined the finger marks on the knife handle and said to himself,
"Neither of the twins made those marks. Then manifestly there was
another person concerned, either in his own interest or as hired
But who could it be? That, he must try to find out. The safe was not
opened, the cashbox was closed, and had three thousand dollars in it.
Then robbery was not the motive, and revenge was. Where had the murdered
man an enemy except Luigi? There was but that one person in the world
with a deep grudge against him.
The mysterious girl! The girl was a great trial to Wilson. If the motive
had been robbery, the girl might answer; but there wasn't any girl that
would want to take this old man's life for revenge. He had no quarrels
with girls; he was a gentleman.
Wilson had perfect tracings of the finger marks of the knife handle; and
among his glass records he had a great array of fingerprints of women and
girls, collected during the last fifteen or eighteen years, but he
scanned them in vain, they successfully withstood every test; among them
were no duplicates of the prints on the knife.
The presence of the knife on the stage of the murder was a worrying
circumstance for Wilson. A week previously he had as good as admitted to
himself that he believed Luigi had possessed such a knife, and that he
still possessed it notwithstanding his pretense that it had been stolen.
And now here was the knife, and with it the twins. Half the town had
said the twins were humbugging when they claimed they had lost their
knife, and now these people were joyful, and said, "I told you so!"
If their fingerprints had been on the handle--but useless to bother any
further about that; the fingerprints on the handle were NOT theirs--that
he knew perfectly.
Wilson refused to suspect Tom; for first, Tom couldn't murder anybody--he
hadn't character enough; secondly, if he could murder a person he
wouldn't select his doting benefactor and nearest relative; thirdly,
self-interest was in the way; for while the uncle lived, Tom was sure of
a free support and a chance to get the destroyed will revived again, but
with the uncle gone, that chance was gone too. It was true the will had
really been revived, as was now discovered, but Tom could not have been
aware of it, or he would have spoken of it, in his native talky,
unsecretive way. Finally, Tom was in St. Louis when the murder was done,
and got the news out of the morning journals, as was shown by his
telegram to his aunt. These speculations were unemphasized sensations
rather than articulated thoughts, for Wilson would have laughed at the
idea of seriously connecting Tom with the murder.
Wilson regarded the case of the twins as desperate--in fact, about
hopeless. For he argued that if a confederate was not found, an
enlightened Missouri jury would hang them; sure; if a confederate was
found, that would not improve the matter, but simply furnish one more
person for the sheriff to hang. Nothing could save the twins but the
discovery of a person who did the murder on his sole personal account--an
undertaking which had all the aspect of the impossible. Still, the
person who made the fingerprints must be sought. The twins might have no
case WITH them, but they certainly would have none without him.
So Wilson mooned around, thinking, thinking, guessing, guessing, day and
night, and arriving nowhere. Whenever he ran across a girl or a woman he
was not acquainted with, he got her fingerprints, on one pretext or
another; and they always cost him a sigh when he got home, for they never
tallied with the finger marks on the knife handle.
As to the mysterious girl, Tom swore he knew no such girl, and did not
remember ever seeing a girl wearing a dress like the one described by
Wilson. He admitted that he did not always lock his room, and that
sometimes the servants forgot to lock the house doors; still, in his
opinion the girl must have made but few visits or she would have been
discovered. When Wilson tried to connect her with the stealing raid, and
thought she might have been the old woman's confederate, if not the very
thief disguised as an old woman, Tom seemed stuck, and also much
interested, and said he would keep a sharp eye out for this person or
persons, although he was afraid that she or they would be too smart to
venture again into a town where everybody would now be on the watch for a
good while to come.
Everybody was pitying Tom, he looked so quiet and sorrowful, and seemed
to feel his great loss so deeply. He was playing a part, but it was not
all a part. The picture of his alleged uncle, as he had last seen him,
was before him in the dark pretty frequently, when he was away, and
called again in his dreams, when he was asleep. He wouldn't go into the
room where the tragedy had happened. This charmed the doting Mrs. Pratt,
who realized now, "as she had never done before," she said, what a
sensitive and delicate nature her darling had, and how he adored his poor
CHAPTER 20 -- The Murderer Chuckles
_Even the clearest and most perfect circumstantial evidence
is likely to be at fault, after all, and therefore ought to
be received with great caution. Take the case of any pencil,
sharpened by any woman; if you have witnesses, you will find
she did it with a knife; but if you take simply the aspect
of the pencil, you will say she did it with her teeth._
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
The weeks dragged along, no friend visiting the jailed twins but their
counsel and Aunt Patsy Cooper, and the day of trial came at last--the
heaviest day in Wilson's life; for with all his tireless diligence he had
discovered no sign or trace of the missing confederate. "Confederate"
was the term he had long ago privately accepted for that person--not as
being unquestionably the right term, but as being the least possibly the
right one, though he was never able to understand why the twins did not
vanish and escape, as the confederate had done, instead of remaining by
the murdered man and getting caught there.
The courthouse was crowded, of course, and would remain so to the finish,
for not only in the town itself, but in the country for miles around, the
trial was the one topic of conversation among the people. Mrs. Pratt, in
deep mourning, and Tom with a weed on his hat, had seats near Pembroke
Howard, the public prosecutor, and back of them sat a great array of
friends of the family. The twins had but one friend present to keep
their counsel in countenance, their poor old sorrowing landlady. She sat
near Wilson, and looked her friendliest. In the "nigger corner" sat
Chambers; also Roxy, with good clothes on, and her bill of sale in her
pocket. It was her most precious possession, and she never parted with
it, day or night. Tom had allowed her thirty-five dollars a month ever
since he came into his property, and had said that he and she ought to be
grateful to the twins for making them rich; but had roused such a temper
in her by this speech that he did not repeat the argument afterward. She
said the old judge had treated her child a thousand times better than he
deserved, and had never done her an unkindness in his life; so she hated
these outlandish devils for killing him, and shouldn't ever sleep
satisfied till she saw them hanged for it. She was here to watch the
trial now, and was going to lift up just one "hooraw" over it if the
county judge put her in jail a year for it. She gave her turbaned head a
toss and said, "When dat verdic' comes, I's gwine to lif' dat ROOF, now,
I TELL you."
Pembroke Howard briefly sketched the state's case. He said he would show
by a chain of circumstantial evidence without break or fault in it
anywhere, that the principal prisoner at the bar committed the murder;
that the motive was partly revenge, and partly a desire to take his own
life out of jeopardy, and that his brother, by his presence, was a
consenting accessory to the crime; a crime which was the basest known to
the calendar of human misdeeds--assassination; that it was conceived by
the blackest of hearts and consummated by the cowardliest of hands; a
crime which had broken a loving sister's heart, blighted the happiness of
a young nephew who was as dear as a son, brought inconsolable grief to
many friends, and sorrow and loss to the whole community. The utmost
penalty of the outraged law would be exacted, and upon the accused, now
present at the bar, that penalty would unquestionably be executed. He
would reserve further remark until his closing speech.
He was strongly moved, and so also was the whole house; Mrs. Pratt and
several other women were weeping when he sat down, and many an eye that
was full of hate was riveted upon the unhappy prisoners.
Witness after witness was called by the state, and questioned at length;
but the cross questioning was brief. Wilson knew they could furnish
nothing valuable for his side. People were sorry for Pudd'nhead Wilson;
his budding career would get hurt by this trial.
Several witnesses swore they heard Judge Driscoll say in his public
speech that the twins would be able to find their lost knife again when
they needed it to assassinate somebody with. This was not news, but now
it was seen to have been sorrowfully prophetic, and a profound sensation
quivered through the hushed courtroom when those dismal words were
The public prosecutor rose and said that it was within his knowledge,
through a conversation held with Judge Driscoll on the last day of his
life, that counsel for the defense had brought him a challenge from the
person charged at the bar with murder; that he had refused to fight with
a confessed assassin--"that is, on the field of honor," but had added
significantly, that he would be ready for him elsewhere. Presumably
the person here charged with murder was warned that he must kill or be
killed the first time he should meet Judge Driscoll. If counsel for the
defense chose to let the statement stand so, he would not call him to the
witness stand. Mr. Wilson said he would offer no denial. [Murmurs in the
house: "It is getting worse and worse for Wilson's case."]
Mrs. Pratt testified that she heard no outcry, and did not know what woke
her up, unless it was the sound of rapid footsteps approaching the front
door. She jumped up and ran out in the hall just as she was, and heard
the footsteps flying up the front steps and then following behind her as
she ran to the sitting room. There she found the accused standing over
her murdered brother. [Here she broke down and sobbed. Sensation in the
court.] Resuming, she said the persons entered behind her were Mr. Rogers
and Mr. Buckstone.
Cross-examined by Wilson, she said the twins proclaimed their innocence;
declared that they had been taking a walk, and had hurried to the house
in response to a cry for help which was so loud and strong that they had
heard it at a considerable distance; that they begged her and the
gentlemen just mentioned to examine their hands and clothes--which was
done, and no blood stains found.
Confirmatory evidence followed from Rogers and Buckstone.
The finding of the knife was verified, the advertisement minutely
describing it and offering a reward for it was put in evidence, and its
exact correspondence with that description proved. Then followed a few
minor details, and the case for the state was closed.
Wilson said that he had three witnesses, the Misses Clarkson, who would
testify that they met a veiled young woman leaving Judge Driscoll's
premises by the back gate a few minutes after the cries for help were
heard, and that their evidence, taken with certain circumstantial
evidence which he would call the court's attention to, would in his
opinion convince the court that there was still one person concerned in
this crime who had not yet been found, and also that a stay of
proceedings ought to be granted, in justice to his clients, until that
person should be discovered. As it was late, he would ask leave to defer
the examination of his three witnesses until the next morning.
The crowd poured out of the place and went flocking away in excited
groups and couples, taking the events of the session over with vivacity
and consuming interest, and everybody seemed to have had a satisfactory
and enjoyable day except the accused, their counsel, and their old lady
friend. There was no cheer among these, and no substantial hope.
In parting with the twins Aunt Patsy did attempt a good-night with a gay
pretense of hope and cheer in it, but broke down without finishing.
Absolutely secure as Tom considered himself to be, the opening
solemnities of the trial had nevertheless oppressed him with a vague
uneasiness, his being a nature sensitive to even the smallest alarms; but
from the moment that the poverty and weakness of Wilson's case lay
exposed to the court, he was comfortable once more, even jubilant. He
left the courtroom sarcastically sorry for Wilson. "The Clarksons met an
unknown woman in the back lane," he said to himself, "THAT is his case!
I'll give him a century to find her in--a couple of them if he likes. A
woman who doesn't exist any longer, and the clothes that gave her her sex
burnt up and the ashes thrown away--oh, certainly, he'll find HER easy
enough!" This reflection set him to admiring, for the hundredth time,
the shrewd ingenuities by which he had insured himself against
detection--more, against even suspicion.
"Nearly always in cases like this there is some little detail or other
overlooked, some wee little track or trace left behind, and detection
follows; but here there's not even the faintest suggestion of a trace
left. No more than a bird leaves when it flies through the air--yes,
through the night, you may say. The man that can track a bird through the
air in the dark and find that bird is the man to track me out and find
the judge's assassin--no other need apply. And that is the job that has
been laid out for poor Pudd'nhead Wilson, of all people in the world!
Lord, it will be pathetically funny to see him grubbing and groping after
that woman that don't exist, and the right person sitting under his very
nose all the time!" The more he thought the situation over, the more the
humor of it struck him. Finally he said, "I'll never let him hear the
last of that woman. Every time I catch him in company, to his dying day,
I'll ask him in the guileless affectionate way that used to gravel him so
when I inquired how his unborn law business was coming along, 'Got on her
track yet--hey, Pudd'nhead?'" He wanted to laugh, but that would not
have answered; there were people about, and he was mourning for his
uncle. He made up his mind that it would be good entertainment to look
in on Wilson that night and watch him worry over his barren law case and
goad him with an exasperating word or two of sympathy and commiseration
now and then.
Wilson wanted no supper, he had no appetite. He got out all the
fingerprints of girls and women in his collection of records and pored
gloomily over them an hour or more, trying to convince himself that that
troublesome girl's marks were there somewhere and had been overlooked.
But it was not so. He drew back his chair, clasped his hands over his
head, and gave himself up to dull and arid musings.
Tom Driscoll dropped in, an hour after dark, and said with a pleasant
laugh as he took a seat:
"Hello, we've gone back to the amusements of our days of neglect and
obscurity for consolation, have we?" and he took up one of the glass
strips and held it against the light to inspect it. "Come, cheer up, old
man; there's no use in losing your grip and going back to this child's
play merely because this big sunspot is drifting across your shiny new
disk. It'll pass, and you'll be all right again"--and he laid the glass
down. "Did you think you could win always?"
"Oh, no," said Wilson, with a sigh, "I didn't expect that, but I can't
believe Luigi killed your uncle, and I feel very sorry for him. It makes
me blue. And you would feel as I do, Tom, if you were not prejudiced
against those young fellows."
"I don't know about that," and Tom's countenance darkened, for his memory
reverted to his kicking. "I owe them no good will, considering the
brunet one's treatment of me that night. Prejudice or no prejudice,
Pudd'nhead, I don't like them, and when they get their deserts you're not
going to find me sitting on the mourner's bench."
He took up another strip of glass, and exclaimed:
"Why, here's old Roxy's label! Are you going to ornament the royal
palaces with nigger paw marks, too? By the date here, I was seven months
old when this was done, and she was nursing me and her little nigger cub.
There's a line straight across her thumbprint. How comes that?" and Tom
held out the piece of glass to Wilson.
"That is common," said the bored man, wearily. "Scar of a cut or a
scratch, usually"--and he took the strip of glass indifferently, and
raised it toward the lamp.
All the blood sank suddenly out of his face; his hand quaked, and he
gazed at the polished surface before him with the glassy stare of a
"Great heavens, what's the matter with you, Wilson? Are you going to
Tom sprang for a glass of water and offered it, but Wilson shrank
shuddering from him and said:
"No, no!--take it away!" His breast was rising and falling, and he moved
his head about in a dull and wandering way, like a person who had been
stunned. Presently he said, "I shall feel better when I get to bed; I
have been overwrought today; yes, and overworked for many days."
"Then I'll leave you and let you get to your rest. Good night, old man."
But as Tom went out he couldn't deny himself a small parting gibe:
"Don't take it so hard; a body can't win every time; you'll hang somebody
Wilson muttered to himself, "It is no lie to say I am sorry I have to
begin with you, miserable dog though you are!"
He braced himself up with a glass of cold whisky, and went to work again.
He did not compare the new finger marks unintentionally left by Tom a few
minutes before on Roxy's glass with the tracings of the marks left on the
knife handle, there being no need for that (for his trained eye), but
busied himself with another matter, muttering from time to time, "Idiot
that I was!--Nothing but a GIRL would do me--a man in girl's clothes
never occurred to me." First, he hunted out the plate containing the
fingerprints made by Tom when he was twelve years old, and laid it by
itself; then he brought forth the marks made by Tom's baby fingers when
he was a suckling of seven months, and placed these two plates with the
one containing this subject's newly (and unconsciously) made record.
"Now the series is complete," he said with satisfaction, and sat down to
inspect these things and enjoy them.
But his enjoyment was brief. He stared a considerable time at the three
strips, and seemed stupefied with astonishment. At last he put them down
and said, "I can't make it out at all--hang it, the baby's don't tally
with the others!"
He walked the floor for half an hour puzzling over his enigma, then he
hunted out the other glass plates.
He sat down and puzzled over these things a good while, but kept
muttering, "It's no use; I can't understand it. They don't tally right,
and yet I'll swear the names and dates are right, and so of course they
OUGHT to tally. I never labeled one of these thing carelessly in my
life. There is a most extraordinary mystery here."
He was tired out now, and his brains were beginning to clog. He said he
would sleep himself fresh, and then see what he could do with this
riddle. He slept through a troubled and unrestful hour, then
unconsciousness began to shred away, and presently he rose drowsily to a
sitting posture. "Now what was that dream?" he said, trying to recall
it. "What was that dream? It seemed to unravel that puz--"
He landed in the middle of the floor at a bound, without finishing the
sentence, and ran and turned up his light and seized his "records." He
took a single swift glance at them and cried out:
"It's so! Heavens, what a revelation! And for twenty-three years no man
has ever suspected it!"
CHAPTER 21 -- Doom
_He is useless on top of the ground; he ought to be under
it, inspiring the cabbages._ --Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
_APRIL 1. This is the day upon which we are reminded of what
we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four._
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
Wilson put on enough clothes for business purposes and went to work
under a high pressure of steam. He was awake all over. All sense of
weariness had been swept away by the invigorating refreshment of the
great and hopeful discovery which he had made. He made fine and accurate
reproductions of a number of his "records," and then enlarged them on a
scale of ten to one with his pantograph. He did these pantograph
enlargements on sheets of white cardboard, and made each individual line
of the bewildering maze of whorls or curves or loops which consisted of
the "pattern" of a "record" stand out bold and black by reinforcing it
with ink. To the untrained eye the collection of delicate originals made
by the human finger on the glass plates looked about alike; but when
enlarged ten times they resembled the markings of a block of wood that
has been sawed across the grain, and the dullest eye could detect at a
glance, and at a distance of many feet, that no two of the patterns were
alike. When Wilson had at last finished his tedious and difficult work,
he arranged his results according to a plan in which a progressive order
and sequence was a principal feature; then he added to the batch several
pantograph enlargements which he had made from time to time in bygone
The night was spent and the day well advanced now. By the time he had
snatched a trifle of breakfast, it was nine o'clock, and the court was
ready to begin its sitting. He was in his place twelve minutes later
with his "records."
Tom Driscoll caught a slight glimpse of the records, and nudged his
nearest friend and said, with a wink, "Pudd'nhead's got a rare eye to
business--thinks that as long as he can't win his case it's at least a
noble good chance to advertise his window palace decorations without any
expense." Wilson was informed that his witnesses had been delayed, but
would arrive presently; but he rose and said he should probably not have
occasion to make use of their testimony. [An amused murmur ran through
the room: "It's a clean backdown! he gives up without hitting a lick!"]
Wilson continued: "I have other testimony--and better. [This compelled
interest, and evoked murmurs of surprise that had a detectable ingredient
of disappointment in them.] If I seem to be springing this evidence upon
the court, I offer as my justification for this, that I did not discover
its existence until late last night, and have been engaged in examining
and classifying it ever since, until half an hour ago. I shall offer it
presently; but first I wish to say a few preliminary words.
"May it please the court, the claim given the front place, the claim most
persistently urged, the claim most strenuously and I may even say
aggressively and defiantly insisted upon by the prosecution is this--that
the person whose hand left the bloodstained fingerprints upon the handle
of the Indian knife is the person who committed the murder." Wilson
paused, during several moments, to give impressiveness to what he was
about to say, and then added tranquilly, "WE GRANT THAT CLAIM."
It was an electrical surprise. No one was prepared for such an
admission. A buzz of astonishment rose on all sides, and people were
heard to intimate that the overworked lawyer had lost his mind. Even the
veteran judge, accustomed as he was to legal ambushes and masked
batteries in criminal procedure, was not sure that his ears were not
deceiving him, and asked counsel what it was he had said. Howard's
impassive face betrayed no sign, but his attitude and bearing lost
something of their careless confidence for a moment. Wilson resumed:
"We not only grant that claim, but we welcome it and strongly endorse it.
Leaving that matter for the present, we will now proceed to consider
other points in the case which we propose to establish by evidence, and
shall include that one in the chain in its proper place."
He had made up his mind to try a few hardy guesses, in mapping out his
theory of the origin and motive of the murder--guesses designed to fill
up gaps in it--guesses which could help if they hit, and would probably
do no harm if they didn't.
"To my mind, certain circumstances of the case before the court seem to
suggest a motive for the homicide quite different from the one insisted
on by the state. It is my conviction that the motive was not revenge,
but robbery. It has been urged that the presence of the accused brothers
in that fatal room, just after notification that one of them must take
the life of Judge Driscoll or lose his own the moment the parties should
meet, clearly signifies that the natural instinct of self-preservation
moved my clients to go there secretly and save Count Luigi by destroying
"Then why did they stay there, after the deed was done? Mrs. Pratt had
time, although she did not hear the cry for help, but woke up some
moments later, to run to that room--and there she found these men
standing and making no effort to escape. If they were guilty, they ought
to have been running out of the house at the same time that she was
running to that room. If they had had such a strong instinct toward
self-preservation as to move them to kill that unarmed man, what had
become of it now, when it should have been more alert than ever. Would
any of us have remained there? Let us not slander our intelligence to
"Much stress has been laid upon the fact that the accused offered a very
large reward for the knife with which this murder was done; that no thief
came forward to claim that extraordinary reward; that the latter fact was
good circumstantial evidence that the claim that the knife had been
stolen was a vanity and a fraud; that these details taken in connection
with the memorable and apparently prophetic speech of the deceased
concerning that knife, and the final discovery of that very knife in
the fatal room where no living person was found present with the
slaughtered man but the owner of the knife and his brother, form an
indestructible chain of evidence which fixed the crime upon those
"But I shall presently ask to be sworn, and shall testify that there was
a large reward offered for the THIEF, also; and it was offered secretly
and not advertised; that this fact was indiscreetly mentioned--or at
least tacitly admitted--in what was supposed to be safe circumstances,
but may NOT have been. The thief may have been present himself. [Tom
Driscoll had been looking at the speaker, but dropped his eyes at this
point.] In that case he would retain the knife in his possession, not
daring to offer it for sale, or for pledge in a pawnshop. [There was a
nodding of heads among the audience by way of admission that this was not
a bad stroke.] I shall prove to the satisfaction of the jury that there
WAS a person in Judge Driscoll's room several minutes before the accused
entered it. [This produced a strong sensation; the last drowsy head in
the courtroom roused up now, and made preparation to listen.] If it
shall seem necessary, I will prove by the Misses Clarkson that they met a
veiled person--ostensibly a woman--coming out of the back gate a few
minutes after the cry for help was heard. This person was not a woman,
but a man dressed in woman's clothes." Another sensation. Wilson had his
eye on Tom when he hazarded this guess, to see what effect it would
produce. He was satisfied with the result, and said to himself, "It was
a success--he's hit!"
"The object of that person in that house was robbery, not murder. It is
true that the safe was not open, but there was an ordinary cashbox on the
table, with three thousand dollars in it. It is easily supposable that
the thief was concealed in the house; that he knew of this box, and of
its owner's habit of counting its contents and arranging his accounts at
night--if he had that habit, which I do not assert, of course--that he
tried to take the box while its owner slept, but made a noise and was
seized, and had to use the knife to save himself from capture; and that
he fled without his booty because he heard help coming.
"I have now done with my theory, and will proceed to the evidences by
which I propose to try to prove its soundness." Wilson took up several of
his strips of glass. When the audience recognized these familiar
mementos of Pudd'nhead's old time childish "puttering" and folly, the
tense and funereal interest vanished out of their faces, and the house
burst into volleys of relieving and refreshing laughter, and Tom chirked
up and joined in the fun himself; but Wilson was apparently not
disturbed. He arranged his records on the table before him, and said:
"I beg the indulgence of the court while I make a few remarks in
explanation of some evidence which I am about to introduce, and which I
shall presently ask to be allowed to verify under oath on the witness
stand. Every human being carries with him from his cradle to his grave
certain physical marks which do not change their character, and by which
he can always be identified--and that without shade of doubt or question.
These marks are his signature, his physiological autograph, so to speak,
and this autograph can not be counterfeited, nor can he disguise it or
hide it away, nor can it become illegible by the wear and mutations of
time. This signature is not his face--age can change that beyond
recognition; it is not his hair, for that can fall out; it is not his
height, for duplicates of that exist; it is not his form, for duplicates
of that exist also, whereas this signature is each man's very own--there
is no duplicate of it among the swarming populations of the globe! [The
audience were interested once more.]
"This autograph consists of the delicate lines or corrugations with which
Nature marks the insides of the hands and the soles of the feet. If you
will look at the balls of your fingers--you that have very sharp
eyesight--you will observe that these dainty curving lines lie close
together, like those that indicate the borders of oceans in maps, and
that they form various clearly defined patterns, such as arches, circles,
long curves, whorls, etc., and that these patterns differ on the different
fingers. [Every man in the room had his hand up to the light now, and
his head canted to one side, and was minutely scrutinizing the balls of
his fingers; there were whispered ejaculations of 'Why, it's so--I never
noticed that before!'] The patterns on the right hand are not the same as
those on the left. [Ejaculations of 'Why, that's so, too!'] Taken finger
for finger, your patterns differ from your neighbor's. [Comparisons were
made all over the house--even the judge and jury were absorbed in this
curious work.] The patterns of a twin's right hand are not the same as
those on his left. One twin's patterns are never the same as his fellow
twin's patterns--the jury will find that the patterns upon the finger
balls of the twins' hands follow this rule. [An examination of the
twins' hands was begun at once.] You have often heard of twins who were
so exactly alike that when dressed alike their own parents could not tell
them apart. Yet there was never a twin born in to this world that did not
carry from birth to death a sure identifier in this mysterious and
marvelous natal autograph. That once known to you, his fellow twin could
never personate him and deceive you."
Wilson stopped and stood silent. Inattention dies a quick and sure death
when a speaker does that. The stillness gives warning that something is
coming. All palms and finger balls went down now, all slouching forms
straightened, all heads came up, all eyes were fastened upon Wilson's
face. He waited yet one, two, three moments, to let his pause complete
and perfect its spell upon the house; then, when through the profound
hush he could hear the ticking of the clock on the wall, he put out his
hand and took the Indian knife by the blade and held it aloft where all
could see the sinister spots upon its ivory handle; then he said, in a
level and passionless voice:
"Upon this haft stands the assassin's natal autograph, written in the
blood of that helpless and unoffending old man who loved you and whom you
all loved. There is but one man in the whole earth whose hand can
duplicate that crimson sign"--he paused and raised his eyes to the
pendulum swinging back and forth--"and please God we will produce that
man in this room before the clock strikes noon!"
Stunned, distraught, unconscious of its own movement, the house half
rose, as if expecting to see the murderer appear at the door, and a
breeze of muttered ejaculations swept the place. "Order in the
court!--sit down!" This from the sheriff. He was obeyed, and quiet
reigned again. Wilson stole a glance at Tom, and said to himself, "He is
flying signals of distress now; even people who despise him are pitying
him; they think this is a hard ordeal for a young fellow who has lost his
benefactor by so cruel a stroke--and they are right." He resumed his
"For more than twenty years I have amused my compulsory leisure with
collecting these curious physical signatures in this town. At my house I
have hundreds upon hundreds of them. Each and every one is labeled with
name and date; not labeled the next day or even the next hour, but in the
very minute that the impression was taken. When I go upon the witness
stand I will repeat under oath the things which I am now saying. I have
the fingerprints of the court, the sheriff, and every member of the jury.
There is hardly a person in this room, white or black, whose natal
signature I cannot produce, and not one of them can so disguise himself
that I cannot pick him out from a multitude of his fellow creatures and
unerringly identify him by his hands. And if he and I should live to be a
hundred I could still do it. [The interest of the audience was steadily
"I have studied some of these signatures so much that I know them as well
as the bank cashier knows the autograph of his oldest customer. While I
turn my back now, I beg that several persons will be so good as to pass
their fingers through their hair, and then press them upon one of the
panes of the window near the jury, and that among them the accused may
set THEIR finger marks. Also, I beg that these experimenters, or others,
will set their fingers upon another pane, and add again the marks of the
accused, but not placing them in the same order or relation to the other
signatures as before--for, by one chance in a million, a person might
happen upon the right marks by pure guesswork, ONCE, therefore I wish to
be tested twice."
He turned his back, and the two panes were quickly covered with
delicately lined oval spots, but visible only to such persons as could
get a dark background for them--the foliage of a tree, outside, for
instance. Then upon call, Wilson went to the window, made his
examination, and said:
"This is Count Luigi's right hand; this one, three signatures below, is
his left. Here is Count Angelo's right; down here is his left. Now for
the other pane: here and here are Count Luigi's, here and here are his
brother's." He faced about. "Am I right?"
A deafening explosion of applause was the answer. The bench said:
"This certainly approaches the miraculous!"
Wilson turned to the window again and remarked, pointing with his finger:
"This is the signature of Mr. Justice Robinson. [Applause.] This, of
Constable Blake. [Applause.] This of John Mason, juryman. [Applause.]
This, of the sheriff. [Applause.] I cannot name the others, but I have
them all at home, named and dated, and could identify them all by my
He moved to his place through a storm of applause--which the sheriff
stopped, and also made the people sit down, for they were all standing
and struggling to see, of course. Court, jury, sheriff, and everybody
had been too absorbed in observing Wilson's performance to attend to the
"Now then," said Wilson, "I have here the natal autographs of the two
children--thrown up to ten times the natural size by the pantograph, so
that anyone who can see at all can tell the markings apart at a glance.
We will call the children A and B. Here are A's finger marks, taken at
the age of five months. Here they are again taken at seven months. [Tom
started.] They are alike, you see. Here are B's at five months, and also
at seven months. They, too, exactly copy each other, but the patterns
are quite different from A's, you observe. I shall refer to these again
presently, but we will turn them face down now.
"Here, thrown up ten sizes, are the natal autographs of the two persons
who are here before you accused of murdering Judge Driscoll. I made these
pantograph copies last night, and will so swear when I go upon the
witness stand. I ask the jury to compare them with the finger marks of
the accused upon the windowpanes, and tell the court if they are the
He passed a powerful magnifying glass to the foreman.
One juryman after another took the cardboard and the glass and made the
comparison. Then the foreman said to the judge:
"Your honor, we are all agreed that they are identical."
Wilson said to the foreman:
"Please turn that cardboard face down, and take this one, and compare it
searchingly, by the magnifier, with the fatal signature upon the knife
handle, and report your finding to the court."
Again the jury made minute examinations, and again reported:
"We find them to be exactly identical, your honor."
Wilson turned toward the counsel for the prosecution, and there was a
clearly recognizable note of warning in his voice when he said:
"May it please the court, the state has claimed, strenuously and
persistently, that the bloodstained fingerprints upon that knife handle
were left there by the assassin of Judge Driscoll. You have heard us
grant that claim, and welcome it." He turned to the jury: "Compare the
fingerprints of the accused with the fingerprints left by the
The comparison began. As it proceeded, all movement and all sound
ceased, and the deep silence of an absorbed and waiting suspense settled
upon the house; and when at last the words came, "THEY DO NOT EVEN
RESEMBLE," a thundercrash of applause followed and the house sprang to
its feet, but was quickly repressed by official force and brought to
order again. Tom was altering his position every few minutes now, but
none of his changes brought repose nor any small trifle of comfort. When
the house's attention was become fixed once more, Wilson said gravely,
indicating the twins with a gesture:
"These men are innocent--I have no further concern with them. [Another
outbreak of applause began, but was promptly checked.] We will now
proceed to find the guilty. [Tom's eyes were starting from their
sockets--yes, it was a cruel day for the bereaved youth, everybody
thought.] We will return to the infant autographs of A and B. I will
ask the jury to take these large pantograph facsimilies of A's marked
five months and seven months. Do they tally?"
The foreman responded: "Perfectly."
"Now examine this pantograph, taken at eight months, and also marked A.
Does it tally with the other two?"
The surprised response was:
"NO--THEY DIFFER WIDELY!"
"You are quite right. Now take these two pantographs of B's autograph,
marked five months and seven months. Do they tally with each other?"
"Take this third pantograph marked B, eight months. Does it tally with
B's other two?"
"BY NO MEANS!"
"Do you know how to account for those strange discrepancies? I will tell
you. For a purpose unknown to us, but probably a selfish one, somebody
changed those children in the cradle."
This produced a vast sensation, naturally; Roxana was astonished at this
admirable guess, but not disturbed by it. To guess the exchange was one
thing, to guess who did it quite another. Pudd'nhead Wilson could do
wonderful things, no doubt, but he couldn't do impossible ones. Safe?
She was perfectly safe. She smiled privately.
"Between the ages of seven months and eight months those children were
changed in the cradle"--he made one of this effect--collecting pauses,
and added--"and the person who did it is in this house!"
Roxy's pulses stood still! The house was thrilled as with an electric
shock, and the people half rose as if to seek a glimpse of the person who
had made that exchange. Tom was growing limp; the life seemed oozing out
of him. Wilson resumed:
"A was put into B's cradle in the nursery; B was transferred to the
kitchen and became a Negro and a slave [Sensation--confusion of angry
ejaculations]--but within a quarter of an hour he will stand before you
white and free! [Burst of applause, checked by the officers.] From
seven months onward until now, A has still been a usurper, and in my
finger record he bears B's name. Here is his pantograph at the age of
twelve. Compare it with the assassin's signature upon the knife handle.
Do they tally?"
The foreman answered:
"TO THE MINUTEST DETAIL!"
Wilson said, solemnly:
"The murderer of your friend and mine--York Driscoll of the generous hand
and the kindly spirit--sits in among you. Valet de Chambre, Negro and
slave--falsely called Thomas a Becket Driscoll--make upon the window the
fingerprints that will hang you!"
Tom turned his ashen face imploring toward the speaker, made some
impotent movements with his white lips, then slid limp and lifeless to
Wilson broke the awed silence with the words:
"There is no need. He has confessed."
Roxy flung herself upon her knees, covered her face with her hands, and
out through her sobs the words struggled:
"De Lord have mercy on me, po' misasble sinner dat I is!"
The clock struck twelve.
The court rose; the new prisoner, handcuffed, was removed.
_It is often the case that the man who can't tell a lie
thinks he is the best judge of one._ --Pudd'nhead Wilson's
_OCTOBER 12, THE DISCOVERY. It was wonderful to find
America, but it would have been more wonderful to miss it._
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
The town sat up all night to discuss the amazing events of the day and
swap guesses as to when Tom's trial would begin. Troop after troop of
citizens came to serenade Wilson, and require a speech, and shout
themselves hoarse over every sentence that fell from his lips--for all
his sentences were golden, now, all were marvelous. His long fight
against hard luck and prejudice was ended; he was a made man for good.
And as each of these roaring gangs of enthusiasts marched away, some
remorseful member of it was quite sure to raise his voice and say:
"And this is the man the likes of us have called a pudd'nhead for more
than twenty years. He has resigned from that position, friends."
"Yes, but it isn't vacant--we're elected."
The twins were heroes of romance, now, and with rehabilitated
reputations. But they were weary of Western adventure, and straightway
retired to Europe.
Roxy's heart was broken. The young fellow upon whom she had inflicted
twenty-three years of slavery continued the false heir's pension of
thirty-five dollars a month to her, but her hurts were too deep for money
to heal; the spirit in her eye was quenched, her martial bearing departed
with it, and the voice of her laughter ceased in the land. In her church
and its affairs she found her only solace.
The real heir suddenly found himself rich and free, but in a most
embarrassing situation. He could neither read nor write, and his speech
was the basest dialect of the Negro quarter. His gait, his attitudes, his
gestures, his bearing, his laugh--all were vulgar and uncouth; his
manners were the manners of a slave. Money and fine clothes could not
mend these defects or cover them up; they only made them more glaring and
the more pathetic. The poor fellow could not endure the terrors of the
white man's parlor, and felt at home and at peace nowhere but in the
kitchen. The family pew was a misery to him, yet he could nevermore enter
into the solacing refuge of the "nigger gallery"--that was closed to him
for good and all. But we cannot follow his curious fate further--that
would be a long story.
The false heir made a full confession and was sentenced to imprisonment
for life. But now a complication came up. The Percy Driscoll estate was
in such a crippled shape when its owner died that it could pay only sixty
percent of its great indebtedness, and was settled at that rate. But the
creditors came forward now, and complained that inasmuch as through an
error for which THEY were in no way to blame the false heir was not
inventoried at the time with the rest of the property, great wrong and
loss had thereby been inflicted upon them. They rightly claimed that
"Tom" was lawfully their property and had been so for eight years; that
they had already lost sufficiently in being deprived of his services
during that long period, and ought not to be required to add anything to
that loss; that if he had been delivered up to them in the first place,
they would have sold him and he could not have murdered Judge Driscoll;
therefore it was not that he had really committed the murder, the guilt
lay with the erroneous inventory. Everybody saw that there was reason in
this. Everybody granted that if "Tom" were white and free it would be
unquestionably right to punish him--it would be no loss to anybody; but
to shut up a valuable slave for life--that was quite another matter.
As soon as the Governor understood the case, he pardoned Tom at once, and
the creditors sold him down the river.
AUTHOR'S NOTE TO "THOSE EXTRAORDINARY TWINS"
A man who is not born with the novel-writing gift has a troublesome time
of it when he tries to build a novel. I know this from experience. He
has no clear idea of his story; in fact he has no story. He merely has
some people in his mind, and an incident or two, also a locality, and he
trusts he can plunge those people into those incidents with interesting
results. So he goes to work. To write a novel? No--that is a thought
which comes later; in the beginning he is only proposing to tell a little
tale, a very little tale, a six-page tale. But as it is a tale which he
is not acquainted with, and can only find out what it is by listening as
it goes along telling itself, it is more than apt to go on and on and on
till it spreads itself into a book. I know about this, because it has
happened to me so many times.
And I have noticed another thing: that as the short tale grows into the
long tale, the original intention (or motif) is apt to get abolished and
find itself superseded by a quite different one. It was so in the case
of a magazine sketch which I once started to write--a funny and fantastic
sketch about a prince and a pauper; it presently assumed a grave cast of
its own accord, and in that new shape spread itself out into a book. Much
the same thing happened with PUDD'NHEAD WILSON. I had a sufficiently
hard time with that tale, because it changed itself from a farce to a
tragedy while I was going along with it--a most embarrassing
circumstance. But what was a great deal worse was, that it was not one
story, but two stories tangled together; and they obstructed and
interrupted each other at every turn and created no end of confusion and
annoyance. I could not offer the book for publication, for I was afraid
it would unseat the reader's reason, I did not know what was the matter
with it, for I had not noticed, as yet, that it was two stories in one.
It took me months to make that discovery. I carried the manuscript back
and forth across the Atlantic two or three times, and read it and studied
over it on shipboard; and at last I saw where the difficulty lay. I had
no further trouble. I pulled one of the stories out by the roots, and
left the other--a kind of literary Caesarean operation.
Would the reader care to know something about the story which I pulled
out? He has been told many a time how the born-and-trained novelist
works; won't he let me round and complete his knowledge by telling him
how the jackleg does it?
Originally the story was called THOSE EXTRAORDINARY TWINS. I meant to
make it very short. I had seen a picture of a youthful Italian
"freak"--or "freaks"--which was--or which were--on exhibition in our
cities--a combination consisting of two heads and four arms joined to a
single body and a single pair of legs--and I thought I would write an
extravagantly fantastic little story with this freak of nature for
hero--or heroes--a silly young miss for heroine, and two old ladies and
two boys for the minor parts. I lavishly elaborated these people and
their doings, of course. But the tale kept spreading along and spreading
along, and other people got to intruding themselves and taking up more
and more room with their talk and their affairs. Among them came a
stranger named Pudd'nhead Wilson, and a woman named Roxana; and presently
the doings of these two pushed up into prominence a young fellow named
Tom Driscoll, whose proper place was away in the obscure background.
Before the book was half finished those three were taking things almost
entirely into their own hands and working the whole tale as a private
venture of their own--a tale which they had nothing at all to do with, by
When the book was finished and I came to look around to see what had
become of the team I had originally started out with--Aunt Patsy Cooper,
Aunt Betsy Hale, and two boys, and Rowena the lightweight heroine--they
were nowhere to be seen; they had disappeared from the story some time or
other. I hunted about and found them--found them stranded, idle,
forgotten, and permanently useless. It was very awkward. It was awkward
all around, but more particularly in the case of Rowena, because there
was a love match on, between her and one of the twins that constituted
the freak, and I had worked it up to a blistering heat and thrown in a
quite dramatic love quarrel, wherein Rowena scathingly denounced her
betrothed for getting drunk, and scoffed at his explanation of how it had
happened, and wouldn't listen to it, and had driven him from her in the
usual "forever" way; and now here she sat crying and brokenhearted; for
she had found that he had spoken only the truth; that it was not he, but
the other of the freak that had drunk the liquor that made him drunk;
that her half was a prohibitionist and had never drunk a drop in his
life, and altogether tight as a brick three days in the week, was wholly
innocent of blame; and indeed, when sober, was constantly doing all he
could to reform his brother, the other half, who never got any
satisfaction out of drinking, anyway, because liquor never affected him.
Yes, here she was, stranded with that deep injustice of hers torturing
her poor torn heart.
I didn't know what to do with her. I was as sorry for her as anybody
could be, but the campaign was over, the book was finished, she was
sidetracked, and there was no possible way of crowding her in, anywhere.
I could not leave her there, of course; it would not do. After spreading
her out so, and making such a to-do over her affairs, it would be
absolutely necessary to account to the reader for her. I thought and
thought and studied and studied; but I arrived at nothing. I finally saw
plainly that there was really no way but one--I must simply give her the
grand bounce. It grieved me to do it, for after associating with her so
much I had come to kind of like her after a fashion, notwithstanding she
was such an ass and said such stupid, irritating things and was so
nauseatingly sentimental. Still it had to be done. So at the top of
Chapter XVII I put a "Calendar" remark concerning July the Fourth, and
began the chapter with this statistic:
"Rowena went out in the backyard after supper to see the fireworks and
fell down the well and got drowned."
It seemed abrupt, but I thought maybe the reader wouldn't notice it,
because I changed the subject right away to something else. Anyway it
loosened up Rowena from where she was stuck and got her out of the way,
and that was the main thing. It seemed a prompt good way of weeding out
people that had got stalled, and a plenty good enough way for those
others; so I hunted up the two boys and said, "They went out back one
night to stone the cat and fell down the well and got drowned." Next I
searched around and found old Aunt Patsy and Aunt Betsy Hale where they
were around, and said, "They went out back one night to visit the sick
and fell down the well and got drowned." I was going to drown some
others, but I gave up the idea, partly because I believed that if I kept
that up it would arouse attention, and perhaps sympathy with those people,
and partly because it was not a large well and would not hold any more
Still the story was unsatisfactory. Here was a set of new characters who
were become inordinately prominent and who persisted in remaining so to
the end; and back yonder was an older set who made a large noise and a
great to-do for a little while and then suddenly played out utterly and
fell down the well. There was a radical defect somewhere, and I must
search it out and cure it.
The defect turned out to be the one already spoken of--two stories in
one, a farce and a tragedy. So I pulled out the farce and left the
tragedy. This left the original team in, but only as mere names, not as
characters. Their prominence was wholly gone; they were not even worth
drowning; so I removed that detail. Also I took the twins apart and made
two separate men of them. They had no occasion to have foreign names now,
but it was too much trouble to remove them all through, so I left them
christened as they were and made no explanation.