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